It was natural that Frederick George Light would become interested in history. He was born in 1908 to Staff Sergeant Fredrick Walter Light and his wife, Phyllis at the Royal North-West Mounted Police post at Battleford, a mere two kilometres from the museum that now bears his name. As Fred was fond of saying, “I’ve come a long way in life; about a mile and a half.”
Fred developed an early interest in antiques and their history, but it wasn’t until he sold his service stations, Lighthouses #1 and #2 in Battleford in 1966, that his hobbies became a full-time pastime. He raised funds from community donations and contributed his own money and labour to restore the abandoned Gardiner Presbyterian Church. The building housed his growing collection until the former church was filled to the rafters.
By 1974 St. Vital Public Catholic School could no longer house its growing student population and a new, larger school was built across the avenue. Another round of fund-raising began and in 1975 Fred’s collection moved into the two schoolrooms on the first floor of the former school and continued to expand until the entire building was packed with displays. The Fred Light Museum had arrived.
Fred was always a keen outdoorsman, and the walls and ceiling of his Lighthouse #1 service station were used to display his gun collection with rifle displays on the ceiling arrayed around bulls-eye targets. As the collection’s reputation spread, people would frequently drop off guns at the garage to donate. Following his retirement, his interest in acquiring examples of early firearms became a focus of his collecting. Over the years Fred travelled far and wide to add to his collection, acquiring increasingly rare and unique items including early matchlocks and flintlocks, muzzleloaders, multi-barreled revolvers, rifles, swords and bayonets, some dating back to the 1600s. The collection has continued to grow under the stewardship of long-time Museum Manager Bernadette Leslie and now holds nearly 400 firearms, among the largest such collections in Western Canada.
The Fred Light Collection, as the Museum’s firearm collection is widely known, is part of a wide array of artifacts that provide insight into the early years of the area’s history. In addition to the firearms room, theme rooms feature subjects including education, military veterans, a general store, and a room dedicated to Battleford’s early years. Other buildings onsite include models of the early fire hall, a blacksmith shop, Andersen’s woodworking shop and a replica of the first Lighthouse service station.
Story by Daryl Jones