McCord’s museum

April 10, 2016

As a girl I cut my teeth on museums when my mother, sisters and I would jump into a car with my aunt and cousins, travel two hours from Victoria Beach (population 200) to Winnipeg in the heart of Canada and North America, for that matter.

Once there we entered a different world behind the doors of the Museum of Man and Nature. In the darkened rooms with spotlights on the glassed in displays, we would see many wonderful things including bisons stampeding away from from riders on horses and get to peek inside teepees.a

Taking a year off from the University of Winnipeg where I majored in history, my boyfriend and I interrupted our six months of hitch hiking one day so I could comb through every single inch of the Bow Museum in Calgary.

Decades later I did the same for three days in a row at the Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. There, I learned that the symbols on runes, used for centuries as divination tools, first existed on boulders along walking paths to celebrate those who had died.

It was in the tiny museum on Denman Island, one of the gulf islands chain near Courtenay on the west coast of Canada that I saw hair embroidered into jewellery. A fashion from the past that I would never have thought existed if I had not seen it with my own eyes.

Here is what remains of a story I wrote about a museum in southern Saskatchewan:

Gravelbourg Gazette

February 2, 1983

McCord’s museum

by Tanya Lester

A museum is a place where a person can go to get in touch with the past.

One of the advantages McCord Museum has over many other museums is that a person can walk through its eight rooms and actually touch many of the 2500 pioneer artifacts on display. They are not locked up behind glass cases as in many other museums.

To be able to pick up an old spice can and still smell the spices that a woman used while baking years ago or feel the soft fur of a fox that Leila Belsher received as a wedding gift from her husband who raised the animal, brings a person that much closer to understanding a past way of life.

It certainly helps, too, to be given a tour of the museum by one of the people who established it. Mrs. Belsher is one of these people. Along with keeping the books for the museum committee, she often shows tourists around the old CPR train station museum building located on the south end of the main street in McCord.

Mrs. Belsher said a group of McCord area residents, including herself, decided to set up the museum so the younger generations would know how the people of the town used to live.

“It started as a Centennial project and officially opened in June, 1973. When the CPR decided to close down their train station in 1970, the museum committee purchased the building, which was constructed in 1928, and CPR employees were very helpful in moving it to tits present site.

The CPR train agent also helped furnish parts of the museum. For example, a visitor can take a few minutes to leaf through some old travel brochures and wonder at how inexpensive it used to be to go on trips.

But that is getting a bit ahead of things. When someone comes to the McCord Museum, he or she will first enter into the kitchen. One wall of the room is filled with rows and rows of cans and kitchen utensils.

In one corner, there are butter churns and bowls. Some look quite familiar. Others, such as a smaller one made of transparent glass and holding a metal plunger, used to make butter or whipping cream, are more unique. A box of Dandelion Butter color sitting on the shelf is a reminder that butter never used to come in a nicely yellowed rectangular pound block.

In the kitchen, there is also a display of pots on and around a wood stove. One is an enormous blue enameled coffee pot with white speckles. Mrs. Belsher can remember scrubbing what must have seemed an endless number of pots to get them ready for display. I know where every junk pile is in the area, she said, which indicated where many of the pots were found.

The kitchen also holds an old wooden banana crate something that younger people will have never seen before or even know existed. There is a can of water glass, too, which Mrs. Belsher said was mixed with water and used to keep eggs cool. She can remember going to dip an egg out of the water before cooking it.

And just before a person enters the office-style room, he or she can look at a display of some Extra Good candy bars. One used to sell for a dime.

The office room holds equipment from the past which includes an old telephone switch board that used to be operated from Meyronne Central. Mrs. Belsher said she did the books for the telephone company so put in first bids for the switch board when it was going to be discarded.

If a person has the time he or she can collect a wealth of information from the 1926-1976 McCord School Board meeting minutes….

To read more posts, featuring a wide range of topics, on this blog go to and

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (it can be purchased from the author or by going to, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters, and Women Rights/Writes. These book are available in some library systems and the last three are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya is a psychic specializing in tea leaf reading and tarot as well as a house sitter. To access her services contact her at or call 250-538-0086. Her web is at and she has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.


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