by Vince Kreiser – young resident from 1958-62
All images @copyright Vince Kreiser
Our family moved to Uranium City in 1958. As with many other people, our trip “up north” involved flying into the area on a DC-3 airplane.
My father Jack Kreiser was the first Principal and one of the teachers at the new high school. My mother Dorothy Kreiser was also a teacher at the school. Here is what the school looked like when it first opened in the fall of 1958.
Both of my parents were on hand to welcome the Canadian Governor General Georges P. Vanier and his wife Pauline during their visit to the school in the very early 1960’s.
Our family lived in a number of houses over our time in the community but our main home while living in Uranium City was this teacherage (right-hand side) on Uranium Road. We moved south at the end of the 1962 school year.
After being away for many, many years it was time to finally return the community to have a look around. I made two separate trips, one in 1994 and the second one in 1997.
June 1994 trip
While living in BC, I happened to be going to Ft. Smith, NWT on business and once I looked at a map thought it would be a good “jumping off point” for a charter flight to UC. Please ensure you check for various current locations for charter operators willing to make this sort of flight. They can update you on their prices/conditions for the services that they provide.
My late friend John Davies (right) along with the pilot (left) hopped into the small charter plane for our day trip into Uranium City.
One benefit of chartering the plane was the pilot being willing to take a quick flight over Gunnar to see what it still looked like in 1994.
A view of the old school and community centre still standing at the time.
It was sure tempting to ask the pilot to land at the Gunnar Air Strip but we had no idea if it was still serviceable at that time or not. It would have been a long and dusty walk into town anyways and no company cookery to buy cold drinks and snacks at!
The pilot was also willing to do a couple of passes over UC for us to get some nice aerial photos of the area.
This was the view of Uranium Road where I was able to get a photo of our old duplex.
When making a trip like this it is very important to do some current research on the services you will need for your stay in town. The hospital has now been closed/demolished and there may be only limited medical services still available.
You just cannot pop into the Hi-Spot for their famous fries and gravy anymore, the Legion for a “cold one”, or the bakery for one of their treats. All are closed up!
I enjoyed taking this charter flight in to UC in 1994. Local people I talked to on the phone before and after this trip stressed to ensure to book things like accommodation, meals and other food and beverages, along with local transportation and the like well in advance of trying to do a longer trip like this. Bring along things like your prescription medications and other necessities of life, because once you are there, you are there! Flash lights and spare batteries, good solid shoes, hiking boots, and/or steel toed work boots. Nothing like stepping on a rusty nail or piece of rebar to spoil a trip like this. Also, tetanus shots are not a lot of fun if one was available at all.
Confirm things like cell phone coverage and wifi for your computer/smart phone. Nice to have a portable GPS on hand as well.
For many of us who have been in UC before the town has changed a lot and you want to be prepared for that well before you actually travel.
As a wrap on this trip, a lot of preparation work needs to go into a trip like this well before you visualize landing at the UC Airport. “Little things” like how are you getting into town from the airport? Luckily, we had discussed this in advance and our pilot had arranged a ride into town and back for us. As part of the price, he stayed in town to visit with someone and that gave us half a day to look around. Luckily it was a sunny day and no rain gear was needed. Do I need to mention black flies and mosquitoes at all!? Good luck with the planning if you ever have the “itch” to go.
JULY 1997 Trip
My late father Jack, my brother Jerome (seen coming down the airplane steps) and I made a trip back to UC in 1997. I hope they will bring back some good memories for people even though some of the photos may portray things that are rather sad for some to look at.
My airline ticket for the trip. Please ensure you check for current scheduled flight information being offered into UC these days. You then can ensure you know the prices/conditions for the services that are being offered.
We flew to UC from La Ronge (via Stony Rapids) and then returned there at the end of our trip.
Before leaving La Ronge we had a chance to visit with my cousin John (centre) who is also a former resident of UC along with his wife Donna.
We stayed at Holland’s Motel. The UC Hotel although still around at the time was closed and boarded up. When my brother and I walked through the hotel there were still a rack full of post cards at the front desk!
We were able to make use of a quad to get around town for part of our visit.
If you know a bit about the history of the area, take a minute to try and imagine the amount of freight and personal belongings that came and went from these docks during the heyday of UC.
We stopped at the High School and my father figured that we might have found his original classroom in the old wing of the school.
The bottom photo shows our duplex on Uranium Road in 1997. The upper photo shows it in 1994. We lived in the right-hand side unit from the late 1950’s to very early 1960’s.
With our family continuing to grow (one of my brothers and one of my sisters were born in UC) the town added on a dormer to the back one summer to allow space for more bedrooms.
By 1997 the roof on the dormer was “missing in action”.
While taking these photos I heard my father rumbling around in another part of the house. He had found this kitchen chair somewhere.
If you look closely at “birthday boy” (me) that chair might have been one of the originals from the kitchen set in 1959. Who knows!?
This was our back yard at the duplex. This picnic area that someone said was carved out of the rock formation by one of the mounties before we had moved in was still there in 1997.
This was a sad one to visit. Beautiful house, sunken living room, white shag carpet, front door blocked off to keep people out……………….roof now missing!
Goin’ back to UC twice now was interesting, sad, tough and a number of other things all rolled up into one during each visit. I would do it again but if you are a former resident you need to be ready for what you would see and not see during trips like this. I have talked to some other former residents who have chosen not to go back and feel it is better to leave their memories “alone” from their time there. A big decision to make as mother nature continues to re-claim more and more areas of the community as the years roll by.
Again, please do lots of research in advance to update the aspects of both of these types of visits to the area (chartered and scheduled air plane flights). Lots of changes have taken place since I was there last and you do not want to go in unprepared as the circumstances can be very unforgiving if all the various details are not well planned out. If you do plan to go have a safe and enjoyable trip!