Historian Eve Keates stands in the Remembrance area of the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum on Saturday, November 9. She is holding a wooden leg used for amputees, and adds that children who come through the museum are “totally fascinated with it.”
Driving down the main street of Alix, one comes upon a mural alongside a building that entices the eye with airbrushed images of rural life and people from bygone years. This informed and humble piece of art denotes the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum, a site dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Alix.
The building was built in 1929 and has had numerous manifestations, including a saloon/house combination where – for a time – women were not allowed to enter.
“Women were not allowed in this place, it was a man’s place,” Eve Keates, historian and vice chair of the museum, says with humour. Keates, along with Museum Chairs Donna and Curt Peterson, were in attendance on Saturday, November 9 for the Museum’s Remembrance Day event and bake sale.
The museum in it’s entirety is an homage to every facet of history in the area: from a tribute to Canadian Famous Five member Irene Palby to an evocative display of animals native to the area, the Museum offers insight into the natural and man-made factors that make Alix unique.
Old photographs of buildings and settlers pepper the walls throughout the building, complimented by unique artifacts from bygone days.
The museum also recognizes the many diverse features that create the war-time history of Alix.
Walking through the museum, the content veers organically into the Remembrance section; meandering from school displays, methods of farming, sport and girl guides – all leading up to the physical, mental and symbolic elements that would encompass the integrity and strength of men and women of service.
The Remembrance room is always open during Museum hours, but on Saturday, November 9 it’s significance took on a different hue with November 11 so close at hand. The room hosts many items from war time that aren’t typically found in service memorabilia: a wooden leg, for example, used for amputees of war looks entirely sophisticated and realistic in dimensions.
“It’s hinged at the ankle and hinged at the knee,” says Keates. “It belonged to a man who lived here for many years.” Keates adds that the substantial weight of the object would have been quite labourious to haul around when in use.
The Museum hosts medals from both first and second World Wars, plaques of recognition for soldiers from the area, a gas mask and helmets from German and Canadian soldiers as a comparative effort.
Also present is a story from Keates father, who served in the war. The tale was dictated to Keate’s mother toward the end of his life and tells of his final battle to capture a Turkish stronghold; whereby only 75 men returned out of 1000 who had entered the battle.
As collections of general museum items became more diverse, so too did the importance of a room dedicated to veterans.
“We’ve been gradually building up [memorabilia]. We didn’t get these rooms open for a long time,” says Keates, “So we thought ah, we’ll make a special area for Remembrance.”
The rooms highlight the importance of preserving memories of veterans through items collected from them over time, as a way to keep their memory fresh and real to new generations.
“All our [veterans] are deceased,” notes Keates, “and their sons aren’t that young anymore.” So for Alix, the museum is a nucleus of preserved history of war-time.
Keates says she regularly attends to Remembrance Day events and is quick to note that the tradition of paying homage to troops is alive and well. “Fortunately, Ottawa has the big service I sometimes watch, and various little towns will have services. So still, they don’t forget.”