Murray Steelcraft V-Front Pedal Car

For as long as adults have been driving, kids have been pedalling. All the way back to 1890 and the dawn of the automobile, every make and model had its tiny, child-powered twin, from the Mercedes Benz to the Model T Ford.

Like the first automobiles, early factory-made pedal cars were toys for the wealthy, and they showed it. Most were perfect copies of the full-sized versions, from carefully-painted trim to real rubber tires (sometimes including a spare) to licence plates and working horns and headlights.

The pedal car was wildly popular from the turn of the century all the way to 1960s, with a small break in the middle for World War 2, when steel was requisitioned for the war effort. After the war, general prosperity and improvements in manufacturing meant that kids of all classes could afford to pedal a mini-Studebaker or a pint-sized Pontiac through their cul-de-sac.

Our own model is a Murray Steelcraft V-Front, manufactured somewhere between 1960 and 1968. Murray Steelcraft were one of two major North American pedal car makers, both based in Ohio.  The V-Front design was based loosely the American muscle car, which at the time was synonymous with speed and machismo. When it was new our pedal car probably had painted details, like headlights, racing stripes, or the brand name painted on the side, but now these are covered with a layer of red barn paint. The only indication of the manufacturer is a small “M” stamped on the hubcaps.

The 1960s were the last great age of the metal pedal car. In the 1970s the arrival of the plastic Big Wheel and Cozy Coupe, along with improved health and safety standards, caused sales to decline sharply. Companies were forced to diversify; in the 1970s Steelcraft of Murray switched to producing lawn mowers.

Each pedal car, like our little metal Murray, is a microcosm of their time and the kids that coveted and pedalled them. They tell us what they were supposed to learn, what they dreamed of being when they grew up, and how they spent their time. Whether it’s a wooden wagon or a metal car or a plastic plane or a virtual-reality fighter jet, kids (and adults) love things that go– a rule that applied in 1960, and still does today.


Fernie Musuem- 5th November 2017

For most of us, it’s just butter: innocuous stacks of foil-wrapped bricks or plastic tubs, scooped out of the dairy case without a second thought. When we do think of it, maybe it’s as delicious, creamy saturated sunshine, or the obscene product of an unsustainable food dictatorship, or possibly just that stuff you spread on your toast; what it hardly ever is, in our minds, is the product of hours of heavy manual labour. But until relatively recently, that’s exactly what it was.

It takes about four gallons of whole cow’s milk to make one pound of butter. A hundred years ago, when our churn was patented, every drop would have to be squeezed out of a cow by hand, usually at a godawful hour of the morning.

Once that was done, the cream was collected. Milk sat until the cream floated to the top and was painstakingly skimmed.

Then it was time to churn. Before the industrial revolution, this was done with a plunger churn (bucket with a stick in it) or by putting the butter in a barrel or a bag on a rope and swinging it back and forth until the cream coagulated. In the 18th and 19th century, dairies began to use high technology: rotary churns with cranks and cog-driven paddles like the one in our collection.

How-ever it was done, the basic principle of butter-making is the same: beat the daylights out of it. At a certain point, as anyone who has over-whipped cream knows, your cream will transform from soft, delightful peaks to wet, yellow lumps. Drain the watery residue (A.K.A, buttermilk), squeeze the many lumps into one, and there you have it: butter.

Because it was such a common and labour-intensive task, churning was a prime candidate for mechanization, and patents for rotary butter churns abounded. One of these was taken out by Mr. E.B. Jones, who invented a small glass churn for home use around the turn of the 19th century. After a couple of years, Nathan Dazey, a more entrepreneurial sort, bought Jones’s business, gave it his own name, and moved it to St. Louis, Missouri. Dazey diversified into butter churns of all sizes, from the original kitchen-sized jar to our farm-sized four-gallon metal model, which, according to its stamp, was patented on December 18, 1917.

It’s a solid machine, with four sturdy legs, a heavy iron crank-handle, and a sizeable churning-paddle that looks like a tiny wooden boat propeller. There is also a handy tap on the bottom to drain off the buttermilk (Fun Fact: originally, most of the cream used to make butter had fermented slightly, which is why modern buttermilk is laced with lactic acid to give it the sour tang).

