1930 - 1935

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 When I was to write my Grade 8 Departmental exams the teacher told me that I wouldn't have to.  Dad and Mother  felt that I should.  Alfred Jewett  was my classmate and had to write them and Dad and Mother thought I would  be called The Teachers Pet if I didn't.  So I wrote the test and got  52%. Dr. Landers came out the the farm from Veteran and asked how I did on my exams.  Dad told him that I had passed, so Dr Landers wanted to see my papers.  He said not one of the high school students in Veteran had passed.  He said the department had sent the wrong exams for the Grade 8 students.

When I was about 14 Dad would call me at 6 o'clock in the morning and I would get up and eat my sandwich while I walked a mile to the tractor, I would start it and plough till 15 to 9, then I walked another mile to school.  After school I would do the same thing on the way home.   This was done so Dad could take time to sharpen the plough shears.  It was so dry that the shoes had to be changed 3 or 4 times a day.

    Dad had 625 acres in crop, 250 acres was the land that he had broke the year before.  The 250 acres looked like it would do 30 bushels to the acre so he insured it and it hailed - he got about $4000.00 in insurance money.  Later on as prices dropped and it got drier, he often said he should have moved when he got that money.  After harvest we hauled 1000 bushels of No 1 wheat to Veteran and put it in storage as the price could change 20 to 30 cents a day.  Dad wanted a $1.00 per bushel but as it came to pass  he sold it for 47 cents.

    Some of the farmers had a box car spotted at the loading platform.  There were no grain augers in those days and the grain had to be shoveled by hand, this was done to save money as if you loaded thro the elevator they would charge a handling charge of so much a bushel.  One farmer shipped a carload of oats to Thunder Bay - he later got a letter stating that he owed the railway $60.00 as the grain didn't even pay the freight.  The price of farm produce got very low, a bushel of wheat was 18 cents and 3 cents less if it was tough.  Oats at 5 to 7 cents a bushel, cream $1.25 to $1.50 for a 5 gallon can, eggs were 3 cents a dozen and no one wanted them so we would put them in the calves milk or on the grain for the horses.  A farmer that lived about 20 miles north of Veteran had a one ton truck to haul his grain.    The rear end went out and he couldn't afford the repairs so he put a pole on it and hooked up 4 horses tandem and hauled a hundred bushels - he was quite happy to be in out of the wind.  

    There were a lot of unemployed.  The Government would pay a farmer $5.00 a month to hire help and this would include room and board, you had to be over 16 to qualify and it did not apply to your own son.  Some of the farmers would trade sons for the winter just in order to get the $5.00.

    There were a lot of people riding on the box cars.  When a train stopped in a town they would walk the streets looking for work or something to eat. If they found a good place they would mark the gate with a Hobo sign to show it was a good place to get something to eat.  Some of the towns didn't want Hobos to stop in their town and the police would discourage them from getting off.   Some of the Hobos would hide under the box cars  and hide by laying on the rods underneath.  They called it "riding the rods".  A school pal of mine Jim Wagstaff went looking for work.  He got as far as Lloydminster and fell off the train while it was switching and got killed.  Our neighbour and his cousin road the rails to Regina, they got off to find something to eat.  It was very windy and Peter Henry was hard of hearing and didn't hear the train come and got hit and killed leaving his wife and 2 children to fend for themselves

    The government had vegetables and apples shipped from BC.  The apple boxes were shipped in bundles.  Dad took me along to help nail the boxes together.  They had set up benches in she lumber yard with a man on each side - we nailed boxes all afternoon.   Then there was the feed that was shipped in.  There would be 30 to 40 teams waiting for some oats or bales of hay or straw.  The elevator agent had to try and weigh it out so every one got a little.  You had to stay in line, even in 30 below weather.  If you went in to get warm and your team didn't move ahead you would have to go to the back of the line.  This would sometimes cause a ruckus.  I remember Dad and this man going to Loyalist early in the morning as everyone wanted to be first it was very cold that day and they came home after dark with only 2 bales of hay.

