Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Tooting our horn

Things you might not know about Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s population is 3.2 percent of the total for Canada, but consider our contributions to Canada!

World War I claimed the lives of 4,385 of our servicemen and World War II more than 70,000.

At 651,900 square kms (251,699 square miles), Saskatchewan sprawls over more real estate than all France at 643,801 square kms (248,572 square miles).

Our provincial network of roads and highways measures 228,200 kms, 29,500 of them paved. 

Saskatchewan is indeed Canada’s “breadbasket,” with 37 million acres of crop-producing land, 41.7 percent of the Canadian total. 

Saskatchewan has 10,000 lakes. The deepest is Deep Bay at Reindeer Lake, a meteor crater gouged more than 100 million years ago. 

Saskatchewan is gaining international renown for its subterranean treasure trove of fossils, including dinosaurs and prehistoric marine and winged creatures.

Saskatchewan boasts a dazzling number of firsts related to the achievement of tax-funded hospitalization and Medicare. 

We have more fly-in fishing camps than almost anywhere in the world.

At least twelve Saskies have received the supreme honour, appointment as Companions of the Order of Canada.

At least fourteen Saskies have been honoured by a British monarch, with appointment to the Order of the British Empire. 

At least ten of our writers are winners of a Governor General’s literary award, at least two have won the Scotiabank Giller award, and at least one was awarded the Booker award in Britain.

[www.saskenergy.com/learningcentre; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Archer, Saskatchewan: A history; Lorne Clinton, Alberta Venture 2 May 2008, and other sources] 

“Wrong” sign | unsplash

You’re so wrong!

Common misconceptions about Saskatchewan

Ranging from observations by Captains John Palliser (Palliser Expedition, 1858) and William F. Butler (The Great Lone Land, 1872) to more recent assumptions, usually made by tourists who crossed the province on the Trans-Canada highway.

Saskatchewan is just a vast flatland.” 

Running from the 49th parallel north to the 60th, Saskatchewan is the fifth largest Canadian province. The north is mostly rugged precambrian rock, while the south is largely overlain by glacial deposits, with scattered coulees (former glacial spillways) and a few flat areas (glacial lake bottoms). The Cypress Hills in the southwest, rising to 1,392 metres above sea level, are the highest place between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec’s Appalachians.

“Saskatchewan is a semi-arid prairie province, lacking water resources.”

In fact, the northern half is essentially boreal forest, dotted by 10,000 freshwater lakes. While Palliser’s Triangle in the southwest is the driest part of the grasslands, it usually gets enough rain for dryland farming.

“Saskatchewan was an empty wilderness before European settlers arrived around 1900.”

In fact, since about 9,500 BCE, it was inhabited by diverse indigenous peoples, each with their own cultures and political systems. Southerners depended on vast roaming herds of bison, while most northerners made their living by hunting and trapping in the boreal forests. In both areas, the First Nations had been making deals with Hudson’s Bay Company agents for more than a century before Canadian settlement began.

Saskatchewan is a rural, agricultural province.”

In fact, since 1950, with 70 percent rural population, until now, when it’s only about 30 percent, Saskatchewan has “urbanized” faster than any other province. Though farm output doubled in that period, the non-agricultural sector has become the economic mainstay, as farm mechanization and improved transport led to rural depopulation. 

“Saskatchewan has a diverse, multicultural population.”

In fact, over 80 percent of Saskies were born and raised here, many to the second and third generation. The descendants of European immigrants with distinctive languages and customs have largely blended into the Canadian mainstream. More recent migrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East tend to cluster in the cities, where there are more jobs and more guidance in adapting. Ironically the biggest divide remains between the First Nations and the “interlopers.”

“The people of Saskatchewan are all socialists.

In fact, while it’s true that Saskatchewan was the birthplace of hospitalization, Medicare and other socialist measures under the CCF/NDP, Saskies have been electing Conservative governments intermittently, all along.


Famous Saskies

People everyone should know about

Most Saskies are aware of our superstars such as Joni Mitchell, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe, Buffy Saint-Marie. Here are some who lived in Saskatchewan that you might not know about (more info on them and hundreds more are in relevant chapters).

Comedian Art Linkletter, famous for American radio and television series including “People are Funny” and others, was born 18 July 1912 in Moose Jaw to S.W. Kalle and his wife, but Art was adopted and taken to San Diego. He found this out during a 1974 visit to his birthplace.

Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Herzberg was brought to the University of Saskatchewan by Dr. John Spinks in the 1930s, after they had met in Germany. 

Celebrated NFL football player Reuben Mayes of North Battleford came from a famous African-American family in the Maidstone area, who had led about a thousand ex-slaves to the province in 1910.

Grant MacEwan, who moved with his family to Melfort in 1915, once taught animal science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and was briefly an editor at the Western Producer. He was an MLA and lieutenant-governor of Alberta, best-selling author of fifty-five books, the man with a college named after him.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) lived for a year in Prince Albert after her father moved there with his new wife, but returned to Prince Edward Island to write her remarkable series of Anne books.  

Television broadcaster Keith Morrison of Lloydminster honed his skills as CFQC Saskatoon, and later became a familiar face as CBC-TV anchorman, NBC Dateline.

Leslie Nielsen of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane and the Naked Gun

Celebrated actor and comedian Eric Peterson of Indian Head trained in the U of S drama department. He played the famous flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War and in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, and This is Wonderland.

Actress Shannon Tweed, formerly of Saskatoon, is best known as the wife of Kiss band member Gene Simmons.

Tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert, was an international opera star who performed major roles in London, Milan and New York.

[Linkletter: Not Only a Name: a Long Love Letter from Moose Jaw; MacEwan: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan,567-8 ; Mayes: CBC; Battleford News-Optimist]   

Surprising connections

Famous (and infamous) folks with ties to our province

The legendary American outlaw Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” used to hide out in the Big Muddy badlands in southern Saskatchewan. The caves are still there.

Father Bacchiocci, a Swift Current priest, was said to be the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Al Capone's Hideaway motel in Moose Jaw.
A motel in Moose Jaw commemorates the famous Chicago gangster said to have stayed there often
during the Prohibition era. Photo by Patricia Pavey.

Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have frequented Moose Jaw during the Prohibition era. Saskatchewan authors and the tourism sector have exploited this belief.

Inspector Francis Dickens, son of novelist Charles Dickens, was commanding the NWMP garrison at Fort Pitt during the Riel Resistance, but was persuaded to evacuate his men to Battleford, under threat of attack by militant warriors in Big Bear’s band. 

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s nephew Bertram Tennyson homesteaded at Cannington Manor near Moosomin. His book of poems did not launch a spectacular literary career, but he stuck to his day job, lawyering.  He was also known to have pinch-hit as stagecoach driver from time to time. 

Aristocrat from Whitewood
Count Beaudrap, who lived at Cannington manor for a while, was said to be related to Joan of Arc!

A couple of nobles associated with the French settlement at St. Hubert, were not shy in their claims to historical prestige. French count Paul de Beaudrap de Denneville (Marche) claimed he was a distant relative of Joan of Arc. He farmed for a while at St. Hubert.

Eminent literary critic Northrop Frye was once a student minister and itinerant preacher at Stonepile near the Cypress Hills for about two years.  The problem was, he couldn’t ride horseback. He was later ordained as a United Church minister.

American author Sinclair Lewis in 1924 went on a canoe trip with his physician brother Claude and the “treaty brigade” officials of the Department of Indian Affairs on their annual trek to dispense treaty money to northern tribes. 

Author Gabrielle Roy had a family connection to Eastend (or Dollard just down the road). Her uncle brought French settlers to the area so she had at least one first cousin in the town. Her autobiography, translated into English as Enchantment and Sorrow, received the Governor-General’s award in 1987.

Writer Robert Fulford was the nephew of Theresa Fulford Delaney, one of some eighty white settlers who spent two months in the camp of Big Bear in the 1885 North West Resistance.

Maple Creek rancher and storekeeper Horace Greeley was a second or third cousin of the famous American author and statesman Horace Greeley.

Hollywood horror film star Boris Karlov performed in Saskatchewan during his early acting years, with a repertory theatre company that suddenly folded. But the very next day the “Regina Cyclone” devastated much of Regina, and he got a job helping to clean it up.

William Wordsworth’s wife was reportedly the aunt of Henry Hutchinson, the first settler in the Souris area between Carnduff and the American border.

The famous physicist Albert Einstein played hockey as a youth in Germany. Reportedly, one winter while formulating his world-shaking Theory of Evolution, he took a break in Saskatchewan to play for the Canwood Canucks.

Aldous Huxley once carried on a lively correspondence with Humphrey Osmond, who was working on psychedelic drugs at the Weyburn mental hospital. Osmond coined the word “psychedelic.”

Band leader Matt Kearney worked on the harvest excursions at Moosomin, in southern Saskatchewan.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons television series, was the son of Homer Groening, whose name inspired his Homer character. The senior Groening, born in Main Centre, Sask., was a cartoonist too.

Saskatchewan author Fredelle Maynard’s daughter Joyce was a teenager at Yale, on scholarship, when she fell in love with author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and left after a year to move in with him.  He was thirty-five years her senior. A year later he dumped her and she wrote At Home in the World about it all, but it was panned. She did not return to Yale.

People with links to Saskatchewan
Actor and musician Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas’s grandson.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of former premier Thomas C. Douglas, whose daughter Shirley married actor Donald Sutherland. Kiefer plays the highly-principled “accidental president” in the television series Designated Survivor

[Einstein: Saskatchewan Book of Everything, 126. Fulford: Sarah Carter’s introduction to Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. Joan of Arc: Count De Beaudrap from Revue Historique vol 10 no. 2 at U of S Archives & Special Collections; Whitewood Museum; Revue Historique v. 10 no. 2 December 1999. Karlov: G. Ross Stuart, The History of Prairie Theatre, 70. Maynard: Vogue 13 Sept 2018,Vanity Fair September 1998. Napoleon: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Tennyson: Literary History of Saskatchewan, p.46, vol. 1. Count Uytendale, display panel at Whitewood Museum. Fulford: Saturday Night, June 1976, 970. Wordsworth: McCourt, Saskatchewan, 33-4; ]

Portrayed on screen and stage

Outstanding Saskies who inspired dramatic interpretations of their lives 

Archie Belaney is portayed in Grey Owl, a movie directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Pierce Brosnan. Belaney was an outspoken early conservationist, but pretended to be Grey Owl, an Aboriginal in the northern wilds, and was one of Canada’s most intriguing imposters. 

illustration of Big Bear
Illustration of Big Bear by Ruth Millar – based on a photograph]

Chief Big Bear, Cree leader in 1885 Northwest (Riel) Resistance is the subject of a CBC Television mini-series Big Bear based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel The Temptations of Big Bear, starring Gordon Tootoosis. Unlike other Cree chiefs, Big Bear refused to sign Treaty Six until the starvation of his tribe forced him to capitulate.

Hugh Cairns, VC, war hero is depicted in the play The Great War by Don Kerr, 25th Street Theatre. A statue commemorates him in a Saskatoon park.

Morris Cohen, former juvenile delinquent in Saskatoon in the early 1900s, inspired Don Kerr’s play Two-Gun Cohen, and reportedly an early Hollywood film The General Died at Dawn was loosely based on his life. A full-length book, Two Gun Cohen, was published by New York author Daniel Levy.

Nicholas Flood Davin is characterized in Ken Mitchell’s play, Davin: The Politician. A colourful, outspoken journalist, lawyer and MP, he founded the Regina Leader newspaper. He is noted in history for his ill-starred relationship with journalist and author Kate Simpson-Hayes.

illustration of John Diefenbaker
Diefenbaker – illustration by Ruth Millar for SaskPotpourri.com

John Diefenbaker, the only prime minister from Saskatchewan, is depicted in the play Diefenbaker by Thelma Oliver. It starred Terrence Slater, Norma Edwards and Patricia Lenyre.

Thomas C. (Tommy) Douglas, a father of Medicare: Prairie Giant, is portrayed in a CBC Television miniseries; and Keeper of the Flame (documentary). 

Gabriel Dumont, Metis leader in the North-West Resistance is depicted in the play Gabriel Dumont by Ken Mitchell. Dumont escaped to the U.S. where he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Father Athol Murray of Wilcox: the play Murray of Notre Dame by Tony Cashman, is the main protagonist in the movie The Hounds of Notre Dame by Ken Mitchell, starring Frances Hyland, and Barry Morse.

Louis Riel, Metis leader in North-West Resistance, is portrayed in The Trial of Louise Riel, a play by John Coulter (1967) based on the transcripts of Riel’s trial.

Seager Wheeler, a plant breeder known as the Wheat King, inspired the play Harvest Moon, shown every year in Rosthern for years. 

Colin Thatcher, son of former premier Ross Thatcher, is depicted in Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher, by Maggie Siggins and Suzette Couture. Colin Thatcher was convicted of having his wife murdered, but he always claimed to be innocent. 


Order of Canada medals
Order of Canada medals

“Knights” of the realm

Companions of the Order of Canada

“Companion” (CC) is the top rank of the Order of Canada (the others are CM, Member, and OC, Officer). The Order of Canada could be considered our version of knighthood. (These are cited elsewhere at more length in this website.) Some were also honoured as Fellows of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Canada (too many to list here).

Lloyd Barber, born in Regina – former president of the University of Regina.

Lloyd Axworthy, born in North Battleford – former minister in Prime Minister Chretien’s government.

Samuel Bronfman of Wapella – liquor industry baron and philanthropist associated with the mighty Seagram’s.

Balfour Currie, Kindersley and Saskatoon – head of physics at the U of S, founder of Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, and other lofty academic posts.

E.M. Culliton, Elbow – former Justice of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan.

Brian Dickson, Yorkton – lawyer, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and later Canada’s fifteenth Chief Justice of Canada.  

Tommy Douglas, Weyburn – former premier of Saskatchewan, one of the two Fathers of Medicare, once voted our country’s “greatest Canadian.”

Willard Estey, Saskatoon – moved to Ontario, appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, became Chief Justice of Ontario, later appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Emmett Hall, Saskatoon – law professor and judge, one of the two Fathers of Medicare. He became Chief Justice of Saskatchewan and chaired several royal commissions and public inquiries.

Gerhard Herzberg – Nobel prize winner and professor at the U of S; he fled to Saskatoon from wartime Germany. His many important posts include that of physics director at the National Research Council.

Ray Hnatsyshyn, Saskatoon, MP and cabinet minister, and later a senator.

Albert Wesley Johnson, Insinger – held several top posts in the federal government before becoming president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Chalmers Jack (CJ) Mackenzie, Saskatoon, former dean at U of S, called the most important Canadian in the growth of science after World War II. In Ottawa he became president of Atomic Energy of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada.

Joni Mitchell, Saskatoon – world-renowned singer.

Hilda Neatby, Saskatoon – academic, professor of history at the U of S, especially noted for her ideas on education.

Jeanne Sauve, Prud’homme – former governor-general.

Walter P. Thompson, Saskatoon, scientist and former University of Saskatchewan president.

Jon Vickers, Prince Albert – a former farm boy who soared to international opera stages, notably Covent Garden in London, England

[The Canadian Encyclopedia and other sources.]

“For King and country”

Saskies honoured by the Order of the British Empire

Being invested in Britain’s OBE carries impressive prestige. A surprising number of Saskies were so honoured, usually for heroic efforts abroad during the world wars. The ranks are: Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), member (MBE).

George Findlay Andrew served in British intelligence in China in both the world wars. Here he wears traditional Chinese garb with pride,
in the country of his birth.

Findlay Andrew (OBE), who moved to Saskatoon in 1959, received his award at Buckingham Palace on July 20th, 1920, for secret war work in China. If secrecy was involved, the OBE handbook often doesn’t cite specific actions of people so honoured. His papers, which include a letter inviting him to London to receive the award, suggest it was for sending vital “intel” to the British from his strategic location in the northwest. Some thought it was for helping prevent a Uighur uprising, which could have led to another pro-German front.

Henry Black of Regina was made a commander of the OBE in 1935 for his work with the Saskatchewan Relief Commission, created by the Anderson government in 1931 to administer relief measures during the desperate days of the Depression. The commission was axed in 1934 by Liberal premier J.G Gardiner due to public criticism.

Elizabeth Cruikshank was a leader in the Local Council of Women in Regina. She was noted for her war work, and was active in the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. She was also an author and a Leader-Post columnist. [Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

Dr. Robert George Ferguson, a heroic figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Saskatchewan,  reportedly was honoured with an OBE. [Star-Phoenix, undated clipping, likely in 1942.

Joan Bamford Fletcher of Regina got her OBE for leading some two thousand women and children to safety out of a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of Sumatra, in twenty separate convoys along dangerous switchback roads, at the close of World War II. The jungles were swarming with hostile Indonesians fighting for independence from the Dutch. Japanese soldiers, now demobilized, assisted her in the hair-raising exodus.

Air Vice Marshall Arthur Clinton Maund (CBE) of the hamlet of Cando was also honoured as Commander of the Order of the Bath, and with the Distinguished Service Order, and received one Russian and two French medals for his military exploits in World War I. He had enlisted in the Saskatchewan Light Horse in Battleford but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he served in Russia, 1919-20.

RCAF Group Captain Ernest Archibald McNab (OBE, CD, DFC) of Rosthern also received a Distinguished Flying Cross. An air ace, he commanded Canada’s first RACF fighter squadron abroad in 1940. Son the McNab who became lieutenant-governor, he got his OBE for outstanding war work.

Violet McNaughton on stage with dignitaries
Farm leader Violet McNaughton addresses crowd at Indian Head celebrating founders of the Territorial Grain Growers Association, August 19, 1955. Also on stage are James Gardiner (left), ex-premier, and T.C. Douglas, premier. Photo by Western Producer, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Violet McNaughton (OBE) was an outstanding feminist, newspaper columnist and women’s editor at the Western Producer, noted for her role as a leader of farm women and in achieving the franchise for women. She was active in many important early farm organizations. In 1924 King George V conferred to her the OBE for services to rural women.

Ellaf Olafson (MBE), a war hero born in Shaunavon and brought up in Eston, studied engineering at the U of S. In World War II, as a captain in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he designed an innovative portable bridge that was built in record time to expedite Allied river crossings in Italy.

George Porteous (MBE) of Saskatoon was posted to Hong Kong with the Winnipeg Grenadiers during the Japanese siege of 1941 when more than 1075 Canadians were killed or wounded; others were taken prisoner. He was awarded his MBE for maintaining morale among his fellow prisoners, who for four years suffered unspeakable ordeals. A Scot, he had come to Canada in 1910 and attended high school and university in Saskatoon. Long after the war he became the 14th Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan.

Alleyre Sirois (CM, MBE) originally from Vonda, was invested as a member of the OBE for his war work in intelligence for the British Special Operations Executive in France. He also received the French Croix de Guerre. On his return to Canada he studied law and, practiced in Gravelbourg before becoming a Queen’s Court judge in Saskatoon in 1964.

Dr. John William Tranter spinks, former president at the U of S, – Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections.

John William Tranter Spinks (CC, MBE, SOM), president of the University of Saskatchewan 1960 to 1975, was invested as a member of the Order for his work in Britain during World War II, “developing search and rescue procedures for missing aircraft.“ He was also named a Companion of the Order of Canada, member of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and a Saskatoon Citizen of the Year.

Harry Thode, born in Dundurn, received two degrees at the U of S followed by a PhD in the U.S. Noted for his work in atomic research, he was honoured by the Order of Canada and the Order of the British Empire, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. He became president and chancellor of McMaster University in 1961. [Star-Phoenix 14 April 2017]

Plant breeder Seager Wheeler (MBE) known as the Wheat King, helped boost Saskatchewan as the “bread basket of the world.” He assisted mother nature in selecting the best wheat seeds (some from mutants) he had grown, exhibiting them at agricultural fairs around the world and developing new strains.

Pilot Officer E.A. Wickenkamp (OBE) of Stenen joined the RAF in 1938. He received the OBE for rescuing two crew members after the crash of his aircraft. A month later, he was shot down and killed during an attack on a battleship.

[Andrew: unpublished ms. by Ruth Millar. Black: en.wikipefdia.org/wiki/1935_New_Year_Honourees_ Commander_of_the_Order_of_the British_Empire. Fletcher: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Maund: Canadian Virtual War Memorial and other websites. McNaughton: Herstory, 1971. Olafson: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Porteous: veterans.gc.ca. Sirois: Green & White fall 2005. Spinks: Canadian Encyclopedia. Other sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia]

Saskatchewan emblems

In 1941, the western red lily was chosen as our official flower. It grows in meadows and semi-wooded areas where its flaming red blossoms stand out like flames against a natural green background. 

The sharp-tailed grouse was selected as the provincial bird emblem in 1945.

Our official flag was adopted in 1969. It features the provincial shield of arms, with the western red lily. The flag’s upper half is green, symbolizing northern forests; the lower half is gold, symbolic of southern grain areas.

The Saskatchewan fish is the walleye.

Saskatchewan’s fruit is the Saskatoon berry

In 2001, needle-and-thread grass was chosen as our official grass. It’s a native bunchgrass common to the dry, sandy soils of the northern plains. Its seeds are sharply pointed and have long, twisted, thread-like fibres.

Our provincial district tartan features the colours gold, brown, green, red, yellow, white and black. Registered in Scotland in 1961, it was introduced in 1997 for highland dancers. 

In 1988, the white birch was adopted as Saskatchewan’s official tree. This hardwood tree is found across the northern 75 percent of the province. 

Sylvite, a.k.a. potash, is Saskatchewan’s official mineral. We are the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash, over 95 percent of it used for fertilizer.

The white-tailed deer became our official animal in 2001. It tends to be larger in the north than in the south. Adults have a reddish-brown summer coat and a greyish-brown winter coat, with white underparts. 

Curling became our official sport in 2001. It has a rich history here, from the Richardson brothers in the 1950s to Sandra Schmirler in the 90s. 

“From Many Peoples Strength”: The provincial coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986, adapted from the 1906 shield of arms. With a crest of a beaver and crown on top, a lion and deer flank the shield, which displays the royal lion and three gold wheat sheaves. Western red lilies form the base.


Cast in stone (or bronze, or…)

Saskies immortalized in statues & monuments

Chief White Cap and Saskatoon founder John Lake are depicted in a sculpture near the east end of the newly-built Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. 

Chief Payepot (Piapot), cast by Lyndon Tootoosis, marks the signing of Treaty 4 in Regina. 

Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont in a Saskatoon Park.
Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont
in a Saskatoon Park.

Metis leader Gabriel Dumont is commemorated in a statue in a riverside park in Saskatoon.

A statue of Metis Leader Louis Riel in Regina showing his private parts so offended the Metis Association that the offending image was banished to the basement of the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

First premier Walter Scott is depicted in a statue in Regina.

A statue of Edouard Beaupre, the Willow Bunch giant, stands in front of a local museum named in his honour.

A full-length statue of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, World War Ihero, is in Kinsmen Park in Saskatoon.  

A life-size equestrian statue of artist Count Berthold von Imhoff adorns the village of St. Walburg. 

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin by Earl G. Drake graces Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.  

A statue in Saskatoon by sculptor Bill Epp immortalizes the Saskatchewan-born senator Ramon Hnatyshyn, an esteemed Ukrainian-Canadian hero and governor general of Canada for five years.

Statues depicting an encounter between newsboy John Diefenbaker (later prime minister) and Wilfred Laurier is prominently displayed at 1st Avenue and 21st Street in Saskatoon.

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin is in Ottawa.

Statue of writer Farley Mowat
Statue of writer Farley Mowat on
the U of S campus

A statue of Farley Mowat, famous author, graces the U of S campus.

Famed hockey star Gordie Howe, can be seen in effigy at Sasktel Centre.

Popular radio host Denny Carr’s statue is located in a Saskatoon riverbank park. 

A statue of luminary Frederick W. Hill in Regina, was created by Russian artist Leo Mall (Leonard Molodozhanyn).

In the College of Education Building, University of Saskatchewan a new bust stands in the main hallway to commemorate beloved professor David Kaplan, who was a vibrant and influential mentor in the music world in Saskatoon. His Klezmer Band was and is extremely popular amongst Jews and gentiles alike,


Science and Technology

Science and Technology

Many scientific breakthroughs, discoveries and innovations have taken place in Saskatchewan, mostly at our universities. Some have been game-changers.

Eureka!

A small sample of scientific innovations at the U of S since 1970

The Canadian “VHF Meteor” to measure wind and temperatures was set up in a new laboratory in the Arctic. 

Saskatchewan scientists’ contributions to the first Canadian-led experiments on space shuttle Discovery in 1990. 

U of S scientists participated in experiments in space at the MIR space station. 

The first conversion, in 1998, of an antibody into an enzyme could lead to improved medications and therapies

The first ultrasound of a human ovary releasing an egg in 1990 made possible the non-invasive study of ovarian changes, a technique that could improve fertility. 

The first high-gravity fermentation process that produces higher alcohol concentrations, is now preferred by brewers for its efficiency, and is also used to make ethanol fuel (1980s).

The first “pulse stretcher” ring in North America, the Electron Ring of Saskatchewan (EROS) used in nuclear physics, was a “mini-synchrotron” that in the 1980s paved the way for the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

The first technology was developed in the 1970s to weigh passing vehicles on highways.

[U of S Century of Innovation website (no longer active); skyway.Usask; International Road Development and other sources]

The halls of science

Building facilities for scientific progress and innovation

1887: The Agriculture Canada Research Station opened at Indian Head, one of five experimental farms developed and directed in Canada by William Saunders; later other experimental farms and nurseries were established elsewhere in Saskatchewan. Saunders’s son, Sir Charles Saunders of Ontario, in 1904 developed rust-resistant Marquis wheat, which revolutionized grain production for farmers.

1906: The Royal Saskatchewan Museum, first museum in the province, began in Regina as the Provincial Museum, its mandate to collect and preserve natural history specimens.

1909: The University of Saskatchewan opened at Saskatoon (having started in Prince Albert). It was then focused on agriculture, but later offered a smorgasbord of courses of study for students. 

1948: The U of S obtained the first Betatron in Canada, used for cancer treatment and radiation research, a science coup spearheaded by Dr. Leon Katz (Order of Canada), nuclear and accelerator physicist.

Sylvia Fedoruk with Betatron
Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk with Cobalt-60 unit. Photo from University of
Saskatchewan Archives.

1951: The trail-blazing “cobalt bomb” was pioneered, for cancer treatment using cobalt-60 radiation by Dr. Harold Johns, a medical physicist at the U of S. It saved millions of lives worldwide, and is currently displayed at Saskatoon’s Western Development Museum. The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, into which Johns was inducted in 1998, considers him the “father of medical physics in Canada.” He was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978.

1958: Dr. T.T. Thorvaldson was first director of research at the new National Research Council lab on the U of S campus.

1962: The Saskatchewan Accelerator Laboratory (SAL) at the U of S housed the ground-breaking new (for its time) linear accelerator, built for $1.7M under the direction of Dr. Leon Katz. The lab revolutionized research in radiology, chemistry and physics and spawned the synchrotron.

1986: A toxicology centre opened on campus. It was said to be the first in Canada.

1989: The Saskatchewan Science Centre opened its doors in Regina to unveil the marvels of science to the public with its interactive Powerhouse of Discovery, and the Kramer IMAX theatre.

Canadian Light Source Synchrotron. Photo from https://commons/wikimedia.org

In 2004 when the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron (the only one in Canada) opened on the U of S campus, it was a blockbuster event with awesome scientific implications. By 2014, 220 staff and 700 researchers worked there.

In Saskatoon, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) founded by Lorne Babiuk, does research to maintain and improve the health of animals.

[Cobalt bomb: www.usask.ca/cobalt60/; cdnmedhall.org; Encyclopedia of Sask. and other sources. Toxicology: Century of Innovations website (now off-line?), U of S]

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Some renowned scientists who made history at our universities

Dr. Henry Taube
Nobel prize winner Dr. Henry Taube. Photo from University of Saskatchewan
Archives & Special Collections

Henry Taube, the only U of S graduate to receive a Nobel prize, was awarded this prestigious prize in chemistry in 1983 (even though his field was physics). Born in Neudorf, Saskatchewan in 1915, he took physics classes from Gerhard Herzberg, attaining an MSc and honorary LLD at the U of S, and later a PhD from the University of California. He taught at the universities of California at Berkeley, Cornell and Stanford. Dr. Taube was at Stanford when he received the Nobel prize for his “work on the mechanisms of electron transfer reactions, especially in metal complexes.” His other honours, too many to list here, are cited on the Nobel website.