Yes, Dazey churns were made to last- good news for museums and hand-churned butter enthusiasts, because the Dazey Co. stopped making churns in 1945, when the numbers of people moving to cities, and modernized industrial farming made home butter manufacture inefficient.

But how did a churn, made around 1917 in St Louis, find its way to the Fernie Museum a hundred years later?

According to Cathy Crewe, the original owner, our churn was originally used in the dairy at the Hutterite Colony near Pincher Creek. It was found by her father, George Crewe, who was a farm and automotive parts salesman and a collector of oddities and antiques. One day, visiting the farm to sell tractor parts, George discovered the churn in one of the barns, where it was waiting to be thrown away. George rescued the churn, dusted it off, and brought it home to be added to his many treasures. Eventually, Cathy inherited the churn along with the rest of her father’s collection and gave it to her friend Lori Bradish. Lori donated the churn to the Fernie and District Historical Society, where it lives today. Its handles and paddle still turn, and if you open the lid and stick your head inside, you can smell a very faint odour of cheese.

The Dazey churns like it are a reminder, not just of how our butter was once made, but of an entire rural way of life that is rapidly fading from memory. So, next time you’re grabbing a stick, a pound, or a tub, give a thought for all those sore, sweaty generations who milked, hauled, skimmed, and churned the delicious dairy fats of our past.

The object has been acquired by the Fernie Museum for its education collection.  With its strong history related to the Pincher Creek area, it falls outside the geographical range of the museum’s collection policy.  It is, however, in excellent condition and makes great object for hands-on use by students and the general public in museum programming.

The Fernie Museum recognizes the value of using artifacts and specimens in public and school programs. These programs require objects that can be operated or handled by staff, volunteers, and the public, and that, ultimately, may be expendable. To fulfil this need, the museum has established an education collection.

Artifacts or specimens designated as part of a education collection must:

  • fulfil a program need;
  • be appropriate to the program;
  • be demonstrated to be expendable (e.g. a duplicate with no defined purpose, over representation in the collection);
  • be safe to use;
  • not contravene legislation (e.g. firearms).

The Fernie Museum wishes to thank Lori Bradish, our Program Coordinator for many years, for the donation of the butter churn to our education collection, and also recognizes Cathy Crewe for her contribution.


The snake wraps itself leisurely around the cane, green scales gleaming. Its delicate red tongue flickers upward, as though forever looking for the hand that wields it. Above its head, crossed flags bar its way: one a Union Jack, the other a Canadian Red Ensign. Below the tip of its tail, a .303 rifle cartridge points toward the ground.

The cane is a twin-one half of a perfect pair. Both are works of patient, scrupulous effort. They are the kind of project reserved for someone with time, which is no surprise: the carver was a prisoner. Innocent of any crime but his name and birthplace, he had been branded an enemy, arrested, and locked away. Whoever he was, he had time to spare.

During World War I, under the War Measures Act, the government of Canada labelled anyone of Austro-Hungarian, German or Turkish origin “enemy aliens”. Over 8,000 were rounded up and sent to internment camps across Canada, including one at Morrissey. Another 80,000 people were forced to carry identification papers and report monthly to the local authorities. With the stroke of a pen, thousands of Canadians found themselves prisoners of war within their own country.

Conditions in the camps were simultaneously difficult and deadly dull. Between bouts of hard labour, internees took up woodcarving to pass the time, producing ships in bottles, chessboards, and musical instruments. Walking canes, especially those with a snake motif, were popular projects, made at the Vernon and Edgewood camp as well as Morrissey. The canes are heavy with symbolism: crossed swords, flags, hearts, crowns, crosses, deer, oak and holly leaves (the oak had special meaning for German prisoners). The snakes themselves may have symbolized health, wisdom and long life, a reference to the Rod of Asclepius or Moses’ staff. Cartridges were often used as tips, for durability as well as novelty value.

