Most of us have heard the term “the good old days.” Some of the early pioneering days were good in terms of a simpler ways of life with perhaps less stress, fewer choices, etc. However, some of the hardships were incredible, particularly for the thousands of immigrants who chose Canada as a new home. Consider the following excerpts from an article by Anna Pope Jaminette (an early journalist in Sylvan Lake) on the Victor Pastobak family who emigrated from Finland via Michigan in 1909.
“Arriving in Red Deer, a wagon and team was secured to take them to Snake Lake (Sylvan Lake). There were no roads in those days – just trails winding through the trees and around the sloughs. A flood had washed away the bridge across the Red Deer river so the children and goods had to be loaded onto a push cart and pushed across the C.P.R. bridge. The family went to stay with the Wetelianen family who had settled in the Kuusamo district. Twelve people stayed in a one-room log house until the Pastobak family’s one-room house with a sod roof was built!
“One horse and two cows were bought that first year, and Mrs. Pastobak was able to make butter to sell to the Red Deer merchants in return for groceries. Only on Sundays could the family have butter for themselves. Food was not scarce if you were prepared to hunt, fish, pick berries, grow gardens and preserve everything!
“Red Deer was the nearest center for almost anything. One night in the fall, Mr. Pastobak wakened with a toothache and made preparations to walk in rain and later snow to Red Deer to have the tooth pulled. As well as having doctors and dentists, Red Deer was the nearest post office – no free delivery in those days. The settlers put a big box on a post three miles west of the lake. Anyone going to Red Deer brought the mail for the district, put it in the box and each family sorted out their own.”
In spite of the hardships, there was a social life which centered around picnics, school events and going to visit by horse and wagon. These are the memories that stay with the pioneers – and perhaps the reason for the term good old days.
Excerpts from Anna P, Jaminette articles and Reflections of Sylvan Lake
Submitted by Bunny Virtue
Sylvan Lake Archives