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1 Memoirs Project started November 4, 1996 Written by: Elmer Sauder

Memoirs -

Feb 27, 2022



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Memories.PDFWritten by: Elmer Sauder
Memories 1 I was born on September 12, 1926 on the farm now owned by Peter Brubacher, an Old Order Mennonite who went to school with our oldest son, Allan. The farm is located on Henry Street west of St. Jacobs just past the Home Hardware enterprise. I only lived here for three years before moving to St. Jacobs in the house on the corner of King and Cedar, diagonally across from the United Church and currently used as one of the many shops in the village of St. Jacobs. I am told that Laura Cressman helped to take care of me when I was a baby and I also learned that I had pneumonia twice before I was 2 years old. Faintly in my mind I remember a big cement loading platform to get on and off the horse drawn buggy. My sister Pearl was a few years older than me, born April 27, 1923. Our family attended the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church which was built in 1915. Our farm was sold in 1929, the year the Great Depression started. We lived with my grandfather, Henry Sauder, and my aunt, Annie Sauder, for three years. My sister Eileen was born in this house on Sept. 27, 1930. I remember a few things while living in St. Jacobs. On the farm I learned to talk but it was only in the Pennsylvania German. When I played with the village children I soon picked up the English language and when I started school I was fluent in both languages. I had many escapades in my childhood and youth. Oscar Good operated a Livery service in St. Jacobs and, as youngsters sometimes do, I ran after this horse drawn vehicle but I got too close and the wagon wheel went over me when I fell. I guess all that happened was that it gave me and the driver a big scare. On another occasion I went with some older children along the mill race to the dam and, always being a little aggressive, I got much too close to the deep water and fell in almost to my neck. I was pulled out very scared and
rode ‘picky back’ most of the way home. I think this experience has given me a real respect for water ever since.
Front L-R Elmer, Eileen, Clayton Sauder – Pearl behind Eileen
Summer Bible School – Elmer is 2nd row, 3rd from left
Memories 2 My sister Eileen was born September 27, 1930. She was born at home and Pearl and I were sent away for a few hours and then were greeted by the crying of a new baby. In 1932, we moved to a little four acre fruit & vegetable farm on the south end of St. Jacobs across the land owned by Abner Good and behind the old Schmidt printing office. Now there is a big printing office on Abner's land and Ephraim Martin, who just celebrated his 81st birthday, lives on our former farm. A number of lots with buildings now occupy some of our former farm. There was an old barn facing the main road on the west side of our house which we soon tore down and built a brand new barn. I can remember the foundation going up and then the frame and roof and then the stabling with room for a horse, two cows, pigs and chickens. The house was old and very plain with no conveniences but I
remember that just before we moved into it we had hydro installed. What a thrill to just push a switch and see everything light up! This really made an impact on me. We had to go to the outside pump to get water for household or animal use. I lived on this farm until I got married in 1951 so I will be writing quite a bit on this era from 1932 to 1951.
Memories 3 We put our animals into this new barn and soon started using produce from it for our own use and later we sold vegetables, fruit, eggs and chickens at the Kitchener market. We had a stand at the market on the second floor right beside Milne’s Cheese. I still remember getting samples of cheese every Saturday and that was a real treat. In the early days, usually my Dad and I went to market with our horse whose name was Geordie. In the summer we drove a top buggy and in the winter we used a one horse sleigh, often using a buffalo robe to keep warm. In the early days, my mother made butter from our cream. I can still see her mixing it and pressing a one pound wooden butter print and then using a butter wrapper printed by Schmidt’s Printery next door. I enjoyed helping to prepare items for the market whether it was candling the eggs using a viewer with a light bulb inside to detect blood spots or weighing the eggs for large, medium or small or helping to butcher and dress chickens to sell. We had items to take to the market for all seasons. My dad liked to raise strawberries and we sold a lot, whether they were the Dunlops (a sweet medium sized berry) or the Fairfax which were a very large dark red berry and also quite sweet. In the spring we always got some day old chicks mixed (pullets and roosters) and when they were two months old we sold the roosters live at the market. We took them down in crates and sold them outside to the Jewish people who took them to their Rabbi for slaughtering. They would often buy several at a time and leave with these squawking birds in their hands or in a burlap bag. My dad was always interested in growing or raising something new so, whether it was Kale or dressed rabbits or bouquets of mixed flowers, they found their way to the market. These were the years of the Depression so selling things at the market was the main way to obtain some much needed cash. My dad did find some work by the day on the neighbouring farms, mostly at George Martins. I can well remember later in the Depression when my
dad worked four days a week for five dollars. This was at the Aldred Shantz farm and included two meals a day.
House on 4 acre farm
During these early years we discovered that we had one area of our land that had excellent sand and we soon started hauling and selling sand in our one horse wagon. We only had to go down about a foot to get to the sand and this vein went down about ten feet and then we hit water and clay. It was hard work shovelling the sand to the surface and then screening it for people wanting nice fine sand for plastering and cementing. I remember our poor horse, Geordie, straining and pulling the scraper out of the pit to the top level and then pulling the wagon to the customer. But again the money helped the cash flow.
It was in the early days of our country living that we got a plain simple little box camera. I can still remember how excited I was both in taking my first pictures and in having a picture taken of me. How rigid we stood! You see, we couldn't move and we seemed to be reluctant even to smile. The only very
early picture I can recall is one that we have of the Shantz reunion taken in the summer of 1930.
Elmer holding sign
Memories 4 Going back again when I was probably about four or five, I remember the John Schearer wedding. They moved to an old house up the hill past the bridge in St. Jacobs, approximately where Walter Hachborn, president of Home Hardware, lives today. I don’t remember the wedding but the reception, especially the ice cream, remains a sweet memory. When I was about six or seven, I remember one bright full-moon night when our neighbour Egbert Schmidt took advantage of my gullibility by asking me to get ‘Pop’ to bring me a ladder so I could climb up on the roof to get this big chunk of cheese which, of course, was the moon peeping over the top of the roof. The Schmidts also owned a tile yard located just past Stan Valenta’s place. We youngsters spent a lot of time at the tile yard because there were banks of sand to play in and there was a big pond there too. They needed a lot of water to make the mix for the tiles and there was a mini rail system with tracks to haul the water, cement and finished tiles. We liked to ride on this track, especially when the owners weren't there. I remember Henry Bignell who worked there for a number of years until he enlisted in the army during World War 2 and I think he worked there after the war. He was not very big but I can still see him with his shirt off revealing a well browned torso and huge muscles. He married Phyllis Schlitt from St. Jacobs. We also spent a lot of time at and on the pond and in those days there were no life jackets. The water was probably at least six feet deep in places and we put together a raft made with two logs with a few boards fastened on and used sticks to paddle around. I never advised this for our own children and grandchildren later in life. There were no fish in this pond but frogs were plentiful. One day I got the notion to catch a few and take them home for Mom to
fry. I had heard about frogs legs being a real delicacy so I could not understand why Mom was not enthused about them. In Abner Good’s field next to our place we often would find patches of ice big and small and we would play on these but I really wanted a pair of skates. But the Depression often deprived us of things we wanted. Finally, I was able to buy a second hand pair of skates from Mel Horst for twenty-five cents. We did not have a nice warm change room to put the skates on so we generally took our old sleigh and sat on it in the cold. I learned to skate and skating, along with hockey, became one of my favourite sports. I have mentioned a few of my escapades in my early years. I had a few more. I was back and forth quite a bit playing with Henry and Aden Martin and one day I was following a load of hay going by on the road and I darted out from behind the wagon rushing home to my place. A car was coming the opposite way and hit me, throwing me into the ditch. I was shook up but not injured and I am not sure who was more scared, me or the driver of the car. One time in public school, some of the bigger boys were playing ball in the boys’ basement. I was sitting on the bench and I’m not sure if I was eating lunch or involved with the play but one of the really big boys, Urias Frey, swung the bat and it caught me on the forehead on his back swing and really gave me a nasty gash. With blood oozing out, I walked home with Clayton Sauder to get it bandaged. Of course, I should have gone to the doctor to get stitches but instead I walked back to school for the afternoon. To this day a slight scar remains as a reminder.
