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Teddy Bear’s Homecoming

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
August 2012

Teddy bear in SaskatoonSybil Farris with her new teddy bear, Saskatoon, 1920.
WDM - Sybil Farris Spinks Collection

The journey took 92 years, but the beloved green teddy bear given to three-year-old Sybil Farris at the Saskatoon Canadian Pacific Railway station on April 24, 1920 is home at last.

Sybil, her sister Margery, age six, and her parents George and Sarah Farris were bound for England on that April day. George had given up his job as an engineer at Saskatoon’s City Hospital to go into business with a friend back in Dorset, Bournemouth. Sarah, who missed her homeland’s milder climate, “small green fields,” and family, encouraged the move. The family never returned to Canada.

The story began more than ten years earlier in an English village. The new teacher, Sarah Dyke, had arrived to teach the youngsters in the local school. Romance blossomed with George Farris, the old brother of one of her students. As George and Sarah contemplated marriage, money problems held them back. George worked in his father’s foundry business in exchange for board and room and a bit of pocket money. He was not paid a wage.

Young George had an adventurous streak and Canada beckoned. So in 1910 he set off for Saskatchewan. He took whatever work he could find while studying in the evenings. Finally he landed a job as an engineer at Saskatoon City Hospital. Now he and Sarah could marry.

Sarah set out for Saskatoon from Bristol, her home town, in early summer, 1912. An ocean voyage to Quebec and a train trip to Saskatoon later, she arrived in the small prairie city on July 14, 1912. The two were married that evening in Christ Church-Anglican. Two women from the congregation volunteered to witness the ceremony.

The young couple set up housekeeping in rented rooms before buying their first home on Avenue D, on the edge of the prairie. Some time later, they moved, house and all, to a lot on Avenue B. By 1917 two daughters had joined the family - Margery born in 1914 and Sybil three years later. The family settled down, their social life revolving around Christ Church.

In 1919, a letter from a former City Hospital colleague who had returned to England, changed the family’s life forever. With the urging of his wife Sarah, George accepted the friend’s invitation to join him in the hotel business back in England so on April 24, 1920, little Sybil’s third birthday, the family left Saskatoon for good. Sybil’s godmother, known only as Aunt Biddy, presented the little girl with the green teddy bear in the Saskatoon CPR station as the family was about to board the train.

two women hold teddy bear between themAngela Wicks and her mother Sybil Farris Spinks
with the teddy bear.
Photo courtesy Angela Wicks

Ninety-two years later, Angela Wicks, Sybil’s daughter, and her husband Mike travelled to Saskatoon, teddy bear in tow. Angela wanted to see Saskatoon, her mother’s birthplace and the city that had attracted her grandparents in the early years of the 20th century. With the blessing of her 95-year old mother, Angela brought her beloved bear, most of its bright green fur worn off by years of loving, back to Saskatoon and its new home at the Western Development Museum.

“We are absolutely thrilled to return Old Green Teddy to Saskatoon,” said Angela as she delivered the bear to the WDM on August 28, 2012. “And we’re thrilled to give it a new home,” countered WDM Collections Curator, Ruth Bitner.

Welcome home, Teddy.

man and woman holding bear on Boomtown StationAngela and Mike Wicks with the teddy bear on the
Boomtown Station platform.
WDM photo

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