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Together At Last - 6

The Dedication of the "Tom Sukanen Ship"

A dedication ceremony took place with the MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Jack Wiebe, turning the first sod. A contingent of 'Black Powder' members were in the area. They came in their colourful uniforms, and were received by Moon. They lined up around both sides of the ship and fired a volley into the air.

The official dedication of the ship, the chapel and the grave of Tom Sukanen, was held on June 19, 1977, with the Honourable Grant MacEwan as guest speaker. Mr. MacEwan was a native of Saskatchewan, a former Dean of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan, and former Mayor of Calgary and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. He is also an author of some note.

It was a great day weatherwise and the attendance was estimated at 1500 people. The committee had "rounded up" all the chairs, planks, and five gallon pails they could find. The guest speaker was driven through the crowd to the stage, most fittingly it seemed, by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Lynds, in a spotless buggy with a spanking team, who were hard to control with the noise of the applause of the crowd.
Professor MacEwan, in his address, dealt with what he referred to as "The Tom Sukanen Era", with little or no crops, hurricane winds, and dust storms. The year 1935 brought with it copious rains, and everyone was jubilant. The dry spell was over. However, the heavy rains in July and August caused the wheat to rust. Mr. MacEwan asked how many recalled the Number Five Special wheat at twenty-five cents a bushel. He got quite a reaction to that and to his mention of the diet of "Russian Thistle" in the dry years, with a mixture of dust to keep the cattle "especially alive and active".

In a more serious manner, he reviewed the changes in farming practices, such as less ploughing and the development of rust resistant grains. During the "Tom Sukanen Era", many farmers had to abandon the land their fathers or grandfathers had homesteaded. Neighbours worked together to help each other out with everything, including the birth of their children, as their was no money available. Others, like Tom Sukanen, he said, died of a broken spirit in an attempt to reach their goal. He then officially dedicated the ship to the memory of Tom Sukanen and the thousands of others who opened this country.

Now Tom's quote "... My ship will go up and I shall rest in peace." was understandable.

All through the years of restoration, many people came to see the ship in the middle of the prairie. A log book was kept in one of the cabins and was signed by visitors from near and far. Many different countries around the world were represented as well as school groups, writers and photographers.
In the summer of 1986, the Mullins' got a phone call from New York U.S.A. A Finnish newspaper was sending a reporter and photographic crew to Moose Jaw to interview Moon and see the ship. When they arrived their interest grew and they spent many hours obtaining as much information as they could. Moon gave them articles written by Leith Knight and others. He called a friend at Macrorie and directed the crew there to join a local gathering. The crew then spent time with Elmer and Helen Sukanen before returning to Finland to set about making their film on the Tom Sukanen Story. When the film was completed and shown, the Sukanens in Canada were reunited with their relatives in Finland.

That same summer, Mr. Roy Marsden, from the staff of the British Broadcasting Corporation arrived from London, England. He wished to interview the Mullins, to learn the truth about the Sukanen hip story and to photograph the 'Dontianen'. He spent some time discussing the project and showed great interest in seeing the ship put under cover to protect it from the harsh Saskatchewan weather. At this writing it is believed that he is currently working on a film production to tell the true story of the Dontianen.

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