Excerpts from Timber Trails
During the early years of Big River, the lumber company owned and operated the entire town. Private businesses were seldom allowed because it was a "Company Town". The Company had the responsibility for everything from housing, boarding places, school, post office, and hospital as well as all the business places. When the need arose for a blacksmith or a barber, it was the Lumber Company that arranged for such services to be provided to accommodate the workers of the community.
One of the earliest general stores was located near to the location of the present post office. That particular store was not company-owned so it did not last long before it was closed down.
Mr E.C. Brownfield was a gentleman who did not quite agree that the Company should control all areas of business and proceeded to make plans to build his store. The Company, however, stood firm on their policy and would not allow Mr Brownfield any land on which to build. Being a very resourceful person, this did not daunt him and Mr Brownfield began a correspondence with the government officials. He soon had their permission to build his store on the baseline or road allowance, the only surveyed land over which the Lumber Company had no control. The building was a very large one, two storeys high and room enough for living quarters in the back. It was built on the hill just north of where the Catholic Church is today, overlooking the 'sliding hill' and Cowan Lake. For many years it served as a general store for the community. It was later remodelled into a hall and an apartment house. During this time it was known as Hillcrest Hall. The building was demolished in the late fifties but had been a landmark for years.
In dealing with the businesses of Big River over the years, it is necessary to picture the needs and changes as they took place. First, there was the Lumber Company era, in all its glory. These were booming years and hundreds of people came and left the town. They were busy years and business was good; the mill produced to its full capacity with plenty of employment. Then came the "big fire of 1919" that all the old-timers remember so well. This brought an end to the big payrolls and the boom days of Big River.
With the surrounding forests lying burnt and black, the Company could do nothing but leave. Many settlers left at this time too, some following the Lumber Company in their move and others to various places. A new era began for those who chose to stay.
The lumber company offered the whole town for sale for the sum of twenty thousand dollars, and five local men bought it. They received title to all the land and all the buildings in January of 1922. These five men were E.C. Brownfield, Peter Figeland, Anton Johnson, W.W. Turple, and John Waite. They formed the Big River Development Company. Each member owned part of the town and could pretty well do as he wished with it. Private business began to flourish as, gradually, the people emerged from the control of the Company and became more independent. The Development Company encouraged growth, and while times were hard and money scarce, a gradual form of business took place. Farming, fishing, freighting, and small mills began to give the community enough employment to survive during the hungry thirties and to begin to grow again over the next twenty years.
We present here, the story of some of the business places and how they served the community.
Excerpts from Timber Trails with additions.
The lumber company, realizing the need for a baker, allowed Louis Godin to build and operate a bakeshop. His bakeshop was constructed where the present Red and White Store is located and was later enlarged to a general store. The Godin bakeshop lasted until the 1920s. George Thibeault, Pete Godin, and Wilfred Godin, all worked there at various times.
George McKnight also had a bakery. It was situated where the bus depot is today. In 1929, he converted his bakery into a beer and wine shop. The equipment from the bakery was purchased by Phillipe Beauleau who set up a shop on First Avenue South; he ran this business for a short time.
Mr Pete Godin opened and operated a bakeshop in the back of his store. Louis Chenard and George Bull worked in the shop to make a daily supply of fresh bread. In 1948, Wilfred and Yvette Godin opened a bakeshop and lunch counter on the corner of Main and Fourth Avenue. The Godin's kept the shop open until 1960. In 1961, Mrs Elizabeth Becker acquired the equipment and in 1964 she moved into a new shop where the present bakery is today. In 1968, it was sold to Mrs Watson who ran it until 1973 when Mr and Mrs Albert Carter bought it. Members of the Carter family operate the bakery at present.
There were numerous years where there was no bakery in Big River and people took it upon themselves to do the baking for members of the community. One that comes to mind and brings back very fond memories of those good home-baked cinnamon buns was Susie Lineman. With a small oven (just a 24") she got up early in the morning and had her baking done by dinner time, ready to enjoy the visits from the people when they came and picked up their buns and have a cup of tea or coffee. Other people in the community that does the baking for people are Tracey McKenzie, Carol Reimer, and Hazel McLean. Sherry Malm had a bakery in the Yurach's Hardware store also. In the mid-'90s Crystal Reimer opened up a bakery shop in part of the Waite Fisheries building, where people could get a variety of baked goods.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
There were no banking services until October 1949, when the Canadian Bank of Commerce opened a small branch near the present location of Al's Jewelry. In the lumber mill days, a large vault was used for banking purposes, this was located behind the building that is now the Rex Cafe. This vault can be depicted in some of the old pictures.
The first bank was only a shack on skids and not finished or equipped. Mr Sanderson and a clerk made the initial opening of the branch and Mr M.V. Cummings was the first manager. He arrived with his wife and family in December 1949.
The bank building, as well as the living quarters, was very cold. Living accommodations included an apartment building, which housed Dr Crux and family as well as the George Apps family. It was arranged with Waite Fisheries Ltd. to build three new houses on the hill behind the hospital. The bank, to accommodate their managers, purchased one of these homes.
In the early years of banking, it was found that most of the larger businesses were heavily involved with banks in the cities and that they would not be able to arrange their banking with the Commerce in Big River for several years. The district was only in the homesteading stage; consequently, there was not much prospect for the time being. It was necessary to look south for business to keep the doors open. Farmers and business places from Shell Lake and Mildred opened accounts and in a few years, bank loans enabled farmers to make improvements and to change over from horses to motorized farm equipment. Loans were made to the North as well, to Dore Lake and Sled Lake and northern mink ranchers.
The property on which the bank now stands was purchased and the original small building was skidded across the street to this location. In 1967, a new bank building was opened and services the community today.
Bank Managers who have served in Big River are the following: M.V. Cummings, W.J. Reynolds, F.B. Reed, J.D. McKay, J.Y. Tessier, N.S. Wettergreen and B. Ilsley. The present manager is Gordon Meadows.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Most parents acted as barbers for their families and many children sported the 'bowl' haircut, or the short, short, summer cut. Frank Beeson became the first barber during the Ladder Lake Company years. His shop was where the Second-Hand store is located today. Mr Beeson died in 1921.
Howard Darbyshire owned a barbershop in the 1930 ? 1940 period. Mr Edgar Wiggins opened a shop on Second Avenue in 1950 and operated it for ten years. Since 1960, our barbers have been Mr and Mrs F. Coates and Ed Krienke.
Pete Bouchard came to Big River in 1911 and opened a barbershop in 1922. The building also supported a pool hall and later a theatre. In 1940, this building burned down and Mr Bouchard rebuilt the theatre on the corner of Main and third, it's the present location. Pete continued his barber trade until he retired in 1950.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Horses played a very important role in the early days. The lumber company built a large barn, which was capable of stabling forty teams at one time. This was a t-shaped barn, located down by the lake, west of the station and was very much in use during the mill days. When the Lumber Company left, the barn was used by freighters and two men operated it, Mr Brotherston and Fred Coates. Mr Coates eventually took it over and managed it for many years.
Mr Geoffrey owned a feed shed across the tracks from the present elevator. Harry Sweet also operated a livery barn for a time. With horses in general use, there were several feed barns in town and some in the country as well.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Good blacksmiths were in constant demand during the early years, and many men tried their hand at this business. Alonzo Chamberland, his father, Paul La Gouffe, Jim Tapley and Henry Bouchard were among the first and the best in this field.
The Bouchard Shop was located just west of the present Gulf Station. Jim Tapley had his shop near the I.C. Fish Company land. In 1931, Ted and Ed Otte operated a blacksmith and car repair shop; John Redikop and Albert Kainz worked for them. The need for blacksmiths was greatest in the days of horse and wagon; this trade gradually gave way to garages and repair shops.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
The large L-shaped boarding house was built by the Lumber Company to accommodate the many single men they employed. It was also a poolroom for recreation. Many of the guests in those early days remember the excellent meals served at the boarding house. Mrs Clara Klyne, Mrs Jim Morrison, and Mr Williams were a few of the first cooks. The Boarding House accommodated two hundred guests and was one of the main buildings of the early years.
During the Big River Development Company years, it was sold to a woman in Prince Albert. She rented it out to travellers as apartment quarters. In 1925, the boarding house was destroyed by fire and another landmark was lost to flames.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
With the employment capacity of one thousand men, the Company was forced to supply fresh meat that would be readily available. They opened a butcher shop and hired Jack Hurd and Harry Gilbert as butchers. The shop was located near to the boarding house and operated for many years before it was destroyed by fire.
