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Meewasin Centre Adventure

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As a slight follow-up to the two-part When Fauna Goes Out article, I have decided to visit another local spot...The Meewasin Centre.
 
As a kid, I really used to love the place, being that I could run around, watch videos, and pretend to ride a 1920's trolley. (Around that time, Prohibition and mobster stuff was popular in my class.) Then, depending on the weather, we could go out and walk along the riverbank. But all that was when I was three feet tall.
 
The Centre sits in a tight corner downtown, between two bridges and a roundabout. Due to the fact that the Centre's parking lot holds a maximum of a staggering six cars, very few people enjoy going there. The lack of exciting exhibits may factor in, too.
 
But, there's one thing that is worth the visit. In the third exhibit room, there is a touch-screen TV game hosted by the one and only...Berry Bastard.

Dunno if a talking piece of fruit is a good mascot

Everyone in town has gone to the Centre at some point, and we all have different names for this guy. "Berry Thing", "That Red Thing", "Henry Wolfe's Dark Secret", and even "I'm not sure, but I think it's a cranberry".
 
I've been searching for a decent picture of the actual suit, but a drawn picture is the best I've got. But why are there no real-life pictures of the Berry Bastard in suit? BECAUSE HE'S THE CITY'S HIDDEN DARK SECRET. Once you meet him in person, his image burns into your brain. It's awesome.

A second illustration of Berry Bastard, supplied by my younger sister.
 
Let's go to the Centre for ourselves. It's Saturday morning, October 25th. The wind is inexplicably strong, and since there's plenty of dying leaves and sand, walking from the YWCA to the Centre is just as fun as it sounds. I've got long, thick hair, so it turned into the consistency of tangled yarn when I got there.

No really, that's me. Serious. I've got three fingers.

Almost there. Traffic and wind together is awful, and I'm standing on one of those concrete triangles between two roads, and here we see the front sign.

 
According to the five little signs, in the Centre, we will A) be confused, B) possibly be handicapped because of one of the attractions, C) watch a streaker, D) stick brick walls between overly-"friendly" couples, and E) buy something. On the other side of this sign is the text "Interprative Museum & Gift Shop," which basically means "five-room museum and junk toy shop". Let's go in.

New-Wave flourescent design? Clear, soft-texture bricks? Outdated cityscape photo? We are entering 1979. Bring Aspirin.

Man, I haven't been here since I was eight. That was when they had some kind of Make-Your-Own-Clothespin-Doll workshop that ended with my brother and I fighting over a marker. Obviously they were expecting more kids for some kind of Halloween party, so the two workers (an old lady and a college-age guy with a ponytail) were setting ten table places when it was obvious that only three kids might show up. When I came in, they were all "Good morning! Do you need any help? Have you been here before?" Etcetera. I could tell I was the first visitor in several days.

Now, let's go into the first exhibit room and check out whatever lies inside!
(I already know what's in there, dammit; I just wanna make this sound more exciting that it is.)

Hey, look, it's...one of those.
There's a fish tank in the first room that is supposed to tell us about river habitat. All I could see was that creepy little thing on the plant. But I remember there used to be several fish in there, one of them a big-ass blue fish. One of my classmates once told me that the big-ass fish died during her brother's school tour, so they had to put the big-ass fish in a big-ass tissue box and put it in a big-ass hole in the park behind the Centre.
At least something exciting happened.

Here was a fact thing, where you'd have to slide a plastic placard up to see the answer. This one involved a pirate's quote when he first came to the province. What's up with quote #B? Pirate aren't maternally-depandant, and that's because
YAR HAR FIDDLE DEE DEE
BEING A PIRATE IS ALL RIGHT TO BE
DO WHAT YOU WANT 'CAUSE A PIRATE IS FREE
YOU ARE A PIRAAAAATE
That fact aside, let's check the answer.

Isn't that flattering? Some pirate compared Saskatchewan to a desert! Damn you, Palliser! I quoted that damn Lazy Town song for you!

There's this huge map of the city, obviously made of 3H Wood Glue and Lego. The city today is much bigger than this thing shows. But why is there a tank next to the University Hospital?
 
Also, there's a white button right under this map that will set off a really long video slideshow, featuring pictures of long-dead settlers and people walking in the park. The narrator woman hints that the Meewasin Centre was built in the mid-seventies, so that's something. Maybe that explains why the background music sounds like the intro to "The Raccoons".

Leaving the room, I looked up and found this inexplicable noose hanging next to me. Whether it's just a Halloween decoration or represents pioneer hardship, I don't know.

