Auto club museum project remembers Cliff Carstensen

A come and go tea commemorated 100 years since the building of the school that now houses the Fred Light Museum in Battleford Sunday. The day's celebration also included a "premature" ribbon cutting for the newly constructed 1940 era replica service station, inspired by Fred Light's legacy as a service station owner.

Battlefords Vintage Automobile Club member Barry Grant, by virtue of having "the loudest voice in the club," officiated over the ribbon cutting and invited Elizabeth Carstensen, wife of the late Cliff Carstensen, to cut the ribbon.

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The replica service station is a joint project between the Battlefords Vintage Automobile Club, the Fred Light Museum and the Town of Battleford. BVAC has provided more than 1,000 hours of volunteer labour and undertook the fundraising.

Because the museum was having its birthday celebration, BVAC decided to hold a ribbon cutting as well, although the work is not complete. There is still some work to be done on the exterior and finishes to be completed inside, then the furnishing of the building and the setting up of displays will take place.

The building consists of three rooms. One is a garage bay in which Fred Light's original tow truck, now in the process of restoration, will be on display, along with a 1928 Whippet car donated by the Armstrong family, currently on display in the museum's fire hall building.

An office will be set up with a counter and cash register and a third room will become BVAC's club room, where the group will be able to meet, put up its bulletin boards and store filing cabinets. An agreement being drawn up presently between the Town, the museum and the car club will state the room will be home base for BVAC as long as there is a viable club and an operating museum.

The room is to be named the Cliff Carstensen Room.

Grant said Carstensen, a senior member of the club, passed away during the construction of the service station.

"He did the spearheading … he went around and talked to the dignitaries and got everybody working, he did the majority of the fundraising," said Grant.

When Carstensen was in hospital and "things weren't looking good, he asked me to make sure we see this building through to completion."

Relating the history of the service station project and the earlier fire hall project, in which BVAC also played a part, Grant said, "It's all about networking. When you start to build relationships things just keep rolling."

It started, he said, with museum board member Danny Schweitzer talked to the car club about a place to store the 1928 GMC fire truck, the first motorized fire truck for the Town of Battleford, that had been restored by BVAC.

The truck had been stored in various places, even spending one winter in the Rosetown museum.

Grant said Schweitzer put his heart and soul into the fire hall project, a tribute to the first Battleford Fire Brigade and its volunteer firefighters.

"It gives our fire truck a good home and it's been a fabulous relationship," said Grant.

During the construction, BVAC members were on site doing volunteer work, and Schweitzer and Carstensen began talking about a service station replica to display automotive items and some vehicles.

About the same time, said Grant, a North Battleford resident phoned the club to say he had Fred Light's old 1952 Chevrolet C1500 tow truck, which the club picked up for a loonie.

The talk got more intense, said Grant.

"Now we needed a place to store the tow truck."

The replica service station was the next step.

"There's a story about how getting involved and networking can build and build and build," said Grant. "The relationship that's developed between the Battlefords Vintage Auto Club and the museum board and the Town of Battleford has been, I think, beneficial to everybody."

Once the building is complete, BVAC members will turn their attention back to the tow truck. Its restoration has been on hold for the last year while they worked on the service station.

They hope to have a grand opening in the spring. The tow truck may be on site for that occasion, but if it is, there's no likelihood it will be finished.

"We're just getting started," laughed one BVAC member. "We've been working on this for the last year."

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