Mr Briscoe owned a butcher shop, which was located near the site of the Legion Hall. Several of the general stores installed a meat counter in later years and this custom has continued over the years. Some of the early storeowners with meat counters installed in their stores included Walter Glowaski, OP Godin, Joe Friedman and Waite Fisheries Ltd.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
"Grannie McKnight", as she was affectionately known, ran a confectionery and restaurant in the mill days. Her small but lively business was situated on the site of the present-day theatre. She opened her restaurant in the spring of 1915 and continued business until 1923. An added attraction to lunches and meals served there was Mrs McKnight's homemade ice cream.
Mrs Minna Brownfield served meals in the Lakeview Hotel. Opened in 1926, meals were served in the large dining room of the hotel.
Mrs Pearl McNabb operated a restaurant called the "Rex Cafe" in the 1920s. This building was located south of Yurach's Store.
The present Rex Cafe was first operated by Der Tom. A cafe adjoining the theatre has had several managers, among them, are Kelly Shatilla, Bill and Mary Buckingham, Ruth and Art Buckingham, and Mr and Mrs Skilliter.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
The Dray business played an important part in the town, delivering express and freight from the train to individuals and places of business. Most transportation was done by rail, as the roads were poor. Frank Fowler (Paddy Hines) had the cartage for quite some time. Olaf Anderson was drayman during the 1930s. Chris Wopenford drove after that, followed by John Hoehn and Jim Forbes, Mr Jake Belfry and Harry Sweet operated a dray business for several years as well.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Mr McClaskey, a pharmacist, had a drug store in O.P. Godin's general store in the early years. Mr Payne came to Big River in 1935 and operated a drug store for some years. He joined the army in 1940 and upon his return, he closed the drug store and began working for 0.P Godin.
For many years prescriptions were phoned to Shellbrook and would come up by bus. In November 1964, Mr and Mrs Jack Hartnett opened the present drug store.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
As automobiles became more popular, Henri Bouchard converted his blacksmith shop into a garage for modern machinery.
Mr Bouchard became an expert mechanic. He continued his blacksmith trade as well by working with ironworks.
Among the first garage operators were the Otte brothers and Tom Young and Sons. Young's Garage was first located on First Avenue north of the hotel.
In the early 1940s, it was moved to the site of the present-day Gulf Station. Young's sold the garage to Nick and Sylvia Shukin and it is now leased by LaPlante and Hannam.
On the lot across from the Gulf Station, another garage was built by Ernest Delisle in 1940. This garage burned several years later.
Jalmer Johnson and Dan Rogowski built a garage and welding shop in 1948. Mike Skopyk bought it in 1952 and still operates it today.
Grant and Vivian Gould, own and manage, the Shell Service Station that was built in 1961. Both Eddie Wirtz and Paul Colleaux had garages for a time.
In the 1940s, an Imperial agency was established in Big River. Before this time, fuel was hauled by truck from Prince Albert; this trip would take an entire day. The installation of large reserve tanks allowed fuel to be shipped further north. The forty-five-gallon barrels were filled at the Esso and then trucked to Buffalo Narrows.
The first Imperial Agent was Paul St. Arnaud, followed by his son Edmund. Edmund had the dealership until 1952 when Gordon Geitz took over the business. In 1962, Carmen Weir became the Imperial Oil Agent.
Carmen was in partnership with his brother, Lindsay, in Prince Albert. They were, at this time, involved with Imperial Oil. When Carmen Weir and his family moved to Big River, Gordon Geitz had already established the service station and garage. The first staff members at Weir's Esso Service were Ralph Morin and Ray Webb.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
The Lumber Company had the first general store in the area followed closely by the Brownfield store on the hill. Shortly after the Big River Development Company took over, several new general stores sprang up. One of these was operated by the Freidman Brothers, Joe and Rueben. Their store was later remodelled and became the cheese factory.
Jarvis and Shields had a general store on Second Avenue North. Mr Halle owned and operated a store in the early years. This was located at the end of First Avenue and was the same building in which Tommy Thibeault had previously had his store. Wilfred Godin also had a store there.
Louis Godin continued to operate his bakeshop but soon enlarged it to include a grocery and dry goods department. An ice cream parlour and drug store were added when Pete Godin assumed the management from his father.
The Pete Godin family moved to Quebec in 1945 and sold the business to a group of local men. Three of these were Nels Edson, Vernon Johnson and Paul St. Arnaud. This group later sold their shares to Eikel and Lomsnes who sold again to Joe Freidman. When Joe left for the east to retire, he sold the business to the present owners, Anna, Rider, and Leonard Lomsnes. The store is now known as the Red and White Store. Harry South's store in Bodmin was moved into town and located on First Avenue and Main. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Huxted operated a general store in this building for many years.
Mr Mathews started a hardware store where Yurach's Enterprise is today. In 1928, Mr and Mrs Fred Yurach bought this store and made it into a hardware and grocery store. Later it was managed by Bill and Marg Yurach. In 1965, the family built the I.G.A. Store, which was managed by George and Neil Yurach.
Walter Glowaski built a small general store on First Avenue and after he moved away, Kathy Waite operated the Shop-Rite Store there.
Around 1937, several local men formed a Co-op and opened a general store across from the present-day Pharmacy. Some of this group were the following: Ron and Dave Morrison, Robert Wood, Richard Bell, Fred Bond, Ernest Straub, Sam Lyons and Paul Dube. It remained open for about ten years. Some of the managers who worked there are the following, Kurt Bengston, Doreen Bell, Ron Morrison and Mary McTaggart.
Waite Fisheries Limited opened a general store in 1943 and later enlarged the building to include a dry goods store. The building included office space for the fisheries and fish filleting and packing areas. There was also a refrigeration room and storage. They opened a Filleting Plant at Dore Lake in 1945 and bought out Big River Fisheries the same year.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
When the Big River Development Company bought all the land and buildings from the lumber company in 1922, Mr Brownfield became an owner of the company store and warehouse. He established his general store there. After the original buildings burned down, Mr Brownfield saw the need for a hotel. Using the brick from the old mill site, he constructed a two-story building. Guestrooms were upstairs and on the ground floor was the large dining room with big round tables carefully covered with linen table covers. Mrs Brownfield served excellent home-cooked meals to the hotel patrons from the spacious kitchen. In the corner part of the ground floor was a general store.
The hotel was named the Lakeview Hotel and still bears this name today. Mrs J.K. Johnson was one of the first guests to stay in the new hotel in 1926. The hotel had the only power plant for quite some time. Often it was the scene of a showing of films so those sponsoring the event could use the electricity. Carl Brownfield helped his parents run the hotel and on their retirement, John Brownfield took over and later sold to Paul St. Arnaud and Lorenzo Tremblay. The first bar appeared in the 1940s and of course, was for "men only".
Other hotel owners have been the following: Schwann, Pecarski, Stalker, Barre, Mysko, Mieklejohn, and its present owners, Wayne and Audrey Hammon.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
The Big River Lumber Company installed its generating units and therefore was among the first to have electrical power.
A steam boiler was brought into town for power in 1936 under the partnership of Ed Otte and Pete Godin. At first, poles and wiring were set up throughout the town supplying only a few houses with power. Ed sold out to Pete in 1938 and Pete Godin then hired John Tradell. In 1940, Pete had Ted Otte and Lionel Frechette operating the plant. In 1941, the first diesel engine was installed. The era of the steam engines was coming to a close and in 1944, the steam boiler was replaced by another diesel engine.
When Pete Godin moved in 1945, he sold the plant to Ernest Delisle but unfortunately, the plant burned. In 1948, Len Waite built a power plant and named it the Big River Light and Power Company.
It produced 110 volts AC and stood back of Waite's warehouses. Kai Hanson operated Len Waite's plant and read the meters.
Before Len Waite built the power plant the power in town was DC, which was direct current. The lights in town would gradually dim as the steam boiler ran down. Once it was charged up again the lights would come on, full power. All the outlets and electrical appliances in town were wired for DC and when Len Waite built his plant it had AC, (alternating current), AC being completely different and made it necessary for everyone to have their homes completely re-wired. All electrical appliances had to have the alternating current as well.