Second room. There's half a trolley, a slideshow that displays on stage (it goes on for twenty minutes and shuts off all the lights, so that's why no one plays it anymore), a plaster tower, and some lame hands-on puzzles.

Five cents to go on the half-trolley? Where the hell did this sign come from? There's no way I'm paying to go on this thing! RIBELLE!

See that black shape on the right, with the round thing in the corner? That's me, and I'm sitting on the half-trolley! Without paying! RIBELLE!
Note: There was a brand-new security camera in the corner watching all of this. So if they ever check the tape, they'll either think I'm a huge ass, or hunt me down and beat me for that nickel.

And then there was this felt-and-velcro patchboard thing that the last group of visiting kids had fooled with, proving that people had actually come in at some point. (Or, it could have been done by myself the last time we came in, and I just don't remember doing it.) This display involved some lady in a hoop skirt being bugged by kids while a boy tripped over a cow's face.
I looked through the basket of shapes, and found one patch of an ngry-looking moon and a girl in a frilly dress. I briefly wanted to pose them so that it looked like the moon was te girl's head it was some kind of angry, transvestite moon, but the security camera was right over my head and I decided not to get arrested, as that nickel thing is enough.
 
But enough of this celestial deviancy! Let's go to the third room, and once and for all, watch the Berry Bastard in person. Without further ado, I present...

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Where did it go?! Nobody's gonna believe me now! I was going to tape myself playing the game with the Berry Bastard! WHYYYYY?!
 
Then again, it was a bad video, and touch-screen 11" TVs were high technology in 1986. And after another terrified kid ran around screaming with faces that only Zatch Bell could make, they probably took it out as a P.R. repair thing. But still, the Centre's not the same without it. It fit the super-cheezy theme of the Centre. They could have also taken it out to save power, so they could put more lights in the already-glaring gift shop. I'll get to that later.
 
Note: Since we have no actual Berry Bastard video, just imagine some guy in a felt suit (like the one I drew above) with sleepy elevator music in the background, and the voice of Henry Wolfe. He's a local actor who looks exactly like this penguin. He's already got a kind-of high voice, but make it even higher, and imagine it yelling "YOUU'RRRE RIGHT!" and "SAWWRRREEEE!" after asking historical questions that no eight-year-old should have memorized. When I was a kid and the video was still there, I would try and play for a few minutes. I'd always stop after being annoyed and/or creeped-out by Berry Bastard and his habit of rocking back-and-forth and insulting me if I didn't know when the Victoria Bridge was built.
Point is, it was an abomination, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Right next to where the video used to be, there was this ugly sculpture that some weirdo probably pushed for a Government Grant to make. Actually, it looked like the result of when a Salvation Army collection truck drove through a fence and into a shotput match. Perhaps it's a physical embodiedment of the Berry Bastard's twisted soul.

When my sibings and I returned to the Centre on November 9th, the ugly sculpture was gone, and instead, there were all these creepy paintings. The ones that disturbed me the most were this one and the one on the above left with the stretched faces.

I've almost forgotten the "Birthday Computer". This computer (probably the newest thing in the exhibits) has a 1996 program that allows you to read up about local attractions (1/5 of which don't exist anymore) or print out a thing that shows off top events from your birth/anniversary year. I wanted to do one for a sample, but it required I reveal my full name on the internet. So, I borrowed a name...

I wouldn't be surprised if none of you get the joke on your own. Anyway, as we can see in the close-up, all that Fantasio got for his birthday paper are five news bulletins (one was about a shortage of stuffed olives, which is lame in many a way), a bunch of random quotes, and an ad for the gift shop that takes up 1/4 the whole page.
 
And I...um...was originally going to go for the anniversary print-out, and would have made something like "SPECIAL NEWS! SPIROU AND FANTASIO MARRIED TODAY!" but my sister was watching. My younger brother later did his own anniversary print-out, but the headline was too long, and he got:
ASER AND THE KING OF HYRULE MARRIED TOD
It's five times funnier in person.

Afterwards, I went into the gift shop, and discovered how inhumanly bright the place was. There were three lights within every cubic foot on the ceiling, hoping to entice me into buying some of their crap. In fact, if I had left the flash on, the light would have bounced off that puppet's eye and blinded me.

And then, there was this huge wall of Webkinz crap, even though none of them had to do with the environment or Saskatoon history or Saskatchewan or anything at all, and were probably there because the fad might guarantee some worn-out parent to buy Charlie the Chihuahua to shut up their kids.
 
