Virtual Saskatchewan Home Navigation Bar

Get Around Virtual Saskatchewan!


Bill Barry

If you are lucky enough to head down Eastend way and hang around town for a while, chances are you will run in to Tim Tokaryk. Tim runs a business in an old bank on Main Street called Red Coat Booksellers. The store has a wonderful stock of musty old volumes for the personal shopper, but Tim also does a big chunk of his business over the Internet.

Chances are, though, that you may have heard of Tim Tokaryk in another context. Does the name Scotty mean anything to you? In 1994, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons on the planet was discovered in the Whitemud Valley near Eastend. Tim, who works for the Royal Saskatchewan Museum's Eastend research station, is in charge of the spanking new facility recently opened to house Scotty's massive frame and other prehistoric relics. (See Dino Digs and A Moment in Time.)

Tim Tokaryk
- courtesy
Tim Tokaryk

One of the most fascinating facts about Tim is that he is a member of an extremely rare species himself, being a self-trained paleontologist with an international reputation. Think about that for a minute. The world is full of gifted amateurs. But paleontology, the study of fossil plants and animals, is among the most esoteric of sciences, many of whose practitioners devote their lives to their studies without ever rubbing shoulders with a significant discovery.

Such certainly has not been Tim's lot -- his association with Scotty and other discoveries from southwestern Saskatchewan have made his name known far and wide, self-trained or not.

But while Tim may be a rarity in the world of paleontology, turns out he's trodding in a pair of well worn Saskatchewan boots.

Harold Saunders (Corky) Jones
Corky Jones at Chimney Coolee (1909 or 1910).

Harold Saunders (Corky) Jones arrived in what was then one of Saskatchewan's loneliest corners in 1898. As a child he had visited the fossil beds on the Isle of Wight in his native England, and he recognized the Eastend area as a gold mine for a curious bone hound, despite his lack of any kind of academic training. He was to spend the rest of his life there, part of it as the town constable, along the way amassing one of the most important private paleontological collections in North America.

He certainly garnered neither fame nor fortune, one of his neighbours dismissed him as "…nobody important -- an old-timer who lives in a little three-room house near the centre of town and probably never made two hundred dollars a month in his life." Maybe not, but he did acquire some very interesting friends.

In 1921, Charles M. Sternberg of the Geological Survey of Canada came across a Triceratops horn that had been collected by Corky. He tracked Jones down and thereafter mentored the amateur's bone hunting and collecting. During the 1930s, Dr. Loris S. Russell of the National Museum of Canada played a similar role. Gradually, Corky built his collection in the basement of the Eastend school into a remarkable display of the history of ancient life. He scoured every book on the dinosaurs that he could get his hands on. By the end of his long life he was certainly as knowledgeable as anyone in the field.

Jones' Peak, in the Frenchman River Valley, is named after Corky
- courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan
Jones' Peak, in the Frenchman River Valley, is named after Corky.

Much of Corky's work is still on display in Eastend. Thankfully, before his death in 1978, the town had come to recognize the dual treasure in its midst; the man and his fossils. He blazed a trail which undoubtedly opened the eyes and minds of many a child -- including Wallace Stegner, who lauds Corky's museum in his novel, Wolf Willow.

Bill Barry
Bill Barry, Saskatchewan's place name expert

And he charted a course for Tim Tokaryk, one of whose greatest regrets is not having met the man.

Thanks Corky! People like you in their quiet way built this province. The modern dinosaur tourism industry at Eastend is in no small way a tribute to Corky Jones.

And thanks to Tim Tokaryk for information used in this article!

Contact Us | Contents | Advertising | Archives | Maps | Events | Search |
Prints 'n Posters | Lodging Assistance | Golf | Fishing | Parks | Privacy |

© Copyright (1997-2012) Virtual Saskatchewan