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McNab Park

A couple of weekends ago I took these photos of McNab Park in Saskatoon.  It was initially military housing during World War II that later morphed into low income housing after the RCAF shut down the base in Saskatoon.  What started as low income housing later turned into slum housing by the time it was shut down.

I have always had a weird fascination with military housing, probably going back to how the Canadian Forces base in Calgary stood out from it’s surroundings.  McNab Park was nothing like CFB Calgary and was left isolated and surrounded by the John G. Diefenbaker airport on one side and light industrial and warehouse space on other sides.  There was no school, no businesses serving the community, and no bus service after 6:30 p.m. at night which means that if you are living there and working, you are walking home (it’s at least a mile walk from the closest bus stop), or are paying a cab.  If you are like a lot of retail workers, you are walking home a lot of evenings.  If you need something, the closest convenience store is the overpriced shop at the airport which makes your average 7-11 look like a Wal-Mart in terms of stock.

McNab Park was just left up there to deteriorate which is too bad.  The barracks are quite nice.  The three that I have been in over the years were well built despite not being that well maintained.  I remember them being cool but most houses (including ours) built during the war needed an insulation upgrade.  A conversation this week told me that they only have one thermostat for three units which would be an annoyance but not something that made those places uninhabitable.

As they were, they provided  affordable housing for low income families in the city and now they are gone.  Sure they were remade and many were moved to Fairhaven and sold as $250,000 affordable housing units although I doubt any of their former inhabitants were able to afford them.  There are other subsidized housing units in the city, such as those provided by the Saskatoon Housing Authority but with the SHA, you have waiting lists and when you have no where else to go, McNab Park was a decent option for a large family.

I have always wondered what McNab Park would have been like with a small store, decent landscaping, and some of amenities that we take for granted in Mayfair (like two large parks, playgrounds and late night transit service).  In other words the stuff that every other neighborhood has in Saskatoon.  Even growing up in Deer Ridge in Calgary as it was being built where community infrastructure is lacking compared to what it is today, we had a pocket park and great areas to play in.

For years the discussion about McNab Park is that it was a problem to be eliminated (and replaced) rather than a community that needed to be stabilized and invested in.  Not too many communities anywhere do well in that context.  The end result is that Saskatoon lost a part of it’s history and in the end gained some moderately affordable housing units that could have been built for that price anyways.  I think Saskatoon came out behind on this deal.

13 Comments

  1. Dave Bissett says:

    It used to have a school – it was torn down about 1985 if I remember right. There was also a store and coffe shop on 45th street, where Areva has some offices now.

    When I was growing up there, airport drive didn’t exist, and that whole industrial park developed while I was there. It was field right down to Idywyld, and to Circle. No bus service on Sunday, but stores weren’t open then. Otherwise the 21 ran through there until pretty late at night.

    When I left it was beginning to make the transition from low income to slum. Too bad – it’s disconcerting to walk through and look at all the piles of dirt where childhood friends houses used to be.

    1. nancy schaeffer says:

      I also attended mcnab park school.I grew up there i like to think wow so sad to see it gone

  2. Tamara Day says:

    Thanks Jordan.
    I lived in McNab Park a few times growing up. I actually went to the school when it was there.
    The photos were sad but I’m thankful they were taken before the entire park is gone.

  3. [...] Cooper has some reflections here on the end of McNab Park, the military barracks turned rental community that is being transformed [...]

  4. Len says:

    I took a short drive through Mcnabb park today because i was interested in the old houses. To get access to the neighbourhood was difficult. The street i came in on seemed like a dirt road leading to an abandoned farmers field and the one i left on due to a dead end, was across an empty lot. The city needs to focus equal attention on all areas of the city. This leads me to believe that saskatoon could let any area turn into Chernobyl.

  5. Joanne Arnold says:

    Both my Fiance ( Joe Melnychuk) grew up there. Remember the school and the trouble we got into. Great place to grow up!

  6. Daryl Adolph says:

    I went there in the mid 70′s. I have good memories, and would love to find a old yearbook to try and find friends long moved away.

  7. Chris Charland says:

    G’day

    I lived as an R.C.A.F. dependant at McNab Park from 1957-1959 and the again from 1963-1964 when at that time R.C.A.F. Station Saskatoon was closed. Not sure why the newspaper called the P.M.Q.’s (military housing) barracks. I enjoyed my time at Air Marshall Curtis School.
    I have been trying for years to get pictures of the school but to no avail.

    Cheers…Chris

  8. Larry Klassen says:

    I also lived in he park in the 70,s meet my first love their , remember her to this day, great school best time of my life, will never forget McNab park, they can take away the school, and homes, but never the memories.

  9. Julie Buzanko (nee Newby) says:

    I lived in McNab Park in 1968 – 1970 and went to the school there. I was able to get in and take some pictures when passing through last summer….but the places I lived (ie: D2 and 12) were already gone. I remember hanging out at the school with a parks & rec program they had, I was only 12 when we left but do have some found memories of my short time there. :)

  10. Dwan Glover says:

    I lived in McNab from 1971 to 1977 and went to school through Grade 3 in McNab Public School. There was a huge Soccer Field right beside the school along with two Baseball Diamonds. There was a Hockey Rink, a wading pool and large playground area on the school property. There was another good sized playground on the other end of the school field behind a couple of houses at the junction of Carole Street and Dawn Crescent. Across Berney Avenue (to the East) was more large open areas with four more Baseball diamonds, right beside the railway tracks. There was a dirt road (back way to Circle Drive) through absolutely nothing but land, no roads anywhere, not like there are now. That dirt road led from Circle Drive to the back of the houses on both Berney Avenue and Carole Street. It was a great community to grow up in and I still hold many very fond memories of the place and the many friends I had there. I drove through McNab in 1993, the first time I had returned since leaving in 1977 and couldn’t believe how much had been torn down or was left to crumble. The two homes I had lived in, were amazingly still standing and were some of the best of the remaining buildings in the area. I will always miss McNab and all the fun it was to grow up there.

  11. Jo Martin says:

    So sad to see this and a few other websites showing the desolation. As emigrees from England in 1967 we lived first at the Idywyld Motel, then M2 and later number 52 until about 1971 when we moved to Langham. I did Kindergarten and part of Grade 1 in McNab. I have a great photo of the outdoor icerink beside the school one winter. I was always in trouble for cycling on my own to the airport and watching the passengers come off the planes, probably hoping one of my grandparents might be amongst them. I was only 5 years old. I would sit on the back step and listen to the traffic on the highway and make plans with my dog to run away to the mountains. I could look out over acres of scrubland from the backyard as Saskatoon was way in the distance back then. I would give anything to go back in time and do it again. Joanne Martin

  12. Deborah Newby says:

    I lived in McNab Park in the late 60s. I attended school there also. Some great memories, but hard times.

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