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The monarchy is still a big deal in Canada, but for my grandfather the arrival of King George VI in Regina in May 1939 meant the culmination of years of hard work as an entrepreneur and an immigrant. Emil Schmidt worked at a construction company called The Constructors. Its principal, Alex Fraser, had designed and built a number of buildings and homes in Saskatchewan — the most notable being the Motherwell mansion, which is now part of a National Historic Site near Abernathy.
Starting as a teamster, Emil had worked his way up to being a full partner. And now the King was going to drive by his house in one of two specially built McLaughlin-Buick convertibles in royal blue with the King’s shield and royal standard.
The tour happened as war clouds were appearing on the horizon. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King accompanied the royal couple throughout Canada and into the United States. The prime minister believed that he might influence U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to join Britain and Canada in what was sure to be war.
Having just built his new house on Regina’s Victoria Avenue in an area known as Germantown, Emil was proud to show it off on this day late in May, just as the city was proud to host the royals. Regina put on special events at the fairgrounds, city hall, and Government House, as well as a oneday air show featuring wing walkers and mock dogfights.
My mother, Kathrine, snapped this picture from the roof of the family’s house as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth passed by. I later inherited the house, and I enjoyed the fine woodwork my grandfather installed. The house still stands today, down the street from the former German Club, which was renamed the Victoria Club during the Second World War to calm spirits in a country and a city at war.
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