Dr. John William Tranter Spinks, former president at the U of S. – Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives & Special Collections.

Former U of S president John W.T. Spinks was the sparkplug behind many spectacular scientific developments at the U of S. Born in 1908 in England, he attended King’s College, University of London, where he attained a BSc and PhD in chemistry. He came to the U of S in 1930 as assistant professor, but spent the academic year of 1933-34 at the University of Darmstadt in Germany. There he met Dr. Gerhard Herzberg, whom he was instrumental in bringing to the U of S. Spinks became a professor in 1938, head of chemistry in 1948, dean of grad studies in 1949, and president of the university in 1958. The U of S Archives website says he “led the university through its most active period of development.” He published 260 scientific papers and an autobiography, Two Blades of Grass. His honours and degrees included an MBE in 1945, an LLD, DSc, and Companion of the Order of Canada.

Nobel Prize honouree Dr. Gerhard Herberg. Photo A 3234, from University of Saskatchewan Archives & Special Collections.

Gerhard Herzberg received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1971. Educated in Germany, he had to flee as a refugee in 1935 because his wife was jewish. He came to the U of S as a guest professor, with funding from the Carnegie Foundation. He remained a faculty member for ten years, and then became a research professor at the University of Chicago until 1948, when he joined Canada’s National Research Council. His science career continued to soar thereafter. Other honours bestowed on him include Companion of the Order of Canada (CC), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), and Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

In the 1920s Dr. Thorberger Thorvaldson developed a revolutionary new kind of cement, resistant to the sulphate that was causing foundations to crumble. The chemistry building at the U of S. was named in his honour. To this day owners of buildings with crumbling foundations wish he had developed his new concrete sooner. Among honours he received was being named FRSC. (He died in 1965, before the Order of Canada was established.)

C.J. Mackenzie, first dean of engineering at the U of S, and first president of Atomic Energy
of Canada. Photo A 3174 from University of Saskatchewan Archives & Special Collections.

Under the baton of former U of S engineering dean Chalmers Jack (C.J.) Mackenzie, the National Research Council flourished in Ottawa. Born in New Brunswick and educated at Dalhousie University, he came to the U of S in 1912 to develop the engineering program. After serving in the Canadian Army, he returned to the U of S until 1932, when he turned his attention to public works projects like Saskatoon’s Broadway Bridge. In 1939 he moved to Ottawa to head the NRC, and also became the first president of Atomic Energy of Canada. A string of degrees and honours follows his name: CC CMG MC FRS FRSC.

Stem cell therapy grew out of research sixty years ago by U of S grad James Till and a colleague Ernest McCullough, at the Ontario Cancer Institute. Stem cells are used in bone marrow transplants to treat cancer, and scientists are exploring ways to use them to fix damaged cells, and even grow artificial organs.  At the U of S some of his early work was with Dr. Harold Johns. He was honoured by the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and received two major international awards for his medical research, is a FRS and FRSC, as well as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Astrophysicist and space scientist Alistair G.W. Cameron did a PhD at the U of S and later joined Harvard University’s astronomy department. His scientific achievements are rather astronomic. He conceived theories about the creation of chemical elements in stars, and the moon’s birth when Planet Earth collided with an object as big as Mars. He is highly recognized in the field of nuclear strophysics in which he was a pioneer. Among his many laurels are as a member of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.), a member of the American Physical Society, and as a FRSC.

In space technology: Saskatoon native Richard Carley’s fascination with aviation rocketed him to a career at NASA, where he specialized in guidance and navigation in space shuttle systems. He was one of several Canadians involved with the doomed Avro Arrow progam, who went on to NASA and helped put a man on the moon in 1969 in the Apollo space program. He also worked on the Mercury and Gemini space programs, and helped develop GPS.

[General: Canadian Encyclopedia, Green & White, Wikipedia, and other sources. Carley: ingenium.canada.org, history.nasa.gov. Herzberg: Nobelprize.org. Mackenzie: Wikipedia and other sources. Spinks: University of Saskatchewan Archives website; Two Blades of Grass; Taube: Nobelprize.org. Taube: Facts.Nobel/Prize.org]

Dinosaur fossils found here

T-Rex fossils
T-Rex fossil display at University of Saskatfhewan. Photo by Ruth Millar

Dinosaurs were land-based reptiles (often titanic in size) that lived in the Mesozoic era. Partial remains found here, usually bone fragments or teeth from the late Cretaceous period sixty-five to seventy-four million years ago. 

Tyrannosaurus rex (T.rex) fossil remains found in 1991 in the Frenchman River Valley, in the RM of White Valley. A model of the full dinosaur (nicknamed Scotty) is on display in the paleontological museum near Eastend.   

Remains of a Gorgosaurus, found along the South Saskatchewan River. It was a thirty-foot-long carnivore resembling an Albertosaurus. Both are tyrannosaurs, the same dinosaur family as T.rex. 

An ankylosaur (spiked-armor-plated dinosaur with club tail), teeth of which were found near Consul in 2018. 

Remains of three Triceratops unearthed in 2018 in Grasslands National Park. They were a common dinosaur for this time period.

Parts of the large dinosaur Struthiomimus, found in several places, including Grasslands National Park and the Frenchman River Valley. It looked like a cross between a kangaroo (with short front legs) and an ostrich (with long neck). 

A specimen of the species Anzu, a rare oviraptor (known as “egg-stealers”) found in Grasslands National Park. These dinosaurs were bird-like but couldn’t fly.  Some oviraptors had beak-like snouts, crests on their heads, and flexible tails ending in feathery fans.

