Alberta's Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums
Reynolds-Alberta Museum
Stan Reynolds

Biography - Mr. Stanley Reynolds

Stanley George Reynolds was an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision and the determination to see that vision made real. He was always proud to say that with the exception of his period of military service during the Second World War he had spent all of his life in Wetaskiwin. Wetaskiwin was his home, and for Stan, there was no place like it.

Stan Reynolds loved his home town, and he loved his province. He believed that one way to ensure its bright future was to preserve its past. Stan loved collecting. By his own admission he was a born collector, picking up things wherever he was. On a pass in London, England, during the Second World War, Stan listened to air raid sirens all through the night. The next morning he picked up shrapnel from the street. Those pieces came back to Wetaskiwin with him. He kept them his whole life.

Stan believed those who let their heritage slip between their fingers would find that not only would they not have a past, they would also have no future. Stan was not going to let that happen. For over 60 years Stan Reynolds worked to collect, preserve, and interpret Alberta’s industrial, agricultural and transportation past, building that bridge between our past and our future. Stan travelled across Canada and the United States collecting examples of the machines that had played a part in Alberta’s past. He collected from the air too. Knowing farmers stored old machinery along hedge rows or out in the back forty Stan took his search to the air. Cruising low over western Canadian farmland he’d drop the plane down near the farmstead where he spied something interesting. Negotiations followed. And usually the next week or the next month, the steam traction engine or plow or car chassis or road grader would be on a truck heading for Wetaskiwin. Without his foresight and determination, many of the artifacts integral to telling the history of Alberta and of Canada would still be decaying behind caragana hedges or have met their end at the junk yard.

Instead, Stan gave them new life as story tellers. For it was not simply enough to save the past: it must be made available to the public, it must be made part of the future. In 1955 he opened his own museum in Wetaskiwin. Over the years Stan leant artifacts for display around the province, convinced that children, youth and adults need tangible connections to the past to understand it. Stan’s dream did not end there, nor did his determination. Stan wanted a permanent home, a public home, for Alberta’s history, and he was prepared to donate the best examples from his personal collection to get it. From the marriage of this personal zeal and public will came the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, a museum dedicated to displaying and interpreting the transportation, agricultural, industrial and aviation history of his home province.

Stan knew those artifacts could tell us what it had been like to live here, what it had been like to work here. That was why he collected not just the shiny new things, the never-used things, the expensive and rare things. He collected the things that showed that they’d been used over and over again, that showed how they’d been used, and why they’d been used. That’s why visitors to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum can examine the Multi-Ped, a walking tractor designed by an Albertan who wanted a machine that could work in boggy terrain. That’s why they can see so many examples of aircraft from the golden age of aviation and better understand the 1940s when pilots training to fly in the Second World War filled Alberta skies. That’s why they can see a home built wire weeder, one farmer’s answer to the soil erosion that daily ravaged his family’s farm, and future. That’s why Stan wanted you to see a tractor with a wash basin hammered into a wheel to repair it. Stan wanted the things that had been a part of everyday, gritty Alberta life. Stan collected the things with history.

Stan Reynolds was a very private man with a private passion for collecting the material remains of Alberta’s history who turned that private passion into a very public legacy. When Stan was discharged from the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1945 he was disappointed. He had been a pilot flying Mosquito night fighter aircraft. He loved to fly, but he came home to Wetaskiwin and began selling used cars and trucks. But when the Air Force called in 1947 offering him a five-year commission in a Mosquito Squadron being formed for overseas service, Stan said no. He was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do. Years later he would muse that had he agreed to go back to the Air Force his life would have been significantly different. Ours would have been too. We’re glad he didn’t go back.

 

Last reviewed/revised: March 18, 2016
Shuttle driver

Stanley George Reynolds
1923 - 2012

In Tribute

Stanley George Reynolds, primary project initiator and benefactor of the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, passed away on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at the age of 88.

About Mr. Reynolds

Stan Reynolds was a business man, aviator, collector, and philanthropist.

In 1974, Stan Reynolds, then owner of the Reynolds Museum, approached the Government of Alberta with the idea of developing a spectacular new museum, and the resulting Reynolds-Alberta Museum grew from one man’s dream to an internationally recognized provincial treasure.

The provincially owned and operated Reynolds-Alberta Museum is named after the Reynolds Family in recognition of the cultural and historic significance of Stan Reynolds' donations of vehicles, aircraft, agricultural equipment and industrial machines.

Stan had an active role on the Museum’s Advisory Board and also continued to donate artifacts.

Stan has been recognized for his contributions to the preservation of history with the Order of Canada, the Alberta Order of Excellence and in 2009 was inducted as a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame for his role in preserving Canada’s aviation history.

Stan’s love of historic machines came from a genuine enthusiasm for Alberta’s past.