Brandy

Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Cranberry Portage, Manitoba.

My beautiful and special hometown. Where I was born and raised. Well, I was actually born in The Pas, Manitoba but that is because Cranberry Portage doesn’t have it’s own hospital.

Cranberry Portage is actually a village. The current population sits just below 600. Growing up our town wasn’t much bigger. I think the most people we had at one time was between 800 to 900.

In a place as small as Cranberry everybody knows everybody. Which can be a good thing especially when your grandma has dementia and aimlessly wanders around town. Luckily we were contacted about her whereabouts and we were able to get her home safe and sound.

Like any small town, gossip can spread like wildfire. Everyone knows everyone’s business. And prying eyes are everywhere. Once as teen I tried to skip school with a couple friends of mine. However, we didn’t thoroughly think things through and went back to our one friend’s house which was located in the teacherage (area of housing where many of the teachers at the local school division lived). Of course we were seen and our parents found out what we had done. Not a smart move on our part. But we still got a wee break from our dreaded industrial arts class for one day.

On A Map

Map Flin Flon Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Map Winnipeg Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Whenever I was asked where I was from I would say with pride, “Cranberry Portage!” A few times I received this response, “oh you’re from Portage la Prairie?” “No, Cranberry Portage!” “What? Where is that?”

If you want to find us on a map you will have to look pretty closely. We are located about 50 km south of Flin Flon, Manitoba and about 100 km north of The Pas, Manitoba. If you still aren’t quite sure where Flin Flon and The Pas are Cranberry is about 700 km north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. That makes for a very long drive to the city!

As we are so far from any major centre I tend to state that I live in a remote area. Some may say we are more rural than remote. Growing up my mom used to order our clothes from the Sears catalogue as we did not have many options in terms of clothes shopping. We could travel the half hour (50 km) to Flin Flon for the odd shopping trip. But the selection there wasn’t much better. We also tried to support our own stores and businesses by keeping our money local. However, sometimes driving 30 minutes to get a little extra deal on fresh produce or meat selection had to be done.

A History Lesson

When I was a kid I used to love reading the short two page history of Cranberry Portage in my mom’s copy of the 1978 Homecoming Cookbook. (The 1978 Homecoming celebrated Cranberry’s 50th birthday.) That cookbook was well used and loved. The story explains that Cranberry Portage was just that, a portage used by explorers and aboriginals. Artifacts dating back to 500 A.D. were found in the area indicating that the route had been used as far back as then.

The name Cranberry Portage can be credited to map maker and explorer David Thompson. He used the portage frequently in the 1780’s and even called Cranberry Portage, “Cranberry Carrying Place” as an abundance of cranberry bushes existed in the area over 200 years ago.

It was in the 1920’s that things started booming for Cranberry Portage. People were driven to the area in hopes of striking it rich as huge mineral deposits in Flin Flon and the surrounding areas had been discovered. There were no roads leading into Cranberry but the first steam engine came through town on March 25th, 1928. At this time the town had a population of around 2,000! According to the story of Cranberry Portage, “in that year there were six stores, eight restaurants, two theatres, a bank, a drugstore, a hotel, a jail, a weekly newspaper, sauna baths, Western Canadian Airways base, flop houses, and a number of private businesses of questionable virtue.” (Direct quote from The Cranberry Portage Story, Cranberry Portage Homecoming 1978 Cookbook)

I would have loved to see our town during this exciting time. Throughout the years I lived in Cranberry we had maybe two to three restaurants in operation, two grocery stores and one convenience store, a post office, a variety shop (which was packed from top to bottom with yarn and was the first place to sell CDs in town), a hardware/liquor store, a bank (which later closed), a theatre (which burned down when I was in early grade school), a hotel with a bar (the infamous Northern Inn), a motel, and a few lodges. Currently the hardware/liquor store, a restaurant, the bar, an art gallery and the post office are still in operation on the main road in Cranberry. Our little main street has sure changed over the years.

Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Devastated by Fire

On June 4, 1929 a forest fire completely destroyed the early settlement of Cranberry Portage. Before the fire gutted the town the residents lived close to the edge of Lake Athapapuskow. After the fire, the townspeople rebuilt the community up the hill on the other side of the railroad tracks where the town currently is found today. The Cranberry Portage Heritage Museum website has a wonderful page that details what happened during the fire and photos to go along with the events that took place.

