W. M. SARANCHUK HISTORY
by 0. Brygadyr
For Elk Point, 1927, was a memorable year. That was the year that the first train came into town. Wm. Saranchuk (my father), who got tired of teaching school in Manitoba for $35.00 a month, moved to Alberta onto a homestead in 1912. The small town of Elk Point, was eighteen miles away, from my father's homestead. However, there was no railway or grain elevator anywhere near it. In the year of 1928, the railway finally reached the town. My father and many other farmers watched the train come in on the new, shiny tracks. There were tears of happiness in those hard-working people's eyes. No longer would they have to half-kill their horses are wear out their wagons hauling their grain and their livestock sixty miles away to sell, and then to buy necessary supplies and haul them all the way back home again. Having to sprend so much time on these trips, sometimes they were caught severe rainstorms or snow blizzards before they reached home. At least for these reasons, the coming of the train in Elk Point was a greater event than many people can realize now.
New grain elevators were eventually built, a new hospital and a nurse's residence, and new stores appeared here as there in that small town. Slowly it became larger as new Businesses were started.
There were two wonderful doctors in town, Dr. Miller and Dr. Ross. They traveled many miles into the country by horse and buggy in the summertime, and by horse and a cutter sleigh in the winter, in all kinds of weather, to heal the sick, whether they were rich or poor, educated or barely able to sign their names, all nationalities. Many thousands of dollars remained uncollected because some people were unable to pay, but the Elk Point doctors went back time and again to heal those people, knowing they might never be paid for their help. Those were the kind of doctors that dedicated their lives to the town.
Once my little brother was dying of a child's illness known as 'summer complaint.' Dr. Miller came in the middle of the night and stayed by the child's bedside until morning. He saved the boy's life.
Dr. Ross saved the lives of my mother and another little brother, also at our own home. It was a difficult childbirth, with the cord wound around the baby's neck. Dr. Ross came immediately after receiving a telegram in the middle of the night.
A few years later, a third doctor joined the other two. Her name was Dr. Weigerinck. She saved my life and the life of my last little daughter one month before it was time for her to be born. She looked after me in the hospital day and night, for two weeks, until I was out of danger. One month later, a healthy little girl came into the world.
Going back in years, my brothers and I used to be thrilled to go to town with Dad on top of a wagon full of grain or pigs to sell, and then to buy groceries and clothes. Once when we were coming back from town, we were caught in a rainstorm. My newly-bought straw hat got soaking wet and hung around my face like a soft, soggy pancake and my wine-coloured serge dress faded into my underclothes, which remained a bright pink colour forever after that. Nonetheless, we were all happy because we had been in Elk Point, and saw all the exciting things in the new stores. Brightly coloured cans of food, assorted candy in glass jars, sweet-smelling apples and oranges in baskets, and tasty-looking meats in the ice boxes. At the other end of the stores, there was hardware, and clothing of all sizes, shapes, and colours. On the shelves were bolts of colourful materials, ribbons, laces and buttons. After returning home to our log shack and our log school, with a leaky sod roof, we told all the other children of all the exciting things we saw in town.
At this log school, when it rained, the rain came through the roof and we had to move our hand-made desks where the rain drops wouldn't fall on our books, but into the syrup cans that were kept there for that purpose. When some of us didn't behave in this particular school, the teacher made us stand on top of our desks with one foot up for a long time, until our other foot could hold us no longer. This teacher was fired after only two weeks. We didn't miss photos We wished we could go to the school we saw in Elk Point. It was made of lumber and had lots of windows. How we envied the children that went to that school.
Dad and Mother often drove to town with a team and democrat to shop, to see the doctor, or to have an odd tooth pulled now and then. Dr. Miller and Dr. Ross also pulled teeth for people. On those trips, Dad and Mother always took their lunch with them as they could not afford to eat in a hotel. They took sandwiches made of bread and salt pork, and for dessert, bread and syrup or homemade jam and cold tea in a vinegar jug.
