Now, just a shadow of it’s former self, Willingdon was once the social centre for many Ukrainian farming families living near town. Neglected buildings with their peeling paint stand silent on main street, waiting, wishing, for someone to open their creaky doors once more. Even falling down, vintage architecture has it’s charms I can’t resist.
My dad was born in 1932 and raised on a farm near town. Heat was from the wood burning kitchen stove and ice cold water was drawn by bucket from a well. The biffy was just far enough away from the house to make you think twice in the middle of the night. Daddy would try to comfort me and say, “No, no, there’s no bats out there”. But I’d make him come with me anyways. Does this sounds like camping to you? We sure have it made now.
As a kid, I thought life on the farm was a pretty great adventure. We’d walk to the river to find little treasures washed ashore, or snoop through the rafters of outbuildings for long-lost comics. After lunch, maybe a tractor ride, saskatoon picking or just playing with the dog. Birthdays were extra special when we got to spend them with Grandpa on the farm.
In his later years, Grandpa moved off the farm and retired to a wee house on the edge of town. I recently drove through Willingdon, looking for old familiar haunts. Hey? Where’s the corner store I bought orange soda’s from? Where’s the gas station? There, framed in blue sky were the tired facades that only hinted at a prosperous past. So few families are farming in the area now, even the grain elevators have disappeared.
On my way out of town, I drove past my Grandpa’s old house. There it was, the big red garage. I can still see Grandpa standing there, waving goodbye to us kids as we blew kisses out the back window of daddy’s silver Chrysler. This town may be fading away but not my love for the family history that falls in the shadows around it.