Turning Back the Pages: The many treasures of Bill Wenman Jr.

One of the most amazing gifts ever received at the Golden Museum was that given by Bill Wenman to give the museum its start.

He donated more than 450 pieces from his personal museum collection, which included memorabilia from around the world, natural history pieces and photographs.

I’m often asked why on earth he would have collected some of the weird things that he did. Like pieces of the London Bridge, coral from the Fiji Islands, porcupine feet, petrified wood, a piece of railway track from the CRL days, a whiskey flask from Cape Town, South Africa. Many of these items have no relation to our community at all but still we keep them as part of his large collection.

Wenman was a really interesting man, a shoemaker by trade, who had the opportunity to travel to some of the more exotic places around the globe. He collected items from various places but only if he found an interest in them and he used his shoe shop to show off the items he collected. Soon other well-heeled citizens started bringing things back for Wenman’s Museum. Why the interest? Well, because most people could not afford to travel the world and would not have ever had the opportunity to see these things on their own.

Wenman’s collection was built up over many years of saving during times when we had no radio or television and the Golden Star was a once a week newspaper. There was no library to borrow books from and even then when we had the first library’s they didn’t contain more than about 30 books that were traded back and forth.

Wenman’s amazing collection helped educate people about the plants and animals in our area and included head mounts, feet, birds nests and eggs, bugs and butterflies, horns and antlers. He also collected rock samples, redwood cones, skulls of various animals, and hornet’s nests.

Further from his collection there were lamps, ash trays, silver cigar box, carved wooden picture frames from Japan, a leather Billy club, British Police Ammunition, a straw doll from the orient and many different pieces of World War I memorabilia.

Bill Wenman’s Shoe Shop building still stands today and is presently home to Derailed Bike Shop. This building which is more than 100 years old was first owned by Wenman’s father, William Wenman Sr. who was an adventurer, guide and a shoe maker by trade. The Wenman family all born in England, came to Canada in 1891 eventually making their way to Golden in 1900 where the Sr. Mr. Wenman opened the store and in 1904 the Jr. Wenman took over the business.

Bill Wenman married Maude Maxwell in September 1917 and although Wenman had relatively little formal education, he developed the widest possible range of interests and activities. His hobbies included philately, photography, taxidermy, mountaineering and hunting. One of his main hobbies was the collection of artifact and objects that have made their way into the collection at the Golden Museum.

One of Wenman’s other jobs in Golden was as the weather recorder for the Federal Department of Transport, Meteorological Branch for nearly half a century. The notes that he kept were carefully recorded in books created just for weather and they also make up part of the Bill Wenman Collection at the Golden Museum.

Wenman was a member of the local Rod and Gun Club, a volunteer fireman, a Scout master, and a coronet player in the Golden Band. He joined the Canadian Legion in 1928 and received their highest award the Meritorious Service Medal. Wenman owned and operated the shoe and harness repair shop for 62 years.

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