Saskatchewan Gen Web Project - SASKATCHEWAN AND ITS PEOPLE by JOHN HAWKES Vol 1I 1924

Volume II



The sheer pluck shown, as a whole, by the early newspaper men is worthy of all praise. It was a fairly safe thing for Mr. Nicholas Flood Davin to found the Leader in the house of his friends in 1883, for Regina was headquarters for two Governments, but Battleford, Fort Qu'Appelle, Moosomin, Macleod, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge were mere villages which had little to give but local support, and presented fields which called for courage. Mr. P. G. Laurie of Battleford stands out at this distance of time almost as a heroic figure, as the founder of the first newspaper in the Territories. Most people speaking off-hand would say that Frank Oliver was the pioneer publisher of the Territories. It was a courageous thing for Mr. Oliver (afterwards to become so outstanding a figure in the west) to go into Edmonton, two hundred miles north of Calgary in 1880, but Mr. Laurie went in when the nearest shipping point was Winnipeg. It is not generally known that Mr. Laurie made a gallant attempt to reach the west in 1860. He was impeded by illness, in his family on the way, and remained at Detroit. A few years later he reached Winnipeg and was engaged in newspaper work. Then in 1878 he moved to Battleford where Governor Baird was already established in the new capital after a prelimi- nary stay at Livingstone Barracks, Swan River, as told at some length elsewhere. He called his paper the Saskatchewan Herald, and as early as 1885 he advocated the formation of a full province to be called "Sas- katchewan". He was an able and courageous man, and the father of the press of Saskatchewan and Alberta. It is interesting to know that the paper, established and carried on under difficulties, has had an uninter- rupted career. Today after a course of nearly fifty years it retains its name and is still in the family, the present proprietor being Mr. R. C. Laurie. As the pioneer printer, who literally went into the wilderness and made a success of what in the hands of many would have been a hopeless enterprise, Mr. P. G. Laurie's memory will be honored and cherished for all time. A very interesting story could doubtless be written of our early newspapers.

In 1890 there was one daily paper in the Territories, viz., the Calgary Herald. The Lethbridge News was a semi-weekly, and the weekly papers were Regina Leader, Regina Standard (succeeding Regina Journal), Edmonton Bulletin, Medicine Hat Times, Vidette (Fort Qu'Appelle), Progress (Qu'Appelle Station), Macleod Gazette, Moose Jaw Times and Moosomin Courier. The old Territorial newspaper men make quite an impressive group. We have already referred to Mr. P. G. Laurie. Names forgotten today are, Beer of Moosomin and Fitz Cochran of the Prince Albert paper. Davin of the Leader, although not the most able, was the most brilliant. Hugh Quentin Cayley of Calgary, although a lawyer by profession, was a born newspaper man, and he certainly made himself felt as editor of the Calgary Herald. He was for a time Premier of the Ter- ritories. Mr. Frank Oliver (who became Minister of the Interior) of the Bulletin, Mr. Walter Scott (first premier of Saskatchewan), and Mr. J. K. Mclnnis (who was unfortunate in his attempts to win legislative honors) made a Big Three of whom their fellow journalists may well be proud. The English these men wrote at their best was worthy of any press in the world. Other editors of note were the present Judge Wood (Macleod Gazette), A. C. Paterson (Progress), Proctor (Vidette), J. Atkinson (Re- gina Journal), J. J. Young, and William Trant (a British journalist of distinction). The younger school who have followed them, worthily main- tain the old tradition.

The Territorial Library did not amount to a great deal perhaps from a strictly library point of view, but when the first librarian for the new province of Saskatchewan was appointed he found that a valuable nucleus had been formed, showing that a ripe judgment had now and again been brought to bear. The present Saskatchewan Library has frequently met with the approval of men well qualified to judge. It has had rather a chequered career. The present Librarian writing in the Public Service monthly gave the following account of


"The old Territorial library was for a considerable time housed in a small room in what was originally the Indian office building at the old government buildings at the time the Indian headquarters for the West were in Regina. In 1899 it was occupying the principal room in the old Indian office and was comfortably housed considering its size. In 1907 when I took possession, it had been moved to the west end of the building facing on Dewdney Avenue. The rest of the government offices had been moved down town, mostly over the Regina Trading Store. The room the Library then occupied was about the size of a fairly spacious dining room, ill-lighted and insalubrious. It was packed with bookcases 11 feet high, made, and very well made, too, by an European workman, a Mr. Kauten- brunner. These were of the most approved and archaic pattern, made of pine, with glass doors. The shelves, being of soft wood, sagged under the weight of heavy books, and sometimes one had trouble in locking and unlocking the cases. They were, perhaps providentially, put out of busi- ness in the cyclone.

