A Saturday in Yorkton;
© Al Bryski.
I have always longed for the city lights and all of its “sins” and temptations that it offered to a young country lad. I guess I have always been a “city slicker” at heart. As much as I loved having spent 16 of my most formative years on a farm, I admit that when I moved to Winnipeg in the summer of 1960, my first action on getting out of the car was to inhale deeply and savor the wonderful city smell of vehicle exhausts, bakery aromas, and the smell of 500,000 people in one area. I was home!
The farm had its good points, too. But to me at that early stage of my life, they were outweighed by what the city had to offer. Therefore I always looked forward to our visits to Yorkton, a thriving “metropolis” of five thousand people. Yorkton was thirty miles away and in the 1950’s that was a sizable distance over mostly graveled highway. We would make the trip two or three times a month for shopping and for visiting with our family and friends who lived there.
Early Saturday morning we would quickly do our chores and I would herd the cattle to our pasture which was about a kilometre from the barn. I would hurry back, wash up, and change into my “good” clothes. We would then set off on our trip, laden with a picnic lunch, a shopping list, and in my case, my allowance of a quarter. Now don’t scoff at that amount. Back “in the day” it was good for one admission for a matinee at the Roxy or York theatre, a box of popcorn, and a large drink. And if time was available and the movie was good,I could sit through another performance for free. On the days my Aunty Mary came with us, I was in seventh heaven because she would add another fifty cents to my allowance.
As well, during the week between farm chores, I would range the highway for two miles in either direction from our house and scour the ditches for beer bottles which at that time were worth two cents each upon redemption at a bottle depot in Yorkton. In a good week I could reclaim up to twenty five bottles. I had to wash them clean from the debris of being tossed into a ditch from a moving car as the agent at the depot was very fussy and would smash any bottle not worthy of reclaiming. This money and my allowance plus Aunt Mary’s generosity opened up all kinds of choices for a spending spree.
My day in Yorkton usually started off by visiting Logan’s Pharmacy and then Baker’s Drugstore. In each place I would head for the comic section and start to look at and read as many comics as I could before the sales people tired of me sitting on the floor and getting freebies. Ostensibly it was because I was blocking the aisle for the paying customers. On the day I had an expanded allowance courtesy of my Aunt Mary, I would, after much care and thought, purchase a comic in each store so that my credibility as a paying customer was not damaged by my free reading. As comics cost ten cents each (the cost of one movie admission) I deliberated carefully on my choice of comic which meant I had to do comparison readings. I was a winner either way, freebie or paying.
At noon we would all meet at our car which was parked a couple of blocks north of Broadway Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Yorkton. We parked there because the city allowed free parking at a time when metered parking downtown around Broadway was ten cents an hour. We would dig into the delicious lunch which my mother had prepared and share conversation about what we had done, whom we had seen, gossip that had arisen, and then we set plans for the afternoon. For my parents and my Aunt Mary, this meant more shopping, doctor visits if necessary, and visiting with family and friends. For me it meant I was free to pursue my interests.
I usually started out by heading to the Tastee-Freeze where they had the new concoction called soft ice cream in three delicious flavors – vanilla, chocolate, and a flavor of the day, often pineapple. There I would order the giant cone for fifteen cents and slowly lick away at this most delicious dessert. I especially liked the pineapple choice with tiny slivers of real pineapple in the ice cream. Then I would head for the Roxy theatre to watch the matinee.
Now a matinee at the Roxy could be a harrowing experience for an adult. Two hundred children lined up on the street leading to the theatre. There would be screaming, yelling, pushing, and boys showing off for the girls. Generally they would keep a semblance of a line with a poor harried usher in amongst them trying to keep the soon-to-be patrons in some form of order and to keep them off the roadway where they might be hit by a passing car. When the ticket booth opened the line would surge forward. Once inside the lobby I had to battle my way to the concession stand to get my box of popcorn and large drink, which for me was usually an orange drink. Then carefully guarding my prized concessions from stray elbows I made my way into the auditorium and claimed a seat at the end of the row against the wall. This meant I only had to look out ahead of me, behind me, and only to one side of me for when the inevitable popcorn throwing started.
When the movie started there would be loud roar and then we would all settle into watching the show. Now whoever ran the theatre always started the matinee, which was usually a two reel movie, on the second reel so right away we were lost as to story line. It didn’t seem to matter because in these pre-television days, a moving picture was a moving picture.
When the movie ended there would another rush to the concession stand because then the beginning of the movie would start in fifteen minutes. I always paced eating my popcorn and drinking my pop. The lights would dim and then the Movietone news would come on and Lowell Thomas would take us to different news happenings around the world. Then there would be a featured cartoon; Bugs Bunny with the voice of Mel Blanc was a favorite of mine. Next came the newest installment of the current serial they were running which was usually of a western or science fiction motif. And then the movie would start and we could finally put together the storyline. We always sat through to the end even though we had already viewed the last half! .
When the movie was over, it was back to the parking lot and when all the persons were accounted for, then it was back to the farm, a quick change of clothes, and chores as usual. Quickly we did all the necessary work, grabbed a bite to ea,t and we were off to Calder for a small town Saturday night which I have described in a previous chapter.