Personal Memoirs: My Life Story
by Clara Beatrice (McQuarrie) Martin
My father was born in 1879 at Brussels, Ontario. In 1898, he went to Hannah, North Dakota where he worked for his uncle on the farm. My mother was born in the South Mountain area of Ontario in 1874. She went to Hannah, North Dakota in the early 1900s to visit her sister who was married to my father’s uncle. She stayed with her sister and served as a dressmaker in the district for a few years. She went to people’s homes to do their sewing.
My dad, Sam McQuarrie, went to his homestead two miles southeast of Heward, Saskatchewan in 1900 and broke five acres of land and built a house, 14’ x 16’ (cost $100) and built a barn, 16’ x 26’ (cost $60). The summer kitchen (which everyone had) and the bedrooms were built on later. I don’t know when the barn was built. To get a homestead, a farmer had to live on it for at least six months for three consecutive years and break a certain amount of land each year before getting the title. Dad lived on his land November 1, 1901 - May 15, 1902 and January 1, 1903 - July 12, 1903 and April 1, 1904 – October 1904, and then it was his. In 1902 he put in five acres of crop; in 1903, he broke fifty acres and put in forty acres of crop; in 1904 he put in fifty-five acres of crop.
My mother, Ella Shaver, and Dad were married on November 29, 1905 at Hannah, North Dakota in the big white McIntosh (cousins) house, just built that year. The next morning they got on the train at Crystal City to go to Heward where they lived for fourteen years. They would have changed trains at Napinka.
The Heward farmyard as early as I remember it was as follows:
The only trees in the yard were about six or eight near the well, which was beside a slough.
Early social life was visiting your neighbors for Sunday suppers. There were no telephones in that area until 1914. I know we had a telephone in 1916, but in the early days there was not even that convenience for sociability. About once in the winter there was a play put on in the town hall. For a time, debates, which took the whole evening, were held every week or two in the hall. There were three speakers on each side. It was certainly no evening for children but everyone took theirs and they had to be still and quiet through the entire evening. There were no lunches served. I suppose there were no facilities.
We went to the Methodist Church. The Christmas concerts were put on by the Sunday School. I don’t think we went to the concert in any other church (Presbyterian or Anglican). I remember being at a party at the manse. The children had taffy pulling and games in the kitchen. There were other games for adults in the living room.
My mother was back to Ontario a few times after the time she came to North Dakota and before being married. She was back again only in the 1950s with Lyra. My mother’s mother visited us once or twice. Dad’s parents never visited us. When I look back I find it very sad that she did not get back for her mother’s funeral (or before it) in 1918. The rest of the family was all there. Mother would not have had money or clothes to travel and no one to keep house while she was gone, I suppose. My dad was away to Ontario one winter for a month while his parents were living. Neighbor Jim Martin did the chores.
There was only one farm between our place and that of Charlie’s Uncle Bob Martin. There were some occasions when Mother and Dad went to Regina on the train for overnight. Lizzie and Jim Martin stayed with us kids. (Uncle Alex and Aunt Martha lived in Regina then).
The highlight of the summer holidays for Lyra and me was going to Regina by train, by ourselves, for a week. We played with three nieces of Aunt Martha’s. (Dorothy, Phyllis and Margaret Dunlop). Aunt Martha usually had new dresses made for all five of us – of the same material but sometimes some were different colours. I wish I had stayed in touch with those Dunlop girls. One is now gone – Phyllis.
I went to Fraser School (two miles south of our farm) for one year. It was a one-room rural school. I don’t know why I went there, except my dad had a quarter section in that district. All my other school years in Saskatchewan were at the Heward four-room school (also two miles away). When Lyra was old enough to go to school, a small-sized, quiet, slow horse was bought and we drove ourselves to school and kept the horse in the livery barn during the day. We took an oat sheaf and fed our horse each noon. Lyra was six years old and I was nine. As we passed Martin’s, Clifford (who was one year younger than I), met us at their lane and stood on the back of the buggy all the way to town. We always went to the post office each day for the mail. Probably we got groceries too from Mr. Stanley’s store. Mr. Stanley retired to Brandon and I visited him occasionally as long as he lived.
For a time, Jessie Hutchinson’s people (Grahams) lived near enough for us girls to walk back and forth. My only special recollection of being there was that when Jessie’s mother baked bread, she would cut it while warm and put butter and brown sugar on it.
Games we played at school were baseball and Steal the Sticks. We chose up sides for the latter and each side had a number of sticks in a pile. There was a dividing line for each side’s territory. One side was to get the other side’s sticks without being touched on the way. When one side had all the sticks belonging to the other side, they won. At school we usually had only one textbook but several scribblers. Penmanship was emphasized in all the grades. We started to write with pen and ink in Grade 4 using ink from the built-in inkwell in each desk. My favourite subject was arithmetic.
When we were visiting we often played Anti-over. One side was on each side of a building such as a granary. When a ball that had been thrown over the building was caught, the catcher ran around to the other side, and would try to touch an opponent who would then go back with him. The side with all or the largest number of players was the winner. Girls played with dolls and played house to a much older age than they do now. When we got old enough (maybe eight years old), we sewed clothes for our dolls.
The work I remember doing that I detested the most was pulling mangels (like white beets) that were planted alongside the pigpen. We had to throw them over the fence where the pigs came out of their building, at will, in the summer time.
We only had a hired man in harvest time to help stook grain. The man always slept in a bin in the granary that Mother had cleaned and scrubbed. Dad made the bed using 2”x 4” lumber. The ends were an X. The sides were a six-foot-long 2”x 4”, in which he bored holes every few inches. Homemade rope was used to go across the holes on each side of the bed. A straw or hay mattress was put on it. When threshing began everyone’s hired men lived in the caboose (a little framed building on wheels with bunks inside). One steam engine and threshing machine were shared by several farmers. Whatever farm family had the caboose and threshing machine there when it rained – that woman had to feed all the men until the grain got dry enough to thresh.
