'Keeps the mind active': How a 93-year-old World War II veteran found a new passion for design
A 93-year-old World War II veteran is the talk of his retirement home because of his talent for creating.
About five years ago, Bert Masson starting turning old cardboard boxes into intricate model buildings and ships.
“It was something to do, really. A pastime,” Masson said.
Among his creations are the Saskatchewan Legislature, the Eiffel Tower, a replica of Queen Victoria Estates where he lives, and a model of the ship he sailed during his time in the Navy called the SS Queens Park.
Bert Masson's model of Queen Victoria Estates. (Stefanie Davis / CTV News)
Each large design takes him about two months to build, sometimes working for full days at a time.
“First I’ve got to gather up some cardboard boxes and try to get reasonably big ones so you can get a clear piece of out them,” he explained. “Then you just go ahead and cut it up into whatever shapes you need and glue them together.”
He uses plaster to help bend the cardboard into the required shapes.
“It’s pretty hard to bend cardboard. You can bend it one way, but the other way is pretty hard to bend and make a curve,” he said. “I use a little bit of plaster to make it round.”
The first design he created was a small castle that came from his imagination. Each build got bigger and more intricate from there.
His final and biggest piece is the Eiffel Tower, which was made out of wood instead of cardboard. It even has a moving elevator inside.
Vivian Sawyer, a housekeeper at Queen Victoria Estates for 22 years, has watched Masson build some of his creations from the ground up.
“He’s got a lot of patience to do that,” she said. “It’s a nice pastime for him. It gives him something to do other than sitting in the room. I think a lot of seniors should find something like this to do. It keeps the mind active.”
She said other residents at Queen Victoria Estates are fascinated about the replicas and their intricate detail.
The replica builds aren’t Masson’s first time creating. He said he used to work on construction projects in his younger days. He also built his own house.
SS QUEENS PARK
One of Masson’s favourite creations is his replica of the SS Queens Park.
“I joined her around June 10, 1943,” he said. After some trial runs of the ship, he sailed on it until 1947. He was 15-years-old when he joined.
“I was in Sydney, Australia when the Japanese surrendered,” he explained.
He said the camaraderie on board the ship is something that he’s always remembered, and might be why he wanted to recreate it.
“You were always with some other men,” he explained. “You lived with them on the ship and you had to get along with everybody else or that’s a long way to swim.”
Years ago, he also built a 13.5 foot-long version of the Queens Park out of metal, complete with a remote control so he could put it in water.
Bert Masson's SS Queens Park replica (Stefanie Davis / CTV News)
He said many museums had been interested in it, but told him it was too big for their displays.
“It was always too big or too long,” he explained. “I thought if I build a small one, when I go, maybe somebody at those museums will get it.”
A FAMILY PROJECT
Although Masson is in charge of his builds, he seeks ideas and help from his family.
He said it’s a way to connect with his kids.
“It was my daughter who said, It would be good to build the [Saskatchewan] Legislative Building in cardboard,’” he said. “So, I did.”
His Eiffel Tower, made of wood, is his second favourite because of the time he spent with his son working on it.
“My son, him and I got some pine wood and we sawed that up on the table saw, all those little ribs,” he said. “He kind of ran the table saw and he helped me quite a bit on that one.”
For the replica of his own building, Queen Victoria Estates, he had to brave Saskatchewan winter temperatures to go outside and check the building to make sure he didn’t miss any details.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “It was pretty cold out to go and look and see wherever anyone had a balcony or whatever else.”
Masson said he thinks he’s finished with the large creations as he’s running out of space in his suite. He’ll continue creating stained glass, which he sells at the craft sales held at Queen Victoria Estates.
As for the future for his models, he said he doesn’t expect them to go too far.
“I was thinking one day, ‘What am I going to do with all these things? Just stomp on them and crush them?’” Masson said with a laugh.
“That’s about all you can do with things of cardboard. Nobody wants them. So I just think about crushing them, after all that work."
Regina Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada's chief of defence says Russia's invasion of Ukraine is going to change the course of history.
Hundreds of protesters descended on the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday to denounce the justice's decision to overturn the half-century-old Roe v. Wade precedent that recognized women's constitutional right to abortion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau headed to the G7 summit in Germany on Saturday without a consensus from the Commonwealth to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but with a chorus of countries calling for help to overcome the fallout of the war.
New research looking at the frequency of heavy rainfall across the globe shows that a drastic increase in downpours is expected over the years to come.
The final bell is about to ring at the end of a topsy-turvy school year warped by the COVID-19 crisis and students are reflecting on how the pandemic shaped things.
The latest on the G7 summit: Leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany have joked about what would make them look tougher than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Many Canadians remain unaware of the involvement of forced child labour in the products they buy, according to non-profit agency World Vision Canada.
With the nation's capital bracing for anticipated anti-mandate 'freedom' movement protests during Canada Day weekend, interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen says her MPs are free to attend.
As Pride festivities kick off around the world, many refugees are celebrating the LGBTQ2S+ community for the first time.
