Western Development Museum – Saskatoon

The Western Development Museum (WDM), was established in 1949, and has been in its present location since 1972. There are technically four WDM’s, located at Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Yorkton, and Saskatoon, but the area of focus is Saskatoon. The Saskatoon one is called 1910 Boomtown, and focuses on the boomtown era of 1910’s, as well as features vintage automobiles, trains, farm equipment, and other memorabilia.

When you enter the museum you’re presented with an indoor representation of a typical Saskatchewan town. There’s a long wide street with buildings on either side. I’ll go through every building and highlight a bit of history about them, before venturing on to different technologies that were developed in the 1900’s that made vast improvements into people’s quality of life; from farming techniques, automobile development, home improvements, electricity, running water, etc.

Telephone Operator’s House

Telephones were in place in many parts of Saskatchewan by 1910. The main switchboard in most small towns were typically located in the operator’s home. Shown below is what a typical telephone operator’s house would have looked like.

Harness Shop

Harness shops are some of the busiest shops in the small towns of Saskatchewan during the early 1910’s, since animals were the main workhorse, rather than vehicles. The shop keeper was often the town cobbler, and leather worker as well. Shown below is what a typical harness shop would have looked like.

Livery Stable

Livery Stables were used to provide house and feed for horses, which were the main workhorse of transportation in the early 1910’s. Horses were used to pull buggies, wagons, and farm equipment.

Blacksmith Shop

Blacksmiths had a wide variety of jobs ranging from the sharpening of slows, replacing horseshoes, repairing wheels, shaping iron into tools, and manufacturing replacement parts. Metal is heated in a forge, where bellows forced air through the fire to heat the iron. The iron is then held with tongs against an anvil and then shaped into the desired shape with a sledgehammer, before being plunged into water to harden it. Shown below is what a typical blacksmith shop would have looked like.

General Store

General stores are where the citizens could send or receive mail, buy foods, have a coffee, etc. Most items were loose, weighed and bagged, similar to how the modern day Bulk Barn does things. Shown below is what a typical general store would have looked like.

Real Estate Office and Law Office

The homestead system was based on the Dominion Land Survey (DLS). The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 offered up homesteads of 160 acres for $10 if the settler lived on the homestead for a minimum of six months every year for three years, as well as built a suitable home, broke at least 30 acres of land, and seeded at least 20 acres of land. These new homesteads were keeping the Real Estate / Law Offices in these small towns quite busy.

Dentist’s Office

In the early 1900’s dental services were usually performed by general practice doctor, and a dental office was only established after a community had developed to a considerable size to merit a specialist. A dentist usually began his practice with only a manually operated dental chair, and some basic equipment.

Doctor’s Office

Small town doctors were general practioners that faced a wide variety of medical situations ranging from pulling teerh, broken bones, delivering babies, as well as diagnosing and treating illnesses. Occasionally the illness or accident would be severe enough that the doctor would be required to visit that patient in their home, sometimes travelling many kilometres on poor roads.

Drug Store

Drug stores in the early 1910’s did more than count out pills prescribed by doctors. The usually had to mix out their own medications from raw materials. Mortar and pestle’s, scales, beakers, and a compression device were a common staple tool that allowed chemists to manufacture the pills prescribed by the doctor. Drug stores also carried specialty items such as photography equipment, grooming and hygiene supplies.

Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) Detachment

Shown below is an example of what the RNWMP detachment in Watson, Saskatchewan looked like. The detachment had two police officers who lived and worked in the building.

Church

Churches are an important part of a community, and most small towns had a church.

School

Most schools in small towns were just a one-room schoolhouse. Most schools were poorly lit, and quite chilly.

Wing Lee Laundry

Many early laundries were operated by Chinese settlers who originally came to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s western section. The laundromats were usually the home and business of these settlers, with the sleeping quarters typically located in the back.

Sterling Hardware Store

Hardware stores offered a wide variety of items ranging from nails to lamps and tools.

