BAILDON — Hope, freedom and victory are attributes that describe the efforts of Baildon’s women pioneers to persevere through challenging times, but they could also apply to Jerry Kaiser and his actions to honour them.
After declaring legal victory in February against the Rural Municipality of Baildon over a wall he built dedicated to the women, Kaiser spent the next few months completing the “Monument to Matrons” and erecting two new columns he dubbed the “Matriarch,” or matri-arch if you’re into puns.
He finished both projects by the summer solstice on June 21.
“This is my latest folly,” Kaiser humorously said about the Matriarch monument.
Folly, in this case, is defined as a large structure that is expensive but serves no purpose, he explained. Such structures were popular in the 19th century because most people — particularly in England and France — were wealthy and would build odd structures or large chateaus.
“I’ve carried that on, but mine (structures) have a purpose. They have a monumental purpose,” said Kaiser.
The Baildon resident constructed a concrete pad in April 2016, intending to have the Matrons monument ready by Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. He explained that female pioneers faced difficulties in the early 1900s because they were isolated and lacked food.
However, they managed to overcome their difficulties.
“The women’s auxiliary would put on entertainments, and 10 cents at a time, they built two churches. One burned down and this one (still standing) was built in 1923,” Kaiser said. “They paid off the mortgage for it and brought the community together, whereas lots of times the old men were out drunk.”
Starting in 2016, the RM demanded that Kaiser modify the base and demolish the wall because he had not acquired a building permit. During the next six years, it also spent thousands of dollars in legal fees against him. However, he pointed out that he accommodated the organization whenever it demanded changes.
For example, the wall’s base is 182 square feet, but the RM said it could only be 100 square feet. So, he cut the pad into two pieces and made them 90 square feet each. He also removed a block of Tyndall stone from the top because the RM said the connecting piece made the base the original size.
Last summer, the RM allegedly told Kaiser his wall was not a true structure since it wasn’t a building. So, he constructed birdhouses — they have walls and a roof — and used the wall as their foundation.
This past January, the RM’s legal team sent Kaiser a letter saying his monument complied with the bylaw. However, he thought the Matrons monument needed an accompanying triumphal arch to be complete, so he constructed the two-column Matriarch — similar to the Greek Parthenon — on a 42-square-foot cement base.
He then had someone put Tyndall stone hats on each monument. The Matrons’ monument has hats featuring the words Freedom and Victory, while the Matriarch has the word Hope.
“… they (women pioneers) didn’t have anything else to go by, but they did have hope, so I put the hope at the top,” said Kaiser. “The hope (stone hat) looked so good that I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try freedom,’ and the victory is the women’s victory over the privations … .
“They’ve just got a little freedom by my building this for them.”
Kaiser was pleased with how his monuments turned out but was already looking to the future. He wants to build something in 2023 but couldn’t say more because of his ongoing legal fights with the RM.
However, two rock piles hint at what is to come. One rock, for example, has a hole with the phrase “The Hole Story” inscribed around it.
“Watch this space,” Kaiser chuckled, “more to come.”