Memories 5 Memories keep coming back and it is somewhat difficult to keep the records in a chronological order. One thing that comes to mind was on my first day of school. I came home at noon crying and telling my parents, "I can’t make the 2.” I did go on making many 2’s and really enjoyed school, even skipping Grade 2! I did miss one thing from Grade 2. I never did learn to print in the regular way and to this day when I print it is in capital letters. I graduated from public school when I was twelve years old. I started high school in September, 1939 and turned thirteen on Sept.12. September 3, 1939 also marks the beginning of World War 2 and so my next series of recollections will involve the five years at Elmira High School and the War Years. In 1939, not many of the young people from our church went to High School. Howard Good and Marshall Musselman and I went and in the next few years more went but many did not graduate. I was a small country boy and travelled to school on the bus. The first few months were times to adjust and it was after my first report card that I realized school is more than play so I buckled down and at the end of Grade 10 was rewarded with a Certificate stating I was the student showing the greatest improvement in lower school and my scholastic ability showed in the fact that I didn’t have to write any final exams except Grade 9 Art in all the five years. To this day I retain a few things that I made in Grade 11 with Ernie Kendall as my shop teacher. We still use the old bread board, the sugar scoop and the plant holder. The foot scraper finally had to be discarded. I also have the five Year Books of the years 1939 to 1944. I recall in grade 9 that Mr. Kendall would eat his noon lunch with the boys in the basement. The girls had their own basement. Fraser Hardy taught Phys Ed and Math in Grade 9. Both
these teachers stayed at E.D.S.S. for a long time.
Memories 6 I have to move back to my public school days again. When I was about eleven years old I had my tonsils removed. Apparently, I had quite a few colds and bouts of sore throat so arrangements were made with our local Doctor Robinson with the help of a surgeon from Kitchener for the operation. This surgery was performed on a table in Dr. Robinson’s office which was beside his house at the top of the hill next to Martin’s Garage. This house later was owned by Ken Sittler, father of Darryl Sittler, the famous Maple Leafs hockey player. I can still remember being given chloroform on a cloth which was used as an anesthetic to put me to sleep. I was asked to count to twenty but I think I only got to about eight or nine. Soon after the surgery I was taken home and I had ginger ale and I think a soft poached egg for supper and soon was back at school. We always had a variety of animals on our little farm. I can remember the goats we had, especially the young ones (kids) and the antics they performed. We have a few snapshots of these around and we also ate a few and used goat’s milk from the mother goat. Little ducklings grew big and we got eggs and meat from them. We had rabbits, guinea-pigs, bantams, hamsters, canaries or budgies, etc. This was besides our regular farm animals like a horse, a cow, pigs and chickens. We just had the cow for a few years and then started to get our milk delivered. I can remember one very cold winter day when Allen Frey, who delivered milk and worked back at George Martin’s, had an accident. The snow was so deep and it was so cold and stormy and the covered milk rig fell over pinning him beneath and breaking his leg. The rest of the details escape my mind but I know it was quite traumatic. We had cats and of course kittens at the farm and we also always had a dog. Pop liked fox terriers and for a long time we had Sport, a brown and white male with his
tail chopped off. I think it was Sport or Sportie as we usually called him that was willing to take on anything large or small. One day he encountered a ground-hog and kept scratching away even when the ground-hog retreated. Sport did not give up and managed to drag the ground-hog out and I think we then helped to finish him off. The next dog also was a brown and white fox terrier but she was a female and we did have cute little puppies a few times.
Me with Goldie and pups
I was over at Henry and Aden’s quite a bit. Their father, whose name was Emerson, also had a small farm although bigger than ours and also attended market. He was quite an entrepreneur, involved in several sidelines. He had his horse-drawn saw-mill and cut a lot of wood and he had a little greenhouse which his son Henry expanded into quite a business. Emerson also was a bee-keeper, owning quite a few beehives and selling honey at home and at the market. I can still see him in the orchard with a big screen over his head using a
smoke pump to ward off the bees. I also remember the big container in the honey house where he would trim off the honeycomb. We kids would reach into this bin and take some of this honey filled wax
and chew it. How sweet it was!
Helping dad dig a ditch at our house
Memories 7 I now go back to my High School years including the summers. I just turned thirteen in Sept. 1939 when I started High School and I, of course, noticed some of the big guys in Grades 12 & 13, fellows like Ed Bearinger, Ivan Letson and Clarence Mattusch. I guess I almost feared them but soon realized they were harmless but they had a tremendous sense of humour and you never knew what prank they would pull off next. In the next number of grades I realized I was getting taller than the younger students and they were looking up to us with respect. When I started E.D.S.S. there were 129 students enrolled and there were two Grade 9 classes totalling approximately 50. Many of these dropped out after Grade 9 or 10 but others graduated after Grade 12 with what we called Junior Matriculation. There were only thirteen of us who graduated with the Senior Matriculation or Grade 13. I really enjoyed High School and for the most part had excellent teachers. I enjoyed the camaraderie with the students and even the homework was something I found interesting, challenging and inspiring. We didn’t have the distraction of TV and the many sports and social activities that demand so much time today. I recall one exam in Science where I felt I had done quite well but when I got my paper back it had a mark of about 75% which really disappointed me. I checked and double checked it and arrived at a much higher mark. Finally I went back to Mr. Kendall and we went over it section by section and he kept saying this one is perfect and this one too and so on until we had gone through it all and discovered I was only one mark short, giving me a total of 99%. Then I felt much better. Since these were the war years, I remember especially in the higher grades we had a lot of current events discussed and political views expressed. I would get into quite a discussion with Stewart Huehn & Vivian Hoffer about Russia and the British Empire
and I predicted we would have serious problems. They both believed things would work out and we would be at peace and in harmony as far as these countries were concerned. Well, I don’t know how much we got resolved but they must have been of one mind because they ended up getting married and still are together. During the summer holidays I kept busy at our little farm but also by working at bigger farms. I soon drove the teams of horses during haying and harvesting. Later, I would set the sheaves of grain in place as they were being pitched up to me from the stooks on the ground. My first full summer was spent working for Thomas Martin back in the Erbsville hills. His brother Amos had a farm near the present location of Columbia and Fisher Hallman in Waterloo. I was home only for Sundays and for the rest of the week I was back this long lane, hardly able to see a neighbour. Thomas was a very good boss and a fine Christian. He was very dedicated, newly married and after a few years they left farming and became very involved in mission work in the Sudbury area. They served many years in this work but unfortunately Thomas met with an untimely death due to an accident. I would get up at 5 a.m. to do chores, then eat a hearty breakfast and continue on with other farm duties.
Memories 8 During the summer that I worked for Thomas I think the only day that I had off other than Sundays was one day to go to the big Shantz reunion that was held every five years. I think this reunion was held in 1940 and there were many people there for what I think was the last one to be held. I mentioned that Thomas and Amos worked together but they also worked with their father whose name was Sydney. This farm is located where Henry, another brother, lives today but his son runs the farm. Sydney also had a son named Sydney who lives in Abilene, Texas and he and his wife Florence remain our good friends. I twice experienced runaways with teams of horses. It is very scary. Horses sometimes are young and excitable and anxious to take off. I think both times the teams took off with an empty hay or grain rack wagon and both times I got off at the start and just let them run over the fields until they tired out and we could subdue them. Luckily, no one got hurt and very little damage was done. I really liked getting home for Sunday because it was a lonely experience on this farm back in the hills. The conversations with Thomas and his brothers were stimulating. I also remember the meals, including the Friday night bean soup, were all very good. I remember Sydney Jr. was 17 years old and Henry was 19 and they loved to sing the Gospel tunes. I recall them singing the song ‘Tempted and tried I'm oft made to wonder why it should be so all the day long’. This was at a period of time when many of the Old Order Mennonites were getting restless. They wanted some changes. They wanted to be more evangelical, stressing salvation through Christ more than just doing good works. They also wanted to drive cars albeit painted black. I liked to get to Sunday School and Church. I am not sure what years I had Oliver Koch for a teacher but I do know that one year he encouraged the boys in his class to start a 10 year Bible memory work course. I took it but finished it
in one year. To this day I credit that course for helping me retain in my mind many of these verses. Another thing that I remember from Oliver's class was the explanation for the word often found in the Bible – ‘Selah’. It is usually found on the end of a verse in the Psalms and he said it means, ‘Think of it’. I am satisfied with that explanation.
