Owns one half of
This whole town

Wrote about how I and my childhood friend, Neil Remington Abramson, have fond memories of our hometown of Saskatoon. Also highlighted some decidedly different sentiments from Daryl. Daryl comments further, as follows (reproduced with permission):

I have memories of rampant small town boosterism. Even where I live today, in a smaller township, it still exists. Where I live now, they have a particular pride in horse ownership. If you don’t own several, you have social problems. If you don’t own any, why are you living here?

Where I currently live, there are lots of fancy estates and overpriced houses. There are also (so I hear) lots of people in my community who use food banks. The poverty and need in many smaller communities seems to be frequently and conveniently hidden.

My memories of small town living are mostly associated with hypocrisy and a stifling social nature. So many in the town who damn themselves with all their pettiness, obfuscation and creepiness. Curiously, I have ended up in my later years living in a similar small town. I wonder what that says? Returning to the scene of the crime?

In my hometown, those most revered came from United Empire Loyalist stock. They were the old money. The people who owned the factories that polluted the rivers thereabouts, in the good old days.

The leading citizens in my hometown liked to fancy themselves as having created some bastion of culture, compared to neighbouring small towns that were full of “immigrants and farmers”. We had them, too, but they didn’t count. Those who counted were the core group who ran the town, descended from those who had fled the US, way back in the 18th century, out of loyalty to the Crown, and all that sort of thing.

In my hometown, there were so many contradictions. The community leaders fancied themselves as being so arty and cultured, yet they couldn’t stand anyone in their midst who demonstrated artistic temperament or talent. Instead, lots of “born again” types among the community leadership. So much of a support for the arts that the local librarian had to hide all the “questionable” books in a special back room. Example of a “questionable book”: Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers.

Culture in my hometown was a minstrel show, put on in blackface by a bunch of Kiwanis guys in the early 1970s. To the credit of the community, there was a community outcry over this, and they never did it again, but still…blackface in 1972 or so? Where had they been?

In my hometown, there was an abandoned mausoleum. How this could be, I have no idea. In the summers, workers from Quebec would come to work on the farms and help with the local harvest. They were billeted at…the abandoned mausoleum, which became known throughout my hometown as “Frog Hilton”. Yes indeed, we were truly a cultural centre.

In my hometown, it was a bit like time stopped. Time is likely still stopped there. Makes for lots of ghosts in its closet.

Hard to say exactly what qualities lead to such small town outcomes. All I know is that I don’t miss it, and haven’t been back in decades. Maybe because, given the small town in which I live now, I never really left.
Postscript, March 6, 2013: Did a brief search on minstrel shows. Turns out that they have quite a history of association with Kiwanis, such as here, from the 1950s, and here, from 1955. And then here, in Canada, in 1959:

In 1959, when I was 17 years old , I naively attended the Kinsman Club Minstrel Show in our small town of Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. …Thankfully long gone, these shows were considered to be worthy of financial support by moral, upstanding citizens because Kinsmen International, along with Lions Club, Kiwanis Club and, of course, Shriners are the benevolent organizations that fund libraries, music festivals, hospitals, swimming pools and other altruistic endeavours.

Forty-seven years ago, I should have stood up boldly in that auditorium and told those Al Jolson wannabes and the audience comprised of parents of my best friends that whom they mocking were sentient human beings, and mocking was wrong.

Wrong in the 1950s, yet still finding its way into small town “performances” as of the early 1970s…

Richard Cory” x 2:


About brucelarochelle
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