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Fifty Golden Years

Saskatchewan's 50th Anniversary in the WDM Collection


By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
February 2005



Heading for Pion-Era, 1955.
WDM Archives

1955 ushered in a year of celebration as Saskatchewan marked 50 years as a province. And what a celebration it was. Hundreds of events in communities large and small paid tribute to the pioneers who settled Saskatchewan. From Alsask to Alameda, La Ronge to Lafleche and Zealandia to Zelma, young and old gathered to remember and reminisce. They picnicked, they partied and they paraded in celebration of Saskatchewan's first 50 years.

As part of the Golden Jubilee festivities, a tradition was cemented at the Western Development Museum. The popularity of the previous year's Threshermen's Reunion prompted the WDM to hold a full-fledged threshing show which delighted the hundreds who came to watch. Volunteers and staff tuned up old tractors and threshing machines, cars and buggies, bringing the settlement years to life. Many of the original homesteaders were still around to enjoy the recognition given them at this event. Although the show was conceived as a tribute to the pioneers, the legacy of 1955 remains as the WDM hosts annual threshing shows at the North Battleford, Saskatoon and Yorkton museums.

Parades were a big event during the anniversary year. The WDM collection has a car or two, a truck and a tractor that took part in 50th anniversary parades in small towns around the province. An IHC truck rolled down the main street of Beechy. A cumbersome three-wheel Gray tractor lumbered through Star City and a 1925 McLaughlin-Buick sedan caught the attention of parade-goers in Tisdale.

In 1955, the Province marked historic sites around Saskatchewan with replica Red River carts. The carts, made by Humboldt woodworker Harry Ford, brought to mind the freighters, Métis and others, who endured squeaking, bone-jarring journeys along prairie trails hauling supplies to fur trade posts. One of these replica carts is now preserved in the WDM collection.

Other tangible reminders of the Golden Jubilee have found their way into the WDM collection. From commemorative licence plates to commemorative quilts, all mark the special year that brought Saskatchewanians together to honour their past. The white and dark green Saskatchewan licence plates acknowledged the celebration. Quilters showed their handiwork. The Conquest Homemakers' Club stitched a quilt on which they appliquéd the shape of the province and other Saskatchewan vignettes. The Saskatoon Friendship Club called on artist Bill Perehudoff to help its members design a quilt, embellishing it with Saskatchewan symbols. And for a small fee, the quilters of Bounty stitched the names of 499 friends and neighbours on their quilt--a lasting tribute to their community.

A shirt and a comforter in the collection were made from specially-created Golden Jubilee fabric. The outline of the shape of the province is screen-printed with heads of wheat, oil derricks and other familiar icons. The artifacts are a bit faded from repeated washing, but they show a unique way in which Saskatchewan people acknowledged their past-with commemorative yard goods made into useful items. More recently, the WDM acquired samples of this fabric, unused and brilliantly coloured.

Other Golden Jubilee souvenir items in the WDM collection include bunting and banners bearing the Jubilee logo, pennants and trinket boxes, pins and badges, and cups and saucers. Flower vases were another popular souvenir. And just last month someone brought in a special Golden Jubilee head scarf. Familiar Saskatchewan landmarks like the legislative building, the University of Saskatchewan gates and Prince Albert National Park are printed in bright colours on the delicate fabric.

From Homemakers' Kitchen

Golden Jubilee artifacts in the WDM collection
WDM Photo

For its part in 1955, the Saskatchewan Homemakers' Clubs put together a cookbook dedicated to pioneer mothers and grandmothers. Over 5000 women belonging to 300 clubs had a part in the project. Each of the clubs was invited to submit its favourite recipe, handwritten in India ink on special paper. The recipes were illustrated with little drawings. The cookbook was prefaced with a brief essay about the Homemakers' Clubs contribution to the life of rural Saskatchewan. A member wrote about her farm home and another article described how the book was put together. The finished product was charming in its simplicity and full of down-home recipes like baking powder biscuits and fried chicken, and ethnic favourites like Ukrainian cabbage rolls and Irish soda bread. The WDM collection contains several examples of From Saskatchewan Homemakers' Kitchens. These examples gave WDM staff an idea.

With the enthusiastic support of the Saskatchewan Women's Institutes, formerly the Homemakers' Club, the WDM reprinted the cookbook, dedicating it to the women and men, girls and boys of tomorrow.

The 311 page cookbook is available at WDM gift shops in Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Saskatoon and Yorkton for $9.95 plus GST.

You may see a sampling of Saskatchewan Golden Jubilee mementos in Saskatchewan 1905 – 2005 timeline exhibits at WDMs in Moose Jaw, North Battleford and Yorkton and in Winning the Prairie Gamble: Farm Life in Saskatchewan at the Saskatoon WDM.


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