Crystal Lake - A Fun Place










- Written in 1983, author Unknown!


Situated in the Parkland area of east central Saskatchewan are the sandy beaches and crystal clear cool waters which gave Crystal Lake its name.


Crystal Lake is three-quarters of a mile long and one-half mile wide at its widest point.  Its situated 15 miles north of Canora and 15 miles southeast of Preeceville.  Crystal Lake is a small but beautiful body of water which is spring fed and surrounded by spruce and poplar.


The beach area on the northeast side was developed in the mid-1930's and was called Black's Beach.  A decade later, the southwest side of the lake, known as Johnny's Beach, was developed.  A golf course was situated on Black's development and later, one was established on the opposite side, on the old horse race track.  You can still see the remnants of the race track on the #1 and #4 fairways of the golf course.  The resort also featured a drive-in theatre for summer viewing entertainment.  Approximately 225 privately owned cottages surround the lake.  


On a quiet summer evening, one can hear a guitar and a sing-song from across the lake, while the lights from the cottages reflect in the still waters.  The water around the bend of the lake is covered with beautiful yellow water lilies.  Wildlife is in surprising evidence, and a bushy tailed squirrel may think nothing of interrupting one's outdoor meal.  Loons can frequently be heard from across the lake interupting the quiet with a peaceful eerieness. 


For a number of years, swimming lessons sponsored by the Red Cross had been provided on both beaches.  Camp Trident, a youth camp established the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in the area, provides young people to learn their ancestral language and culture during the month of July. 


During the daytime hours the lake comes alive with the sound of boats..   Water fun includes boating, canoeing, water skiing, surf skiing, swimming and fishing.  


Four concession booths were located from time to time,  in the vicinity of the lake.   Today, only one concession remains on Johnny's Beach.




A 28 year old widow, Ida Mae Scott, took up a homestead on the northeast side of the lake on August 8, 1904.  She had worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Co. at Winnipeg and decided to venture out into a more exciting lifestyle.


Scott met the specifications in the Homestead Act by breaking 10 acres in 1905, 20 acres in 1906, when she also had 10 acres of crop; having 30 acres of crop in 1907 and 25 acres in crop the following year.  She live-in in a 16 foot by 18 foot log house with a sod roof about 50 yard from the lakeshore.  She received a deed to the land on March 12, 1909.  


Scott married William Watson Black at Winnipeg in 1910.  She decided to rent out her land, but the couple continued to visit in a touring car throughout the years, before deciding to live permanently at the lake in the early 1930's.  In 1935, they built five cabins and another 10 cabins the following year.


Picnics were held on summer Sundays and the confectionary stands sold chocolates, soft drinks, ice cream cones, at five cents each.  Cigarettes were one cent each.


In 1934, the Blacks built their first store.  Fish derbies and picnics continued to be held throughout the years.


Another log cabin was erected in the area by Robert Wilson in 1906.  One of the earliest libraries in Saskatchewan was the Mechanics and Literary Institute, situated on the south shore of Crystal Lake.  It was a large, central tent, containing a magazine and book strewn table.


The efforts of Mary Reynolds Wilson, a pioneer woman in her sixties, had much to do in putting Crystal Lake on the map.  Wilson was tiny, weighing 90 odd pounds, but she was full of vitality and every spare moment was spent in establishing Crystal Lake as a cultural and recreation center.  She, herself, cleared away the brush and made cozy corners on the lake shore.  


The help of another elderly lady, Mrs. James Corbett, the mother of eight had much to do with the realization of Crystal Lake as a recreation center.  


In 1908, the pair organized the first brass band north of Canora.  The musicians were all original settlers who were scattered in the territory.  Getting together for practice was an achievement in itself!  the members were three Wright brothers; Charles, Adam and Fred; Robert and Victor Kelbough, Simon and David Olson, and Evert and Walter Rouse.  They wore red uniforms and caps embroidered with the works, Crystal Lake.


The first major picnic held at the lake was on Victoria Day, 1910.  A baseball diamond was hewn from the bush and horseshoe pits, a tennis court, a croquet ground and a basketball court were also featured.  There was a circular racetrack for horses that in the number one and four fairway on the golf course today.  Also, rowboats were made available for rent.


In 1911, a small wooden library was established on the west side of the lake.  It was closed during the four winter months, but open the rest of the year.


