It is with some trepidation that I undertake the task of writing a history of the first six years, 1989 through 1995, of Western Christian College in its new location at Dauphin, Manitoba. However, since it was not so much a matter of who would "bell the cat," but rather "who would be the cat," I accepted the challenge even though I knew it would be difficult to follow a historian as adept as Miss Torkelson. Since I have never kept a daily diary, I have had to depend on a number of sources for details of the events that have happened during the last six years.
Major sources of information include the Dauphin Herald, the Weyburn Review (to a lesser extent), The Messenger, The Alumni Reporter, the Gospel Herald, Academic reports to the Board of Directors, my own letters to parents that were sent out regularly with report cards, items listed in the annual Year Books, recorded details contained in graduation programs and information detailed in other handouts for such events as homecomings, lectureships, musical performances, youth rallies, etc.
In addition to these sources, I have relied heavily on information turned over to me by individuals including Vince Anderson, Bob Andreas, Don Husband and others who provided details of many events not listed in the above named documents.
I am also indebted to many individuals who helped collect data from school records. My deep appreciation is extended to Karen Close, Carole Harvey and Cheryl Cox for their generous help in this respect. Also, special thanks is extended to Bill and Betty Hart who kept a scrapbook of all items appearing in the various publications, especially the Dauphin Herald newspaper.
Above all, I wish to say "thank you" to my wife, Helen, who searched through stacks of files and other records and duplicated, sorted and categorized an endless volume of material, so that the job of producing this historical record might be much easier and indeed possible. Especially do I want to express my appreciation to two typists, Lorraine Murray who typed and retyped "Diary Update" and made it available on computer discs, and Helen, who typed all of "A Vision Splendid" and "Radburn's Memoirs" into the computer so that this mass of material could be submitted to the printers in a state of readiness for preparing the printing plates.
May I remind the readers that each section of this "historical record" was written at a different time during the span of years covered, and therefore that each section has its "dated peculiarities" relative to the time period during which it was written.
THE MOVE TO DAUPHIN
While Miss Torkelson has presented her viewpoint of the move from Weyburn, Saskatchewan to Dauphin, Manitoba, I would like in this section to provide a second perspective of that event. I trust that our readers will understand that these are "personal views," and that if any other persons were doing the writing, the descriptions would be different for each one.
At the Annual Meeting in October 1988, the chairman of the board painted a very bleak picture of the financial condition of Western. Over a period of several years a back debt of some $420,000.00 had accumulated. That figure alone was enough to shock everyone present at the meeting. There was a strong feeling by the board that we could not go on with this kind of debt hanging over us. Interest payments were eroding financial contributions so that it was becoming more and more difficult to keep up with operating expenses over and above fees collected from students. There were present at that meeting about 300 shareholders and friends of the school. I recall going out to the parking lot and observing the large number of vehicles parked there. I also noticed that out of all of them, only three or four were very old. I estimated in my mind that most of the vehicles would have a value of from $12,000.00 to $15,000.00. Multiplying the number of vehicles by that estimated value, I came up with a cost of well over $1,000,000.00. This did not take into consideration the motor homes, campers and vans that were parked out at the college rink. The thought came to me "why are we thinking of closing Western because of a debt load of $420,000.00 when we have driven in comfort to the meeting in well over a million dollars worth of vehicles. We buy cars because we feel they are a necessary item. Is Christian education a necessary item? I believe everyone present at the meeting believed that Christian Education was absolutely vital for our children. I asked myself the question: "What has happened to our priorities?"
The bleakness of the situation was expressed in a headline in the Weyburn Review which in essence said: "WESTERN IN DIRE STRAITS." Enrollment was at its lowest level in about 20 years. An urgent letter from Lowell Hodgson, chairman of the board of directors, asked that all shareholders attend the annual meeting to discuss the "critical financial situation." To add to the financial crisis, a news release from Lowell Hodgson indicated that the entire campus of MacKay Residential School in Dauphin, Manitoba was up for sale by the Federal Government, and that tenders on the property would be called for in the near future.
I personally felt that if we really wanted Western to continue, there was no alternative but to clear off the back debt of $420,000.00. This did not seem to me to be an impossible task, especially if everyone pulled together. After all, 420 people each giving $1,000.00 would clear the books of this problem. I knew that some could not afford that amount, but if we all did what we were able to do, some more and some less, we could have a fresh start, financially.
As for the idea of moving to Dauphin, I was not in favour of such a prospect. In fact my remark to Helen at that time was "Why not go a little farther north and rent some igloos"; after all, Dauphin was so far north, that would make sense. However, after looking at a map, I noticed that Dauphin was only about 60 miles north of Regina, and everyone knows that everything south of Saskatoon is in Southern Saskatchewan. So I swallowed my words and my pride and looked for other good reasons why the school should remain in Weyburn. I was not in favour of the move!
The lectureship weekend in retrospect became a turning point in the history of Western. A total of $70,000.00 was raised Saturday evening at what was called "gift night." Many of us felt that for the size of the audience and the urgency of the situation, this was not enough. If we really wanted to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in, we needed to increase that amount substantially before the weekend was over. I am glad I was a part of a group of "thirteen" who decided among them selves to add another $29,000.00 and urge the brethren present to dig deeper and increase the amount. To our delight, the total rose to $130,000.00 by the end of the Sunday afternoon service. Brethren really did believe in Christian Education after all!! What a thrill! Helen and I later decided that we would write a letter to members of the alumni and shareholders and urge everyone to get behind the school financially. I do not know how much help came in as a result of our letters. We did receive two responses that were significant, both from senior Christians. A dear Sister from Thessalon, Ontario sent a cheque for $1000,00 and a brother from Regina (who had given previously) sent $1,000.00. We received a few smaller gifts through our mail and many others sent funds directly to Western. Hope was building that we really could salvage Christian education in Western Canada. The November issue of the Messenger had this to say about the weekend: "Despite these present financial problems, there was a spirit of unity and agreement as to the importance of Western which charged the week end's activities with excitement."
During the fall months the board tendered a bid on the Dauphin campus along with several special conditions that had to be met before the deal was final. Among those stipulated conditions was the ratification of the proposal by the shareholders by March 31, 1989. The bids on the property closed on November 16, and the Department of Public Works recommended to the Federal Government Treasury Department that Western's bid of $200,000.00 be accepted. The government decision had come through much more rapidly than usual. However, chairman Hodgson assured the Corporation member ship via the Messenger that opportunities would be provided for full and complete discussion of the matter.
In the meantime my own attitude toward the move began to mellow when we purposely made a trip to Dauphin to see for ourselves what was there that was being made available to Western. I have to admit that after seeing the property first hand, both inside and out, I was ove whelmed that so much was being made available to us for so few dollars. I began to feel that God was having a real part in the destiny of the school.
After six years I still have many nostalgic feelings about the Weyburn campus. However, I have resigned myself to the reality that the board really had no alternative but to move the school. When hundreds of Christians pray diligently over a lengthy period of time for Divine guidance in a matter, then I must accept what seems inevitable as the Lord works things out in a certain direction. As I look back I believe the move was according to the Lord's will.
When word reached the Weyburn town council that there was the possibility of Western moving away from their city, efforts were made to come up with some alternative plan that would help the board change its mind. A hastily put together plan was for the school to move into the north-west wing of the Souris Valley Regional Care Centre. I was personally skeptical about such a plan because of the number of conditions that were attached. When the cost of such an arrangement was revealed, $177,000.00 per year for paying back for renovations and $475,000.00 rent, plus higher priced meals for students, I couldn't help but think that someone has been misled about our financial resources. I don't think anyone took that offer seriously. I couldn't help but think, "they've got to be joking." At any rate that alternative was not given serious consideration.
Town hall meetings were arranged under the direction of Bob Andreas who had been appointed by the board as Project Manager and Move Co-ordinator. As Miss Torkelson has reported in her diary update, a special meeting of the membership was requested in a petition signed by 24 shareholders. The meeting was to be for the purpose of informing the membership regarding all recent developments, options and recommendations of the board. This meeting was then scheduled to take place during the Homecoming activities.
