Memories of My Home Town

This house belonged to a cousin and her husband and I have loved it since I was little.

In 1908, Father Albert-Marie Royer from the Auvergne Region in France established a parish and hamlet called Notre-Dame d’Auvergne, north of Notukeu Creek. Five years later, the townsite was moved south of the creek when the Canadian Pacific Railway laid track south of the creek. After the move, the community was renamed Ponteix after Father Royer’s former parish in France (Wikipedia)

Every three years, about fifty of us on my maternal side get together for a reunion in what was the hometown of our parents, Ponteix, Sask. It’s a lovely, sleepy town of 605 people, 175 who speak both French and English. When I lived here as a child, it was twice as big, but, being primarily a farming community, many, like my father, moved their families to the big city for more opportunity.

I’m glad my dad made that decision however there’s something wonderful about being able to relive my childhood simply by walking the streets of this small town.

Notre Dame D’Auvergne Catholic Church was built in 1929

No self-respecting, predominantly Catholic, French speaking town is without its church and this one is beautiful. It has quite the history.

Wikipedia says this: It houses a large wood carving of the Pieta.[10] The Pieta statue came to Canada in 1909 and was saved when the 1916 church was destroyed by fire in 1923. A description of the oak statue in 1954 by Abbot Jerome Webber of St. Peter’s Abbey claims it was made in France over four hundred years ago, was saved by peasants during the French Revolution and was once covered in pure gold. The church was designed by a Montreal architect and is based on French Romanesque churches of the 12th century.

I’ve seen pictures of when this church was in the process of being built and it’s amazing. It’s the largest church in the entire province and seats 1,000 people. It is listed in Canada’s “Historic Places” as being significant. I remember this church so well because it was such an important part of my life when we lived there.

The Sisters of Notre Dame Convent built in 1916

I went to school in grades one and two at this convent. The nuns were our teachers. In 2016 we had a tour of the convent as part of the Sisters’ 100th anniversary. We looked at pictures of our parents as young children when they went to school there in the 1930’s.

The old “Public School” has been empty for years

Starting in grade three I attended this school. It’s a neat building and very original inside. It is privately owned. Some have tried to reuse it for some other pupose but it didn’t work out. It stands there as a sentry to the past.

Gabriel Hospital (1918)

This was the hospital where the people of Ponteix had their basic medical needs taken care of. Those with more serious conditions were sent to Swift Current, approximately 50 miles away. At our 2016 reunion, my husband and I (plus other cousins and family members) decided to stay here as the town motel was all booked up. The sisters rent rooms for a nominal sum.

What an amazing experience. The interior looks exactly the same! Only the hospital equipment and furniture has been removed. Double beds have taken their place in the rooms, along with a simple table-desk and a chair. Wall decorations consist of a crucifix above the bed. Only two rooms have an attached toilet and sink. Everyone else must share a communal bathroom that has not changed for years.

Can you imagine me walking down the main hallway and seeing the operating room where I had my tonsils removed, or where I used to come and get my blood tested on a regular basis? It was surreal, almost as if I had been transported in time. We had to sneak in our dog and I was petrified that Sister Superior would find out… I was a kid again.

One side of main street

Time has not been kind to the main street as there are few businesses left in the town; most of the shopping is done in Swift Current, but I love the sense of history oozing out of these forgotten structures.

The cemetery in Ponteix

And finally, no visit to my home town would be complete without visiting the cemetery. This ritual has been ingrained in me and my siblings since 1967 when we moved away from the town. Every time we returned to visit family, my parents would come to the cemetery to pay their respects to those who had passed. We do the same now. The history of my home town is written in that cemetery – and after all, I knew so many of them.

I had a conversation with someone who told me that there was almost nothing left in Edmonton that she could recognize from her childhood community. it had all been torn down to make way for progress. She said I was lucky to have such ‘touchstones’ and as I go through these memories of my home town, I can’t help but agree.

What do you remember from your home town?

36 thoughts on “Memories of My Home Town

  1. My father Maurice Coulombe was born in Pontiex and his father was Elphege Coulombe. Elphege’s Father was Joseph Coulombe. He also had brothers and sisters in relation to the Kouri, Binett and Giroux name

    1. Crystal: How neat! I remember my parents talking about your relatives. Your grandfather’s name is familiar to me but it may be because they were of the same age group. When was your father born? When was the last time you were in Ponteix?

  2. Hello Johanne. My name is Therese(Terry) Girardin. My family and I lived in Ponteix since 1948. My brothers and I are trying to remember who lived in your cousins house before Dr. Barretto occupied it with his family. Do you have an answer for us? Thank You

    1. Hi Terry: How are you related to Paul Girardin? I remember him from school! I suspect you are asking about the nice sandstone coloured brick house? If so, I only knew Junior Kouri and Marie Liboiron living in that house. If not, what house are you talking about??

    2. Hello Johanne
      Thank you for your response. Yes, I was asking about the brick house where Dr. Barretto and his family lived for many years.We were wondering who was there before them.I could be wrong but I thought Junior Kouris and Marie Liboiron would have lived there after Dr. Barretto. Am I wrong?
      Paul Girardin is my brother who now lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

      1. As far as I know they lived there before Dr Baretto. I never knew Dr Baretto – we were gone from Ponteix before that and Junior was still unmarried when my Mom worked at Kouri’s store. He married Marie after and then they moved into that house. This is a different leg of the Liboiron’s than ours. My best friend back then was Kolleen Kouri (Paul would have known her from school) and I’m not sure if she’s on Facebook.

