St. Lina celebrates 100th birthday
Milestones also marked for 4-H club and post office
In 1912, the community of St. Lina was established. Although the community now only consists of a handful of homes, a post office, a Catholic church and a community hall, ties to the community of past and present residents remain strong.
Over 500 people packed into the St. Lina Hall this weekend to celebrate the community’s centennial, along with the post office’s centennial, and the local 4-H Club’s 75th anniversary. The weekend event acted as a type of family reunion for many of the families who settled in the area in the early 1900s. Campers were set up along the grounds and overflow parking had to be created for the abundance of visitors.
Eileen Vallee, now in her 80s, taught school in the nearby community of Mallaig for 25 years. She was married to Eugene Vallee, who was among the first settlers in St. Lina. Eugene came to the area in 1916, following some of his brothers who settled in 1912.
Many of early settlers came from the same area in Ontario, said Eileen, as she spoke about the early years in St. Lina. She personally came to Canada in 1954 from England to teach for one year. But instead of returning home, she married Eugene and raised her family in St. Lina.
She describes the community as a safe place to live and was happy that “the children could go outside and play,” and she didn’t have to worry. She also remembers the abundance of food in the area, compared to England where food was still being rationed.
Over the years, St. Lina has gotten smaller, says Eileen, but people are very friendly and there is a good sense of community.
A steak supper was served on Saturday night and even a surprise rain storm while volunteers were outside barbecuing couldn’t stop the celebratory mood.
Following supper, Norbert Dechaine gave a history on the community. The Dallaire family was the first to settle in the area in 1906, said Dechaine, adding, there were a number of direct descendants of the first settlers in the audience that evening.
In 1910, the Mageau family came to St. Lina and applied for a post office, which was established in 1912. Over the years, a blacksmith shop, general store, Catholic church, school and even a bowling alley were established. One of the earliest sports to be played in St. Lina was baseball, with records showing the game being played in the area as early as 1910.
A community league was established in the 1970s and St. Lina Days were organized for many years. Chariot and chuckwagon races were once held in the small community.
“St. Lina is a special place,” said Roger Charbonneau, as he spoke about the group of volunteers and events that have helped keep the community hall operating throughout the years.
Along with celebrating the history of the community, the evening was also a celebration of the St. Lina 4-H Club being one of the longest-running 4-H clubs in the province. Bella Ford, one of the club’s first members, was on hand to speak about the club’s early years.
She still remembers her first calf, which was bought for her by her father, and says it was nearly bigger than she was. Ford remains a strong proponent of 4-H and believes in what it teaches young people.
A number of dignitaries were on hand to share in the community celebration on Saturday night. Representatives from the County of St. Paul Coun. Alphonse Corbiere and Reeve Steve Upham shared their thoughts about the community and 4-H program, and MLA Shayne Saskiw also took to the podium.
Saskiw explained that he grew up with the 4-H program in Two Hills and said the skills that are taught in the program stay with a person through their whole life. He added that the turnout at Saturday’s supper was a testament to the community service in the St. Lina area.
MP Brian Storseth also spoke to the crowd, saying, “St. Lina is more than just a place on a map.” He noted the community is based on heritage and culture and can look forward to another 100 years.
Martin Corbiere, the present 4-H Club leader, spoke briefly about the program and the fulfillment he’s received from being part of the project. He described how at this year’s show, a first-year member approached him and said she was scared about taking her calf into the ring. He assured her that she would do a good job and when she came out of the ring, “she had a smile ear-to-ear and said ‘Mr. Corbiere, I did it.’”
Moments like that make a leader realize they have made a difference.
“It’s a terrific program,” said Corbiere.
President of the St. Lina and District Community and Agricultural Society Ron Zazulak offered his thoughts as the speeches concluded on Saturday night. He explained that when he and his wife moved to St. Lina, they joined every club they could and quickly realized that people always genuinely greeted them.
He noted that it’s the volunteers in the community that keep the institutions, such as the hall, alive.
“In this community, we believe in each other,” said Zazulak.
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