    The dust storms would blow in mid-afternoon with severe thunder and lightning and not a drop of rain.  It was so dark by 4 o'clock Mother would have to light the lamp.  One night a storm blew in south of our place where Mother's cousin lived and they had two girls that slept in the basement.  The lightening struck the house and followed the nails down along the wall and struck one of the girls laying in bed.  She was in a daze for days, her Mom and Dad thought that she would never come out of it. At another farm that we used to stop at when we went for coal, the Father and Son were in the field, each with  4 horses hitched to a binder when a lightening storm blew in.  They unhooked and hurried to the barn.  They had just drove the horses in and were watching the rain when a bolt of lightening stock and killed both of them.

    July was the slack time on the farm and we would go north of Veteran to the nose hills and buy a small bluff of poplar trees, we had to cut rose bushes and small scrub, it all had to be cut real low and piled, this was a three day trip.

    After harvest it was coal hauling time.  It was a 75 mile trip one way to the Garden Plain area.  Mother would fry up chicken and salt pork (the pork would keep much longer than the chicken), and also pack some bread and cookies as the trip would take 5 or 6 days.    Dad would fix Ronnie and my wagon for 3 horses each and he would drive 4 horses tandem as you would try and bring back as much coal as possible.   One time  we got there and they didn't have any coal blasted so Dad and Ronnie and I went down into the mine about 30 feet below ground.  We each had an auger about 6 feet long and 3 inches in diameter to drill holes into the coal where the blasting charges would be packed with wooden rods (it had to bee wood as metal might cause a spark and set off a charge to the 4 1/2 foot coal seam.  It was hard work and I was glad to get above ground - I would never have liked to be a coal miner.

    There was a farmer south and west of our place that couldn't handle the thirties and went out by the barn and shot himself .  Another bachelor farmer went to town with a team and wagon for some lumber, he was known to be a drinker and got drunk and got on the load of lumber, he was almost home when he fell in behind the horses and got caught in the traces , the horses ran home to the barn and he was killed.

    The depression was really affecting everyone.  A lot of people couldn't afford a license and gas for their cars so they toot the body off and converted the running gear to buggies which they called the R.B. Bennett buggy as he was the P.M. of Canada at the time.  Dad made a two wheeled one for Ronnie and I to go to school with, he also made a  4 wheeled one which we could pull with a team or horses and it could also be pulled behind a car.  I remember Dad taking a group of neighbours to Neutral Hills north of Consort for a day of berry picking.

    One day Dad came home from Veteran all excited, he had everyone get ready and called the hired man in from the field.  He had heard that a plane had landed at Coronation which was nearly 30 miles away.  We all enjoyed seeing the plane.

    Dad would take Ronnie and I to Mike Labarges Ford garage where his mechanics Austin Cornfield and George Kestner were building a plane using a Model T Ford engine, they also made the prop.  Vic and Leta Melvin were our neighbours half a mile down the road, Vic was Leta's brother and would fly out 7 miles from Veteran on week ends and bring their mail.  When the Post Office heard of this they said he couldn't fly the mail as he was not licensed.   One first of July two men were giving a flying demo.  They landed on a field of summer fallow which was too soft and the wheels went into the ground and the plane tipped forward.  That was the end of the flying demo.

    I can remember picking rocks 7 miles south of Veteran and finding hard clay balls the size of soft balls and foot balls.  When we broke them we found bugs, frogs, snails, small fish and parts of larger fish.   I often wish that I would have kept some of them.  Now I wonder how these fossils got there.  Could the prairie have been a sea at one time?  We also found large pieces of petrified wood.

    One day a friend of Dad's, Platz Hettler and his hired man from Youngstown drove into the yard.  He said  to my Dad "Christ let's go look for homesteads.  I heard there were some available north of Chip Lake".  Dad said "Let's go".  Mother fried up some chicken and packed up some salt pork and cookies for a lunch.  Dad said "Ossie, you come along", needless to say I didn't need any coaxing.  The first night we got as far as Ponoka, we slept in the car.  In the morning Dad went to the mental hospital to see his brother that he hadn't seen for twenty years.  When he saw us come he came towards Dad with out stretched arms and said "Here comes my Chris", it was very touching.  He was head of the dairy heard.  He told us all about what he was doing.   Uncle Adolph seemed normal to me but old country people felt if a member of the family had a breakdown it was a disgrace to the family.  The Mental Hospital had notified the family that he could go home.  No one seemed to want him.  He was laid to rest in the Ponoka Public Cemetery.    I could never understand how a family could do this to one of their own.

