Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: travel

The born loser

Monday evening, in preparation for the following day, I placed on our dining room table an envelope containing a bill payment on behalf of one bookkeeping client and a cheque that I received from another client. They were exactly the same size and the thought crossed my mind that I might just pick up the two of them together and drop them in the mail slot at the Post Office. “That’s ridiculous,” I thought,. “I’m not that careless.”

We left early the next morning, stopping at our children’s home to pick up our granddaughters. I stopped at the Post Office in the next town, dropped the envelope in the mail slot and then drove to a branch of our bank. I reached for the cheque to deposit it — it wasn’t there. I looked on the floor of the car — it wasn’t there either. Okay. Maybe I am that careless.

We had a two and a half hour drive ahead of us and cousins of my wife were expecting us at our destination, so we motored on. After we got to our destination and met the cousins, I stepped outside to use my cell phone and called the post office where I mailed the envelope. The lady who answered laughed when I asked if by any chance a cheque had shown up in their mail bin. “Yes, it’s right here, waiting for you to come and pick it up.”

I was more relaxed now and enjoyed the rest of the day. The three ladies, that includes my wife, went fabric shopping; we visited a museum and a library and had a couple of meals along the way before returning home close to bedtime.

This morning I went back to the post office feeling sheepish and retrieved my cheque and immediately deposited it in the bank where there is no more danger of losing it.

Yesterday taught me three things, or better said, reinforced three things I already knew:

Our granddaughters are growing up. They are 15 and almost 13 and quite mature. There was a little commotion in the back seat for a few moments while we were driving home, but nothing Grandpa and Grandma needed to check up on or involve ourselves in.

Canada Post employs some pretty friendly and helpful people. Even if one of them did find my predicament humorous, she  did her best to console me that I’m not the only one who has ever done something like that.

And, I am just as capable of losing things as anyone else, and not nearly as careful as I would like to think I am.

What I Did During My Summer Vacation – Conclusion

We stop at the Yvette Moore Gallery to see her depictions of prairie life, past and present.  Her paintings appear as illustrations in three soft cover children’s books.  The first, A Prairie Alphabet, has sold 330,000 copies.

Next stop is the Chocolate Moose Fudge Factory and Craft Market.  The items on sale range from prairie nostalgia to the kind of humour that used to cause embarrassed snickers among young people.  Chris buys some note cards featuring sketches of small town Saskatchewan.  We bypass the fudge and opt for the gelato.  I have a waffle cone with a scoop of maple walnut gelato and a scoop of saskatoon berry gelato.  It is absolutely delicious.

The Canadays apparel factory in Moose Jaw makes men’s pants sold in men’s clothing stores across the country at $55 to $95.  There is a factory outlet in a poorly marked, rundown warehouse on River Street, only open Thursday to Saturday, which sells these pants for $18.95 to $22.95.  Some are marked that they have material or sewing flaws, but I can always find perfectly good pants in the mix.

There are museums, the burrowing owl interpretive centre, the world’s oldest statue of Winston Churchill and many places to shop and to dine.  We are here to get away from the busyness of life for a few days, so the parks are a big attraction.

Moose Jaw doesn’t only hold memories of the past, it is home to many relatives and friends.  We get together with some of them during the three days we spend here, usually over coffee at a Tim Horton’s.  Once, we arrange to meet one cousin and his wife and encounter two other cousins who just happen to be at the same Tim Horton’s.

Many impressive church buildings are found throughout the city.  St Andrews United Church, a massive stone building, its towers making it one of the tallest buildings in the city, is just across the street from our hotel.  Thirty-five years ago they called it St Andrews Centre for Contemporary Worship.  At Aunt Katherine’s funeral, the minister said, “Let us pray,” and recited a poem.  There was no mention of God, no amen.  When he spoke of eternal life, it was the memories retained by others of the dear departed.  Now they again call it a church and the words spoken inside probably sound more churchy, but I doubt that the beliefs are much different.

The city once contained four Anglican churches.  Three have closed, including St Barnabas where Chris and I were married forty years ago.  Regal Heights Mennonite Brethren church, which we attended a few years later, stands empty.  Large new Evangelical and Pentecostal churches are full every Sunday; numerous smaller groups meet in rented quarters.

There are so many churches, so many efforts have been made by so many different groups to share the gospel.  I have memories of  some of the evangelistic and revival meetings held in this city in past years.  The gospel was preached, with adaptations to make it palatable to the greatest number of people.  But where in this city are there people who are living the full message of the gospel, who know the true peace and freedom that the gospel brings?  Have people been told, or better yet shown, what that message is?

(Written in 2010)

What I Did During My Summer Vacation – Part 2

I was born in this city sixty-eight years ago.  My parents are buried in a cemetery on the south side of the city, beside my Uncle Art and Aunt Katherine, my father’s brother who married my mother’s sister.  My wife’s parents are buried in another cemetery on the west side.

Moose Jaw is built at the confluence of three water courses.  Spring Creek comes from the west, passes north of downtown, turns south, then east, makes a horseshoe bend and turns south again.  Thunder Creek flows straight from west to east.  The Moose Jaw River comes from the south, with many turns.  When the three water courses meet, the Moose Jaw River turns and exits the city to the east.  The wide spot in the river where the three meet is known as Plaxton’s Lake.  There is a boardwalk here and farther along the river there are walking trails and picnic spots.  This area is known as Wakamow Valley.

