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Allen Clarke Allen Clarke
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Steele`s Store


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When I was very young, there were some very special places in my life.At Polwarth, Saskatchewan, just about 85 miles northwest of Prince Albert, there was a small country store situated a few yards just off of the main blacktop which meanders toward Big River.Steele`s Store was an antiquated general store nestled in a row of evergreen and high bush about half a mile from the Polwarth elevator.The proprietors were a couple of old codgers by the names of Orrin Steele and Henry Poole.It was a greying ancient structure that had a charm of it`s own.It still stands today as a testament of a bygone era.I believe it is now used as a grainary.
   The old boys are long gone now, but the memories still endure.They were old then, when I was just a snotty-nosed kid. This must have been about 48 years ago.Not all of those memories were good.Henry Vandale, among others used to steal logs of bologna from the store.I felt sorry for Old Steele. These unscrupulous ``Indian-viduals``had no mercy. It was during those unguarded moments when Old Steele would shuffle off back into his adjoining living quarters that these seedy individuals would take the opportunity to thieve cigs or something else.I like to think though that whatever goes around comes around.For some boys, it would take a few years before they would reap their harvest of wild oats.If you know what I mean.
   Steele`s store also housed our post office.You could order anything,within reason,from Sears,and pick it up at Steele`s within one week.One old fella from the reserve got the silly notion that he could order hisself a women from the pages of Sears catalogue, more notably,from the lingerie section. I guess when he recieved the package of bloomers from the store, he was overheard to have commented that, she was probably sending her clothes first!
   The store was our link to the outside world.We would head there, once in a blue moon, on Granpa Sam`s buckboard.These were the days when a kid could get a bottle of pop and a bag of Old Dutch potato chips for about 22 cents.They sure tasted great! Not like today, where everything tastes so artificial.Everything tasted so much better back then!The bologna was primo in those early days.Sometimes people would call it Pentecostal steak.The pork neck-bones were, and still are considered a delicasy to the natives.They were especially delicious when boiled.Potatoes were locally grown with the taste of dirt still lingering on them, even after the boiling, or so it seemed.Fried potatoes were a meal in themselves.Often, that was all we had to eat. Welfare was not easy to come by back then.If a guy had a 22, he could go in the bush and down a deer, if he were lucky.There was always snare wire too so often our parents would send us out to the bush to set snares for rabbits.
   I still remember and cherish the sights, smells and sounds of that old country store.The scent of pipe smoke always hung heavey throughout the close confines of my favourite place to visit.I can still see Mr, Steele, standing their in white shirt and bright red bow tie. He would stand behind the old, rugged counter and always he would enquire, `Want some bologna?``
   There was an old, Texaco gas pump outside the store.It would be a collector item today.Sometimes, people,( usually from the nearby reserve)would come there and fill up their tanks and take off without paying for their gas.It was a mean thing to do!I imagine that Old Steele would have lost a fair bit of revenue because of certain bad apples.
   There were times during one of our visits that we would linger in the store so we could listen in on the hockey game. Steele had an old Westinghouse t.v. in the backroom and I think that he would purposely play it loud so we could listen to it. He was a nice old fella.The excited commentatin of Foster Hewitt could be heard a-shrill over the roar of the Maple Leaf Gardens throng.
   On the reserve, of course,very few of us had the luxury of a t.v.All we had for entertainment, on any given Saturday night,was a worn out deck of cards and maybe one of those battery powered portable radios.The plaintive strain of Hank Williams could often be heard, by the dim light of a kerosene lamp.The reception left much to be desired, as it always seemed to sound kinda tinny and always crackled with static.I`m sure that the words of ,`Your Cheatin` Heart``was memorized by every Indian in those parts.
   A person could write volumes, and still not be able to adequately communicate what it was like to be a kid, back then. For the most part,I loved the memories,even though; we,as a family went through some trying times. Still, I will always cherish those early days in Polwarth, Sakatchewan. It`s been often said that you can never go home again, but at least, one can dream of a better time and be satisfied to go there in one`s mind and just visit awhile.


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