Civic Auditorium time capsule filled with history

The contents of a time capsule that had been located inside the Civic Auditorium helped shed some light on Estevan’s distant and more recent past.

A few dozen people gathered at Affinity Tuesday afternoon to view the contents and to reminisce about the arena. Coincidentally, the capsule opening took place at the same time as the start of demolition of the Civic.

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The capsule was inserted into the Civic when the arena opened in 1957. It featured an edition of the Estevan Mercury, an Estevan Bruin program, and information on local businesses and service groups, among other items.

It was discovered during a renovation to the Civic’s siding in 2005, and opened at a city council meeting that May. The items were eventually returned to the capsule, along with another edition of the Mercury, a Bruins team photo, and other memorabilia from Estevan at the time.

Then the capsule was returned to the Civic.

Tuesday’s ceremony was not only an opportunity for people to view items inside the capsule, but to share stories about the arena.

Mayor Roy Ludwig said the items in the time capsule brought back fond memories, such as the Starlight Drive-In, and he was pleased to see the old edition of the Mercury inside.

“They were still fighting overpass-underpass issues, even back in 1957,” said Ludwig. “The overpass-underpass is something that comes up from time from time, even today, with the amount of trains that we have coming through our community.”

Ludwig was on city council back in 2005 when the time capsule was opened, and he still remembers that meeting from nearly 13 years ago.

“It was interesting that some of the issues that we face today, those infrastructure issues, have been around since we incorporated into a city. Road issues, infrastructure issues, water issues, those are things that although they subside for short periods of time, they’re uppermost for people’s mind,” said Ludwig.

A physician shortage in the community was an issue in 2005, he said, and it once again an issue now. 

As for the Civic, Ludwig remembers that when he was a boy, he and his family would travel more than 60 kilometres to Estevan to watch Bruin games. The mayor said he was there the night that Jim Harrison, who would go on to play in the NHL, scored three goals in 24 seconds in the final minute of the third period to lift the Bruins to a 6-5 victory over the Regina Pats.

It’s a Western Hockey League record that still stands.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Ludwig said.

Vernon “Butch” McLean is a long-time Bruin supporter who was involved with the construction of the Civic in 1957.

“We were instrumental in setting the rafters of the Civic,” said McLean. “We put the sewer and the water into the building, and it’s still functional today.”

It was a six-inch clay sewer line connecting to the manhole at a nearby intersection, and they brought in a two-inch copper waterline to feed the boilers. They never had to worry about running out of water.

For the first rafter that went up, a 30-tonne mobile crane was brought in. 

McLean remembers that it was Scotty Munro, who relocated the Humboldt Indians to Estevan and coached the Bruins in their early years, who suggested putting the concourse behind the seats instead of in front.

“In those years, you used to have to walk in front of the spectators, and it was Scotty’s idea to put the seats right down at the boards,” said McLean.

McLean’s brother, Ernie “Punch” McLean, played for the Bruins, and eventually became the club’s head coach. Ernie McLean went on to be a Canadian junior coaching legend.

“When Bill Shinske was the general manager and Ernie was the coach, brother Ernie would get kicked out of the game for throwing sticks on the ice because of what he thought was a bad call, then he’d go up in the press box and tell Bill Shinske which players to play next from up in the press box,” recalled Vernon McLean.

The items that were on display also brought back fond memories for McLean.

“Going through the books, I’m remembering the businesses of those years, like Moss’ Grocery and McBride’s Grocery, and Clasky and Company was a clothing store in town,” said McLean.

He’s sad to see the demise of the Civic, and wishes it wouldn’t have had to close during the middle of the hockey season last November.

Ludwig also recalls the days with Munro and Ernie “Punch” McLean serving as Bruin coaches.

“In those days, with Scotty it was very colourful,” said Ludwig. “There was lots of fighting and lots of blood on the ice, and I know that nowadays I maybe shouldn’t talk about that, but it was good, old fashioned hockey, and it was very entertaining.”

He also marvelled at the skill level of such players as Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach, who were stars for the Flin Flon Bombers and went on to have great NHL careers.

The contents of the capsule will eventually be placed in a display area at city hall, so that people can look at the articles and the memorabilia, and refresh their memories, or gain a greater appreciation for Estevan’s past.


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