Memories 9 During the Second World War, students in High School who achieved high enough marks during the year doing tests could get out of school a little earlier. When I was fifteen, having completed Grade 11, I began working for Willard Shantz on his farm located where the miniature golf is now just past the stockyards. I liked farm work even though Willard's mother was pretty fussy. One time I was in a hurry to eat and quickly washed but not well enough because I stained the towel and had it pointed out to me by her husband whose name was Ephraim. It really was my mistake. I was only at the farm a few weeks because I spent the rest of that summer in bed. June 5 was the day of my accident when I fell through an open hole in the barn floor landing on the stone surface below and fracturing my skull. I was semi-conscious for most of two days and in the hospital for three weeks with an ice pack on my head all the time. I had to stay in bed for the rest of the summer until towards the end of August. I just managed to pull myself together in order to start Grade 12 in September. One side benefit of this experience was that my S.S. class made a radio available for me which I really appreciated and used a lot. I think that soon after that summer we bought a little radio and I really looked forward in the winter time to listening to Hockey Night in Canada with Foster Hewitt. I think it was the next summer that I worked at Snyder's furniture factory in Waterloo. My dad had started work there in the lumber yards a few years before and really enjoyed simply having a steady job and one he stayed with for over twenty years until he was 72. Then, feeling he was too young for retirement, he got a job with Home Hardware, staying there until he was 82. I can still hear him talking about fellow workers or supervisors like Ed Mank or Mr. Ertel or Mr. Stalbaum whom he got a ride with for many years. I can remember often getting wood pieces for heating our stoves. Emil Martin would deliver the wood which
was a very cheap source of fuel. The summer I worked at Snyders I usually ate my lunch with my dad outside under shade. Snyder's Furniture made nice tables and chesterfields and desks. I enjoyed working at Snyders and got to know a few people. Getting a regular pay cheque was a real novelty for me even though it was quite small. I didn't mention that when I worked for Thomas I got $10 a month along with room & board so I earned $30 that summer. My job was mostly working for David Martin who operated a machine called the Sticker. It did a lot of shaping and planing of the pieces of wood. When these pieces came through I would pile them on wooden carts. I had various jobs which didn't require a great drain on my brain but gave me lots of time to meditate. I can still see another man who I thought was very young also operating a big Sticker. One other student from Waterloo also worked there that summer and his name was Carl Zinkann. He went on to become President of Zehrs Ltd. and is now retired. I forget which year my sister, Eileen, got scarlet fever. In those days that meant a quarantine of quite a few days with a red sign posted on your house and isolation. I moved out and stayed with my Aunt Annie and my grandfather Henry Sauder in order for me to continue going to High School. I don't remember a lot about this experience other than doing my homework at night and eating meals there. What I do remember very vividly though is sleeping with a ninety plus Grandpa. That was something. I can still see him in his winter underwear and I think a night cap and quite understandably stiff and getting feeble. People will remember him also for many years having tape or a small bandage on his nose. In those years you didn't hear the word cancer very often but I guess this is what it was. It started very small but ended up as something not pleasant at all. I will continue to talk a bit about my
Grandpa Sauder because he is the only grandparent that I knew. After the home farm was divided between uncle Ezra and my dad, my grandparent Sauders moved to a big nice house on the corner of King & Samuel in St. Jacobs and Grandpa would walk down to the wagon making shop where the Stone Crock restaurant is now. This business was owned by John Sauder and I can still remember going in there as a small boy and seeing all the wood shavings and seeing and hearing the big belts driving the machines. My grandfather would walk down to our farm when he was in his late eighties with a hoe wanting to do some weeding. They didn't stay in the big house very long before moving down to the corner of Cedar and King. Grandpa said he didn't want to walk the steep hill all the time but I think Grandma never liked the move. Grandpa Sauder served as one of the early trustees at the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church which was built in 1915. I can remember dropping in at his place many times. Once or twice he offered me homemade dandelion wine which I sampled but didn't like. I guess he was not a total abstainer. I remember for years he carried a mortgage on the Earl Schieffle farm and faithfully every month they would make the payment. We do have a few pictures of Henry and one of them was taken at his, I think, 84th birthday over at uncle Ezra’s. It shows him holding Eileen and some other cousins are there too. Grandpa Henry died in 1944 at the age of 93. The year 1944 turned out to be quite a tumultuous year. I was in Grade 13 which now is like the first year of University. I did quite well even with subjects like Zoology, Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry, French, English, etc. In the winter break I got the flu and the weather was nice so I went outside too soon and developed an ear infection. This was before there were many antibiotics and the ones that were available were used for army personnel. I was left with a running ear and a perforated eardrum. This affected my hearing somewhat but I still managed to get through my school year with high
enough marks so that I did not have to write any final exams. I was finished in May already on the condition I work for agriculture or a food producing place. I opted to go to the Niagara area and got a job on a fruit farm at Vineland Station working for Alvin & Isaac Culp. I enjoyed a variety of duties on the farm, cultivating, spraying and picking fruit and vegetables. A year or two earlier my dad and I spent a few weeks picking peaches for the Culps and we lived in a cabin on their property so I was a little familiar with the setup.
Memories 10 A certificate was given to me in 1944 for contributing to the national war effort in the area of food production by working a summer on a fruit farm. I still have this certificate in my possession to this day. The summer was going quite well and I enjoyed going to church at Vineland Station and also taking walks down to Lake Ontario which was just across the Queen Elizabeth Highway. There was also an Experimental Farm that you passed on the way to the lake. One Sunday afternoon I was walking back from the lake and the police stopped me and questioned me as to where I was and what I had been doing the last few hours. I gave a satisfactory explanation but I was really scared. Apparently they were looking for a young fellow about my age (17). I didn't get home much that spring and early summer but I did notice a little difference in Eileen. She seemed to have some nervous twitches and her balance was affected at times. Perhaps with earlier diagnosis and if medication like penicillin had been available she could have been cured. She also had a bout with rheumatic fever earlier. The final diagnosis was St. Vitus's Dance. Abner Good, who was the Deacon at our church, phoned me at Vineland and gave me the news that Eileen passed away August 3, 1944 at St. Marys hospital in Kitchener. It was very sad and to this day over 50 years later I still think of her and miss her. She had a sweet personality and enjoyed life and had her friends who still speak affectionately about her. In those days our church did not have flowers at a funeral but my dad put a nice white rose on her dress in the coffin. It was a hard blow for all of us and the question remains... Why??
Eileen with arm around Mary
Life must go on. I went back to Vineland for the rest of the summer wondering what I will do now that I’m finished high school. I did go to Stratford Normal School in early Sept. but, not having any guidance counselling and not having much in finances and just being overwhelmed by it all, I went back home to ponder my future. I went to the employment office in Kitchener and found out that since this was war time jobs were available. They told me that Burns Meats had an opening for a shipping &
billing office clerk. I went out there and when they heard I was a High School graduate I was hired immediately. I do remember the starting rate was $18 per week. Everything was new for me including the fellow employees, the work routine, the size of the place but it did not take too long for me to feel comfortable. I had to take the bus which was not too good because I always had to transfer to a city bus to get me out to Guelph Street where Burns Meats was located. The shipping office was located at one end of the plant and was quite small and only had one window. I remember we put up a sign calling it the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ and you history fans will know what that meant. The shippers would come in during break periods and smoke and we tried to keep working. The second hand smoke was terrible and it was a real relief when we got larger quarters and smoking was banned. I soon got into the routine of things and began to think about getting a car.
Memories 11 After working for Burns Meats for about six months, I received my army call to report for my physical examination prior to possible induction into the armed services. This letter arrived when I was exactly eighteen and one half years old. At the time I did not realize how very young this was but now when I see boys and girls of this age it really does show the youth that were being drafted at that time. I reported at Wolsley Barracks in London, Ontario and stayed there overnight, sleeping in an army bunk. I was already in bed when another young man who was a day or two younger than me came walking in. Here it was Jim O'Rourke from Burns Meats office and were we ever glad to see each other. Because of my perforated ear drum I did not pass the medical and they said I could go home. I had been deliberating between going into the services and applying for Conscientious Objector status. I opted for the latter and when I mentioned it to the officer, he was surprised in light of the fact that I wasn’t classified as ‘A1’ because of my ear problem and also the war was coming to a close and the need for recruits was not very great. I was required to pay $10 per month to the Red Cross but this only lasted for three months because then the war was over. It was a good experience for me but I was glad to get back to my job. I was starting to get interested in a car for myself. My dad had a 1927 Nash but we mostly used it for local driving. I found out that Harold Cress had a 1929 Model A Ford for sale and I bought it for $175. It was black with red spokes in the wheels. It was
not real long before I realized it needed some motor work and since Lorne Schlitt and his son Russell had the local garage they got the job which cost me $129. While I am talking about car costs I might add that one night I was driving along the Conestoga road with a female passenger (before I even knew Beatrice) when all of a sudden a front wheel fell off and went rolling in front of the car and then veered into the ditch. That time I think Good’s Garage got the business but I don't think it cost very much. I may not have the sequences quite right but there was another time that the Model A incurred expenses. It was during the summer and we used to have parties like wiener and corn roasts at Leonard Snider’s farm which was located a road north of the Three Bridges road. One night Mel Horst and I were heading for a corn roast for the young people from the church and on the way a jack rabbit ran in front of the car and we, well… I chased it and as it was a gravel road I lost control of the car and rolled it into the ditch. We crawled out of a broken glass window and a hole in the roof. Mel cut his knee quite badly and it was really bleeding. We hiked back to Menno Eby’s place and got some attention and the details I don’t remember but I do know the car damages added up to $88. And we never did get to the corn roast! My friend Nelson Horst also got interested in cars and I’m not sure what year he got an old Model T Ford just for fun. He really painted it up and we had a lot of fun with it. We often drove around on a Sunday afternoon but I think Dundas was as far away as we ever got.
My buddies Mel & Nelson after a hunt with my Model A Ford
Memories 12 Some more memories come to my mind as I continue these memoirs. I recall that in the winter time it would get very cold especially so in the mid 1930s when many times Mom would take a nice warm brick or a warm iron and put it at the foot of my bed so that when I went to bed it was fairly comfortable at least for my feet and then sometimes she would put the big buffalo robe on top of the other covers. We did not have a furnace in the house and my bedroom was above our living room and we very seldom had that stove going. The special times we did have a coal fire in the living room stove it was really nice to feel the warmth come up through the floor register. During the Depression we could not afford to buy coal very often and when we did we only bought two or three bags at a time from Schaner Coal & Feed. I also remember going there for a few bags of feed at a time for our animals. When we got groceries at Welker's, later Bauman’s General Store, we sometimes used the barter system, i.e. traded a few dozen eggs for some groceries. I also remember during at least one cold day in the mid thirties my Dad came to school with the horse and sleigh and brought some warm soup for Pearl and me. I mentioned before that we always seemed to have a dog at our place and I think it always was a fox terrier. Many times in the morning, Mom would open the door leading upstairs for Sportie or Goldie to run up and wake me up by jumping on my bed and licking my face. As a family we always enjoyed Christmas time. I remember our first Christmas tree was a very small table model artificial one which we decorated. We did have real Christmas trees long before many people in our church had them because they were considered too worldly or modern. My dad always was a little more liberal. I was quite young when I remember him talking about his light coloured
gabardine suit. When money became a little more available he did not mind getting me more colourful jackets or other more current clothes. He also very much encouraged me to go to High School when many of my friends had to go to work when they reached the age of fourteen. Back to the early Christmas days. We enjoyed getting up early Christmas morning to see gifts wrapped for us and having candies and nuts and other goodies sitting around. We often had turkey with all the trimmings. Once we had a radio we listened to Christmas music and my dad usually wanted to hear the King or Queen give the Christmas greetings and during the war we often listened to the Servicemen send Christmas greetings to their families and friends. We usually went to church on Christmas morning and asked our friends what they got for presents. We had our big dinner at noon so by mid afternoon I was ready for some exercise. I would often join my friends and go ice skating on a pond in Abner Good’s field or at the outdoor rink in St. Jacobs. Sometimes we would go sleigh riding or sometimes we stayed inside to play games. Christmas was celebrated more simply than these days with the increased commercialism, television, etc. On the other hand, we do have access to much good music such as the Messiah presentation and many good programs performed by schools and churches.
Memories 13 More memories of my childhood keep coming back but not in any particular order because I do not remember the exact sequence of events. On our four acre farm we always saw lots of birds. I wanted to catch some sparrows and I had heard of a simple trap which I wanted to try. I laid four bricks on their side on the ground and put another brick on top at a 9O degree angle, held there by a little stick. I sprinkled some grain inside the bricks and waited for results. The sparrows would hit the stick and the top brick would fall down on the side brick and the sparrow would be caught inside, generally unharmed. I also remember one summer my cousin Sylvester Sauder went to Summer Bible School and came to our place one day. He had a BB gun, something I always wanted but could not afford. I used his gun and shot a bird which turned out to be a young robin. I shot it in the eye and I always felt terrible after that and certainly was less enthusiastic to buy a BB gun after that. I remember seeing my first moving picture show. It was a farm show put on by Purina Mills when I was a young Public School student and it was shown in the basement of the school. I recall one scene where a young fellow was getting feed chop out of the bin and the lid always kept falling on his back. We all just roared and wanted the scene replayed. I was greatly impressed by that humourous episode. Slingshots were very popular for the boys in my time. It was something you could easily make with a forked twig, rubber tubing and a bit of leather and using a stone to shoot. One shot that I will always remember was at the school yard. There was a strong west wind and my stone really travelled. In fact, it kept going to the second story bedroom window of Mr. Shoemaker, of course smashing the window and landing near the owner. I felt awful and was very happy that payment for the window brought about the reconciliation I wanted. Another time that I
got a sickening feeling was when we boys were horsing around in the boys’ basement at school pushing benches back and forth. I pushed a bench against another bench and Don Amos had his finger there. I did not know if the finger was broken because it was bleeding and he was in pain. Fortunately it was only badly bruised. Thinking back on my school days, I remember the strap was one method used to keep discipline. Did I ever get the strap? Yes, I did, once in Public School and the other time I think was in Grade 11. Why? I think sometimes we ate our lunch in the classroom and one day, foolishly, I threw an apple at the blackboard creating a stain and mess. I don’t know what I was trying to prove but it didn't take long for me to receive my punishment. The other time involved homework where I thought we had to do the prime numbers in the math questions when in reality we had to do the odd numbers. I think that time I had the company of two or three other fellows in getting the strap for the same reason. School concerts were always looked forward to and a few things stick in my mind. One play I remember was Tom Sawyer and the fence that needed whitewashing which provided lots of laughs. Another time there was a band performing, using everything from old washboards, rattles or bassoons and Vernal Cress was the music conductor and he started by saying, one, two, three, Play! Only he said it in German. We would also sometimes like to attend any Christmas Concerts in the area. It seems to me that a few of us walked through the snow over to a school on the Heidelberg Road to take in a concert but I think it was in the afternoon. Just a few more things from early childhood. I remember going for the mail when I was quite young. Mr. Winkler was the Postmaster and to me he seemed old and gruff with a big bushy moustache and small horn rimmed spectacles. I would come up to
the wicket for my mail and he would stare at me for awhile and then bluntly say... ‘Sauder?’ I would say ‘Yes’ and he would reach for our mail. He was also the village Pharmacist and I certainly was bewildered by the display of remedies and salves and medicine ranging from horehound to rubbing alcohol. I also remember the local dairy with the men wearing big rubber aprons and getting the glass bottles filled up. One thing that stands out in my mind at the dairy did not concern the milk, cream or butter but rather another attraction. You would put a penny in a container filled with big coloured bubble gum and pull the lever. You would always get bubble gum but if you got a black one you got a chocolate bar. I tried a few times but I don't think I was ever lucky. Speaking of eating, I remember butchering times at our farm. We got Ezra Martin to butcher a pig for us in the winter and we used our old smokehouse to heat up the water and later Mom would also make homemade soap from the fat. Usually, by the time I got home from school I would see the results of the butchering. The farm sausage would be in coils and the liver sausage would be in crocks. The hams would be ready for smoking and we had other fresh meat ready to eat. I remember coming home from school later on winter days seeing these crocks of liver sausage in the summer kitchen and since I was often hungry by then I would carve a chunk of liver sausage, heat it in a pan and put it on a piece of bread… ummmm, good. Growing up as a youngster I don't recall my parents doing much entertaining although I do remember aunts, uncles and cousins dropping in. My uncle Emmanuel Schleuter was a huge man and he had relatives in Linwood and would often stop at our place on the way back. I can recall him sitting in the car with his tummy touching the steering wheel in his car. They had a big family and were poor during the Depression. They lived in Waterloo and had a little farm and then started hauling garbage for the city with his team of horses and things started to go better. Most of his kids did quite well,
particularly Lorne, Adam, Margaret and Harold who owns and operates Schleuter Motors in Waterloo along with his son Dennis. We did visit them sometimes and also went to Uncle Ephraim Bearinger’s who had a farm on what is now Bearinger Road. The Bearingers also had a large family and they had twin girls. We did visit back and forth with Uncle Mose Shantz who had a small farm on Lexington Road. They never did get a car but their pride and joy was a team of beautiful horses and a nice top buggy. Mose & Aunt Lena only had one son, Harold, who really liked animals. He always had rabbits, ducks, chickens, pigeons, etc.
