SHANGRI-LA OF FAR NORTH IS TOWN PLANNER'S DREAM

ELECTRICITY COMPLETELY HEATS SHANGRI-LA VILLAGE IN SASKATCHEWAN BUSH

SIX HUNDRED MILES north of Regina in a dense timber and lake region of Saskatchewan lies the dream village of Island Falls. R.W. Davis is the man responsible for it ELECTRICALLY heated throughout, the village is the most modern in the entire province. It has a model community life centred in a big modern community hall. Part of the community hall is the latest in schools for the children of the 32 inhabitants [families] of the village
SETTING up pins in the bowling alley is Mrs. Harry Bailey in the well-equipped recreation hall No chimneys on any of the Island Falls homes. The big Flin Flon power development on the Churchill river looks after the heat electrically, even when it's 40 below. The settlement is completely isolated except for tractor sleighs in winter and planes in summer, a veritable Shangri-La

By Beland Honderich
Prince Albert, Sask., September 1946

Saskatchewan has a modern Shangri-La. Hundreds of miles northeast of here in the heart of the dense timber and lake region where life is almost as primitive as it was a century ago, lies the dream village of Island Falls. More modern than any other town in the entire province, it might well be the model post-war community just off the town planner's draughting board.

From the minute you sight its electric lights from the air, instead of the usual lamps and flashlights, Island Falls is a series of surprises. In place of the log cabins you expected to find, are modern, five- and seven-room, chimneyless houses, all electrically heated, with running water and hardwood floors.

A large community recreation hall, complete with theater, dance floor, bowling alley and curling rink; cold storage lockers and swimming pool - all unheard of in this far north region - are next to meet your eyes. And then when you think you have seen everything possible, two pretty girls walk by with golf clubs over their shoulders. Sure enough, off in the distance is a five-hole golf course.

Has 32 Families

Behind this unusual northern community, isolated except for tractor sleighs in the winter and planes in the summer, is a large hydro plant which generates power from the swirling waters of the Churchill river for Flin Flon's busy mines. It is a company town, but it owes its community development to the 32 families who make up its residents.

Six hundred miles from Winnipeg, Regina and civilization, these people decided early in the village's history that life in the wilds could be made pleasant. They formed a community association and since then their accomplishments have surprised even themselves.

The first project was a community hall. Working in the long summer evenings that otherwise would have been dull and boring, and using discarded lumber and building materials, they soon had the hall completed. Part of the ground floor was made into a school for children. On the second floor they built a miniature theatre and dance hall combined, and a kitchen to prepare lunches for social evenings.

Because the swift-flowing Churchill river is too dangerous for children, a swimming pool was built. Then came a playground in the centre of the village where mothers could watch their kiddies play from their homes.

The Guiding Spirit

Guiding spirit behind the community association is friendly, democratic R.W. Davis, the plant superintendent. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, he believes a community, regardless of where it may be, can be made pleasant. Cooperative community development is his slogan and he has made it work.

"All our activities and entertainment," he explains, "are provided and paid for by the community association. We all contribute 2 ½ per cent of our salaries to this fund. It's really surprising how much a community can accomplish in this way."

There is only one taboo at Island Falls and that is a women's auxiliary. "In a small community such as this," Mr. Davis explained, "there is no room for hard feelings and quarrels. My experience has been that too often trouble results from the simple elections women hold to elect the officers of their group. It immediately sets up factions and that is something we don't want."

No Time for Boredom

Year-round sports competitions and social activities leave no time for boredom at Island Falls. "I have lived here for eight years," says Mrs. C.P. Hagberg, formerly of Saskatoon, "and I enjoy it as much as the day I came. You might think it would be lonely shut off from the rest of the world but really it isn't at all.

"We have a dance or social night every two weeks. Our homes are modern and we never have to worry about shoveling coal or carrying out ashes. The day we moved into the house we set the thermostat and from that day on we have never even thought about heating."

Island Falls has natural attractions as well. Nearby rivers and lake teem with fish of all kinds and in the winter it is a paradise for skiing, skating and hunting. Last year a herd of a million or more caribou passed within a few miles of the village.

"Really," says Mr. Davis, "with the conveniences of a city and the advantages of the country combined into one community, I don't know what more anyone could want."