When the Davidsons came from Cypress River, Manitoba to Heward, they stayed at our place until they had a house built. I do not remember that. They must have slept in the granary as there were six of them in all.
One summer my dad’s sister Jessie, Uncle Tom, and their daughter, Janet Brown, came to visit us. I think they must have spent a month at our place. Dad and Mother slept in the granary then. Janet was just between Lyra’s and my ages. We three slept in Lyra’s and my four-foot bed. We didn’t agree on many things, such as Janet wanted the lamp left burning when we went to bed and Lyra and I wanted it dark.
When we all went away in the horse and buggy there was a board put across the box of the buggy at the front where Lyra and I would sit with our backs to the horse. Our brother Ralph sat on Mother’s knee. There must have been a time before we got a Model T Ford in 1926 that we didn’t all go away at once. Some families had a democrat (a two-seated buggy), but we never did. Some buggies had tops to protect people from weather. I expect ours did when new. A double seater with a top over the people was called a surrey. I only remember one neighbor having one.
The country general stores (there were two in Heward) had groceries, some clothing, and shoes. Eaton’s catalogue was used a lot. In winter we used a lot of dried apricots made into fruit and dried apples made into fruit for pies. Sometimes we had barrels of apples, too, that came from Ontario. These were kept in the cellar. The last few years we were in Saskatchewan there was not enough rain to grow vegetables or potatoes, but Mother kept planting each year. The last few years we were there, the crop was too poor to hire a man to stook. The sheaves were very light so Mother or Lyra and I did the stooking. I was twelve years old when we moved to Manitoba, Lyra was nine, and Ralph was four. Someone had to stay in the house with Ralph (He’d have been only three at our last harvest there). Mother usually stayed in the house, as there was lots of work to do there. However, she did go outside to milk the cows.
As long as I remember, Mother and Dad had a dresser and wash stand in their bedroom. A highlight in our life was when Dad came home from an auction sale with a dresser for Lyra’s and my bedroom. It had two long drawers at the bottom. At one side at the top was a tall mirror that had the back finish damaged, making the mirror so hazy that we could scarcely see in it, but we used it. Lyra later put the mirror on the door of a clothes closet at the top of the stairs of the Pilot Mound house. That dresser was in use when the folks moved to the house in Pilot Mound in 1948. Beside the mirror sitting on top of the dresser was a little cabinet (now in our spare bedroom). It had two little drawers and a space below, supposedly for hats. Before the dresser we had a box with shelves in it for our clothes and it had a curtain around it. In our Heward house and many others we lived in, there was a board nailed on the wall and hooks put on it for clothes to hang on. Every house we ever lived in on any farm had a summer kitchen. Moving the cook stove into it for the summer kept the rest of the house cool.
In our main room of the house were a table, chairs, cook stove (the one left at the farm at Pilot Mound), a narrow leather couch (which was built up at the head end), a sewing machine, and a shelf on the wall where the wash basin and water pail were kept. There were two rocking chairs that Marlene and Charles have. Those were the most comfortable chairs in the house. In winter there was also a Quebec heater that burned coal. My dad made the first table he had. As long as I can remember it was in the summer kitchen. It was sold at Lyra’s estate sale in 1977. The table that Marlene and Charles have was bought in 1910. The churn and washer were kept in the summer kitchen and brought into the kitchen in winter when needed. The cream separator was kept in the summer kitchen in the summer and, like the cook stove, was moved in for the winter. The separator was nailed to the floor to keep it steady while the handle was turned to separate the milk from the cream.
My mother sewed everything that was possible to make. She had made her living being a dressmaker in Ontario. She sewed us lots of doll clothes that we were always delighted with.
I don’t ever remember going to a doctor in Saskatchewan. There was a doctor in the town on each side of Heward. When our brother, Ralph, was born, a doctor was phoned and he came to Heward from Stoughton or Creelman on the train and Dad met him. Usually doctors travelled with horses and most had men to drive them.
One summer Mother and we three kids had a trip to Hannah. We got on the train in Heward and went to Glenboro. Uncle Eli was to meet us at the train there but it had rained so much that travel on the mud roads was impossible. (He had a Model T Ford.) So we stayed in a hotel in Glenboro until the roads were dry enough. The hotel was east of Main Street on Railway Avenue and is still standing (1985).
During the “flu” or “Spanish Influenza” (winter of 1918-1919) epidemic, doctors were on the road day and night and the only sleep they got was between homes. We all had the “flu” at once. Neighbors helped each other, until they took sick themselves. However, an uncle of Jessie Hutchinson’s, Johnny Pringle, was immune to the flu, and he went from house to house. I think he was eighteen years old at the time. He was at our place while we were sick. Everyone had to stay in bed were the orders and warnings. So Johnny was nurse and cook and did the chores at the barn and went to town for groceries. I’m sure he didn’t get any money for his work anywhere, as no one had any. One day Johnny washed some towels and put them on the clothesline. It was a nice day in spring so he left the cattle and horses outside while he was away to town. The cows ate all the towels off the clothesline. (They must have been deficient in some food.) We were all up and around the house but dared not go outside, so we just watched. There was a boarding house in Heward that was used as a hospital so care could be given to several people by two nurses, during the winter of the flu.
In the fall of 1919, when I was twelve, Dad sold our farm to Archie Davidson, who had been a soldier. He got a loan from the Soldier Settlement Board, so we got full payment. Archie wanted to move on to the farm, so we moved into Heward for the winter, into the Miner house. That house later burned down. (Earl and Gertie Gould now live in a new house on the property.) There was a barn there for our livestock, and Lyra and I were elated that we had an upstairs. From the upstairs was a door that opened onto steps that went up to the roof. This must have been a convenience in case of a chimney fire. On the top was a cover door so no snow or rain got on the steps. We were just across the street from the curling rink, and I remember having people call on us from there.
