The dirt roads in Saskatoon’s McNab Park have largely been cleared of abandoned houses, but the streets still bear the first names of former air force officers and their wives.
Names like Sheldon, Jeremy and Carole are all believed to be connected with the subdivision’s former role as living quarters for Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) members, according to Saskatoon’s city archives.
Peggy Sarjeant, president of the Saskatoon Heritage Society, said the area has a long and unique history many people in the city know nothing about.
“I think we need a larger conversation as to how to build on the unique identity of that area,” Sarjeant told Global News.
On Friday, tenants in the last dozen houses in McNab Park received notices ordering them to leave by the end of October, so their homes can be demolished. Most of the properties were knocked down about ten years ago and replaced with hotels along Airport Drive.
The Alberta-based landowner has told Global News there are plans to clean up the property and prepare it for development. Larry Moeller, president of Strongwater Investments Ltd., said calls from the fire department prompted the demolition of some unsafe structures.
Though the area has fallen into disrepair in recent years, Sarjeant said it’s still important “to recognize and commemorate the history of the site.”
The first buildings were installed in 1952 for personnel and their families. Air Marshall Curtis School was built the following year for their children. It later became known as McNab Park School.
McNab Park is named after Archibald McNab, a Saskatoon miller and Saskatchewan’s sixth lieutenant governor. His son, Group Capt. Ernie McNab led a squadron during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.
The historical significance isn’t lost on Debra Torkelson, who lived in McNab Park from 1994 to 2009. She remembers the low-income community like a small, affordable town within a big, expensive city.
Hearing that the last of the park’s buildings are coming down made it feel like her “heart went into [her] throat.”
“I felt like bawling because that place just has so much meaning,” she said.
Torkelson acknowledges the demolition was a long time coming, but she’d like to see the area renamed to clearly honour those who served. If not a renaming, a plaque or other permanent monument could work.
“They need some sort of recognition because their families lived there way before we did and they fought for our country,” she said.
From 1952 to 1964, numerous training operations and RCAF squadrons called the McNab Park home, until 406 Squadron disbanded in 1964.
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