We are looking forward to our 14th year of club activities in 2018 and we expect several changes to be happening over the next few years at Bremner which will impact our club. More information on all of that will be outlined as you read through this newsletter. We welcome everyone back for another year and we are looking forward to welcoming new members who always manage to find out about our club and join up. And a big thank you to all of our current members and their families who have helped us out with everything over the years with our activities and projects. We are known in Strathcona County as being a community group who is always willing and eager to be there by supporting the county's efforts to preserve our agricultural heritage.
GENERAL MEETINGS 2018 - As usual, our monthly general meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month from March until October at the Ardrossan Memorial Hall. The Hall is located just east of the Ardrossan Rec Center which is on the east side of Range Road 222. Visitors and guests are always welcome to attend the meetings which begin at 7:00 PM. Remaining dates for this season will be May 16, June 20, July 18, August 15, September 19, and October 17.
Our general meeting on April 18 doubled as our Annual General Meeting (AGM). Every year at our AGM, we are required to nominate and vote in a new slate of officers and directors for the upcoming season. Our bylaws allow for election of eleven positions in our leadership group. Bob Swizinski is stepping down from his duties as a director this time around and Peter Newman is new to the group. Thanks to Bob and all of the following members from our new group who take on a lot of the duties with organizing our activities through the season. They have one extra SVTA meeting every month on the first Tuesday at County Hall in Sherwood Park.
PRESIDENT - Leo Bilodeau VICE PRESIDENT - Joe Radke
SECRETARY - Val Shillinglaw TREASURER - Sten Nielsen
DIRECTORS - Rae MacMillan, Bob Beveridge, Mel Clark, George Schmidt, Tom Speedie, Ellis Kumpula, and Peter Newman.
MEMBERSHIP - At this time, we have a total of 117 individuals on our membership list. This is comprised of 79 regular adult members, 2 junior members, 29 lifetime members, and 7 honorary members. This number has been pretty stable over the past few years. Every season we have new people showing up and some leaving for various reasons. Membership cost is $35 for a regular adult membership and $15 for a junior membership (ages 14-19). Lifetimers do not pay an annual renewal fee and are automatically registered every spring.
So far this year our membership renewals are moving along well. We have had 3 new members join up so far, Les Ducharme of Sherwood Park and Steve Saunders from the Bon Accord area signed up in March. Wayne Hanson from the Sherwood Park area joined up at the April meeting. Welcome to the club boys, we hope to see you at our meetings and activities as the season moves along. Membership renewals are ongoing at general meetings but if you cannot make it out and wish to renew, send a $35 cheque (made out to SVTA) to us at the following address:
SVTA - Box 3072 - Sherwood Park, AB. T8H 2T1
Current members are reminded that their existing memberships expire at the end of June. March 31 is our official year end but our bylaws allow a 3-month grace period for memberships. After June 30, individuals who have not renewed are removed from our membership list.
On a sad note, long-time club member Doug Maschmeyer passed away in January at the age of 87 at his home near Bruderheim. Doug and his wife Virginia were our "go to" couple for 50-50 ticket sales for many years at our tractor pulls. We'll miss Doug and his friendly and humble nature as well as his clever wit at our monthly club meetings.
CLUB DIRECTORY PROJECT - Ray Schmidt and Al Rice have published our club's first pocket-sized contact directory and it is available to all club members at no charge at monthly meetings. It lists member names, phone numbers, and email addresses for those who have OK'd their information to be made available to other club members. It also contains a few pages of business card advertisements which helped pay for the printing costs. The current publication will cover this year as well as next year and we will print off a new one starting in 2020. New members who register from now on will have the option of allowing us to list their contact information in future publications. A special thank-you goes out to Al Rice's daughter, Donna Wilson, for entering our member contact information into a computer program that the booklet publishers used.
CHRISTMAS IN THE HEARTLAND (November 26) - Once again, our club was involved with other community groups in participating in the county's Christmas in the Heartland weekend on November 26 at the Bremner Mansion farm site. Bremner was one of several sites involved in the weekend events throughout the county. Rae MacMillan again organized everyone and brought out two of his tractors, one 1950's Ford as a Christmas light display as well as his Oliver 550 to provide the power for towing the Northrup Express people hauler around the site for tours. In addition to Rae, we also had Val Shillinglaw, Mike Ballash, and Wayne Sloat helping out. Thanks to all for doing this again boys, the county always depends on us to make the day enjoyable and interesting for everyone who shows up for the displays and activities.
SVTA 2017 CHRISTMAS DONATIONS - Every December, our tractor club donates four $250 gifts to various charitable groups in appreciation for their contributions and services provided to the community. This year the four groups receiving our donations include the Robin Hood Society, the Shiloh Youth Ranch, the Strathcona Boys and Girls Club, and Sherwood Park's A Safe Place shelter. We always feel that it is our obligation to donate back into the community in support of those programs that are so important to so many individuals.
SVTA "WINTER'S OVER" BARBEQUE (March 17) - After a long winter without any organized club activities since Christmas in the Heartland in November, a number of club members and their families showed up at Ken Tomkins' acreage near South Cooking Lake where Ken and his wife Vikki hosted a group of about 40 individuals to a day of visiting, outside activities, and a tasty barbeque lunch. In addition to Ken and Vikki, Tom Speedie and Joe Radke were also involved with planning and setting up the event. Wagon rides around the site were lots of fun, along with the creation of a St. Patrick's Day snowman and other things that kept everyone busy and occupied. Thanks to everyone for getting this done, we used to have one of these every spring years ago and it is nice to see one of our traditional events happening again.
STRATHCONA COUNTY'S MULTI-PURPOSE AG FACILITY - The future of the county's long-planned multi-use agricultural facility has become much clearer over the past few months. The county has purchased additional land adjoining the existing Bremner farm site and has had some additional acreage donated by the province. The map below left is a bit fuzzy but it shows these areas with #'s 1, 2, and 3 (outlined in orange) being the newly-purchased land and the ER (environmental reserve) indicating the donated area alongside the creek & its valley. The existing 80-acres can be seen in the lower right hand part of that map (white lettering) where our pull track and hay/grain fields are shown along with the mansion farm site. Altogether now, there will be 270 acres in total available for the development, including what we now call "Bremner."
Exactly where the various parts of the facility will be located on the site is still to be officially announced, but we are guessing it will be in the newly-purchased 80-acre rectangular plot immediately north of our existing location. Planning will start up soon and continue into 2019 and hopefully construction will begin in 2020. The effect of all of this on our club is yet to be determined but we are sure that we will still be on the site once all the dust settles. We are unlikely to experience any significant changes to our own use of the location over the next two summers. The link below will open a 2016 article from The Strathcona County News which provides some information. The aerial view on the right above showing the facility plan is of the "regional" (second level) plan that is mentioned. No decision has been made yet as to which of the three proposed stages or plans mentioned in the article will be built. Here's the link: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/2016/10/27/agriculture-facility-planned
SVTA WORKING GROUPS - Every year we organize members who work together to take on certain tasks or organize various activities. We usually depend on volunteering at meetings for these positions since it is usually those that attend meetings that are most closely tied to what is happening. These groups would include the August pull and show organizing committee, the Bremner site maintenance team, and the hay & grain farming group. If you are interested in helping out with any of these, reply to Mike at (780)467-6973 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will make sure your name is passed along to the people involved.
2018 CLUB EVENTS AND DATES - As we move through the season, our club is involved with all kinds of activities, not only at the Bremner site but also away from there in the community and surrounding neighbourhoods. Members are kept current on what's happening by email so it is important to check your inbox now and then to be aware of what's coming up on the calendar. For those without computers and email service, we suggest that you keep in touch with a fellow club member who does receive that information. That way you won't miss out on important dates and events. The most important date is our annual Vintage Tractor Pull and Show which is happening on the weekend of August 25 and 26 at the Bremner Farm. More information on all of that will be sent out as the season moves along.
OUR FARMALL 'A' PROJECT - We mentioned in our last newsletter that we have an interesting tractor restoration project happening with students at Ardrossan High School. We purchased a 1941 Farmall 'A' tractor at a very reasonable price from Mr. Rod Lemiski some time ago and our intent was to fix it up and perhaps eventually include it as the main prize in one of our raffle endeavours. The idea of youngsters being involved was tossed around a bit and then club member Marc Normandeau arranged for one of his teacher friends, Mitch Bell, to take the project on along with his shop students from Ardrossan High School . The tractor arrived at the shop in early March and work is now progressing on the project. Marc himself has taken on the final prepping and painting of the tinwork while the students will do everything else.
