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Leaving the Farm

It was late fall 1945 that we left my first home.  I have conflicting stories as to why.  According to Uncle Cecil, he offered to sell the farm to my father.  Dad was keen, but, says Uncle Cecil “Gladys was not.”  I didn’t hear this version until Uncle Arthur published Pancake Ranch, a collection of writings by himself and his siblings.

Nadine & Cecil, Sept. 1945

Nadine with Uncle Cecil, September 1945

What I heard from my mother is that Uncle Cecil misread a comment of hers.  The Brunskill farm was the most distant stop from the school on the school bus route.  I would be the first child on in the morning and the last off in the evening.  She was concerned it would be a long day for me.  But, as she recalls, she did not intend this concern to stand in the way of acquiring ownership of the farm.

Myself with Mum & Dad

Myself with Mum & Dad

There is no way of knowing now just why things fell out as they did.  Mum had been born on a farm, raised on a farm, knew farm life well.  Dad had lived on a farm since he was twelve.  Except for the excursion to Hamilton in 1941 (see Almost an Ontarian) they had known no other life.  So it was a big decision to leave. Our immediate destination was Winnipeg. And although we soon left the big city, we never returned to a farm.

Dad bringing in wood for the stove

Dad bringing in wood for the stove

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Food Fun

~~by Nadine Faye House

When I returned home from the hospital, my parents decided to allow me to eat whatever I wanted. My mother soon learned to keep the butter out of my reach as I would eat it by the spoonful. I have never lost my love of butter but I don’t eat spoonfuls anymore.

Ice cream was another favourite. Uncle Cecil, back in Canada after the ceasefire in Europe, was living on the farm with us in late 1945. I can remember Mum saying, he would buy one pint of ice cream for everyone else to share and one pint for just him and me.  Uncle Cecil was a great tease, and on one occasion, knowing that I disliked bananas, he slipped a tiny bit of banana into my ice cream. When I came to that spoonful I took my time savouring the ice cream then calmly and forcefully spat out the banana, right across the table into the face of the hired man.

When I was a little bit older and we would visit my Grandma Wood’s, she would often make rice pudding with raisins in it. My cousin Rosanne and I would share our puddings, I would give her all of my rice and she would give me all of her raisins. Even though she got more to eat, we would both leave the table happy and with cleaned dishes.

First Life Crisis

~~by Nadine Faye House

The norm is for babies to double their birth weight at six months and triple it at a year.  I  was off to a good start weighing 16 lbs. at six months but that is when I came down with a very severe case of eczema that covered my entire body. I managed to get up to 20 lbs. by the time that I was eight months old but then I started to have a failure to thrive. The doctor in Neepawa referred me to the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital (now part of the Health  Sciences Centre)  for intensive care.  My weight at one year had dropped to ten pounds. In hospital I was placed on an elimination diet to try to discover the cause of the eczema but nothing seemed to be working.

At the time it was felt that young children in hospital should not be upset in seeing their parents leave at the end of visiting hours so Mum & Dad could only view me through a window while I was sleeping. You have to wonder if the stress from being separated so completely from my family had an adverse affect on my recovery.  There is no record of how long I was in the hospital other than the fact that I spent my first birthday there (July 22nd) and cut my first four teeth between my birthday and Aug 12th while there.

Since nothing seemed to be working my father decided that if I was going to die anyway that it should be at home with family so we returned home to the farm.  My mother had been given expensive creams to apply but as with most kids my face and hands needed frequent washings which she did with regular soap and water.  When she noticed these areas starting to clear she pitched the creams out the window.

Playing piano with mittened hands

I was usually put in mittens to try to keep me from scratching the affected areas.  The only lasting effect of this experience was very sensitive skin with occasional break outs on my arms and legs and the severe separation anxiety that I went through. Apparently, for over a year, I would panic if my mother left the room without me.  Perhaps this whole experience is also why I was daddy’s girl.

A sister!

The momentous day was July 22, 1944. My sister, Nadine Faye Turner was born at 11:10 pm weighing 7 lb. 7 oz. .  I don’t remember the occasion though, nor the day nearly 2 weeks later when my mother returned from the hospital with her, though no doubt I was quite excited at the time. But from this vantage point, years later, I cannot recall a time when my sister did not share my life.

Nadine Faye was born, like myself, in Neepawa General Hospital. We were still living on the Brunskill farm.  Here are some early pictures taken of her with Mum.

The Perils of Walking Backward

A full bath in those days before running water was a once a week affair. The large tub used for washing clothes on Monday was set on the kitchen floor and filled with warm water from the reservoir attached to the wood stove, and that is where we bathed.

One night, fresh out of the tub, toweled off and dressed in my nightgown, I was dancing to the music on the radio while waiting for a tuck-in. When the music stopped, I decided to fill the interval by practicing a new skill: walking backward. And walk backward I did, right into the tub sitting on the floor, still filled with bathwater.

Interestingly I recently found this memory of my maternal grandmother, as she recounted it to her daughter, my aunt Muriel.

My great-grandmother died when my grandmother was only three. The story comes from the day of my great-grandmother’s funeral.

“[Mother] could call up no picture of her mother. She wondered why, since she had another absurd memory of the same time. She and Alice, her younger sister, were staying with a neighbour woman until the funeral was over. Mother had just discovered that she could walk backward and was showing Alice this surprising skill. She walked backwards, bumped into, and sat down in a bucket of water being used to scrub the floor.”

The close similarity of this story to the one about myself makes me wonder if this is a free-floating story that manages to attach itself to someone each generation or so. How many of us have a story about walking backward into a bucket or tub or pond in our family history?

In summer time, the tub was also the closest thing we had to a wading pool. Here I am enjoying some playtime one hot day.

“Here, pliggy, pliggy!”

My mother kept track of all my early milestones in a Baby Book, along with locks of my blonde hair and black and white snap shots taken with her trusty box Brownie, a camera she used for over twenty years.

My height, my weight, the colour of my eyes (blue), the date of my first tooth, my first solid food, my first step are all faithfully noted.  (One of the privileges of being the first-born.)

Among my first words was “pliggy”.  Mum tells me that as a two-year old one of my morning rituals was to go out on the back step with some scraps and call “Here pliggy, pliggy” to the pigs and feed them.  I had no concern about walking among these animals taller than myself.

My 2nd birthday, April 1944