In March 1920, my dad, with the help of Joe Davidson, loaded our household effects, livestock, feed, and machinery into two CPR box cars and travelled with them to Crystal City, Manitoba. Ethel Hammond’s father (who Dad had known in Ontario, but then lived Crystal City), had picked out a farm for us to rent that was ten miles south of Crystal City – Mrs. Alderson’s farm. The train travelled from Heward and changed tracks somewhere to go to Napinka and to get on the Crystal City track. The train stopped periodically for the men to feed and water the livestock. The men slept in the caboose. Mother and the three of us children went by passenger train and it went much faster than the freight. Someone from Hannah (Athol) met us at Snowflake and we stayed with McIntoshs who lived in town for the winter. When we went to Manitoba, Mother’s engagement ring was left on a nail in the bedroom but she got it back when someone sent it to her in the mail. McIntoshs had a couple living on the farm. I remember staying at Hannah for a while until Dad and Joe had things settled. I went to school with Jessie McIntosh for a few days. While Dad and Joe were batching, there was a three-day blizzard. Once they didn’t get to the barn to feed the animals. When farms were rented, sometimes the owner paid half of the expenses and got half of the crop, but most often the renter paid all the expenses and got two-thirds of the crop.
When we lived far from town, as on this farm, Dad went to town about once a week with horse and buggy or team and cutter. It was an all-day job. He always had dinner at the Sharpe’s (Ethel Hammond’s parents’ place).
At that time many peddlers walked or used horse and buggy to sell their wares. One day I remember a man selling yard goods. There was one piece my mother liked but didn’t think she could afford. After the man left, Lyra and I cried because she didn’t get it. Mother then phoned the next place down the road to ask the people there to keep it for her. I guess we didn’t remember her ever having a new dress in Saskatchewan when times were so desperate.
While we lived on that farm south of Crystal City, Lyra and I went to Rosebud School. We still had our old school horse to use. Dad used a different horse to go to town. It was a lightweight workhorse. A disadvantage to that farmyard was that the granary was across a creek. No grain could be taken out of it until the creek dried up in spring or even after a heavy rain. That farmyard was one mile from the US border. I think we were six or eight miles from McIntosh’s.
I don’t remember how long we lived on Mrs. Alderson’s farm. Maybe one year. After summer holidays the first year we were there, I was in Grade IX, so had to attend Crystal City High School. I boarded at Mrs. Alderson’s and went home most weekends. I slept with her daughter Elsie. They had no telephone so I went to the phone office when I wanted to phone home. In the summer of 1984, Marlene took me to Crystal City and we called on Elsie (Cudmore) and on her brother Harvey and his wife who lived in the house in which I boarded.
The next farm we rented belonged to an uncle and aunt of Velma Sando (my good friend in high school and ever after). It was northeast of Mrs. Alderson’s place. Our house was almost across the road from Velma’s home. If weather was favorable we could hear them if they called to someone.
Our brother, Ralph, started school when we lived on the Sando farm. He and Lyra went to Eton School. Mother boarded the teacher while we lived there. That money was used to pay my board in town so I could attend high school there. The first teacher that Mother boarded was May Graham, who became a friend of mine as long as she lived. I was in Grade XI and it was her first year to teach after Grade XI and Normal School. One fall and spring I drove Dad’s driver (light horse) to Crystal City. It was seven miles. The horse was very afraid of cars and often reared up on its hind legs. I travelled in the ditch wherever possible. She was an ugly horse as she tried to bite me often when I put the harness on or took it off. She didn’t want to stand still till I got in the buggy, so I had to be quick. If Dad yelled at her to “stand,” she did, but not for me. Mother used to drive her to a neighbor’s place but not to town on account of cars frightening the horse.
A note regarding horses – most farmers had a horse or a team that would go to a field, without being driven, where manure was spread each day in the winter time. Kids everywhere hooked a rope and hand sleigh on to the manure sleigh (a flat thing which was very few inches off the ground and was called a “manure boat”.) Men trusted their horses, but sometimes the horses got scared by something and ran back to the barn. In that case the horses ran over rough ground and kids were upset off their little sleighs.
When we lived on the Sando farm, Uncle Alex and Aunt Martha moved from Regina to Detroit. Uncle Alex was a contractor who built houses and sold them, but times were then too poor to sell houses. After a few years the same conditions caught up to him in Detroit. Eventually he left Detroit to retire in Kemptville, Ontario which wasn’t too far from where they were raised. Anyway, when Uncle Alex moved, he traded his bicycle in for a lady’s bicycle and shipped it for Lyra and me to use. I learned to ride it in the pasture and used it to bring the cows to the yard, too. (Gary and Marlene later rode this bicycle for a while, too.) This farm had a large square house. There were four bedrooms upstairs. It was only possible to heat two bedrooms in winter. The furnace stove pipe went through one room, and the kitchen stove pipe went through another one. The heat came from the pipes when a fire was on. If there were heat registers, they were not effective. The teacher had one of these bedrooms and the other room had two beds for Lyra, Ralph and me. I was only there on weekends, in winter. Every bedroom had a lovely clothes closet – the first we had ever had. Our school horse died on this farm – at twenty-two years old. (Mrs. Alderson quit having boarders, so I stayed with Velma at her aunt’s place next.)
I think we were on the Sando farm for three years. The next farm we rented was two miles south of Pilot Mound and three or four miles northeast of Crystal City. A trust company had closed out on someone (Mr. Marr, I think), so we called it the trust farm. The house on the trust farm was laid out exactly like Mrs. Alderson’s house that we lived in when we first came to Manitoba. The small room at the front of these houses was meant to be a parlor (living room), but Mother and Dad used this room for a bedroom. We didn’t have any parlor furniture except a leather- covered couch (no back on it) and two wooden rocking chairs that Marlene and Charles now have. A cushion stuffed with feathers was always on the seat of these chairs.