Taken from the minutes of the Town Council, dated September 13, 1949, is the following: "Bylaw 38 to sign a contract with the Big River Light and Power Company to supply electric light and power to the Village of Big River."
The Big River Light and Power Company was sold to the Saskatchewan Power Commission in 1956.
Saskatchewan Timber Board
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
J.K. Johnson purchased the original Company Mill site from Peter Figeland of the Development Company in 1922 when private business was encouraged. Mr Johnson operated a lumber business for many years and then sold the property to the Saskatchewan Timber Board in 1946. Plans for a new government-owned sawmill was soon underway. Mr J.K. Johnson was hired and remained the first Superintendent for several years while the mill was under construction.
The new mill was officially opened by the Hon. J.H. Brockelbank on June 22, 1950, under supervision of W.E. Montgomery. The construction engineer was Mr S.A. Wienstein.
The sawmill and planer mill operated for sixteen years before fire once again changed the history of Big River. On a windy day in May 1969, the Big Mill was destroyed.
Once again plans were made to reconstruct the mill, this time at a new location on one of the piling yard sites. Hon. J. Ross Barrie outlined the plans of the new construction in a sod-turning ceremony held Oct. 17, 1970. The mill was in operation the following year. Just five years later it closed and the lumber industry moved from Big River to Bodmin where it is presently located.
The Saskatchewan Timber Board Retail Yard began in 1950 in an office located behind Waite Fisheries Limited. Later it was moved to a location east of the present Fire Hall where it served this community for many years.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Mr T. Arsenault operated a shoe repair here in the early years. His shop was moved to several different locations during the years. The first shoe repair shop was where the R.C.M.P. barracks are today. The second place was on Fourth and Main Street, where the Co-op store once stood and the third location was across from the present rink on the highway.
In the late 1920s, when the R.C.A.F. camp was being built at Ladder Lake, much of Mr Arsenault's business was that of repairing boots and shoes used by the construction workers at the base. The Federal Government provided funds for the shoe repair. Besides shoe repair, Mr Arsenault worked at repairing harnesses for the freight swings.
Mr Horace Chenard is said to have made the finest boots a man could wear. These were all handmade and highly prized footwear. Mr Chenard also made special shoes for one local gentleman who had frozen his feet very severely and could not wear ordinary shoes.
Mr Hendrickson operated a shoe repair shop during the mill days.
In Later years, Mr Louis Bradley repaired shoes and harness.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
Big River Lumber Producers was operated by Joe Freidman and Andy Sundby and was located where the Pool Hall is today. Several years later it was sold to Beaver Lumber Company who ran the business for a while under the management of Walter Braidy.
Excerpts from Timber Trails.
When the company owned the town it was necessary to provide people with some kind of recreation; therefore a theatre was built where the present one stands today. When they sold out and moved the mill, the theatre became the property of the Development Company and continued to serve as a theatre until it was destroyed by fire while under the management of Anton Johnson.
Hugh Green is said to have operated a "show hall" in 1912, and Mr Haplin ran a dance hall pavilion out by Ladder Lake.
Mr Horace (Pete) Bouchard operated a small theatre just north of J.K. Johnson's home. This building burned and the following year Pete and Fred Bouchard built the present theatre.
Businesses and Organizations Past and Present
B&C Precision Planing.
Braidek Sales & Transport
Dick Braidek - 2004.
Chalifour and Granberg Logging
Alfred (Bill) Chalifour and Karl Granberg ran the Chalifour and Granberg Logging Company from 1952 to 1978.
For over 25 years, Bill and Karl ran a successful logging business in the Big River area. Logging began at first frost and stopped at spring thaw (ice break - up). They hired an average of thirty men in the peak of their business years, giving employment to many men in the area. The first camp cook hired was Betty Snell, a very good cook that faced the challenge of cooking on an all-wood cookstove and having ingredients only brought in once a week. Later, Tom Forbes came to work as the cook and stayed on for many years.
Loaded Sundby truck.
Logging with skidders.
The first year of logging was at Rat Creek. We logged approximately one half million, board feet for the Andy Sundby Mill in Big River. All logs were loaded by manpower with what we called flying skid ways and trucked to
owned by Andy Sundby, Frank Schlogel and Slim Patrick.
In 1953, the camp moved to Beaupre Creek and approximately three million board feet was logged for Saskatchewan Forest Products. In 1954-55 the area logged was north-west of Sled Lake. In this year the logs were all cut with crosscut saws and horses were used for skidding. Logs were all trucked in log lengths.
In 1956, the camp was moved to Dog Lake. This was the first year saws were used and over the next few years logging would increase up to three million board feet per year. Horses were still being used for skidding (hauling the logs to an area where they could be loaded and trucked out). The logs were trucked across the ice of Dog Lake and North Cowan to a landing where they were boomed to Big River Mill. Areas logged were Taggart Lake, Delaronde Lake and Voisin Lake.
From 1960 to 1978, the camp was moved to Dore and Smoothstone Lakes. In 1975, skidders were purchased where clear-cutting was approved. All logging switched to tree length cutting and hauling to Big River Mill. The pulpwood was trucked to Prince Albert Pulp Mill.
In 1978, Bill retired and Karl kept the business until he retired several years later.
Clarence Pederson Bulldozing/Clearing
Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. Office.
Shirley Beebe and her husband Earl had started a trucking company to serve northern businesses. They started small and were in a major expansion mode when suddenly, in May 1985, Earl passed away. Shirley decided to carry on the business with the help from her sister, Deedie Lomsnes. The first thing she did was rent out the farm home, move into Big River, and reduce the debt load as much as possible. The company had developed a good relationship with some of the northern firms, and they committed themselves to stay with Shirley during the transition period.
Most people would have given up, but it was part of a dream, that they develop this together, and they knew they could do it.
Today the company client list includes Weyerhaeuser Lumber, the Northwest Company, and the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board in Winnipeg. They haul up to four million pounds of fish per year in containers. They have a fleet of twelve heavy-duty trucks, two company-owned and ten leased by the operators. They pull fourteen reefer vans, two log trailers, and one low - bed all over northern Saskatchewan. Keeping up the family tradition, her two sons and one daughter all play a role in the business.
Earl and Shirley were married just out of high school. Shirley took a year of university training to become a schoolteacher. Earl worked with Construction Company hauling gravel. He soon decided that he didn't want to work for someone else. They had lots of ambition and energy and nothing to lose, so they started their own business.
They proved to be a dynamite team. Earl had the smarts in operations and Shirley had the smarts in business. In 1969, they established Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. as 50 - 50 partners. They began with a logging operation in winter and hauling fresh fish from northern communities to Prince Albert in the summer. In 1972, they purchased a farm and started raising cattle year-round, trucking only in the summer. The company experienced continual growth, and trucks were added to the fleet. Expansions were financed from farm equity and bank loans.
In 1976 they incorporated, with the ownership structure remaining the same. In 1978, Earl Beebe Trucking built a maintenance shop and car wash, which was financed through the Federal Business Development Bank. In 1979 they purchased a general freight hauling company from Big River, which expanded the fleet to ten trucks. Contracts were secured to haul out of La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Ile-a-la Crosse and Pine House. The addition of backhaul runs, in which freight is trucked both to and from major centres, secured the place of Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. as a major company in Big River. In 1983, Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. expanded again, building a warehouse and office building in Big River.
Then, in 1985, Earl passed away, leaving Shirley, at the age of 34, the sole owner of Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. With children aged eight, ten, and twelve, she had a decision to make about the future of the company.
There were so many factors to be considered. Shirley considered selling the business but felt that financially; the company was not in a good position, and with the debt load it was carrying. Shirley was concerned about what would happen to the employees.
Shirley does not take big risks. She took care of her employees. They expect to get paid and if she took risks, she jeopardizes her company and the security of her staff.
The company's main source of capital is the money that comes in from trucking. When purchasing new equipment, they make sure they can afford it. When making financial and managerial decisions, Shirley relies on her thirty years of experiences. She finds that she is something of a conservative manager. She would rather spend money on improving the equipment than worry about expanding. Expansions take too long to pay off, and Shirley would rather expand the business as she can afford it.
When Earl and Shirley started their business, they had great feedback from their community, so they were able to put together a good workforce and create jobs. They had no real competition. There were and are other trucking companies, but they specialize in different areas.
