Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In 1985 I helped Prairie start a record label. We weren't really starting something as much as we were reviving a vibrant tradition of recording that had started in the 1940's. I had tremendous hopes and dreams for what this could become. There are several key Harvest Music stories which I'll relate at a further date.

My office was on the east side of the third floor in the G.R. Imbach Centre. The years at Harvest Music under Prairie were some of the best years of my life. Working for next to nothing, there was an energy and excitement that we were creating something special. We started out with a bang and who knew how far it might go? The low wages didn't seem to matter that much and the idea that a group of us were working toward a common goal seemed in many ways to be reward enough.

For years Prairie had designated staff and students who would give visitors campus tours. These tours would take in many of the buildings and departments and included a lot of facts and figures that were truly impressive. Back in the heyday one of those tours may have covered information something like this:

"The Institute has 94 buildings on the campus and 16 at the farm on a total of 450 acres. These include 6 student dormitories, high school, grade school, chapel, a large tabernacle, high school auditorium, print shop, laundry, gymnasiums, fire hall, infirmary, storehouses, barns, garage and carpenter shop. 2 buildings are especially devoted to the music department; another building contains classrooms, administration, library and faculty offices. A fine large dining room seats 1300, together with kitchen facilities, banquet room and bakery. Another building contains the office, correspondence school and book room. Then there are the smaller buildings, including butcher shop, workshops, and many staff homes and apartment buildings. From the pleasant and well lit print shop come the monthly pocket sized magazines, The Prairie Overcomer and The Young Pilot, of similar format. There is also a half hour weekly Gospel broadcast heard on several stations in Canada and the United States.

Underground storerooms, out of reach of the below zero temperatures of winter, are well stocked with potatoes, beets, carrots and cans of preserved fruit. The large buildings and staff homes are steam heated from a well equipped gas fed central heating plant. The pipes are laid in tunnels, equipped with electric lighting so that repairs may easily be made in the coldest weather. The Institute now has its own power generating plant at a saving of $1,000.00 per month.

It takes 3 and a half whole beef in the winter to provide the two main meat meals each week in the school's dining room. Clothes are washed for over 1,000 people each week in the campus laundry. During the school year the bakery makes 325 loaves of bread a day. This requires 50 tons of flour (1 1/2 railway carloads) each year.

Prairie has 750 acres under cultivation. Grain, of course, is the principal crop. Much of the vegetable needs are supplied from the school gardens. As many as 150 tons of potatoes, 27 tons of carrots, 6 tons of beets and 6 tons of turnips have been harvested in one year.

The school farm also has a dairy herd of 55 cows to supply the 1,000 gallons of milk consumed each week during the school year. 1,650 hens have produced 21,450 dozen eggs a year. Sometimes these eggs are frozen and stored in the school freezer for use during the winter months.

As many as 4,500 people, including students and guests, gather at the annual Spring Conference. No charge is made for room and board, for President L.E. Maxwell says that whenever he has thought of making a charge these words have come to him: " Freely ye have received, freely give." He says that God has blessed this plan throughout the years.

The enrollment for 1972 - 1973 is as follows: 826 in the Bible School; 217 in the high school, and 240 in the grade school. Working staff numbered over 200." *

I have had some degree of back problems for many years. This discomfort probably has its genesis in my years of road life on the many tours I was part of in my younger days. I am certainly not Hulk Hogan and for the size of my frame I probably should not have been lifting road cases, lighting rigs and speaker enclosures in the manner that I did. Many were the times when we were in a hurry and facing load-in or load-out deadlines. I should have lifted these items with more care and with some help, but that's the way it goes and as they say, "the show must go on".

One morning my back was giving me particular troubles. I decided that I would just lay flat on my back in my office and try and relax it just a bit during lunch. Often laying on the floor would bring some relief, so I figured I would give it a try. Noon hour came and I locked my office door, turned out the light, closed my window blind, pushed my chair into the desk and lay down on the floor between the back of my desk and the window.

Around 12:30 I heard a key being inserted into the lock on my door and voices in the hallway outside. As the door opened, I heard a someone say, "This is one of the offices of Harvest Music, the school's new record label. Come right in." I heard the sound of feet entering my small office and the voice explaining a bit about the artists that were signed to the label and other pertinent information. I was frozen! Should I pop up and say hello? . . . should I just keep quiet as a mouse and say nothing, hoping they would all leave? . . . what to do? I didn't need to answer the question as the group, in an attempt to all fit into my office, were now edging around my desk. Bingo! I looked up and there stood Jim Crites. Jim was head of the IT department and was doing double duty that day as a tour guide. I am sure Jim was as surprised as I was. A bit flustered, he then decided to introduce me to the group. "This is Steve Rendall. He runs Harvest Music." He gestured at my prostrate form lying on the floor. I can't even imagine what those people must have been thinking. I made an awkward attempt to stand up as I said a lame "Hello" and muttered something about my back problems. The group looked at me as if to say, "If this is the guy that's running Harvest Music, they're in deep doo doo".

As it turned out . . . we were! But that's a story for another day.


© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

* Excerpts taken from; "With God On The Prairies" and
"Prairie Bible Institute - What it was . . .What it is!"
© Prairie Bible Institute


  1. Did you ever see The Prairie Home Companion?

    I think I must send you my collection of short stories which are based on my memories and imagination. They're dark, but oh so possible...

  2. You posted this nearly a year ago, Steve, so I don't know if you have continued and/or will get this comment. Anyway... I have been finally reading a stack of Harvester & Prairie Overcomer from the 80s and, coming across ads for Harvest Music, I decided to see if Google had anything on the group. Which is where I found this interesting contribution. Did you ever continue with the story? And is any of the music still available?
    --Sharon (Bowdoin) Esau, 65 BS grad, in Spain with David and Operation Mobilization

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  4. Sorry, I see your subsequent entries are there in plain sight on the right. (My husband's go to the left)