Memories 14 In my childhood there was no TV; in fact, no radio until I was a teenager. A lot of recreation centred on sports, especially ball and skating and hockey. I liked school sports in public school and high school whether it was softball, sleigh riding, pump, pump pull away, Andy Andy Over or whatever. I can remember sometimes we had freezing rain and we got on our skates and could skate even on the road. When we got a little older I remember Henry Martin and I were thrilled when Gladys and Miriam agreed to go tobogganing down at the tile yard in the evening. I guess that was the start of boy-girl relationships for both of us. Speaking of Henry, I also liked to go fishing in the summer and one time Henry and I went fishing at the river in Abner Good's flats and Henry caught a huge carp about 24 inches long. Not good eating but what excitement to catch! In the summertime we also did a few things which we hardly see anymore. We used to like to walk around on homemade stilts and the higher the better. Another thing that occupied our spare time was hoop and stick. We would search for a wheel or hoop and then make a T-type wooden stick to push and guide the hoop along with us running behind. A few kids were lucky enough to have a scooter, run by manual power of course. There were other activities which kept us busy. In early spring I liked walking over to visit the maple sugar bush, either at Seranus or Almond's. I enjoyed seeing the crackling fire heating the sap in the huge pans and then later seeing the evaporator in action and tasting the boiled sap that was the sweetest, very close to the final product of maple syrup. Watching the team of horses pulling the sleigh and collecting the sap from tree to tree was also very interesting. Another chore from the distant past which is not done anymore is cutting ice from the river. Before the days of refrigerators and milk
cooling equipment, farmers would go to the river with a sleigh and a team of horses and saw or cut big blocks of ice, load them on the sleigh and pack them with sawdust in the ice house. As they needed ice for the ice box in the house or to keep milk cool in the dairy house they would simply get some from the ice house. The sawdust would preserve the ice until the summer. In the fall I enjoyed going to the Elmira Fall Fair. I did not have much money but watching the horse races and seeing all the exhibits of farm animals, fruits and vegetables was all free. I generally had a little money for a few rides and maybe a hot dog and a drink. Going to the Fair was an annual event. I also remember when I was in Grade 7 or 8 my teacher Glen McLeod asked me to be a dairy judge at a Fair in Galt. That was quite an honour and I actually fared quite well. I also remember my first airplane ride. One day a small plane landed in Abner Good's field and the pilot was giving rides so I decided to go. What a thrill! Up in the sky over St. Jacobs and even seeing our little farm from an entirely different view. I have mentioned Abner Good's field, flats and river a lot but that is where a great deal of my outdoor activities took place. This big field is now mostly covered with houses.
Memories 15 During my childhood we did not go away much for holidays other than by the day. We went to a few reunions, perhaps a picnic at Waterloo Park, a drive to Paradise Lake, back to Martin’s Grove, to Elmira Fair, etc. We didn't have a car until I was around fourteen or fifteen so we were limited in our travels. I do remember one time my dad asked Joe Martin, who owned the local harness shop, to drive us to Goderich. In those days that seemed like quite an outing and it was an all day affair. I think there is a snap around with me posed in a rigid position in front of Joe's car. I remember one time I did go away for a few days of holidays to visit my cousins, Gordon and Carl Sauder. Aunt Katie was a real good cook and I really enjoyed her meals. They had a large family and so Gordon, Carl and I had to sleep in one bed and I remember this well because I fell out of bed. When I was a young teenager, as I mentioned before, I did like hockey. I would play on the ponds in the fields and I would walk up to the St. Jacobs outdoor rink which was located on the north side of the river at the corner of King and Eby streets. I never had the money to buy much equipment. I couldn't even afford a hockey stick so I usually scrounged around for a discarded broken or worn out stick and it was quite awhile before I got a pair of second hand shin pads. In fact, most of my hockey equipment was obtained second or third hand. I still liked the game and perhaps it was due to the lack of good hockey gear that for a few years I turned to the role of goalkeeper. This was in the days before face masks were invented and I did get some bruises and scars. I played a few years for the St. Jacobs Juveniles in a league with St. Clements, Linwood, and Wellesley. I remember playing my first game in an indoor rink in Wellesley and within about five or ten minutes Wellesley popped in two goals on me. I had to get adjusted to the arena. However, those were the only goals they got and we went on to
defeat them five to two and Orville Hahn, our centre man on the first line, got all five goals. Orville went on to play Junior B and then Junior A. He was small but very good and shifty with the puck. After a few years, I got out of the goal keeping business and started playing right wing. I liked that a lot and when Church League started I was right there. There was only one team in the north area and we had players from St. Jacobs, Floradale, Hawkesville, Elmira, etc. In the very early days the Martin boys from Floradale pretty well carried the team. Three brothers, Elmer, Dick and Butch were very athletic and played a lot of ball and hockey. Elmer, the oldest, had played on the St. Jacobs team when they won the All Ontario rural senior championship in 1936. Dick played for years for the Elmira intermediate team and Butch went on to play Junior A and for the KW Dutchmen and he was on the Olympic team at Squaw Valley. He was drafted by the New York Rangers but turned the offer down because of religious beliefs involving Sunday hockey playing. I often wonder how he would have fared as a pro. I think he would have done very well. In church league I played on a line with Willie Martin and Mel Bauman. They usually scored the goals and I tried to feed the puck to them. We had good times together. Another social activity that I remember took place in the big house in St. Jacobs which is now the Village Manor run by Wes and Deb and is the house right beside Phil and Julia. Freeman and Mary Gingrich and family lived here and Freeman liked classical music and he wanted to do something for the youth of the church so periodically we were invited to Freeman's for an evening of listening to his classical records. Freeman also liked to show off his house and it was a beauty. It originally belonged to one of the original Snider family that started the mill in St. Jacobs and to EWB Snider, the Hydro pioneer. There was a lot of ornate woodwork, stained glass windows and lots of rooms full of beautiful furniture. Freeman
was in the cheese business and we always got something to eat, often cheese and crackers! We always enjoyed these parties and are indebted to Freeman's generosity. Speaking of Freeman, he was a man of vision and had a real sense of mission. He tried a career of teaching but this was not his cup of tea and he started selling cookies and cheese. He travelled around the countryside, especially to farms, and developed quite a route, finally just concentrating on the cheese business and opening markets in Hamilton and Guelph. I remember after I was married I sold cheese for Freeman at the Guelph market. I especially remember driving this big, new, black Chrysler. I felt pretty important behind that wheel and every Saturday I picked up Menno Horst at 6 a.m. with a load of cheese and drove to the Guelph market. I would be quite tired by mid afternoon but there always were more chores to do at home. In my childhood I remember a few deaths that made quite an impression on me. A young Carson boy lived where George Ritters live now and I think he was six years old and I believe it was in the month of March and the ice on the river was just breaking up. I think he was walking with another boy near the railway bridge and he wandered down the bank and fell in and drowned. His body was not found until several weeks later. That was very sad. His father worked in the office of the Felt Factory in St. Jacobs. Tilman Martin, an old order Mennonite boy, died of leukemia and I remember seeing him dressed in white garb in a black coffin as was their custom. Daniel Brubacher, another old order, died of a ruptured appendix. I know when growing up we all feared disease, illness, and surgery especially in the days before many of our antibiotics were available. In those days we often had pains, real or imagined, and we feared the outcome and really worried. We did not have the facilities to keep food refrigerated and maintain some of the stricter health standards we have today.
Another sad case involved a very promising, intelligent young boy destined to become a great hockey player by the name of Jimmy Hoelscher. He was accidentally killed by a shotgun in the hands of an older chum. That was very unfortunate and very sad. We had a neighbour by the name of Harry Diebel and his wife Agnes. They had a cute little girl called Patsy. They were very poor and we did not know until much later that Harry had a drink problem. They moved to a small farm at Zuber's Corners and had a baby boy. One night while the family was at a Christmas Concert in West Montrose, Henry went drinking in Elmira, drove back, hit a tree and was instantly killed. We grieved with the family.
