Curator, Western Development Museum, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Readers of the Iron-Men Album may recall that in the April-May issue of the Album for 1972 we were happy to record the building of a new Western Development Museum at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The ten year old dream has now come true and the interior of the new building has been worked over since the spring of 1972.
The first combined Threshermen's Reunion at the new site was in operation from Monday, July 10 to Saturday, July 15 inclusive. It was an unqualified success and will be staged this year from Monday, July 9 to Saturday, July 14 inclusive. To use an old time phrase it will be bigger and better than ever. This will be an all inclusive giant get-together of old time, and young time, engine men and will be worth while coming a long way to see and to share and take part in. This year will mark almost twenty years of Threshermen's doings at Saskatoon. Since 1954 there have been many changes, but one thing has not changed. The old time cordial homestead atmosphere has still been retained. The members of the Threshermen's club and Museum staff take real pride in keeping the frontier homestead spirit alive and working.
A prospective visitor might well ask what does the new million dollar Western Development Museum consist of. The city of Saskatoon now has a Museum that is 300 by 400 feet in size. It is located on Exhibition Park on the east bank of the historic South Saskatchewan River and the site comprises some 15 acres all told. Of this 3 acres is under cover, all under one roof big enough for 3 football fields. The complete building is kept at a comfortable temperature making for all year round displays.
The central theme of the Museum is a village street of the 1910 homestead period in Saskatchewan. This is typical of the early days during the last great land rush on the North American Continent. At that time hundreds of new towns were springing up on the prairies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, each one with ambitions to become a future Chicago. Many of these, it might be mentioned in passing, are now dying on the stem, victims of the modern all weather highway system and speedier transportation. But such is progress.
No more fitting way to commemorate the homestead days in Saskatchewan could be conceived than the pioneer village street portrayed at the Saskatoon Museum. 25 buildings comprise the street, with a hotel veranda at one end and, what was the one and only life line of any homestead community in the early days, the railway station at the far end. In early January of 1972 the street was nothing more than a vision in the minds of the Museum Board and staff. Three months later, under a winter works incentive program, employing over fifty men, 25 buildings were in place with wooden sidewalks echoing to the tread of happy visitors. Such was the speed of the building program that it was thought, appropriately enough, to name the village BOOMTOWN. So real is the re-creation that one visitor said that at any minute she expected to hear the clip clop of horses feet and to hear a Salvation Army Band tootling away on the corner.
A quick survey of the Hotel Saskatchewan balcony upstairs discloses the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame. This is devoted to portraits and summaries of some of the founders of this agricultural province. At the opposite end of the balcony is the Museum's historic reference library that will grow in scope and importance over the years. Adjoining the library are the offices of the Tourist Association of Saskatchewan.
Returning to the street and immediately to the right is the old time cafe, in operating and working order. Next, is the barber shop and pool room with its 1910 sign 'shave and a hair cut 25cts.' Adjoining is the printing office that is in operation during the annual show with its ancient hand presses dating back to 1850. There's a butcher shop, jewelry store, real estate offices and a Board of Trade. Of interest is the old time fire hall with its hand pumper fire engine and slatted steel jail cell brought in from the town of Watson. Then comes the early day garage and the Bentley dry goods store, founded in 1904 at Delisle. Three sons of the original Bentley played hockey with the Chicago Black Hawks proving that Saskatchewan can grow hockey players as well as wheat and lovely women.
Passing the Bank with its teller's cage and enormous safe and by passing the important implement agency and railway station on a return walk, one looks in on the hardware store and Chinese laundry, to a faithful replica of the old time one room country school. This brings the visitor to the village church. St. Peters church was built in 1910 at the town of Young and hauled into the village site, fifty miles in the spring of 1972. It's a lovely little sanctuary with its historic pocket Communion set used by the minister overseas during the first World War 1914-1918.
In turn we pass the drug store and doctor's office and a large general display building. We look in on the blacksmith shop, the wood working building, the harness shop and the village residence with its hand operated telephone exchange. This completes most of the centre block.
The east wing of the building is devoted to part of the Museum's priceless automobile exhibit and transportation items, while the west wing houses the bulk of the steamers, gas engines and other displays, including a 1927 restored Pheasant airplane. Also on view in this section is the Hovland combination 30 foot push swather and tank combine built by the Hovland Bros, at Ortley, South Dakota in 1909. This machine cut the first commercial swath ever cut in the world and is worth coming many miles to see.
The Saskatoon Museum is open the year round, Sundays and holidays included. Also the Museum operates thriving branches at North Battleford and Yorkton during the summer months.
A very warm welcome awaits the visitor during the annual week long show, or at any time during the year at Saskatoon, or at the branches during the summer months. This is a down to earth grass roots organization where you are only a stranger once. And paste the date of the annual show in your hat-
July 9 to July 14 inclusive 1973. Visit the Museum and also Saskatchewan's lovely Northland. Be seeing you.