LLOYDMINSTER — Gerald Miller created a sanctuary from being bullied as a child by immersing himself in his collections.
What was once his escape is now a window on the world of history.
Gerald and his wife, Brigitte, have created a museum for their 20,000 treasures at their home in Lloyd-minster and showcase their collections at schools, trade shows and other events each year.
“This saved my life, no doubt about it,” said Gerald.
“I built that museum, my safe haven. I could go in there and be safe.”
He grew up on a ranch near Mankota, Sask., as the only boy in a family of girls. There was little to do other than work on the farm, so when his grandparents gave him a box of antiques at age nine, he began collecting.
He believes he was targeted by schoolmates because his parents were hard–working, successful farmers and he was different.
“My play was collecting arrowheads,” said Gerald, who had transformed an old farmhouse into a museum and charged a 50-cent admission by the age of 13.
He scoured auctions and accepted donations for items ranging from arrowheads, tobacco tins, sports memorabilia, guns, First Nations artifacts and antique flat irons to dolls, newspapers and coal oil lamps.
He uses his handyman skills from a quarter century of farming to repair items as needed. He is currently restoring a 1957 Mercury Turnpike cruiser.
The couple operates Miller Promotions, which offers customized showcases of historical artifacts, charging $3 per student for an hour-long presentation.
Brigitte said her interest in antiques has grown through the years.
“It’s something you slowly adapt to and learn to love. Each piece has a story,” she said. “If we don’t teach those children what generations past did and what they lived on, they wouldn’t know.”
The former ranchers, who have been school trustees and event planners, also do speaking engagements on subjects such as drug addiction, bullying and entrepreneurship.
Gerald said he’s not ready to stop collecting and is still in the hunt for “anything, everything.”
“Every time we go out, we bring a truckload back,” he said, citing the semi loads when they moved from their southern Saskatchewan farm.
“If I had to start buying it now, it would cost $300,000 to half a million.”
He encourages junior collectors and often gives children a starter piece.
“It lightens up your heart and soul and gives you meaning,” he said.
“This is not work to me.”
Brigitte’s favourites include the dolls and First Nations collections, while Gerald is drawn to the history books.
“I’ve been known to read 100 books a winter,” he said.
They would eventually like to create dynamic displays in a museum and are seeking funding to make that happen.