Ella Salome (WInkelman) Cole wrote wrote this autobiography in 1997, or near to, as the copy from which this WikiTree Space was created has a hand-noted date of 9 Aug 1997. Stuart McCormick, the grandson of Ella's sister Agnes, converted a photocopy of the original type-written document for WikiTree in November 2020, including the creation of hyperlinks to enhance the manuscript.
A PDF version of the original is available here. As you read the document and notice errors or inconsistencies, please compare to the original PDF before notifying the profile manager.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ELLA SALOME COLE, NEE WINKELMAN circa 1997
I was born on August 1, 1917 on a farm at Nisku, Alberta, about twenty-five miles south of Edmonton.
I was the fifth of eight children, not an unusually large family at the time. The oldest was Walter, two years later Art, two years later Herbert, two years later Agnes, and then two years later me. Then there was a miscarriage so the two year baby cycle was interrupted. Ernie was born five years later. Finally there was Eddie and then there was little Harvey who died when he was about eight months old.
I remember his illness as if it were yesterday, I was changing his diaper and he took a seizure, I thought it was my fault, I thought I had picked him with the diaper pin or I had done something. It was so sudden, one minute he was smiling the next minute he was having a seizure.
I was only thirteen and we thought then it probably was from teething and we never ever did find out the cause of the seizures. He had very few seizures after that but he stayed sick for at least three months and then we eventually we took him to the hospital. It was the middle of winter with many feet of snow, sixty below zero, and we were afraid to take him to the hospital. The doctor was afraid to take him out of the house but eventually we did and there they whipped him through the corridors, after a bath, and because of the condition he was in he got phenomena and he died. He had a temperature of a hundred and eight degrees. He was so sweet, I loved him like he was my own baby.
When I was about a year old I had the 1918 flu. I almost died with that, forgot how to walk, to talk and to feed myself. I went to Aunt Liddy's (my mother’s sister), I think I was there for about a year as my recovery was very slow.
I had to leave my home because the house was full of flu and my mother had it and all the kids had it. It was the deadly 1918 flu where it was either you lived or you died. There weren’t enough care givers for the number of sick in anyone’s homes.
I was the only one who left because I was the baby. I was only a year old and I can't remember that much but from there after I was awfully close to Aunt Liddy because she was like a mother, a real mother. The only other thing I can vividly remember is when my mother had a miscarriage and we went to Uncle Adolph and Aunt Tolly's because she was very sick. I was afraid she was going to die.
Uncle Adolph and Aunt Tolly were living just on the other side of the church. We lived on one side of the little Lutheran church and they lived on the other side of the little church that had been built by my grandfather, who was also the Pastor and the teacher in that church. Uncle Adolph was his youngest son and he inherited the farm that grandpa and grandma had bought from the government for $1.00.
I went to the Great West Nisku school. A two room school with one little room and one big room. The little room was from grade one to grade six and the big room was from grade six to grade ten and after that you had to go to a high school elsewhere. There was a hallway where there was a bunch of hooks and you hung your lunch and your clothes, which were very many because of the temperature in the winter, on a hook and at lunch when you went into that hall to get your lunch in the winter and you had to thaw it. It was frozen solid. You had to thaw it on the side of the big, wood and coal stove before you could eat it.
There were two teachers. One in each room. Ms. Detrick in the little room and Ms. Baus in the big room.
We walked to school every day. Two and half miles each way and in the winter it was often forty or fifty below zero. What really helped keep us warm was Mutter’s knitted wool stockings. Mutter was my mother's mother. She was a real old sweetheart. She came always when my mother wasn’t feeling well or sick and she was always over there helping us. I really loved her, except for her itchy wool stockings.
Our first language was German. I would say we started German school when we were about five years old. We had to go on Saturdays and there we were taught better (high) German, better grammar and in general given instructions in the German language. All the German kids in the neighbourhood went and that was in the little white church that was right close to the house.
Mutter never did learn how to speak or understand English very well but all the kids learned both languages quickly. And my mother and father both were bilingual. I learned to read in grade one and I never stopped. I learned English immediately because I read one book after another. There was a library in the comer of the little room at school where there was a bunch of books, all kinds of adventures and fairy tales and I spent all my time standing in front of that library picking out books.
