Meskanaw is still alive according to one of its most famous former residents. Vera Pezer was at the Melfort Public Library to read from her new book “The Little Community That Could; The story of Meskanaw” on Thursday, May 2 and the concept of the book came about because of her love of the hamlet.
“And I grew up in Meskanaw and I was looking for a project and my heart has always been there, I have been gone for a long time. So I was looking for a writing project and what stimulated me was we hear how small towns are dying out and in some respects when you look at it that is true,” Pezer explained.
Pezer began looking for an alternative explanation and struck upon the concept of energy.
“So I struck on the concept of energy which has aspects to it that never die, energy comes from anywhere and it never is destroyed,” she explained.
She then took that concept and built it into themes and constructed themes which became a story about the community of Meskanaw.
“In the end I say yes it is different from what it was when I was growing up but it is still there and the elements are still there. And people like me who have moved on or have gone elsewhere, parts of Meskanaw are still involved,” Pezer said.
She explained that she was looking for a message that broke from the assumptions people make. These assumptions are not necessarily wrong according to Pezer.
“There are not as many people as when I was growing up there. It has changed but that doesn’t mean that it is dead, it means that it’s dispersed. Meskanaw is everywhere,” she said
“And if you look at people from Meskanaw they literally are everywhere,” Pezer added.
The next step I her process saw Pezer develop themes and concepts around the chapters of the book. She began with the first settler of Meskanaw William Trail and laid out an outline.
“Because Meskanaw was settled in three different ways and those three ways make it unique from a lot of other communities. The first were the English speaking settlers like William Trail and his sons,”
The next batch of settlers were Eastern European settlers after the Saskatchewan opened to those populations.
“You get an influx around Meskanaw of Ukrainians, Hungarians and a lot of French. So Meskanaw ended up being really diverse. Meskanaw was a mix of everything so that made it really unique,” Pezer explained.
“The third wave of settlers came during the Depression. Because things were bad in the Meskanaw area but not nearly as bad as other parts of the province, we get this migration of people coming in,” she said.
People came from the southern part of Saskatchewan to Meskanaw because the prices and crops were poor but people had gardens and livestock.
“They had a means to survive. Then I spent a chapter talking about farming and the business community. There is a chapter on sports, religion and all of that,”
She explained that theses chapters delve into the culture of the community as culture can come from each aspect.
The evening was well attended with over 40 people, many with roots in Meskanaw who knew Pezer. The evening was introduced by Library board member Bill Selnes, who is also originally from Meskanaw.
“Well I am thrilled; I am absolutely thrilled because the book has been out less than a month. I did one reading in Meskanaw a couple of weeks ago. So I had a chance to come here and of course I am going to come here,” Pezer said.
The entire experience of completing the book, which is one of many she has published was excellent.
“This is really satisfying, it is satisfying for me to have completed it and the feedback that I am getting form others is that they really like it. It’s a story that almost anybody familiar with small town Saskatchewan can relate to,” she said.
Pezer, who currently lives in Saskatoon, is a former Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.