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MEIGHEN PICNIC

PRIME MINISTER MEIGHEN PICNIC – PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE 1920!

At four P.M. Prime Minister Meighen addressed the huge crowd assembled at the grandstand. In Mayor Metcalfe’s opening address he said to the Prime Minister, “In order that you may reconcile the conflicting differences between the east and west you will need the highest diplomacy and the clearest vision”, to which Meighen responded, “This event brings me great pride. This good old town of Portage la Prairie and the rich plains around it was the first spot to prove the agricultural worth of western Canada and it is the place that gave me my real start in life. Here was the first home I ever bought, and where my children were born. The people of the district confided in me twelve years ago a great opportunity and because they did, all these things have come about and this happy occasion is possible”.


He went on to say, “I have never forgotten Portage . I do not consider this demonstration as a sanction or endorsement of the Federal government or my politics, nor is it a tribute to my personal popularity, nothing but blind vanity would permit me to so assume. This event was initiated by your Mayor and Council and the Board of Trade and among their membership are many, including his worship the Mayor, whose valued support I have not always enjoyed. It is recognition by the country of the honour due to Portage la Prairie by the Governor General of the People of Canada. I hope I can say as well it is meant as evidence of personal friendship and generous goodwill. When I get back to these streets and walk past these old homes and over the bridge to the Island where we so often watched ball games together, I seem to forget all that has happened to me since then”.


After the cook-out of the thousand pounds of beef Meighen appealed for unity in the Nation and said he

hoped the time had arrived when the isolation of Quebec would cease and that Province would join in working in a spirit of co-operation.


Meighen said he wanted equal justice for all.


In closing he said, “Is there a Country in the world in which there is less poverty than Canada? I don’t know where it is. This is true not of one class alone, but of all. We may (the Conservatives) have gone wrong on lines of policy, but we never got very far wrong, or we would not be here today. Canadians should cheer up and get together. Ladies and Gentlemen of Portage la Prairie, I can never forget this welcome! The memory of the reception and the desire to be worthy of the goodwill of my fellow citizens of Portage, will help me discharge my days as Prime Minister to the best of my capacity”!

Bright Red Bathtub


That ended the formal aspect of the Island reception and picnic. This happy day marked the first time that 'Dixie Cups' appeared on the market. Everyone at the Island Picnic received a free Dixie Cup. Such unusual events had been occurring that the public was quite outside of themselves! The night before a huge bonfire had been ignited in Meighen’s honour on Saskatchewan Avenue.







That evening a bonfire of victory was lit on Dufferin Avenue in front of Meighen’s home (131 Dufferin East). By 8:30 everyone was dressed up again for a reception on the lawns of the F.G. Taylor home on Dufferin Ave. West (now 102 1st St. S.W.). Taylor was the current M.L.A. and during the early evening he and Mrs. Taylor entertained a dinner at their residence.


Guests were:

Hon. Arthur and Mrs. Meighen, Mayor and Mrs. Metcalfe, Reeve and Mrs. E.H. Muir, Dr. and Mrs. W.E. Metcalfe and Mr. and Mrs McConklin of Moose Jaw.


During the evening the Portage Band, stationed on the lawn to the east of the entrance, presented a program of waltzes. The grounds were decorated with coloured lights and Chinese lanterns while two cars with powerful searchlights were stationed on Dufferin Ave. at either entrance to the grounds.


Prime Minister and Mrs. Meighen received hundreds of guests that evening in front of the Taylor residence and the Graphic happily noted that the grounds of the Adam Brown estate (Liberal) next door and the home of J .R. Colwil to the south were all festooned with lights as well.


The members of the Mounted Police were on hand to keep the streets open that evening. Everyone was

having a wonderful time.


That was ninety-four years ago. Somethings have changed. Somethings haven’t. Canada is still divided but we have endured as a nation. Perhaps talk of dissolution is our national pastime. We still have the table and chairs that Meighen and guests dined upon. The Taylor home still sits at 102 First

St. SW, now a Provincial Heritage Site and owned by Laurie and David Faurschou.


Meighen’s home on Dufferin Avenue where his wife received the news of Arthur’s victory still sits at 131 Dufferin Ave. E, now greatly restored thanks to years of work by the current owners. The community has a great opportunity because we now have a Conservative government in Ottawa. We should be able to preserve the Meighen home as a rare cultural and historic magnet to our community with some Federal Grants .


In writing these columns about local history I have discovered one fact. Portage does have a strong

awareness and love of its past. That is because we love to hear of stories about ourselves and the roots of the area in which we live. My wife had only lived in Portage since 1957 and she was fascinated by the various stories that show the greats, the not so greats, and the adventures that were experienced here in its formative years. For the very old timers, it is just retelling old familiar stories of which they are fond, kind of like your dad telling you about Uncle Jake again for the tenth time!


But more importantly the many calls that I get about some columns that really trigger off memories, for

example the Costigan story, shows me that many of you have archival collections of photographs and other historic material at home in your possession. I know from my conversations with many of you that there is a genuine concern over the care and preservation of these materials and that you are coming to realize that there are different techniques required to handle and preserve your mother's wedding dress or that shoe box of tintypes!





I know we are perennially short of money but someday I hope we can put a plan together whereby we can save and restore the rarity of having a genuine Prime Ministerial House and at the same time make a beginning to save the photographic and written history of our community. For some of us perhaps it may be the only proof someday that we were ever here! I would sure appreciate your thoughts on this and if you would be supportive of a well planned move to restore the home of Rt. Hon Arthur Meighen as our major tourist draw.


We also urgently need your donations in our efforts to restore the 121 year old Canadian Pacific Railway Station. We have come a long way on it, have put in two fine wheel chair accessible bathrooms and long story short, we need to raise 25 thousand dollars to pay for the work. It's tax time and perhaps you could use a tax certificate instead of sending the money to Ottawa. Any donation over 20 dollars will earn you tax certificate, you will feel good about it and we will move on with our restoration.

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