"The library shared the building with Dr. Charlton, the Provincial Bacteriologist. The doctor performed his frequently unsavory investiga- tions overhead. In the cellar beneath my feet was a very interesting collection of animals which the doctor maintained for experimental pur- poses. These comprised cats, guinea pigs, mice and poultry. When the doctor was analysing a stomach overhead and the animal-caretaker was cleaning out the quarters of his odoriferous pets in the cellar, the aroma the librarian had to inhale was not precisely that of Araby the Blest. The climax was reached when one spring the cellar became flooded. I was informed the other day that weird relics of that very bacteriological menagerie are still strewn about that cellar. During the first session after my appointment, the reading room was represented by a kind of kitchen table in a little room outside the lobby. Some outsider had charge of it. The papers used to be on this little table in the most disorderly jumble.

"Next year a room upstairs was used as a reading room. I was per- sonally in charge. The room was originally the office of the Board of Works, and was of the half-story variety. A very tall man could touch the ceiling. At the time it was the Public Works office, the engineering and clerical staff for the whole of the territories, comprising a country certainly as large as Europe without Russia, consisted of Mr. Tom Brown (dead many years ago), his brother, Mr. Dan Brown, subsequently sergeant-at-arms, now retired, Mrs. Grover, and I think a boy.

"This reading room I shared with the Speaker and the Clerk of the Assembly, the far end being curtained off and constituting a dressing room for those exalted functionaries. It was an endless source of quiet amusement to me to watch the metamorphosis of my old friend, Speaker MacNutt. He would enter the reading room in a business suit and dis- appear behind the curtain; presently, perhaps, I would be talking to him, he being at this time in his underclothing; then he would emerge, grandly dignified in decorous dark raiment with his academic Speaker's gown and his three-cornered hat, prepared to preside with due dignity and solemnity over the deliberations of the North-West Assembly. The difference be- tween the Speaker in the two garbs I have indicated was really very striking.

"For two years I remained at the old government buildings under these conditions. On entering upon my duties I had visions of really doing something. I entered into a more or less elaborate correspondence. with my brother librarians, who were extremely kind, but eventually it dawned upon me that, without assistance, without money, without room, and with the library a mile or more from the departments and the government, it was simply impossible to make headway, and I carried on the library single-handed, making such purchases as means permitted.

"Then the library was moved in a violent hurry to make room for the Ruthenian Teachers' Institute. The only available place for its reception was a small room in the basement of the Land Titles office on Victoria Avenue. I had to utilise parts of the engine and ventilating rooms in the basement to eke out the room. The books had to be taken out of the cases on Dewdney Street and piled on the floor of the new home, like ill-assorted bricks, in the most dire and absolute confusion. Then the cases had to be set up one by one, necessitating a shifting about of the books which, expressed in terms of colour, was kaleidoscopical, but eventually the library was reconstructed. Two sunless years in the basement and again this nomadic and sorely tried library was on the move-this time to the unfin- ished Parliament Buildings. The library room proper was not ready, so the library, with its bookcases, was set up after another period of dire confusion-for it was impossible to maintain any order in the removal- owing to the fact that the books had to be moved first before the cases in which they were to be replaced could be moved at all, and owing to the fact that the only receptacle for them in the meanwhile was the floor. Again the library was reduced from chaos to order. The archaic cases again bore their precious bibliographical contents duly sectionalised and arranged. I was now looking forward to a reasonably peaceful removal of the library to its permanent quarters.

"Then came the cyclone and smashed the whole business into a confused mass of plaster, broken glass, wood, books and papers, on the floors. This had to be retrieved, but the permanent rooms were also out of business, for the cyclone had broken out of the south rooms, crossed the corridor and knocked two gigantic holes 20 or 30 feet long in the present library rooms. The books were piled up in an orderly but totally unsectionalised heap at one end of the new rooms, and there they had to lie for some weeks till the Duke of Connaught had come and gone, as the rooms were needed for reception purposes.

"By this time the session was close upon us. Every book had to be cleaned from dust and plaster. The rooms were absolutely bare. There was not a table, a shelf, a chair or a desk. I rustled wooden tables and planks from Mr. Lecky, the contractors' representative, and in this way got a lot of improvised table space. We made a hurried selection of books likely to be needed in the session; rustled a table or two and some chairs, and in that shape we met the assembled legislators, and went through the session. The next session found us no better off, for the planning and equipping of the new library took time. For eighteen months the library was carried on without a pigeon hole, or a shelf, or a particle of furniture which belonged to it. What furniture we had was the discard of other offices.

"I have not been able to refrain from using this, the first legitimate opportunity I have had of telling, however briefly, the eventful history of this most unfortunate library, which has existed in rat holes and base- ments, has been bombarded by cyclones, and has been moved three times in seven years under my jurisdiction. I will conclude this 'moving' story by making an extraordinary statement, and that is that all this moving has been done and endured without the library suffering twenty dollars' worth of loss or damage, and that it has always performed its functions without a single complaint being registered against it." TRAVELING LIBRARIES.

