Pit Stop at the Antique Shop

While returning home from Winnipeg last week, I stopped at Whitewood, Saskatchewan to visit Old George’s Museum & Hidden Village. Whitewood is located along the Trans-Canada Highway, about 175 kilometres east of Regina. I had been on the road since 5:00 a.m. and was ready for a break. It was the perfect pit stop for me. I only planned to stay a half-hour but ended up visiting with George Chopping, the museum’s owner and curator, for more than two hours.

George is the author of the book, Bottles of the Canadian Prairies, published in 1978. I enjoy collecting old glass bottles, so when I found a copy of George’s book online five or six years ago, I purchased it. It’s probably the best source of information on bottles manufactured in the prairies between the 1880s and 1930s.

Colourful window display in the barber shop

George founded his private museum in 1985, upon purchasing the 11-acre Limoges Mansion property on the outskirts of Whitewood. The brick house, which is also George’s home, has 17 rooms, with 9,000 square feet of space to display his 20,000-item collection of prairie memorabilia. The house was built in 1885, with additional rooms constructed in the early 1900s. All four levels of the house, including the basement and attic are filled with antiques and collectibles. Every nook and cranny holds something of interest. I was expecting to see a great collection of coloured glass bottles on display at Old George’s Museum, and I wasn’t disappointed. But what I wasn’t expecting to see were all the other things George has collected over the years.

A small sampling of George’s eclectic collection
Grab a stool and stay awhile

George has been collecting since he was a kid. It started with stamps and coins but evolved into collecting anything and everything vintage – bottles, spinning wheels, tin cans, kerosene lamps, furniture, indigenous artifacts – anything related to the early history of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Pioneer cabin and barn

When I arrived at the museum, I found George making breakfast – bacon and eggs. He suggested I tour his Old West Hidden Village, by myself, before coming inside to see him. The village is a collection of buildings behind his house. There are about thirty structures in all, including a saloon, barber shop, chapel, hardware store, blacksmith shop, and log cabin. Each structure is decorated with antiques and furnishings related to the buildings.

A portion of the retail district
Fully-stocked shelves
Larry’s Blacksmith Shop

Hotel Carolyn is located on Chopping Crescent, and around the corner and down the street is a cabin where ‘The Kid’ once slept.

Hotel Carolyn
Comfortable quarters
Billy slept here?

If you are an up-and-coming performer, there is even a stage you can rent to show off your talent. It’s been a while since someone performed here and you will need to clear the brush, so the audience can see you on stage.

Stage ready for rehearsals

The Museum

Once I toured the buildings out back, I made my way inside the house. I was greeted by George, wearing his old, weathered cowboy hat and buckskin jacket. He looked like a character out of an old Western movie. George asked me to sit down and make myself comfortable, then proceeded to tell me the history of the house and how he came to own it and convert it into a museum.

The parlour, complete with fireplace, bison head, bear skin rug, and bottle display in the window

As what happens eventually with all of us, Father Time is beginning to creep up on George. Now in his late seventies, he is having a difficult time maintaining his museum and village. Some of the buildings in the Hidden Village have fallen in disrepair and their contents are becoming exposed to the elements. It would be nice to see something happen where George’s collection can be preserved before it’s too late.

Basement shelves lined with jugs
Vintage Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunch box

Despite George’s advancing age, he still has a strong passion for collecting. Before saying goodbye, George showed me an old egg beater he recently found at a garage sale and pointed out where he was going to display it in his kitchen. He also asked me to keep a lookout for a certain Hudson’s Bay Tea tin that he would like for his collection. And if I ever come across two stoneware ginger beer bottles manufactured in Medicine Hat, he said to keep him in mind for one of them. Like a lot of serious collectors, George usually doesn’t sell anything, but mentioned he would be open to making a trade. I’ll keep that offer in mind. There were a few things at Old George’s Museum that caught my eye.

George Chopping, antique collector, with a copy of his book in the foreground
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  1. Walter Hildenbrandt August 2, 2023 at 6:35 pm #

    Hello Vic,

    Once again, you posted an awesome place to visit and check out the great collectibles that George has accumulated. Any bamboo fly rods or vintage gear at his shop?

    • Vic Bergman August 2, 2023 at 7:50 pm #

      Hi Walter,

      Old George has some old rods and reels but he likes to hang on to everything. He doesn’t part with anything, unless you can talk him into a trade. I don’t think that happens very often. Hope all is well.

  2. Edwin July 26, 2023 at 9:28 am #

    What a pile of stuff …and a pile of work looking after it all. Has he been doing it on his own the whole time? What will the outcome be? Thanks for the post Vic!

    • Vic Bergman July 26, 2023 at 12:58 pm #

      Hi Edwin,

      I’m not sure what the outcome will be. George has been running his museum and village on his own but is having a difficult time keeping it up. It would be nice to see another museum step in and help George deal with his collection. At some point, something will have to happen. It will be a huge undertaking. Maybe he has made plans already, I don’t know.

  3. robert garnier July 23, 2023 at 4:24 pm #

    Vic: What a fantastic place. Each room and building is like a movie set. Like his bottle collection in the Barber Shop window. Great photos. Glad your visit went well and you got out of there alive!

    • Vic Bergman July 23, 2023 at 4:47 pm #

      Hi Bob,

      It’s a great place to visit. If George was a seller, I would have left Whitewood, Saskatchewan broke!

  4. Gerry Thompson July 23, 2023 at 6:18 am #

    Goodmorning Vic – so glad you made the stop to visit this site…and meet George. I have never heard of this museum but it is on my list of places to visit thanks to your blog.
    Safe travels and keep the stories coming – they are a delight to read.

    • Vic Bergman July 23, 2023 at 7:26 am #

      Hi Gerry,

      If you are ever out that way, you should stop and visit Old George’s Museum. I could have spent all day there. There is so much to see. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it very much!

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