From this farm Lyra and Ralph went to Pilot Mound School. I had to finish my last year in high school at Crystal City as I was taking Latin and French, and those subjects weren’t taught in Pilot Mound. It seems there were two programs offered in high school in places qualified to do so. One program had Latin and French and it extended over four years. The last year was called Matriculation. The other program contained Physics (which I didn’t like, as I’d had some of it in Grade VIII). I also had lots of time to use the four years as I was going to be too young to go to Normal School, anyway. I had always wanted to be a teacher since Grade I, or before that. Jessie (Graham) Hutchinson and Olive Kells were older than I was and we often played school when together. The only time I could be teacher was when Lyra and I played school alone, at home.
I had to use my dad’s driver again to go to school from this farm, except in winter. How I hated that horse! Her name was Lady. Horses were tied to a “hitching” post in front of a store while groceries were bought. Lady didn’t like that. The first small horse we took to school, from the time I was nine years old, was so gentle and quiet, and kind. Horses we drove to school were left in the livery barn in towns. The country schools all had barns. We had to take feed in the buggy, for noon feedings. Sometimes the man who ran the livery barn would feed the horse. He got paid for keeping the horse.
The first winter we lived on the trust farm, Elva (Storey) Ellis and I did light housekeeping in one room in Mr. and Mrs. Bridal’s house in Crystal City. It was a room with a bay window. We had a Toronto couch that pulled out for a bed. In the back corner a piece of wall had been put up and went to the ceiling. It made a pantry and clothes closet about three feet wide. In this place were apple boxes piled up for cupboards for dishes and food. We brought cooked food from home each weekend. We did have use of Mrs. Bridal’s stove in the kitchen if we needed it. I think all we used it for was heating potatoes and making tea, also toast, in the morning (on top of the stove). I still have (1985) the tea pot we used. It is grey enamel (it’s in the basement). It had a spout on the side. It used to have a tin lid that rusted. We used Mrs. Bridal’s kettle. The milk and meat we brought from home were kept between the inside and storm window on the side the sun wasn’t shining on. There was one nail on each wall inside the food cupboard where we hung our clothes – likely one dress each, besides what we had on. Our coats hung out in the hallway.
After finishing high school, I had to stay at home for one year, as I was only seventeen years old and couldn’t go to Normal School until I was eighteen. I had taken Grades VII and VIII in one year – the year we moved from Saskatchewan. That winter I fell while carrying a pail of water out of the washer. As I was taking it outside, I had to step down a step into the back kitchen and there I fell. My knee was hurting terribly and I couldn’t move my leg. The kneecap had slid off to one side. It was bandaged for six weeks and I had to keep my leg straight all that time. During the year I was home, I worked for Mrs. Archie McKellar in the spring. I housecleaned that very big house all alone. Mrs. McKellar got the meals. There were six people to eat. I made enough money to buy cloth to make a summer coat. It looked as nice as one from the store.
I was accepted to attend Manitou Normal School in 1925-1926 even though there were more applicants than spots. Uncle Alex and Aunt Martha helped me financially. That year, I stayed at Mrs. Strong’s. Kay Moore from Elgin also stayed there and we shared a room and a bed, even though we’d never seen each other before. Anyway, we were compatible. While attending Normal School I made one lifetime friend - Ella Compton (Pearen). We kept in touch with each other through the years, and both ended up living in Brandon. Kay Moore (McDougall), now of Virden, kept in touch sometimes.
The year I went to Normal School in Manitou (just twenty miles away), I didn’t get home very often as there was no car at home. If there was a long weekend I went home on the train on Saturday and back on Monday. Sometimes Margaret Stouffer’s boyfriend, Stan, from Holmfield went for her so Agnes Laird (of Pilot Mound) and I got a ride with them. He had a touring car that once had a top and side curtains but these were all missing. The windshield was the only protection.
We had Mr. Gordon for principal and main teacher at Normal School. Some teachers from the school in Manitou helped out with art and music. Mr. Gordon taught us club swinging. I also learned to play tennis and enjoyed it, but I never had any opportunity to play after that. There was only one class – fifty students, in one room. On April 1st, April Fool’s Day, it was decided that we would not go to school on time. We all went back at 10 a.m. and Mr. Gordon had the doors locked so we didn’t get in for another hour. When the Normal School year ended, the class put on a free concert for the citizens of Manitou and our parents, in the town hall. The year Lyra was at Normal she was chosen to give the Valedictory address at her class concert. (Copies of it are in the box of histories). While I attended Normal School, my folks bought a farm two miles north and two miles west of Pilot Mound.
The summer of 1926, when I finished Normal School, my dad bought a 1918 Model T Ford car. It had curtains to put on the sides of the top in bad weather. The curtains snapped onto each other and the top, but we never did put the top down and fold it at the back. I suppose the top was made of leatherette.
The first school that I taught in was Zephyr (about ten miles across the river northwest of home near Greenway and Glenora). Teachers usually didn’t teach far from home when they started. We watched for ads in the paper, and answered the ad in person, if possible. I was accepted at Zephyr – my first try. I was interviewed by all the trustees one day. I suppose other teachers sent or took applications, too. After the trustees had a meeting, I was phoned.
At Zephyr, I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Silas Wardell. They had one boy, Howard, who was six years old and started school with me. We walked one mile north to school together. I had eight students the first year – three English speaking and five French speaking, who scarcely knew any English. One French-speaking boy, Bertrand Lebeau, and his wife Hilda have visited me a few times in the last few years. I had a Christmas concert, and at the end of school in June I organized a family picnic. My parents went too.
The Wardells had the first radio in the district. It was powered with wet-cell batteries. If there was some good (old time) music on, Mr. Wardell phoned a few neighbors (on the party line phone) to come to listen to it.
