Mission Statement

This is in some ways a personal site reflecting my long off and on association with Uranium City. Like a documentary film, I use this site to explore the town, the history and culture of the North, the nuclear industry and its effects, the mystery of abandonment, but most of all the history of this small town where I was lucky enough to live off and on throughout my youth.
I lived in UC for two parts of my young life: from the mid-’60s to the very early ’70s when I was very young (my memories of this period are vague, mostly second-hand), then later in the late ’70s when I was in my teens, and the town was growing fast and seemed set to continue for decades, perhaps indefinitely, as a model northern town.
I went back as an adult fourteen years after the mine very abruptly closed, with just six months notice, in June, 1982. I stayed one week, and went back another four times, the last, in February 2003 with a producer and co-director Ole Gjerstad, and Dave Segerts, long-time resident and cinematographer, in an attempt to make a documentary film. We had exploration funding from the NFB, CBC, APTN and spent 10 days shooting in -35 degree weather. Alas, conditions in the Canadian film and TV industry changed that year, and we had difficulty securing more funding and all that remains is the 30+ hours of raw footage from that shoot. Over time that some of that footage will appear on this site, along with all and any other material I can secure from across the web, publications, company records, broadcast footage, archives personal and official.
Volumes exist on this little town, most of which has now been abandoned 30 years. Along with my own recollections, I hope collect the memories of anyone who cares to write in. An active diaspora stays in touch, both in regular town reunions (held in Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan), the long-running ‘Friends of Uranium City’ website, and a couple of active facebook pages, one for Uranium City, another for Eldorado, SK, the company town seven miles away in the shadow of the mammoth Beaverlodge Mine which fed Uranium City for most of her existence.
A lot of the writing on this site is necessarily subjective, formed out of my own experiences and memories. Yet I hope that by collecting these artifacts in one place I can encourage others to share their own experiences and memories, and so compile a more complete history of the town and the area.

9 thoughts on “Mission Statement

  1. Hi Tim,
    I taught in Uranium City from 1977 to 1982(Mrs. Speed–Marjorie). I think maybe I had a brother of yours in my class–I am wracking my brains to think of his name (Jamie?) but I remember a Beckett. It was a wonderful 5 years–I am still connected with many of the other teachers. We’ve had a couple of reunions.
    I was married to William (Will) Speed then. We moved to Liverpool Nova Scotia when the mine closed. I am still here. William died of cancer in 1995.
    Of course many people said it was because we lived in Uranium City. My answer was that I know many people here in Nova Scotia and elsewhere who have died of cancer and most of the people I knew in Uranium City are still alive and have lived healthy lives.I tend to think of cancer as somewhat like the 6/49 lottery, that you hit a certain combination of factors that sets it off. Maybe Uranium City was one of those for William?
    I’m not sure why–maybe it’s because I’m writing my Christmas cards to Uranium City friends, but I’ve been feeling nostalgic for our time in Uranium City. My son actually found this site and told me about it. He was born here in Nova Scotia but hopes to get up there some time.

    1. Hi Marjorie,

      thanks so much for your message. Sorry for the delay, recovering from the flu. I may have been in your class, briefly, since I went to Gilchrist when we came back in 1977 (back when Candu was still being refurbished), but yes, you’re probably thinking of my brother Jamie, and maybe Heather, who are 5 and 6 years down from me respectively. The teacher I remember most from Gilchrist was Mr. Jelinski, I think he was my home teacher.

      If you’re interested, you can see a photograph of us, circa ’79 or so, at the bottom of this piece I wrote about Gunnar Mines:
      Gunnar Memories Part 1

      Yes, nostalgia/memories of Uranium City go deep. I visited several times in ’96 – 2003, and on my last trip was trying to make a documentary about the town, its history and people. I didn’t succeed, but this website is an outgrowth of that. I was actually just back in Uranium City this summer, for the first time in 19 years. A few people remain, including some whose last names you might recognize. But not much of the town remains – even downtown is pretty empty. Still, it survives, all these years later, as do the memories of the people who lived there. It’s not easy going back if you knew how it was before, and seeing it all abandoned, but something of the spirit of the people remains and I’ve always enjoyed it. Truly a unique place – and area. As soon as you hit the north shore of Lake Athabasca, you see and feel it.

      Funny you have reunions out east. There have been fairly regular reunions in and around Saskatoon – a few in Cypress Hills, a couple on a campground to the north, and lately in Saskatoon itself. I went to one in 2002, in Cypress Hills, and perhaps 700 people showed up, including many of my generation, which was great. A great weekend all round. Hopefully, they’ll be another this summer. I help out a bit with the reunion committee, I’ll post some news on this website when I know something definite.

      Funny, you live in Liverpool, NS. My mother lived in Liverpool, UK, before she moved to Canada and we ended up in Uranium City (the first time not long after I was born). I’ve been to the UK version, but never Nova Scotia.

      Keep checking this site, I’m in the middle of giving it an overhaul after neglecting it for a few years. If you’re on facebook, there’s also a FB group which is pretty active (they took over a lot of initial idea for this site, with people posting photos/memories/etc) with a large community of ex and current residents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363.

      Best, Tim

  2. Thanks for your reply, Tim! I can just remember your mother. I remembered she was British because I’m from the UK, actually quite near Liverpool. When I was a child we lived on Liverpool Old Road, in a village called Much Hoole. I was 23 when my first husband and I emigrated. Our Liverpool here is also on The River Mersey. We moved here for the paper mill which closed down a few years ago but the town is actually doing well. A lot of well off people have retired here and it has become quite an arts and cultural centre.

