Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Greetings

I wish everyone the best of the holiday season and may you have much to look forward to in 2009. In spite of the looming difficult economic times, now is the time to tap into the goodness of human nature and do what we can to see each other through the hard times.
Even though we may be losing part of our history as the prairie grain elevators are torn down, we must do like we do when we lose an old friend: Remember the good parts and use those memories to add to the goodness of our own lives.
Happy blogging!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Zenon Park, Saskatchewan

I've "enriched" this photo of Zenon Park's main street and grain elevator. A link to information about this small town is in the title. Villages and small towns throughout the prairies are losing their landmarks and are disappearing from view as a result. Much business is lost and many stores close after the elevators are gone. While it's a sign of the times, it's also a sad reflection of how progress brings changes that aren't always better. There's less dependency on the immediate neighbours and less friendly conversations and perhaps not-so-friendly gossip that occurs when paths seldom cross due to the longer distances to drive to deliver the grain and to get supplies.
The "small town" atmosphere is slowly shifting to "big box" shopping and big city supply centres.
In the meantime, we can reminisce and commiserate while we fondly recall the "good old days".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saving the elevators

I came across this video done by CBC back in 1996, wherein the town of Inglis, Manitoba wanted to save the 4 elevators as an historical site. They realized that it would cost them $70,000 per elevator and weren't sure where they would get the money. I googled the name, Inglis, Manitoba and they seem to be promoting the four remaining elevators as an historical tourist attraction. Good for them. I would suggest that if any readers are traveling through Manitoba that they make sure to stop in and have a look at what prairie towns used to be like.
Upon further investigation, I've also found some photos from Inglis, calling the elevators, "Inglis Grain Elevators Historic Site". There are two photos including a map. Inglis is just north of Russell, Manitoba, just off Highway 16.
Good for Inglis and Manitoba for keeping history alive like this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marengo, SK

I received a comment on my YouTube site about Marengo. I checked my slideshow-video and realized that Marengo was not included as one of the 100 elevators. I have photos of 110 elevators and decided to limit the video to 100 in commemoration of Saskatchewan's Centennial in 2005.
I'm posting the photo here with a link to the YouTube video (that omits Marengo), in case the video's of interest as well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A new link

Please check out My Links in the right hand column. I've posted 115 Saskatchewan Grain Elevator photos on Chris Attrell's web site. He's collected over 7,000 grain elevator photos from across Canada. It appears to be a popular site which speaks well for the interest there is in preserving the memories, at least, of these prairie structures where grain was stored and then transported to feed the rest of the world.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Same elevator, different story

It seems the Hepburn elevator is a favourite of mine. I found a write-up on this grain elevator and thought I should include it as it shows how a community can save these prairie icons if they have the will and the where-with-all.
A spiral staircase to the top with a tea house? Food for thought. I'm sure they'd appreciate everyone's financial contribution to the idea. It sure would be a good tourist attraction.
And, here's another photo rendition of this elevator.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Nice history of the prairie elevators

Every once in a while I google "grain elevators" and find some interesting articles. This one presents a short history of the elevators of the prairies and gives one a sense of the sadness in watching the demise of this past century's icons. I guess one can call it progress, but those of us who were raised amongst these prairie giants will miss them and the memories that go with them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Today's article in the Regina Leader-Post

I came across this article today and thought I'd share it as it tells the story of one small rural Saskatchewan communities' commitment to keeping the oldest elevator in Canada standing and restored. Good for the Fleming folks!
I took this photo in 2006, not realizing how significant it was that this elevator was still standing. I converted it to black and white to give it a more archival look.

Monday » April 14 » 2008

Fleming is home to an icon

Ron Petrie
The Leader-Post

Monday, April 14, 2008

CREDIT: Courtesy of Kevin Weedmark, The Moosomin World-Spectator
The elevator in Fleming.
FLEMING -- In the blink that it took to erase from the landscape Saskatchewan's single most recognized icon, Fleming might have been excused for not realizing its own wooden grain elevator, a squat, hip-roofed job, was one for the ages.

