'The same but radically different': Newly revealed footage shows 1930s Saskatoon in full colour

Historical film of a royal visit in 1939, recently donated to the city archives, shows the city as it was in full colour when Queen Elizabeth and King George VI became the first reigning monarchs to visit Canada.

Video donated to archives shows city's excitement about 1939 royal visit

The city cenotaph, which is now located at city hall, was in the middle of 21st Street in 1939. (City of Saskatoon archives)

It could be a video of Saskatoon today — except for the cenotaph in the middle of 21st Street, the trilby hats and the classic cars.

A newly revealed historical film of a royal visit in June 1939 shows, in full colour, the city as it was when Queen Elizabeth and King George VI became the first reigning King and Queen to visit Canada.

City of Saskatoon archivist Jeff O'Brien said the movie shows a city that is "the same but radically different."

"Everything that you think is familiar is there but it's all kind of twisted and turned upside down," he said.

"So it really kind of jars our senses this way."

The flim illustrates the excitement surrounding the first-ever visit of a reigning monarch to Saskatoon.

It shows the path of the royal tour, including the university and downtown Saskatoon, almost 80 years ago.

The city's downtown was decorated in red, white and blue in honour of the visit, and patients from the Saskatoon sanitarium were wheeled outside to see the royal couple pass by.

The material was donated to the city archives last year by the grandson of the man who made the movie, former Saskatoon mayor John Sproule Mills.

Mills, who served seven terms as mayor between the 1920s and 1950s, was an avid moviemaker.

O'Brien said the video is a "gem" because it is rare to see such high-quality footage of the city in that era.
Some of the buildings in the video are still standing, but the vehicles parked outside them today would be very different. (City of Saskatoon archives)

"First of all it's in colour, which is a rare bird for home movies in 1939, so you don't normally see colour footage from that era," he said.

"It's also very well done."

The city recently digitized the video and shared it online to be viewed and shared by the public.

It was provided to the city as just one of more than 20 film canisters and hundreds of slides from Sproule's collection.

O'Brien said there are plans to digitize and share more of the films, including one titled This is Saskatoon, which was shot in the 1950s.

There is also footage of rural Saskatchewan and a hockey game in Moose Jaw, Sask., in 1941.