In the rest of the shop were a bunch of lame wind-up frogs and happy face balls (?!), along with some picture books. In the above picture, you can see books like "HELLO SKY" and "BEAVERS", which probably sound as fun as the rest of the building. This strange book was nestled in with several historical books, but I ca't remember when a pubescent girl flew to Saskatchewan on a magic horse.

It looks to me like Ms. Boreal has been eating one too many of those forest mushrooms.
 
Wait! There's still another video in the building! Let's go see it!

...Well, never mind.
This is the "OMG PIONEERS ARE GOD" room. There used to be another touch-screen video about pioneers, but they paved over its old spot. One thing about it was that the only background they had was a wooden barn in a white studio, and all the actors had crazy 80's hair that was discreetly hidden under caps and scarves. I remember some woman screaming "NO, LENORE! YOU CAN'T DO IT!" and the Lenore in question had a huge perm. Maybe that's what the other lady was so mad about.

"The pioneers had to face many difficult and dangerous situations. What would you do if..."

Here was another lift-the-friggin'-flap game. The questions were kind of twisted, and were all illustrated by a blind guy using Crayola watercolours.

They ask you how to put out a prairie fire, what to do if you get scabies, how to make a horse cross the river, what to do when you get snowed in and are about to suffocate, and how to make question marks float over your head while you hump a fence. Once again, when are kids going to know this, OR apply it to real life? "Gee, someone stole my horse while I was in the bar! Good thing the Meewasin Centre taught me what to do!"

This was on one of the class thank-you cards, back when schools actually considered this a valuable learning centre. WAIT! THAT'S HIM! That's the Berry Bastard, child-size! I remember that plush! My friend Gianni punched it in the face once!
And what the hell is wrong with that guy? Why did they let him be around kids? He looks like the guy who was actually wearing the Berry Bastard suit in that video.
 
Among the thank-you cards, there was a big page of writing in pastel-coloured markers that was obviously written by a teacher, based on the students' opinions. A sample: "Cran's dance in the video was funny." CRAN! The Berry Bastard has a first name, and it's oddly feminine! But, I don't remember Berry Bastard ever dancing in the video. On right answers, he kinda rocked back-and-forth and waved his hands, so it's still not a dance as much as it is a drunken shuffle.

And upon leaving, I noticed a trunk of old-timey clothes and a mirror that only went up to my ribcage. The box of clothes was there for Mennonite fetishists, or for kids who wanted to pretend they were back in the good ole days before Tetanus shots and bicyles.
Then I remembered Mini-Bastard was kept in this box, but couldn't find him. I think they're taking out every trace of him fom the museum. While the rest of the city uses a pelican as a mascot, the Centre uses a scary-ass piece of fruit.

Walking home after the October visit, I passed by the Capri Hotel, which is pretty much a cathouse on top of a greasy bar called "Club Soda". There was this group of stoned/drunk guys standing by the doors, and the apron-clad one on the far left started kicking an empty Tide container, then begun screaming horribly about cutting his foot. Then he limped back to the guys and they started singing. This picture takes place immediately after that pure What-The-Hell moment, and I almost had a better picture, but a van drove right through it. Damn van.
 
You know what else happened on that windy October visit? As I was leaving the building and my hair was turning into messy yarn, a thick sandwich-board sign featuring Childsize Berry Bastard fell over to my feet. The plastic slipcase (which normally would have displayed upcoming events) had shattered, and as I was setting the sign back up, I nearly got myself in the face with the cut-out of Berry Bastard. Well, DAMN YOU, BERRY BASTARD! I'M GOING TO TAKE YOUR MEEWASIN SECRETS TO THE INTERNET, NO MATTER WHAT ASSAULT YOU THROW AT ME!
 
But still, it was kind of fun to revisit the place and renew my memories, even if the Berry Bastard video had long since left the building. I wish I could have captured him in one last video to share his horror with the world, but alas. At least my younger sister enjoys the place. (The picture she drew above was entered into the Centre's art contest, so hopefully she wins what...they...are giving out.) You know, I think that we were the most people they'd had in the building at once in over a year.
 
Well viewers, I'm going to go watch "The Blues Brothers" in the real world. Don't wait up.
 
 
 
CLCK ON LENORE AND BERRY BASTARD TO RETURN TO THE MAIN PAGE

All written material here is 2007-2011 Fauna Crawford, along with any images identified as such. All other copyrights belong to their respective owners and creators. Permission is required to use any original material from this site.