In 1995, Selyem founded the Country Grain Elevator Historical Society. It was officially recognized the following year as a nonprofit organization, after he completed the necessary paperwork. He got the word out about the society through press releases and membership brochures. "I'll never forget the weekend I spent camping in the Beartooth Mountains stuffing about 1,000 envelopes with press releases," he recalls with a laugh.
But the hard work paid off, as the first completed membership application appeared in his mailbox a mere two days after they were mailed. Today the society has grown to nearly 400 members from 35 states and provinces.
In addition to sharing a common interest, members contribute to the association with historical information and stories from across the country. "That's part of the concept of a historical society," he says. "I can't go out and take all the pictures. I can't go out and collect all the information. So, it's important that other people send in photos and stories for our archives. We get those frequently."
Above: The Canadian sunset reflects its gleaming rays off the varying colors and textures of this Riverhurst, Sask., elevator.
Above right: Grain elevators often served as billboards. This advertisement beckoned customers from a Fort Shaw, Mont., site.
Membership dues go toward the maintenance of a society Web site (www.country-grain-elevator-historical-society.org) and circulation of the quarterly newsletter, in which many members' stories are shared. Funds are also being put toward the acquisition and renovation of an elevator that will house an official society museum, archives, photo gallery, and offices. The project is currently in the early planning stages.
"It will be a long process, but worth it for the future - for people to know about the industry," he notes. "Ultimately, my goal is to have a national headquarters, and we can be a resource for local areas that want to preserve an elevator. We want to be a resource for future generations about the country elevator and its culture."