Saskatoon

Another one bites the dust: Mortlach's last grain elevator demolished

Mortlach is a farming village without a grain elevator. The last of the three elevators the community used to rely on was demolished this week.

Paterson elevator was demolished Sept. 23, leaving the Sask. village without the elevators it used to rely on

The Paterson grain elevator was the last to go in Mortlach, Sask. It was demolished on Sept. 23. (Craig Lester/ Facebook)

Terry Bittle spent time in Calgary before he moved to Mortlach, Sask., for a quieter life.

"I just fell in love with the place. A beautiful little town," he said. "We rented a place out there and we liked it so much we decided 'All right, this house that we're renting, we're gonna buy it.'"

Bittle and his wife stayed in the village, about 100 kilometres west of Regina, for a decade — and this week, he watched a part of Mortlach come down.

The village's Paterson grain elevator was demolished this week — the third elevator to come down in Mortlach in the last 10 years, and the last one standing there.

The majority of social media posts about Mortlach's relic elevators are nostalgic. Some lament the loss of a piece of history. Many mention "a sign of the times."

But Bittle says there was "no emotion attached to it" for him personally, after watching the community's other elevators come down over the last several years.

"We just seem to be letting our history go day by day by day in rural Saskatchewan," he said.

Now, he's on his way to Kelowna, B.C., to build a new life in a climate that isn't so harsh, in a city that doesn't feel like it's dying.

Lloyd Smith, who worked at the Paterson elevator from 1979 to 2005, thinks it was erected in 1918, but no one seems to know for sure. It was renovated in the mid-'80s while he was working there.

He works in Moose Jaw at a funeral home now, and moved to the city to be closer to his job.

 As he watched a video of the demolition posted on Facebook, he had one thought.

"A lot of that dust that came out of that elevator — I put it in there."

While he doesn't really miss working in the elevator ("it was dusty and dirty," he recalls), one memory stands out.

One year, the day after Halloween, Smith was left with a big bag of suckers after the trick-or-treaters had come and gone.

He took them in to work.

"Every time a guy would come in with a load of grain, their kids would come away with a sucker."

Mortlach's Pool grain elevator was demolished in 2011. The Paterson elevator in the background was demolished Sept 23 (YouTube)

It became a habit over the years.

"A lot of the people were wondering why the kids always wanted to come there. Well, that's why that bag of suckers sat there," he said.

No blame

Soon, many of the kids were grown and their parents retired or sold the family farms. Some moved to Moose Jaw or further away to Regina.

Big companies bought up property to make bigger farms.

"It was a lot of good years," said Smith. After all, he was employed for more than 25 years at the grain elevator. It was good — if dirty — work.

"They come in with a load of grain, I'd dump it, put it in and then pay them for it."

There were some bad years, too. But he doesn't dwell on them. They're memories now.

People in Mortlach aren't surprised by the demolitions of the old grain elevators in the village. Some, though, believe some sort of preservation should have been pursued. (YouTube)

Terry Bittle won't see the grain elevator as he drives away from Mortlach for the last time on the way to Kelowna for good.

It's just a change to the landscape.

"Everyone's sad to see an elevator go but for some strange reason, no one seems to be doing anything about it," he said.

So he sat back and tried to enjoy the show.

Bittle says he's heard whispers around Mortlach. Some are upset with the people involved in the demolition. There were trucks parked at the site for a week leading up to the big event on Sept. 23.

"It's not the fault of the people who are engaged in the work," he said. In fact, he has high praise for the demo team.

"The way they engineer it to bring it down is just unbelievable."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated that Terry Bittle worked at the Paterson elevator in Mortlach for a decade. In fact, he lived in Mortlach for a decade, but he never worked at the elevator.
    Sep 26, 2019 4:29 PM CT

About the Author

Bridget Yard

Reporter

Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.

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