We also learned to read and write German also at German School and spoke German at home most of the time. After we started to go to school the kids amongst ourselves would speak more English but German remained the main language at home.
We considered school as a holiday because summers were so much work. I herded cows every where because there was only one quarter of land, one hundred and sixty acres, which was in wheat and grains. We always had about sixteen to twenty cows which had to have pasture in order to produce milk which was a big part of our income. We made and delivered butter on the farm, we separated the milk from the cream and then we made cream, cottage cheese and about a hundred pounds of butter a week and delivered it to various people in Edmonton. I was the youngest of that first bunch of kids and from the time I was six or seven years old I herded all those twenty cows along with my little dog along the roadsides and on Uncle Adolph's farm where ever there was grass. What a job! In those days not all the land was fenced.
I always asked to go to Aunt Liddy's at least for a week or two every summer and usually I was allowed to go but we still had German school every Saturday and being as it was summer holidays there was choir practice in the evenings. We always had a choir and there were a lot more activities around the church.
There was always a big garden about an acre of potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, peas, cabbage, turnips, and beans etc. On my twenty first birthday my brothers and everybody made a surprise party for me and the party lasted until about five o'clock in the morning when we went out to pick raspberries to put on our porridge on our cereal. That was a party I will never forget. It was the first birthday party I had ever had.
Picking berries was another activity that had to be done. That was kind of an adventure because it was like a little bit of a picnic. There were lots of high bush cranberries, blueberries and saskatoons which was made into jam and canned. And of course that was another thing you did on summer holidays you canned and you made pickles, about two hundred and fifty quarts of fruit and gallons and gallons of pickles of all kinds and lots of sauerkraut. This had to last you through the winter.
FALL AND WINTER
In the fall all the potatoes were brought in to the potato bin. It was about as big as the average kitchen and was practically filled with potatoes. When they got a little bit soft we often had to sit in the potato bin and take off the sprouts. We picked out the ones that were a little bit soft and then they were used for fodder, to feed the pigs and the chickens. They were mixed with mash and skimmed milk and made into feed for the winter. The cabbage and the turnips and carrots hung up in a cold room and it did us for most of the winter. We also had all that canned fruit and vegetables as there was no freezer, there was no electricity and no super markets.
For meat in the winter we usually butchered a pig. It was hung up outside of the barn, skinned, bled and butchered right there outside the barn. The boys would cut off everything and we made sausage and canned lots and lots of pork and beef. We also made sausages. One of our favourite was gritswurst but we made all kinds of sausage in the links. I can't remember what else we made with it but everything was rendered down for lard even the bones were ground and used for fodder. There was nothing, nothing wasted. Not so much as the horns and the feet.
We also canned lots of chickens and in the fall we butchered a bunch of turkeys. We had a stall at the public market in Edmonton and on Saturdays we would take the butchered chickens and what was left over of the cream and butter and we stood at that public market all day and sold the chickens and the turkeys and all the produce from the farm. Now, as far as outside work on the farm, there was plenty of it as you can imagine and the boys did most of the heavy work.
The inside work was totally the responsibility of the women and girls. You can imagine how dirty everything got because the men came in from outside, from the fields, and they were so filthy, they were black and would sit down and eat supper before they went out to do chores. So they didn't change their clothes, they didn't even take off their boots, they came in and ate so everything got mighty dirty the floor and everything. On Saturdays we got down on our hands and knees with a scrub brush and we scrubbed those floors until they were white and clean. We had throw rugs every where but all the floors were so that you could sweep them and dust and varnish them.
Washing clothes was another horrendous chore. All the laundry plus the bedding for nine people was done on Mondays. We hauled in water from the well and heated it on the stove in boilers and then dumped it into a washing machine and then we washed, and boy was that good exercise, twisting that handle back and forth. No automatic washers then. We rung it through the ringer into the tubs and then you boiled the clothes in big tubs on the stove because there was no bleach and those were dirty farm clothes.