There were all kinds of hardships in those days for my parents and all the people who lived in the area. There were dry years, hail storms, and summer frosts. There were many crop failures and frozen garden vegetables. However, the people were young, strong and happy and with the town to depend on, where they bought their necessities on time and paid later, they survived very well in their patched clothes. Some clothes were patched in so many places that the whole garment looked like a patch quilt. People killed deer, wild ducks, wild chickens; caught fish and picked wild berries for food. And with an extra treat or two of apples, oranges, raisins, peanuts, and jelly beans from town, nobody really starved.
One day Dad took a pig to market in Elk Point. On the way there the pig got out of the back of the wagon box somehow and when Dad got to town, he found an empty wagon box. He never did find that pig, but when he was searching for it, he smelled some fresh garlic sausage at one farmer's place. He suspected that part of his pig was in that sausage, but he didn't try to prove it. He just made a stronger pig crate for hauling pigs to market.
In spite of the hardships, there was always some kind of happy entertainment. There were dances and house parties. Young single people and young and elderly parents with their children, all gathered together at these events. When I was about twelve years old, I remember one party at a neighbor's, where the only musical instrument was a mouth organ. Those who could play it took turns because one person could not play it all night without running out of breath. The women brought sandwiches and cakes. Some of them tasted like homemade soap, but everyone was young and healthy and hungry, so everything tasted delicious. There was always plenty of weak tea to go with the food. People danced and sang and sat on slivery benches or on cream cans and forgot their troubles for a while. Most of the time, they talked about the railway that had reached Elk Point, after years of almost hopeless waiting, which made everyone play the harmonica louder than ever and dance square dances until the wide, knotty floor boards bent and creaked, and until one young enthusiastic dancer went through a cellar door and landed on a pile of potatoes. He climbed out laughing and kept on dancing.
In the summer time there were picnics. Before the picnic, someone from the district was appointed to drive into town to get a supply of wieners, buns, prepared mustard and relish, chocolate bars, mixed candy and chewing gum for the people to enjoy; the men in their brand new demin overalls and plaid shirts and the women in their crisp gingham dresses and straw hats.
There were booths and tables made of rough lumber and a few benches to sit on in the shade of the trees. The men played baseball, horseshoe games and participated in all kinds of humourous races. The women joined in whatever they could compete in. Their favourite contest was to see who could throw the rolling pin the farthest. Children had racing contests also, and the winner was always rewarded with a chocolate bar or a package of gum. Some of them were dressed in clothes made out of flour sacks dyed different colours. There was an "Open Here" print still visible here and there on those homemade clothes.
Always on hand was a lot of homemade ice cream made with rich farm cream and wild strawberries. This ice cream was made in ice cream makers bought in town. Everyone took turns turning the handle and adding salted ice around the inside container until the delicious delicacy was ready to be served in cones brought in from town. Children got their treats first while the older ones waited happily after a vigorous race or a baseball game.
A few years later, when my brothers and I got older, we used to drive into town to watch hockey games, to go to shows, and to baseball games and picnics. Still later, I got a job in the Elk Point Hospital. I worked there off and on for five years. I'll never forget the happy days I spent there. Miss Holter (the Matron) was very strict but she had a heart of gold. I would have pitied the patients in that hospital if Miss Holter hadn't been strict with all those young nurses and other happy-go4ucky, giggling young girls. Although they all had a lot of fun, they also had a sense of responsibility and were very concerned about the illnesses in that hospital, and did their best to save the lives of the patients and to make them comfortable.
On Sundays we took turns going to the churches of our choice.
After working hours, the girls from the hospital would all gather at the friendly Chinese restaurant, order ice cream and soft drinks, and have a happy, relaxing evening for a while. Or we'd go to Mr. McDonald's Drug Store to buy our cold cream, hand lotion, pink talcum and lilac-scented perfume for 29c per bottle. We always had to be in by eleven o'clock.
