The Vermilion Elementary School Grade 2 students were full of excitement as they visited the Vermilion Heritage Museum on June 13.
President of the Board of Directors, Jean Murie, welcomed everyone on the tour and mentioned that there were several items at the museum over 100 years old.
Murie noted that although others had tried, Mr. Mills opened our safe after 41 years, and the story has now reached all over the world. Volunteer, Tom Kibblewhite, who was there at the time said, “We were really surprised as it had been locked up for 41 years. With the lock numbered 0 – 60, Mr. Mills thought it was probably something simple, and tried the numbers 20 - 40 - 60 alternating clockwise and counter clockwise turns. It opened perfectly smooth, to reveal a pay slip and a price check list including a mushroom burger for $1.50 and cigarettes for $1.”
According to Kibblewhite, the safe is estimated to weigh 2,000 pounds and was lowered in by crane through a window in the early 1990’s. The children were the first following the viral story to pose for a photo with the safe, and Kibblewhite noted that the company who made the lock, Sergeant and Greenleaf, is still in business today (since 1857).
With local history as part of their curriculum, they also saw a Stavelock home (that came in pieces on the train and were assembled at homestead locations) decorated with antique furniture, part of the tour. They had oodles of fun searching the museum’s six galleries for different items on a scavenger hunt. Full of pioneer artifacts, they learned that grass and straw were used to make soft beds to lay on, and that chores would have included gathering water and wood. The home would have used no gas or electricity and was equipped with an oil light and lantern. Volunteers also pointed out that people would have made their own music for entertainment.
The Vermilion Heritage Museum was originally the new Vermilion High School built in 1928, and was the first brick structure of its kind in Alberta. In 1940, a fire struck the inside but left the brick standing. After deciding to rebuild the name changed to S.R.P. Cooper School in 1965 and it remained a school until 1982. People approached the town in 1987 with the idea of making the building a museum, and it officially opened in 1991.