Washing took all day because we had to hang it all out on the line. We hung clothes out on the line and just practically froze our fingers off because it was so cold in the winter. When you brought those clothes in they were so solid you could stand them in the corner. I can remember breaking the boys legs off their underwear because I didn't wait long enough for them to thaw. I sure got shit for that. It all had to be hung up until it thawed and the wash house was like a steam bath. Washing was a lot easier in the summer, I can tell you. But having a wash house rather than all that mess in the kitchen was wonderful. Then there was ironing and was there ironing! All those white shirts, the boys all insisted they wanted to wear white shirts to church and when anybody went to Edmonton, like on Saturdays to deliver stuff, they insisted on putting their suits and their white shirts and their neck ties. They didn't want to look like farmers but well they looked like farmers anyhow because I think the dirt behind their ears gave them away.
Back to ironing again. With the flat iron on the stove the temperature would be a 100 above in the summer and you had the stove just red hot so that those irons would be hot enough. The winter wasn't too bad because you had the stove going anyhow. But I can remember when you ironed it took a full day.
Once a week there was a tub put in the kitchen and when we were little kids we bathed but as we got older we had a wash basin in the kitchen and there was hot water on the stove and we took a bar of soap and a towel, not a wash cloth because there was no such thing. It was just a rag or old underwear or whatever but it was a clean rag and you washed. I guess it worked because everybody seemed clean but sometimes, when we were all together in the church, especially in the summer it was a little bit high. It just depended on who you sat next to.
The toilet had to be pretty far away from the house because of the smell in the summer. In the winter very often we would just pee madly behind the wash house, but for number one only. That was okay because it was in the snow so it didn't matter. But normally there was always an Eatons’ catalogue or Simpson’s catalogue for toilet paper, a little slippery but it worked. In the summer there were bluebirds nesting in the out house and it was nice to watch the parent and the babies and you could hear them, so that was our entertainment in the toilet. The bluebirds and the good old Eaton’s catalogues, no problem. In the winter it was mighty cold and my dad every once in a while or the boys would just have to chop off the mound or you would sit on it and spear yourself. It would be terrible a dilemma to be constipated in the Alberta winters. You would have to wait for spring or else freeze to death.
THE FAMILY HOUSE
It was a nice farmhouse. My dad was quite a proud man, and when they got married he built a house that I would say was quite a lot nicer then a lot of the neighbour’s houses. Some of the others were older houses that they had moved into but he built a brand new house and he even had hardwood floors put in the kitchen. I can still remember scrubbing those hardwood floors and they came up just as white as a piece of paper. There was a kitchen and a pantry and everything was put on shelves in the pantry and when the family got bigger the kitchen was a little bit too small so they opened the pantry up and put cupboards in the kitchen. There were four bedrooms upstairs, quite big bedrooms. There were double brass beds with knobs that you could screw, I can remember playing with those knobs on the top of those beds. There was a brass bed in each one of those rooms, and of course in the spare room there was one of those pitchers and a basin and a pot underneath the bed in case of company or if someone got sick.
When you were a year and a half years old you went upstairs to sleep in a double bed with a sister or brother, that was it. Mom and dad were downstairs. There were no lights im the house so you couldn’t come downstairs you had to make sure that you didn't otherwise you could go head first down the stairs. Somehow, not one baby ever fell down those stairs. The small babies slept with mom and dad downstairs. With eight kids there was never ever a cradle or crib in the house.
The dining room was quite a large room and my mother had bought all the furniture and things from a lady that had come from England. It was all oak and there was a sideboard with the side mirrors and a beautiful dining room suite. I can remember hating that dining room suite because it was all carved and we used to have to dust all that damn stuff. There was the parlor which hardly anybody ever went into and that had beautiful furniture in it too, all heavy oak. A large verandah went around the house and if you ever had time you could sit out there in the summer. I am not sure who built the house but here is a little history of the land.
When my grandfather arrived from the old country the government gave him six hundred and forty acres of land and that all had to be cleared. They had to build their own little log house and everything, grandpa and grandma Lechelt. A few years later it burned down. They ran for their lives as the grass was on fire too. The many sloughs on the lands save their lives. The only thing Mutter saved was a cow that was tethered so she had milk for the babies. They eventually built another house with the help of the neighbours, many of them had also been burned out.