Families in Zephyr district and Dry River district joined together to take turns at having house dances. The furniture was put back by the walls or in some other room. The music was all volunteered. Everyone took lunch. Fred and Lyle Robinson often ate lunch with May Goodwin (Dry River teacher) and me. The crowd was more of French descent than English but all mixed well. Eventually I went out with Roger Ventress (Mr. Wardell’s nephew). Phyllis Smith went with Oscar, a brother. That is how Phyllis and I met and we have been good friends ever since. The Ventresses had a good team of driving horses. We went to dances at Pilot Mound (maybe fifteen miles from Zephyr), Glenora (eight miles), and Greenway (six miles). Mr. Wardell got a van with a stove in it the second winter I was there. We went visiting neighbors on Sundays in it. It was the first one in the district. In springtime we went visiting in a wagon that had a box about one-foot high. A spring seat (seat with springs) or a board put across the box was used to sit on.
I taught in Hilton next, for one year. This turned out to be my most difficult year teaching as I had about thirty students in eight grades. I stayed at Mr. and Mrs. Dayton’s. Mr. Dayton was the postmaster. I became a close friend of Olive (Little) Hill and was at their place a lot. We have been good friends all through the years, ever since. I went out with her brother sometimes.
It was while I was teaching at Hilton that my brother, Ralph, died on November 2, 1928 at age twelve. He would have been thirteen years old on January 18, 1929. As he was eight years younger than I was, I did a lot of looking after him in his younger years. He slept with me until he was nearly school age and he favored me, always. Lyra always wanted to sleep alone.
Ralph had been hauling grain from the threshing machine and grain getting into his high shoes had irritated a spot on the top of his foot near his ankle. This sore developed into blood poisoning. There was no penicillin in those times, but I’ve read that was the year it was discovered but not in use. We had two nurses, Alice McGowan and Hilda Brown to take care of Ralph. All there was to do was put hot cloths on the place continually, night and day. It eventually spread through his body. The doctor was there every day (at the farm). McIntoshs wanted to have their doctor come from Sarles, North Dakota. He was there once when our doctor was also there.
Olive Kells came from Heward and stayed the November 11th weekend with us, which is a kindness none of us ever forgot. We weren’t planning to go to church, but she insisted we did.
Ralph used to delight in going out in the quarter section of hilly bush land on Lady, Dad’s driving horse. From the house we could see him going so fast on the paths that were like a ledge on the sides of the hills. The horse seemed as eager as a racehorse. We have a picture of Ralph on the horse among our enlarged pictures.
Ralph was very clever at school. Most of his classmates in Pilot Mound went to Hong Kong in wartime and lost their lives or their health.
In June 1929, Copperfield School (two miles east and half a mile north of home) needed to hire a different teacher so the dear neighbors to the east of our home asked me if I’d take the school. We know they asked me on account of Mother and Dad being alone and lonely. I drove a horse and buggy in summer and horse and cutter in winter. If it was stormy in the winter I often stayed at Mr. and Mrs. Dan McCannell’s place, whose yard was over the fence from the schoolyard.
Sometimes Irene Robert’s dad, Mr. DesJardin, would insist I follow him home when he came for Cora and Beryl in bad weather or bad roads. The DesJardins lived one mile west of the school. They travelled alongside a fence, which divided the land in two half-section pieces. There was really no road there – just grass along the fence.
I had the usual country school Christmas concert at Copperfield. Irene Roberts was the pianist and also helped me with costumes all four years that I was there. We have been good friends ever since. Irene played for concerts for many years at that school and other places she and Ernie lived. She gave me a lovely compliment one day by telling me I was the most systematic of all the teachers she had helped. She enjoyed being systematic, too, and has been ever since.
While I taught at Copperfield there were school dances in the winter. Bob DesJardin usually took me (and often Lyra too.)
Some of the years I was there, Lyra taught at Stuartville School which was about three miles northwest from home. We used a horse and buggy (or cutter) each. Sometimes in the summer time I used the car, as the horse I drove then had to be used for a work horse on the land.
We belonged to a beef ring in those days. A beef was killed at the slaughter house near town and was divided into pieces for each member. Families were given their turn getting each kind of piece. Lyra and I got up at 6 a.m. all summer and helped as much as we could. On beef ring mornings, I had to leave home about 6 a.m. to go for meat and deliver it to close neighbors (when it was our turn to go). In wet weather Dad went for it and I used the horse to go to school. In the winter time we must have gotten up about 7 a.m. as Dad or the hired man harnessed our horses and got feed ready to take.
After Ralph was gone, Lyra or I walked over the quarter section for the cows. They were often hard to find. One or two cows had bells on a strap fastened around their necks. It was easy to hear if they were eating grass but near suppertime they weren’t hungry and stood still chewing their cuds. We often thought they didn’t want to be found. We had a corral near the barn where the milk cows stayed all night. The cows were usually tied in the stalls in the barn for milking and each knew her own stall. Some cows were quiet enough to stand outside in the corral for milking. Mother always helped with the milking in summer. Lyra and I didn’t learn to milk the cows, as mother could do it quicker while we did housework. We used to have from two to seven cows. After the milking was done, the milk was taken to the house and put through the cream separator, which separated the milk from the cream. A handle was turned till the milk all ran through. The cream came out one spout and skim milk the other. The skim milk was taken back to the barn and given to the calves belonging to the cows that were being milked. In summer the calves could go into a little shed built at the north side of the barn, where they could have some shade. Some people left calves tied in the barn all summer and they were fed hay.