Arctic Ice Company

Before electric fridges arrived to the scene food was kept in insulated ice boxes, and were cooled by a block of ice. In the winter months ice blocks were cut from nearby rivers and lakes. The Arctic Ice Company wagon delivered ice door-to-door for home ice boxes. While the electric fridge was invented in 1913, they were not common-place in homes until the 1930’s when they became more affordable, and safer refrigerants such as Freon were invented. Early electric fridges used ammonia, which wasn’t safe for home use because they often leaked.

Railway Station

Railways were critical to the existence of prairie towns. They brought settlers and supplies, and hauled away produce to other markets. Sometimes towns would relocate to be on a rail line so that they could survive.

Farm Equipment

There was a tremendous amount of farming equipment ranging from steam powered equipment, to gas, diesel and oil powered equipment.

Sod House

Sod houses were common place, especially towards the end of the 1800’s, start of the 1900’s. They were chepa to build, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. This was the first home for many immigrants.

Bennett Buggy

In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression era, money for gasoline had dried up, so people improvised by repurposing gasoline powered vehicles into horse-drawn vehicles. The engines were usually removed, and straps were attached that could be pulled by a horse.

Depression House

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that occured from 1929 until the late 1930’s. It was the longest and deepest depression in the 20th censure. It started in the United States after a major fall in stock prices that began on September 4th 1929, and was worldwide news by October 19th 1929. This was also known as Black Tuesday. Between 1929 and 1932 the world economy shrank by 15%. By comparison, the Great Recession of 2008-2009 the world economy only shrank by 1%. Unemployment also rose to nearly 23%! Unfortunately also during these times the Canadian and USA prairies were also pummeled with severe wind storms which would pile dust against the side of peoples homes, sometimes up to the roof. Dust would even make its way inside the home and cover everything. An example of a depression-era home is shown below.

Rural Electrification

In the 1920’s homes were introduced to the magic of electricity, with the 32 Volt home electricity “Light Plant”. Light plants consisted of a gas engine (sometimes a wind turbine), an electric generator (also known as a dynamo), and a storage battery. The storage batteries consisted of sixteen 2 Volt gas storage batteries, usually split into two rows of eight to save on space. Farm light plants were typically stored in the basement and were installed on a concrete foundation to minimize vibration. The light plants could run small 32-volt appliances such as butter churns, washing machines, tools, and lights. Light plants provided electricity for many rural homes until the 1950’s, when the last of Saskatchewan’s rural farms were finally connected to the power grid.

Implement Dealer

Implement dealers were placed close to railway stations in order to take easily delivery of shipments of steam engines, gas tractors, and other agricultural machinery that was purchased by the citizens in the town for use on their homesteads.

Banks

In the early years of banking, each bank company issued it’s own currency. Banks in this era were built to give the impression of a solid and trustworthy image. Architecture during the 1910’s featured false columns on the front of banks, sturdy dark wood furniture, and wrought iron teller windows.

Craft Parlour

Craft Parlours provided women with craft supplies to make clothing, rugs, quilts, etc.

City Garage

Between the 1910’s and 1920’s cars were often sold by farm implement dealers who often knew very little about them. This often led to the need for a service industry to provide repairs and accessories for them, which spun the need for independent garages.

Boomtown Photo Studio

Photography equipment was not owned by the average citizen so if a professional portrait was required a visit to a city photo city was a necessity. City photo studies typically held a studio camera, a room with interchangeable backdrops, and a dedicated dark room to develop the film.

Fire Hall

Many Canadian homes are built of wood, and are susceptible to house fires. Making matters worse was older homes typically contained electrical wiring that didn’t have electrical grounding, and exposed wires (think rod and spoke inside walls with newspaper as insulation). Fire Halls were as much a necessity as they are now. Firefighting equipment – hand, steam, or compressed gas – stored in small wooden firehalls were operated by volunteer firefighters.

Town Office

Town halls were the centre of business and handled all local administration, and date back to early roman times.

Clock Shop

Clock shops in the early 1900’s were more than a place where people could buy clocks. The jeweler sold and repaired watches and clocks, handled china and silver, and acted as the local optometrist. Keeping time was a lot harder in the early 1900’s than our internet connected devices of today.