As the kids grew up my grandfather gave Uncle Herman a quarter of land which was a one hundred and sixty acres, Uncle Charlie a quarter of land and my home place which was a quarter section and when my mother got married my father had to buy the one hundred and sixty acres because she was a daughter, not a son. The house was built and my dad was very meticulous. It would of been neighbours that helped and probably somebody that knew about building because our house was one of the best for miles around. Barns and everything were always built by the neighbours, by volunteer help because no one could afford to hire that kind of help.
THE FARM YARD
There was the house, the wash house, the toilet, the garage where they kept the car and a lot of the machinery. There was a granary and that was full of grain and then there was the barn which faced the house. It was just all in a kind of a big circle with a yard in the middle and then there was the chicken coop and that completed the circle. So that's the way the buildings were built and they were all painted red except the house which was white.
A TYPICAL WEEK ON THE FARM
Well on Sunday you got up in the morning and the chores were done and then you went to church, always. Then usually you had some company, somebody came from church. I can remember Sundays, I hated Sunday afternoons because it was so quiet when we were little everything seemed to just kind of bog down.
But as you grew older we had company. Us girls had boyfriends and the boys had girlfriends and we'd have somebody for supper and we played cards. Then it was better but when I was little I hated Sundays because my dad and mom usually laid down and rested and you were suppose to be quiet. There was no radio and there was no TV, there was a piano and as we got a little bit older we would play the piano, quietly.
Monday you went to school. You walked your two and half miles to school and your two and half miles back and then it was the usual routine and the rest of the week was very much the same. You had to do your chores, wash the cream separator which had to be washed every day, there were thirty-two disks and they were always stuck together.
Tuesday we went to the Moravian church which was about three miles further down the toad the other direction from the school, unfortunately, and we walked there and took our one lesson once a week from the minister of that church. So on Tuesdays Agnes and I walked eleven miles between school and piano lessons.
By the time we grew up everybody played an instrument. That’s what we did on Sundays, played and sang. We all sang. Uncle Gus would come over and he would have his leaf , a leaf from the tree, and he put it between his thumbs and he could play that leaf so well and we would use milk or feed pails for drums. Somebody even played the saw. Sometimes we could talk Walter into playing the violin, he took violin lessons and when Emie got older he played the guitar. Eddie didn't play anything but he could sing. Doris, Herbert’s girl played the accordion. Eventually all the grandkids sang.
Old Charlie Hoffman used to come over. I remember him so well. He used to come to everybody's place and he would do chores and he helped when people were busy or when there was a new baby. He would help with the mother’s chores for no pay and everybody loved to have him come because he was always very cheerful and good fun. He was the good Samaritan. He could tell you all kinds of stories about other places where he had been. He had a little radio and a crank up phonograph. We all enjoyed that so much. We also had a phonograph with a big hom with the picture of the dog and the writing “His Masters Voice” but that darn old Herman Madu borrowed it and broke it.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all about the same schedule. We always had supper about eight o'clock in the evening because we did the chores first. Supper was a big meal but a different kind of a meal than dinner. We didn’t have anything like the lunches we have today. Dinner was at lunch time and it was meat, vegetables, potatoes, and pudding or pie. The leftovers were put into the warming closet so that when we would come home from school we had our dinner and then we had a late supper. We had a little time left over to do our homework before we went to bed.
The supper was usually pancakes or potato pancakes or soup and usually something else with it, homemade bread always, lots of homemade bread, cinnamon roils, doughnuts, we used to bake doughnuts, and we always had canned fruit. That's why we had all those two hundred and fifty quarts of canned fruit. Friday was churning day and we churned and made butter. I can remember we used to have great big stacks of butter paper that you bought and it was my job to fold it over, my mother printed the butter with a printer and it had to be washed with ice cold water so that the butter had no buttermilk in it. It was pure butter and you worked the salt into it and then it was printed into pound prints with one of the butter printers. Once in a while we were allowed to go to Edmonton, one of us could go along when they delivered the butter.
