Skip to content

Retired school teacher shares memories of growing up in small town Saskatchewan

Gerald Sliva was raised in small-town Kuroki and like most children he and his siblings found mischief and entertainment in their own way.

            Gerald Sliva was raised in small-town Kuroki and like most children he and his siblings found mischief and entertainment in their own way.

            He recently captured his childhood adventures in a small town with his book Barking from the Front Porch, which was published and released in the fall of 2015.

            The 254-page book features tales of tipping outhouses, overflowing chamber pots and smoking - all adventures encountered by a young boy in the late 1940s and 1950s.

          The inspiration for the book came from his childhood years growing up in the Kuroki Hotel which had been filled with numerous bartenders, family and witty guests who provided him with a wealth of wacky experiences.

          “I wanted to preserve and share my memories with everyone by relating to others,” Sliva said. “Everyone has a story tell and by sharing we laugh, cry and learn about life.”

            Barking from the Front Porch is a warm and gentle collection of essays drawn from Sliva's childhood growing up in a room overlooking the entrance to the beer parlour in a small prairie town, said promotional material for the book.

            "Kuroki was my home town," said Sliva. "You might not know it, but anyone who grew up anywhere in North America in the 1950s grew up in a place like Kuroki or in the rural area nearby. Everyone knew you and everyone was your friend, a lot like the Cheers bar on the old television sitcom.

            "Back in the late 1940s and 1950s Kuroki was a vibrant little town, with a post office,  a hotel, three grain elevators, a lumber yard, a John Deere farm implement dealer, a Massey Harris implement dealer, a couple of auto repair shops, a blacksmith shop, a  two-room school house, a livery stable and  numerous other stores and shops. It was an era when only men were allowed in the bar and beer cost 10 cents a glass."

            The hotel was the social centre of town, he said. Older people might move into the hotel for the winter instead of staying alone on the farm. Guests were the sort who made regular rounds, like travelling salesmen. People would come in for a game of cards. There was always somebody around, and it was always busy.

            “Music was a big thing,” he said. “In school, Mrs. (Dorothy) Simmonds played piano. There was a music program on CBC Regina, with music for schools, that we had once a week for half an hour.”

          “Music was important to small communities, and many learned how to play instruments. If you could not play, you could always sing, and before TV we could usually convince the teacher to tune in the World Series on the radio.”

            In the book, Sliva recalls a time of home-made medicines, of Watkins ointment, Smith Brothers licorice cough drips and mustard plasters.

          “The plasters often caused severe skin burns when left on the chest for too long. Watkins salve was always on hand for skin rashes and boils.”

            Sliva's favourite memory was the traditional family photo where the entire family loaded in the car for an eventful trip to Wadena.

            Sliva was born in Regina on February 2, 1944 and shares the same birth date as Ground Hog Day. His father, Mike Sliva was posted as staff sergeant at the Military Hospital in Regina during the Second World War and his mother Anne worked in the munitions factory assembling big guns to help defeat the Nazis and liberate Europe.

          “After the war my dad tried a short stint at farming in the Dobrowody district then made the decision to be a businessman and bought the Kuroki bar in 1949 in partnership with his brother-in-law, my uncle Mike Maser. A few years later he bought out my uncle and was sole owner of the bar."

          Sliva started school in Kuroki in September 1949 when he was five years old, and continued up to Grade 10. Grades 11 and 12 were not offered in the local school, so he went to St. Joseph’s College in Yorkton, a boarding school, with some of his friends.

            A retired English teacher and employment councillor, Sliva now lives in Winnipeg with his wife. He enjoys writing stories published on his blogs. One may follow his blogs on his website where one may purchase either paperback or electronic copies of his book.

          Persons motoring through Wadena may obtain author-signed copies of his book at Wadena Bakery.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks