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As has become our tradition, Friday evening was a special evening about our Mennonite history, with Dr. Ted Regehr, as our guest speaker. Again that brought out a good audience.
John Reddekopp, President of the MHSS Board, welcomed everyone. Susan Braun, the Treasurer, made some announcements about membership and tax receipts for donations, then John Reddekopp prayed the invocational prayer.
At this point, Jake Buhler and Leonard Doell joined John and called up Vera and Werner Falk. They gave a fine tribute to Vera - and Werner, her right hand, and presented her with a plaque of recognition and gratitude for her 26 years of faithful service on the Board, most of them as Secretary. (See the full tribute here: Tribute to Vera Falk).
For special music Ben Buhler played his guitar and sang "Turn, Turn, Turn." Ben told us that Art Zacharias had passed away 11 days ago, bringing to an end their quartet , Joy Singers. However, Ben's brother Jake Buhler joined him and they sang as a duet, "I Will Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills." Ben's wife, Diane, accompanied them on the piano.
Jake Buhler introduced Dr. Ted Regehr, who was a part of the birth of the MHSS, and taught in our university. So he is one of us - even if he lives in Alberta now.
Ted retold our history stories to us, particularly, of the major Mennonite migrations. First the arrival of the original settlers in the Rosthern area and then the Hague-Osler Reserve.
But then in July of 1924, Dr. Ted Regehr there was an outgoing migration of Mennonites from this area to go to Mexico - because of the German School issue.
In the 1920s there were more incoming migrations of Mennonites occurred when many were desperate to escape the persecution and hard times in South Russia.The first wave was known as the Rosenorter Group. The later ones was referred to as the Russländers.
Ted talked also, of the facilitators, such as Jack Y. Shantz, an Ontario business man with Mennonite roots, who helped the first waves of Mennonites get to Manitoba. There was Gerhard Ens, of Rosthern, who helped those coming to Saskatchewan. Peter Janzen was an agent in Russia, who influenced many there to choose to come to Canada. He helped some settle in Kansas in the USA, as well.
Of course, David Toews was known for his work with the migrants of the 1920s, and his negotiations for their travel loans from the CPR railway.
Most of these turning point events will come up for major anniversaries in the next ten years. We can expect to hear more as big events are likely to be planned.
A Question & Answer period showed that the audience was paying close attention.
This was followed by coffee and refreshments, which allowed for visiting.
On Saturday morning at 9:30 am. the Annual Business meeting took place with reports from all the departments. (If you wish to read those in detail, you may ask for a copy).
Board elections resulted in some being reelected, Dick Braun returning after a year off, and Harold Loewen, as a new Board member.
Generally the reports were positive and very encouraging! Those under the impression that an Annual Meeting is boring would be quite surprised.
After a coffee break we returned to our seats at 11 am. Leonard Doell introduced Victor Wiebe, who is well-known in our circle for his storytelling ability. He did not disappoint!
Victor told us the true story - though with many twists and turns - of Henry P. Friesen and Isaac Braun. This was in the newspapers as the Friesen - Braun Trials. It was odd as Mennonites do not normally take each other to court. Thus it embarrassed many and caused some to take sides.
A little booklet was published, but Victor's research uncovered more details. He was not done checking all the facts yet, so another book may need to be written about this story!
A Question & Answer time after Victor's story Victor Wiebe proved that most of us had not heard or read the details of this story. Real interest was aroused.
Ted Regehr was asked for his response as well.
We took a break for a delicious lunch by our favourite caterer, Helena Ens. (When asked for her recipe for that wonderful soup, she said it would be hard to recall all the ingredients, as it was original).
For our afternoon session at 1:25 pm, Dick Braun was the chairman. He introduced the Collaboratorium, (a new word), which was a History project of Dr. Keith Carlson, Head of the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan, working together with organizations such as ours, to provide internship jobs for History students, so they can learn to collect oral and written stories of various people groups. Dr. Carlson presented the start of the project.
Harris Ford, the student who worked with MHSS last summer, reported on the things he did, and how he learned so much from the stories of 11 seniors Dick Braun lined up. Harris interviewed and recorded them on his cellphone Harris Ford - then spent about six hours transcribing each of those recordings for written records. These are on a large database at the university, but we may have access to that information at any time.
He also scanned many of the earliest issues of our Historian, and digitized two church books.