If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I like to talk about Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. As one of my good friends said, “You can’t not write about a place named Moose Jaw.” 🙂 The older I get, the more I appreciate this city on the prairie and my family’s history there.
Two years ago I had the privilege of working as an editor on a book my Dad wrote about his origins in Moose Jaw and his career in television.
In writing the book, he gave a glimpse into the city’s history during the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. After describing his first job selling newspapers for the Times Herald on historic River Street, he mentions a job he got as a pin setter at Kennedy’s Bowling Alley on Main Street.
Now, doing pin setting, you had to do two alleys. I was very small for my age, and I couldn’t keep up, and so I could only do one alley at a time, but I got a lot of help from my brother and from others working there.
For an image of what this job was like, we can travel to the village of Youbou on Vancouver Island. According to the CVRD website, it’s the only sanctioned bowling alley in Canada that still employs human pin setters.
The article “Pin Boys in the 21st Century” by Malcolm Chalmers, Vancouver Island Event Photographer, shows some great images of pin setting in action at Youbou Lanes.
But this piece of Moose Jaw history had all but disappeared, or at least I thought it had, until I got an exciting Facebook message on a Saturday afternoon in March 2017.
My cousin, Jaimie Atkins, is a member of the band Sweet Saturday. She, along with her fellow musicians, Mandy Canning and Annie MacLeod, were at a photoshoot with photographer Andy Hamilton in the old CHAB Radio building across from Andy’s studio. During the shoot, she spotted some signatures written on the wall.
Close up, one of them turned out to be my Dad’s signature from 1960. Since this building was known as the old CHAB Radio building, we were puzzled at first. My Dad had worked for CHAB TV across the road, but never in radio. Why was his signature there?
Well, it turns out that the CHAB Radio building was previously the site of Kennedy’s Bowling Alley, which my Dad had been talking about in his book. While working as a pin setter all those years ago, my Dad, his brother, and his friend had all autographed the wall, complete with the date and time! A piece of Moose Jaw history and family history had been brought to life!
And this is what I love about my cousin and her fellow musicians in Sweet Saturday. In an area rich with history, they make old memories new, and for those of us who have moved away, they remind us of our prairie home and sing us into a future of shared human experience. As a roots/folk band, they cover songs from the past and write songs for the future.
The latest single off their upcoming album is called “Ruby Slippers,” and it speaks of home:
There’s no place like home to me / There’s no place like home / Whether near or far, home is where you are…
As someone who’s moved many times and had many “homes,” I’m thankful for the feelings and memories these songs evoke. I’m thankful for Sweet Saturday’s authenticity as songwriters and performers, and I’m thankful that my cousin noticed those signatures on the wall, an important part of not only my family’s history but Moose Jaw’s history… one that could have easily been rubbed out by a simple coat of paint.
So as I end this post, I’ll leave you with a video of Sweet Saturday covering the Beatles song “I Will,” which was originally released in 1968, just eight years after my Dad wrote his name on the wall in Kennedy’s Bowling Alley. This video was recorded at Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum near Moose Jaw. To view it, click here.