Small Town, Canada - 1988-2006

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Historic Site, Charlottetown, PEI - Boer War Memorial, Hamilton MacCarthy, 1904
Orig. historic site
Found - Charlottetown, PEI

"D'you guys have a Boer War memorial in town?"

We were in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, visiting an old friend, whom we shall call Barry, who has lived on this tiny island all his life, and has a considerable background as an island historian.

He knew we had done a documentary series on Canada in the Boer War. PEI had sent 125 young men to fight there. Still the question caught him off guard.

It drew a warm-hearted chuckle and grin, and a firm,

"Nooooh...No! " He laughed, "There's no such thing in this town."

Feeling sheepish for asking - you know, the big city guy ill informed about local affairs, etc., - we let the matter drop.

Later, visiting Province House, the PEI legislature above, in the heart of downtown Charlottetown, our curiosity was piqued by this huge and imposing war memorial, standing right beside the biggest and most important building on Prince Edward Island.

Going to investigate we found it was a Boer War memorial commissioned from Hamilton MacCarthy, one of Canada's top Victorian sculptors, to honour PEI's war dead from that conflict.

It had been sitting there since 1904.

Millions - including Barry - had walked by it countless times - some, apparently, without ever seeing it...

Go to Charlottetown Boer War Memorial
This is the front view of Province House and George W Hill's fine World War I memorial. Hamilton's Boer War monument is in the trees to the left rear of the big building.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Historic Site, Qu'Appelle, SK - Memorial for Indian Treaty #4, 1874
Orig. historic site
Found - Qu'Appelle, SK

We were in the small town of Qu'Appelle, in southern Saskatchewan, seeking a memorial we knew had to be there somewhere.

We were looking for the site where Treaty #4 had been signed in 1874, whereby the First Nations chiefs had signed over a huge tract of central Canada to Queen Victoria and the Government of Canada.

But we were frustrated.

We had been driving up and down the streets of this small town hoping to get a glimpse of the monument somewhere between the houses.

But no such luck.

With time running out, we decided to do the obvious thing - ask a local.

We stopped where a couple was raking leaves in their front yard.

"Howdy. I wonder if you could help us? We're looking for a big memorial that was supposed to be set up in this town to commemorate the signing of a treaty with the Indians a hundred years ago. We've been driving around and can't find it. Maybe you could tell us where to go?"

The couple looked at each other, shook their heads. The man grinned helpfully.

"Sorry, can't help you there, I'm afraid. Nothing like that around here that I know of. What about you dear?"

"Nope," she shook her head, and shrugged, good naturedly...

"OK, thanks anyway. Guess we'll just keep driving around some more."

"Good luck to you, " they said, and went back to raking...

We had not driven more than four more houses along the street when we came upon the park above, a large space dominating one corner of an intersection, and occupied by a huge stone memorial.

We walked over to investigate.

It, and the park, had been on the site since 1915.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

We had been driving a large 25 foot box U-haul truck, east along the Trans-Canada Highway.#1, late one wintry Saturday night.

As we passed the village of Whitewood, the rear wheel started to bump. I knew what that meant - another tire - our fourth on this trip - was starting to tear itself to pieces under the strain of the heavy load.

I slowly managed to nurse the truck 20 kms further, to Wapella, and a highway gas station below that was still open, though the hour was late.

The owner, a kindly soul was just about to close, after a day that had started for him 15 hours before.

His wife, with her coat on, was sitting at the counter ready to go home.


Map, From Whitewood to Wapella, SK
Orig. map
Found - Google

I felt embarrassed to impose our problem on them so late at closing time, but he insisted on taking me around town to see if we could find a tire to fix my truck.

We drove around for 30 minutes, but near midnight on Saturday night, it was hard to find anyone still open for business, let alone someone with a tire of the right size to fit the truck.

Finally I said "Let's forget it. We'll stay at a motel and call U-haul in the morning to send someone from Moosomin to bring in a tire."

"No, no," he insisted, "I know one more place which will have it for sure."

 

And true enough he found one. It was now 12:30.

Still he insisted on jacking up the truck and putting the tire on.

In the meantime, while the men folk were busy with tires and wrenches, and getting covered in grease and dirt, my wife sat at the table near the front counter left, being entertained by his spouse and learning all about life in a small rural town in Saskatchewan, and adventures at a truck stop along the Trans-Canada Highway.

WAPELLA
Painter - Charles Bird King 1837

 

 

 

"So then," my wife asked, "Have you lived in Wapella all your life?"

"Oh heavens, my goodness no," she blurted out, as if the question was more than a little preposterous in the implied assumption...

"No, no," as she drew herself up, "Oh, I grew up in Whitewood!"

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In the years since, the couple has retired, the Trans-Canada has dog-legged around Wapella, leaving the gas station and truck stop isolated and away from the traffic lanes that, for decades, once brought business to the front door.

And late one wintry Saturday night, two weary cross-country travellers who found there, in their hour of need, two kindly souls.

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