I had resigned myself to the reality of Western disappearing from the Weyburn scene. For the past several months I had been doing construction work for the Ken Cugnet family, building sheds to protect oil well equipment from the winter weather. Sometime in early spring when most of my "carpenter work" was finished, I received a phone call from Vince Anderson, President of Western, asking me if I would be able to accompany the Western Chorus group on a tour of Manitoba, part of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia during spring break. After considerable thought about the request, I finally consented and immediately began to prepare a slide preparation to give during each performance. The theme of the presentation was that much of what we spend our time, effort and money on "Comes to Pass." Material things rust and decay and wear out and leave us with an empty feeling. Time, effort and money spent on children and youth in Christian Education goes on through life and into eternity. Investment in "people" is the only investment that is everlasting. Each time I made the presentation to congregations along the route, I became more convinced in my own mind, based on our experience with our family, that investment in our youth is the greatest investment we can make. Each year as we experience new things, I am more and more convinced that this is true. Christian Education doesn't cost! It pays great dividends!
About a week before we left on the chorus tour I received a second phone call from Vince Anderson, asking me if I would consider taking on the responsibility of principal and move with the school to Dauphin. It is amazing how complicated retirement can be. After discussing this with Helen, mostly by phone as I travelled on the tour, we finally consented to take on that responsibility, and upon returning to Weyburn, set about with house renovations so our place could be rented out, and packing our belongings in preparation for the move with the school. On August 1, 1989, at 10 a.m. Sunday morning, after driving all night, we pulled into Dauphin with our belongings, and set about organizing what seemed like a thousand things in preparation for school to begin early in September.
In the meantime there was a steady stream of trucks and trailers making the trip back and forth to the new site of Western Christian College. One load in particular that I remember was the semi-load of library books that had to be loaded and transported to Dauphin. I found out later that the load was so heavy that, when it was finally parked on the pavement beside the buildings at the new site, the rear wheels sank into the pavement about three inches.
The job of moving was made much easier because of so many volunteers from the Weyburn area who came day after day to help pack books, lab equipment, office records and everything else that had to be moved. I recall that one of the helpers was Brother Norman Straker. During the packing of the library, many of the bookshelves full of library books were prepared for transportation by nailing sheets of plywood across the front. One of these shelves began to tip over, and Brother Straker was right in line with the direction of fall. I quickly gave him a push out of the way and he fell headlong on top of a pile of cardboard boxes lying on the floor. That however was the desirable choice since he could have had several broken bones if the several hundred pounds of books had landed on him.
Loads of materials and equipment continued to flow east even after students had arrived for the fall semester. Most of us did not realize how much "stuff" had accumulated over the years, but as the move progressed, it became obvious that the volume of material exceeded all expectations.
It is fitting at this point to include a few descriptive paragraphs from others who were closely involved in this major task. I have asked two men to highlight events that stand out in their memory about the months preceding the move to Dauphin, and the process involved in the transition from the Saskatchewan location and educational system to that of Manitoba. Vince Anderson, President of Western, and Bob Andreas, Project Manager and Move Co-ordinator, were both at the centre of the myriad of activities, meetings, interviews, consultations, decisions and scheduling activities involved in this transition period. I have utmost respect for both of these men and the tremendous load that each of them carried during the latter part of 1988 and through 1989.
Included here are some of the highlights mentioned in information provided by Vince Anderson, who was appointed President in April, 1988, when the indebtedness stood at over $420,000.00. One of his first priorities was re-organization which Vince described as a "painful process," since it involved job cuts in an attempt to reduce operational costs and the debt load. Among his early challenges were such items as:
1. Meeting with officials of City council and the Provincial Government who were attempting to hold the school in Saskatchewan;
2. Searching for a new principal to replace Jack Close who had resigned in order to return to full-time teaching; and a new girls' dormitory supervisor since Karen Close had earlier resigned that position.
3. Holding town hall meetings and fund raising dinners (He and/or Bob Andreas met with shareholders and alumni in all of the four Western provinces);
4. An endless number of meetings, interviews and consultations with the Hamlet board, the board of directors, present staff members, bank and insurance companies and other groups regarding the implications of the move.
Other activities in which Vince was involved included selecting replacement faculty and staff, arranging for ballots for the membership vote on whether or not the move should take place, meetings with Provincial government officials and Dauphin Town Council in Manitoba, speaking at the Carman lectureship on the values of Christian education, travelling to various congregations in U.S.A. regarding continuing support for the Bible program, and a host of other activities that occurred on a daily basis.