Earl Beebe Trucking operates within clearly defined parameters that meet the needs and objectives of the owner, the employees, and the community. Their market niche is to serve the freight - hauling needs of small northern communities. They have carefully identified the needs of their customers and targeted their services. The company will continue to be based in Big River to maintain direct links with the northern communities and guarantee the quality and flexibility that the customers have come to expect.
Shirley plans to be able to keep twenty employees and, if the opportunity arises, perhaps get bigger.... gradually. She sees service, hands-on management and good employees as the keys to her success, as well as keeping the equipment maintained and the organization running smoothly. She has established a good name in a business she is proud of. Shirley hopes someday her children will take over, and possibly expand.
Controlled growth fits her philosophy of balancing all aspects of life. Too many business owners work eighteen-hour days simply to pay the bills. Business owners and employees need to enjoy life and not be consumed by work. It's important to maintain health and happiness as we only have one chance to live.
Shirley was one of the two finalists for the 1996 Canadian Women Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards. To young entrepreneurs that have their own business, it is challenging but rewarding. Think about your goals and how you want to achieve them. Don't worry about the roadblocks. The problems give you experience. Shirley is proof of her philosophy. She was faced with a sudden tragedy and irrecoverable loss, but she quickly put together a competent management team of people that she trusted.
Her common sense and straightforward approach to doing business are appreciated by all that work with her. She is admired and respected for managing a successful business in a male-dominated industry.
Gender is not as much of an issue as it used to be. Fifteen years ago she was unique in the business community, but today there are many women in senior positions and she finds herself negotiating contracts with women as often as she does men. There are fewer barriers to women today, and the opportunities are tremendous throughout Saskatchewan.
She is proud of her three children, now adults who are very involved in the business. Each of them at one time or another has gone away to school or to work, but they have all come back to the family business. She hopes to turn things over to them within the next ten years.
Earl Beebe Trucking Shop and Car Wash.
Edward Michel Trucking-2004.
Edward Michel Trucking - 2004.
G. Johnson - Pulpwood Hauling.
Gerald Laplante Trucking.
Gerald Horner Contracting.
Ross began his career in 1958 hauling freight for Max Wilson to points north in Saskatchewan. In the winter of 1964, he broke through the ice on Cowan Lake hauling a load of logs. Ross was able to get out onto the fuel tank and then jumped onto the ice. As he looked back, the truck had already sunk to the lake bottom. In 1965 he started working for his brother Bob hauling gravel, logs, and lumber, and in 1969 started hauling fish.
In 1970, he bought his truck and worked the summer at Reindeer Lake hauling fish and freight. From 1970 to 1980, he worked for the Department of Highways hauling gravel in the summer, and for the Saskatchewan Forest Products hauling logs in the winter.
From 1980 to 1983, he hauled pulpwood for his brother Les to the Prince Albert pulp mill. After driving a truck for 25 years Ross and his brother John were in partnership together harvesting wood for Saskatchewan Forest Products from 1983 to 1986. During this time they employed as many as 27 men at any given time. In 1986 Ross bought John's share of the business. At this same time, Weyerhaeuser bought out Saskatchewan Forest Products. Because equipment became more technical and required fewer men, Ross only now employs around nine men.
Due to forest fires in the West Cowan area (Milo fire) in the summer of 2002, Ross lost one-third of his equipment.
Today Ross still harvests wood for Weyerhaeuser.
J&R Contracting Shop-2004.
Submitted by Len Zinovich.
Len Zinovich on the Hanson Lake Road, 1967.
Len Zinovich Trucking began in April 1967 with a new 700 Dodge tandem which I drove back from Windsor, Ontario.
I worked for the Department of Highways in the summer of 1967 on the Hanson Lake Road, and then in the fall, I went to Hudson Bay for the Department of Natural Resources. In the spring I started in the Meadow Lake Region with the D.N.R. working mainly on campgrounds in the Meadow Lake Park, Loon Lake, Chitek Lake, Dore Lake and Big River areas until 1974. In the winters I would haul logs for Saskatchewan Forest Products in the Green Lake and Big River areas.
In 1974, I bought a new 9000 Ford and a 450C crawler loader and went to work for D.N.S. in the Buffalo Narrows, Ile-a-la-Crosse and Dore Lake areas. Vivian didn't teach that year and Don Humphrey's talked her into cooking for a camp of approximately eight to ten men for the summer.
From 1975 to 1986, I worked mainly in the Big River area with Saskatchewan Forest Products, Department of Highways, Big River mill and local deliveries.
In 1986, Weyerhaeuser bought Saskatchewan Forest Products. This gave us more summer work on bush roads and at the Big River Mill. In 1987, I sold Len's Gas Bar and built a new trucking shop in the Industrial area where I still am today (2003). We have six tractor units, four belly dumps, two semi end dumps, one tractor unit with N.R.T. since 1994, hauling to the mines, six tandem end dumps, four loaders and one grader.
Len's Trucking Shop, 2004.
Employees over the years are as follows: Joe Gilbert, Dick Gilbert, Bob Dunn, Sam Miller, Art Buckingham, Merv Sundby, Byron Grimm, Ed Fehr, Bill Martin, Herman Martin, John Leek, Doug Gunderson, Laverne Midget, Paul Watier, Hugh Watson, Adrian Schwab, Jeff Harty, Clint Reimer, Bernard Gunderson, Elton Sawatsky, Rick Homer, Leo Olson, Hugh Meyers, Cal Meyers, Curt Meyers, Lou Martin, Rodney Anderson, Victor Durocher, Susanne Miller, Lyle Meyers, Robert Zinovich, Aimee Zinovich, Brock Zinovich and Ellis Mason.
Les Dunn Trucking/Contracting.
Les purchased his first gravel truck in 1961. He operated his truck himself, hauling gravel for the Department of Highways during the summer and hauling lumber during the winter.
In the fall of 1965, he then purchased two new trucks. He, along with two other drivers, continued to haul gravel during the summer and lumber during the winter. In January of 1966, Les was hauling a load of lumber when he rolled the truck. It slid along on the roof collapsing the cab and popping the windshield. The cab of the truck filled with snow and Les became unconscious from the loss of air. His brother, Ross, had been travelling behind him. As he came along he saw the truck upside down in the ditch. Luckily, he was able to dig Les out. That same truck rolled over four years in a row.
Also in the winter of 1966, Les had one of his log trucks break through the ice on Cowan Lake. Earl Gunderson was the driver with Sam Miller as a passenger. As Les was trying to hook a chain around the tow hook on the truck, the ice broke and the truck slipped down another two feet. Les's hand was caught, pulling him down so that his face was in the water. He had to hold his breath and was able to get his hand free almost immediately. The truck broke through the ice four years in a row.
In 1969, Les purchased a loader cat, using it to load gravel in the summer and logs in the winter.
In 1970, he had his first logging contract with Saskatchewan Forest Products. He still hauled gravel until 1975. In 1974, he purchased his first diesel truck to haul logs. From 1974 to 1979, he had a contract with SFP each year to cut and haul logs summer and winter.
In 1979, he quit Saskatchewan Forest Products and worked for the Prince Albert Pulp, cutting and hauling logs to the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, summer and winter. He employed an average of 25 men including the trucks hauling the logs.
Les eventually sold his logging business to Fred Isayew of Prince Albert in June of 1986.
Max Wilson Trucking Service Limited.
Max Wilson Trucking Service Limited evolved from a second-hand truck that Max bought from Ed Wirtz in January of 1951. He commenced hauling fish and freight for Waite Fisheries Limited to Green Lake, Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, Patuanak, Dillon and Portage La Loche. The highway which was just a dirt road, only went as far as Fort Black, just north of Beauval hauling was done that far in the summer, then transferred to boats or barges. In the winter the frozen lakes and rivers were used with snowploughs mounted on the front of the trucks to plow a road on the ice. Mud, snow, sand, cracks, heaves and thin ice were all hazards depending on the season.
Max bought out Ed Wirtz, Veryl McIntosh, Ivan Edson and Elmer Pederson. He applied for his franchise but still loaded and billed through Waite Fisheries Limited. He operated this service until 1979 when he sold it to Earl Beebe Trucking.
In 1959, Max purchased a one-bay garage from Les Colleaux on the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street. He hired Ben Wall to build two bays on to the existing building, now there was room for his freight trucks. Harry Phillips had been driving for him, so he became his mechanic. Harry stayed in that position until he retired. We used to park trucks on an the empty lot that Bill Young owned across the street, and then the federal government bought it to build the post office. Max called his building Wilson Motors. We were affiliated with North Star Oil, which Shell Oil later took over. His wife Laura became a bookkeeper.
