Why Sperling? Chapter Nine

It wasn’t a lack of moral fibre or pluck that held Sperling back from developing into a more Vital and significant centre.

Part of the reason that Sperling and thousands of other small towns in Canada seem headed down the path toward extinction is that the conditions under which they came into existence have changed so radi- cally. The location of towns was determined on the basis of what was feasible in an era of horse transpor- tation. Towns were linked to one another and larger centres by the railway, but the link between the farm and the towns was by horse and cart. Under those circumstances, towns situated at five-mile intervals made sense. No-one wanted to spend days driving oxen or horses on a rutted trail or dirt road to deliver grain to the elevator or pick up supplies.

But with the advent of motorized travel and paved highways, market areas expanded. Local businesses had to compete regionally; at the same time farm populations were shrivelling up due to mechanization. This meant that suddenly there were more service-supply businesses at the table for a pie that had become smaller.

Larger, more competitive towns could now be spaced at 20- or 30-mile intervals. But which towns? Why did Carman survive and grow while Sperling,