History greets you at every turn. Use the guide to see our Heritage Moments.
Although there were two others in the townsite, this service station would have been the first one encountered as traffic entered on Highway 263. One of the first commercial buildings built in Waskesiu was the Imperial Oil Service Station.
Before electricity, it had a ten gallon ‘Vision’ pump with a handle. An early owner was John Whitter, Sr. helped by his son John Jr. The chief mechanic was Brian Withers and Lorne Hobbs also worked here. In 1986 it was replaced on this property by the current Waskesiu Lake Lodge.
Mike Gill and Brian Armstrong were later operators of the service station, then called Esso, and also were involved in the Lodge once it was built. After Audrey Folden operated the Lodge for a few years, Dwayne and Shirley Andreen and family owned it.
Highway 263 was constructed to bring visitors into the newly formed National Park for the grand opening in 1928. It was designed to give visitors a winding view of the boreal forest. One stretch of road was noticeably straighter and is said to have been constructed during the week the engineer was on vacation. The road crew just plowed straight ahead building the road in his absence. For many years the road was a gravel surface with a number of soft areas. For the Park opening ceremonies in August of 1928, farmers with horses were hired to pull visitors vehicles through soft, muddy, or muskeg sections.
Although a trip from Prince Albert now takes only any hour, the trip used to be hours longer due to poorer roads and vehicles. Many families remember the young ones in the back seat getting car sick on the old road. Some made a contest over who would be the first one to glimpse Waskesiu Lake through the trees.
When Highway 264 was constructed, a new entrance road into town was also created, decreasing the traffic along Lakeview Drive. Highway 263 coming north from the South Gate was then renamed The Scenic Route with its twists and turns and hills. Highway 264 gave people a quicker, more direct access to the townsite through the East Gate and is the preferred route for most traffic.
The Journey to the Lake
Jeanne Morgan (the donor of the portable cabin displayed at the Museum) tells about her family’s trip in 1923 from Prince Albert to Waskesiu for a two week holiday in their Model T four-door car with Mom, Dad, and four children aged 10 and under and a gunny sack of vegetables from their garden.
“We started out on a sunny morning after a three day rain had drenched the roads. There was no pavement those days, or even gravel – just mud! The “road in,” and I use the term loosely, was far from being passable in places, especially after a three-day rain. The old old road was the first to the lake and it climbed over a number of hills, holes, and water holes. When we came to a hill, my mother drove the car, my dad helped push, my two brothers carried the sack of vegetables, Ruth and I walked, helping to push a “bit” too! It was an all-day trip.”
Jeanne (Treen) Morgan, Waskesiu Memories, Volume III, edited by Dorell Taylor
“We took twelve hours from Saskatoon to Waskesiu, including four or five hours stuck in mud at the long hill by Emma Lake.”
Jack Byers, Waskesiu Memories, Volume I, edited by Dorell Taylor
“The trip to P.A.N.P took a fair amount of time [in 1935]. After all, the old Chevy cruised along at about 25 m.p.h., which, in those days, was a good speed for the road conditions of that time. The trip itself was broken up by numerous stops, a number of them requiring the jacking up of the car to repair flat tires, some to top up the water in the radiator and a good number of stops for needs of the kids and, of course, the enjoyment of sandwiches and great gulps of home made fruit juices.
"Tweedsmuir was the last stop before entering the Park proper and the sudden change to a total forest environment was not only a shock, but also an awakening to something totally different from what we were used to. The road that led into the forest appeared to be a narrow cut, bordered by tall towering spruce trees intermingled with white aspen winding its way along higher ground. The road itself was set at near ground level, which became a problem to cross, especially in low areas where small wash-outs had occurred and had to be negotiated.
"With Dad’s experience of hand clearing the entire home quarter of land, this did not pose any problem. He ensured that a good axe and a saw were taken along for the trip and it didn’t take long for him to fell enough young poplar trees to corduroy the road and thus continue on our way to Waskesiu.”
Mike Goy, Waskesiu Memories, Volume III, edited by Dorell Taylor
“The 1949 Mud Lift
"Until 1948, we drove on a winding, dusty gravel road from P.A. to Waskesiu…. Car sickness hit me on every trip.
In 1948, the Park let out a contract to straighten and pave the road to Charlie Mamzack’s (I think that was his name). Construction took place in the summer of 1948; bulldozers pulled you through the mud and delays were long and frustrating. That was the year Stalin tried to starve out Berlin but was repulsed by the 'Berlin Airlift.' So we called the trip from Prince Albert the 'Waskesiu Mud Lift.'”
Thomas O. (Tim) Davis, Waskesiu Memories, Volume III, edited by Dorell Taylor
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