Pioneer CO-OP


Pioneer Co-operative Association Ltd.
It was early 1936 in Swift Current. The Swift Current Oil and Gas Co. Ltd. was in existence, with R.E. West as Chairman of the Board, N.E. (Cy) Cowan as Secretary, and J.O. Grinder as Manager. The company was in the gas and oil business at a location on Fourth Ave. N.W. between Chaplin and Cheadle Streets.

There was also a branch of the company at Stewart Valley. At a meeting on April 11, 1936, the Board of the Swift Current Oil and Gas Co. Ltd. passed a motion to call an extraordinary meeting of its shareholders to consider reorganizing the company as a co-operative.

This meeting of shareholders was held on April 25, 1936, and a motion was passed to form a co-operative and sell the assets to the co-operative. On the same day, the Directors of Swift Current Oil and Gas met and passed a motion to form the co-operative with capitalization of $20,000 (800 shares at $25.00 per share). Also that day, a meeting of said co-operative named Lars Hendrickson, Ingman Nelson, Ben Cropper, Walter Krinke, and Ben Howden as the group to deal with Swift Current Oil and Gas. The Charter for Pioneer Co-operative Association was taken out over the signatures of Hendrickson, Nelson, Cropper, Krinke, and Howden.  On July 6, 1936, a meeting of Swift Current Oil and-Gas shareholders officially proclaimed the company a co-operative. The first Annual Meeting of Pioneer Co-operative Association was held on February 27, 1937. The first Board of Directors elected included A.M. Thistlethwaite, W.A. Dafoe, Lars Hendrickson, W.A. Carefoot, J.O. Grinder, and Roy Trumble. W.A. Dafoe was selected chairman of the board, and A.M. Thistlethwaite was vice-president, with N.E. (Cy) Cowan hired as secretary/treasurer. The Co-operative was to advertise for a manager.

Decision was made to print (and sell) $5.00 share applications. (The earlier decision to transfer $25.00 shares from Oil and Gas Co. and this decision to sell $5.00 shares were to cause considerable discussion over subsequent years.)

N.E. (Cy) Cowan was named manager April 1, 1937, replacing J.O. Grinder. Mr. Grinder resigned from the board at this point, and A.J. Dyck was appointed to replace him. Mr. Dyck resigned in October, and J.G. Laycock was then appointed. In June 1937, a deal was made with a Mr. Jahnke of Main Centre to sell fuel through him on a commission basis. Coal and wood were added to the co-operative's product line, and in August the board approved building a coal building at Main Centre, the beginning of the Main Centre branch.


In September 1937, the board decided to rent the bottom of the Rollefson Building (Beverly Apartment. building) so that Pioneer could get into the grocery business. The grocery business opened in 1938. The Annual Meeting in February 1938 changed the capitalization ($20,000) of Co-operatives from 800 shares at $25.00 to 4000 shares at $5.00. In April the board approved a per meeting payment to the directors of $1.00. Binder-twine was added to product line in June, and an enlarged warehouse was okayed at the Fourth West property.

First dividends declared February 1939 were:

4 percent.... groceries 2 cents/gal... fuel
10 cents/gal....oil 1 cent/lb ..... grease
4 percent.... accessories  

A decision was made in March 1939 to add on to the building at Fourth West -- a secretary/manager's office and a washroom. The board decided to purchase property in Swift Current, Stewart Valley, and Main Centre for fuel storage. A board meeting of September 1939 authorized the President to collect bad debts from members. In 1940, Pioneer examined the possibility of a machine agency (Cockshutt) and also began handling Sherwin Williams paints. After talking about purchasing the J. Rollefson building, the board decided to renew the rental agreement. Rollefson was in the hardware business and wanted to convert to a co-operative. He proceeded to form the "Sun Co-op". The Semi-Annual Meeting of July 1940 had preliminary discussion regarding forming a credit union.

1941 - Minutes mention the larger co-operative problems -- talk about all Coops in Southwest Saskatchewan pooling petroleum purchases.

A decision was made to join the Co-op Union of Canada (Sask. Section). There was also talk of the formation of a Co-op Grocery Wholesale and later spending $500 to start same. This represents the beginning of Federated Co-op.
First motion on the books in June 1941 authorized borrowing for Pioneer ($5,000 from Bank of Nova Scotia).
1942 - Again the problem of the cost of shares surfaced at the Annual Meeting in March of 1942. The meeting passed a motion that the members purchase five - $5.00 shares to bring their shareholding up to the $25.00 of the original shareholders. Also in 1942, Pioneer paid a $100.00 fee for membership in the Co-op Union, and we see that tenders were called for building a coal shed. There was talk about the need of a warehouse for the store and also for the possible construction of an oil shed. The company seemed to be expanding its operations at this time.
1944 - Annual Meeting again discussed the business of shares, and a bylaw was passed to reduce the necessary shareholdings to two shares for each member. (We assume two at $5.00.)  Also there was talk about holding meetings around the area to deal with a petroleum expansion program. Finally near the end of 1944, the minutes show a $2,000 loan made by Pioneer Co-op to Canadian Cooperative Implements Ltd. 
1945 - In early 1945, the board made a presentation to the Commission on Cooperative Taxation. J.T. Wightman, chairman at the time, made that presentation. Later on in the year, a special assessment of $200.00 was paid to the Coop Union to cover the cost of this brief. The board decided to purchase a series of lots numbered 13 to 21 for a possible bulk petroleum site. The minutes record that the Saskatchewan Co-op Wholesale and the Consumers Co-op Refinery were put together to form Saskatchewan Federated Co-ops Ltd. As well, there was notice in the minutes of the recent organization of the Co-op Life Insurance Company and of the amalgamation of Pioneer Co-op with another co-operative in the City of Swift Current, called the Sun Co-op. This was a hardware co-operative set up by Mr. Rollesfson. There was discussion about attempting to purchase the Sykes block. Later on in the year, an offer was made to Mr. Sykes for the Sykes Block, and the purchase was made at the beginning of 1946. Also during 1945, the board made a decision to hold 50 percent of the 1944 dividends for the purpose of petroleum expansion. They purchased a lot adjoining the warehouse at Stewart Valley and also one acre of land at Main Centre. Also in 1945, the board made a decision to enter into a contract with National Garage of Winnipeg to sell Reo trucks.
1946 - The minutes show that the Sykes Block, which was purchased in late 1945, was being sold to the Provincial Government for a Health Clinic. Later on in 1946, the board called for tenders for the construction of a warehouse building for their oil facilities. There were continuing negotiations with Sun Co-op regarding the hardware portion of the operation in the Rollefson building.  In June 1946, they made an agreement with Sun Co-op to take over the hardware stock and the store lease. In July 1946, a notice in the minutes simply said that Pioneer Co-op was now in the hardware business as a result of the agreement with the Sun Co-op. The business of Co-op Union dues kept surfacing, and they were now up to $200 per year, with some considerable debate on the item.
1947 - There was the beginning of discussion in the minutes about the possibility of purchasing the Rollefson building or the alternative of building a new building in which Pioneer Co-op could sell their groceries, hardware, and other goods.




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