Avonlea is located about 75 km south and a little east from Moose Jaw, SK and approximately 82 km southwest of Regina. If you were wondering how the village received its name… guess no more: Yes, the village was named after the fictional town of Avonlea, PEI in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables.
We have spent a bit of time in the area this year, always rolling into the parking lot of the museum to pay our tour fee for a Badlands Tour at sunset and at night. On Tuesday morning we decided to take our time ,and once the camper was hitched to the car we made our way to the Avonlea Heritage Museum. The Museum complex boasts a large steel structure with displays related to pioneer, farming and village life. It also houses several stunning wrap around murals created by local artist Paul Geraghty covering the natural history of the area. (Paul Geraghty has created mural across Canada. I saw his work earlier at Yukon’s Beringia in White Horse during my visit in 2014). The Heritage House itself is the hostoric Avonlea Train Station. and the Truak Anglican Church was moved to the compound more recently.
Our friendly tour guide Jaida, a local highschool student, switched on lights and opened a door we had not previously noticed (actually I had but I assumed it was a storage closet). Imagine the immense surprise when we laid eyes these murals!
Jaida’s personal interest in history and historic artifacts became obvious quickly. She easily engaged in conversation, always excited and proud when she had information about an artifact we did not recognize…
…they are string holders preventing balls of twine from tangling while wrapping the local General Store purchases into brown craft paper for the transport home. Paper bags were invented much later. First there was brown paper and string! Had you there, didn’t I? Don’t worry – my guess was “lamp shades…”
This showstopper was also in the General Store area. We have seem them in museums and possibly even antique stores… but I had paid little attention to one like this until Jaida took the time to elaborate.
Her question “Do you know why there is a piece of marble mounted at the front of the cash register?” once again yielded a few responses, pure guesses and a pause from us. “The marble slab was used to test for wooden nickles… ” was a true revelation and something I would have never considered.
From the Blacksmith display we turned our attention to the general display area. The Fudge Snow Place, a Saskatchewan invention, is well preserved and harkens of a transportation mode of days gone by.
One last room was dedicated to Dr. Dunnet’s medical practice. Dunnet was a much revered local enigma who delivered several thousand children in the Avonlea area. With three medical degrees (two from Scotland, one from McGill University) he was respected for his knowledge and strong commitment to the town. He passed away in 1957 after a brief illness. Nothing was disclosed and details are not public knowledge… but it was mentioned that he was a cigar smoker. In a picture with his wife he was even holding a cigar and… this was his office ashtray!
No kitchen would be complete without the cast iron stove. I must admit that at this time I began to neglect my duty as photographer. The remaining rooms (parlour, bedrooms and a luxurious indoor bathroom – for the time – complete with tub) were small and difficult to record with my camera. The rooms were filled with items like historical clothing, furniture, toys and books.
The public area of the station provided insights into local sports heroes who reached international fame. But the artist in me concentrated on oddities… This was one I could not resist:
…on to the last stop in the Anglican church moved here from Truax, SK. The windows were painted glass to resemble the painted originals. The vestments and altar cloth were hand embroidered with some gold work. I just had to take a close up in the low light.
Thank you to the committed volunteers, summer students and part-time employees at the Avonlea Heritage Museum. Time flew and when we got back to our car we realized that we had spent nearly two hours on this delightful, informative and lively tour with Jaida. We look forward to coming back soon!