“You just never know,” says Anna Stanton. You never know when you’ll find an old treasure hiding in somebody’s yard or garage.
“I’ve found things in the craziest places,” admits the Spruce View-area resident, who is inviting the public to Pioneer Days at her quaint Double Tree Village Museum on Saturday and Sunday.
Anna and her husband Ray Stanton, who have created a heritage village on their property, were once negotiating to buy a horse harness in a Rocky Mountain House-area barn when they spotted an old dentist’s chair up in the rafters.
After the owner assured them he was happy to part with it, the Stantons loaded the antique into their truck and drove away with a painful piece of Alberta’s pioneering history.
Another time, the couple were in Edmonton buying a reproduction glass globe for a 1920s gas pump they had salvaged when Anna noticed an old telephone switchboard gathering dust in a corner of the garage.
“The guy said, ‘You don’t know anyone who wants an old switchboard? I have no use for it,’ ” recalls Anna. She immediately piped up “I do,” paid the seller, and hauled the item back to the ranch.
Needless to say, the Stantons have amassed a load of “treasures” over the years — from rusty farm plows, to blacksmith tools and horse buggies, to lanterns, bed frames, cash registers, school desks, stoves and assorted kitchen gadgets.
Now they are gearing up to share these relics with the viewing public during Pioneer Days, their Double Tree Village Museum’s biggest weekend of the year.
There are 18 furnished structures on the Stantons’ property — both converted granaries and original old buildings moved to their ranch, 10 km west of Spruce View, off Hwy 54 and north on RR 41.
There’s a two-storey hotel, blacksmith shop, dentist’s office, one-room school, laundry, church with bell tower, and an RCMP outpost. All are filled with old bric-a-brac.
People who tour the village, including school groups, get a good idea of what life was like for pioneers in this province a century ago, says Anna, who often gives guided tours.
Pioneer Days will feature daytime farming demonstrations using Wild Rose Draft Horses pulling plows, harrows and seeders and a Saturday 5 p.m. jam session.
There will be wagon rides, old-time games, work and horse demos, a heritage chicken exhibit and a food concession. Gates open at 9 a.m. and entry to the village museum is $5 per person or $20 per family.
The Stantons have always enjoyed collecting antiques — not necessarily the dainty china that shows up on the Antiques Roadshow but functional objects that people used every day.
Among the more interesting things in their collection are a fully furnished bunk house and a cook house used by farm labourers in the early part of the last century.
There’s a century-old wedding dress that belonged to a petite woman from the Spruce View district, Anna’s father First and Second World War uniforms, an immense RCMP buffalo-hide coat, a compact doctor’s buggy and a larger more formal wagon called a vis-a-vis, which the couple have used for weddings.
The Double Tree Village Museum is a dream come true for Anna, who had always wanted to have her own collection of heritage buildings in which to store leftovers of the past.
Ray wryly jokes that he had no choice in taking on the project: “My machine shed was getting so full of antiques, I had to allow her to build the village.”
Actually it’s a joint undertaking, with Anna providing much of the vision and Ray following through with his hammer and saw. Construction started in 1997 and the site first opened to the public in 2000.
Anna is still planning to erect a bakery, a trapper’s tent, and print shop.
Anybody out there have an old printing press? Anna says she’d be interested.
For more information, call 403-728-3875.