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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?