  3. Johanne – I enjoyed reading your article on Ponteix, the town my late husband grew up in. His father, Elvin Hick, was a pharmacist and his mother, Fern, was a nurse (an OR nurse I believe – not sure if that was in the local hospital or perhaps Swift Current?). In those days, the 1940’s, my husband’s family lived atop the pharmacy. I think there was a department store of sorts next to it. My husband was sent off to Campion College in Regina . He told me many a story of growing up in Saskatchewan and forming close bonds with many families there.

      1. Do you recall a family by the name of Lacasse? I think that’s the correct spelling. Madeline or Ernest Lacasse? The Clermont family? The Libron family?

      2. Are your relatives John, Frank, and Raymond? Going through my husband’s things I came across a note he made to himself. I can only guess he intended to reach out to old Ponteix acquaintances, but he never got around to it. I am most curious to learn more about Ponteix and speak to someone who is of his generation. I would love to speak to you, Johanne, if you are open to this.

      3. My husband, Dale Hicks, was born in 1943 and raised in Ponteix. In his high school years, Dale attended Campion College. Then went to the University of Saskatchewan for a degree in drama.

      4. He would be older than me by a full generation but I’ll bet he knew the Kouris. Mr Kouri was the mayor of Ponteix and one daughter became a pharmacist if my memory serves me right.

      5. It would be so nice to learn more about Ponteix life in the ’40’s and ’50’s. I wonder if any of your subscribers are of that generation…

      6. The first Google search I did brought me to your site, Johanne. I can’t seem to find any references to the Hick’s drugstore or to the family itself. It’s left me wondering if any of the families Dale grew up with are still in Ponteix…

      7. I live in Surrey, B.C. Dale and I met in Vancouver in 1983; we married in 1985. Dale’s brother and sister live in Edmonton, as did their parents right up to their passing.

  4. I came across this article written by you on my hometown, Ponteix, Saskatchewan. It is so well done. Did you know that the famous “Michelin” tire family in France funded the building of “l’Hopital Gabriel” that was named after one of their sons that was killed in an accident? The “Michelin” family home base is in Clermont Ferrand which is where the Sisters of Notre Dame have their mother house in France.

    1. Hi Louis. No I didn’t know that. What a great piece of history. I did know that there was a connection with a convent in France but didn’t know the details. I remember or rather know Gisele Stringer as I see her every time we go back to Ponteix every three years for family reunions. She has a good restaurant and great ice cream! Is she your sister?

  5. This was so interesting to read. I also grew up in Ponteix, I was born in 1963, my parents were Romeo and Helene Houde. I still have a sister who lives on a farm just south of town. I also have amazing memories of my home town. I was married in this church also in 1986. Both of my parents have passed away and are also in the town cemetery. We stop there every time we get down there also as I have many relatives who are buried there, Sadly we don’t get to go to Ponteix other than funerals it seems, I am not sure if you would know any of my siblings as I am the baby of 9. Let me know if you have any connection or memory to the Houde or Bonnebille families . Thanks
    Gisele Chu I currently live in Saskatoon

    1. Hi Gisele. I went to school with some members of the Houde family. I am older than you so it would have been older brothers or sisters (if the same family). The names are sketchy? Lucille?? Dennis?? One of the Bonneville families lived next door to us and my parents remained friends with their parents. I’m thinking Rene and Emile. Is this the same family you are referencing?

      1. Alice, so glad cousin Ray enjoyed the info. I don’t write very often about topics like this one – mostly stories about antiques and travelling. Not sure how much he’d like those. If his partner requests being a friend I’d be glad to do this!

  6. It’s interesting that you would ask me what I remember of my home town, as my husband asked me this just this morning, as we drove on the Anthony Henday. Edmonton is my home town and when I was a child Jasper Place and Beverly were separate municipalities. Jasper Avenue and 118th Avenue were the main avenues on the North side. I remember riding in a streetcar. Later, I remember going on errands by bus, downtown, and shopping at Woodward’s, Eaton’s and Woolworth’s. We moved to the Sherbrooke area when it was brand new, just cut out of the bush. So much has changed that I agree that it is hard to trace your childhood in the big city!

    1. Thanks for sharing.Yes, I can imagine that it would be more difficult in a city than a small town that people seem to forget but it’s interesting how many people still comment on the home town on Facebook. I remember, at 14 years of age when we moved to Edmonton, I was so naive that when I met new friends at school and they told me to “Meet us at the bay” I thought they were talking about a body of water in downtown Edmonton… This is me blushing!

      1. Thank you for the pictures and history of Ponteix. It was my mother’s home town. One of my aunts was a Nun and a nurse and we had the privilege of staying in the old hospital before it was converted over. Single beds and beautiful hardwood. And the bells from the church ringing joyously every morning.
        My grandparents Eva and Leonce Bonneville and my aunt Gertrude are gone now but my daughter is going to Ponteix this summer to see part of her heritage

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