CANORA, Sask. — John Oystryk started going to auctions as a boy to buy old grain boxes for a couple of dollars. He and his father would use the hardware and build new boxes to sell for $35.
By the late 1940s, the former farmer and accountant began seeking out farm implements and tools.
“I was always looking for something that was associated with my life in farming,” said Oystryk, who was born into a large family on a farm near Rhein, Sask.
“If (auction items) were from an old farmyard, I was guaranteed to find something to buy.”
Oystryk recalled separating cream, making butter and chopping ice with his father in the morning.
“We’d chop the ice with an axe and pick, then use the hand saw,” he said.
The 91-year-old great-grandfather hopes the artifacts open a window to the past for younger generations.
“I want to give them a better understanding of what my life was like,” said Oystryk.
The Canora, resident spends about $70 at a good auction for his collection, which today includes items as varied as milk bottles, spiked cow collars, scythes and clothes irons.
In his home garage this day, he has carefully laid out metal irons that came in sets of three of varied sizes and weights with one handle that transferred between the set. Each one weighs about four kilograms.
They were heated on wood fired stoves and used in the days before electric and gas heat.
Most commonly seen in his area were ones made by Taylor Forbes at Guelph, Ont.
“The heavier the material, the more heat was needed,” said Oystryk.
Oystryk said homemakers would press the clothes with the iron and set it on a cast iron stand between uses.
It could stay hot for up to 30 minutes at a time.
He said the irons are much easier to find today than the more fragile wooden handles that clipped onto them.
These irons were later replaced by gas fueled and electric irons when rural areas received electrification, he said.
Oystryk credits his collection for his good health and longevity.
“I keep my mind and body active,” said Oystryk.
“I want to continue as long as I can. It keeps my mind alert.”