We're not sure when things will be finished up or exactly how what we are going to do with the little tractor once it's done, the raffle is still a possibility . Funding for the project will be from a $2500 donation provided to our club in the fall of 2016 from Brett Young Seeds Ltd. from Red Deer. This all happened through a contest entry at the Red Deer Agricultural Show by our own Val Shillinglaw. Marc works at Aldon Auto Salvage in Lamont and they are also involved as a sponsor by providing a number of replacement parts at no charge. Thanks to everyone involved in this project, it's a great opportunity for us to get involved with something that the community will find very interesting.
THE PROCHNAU FAMILY OF BRUDERHEIM - All of us know our fellow club member Elmer Prochnau. Elmer has been a fixture in our club since day one and is always at our tractor pull and show as a puller and with his father's Rumley tractor and threshing machine which bring history alive when we thresh our Bremner grain crop from the previous year. Here is some history on the Prochnau family and the farm where Elmer and his wife Marg still live.
Imagine a living museum that requires no such recreation. Imagine such a museum where family artifacts are still in use. Imagine a museum where buildings, machinery and equipment span generations, thereby continuing to impart meaning to their owners. Such a place is SVTA club member Elmer Prochnau’s Century Farm at NW 20-55-20 W4. Here, there are echoes that trace the family’s involvement in Strathcona County’s history since their arrival in 1894.
Tucked in between a shed and the Prochnau’s main house is a log summerhouse, the original house that Elmer’s grandfather, Samuel, built upon his arrival. Much later, one of Samuel’s sons, Ludwig, moved the log house and attached it to his frame house that he built after his marriage in 1920. Ludwig was only two years old when his father, Samuel, and his mother, Caroline, emigrated from Volhynia, Russia. They were one of 14 Moravian farm families who left in search of religious freedom and land they could call their own.
A mid-summer frost that turned the unbroken sod white must have been discouraging for the newly arrived Moravians, but the immigrants had little choice other than to buckle down to the hard work that is the lot of the pioneer. They were desperately poor. If it had not been for Andreas Lilge, their self-styled leader, they may not have survived. It was Lilge’s ties to the Mennonite community in Altona, Manitoba that gave the fledgling Moravian settlement its start when the Mennonites donated a carload of food and livestock. It is said that the lineage of some Strathcona County cattle can be traced back to these cattle.
Meanwhile, some Moravian families filed on homestead land recently surrendered by the Papachase Band where Edmonton’s Mill Woods subdivision is now located. Others, like Samuel Prochnau took land northeast of Edmonton. By the time Elmer took over his father’s (Ludwig) farm in the 1960s, his grandfather’s old log house was in poor condition. Rather than tear it down, Elmer decided to restore it, replacing sill logs and insulating the building so that his wife, Margaret, could use it as a summer kitchen. On cooler days, Elmer heats the summerhouse with the same wood stove that was in his father’s home.
Close to the summerhouse is a modern shed where a 1912 Rumley tractor sits, bought in Saskatoon in 1914 by Elmer’s grandfather. When he got it home, his son, Ludwig, discovered that it was not working very well. He lifted out the crankshaft so that he could scrape the bearings. After that, the old Rumley served him well until 1924 when he bought a new Oil Pull Rumley. By then, Ludwig had his own farm, the one where Elmer and his wife, Margaret, now reside. This quarter-section had been homesteaded in 1897 by a cousin, also named Samuel Prochnau, and had gone through several owners before Ludwig bought it in 1919. Today, Elmer proudly displays the tractors at parades and, as a member of Strathcona Vintage Tractor Association, at the tractor pulls held each year at the historic Bremner house.
Ludwig invested heavily in his farm in the early years, and made shrewd purchases of machinery and equipment that Elmer still keeps. For example, Elmer still planes logs using the portable sawmill that his father purchased prior to his marriage in 1920. After he purchased the farm in 1919 from a cousin, Ludwig used the sawmill to build a new house for his bride, and all his farm buildings. His sawmill must have been one of the few in the district, for he did a lot a custom work for other farmers. Ludwig didn’t mind; in fact, he enjoyed helping people. When he purchased a small flour mill in 1929 to grind grain for his own use, he did custom grinding for his neighbours as well. The flour mill, although not used by Elmer now, is still in working order, stored in a corner of one of his sheds. In addition to doing custom lumber planning and flour grinding, Ludwig also did custom threshing throughout the area, pulling his threshing machine from farm to farm to help his neighbours bring in the harvest. Ludwig's portable sawmill is still used by his son, Elmer, on his Century Farm in Strathcona County.