One evening my room-mate and I went to the drug store to buy talcum for our faces and that sweet-smelling perfume, because we were going out to a country dance on the following Friday night. But as it was a lovely, warm, starry spring evening, instead of going into the hospital through the front door as we usually did, we decided to go to the back of the hospital and sit on a long box that was outside, beside the back door, and to enjoy the stars and the fresh air. We tried to open the box to see what was in it but it was locked, so we were quite contented to just sit there. Later when we went into the residence, we asked the janitor what was in the box. He said, "There's a dead man in there. He died about an hour ago and we are waiting to have him moved to a funeral home in St. Paul." We were so shocked that we dropped our perfume and spilled it all over the hallway floor.
One evening when Dell Beebe (the janitor) was at a choir practice, the nurses and the other girls decided to play a trick on photos While he was away, we dressed a sack of flour in a hospital gown and made a head out of a pillow, put a kerchief around it and put it in his bed. We put a bed pan beside the bed, filled his pipe and tobacco can with bran flakes and made streamers all over the room out of toilet tissue. We were all waiting in the nurses' living room when he came home. We could hear him laughing for about a hour. Next morning the cook went to the cooler to get some eggs and found this woman that we made out of the sack of flour, hanging by the neck on the ceiling. That poor cook dropped all the eggs and just screamed.
There was one girl working in that hospital who was terrified of snakes. One evening we decided to talk about snakes at the supper table and all evening after supper. Before she went up to her room, one of the girls slipped a cold rubber hose into her bed. We all listened after she went into her room and soon there was a really terrified scream. She didn't speak to any of us for two days and we regretted our foolish joke. Then one evening we wondered why the tea was so tangy and tasty. Next day we found out in more ways than one that this girl whom we had frightened poured some strong laxative in our teapot.
As time went by my brothers and I married, one after another. I married Michael Brygadyr and have lived in Edmonton ever since. He's been a machinist at Grosser Parts for twenty-three years. In Edmonton we raised two sons and two daughters, who are all doing very well on their own now. The youngest daughter was born in Elk Point.
My brother Bill married Evelyn Carlson. He drove a transit bus in Vancouver for several years while Evelyn was a supervisor in a Tent & Awning Company. She has now retired from that work and Bill will be retiring very soon.
Brother Morris married Helen Krevenky, while he lived on my father's homestead, and she supervised the Primrose school. Later she took her grades eleven and twelve of high school in Elk Point and later, university in Edmonton. They are now living in Fort Saskatchewan where Morris is a painter and Helen is assistant principal in one of the schools.
Brother Walter married Phyllis Lawrence. Later he became the administrator of the Elk Point Hospital while Phyllis took charge of the Lindbergh Post Office for several years. She has now retired from the post office. In 1976 there was a new hospital built in Elk Point, the most modern in Alberta, of which Walter is still the administrator.
Walter and Phyllis have two boys who completed their high school in Elk Point. They are now grown up, married young men and great joy to their adoptive parents. The eldest son is an insurance adjustor and his wife, a lab technician. They live in Edmonton. The younger son, who is a welder, and his wife live in Elk Point. This son's wife will soon be working in the Elk Point Hospital as a certified nursing aid.
Our father passed away at the age of sixty-five. We are all convinced that it was not the hardships of long ago, but mostly the worrying that sent him to an early grave. Our mother went through the same hardships but she never allowed anything to worry her very deeply or for very long. She is now eighty-seven years old and is always cheerful and happy. This gives us something to think about: that a cheerful attitude is a sure way to a long and happy life.
Elk Point will always be a pleasant memory to us, no matter how old we get or where we are.
God Bless Elk Point.
This old house was used as our first school house after the family moved away.
William Saranchuk's first home was almost identical to this one.
Mr and Mrs WilIiam Saranchuk
(Mrs.) Anna Saranchuk on her 80th birthday.
Her children: LEFT TO RIGHT: Morris, Walter, William, and Olga, 1970.