History greets you at every turn. Use the guide to see our Heritage Moments.
Ice Cream and Waskesiu are inseparable. For decades people have lined up at local ice cream shops to purchase cones of their favourite flavours. The Milk Bar, the Dairy Bar, the Scoop, Fluff’N’Stuff, the Beach House, Big Olaf, plus all the cafes also serving ice cream, have thrived selling this frozen treat. With over 40 flavours to choose from, it’s an ice cream lover’s paradise! Imagine the patience of the staff waiting while customers struggled to choose: Tiger, Tiger or Bubble Gum, Neapolitan or Rocky Road, Blueberry Cheesecake Ripple or Butter Pecan.
“When I first started working for Jimmy [at the Milk Bar] he told me to help myself to the soda fountain and eat all I wanted. For a boy from a town with no refrigeration this was a huge windfall. I pigged out on milkshakes, sodas and sundaes. Surprisingly, after a few weeks of this I tapered off and ground to a halt. It was twenty-five years before I started enjoying ice cream again.”
Ron S. Clancy, Waskesiu Memories, Volume III, edited by Dorell Taylor
Strolling along the street, licking ice cream, and chatting with folks you meet has always been a Waskesiu tradition. However, keeping ice cream frozen has presented its challenges.
In the early days, a generator supplied power to the townsite during the day, but was shut down in the evening. At the Terrace Gardens dance hall canteen, owner Ian Barrie joked that they sold an early version of soft ice cream as their supplies gradually softened once the generator switch off. Early campers tried to keep food cool in holes in the ground. See here how ice was harvested from the lake in gigantic blocks and stored in sawdust for sale in the summer by the McLachlan family. Residents in the shack tents had lockers in a central ice house provided by the Park for their food and, later, individual ice boxes in their cabin. Once electricity came to the Park via power poles, electrical lines were often damaged in summer thunder storms so power would be lost for hours at a time. Businesses had to scramble to keep their supplies cold.
"Operating a business in those early years was not easy. A local diesel plant, consisting of a huge, one-cylinder Lister diesel and generator, supplied the park's only power. This was a costly
production and a noisy one too. When the diesel was operating, you could hear it all over the town site, and no one could sleep until the plant shut down for the night. Given the expense and the noise, the plant was operated only on a part-time basis, which meant that refrigeration was a pretty hit and miss proposition and perishables were easily lost. "
Memories of Waskesiu by Ken Arner 07/11/2005 in the collection of Parks Canada/Prince Albert National Park.
Built in the ‘30s with the motel added in the ‘50s, the Pleasant Inn provided accommodation for vacationers for decades. It also housed a lunch counter and upscale dining room with white linen tablecloths. The telephone switchboard was located here for many years too. The operation required lots of staff for housekeeping and food services. Shirley Lambert and Reta (Venables) Saunders loved their summer at Waskesiu and working as waitresses but were often given other tasks too as Shirley recounts in Waskesiu Memories Volume III.
“We were often sent to THE BASEMENT for milk or other supplies. The milk was stored downstairs without refrigeration; however, THE BASEMENT was much cooler than any other part of the building. This was always quite an experience. It was an interesting basement. The concrete floors had buckled into bumps here and there. The dim lighting cast shadows giving the impression of six to ten inch moguls all across the concrete floor. The protuberances protruded through the four to five inches of lake water which had seeped in through the many cracks in the floor, creating islands which we used as risky stepping stones to reach the milk cans. Handling large milk cans was always awkward while filling smaller milk jugs and, at the same time, balancing yourself with each foot on a jagged concrete protrusion. Consequently, the milk often dribbled around the metal jugs making it’s [sic] way into the water on the floor. That, along with the musty lake water, gave THE BASEMENT an aroma all of its own.”
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