I am presently reading a book called Our Towns by David Mclennan which gives a brief history of Saskatchewan towns. I must admit that I'm a sucker for local history. If there are great pictures, like this book has, I'm really hooked.
The author has a pattern for each town. He gives it's location, early origin, main economic status and the town's pattern of growth. For 75% of Saskatchewan towns their growth pattern is similar. In their early development they usually prospered and then for reasons of climate, economics or depopulation they withered and died or almost died.
What intrigues me about these stories is how people came to a new area with dreams of success and worked hard only to fail because of influences they could not control. Yes, some people were the author of their own failure as they were not competent in the enterprize they chose. Many people were eager to start a small business in these villages and towns as they thought they could make a fortune or if not a fortune a good living. They worked hard to establish all the amenities for a community. So schools, roads , parks, hospitals and recreation facilities were built. Much effort and equity was put into these developments.These people were optimists and doers. For many the dream failed. They lost their busnesses or farms after they had put in years of labor and equity. Climate worked against many settlers in the southwest as they did not get enough moisture to produce crops. The depression only made matters worse. Later, the change to highly mechanized farms lead to massive depopulation of rural areas. Better roads and transportation allowed people to travel to cities or larger towns to conduct their business. As a result, local small businesses had to close.
Having grown up on that isolated Saskatchewan farm in the 40's and 50's I saw many of these changes take place. My father worried about the success of his farm. He made the right decisions and succeeded. I probably would have become a farmer, but the option was not there.
For all this hard work and hardship I have a feeling of sadness because these people worked hard and long and in the end lost. As I travel through Saskatchewan and look at the sad little communities I can't help but feel sympathy for these long gone people and the dreams they lost.
David Mclennan has caught the rich character of Saskatchewan towns in his beautiful book, Our Towns. Thank you David.