When the library ceased to function, the building was moved to Stenen, where it serves the community today under the name of the Wilson Memorial United Church.  Click here to see more information about the Crystal Lake Library >


The first cottage on the north side of Crystal Lake was built for the Dufour family, hotel owners at Stenen.  The second cottage was moved to its site by Hudson Armstrong of Sturgis.




The dance pavilion, which attracted so many visitors, was built in 1933 by three partners, Eric Pollock, James Ness and Don Danielson.  The first band to play at a public dance included Peter Kurtz and his brother, with Ruth Stenen on the piano.  Admission was 35 cents per person and the band took a percentage of the total take.  Depending on the crowd, the band's proceeds averaged $18.00 to $20.00. 


In 1938, Johnny Shasko bought the pavilion from Don Danielson, who was then the lone owner.  Shasko kept the building until 1946.


As many as 500 tickets would be sold on a Saturday night.  Half the crowd would be in the hall, dancing, while the other half would enjoy the cool fresh air outside.  Almost as an unspoken command, the groups would rotate, with the indoor crowd streaming outside and those outdoors, would enter the hall to kick up their heels.


Dances were also held on Wednesday nights, but the attendance was low.


Among the orchestras to perform were the Merry Makers of Saltcoats, Art Gellert of Yorkton and Mike Kowch of Canora, to name a few.


Later, the hall was taken over by different people, including Percy Brooks, the Pugh family, and Ken Sopkow and Larry Nicholson.  The hall was dismantled in the 1970's.




The golf course was a community project and was first begun by Ungle Stenen and Fred Tate on the Black's Beach side.  Then in the 1930's, Tate bought the land for $500.00 and started a golf course on the other side of the lake.  It was taken over by Matt Sterzer and Dr. Wenzley in 1944, who held it for 25 years, before it was sold to Peter Buryk.  Buryk operated it from 1969 until 1977, before he sold to Del Lubiniecki.


The nine-hole course was then sold to Fred Nagel.


There has been a few changes of ownership in recent years.




Johnny and Tennie Shasko were the first developers of the southwest side of the lake, which was open to the public in 1949.  The thick bush, including poplar and willows, was all chopped down by axe and back-breaking labour.


As there was no electrical power, wood stoves were used for cooking and coal oil lamps were used for light.   Shasko cut ice from the lake during the winter months, beginning after Christmas, packing it into sawdust.  The ice was good all summer long.


Ice was hauled to cottage owners for use in ice boxes and was sold for 25 cents a block.  Each block weighed about 50 pounds.


Hot dogs were first sold at just 15 cents each and a cup of coffee cost five cents.  Ice-cream was picked up every Sunday morning from the Canora Creamery and sold for 5 cents a cone. Wieners were kept on ice.  The confectionary included chocolate bars, pop and a small line of groceries and cigarettes.  Fruit was obtained especially for Sundays.


The Shaskos sold to Bill and Kay Owchar of Kamsack in 1965, who in turn sold to Steven Panchuk of Kamsack.  The next owner was the Whits of Canora, then Fred Nagel.


Ownership of the concession on Johnny's beach has changed hands in recent years.  The concession has had a variety of names over the years.  Most recently some of the names were Beach Place, Boat House and Beach Hut




Joe Grabowicki of Canora and Sam Holmberg of Sturgis were the first owners of the Drive-In Theatre situated on the south side of Crystal Lake in 1966.   In 1968, Holmberg bought out Grabowicki's share and his son Allan became his partner in 1968.  They operated the business for 10 years, before selling it to Dave Yesky of Russell, Manitoba.  The theatre was then sold to Fred Nagel.  The theatre screen was dismantled in 2002.  The land, still surrounded by the old Drive-In fence, was sold in 2003 to Bob Koroluk, who says he has future plans to build a multi-trillion dollar Stip-Mall, Esso Service Station,  Seniors Complex, Ramada Hotel, Disney Theme Park, Nascar Race Track, McDonalds Restaurant and Casino (that likely won't happen).



EMAIL WRITTEN ON APRIL 6, 2016 By Elizabeth Alexander (nee Wensley)


I have just read the history of Crystal Lake and am very interested in general Info, particularly info about cabin rentals at the lake in May, June, and Sept.  Besides that I am just very interested in anything about Crystal Lake. I have very fond memories from the 40's

to the early 70's, at which time my father sold the cabin. I have only been back three or four times since then, the last two being the once when the cabin was still there, although shrinking in height, and the last time when the cabin was completely gone, with only a small hole, perhaps from the pump on its cement pad. That was very hard to see!