Most are inscribed with the date and place of carving, as well as the person for whom it was intended. One of the Morrissey canes reads, “Mrs W.C Cavanaugh”, the other “Mrs. R. B. Good”. Both are, “In Memory of the Great European War 1914-16”

At the time the canes were made, Mary Cavanaugh was 55.  Beatrice Good, her housekeeper, was 25, and a widow. Mary’s husband William Charlie Cavanaugh was a locomotive engineer for the Morrissey, Fernie and Michel Railway, which is probably how he had contact with the camp. Pieces of camp art were often given as gifts to kind guards or officers or sold outside the camp to earn money. Did Charlie Cavanaugh earn the gratitude of an internee? Or did he simply commission the canes as a gift for his wife? We may never know.

However, if we know little about those who received the canes, we know even less about the individuals who carved them. They are covered in information: the exact dates, locations, and future owners are all there, and yet the canes are frustratingly silent as to the identities, thoughts or opinions of the men who carved them.

Fernie Musuem- 5th November 2017


What makes Fernie special to you?

The ability to enjoy the outdoors in our own back yard. The elderly people that I have gotten to know and appreciate their friendship and knowledge. The small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and cares about everyone.

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

The fact that it doesn’t mater “what side of the tracks” you are from we can all strive towards and even reach our dreams and goals.

What’s your Fernie story? 

I arrived in Fernie in March of 1970 when my parents moved from Sask. I had many paper routes as a kid, attended Fernie Secondary School, met Patti my wife of 39 yrs, who is a Fernie girl, we have raised our 2 children here and I have had the fortune of being self employed in the Fernie area for the past 39 years.


What makes Fernie special to you?

For a small town, Fernie has a lot to offer. While many people come and stay here because of the beautiful outdoors, there is also something for “Artsy people” like me. I am lucky to be able to learn from professional artists. I can take piano and singing lessons while playing on a volleyball team, or dancing and acting lessons while learning to snowboard.

Fernie feels like a family. We are friends with our neighbours, can say hi to random people and get a greeting in return, and all of my friends are within walking distance. A few of the families of the kids in my class moved here sight unseen just because they loved the look of Fernie on the internet.

I love the food here too. I can hang out at coffee shops, and what other small town has artisanal ice cream, chocolate, and cheese shops?

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

Canada’s best features are its natural beauty and cultural diversity. My dad is Canadian, but his parents immigrated to Canada from Italy. They have been able to keep their customs, language, and traditions. Canadians don’t buy into the idea of a “melting pot”. We are united by the fact that we are Canadian. Recent events have allowed me to reflect more on these ideals. The fact that refugees are willing to risk their lives in order to become a part of this country is remarkable. I am proud to be a member of a country that fights for the little guy, a country that fights for women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.

What’s your Fernie story?

I am in Fernie because my mom grew up here and my grandparents still live in Fernie. My parents were living in Montreal, but after I was born my mom wanted to move back to a quieter place to raise me. She saw an ad for a job in Fernie in the Montreal Gazette and strongly encouraged my dad to apply. Five weeks later, my dad and I moved from Montreal to Fernie, a week into kindergarten, while my mom drove our VW van with all of our stuff across the country.

School and friends keep me in Fernie and the fact that we love living here. I will have lived in Fernie for 10 years in September 2017. My mom’s family has lived here since 1970, 45 years! It’s nice to have roots in Fernie, I have grandparents, and a network of adopted grandparents, that support me in everything I do.


What makes Fernie special to you?

What makes Fernie special to me – the lifestyle and ability to walk out my door and be in nature. It’s a place of joy and good spirits where people who are like minded can share in similar things and enjoy the company of total strangers as well as neighbours because of the attraction of like minded people. The fact that I can walk out my door and be able to cross country ski, mountain bike or go for a hike with my daughter and expose her to it at such a found age is another reason. I grew up in the mountains and love them, I am so thankful that I have been able to come back to the mountains and have the opportunity to raise a family in Fernie.

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

The love and kindness that we are known for, it gives a sense of respect when people come to visit or when we travel elsewhere. We’re known to be very laid back and passive, but I believe it’s more than that. We are honest and wholesome people and the fact that it’s felt throughout the world makes me proud when people ask and I get to tell them I’m from Canada. It’s amazing that people can tell just by our attitude and compassion that we have for human kind that we are Canadian.

