When I was in Grade Two my parents moved from their farm in southwestern Saskatchewan to the village of Golden Prairie where my father was the elevator agent for Federal Grain. I had taken Grade One at a one-room school a mile and a half from our farm. The farm was only seven miles from town (we called it a town) and my father was able to farm and raise cattle as well as run the elevator. When I was in Grade 12 my parents returned to the farm and built a new house.
I had been the only student in Grade One in the rural school. As a result of moving to town I was able to attend what to me was a very large school. We had two grades in each room, with approximately fifteen students in each grade. I competed Grades Two to Ten and Grade Twelve there, but went to an even larger school – Maple Creek, population of 2,000 – for Grade Eleven.
I have returned to Golden Prairie for several reunions – and once to speak at the High School Graduation. My message to the graduating students ('Leave for a while, continue your education, then consider your alternatives') was not accepted with great enthusiasm by some of the students and parents.
Golden Prairie School closed on July 1, 2006. There were only twelve students left at the end of June. I presume that they will be bused to other schools in the area.
I knew that this would happen someday but learning about it was a bit of a shock. Villages like Golden Prairie have declined in population over the last forty years. Most of those living in Golden Prairie now are seniors and oil field workers.
My grandparents were attracted to the area because they were offered free land. It was short-grass prairie, with low annual rainfall and periodic droughts. Wheat grows well most years – but the prairie is not always golden and farming is not as profitable as it once was. As roads were improved people went further and further to shop, and many moved to other rural areas or cities. Stores closed. Young people left.
The town now has 67 people living in it, according to the last census figures on the internet. It seems strangely peaceful and quiet. Prairie grass and caragana trees are taking over abandoned lots.
The last time I visited the town I saw two people and six deer: and somehow that was okay.
But I'll miss the school.