Throughout the years forest fires have threatened to take our beloved town from us again. I vividly remember one summer in the late 1980s (I believe it was 1989) being on evacuation notice for a few weeks. My mom made us each pack a suitcase with only essential items. The suitcase sat on my bed ready and waiting until we got the call to leave. During that time our town was home to many other evacuated communities. It was another population boom! Luckily, our town was spared and we were never evacuated. Most recently in 2010, the town was evacuated due to a very large forest fire. That fire burned 55,000 hectares of land and came within 10 km of Cranberry Portage. I was so terrified for my little town and its residents. I was also scared for my parents. My dad refused to leave. He wanted to do all he could to help save his home community. And once again, our town was spared.

Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Northern Beauty

The population of Cranberry had ebbed and flowed in the years to come. Many people who traveled to Cranberry Portage fell in love with the beauty of the north and especially, the town. If you love nature, this is the place to be. Cranberry became a tourist destination for people all across Canada and even the United States. In the summer time our population always spiked because of the influx of tourists visiting our town. Because Cranberry is surrounded by lakes on pretty much all sides, fishing was and is still a big draw for tourists. My grandpa (my dad’s father) loved to fish. The funny thing was he didn’t like to eat his catch! I guess he wasn’t a big fan. But oh how he loved the sport of it all.

My Family Roots

My history in Cranberry begins with my grandparents. They moved up to Cranberry Portage (from Southern Saskatchewan) after my grandpa’s service in World War II. He and my grandma ran a small cafe for just a little over a year. In 1948 Grandpa bought a Caterpillar Fifteen and he started cutting pulpwood. Then, he built a sawmill. My grandma was even part of the sawmill crew in those days and lent a well needed hand in getting the family business off of the ground. My dad and my uncle later became partners in Leptick Sawmill LTD. and they still own and operate the sawmill today.

I grew up in the same house my dad did. Not a lot of people can probably say that. My grandpa built the house for my grandma. My grandpa John – he could build something from nothing. And to think, he only had a Grade 8 education. He was a very talented man. I sure miss him a lot.

When my dad got married Grandpa “sold” my dad the house for a dollar. I sometimes joke with my dad that he should sell the house to me for two dollars. The family house is still owned by my family. Now that my dad is remarried he has built a house on the lake (Lake Athapapuskow) with my step-mom. So, the family house is currently empty of residents but most of my childhood belongings are still there. Can you tell that I am avoiding going through all of those memories?

Just like my dad (and my mom) I attended Cranberry Portage Elementary School and later, Frontier Collegiate Institute. FCI is a unique school. You see, in 1956 a mid-Canada radar site began construction. In those days it was believed that Flin Flon was a Russian military target because of its mines and smelters. Cranberry Portage became the perfect place to build a back-up radar location. This project brought more people and businesses to the town. In April 1964 the base became obsolete and closed down. However, in September 1965 it reopened with an entirely new purpose. Frontier School Division, the largest school division geographically in the province (and in the world), bought the base from the Government of Canada and Frontier Collegiate Institute was born. It would be a high school with a residence (it was and is not considered a residential school). FCI would provide a quality education to students in Manitoba (mainly students from the north) whose communities did not have a high school of their own. Many of the buildings of the former base were re-purposed to meet the needs of the school. Last year it was announced that Frontier Collegiate would receive funding to build a new residence for its students after a decade or more of lobbying for the upgrades! Construction is going strong today! I can’t wait to see the new 200 bed residence and power mechanics shop when they are completed.

Frontier Collegiate became my second home. Not only did I graduate from there in 1998 but I was also an employee for many years. I was first hired in 1999 as an Internet Technology Specialist (fancy title for website developer and computer technology person). In 2001, I began working as an educational assistant but I was laid off near the end of the school year in 2002. Luckily a position in the school’s library became available and I was selected to fill the roll. I would work as the school librarian until the end of the school year in 2008 when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. I credit Frontier Collegiate for helping me find my rightful place in this world, in the library.

Cranberry Portage Manitoba

Fond Memories

Growing up in Cranberry was an amazing experience. We took full advantage of the nature surrounding us. We went camping every May long weekend to Gyles Park. We swam for hours at little dock and at eight mile beach. We enjoyed tubing. I made regular visits to the town’s small six hole golf course and even played one round in the pouring rain. Winter festival time in Cranberry was magical. It included the Find the Lion contest (I never could solve those riddles and find the dang lion), mini bonspiels (which I always entered with my grandpa), chainsaw carving contests that my uncle took part in, and going for bombardier rides across the lake.

I also spent many hours at the local skating rink learning how to figure skate. We went snowmobiling around town and at the sawmill. Speaking of the sawmill, Dad and Grandpa put us to work there in our teen years and well into our 20’s. We definitely learned the hard earned value of a dollar!

