One of the things that set Dryden apart from other northern communities is the very high level of landscaping of our personal houses. We have better lawns, more tame trees and shrubs, more flowerbeds than the average, by far.  We also have more and better finished parkland, and higher standard street construction than northern towns generally.  I think this is a result of the higher standards people set for themselves, rather than government initiative.  It starts with the fact our original pioneers came to own land and make a home, rather than moving to the edge of the wilderness because there was a job there. That is, we were settlers, not frontiersmen.

The Jaycees, (Junior Chamber of Commerce) grew like wildfire through the 30’s and into the 60’s all across the continent, including Dryden and most northern towns. This was a service club with a twist.  Membership was restricted to men under 40, and its first objective was to provide young men an opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills.  Its second objective was service to the community.  Employment then was in more rigid hierarchies than now, you had to work your way up the Organization Chart before you could practice anything like leadership.  Running community projects as Jaycees provided a rare opportunity for young men to take leadership positions.

Here is ‘The Jaycee Creed’, which was recited by the young men at every meeting:

We believe – That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life; That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations; That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise; That government should be of laws, rather than of men; That earth’s great treasure lies in human personality; and that service to humanity is the best work of life.” 

Hopelessly out of step with the modern fashion of entitlement with no personal responsibility, but still a good code to build a life around.

Dryden Jaycees played a large role in the community in those decades.  In the 30’s, they started a wildly successful ‘Clean-up, Paint-up’ campaign giving substantial cash prizes and of course fame to those judged to be doing the best job.  An important part of that campaign was Landscaping, and they offered substantial prizes, I think $25 (equivalent to say $1000 today), for first place.  This no doubt reinforced the settler’s make-a-home mentality, with impressive results.

The Jaycees commissioned what was probably the first full colour 16 mm movie of any kind taken in the Dryden area. It was a roving travelogue of the contestants in the (I think) 1940 “Paint-up, Clean-up” competition.  In other words, it recorded the most highly landscaped homes in the District that year.  It miraculously escaped the 1967 fire which destroyed the Youth Center, the Jaycees headquarters at the time, only to be burned up in the arena/curling rink fire in 1978.  So you will just have to take my word for what was on it.

It was simply amazing. The first surprise would be that most of the nicest home sites were in the rural areas. It is less of a surprise If I explain that before WW2, the rural population was at least 4 times the population of the town, and that most came with that settler’s ethic, to make a home.  Also many rural folks were prosperous before the depression, and most fared better than Canada as a whole in the depression.  The second surprise would be how nice those prizewinners look; larger houses with more highly landscaped yards than you might suppose.  Including more flower beds, perennials and fruit trees, and less lawn than is fashionable now, push mowers in those days.

By the 60’s, we Jaycees viewing the film were not able to recognize all of the places from the pictures taken 25 years before. Two which stand out in my memory were the Norgate farm on East Wabigoon Lake road, and the Bob Johnston farm on Johnston road, both of which fell on hard times during the general decline of our rural area, and both of which still show signs of their former glory.  Also one can still trace the extravagant landscaping around some abandoned places including Mrs Crother’s house on my farm in Wainwright Township.

The 50’s and 60’s saw major growth at the mill, with a large influx of people to the area, along with a decline in agriculture as farms got bigger and as post-war prosperity made small-scale subsistence farming a less attractive lifestyle. We became a ‘mill town’ and a ‘one industry town’, and our rural root an embarrassing relic from the past.  Those bigger, built in the 20’s rural houses became unfashionable and many disappeared altogether.  But there are still signs of that former glory, including the examples noted above.

The town developed very high standards of landscaping of public spaces in the 50’s under the leadership of Parks Manager Bob Johnston. The greenhouse business established and still operated by the Schmidt family has no doubt had an impact, and the culture among our townsmen is still one of maintaining a very high standard of landscaping.  There are ongoing projects to encourage, ‘paint-up, clean-up’, though none on anything like the scale of the Jaycee’s 1940’s projects.  So Dryden’s high landscaping standard persists, something visitors often remark on.

Worldwide Jaycees membership declined precipitously in the 70’s as the entitled generation came of age, and Service and Leadership Training became unfashionable. Canada Jaycees got caught up in the enthusiasm of 1967, Canada’s Centennial, and made some serious errors which added to the decline and helped to see most Canadian clubs disappear, including Dryden.

Generations change. Jaycees is of the past, but it bodes well for our future as we see a Young Professional’s community service group once again active in Dryden.

“Service to humanity is the best work of life”


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