Category Archives: Bob Florence

Bethune household a happening place

Published in the 2013 Fall Newsletter.  By Bob Florence

Let’s go to Bethune’s.

Kids in the neighbourhood in Hudson Bay Park did this for years. They played and partied and laughed at Bethune’s house on Howell Avenue. With four boys and a girl in the family, Bethune’s was a happening place.

Bill and Elaine Bethune are the parents. When they moved to Howell Avenue in 1959 from a two- bedroom bungalow a few blocks away on Avenue D, their new home was on the fringe of Saskatoon. Standing in their kitchen, Elaine and Bill could look out the window facing the street and see wheat fields.

Howell Avenue began with three houses, with the Bethunes, with Bruce Howie of North Star Oil and his wife Shirley, with plumber Thomas Flaherty and his wife Marie.

The city grew. The neighbourhood, too.  Howell became home to George and Eileen Fidgett, Walter and Leona Dumka, George and Lois Podratz. A Co-op grocery store opened on Avenue P, then a Credit Union. New houses mushroomed.

Marlene Buller, who lived in a house near the start of the street on Howell, graduated from Mount Royal Collegiate and won a scholarship for the University of Saskatchewan where she studied paediatric nursing. Hank Siemens, who lived a few doors down from Buller on Howell, converted a school bus into a mobile summer home for his wife and four children.

Howell Avenue added the Brickers and Werbickis, Primes and Peters. There was firefighter Herbert Stoll and truck driver Peter Hyshka, clerk Anne Hrytzak and Safeway secretary Norah Reynolds. Bill Bethune worked in floor covering. Elaine raised the five Bethune children as well as babysat for other families.

“Kids across the street who didn’t have TV came over to watch,” Elaine said. “Friends are always welcome.”

The five Bethune children all went to Henry Kelsey elementary school. When he was in Grade 6 in 1966, Jimmy Bethune was part of a school project with principal Peter Russell to find out where towns and train stops in Saskatchewan drew their name. Russell wrote a book on it.

Kids in the school helped Russell do another book on Saskatoon’s street names, including Howell Avenue and Valens Drive, Donald Street and Kusch Crescent in Hudson Bay Park.

Neighbourhoods are about everyday people, not just those who have a street or park named after them. We may not change the world, but we shape our community.  Elaine knows Hudson Bay Park, has for more than 50 years. She knows names and faces, the work they do and interests they have. Her children grew up there. Bill died in 1980. Times change. The character of Bethune’s house on Howell endures.

As many as 13 members of Elaine’s family join her for supper in the kitchen of her house on Howell every Sunday. She likes to prepare a big meal for everyone. The challenge is variety.

“Especially dessert,” she said. “They like dessert.”

When her children turned older, she worked for a hotel on Idylwyld Drive, then as a room attendant  for the YWCA.

For the past 17 years she has volunteered with a program for seniors that meets at Clinkskill Manor. Every Monday and Wednesday morning she helps at Oliver
Lodge, a special care residence for seniors.

“I enjoy the activities they do,” she said. “I enjoy seeing them.”

Although the garden Elaine grows in her back yard is smaller than it once was, her yard has been a fountain of nectar for ruby- throated hummingbirds. She has a comfy chair in the sunroom for her white cat Bella. Among the needlepoint mats she stitched and framed are two pieces on the living room wall showing grain elevators.

Elaine was raised on a mixed farm at Bounty near Outlook with eight brothers and sisters, plus two stepbrothers. They walked across the field to go to school. They caught the train to visit their grandmother nearby in Conquest, especially at Christmas. Elaine moved to Saskatoon in 1948. She and Bill married a year later.

Howell Avenue is home.

West Side Stories

Ten nuggets of information about Hudson Bay Park, Mayfair, Kelsey-Woodlawn and area

  1. Explorer Henry Kelsey wrote of seeing a “great  store of buffalo” when he reached Canada’s Great  Plains in 1691. You can see a hint of it now. A big rock near the corner of 33rd Street and Valens Drive is a stone used by buffalo to remove winter hair and burrs. The stone was found on a farm southeast of Saskatoon and moved to Henry Kelsey Park in 1965.
  2. Neil Chotem, a 16-year-old prodigy in Saskatoon, played piano in a concert for Caswell, Mayfair and Westmount schools in 1937. Chotem  gave his first recital at age 11 and was instructed by the esteemed Lyell Gustin for eight years. Chotem went on to be a classical pianist and composer in Montreal, writing music for Canadian performers and being the guest conductor for prominent orchestras.
  3. George Donald saw a lot of change in Saskatoon police. The force went from having all the officers on walking patrol, to riding bikes, to driving the first cars in the province equipped with two-way radios. He was the city’s police chief for 31 years. Donald Street in Hudson Bay Park honours his name.
  4. Ellen Drummond, who lived on Bedford Road, was the first female public school trustee in Saskatoon. She promoted the idea of building Bedford Road Collegiate, returning to Ontario in 1923, the year the school opened.
  5. The Caswell Hill area is home to Saskatoon’s newest outdoor pool, including a water slide and basketball court. The previous Mayfair Pool was the oldest pool in the city, open every summer for 51 years.
  6. A family of three girls, four boys, their mother Julia and father Karl travelled from Moose Jaw to Saskatoon by covered wagon in the spring of 1883. The eldest son, John, 16, walked the full distance as he herded cows and calves. The family homesteaded east of what is now the Forestry Farm. The land later included Bridge City Speedway, the track for the Saskatoon Stock Car
  7. Racing Association. The family was the Kusch family. Kusch Crescent is in your community.  During the Kusch family trip to Saskatoon, a four-gallon crock of molasses spilled from their wagon and smashed. The name Blackstrap was born.
  8. After 38 years with the Saskatoon Municipal Railway System, Joseph Horan drove a street car on the Mayfair line Nov. 10, 1951. This was the city’s last tram run.
  9. Alfred Henry Browne had peacocks in his back yard on 16th Street. He planted trees all over the place. From maple and ash to elm and poplar, Browne made Saskatoon green. A native of England, he worked as the park superintendent in Saskatoon for 44 1/2 years. A.H. Browne Park in Mayfair keeps his name rooted in the city.
  10. “We bake it and you serve it.” This was the slogan for Mayfair Bakery, which opened in 1932. They’ve been cooking ever since. Janet and Ennio Muzzolini bought Christie’s Mayfair Bakery in 1965. It’s now run by their daughter Tracey and son Blair.

Compiled by Bob Florence