It was a beautiful day early last September when former employees of the Churchill Park Greenhouse Co-operative gathered in South Hill park for the unveiling of a monument memorializing the massive business venture that used to be nestled in the area.
Featuring rows of greenhouses growing flowers and produce like English cucumbers and hothouse tomatoes while offering employment to the disadvantaged, the business was well-known for its work — to the point that the National Film Board of Canada took interest.
The venture had been running for about seven years in 1982 when director Mary Armstrong and her NFB film crew descended on the Greenhouse, putting together a documentary that eventually became Everyone’s Business.
For decades, the only way to see the film was largely through VHS tapes from those who had caught it on CBC back in the day. Now, thanks to the NFB’s ongoing efforts to digitize and upload its vast archive of documentaries dating back to 1917, Everyone’s Business is now available and free to watch.
The 20-minute film — which can be found at www.nfb.ca/film/everyones_business/ — offers a straightforward look at the Churchill Park Greenhouse, including the nine employees who worked at the business back in the early days of its existence.
That includes manager Don Mitchell, naturally a focal figure in the story.
The film takes a warts-and-all approach, touching on the difficulties the Greenhouse had financially back in the day, with Mitchell spending plenty of time on the phone attempting to wrangle payment out of customers.
The human story is also a touching one, as the film talks about the past of some of the employees, what they’d been through and the effort they put into their day-to-day jobs despite the occasional hardship.
“Churchill Park isn’t just another greenhouse, it isn’t just another workplace,” says narrator Lesley Hughes. “It’s a demanding job without much security, but with the satisfaction of working together and the alternative of working in shelter workshops for minimum wage, it’s a job they’ll fight to save.”
Save it they did. The Greenhouse continued to operate for another 21 years after Everyone’s Business was made, rolling through good times and bad and becoming a mainstay of the Moose Jaw community.
A cairn telling the tale of the Greenhouse and the flower gardens that preceded it is now situated on a walking path in Churchill Park.
You can find Everyone’s Business and hundreds upon hundreds of other NFB films at www.nfb.ca.