Two interesting features of existing library effort in the Province are provided by the Traveling Library System and the "Open Shelf". The Traveling Libraries number eight hundred, and are confined to rural districts. What these eight hundred libraries of well-selected, and up-to- date books mean to the country districts, especially in the winter, can be better imagined than described.

In the building up of this really great system for supplying scattered settlements with clean literature, the names of Miss Thora Paulson (now Mrs. Albert) and the present head, Miss Margaret McDonald, B. A., deserve very high and honorable mention. The cities and towns supply their own libraries, and some light may be thrown on this branch of activity by the following account of


The Weyburn Public Library was first brought into existence by the unanimous resolution of the city council on January 13, 1920. The presentation and passing of the resolution was largely due to the untiring efforts of Mr. A. Kennedy, Inspector of Public Schools, Weyburn. Tbe first Board of Management consisted of the following members: W. J. Jolly, chairman, Mrs. J. N. Mertz, Mrs. M. A. Millar, Miss R. Hicks and A. W. Massey, Secretary-Treasurer.

In May, 1920, definite steps were taken by the Board to bring the library under the Provincial Public Libraries Act. A petition for that purpose was drafted and within a few months a By-Law was assented to by an overwhelming vote. The city council made a grant of $400.00 for support of the library in the year 1920 and gave two rooms in the city hall for the use of the library. The reading room was opened for general use of the public in November, 1921.

June, 1921, saw the beginning of the reference department by the purchasing of the encyclopaedia Britannica. In September, 1921, the Board lost the able services of its secretary, A. W. Massey, B.A., who resigned his position as principal of the Weyburn Collegiate Institute to accept a similar position in Eastern Canada. Mrs. M. A. Millar was elected Secretary-Treasurer in Mr. Massey's place. In October, 1921, the Public School Board turned over to the library board some 200 books, formerly the property of the Mechanic's Institute. By the end of the year, 1922, a most up-to-date reference department was in operation and is now used extensively by students of the Normal School and Collegiate Institute.

The Board, because of financial conditions, did not make provision in its estimates for the opening of a lending department for the year 1923, but so insistent were the demands for bringing the library into the homes that the Board called on the various organizations and clubs in the city to assist in the enterprise. The various organizations handsomely con- tributed by means of cash donations, annual grants, tag day gifts and book showers with the result that the Board was in a position to open the lending department on the first of October, 1923, with over 1200 books on the shelves. In the selection of the books every care is taken. The Board is assisted by a book committee consisting of representative men and women of various organizations and institutions in the city. Shortly before the opening of the lending department the Board was particularly fortunate in securing the services of J. H. Leggett as librarian.

The library is free and the privileges of the lending department are also open to non-residents of the city on making a deposit of $2.00, which amount is returned to the borrower on surrender of the book and card. The Board expects by the end of the year 1923 that at least 300 borrowers will avail themselves of the lending department. SASKATCHEWAN TRADITION.

The time may soon come when the young men and women of Saskatche- wan will look at home for at least a portion of the inspiration that comes from the traditions and the sagas of the past. "The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome" may not surround the tradition of Saskatchewan, but there is no glory of Greece or greatness of Rome which is not cast into the shade beside the mighty traditions of the British Empire, in all of which we share, being partakers of a common heritage. And the Story of Saskatchewan is the microcosm of the Story of the British Empire. The thunders of war have rolled along the shores of the Hudson Bay and found their echo in our own war of '85. The sons of Saskatchewan have gone forth as crusaders in great wars waged on dis- tant continents. They have struggled for political freedom while simul- taneously wrestling with the forces of nature. Primitive plains remote from markets have been reclaimed for civilization and the feeding of the world. A commonwealth has been created in the face of many hardships and difficulties. The Indian, the men of the mixed race, the Hudson's Bay factors and traders and trappers, the North-West voyageurs and couriers of the woods, the pioneers in adventure, in agriculture, in the professions, in commerce, in politics and the arts, the people who came for freedom and free land from all parts of the earth-all these are legitimate material out of which can be woven a tradition which those who come after us on these plains may be proud to inherit, to cherish, and it may be to live up to. The boys and girls of Saskatchewan should not be taught that they are the product of the new and the crude, but that they are the citizens of no mean country, a country which has a past not merely of primitive struggle, but a past which can be equalled by few as a setting for stories of real heroism, real romance and real achievement in the interests of modern civilization and advance.

NOTE: In looking back at the conclusion of our task we feel compelled to acknowledge the services of Mrs. Leslie Minor (daughter of the writer), for without her intelligent and unfailing assistance this book could not have been produced. Bibliography follows:

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