Memories 16 More memories keep drifting back from my childhood and early youth days. I have talked about the old barn that was located on the front of our property facing the highway and it was torn down and replaced by a new barn built in 1933. Where the old barn had been became a nice flower garden that my mother took great pride in. It produced beautiful flowers such as gladioli, daffodils, asters, zinnias, petunias and pansies. As a young lad I worked in the field and garden quite a bit. I felt quite grown up, when I could cultivate or scuffle as we called it, harrow and even plough with Geordie using our one horse equipment. I also remember one very hot summer in the mid-thirties which made an impression on me. We had neighbours on the south side of our land who also owned a small farm by the name of Burgess - Rose, Clara and Norbert. None of them were married and Norbert was quite physically disabled so it was the women, primarily Rose, who had to run the farm. It was in the middle of the Depression and on occasion unemployed men would come around looking for work. I remember this one man who was hoeing for them one day in the blazing sun and Rose brought him water and a little lunch and he sat down and rested and started to cry. I guess he was so emotionally involved in his situation - unemployed, very hot, not used to farm work - that he just broke down. I have talked about our market days selling eggs, fruit, vegetables, etc. I remember one customer who I think lived on Stanley Street in Kitchener and bought eggs from us on a regular basis. During the Depression some funds were made available to the poor in the form of relief money. Our customer, whose name was Wettlaufer, had to use this money and it was a very embarrassing situation for him because in those days people had a real pride in working and providing for their families. Some years later when I started league bowling at the YMCA I saw this man working at the desk. Another memory from market days was stopping at
the Palladium restaurant in Kitchener. We sometimes delivered purchases their buyer had made and we would go to the back door. I well remember the back of a restaurant is different than the front even as it is to this day. I remember the huge tops of the stoves where they prepared things like bacon and eggs. I also remember the occasional time that we went into the restaurant for a piece of pie or ice cream. Another thing that comes to mind from my High School was our school cheer – ‘Themistocles, Meltiades, Pelopennesian War, X Squared, Y Squared, 2HO SO4, the French book, the Latin book and the History, Elmira, Elmira on to victory!’ When I was in Grade 13, one of the subjects I took was a combined course of Zoology & Botany and I remember learning about the human brain and remembering the names Cerebrum and Cerebellum. The five years going to EDSS were very good years. I enjoyed school and still like to browse through the five Year Books that I have from the years 1939-44. It was an adjustment moving from the classroom to business and industry. I turned eighteen in Sept. of 1944 and have already talked about some of the early years working at Burns but I can think of a few more. Ball and hockey took up a lot of my spare time as I have already indicated and being involved in these sports gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other young people. This then meant getting to do other things too. We also had a church activity called Fireside which took place at various churches following the regular evening service. Many young people attended this special service which usually had some rousing singing led by Pastor Sorley. Of course, we always had to go to a restaurant after, usually Roy's Lunch, a very popular place for ‘boy meets girl’. Another restaurant that was very popular was Harmony Lunch in Waterloo but it was not open on Sundays and it was mostly where just the male gang
would go. Mel and I went there many times during our youth and I believe a hamburger and mild shake cost twenty-five cents. During those years movies were forbidden by the church and even bowling was frowned on but Mel and I got involved with a few of these things that were on the black list. When you think of some of the mild Western shows starring Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Abbott & Costello that we watched it is almost amusing. Chesley Lake was in its early years and I got there a number of times. I remember one time a few of us guys went there one summer for a few days holiday. I believe the twins, Ian & Mahlon Shantz, Red Ziegler and I went and I think it was August but was it ever cold, too cold for swimming and I think about all we did was play volleyball. I also learned surfboard riding at Chesley Lake. Cleason Horst, Vernon Sauder & Lewis Sauder all had girl friends or wives by the name of Erma and they also had a boat which of course they named Erma. I enjoyed getting on the surfboard and was challenged to get out of the water wake and go in a long circle and also ride and jump the waves. This was before the days of life jackets. If you fell in you had to swim - literally sink or swim. I got to know Dick Martin through sports and went with him to a couple of big league football games in Toronto or Hamilton. I also chummed with Francis Brubacher going to sports activities, skating, hockey & ball games, shows, etc. After Mel started dating Leeta I branched out to other fellows and was quite sports and socially involved. Francis got a boat and I remember one fishing trip we took to Manitoulin Island. The lakes we fished on were Lake Kagawong and Lake Mindemoya but if there were any fish in the lakes we left them there except for a few small sun fish.
He also had a motorcycle and I had a few rides on it but I never did get to own a motorcycle. I guess it kept me busy to operate a car on my salary. I also learned to roller skate when I was around eighteen or nineteen. The first time I went roller skating was at an arena in Cambridge (Galt). I think I had a few spills but did not get any broken bones and really got to enjoy it and just like ice skating somehow I got involved with couples skating. Skating parties were often a part of church activities but sometimes a group got together and ended up at a house, often at the John Horst place, for hot chocolate & hot dogs. Sometimes we would skate on the river if it was hard frozen and clear. When the arenas with their artificial ice became available it meant we could skate almost any time.
At Chesley Lake with L-R Mahlon Shantz, Red Ziegler, Len Bowman & Ian Shantz
Memories 17 I am writing this page after taking Victor (Phil's dog) for a walk on the mill race and it is early in March and most of the snow has disappeared. Phil's dog is a Schnauzer, three years old, but unfortunately he has gone completely blind and so relies heavily on his senses of sound and smell. He is good on a leash and enjoys the walks. Spring is in the air and this reminds me of years ago when I would try to find the first pussy willows, back near the dam. Spring is also the season of Easter. I recall during the Depression we would colour our white eggs using an onion skin solution which made the eggs brown. Later on when we had a little more money we would buy Easter egg colouring and then we made eggs of different bright colours and sometimes we had transfers we put on or put our names on by first writing them with wax. Eggs were a real symbol of Easter and even eating them was almost a contest. I remember as a boy we often asked each other at church, “How many eggs did you eat?” Later we started getting Easter baskets with a variety of goodies in them, even chocolate bunnies or chickens. We had to search for our own basket and then enjoy the sweets and sometimes tooth-aches. April 1 is still considered April Fool's Day but not nearly as much is made of it as in former years. I remember my Dad telling us an April Fool's Day story which involved John Brown who was our hired man when I was a toddler. Apparently my Dad had a big stuffed rabbit which he put beside a tree in the orchard and when John saw this rabbit he got the shot gun and was ready to shoot until my Dad said ... “April Fool’s!” I know my Dad always tried to fool us kids and his fellow workers on April 1. Another memory that came back to me while I was out walking involved the Horst family. I was often there and sometimes was invited to stay for Sunday suppers which I enjoyed. The Horst family was very musical and the four boys played a variety
of instruments including accordion, mandolin, violin, guitar and mouth organ. The girls often played piano. My contribution was made by listening to this variety of music being produced. One time Mel told me, “I bet you don't know what the name of this song is that we will play.” I surprised them all when they had finished playing by correctly identifying it as the Tavern Waltz. Memories keep coming back of my childhood but I think I will move on towards my trip out West in 1947. I had worked at Burns for almost three years and was getting itchy, ready for a change. I had to work nights every third week and sometimes very long hours and only got fifty cents a night extra and I felt I was missing out on a lot of sports and social activities. I thought I would like to travel and a saying that was often heard was... ‘Go West, young man, go West!’ I had quite a few friends including Milton Eby. We got talking and planning and decided that maybe we could drive out West, do some work and keep on the move. Milt had a 1934 Chevrolet and we got serious about taking a trip to the West. Milt had a brother, Ivan, who worked out in Guernsey, Saskatchewan for several years and also was engaged to a girl by the name of Irene Weber and was planning to get married in the fall. Ivan was also in the process of building a house for Clarence Burkhardt and would be able to give work to Milt. I didn't know what kind of work there would be for me but I was willing to take a chance. I handed in my notice at Burns in late June of 1947 and we left for the West at the end of June, arriving in the community of Guernsey in early July. The car served us well on the trip and we just followed the map and took some pictures which I still have, Portage La Prairie, road conditions, etc. We couldn't believe the main road in some areas, not paved, deep ruts, and not many cars. We arrived at Guernsey right at conference
time at the Sharon Mennonite Church which meant there were people there from churches in Alberta and Montana. Beatrice says the young girls all wanted to have a good look at Ivan's brother. So all the attention was on Milt and Elmer was in the background. He just came along with Milt. Ivan only needed one man to help build the house so I had to look elsewhere. Ralph Hawes owned a small farm in western terms but he did a lot of carpenter work on the side. He said he would give me work for the summer if I promised to stay until the harvest was completed. I agreed to this arrangement and had a real good summer working for Ralph. We got along real well and sometimes I thought we were cast out of the same mold. I started a routine of farm work which included doing chores twice a day, field work with the tractor, chopping, garden work, and hauling grain to the elevators. The first week we brought in some alfalfa done up in long heavy sheaves for cutting. That job was very strenuous and almost did me in. I also did some stooking for Alf Hawes and I wasn't sure if it was grain or Sow Thistle that I was trying to stook. I also stooked grain for Dave Rosenberger for two solid weeks by myself. It was quite a feeling stooking by fork in this vast space wondering if you are making any headway. Ralph and I had lots in common. I was almost 21 and he was almost 25. In fact we both celebrated those birthdays the summer
of 1947. We sometimes went to movies and to Manitou Beach for swimming or roller skating. We both were single and free but ready to pursue romance should the occasion avail itself. It was a busy and interesting summer full of activities and social and church events. I got to know some of the young guys and one weekend five of us decided to go to the Regina fair. Gerry Rosenberger, Orville Snyder, John Knoll (from Elmira), Milt Eby and I went. We weren't the tamest five but had a good outing which included one flat tire. The Angus Eby family lived on a farm in the Drake area and had a small house for a large family. It was a very poor house with no conveniences but the Ebys were very hospitable and would often entertain or have the young people in. The young people would sometimes go down to Manitou Lake for an outing. My first introduction to this salt water lake was quite interesting. I had never swum in water that keeps you afloat but also I had never experienced the stinging eyes and mouth that the salt water gives. It was fun to go down the slides and also to swing on the ropes.