    The reunions I went to weren’t here in the east. They were in La Ronge. Quite a few teachers were living in La Ronge, or nearby. You probably know Caron and Rob Dubnick. I keep up with Caron. They still spend quite a bit of time in Uranium City.

    It was Jamie who was in my class. I taught grade 4 1977 to 1978, the year you would have been in Gilchrist. Then the rest of my time I taught grade 3. I think there were 2 Jelinski brothers. One was married to Terry. I think his name was Max and probably he was the one who taught you. You perhaps remember Mr. Erikson (Dave) He taught at the high school. I’ve kept up with Dave and his wife, Margie.

    I guess it’s mainly the teachers I remember. We seemed to centre our social life around them rather than the mine and mill people, probably because we were all around the same age, mainly in our twenties or early thirties, except for Merva Keller, Ken Passler and one or two others.

    Well, all for now but I do enjoy reminiscing as it was a special time. I guess we all had a bit of an adventurous streak to be living up there!

    1. Hi Marjorie,

      Sorry took a couple of days to get back – flu lingers. Yes, my mother is from the UK. She actually grew up in Salford, but did her nurse’s residency in Liverpool, then worked there for a couple of years before emigrating to Canada (Montreal then . . . Uranium City!). Interesting that you grew up there – and now live on the Merseyside, in Liverpool . . . in Nova Scotia! For various reasons, I’m a Reds fan, will have to go to Anfield before I pass into the hereafter, or at least watch a couple of matches in a good Liverpool pub.

      Glad to hear your town survived the closing of the pulp mill. Hear a lot of people are moving to NS now – so much so Halifax is becoming to expensive for a lot of people who come from there. Which is true of everywhere it seems.

      I know Rod Dubnick. I thought I might see him when I was up this summer. I only met him once – in 2000 but he was/is a prominent figure in UC. You’re right about the Jelinskis. I think it was Tim Jelinski who taught my grade 9 class, over at Candu High. I’ll have to remember who the first teacher was – his photograph actually appeared on the UC Facebook page, apparently he was visiting one of his former students in BC. I don’t doubt the teachers formed a tight circle. Since my parents weren’t involved with the mine – my father was a geologist – we were always separate from the town as well. Did you live in the teacherage? I went through that building a number of times in the late ’90s. It’s still standing but too dangerous to go into now. I do Mr. Erikson – I correspond with his son Wes from time to time.

      I know so many teachers! My sister, her husband, three other friends in Canada, and maybe a half-dozen here in Brooklyn, where I live. Tough job. must have been pretty tough up north. We weren’t always the best-behaved kids as I remember. But Kenny Passler ran a tight ship in the high school, so things stayed quiet. An excellent school, with many facilities that I found out many years later that Ken had pushed for hard. Very fond memories of going to Candu High myself.


  3. Hi Tim, Thanks for your reply. You say it must have been tough teaching up there. I really loved teaching there. Merva Keller was the principal of Gilchrist School and she was a wonderful principal. It was very important to her that we bond together as a staff, so we were encouraged to be in the staffroom together at lunchtime and recess. We were all young, fairly high energy, so we had a lively social life together. I think that closeness of the staff permeated down through the school and I don’t remember a lot of discipline problems.
    Every Friday we had assembly and classes took turns in putting on some kind of show–skits often, or music, or art. I did a lot of art and music. We had a high budget for art supplies. I guess because of being isolated we tended to get what we asked for. We had a kiln and a few teachers were really into pottery. My sense was that the students enjoyed coming to school.
    As my husband worked for Eldorado we were in company housing. First we had a new house but it was very small. I had a piano and it was hard to find a suitable place for it. So we moved into a slightly larger older house.
    I have lots of pictures that I could probably scan. How would I send them to you?

    1. Hi Marjorie,

      Well, I’m glad you enjoyed teaching up there. I’m thinking of one class in particular. I think it was a Mr Myazik who was the teacher – he was the teacher I was thinking of at Gilchrist. Did you teach art classes at Gilchrist or across the road at Candu High? I remember having an excellent art class – we had kilns, spinning wheels, easels, pretty much everything and that was true of much of Candu High after it re-opened. I think most kids liked going to school – I certainly did. I still remember the closeness we had in some classes, still talk to some of the people I was in school with from time to time – actually went to Uranium City with John Chodzicki this summer. We were in the same grade, though not the same class and became friends later on, through the 2002 reunion, then through Ray Jones, who I had been in school with.

      But yes, must have been a fun time to be a teacher and up north in that funny, isolated little town.

      Wes Erickson – yes, I think his father was Oli. Wasn’t Oli Erickson the vice-principal at Candu High? I just looked it up and – yes he was:

      Would love to put your pictures on the site. If they’re scanned, you can just send them to me. Or, if not scanned, you could mail them to me and I’ll scan them and mail them back. I’ll write you an email.


  4. Hi Tim,

    I’d been thinking about you saying you corresponded with Wes Erikson–he was Oli Erikson’s son. Dave Erikson was someone different but he and Oli were friends. I didn’t know Oli well — I don’t remember what Oli did–probably a high school teacher?

  5. Hi Tim,

    I just taught at Gilchrist and art just to my own class. I believe Jerry Kortello was an art teacher at Candu. He is an amazing artist–really into sculpting and all kinds of things. He married Deshan Deshsnieder. I keep up with them.

    Sadly I heard just the other day from a UC friend that Maurice Miazyk died of cancer in August. I didn’t know him well.

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