Some communities come along because of forts, others because of the railroad, and then there is White City, which was born thanks to a very long road. This won’t be a long episode, but I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
The area of White City, and the surrounding region of White Butte, was populated by the Indigenous people, primarily the Blackfoot, Sioux and Anishinaabe people. For thousands of years, they would use the high point of the landscape, White Butte, as a vantage point for a lookout and signal point to the surrounding land.
As Europeans began to arrive in the area, beginning with fur traders for the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Indigenous way of life would slowly begin to change.
In 1874, the land around White City would become part of Treaty 4 territory.
While various settlements would spring up in the late 1880s when the railroad came through, including nearby Regina, now the capital of Saskatchewan, it would be some time before White City came along.
While the transcontinental railways created the communities around White City, it would be a different transportation corridor that would give rise to the community, the Trans-Canada Highway.
With the Trans-Canada Highway, bedroom communities outside of Regina became popular and from there the community of White City was formed.
The existence of the community owes itself to Pilot Butte resident Johnston Lipsett, who owned the 80 acres of land that the community would spring up on. A local store owner, John Kadannek, convinced Lipsett to name the community White City after White City, London, England, the home of his favourite aunt.
The 80 acres was then divided into 32 large lots and slowly, the community began to grow. By 1960, it had only 37 residents but thanks to its close proximity to Regina and its location near the Trans-Canada Highway, it wouldn’t be long before the community grew.
Darlene Woloshyn, the town administrator in 2000, would say quote:
“The services that we would have to go into town to access before are now just a few minutes away. We are in a good situation, people really want property here, with the larger lots and to live out of the city.”
The community was designed for those people who did not want to live in a congested area and have a garden and other hobbies. It also helped the community that good water was located only 14 feet below White City.
At first, growth for the community was uncontrolled and that led to problems, with difficulties establishing property lines and ensuring everyone was following health regulations but that problem was quickly fixed with a zoning bylaw by the Rural Municipality of Edenwold.
The community would begin to function on cooperation, with homes being built by the property owners and their neighbours, and car pools being started up before that was a thing so that people could go to work in Regina together.
By 1959, the community would become a hamlet, the first in a series of changes for the community in the coming years. The move to become a hamlet was celebrated in White City, with residents coming out to a nearby community hall dressed as pioneers would have dressed, and dancing until the morning hours.
L.E. Blakely, a supervisor with the Department of Municipal Affairs, would say quote:
“Your community is unique. There are between 50 and 60 organized hamlets in the province but none just like White City.”
The local reeve of Edenwold would say quote:
The community would continue to grow over the years as people saw the benefit of living outside of Regina, but close enough for a short commute.
On March 1, 1967, White City became a village and then on Nov. 1, 2000, thanks to surging population growth in Regina and Saskatchewan, White City became a town. Today, it has a population of 3,099 people, not bad for a community started in a field in the 1950s.
A major event would happen in White City in the summer of 1964 when it was announced that Dad’s Cookies, those wonderful cookies every Canadian enjoys, moved out of Regina and into a new factory built in White City. The company had been operating out of its Regina factory since 1938.
The new headquarters would cost $250,000 to build, about $2.2 million today, and would be finished by the autumn of the year. The company had spent five months looking for new property in the city but high land costs and no suitable location along the highway could be found. Instead, White City became the perfect location and the new 90 foot by 400-foot building would house three 300-foot conveyor ovens that would replace the manual equipment used in the Regina plant. The building would also be much larger than the Regina plant. It was expected that the production for the company would rise from 23,000 cookies an hour to 100,000 cookies an hour. By 1981, the factory was producing 1.69 million cookies a day operating on two shifts.
Sadly, Dad’s Cookies would eventually leave White City. It was on Jan. 18, 1985, that the company decided it would close its doors in the community. The last official day for the company to produce cookies in White City would be Dec. 21, 1984. By this point, production had slowed down in the factory and the company was in the process of reorganizing itself since it was bought by Associated Biscuits of Canada in 1979. The 42 employees would receive one week’s pay for each year that they worked for the company. One management official had 32 years’ service with the company, while others had about 20 years.
If you would like to learn more about the history of White City and the surrounding area, you can check out the White City Museum. This museum is not like others you would find in other communities but is more of an eco-museum that explores the town directly, rather than in a single building. This museum is devoted to celebrating the intrepid spirit of the early residents of the community, while paying tribute to the Indigenous who came before on the land. The eco-museum features interpretive trails and auto-recordings that are provided by the elders of the community.