The skull of a duck-billed dinosaur (hadrosaur) known as Edmontosaurus was discovered near Shaunavon in 2018.

Fossil remains of Pachycephalosaurus, belonging to a dinosaur family commonly referred to as “dome-headed”, are found in Saskatchewan, according to the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, but are “vanishingly rare.”

Remains of a Stygimoloch, an herbivore bristling with spikes on its cranium, in the pachycephalosaur family.  Up to ten feet long and three feet high at the hip, it stalked on two legs and could run like an ostrich. Its fossil remains were reportedly found along the South Saskatchewan River.

Other dinosaurs that lived in Saskatchewan included Ornithomimus, Chasmosaurus, ThescelosaurusDromaeosaurus, Sauronitholestes, Troodon and Richardoestesia. The latter four were bipedal and flesh-eating. Another, the aptly named Torosaurus, was a horned dinosaur.

[List compiled with the help of Dr. Emily Bamforth, archaeologist at Saskatchewan Natural History Museum. Other sources: Global News 19 September 2018, www.cbc.ca August 2018; Braithwaite, The Western Plains.]

Other ancient fossils

Marine and flying reptiles, and mammals

A vast, shallow inland sea once covered Saskatchewan, and fossils of marine reptiles have been found here that were not dinosaurs. Neither were flying reptiles that were contemporaries of the dinosaurs. Mammal specimens have also been found.

A juvenile Elasmosaur (a long-necked plesiosaur) fossil was discovered at Lake Diefenbaker. They were endurance swimmers.

In 1992 bones of the marine reptile Terminonatator ponteixensis (meaning “last swimmerhave only been found near Ponteix, Sask. A genus of elasmosaurs, they were about eight metres long and fed on molluscs and crustaceans.

Remains of a Mosasaur, a marine reptile resembling a crocodile, up to ten metres long, were found between Saskatchewan Landing and Riverhurst. Mosasaurs were “fast and agile swimmers.”

Bones of a Terminonaris crocodile from the Cretaceous period were found near the Pasquia Hills in the Carrot River area in 1995. It was originally thought to be a Telethinus.

Parts of a young brontothere (a mammal like a rhinoceros) came to light recently near Eastend.

Mammal bones twenty-five million years old were discovered in 2018 at Grasslands National Park – parts of a rhino, three horses including a diminutive one, and a cougar-sized cat. They lived in an time that was tropical, even up here.

[Dr. Emily Bamforth (see previous entry)]

Made in Saskatchewan

Scientific and technical ingenuity of tinkerers and inventors

In 1913 a key figure in the Church, Withers and Simister Company invented a post hole digger that had an attachment for setting posts.  He claimed it enabled one man to do the job instead of six.

The Meilicke calculator was the brainchild of Carl Meilicke of Dundurn, who made his first one with a tomato can.  He set up Meilicke Systems Inc. factory in Chicago, where more high-tech versions of it were made. They solved specific math “problems”, each worked out in advance, and his system spat out answers. When computers came on stream, these “calculators” became obsolete.

“Blowtorch”, a life-sized mechanical horse powered by a nine-horsepower gasoline engine, was built about 1947 by W.J. McIntyre of Swift Current. Small wheels under its hooves made its legs lurch backward and forward. With its sheet metal body painted black and white, a horsehair mane and tail, it looked somewhat real. One of the three versions of it can be seen in the Moose Jaw WDM.

Old car with blimp shaped ballon above, supplying fuel.
A contraption that burned straw
to create gas as fuel, is housed in the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon
Photo by Ruth Millar.

A straw-gas powered car was developed by U of S chemistry prof R.D. McLaurin and engineer A. R. Greig. Using existing technology to create gas (chiefly methane) from straw, they powered a car with a gas-producing balloon attached above it, with a pipe to the carburetor. This contraption turned heads in Saskatoon. 

The Lux “vertical axis wind turbine” was created by Saskatoon inventor Glen Lux in the early 2000s. It is said to be cheaper to run, quieter, occupies less space, and is safer for birds.  There is a model of it in the WDM.

Veterinarian William Ballard created the recipe for what became “Dr. Ballard’s Dog Food”, and canned it. His son, William Robert Ballard, born in 1914 in Grenfell, turned the concoction into a popular pet food brand.

U of S grad Jackie Martin of Viking Innovations invented a system for preventing kitchen fires, called the Dalmation.

The Draganfly X6UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is basically a remote-controlled gizmo that looks like a helicopter and functions a bit like a drone with cameras on board. In 2008 Popular Science Magazine called it their “best of what’s new in aviation and space.” It is made by Draganfly Innovations Inc.

Ernie Symons, a nineteen-year-old tinkerer/blacksmith, developed the Symons Oiler. Existing oil cans inspired him to improve the design; he applied for a patent in 1922 and launched a business that took him as far afield as Burma.

Gofer electric vehicle for use in mines
“Gofer” electric vehicle used in potash mines, is preserved at Western Development Museum.

The Gofer EV is an electric vehicle (EV) that looks something like a golf cart. It was developed by PapaBravo, founded by Patrick Byrns of Saskatoon in 2010. It is a boon in mines because it doesn’t pollute the air.

Driving off in winter without unplugging one’s block heater cord elicits curses — it’s annoying and costly to fix. Now a U of S grad has brought us a magnetic, prong-less, block-heater plug that connects and disconnects easily. (Ordinary ones take nimble fingers and thirty-five pounds of pressure to plug in or unplug.) Jarash Janfada invented the “Voltsafe” concept, and electrical engineer William Topping designed the device. It’ll help absent-minded or disabled drivers, and arthritic seniors, and is expected in Federated-Co-op stores in December 2019. (Note to southerners: Block heaters, invented in 1947, are essential in sub-zero climes.)

