WCMS students dig up their roots for Heritage Fair

Warman Community Middle School Grade 7 student Kaitlyn Soles outlines her project at the school’s heritage fair

It’s amazing what you can find if you climb high enough up your family tree.

Warman Community Middle School (WCMS) Grade 7 student Kaitlyn Soles discovered that her great-great-great uncle, Robert Leith Hanbidge, served as Saskatchewan’s 12th Lieutenant-Governor from 1963 to 1970.

And if being the Queen’s official representative wasn’t impressive enough, how about the fact that he was also one of the original Saskatchewan Roughriders? Robert Hanbidge was a member of the 1911-13 Regina Rugby Club (which eventually became the Riders).

Born in Ontario in 1891, he came west in 1909 and earned a law degree in Regina. He married in 1915 and became Mayor of Kerrobert before being elected as a Conservative MLA in 1929. He ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1945 but was later elected as a Conservative MP in the Diefenbaker sweep of 1958, and re-elected in the 1962 federal election. He was appointed Lieutenant-Governor for Saskatchewan in 1963.

“Before I did this research, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Lieutenant-Governor,” said Kaitlyn Soles. “And now I’m really proud that my great-great-great uncle held that office. It’s kind of inspiring to think about all the things he did in his life, and it makes the history of the province a little more personal for me because he played a big part in that.”

She said she’s also inspired by her great-great-grandfather, John Murton Hanbidge, Robert’s older brother. Born in 1882 in Ontario, John Hanbidge was also a lawyer, and later a district court judge in Humboldt and Prince Albert. Her great-grandfather, John Murton Vance Hanbidge, was a pilot in the Second World War.

Soles researched her ancestors as a Heritage Fair project. She was one of about 150 Grade 7 students taking part in the fair in the WCMS- Legends Centre gym on Thursday, March 28.

WCMS teacher Clark Bymoen said a total of 98 projects were on display at the fair.

150 students take part in the WCMS Heritage Fair March 28

“Some kids worked in pairs, but most did individual projects,” said Bymoen. “The students pick their own topic and then they do the research and presentation. They learn about the topic, and they also learn how to do the research.

“The amount of time and effort the kids put into their projects is very impressive.”

Bymoen said a lot of students choose to research their genealogy and present their own family stories.

“One girl whose family came from Colombia as refugees told how they had only 24 hours to get out of the country or they would be all killed,” said Bymoen. “That was a very dramatic and moving story.”

The projects are judged and the top ones move on to the regional heritage fair, and after that the provincial competition. The cream of the crop advance to a national competition.

Bymoen enlisted the help of 23 judges, including former Prairie Spirit School Division Chair Larry Pavloff, and also Grade 8 student and WCMS alumnus Liam Kleinsasser, whose project last year was one of the top entries in the provincial competition.