(Check out Part I of this blog, written by Kristin Catherwood on September 10 in advance of the launch, for more about her experience with this project.)
On Saturday, September 15, 2018, Heritage Saskatchewan celebrated the launch of the Val Marie Elevator Living Heritage Project. The standing-room-only event included a screening of short films created by high school students from the local school (as well as a short documentary featuring interviews with the students themselves) and a launch of a booklet produced by Heritage Saskatchewan in collaboration with the Val Marie Heritage, Culture and Youth Grain Elevator Restoration Committee and the Village of Val Marie. There was also a wide array of refreshments, with everyone clamouring to get a slice (or three) of homemade, eleven-grain bread!
The highlight of the launch (bread aside) was the premiere of the students’ videos about the Val Marie Elevator. The eight students (in grades ten and eleven) divided into three groups to create videos of three distinct stories about the grain elevators and their history in the community. (Watch the video documentary.)
One group focused primarily on the 1967 elevator that is now owned by local farmers and is still in use for weighing and storage. In this video, we learn about how the elevator is currently used, how it was used, and the evolution of farming in the area over the course of the 20th century.
Another group told the story of the 1927 elevator – the elevator that is the main focus of this Living Heritage project. Along with the students, we learn about how the elevator was a community hub in the late 1920s and onward. We also get to see how the restoration efforts are coming along. I was especially interested in how the machinery and technology changed over the 40 years between the two elevators. Both videos fit well together to tell the larger story of farming in Val Marie.
The last video focused on the change in the community after the railway left and the elevators were decommissioned. It was reflective and mournful, but also hopeful for the future.
In all three videos, the students interviewed elders in the community who had direct involvement with the grain elevators and their restoration. Most of these elders are also featured in our Val Marie Elevator booklet, but in the videos, we hear their voices and see the joy in their eyes when they remember being a child working alongside their father at the elevator, or the sadness at how many businesses have closed in the community.
Our Intangible Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Kristin Catherwood, also interviewed the students about their projects and their thoughts on the elevator. It is easy to think of heritage as being something about nostalgia – after all, most of the contributors to the booklet are senior citizens. Making these videos allowed the students to embrace their own relationship with the grain elevators and their community. The railway was long gone before these students existed, let alone could form memories, but they still feel a kinship with the elevator that has been the defining structure of their town for over ninety years.
If the videos pique your interest in seeing the elevators themselves, the Val Marie Heritage, Culture and Youth Grain Elevator Restoration Committee does offer tours! The committee eventually wants to be able to create a museum and community space in the 1927 elevator, again making it the gathering place that it once was. This is definitely an item to add to one’s travel list if one is visiting the region – say to check out Grasslands National Park.
Katherine Gilks, Education Coordinator, Heritage Saskatchewan
Katherine joined Heritage Saskatchewan in 2013 and is responsible for the Heritage Fairs program for the province of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about heritage, education, and sharing stories. A native of Regina, Katherine received her B.A. (History) from the University of Victoria and her M.L.I.S. from the University of Western Ontario. Among her various previous places of employment are the Greater Victoria Public Library and the Regina Plains Museum (now the Civic Museum of Regina).