Butcher Shop

Electrical refrigeration didn’t exist in the early 1910’s. Food was preserved with ice and kept fresh in ice boxes. Butchers were an essential retailer as many families didn’t even have access to ice block service.

Newspapers

Today we can just look at our iPhones, or turn on our televisions to get the news, however at the turn of the 1900’s news travelled much slower. Newspapers were printed on a daily or weekly basis and delivered door to door. International news sometimes took as long as 1-3 months to reach Canada.

Barber Shop and Pool Hall

Barber Shops at the turn of the 1900’s often contained a public bath area where a person sat on the surrounding rim with his feet in the basin. Water drained through a small hole under the seat. Pictured below is a historic barber chair.

Transportation Gallery

The museum featured a transportation gallery that encompassed all sorts of vehicles from the early 1900’s through to modern times. There were even some electric vehicles and renewable fuel vehicles at the turn of the 1900’s that were quite interesting.

Believe it or not but electric cars have been around since the 1880’s. The very first electric car was developed by Gustave Trouve from Paris, France. Electric cars were widely used between 1881 and 1912, even more popular than gasoline / diesel powered cars. In fact six electric cars held the land speed record in the 19th century, with one of them reaching 106 kph in 1899, which was unheard of during those days. The internal combustion engine took over as the main engine of choice, until roughly the late 1970’s, when the fuel crisis hit. Electric vehicles eventaully started to gain traction again, including this weird looking vehicle called the ElecTrek pictured below. The ElecTrek was developed by Unique Mobility from Denver, Colorado. When it went on sale in 1982 it could reach highway speeds, however could only got 132 km (82 miles) on a charge, and ran on 16 heavy lead-acid batteries, which posed an issue with limited charge cycles and recyclability. The electric vehicle wasn’t quite ready for mass-production again. General Motors (GM)came close in 1996 with the EV1. The vehicle was highly favoured by its owners, however they lived a short life because in 1999 GMended production. There was also another catch because GM never let you purchase them, rather lease them for a 3 year period. Once the lease period was over GM crushed most of the vehicles, and distributed a few to museums. This was a huge blow to the electric vehicle scene. The 2000’s sat quiet, until Tesla came to the picture in 2003 and has since produced over 1 million electric vehicles. I myself own a Toyota Prius PRIME plug-in-hybrid, of which only 50,000 per year are produced. I love my car, and honestly don’t see myself driving a non electric vehicle here-on-in.

What do we have here? Pictured below is a McLaughlin Motors Model E35 powered by straw gas. Basically it was a regular vehicle that could burn straw gas. A gas bag was fitted to the car’s frame, with a hose to pipe the gas into the carburetor, and a valve that could be opened or closed depending on whether the car was run on straw gas or gasoline. The issue with running a car on straw gas was that the 300 cubic feet of gas had less stored capacity than 1 gallon (3.78 litres) of gasoline, so it could only go for an extremely short distance. This was one of the first “renewable fuel” vehicles ever produced.

Steam powered cars were prevalent until the end of the 1920’s In the early 1900’s automotive propulsion technology was highly experimental with gasoline, electric, and steam all contending to be the dominant technology of choice. Steam power was somewhat preferred during the late 1910’s to the early 1920’s because of its simplicity of operation, maintenance, and smooth / quiet ride. By the 1920’s steam was on its way out as gasoline alternatives were becoming significantly cheaper and faster. The vehicle pictured below is a 1926 Brooks steam car, of which only 18 were built. The car had only 38 moving parts, and featured unique technologies such as a flash boiler wrapped in 5 km of piano wire, and a body made of a light-weight composite fabric called Meritas.

Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit

The original Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit was an innovation in healthcare that had a worldwide impact in cancer treatment. Saskatchewan had a very high cancer rate developing between 1924 and 1941, and the government decided they would offer free cancer treatment to everyone living in Saskatchewan, and gave the green light to the University of Saskatchewan to develop the “Cobalt Bomb”. In 1951 the “Cobalt Bomb” was finalized to treat cancer. The very unit on display in this museum treated 6728 patients until it was replaced in 1972. Canada is a world leader in cancer treatment innovation for a terrible disease that kills 83,000 Canadians annually, and 9.8 million people worldwide.