Philip Hamm admits he wasn't fully aware. And he was mayor at the time. Now, eight years later, Hamm is president of the Fleming Historical Preservation Society, a group striving to restore, dollar by dollar, nail by screw, the oldest remaining grain elevator in Canada, opened by Lake of the Woods Milling Co. in 1895, a full decade before there even was a Saskatchewan.

In 2000, the scene railside at Fleming was one already familiar to hundreds of towns. A demolition crew had arrived to tear down the last two of what were once four elevators buying grain in town. The work commissioned by Agricore United was to begin with its old United Grain Growers structure and then move on to the smaller elevator, by then converted for bulk fertilizer storage.

"A couple of ladies in town raised their hackles and said there was no way they'd allow the little old elevator to be torn down," Hamm says. The women sought municipal help, placing council in something of a predicament, smack between: a) townspeople who might have chained themselves to the elevator (They really would have done that? I ask, to which Hamm gives me a look as if to say, well...thank goodness it never came to that) and, b) the demolition foreman, who warned that if the work was stopped, the town could be on the hook for $30,000 for a tear-down at a later date. Through a timely call to the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation for advice and guidance, Fleming residents learned that a just-completed list of 60 old elevators rated for historical and architectural significance placed theirs first overall.

At that point, says Hamm, there was no way the elevator was coming down.

"The grain elevator is still an icon in Saskatchewan, and once we knew we had the oldest one, we felt a responsibility to save it, not only for ourselves, but for history. It was really close, though. If the demolition crew had started on it before the other elevator, it would gone today."

And it is special this elevator, novel among all the 3,300 that once served as the town skylines across Saskatchewan. Eight years older than the next most ancient elevators still standing, the 32,000-bushel Fleming station was predated probably only by two long since vanished from Indian Head and Moosomin. Its blockish design, with waffle-stamped tin siding and a large square cupola atop, was common to elevator construction only until 1910 and the advent of the more slender, sloped look. Located at the east end of the town siding, six kilometres from the Manitoba border, the elevator was for years the first encountered by trains entering Saskatchewan on the CPR main line, the last passed when leaving.

"Exceptional" is the word you could use, and you might as well, because exception appears to be the rule here in Fleming. For years of population decline town council refused to revert its municipal status back to a village. Now, with an official 2006 census population of 75 (albeit growing of late, like most rural communities), Fleming proudly boasts the legal distinction of being the smallest incorporated town in Canada. From 1929-33, Fleming had its own radio station, CJRW, broadcasting local programs between relays from Winnipeg. The town ballpark is not only one of the Saskatchewan's oldest, built in the early 1900s, but also, today, as home of fastball's Fleming Jets, with its fencing, groomed grass, spectator seating and a red crushed-gravel infield, a diamond that's Field of Dreams pretty, among the province's finest. What's more, the ballpark's new towered lights make for one of the more exceptional political arguments I've ever heard -- wouldn't be needed, they say, if Saskatchewan had Daylight Saving Time. (And here is probably as good a place as any to mention that the town itself was named after Sandford Fleming, the Canadian inventor of 24 global times zones, cause in the first place of all this infernal clock bickering between the east and west sides of Saskatchewan.)

All this, and more, I learn across the street from the 113-year-old elevator, at the 115-year-old Windsor Hotel, where, if you have any notion to shoot breeze on coffee row, you had best bring your A game.

Fleming stakes claim to being the distant Saskatchewan village of the wheatfield horizon that was depicted on the back of the Canadian $1 bill from 1954 to 1974.

So do other communities, but only Fleming has printed its own postcard for proclamation and proof. If you look closely, they tell me, at the town on the dollar, very closely -- that's right -- and you wave out the front door of the Windsor, you can see yourself.

Folks in Fleming do have fun.

And good humour can be a valuable asset in the complicated, sometimes frustrating process of an elevator restoration, a learning process that began with an application to protect the elevator as a provincial heritage property.

Then came negotiations for acquiring the building from Agricore and the land from the CPR, both of which companies, says committee member Les Freeman, have been co-operative and generous.