There were many specific areas to be cleared up regarding teacher accreditation, a pension plan for all employees, and student recruiting in the absence of a P.R. person. Glen McMillan was chosen to spearhead the "debt-reduction" pro gram. Three congregations in Saskatchewan agreed to allow their full-time preachers to take part in student recruiting in three Western provinces. John Smith from Yorkton agreed to cover Manitoba; Allen Close was assigned to Saskatchewan and Dale Elford was to cover Alberta. Roger Peterson agreed to come out of retirement and take over the position of Principal. Bob Andreas forged ahead with arrangements for the moving of all equipment and supplies.
On March 1, 1989 the ballots on the question of whether or not to move Western were counted and the results tabulated. In summary, 713 ballots were mailed out to shareholders, asking for a vote of "yes or "no" regarding the move. An overwhelming 86% of 638 ballots that had been returned favoured the move to Dauphin. Only 82 ballots opposed the move, while 6 ballots had been spoiled. As a result of the support for the move, the stage was set for the monstrous task of moving the school "lock, stock and barrel," about 450 kilometres to the new campus in Dauphin. The "fun" was about to begin!
By June 1989 a number of milestones had been reached. A number of staff members had decided that they were going to move with the school, arrangements were made for an auction sale of all items not needed in Dauphin, and the deficit reduction program had gone well with $245,900.00 or 58.5% of the total needed having been raised.
On June 29, 1989 Vince and Stacey Anderson and family made the move to the Dauphin cam pus to begin preparations for the opening of school in September. In the days that followed, one by one, the "pioneer families" packed and moved their belongings to the new site of Western.
I asked Bob Andreas, who was appointed by the Board to act as Project Manager and Move Co-ordinator, to highlight some of the more dramatic events that he experienced during his involvement with the transition from Weyburn to Dauphin. Because of the historical nature of many of the events, I will record here some of Bob's observations relative to the events that transpired during several months of 1989.
Agonies of the Board of Directors:
"I believe the Board did a good job of filling its leadership role, as good as it has on many of the tougher issues over the years. I believe that the Board had the following characteristics during this time:
1. A very business-like, yet godly chairman in the person of Lowell Hodgson. He made sure the board functioned as a board should, while at the same time being sensitive to the feelings of those who disagreed with some decisions.
2. Major decisions after much lively discussion enjoyed unanimous support of all members." (The above comments are paraphrased.)
Concerns of the Board:
Bob mentioned three concerns that faced the board during these days of rapid change:
1. The political climate in Weyburn and Saskatchewan with impending provincial and civic elections.
2. Rumours of Western moving had surfaced previously in the mid-70's.
3. As many as five other proposals were in the wind and had to be considered by the board.
All proposals, three for remaining in Weyburn and two alternative sites in Saskatchewan, were given sincere hearings by the Board but were not acceptable and were not as attractive as the Dauphin proposal. In the meantime the Dauphin community and Town Council received the news of a possible move with warmth and enthusiasm. As these many events and alternatives transpired, chairman Hodgson tried to keep people openly and honestly informed when information was available.
In order to inform the membership about the opportunity of purchasing the Dauphin property and the alternatives that were offered in Weyburn, the board decided to arrange for "town hall meetings" in centres where a number of shareholders could attend. Consequently Bob Andreas was asked to arrange and chair these meetings in centres from Victoria to Winnipeg. According to Bob, a total of 23 meetings were held in the weeks that followed. Much of Bob's travel to distant points was by Air Canada, thanks to a special arrangement through Keith Hoover, vice president of Air Canada, with whom Bob had worked on a Saskatchewan Tourism board. As a result, much of the travel was done at 35 to 45% of regular cost. This enabled the meetings to be conducted in a much reduced time frame. "Even though the discussions at times were lively and sometimes 'heated,'" as Bob said, "the prevailing mood was sincere concern and a genuine desire to understand the Board's recommendations."