When Ennio Muzzolini walked into Christies Mayfair Bakery in 1965 interested in purchasing the small bakery on 33rd Street, he never imagined he’d one day be looking on as hundreds of people lined the block to get their hands on a baguette, cinnamon bun or wood-fired pizza.
Organizers have decided to cancel the Elk Ridge Open due to an “inordinate amount of rain.”
A Saskatoon man whose family helped to build the Waterhen Lake Church is planning to help rebuild the church.
Using a trailer or an RV is an easy way for people to get out of the city and into the outdoors, but with soaring gas prices, the cost of driving with one has gone up drastically.
Winnipeg was once again pummelled by rain on Friday and the city came close to setting a rainfall record.
No one was injured but one pet died after an early morning fire Saturday.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 321 yards and Malik Henry scored a third-quarter, go-ahead touchdown for the Calgary Stampeders in a 30-23 win over the visiting Edmonton Elks on Saturday.
Nearly 100 Ukrainian members of Calgary’s community marched in protest calling for the release of Azovstal Iron and steel workers, defending Mariupol from Russian attacks.
After the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away constitutional protections for abortion Friday by overturning Roe v. Wade, NDP Leader Rachel Notley demanded that everyone running to become the next leader of the UCP clarify their stance on the issue.
Fans leaving the Garth Brooks concert at Commonwealth Stadium Friday night were happy and smiling, despite some logistical issues that delayed the show and frustrated some.
A Member of Parliament from rural Alberta went live on Facebook Friday to celebrate a United States Supreme Court vote to end constitutional protections for abortion.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of Edmonton City Hall Saturday to celebrate the first large Pride event in the city in four years, and the first one in Churchill Square in eight.
Dozens of people gathered outside the U.S. consulate in downtown Toronto Saturday to protest a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn constitutional protection for abortion rights.
Office workers are returning to Toronto but foot traffic on Mondays and Fridays hasn’t bounced back. Will it ever?
More people are commuting to offices downtown than at any point since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but the recovery hasn’t been equal across the board, with both GO Transit and the TTC reporting fluctuations in ridership as many workers choose to work from home at the beginning and end of each week.
Every Monday, Mark Powell drives to the Burlington, Ont., pork plant where his wife died to give water to pigs on their way to slaughter.
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the Canada Day activities across the city of Ottawa, including at the new location at LeBreton Flats.
Ontario Provincial Police say minor injuries have been reported after a driver struck another vehicle on Highway 417 Saturday, causing it to roll.
The summer festival season in Ottawa kicked off this weekend with thousands gathering for events across the city.
As the first sustained heat of the season settles in across B.C.'s south coast, Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a special weather statement advising people of high temperatures and humidex values through Monday.
Metro Vancouver is experiencing its first stretch of hot summer weather this weekend and people are scouring stores looking for air conditioners and fans to cool off – some being met with empty shelves.
The family of a Vancouver police officer who died by suicide is suing the department, alleging she endured sexual assault and exploitation enabled by an "unsafe workplace culture and insufficient policies and procedures," court documents show.
A man in crisis stabbed several people Sunday morning in downtown Montreal, leaving one dead and three injured.
The higher parts of Angelique Beauchemin's land, she said, are sinking an inch or two a year as they slope ever more steeply toward the river. While she's not a scientist, she says her biggest fear is that one day there will be a landslide and the white house at the top of the hill where she's lived for decades will tumble down.
Paramedics in Greater Montreal are stretched particularly thin this weekend, with nearly half the territory's ambulances parked due to a staffing shortage.
A 15-month dispute in British Columbia's film and television industry has ended with the ratification of a new contract for creative and logistical staff working on productions shot in the province.
All ferry sailings between two of B.C.'s Discovery Islands have been cancelled Saturday because of a lack of crew.
When Tabi Henry was little, she never questioned why everyone celebrated her birthday in costume. Until she realized Oct. 31 was also Halloween.
An Amber Alert issued by Cape Breton Regional Police on Friday has been cancelled, as the missing youth has been located safe early Saturday morning says police.
The inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting, says four pages of handwritten notes that sparked a political firestorm in Ottawa this week, weren’t immediately submitted when subpoenaed by its investigators.
'It’s in shambles': RCMP 'architects of own demise,' says criminologist after complaints in N.B. and N.S.
After a week of criticism and anger at the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia, and outcry in a rural area of New Brunswick, there are questions about the RCMP’s role in community policing.
Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal MP Anthony Rota said he was shocked by Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion ruling.
With hundreds of students from India who attend Northern College, and other professionals from India who've moved to the city to work, organizers said they felt it was time to bring everyone together to celebrate their culture with the rest of the community.
A group of friends doing work on a camp in MacGregor Bay helped contain what could have been a devastating fire in Killarney Provincial Park.
A fire at a townhouse complex in Kitchener Friday night has resulted in extensive damage.
Many in Waterloo Region are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and what it could mean for Canada.
Norfolk County OPP are investigating after they say a pedestrian was found on the side of a road and had to be airlifted to hospital.