1947 – heading West with Milt in his 34 Chev on a challenging road
Doing chores at Ralph’s farm
Regina Trip – L-R Milt Eby, John Knoll, Gerry Rosenberger, Orval Snider
Memories 18 One Saturday night a bunch of young people went up to Humboldt. During those years the stores were all open for business, including grocery stores. We were walking along on the sidewalk and Ray Burkhart looked down and noticed his shoes did not match; in fact, I think one was brown and the other one was black. Those were more or less somewhat care free days. We often went in to Guernsey on a Saturday evening and walked the board walk which was the sidewalk, perhaps indulging in an ice cream cone and keeping our eyes open for a pretty girl. Guernsey was a much more active little hamlet in 1947 than it is now. There were a couple of grocery stores, grain elevator, garage, post office, town hall, Chinese restaurant, bowling alley and a hotel. The town served a fairly wide community which included mostly farmers. There also was a curling rink there. When you went to Guernsey, chances were you would know most or many of the people there and, like many small communities, a visit to town was a chance to socialize. The standard of education in the province of Saskatchewan was high and I was really amazed with the fact that even in the mid forties many young people went on to higher education either by correspondence or by attending colleges or universities and ending up in a profession. Ray Burkhart, who mixed up his shoes, went on to become an engineer. There were teachers, nurses, social workers, ministers and others that had their roots in the Guernsey community. The first month that I worked for Ralph was a month of becoming acquainted with the daily work chores, the Hawes family, the church, and the community. There were a lot of young people at Sharon Mennonite Church and I got to know most of the young
fellows and even some of the girls. I was only there a few weeks when one young girl in particular caught my eye and it was her bright beautiful eyes and a nice smile that attracted me to her. I saw her standing on the steps of the Sharon church on a Sunday morning and decided to ask her for a date after the service that evening. I had a friend, Willis Weber, who lived across the road from Ralph and he agreed to ask Blanche Rosenberger for a date and he also had the car. My date was Beatrice Biehn and she was seventeen while I was a mature twenty going on twenty-one (ahem). It was a beautiful evening out there on the lone prairie. One thing we will always remember about that first date is that we stopped at the school yard and went on the teeter totters. You know, this first date resulted in more dates that summer and when the summer ended the letters went from East to West and vice versa and this romance culminated in our marriage October 6, 1951. Back to the summer of 1947. It was a good summer. Social activities reach their peak during the summer months, especially back in those days. Beatrice had an uncle, Clem Snyder, who had a beautiful farm which also was the Experimental Farm and once a year they had a big field day which attracted people from a big area and they had their program and activities and of course lots of food and a great time to socialize. There were school picnics and field days which included ball games and other sports activities and food. The young people from church also had quite a few activities which brought people together and it was at some of these events that I became more attracted to my future wife. I have mentioned Manitou Lake and certainly that was a place many of us went to. One night we went to the indoor swimming pool and it was raining heavily and water came through the roof and
soaked some of the clothes and even filled the shoes with water. I don’t remember if it was this night that we had an awful time on the way home. Those roads were not paved and the alkali made a gumbo out of the dirt roads and we were slipping and sliding all over in the dark and in the ditch and were in quite a mess when we finally got home. Gerald Rosenberger worked for years and, in fact, lived with his uncle Dave Rosenberger. Gerry and I were good friends, interested in many of the same things such as sports activities, driving around and social activities. A few years later Gerry came down to Waterloo and worked where my dad worked at Snyder’s Furniture and would often spend time at our place and said he was looking for a girl. One Sunday a bunch of us were at Bea's place and they had a big wind mill to generate power for lights, etc. We were young and daring and climbed up quite high on this tower. I believe I have a snap of this event. I'm not sure if it was this time or not that I left my hat at Aaron Biehn's place; anyway, Bea's dad kidded me a few days later and said I have an excuse to come back. I did come back a number of times during August and September but I also encountered a little obstacle. As was the case almost every summer, car loads of Easterners would travel West to help with the Harvest, spending a few weeks in Saskatchewan, then moving on to Alberta and maybe travelling for a few weeks before heading home. Well, 1947 was no exception and on September 12 one of these Easterners took Beatrice to a movie that night along with another couple. I didn't blame Bea for going because our romance was still in its infancy. She says she didn't really enjoy it and I guess I was a little disappointed because Sept. 12, 1947 was
my 21st birthday. A happy ending though... we did kiss and make up. My buddy, Milt, also started checking the young ladies and became somewhat enamored with a girl by the name of Agnes, or Aggie, and she had the same surname that he had. This romance petered out for awhile but later became reactivated and also resulted in marriage for Milt and Agnes Eby. She was a teacher and later a nurse for a number of years. Her one daughter, Linda, Mrs. Charles Kruger, lives across the street from us. Yes, the summer of 1947 was a good summer. Milt and I spent three months at Guernsey and in September Ivan (Milt's brother) and Irene Eby got married and we were able to attend. We had promised to stay in Guernsey until the harvest was completed and we did manage to get it all done by September 30. We made arrangements to travel further west, going by train because Milt sold his 1934 Chev to Ivan. We bought a train ticket which would take us to Saskatoon, on out through Alberta, B.C., through the Rockies, down the western U.S.A, through the southern states to the Gulf of Mexico, up to Chicago, on to London, Ontario and home with about thirty dollars left. There was lots of time to contemplate, to fondly remember my last date with Bea and to write many letters.
Sharon Mennonite Church, Guernsey, Saskatchewan – where I asked Beatrice for our 1st date
1947 – Leaving the West, heading South
Memories 19
When I got back home I thought about the summer of 1947 with fond memories. I had a very good place to work and a very good boss in Ralph Hawes. We had lots of good discussions and since we were both single we had time for social outings too. I appreciated the people and got to know many of them quite well. I grew to really like the prairies. Some people drive through and say everything is flat and there is nothing to see. I enjoyed the drier climate, the wind, the sunsets, the quiet, the peaceful feeling, the prairie rose, the sloughs, the ducks and geese, the slower pace, the sky, the space. It was the time and place to meet the girl of my dreams.
I also had time to reflect on the trip Milt and I took by train through the Rockies, to the coast and through the U.S.A. The train was one of the most modern and fastest of that time. We got off at different places and could board the train at any time. We did stop off at Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans. I remember taking a taxi in San Francisco and being very impressed by the height of the city and curving around the narrow winding streets, seeing Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. I recall the long drive through Arizona and Texas, seeing the desert, cacti and other sights. When we got to New Orleans it was very hot and humid. Milt was wearing a fairly heavy shirt and for some reason he broke out with a big red rash. We had a hotel room for the night but he was very uncomfortable and the next day we got on the train heading for Chicago. The rash gradually disappeared and we were glad when the train was heading for London and then on to home.
After a few days of rest and
contemplation, I knew that I needed to look for work. I checked around and took a job at People's store on King Street in Kitchener. It was a store somewhat like Woolworths or Zellers, only smaller. I did some of the receiving and stocking shelves. I really did not like the work and started to keep my eyes open for something else. I remember a few things from my approximately three months at People's store. A young fellow living in St. Jacobs, Ken Weber, worked at a shoe store just down the street from where I worked and often during the noon hour we would shoot a game of pool. I think he always beat me but I kept trying. I worked at the store from Nov. 1947 to early Feb. 1948 and I think it was that winter there was a big fire that destroyed a big dance hall on Queen Street which was not too far from People's store. One morning in early February I was cleaning the front store windows and Elmer Hergott, a man I had worked with in the shipping office at Burns Meats, walked by and I asked him how busy they were and he said they were quite busy and were looking for more help. It didn't take me very long to go out to Burns and talk to the office manager, George Knechtel, to see if they would hire me back. He said they would give me my former job back if I promised not to go on another Wild West trip. So I was back at Burns in February 1948 and stayed there until June 1984 when the plant ceased operations and officially closed down, I believe, in November of 1984.
Memories 20
It did not take me very long to get back to routine at Burns Meats Ltd. I still had my Model A Ford and used it to commute back and forth to work and also to drive my folks for the occasional outings and to get the groceries, etc. I did not like the night shift at Burns which I had to take every third week and sometimes more often if someone was on holidays or was sick. Clarence Hallman (Shorty) was the boss and a few of the other fellows I worked with were Al Tanner, Elmer Hergott, Jim O'Rourke, Harold Dobson, and Grant Yandt. There were many more in the years I was there and the list would be long and would include many short term, long term, vacation help and others.