The fact that we love other cultures and we are a melting pot makes it so wonderful. We get to create our own identity from the variety of people that Canada has within its borders and we welcome it. We keep a little piece of people and their characteristics and mix it in to crate our own identity that is different from other countries. And we don’t run around boasting about it. We just are “Canadian” and we don’t have to prove it.

What is your Fernie story?

My partner fell in love with this place years ago before we were ever in each other’s sights. When we got together we weren’t panning on moving here, but down the line, we both knew we wanted a better quality of life than just work and trying to work in our favourite activities when we had time. We sat down and said we needed to make a plan to get back to the lifestyle that we both loved. We discussed moving back to the mountains for me, as it was always my goal to move back home. He mentioned that he loved Fernie and asked if we could try it instead. I said sure why not.

We landed here in June of 2013, with a bang right around the time of the floods. I didn’t know anyone and just jumped right into my new job. We loved up on the ski hill where I could go biking and sit in the peace and quiet of the mountain. It’s been almost four years since we moved here and we have loved the seasons and adventures that Fernie has brought us and are so glad that we can call it home. We had a daughter last march and it’s been such an amazing event watching her take in the mountains, snow and wilderness everyday she sees something new and her eyes just light up.


What makes Fernie special?

Technically, Fernie is my hometown. For all other purposes it’s Cokato, that weird little patch of farmland across the river from the Ski Hill that people think is named after a species of parrot, but isn’t.

Cokato is only a seven-minute drive from downtown, but when I was a kid the distance was unthinkably vast. The only way to get To Town was on your bike, and if you did that it would take thirty minutes of sweaty agony and you would be eaten by a cougar.

You just would.

Not to mention, you had no way of getting home when it was dark. So when I was a kid I thought of our farm and the trees and streams around it as my real hometown, and that is still what awes and comforts me about it today. It’s what makes Fernie special- it exists on a narrow line between the antics of human endeavour and the wordless, timeless core of nature. You can walk out your door in any direction and be humbled by what you see.

We’re lucky.

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

Our self-effacement. Plus, we’re the best dang country in the world!!!

(Also our clean water, clean air, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, adherence to human rights, mostly-functioning democracy, and ketchup-flavoured chips.)

What’s your Fernie story?

I was born and raised in Fernie, and I’ve lived here most of my life, except for a sabbatical of about ten years in the middle where I went off to Find Myself (it didn’t work).

My mom comes from a long line of coal miners who moved to Michel in the late 19th century. My dad’s a Scottish immigrant who met my mom at a staff meeting in the late 60’s (#romance) and decided to stay.

That’s it.

I should have something sweeping and grand to say about this town and how my story interweaves with it in a glorious tapestry of belonging, but I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a story about a sheep– because of all the ungulates, they have been the most integral to my Fernie experience.

It was September-the day before I was due to start my second year of university, and it was time to get serious. I had finally escaped my small town, I had survived my first year at school, I had weird, arty friends from distant, fabled cities like Calgary and Moosejaw, and this year for sure I was going to shed my rural shell and emerge like a beautiful, geeky butterfly. But, as I was about to realise, small town roots have a way of sticking around.

University was in Lethbridge, which meant many long drives in the USS Enterprise. That’s right. Other families had SUVs or minivans – we had a bright red utility van named after the spaceship in Star Trek. (We also had a crew cab manure truck called the Death Star. This is what happens when you let nerds have farms.)

The Enterprise was enormous and utilitarian-an un-insulated steel box on wheels that acted as a mobile chest freezer in the winter and a solar oven in the summer. Today, it was packed to the brim: me, my paltry belongings, my my mom, my dad, my brother, my brother’s manual wheelchair, my friend Erin (who, in a moment she would come to regret, had decided to get a ride with us rather than take the Greyhound), Erin’s luggage, and a 250 pound Corriedale ram named Steve.

Steve was going to Fort MacLeod to be traded for another ram, and, hopefully, to spend the rest of his life consorting with female sheep who weren’t as closely related to him as ours. By a stroke of luck, it turned out that the date of the exchange would coincide perfectly with my trip to Lethbridge. So, Steve was heaved onto a bed of straw in the back third of the van, separated from the rest of us by a sheet of plywood held in place with bungee cords.

We drove East.

