Community Memories from Axel and Doreen Lindquist 

Doreen and Axel Lindquist both spent their childhood years in Sprague, a small town in the southeast corner of Manitoba near the U.S. border. Doreen's parents lived on a farm north of Sprague. Her father had a portable sawmill and did custom sawing. He also worked as a carpenter. The farm was sort of a sideline, providing the family with sustenance during the depression years.  Axel's dad was a section foreman on the railroad. Their family lived in town and Axel attended the Sprague school. Doreen went to a one-room school, ‘The Golden Branch,’ for eight years, then to High School in town. Both Doreen and Axel took Grade 12 in Winnipeg—Axel at Daniel McIntyre, and Doreen at Isaac Newton.

At the time, there was a severe shortage of teachers, and a one-year program at the Tuxedo Normal School qualified a person to teach.  Doreen graduated from this institution and later went on to earn a Bachelors of Education Degree upon moving to Thompson. Doreen's teaching career began in Middlebro, MB. She describes her first experience in a Multi-grade school. Doreen taught all subjects, Grades 5-9, had recess duty every day, no time to prepare and none of the office-type services teachers enjoy today.  "We had an official trustee in Winnipeg and had to order our supplies from him. We usually got only half of what we ordered, so we soon caught on and ordered twice the amount needed. Textbooks were not supplied. The people of Middlebro were very friendly and cooperative, helping us with many extra curricular activities such as 4-H Club, square-dance club, sports days and field trips.”

Axel worked in Winnipeg following his graduation here he was employed by the Blue Ribbon Company. He later returned to Sprague and worked as a parts man in a local garage.  

Doreen and Axel were married at Sprague in July 1954.  They had three children born in less then two years: Gaylene Weselowski, who still lives in Thompson, and twins Kristi Douglas and Karla Gerow who now live in western Canada. 

After the twins were born prematurely, they were faced with a staggering hospital bill, so Axel decided he needed a better-paying job. He heard that Steep Rock Iron Mine in Atikokan, Ontario was hiring, and he was hired on in June 1957. Apartments were scarce, but in October he finally got a one-bedroom apartment, then the kids and Doreen were able to join him. Happiness at being together again was very short-lived. The weekend Doreen arrived in Atikokan; Axel got his lay-off notice from Steep Rock. He spent several months in the boonies working for Ontario Hydro and was eventually rehired by Steep Rock. In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end of their time in Atikokan. After building their home, Steep Rock finally folded and Axel was job hunting again.

INCO was hiring in Thompson, and Doreen was left behind again.  Axel was hired on April 1, 1961 with INCO.  Packing and selling their half finished house was a challenge, as the real estate market in Atikokan was flat.  They finally sold to a handyman for $500.00 down and $50.00 a month, which was to be used to finish the house. When the deal was finally completed and the taxes and lawyer's fees were paid, they made the grand total of $35.00 profit for all of their hard work!  Selling their Chevy Coupe was another exercise in frustration. A fellow came to the door and thought their little car was just what he wanted. Does it have a spare tire? He asked.  Doreen popped the trunk, and lo and behold, there was the engine, taken apart and sitting in several pieces.  The air between Atikokan and Thompson was rather blue!

Doreen and the kids spent the summer of '61 at Doreen's parents' farm, awaiting the completion of their house. Axel had chosen a lot and a house plan.  Progress was very slow, the construction companies being overwhelmed with work. Finally, in October, Alice and Al Timmons offered to share their home with them so that Doreen and the kids could join Axel.  They were so grateful and happy to be together again. Their house on Lynx Crescent was finally completed that fall, and they are probably one of the very few people who are still in their original Thompson home.  

Being separated from his family was no fun for Axel either.  He lived in a makeshift "tent city" where the INCO parking lot is currently located.  The weather was frigid, and the tents were heated with oil stoves which often went out during the night.  "There were nights when our blankets were frozen to the wall.  There was a steady stream of people at the train station, some getting on, some leaving, and a few staying.  There were line-ups everywhere, at the post office, at the bank and at the telephone. There was a convenience store located at the campsite, and a large cook shack where meals were served.  Meals were excellent but usually predictable as in most catered operations.”

Thompson was a booming place in ’61 with mud and construction everywhere.  "Everyone took shortcuts,” says Doreen, "and the ravine behind our place had a path that went past our house.  Axel built a wooden sidewalk for our family's convenience but it wasn't long before all the traffic from Greenway and Deerwood funneled through their property—pedestrians, bicycle and even a motorcycle!”

Their first social occasion was a gala dance on the occasion of the opening of the Plaza.  The whole center area was open at that time, and music was provided by Carl Asplund's band.  "It was great to shed our rubber boots and put on our dancing shoes.”

Both Doreen and Axel took advantage of the opportunities to better their education and job skills.  Doreen took university courses while teaching and eventually completed her degree.  Axel apprenticed as a mechanic, and worked later as a foreman and planner.

They have seen many changes over the years and have been involved in many community activities.  Axel served on Thompson's first Advisory Council, was involved with the United Steelworkers and played baseball.  Doreen began Thompson's first kindergarten class, which operated privately for six years. She has also been involved with Girl Guides, and played baseball with the Thompson Gas Genies.  She was on Thompson's first Environment Council.  Both Doreen and Axel volunteer at the Heritage North Museum and the United Church.  Their children completed their education in Thompson.

Both Doreen and Axel have been retired (1988 and 1989 respectively) after 29 years of working, but still find a lot to do.  They feel that Thompson has been good to them, and after 44 years they feel it is truly 'home'.  The feelings of isolation vanished with improved highways.  When they first came to Thompson there was no highway and people were obliged to ship their vehicles by train to The Pas. Cars were unloaded there so that they could take off on their vacations.  They enjoy good health and an outdoor lifestyle.  They love summers at Paint Lake with plenty of fishing and canoeing.  Doreen says the only disadvantage is the distance one has to travel for specialized medical attention, but they feel they will cross those bridges when they come to them.

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