A Protest Medicine Cabinet

What does a Mennonite do when they’re very upset and have a strong point to make?

Why, they paint a medicine cabinet, of course!

I guess I should back up. Unless you’ve visited the Mennonite Heritage Village lately, you wouldn’t really know about this particular protest piece on display in the Storied Places exhibit.

It’s about something that happened in the spring of 1960, at Steinbach’s main intersection of Highways 52 and 12: Steinbach’s last original Mennonite housebarn was bulldozed in the name of progress.

I was especially moved by the piece written by the Carillon, documenting the destruction (also on exhibit):

The article was not intended to be moving. I believe it was intended to be victorious, about a new machine easily crushing its deserving victim. But me? I get a little choked up when I read lines such as this:

“Destruction of the historical spot came after last-minute efforts by members of the Mennonite Historical Society to save it, ended in failure.”

And this:

“Right up until a few minutes before the bulldozer blade crunched into the rotting timbers of the old barn at the rear of the house, Archivist Hart Bowsfield and local members of the Society were in the office of the property’s owner…”

I can’t imagine how tense, how heartbreaking those moments were for the Historical Society members.

The article goes on to explain that it was necessary to clean up the lot while the construction equipment was available for the job.┬áBecause I guess it’s very difficult to find time slots in which bulldozers are available. And so very easy to come across structures of historical significance.

The article goes on to describe the scene in detail that wrenches my heart: “…the blade had ripped along the side of the barn section to reach the main house…” adding that historian John C. Reimer was deeply affected, as he had been working since 1934 collecting items for a Mennonite museum… hoping to transform the Kornelson House into that museum.

And then, nearly 30 years later, this medicine cabinet was painted in quiet protest: