Russell

2011/08/15 – one part of several to come; lots to cover about this day. Might take me a few days to catch up with it all.

In the early 1980s my father was working in construction in Calgary, but saw the end of the boom coming.  My parents wanted to buy some land to live on, so my mother and I spent a lot of time travelling around looking at properties.  In 1982 we bought 80 acres near Angusville, Manitoba, and moved there.  More about the land in a later post.

Angusville being a tiny town, the two nearby towns that we went to for supplies were Russell and Rossburn.  I’ll post about Russell first because that’s where I arrived first on the current road trip.

Unlike most prairie towns that are shrinking, Russell is holding on.  A couple of buildings have come down and a couple have gone up, but more or less everything is the same as I recall.  Except for the main street, which now has the future standing over every corner.  Top picture 1992ish, bottom today:

Russel

Detail on the arches:

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There are some new businesses though – there never used to be any chain restaurants here, but now there is an A&W, a Tim Horton’s and a Subway.  The old Russell Inn restaurant is still around and still fairly good, and that’s where I prefer to eat.

The Russell Inn was founded 20+ years ago specifically as an attempt to stave off the slow death of the town by making it a tourist haven.  They’ve also developed a ski hill nearby.  That plus the town’s location at a major crossroads seem to have done the trick, but it means the town is really counting on the Inn and the tourist trade to stay alive.

Fond memories ensue.

Russell is where I did my driving test and first got my driver’s license – I actually learned out in the country in my parents’ vehicles though.  I did my driving test in my father’s 3/4 ton pickup – not an easy thing to parallel park, but otherwise I had no problems.  I grew up riding in the front seat all the time, so I was very familiar with the particulars of driving long before I got behind the wheel.

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The remains of the town theater (actually there were two, the other being a drive-in on the outskirts; it died first).  Disney likenesses probably not authorized.  This is where I saw the first and best Transformers movie, and also saw Baby and Old Yeller (man, that one got me good).

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The laundromat at the end of the main drag. We came into town every two weeks like clockwork to wash our duds here.  For a while they had a Zaxxon machine, but I mostly killed time a few blocks away downtown at:

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P&D’s Pizza (now an empty lot). P and D were a young husband and wife team who operated a pizza/burger joint and arcade here.  The restaurant was nice because it had high-backed booths with lots of room in them, but of course I was mainly here for the games.  They rotated through lots of games and I spent lots and lots of money on them.   P&D’s was still around when we briefly returned in 1992, and there were newer games then.  The main ones I remember from both periods were:

For the times when I wanted a different selection of games, there was a pool hall right across the street, in the grey stone building here:

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Tougher kids hung out here, but they never hassled me except for one time one of them challenged me to a game of pool.  I lost.

This place is where I first saw the original Street Fighter – boy, was that a difficult game! Also super popular – the controls were often busted.  They also had (at various times) Blasteroids, Black Tiger (which I mastered so well during my time in Toronto that it became a way to kill time on the cheap), and Extermination, which was a rather unique vertical-scrolling shooter that I’ve never seen anywhere else and would like to play again.

 

I mentioned the ski hill – it’s about 20 minutes outside of town as Asessippi Park – and yes, I’ve already made all possible jokes about that name so we can take them as read, OK?  Anyway, I also went back there today.  We used to go for picnics, fishing and swimming there.  Here’s the “beach” and swimming area:

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The lake isn’t natural – there is a dam offscreen to the left.  My father often took me fishing below the dam.  But near the picnic area there was a delightful little stream, with a miniature concrete dam on it.  I used to love to play in the stream, making more dams out of gravel.  To my delight, it’s still there exactly as before:

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Slow on the uptake department: I always wondered why this little dam was here.  I just realized today that it was for kids, and meant as a play-sized version of the much bigger nearby dam. Duh.

 

Today yielded enough things to fill another post or two, but it’s late and I need sleep.  Will resume when I can.  But here’s today’s map (sorry, haven’t had time to look into the centering problem yet).

 

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