The Creston Museum’s Ford Model T turns 100 in July. Photo: Aaron Hemens

The Creston Museum’s Ford Model T turns 100 in July. Photo: Aaron Hemens

Kootenay museum honouring Model T’s 100th birthday with graphic novel

“I wonder what this truck has seen. What stories could it tell? Let’s just let it tell those stories.”

To celebrate the 100th birthday of its 1921 Ford Model T later this July, the Creston Museum and Archives is planning on publishing a 12-page graphic novel that explores the Creston Valley during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression periods from the car’s perspective.

“It just came out of this conversation I had — I wonder what this truck has seen. What stories could it tell? Let’s just let it tell those stories,” said Tammy Bradford, the manager of the Creston Museum and Archives.

Bradford is reaching far into her imagination to write the book, while an artist from Fernie will be responsible for the illustrations.

“Because we’ve got five Saturdays in July, we’re thinking of a different chapter each Saturday,” said Bradford.

Additionally, the car — whose name is Derry — will be parked in a new location around town each weekend in July for residents to catch a glimpse of it and learn of its history.

“He was bought in North Dakota by three brothers: Robert, Joseph and George Derry,” said Bradford. “They had a farm in southern Saskatchewan, they went down to North Dakota, bought this truck and drove it across the line.”

She described the early 1920s as the “heyday” of the automobile era.

“Cars were everywhere. They started to become very popular. The Roaring Twenties — cars were a big part of that,” she said. “There was prosperity, enthusiasm, excitement, speed, modernization all over the place. People had cars.”

According to Bradford, the three brothers arrived in the community of Michel in 1927 before settling in Canyon in 1936.

“They had a 30-acre ranch out in Canyon, and the truck has been in the Creston Valley ever since,” she said.

The last time Derry was licensed was in 1950, before ownership was transferred to Robert Watt, who was the owner of the Yahk Pioneer Park Museum.

When that museum went bankrupt in 1979, an attempt was made to sell its collection at auction to pay off creditors, but the Creston Historical Society bought the entire collection — including Derry — and used it to establish the Creston Museum.

“We’re hoping to tell that story from the point of view of a 100-year-old truck who has seen some pretty phenomenal changes in his lifetime,” said Bradford.

She highlighted that there was nothing like the Roaring Twenties during the Depression-era.

“The fact that he survived intact is probably quite remarkable because this is the era of the Bennett Buggies when people took the motors out of their cars and hitched horses to them,” she said.

In addition to Bennett Buggies, people travelling west to escape dustbowls and tanking farmlands in the prairies is something that Bradford also hopes to tell the story of from Derry’s perspective.

“We knew they were coming through this area. There were hundreds of people coming from the prairies to B.C. Quite a few of them landed here,” she said. “There are all kinds of families who arrived during the Depression years because there was absolutely nothing for them on the prairies.”

Additionally, Bradford hopes to touch upon the emergence of the long-haul trucking industry.

“There’s also that era where the long-haul trucking industry was starting to boom. In the 1950s into the 1960s, lots of things were still sent by trains, but there were at least half a dozen trucking companies out of the Creston Valley alone,” she said. “Some were local within the Kootenays, some were B.C. At least one went all over western Canada and northwestern U.S.”

When the book comes out, she said that she hopes that readers get an understanding of how much has changed on both a local and global scale.

“Today, we just get in our cars and go. We don’t really stop and think about what it means to have that mobility and freedom, that stuff that has gradually changed over the years. It’s very much a luxury,” she said.

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