Max Wilson Trucking Service Limited.
Max Wilson Trucking Service Limited.
In 1959, Max received his first logging contract with The Saskatchewan Timber Board. He sublet the logging end of it to Nels Edson, Marcel Lamothe and Alonzo Gallant. Max began hauling logs that year. At that time logs were hauled to the landing just south of the Cowan Dam and dumped on the lake (ice), then boomed to the mill in town in the summer.
Shortly after this Max had his own logging camp, logging first with horses and manned power saws, gradually progressing to line skidders, then to feller bunchers, grapple skidders and mechanical delimbers.
When the Big River Mill burned down, the message was if you want to log you will have to buy a mill. Max purchased a sawmill and set it up near the beach at Smoothstone Lake. The lumber was hauled into Big River. The following summer the mill was set up along Cowan Lake. Max hired Norman Thibeault as foreman of his mill. Norman received a wage of 700 dollars a month. This was an extremely high salary at the time. We used the old burner to burn excess bark slabs and sawdust. The government rebuilt a mill, so we dismantled it and sold off what we could.
One year we dumped logs on Cowan Lake between the dock and the mill. On the 8th of January, a truckload of logs with Ross Dunn driving went down, with Ross luckily jumped to safety. The temperature was 40 degrees below zero. This happened at six o'clock at night and by midnight the load was off and the truck was in the shop.
Semi-trailers could not get into our shop on Main Street and the congestion with the Post Office across the street made staying there impractical, so in 1978 we had a new shop built in the new industrial area of town. Lyle Yurach was the contractor for this building.
Over the years, areas were given names. We had Bunkhouse Hill, Danny's Corner, Circle Drive and Civilization Corner. Two-way radios made driving much safer.
Some employees that were with us for many years were Harry Phillips, Ed Bradley, George Johnson, Ted Bogner, Roy Bartley, Bruce Leverton and Rick Hartnett. We made some long-lasting friendships and had many unforgettable moments.
Businessmen or logging contractors who were on our payroll at one time; Ross Dunn, Bill Piche, John Dunn, Larry Laplante, Len Zinovich, and Ron Gilbert.
Our son Wally worked in the bush and on gravel jobs when it was time to retire we sold to Wallace Wilson Enterprises Limited. Wally and his wife Wendy operate it now.
Melvin Lindskog, Trucking
Northwestern Helicopters Ltd. (1987-2002)
I, Leonard Peterson, owned and operated this business. I started it on June 1, 1987, with one Sikorsky S-58 (C-FFZM) helicopter. I began fighting forest fires out of Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan.
I purchased the old Big River Concrete building at 514 George Street in 1991. In about 1993 I built on an addition to the building.
Forest fire fighting was our mainstay, as well as some work with seismic crews in the oil exploration. Because forest fire fighting is seasonal work, in the winter we would push the helicopters into the shop and pull them apart to do all the various elements of maintenance required to be ready for the busy fire season. In the spring there would be numerous test flights to be sure everything was working properly. It was during these test flights that there would be a steady flow of people coming to 'see' if they could get a ride in one of the helicopters.
Usually, around the first part of May, we would fly the helicopters North to our base in Buffalo Narrows. Once the fire season started we were kept busy from dawn to dark. A typical day would begin at 6:00 a.m. with the helicopters working through until 10:00 p.m. Once the helicopters returned to base, then it was the mechanic's shift. He would be required to work through most of the night to have the helicopter ready and running for the next morning. However, some days he would receive a phone call because one of the helicopters was having maintenance trouble. Because of the remoteness of the fires in northern Saskatchewan, repairing a helicopter could provide challenges such as replacing an engine knee-deep in a muskeg, coordinating the delivering of parts, and then there were the black flies, the fish flies and the mosquitoes. Our fire season would usually be done by the end of August. Once the fleet was back home in Big River, the cycle would once again begin.
During our years in business, we were fortunate enough to have been able to add to our fleet a second Sikorsky 8-58 (C-FEWH) in 1989. A Bell 206 (CFWGS) was added in 1995. Then a Hughes 500 (C-FJMP) in 1998. Some of our crew included:
Paul Tudge - Vancouver, British Columbia
Chuck Burke - Kelowna, British Columbia
Charles Powis - Magrath, Alberta
Dave Brooks - Battleford, Saskatchewan
Mike Lingard - Drayton Valley, Alberta
Darvin Mossing - Fairview, Alberta
Jay Blythman - Calgary, Alberta
Doug McPherson - Lac La Biche, Alberta
George Reid - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta
Charlie DeMontonel - Turtleford, Saskatchewan
Brad Hill - Ottawa Valley, Ontario
Michael Savignac - Vanderhoof, British Columbia
In 2002, Northwestern Helicopters Ltd.
was sold and moved.
Os - Arc Enterprises Ltd.
Robert Schneider Trucking
Ted McKenzie Trucking Ltd.-2004.
Wallace Wilson Enterprises Ltd.
Submitted by Wally and Wendy Wilson.
In 1975, Wally bought his first truck to haul logs and gravel as a subcontractor for Max Wilson Trucking Service. He worked many gravel, asphalt and paving jobs both near and far to keep busy during logging's off-season. Over the years Wallace Wilson Enterprises Ltd. grew to have six trucks subcontracting. After Wally invested many years and dollars into the company, Max Wilson Trucking came up for sale.
In 1991, we bought the company. Wally felt the logging volume was too small, so before we had even made a dent in the payments, we bought out Isayew Contracting and sold half of it to Del Lake Enterprises. At this time I was still manager of a northern propane and fuel delivery station for Federated Co-op (Len's Gas Bar).
In 1995, we realised two businesses were too much and I came to work with Wally. This was a very busy year. There were a lot of changes and fire Wendy and hazards in our cutting area that nearly proved disastrous. We had to put up a sprinkler system in our camp yard and were evacuated many times that summer leaving processed wood and machines in clouds of smoke.
Today, we have about forty on staff and our 2002-2003 cut and delivery volume was over 200,000 cubic meters.
Two of our children work with us, Kiel and Jodi.
Wallace Wilson Enterprises Ltd.
Wendy and Wallace Wilson in the Rat Flats
Area, March 2004.
Hunter Fish Agencies Ltd.
Hunter Fish Agencies Ltd., 2003.
In 1983, Larry and Clarice Hunter built the fish packing plant in Big River, making it their head office for their operation, which they ran previously out of their home. Being there was no longer a fish buyer in Big River they felt there was a need for the packing facility as well. They, being agents for Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, bought fish from Dore Lake, Wollaston Lake, Canoe Lake, Patuanak, Pinehouse, Ile-a-la Crosse and Big River. In all locations, they hired local help and rented the facility from the fishermen co-ops except for Big River. Larry, being previously employed by the corporation as their zone manager, and Clarice, being involved with the fishing industry with her deceased husband Bob Schneider, were a team. All the fish was bought fresh and dressed. It was all weighed, graded, packed in ice in blue plastic tubs, labelled and shipped via Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. to Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg. They would buy anywhere from two to three million pounds of fish a year. They also bought fish at Lake Diefenbaker operating out of a mobile plant. There they also bought roe. There was one year that they shipped ten thousand pounds of golden caviar. They also bought fish at Cochin a few years operating out of a fisherman's shed. Over the years they have dealt with over four hundred fishermen. Most of the plants operated in the winter as the prices were better then. Also, as a sideline, they sold commercial fishing supplies. After Larry's passing in 1995, Kelly Schneider,Clarice's son, took over the operation with Clarice doing the books. Kelly had the opportunity to work with Larry and Clarice a few years so was able to take over and operate the business.
Submitted by Melaine Bueckert
Waite Fisheries Limited of Big River, Saskatchewan, was a registered Limited Company, being registered in Regina, Saskatchewan, October 25, 1943. Previous to this time, Leonard John Waite, now deceased, owned and operated a fish company under the name of Waite Fisheries, and this was mainly a winter operation of selling frozen and some fresh fish. This was started by Leonard Waite first of all to sell the product caught by him and his father. Later the operation was extended to buying fish from other fishermen and selling it through a mail-order business and carloads of fish to the United States and Eastern Canada.
