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Big Plans for Climax Museum

Posted on October 7, 2014 by Shaunavon Standard

The Climax Museum, one of Southwest Saskatchewan’s truly hidden gems, is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. 

The local facility – thanks to an effort spearheaded by a small group of volunteers – is getting a facelift, and last month the museum hosted a hugely successful Family Fun Day.

“We had a really diverse turnout and I think people went away feeling good about their museum and the day,” curator Marina Gryde said of the Family Fun Day event. “We had a great response from Climax and the surrounding South West community, as well as visitors from other towns (including locations that ranged from Shaunavon and Swift Current to as far away as BC and PEI). The weather turned out perfectly. After a couple days of heavy winds and threatening skies people seemed ready to get out and enjoy the day.”

The event was organized to create a fun community celebration, as well as to help promote the museum and its wide variety of interesting and historical displays. The day kicked off with a treasure hunt for young children and early teens, with prizes awarded to the top three finishers. The celebration also included tours of the museum, a vintage tractor display, with Ron Caswell’s rare 1959 John Deere 8020 Tractor.

A musical performance by Conrad Sandberg and His Prairie Pals, and a barbecue supper put on by the Climax Lions was well received. Visitors had access to a large screen TV with pictures of early Climax, and town personalities. Activities and games, such as croquet and crokinole, were also enjoyed.

“Ultimately, we want people to feel that the museum is a vibrant part of their community and not a dormant entity. It’s a living legacy of our collective history with fascinating stories and something for all ages.” said Marina. “It’s also a place where we can join together as a community and connect the generations with who and what has gone before us.”

“Like so many others, our family has contributed to the museum over the years and I hope we can continue that legacy to help revitalize it a bit,” said Marina, who grew up in Climax and has been involved with the museum for two years.

Marina, who along with the committee, is helping spearhead the museum’s rejuvenation, is the daughter of Chester Gryde and the granddaughter of John Edward Gryde, two well known businessmen known for giving back to the community.

John was born in 1882 in North Dakota and later moved to Waldville, Sask. In 1923, he transported both his home and a store to Climax just as the community was being established.  His mercantile store was an integral part of the village for many years, and he went on to serve as an early council member and mayor. He also represented the Cypress constituency in Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly from 1929 to 1934. Among his achievements were advocating to preserve and establish Cypress Hills as a provincial park for the benefit of all and for helping people during The Great Depression. John was affectionately dubbed the “Road Hog” by his legislative colleagues for securing the most road infrastructure contracts in the province at a time when people in the south country desperately needed jobs. He died tragically in 1952.

On his death John’s elder son Chester took over the general store and continued the family’s tradition of community service. Chester passed away in 2011 after serving the community for over 50 years.

Another renowned community resident and businessman, Vic Van Allen, had been the driving force behind the museum for more than two decades. Vic initiated the museum in the early1980s and continued his extraordinary volunteer effort until suffering a stroke in 2007. He passed away in 2009, but, thanks to his determined effort to collect material and preserve local history – Vic left behind a vast assortment of small treasures and artifacts for the museum.

“A general store display for the Climax Museum had long been a goal of Vic Van Allen and Chester Gryde,” said Marina. “Now we’d like to honour their plans. If it wasn’t for Vic and all of his supporters – whether they were donors, lenders or volunteers – we wouldn’t have the rich legacy we have. It’s a wonderful collection, and we just want to tweak it a bit while respecting what Vic and others accomplished.”

Several small renovation projects have already been completed at the museum, including a new coat of paint for part of the facility and upgrades to several displays. A revitalized hospital display now has a 1951 nurse’s uniform donated by a healthcare veteran, Mrs. Irene Mything. Future planned upgrades include making the facility wheelchair accessible, and creating an oral history project for the area – “before our older generation isn’t here anymore to share their stories,” said Marina.

The museum operates under the direction of a Board of Directors comprised of Nancy Kirk, Kim Bennett, Paul Irwin and Marina Gryde. The museum employs a part time summer worker every summer. The facility is open 1-4 Monday through Friday until the end of August, or by appointment by calling the town office weekdays at 306-293-2128.

The Climax Museum also has several other upcoming events planned on its schedule, including a movie night and travelling dinosaur exhibit. In future they hope to team up with other community museums in the Southwest to promote the local facilities.

“Our committee, which included the board, employee Glenn Currell, and 2 youth consultants, Cameron Kluzak and Zach Smith were hoping to re-introduce the museum to people of all ages. “We were grateful to everyone who turned out for the event, for their generous support and to all the volunteers who made it all possible. Good things can happen when people work together.” explained Marina.

Some visitors and residents admitted they hadn’t been to the museum for ages and were pleasantly surprised to see how much they enjoyed seeing the displays again. If the community is open to it, volunteers would like to stage another Family Fun Day next year. “Overall, people really enjoyed the day,” said Marina. “They left feeling good about their museum and wanted to return and we hope they will more often.”

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