After being at Copperfield for four years, I applied for Riverbank School at Nesbitt. In the 1930s there was a surplus of teachers, and many school boards got dozens of answers to their advertisement in the paper. When I applied for Riverbank in 1933, I was chosen from over one hundred others. Maybe they shook the applications in a box and made a draw! I always had good recommendations from inspectors, but I am sure others did too. My salary from 1926 to 1929 was about $900 per year. In the Depression of the 1930s teachers’ salaries dropped. When I was hired by Riverbank I was paid $450 per year. Although my salary had dropped a lot, I was more fortunate than many teachers who did not get paid because school districts did not have money to pay them.
I was boarding at Dan and Bernice Campbell’s (about half a mile from school) from the middle of August until about the middle of October when their house burned down. We were spending the evening at Sid and Bessie Miller’s when the fire broke out. Bernice had had a fire on in the coal and wood cook stove in the afternoon so it was assumed the fire started in the attic where the chimney went through. Myrtle Martin saw the fire from their place (a mile north) and Bob McKenzie saw it from their place (a mile west). Bob went on horseback to the fire. When he got there he went in an upstairs window of the main part of the house to find out if Bernice and I happened to be in bed. The neighbors got there quickly and saved the piano and dining room suite from the main part, downstairs. I lost all my clothes except my fur coat, which was at home in Pilot Mound. We spent the night at Miller’s. The next day I went home (likely by train from Bunclody and changing trains at Boissevain). I bought some clothes in Pilot Mound.
When I went back to Riverbank I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Jack English, Irene and Clayton. Clayton was in Grade VII at school. In those days many families wanted to board the teacher, as it was handy to have the money. Everyone couldn’t afford to keep their phone. Olver and Edna English kept theirs and some neighbors helped pay for it, for the use of it. Charlie’s folks kept their phone so that was handy for people two miles north of Olver’s. The people who had phones had many errands to run with messages that were phoned for the neighbors.
Olver and Edna lived about half a mile from Jack English’s. Olver and Charlie had been school chums who often shared the same desk. Edna and I became very close friends too and we were good friends as long as she lived. She died September 11, 1974.
During the years I boarded at Jack English’s (and years before and after) ball practice and ball games were played where grounds were kept in the pasture. Nearly every school district had a team and together they formed a league. Some of the teams were from Bunclody, Riverside (across the river), Carroll, Chesley, and Delton.
There was a picnic for Riverbank and Bertha school districts at the close of school in June, held at the ball grounds. Machine companies sometimes lent a tent for protection from the weather, where a confectionary was run. At one time there were kegs of ice cream (with dry ice packed on the top when it came). People didn’t have ice cream very often, so it sold quickly. Sometimes someone went to Brandon for supplies for the booth and sometimes the creamery would leave the ice cream at Nesbitt store. I remember when someone went to a wholesale in Brandon for other supplies but in the last years they were bought through the Nesbitt store.
There continued to be picnics at English’s a few years after the schools were closed. Next, for a few years, they were held at Riverside Park. The supper was eaten in the dance hall. For a few years now (1985), the picnic has been held at the Berbank Church grounds and supper eaten in the church. No treats are sold anymore. In winter in those years (while I was teaching school), some people had dances for the district, in their homes. We also drove to Nesbitt (eight miles) to dances. Once I went with a group to a dance in Lilly Hill School – across the river east about ten miles. We crossed the river on the ice. There were dances in Bertha School during a few winters after we were married. Then we had whist parties for a few years. All of the family went. Kids who got sleepy slept on top of the desks that were pushed back against the wall. Several people took card tables and all had to take chairs.
After going together for three and a half years, Charlie and I were married on October 9th, 1937 (at 12 noon), at my parental farm home. Those attending were Mother, Dad, and Lyra, Charlie’s mother, Charlie’s siblings Jessie, Pearl, John, Lyla, and Florence, Florence’s four-year-old son, Uncle Eli and Aunt Minnie (Glenn’s parents), Aunt Lettie and her second husband, Charlie Lawson, Athol and Bea McIntosh, Olive and Arthur Hill, and Esther Gemmill. Charlie’s sister, Min, didn’t come because her husband, Jack Hume, didn’t want to come. Lyra played the organ. Olive Hill and Esther Gemmill served the noon meal. Each cold plate etc. was served on a tray. The trays had been used at Mae McIntosh’s wedding.
My dress was blue martinized velvet with rhinestone clasps at each side of the neck. (Now, in 1985, in my trunk.) For travelling I had a green dress with a fine cord in the material. I had a green felt hat trimmed with some silk braid and a short veil. My coat was green with a fox collar. (At present, it is in a box on top of spare room clothes closet.) Charlie’s suit was navy blue (in a box in store room). His hat was grey and topcoat a grey check (now in clothes closet in store room).
Our car was a blue Pontiac (maybe 1928 model). We left for Winnipeg early in the afternoon. On the way in, we caught up to Bob DesJardin who had a flat tire. We gave him a ride to the next town. Neither of us had ever driven in Winnipeg before. I remembered the way the bus went in from Pilot Mound. There wasn’t much traffic, anyway, in those days. We stayed at the St. Charles Hotel (Notre Dame and Albert, I guess) for one week. We had a room with a toilet and a basin in a little room in the corner. That was a luxury room then, as most people went down the hall to a public washroom. There might have been rooms with a bathtub, though.
That first evening we walked to a play “Just Married” in the Dominion Theatre. There were many couples in the play and all were married by the time the play was over. It was a great comedy. On Sunday morning we went to Grace Church not far from the hotel. The preacher was a Mr. Martin. During the week we bought our furniture: kitchen stove, dining-room suite, bedroom furniture (downstairs now), chesterfield, chair with wooden arms, a second-hand washer, and an Eaton sewing machine (second hand at Singer). At that time there was an annex at the back of Eaton’s store where there were one-of-a-kind leftovers (mostly furniture) at a reduced price. We bought most of our furniture there. The chesterfield made into a bed. It was covered with light brown velour that had a design of leaves about six inches long that were autumn colours. There weren’t many homes that had chesterfields then – just couches with no back.