My father was Dr. Wensley, one of the owners of the golf course along with Matt Sterzer. I believe this was from the mid 40's to the late 60's.  My father had the cabin, which of course is no longer there, partway down the hill from the golf course. I remember even when I was in high school I used to worry that his car would tip and roll down the hill. I hated getting out the side closest to the cabin!! He and possibly Matt, or my uncle from the homestead out of Norquay, were the ones who finally, in the 50's, I believe, put up a high and fairly long chicken wire fence to try to keep the golf balls off of our roof!

The water pump was at the bottom of our set of stairs, and this is where all the nearby cabin owners came for their daily water. The next closest pump was a good way down the road.

Matt and Elma Sterzer and their son Randy had a cabin right on the golf course, very close to it and one of the golf greens in the
60's.....maybe back then the 4th hole?

When I was in elementary and part of high school, Sterzers had quite a large cabin, with a two story walkway to the beach; their cabin was right on the water with a pier attached to the walkway. The diving board was directly in front of their cabin, out what I thought was a long way(!!).  Mrs. Sterzer, I believe was a former Olympic swimmer...she taught lessons at the lake for many years. It didn't matter what the weather was, we always had to go each day first thing in the morning. But I always got pancakes when I got back home again. Their cabin was the first one to the left of our cabin when you entered the beach area from the road, which was at the bottom of our hill and the only way to get to the beach for those of us who were not on the water.

I remember there being a sign on the road side, which was the back of Sterzer's cabin which said 'elmatrandy'. Randy was their only child.  We would get ice usually every few days from Johnny....he would park his jeep at the top of the hill and carry the ice down to our cabin with very large tongs. He and his wife were very friendly, gracious people. They never had any children. They of course ran the store at Johnny's Beach.  We liked to go to what we called Johnny's beach to get sunflower seeds, licorice or Popsicles. We couldn't get those at the club house....just soft drinks unless you ordered food from Mr or Mrs. Sterzer, who ran the clubhouse and the kitchen.

I remember watching people coming and going from the Pavilion when I was bring babysat by a couple who had a lovely small home nestled in the trees on the same side as the pavilion, facing the pavilion doors. I believe that couple were from Canora and he was a teacher....they never had any children.  This would have been in the '40's, I believe.

We would walk around to Blacks  Beach for something to do, and to buy more licorice and 'seeds'!  I remember the boats he rented often were not too waterproof! I remember the cabins he had built in the '50's looked the same in 70's and 80's and 90's and we often wondered how they were still standing.

I remember what was called the CCF grounds down from Where Black's store
and home was.  I remember what was called 'The Point' just a ways down from Black's going towards the CCF grounds, where Mrs. Sterzer told us that someone had drowned there and that she has gone down into the water numerous times to try to
find the body.

I remember what we called the swamp down the road from my Dad's cabin, where we would see lots of cat tails and water Lily's and we always thought it was from here that we could hear the coyotes at night, howling....I am not sure if it could have been wolves!

I remember my mother (who was the first white baby born in the Norquay district in 1906), telling me about going to church camps somewhere on Black's property when she was a child.

I believe I was about four yrs. old when I was first at Crystal Lake, but I could have been younger. I was born in 1942.  I remember going into Tadmore and Tiny with my parents for gas.....I am not sure if there is anything left of those two very small villages. Going into Canora was a big deal, as was going to see Peter Verigan's home. You could just walk in and look around!

Well, I will quit rambling. I have just been reminiscing for the past few weeks because my one neighbor was talking about where she spent her summers as a child, teenager and young adult. So I started doing the same.  I would love to be put in touch with someone, just to talk and hear about Crystal Lake, and on my bucket list is a trip back to the Lake at a time in May, June, or Sept. When the crowds are not there. I wonder if I would recognize anything?!?

I apologize for taking up your time with my babbling but I sure have enjoyed reminiscing with myself about memories that I have....just a few of so many.

If you can put me in touch with anyone with whom I could chat, And who could give me info about rentals, I would be most appreciative.

Elizabeth Alexander (nee Wensley).
Saskatoon, SK.




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