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Recipes and remembrance… from the arena

All I expected to glean from my Family Day visit to Elk Point’s A. G. Ross Arena was a few pictures of skaters, town council turned burger chefs and face painters in action, but I came home with something even more special.

I was handed a piece of the past, and the offer of more pieces to share with others who might also enjoy the memories.

Back in 1994, the arena celebrated its 20th year of operation and the opening of a recent expansion that added a meeting room and new change rooms to cope with two decades of steady growth, becoming a multi-purpose facility shared by the whole area.

Elk Point’s hockey teams and figure skaters had already spread the word across the province that we are a skilled and competitive sports community, and those young athletes were part of a volume dedicated to the volunteers who created and continued to support the arena and its activities. No, it’s not a history book. It’s a recipe book, ‘All Our Favourites – Elk Point Arena Kids.’

The names of those kids, many now with kids of their own who are the current ‘arena kids,’ and whose parents contributed their offspring’s favourite recipes, are with those recipes, that share the pages with a few from self-proclaimed ‘super fans’ who continued to volunteer long after their kids were involved.

Leafing through the pages of refrigerator pail pickles, broccoli rice casserole (which my kids sneeringly referred to as ‘creamed silage’), haystack cookies and drumstick dessert, I see names of people I haven’t seen or even heard about in years, as well as some who come home with their growing families for such events as Canada Day. There are those who now play hockey for the Elks or who coach today’s minor hockey teams, who curl, who present donation cheques from their companies to local groups or 4-H trophies from their purebred ranches, who work in the oil industry, and one who is a public health nurse and gave me my flu shot last fall, all of whom I knew back then. Some of them are even related to my own children by marriage, all these years later.

The recipes aren’t the only blast from the past. To finance the book’s printing, the Arena Operating Committee accepted donations from 17 local businesses in exchange for advertising. Some of those businesses are still in town, the Empress Family Restaurant, Shamrock Valley Enterprises, E-Can Oilfield Services and B & R Eckel’s Transport having stood the test of time.  Capitol IDA Drugs is now serving the community as PharmaSave, while others – BMW Monarch, Highland Corod, Pan

Canadian Petroleum, Leeway Heavy Oil, Tarsands, Jeannine’s Fashions, In Days of Olde, The Cutting Edge, Pioneer R.C., Lakeland Meat Processors, Dr. Jonathan Adams and Single Styles Creative Hair Care – are long gone from our community over the past quarter century. Some were victims of the ever-changing oil prices, some of retirement, some simply moving on to other endeavors. Back then, they were all part of the local world we took for granted.

Time changes everything, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse but as we all know, change is inevitable.

Change is also evident in our diets, which is evident as I look through these pages. Some of these recipes used to be very popular – Surprise Spread was a staple for snacks at gatherings, Layered Salad a stylish part of many buffets and the Hash Brown Potatoes, which we called ‘Those Potatoes,’ was even on our Chamber of Commerce pancake brunch menu one Canada Day. Have you had Shipwreck Casserole lately, or a Butterhorn? I sure haven’t. The desserts seem to have remained popular, for the most part. I still make Tomato Soup Cake, Buttertart Squares and Chocolate Syrup Brownies, Rice Krispie Squares and Wheat Puffs Squares (which I also made as kid). Some things are just too good to give up on.

And so is our arena. It is the home to five minor hockey teams, pond hockey teams and the Senior Elks, beer league teams and figure skaters, all still going strong because of the dedication of volunteers who keep our community strong through good times and bad. They’re the best!