Guided by the provincial heritage foundation and project manager Allan Sawchuk, a driving force behind the Inglis Elevators National Historic Site in Manitoba, the committee so far has cleaned the elevator of leftover fertilizer, which had caked in the pit and the bins, making for a nasty job, shored up the foundation and replaced on two sides the rusted, faded colors of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool _ owners from 1959 until the 1990s _ with the replicated brown tin siding of Lake of the Woods.

To do a restoration properly, true to history, is no small order, says Freeman. Sending a sample of an old board, long sheltered from the elements, to Benjamin Moore is only one example, for paint analysis and a bang-on match to the original color of the tin siding. Finding screws with the same colored heads is another. "It seems like there's always something new, something we maybe hadn't anticipated." Two century-old grain wagons, donated by farmers, are stationed at the scales to give visitors a feel for horse- and ox-driven wheat delivery in 1885, and plans include the eventual return of the elevator's flour shed, now in a nearby farmer's yard, to be refurbished as a tourist welcome office and gift shop. The CPR has donated a vintage boxcar and negotiations are also underway with the railway for annexing the entire real estate of the abandoned siding. "You find you get lots of offers from people with vintage agricultural machinery they want to give us, so we could really use the land for a display," says Freeman.

So far the restoration has cost about $50,000 in materials and $40,000 in labour, leaving the project with a debt of $30,000 and $20,000 more in expected costs, which, as with the price of construction anywhere, are rising. To balance the books, to secure matching provincial grants, Fleming has taken on all every manners of fundraising, from selling lunch at farm auctions to raffling a side of beef. On June 14, Saskatchewan's own Elvis tribute artist, Rory Allen, will perform a benefit at the Moosomin Communiplex. An application to have the elevator named a national historic site, if approved, would help considerably with the long-term fiscal stability, perhaps luring corporate support.

"That's the critical part right now," says Hamm. "We need donations and we need donations from outside our area to get it done."

Eight years later, though, Canada's smallest town is finally in a position to see what it started. As twinning of the TransCanada Highway continues on the east of the province, it is no stretch of imagination now for the elevator to be the first stop in Saskatchewan of eastbound tourists, a welcome, a museum, a place of learning, a living monument to what this province was for so very much of its history, and what, in many hearts, it will always be.

"Every year we have people come in and take pictures," says Hamm.

"Some even paint pictures. And it's especially good to see the young people. Some people believe that young people don't value history or don't care about anything unless it's on a computer, but you'd be surprised at how many of them take a real interest in what we have here."

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008

Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.
CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Meacham, Saskatchewan

A village of about 90 residents has, or at least had, an elevator and an implement dealer. I had some fun turning this colorful photo into an "inverted" black and white, giving it a "new" look. Sometimes changing the color and look of a subject can make it more interesting and show things not noticed before. Since these elevators are considered part of our history, we often associate old with black and white photos. Does it work? I'm not sure.

Monday, February 25, 2008

History of prairie grain elevators

I came across this excellent summary and history of western Canadian grain elevators on the web (click on title) that's put out by "Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan". It also shows how elevators function and why they're being replaced by larger, much different-looking buildings. It's of interest, also, that the farmers organized themselves in the early 1900's to form their own co-operatives and take over from the control of the private companies that prevailed at the time.
My photo of the Hagen elevator on this blog is an example of a Pool(ed) elevator that was owned by the farmers for many years.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Celebrating snow in Kenaston

I've posted this photo previously (See November 2006) but I "messed" with it in Photoshop to dress it up a bit and as a way of helping Kenaston, Saskatchewan celebrate their long, snowy winters. It's not too many places that would choose a permanent snowman as their town symbol.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A new look at old buildings

There are times when I wish I could paint well, but so far I've been too lazy to try it seriously. But, I'm not afraid to try different special effects in Photoshop. Maybe it's because if I don't like it I can always delete it or redo parts without having to throw everything away. Lately I've been "painting" some of my elevator photos. Here's one.