On the east side of the city, Spring Creek has mostly disappeared below street level.  Eighty years ago the horseshoe bend downtown was developed into Crescent Park, a beautiful and peaceful spot covering more than six blocks that begins just a block away from Main Street.

In the 1880’s, Chinese workers were brought to Canada to build the CPR.  It was expected that they would leave when the railroad was finished, but they showed no inclination to return to China.  Laws were enacted to prevent the immigration of Chinese women — having all these Chinese men was bad enough, heaven help us if they bring wives over and start to multiply!  More men kept coming.  The government enacted a law requiring each Chinese man to pay a $500.00 head tax in order to stay in Canada legally.

This was an enormous sum of money.  The men dug tunnels to live under the downtown area, bringing the dirt up at night and adding it to the piles of dirt at construction sites.  The tunnels had secret entrances in the railway station, the hotels and the Chinese cafés.  The men who scraped together enough money to pay the head tax were given a card with their photograph on it.  The police cannot tell one Chinese man from another.  A cook or waiter in a café could work his shift,  disappear underground and hand the card to another worker.

The Chinese men discovered that the dusty and dirty cowboys bringing cattle to the meat packing plants are in need of a cheap place to sleep, a bath and a laundry and they provide these services in the tunnels.

Then came the Prohibition Era in the U.S.  It was legal to produce whiskey in Canada, but not to sell it to the U.S.  The Bronfman family was happy to look after the production part.  The Soo Line Rail Road, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific, runs directly from Moose Jaw to Chicago.  There was this wonderful maze of tunnels underneath the city, connected to the railroad station, just what Al Capone needed to look after the transportation end of things.

Moose Jaw shook off its stagnation by becoming a tourist destination.  Two guided tours of the tunnels are offered, one tells about the Chinese history, the other about the Capone era.  The Chinese tour has an off-colour reference or two, but it is a piece of our history that we should know.  The Capone tour is pure glamorization of sleaze.  I haven’t seen it and don’t intend to.

The Harwood Hotel was another grand old hotel fallen on hard times.  Some enterprising citizens drilled a well to hot underground mineral springs, piped the water to the Harwood, refurbished the hotel and renamed it the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa.  It features an outdoor swimming pool filled with hot mineral water on the second floor of an addition.  There is now a casino across the street.

There are 46 murals and sculptures around the city.  A double-decker bus gives tours, with commentary.  The commentary is a problem.  I once took a young lady on this tour and had to apologize to her after.  I hadn’t anticipated that the commentary would focus so much on glorifying the sleaziest aspects of Moose Jaw’s past.  The murals are worth seeing; now we do it on foot.

(written in 2010)

What I Did During My Summer Vacation – Part 1

A squirrel scampers across Main Street and stops in front of the five storey brick edifice that used to be the Grant Hall Hotel.  He sees an opening, scampers up the step, but this is not what he is looking for.  He reappears, runs a little way toward us and disappears into the next opening.  Chris stops, touches my arm and I stop, too.  The second opening is only another closed doorway and the squirrel appears again on the sidewalk.  He comes toward us, sees what he has been looking for and runs through the space between two buildings toward Langdon Crescent and Crescent Park.  When we reach the street corner we see a display of teddy bears inside a window of the hotel and a sign saying “Please bear with us as we renovate.”

We are in Moose Jaw on the second day of summer, taking a walk down Main Street before the city wakes up.  The big old buildings we see are mute evidence that one hundred years ago Moose Jaw was Saskatchewan’s largest city, a result of the boom that came with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the influx of settlers during the pioneer years.  Long years of stagnation followed, ensuring that these old buildings were not torn down and replaced with more modern structures.

We turn and walk west along River Street.  This was once the most disreputable part of town, lined with hotels offering cheap rooms, loud bars and more illicit forms of entertainment. Only the Winston Hotel still stands.  Across First Avenue looms the framework of the new Multiplex, a multipurpose sport facility being built to replace the Civic Centre on the north end of Main Street.  I vividly recall the controversy and the fund-raising involved in the building of the “Crushed Can,” as the Civic Centre is known, and consider it a new building.  But it is fifty years old and apparently no longer meets the needs of the populace.  The building’s nickname comes from its shape — high walls at the north and south ends with a hammock-style roof line between.

I stop at Folk’s Barber Shop for a haircut and the price is two dollars less than I would pay in Saskatoon.  The barber tells me the Winston is soon coming down to make way for a fifty million dollar hotel that will be linked to the Multiplex by a sky walk.

Now the stores are opening and I stop at Gemmell’s Shoes to buy new walking shoes.  The shoe buying experience is itself a step back in time.  The clerk has me sit, measures the length and width of my feet and brings me a pair of shoes that fit comfortably without pinching anywhere.  I buy them and wear them with no discomfort for the rest of our stay in Moose Jaw.

We are staying at the Travelodge, probably one of the smallest of this chain.  It is close to downtown, reasonably priced, and a continental breakfast is included.  Our room is clean, well furnished and contains a fridge, microwave, coffee maker and hair dryer.  Inside our door is a sign, no doubt necessary to comply with the requirements of some benevolent government bureaucracy: “FIRE EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS: EXIT ROOM TO PARKING LOT.”

(Written in 2010)

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