Around 120 guests enjoyed MHV Story Night, the fourth of our monthly 50th Anniversary events, on Friday, April 4. For those who were unable to attend, here are brief highlights of the stories told that evening. Michelle Sawatzky, co-host of AM 1250’s Morning Show, kept the program flowing as Master of Ceremonies.
Arnold Reimer, son of founder and first curator John C. Reimer, reflected that as a young boy he had viewed his father’s collection of artifacts as junk. Later in life he learned the importance of the artifacts. Arnold invited the audience to identify several “mystery” items he had brought with him.
Doris Toews provided an entertaining account of learning to make homemade soap at MHV and the subsequent impact that this soap had on people as far away as Africa. Henry Fast told stories about a Bible and what may be a walking cane or a piece of a whip that belonged to Klaas Reimer, the founder of the Kleine Gemeinde over 200 years ago.
Sarah Klassen shared a moving story of one of her encounters with an MHV visitor who was a survivor of atrocities at the hands of Makhno bandits in Russia in the early 1900s. Evelyn Friesen read an account written by Robert Loewen about his experiences in the Barkfield School, which is now on the MHV campus.
Former Executive Director Harv Klassen provided a particularly entertaining account of dealing with a farmer’s error in bringing the wrong calf with his cow to MHV for the summer. Al Hamm shared stories of being inspired to become a miller at MHV, in part because his grandfather was also a miller.
Gary Snider, MHV’s Executive Director at the time of the windmill fire, was unable to attend but provided an audio-visual story of the fire and the rebuilding of the windmill. Lawrence Klippenstein, long-serving board member and former archivist at the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, provided an account of the burning of a mortgage, as well as a perspective on the pain archivists feel when such significant documents are destroyed.
Aaron Klassen spent several summers during his student years as the driver of a team of oxen at the museum. His experiences made for some interesting stories. Dora Penner, the manager of the Livery Barn Restaurant, talked about her joy in meeting people from many different countries. She also talked about the significance of the uniforms the restaurant staff wear.
Nita Wiebe, a current staff member, talked about how learning to understand things about her conservative Mennonite background has helped her become more comfortable with past experiences. Henry Dueck, a frequent interpreter in the Private School, shared a few of the many stories he has collected over the years as visitors have shared them with him.
Ernest Braun provided a thoughtful suggestion that MHV might consider developing, that of creating a replica Red Gate to tell the story of how the Mennonites fled Russia through that gate under extreme circumstances in the 1920’s. The last storyteller was Orlando Hiebert, who shared some of his experiences as a member of the local steam club.
The evening wrapped up with Schnetje and coffee served by the MHV Auxiliary. The event was entertaining and inspirational, reminding us of why we have this museum, with all its story-laden artifacts.