What a year my grandparents’ first year of parenting must have been. The excitement of a girl, both Grandma and Grandpa losing a parent, Auntie Sheila getting so sick, Uncle Frank being in the hospital for the winter. It’s a lot. I think I wrote this before, but when my son was born I was determined that he was going to eat healthy, which meant no sugar for at least the first year of his life (first child – I gave up when the girl was born). Dad very defiantly sat at the Christmas dinner table in the dining room here in Grandma’s house and shoved Grandma’s pudding sauce into his pie hole. And when your first taste of sugar is Grandma’s sauce it’s setting the bar pretty darn high for dessert expectation. Perhaps that’s why he became a chef.
In 1929 Jack Copithorne and Dave Lawson combined their teams of horses and pulled Archie Ceris’s homestead house down to a spot between Nicoll’s and and Jack’s to be used for a school house. All the children in the district were living in this neighbourhood at that time. The fall after we were married, in 1932, the teacher Marg Ervin boarded with us and walked to this school. Marg was a city girl and found it very lonely at our place. She was extremely musical and we brought my mother’s piano out for her to play on. We enjoyed many musical evenings after that. Frank, Percy’s brother, got married to Georgie McDougal in 1934 and lived on the XC ranch. That year Gertrude Flumerfelt came to teach and boarded with us until our Sheila was born in 1935. While Gertrude was here, my mother’s health deteriorated and she spent considerable time with us too.
Sheila was a real pride and joy to everyone. The first baby girl to be born in the district for 15 years and everyone made a great fuss over her and she was a darling! Percy’s dad used to hold her on his knee and give her little bits of food at mealtime. She sure started eating ice cream at an early age. By now my mother’s health was so poor my Dad rented a house in Cochrane and moved her in near the doctor. He was fortunate to get Mrs. E.C. Johnson, her dear friend, to come and live with her and nurse her that year. She died when Sheila was only six months old. When I was in Cochrane so much, Sheila came in close contact with my sister’s daughter, Aileen, who was, unknown to us, just coming down with the whooping cough. Sheila caught the whooping cough and what a winter we had after that. Frank was in the hospital all winter and poor Georgie was alone with Richard who was only a tiny baby then. Sheila’s health was poor after that until she was two years old when we had to have her tonsils out.
Percy’s father died in April 1936, when Sheila was just a year old. It threw the whole responsibility of the ranch and family on Percy and Frank’s shoulders. Clarence was only 14 years old. He seemed so young to lose his father after having lost his mother when only two years old. Annie carried on as usual that summer, cooking etc for the haying crew, for which I was very thankful. But it was as short haying season and by then when I took on the job of feeding the men, the poultry, and dairy, I was expecting my second child. But I at least got a washing machine of my own and certainly needed it with all of the men’s clothes to wash as well as my own. Sometimes there were as many as fifteen shirts to iron each week. This washing machine was run by a gas engine – a very temperamental one. I often gave up trying to get it started then in temper would give it a swift kick and it would start. Annie decided to take a business course in Calgary and do secretarial work in there. She continued to keep the big house as her country residence and as we were in a very small house, Clarence slept over there but otherwise lived with us. Space had to be found in our tiny home for the girl who had been helping Annie, as she agreed to come and work for me. She must have missed the convenience of the big house, with its electrify and running water. Also, it was a long walk from here to the chicken house and turkey pens.
To raise poultry we set the hens, both chicken and turkey. My they were temperamental when hatching. And brave. They would fly right at you if they thought you would hurt their eggs. A few days before the eggs were to hatch I would place each egg in a dish of lukewarm water and if they bounced around I knew they had a strong chick inside. If an egg just floats lifelessly it is infertile and I’d throw it out. Sometimes a loud clap of thunder would coddle all the eggs. I’m sure the concussion caused when our super sonic planes break the sound barrier now must kill the life in many bird’s eggs. The warm water bath also helped to soften the shell for the chicks to break into our big harsh world. I waked miles along the hillsides to the creek looking for turkey eggs. The turkeys hid their nests and covered the eggs with leaves as soon as they were laid. They started laying in February and if the eggs ever got chilled they never would hatch.