I hope you enjoyed reading about all these fascinating facts as much as I did. If you visit Saskatoon I highly recommend visiting this museum. Be sure to check back soon as I continue my summer hiking adventures, and I also have an upcoming trip to Kelowna at the end of June. It’s also looking fairly promising for me to look again at doing my Eastern Europe road trip in the fall.

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Kelowna – Part 1 of 3

Last week Julie and I embarked on a week long holiday to Kelowna for some relaxation, lots of food, wine tours, cider tastings, and to visit my friend Krystylyn. We left on Saturday September 5th and went home on Saturday September 12th.

Saturday September 5th 2020

Saturday was our travel day to Kelowna. We set off towards Kelowna at around 8:00am. On our way we had a quick stop for lunch at Subway in Golden. Continuing on, we also stopped at Dutchmen Dairy to get some delicious ice cream and to see their baby cows. Julie & I both had lemon sherbet flavour, and agreed that it was the best ice cream that we have ever eaten. The baby cows were extremely cute to see as well!

After our stop at Dutchmen Dairy we walked across the street to the farmers market where we picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables. After picking up vegetables we drove to Grass Root Dairies for some delicious gouda cheese. This is the first time in six years since I’ve been to the dairy farm. The 37 year old farm was purchased from the Gort Family 11 years ago by the Wikkerinks Family. The name was recently changed from Gort’s Gouda Farm to Grass Root Dairies. I’ve been coming here every time I drive through the area since I was 16 years old.

After 9 hours of driving, and poor directions from our AirBnb host we finally found our condo building, which was located at Lake Okanogan Resort, about a 20 minute drive outside of Kelowna on West Side Road. We spent nearly 30 minutes looking for the building with the host’s poor directions, but if he had just stated to put Lake Okanogan Resort into Google Maps it would have solved a lot of the problem.

Our well furnished condo was located on the 7th floor of the “Terrace 3” building… well technically it’s the sixth floor according to the elevator, as the elevator starts on floor 2, which it considers as the main floor. The condo was lacking a few amenities which we believe should be standard in every rental, including shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and dish washing tablets for the dishwasher. We ended up having to purchase our own when we went grocery shopping the next day.

After settling into our condo and unpacking we drove into Kelowna to have some delicious dinner at El Taquero. Julie and I ordered some mini tacos and some drinks. I had a Mezcal Sour, and Julie had a Blood Orange Gin.

After eating dinner we went to BNA Brewing for a drink and to fill my beer growler. Julie had a delicious can of SOMA dry cider. I had “Big Mario” IPA as well as filled my growler with the same.

After having a drink we walked around the Marina before heading back to our condo for the evening. During our walk I saw a beautiful floatplane docked next to a nice boat.

Sunday September 6th 2020

Sunday was a supposed to be a lazy start to the day, but we were both awake by 8:00am. We had breakfast at the condo with the fruit and veggies that we had purchased yesterday.

First stop of the day was the Kangaroo Creek Farm, which recently moved next to the airport. The hobby farm has been around for 9 years now and is a wonderful place to visit with anyone, including children. The farm has all sorts of animals including kangaroos, birds, goats, turkeys, sugar gliders, ducks, and porcupines. Entrance fee’s are very reasonable; $12 for adults, $6 for children and seniors, and free for children under 4 years old.

On our way driving to the Kangaroo Creek Farm we saw a cidery next door called Upside Cider. We decided to stop there for a flight of ciders and some lunch. We shared a gluten-free fire cooked Chorizo and Salami pizza, which was delicious.

After lunch we drove to Gray Monk winery for a wine tasting. They had delicious wines and we ended up buying a bottle of Meritage. I was specifically looking for a particular Gammy Noir wine, which apparently they stop making in 2013, but they recommended that we try Intrigue winery, which was just up the road. Gray Monk was founded in 1972 by the Heiss Family, and is one of my favourite winerys. When Gray Monk was first started, they began as an Estate Winery due to regulations at the time. Rules have changed since then, as there is now a simplified distinction between a land-based (farm style) winery, and a commercial winery, but Gray Monk choose to keep the Estate Winery status because of its history and importance.

