Virtual Saskatchewan Home Navigation Bar

Get Around Virtual Saskatchewan!


Shumi and Rumely

by Dave Yanko

NORTH BATTLEFORD - There rests inside the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum here a 1970s vintage Citroen, the French-made automobile with a hydraulic suspension and a name that would seem to tempt fate. For North Americans, at least.

The car belonged to Dr. Morris Shumiatcher, the Regina lawyer and scholar known for his jurisprudence, philanthropy and a College Avenue abode that looked to me, as a kid growing up in Regina, like the gingerbread house from Hantzel and Gretel. The brilliant lawyer would succumb to Alzheimer's Disease a month after our visit to the museum.

WDM farm home
The WDM's farm is one of the museum's more traditional features. The house was built in Ontario Gothic style and is used today to prepare food during special events.

Shumiatcher drafted the 1947 Saskatchewan Bill of Rights for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner of the New Democratic Party. It was the first general human rights legislation in North America and a model for Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights that, in turn, formed the basis of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

According to the plaque accompanying this curious artifact, Shumiatcher obtained the car from a man in Winnipeg who purchased it in France and shipped it back to Canada. Shumiatcher and his wife Jacqui apparently used the vehicle as regular transportation in the Queen City.

I wasn't expecting to be reminded of my own urban past during a self-guided tour of a museum focusing on Saskatchewan's pioneer era. The theme of the North Battleford WDM, one of four branches in the province, is "Heritage Farm & Village". My wife and I are here with a guest from Ottawa who grew up on farms in eastern Ontario. That's the link. That's who this was for. At least, that's what I presumed when we set off from Saskatoon this morning for our 90-minute drive to The Battlefords.

We're only 15 minutes into our visit, however, and this is the second evocative artifact I've encountered. The first is the giant J.I. Case Company bald eagle perched in the middle of the Discovery Room adjacent to the reception area of the museum. "I know this eagle!", I said to myself as our party of three entered the room. My excitement waned a bit as I considered the likelihood this is the only such eagle in existence. J.I. Case was a large agricultural implement manufacturer based in the United States. There were likely many Case eagles in North America, not just the landmark one my sister and I watched for when our family travelled along the north end of Broad Street in Regina.

J.I.Case eagle
The 4.6 metre (15') eagle, known as "Old Abe", formerly stood guard over the J.I. Case building in Regina.

Thus prepared for disappointment, I walked up to the large, shiny and reconditioned icon to read the plaque below it. Sure enough, it's "our eagle"; the one that served sentinel duty near the top of the old J.I. Case building on Broad Street. I remembered the excitement I felt when I spotted the big bird while on our way to visit my aunt at her place of work. Part of the attraction, I now suspect, was the incongruous image of a huge bald eagle perched on a building in the warehouse district of Regina.

I expected most of my interest in this visit would come from our guest's reaction to the exhibits and artifacts - I was curious to see what would interest him. Yet here I am wading around in my own nostalgia and quite enjoying the ripples. It primed me to appreciate our tour of more than three dozen reconditioned, reconstructed and replicated buildings representing life in rural Saskatchewan just as the 20th Century was beginning to build momentum.

The buildings, appointed with vintage furnishings and equipment, include law, dental, doctor and optometrist offices, a bank, barber shop, school, railway station, Co-op store, blacksmith shop, fire hall, municipal office and drug store. Two Catholic, one Anglican and a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church grace the grounds, as do homes of a farm family, doctor, Ukrainian pioneer and merchant. The buildings and exhibits illustrate the self-sufficiency of the pioneer farmers and how the relationship between farm and village grew over time.

train station at WDM
The railway station was built by the Canadian Northern Railway at Prince, Saskatchewan in 1914. The steam locomotive was manufactured in 1913 at Montreal. It was used in passenger service and later for freight.

"The farmers supplied the villagers with fresh produce and the village supplied the farmers with manufactured goods and repair necessities," according to the tour pamphlet. The railway and post office connected everyone to the rest of the world. Our guest's overriding interest, however, was in the impressive array of antique farm equipment found at several locations on the village grounds.

breaking land
- courtesy National Archives of Canada
The Battlefords WDM has a large college of antique tractors including some similar to this one.

I'm a born-and-reared city kid with no immediate relatives on the farm - agricultural implements were never of great interest to me. But primed with memories from my own past and engaged by our guest's curiosity, I found myself gaining an appreciation for the giant tractors that once crawled the prairies. I even became interested in how they're related to the ones out there today.

Ukrainian pioneer home
A thatched roof on a Ukrainian pioneer home required large log rafters for support, however, a well-thatched roof could last 40 years. That's a traditional herb and wildflower garden in front.

I enjoyed participating in an effort to twig the workings of an antique hay baler; I learned that John Deere tractors can be identified by sound alone; and I came to understand why some tractor aficionados believe Rumely OilPull tractors, with their inexpensive kerosene fuel, were "the greatest tractors ever built." Well reinforced for me was the fact there exists in tractor land a brand-name loyalty every bit as strong as the faithfulness city folks show for their automobile makers.

Museums like the WDM stimulate learning and reward experience. I hope our guest thinks of Saskatchewan when next he spies an antique tractor. When I do, I'll think of him. And Morris Shumiatcher.

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

© Copyright (1997-2012) Virtual Saskatchewan