     From there we drove to Edmonton Auto Park on the south end of the high level bridge.  There were a lot of unemployed people there, farmers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, preachers, a lot of educated people.  In the morning the four of us walked across the bridge, toured the Parliament buildings and then on to the Land Titles office.  We got a list of the homesteads that were available north of Chip Lake.  In the morning we started for Wildwood, it was slow going as some of the road was on miles of abandoned railroad track.  We got as far as the Pembina River by Evansburg where the Government has set up a relief camp for the unemployed.  There were about 50 men each with a wheel barrow moving dirt for the approach to the steel bridge which is now the beautiful bridge across the Pembina River.  The men were from all walks of life.  They were paid 25 cents a day plus room and board.  There was one man with his wheel barrow upside down.  Dad asked him why he had it upside down The man replied "Every time I push it to the top of the bank they fill it up again, as long as I push it I still get my 25 cents."  E very time I cross the bridge at Evansburg I can still visualize the groups of men.  In later years Eleanor's sister Dorothy's husband Fritz Gylander was working at Evansburg.  He was standing in the bucket of a front end loader that they were using to raise a pump a length of 20 feet.  He was to steady it but it swung and tipped him out of the front end loader and paralyzed him for life.

     By the time we got to Wildwood we had broken a rear spring.  We found a blacksmith and the owner let Dad use the shop.  he also gave us a lot of information about the climate in the area.  He told us when he planted his potatoes he would put a white fish in each hill.  He said he had never seen such large potatoes.  By the time the spring was fixed it was too late to see the homesteads.  The fellow let us sleep in his blacksmith shop.  We slept on the floor of a one ton truck with a horse hide for a blanket.  Our hips were so soar in the morning we could hardly move as we had nothing under us.  We were wishing we had slept on the ground.  We drove to the homestead sites which were north of Chip Lake.  What we saw was land that had been logged and burned with stumps over two feet in diameter and pure sand.  This was not for people from the prairie.

     Dad came home from town one day laughing as Ernie Styles had told him that while we were gone looking at homesteads it blew so hard that it blew his cow up against the barn and held it there for three days.  He had to use a ladder to get up to milk her.

     Dad then heard about a farm for rent at Daysland and also some thrashing to be done.  Dad Ronnie and I went to Daysland to look at the farm.  It was a nice farm, close to the elevators, nice buildings, but was already rented.  It had rained so there was no thrashing.  The farmer let us sleep in his barn. In the morning we helped  him dig potatoes.  He told us to leave the small ones which were larger than the ones we had at home.  he gave us a bag full to take home.      

     In 1933 I worked for my Uncle Bill for $10.00 a month.  If the crop averaged 15 bushel to the acre I was to get $15.00 a month.  I was up at six in the morning, got six horses ready, milked four cows and fed the ten pigs while Uncle Bill got the breakfast ready.  My cousin Edgar was about five years old.  He had trained a hen  to come in the house to lay an egg.  Every morning when Uncle Bill and I were having breakfast the hen would come to the door and cackle, we would let her in and she would  go behind the cook stove and lay an egg and then come to the door to be let out.  My Aunt Lydia was a night person, in three months I never saw her at breakfast.  I drove the six horses pulling a 12 foot seeder and seeded 300 acres.  After seeding i drove the horses tandem and plowed 100 acres for fallow.  I also had to haul two 45 gallon barrels of water every day from a spring a half mile from the house.

     My youngest brother Alvin was born Nov 5, 1933.

     One day Dad got Ronnie and I to sit down as he had something to tell us.  He said that we had six good mares and he would get them bred that year.  As I was the oldest the colts would be mine, as it happened I got 5 colts.  I called them George, Jim, Dan, Prince and King.  The following year he got them bred again and Ronnie got four colts that year.

     There was a fellow by the name of George Funnel from Boardale which is east of Vermilion.    In the winter he would take his team of horses and bob sleigh, he had a caboose built into the front half of the wagon box where he carried his Rawleigh supplies as it was heated, the back was used to carry feed for the horses.  He would stop at our place for the night as he knew we had lots of room in the barn for the horses.  In the evening Dad and him would sit and visit.  Dad was telling him that he wanted to get out of the dry area.  George said if he were Dad he would check out the Mannville area as they never had a crop failure and seldom had hail or frost.  He advised Dad to take land that had stinkweed as it if grew stinkweed it would grow a good crop of grain.