Mr Waite formed the Limited Company with the idea of expanding the business, so in July 1943, they built the main part of the building in Big River. Later, through the years, the cold storage part was extended, and the small part that was set up to supply the fishermen with their necessary supplies became a large department store with groceries, fresh meat and vegetables, children's, men's and ladies wear, hardware, nets, floats and leads, rubber wear and all fishermen's supplies.
When Waite Fisheries limited got into operation, they then increased the mail-order fish business, selling fish to all the provinces, as well as the large production to the wholesale market in Canada and the United States.
In 1943, a group of men from the United States, who were in the fish business, asked Mr Waite to form another company in which he would hold the controlling interest and build a filleting plant and fish packing facilities at Buffalo Narrows, 187 miles north of Big River. They wanted this done to make sure that they would have a good and regular supply of fillets and fish. Waite & Company Limited was then formed and a filleting plant, packing facilities, power, plant, hotel and cafe, and houses for employees were built at Buffalo Narrows with the Company being incorporated at Regina on June 27, 1944. The filleting industry in Saskatchewan was pioneered by the actions of the late Leonard J. Waite. Lumber to build the boxes was brought in from the Big River Sawmill on barges.
In 1944, changes were made in the fish industry in Saskatchewan when the lakes became classified as to what could be done with the fish from the different lakes. The word CYSTS in whitefish was brought into the industry and those having more than the tolerance set by the Government had to be filleted. Dore Lake, one of Waite Fisheries large producing lakes became classified as a lake from which the whitefish produced had to be filleted. Mr Waite then decided that Waite Fisheries limited should build a filleting plant right at Dore Lake. In 1945, this was done, with the necessary power plant, houses built for the employees and a small store with the necessary supplies brought there from Waite's Store in Big River was set up.
They had a problem getting fish boxes, so Waite Fisheries decided to go into the logging business, log in the winter, and saw the logs in the summer and make fish boxes. This operation was then combined with the fish plant at Dore Lake and continued until the Province of Saskatchewan went into the lumber business and they were no longer allowed to operate the sawmill.
Big River Fisheries Limited was a fish company established in Big River in 1934 when George Rizer and his wife bought out Big River Consolidated Fisheries Limited, which had been established for many years in Big River and was the largest fish company in the province. When the problem of cysts entered into the fish industry, Mr Rizer, who had no filleting plant and was not interested in building one, asked Waite Fisheries Limited to buy him out. This was done on November 19, 1945. The name Big River Fisheries was retained and operated as a winter mail-order operation, buying all the fish from Waite Fisheries to supply their orders. This operation ceased when the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation took over. The name, however, is still held by Waite Fisheries Limited, who own all the shares.
To get fish from the far northern lakes, to supply the filleting plant at Buffalo Narrows, and to increase the overall production of Waite & Company and the main operation of Waite Fisheries Limited at Big River, Waite Fisheries decided to go into the airline business. This was done by forming a company, owned by Waite Fisheries limited and registered as Northern Airlines Limited in Regina on August 22, 1947. In the earlier years, fish was brought into Big River by horse teams, the caterpillar tractor, then roads were built and trucks took over.
Northern Airlines owned as high as ten aircraft, using Norseman, Beaver, Ansons and Waco. Floatplanes had their base at Big River on Cowan Lake and a company-owned airstrip in Big River. Skis were used on some of the planes in the winter. Four pilots, two air engineers, with an assistant, were employed and all office and managerial staff operated out of Waite Fisheries office in Big River, as well as most of Waite & Company Limited business.
When Saskatchewan Government decided to go into the airline business, they asked to buy out Northern Airlines and this was done on May 4, 1951. Waites retained one Cessna, CF-LJW.
In the meantime, with the increased use of electricity for the Big River Waite Fisheries operation with their large cold storage facilities, electricity was a problem and they had to set up their plant. It was then decided to buy out the local electric plant, which supplied D.C. power to the residents of Big River. On April 27, 1948, Waite Fisheries took over the supplying of AC. power and built a large power plant on their property and supplied the power until Saskatchewan Power Corporation decided to take over and bought out Big River Light & Power, which is what Waite Fisheries called their power business.
Hildegard Kaese in front of Waite's Store.
A few years after opening the filleting plant at Dore Lake, the lake was re-classified and the whitefish no longer had to be filleted. Waite Fisheries then moved their filleting plant to Cree Lake, building a road into Cree Lake in the winter of 1957. Fish was filleted there and flown to Buffalo Narrows where it was packaged. The plant was moved to Cree Lake because Waite Fisheries expected that the road to Uranium City, which was much talked about as a joint Federal and Provincial "ROAD TO RESOURCES" project would go quite close to Cree Lake and the fillets could be brought out by truck. Waite Fisheries would then build their road from the main one to the plant. However, the Provincial CCF government decided not to build that way but instead, opened up the east side of the province and the La Ronge area. When Waite Fisheries sold their airline, it was then too costly to pay someone to fly out the fillets and the fillet operation was closed. The plant was then used as a packing station.
When the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation took over in May 1969, Waite Fisheries had packing stations at Keeley Lake, two at Canoe Lake, the buildings at Cree Lake, and retain leases on them. They formerly had a large warehouse at Ile-a-la-Crosse. They own the land and the packing plant; icehouse and living quarters are situated at Dore Lake, and hold title for it. They also own the land the buildings are on in Big River, as well as other land and property in the town. A lease is held on the land on which the Waite & Company buildings are on at Buffalo Narrows.
There are no longer American shareholders in Waite & Company Limited. Many years ago, their shares were bought by members of the Waite family or by Waite Fisheries Limited and these are the present shareholders.
Waite Fisheries Fish Filleting Crew.
Frank Runge Sr.
Edward Lundy, Lenora Waite, Cecile Watier, Therese Watier, May Lamberton,
Jean Watier, Joyce Johnson, Margaret Watier.
Waite Fisheries Limited used to have a very large mail order business, selling their fish to "brokers" in Montreal, New York and Chicago in the winter for fish and fillets and a large business selling fillets and frozen fish to Saskatchewan Meat Packing plants, Burns, Swifts, Canada Packers and they in turn sent the fillets and fish to their plants in various parts of Canada. When the Corporation took over, it was understood that Waite's could retain this part of the business themselves. This was all taken away from them and all their fish is now sent to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, Winnipeg, and Waite's are only under a small commission which does not allow for money to expand our business and keep everything up to standard as we have always done in the days before the Corporation.
The period of peak production for the Waite & Company plant in Buffalo Narrows was during the late 1960's and early 1970's. At that time, there were as many as 250-300 fishermen, with the plant employing 40-50 people whose job was to clean, fillet, weigh and cryovac the fish. Tom Warriner oversaw the filleting production.
In the early 50's, when their men were not busy with the fish Leonard had them build the houses on the hill to house the bank manager, doctor, fish - inspector, bus driver and pilots. Horace Chenard oversaw the projects. A retainer wall made of rocks with cement steps was erected around the base of the hill. There were also suites above the store and office area where many people made their first home.
After Leonard's death, Martha took over the business in Big River leaving Richard to take over the Buffalo Narrows side. She had very capable help in the office with Mrs. Grace Gould, Mrs. Guilda Brownfield, Mrs. Barb Phillips, Mr. Frank Runge and Alec Kazmiruk.
After the store closure the building was used for many different businesses. Lorna Rice had a used clothing store in the back where the office once was. Also Gary and Pat Pickard ran a used furniture store in the front north end of the building known as Second Glance. This ran for a few years and many interesting pieces were bought from this place. After the closure of the second hand clothing store, Arlene Wicinski set up a hair salon in the same area. The upstairs part, where the Waites clothing department was, was what the archery club used for many years as an archery shoot area. There was also a gym area for people to use. About the same time, John Johnson ran Johnson Meats, along with Crystal Reimer operating Crystal's Bakery, something that everyone missed for a few years, the aroma of fresh baked bread and buns and fancy baking. At this same time Gloria and Dave Chaykowski had a large flower and gift shop located in the main part of the store. Chaykowski's built their own store on Main Street and with the closure of the other two businesses, the building was left vacant for a few years. It was discussed as to what to do with the building as it was in much need of repair and in the end it wasn't viable to fix, so in January of 2003 a decision was made to demolish the building and clean up the site.