Although he had only a few years of formal education, obtained at Deep Creek School, Ludwig was a natural when it came to working with machinery. The 1930s were difficult years, and Ludwig had to struggle to keep the farm. He couldn’t afford to buy a new feed cutter. So, he invented one! He fabricated many of the moving parts and after perfecting the shape and design of the wooden components, Ludwig had Coutts Foundry in Edmonton make casts. In his wood- and coal-fired blacksmith, he drilled, filed and forged parts for this feed cutter. The feed cutter proved to be such a success that seven other farmers in the district persuaded Ludwig to build them one as well. Always a bit of a “lone wolf”, Ludwig did things his own way and paid little attention to formalities. As a consequence, it appears that he did not apply for a patent on his feed cutter. Today, Elmer not only has the feed cutter but he has also saved the wood patterns of the gears that his father made.
“Dad was somebody in my books. He was a great person." Elmer says with a grin, “If you couldn’t sing, you probably weren’t the best kind of Moravian." His parent’s home was always filled with music. His mother sang while kneading bread dough, and Ludwig played his violin. Their second boy, Clarence, born in 1928, grew to be a gifted musician who taught school, and Elmer still has the piano that his mother bought so that Clarence and a sister, Elsie, could learn and, later, teach piano. Both earned their ARTC (Associate of The Royal Conservatory) diploma in piano from the Toronto Conservatory of Music. Elmer and a younger sister, Jeanette, also took piano lessons. “That piano has a lot of miles on it!” After some training, Elmer dropped his piano lessons. But once his own children were grown, he returned to music and had the old piano rebuilt. Now, Elmer sits down every day at the family piano that he keeps in Ludwig’s 1920 home, and tickles the ivories. A love of music and old artifacts are evident as well in the old pump organ, also in Ludwig’s house, stored there on a friend’s behalf. Next to it is a 100-year-old traveling organ—“You can fold it up like a suitcase”— that Clarence adopted for use in his classroom when the school at Namao was about to toss it out. Later, Elmer made a bench for the traveling organ from the shell of what had been at one time another organ. Elmer’s love of music led him to sing in a quartet, and of course, in the church choir. “I liked singing something that was difficult.”
Like his father, Elmer has an interest in all things mechanical. He was hired at Sherritt Gordon in Fort Saskatchewan at the age of 18. After working shift for seven years, Elmer grasped the chance when Sherritt Gordon offered to apprentice him as a machinist, a job he kept for 38 years until his retirement in 1999. Meanwhile, “I was a moonlight farmer,” he chuckles, having bought his father’s farm in 1967. His father, Ludwig the entrepreneur farmer and inventor, had stopped modernizing his farm when his custom threshing business died with the introduction of combines in the 1950s. So, in addition to holding a job at Sherritt Gordon, Elmer bought new equipment and purchased the quarter-section east of the farm and rented other land. Today, the Prochnau Century Farm is strictly into grain. Elmer hires someone to seed his land, although he still takeoff the crop on the home quarter himself.
RAS ANNUAL FARM/RURAL SAFETY SHOW (April 14) - Four of our club members manned the display booth at the annual Ardrossan Rec & Ag Society Farm and Rural Safety Fair held at the Rec Center on April 14. Rae MacMillan brought out one of his vintage Ford tractors and we had a slide shows compliments of Val Shillinglaw and Wayne Sloat. Val brought out his vintage Moline walk-behind breaking plow for our display. Mike Ballash also helped out and provided information brochures and kids tractor coloring pages for visitors.
Other groups with displays and presentations included the Alberta Farm Safety Program, Edmonton & Area Land Trust, Citizens on Patrol, Friends of Blackfoot Society, Strathcona County Emergency Services, Alberta Health Services,, Edmonton Area Pipeline & Utility Committee, Estafania Cortes-Vargas (MLA Strathcona-Sherwood Park), Strathcona County Library, Strathcona Pony Club, and the host group ARAS.
That's the tractor club news for this past winter and current spring. We will keep you posted on upcoming events and activities as the season moves along. Out next general meeting will be on Wednesday, May 16 at the Ardrossan Memorial Hall and we hope you can make it out. And don't forget to renew your membership. Until then, HAPPY TRACTORING and remember ...... "Most of the stuff people worry about isn't going to happen anyway."