It took me a while to attempt this column, because I could not think of a satisfactory excuse for not ever having mentioned (as far as I can recall) that years ago I saw, in part anyway, a collection that now has viewers from across the continent gasping with admiration and disbelief.
Ignorance of the law, it has been well established, is no excuse. But surely there are areas of life in which the naivete, unawareness or stupidity of youth may be grounds for a pardon. I wasn't really all that young, but any port in a storm, as the old saying goes.
What I am laboriously working up to is the admission that almost 40 years ago an eccentric single gentleman who farmed a few miles north of Weyburn invited me into his home (not long after I came to Weyburn from barbarian Manitoba) to view what I considered a hoard of silverware.
I now realize that it was an exquisite collection, however disorganized the display. There were trays, cutlery, utensils and numerous other items wrought of silver, on every shelf and in every cabinet in a number of rooms in the spacious farmhouse, and proud admissions that there was much more stored in crates and boxes on the premises.
I don't recall what prompted my admittance to this sterling counterpart of Fort Knox. Perhaps I merely happened to be in the neighborhood for some unrelated purpose, and was invited in as a courtesy. Whatever the circumstances, I left wondering why anyone - particularly a human male - would want such an accumulation of tarnished metalware. Charlie Wilson, I am certain, viewed my departing back with disbelief that anyone could be so insensitive to the beauty and value of his collection.
Decades passed, and once every few years I would hear a reference to Charlie Wilson's silver collection, whereupon I probably admitted that I had seen it, never mentioning that I had not had the wit to write about it or take some pictures of it.
More years rolled by, and Charlie passed away (in 1995) at the age of 90-plus, and it soon became a matter of interest, and even newsworthiness, that his silverware had been left to the Soo Line Historical Society with the condition or understanding that it would be kept intact.
That was a few years ago, and last November, the collection was finally cleaned, organized and placed on display in a specially dedicated chamber of the Weyburn museum. I use the word "chamber" because "room" might be confused with a tiny, unused corner of the spacious former power house. Believe me, it is a chamber.
Naturally I vowed I would drop in and see it if the opportunity arose, but this might not have happened if a friend of my helpmate had not received a call from a lifelong friend in Toronto, who had heard glowing descriptions of the collection on the CBC. She urged us to see it before leaving Weyburn for the winter.
So we betook ourselves to the museum-sur-Souris soon thereafter, and even heeded (with mental reservations on my part) the admonition to allow an hour for the viewing. Heavens! I have covered entire museums in less than an hour.
Now I must tell you that despite my admitted lack of couth already humbly confessed, I not only managed to put in a full hour, but was left awed, stunned and fascinated by the collection, and admiration for the interesting organization of the display.
The foregoing should serve as assurance that regardless of how little you may know about silverware, or how shallow your interest in it, you will not regret a visit to the museum to see the Wilson collection. (And if time permits, there is a lot more to see in the museum).
I could not even begin to describe the treasures but I must pass a long a special bouquet to an individual other than the donor. By the time we had seen just a bit of the collection, I made the sage observation that the museum obviously had brought in an expert to see to the arrangement.
The expert, we discovered, was curator Lavina Stepp, working with the assistance of a student. Excellent work!
The Charlie Wilson collection, thanks to CBC publicity, information on the Review's internet home page, articles in this and other newspapers, and further exposure I don't even know about, is quickly gaining importance as a Saskatchewan (and Canadian) treasure. See it yourself, recommend it to visitors, and take justifiable pride in another Weyburn first.
Charlie Wilson, I have since learned, was born in England, and came to Weyburn in 1907 with his parents, who owned and operated the Waverley Hotel (now the King George). The family also bought a farm eight miles north of Weyburn, and moved there in 1915.