Community Memories from Red and Mary Sangster

Red Sangster

Red Sangster first came to Thompson as an employee of Paddy Harrison, working as a mechanic underground at the Moak Lake site.  He returned in 1961 when INCO began production, and worked as a mechanic at the mill for a period of six months.  His pay rate, he recalls, was around $2.00 an hour.  Working conditions were good.  His description of camp living was similar to many other early employees.  He stayed in a tent, five men to a tent.  "There were 5,000 of us in the camp.  We had to line up for everything—showers, meals, etc.  The food was good.  Crawley-McCracken provided the meals."  After six months with INCO, Red went to work for the Local Government District as a grader operator.  He had worked as a grader operator for the Highways Dept. out of Flin Flon and they transferred him to the town’s L.G.D. where he worked for 18 years grading roads and removing snow in the winter.

Red was heavily involved in sports in the community, both as a participant and as part of his job; as well as putting in many hours of volunteer work. The first sports facilities in Thompson’s early days were an outdoor rink and a ballpark in the Juniper area. Red's past experience in running sports teams in Flin Flon was invaluable. He managed the curling rink here for 10 years, and made the ice. The old curling rink, the arena and the recreation hall were built from materials from Bird, MB. Steel was unloaded every evening and they played either ball or hockey every night. There was no place for dances until the recreation centre was built.

In ’62, Red took the first hockey team down to Virden, to play in the Manitoba Play-offs. It was a Midget team of boys, 12 -14 years old.  They had traveled by train.  

In 1975, Reds team joined the Manitoba Hockey League, and in ’64 Thompson joined the Northern Manitoba Baseball league. They would travel on weekends.  A team from Creighton, two teams from Flin Flon, and teams from The Pas, Cranberry Portage and Beausejour competed against each other in the League.  Red was proud of the victories of his teams, both as a player and manager.  They won the Polar League championship in ’68, and many decades latert, Red's team was put in the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame.  In '94, Red himself was put in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Recently, the Manitoba Hockey Federation gave him a jacket.

In the early years, Thompson had six hardball teams of all ages. It was the same in hockey.  Red recalls that Thompson also had a great soccer league with German, Greek, Italian and Canadian teams. Sometimes there were fights, and they would have to call the police.  They had a pretty good lacrosse team too. The boys went to Vancouver one year, Red tells.  Besides the recognition in sports from the Manitoba Hall of Fame, Red was also honored by having a sports field named after him.

Red also worked as City Recreation Director for three years.  When Mary and the children arrived on July 2, 1961 it was snowing, then it rained for two weeks and there was mud everywhere.  Mary worked at The Bay for five and one-half years in the stock room and the claims dept.

When asked about conditions at the time, Mary commented, "We didn't have a car so I walked to work.  There was no TV. All the lodges such as Elks, Lions, Masons and Shriners were getting organized so there was always something to do."  Mary also ran a concession at the arena for opver nine years.  It was a very busy time, she says.  She used to mix about 200 pounds of hamburger a week.  "French fries sold like crazy.  I had a staff of 17 schoolgirls.  It was fun.  For the girls, pay was around 65 cents an hour and the cook got $3.00 an hour."

Their children adapted well to life in Thompson.  Their son Jack played hockey, their girls were involved with figure skating and ballet.  Later, their girls worked at The Bay, and their daughter Brenda also worked at the Strand Theatre for awhile.

Both Red and Mary remember the fire north of town in '62 or '63.  It started on the other side of the bridge and spread towards the airport.  When asked about the transient population, Mary commented that some people worked for a while to make enough money and then took off.  They think the winters were longer and colder in the '60s than they are now.

The Sangsters' first home was on 3 Wolf St.  In '69 they moved to a big show home on Rainbow Crescent.  Their present residence at Paint Lake became their permanent home in 1986.

When asked about their retirement years, Mary and Red both plan to stay put. "Thompson has been good for everybody, but nowadays people put in their 30 years and leave.  I wouldn't do that.  You don't start all over again someplace else!”

(Ed. note: Sadly, both Red and Mary have passed since this interview was conducted.)