A Fascinating Interview with John C. Reimer

A couple nights ago, sometime after midnight, Andrew woke me up.  “Erin, wake up, you have to watch this!” He made me sit up, put a pillow on the headboard and gaze at the screen. I could hardly make it out. I put on my glasses, but that didn’t help much.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Shhh, just listen.”

I heard a man speak, though I could barely see him. The recording had deteriorated over the years, but the audio was clear. I heard stories about Steinbach’s early street village days, the first English school in town, the formation of the Mennonite Heritage Village museum. It was fascinating!

This was a video interview with John C. Reimer recorded in 1987 at his apartment in Fernwood. For those who don’t know, John C. Reimer was the founder of the Steinbach Historical Society. He opened Steinbach’s first museum, the Reimer store, which is now located at the Mennonite Heritage Village. He was instrumental in forming the MHV too! He was also one of the area’s first teachers in the English language. (He is also Andrew’s first cousin thrice removed).

Born in 1894 in Steinbach, Mr. Reimer passed away in 1990, a few years after this video was recorded.

In between a lot of discussion about the Loewen family (which he pronounces “Lay-ven” in true Mennonite fashion), Mr. Reimer discusses stories of early Steinbach, teaching, the formation of the Mennonite Heritage Village, the role of museums and archives, the importance of history, and even weighs in on the discussion about Mennonites as an ethnic group. As you can tell, it was right up my alley! I’m so glad this video exists!

The video was posted by Matthew Reimer-Fehr on his Facebook group Vintage Steinbach. If you’re not a member of that group, I suggest you join!

The video was created in 1987 by Melvin J. Loewen (interviewer) and Wilbert Loewen (on camera). Watching this made me wish I’d recorded an interview like this with my own grandparents!

I never met Mr. Reimer, but he seems like a very nice and fascinating man. At one point he mentions how his small museum (Steinbach’s first store) had been relocated to the big museum.

“It’s still there,” he says. At that point in the video Andrew stared at the screen and, with a tear in his eye said, “It’s still there, Mr. Reimer. It’s still there.”

What a legacy!