Mrs. Laura Grace Wilson.
Laura Grace Wilson, the only daughter of William Roland and Grace (Motherwell) Gould, was born April 9, 1932, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and came with her parent's to their home in Big River. She has resided in Big river except for one year during her teacher training in Saskatoon.
Laura's memories of her childhood include swimming in Ladder Lake, Sunday afternoon walks "down the tracks", picnics down "Lovers Lane" (that is now Gould's campground) sliding down the school hill and being big enough for that first thrilling ride down "Tower Hill", the many stolen rides when she hooked her sleigh onto a passing team and sleigh going up the street, countless hours spent playing on the hitching rails at Godin's store and Friedman's store. Who can forget the excitement of waiting your turn at the annual Christmas concerts held in the school and Sunday School picnics held at Nels Edson's farm.
As a teenager. Laura was a member of the C.G.I.T. under the leadership of Mary McInnis and Mary McTaggart. She played in a school orchestra consisting of Nioma McNabb, Laverne McNabb, Stanley LaFontaine, Camille Chenard and Laura at the piano. They played for school sponsored dances at no charge and for other dances for a fee of $15.00 ($3.00 each). This group played for the first dance to be held in the new Big River Theatre which was the Victory dance celebrating V J Day, (Victory over Japan, World War II).
Laura took part in school drama and can recall when Big River won the Best Play award in Shellbrook with Maude Wilson winning the Best Actress award in 1946.
Laura became a member of the First United Church and started playing the organ in church and for weddings and funerals. Her first wedding was that of her cousin Blanche Newton and Peter Kasdorf in 1947. In 1977, she played for her first, second generation wedding when Heather Pister and John Crashley were married. Laura had played for Heather's parents, Wilfred Pister and Tootsie Anderson.
Laura remembers well the elation of having her team win the coveted Elk's Cup on Track and Field Day at school when she and Carl Ziegler were captains, how they chose each age group with such care and the running from group to group encouraging each contestant on.
It was this period that badminton hit Big River and Sunday and Wednesday afternoon and evening was spent playing badminton in the Big River Theatre where two double courts were set up. This was ages fourteen and up. Laura spent many happy hours playing badminton.
When Laura completed her high school in 1949, she attended Saskatoon Normal School for her teacher training. While there she continued her interest in drama, acting and direction in plays there. She directed the Normal School entry in the Provincial Drama Festival in Regina and at the end of the term was awarded a Saskatchewan Arts Board Scholarship to attend Banff School of Fine Arts Drama Course. Among her classmates, there were Shirley Sutherland (daughter of the Honourable. T.C. Douglas and ex-wife of Donald Sutherland) and John Vernon.
Laura joined the teaching staff of the Big River school in September 1950, and during her teaching days had the honour of teaching with three of her former teachers: her Grade 1 and 2 teacher, Meta Brownfield, her Grade 5 teacher, Mrs.M.E. Bouchard, and her 10, 11 and 12 teacher, her father, W.R. Gould.
On July 9, 1951, she married Max R. Wilson, youngest son of George and Violet Wilson. Laura took over bookkeeping duties for Max when he went into business.
Laura is active in the Big River Order of the Royal Purple and is pianist, an office she has held for many years. She is a Past Honoured Royal Lady of the lodge and a Past District Deputy of District No.4. She became a member of the village council in 1960. She and Anna Lomsnes were the first lady councillors in Big River and she was on the first elected Town Council. She was a councillor for eight years. During that period, she was chairwoman of the Centennial Committee, that was responsible for the building of the Town Office and sewer and water was installed in the town, and she was chairwoman of the Big River Library Board and was on the Board of Directors of Pineview Terrace in Prince Albert.
At the present time, Laura is chairwoman of the Big River Housing Authority which looks after the senior citizens housing as well as low rental family units. Laura has been an avid hockey fan, curled, and likes boating, hunting and fishing.>
Max Reginald Wilson.