I sent Beatrice a few cards while Milt and I were travelling home and then I started writing letters and eagerly awaited my first letter from her. In due course it arrived and our letter writing started in late 1947 and continued until she came for our wedding day October 6, 1951. Many letters flowed back and forth and we have retained these letters to this day. In the last year or two we have read these letters again and they have brought back many pleasant memories. They have brought to mind people and events of almost fifty years ago and impressed on us the passage of time and also the rich value of memories.
Beatrice did not come East the first winter we were separated but she did come down the next three winters to attend Bible School from which she graduated in the spring of 1951. She has retained her Year Books from these years which help her to remember some of the people and events of her time at Bible School. I believe it was the first winter that she
was down she worked at Galt Towels before school started and really got to know the three Wismer sisters, two of whom worked there too. In fact, she got to know them so well that she had them sing at our wedding. On a few occasions, Bea's parents came down for the winter or at least part of the winter. One time they rented a cabin from a Mr. Nafziger on the Old Highway 8 for the winter. The three winters Bea was down meant we could be together quite a bit rather than do our courting by writing. We would be at our place quite a bit and also would visit Bea's uncles and aunts and their families. We had many good times, good meals and good fellowship with the families of Clayt Eby, Ivan, Lloyd, and Sylvanus Shantz. Beatrice and I also enjoyed some social activities and she got to know the Abner Good and John Horst extended families, just to mention two. She felt welcomed by quite a few people at our church and both in our courtship and early marriage days we became friends with Nelson Horst & Helen, Lloyd & Gladys and others. Bea and I enjoyed doing things together: skating, hockey games, driving and parties. The winters were always too short and then we would be back to writing letters. When Bea was back home in the West I, of course, kept on working and continued with my active participation in ball and hockey and also going to sports events, movies, etc. I was still at home too so I helped with various projects on our little farm. As money became a little more plentiful we spent time and effort in home improvements: new roof, painting, water to the barn & house, changed the old smokehouse into a garage and just generally made things more presentable. I also got interested in getting chicks and raised them to sell the roosters and kept the
pullets for laying eggs. Quite often my mother and I would dress ten or twelve chickens and I would take them to the Burns office and sell them.
I enjoyed these projects and had visions of some day going into business but I guess it was better this way. I really don't know if I ever really made a profit at my chickens but it was a good experience and kept me busy. I would establish a routine on Saturday mornings when I would usually sleep in, then go and do the business like getting the feed for our farm, get the groceries and whatever other business and often by mid afternoon get ready to do some leisure activity. Like I mentioned before, I kept busy with my job, letter writing, sports and social activities, my chores around the farm, driving the folks and church activities. My church work was not as involved as it would become later on but I was fairly active in the social events connected with the church, such as arranging and planning parties for newlyweds.
I think it was in 1949 or 195O that I went back out West for a vacation. I really enjoyed getting back to the area I had enjoyed so much in 1947 and, of course, spending time together with my future wife. The time was too short but it was great to be out again on the lone prairie although this time it was not alone. Our courtship remained intact except for one brief interval when things were a little uncertain but the romance resumed and became even stronger. We, of course, had exchanged birthday gifts since we went steady but the gift that sealed our engagement was when I gave Beatrice a cedar chest which still is in excellent condition. This, of course, meant making plans for our wedding. We had to decide many things, such as where, when, attendants, etc. and all by
written correspondence. No e-mail or faxes then, and we didn't even use the phone. It seems long distance phoning was only done in times of emergency or in dire straits as it was too expensive. I mentioned the letters we have saved and much of our planning for the wedding is recorded there. Since we have read the letters, we are amazed at how things worked out in light of the time frame. It seems we left some of our major decisions until quite late in the planning and with everything done by mail we were fortunate it all worked out so well. The harvest was quite late in 1951 and Beatrice and her folks did not get down until a few days before the wedding. It is pleasant to think back to October 6, 1951. We of course have our wedding photo and snapshots of our wedding and our honeymoon. These were the times before colour photography but that does not mean things were drab and dull. The weather was grey and cool after a week of sunny and actually hot days. The rain held off until late in the evening of our wedding day. We decided to get married at St. Jacobs Mennonite church and we invited about 75 guests. Roy Koch was the minister and Mae Snyder was maid of honour and Francis Brubacher was best man. The Wismer girls sang and the ushers were Clayton Sauder & Clayt Jewitt. It was a nice wedding and I thank God for giving me a beautiful wife who has stood at my side these many years.
Leaving on our honeymoon
Memories 21 We chose the Old Mill restaurant for our wedding dinner and were quite pleased with the location and service. After the meal we went out to Mae's parents’ farm, Earl & Velma Snyder, for the reception. They did an outstanding job hosting this event. Tilman Horst drove us to our car which we had parked at a pre-arranged garage and then we were on our honeymoon. We stayed in Guelph and Orillia on our way to Algonquin Park where we had made reservations for a cabin on Oxtongue Lake. The weather had turned cool and most of the coloured leaves had fallen and the place, while pretty, did not have the comforts of a motel suite. We do have some snapshots ranging from the burnt toast and boating on the lake to seeing many deer close up and of course I had my dear close up too. We had our first apartment on the corner of Cedar & Duke Streets in Kitchener. It was an upstairs three room apartment and we had to share the bath with a couple who lived downstairs. I had acquired some of the furnishings earlier like the fridge, chesterfield set, bedroom set, etc. We did not really like the apartment too well because it was upstairs, it was cold and the couple downstairs smoked heavily and sometimes had parties that lasted almost all night. They operated a coffee shop on the corner of King & Cedar and had lots of weird hours. In spite of the situation, however, we did some entertaining in the first year of our marriage and continued going to church in St. Jacobs. We bought a 1952 blue Pontiac and planned a trip out West in the summer following our marriage. We invited Allan & Laura Schiedel to go along because Guernsey had been her home too. Beatrice was pregnant and one
thing we remember was that Allan Schiedel liked ice cream and would buy it for all of us on many occasions. One time it was warm and raining but here he came, smiling away, with four cones dripping ice cream. Poor Beatrice could hardly look at ice cream any more, especially in her condition. We had a nice vacation and when we got back we started to seriously look for other accommodation. There was a real shortage of housing at this time but one day we checked at a site where they were finishing some apartments on Rosedale Avenue in Kitchener, on the corner of Rosedale & Ottawa streets, not too far from the Kitchener auditorium. We talked with Mr. Hummel who was the builder and owner and were fortunate to get an apartment that was just being finished. What a pleasant change! We really liked this brand new suite with our own bathroom and privacy. We rented a garage next door for our car and I continued working at Burns but soon got off the night shift which was really nice. Allan was born on December 4, 1952 and changes took place, including many diaper changes. John Hummel was so thrilled that our baby was the first born in his apartment and that it was a boy and they presented us with a gift. Beatrice's brother, Don, came down East that winter and stayed with us and worked at Bauer in Waterloo. He has not been down East since that time. The rent we were paying was quite high and, while we really liked the apartment, we were driving to St. Jacobs for church. In fact, Paul Swarr asked me to teach Sunday School and I was getting more involved with church activities and still liked ball and hockey and Beatrice was quite isolated so we started thinking about moving back to St. Jacobs. We found out that John Warkentin might be interested in selling his house which had an extra lot facing Queen Street. It was a small house with small bedrooms and only had two closets in the whole house and there was no bathroom but we were young and had to make our own decisions and we
decided to buy it. The house was close to church and school and we had good neighbours and we stayed in this house until March 1962 when we moved into our present house which we had built by Menno S Martin on the lot that was our garden. But back to our little compact house. Having to deal with an outhouse was a challenge especially in the winter. I usually emptied the pail under cover of darkness and was fortunate we had a big garden in the back where I could dig a big hole. Somehow or other we still managed to do our share of entertaining and I remember one time we had Paul Lederach, a young, prominent minister from the States as a special speaker at our church and we had him as an overnight guest. I cringed as he made quite a few trips to our little outhouse in our back shanty. I also felt sorry for Beatrice who had to do the washing downstairs but had to carry the hot water down from upstairs and also had to hang all the wash outside, even in the winter. Just before Phil was born in 1956 we got a bathroom installed halfway upstairs above the back shanty and we really appreciated this addition with a bathtub and hot water. We had a big garden but gradually we began to increase the size of our lawn and decrease our garden. There was so much work and we were busy with our various activities. After I finally quit playing ball and hockey, I got into coaching both of these and I often took the boys along. We had a cherry tree out front which really produced until we ch