Tag Archive | Neepawa Manitoba

Hear the pennies dropping!

Thoughts of Sunday School and Sunday School songs brings to mind two amusing stories.

I said in my last post that my favorite hymn was This is my Father’s world.  Near the beginning there is a line which reads “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”

At five years of age, the word “sphere” was unknown to me. I learned a few years later that it referred to a ball shape (which gave me the impression of planets singing as they rolled their way around the sun). But it was not until I was in university and reading Dante that I learned about the Ptolemaic cosmology and discovered the true meaning of the phrase, “music of the spheres”.

All that was in the future though.  As a five-year-old, trying to make some sense of the line, I fastened on the vague auditory similarity of “sphere” and “fairy” and decided it referred to fairy rings.  So for sometime, whenever we sang that hymn, I would visualize a natural setting in which fairies danced and sang.  Sometimes that still seems more appropriate than the intended meaning.

Hexenringe, fairy ring,fairy circle

Fairy ring,fairy circle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other story concerns my sister, though she doesn’t recall it herself.

Pennies in those days were important currency for young children.  They were almost the only coins we got to handle ourselves, and nine times out of ten, they were spent on penny candy.  It was one of the few purchasing decisions we were given and I well remember the intense calculation as to whether to get blackballs (3 for a penny) or spend the whole coin on a single licorice twizzler or candy cane.  It took immense self-discipline to save up the five pennies it would take to purchase a chocolate bar.


The other use for pennies was as Sunday School collection, a fact alluded to in the best-known children’s offertory hymn of the time.  As the plate was passed around we sang it with gusto!

Hear the pennies dropping. Listen as they fall.
Every one for Jesus, he shall have them all.
Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping
Hear the pennies fall!
Every one for Jesus.  He shall have them all!

Any way, the story goes that Nadine, then about three, listened in horror, clutched her pennies and protested “No, not all.  He can’t have them all.”

I don’t know if the story is true or not.  Like my walking backward into water story, it seems to be a free-floating meme that attaches itself to whoever is handy.  In this case, exactly the same story appears in my uncle’s family memoir, Pancake Ranch, but the young protestor is my Aunt Lucille and the time is a decade earlier, in the 1930s.

Pancake Ranch


Sunday School

Neepawa United Church, 2010Photo credit: Jeanette Greaves

Neepawa United Church, 2010
Photo credit: Jeannette Greaves

Neepawa United Church was the place where Nadine and I first attended Sunday School, though the 2010 picture above is probably not what it looked like in 1946.

Personally, I took to Sunday School like a duck to water.  Probably because I loved to sing.  And I loved all the common Sunday School hymns of the time: Jesus Loves Me, God Sees the little sparrow fall, When he cometh and I am so glad (How I loved to belt out the chorus on that one!)

But my truly favorite hymn was This is my Father’s world.  Our children’s version did not include the third verse, which I learned only many years later. Perhaps the line “Although the wrong seems oft so strong..” was deemed unsuitable for the young.  Here is the way I learned it.

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

These words were often my personal meditation as I sat under a tree or beside a stream.  And certainly every time I felt the wind blowing through the grass.

It was also at Neepawa United Sunday School that I had my own first moment of ephemeral glory—along with the boy who lived next door to us.  It was a Hallowe’en party and our mothers decided to create an Indian chief and Indian princess costume set for us.  And we won first prize for the best couples’ costume.

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.

Arrival in Canada

The SS Doric of the White Star Line

Courtesy of the Norway Heritage Collection – www.norwayheritage.com.
Source: http://www.heritage-ships.com

It was Grandpa’s second son, Bert, who convinced the family to come to Canada.  They travelled on the SS Doric of the White Star Line arriving in Quebec City on April 26, 1926.  My father was twelve years old. They were the largest single family to make the journey—even though they had left the three oldest children in England.

John Bernard Turner and Sarah Jane Turner with the seven of their ten children who came to Canada: Bernard, George, Ivy, Joan, (age 3) Eunice, Eric and Bert.

From Quebec City, they continued the journey west and settled on a farm in the Cordova district in Manitoba. They later moved to Mentmore.  Mentmore, and Cordova are rural districts in south-west Manitoba.  Each had a small centre of sorts at the location of the railway stop where there was a grain elevator and a post office/general store. The nearest towns of any size were Neepawa  and Minnedosa.

Click on View Larger Map to see the relationship of Mentmore to Neepawa and Minnedosa.

It was Bert, as well, who lured his parents to Vancouver when they decided to retire from farming.  This time only Joan went along.  Eric and George, Eunice, Ivy and Bernard (my Dad) had all married by this time and stayed in Manitoba.


Grandpa & Grandma Turner in their garden in Vancouver, 1942

The Birthmark

I was born April 7, 1942 in Neepawa General Hospital. The delivery and post-natal care were standard medical routine at the time, which is to say that my mother was anesthetized during delivery, kept in bed for a week and not “burdened” with the care of a new-born during that time. Like all resident newborns, I was kept in the nursery at all times except for the 30 minutes each four hours during which my mother was allowed to breastfeed me.

I was clothed in standard hospital garb, a plain nightgown with no armholes, and but for a fortunate accident, my mother might not have seen more than my face until she took me home. On day three of my young life, however, my gown had a tear in it, through which I managed to extend my left arm and terrified my mother. To all appearance I had been badly burned.

In fact, it wasn’t a burn, but, as the nurses belatedly reassured her, a rather unusual birthmark consisting of half a dozen red blotches along my left forearm from wrist to elbow. Apparently neither the doctor nor the nurses had thought to inform her of this unusual characteristic. And, fearful of breaking some hospital rule, she had not dared to undress me during the brief feeding times.

I call it a fortunate accident for I shudder at the thought of the emotional turmoil my parents would have been put through had they not discovered the mark until after I had been brought home. Even today, most people seeing the birthmark for the first time assume it is a burn.

The birthmark today

I have never been embarrassed by the birthmark as I might have been by a facial blemish. A doctor did tell my mother once that it could be removed, but she saw no reason to do so. Most people, once they get over their first start, are simply curious about it. In fact, I developed a sort of pride in this badge. And I found it a decided advantage when first learning left from right.