It started out well. The Enterprise was running smoothly, the day was sunny, and Steve settled down once he had belched a few times and saturated his straw with nervous pee.

We stopped at Fort MacLeod and made the switch. The replacement ram (we’ll call him New Steve) was also pretty mellow. Or so we thought.

We finally arrived in Lethbridge, dropped Erin off, and turned into the parking lot of my new apartment building.

The second the van stopped moving, New Steve scented freedom. He stood up, wedged his nose into the space between the side window and the frame, and started bleating.

I should mention that this is an understatement. When people hear “bleat” they think of the sound sheep make in movies, that sweet, nasal m-eeee-h noise. There may be sheep that make that sound. They are not our sheep. A fully grown Corriedale ram has a chest cavity the size and shape of a half-barrel keg. It has resonance. It has gravitas. It sounds like a tuba made in hell.

It is also amazingly persistent. The sound of angry livestock blared out of our van like an awful, rustic car alarm. It went on, and on, and on, as my parents and I hauled all of my worldly belongings, piece by piece, through the main doors of my apartment building and up the tiny elevator.

People stopped and stared.  Japanese exchange students took pictures.

I wanted to die.

It turns out you can take yourself out of the valley, but you can’t stop the valley from following you to school. And bellowing at you in a parking lot.


What makes Fernie special to you?

Diversity, a sense of solitude, isolation, and strong bond that people of the community share.  I truly believe that everyone lives in Fernie because they genuinely want to be here.

Fernie is home to such a wide array of people with endless growing interests, skills and talents that it feels as though we have everything we need right here. Living among the great outdoors and with the Lizard Mountain Range just outside our front door, there are endless opportunities to those who seek thrill and adventure, and a sense of rooting with nature, you would never find in any city. Having also grown up in rural Alberta, managing life among large crowds has never been my forte, so a population of 5000, hours away from any city is something I get comfort from. In the 4 years I have been around Fernie, I have yet to complain, or here someone complains, about wanting to leave this majestic town so many call home.  Make your way to the top of any surrounding peak, drink coffee at any of the fine shops in town, catch 50 cm of unexpected snow, or watch Shred Kelly Jam at Wapiti Festival and you may find some understanding of why Fernie is so great.

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

I was born, raised, and have lived 98.9% of my life on Canadian soil. It’s my blood and heritage. Being one of the largest countries in the world, and one of the least populated per Sq. km, and being extremely diverse, it’s basically just a large scale Fernie, with similar characteristics!

What’s your Fernie story?

I moved into a 1 bedroom condo in Timberline crescent, with 3 best friends in December 2013. After a winter season in Whistler, we all decided a more low key town, with some more inland temperatures and snow would be more suiting. Essentially snowboarding was the main factor for testing the waters in Fernie. The community, endless activities that keep a person body, mind and soul happy, and my seasonal summer job that replenishes the bank are basically what keep me here.


What makes Fernie special to you?  

Fernie is so special to me because it’s so small, which means it’s almost impossible not to run into someone you know while walking down the street. Even if you don’t know someone they’ll still smile and be friendly. Everyone you see is helpful and kind; if you need a hand all you have to do is ask which is incredible. You’d almost never get that in a big city. We have such a strong community, and if we put our minds to it we can do anything.

What makes you proud to be Canadian?

Canada is such an amazing and accepting place. We are such a diverse and caring nation and that can’t be said about every country; instead of shunning people who are unlike us, we welcome them with open arms and minds. We as a country will embrace who you are, whether you’re an immigrant, have a different religion, are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, have opposing views on international and political matters, or do things in a dissimilar way because that’s how you were raised or is dictated by your culture.

What is your Fernie story?

My sister and I were born and raised in Fernie. What I’ll do after I finish high school is yet to be determined, but no matter what I do Fernie will always be home and now that my sister’s gone to university, it’s different. Some people are surprised when I say that I miss her and that is the truth. It feels like a part of home, a part of Fernie has left, but that’s just the way it is. Life is going to take you on all sorts of adventures, and part of going on an adventure is leaving the comforts of home behind and sometimes you’ll wish you had just stayed home, but most of the time you’ll end up regretting not going if you don’t. I look forward to everything Fernie has to offer to me and wherever the path it has put me on will take.