The tender for the Dauphin property was submitted by the deadline in November 1988. The bid was to be accompanied by a 10% deposit and was to be unconditional. Because of by-law restrictions it was necessary to submit the bid with several specific conditions. These included acceptable accreditation, a feasible pension plan for staff, the services of the engineer, Tom Bloomfield, to train personnel to operate the new plant, some suitable arrangements with the city for rink facilities and some property tax concessions, possibility of registration in Manitoba as an educational institution, and ratification by a minimum of 75% of the society membership. Government officials were skeptical that the membership would ratify the deal by 75%.
When a contract was finally agreed upon, it was a surprise to the board that much more was included in the deal than had been originally anticipated. The "possession date" was extended by six months; additional improvements were completed at no cost to Western; maintenance on vehicles was upgraded; furnace oil tanks were filled; and the engineer's six-month service agreement didn't begin until the takeover date.
Included in the property were two school buses, a van, a tractor, a pickup truck, and a lawn tractor. The amount of supplies and equipment inside the buildings was also surprising, including an abundance of Maytag washers and dryers, office furniture, a complete computer setup, a Xerox copy machine, kitchen and dining room dishes, pots and pans, cutlery, etc., beds and bedroom furniture (some of limited value) auditorium chairs, filing cabinets, typewriters, etc.
"Moving was done bit by bit with a 16 ft. flatbed trailer. In addition, a large semi trailer owned by Goliath Trucking from Calgary, was brought to the campus at Weyburn by Jack Mooney. The entire library was loaded into this trailer. Walter Seibel also brought his tractor/trailer and hauled two trailer loads of desks and dormitory furniture on one weekend. Lab tables were dismantled and reassembled at the new facility. The 'liberty bell', which had been donated by Morris and Marie Taylor, and the W.C.C. sign, items which were considered to be important landmarks of the Western campus, were loaded on the flatbed and transported to the new campus at Dauphin. Some items included in the Dauphin property that were not needed for the school were brought back to Weyburn to be sold later at a huge auction sale conducted by Bob and Ivadelle Good in the WCC rink.
Most of the renovations required to the new facilities were for housing of dormitory supervisor's families. Previous supervisors at MacKay had been single personnel. Some classrooms were divided with new partitions. The administration area was moved and renovated. A chapel was developed and science labs installed. Many people came to assist with cleaning and painting in the dormitories. Several seniors, Herb Start, Mickel Jacobs, Pete Johnson, Harry Meakes and Leonard Bailey were as faithful and conscientious as anyone on the project. Dauphin ladies Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Hegdahl, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Smith were very diligent in providing lunch and coffee for volunteers who came to work.
Bob Andreas concluded his comments on the move to Dauphin with these words: "Someone has said that there are six phases to a project: enthusiasm; disillusionment; panic; search for the guilty; punishment of the innocent and praise and honour for the non-participants. I believe we have been through all these phases." He concluded his remarks with a word of tribute to his father Ernest who taught him the value of putting out the extra effort, and to his family whose untiring support helped carry him through an impossible schedule that was fraught with much criticism by some who looked on.
It is interesting at this point to read again some of the articles contained in the Dauphin Herald, the weekly newspaper of the Dauphin area. As early as December 13, 1988, a major front page headline read "Dauphin will get Christian college," even though that decision was not to come until over three painful and emotional months later. Some highlights from the news article are stated here:
"Dauphin-Swan River MP Brian White said he was told by Public Works Canada officials that the decision was made between the West Region Tribal Council and the Saskatchewan based group."
"The two groups were the only ones to submit tendered bids for the 14-acre multi-building site. The 30-year-old facility was closed June 30 by the Department of Indian Affairs."
The January 3, 1989 issue of the Herald was quick to follow with additional comments: "Top l5 Herald stories of 1988 - Mackay sold." A February 7, 1989 issue headline read "Weyburn trying to hold school with incentives," under which were these statements:
"Saskatchewan MLA Lorne Hepworth offered the college the northwest wing of the Souris Valley Regional Care Centre, with additional guarantees for major renovations and a new gymnasium. Frank Jennings, the chairman of the Weyburn economic development committee and a city council member said the college will be missed if it leaves."
On March 17 the announcement came out: "Private school prepares for Dauphin move." The March 1989 issue of the Gospel Herald carried an article written by Manley Jacobs, one of the first board members, who served on the board for 19 years. Manley expressed his confidence in the present board in these words: "My own opinion is that the school now has a board of directors and a president who are qualified and capable of bringing this matter to a successful conclusion." Not all shareholders agreed with his viewpoint.