     In the spring of 1935, after the crop was planted, Dad Ronnie and I headed for Mannville.  The first place we stopped was a Cockshut dealership owned by Jim McCauley.   He told us that Harry Drayer who owned the Mannville Hotel wanted to rent his farm south of town.  We went and talked to him and looked at the farm.  There were good buildings and 317 acres cultivated.  The three of us were impressed and a three year lease was drawn up.  We headed home to get ready to move which was a lot of work and exciting.  It was an adventure for Ronnie and i to move to a strange area, especially to be living in what we thought was bush country.  Needless to say, that was a busy summer packing and dismantling machinery.

     Dad and I left about the middle of July 1935 for the Drayer place as everyone called it.  We had loaded the wagon and hay rack loaded with the mower and hay rake as we were going to put up hay for the winter.  We were driving two horses and leading two.   We came through the Wainwright Buffalo Park.  One of the team we were driving was the mother to my colt George.  The buffalo started to chase the colt and we had to throw hay to stop them.  We never came through the park again. Dad and I put up 28 rack loads of hay.  We headed for home as Dad wanted to be home to vote for William Aberhardt on Aug 22 1935.n I can remember Aberhardt speaking in the Crown Lumber Yard in Consort under the shelter promising everyone $25.00 a month when a dust storm blew in and took the roof off the shelter; I think it also blew  away the $25.00 as no one ever saw it.

     Dad, Ronnie and I built a large platform using two binder wheels and hooked it behind the 15-30 McCormick tractor.  After 3 days we got as far as Amisk and a bearing gave out.  It was left in a farmer's field until the following spring.  Dad would get stuck in the sand with the tractor , we had three wagon loads following so we would unhook the teams and pull the tractor out of the sand.  We got north of Irma in the Larson area when the steel rim came off one of the wagon wheels.  Dad took it back to Irma to have the rim put back on and we waited his return.  We just got going again and it got so windy we pulled into a farmers yard behind a barn for shelter as the wagons had 8x12 foot racks and the wind could easily have blown them off.  We moved a lot of stuff across the country.

     Harry Drayer had his auction sale on Oct. 5, 1935.  After the sale everyone left and left me to take care of the six horses as they wouldn't leave the yard to graze, it took them some time to get used to going into the bush.  I was also to do some fall ploughing, I can remember ploughing on Oct 25, 1935 in my shirt sleeves.  I woke the next morning to snow storm - that ended the ploughing.

     Dad had applied to the C.P.R. to have two cars spotted at the Veteran railway station, something seemed to delay them as it was about 4 weeks.  Mother had left me with about two loaves of bread, a little jam and a couple tins of sardines.  There was no stove in the house so I took the top off the furnace which was in the center of the living room.  With some wire I lowered a can of water to heat for my coco and also made some toast.

     In the morning it had quit snowing and Joe Gadke came over to see how I was doing.  Dad had phoned him to check on me.  He was to also tell me that it could take up to a month before they could get the railway cars (as it happened it only took two weeks).  Joe Gadke gave me $20.00.  I fixed up the sleigh and managed to get the wagon box on it.  The next morning I took the team and drove the 12 miles to Mannville and picked up a few things to eat.  I got 20 loaves of bread at 5 cents each, 10 tins of sardines for 7 cents each, a chunk of cheese for 3 cents, a poured tin of strawberry jam for 65 cents, peanut butter for 85 cents, a large tin of Ovaltine 75 cents and this done me until they got home.  Dad and Vic Melvin came by train with the livestock as they had to stop in Edmonton and unload the stock to feed and water them.  Mother and my three brothers came by car, they had quite a time of it as they had to have chains most of the way.

    When the cars were finally spotted in Mannville some of the new neighbours were there to help.  Joe Gadke and Ralph Wagner, they became life long friends.

     The fall of 1935 was very busy.  We had to get the animals used to their new surroundings.  We had to cut wood which was new to us - I had never chopped down a tree in my life.  Dad said we had to get a 2 year supply of wood.  He said his house had burnt down because of burning green wood which would cause creosote to build up in the stove pipes and would catch fire, he didn't want that to happen again.  We had lots of snow and very cold.