Eastend and guests celebrate 100 years

Staff ~ The Southwest Booster
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Cloudy skies and patches of fog couldn’t dim the spirits of the more than 1,800 people who travelled to Eastend on the August long weekend to celebrate the town’s centennial.

Town administrator Edna Laturnus cuts a slice of cake for a guest during the Eastend Centennial, while Dennis Samoleski looks on.

Cloudy skies and patches of fog couldn’t dim the spirits of the more than 1,800 people who travelled to Eastend on the August long weekend to celebrate the town’s centennial.

Former residents arrived from across the prairie for the festivities, which included historical tours, chuck wagon races, a centennial parade, and a visit from the lieutenant-governor, Vaughn Solomon Schofield.

“Having her Honour here to open the ceremonies with all the dignitaries, a visiting mayor from Harlem (Montana), visiting mayors from all over the southwest, it was just great,” said Eastend’s mayor, Alan Howard.

The opening ceremonies were delayed due to fog in Shaunavon, which kept the lieutenant-governor’s plane from landing, but the rest of the day was problem free.

During her introductory remarks the lieutenant-governor emphasized the beauty and friendliness of the area.  The other guests, including Shaunavon Mayor Sharon Dickie, Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP David Anderson, Cypress Hills MLA Wayne Elhard and Harlem, Montana Mayor Bill Taylor, emphasized that theme as well.

“Everyone of them kept saying it’s such a lovely place, it’s such a lovely location, and it is, honestly,” Howard said.

Originally named after an old Northwest Mounted Police detachment, the community of 527 has seen its fair share of hardship over the years.  The most notable came in 1952, when record snowfall levels washed out the nearby dam, flooding the community and forcing an evacuation.

However the successes have outweighed the losses in the community.  Agriculture and oil development have helped keep the town going, but the community also benefits from some more unique contributors, like the T.rex Centre north of town.

“That’s put Eastend on the international map,” Howard said.  “It’s so wonderful to have the Royal Saskatchewan Museum running (the centre).”

The community also has a strong artistic history, as shown by the Wallace Stegner House.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer lived in the area as a boy from 1914-1920, and used the town as inspiration for the fictional village of Whitemud in his 1955 novel Wolf Willow.

Even today, Eastend is still home to a number of talented artists, drawn to the community by its beauty and remoteness.

“We have a lot of artists who come here and they just love the area, so they buy residences,” Howard explained.  “They don’t stay here year round, but they’re here for the summers.  Then we have a lot of year round artists, so we have a very vibrant artists community, which we would love to expand.  They bring that extra mix to the community.”

While Eastend has a proud history and plenty of natural beauty, the town is best known for its people.  Like many farming communities, residents have had to rally together during tough times, illustrating the generous nature Saskatchewan people are known for.

“I lived out in the country for 30 years,” said Evelyn McCuaig, who came to Eastend as a 17 year old to work at the Bank of Montreal, and never left.  “I married a farmer, and we had our own community thing.  If somebody got hurt or sick or something, everybody came and combined his crop or (seeded it) for him.  The town was the same.”

“You’re accepted for who you are,” agreed Elsie Bidaux, who, along with her mother and siblings, moved into Eastend from their farm after her father died in 1938.  “It’s a whole different lifestyle in a small town.”

As for the future, the residents are optimistic about the years to come.

“I see it growing,” Howard said.  “It’s gone past the phase of shrinking, and now it’s time for growing.”

Longtime residents, like McCuaig, share that positive spirit as well.

“Older folks are inclined to think young people won’t take over, but I think they will.”

Organizations: Roman Catholic Church, T.rex Discovery Centre

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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