Big River Hotel
Audrey and Wayne Hamon
Submitted by Duane Davidson
The Big River Hotel has been here for approximately ninety years. It has gone through many changes over the years. From being a store with three stories with thirty some rooms to two-story building with three-semi modern room and three executive rooms.
Duane Davidson with partners bought the hotel in 1991. Then in 1999, he bought out his partners. At this time he renovated three rooms, one room has two separate bedrooms, Jacuzzi tub, kitchen, cable, television and phone with Internet access. Another has two double beds, kitchenette, Jacuzzi tub, cable television and phone with Internet access. The last renovated room has two double beds, Jacuzzi tub, cable television, and phone with Internet access. The three semi-modern rooms have two double beds, cable television refrigerator and full bathrooms. The roof has recently been redone with a tin roof.
The hotel has a forty-seat restaurant; the restaurant has home-cooked meals with daily specials. The beverage room seats approximately one hundred and thirty-four people. It has a big-screen television, cold off-sale, jukebox, and VLT's. The tavern has live music once a month. The staff is personable, friendly and willing to help others. There is always a good time to be had at the Big River Hotel. It is a great place to go with friends and meet new people.
Big River Hotel - 2004.
Vicky Bogner, Dorothy Hiltz, Tess Mysko, Ruby Scrimshaw, Marge Wilson, Eileen Watson and Lorraine Reimer.
Simone Klassen, Susanne Miller, Nina (Colby), Anna Toon, Laverne, Marina, and Leah Colby, Valerie and Rosemary Bogner, Kathy Panter, Judy Buckingham, Susan Gilbert, Betty Steed.
Liz Johnson, Albert Hannam, Pat Curtis, Shirley Cromarty, Joan Meyers, June Martel, Chuck Morin, Joan Abbott, John Teer, Terry Hodgson, Doug Teer, Don and Dale Banks, Richard Warriner, Art Buckingham, Linda Anderson, Richard Hannam, Arnold Heimbechner.
VI Granberg, May Wilkes; Margaret Billesberger, Dorthea Beebe.
Florence Proulx, Brenda and Janice Scorgie, Dorothy Hiltz.
Sorry if we missed anyone. :-- (
On March 2, 1987, Larry and Clarice Hunter opened the doors of another new business. They built a motel, which consisted of a total of ten rooms, an office and a laundry room. It was a very demanding 24/7 business. Living four miles north of town made it even harder. At first, we operated with no hired help. The business was slow in the beginning wondering if we did the right thing. I still remember our first customer patiently waiting for the power to be turned on, that being a Weyerhaeuser employee. There were some days that I drove over sixty miles just running back and forth. As business improved we started to hire some help. Over the years we met some pretty interesting people. It's nice to have the repeat customers and recognize their voices on the phone. There were lots of times that a customer would be arriving late and I'd just tell them to go to a certain room, tell them where I hid the key and I would see them in the morning to register.
After Larry's passing in 1995, I sold the farm and moved to town on Wilson Place being closer to work. I found that much easier. In 2000, I thought it would be even easier if I lived right at work. In November 2001, the new addition was completed with living quarters and two extra rooms to rent. I moved again and made the right choice. It's easier for me now; I can have several jobs on the go and also more convenient for the customer as they don't have to phone me for a room. Now approaching our sixteenth year I'm still waiting for the doorbell to ring. Over the last few years, we still keep adding things that might attract more customers. We also have some campsites, camp kitchen and shower house, fire pits, pavement, gazebo, and also the hot tub. I love what I do and find it very rewarding.
Service Stations and Garages
Big River Auto Body, 2004.
Big River Esso & Restaurant
Big River Esso, 2004.
Big River Truck & Trailer
Big River Truck and Trailer, 2004.
Campbell & Phillips Garage
Gietz's Service Station.
L & H Service Station 1981
Submitted by Len Zinovich
Len Zinovich operating Len's Gas Bar.
Len's Gas Bar was started in 1982. I felt we needed propane bulk delivery service in Big River to service the local area and the local camps. I put in gas pumps and a diesel key lock and had an employee at the store to serve propane and propane supplies.
Deliveries were made to the bush camps regularly, every second Tuesday, rain or snow. At each camp, I would fill all tanks big or small. No one needed to bring a tank to town. In return for the special services, I was served some very good home-cooked meals at the camps.
In 1983, the propane business was expanding and my one-ton delivery truck was not efficient enough so I bought a larger delivery unit. I went to Batesville, Arkansas, United States and picked up a new unit. With more equipment, I had to expand the propane business further north. My first stop was Buffalo Narrows. Richard Waite was mayor there so he tendered out the town's propane, which I received. That was the beginning. Polar Oil, which was owned by ten Indian bands, tendered their propane, which I also received. That meant changing tanks and delivery to ten more communities in the north. In 1985, I bought property in Buffalo Narrows and set up a 56,000 L propane storage facility where a semi could drop off propane.
With the propane business picking up, I.C.G. and Superior propane approached me to sell out. Since Federated Co-op was my main supplier of propane, gas, diesel and oil and treated me very well, I gave them first chance to buy. In December of 1987, Federated Co-op took over the gas bar.
Federated Co-op workers were: Wayne Hamon, Jack Wynick, Victor, George, Tony, Diane and Orville Thomas.
Len's employees were: Joan Abbott, Hank Randall, Hank Jaguers, Ken Rothenburger, Sam Miller, Dan Wilson. Wade Gebkenjons, Roy Anderson, Russel Miller, Richard Miller, Kevin Potts, Noreen Emde, Lee Cooper.
Len's Team was: Kelly Schneider, Heather Gilbert, Grant Fabish, and Kari Schneider.
COOP Gas Station, 2004.
Federated Co-op purchased Len's Gas Bar from Len Zinovich in the fall of 1987. At that time they hired Steve Raymond as a leased operator. He ran the business until August of 1993.
In 1993, Federated then hired Wendy Wilson to manage the facility. She stayed with the company until August of 1995.
In 1995, Federated then hired P.A. Co-op to supply the facility with management services. For the next two years, Len's Gas Bar was run as a Tempo, under the watchful eye of Joe Novakowski, the manager of the Shellbrook Branch.
In May of 1997, P.A Co-op then took over the facility. They made numerous changes both inside and out. They hired Patty Kitella as the manager of the operation. At that time they switched from a Tempo to a branch of Prince Albert Co-op, giving the members the full benefit of the Co-op system.
In October of 2002, the new card lock system was open for operation. It is a facility that is second to none, and one that we are very proud of.
We look forward to serving the public for many years to come.
Magrath & Sons Auto Parts
McKnight's Paint and Body
I, Denis McKnight, grew up in Big River. When I finished grade twelve I went to Saskatoon to SIAST to be an Autobody Mechanic. I spent the next seven years working in shops in Saskatoon.
In the winter of 1977-1978, being my own boss seemed like a good idea, so in June of 1978, I bought the building across from the Post Office from Max Wilson Trucking. I installed a paint booth and pulling posts and tie-downs.
In early July before I was ready to open for business, John Dunn came to see me, as he had hit a deer and was going on holidays and needed his car. So, his was the first vehicle I had fixed in my shop.
I employed a few people in the shop, the main ones being Alvin Johnson and Gary Donald.
The business was sold to Martin Hansen in June of 1986.
That winter my wife Janice and children Kristy and Sean and I moved to LeRoy to take over the LeRoy Hotel. At this time I am still here running the Hotel.
After moving to LeRoy another son, Spencer was born.
Mid-Town Service as it is commonly known as is owned and operated by Ron, Susanne Miller and family. They bought this operation in September of 1987 and are still operating it today.
The service station has made a few changes over the years. It began as an Esso franchise, then changing to a Shell franchise, and then later disposing of the gas pumps in 1997 and becoming a parts and auto service station only. At present Mid-Town has a staff of seven people.
Today it operates two service bays and one bay for tire repairs or installation. We are open six days a week. Our services include Husqvarna power saws and parts, automotive parts of all sizes and descriptions, industrial filters, tires, farm parts, bulk Esso oil, confectionery, fishing and hunting licenses, towing service, a bottomless coffee pot and two ragged old chairs that have been with us since day one. If they could talk there would be more than one book full of stories told.
Miller's Garage, on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 1st Street north, was owned and operated by Sam and Eva Miller from November of 1958 to the end of November 1968.