We rode our bikes down the middle of the streets in town. One night we made it our mission to drive on every street and back alley in the town.

My grandparents lived right down the street from me. I visited them often. One time I was helping grandma in the garden (eating her tasty raspberries, strawberries and other goodies) when a young fox snuck into the garden under the fence. It was cute to see the little fox trying to find a little food to eat.

I graduated from high school with a few kids I went to nursery school with and am still friends with many of them today. I’d take long walks throughout the town and would look up at the night sky to see the Northern Lights dancing away. I always felt safe walking throughout the community, even at night. The only thing that worried me was running into wild animals. Sometimes the odd bear made its way into someone’s back yard. Or there was a time when a huge moose ran through the Frontier Collegiate campus and jumped the fence! Everything we needed or everywhere we could go was within walking distance. No place was too far to get to in Cranberry (well, unless you lived at the lake outside of town).

Cranberry Portage Manitoba Lake

Other memories: The annual Trout Challenge – Canada Day parades – Christian day camps – Growing up between two churches – Annual Christmas party for the Ambulance crew – Christmas concerts – Watching the FCI Winterhawks play hockey at the local rink – Socials at the Legion or the curling rink – The town’s Christmas decorations – Main street dance – The best fries and gravy made lovingly by the Coffee Shop – 2003 Homecoming celebrating our 75th birthday, and much more!

Cranberry Portage takes care of its own. Whenever there is a person or a family in need, the community rallies around them. When my grandpa and my mom passed away we received an outpouring of love and support from our small community. That is definitely one perk you do not see in a major centre.

What else can I say about Cranberry Portage? There is no place quite like it. The beauty of the north is indescribable. I may long for the city and all it promises but I feel at home among the trees.

They say you can never go back. But I have found that you can. And whenever you do, you are welcomed with open arms each and every time.


Images Courtesy – My brother Cole and Sheri from SF Photography


Canucks Content Carnival


Author:
Brandy Reid is a stay at home mom to two very active and hockey obsessed boys. As a former YA librarian, Brandy loves to read and is obsessed with reading everyday whether it be books or blogs. Brandy proudly admits that she is a wee bit addicted to social media, especially Twitter. She also believes that everything in life you can related to the iconic TV Show Friends. No day is complete without chocolate.

58 Comments

  1. ashley p
    March 1, 2014 at 6:19 AM

    what an amazing history to have in your hometown. Growimg up, while I lived in a small city, I always wished it was a little town. Kanata certainly wasn’t big when I was a kid, and even now compared to Toronto and what not it is tiny, but it has grown so much, and not a lot of history

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      And here I have always longed to live in a city. hehe! It’s funny how that works. Thank you for stopping by my blog Ashley! I really appreciate it.

  2. Lisa Marie
    March 1, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    Thanks so much for sharing your hometown with us! It’s amazing how such a small community has such a dynamic, vibrant, and exciting history. Everything you describe sounds amazing…. I think I want to move there now. ;)

    It’s beautiful. :)

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      You should definitely move here! I feel all alone out here without any other blogger friends to hang around with. hehe! Thank you for reading Lisa Marie!

  3. jodi
    March 1, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing your history with us, and what history it is. I would have loved growing up in a small town such as this. I know everyone knows your business, but it’s like one big family of people you grow to love and care about, a real community. Such wonderful pictures and sounds like a great place you grew up. Maybe one day your dad will sell you the house.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      The community is fabulous! Nothing like growing up in a big extended family. Everyone takes care of everyone. And yes, hopefully the house will one day be mine. hehe!

  4. Pinx JL
    March 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    I can actually imagine you growing up in your hometown just by reading your post! One thing I envy, you get to see the Northern Lights, :-) It must be a really amazing sight! And boy, you do live so far from the city! It is a small town but full of life, nature and activities! Thanks for sharing your hometown!

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      The Northern lights are so beautiful it is so hard to describe them unless you experience them yourself. I hope one day you are able to!

  5. Bonnie Way
    March 1, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    As soon as I read “portage” and “Manitoba,” I thought “David Thompson?” So cool! I’m attempting to write a novel about him and his wife right now. I’d love to come visit you and some of the other places that he traveled! :) Thanks for sharing all the pictures and info. :)

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      That is so neat Bonnie! I would love to read your novel after you complete it. So interesting!

  6. Sandy
    March 2, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    I truly enjoyed reading all about your home town! I had never heard of Cranberry Portage before. Wow! 700 km north of Winnipeg? That is very far north! Love the history of your town and it sure looks like a beautiful area. Lol…nope! You can’t get away with anything in such a small town :)

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      The distance from major cities is quite a drawback. But nothing beats the beauty of our surroundings.