While in Winnipeg we went to a show a few evenings as there was a theatre south of the hotel on Portage. I also bought a new muskrat coat for $100 that week.
Before we were married, the Pilot Mound Young Ladies S.S. class had a towel and tea towel shower for me, as they did for all members. Mine was held at Ethel Hammond’s. There were probably twenty to twenty-five presents. A miscellaneous shower was held at Mrs. Jim Stuart’s. Those attending were Stuartville or Copperfield ladies. The evening after we got back to Berbank, the district gave us a kitchen shower at Martin’s. There were also nicer things from some – mirror from Cam and Myrtle, silver cream and sugar from Art and Edith.
We stayed at Martin’s for about two weeks. Our farm had belonged to the Hudsons – Charlie’s mother’s people. They came to Manitoba in 1882. In 1910 they went to live near Swift Current, Saskatchewan, so they left the house we lived in when it was only eight years old. In the years following, many people who rented the farm or people who needed a place to live occupied the house. After the house was no longer occupied, the windows were broken, and dampness of the weather damaged the plaster on the walls. Pigeons occupied the house for years. The summer before we were married, Charlie had a man from Souris plaster all the downstairs walls. Rich Elliott and a Mr. Miller (no relatives of Sid) from Nesbitt did fixing for many days. The woodwork had to be removed for plastering and then put back on. They also put glass in the many broken windows, and also cut a door from what I used for a pantry into the hall so I didn’t have to go into the dining room to go into the cellar. I think Charlie, John, and Jessie spent many days shoveling out the dirt and washing everything. While Charlie and I stayed at Martin’s, Jessie and I spent many more days cleaning, while the men were finishing the threshing. Art had a tractor used for threshing then and Charlie and John owned the threshing machine, so they worked together. We moved into our home on November 1, 1937. Before we covered our dining room floor or unpacked our furniture, we had a house dance. It was on November 5th and about sixty people came.
When Hudsons lived there they didn’t heat the kitchen, washroom or pantry in winter. We didn’t heat the washroom or pantry either. We heated the kitchen (but not at night). In the hallway (where the sewing machine was) there were shelves behind the door for a winter pantry. Charlie made me an ironing board out of the last pantry shelf. I used the ironing board until 1972 and it is still usable. It goes from one chair to another for support. Many people just put a sheet on the table to iron on.
Charlie bought a building for a barn from Olver. It was in two parts and at one time it had been used for a pigpen on one side and hen house on the other. It had to be moved in two pieces. Many neighbors helped. It was moved with tractors. Charlie’s Aunt Curly had given us $100 for a wedding present so it exactly paid for the barn. The barn had three stalls on the west side for horses (two to a stall). The other side was all one section for cattle. Along one side in front of the cattle was where chop (ground grain) was kept. There was a door to put the chop into it from outside. The chopping (of grains) was done at John’s. There was a door in the north end to put in hay or oat sheaves that were piled outside the end of the barn. The floors of the stalls were made from used railway ties that had been hauled from Bunclody. (The train that had gone from the US to Brandon through Bunclody didn’t run anymore by then so the track had been taken up.) I think the ties were free. Whenever Charlie had the flu some of the neighbors used to help with chores. I would feed the animals and neighbors or John would water them and clean the barn. One time Gary was outside where George McKenzie was putting in feed. George remarked that it was difficult to get sheaves out of the stack. Gary said, “Mummy can do it!” George got a great laugh out of that.
A year or two later, I think, a hen house was built. It was a terrible expense to keep hens (for us and many others). They ate all year round, but seldom laid any eggs in the winter. I think John kept hens in the barn where it was warm so they got enough eggs in winter for themselves and us. In summer, the last thing to do at night was to shut the hen house door. Marlene seemed to be the one who did that job the most, and I didn’t realize, until, as an adult she told me, that she was so scared in the dark that she ran like a streak.
The first winter we had no telephone and no radio. I guess no one had heard of television. No cars were running, either, as there were no graded roads except No. 10 Highway. We painted woodwork during the winter and fixed many things. Charlie worked on the barn, too. He also built an indoor toilet that we put in a room upstairs. We only used the downstairs (main floor).
We went to church on Sundays and got or gave invitations for Sunday or the following week. Most people who visited on Sundays went home after church with their hosts and stayed for dinner and supper. During the week we played cards when invited out – but never played cards on Sunday. During the first winter, almost everyone in the district came to visit us. We also had many visitors call when we didn’t know they were coming. The most unusual visit was one time when Grummetts came about 10 p.m.
We had a coal-burning heater in the living room, and a coal- and-wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen. At night we put a lump of coal about one foot every way in the heater. It held fire until morning. By morning the house wasn’t very warm but we didn’t freeze any plants.
After harvest time, the first year we were married, Charlie and John bought their first tractor – a Harte-Parr. For a few years there was a hired man who stayed at John’s and he and John drove horses for land work and Charlie drove the tractor. The two farms were worked as one. After a few years John bought a tractor and after that no horses were used, so Charlie and John worked separately more, except for during harvest.
Gary was born on September 25, 1938, and we brought him home on our first anniversary. Jessie went to Brandon with Charlie to bring us home. She stayed a while to help us. Sometime soon after, my mother came to stay a few days. One night I thought our baby was getting a cold. I woke Mother in the middle of the night to ask what we should do. She said, “Put some Vicks under his nose.” I don’t think he got a cold at all.
On our second anniversary, we brought home our first radio. It was a nice cabinet Marconi that ran with batteries, which had to be taken to the garage in Nesbitt to be charged. Charlie had seen the radio advertised in a newspaper at a bargain price. It was shipped to Nesbitt by train. The picture of it is still around some place (in a box, I think).