[WDM staff; Saskatchewan Trivia; Green & White fall 2016; Voltsafe: voltsafe.com; CKOM Radio Saskatoon, CJME Regina, Global News Saskatoon, 24 October 2019]

Television broadcasting history

How we got the “boob tube” – 1954 to 1971

Because Saskatchewan was too remote to piggyback on signals from big American cities, television took root slowly here. Private broadcasters gave the new technology its initial boost. Luckily, local writers have chronicled the saga of the evolution of TV here.

Early television experiments were conducted in Saskatoon by Sigurd Sanda, a machinist from Norway who designed and built “one of the world’s first” television transmission and receiving sets. As the story goes, he transmitted in 1929 the first TV signals from the Zenith Building in downtown Saskatoon, using his mechanical invention. Unfortunately, his brand of television didn’t catch on.  

Medical staff performing an operation.
Dr. Barton Jackson (centre background) performing an operation in 1949 at City Hospital, before telvision cameras (cropped). Photo B 2935 by
Leonard Hillyard, from Local History Room
Saskatoon Public Library

The first television “broadcast” (or perhaps “narrowcast”) using TV cameras occurred in Saskatoon in 1949 during a medical convention at the Bessborough Hotel. Surgeons performed operations in front of enormous television cameras at CFQC, which broadcasted them to the hotel and wowed the assembled doctors. TV close-ups showed its potential for demonstrating surgical techniques to medical students, up close and personal in large groups.

Television made its formal debut in Canada in the 1950s, and in 1954 here. That year TV sets were selling like hotcakes. More than 110,000 sets were sold in Saskatchewan between 1955 and 1959, more than households with indoor plumbing.

Until 1966 television stations in Saskatchewan were privately-owned affiliates, not owned by CBC.

Teens on TV dance program at CFQC Saskatoon showed local teenagers doing the jive.
Photo from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library

In the 1950s privately-owned stations affiliated with the CBC did many of their own programs, which were local in nature to reflect our own realities. As is the case today, they carried news, sports and weather, but there was more. Local TV stars were born, in programs such as “Sallytime”, “Smokey’s Cabin” and “Kids’ Bids.” There was even a teen dance program on CFQC in the 1950s, “Teens on TV” probably modelled on “American Bandstand” hosted by Dick Clark.

TV host Sally merchant, on set in CFQC-TV.
Sally Merchant hosted the popular television show “Sallytime” in Saskatoon, ca. 1956.
Photo QC-266-3 by CFQC staff, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library,

In Regina, CKCK-TV started to broadcast on July 28, 1953, after an abortive start.

In Saskatoon, A.A. Murphy, owner of CFQC, got the first television license and began broadcasting later in 1954. The StarPhoenix, CKOM and others were all clamouring to get into the act but – no dice.

Moose Jaw’s CHAB-TV had birthing pains too, enduring both technical glitches and sparring among businesses.

Would-be viewers had to live within sixty-five kilometres of a transmitter and erect rooftop aerials. Even in the cities our TV sets often blasted us with noisy “snow” in early broadcasting days.

The microwave network arrived here in 1957. Before that, we had to rely on pony express. Well, not really, but we did have to wait for films of programs to be shipped – not very satisfactory for hockey games and the like! But we did get the cream of the crop from CBC and three American networks.

In 1958 a new broadcasting act set up an independent Broadcast Board of Governors, which permitted satellite stations to rebroadcast to smaller places. Before that legislation, all stations had to hook up with CBC.

Then private groups in the cities created their own network, CTV, in 1961. Moose Jaw got a CTV station, so it could offer different fare than nearby Regina, and their lucky viewers had a choice of two networks.

Between 1954 and 1969, there were six privately owned stations, located in Saskatoon, Regina, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Yorkton. Each city only had one station at first, so there were no family feuds about what to watch.

Prince Albert’s CKBI went on air in 1958. Their satellite station in North Battleford began broadcasting in February 1961, but signals from Edmonton kept interfering until CKBI built a more powerful transmitter.

A demand arose for a CBC-owned and operated station. After a government freeze on applications for licenses was lifted, CBC won approval for its own station in April 1965. By 1969 the CBC had its very own stations in Moose Jaw and Regina, but Saskatoon had to apply three times, with government, citizens and local ringleaders “squawking loudly” before getting their own CBC station, in October 1971.

Even in the early 1960s northerners were beseeching the powers that be for service up there. CBC finally got the go-ahead to broadcast in Uranium City and El Dorado and went on air in 1968 and 1969. In 1970, 11.5 percent of Saskatchewan households still did not have good TV reception.

Prince Albert pioneered the cable system in this province in 1955, and Weyburn and Estevan followed suit in 1958 and 1959. (The latter could piggyback off signals from the U.S.) Of the 264,000 household in Saskatchewan with TV, only 5,800 had cable. Finally, in the 1980s, cable spread its tentacles far and wide.

Colour TV arrived with peacocks and fanfare in the 1960s. For example, in 1966 CFQC-TV scored equipment to produce network, film, slide and videotape shows in colour. That was also the year it became a full affiliate of the CTV network. In 1971 it bought three RCA Colour Studio cameras, and graduated to full colour programming.

[Zenith broadcast: Wayne Schmalz, On Air: Radio in Saskatchewan; “Zenith Block Tuned in to Television,” Saskatoon Sun, 22 December 1996, B8.  Broadcast to doctors: StarPhoenix 1949. History of television: Bonnie Wagner, We Proudly Begin Our Broadcast Day: Saskatchewan and the Arrival of Television, 1954-1969 (master’s thesis U of S Department of History, October 2004); Bonnie Wagner, “Squawk, and Squawk Loudly”, citing DBS and Statistics Canada documents; Saskatoon History Review (vol. 19, 2005): 1-6]