Thursday, March 10, 2016

Saskatoon in 1946

By the end of April, 1946 we finally moved to Saskatoon.  It had been a long winter with mother and children staying with the grandparents on the farm and Dad staying with his father in the city.  

When we returned to Saskatoon after the war, Dad thought he would be able to get some sort of Veteran's housing since he had a family, but because he had only been to Alaska and not overseas, he was not high on the priority list.  Available houses were almost non existent in Saskatoon and when he did find a house, his hope of moving in soon fell through.  He purchased a tenant occupied house, but when he tried to get them to move out they flatly refused. They had no place to go, so it looked like a lengthy battle with an elderly couple was about to ensue.  Finally my father said they could stay if they bought the house from him and they agreed.  Back to house hunting again.  In April he put an offer in on a house on Main Street, a few blocks from Broadway Avenue and soon we moved into our new home.

My Great Grandma Atkinson in 1946
with Dad, Bill and me

It was a small two storey older house with three bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.  The main floor had a small kitchen with an old fashioned wood burning kitchen range and a refrigerator which my parents had just purchased, a dining room and a living room which had been given many layers of wall paper over the years.  In the basement there was a big coal burning furnace and in the corner, a coal room with a chute leading from the outside for incoming coal. There were two heat vents on the main floor, but only one on the second floor and it was on the floor in the middle of the hall.  Once my father had stoked the furnace and added coal in the morning, there was an ongoing competition by the children  to see who would get to stand on the hot air vent as the warm air rose to the second floor.  We would shove each other around as we tried to gain possession of the valuable territory on the vent and bask in the comfort of the warm air making its way upstairs. 

About a year after we moved in, my parents got rid of the wood burning range and purchased a propane stove.  It was before the days of natural gas so the stove was connected to a large propane tank outside the house.  

For my parents, owning a home was something new, and having delivery of milk and bread to the door was a great convenience.   When he saw us moving in, the milkman from Co-op Dairy stopped by the house, welcomed mother to the neighbourhood and offered her daily milk delivery.  My mother enthusiastically agreed and all was fine.  That is, until a few hours later the nice milkman from Purity Dairies showed up at the door to welcome her and  convinced her that he too would provide great service.  She couldn't resist and said yes to him as well.  Fortunately, when the milkman from Palm Dairy arrived at the house, my father happened to be home and he was able to prevent her agreeing to have three milkmen.  However, we had two milkmen for as long as we lived in the house, they delivered on alternate days and my mother just didn't have the heart to discontinue either one.  I might add that milk in those days was being delivered by horse and wagon so it probably confused the horses who usually knew the route quite well but would stop at our house every day, not realizing it was supposed to be every other day.   In addition to  daily milk deliveries, we also had  bread delivery, also by horse and wagon.  As you can well imagine, the amount of time spent by horses in front of our house was evident by the manure that was accumulating. 

My Great Grandma Atkinson, my father's grandmother lived about two blocks away from us and in those days, kept a few chickens in her backyard. She was a lovely lady and I used to enjoy visiting her.

I noticed by 2015 our old house had been demolished and a new house built in its place.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Communication now and then

I was sitting in a busy waiting room recently and as I looked around,  it seemed everyone was connected to a phone with a screen and were typing or receiving messages, totally oblivious to anyone else in the room.   The receivers of the messages might be someone nearby or maybe they were across the world, because,  with the easy spread of thought and ideas, no one is ever out of touch. When you think about it, what is happening is absolutely amazing. This type of communication might seem ordinary, common place, whatever you want to call it in our modern world, but for me as a senior, it is mind boggling,  something  we never could have imagined.  In my childhood there was a Dick Tracy comic strip and the main characters had wrist radios, walkie talkies I suspect, that they used to communicate.  That was considered quite futuristic, certainly not something that would happen in our lifetime.
My grandparents worked together on the farm

As I watched the instant communication going on around me, I thought back to my grandparents' farm where we had spent a few months after the Second World War.  At that time, the only lifeline to the outside world was a party line telephone. You would lift up the receiver and turn a crank on the side to get the central operator or a specific number of crank turns to get a neighbour. There was no privacy, everyone listened in on each other's calls. That party line really was the lifeline for the early farmers, "Quick, we need a midwife," "Send help, there's been an accident," "Sad news, our son is missing in action," "Good news, our daughter is getting married."

