What does it do to your soul when your hometown disappears? When hedges border vacant lots, trees cast unused shade, grass grows unmowed, a lilac bush blooms unsmelled, a breeze scurries bits of paper down untrod sidewalks? No laughter of children playing on the school swings and teeter-totters, no dogs barking, no cars and pickup trucks driving down the street, no people talking in front of the post office, no clang-clang-clang of the hand bell announcing the beginning of the school day.
In my mind, Meyronne is all still there. That lot? That’s where I went to school, where I defied my Grade 2 teacher by putting a “u” in “colour” because that’s how my mother spelled it. Across the street – that’s where Knox United Church stood. My father was the first baby to be baptized in it after it was opened in fall of 1923.
The rink was at the east end of town. I still hear the slap-slap-slap of corn brooms in the curling bonspiels, the cheers at the hockey game (the home team didn’t always win). I feel ice-tingled toes and fingers, smell the wood-fired heat of the pot-bellied stove in the change rooms. Behind the rink was the sports field. Lots of baseball games won and lost there.
Catty-corner from the rink is where Grandma’s house was. She always had cookies and milk, a hug, books to read, and the button jar to sort through (no TV back then).
Highway 13 used to run right through the middle of town but about 1960 it was rerouted one mile north. After that, no traveller stopped at Marcotte’s store for a chocolate bar and a pop; no traveller stopped at Arsen Smith’s garage for gas at 16 cents a gallon (a gallon!). The CPR ended passenger and freight service, so the station closed. As each business closed, a family left town, which meant less business for those remaining. Thus, the downward spiral continued.
I can not imagine what my grandparents’ generation felt as they saw the town fade away. There had been nothing there when they arrived back in 1908. They saw Meyronne rise from the prairie grass and, fostered by dreams of a glorious future and by dint of much hard work, blossom into a dynamic village of over 300 people. But then came the Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties. They watched their hopes and dreams for themselves, for their children and grandchildren, slowly disappear, family by family, home by home, business by business, until all that was left was a shadow.
Ashes unto ashes and dust unto dust.
(Gil Rowan published a YouTube video that shows what was left of Meyronne in 2008. There are even fewer buildings there now.)
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