  7. Margarita Ibbott (@DownshiftingPRO)
    March 2, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    I just loved this blog post. I did not have a clue where Cranberry Portage was and I love that you included the maps. It looks like a beautiful part of Canada. Thanks for sharing all the interesting facts.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      You’re welcome. I am grateful for this content carnival. The response I have received for this post has been amazing!

  8. Dreena
    March 3, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Well written! Thanks for sharing your hometown story.
    Cheers.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      Thank you Dreena!

  9. AlwaysARedhead
    March 3, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    I love the north, having been as far as Moosenee in Ontario. Hubby and I regularly camp in the backcountry, but you had the best, with the backcountry being your backyard.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      I never did appreciate it as a kid but now I really do. There is nothing like being able to go out for walks in the bush whenever you want to.

  10. Jenn
    March 3, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I love that you grew up in the same house that your dad did!! That means that is has so much history! I bet that was an amazing experience!!

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      It really was! I wish my kids could have grown up in that house too. Thank you for popping by Jenn!

  11. Jean Murnick
    March 4, 2014 at 4:11 AM

    What a good read Brandy. Having lived in Cranberry Portage for 42 years myself, I can relate to all the beauties of the area. Keep up the good work that you do, in your exploring the history of this little town.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      Thank you Jean! I really enjoyed writing about Cranberry. It was hard to to decide what to include and what not to. There was so much to say!

  12. Kristen B
    March 4, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    Wow, your hometown reminds me so much of my hometown of Chevery QC. We only have 2 stores, and one restaurant/motel/bar. I think it is a blessing for kids to grow up in a small town surrounded by nature. We just get a more relaxed and slow childhood, I believe. Love the name: Cranberry Portage, so unique!

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      The name is unique and special! In a little while I am going to write a post about where I currently live (which is not far from Cranberry) and it truly has a very unique name! You won’t believe it. hehe!

  13. Suzanne Rudge (MapleMouseMama)
    March 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    The pride you have for your sweet hometown is lovely to see. Cranberry Portage looks like a wonderful community to grow up in and such rich history! Thanks for sharing it. your love is evident :-)

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Thank you Suzanne! I loved this activity. I think I am going to write a post about where I currently live (which isn’t far from Cranberry actually). And I can’t wait to participate in the next content carnival. What a great idea it was!

  14. SL
    March 5, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    I learned so much about your hometown!

    This is a lovely post and I am glad to know that you love libraries as much as I do! :D

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Libraries are awesome! No place like them, just like my hometown! I am so glad I got to share this post with you. Now you know where to find me (somewhat). LOL!

  15. John Leclair
    March 5, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    My grandfather and yours were friends and were in the logging business. I enjoyed this article very much. Well done. I’m proud to live here and be a part of this community. :)

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Thank you so much John! I bet our grandfathers had a great time together.

  16. Cristy
    March 5, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Such a great read. I was born in The Pas. My mother grew up in Cranberry. Her grandmother is buried there. I missed living in a small community when we moved away to Saskatchewan. It is a great way to grow up.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      Hi Cristy! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

  17. Sharon (Cooper) Mckay
    March 5, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    Beautifully written. Many fond memories of Cranberry Portage as well. The beach, the summers, the landscape but above all the people – that made you feel welcome and made it feel like home.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      The people truly make the town what it is. No better place to grow up than Cranberry!

  18. Mary Ray-Speechley
    March 5, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    I enjoyed reading your blog and it brought back so many fond memories !!! I grew up in Cranberry Portage and I was friends with both your parents growing up :) and remember what sweet kind people your grandparents were too! I shared your blog on my Facebook site so I could share the memories with my friends here in Ontario ! I lived there till graduating in 1977 from frontier My brother John Sweryda still lives in Cranberry Bill and Cyndy in FLinFlon and sister Sophie miller in Iowa ! Good job on your blog I really remember with fondness growing up there ! Well written and you really back such great memories… Thanks

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      Hi Mary! Thank you so much for reading and sharing my post. I can’t believe the response I have received after writing it! I am overwhelmed and happy that everyone loves it. I’ll have to tell my dad that you commented on my post. Take care! :)

  19. Kim
    March 5, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    Brandy, I loved the descriptors of Cranberry you gave! Having driven through the town so many times on our trips between Wpg & FF, I never knew much if the history! I enjoyed your memoirs very much! And your brother & his wife take beautiful pictures. They make me homesick for the lakes and the forests.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Thank you Kim! You must miss our northern beauty very much. I can’t believe how many people have shared my post and have left comments. I am glad I could share this little piece of me with all of my readers.

