Contact Us
WDM North Battleford
Facebook Twitter Instragram YouTube Donate Now Button

Regular Hours:
9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Holiday Hours >>


Highways 16 & 40
North Battleford, SK

American-Abell steam traction engine with threshing crew of several men
Artifact Articles

Winning the Prairie Gamble


Doctor's Office and Drug Store

Opening Day - May 17, 2011

WDM North Battleford Doctor's Office Opening

Curator's Remarks by Ruth Bitner

Today we often take the availability of medical care for granted. But when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, doctors, drug stores and hospitals and were few and far between.

Saskatchewan grew quickly between 1905 and 1925 - from 195,000 to 828,000 people in just 20 years. The number of towns and villages ballooned from 79 in 1905 to 448 in 1925. Tens of thousands lived on farms.

Our village at the WDM in North Battleford represents Saskatchewan in the 1920s. By this time towns and villages offered more services, more people had telephones and many had cars. But diseases like tuberculosis were common, as were communicable illnesses like diphtheria, whooping cough and scarlet fever.

Today is a big day as we welcome a new doctor and a new druggist to town.

Our doctor will not spend every day in the office; he will be called out to accidents and illnesses and to deliver babies out in the country. I recently read about one doctor who made 426 calls in the country in a single year. A few years ago, our doctor travelled by horse and buggy in summer or by horse and sleigh in winter; but by now, in the mid 1920s, he has a car, at least for summer calls. If his patient is short of cash, he might be paid with eggs, a chicken or two, or a roast of beef. But maybe our doctor is one of the Saskatchewan’s new municipal doctors. Let me explain.

In 1915, the small town of Holdfast, near Last Mountain Lake, was in danger of losing its doctor after a year of bad crops. People were too poor to pay for medical services so the rural municipality decided to pay Dr Schmitt a retainer of $1500 to convince him to stay. This was the first time in North America that tax dollars were used to pay a doctor. The idea caught on and by 1927 there were 13 municipal doctors in towns like Beechy, Chamberlain and Senlac. In the 1930s, when times were tough, there were even more municipal doctors who had a guaranteed annual salary.

Our doctor has set up shop with the new druggist in town.

The opening of a drug store was welcome in small communities where people often had only home remedies to treat wounds or illnesses. The drug store in the 1920s was a place of wonder. There were lotions and potions and patent medicines meant to cure everything from catarrh to cramps. Many of the patent medicines, Lydia Pinkham’s for one, contained a liberal portion of alcohol. And during Prohibition when bars were closed, the druggist could legally sell liquor for medicinal purposes only.

WDM North Battleford Drug Store shelf

Prescriptions back then were different, often requiring the druggist to mix a potpourri of ingredients to make an ointment, an elixir or a liniment. Our druggist uses a mortar and pestle to blend substances together. Today’s pharmacists aren’t called upon to do this very often.

The drug store usually offered other things people needed: stationery, photographic supplies, veterinary medicine, candy, shaving gear and cosmetics, maybe even sheet music and phonograph records. Sometimes it rivalled the general store for the variety of merchandise it offered. Since our druggist is new in town, he is just getting his business established and doesn’t have a lot of stock. Maybe he’ll add more as his business becomes more established. Merchants in the 1920s displayed their wares behind the counter or in glass cases. Customers did not help themselves as they do today - that was the job of the clerk or owner.

We invite you to step back into the 1920s, to imagine what it was like to finally have a doctor and druggist set up shop in town. Please help us to welcome them.

You might also like:

Heritage Village Doctor's Home 

WDM North Battleford Doctor's Home 

About the WDM Collection