Max Reginald Wilson, youngest son of George and Violet Wilson, was born in the Allan Hills area, came with his parents at the age of two, to Canwood and then Marchant Grove. He started school there, attending the Silver Cliff School.
In 1935, the family, including his brothers Edwin, George, Russell, Gertie and sister Maude, moved to Egg lake in the Stoney Lake area, where Max attended Delaronde School. In 1943, they moved to Big River. His father bought the Cheese Factory and renovated it for the family home.
Max's first job was fishing on Dore Lake for Emil Zinovich at the age of 15. He then fished with his brothers Ed and jake (George) and John Dunn. In the off-season he drove cat for Waite Fisheries out of Buffalo Narrows, learned to drive a truck while working with Chester Christopherson at Waskesiu, where Kurt Bengston ran a fish packing plant for Waite Fisheries and then drove for various men including Pete Pister, Joseph and Coleman, Midget, Harry Phillips, and Eddie Wirtz. In 1951, he bought a second hand truck from Eddie Wirtz and commenced hauling fish and freight for Waite Fisheries Limited.
The so-called highway at that time ran to fort Black. In summer, hauling was done that far and transferred to boats and barges. Winter roads were over frozen lakes, with snow ploughs mounted on the front of trucks.
Max then bought out Eddie Wirtz, Veryl McIntosh, Ivan Edson and Elmer Peterson. He applied for his own "A" franchise to haul to northern points, Green lake, Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, Patuanak, Dillon and Portage La Loche. These points he still services.
During the summer of 1954, trips to the north were all made via Glaslyn-Meadow Lake or North Battleford-Meadow Lake due to impassable roads. Some of his first drivers were Leslie and Harty Olson, Armand and Leo Godin and Ed Bradley. At the present time he has one driver, Edward Bradley, who has been employed by him for twenty-one continuous years and his mechanic, Harry Phillips, has been employed for nearly twenty years.
In 1951, Max married Laura Grace Gould, they had five children: Wallace Grant married Janette Lamothe, daughter of Marcel and Betty Lamothe of Bodmin. They have a son, Ryan. Wanda Grace married Rick Hartnett, son of Jack and Stella Hartnett. They have a son, Scott and a daughter Jade and live in Pine Point, N.W.T., where they are both employed by Cominco Ltd. Gaye Belroy and Gina Doreen are still at home and a daughter, Maxine, died at birth.
In 1959, Max purchased Colleaux Garage, built onto it so that trucks could get in and he operated out of there until 1978, when he moved to new premises in the Industrial Park.
In 1959, Max took out his first logging contract, which he sublet to Nels Edson, Marcel Lamothe and Alonzo Gallant. He has logged each winter since, first with horses and then he was the first contractor to purchase machines for skidding in the Big River area. He continues this work.
When the Big River Mill burned in 1969, he purchased a sawmill and erected it near the beach at Smoothstone Lake for sawing his winter cut. The following summer, it was set up in Big River for sawing logs which were in the lake. Norman Thibeault was his millwright for this operation. When The Saskatchewan Forest Products rebuilt a mill he had no further use for it and it was discarded.
When the Big River Memorial Rink was built, Max was one of the organizers for logging and hauling logs for lumber. His front end loader was used extensively at the work site.
He was a member of the Big river Braves Hockey executive and although he never played hockey, he has driven many players to hockey games in the Big V league. Both he and Laura are staunch hockey fans. He also sponsored "Wilson's Valiants", a Pee Wee hockey team, was manager of that team which was coached by Leo Olson. Some members were Harvey and Ken Pederson, Wayne Dunn, Wally Wilson, and Blair Bradley.
Max is a member of the B.P.O. Elks, curled when the first Big River Curling Rink was built on a "Truckers" rink consisting of Eddie Wirtz, Leo Olson and Allan Anderson.
Max likes to fish and hunt, and enjoys boating and he looks forward to the day when he can do more of these things.
Murray and Gertie Wilson.
