At 94 years young, Derek still plays a beautiful melody on the piano. These days he is mostly heard in the Anglican Church in Fort Qu’Appelle where he is an organist, but people still remember him playing for the staff and patients at Fort San where he worked in the Business Office and later was in charge of the Fort San Post Office. When he wasn’t playing the organ for the Fort San glee club or for the concerts that were put on for the patients and their families, he was running the Fort San post office where he too had a role in chasing the cure for tuberculosis (TB). As a postmaster he not only made sure all the staff and patients received their mail quickly , he played a big part in the Christmas Seal campaign. Christmas Seals was the most popular campaign for the Anti-Tuberculosis League which later became The Lung Association, Saskatchewan. Christmas Seals were introduced over a century ago to raise money to fund healthcare education and to fund the crusade against TB. The decorative stamps raised funds for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of TB. The fight against the contagious disease was long and tedious.
By being the first province to make the care and treatment of TB free of charge, Saskatchewan paved the way to the free health care we know today. “It was a great place to live and I enjoyed every minute of it,” exclaims Derek. He describes Fort San as a “close knit community made up of treatment facilities, a skating rink, curling rink, a school up to grade eight, an auditorium where plays and concerts were held, and a dance floor for celebrations.” Derek began his career in the Business Office when he was 32 years old in 1956. He continued working there until the Sanatorium closed in 1987. Derek was the last employee at Fort San. “I had a ball every day,” says Derek smiling. It’s been 31 years since Derek retired, but he still continues to support The Lung Association and collects Christmas Seals. In fact, he presented The Lung Association with a scrap book containing every edition of Christmas Seals since the campaign started. The book captures over a hundred years of kindness and generosity of the community and neighbors who came together to raise funds to support those suffering from lung disease.
Derek’s Christmas Seal collection will be displayed in The Lung Association office, where staff, board and volunteers will continue to add to it to continue the collection inspired by hope.
Derek Harrison, Retired Fort San Post Master with Christmas Seal Collection