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A ghost town's special resurrection

Robinhood churchThe abandoned Lutheran Church

The church and its land was sold to the Allen family in 1977, and restored with new wiring and a furnace. Although it was later used by a summer bible school, it sat unused for many years before Carol Lee and Murray made their momentous announcement to Irene and Robert on July 27, 1991. The next eight hours witnessed frenzied action in the ghost town of Robinhood not scene even in the hamlet's wildest days.

"We phoned neighbors about it and they kept the ball rolling and phoned everybody they could think of who would be interested in attending the wedding," says Irene. "It was like a chain telephone call."

Murray's grandparents, who still lived in Robinhood, organized the clean-up of the church and grounds. Grandma Bernice, who had been busy baking fresh buns that morning, raced to the church to dust and clean the inside. She also brought all of her lace and linens for the evening church ceremony. Outside, a team of family mowed the lawn outside where grass had grown almost a metre high. Later, a two-block long string of extension chords were strung from the grandparent's house in Robinhood to the church to provide electricity for lamps.

Back at Irene's, arrangements were made to hold the wedding reception at the Robinhood community hall. Irene led the troops in her kitchen for a day-long cooking fest for the reception banquet. Irene's chain phone call had reached more than 200 locals in the area, who immediately began to make their own preparations for the community; cooking for the potluck supper, buying gifts, and helping out at the community hall. The little ghost town community was alive once more.

After collecting their bands, dress hoop, license in North Battleford, Carol Lee and Murray raced back to Robinhood. Everyone was jubilant beyond words as the stereo blasted out the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Fishing in the Dark.

You and me going fishing in the dark, Lying on our backs and counting the stars Where the cool grass grows. Down by the river in the full moon light, We'll be fallin' in love in the middle of the night Just movin' slow...

The trio was in fact racing back to Robinhood, as the hours and minutes were quickly ticking away. Along the way they were blowing up balloons, hoping to save some precious time.

"By that time we got back to Robinhood the car was solid balloons," says Carol Lee. "All you could see was Leslie's hand dipping through the balloons to grab another one to blow up. We had to get her out of the car without the balloons flying away. It was hilarious."

As the time crept closer to 7 p.m., about 100 locals were making their way to the church for the ceremony. A justice of the peace had been redirected from his original Jackfish Lake destination to the Robinhood church. A replica wedding cake was borrowed from Murray's aunt and uncle. Leslie supplied her leftover wedding fruit cake from the year before. All afternoon family and friends prepared the community hall for the reception. The old church looked marvelous, reclaiming its past glory and nobility. The town, which only eight hours earlier was a home for prairie phantoms, once again held its pioneer community spirit.

It was a few minutes past 7 p.m., and everybody was in place at the church. In fact it was overflowing. But the bride was late. Unknown to the gathering Carol Lee was on her way with Leslie, who helped her get ready. As their car approached the church, Leslie honked the horn. She then rolled down her window and shouted towards the front door of the church, blocked by the overflowing guests.

"Everybody get in the church. We are ready," screamed Leslie. With Leslie's ear-shattering declaration, everybody inside and outside the church stopped moving and talking.

"It was one of those moments where time stood still. You could hear a pin drop," says Carol Lee.

The wedding ceremony went off without a hitch. When it ended the happy couple drove around the hamlet for a few minutes while everybody else headed to the community hall for a feast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh baked buns, ham, salads, and desserts. It was followed by a rousing dance that lasted to the early hours of the following morning. The next day Carol Lee and Murray went on a week-long honeymoon.

Fifteen years later, Carol Lee and Murray have a wonderful marriage. They are farmers in the Robinhood area, and have a son and daughter.

Since their wedding, the hamlet has resumed its slow descent into oblivion. The community hall is still used by locals but only a few people still reside in Robinhood.