Murray, Gertie and family arrived in Big river in 1938. They had been living at Arborfield, saskatchewan and times were hard. They moved to this district to establish a homestead in hopes that things would improve. After five years of hard work, the Wilson family decided to move to British Columbia in 1943. However, they returned in 1944 and lived at Stoney Lake for a few months. Then moved back to the homestead to try their luck again. The family was struck by hard times again and they moved back to B.C. Gertie and Murray had four children: Sadie and twins, Murray and Myrle, and Cameron.
Robert and Catherine Wood.
The Wood family was settled in the Lumley area, renting a farm, when rain and frost ruined their crops and left them with only one hundred dollars. Mr. and Mrs. Wood decided to apply for their own farm and therefore filed for a homestead in 1931. Their application was accepted because Mr. Wood was a veteran of World War one. They moved to their new home in Ladder Valley in 1933.
The journey was made by train. Robert and their son Edgar, stayed in a boxcar with the animals for the entire trip. They brought two cows, three horses, two sheep, a sow and her litter, and two dogs. The trip took three days, and amidst the confusion of having numerous animals crowded into one car, the cow had to be milked at regular intervals. When the train stopped at Saskatoon and the boxcar was opened for fresh air, one of their dogs jumped out of the cramped quarters, and was never seen again. When the family reached their destination they had to live in a tent until late fall when their sixteen by twenty foot log house was finished.
That winter, Robert hauled ties with Billy Wilson. Mr. wood joined the army in 1939 as a veteran guard. He was enlisted for five years. One January when Robert was home on leave the temperature dropped to seventy-two degrees below zero. This is recorded at the Bodmin Station. The train could not leave until ten o'clock a.m. when gas was poured over the wheels and ignited in order to give the train its required heat. Edgar joined the army in 1940 and was sent overseas.
During the five years that Mr. Wood was away, his wife, Catherine, and their children were responsible for their thirty-two acre farm. They later bought another quarter, the Fraser Place. In 1945, the Woods started to operate the Ladder Valley Post Office. Mr. and Mrs. Wood had four children: Edgar, Leone (White), Allyn and Russell.
Chris and Lil Wopnford.
Chris Wopnford arrived in Big River in 1920 from Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, followed by the family in November of 1925. The Wopnfords spent their first winter on Dore Lake. Chris spent the summer fishing on Delaronde lake and then for the next five consecutive years he was employed with Big River Fisheries, and with Olafson Fisheries for six winters. In the summer, he would work in J.K. Johnson's sawmill.
In 1937, Chris Wopnford bought the cartage and operated this business for nine years before selling out to John Hoehn. After this, he worked for Waite Fisheries and operated the Dore lake plant for five summers. Chris left Big River for two years to work at Fort Simpson and returned in 1954. At this time, he worked for Waite Fisheries until 1968 when the Wopnfords moved to Hay River, N.W.T. Chris and Lil Wopnford now live in Calgary, Alberta. They have five children: Max, Anne, Lorna, Audrey, and Donald.
Mr. and Mrs. Wychodzew.
Mr. Wychodzew immigrated to Canada in 1926 because there was not any work in Germany after World War One. Mrs. Wychodzew came in 1930. Unfortunately, they arrived just in time for the 'Dirty Thirties'. This new world looked desolate, but they established a homestead and survived the best they could.
Mr. Wychodzew took a job trapping on Cree Lake. Because the waterways were the only form of transportation up north, he would often leave in the fall and not return until spring. This left Mrs. Wychodzew alone to tend to the homestead and their two children. Being a city girl, it was hard to adjust to the new wilderness. Later, they moved to town and Mr. Wychodzew got a job in the sawmill. They stayed in Big River and Mrs. Wychodzew now lives in the Senior Citizens Home. Mr. Wychodzew passed away a few years ago.
Wilfred and Mary Young.
In 1930, Wilfred and Mary Young and their son Leonard moved north from Beaufield, Saskatchewan. They came in the spring and travelled the distance in a railway boxcar. Their former life had been ruined, like that of many other settlers, by the serious drought conditions that existed in the thirties.
The Youngs brought with them five horses, one pony, three cows, two cats, and two dogs. They spent the first three months living in a small shack while their own home was being built on the homestead.
