Some of Prince Albert’s unsung heroes received special attention on Thursday, thanks to the efforts of a small crew of history and drama enthusiasts.
Accompanied by a group of actors, Prince Albert Historical Society volunteer Morley Harrison combined a lecture with historic reenactment during an afternoon presentation at John M. Cuelenaere Public Library.
“To me, there are heroes that slip by us without much public awareness or fanfare, heroes who leave a lasting impact on all of us,” Harrison said, introducing the first of three heroes presented.
“The purpose of these choices is not, as any of the people mentioned in this talk would ever want, to bring loud trumpeting acclamation to their memories, but rather to recognize the power of one.”
The first person discussed was the Prince Albert YWCA’s first matron, Alice Medhurst, who started work at the centre in 1912, and by 1913 was burned out by long hours and hard work.
“No one person can ever lay claim to the credit that the YWCA deserves, but without the fortitude and the determination of the Y’s early matrons, there would be little to recognize,” Harrison said.
A historic re-enactment had actor Marge Bodnarchuk play Medhurst, Gord Kelly play mayor Nelson Morton and Fay Harrison play the matron’s helper.
The skit highlighted details of a 1913 year-end report, noting the city was either unable or unwilling to afford to pay $7 per month for YWCA-centred costs, and that Medhurst was vastly over-worked.
By the 1930s, the matron’s duties were shortened to 69 hours per week, and pay increased to $30 per month.
“The YWCA of 2012 is a far greater initiative than it was in 1912, but the strength, the willingness to work and the Christian wealth of those early matrons continues to shine through,” Harrison said.
The second unsung hero was John Boden, born in 1917.
An accomplished farmer and athlete whose efforts in the game of baseball earned him a spot in the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, Boden was a personal friend of Harrison’s.
To me, there are heroes that slip by us without much public awareness or fanfare, heroes who leave a lasting impact on all of us. - Morley Harrison
Calling Boden a “Gentleman of the ice,” Harrison knew Boden through the game of curling.
“He was hard to beat, even in his senior years … He was the quintessential sportsman to all he met,” Harrison.
The presenters’ corresponding skit had Kelly play a student requesting a teacher, played by Bodnarchuk, forbidding Boden from going out for recess, on the grounds that he always shows up the other students during baseball games.
The third and final unsung hero presented was an open category, consisting of aboriginal students in Prince Albert.
Drawing on a handful of stories from his time as a teacher at Carlton Comprehensive High School, Harrison provided strong and emotional justification for their ranking as unsung heroes.
The students, he explained, were “Sent from a small or remote community, probably with a population of only a few hundred, to our school of over 1,700 teeming, busy, bubbling noisy students … far removed from the student’s own culture.
“If you can emphasize with them at all, you’ll understand why I want to call them heroes.”
Though the stories about students ended with varying levels of success, Harrison noted that all of them are heroes for being brave enough to attend class, and in many cases graduate.
Thursday’s Unsung Heroes presentation as the latest in a series of lectures at the library. Saskatchewan's Poet Laureate Don Kerr will give a presentation on the creative process on Nov. 14, beginning at 7 p.m. This event is free of charge.
The library is also holding a meeting on Nov. 8 in order to gather ideas as to what the community is interested in seeing take place at the library in the field of adult learning. This meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.