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Dr. Johns’s Winter Coat, 1915  

Dr. Johns’ medical school graduation portrait. Click on image to enlarge

Today we often take the availability of medical care for granted. But when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, doctors, drug stores and hospitals were few and far between. Rural doctors made hundreds of house-calls a year to patients spread out across great distances. These services were too expensive for many rural people. As a result, the Saskatchewan government developed programs and policies that would eventually lead to Medicare in the 1960s. 

A Lifetime of Service
In 1912, Dr. William Percy Johns started his practice in Viscount. His territory ranged east to Guernsey, west to Colonsay, north to Bruno and south to Manitou Beach. He would remain the area’s doctor until 1959.

Click on image to enlarge

Keeping Warm
To cover these long distances in the winter, Dr. Johns traveled by open cutter and later in a converted Model T snowmobile. To keep warm, he bundled up in this heavy wool winter coat lined with beaver fur. It would have kept him warm, but it is also very heavy. It’s hard to imagine the energy it must have taken to travel in such a weighty garment. The warmth of his patients’ homes must have been a welcome relief.  

Traveling in Style
Dr. Johns had two snowmobiles throughout his career. His second snowmobile faced an unfortunate end when, on a trip to deliver a baby, it ran out of oil. Dr. Johns stopped at a nearby farm, but the farmer had no oil. The two decided to use water instead to keep the machine going. Dr. Johns made it to his patient in time, but the snowmobile’s engine was damaged beyond repair. After this incident, he traveled in a heated horse-drawn caboose.

Dr. Johns’ snowmobile, used until the late 1920s to transport him to patients’ homes. Built in Viscount. Click on image to enlarge

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