Marlene was born August 15, 1941. She had a lot of dark hair. Gary’s hair was fair when be was born and he had hardly any until he was one year old. Women stayed in the hospital for two weeks after babies were born in those days. When Gary and Marlene were born, Ella Pearen crocheted each of them a sweater and bonnet set (after she knew what color to make). The baby wore it home. Jessie stayed with Charlie and Gary while I was in the hospital when Marlene was born. Gary liked Jessie very much but missed me when I wasn’t there. I think, each day, he said “I want Mummy and I want her right now.” The day we brought Marlene home from Brandon, Jessie held Marlene (in the back seat). Gary stood on the front seat between Charlie and me, with both arms around my neck. Almost constantly he kissed me, and said “that isn’t enough yet.” He wasn’t so interested that we had Marlene – like the rest of us were. Gary could say many words when he was 1½ years old, but Marlene didn’t say as much till she was 2½ years old. I made practically all the clothes that Gary and Marlene wore from underwear to coats. The material was always from a worn- out garment of some of the relatives – never from yard goods. We had to buy shoes and stockings. Jessie and Lyra made clothes, too. Marilyn Pearen was nearly a year older so Marlene got some hand-me-downs from Pearens.
One of the first things that Gary played at was getting me to tie strings on the backs of chairs so he could use them for pretending to drive horses. He’d use two other chairs for a vehicle to sit on. Horses were our only mode of transportation for many winters. Marlene seemed to get used to playing Gary’s games rather than vice-versa. When I was baking, they each pushed a chair up to the table on each side of me “to help”. I gave them cookie, biscuit, or bread dough. They would shape it and it was cooked and eaten at the next meal.
Southeast of the house there was a spot of ground that was bare of grass. Gary and Marlene used some of their toys, also their hands, to make little graded roads in that area. Their toys, whether inside or out, would all pack away in a brown cardboard box about one foot each way.
When Gary played outside alone (usually around the cement step), he often checked to ask if I was still inside. When Marlene got big enough to play outside, she enjoyed getting away on me in the summer time. Often, when I went to the door to check on her, she’d start running on the path going to the barn. If I didn’t see her go, Gary would tell me.
Before Gary was born, Charlie put a lid with leather hinges on a wooden apple box for Gary’s clothes. It now holds snapshot albums. When we needed a place for Marlene’s baby clothes, I put wallpaper over that box (to look nice) and laid it on top of our clothes closet, which we made out of a furniture crate with a curtain around it and a broom handle in it as a rod for hangers. Later we put it in Gary’s cardboard clothes closet. That box is now in the furnace room in the Brandon house.
The summer that Gary was school age, he had whooping cough all summer. (There was no vaccine for it then.) We never knew how he got it and Marlene didn’t get it. Gary would cough until he threw up – mostly at night it seemed. Often I changed his sheets two or three times a night. In harvest time we got up early (5 or 6 a.m.) after having very little sleep. Gary didn’t get started to school for Grade I till after Thanksgiving. The first day he was at school, Marlene asked continually when he was coming home. I drove him to and from school with the car. When we came around the corner of the house in the car after Gary’s first day of school he said “Is this really home”? Some years I drove to school with a home-made cart drawn by a heavy work horse.
Until Gary was six years old we all slept in the bedroom downstairs. The room was 9’ x 10’. In it were – our 54” bed, a dresser, a wash stand, a crib 54” long for Gary, a smaller one for Marlene, and the clothes closet that we had made from the wooden furniture crate.
The winter that Gary was six years old, we put plaster board on the southeast bedroom upstairs for Charlie and me. John helped us. I measured every piece and Charlie and John sawed them and nailed them on. When it was finished I painted the room mauve with cream coloured woodwork. The plaster in the south bedroom was not badly weathered, so Jessie and I put wallpaper on it the first summer we were there and it was our guest room. When we all moved upstairs, Gary slept in a four-foot bed and Marlene used the larger crib in that room. Charlie and I were in the southeast room. The bedroom downstairs became the guest room so we bought a bedroom suite for it (now in our spare room). Another winter we put plaster board on the northeast room upstairs and it became Gary’s room and the south room remained Marlene’s. When pounding nails to put on the plaster board, we cracked the lovely plaster downstairs so we decided to put on wallpaper to cover up the cracks. The first I chose had a leafy pattern, then later I changed it to paper with a plain light green pattern. Laura Minary, a neighbor, did most of the work in putting on both.
In winter, we did some jobs we wanted done. When Gary and Marlene were small, Charlie made them a small table and two chairs, and also a bed for Marlene’s dolls - all out of apple boxes. I painted them. I made bedding for the dolls’ bed. Apples then came in wooden boxes with ends about 12” square and sides about 20” long. The ends were about 1” thick and sides about ¼” thick. One winter we made a tall, narrow chest of drawers, using drawers that Lyra got when Phins dismantled their hardware store at Pilot Mound.
The winter before Gary started to school, Charlie bought a van at an auction sale. It had a stove in the right front corner. It must have been made by using a gas tank from an old car. It was oval in shape and had strips of iron put on for legs. It had about a 4” pipe going up from it, through the roof for the smoke to go out when wood was being burned. There was a window in front to see where we were going and to see the two horses. Below the window was a slot, big enough to put the lines (reins) of the horses harness, used for driving. Along the full length of the left side of our van was a bench to sit on. On the right side was a shorter bench from the stove to the back. For driving the horses some men used a chair to sit on in front of the window, but Charlie usually sat on the bench on the left side. The door to enter was in the back. Horses were not difficult to drive as they usually knew where they were going and would stay on paths that were packed down by previous travelling. Nearly all vans were homemade. Most of them had about 3’ of wood to make the bottom part of the sides and then 3’ of canvas nailed on a frame to make the top part. Some people made vans entirely out of plywood. (Gordon Fowell did.) They were so noisy from the vibration of the wood that it was practically impossible to hear anyone talking inside while travelling in them.
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