When I was helping my Dad go through my mother’s belongings after she died I found this red cup decorated with gold leaf. It was embossed with my mother’s name Dorothy and the date 1933. My Mom was born in 1925 so I knew she would have been eight years old when she got the glass. Why had she kept it for eighty years? There must have been something special about it.
I took a photo and sent it to my mother’s older sister in Saskatoon. My Aunt Viola e-mailed me back promptly. She had a cup just like my mother’s. It had been a gift from their parents who had driven to Regina in 1933 for the World Grain Exhibition and Conference.
The children stayed at home in Drake, Saskatchewan with their grandmother. When their parents returned from the exhibition they had gifts for each child and my mother and aunt got red glass cups embossed with their names.
A commemorative stamp was even issued in honour of the exhibition. The international conference took five years to plan and Canadian Prime minister Mackenzie King said it would promote international peace and cooperation.
A coin commemorating the conference was minted. The 25,000 posters and 75,000 brochures that were sent out to publicize the event drew visitors from more than twenty countries including Peru, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and France. Although many of the guests were housed in hotels, a tent city accommodating 3,000 visitors was also set up.
More than $200,000 in prize money was offered to whichever contestant grew the best flax, wheat, barley, oats, field peas and corn in special plots that had been set aside just outside the city. Scientists from many countries presented their agricultural research.
There was plenty of entertainment as well. A giant midway was brought to Regina in forty rail cars. There was a vaudeville revue from London, a presentation of the opera Aida and shows by Japanese aerial performers.
A special building was erected for the conference that had one and a half miles of exhibition space for displays about agricultural, science and world events. The building was a major public works project that provided jobs for many unemployed during the Depression. Unfortunately most of the building burned down in a fire in 1955 and the rest in another fire in 2009.
My grandparents must have had a good time at the exhibition. I think it’s great they were able to make the trip to participate in this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience where they will have mingled with other people in the agricultural business from around the world.
The fact her parents had attended the exhibition also must have made an impression on my mother since she kept her souvenir of the event for nearly eighty years.