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Only the memories are alive

BatemanOvergrown sidewalk

Former residents especially remember the generosity and community spirit of Bateman. When tragedy or misfortune would strike a family, the community would immediately rally together to help, notes Coote. However, most former residents agree that one name is synonomous with the community spirit of Bateman, and that is "Doc" Harold Woodside; a kindly and devoted country doctor whose indomitable spirit warmed the hearts of residents for almost three decades. During the Depression, Doc travelled year-round, often by buggy and sleigh, to farms in every corner of the district, almost always without pay.

"My mother was (part of) a triplet, and Doc was there to bring them in," says local farmer Ross Armson. "There were no incubators then; Doc watched over them by laying them on the door of an old wood stove."

In 1939, after 20 years of serving Bateman, Doc received his just reward - he won $50,000 in the Irish Sweepstakes. True to his nature, every child in town received candy and, before moving to Moose Jaw that same year, he used his winnings to send Bateman's 100 students to Regina by train to see the King and Queen of England.

"When he went oversees to collect his winnings, it was touch and go he'd be able to catch a boat back home before the Second World War was declared," recalls Coote.

In 1996, as the town's population had dwindled to just a handful of diehard citizens, a reunion was held. The event attracted almost 900 current and former residents. It was a grand and sad occasion. Many considered it a final farewell for the town. All the stores and businesses were gone. The school was closed. And the last of the grain elevators was waiting for the wrecking ball.

But faithful locales in the Bateman region, insist the end is not here yet - close maybe, but certainly not absolute. Bateman's post office is still open part-time. There is a volunteer fire hall, and the United Church still holds funerals and a fall supper. The Bateman Lions Club is also hanging on. And for those intrigued with pioneer prairie memories, the Bateman Historical Museum is still open on request.

"It's really sad. There is absolutely nothing now to keep people here," says Coote of his former town. "But it really doesn't matter what direction you look, Bateman or St. Boswells, all the small towns in Saskatchewan are struggling."

If anyone is near Bateman during their travels, members of the Bateman Historical Museum say the museum is open on request. Appointments can be made by calling (306) 648-3548.