Small Town Time-line
The following is an outline of the birth, expansion and decline of a small town dear to me in Western Canada.
In 1903: Nickola Wolochatiuk and his weary family reach the final stage of their emigration from Galicia, Ukraine. They disembark from a train in Brandon, Northern Manitoba and make their way to the village of Ethelbert, population 1,200. The hardships of homesteading lie ahead: finding their way to their allocated quarter of land; building rudimentary shelter; clearing the land; coping with drought, blizzards, dust storms, insects and The Depression. Despite many hardships, the farm begins to expand and prosper. By 1931 Ethelbert’s population climbs to 3,434.
1928: his son, Nick, my father, gives up farming to seek better work in the mining town of Sudbury, Northern Ontario. He marries Mary Wasylenki, also a first- generation UkrainianCanadian. In 1944 they move to Toronto.
1951: my dad’s brand-new Chevrolet makes the family’s pilgrimage to Ethelbert. I’m eleven; Aunty Polly puts me to work churning cream into butter, feeding the skim to the pigs and harvesting beets from the garden to make borscht. Ethelbert’s population is now 2.118. I watch men stooking sheaves of wheat; horse-drawn wagons are still being used to work the fields, but trucks haul grain to the big elevator.
2005: I arrive in Ethelbert from Vancouver, via thumb and bicycle, with my dog Keesha. Ethelbert’s population has plummeted to 383. The railway tracks have been torn up. Several stores have closed. I visit my grandfather’s homestead, now occupied by Greg Rehaluk and his wife Arlene (nee Wolochatiuk). They are struggling to stay with farming, but they lack sufficient capital to buy the sophisticated equipment. “Go big or go home” is the demanding motto of today’s corporate farming.
2018: Ethelbert is one of the many stops along our 13,000 km., 47- day drive to British Columbia. Motorists have to give way to monster combine harvesters on the rural roads. Many of the villages have been reduced to tiny print on detailed road maps, or memories marked by faded road signs. Most of Ethelbert’s businesses are gone. Main street is just a weathered collection of empty homes, stores, machine shops and churches. Other buildings have been levelled, reduced to their concrete foundations.
Greyhound announces that in October it will be terminating all Prairie Province bus service.
Greg and Arlene now rent out their farm to cash-croppers. They have taken the valiant step of operating “Baba’s Corner Store”, the only remaining retail business in Ethelbert. Their son Michael works in the kitchen, helping to prepare each day’s freshly-made take-out special, such as home-made soup, stew, chili, borscht or pizza. They sell a full range of goods, ranging from hardware items, basic groceries, snacks and beer, wine and liquor.
It’s 6:00 pm when we first see their store. Its appearance leads us to believe it too is out of business. The windows are barred and shuttered, owing to a problem with vandalism and breakins. No lights are visible. However, all three are inside, working overtime at the myriad of chores associated with running a retail business.
Arlene has been courageously active in promoting several creative ideas to save her village from the downward spiral of decline. The town council is definitely aware of her presence. Oh, how I wish her efforts and plans can stave off that impending rural tsunami!
The annual Team Cornwall Golf Fun Day attracts people from outside our city to come and enjoy a round of golf at Summerheights Golf Links. This year saw Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher join up with Mayor Leslie O’shaughnessy’s foursome.
I’m thinking of doing a story on tattoos. What’re your tips? What are some of the worst mistakes newbies make when they get their first tattoo?
On behalf of the family of Bobby Laframboise, we would like to thank the Cornwall Community Hospital for the care he received during his stay. We would like to thank the Emergency Room, ICU, the Pavillion and all doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff involved with his care. We greatly appreciate the exceptional care, compassion, and dignity that he was shown during his stay.
Pro-wrestler Rick St. Jean shouldn’t be surprised if people get his name wrong when he gives less than 100 percent in a press conference.
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The Glengarry Soccer League has wrapped up. Congratulations to Nicolas Vaillancourt and Dominick Myre who were named playoff MVPS.