  20. Bonnie Sue
    March 6, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story of Cranberry Portage. We plan on coming to Cranberry Portage in June. I am excited to visit your hometown. I grew up in a small town in Missouri USA. Looking forward to some great fishing and some great nature photo opportunities.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      You will love it up in Cranberry! So glad you will be able to experience the town this summer!

  21. Karen
    March 6, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    H brandy. My family and I lived in cranberry for 8 yrs from 71-79. And it was a awesome place back then. Esp the beaches and fishing

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      Hi Karen, thank you for popping by! When you lived here was during the time my dad would have graduated from FCI. Did you know my parents at all? And yes, the beaches are great.

  22. Cyn
    March 7, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    I had never heard of Cranberry Portage before and I just loved reading all about its history. It looks so beautiful there and being surrounded by all of that nature must be so wonderful.

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      The nature scenery is awesome. Sometimes I forget how great it is to live here. Thank you for visiting Cyn!

  23. Alex
    March 8, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Wow, Brandy, it’s absolutely gorgeous. <3

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      It is so beautiful here. I really don’t appreciate it enough.

  24. Monica
    March 9, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    What a wonderful post! I loved reading all about life in a small town and how special it is to grow up and now live there. I have always longed to live in a beautiful community like yours!

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      You should definitely visit sometime Monica! Thank you for reading.

  25. Kelly
    March 11, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    What a great story and you tell it so well! I can honestly tell your feelings and feel your love when you write! I love Sherri’s pictures too! Thanks for the history Brandi!

    • Brandy
      March 14, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      Thank you Kelly! Cranberry sure has a great story to tell!

  26. dan runyon
    dan runyonReply
    July 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Cranberry is great. I am getting ready for the fall season after enjoying the great fishing in spring. Does anyone recall a boook (that I bought around 1991) of an early explorer of the interlake areas. I bought it in a small shop across from Cams grocery, next to the post offfice as I recall.It was about an early (1920,s ??) explorer or gust just a great pilgram. Dan

  27. October 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    […] even had the perfect piece in mind. However, my post about my hometown Cranberry Portage was too long. Instead Ms. Stoker-Lavelle asked if she could interview me about my blog and blogging in […]

  28. Harry G
    Harry GReply
    November 23, 2015 at 5:55 AM

    Cranberry sure is as great as you write about it. So much so that after I visited there I ended up buying a place on the Lake that I spend as much of the summer as I can. Noticed right away while I was staying there for the first time that it was a unique and lovely town surrounded by nature at its finest.

    • Brandy
      November 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      It is a pretty nice place to live, especially if you have a house on the lake. That is my dream!

  29. Amie
    AmieReply
    February 27, 2016 at 3:00 AM

    Loved this, I grew up in CP as well and I’m pretty sure my heart will always miss it! Thanks for writing :)

  30. Jan (Arnold) Bell
    Jan (Arnold) BellReply
    March 5, 2016 at 9:00 PM

    Hi Brandy, i grew up in The Pas however from ’50 – ’56 my family had a log cabin on the point across the bay from the government dock just below town. We used to go up there the day school let out until the end of August. There were five cabins on the point. Three families from The Pas one from Cedar Rapids Iowa and one from Flin Flon. My Dad used to race in the boat races at the Trout Festival. Another favorite memory was going by boat over to get groceries and being aloud a treat at Streamers. So pleased to read your story. I was back home (The Pas) last summer and took a ride up to see Cranberry and was so dissappointed at all the closures.

  31. William (Bill) King
    William (Bill) KingReply
    June 3, 2016 at 9:46 PM

    Here’s an old time experience. Since I am a nonegegenarian, I speak from experience. In the early- mid 50’s and beyond, Don & Berga Starrat operated Cranberry Lodge, owned by Willard McPhedrain, Chairman of Mary Maxim Ltd.
    Berga bred beautiful Samoyed dogs and she gave Friskee, Czar of Caribou Lodge to us for our 4 year old blind daughter. We drove to Cranberry Portage in the autumn of 1956 to visit and to pick Friskee up and take him to our home in Dauphin.
    2 years later we all moved to Brantford Ontario, Friskee as well. He was the best, the very best dog ever, kind to the children and especially sensitive to Linden’s lack of sight. He live into his 70’s in “dog years” and he is still fondly remembered as is Cranberry Portage. A most beautiful area and a haven for the outdoors person.

  32. Jim MacGougan
    Jim MacGouganReply
    July 5, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    Trying to find Ruby used to work in hotel in 1987 to 1989 very important she about 47 years very pretty

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