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Granum museum features colourful character from past

Granum Old Jail and Museum volunteer Mike Sherman beside the new pillory and stock built by Gavin Moore for the Granum Old Jail and Museum.

Granum Old Jail and Museum volunteer Mike Sherman beside the new pillory and stock built by Gavin Moore for the Granum Old Jail and Museum.

Granum Old Jail and Museum volunteer Mike Sherman poses with the display on Rainbow Power, a character from Granum's colorful past.

Granum Old Jail and Museum volunteer Mike Sherman poses with the display on Rainbow Power, a character from Granum’s colorful past.

A colourful character from the past is the subject of a new exhibit at the Granum Old Jail and Museum.
Nora Tanuina Mortes Barley Power — known affectionately as Rainbow Power by Granum and Fort Macleod residents — has a prominent place in the museum.
“She was quite an icon in Granum,” museum volunteer Mike Sherman said. “A colourful Granum person.”
The Granum Old Jail and Museum opened Saturday for the new season with several new exhibits, including the one featuring Rainbow Power.
Born in 1887, Nora married William Power in 1903 at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota and the newlyweds made their way to Alberta and a ranch west of Granum where they raised a family of eight children.
As her nickname would indicate, Rainbow was a colourful sight on the streets of Granum and Fort Macleod.
Rainbow made her own clothes and her outfits were colour-co-ordinated from her hat to her high-heeled shoes, which she sometimes painted red with barn paint.
When Rainbow came to town, walking eight miles from the ranch in high-heeled shoes, she wore lots of make-up and jewellery, and had corsages on her hat, lapel and purse.
Rainbow dyed her hair red with the colouring provided with margarine, and styled it in tight curls with ringlets hanging from her forehead.
“She only dyed the part that was showing,” Sherman said. “The top of her head was always natural colour.”
On every trip to Granum and Fort Macleod, Rainbow filled her purse with unwrapped sticky candy for the town’s children.
“As kids we would come up and tug on her skirt, and tell her how pretty she looked and she would give us one of her lint-covered candies out of her purse,” Sherman said.
Rainbow would do her shopping, have a glass of beer, and walk home.
Rainbow’s family recently donated some of her clothes, which now adorn a mannequin in the main room of the Granum Old Jail and Museum.
Rainbow died in 1975 but her memory lives on, thanks in part to the Granum Old Jail and Museum.
Sherman recalled another character from Granum’s past whose family lived west of town.
Blackie Audett grew up in Granum, served overseas in the army and when he mustered out took up a life of crime.
“He was pals with Al Capone and by his own admission robbed over 200 banks in Canada and the U.S.,” Sherman said.
Audett escaped from a train bound for the prison at Leavenworth, Kansas and made his way back to Granum.
Audett was arrested in a boarding house in Granum with $300,000 in his suitcase and ended up in the prison at Alcatraz.
Sherman said there is no end to the colourful stories from Granum’s past.
“The more you dig into these things, the more you find,” Sherman said. It’s absolutely incredible.”
Another new exhibit is in front of the museum.
Gavin Moore of Claresholm was hired by the museum to build a pillory and stocks.
“That’s all it is, is a tourist attraction,” Sherman said.
People can have their photo taken in the pillory or stocks, as well as in the jail wearing a black and white-stripped prison uniform.
Last year more than 300 people visited the Granum Old Jail and Museum, coming from seven provinces, 14 states and three European countries.
“We get a lot of American visitors on their way to Alaska,” Sherman said.
At present the museum is fund-raising to build a washroom, which is a requirement to get on the museum tours out of Calgary.
“The stories here are so rich,” Sherman said, launching into another tale about a shipment of gin that was stolen from a train that derailed near Granum during prohibition.
“They said there wasn’t a haystack within 10 miles of Granum that didn’t have a case of gin under it,” Sherman said with a laugh.
The walls and shelves of the museum are filled with memories from the town’s past, including the Granum White Sox, the Elks Club, the once-thriving downtown core, the award-winning Duce family and the armed forces.
“It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who came through this town and left their footprint,” Sherman said proudly. “It’s so important to keep them alive.”
The Granum Old Jail and Museum opens at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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