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Together At Last - 5

Theodore Barres, a radio and T.V. reporter for C.F.Q.C., Saskatoon, wrote a splendid historical book entitled "Fire Canoe", in which he brought to light the immense and fantastic history of the "Steam Boat Days" on the rivers of the three prairie provinces. In the book, Mr. Barres deals with the life and death of over one hundred ships. He included an lengthy chapter, called "Dontianen Lives". The source of much of his information was Moon Mullin. The Dontianen is the only ship left of all the ones he wrote about. Mr. Barres dealt with the dream of Tom Sukanen with kindness and sympathy as did Leith and Cy Knight.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company had a fifteen minute program dealing with the subject in a similar manner. Moon went on a guest speaking tour of the service clubs in the City of Moose Jaw. He also spoke to school groups. His sincerity and enthusiasm were infectious. The Moose Jaw Times Herald, the local newspaper, and the radio station C.H.A.B. carried articles in mid-August, on the Pioneer Village and Museum, with reference to the Dontianen The daily attendance at the Museum increased dramatically at that time.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Mullin decided to sell the farm at Lake Valley and buy a home in Moose Jaw. This, of course, gave them both more time to spend on the Dontianen.

A meeting of the "Sukanen" group was held in April, at the Pioneer Village and Museum, with Mr. Zakreski present. At this meeting it was proposed, to build a small chapel, a replica of many such found in the sparsely settled areas of Finland, next to the ship. The estimated cost was $1,000.00, bringing the grant total to $4,500.00. This brought the total project budget to about $11,300.00.

It was agreed that Moon should design the chapel and see to its construction. There is no doubt about it, Mr. and Mrs. Mullin, Erald and Irene Jones and the other members of the committee felt highly exuberant. They had, with careful planing, completed the project. Mr. Zakreski was happy with the entire project and the way in which it was handled. He would recommend to his superiors that the final payment be made.

As the ship was being completed, a man from Minnesota came to the Museum. He was a wealthy, elderly man of Finnish decent. He was, apparently, aware of part of the ship's history. He offered $50,000.00 for the ship. When asked how he would get it to Minnesota, he replied, "No trouble at all. I would put a helicopter on each end, suspend the ship underneath and head for Minnesota,". Moon and Erald said "We at least have a sale value."

The restoration crews were organized and consisted, mainly of: Moon Mullin, Erald Jones, Irving Peterson, Adam Donnely, and Fred Batterley. However, many other volunteers gave what time they could to help with the rebuilding of this ship.

A seaman said it was definitely built, with cargo or proper ballast, as an ocean going vessel. It was one of the best appearing and best constructed vessels he had seen in years. He could find no fault with its planned reconstruction. The cradle, iron works and base were all planned by Moon. With the braces, the seaman suggested, it would even withstand the high winds of the "Prairie Seas".

Since they had been built in 1940, the two cabins had been around for so long, they had deteriorated beyond repair. It was decided to rebuild them from new lumber and follow, as closely as possible, the design and size of the originals. The keel and hull, made by Tom, with the idea of being constantly in the water, survived. After being rescued by Vic Markkula, they had lain, bottom side up, and were still in perfect condition, an indication of the workmanship, to survive being out in all weathers for forty years.

The large re-enforced concrete pad was poured with provision made for the anchoring braces after the keel and hull were in place. Bill Pryor swung the keel, with a crane, into place. The keel was then welded to the braces.

Erald Jones knew a Mr. Rivers, with "Dominion Bridge". Mr. Rivers offered to lift the hull onto the keel with a large crane about the same time that he would be delivering a helicopter to the nearby Canadian Forces Base. When this was accomplished, all marveled that it 'fit like a glove'; another indication of the quality of the workmanship of Tom Sukanen. Another contractor that Moon knew offered to lift the two cabins when he was going to be in the area. After this, Moon relates that for half a day, Erald Jones drove ten inch spikes with a sledge hammer to secure the cabins to the hull. The cabins were lifted by Bill Morrison of Gulf Oil. Mr. Tully buried the power cable from the Museum proper to the ship. Orv. Leugner, a local welder with a very good reputation, did a great deal of the welding. The Hutterite colony prepared and furnished some heavy plates for the project. When offered pay for their work or equipment rental, all the volunteers said "Forget it. When we drive by, or drop in, we can do so with the feeling that we played a part in this, as a tribute to Tom Sukanen," or words to this effect.

Dave Stewart, with some helpers, built a cabin at the main gate for the attendant to use as a ticket office.

The decision was made, with the full consent of the Sukanen family, to move Tom's remains from the North Battleford cemetery to rest beside his beloved ship. The Baildon Rural Municipality passed a bylaw permitting the burial. Redpath and Campbell, of Parkview Funeral Home, volunteered their services, and they contacted the undertaker in North Battleford to make the necessary arrangements. This took some time because the caretaker at the cemetery was unable to locate the plot; firstly because he was a relatively new caretaker, and secondly because the records had been destroyed in a fire. While trying to solve the problem, the original caretaker who had retired, walked in. He was able to take them straight to the correct site. The body was exhumed and identified. Redpath and Campbell were notified, and according to Moon, they sent a brand new Cadillac hearse to North Battleford. The body was placed in a new casket and brought to Moose Jaw. Don and Irwin Jones, of the Jones Funeral Home helped in arranging the reburial and obtaining the bronze plaque. The Museum pastor, Reverend Wilf Kinney, was in charge of the committal service, which was supervised by Parkview Funeral Home.

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Site last updated: 06/21/02
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