Mennonite Heritage Village

Steinbach Then and Now

Village News (October 18, 2018)

By Glen Klassen


Steinbach Then and Now

If you are not planning to hear the singing pirates at the SRSS this Saturday night, Oct 20, please come over to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) at 7:00 PM for an evening of lectures and an old-fashioned slide show! There’s nothing like history lectures, eh?

This will actually be the third such evening jointly sponsored by the local history committee and MHV. The year before last it was all about indigenous people, Métis, and the Mennonites. Last year it was about families and gardens and orphans. This year it will be about Steinbach. It is brought to you free by the late Delbert Plett, who left a little nest egg with the history committee.

The first lecture on Saturday night will be presented by ex-Steinbacher Ralph Friesen, who is coming back from BC to tell us about a very significant era in Steinbach’s history. As Ralph and I were growing up in Steinbach, ”revival meetings” were common annual events. Many kids and adults had their lives drastically changed for the better in one desperate evening of decision. Others bore the scars for decades.

Ralph’s father Peter, the mild-mannered pastor of the big EMC Church, was one of the men who introduced Steinbach to the evangelists. So Ralph was on the front lines. Hopefully he will tell us about this experience from a distance of about 60 years. Ralph went on to be a family counselor (like his dad) and he was also on the D.F. Plett Historical Research Foundation board for many years.

What was the effect of all those revivals on Steinbach? Did they lead to the “Bible Belt” stereotype that we have had to live with all these years? Did they make us better people? Did they not? These are the questions I plan to ask after Ralph’s talk.

The half-time show will be a slide presentation of about 100 photographs taken by Jacob or Walt Barkman, father and son. Many of them have not been previously published, and they reveal a Steinbach that will seem very strange to the young and very nostalgic to oldies like me. Priceless pictures from the 1920s and 1930s by Jacob (who somehow produced unusually high-quality photos for that era), will contrast with more recent ones from the 1950s and 1960s taken by Walt. Walt’s Studio became the destination of almost every young couple who tied the knot in Steinbach. Early on, he also took many pictures of the open coffin at funerals, which was the custom at the time.

After this interlude, if you’re still with us, you’ll have to listen to yours truly talk about Steinbach’s not-for-profit enterprises as they operated in 2016. What is their role in the well-being of Steinbachers? How significant are they economically? How does this compare with other communities? (We don’t want to be triumphalistic.) What are their main aspirations? What is the impact of volunteerism on our community? What is the future of nonprofits? I might be able to answer one or two of these questions.

My wife & I have tickets for the Sunday performance of The Pirates of Penzance, brought to you by one of the most creative nonprofits in our city, the Steinbach Arts Council. There will be no life-changing decisions to be made there–just pure fun. I won’t even think about their struggles with money and volunteers. I’ll just enjoy the result.

Calendar of Events

*MHV Off-Season Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM*

October 20, Third Annual Local History Lectures – 7:00 PM

November 4, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

November 10, Christmas Market