On March 14, 1989 the Dauphin Herald reprinted an article from the Weyburn Review which bore this headline: "No bitterness expressed." The writer of the article said:
"It came as no surprise to anyone when Western Christian College shareholders last week voted by a substantial majority to move the secondary school facility to Dauphin, Manitoba."
" - The college had an offer that could not be turned down, and it is difficult to imagine our community offering an acceptable alternative, such as a multi-million dollar facility, for a pittance."
" - In the meantime let's be grateful for three decades of W.C.C's presence here, offer everyone connected with the school congratulations on their good fortune, and wish them well in the future."
On March 21 it was announced in the Herald that the Dauphin town council "promised the Western Christian College more than $90,000.00 in grants and concessions to woo the school to town." "Western will receive $30,000.00 per annum for the next three years. Council will also give Western a 10-acre property tax exemption on the school grounds. Council also promised to help Western secure lower rental rates for DMCC ice for the school's hockey team as well."
It is interesting how distorted newspaper reporting can become. On June 21, 1989, the Winnipeg Free Press printed an article entitled "Overflowing subsidies," in which the following erroneous statement was made by a reporter:
"Mr. Derkach has rapidly increased government grants to private schools at every opportunity. Any private school that hires certified teachers can now bill the province $1,672.00 per year for each student enrolled."
" - Western Christian school, formerly located in Saskatchewan, is now moving to Dauphin to take advantage of Mr. Derkach's largesse. The students will board in town."
" - When schools are moving to Manitoba to get the grants, they are giving Mr. Derkach a message. His grants are lavish far beyond the modest amounts needed to keep private schools going. The way to stop the spillage is to stop filling the bin above the brim."
Sometimes it is wise to keep one's mouth shut lest one's ignorance be made evident. This reporter would have done well to determine the true facts of the situation before "running off at the mouth." Private schools, by taking on the responsibility of teaching Manitoba students, save the Manitoba government several hundred dollars per year of money it would have to spend if those students were enrolled in the public school system.
Fortunately this editorial from the Free Press was dealt with very frankly in the June 22 Dauphin Herald. The article stated:
"It appears as if the W.F.P. is unaware that the Western Christian College was far more interested in an attractive piece of real estate - the former Mackay Indian residential school - than it was in Manitoba's support for Christian or other types of private colleges."
" - Perhaps if the Free Press editorial writers were to view the property and buildings which the college bought from the federal government for a song there would be no question as to why the institution is moving to Dauphin."
The controversy over government grants did not subside for some time. Previous to the arrival of Western, a grant had been given for all students enrolled in private institutions. Most schools had Manitoba students. When Western arrived with a potential influx of out-of-province students, the government officials began to take a hard look at their past policies. In reality the administration of Western had not expected to receive a grant for students enrolled from outside the province. The grant of $1672.00 was lower than what had been received in Saskatchewan, $1870.00 per Saskatchewan student. It was aptly pointed out in published articles in the Herald by college officials that much of the revenue for operating Western did not come from grants, but from other sources such as student fees and free-will contributions. More about school grants will follow as we deal with developments in chronological order.
On May 28, 1989 the entire student body of Western was brought to Dauphin to tour the facility and have a personal look at the new campus. It was felt by the administration that this trip would allay any fears students might have about returning to Western in the fall of 1989.
James Willet announced his retirement early in June after serving with the college for 21 years. James gave as his reason his health problems. He said. "While I am still doing pretty well, I am finding things a bit more of a burden all the time." James had been director of the choral program for all of the years he served as teacher at Western.
As indicated elsewhere, the summer of 1989 was extremely busy for everyone connected with the school. The final graduation exercises were held at Weyburn, and the farewell banquet was filled with nostalgic memories of the past. The sun was setting on the Weyburn era and was about to rise on the new campus in Dauphin, Manitoba. In the meantime, fund raising dinners continued and the job of moving progressed well so that by early September when students began to arrive, at least there was some semblance of similarity between the Western of yesteryears and the new Western at Dauphin, Manitoba.