Stan Reynolds’ legacy lives on at museum
Acollection of rare and stunning mechanical artifacts resides at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin.
world-class transportation facility with public galleries, restoration shop and library, RAM owes its existence to the late Stan Reynolds — a collector’s collector.
“Passionate isn’t the word,” said Byron Reynolds on the phone from Wetaskiwin as he talked about his uncle’s acquisitive nature. “He was driven beyond passion, especially if the artifacts pertained to mechanized aspects of civilization in Western Canada.”
Reynolds was 88 years old when he died Feb. 9 in an Edmonton hospital. His nephew Byron said he was working “right to the very end.”
Born in 1923 in Wetaskiwin, Stanley George Reynolds worked first with his father, Ted, at the family auto dealership. During the Second World War, Reynolds flew Mosquito fighter planes during night sorties, and returned to Wetaskiwin in 1945 when he was discharged from the Royal Canadian Air Force. Those few years during the war was the only time Reynolds was away from Wetaskiwin.
Back home, Reynolds followed his father’s lead, opening a used car dealership. With a shrewd mind for business, Reynolds eventually parlayed the used vehicle store into a new car outlet, also selling agricultural equipment and aircraft.
Reynolds took just about anything on trade, from cars to motorcycles to steam tractors to airplanes, but he was especially interested if it was an older piece of machinery that had a connection to Alberta and the people who helped pioneer the province. He filled fields with row after row of rusty, if not exactly derelict, equipment.
According to RAM’S website: “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.”
Reynolds put his flying experience to use as he flew at low altitude over farm properties in the prairies. From this bird’s-eye view Reynolds could spot the glint of chrome on a headlight ring or the patina of rust on a fender.
He would land, or else note the location, and return to negotiate on the equipment. Often, the item in question would then show up on a trailer in Wetaskiwin, where it was off-loaded at one of Reynolds’ properties.
In 1955, he started the private Reynolds Museum, sporadically opening his collection to the public. More often than not, however, he loaned artifacts to other institutions to help interpret Alberta’s past.
By 1974, Reynolds knew the collection needed to be in a permanent, public home. That was the year Reynolds offered the best of his mechanized collection to the government, and by extension, the people of Alberta.
Between 1981 and 1986 the province accepted some 1,500 pieces of equipment from Reynolds, and in 1992 the Reynolds-alberta Museum opened in a purpose-built facility.
Stan Reynolds “had the tenacity to save Alberta’s history before other people were ever thinking that way,” said Cynthia Blackmore, head of marketing and communications at the ReynoldsAlberta Museum.
“The Reynolds-alberta Museum grew from one man’s dream, becoming the provincial treasure we have today in Wetaskiwin,” Blackmore said.
According to Blackmore, Reynolds lived a full life.
“He did it all,” she said. “He was a businessman, a collector, a pilot and a philanthropist — he was all of those things, and in whatever role, he was always committed to building and contributing to the province of Alberta.”
Reynolds was recognized in 1999 with the Alberta Order of Excellence and in 2000 with the Order of Canada. Thanks to his interest in preserving historic aircraft and other aviation history, in 2009 he was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame — itself a part of the ReynoldsAlberta Museum.
“We’ll not see the likes of another man like him for a long time,” nephew Byron said.
Stan Reynolds, shown here in a 1926 Ford Model T, was renowned as a collector’s collector and was especially interested if the item had a connection to Alberta and the people who helped pioneer the province. Below and right, the Reynolds-alberta Museum...