The building, formerly the Waite Fisheries power plant, was relocated to 3rd Avenue and 1st Street North. The Millers purchased this building from Gordon Geitz and in 1961 added a 16 x 65ft addition. After the expansion, the completed building was 40 x 65 ft.
Construction of the addition was by Isaac Miller, Isaak Klassen and Martin Miller. Electrical work was performed by Cooper Electric (Tony, Gary and Mervin Cooper), plumbing by McLean's Plumbing and front end finishing work was completed by Fred Emde and Nap Chenard. Excavation by Max Wilson, gravel provided by Mervin Sundby and Ted McKenzie; and shavings' for insulation supplied by Jack Bechtel. Construction supplies were purchased from Saskatchewan Timber Board. Services offered were: Tow truck 24 hours daily, seven days per week. Minor and major repairs and overhauls to all makes and models of cars and trucks, six days weekly. Sales: Texaco gasoline, oil, tires, batteries, auto accessories and repair parts.
Soft drinks, chocolate bars, cigarettes and matches. In cold weather, overnight storage of cars and trucks was common, as engine block heaters were not yet widely used.
Employees: Bill Johnson (1959-1968), Jalmer Johnson (1964-1966). Seasonal and part time employees: Walter Becker, Mervin Cooper, Bill Miller, Richard Miller, Linda Miller, Jim Nichol, Max Roy and Eugene Swanson.
Financing provided by CIBC (Neil Wettergreen), Texaco Canada (Cec Herauf). Suppliers commonly dealt with include Automotive Supply Ltd. (Gordon Sproull), Anderson Motors Ltd. (Steve Kowal), Bowman Bros. Ltd (George Weir), Fayerman Bros. Ltd (Sid Fayerman, Bill Eskes), Grosser & Glass Ltd (Des Tooley), Lone Star Auto Electric Ltd (Vic Phaneuf). McDonalds Consolidated Ltd (Roy Hillhouse and Buster Hockey), Modern Motors Ltd (Ed Marud), Peters Motors Ltd (Jim Innes) and the Prince Albert Foundry Ltd.
In December 1968 the building and lot were sold to Bob Dunn.
Shell Canada, 2004.
Anderson Radio & Electric
B&C Farm and Feeds, 2004.
Big River Co-op Home centre
Big River Co-op Home Center was started in March 1999. Prince Albert Co-op purchased Nor - Sask Builders -Pro - Hardware from Merv and Patty Weiss in early March of 1999. They opened the doors on March 14, 1999. Extensive renovations were carried out to the lumberyard side to include the hardware. Terry Neurauter came from the Wakaw Co-op to be the first manager. First employees were Liane Dunn - Martel, Eugene Michel, and Marc Belair. Dennis Wagner joined us in August as the assistant manager trainee. We are continuing as a hardware and lumber supplier for Big River and District.
Big River COOP Home Centre and Food Store, 2004.
Big River Co-op Food Store
Big River Farmer's Market
The Big River Farmer's Market began in the 1990s and has operated continuously to date. It began with nine vendors selling items that were made, grown or baked by the seller. The market was an immediate success and soon a Fall Pumpkin Day and Christmas market followed the regular summer season.
Submitted by Jack Hartnett
In 1964, Jack and Stella Hartnett sold their store, Hartnett Drugs, in Saskatoon and packed up their six kids to come and visit Stella's sister, Rhoda, and her husband Bert Finlayson, who lived in Big River.
During the holiday, Jack was approached by Mayor Roland Barre, campsite operator, Tommy Michel and RCMP Sgt. Stook Wilson, with the point of persuading him to build a pharmacy in Big River. At the time there was a hospital and a doctor in town but no pharmacy, so the doctor had to phone his prescriptions to Shellbrook and have them sent up on the bus each day. Jack and Stella had both been raised in small towns, Elstow and Quill Lake, so they both thought it was a good idea. They felt that a country setting would be a good spot in which to raise their family.
With their decision made, they bought a lot from Dr Oldroyd on the corner of Main Street and 4th Avenue, which contained an old frame building, which had once been a bakery. The fire department under Norm McNabb volunteered to get rid of the bakery, which they did with a bulldozer and burning the rubble, much to the concern of Dr Oldroyd, who lived next door. The fire department pointed out to him that it was raining at the time, the breeze was blowing away from his house and the department was standing by.
A friend of Stella's family from Rose Valley, Abbie Gall, came and offered to build the pharmacy so they hired him. He, in turn, hired Max Wilson to dig the basement. Max sent one of his men, Harry Phillips, to run the caterpillar and do the digging. While this was going on Jack and Harry met and found that they had been in the same outfit, the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment, for five years during WWII. They had been in different squadrons and so had never got to meet each other.
In the meantime, Jack attended his first Big River Board of Trade meeting. Mayor Barre was also president of the Board of Trade, which he felt conflicted with each other, so he resigned as President and Jack was elected to replace him. Also elected was Len Lomsnes as secretary of the Board of Trade.
The following years the Board of Trade was involved in several items that affected the town. Dr Oldroyd left and the Board of Trade undertook to get a replacement. They were successful in persuading Drs. Eaton and Young, recent missionaries in India, to move to Big River with their three children.
When the sawmill burned down, the Board of Trade organized a committee consisting of Mayor Barre, Grant Gould, Gordon Ahenakew, Jack and Len to go to Regina to talk to Premier Thatcher about rebuilding the mill. They were successful in their effort.
Television station CKBI was persuaded to build a tower in Big River to relay signals from Prince Albert. Later a cable company, run by friends of Jack DeVlaming, was to provide its services through efforts of the Board of Trade.
During this time Stella had become involved with Marlene Lomsnes, Clarice Schneider and others in starting a figure skating club. Stella had had a modest amount of practice when she was young. The club took off immediately. Later the club taught power skating to hockey players. Stella was later to take up canoeing as a hobby. She was soon recruited by the high school to act as an escort and instructor for the students on their annual cross-country canoe trips.
Jack was chairman of the Big River Housing Authority when it was first formed, and the first homes were built. It was an interesting and challenging job and very satisfying. When he later became mayor, original authority member Laura Wilson assumed the mantle of chairman.
In 1976, Jack ran for mayor, to finish one year of Joe Gilbert's term, which Joe was unable to complete.
He ran against Bud Juker and won by one vote. The next year he went in by acclamation for a regular two-year stint. During these three years the town council with councillors Grace Colby, John Kuxhaus, Hazel McLean, Mery Weiss and Grant Pryznyk were to make long-lasting changes to the town. They paved and laid sidewalks the length of Main Street. Joe Gilbert's council had prepared for this. They established a Park for House trailers, and they also built the Industrial Park.
Just before the end of their term council approved the Department of Highways plan to run Highway 55 straight down Fourth Avenue and out at the north end through Grant Gould's campground. The highway was to be paved and have sidewalks built where required. The alternative was to have the highway bypass Big River on the east side. A petition was brought to council with 1000 names on it, protesting the highway going through town. The protesters envisioned accidents and injuries galore.
Council checked the petition names and found some from Meadow Lake and Calgary as well as some from other towns and Big River Rural Municipality. There were not near 1000 people living in Big River at the time. Council discarded the petition as they considered it did not represent a valid view of the majority of the citizens of the town.
At this time, the Town Council and RM Council were approached by Premier Alan Blakeney's office with the view to establishing the town and Rural Municipality as a single municipal unit. RM Reeve, John Dunn and Mayor Jack Hartnett, thought that it was a good idea. Citizens who felt that the other group would dominate them shot down this idea in a public meeting. These people were mainly from the rural municipality, who felt they would be run by the town. So the plan came to nothing although much of what it envisioned has since come to pass.
So Jack and Stella built the pharmacy, trained quite a few young people, mainly women to work in a store, and gave them a start when they had finished high school. Their six children all grew up to live and lead productive lives. They participated in many community activities and shared the fortunes of the community with a fine circle of friends. So starting the pharmacy was the right decision after all.
Big River Pharmacy, 2004
Submitted by Gloria Chaykowski
Gloria opened her own business on July 2, 1997, in the Waites building, called Chay's Florist. On August 28, 2001, Gloria had a grand opening in her new building along Main Street. Her business has a large selection of retail ranging from live-cut flowers, giftware, water, trophies, engraving, and fish supplies. She also has the Sears outlet site in her building. One of the greatest parts of owning her business in Big River is all the wonderful people that reside in Big River and all of the tourists that come back year after year.