Yorkton residents share tales of their towns

It’s called the main street for a reason, the traditional place that people have congregated throughout Canada. Lisa Marie DiLiberto and Charles Ketchabaw want to save the stories of main street, and have been going coast to coast to collect them with The Tale of a Town, a project collecting the oral history of a country, including Yorkton.

The husband and wife duo is going through Canada with their portable recording studio in a camp trailer. DiLiberto says they are looking for ordinary stories in order to document the history of the country’s many main streets.

This year’s memories are coming from the prairies, and DiLiberto says something that connects the province is trains, with many of the stories being defined by railroad. She also says that billiard rooms and the local Chinese restaurant have been some common themes that have came up as they speak to people.

They’ve also found that each province has different patterns of movement, Ketchabaw adds.

“A lot of people [in Saskatchewan] live pan-provincial, they live inside their province but they move around. In Manitoba they kind of stick to their own towns, if you’re born in Churchill you stay in Chuchill.”

The memories of main streets have been centered around places where people congregate, places like hotels, cafes and train stations, and Ketchabaw believes that this is something people want to go back to, a place in town where people mingle whatever their place in society.

“People want that experience you had before, where rich or poor, have or have not, you knew what was going on in your community.”

They’ve also been learning about main streets that don’t exist anymore, towns like Scotsguard which was taken down by fire and never rebuilt. She says that since a big part of the project is capturing the stories of a place, it’s important to get the memories of those towns that only live within the memories of former residents.

“Part of the goal of the project is to preserve the stories of those main streets were like. We can’t go and take a picture of them anymore... We want to hear people’s experiences, what it was like... It makes me realize the value of the work, when I talk to those people.”

They want to capture a whole era of memories of main street, and record the memories of things that only exist in that form. The idea is that this history will be archived and available for people long into the future, so they have a constant link to the history of their town and their country.

“The value will be realized in the future. Right now we’re just recording the stories of people who are alive, it’s fun for them, it’s rewarding for us and for them... The idea is that this is going to be available for people in 50 years when we might be gone, but we’ll have the voice, the picture and the memories,” Ketchebaw says.

The stories collected will be compiled into a performance installation which will take place in Regina on July 12 with Curtain Razors Theatre.  They will also be digitally mapped and added to www.thetaleofatown.com which is also where people can see what else is going on with the project. The final goal is to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary with a multi-platform celebration in 2017, once the project has covered the entire country.

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