When my grandparents got married on August 28, 1901 in Mascouche Rapids, Quebec, it was their intention to homestead in Saskatchewan.  That dream was finally fulfilled in May, 1905 when my grandfather first set foot on his own homestead land eight miles from the present town of Rosetown, Sask.  Grandpa had shipped his household effects, equipment and lumber for his house to Saskatoon as there was no railway to Rosetown at that time. Everything then had to be hauled about a hundred miles by horse and wagon to the future farm.

  His father also staked a homestead claim as did a cousin who settled nearby.  On June 30, 1905 my grandmother and young son  Norman reached Saskatoon by train and two days later arrived by horse and buggy at the homestead land where a tent awaited them as their temporary residence.

Communication, there was none.  No phones, letter writing meant dropping letters off at the post office when you went to town.  It was isolation.  Although my grandparents were not yet thirty, they only saw their family members twice more in their lifetimes when they took train trips east many years later.  My grandfather's father, who had accompanied them west, passed away less than a year later. Phone lines eventually went in but luxuries like running water and inside plumbing and electricity were not available until the 1950s.

No wonder I look at communication today with such astonishment.

My grandparents with nine grandchildren in 1946
Three more  Mary, Donna and Bob were born later
Back row: Eunice, Judy, Grandma, Alan, Grandpa, Earl
Front row: Diane, Shirley, Norma, Bill (standing), Jim (in front)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Another winter on the farm

The old farm house had two small upstairs bedrooms with steep, sloped ceilings while  downstairs there was  a small  bedroom just large enough for a double bed. Also on the main floor was a dry bathroom with a chemical toilet and a sitting room which was used as a kitchen in the winter.
Mother and family in front of Grandpa's Willis car
We had no electricity or running water and relied on the Aladdin lamp and coal oil lamps for light.  My grandparents, who were now in their late sixties, had us underfoot once again, only this time there were three children. When I think back to those days, it must have been hard on everyone.

During our time on the farm in 1942 my brother who was two at the time and I shared the chesterfield bed in the sitting room with mother.  However in 1945, as the chesterfield bed was not big enough to handle mother and three children, in desperation, they shifted me to an upstairs bedroom.  

In the sitting room, the kitchen range and a wood burning space heater generated the heat for the small farm house.  There was a door off the sitting room leading  to a steep staircase to the upstairs. Heating this small house was difficult so in an effort to keep the main floor warm, this door was only opened late in the day when heat was needed for the upstairs bedroom. Unfortunately, when you have a  cold winter, not much heat drifted up when the door was opened.

The combination of a cold January, an unheated upstairs bedroom and freezing cold bedding that was beyond the ability of a mere hot water bottle to warm up, made for a terrible sleeping setup for me.  Whenever I think back to that upstairs room on the farm, I can't help but think that if there was a gold medal for  the  coldest place I've ever slept, this would have been the winner by far. I have never been so cold in all my life.  I had lots of blankets piled on top of me, but as a skinny nine year old, I wasn't able to generate enough body heat to warm the bed so would stay in one place and not move a muscle all night, the sheets around me were like ice cubes.  If I unfortunately had to get up during the night and use the chamber pot, it and the hot water bottle which I had finally shoved aside, would be frozen in the morning.

The extreme cold persisted through much of January but finally, as we got through February and into March the weather started to moderate and I was able to give up the rides to school on the stone boat, and walk the half mile on my own.  It had been so cold and there had been so much drifting snow that the caragana shelter belt surrounding the farm was covered in snow and a very hard crust had formed on top.  It seemed quite odd that I was able to walk over the tall hedge on this crust of hard snow without sinking, but it was  probably similar to the crust of snow that forms on ski slopes.

Meanwhile, my father had returned to work in Saskatoon.  He  was staying with his father in a small one bedroom apartment over a store on Broadway Avenue  while trying to find a place for our family to live.  His two younger siblings had also returned from Victoria so all  four of them were in the tiny apartment.  

Getting back to our pre-war lives was proving to be quite challenging.
My grandparent's farm

Picture of the farm house