There was an Indian trail that passed near the Youngs' home and on occasion they would witness a camp of Indians passing through. The Indians would stop and look at the new inhabitants only to continue on never to be seen again.
The weather was very harsh at times, in fact, Mrs. Young can remember when the snow was eight feet deep on the muskeg near their home. Also, during the spring and summer an excessive amount of water would prevent any type of travel. Another hardship was the flies and mosquitoes in the summer. Large outside smudges were built to keep the pests from the cattle and in the evening a small smudge would be lit and carried through the entire house forcing the mosquitoes out the doors.
Mr. and Mrs. Young also had the Ladder Valley Store for several years. Mr. Young also took the farmers milk by wagon into town for the cheese factory.
In 1943, the Youngs left Ladder valley for Drumheller and stayed until 1951. They then returned to their farm in Ladder Valley. Mrs Young is still living on this land as well as her son Leonard, his wife Kate and their six children.
Andrew and Ksenia Yur.
Andrew Yur came to Big River in 1929, and in 1930, he sent for Ksenia, his future bride. In order for Ksenia to come to Canada, she had to sell her land in Russia and buy her own ticket, since Andrew did not have enough money for her fare. The immigration ticket that Andrew had bought in Russia took him as far as Prince Albert. While he was there, he purchased a homestead in Ladder Valley, and the same year he moved north.
Andrew worked for the railroad for three months and later he started to work on his homestead. He stayed with his neighbour during the winter and when summer came he began building his own home. When Ksenia arrived they were married and continued to live and work on the homestead. Mr. and Mrs. Yur had two children, Gordon and Annie.
Fred Yurach came to Big river in 1912 from the Ukraine. He married Margaret Smytanick in 1914, they had four children; two daughters and two sons, Ann, Nick, Bill, Eva.
Mr. Yurach worked for the railway from 1912 to 1946. In 1928, he bought the general store on the corner. The store was previously owned by Mr. Mathews. Ann Yurach was manager of this store for a few years until she married and moved away. Bill took over as manager and continued in this capacity until his death in 1976. Bill married Marjorie McKnight in 1942 and had three children, George, Lyle, and Neil.
The I.G.A. store was built in 1965, it is a family owned and operated enterprise. Lyle began his career as a school teacher but quit teaching to become owner-manager of the Northlands Builders Supply Co. The Yurach family has been active in community affairs throughout the years.
Emil and Alexandra Zinovich.
In 1928, Emil Zinovich came to Canada from the village of Kokoritza, near the city of Brest, Russia. During his first year, he worked for a farmer near Edmonton and in the fall of 1929,
He moved to North Battleford where he worked on another farm. When harvesting was over, he commercial fished on La Plonge lake and then took up residence in Big River, where he roomed in the old mill hospital building.
During the years 1930 to 1941, Emil did carpentry work in the spring for he had his journeyman's papers in carpentry. He helped farmers harvest in the fall and commercial fished in the winter at Keeley Lake and later at Dore lake.
Emil married Alexandra Shinkaruk from the Sleepy Hollow district, on November 7, 1941. He continued doing carpentry work and commercial fishing on Dore lake. In 1948, he built an addition to the Junior school. In 1949, the Air Force Mess hall was moved to Big River from Ladder lake and Emil remodelled it into Big River's hospital. In 1952, he built the junior Intermediate school plus a school in Canwood. In 1953, he constructed the school in Parkside and in 1955, he built the Senior Intermediate school.
Besides doing carpentry work, Emil also ventured into farming. Around 1952, he bought two quarters from Ivor Fonos. Emil and Alexandra had three children: Helen (Mrs. Bert Vik). Leonard (married to Vivian Fontaine), and Kenneth.
Emil was a member of Co-op Fisheries of Dore Lake, a member of the Wheat Pool, and inspector for the Housing Corporation of Big River. Emil was quite a healthy man and led a very active life, until he had a stroke and passed away on December 29, 1975. Mrs. Zinovich still lives in Big River.