Located just up the road from Gray Monk is Intrigue Wines. The vineyard was established in 2008 by the Davis & Wong families. Roger Wong originally worked over at Gray Monk before starting Intrigue Wines. I personally didn’t like their wines, and didn’t purchase anything from them.

Ancient Hill Winery was the next stop. Julie and I quite liked the wines here and I ended up purchasing a Baco Noir, and Julie ended up purchasing a Gewurztraminer. Ancient Hill was founded in 2009 by Richard and Jitske Kamphuys.

We then tried to go to Arlo Bee Farm, which we both thought was a disappointment. We thought it would have been a lot more informative, but it really lacked information. We were told that their honey is quite nice, and it is featured at Tantalus Winery, among other places.

Next stop was Okanogan Wine and Spirits, where Darren showcased a variety of Whisky, Gin and Liqueurs to Julie and I. Darren was absolutely hilarious and is very knowledgeable on all the products. I ended up purchasing a Huckleberry Liqueur, which I mix with sparkling water. The distillery was founded in 2004 and utilizes 100% locally grown fruits and grains.

Next up was dinner, which we had at a wonderful restaurant called KRAFTY Kitchen + Bar. Due to COVID-19 they had an interesting way of ordering; you just text them your order and they will respond to let you know they received it, and then a short while later bring it out. I had the Truffled Mac N’ Cheese, which was amazing. Julie had the Saffron Tomato Risotto, which was also delicious.

The final stop for the day was Superstore to pickup some groceries for the week. When we arrived back at the condo we relaxed down by the beach and played some Catan, which is our favourite game.

Monday September 7th 2020

Monday was our day with my friend Krystylyn. We met her at her apartment at 8:00am and drove to the Myra Canyon Trestles for a bicycle ride. Krystylyn brough her bicycle with her on the back of her, and Julie and I rented a bicycle from the rental guys at the top for $39 each.

The Myra Canyon Trestles are a popular area for people to hike and ride along just 30 minutes outside of Kelowna. The history of the trestles stems back to 1915 when the Kettle Valley Railway (subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)) was incorporated. The railway was operated between 1915 and was partially abandoned in 1961, with the last train operating in 1989.

The railways was built for servicing the growing mining demands of the British Columbia Southern Interior. When the original CPR main transcontinental railway was completed in 1885 it had to be routed through the Rocky Mountains at Kicking Horse and Rogers Pass, which left a significant amount of mining towns un-serviced by the main railway. It was decided to build the Kettle River Railway to service the area, at an astonishing cost of $20 million, which was the highest cost per mile of any railway built at the time. The Railway was built in several sections between Kamloops and Midway, with some offshoots heading to Copper Mountain and Osoyoos. The project took nearly 20 years to complete. The most difficult portion of the railway is between Myra Station and June Springs Station; which required 18 wooden trestles and two tunnels.

After the railway was abandoned in 1989 the area quickly became popular with hikers and cyclists, due to its gentle grade. The bridges fell into disarray due to vandals and after petitioning from locals the government designated that section into a National Historic Site in 2002.

In September 2003 the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire ripped through the area and engolfed 12 of the 18 trestles. In addition, the bridge decks of two metal bridges were also destroyed. The bridges were eventually rebuilt by the British Columbia provincial government. Our ride took about 2 hours and was quite chilly since the sky was overcast, and we were higher up in the hills.

After returning our bikes and driving down the hill we went to Smokes Poutinerie for lunch. The menu was fairly limited compared to pre-COVID times, but it was still pretty good. I had a triple pork poutine.

After lunch we walked over to Rustic Reel Brewing and had some beverages. I had two pints of their Hazy IPA. Julie had Sajiva Kombucha, and Krystylyn had an assorted flight of beers.

After lunch we said bye to Krystylyn and drove back to our condo, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing, playing games, and down by the beach.

Be sure to check back soon for part 2 of 3 in my Kelowna series.

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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