Ernie Wlock, the long-time president of the Saskatoon Stamp Club (SSC), recently announced his plans to retire from his role as president by the end of the year.
Wlock, who’s also a director-at-large with The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC), is known around the country for his philatelic philosophies. Since joining the SSC as a member in 1991, he has encouraged its members to actively participate in the hobby as well as the club’s activities; and since becoming club president in 2004, he has made it his duty to promote the club and the hobby to non-members, too.
“I’ve done what I wanted to do with the club,” said Wlock, whose two stints as SSC president ran from December 2004-November 2008 and December 2010 until next month, when he will step down.
“I’ve changed the club from top to bottom.” He said reworking the SSC Constitution was the “biggest task” of recent years; however, there were many “little things” accomplished along the way. “The constitution took about 11 months and 11 proof readings, but we came out with a nice one,” said Wlock. “We also worked on life memberships, so now, to be a life member of our club, there’s a whole list of criteria based on point system, and it really works out.”
One area of concern, however, is youth philately. “We try to get juniors into the club, but it’s just about impossible,” said Wlock, who added there were 11 children at the club’s recent show. “They don’t seem to want it.” Despite these somewhat trying times, Wlock said the SSC is holding its membership. “As soon as people retire, they pull out the album again, and a lot of them come out to the club,” he said, adding there are currently 55 members, nearly 20 of which regularly attend meetings. “There’s an age bracket, though.”
END OF AN ERA
Wlock said after eight years as club president, he’s ready for a change. “I’ve had my fill, I guess you could say. It’s time to get some new blood in there,” he said, adding he’ll remain “very active” in the club and the hobby.
Wlock has also had about 40 articles published in The Canadian Philatelist, something he said he will continue to do. This past October, in co-operation with the Saskatoon Coin Club, the SSC hosted the 54th Annual Saskatoon Coin and Stamp Show and Sale. Wlock said the show went “very well,” with positive responses from both attendees and dealers. “On Saturday, attendance was 223, and on Sunday 106,” he said, adding the SSC spent about $2,500 from donations on the recent show.
“Dealers were very happy because there’s a lot of buying. They say Saskatoon is one of their best ones. We have a waiting list of four stamp dealers trying to get in.” Wlock said part of its success could be owed to the fact it’s one of Canada’s only joint coin and stamp club show in Canada. “In 1966, we had the first joint meeting, and we’ve kept on ever since,” he said, adding both clubs are equally represented, and there are three meetings held each year in preparation for the show. “We have a good working relationship, and many people collect both coins and stamps. We have a nice club, but if we did it ourselves, we’d only have half of what we have. But the way it is, it’s aways full, and the main thing is having the two clubs working together very closely.”
Another big part of Wlock’s legacy is with the Heritage Festival of Saskatoon, which is held at the local museum on the first Sunday of each February. Every year, upwards of 2,800 people attend the festival, and Wlock – never one to miss an opportunity – uses this as a chance to promote the SSC alongside other club members with an information booth full of philatelic fun. “We give all the kids a packet of stamps, and we have a box of errors, so they see a lot of tagging varieties,” he said. “We also get a lot of leads on people that want to join the club, and also people who have a collection for sale.
Last year, people took 32 of my hobby cards, and about half of them contacted me.” And the past two years, the SSC booth has won the People’s Choice Award, which is part of the Festival’s Heritage Awards. All attendees are invited to vote to determine the most popular of the 50 or so service and information booths present at the festival. “There’s a good chance it’ll be three years in a row this year, but we won’t find out for a while yet.”
Under Wlock’s direction, the SSC has also been involved with a program co-ordinated by the Riverside Optimist Club. “They’ve been doing the program for 18 years, but three years ago I met with them and made an arrangement to supply postage for their postcard program,” Wlock said. In total, more than 500 students from 19 local schools receive a blank postcard, onto one side of which they can draw a picture and on the other side of which they can write a note. “We supply postage for all 500 kids,” said Wlock, who added the postcards are sent to destinations around the world after a winning design is chosen. “We have 500 set aside for this year already. That’s a lot of postage.” And for added appeal, Wlock has used Canada Post’s Picture Postage program to produce stamps featuring the winning design from the past three years. “The winners were just tickled pink,” he added.
Wlock said he owes some of his ideas to travelling to various club meetings, whether it is out in Edmonton, Alta., or down in Mesa, Arizona. “I like to go to different clubs and see different kinks, and maybe pick up something new,” he said. “Out in Arizona, they had two or more auctioneers working their auctions: one or more doing the auction, and another delivering.”
“After trying it here, we found out we could do 30 lots in 15 minutes,” he added. “And every auction item is laid out on a table, so if we find out some lots have no bids, we put a tick in the right-hand corner, and if there’s no tick, there’s no auction. You can really move them that way.”
For more information about the SSC, visit saskatoonstampclub.ca.