A TYPICAL YEAR ON THE FARM
In September school started. Then it was harvest time and the men went out helping other people harvest and then other people would come and help us and they stooked. They had to stook. The grain was cut and put into bundles too skinny to stook. I was only about seventy-five pounds, I couldn't very well stook because those bundles weighed about seventy-five pounds. Stooks were like ranked up piles, not at all like the bales today. Everyday we had to pack lunch for al! the men in the fields and we had to take their lunch out to the fields, that was a big job too. That was after school. They were out in the fields from early spring to late fall.
September was the time when you brought in all of the stuff out of the garden. We cleaned all those vegetables and canned and that was steady everyday. We went berry picking when the berries were ripe and made all the jams and put everything in the basement. That was a very busy time because it was harvest time and then the men would cut the grain and then came threshing time. My father had a big Rumly threshing machine and there were twenty-four men to work it. There was the engineer and there was a man that shoveled the coal and wood. When threshing started it was like a big parade. The Rumly was out in front and then the neighbour boys and whoever we hired were behind with big double wagons pulled by horses. Then there was the horse drawn caboose where they all slept. This went on for a week. And did we ever have to cook. We baked for days and we had six gallon and twelve gallon crocks full of cookies and cake and we had to cook for about twenty-four men three times a day. We didn't go to school much in September when the threshers were there but none of the other kids did either during threshing time. They harvested wheat, oats, barley and some people planted flax.
The men threshed it right into the granary. There was a big sort of a horn that went from the threshing machine. The boys threw the bundles into the threshing machine on one end and it came out as chaff, which was the straw piles on one side and grain on the other. The grain went into the granary and the straw went on to a big pile. Then in the winter it was transported to the grain elevators. Remember the big elevator with Alberta Wheat Pool written on them?
September and October were the busiest time for threshing but my dad rented out the Rumly and sometimes they went until right through to January, even in the snow. Then in November you started to get ready for the winter. The boys had to get the barns ready and that was usually the time when you did the butchering and more canning of meat.
We went to Edmonton in November to stock up for winter and we always went to Shragg’s General Store. Old Shragg was where we got all our groceries and we sold him butter too. He was on White avenue on the south side of Edmonton. There were three Jewish brothers, one had a hardware store, one had a meat store, and Old Shragg had the grocery store. They had clothing and everything on one side of the grocery store and the groceries on the other side. He would send home free candies for the kids so he was guaranteed lots of Christmas business. In December of course we started to get ready for Christmas. There were extra church services on Wednesdays for Advent and Christmas choir practice started. We always had a big Christmas school program and then all the parents came and lots of extra practices for that too.
Christmas eve was at the Church. That's when we had our Christmas program and we had the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was decorated before and since there was no electricity the tree was lit with candles. The kids sat there wide eyed because it was so beautiful.
Then we all went home, where we were able to decorate our own tree, which was always done on Christmas Eve, never before. We had our big dinner on Christmas day because we had to get the chores done before we went to church and there was really no time to have a Christmas eve dinner. On Christmas day there were little gifts given, I guess because there wasn’t enough money. Each person got one gift only.
There was always lemon pie and we had made some sort of fruit salad, special things that we didn't normally do and there was the turkey. A thirty pound turkey was average. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables and we usually asked quite a few people in for Christmas dinner. Of course that was after church and then when we got back from church the turkey was almost done. The company always had to go home for chores as soon as dinner was done as soon after noon as possible. We did the usual things, we played the piano, we sang and played games. It was Christmas, a wonderful time.
January wasn’t a very nice month because by that time it was bitterly cold. In January were the blizzards and it would get to be sixty below zero and about six feet of snow. The winters were fierce and sometimes we made it to school and sometimes we couldn't and then of course we had to keep ourselves busy more or less in the house. All the animals were kept in the barn and we did embroidery, sewing, damming socks and we quilted. We made quilts for everybody. We were growing up and everyone was married. They all had to have two quilts for weddings presents so Mutter carded wool every available evening way into the night, cleaning and washing wool and carding. She had a whole room full of wool. You should of smelled her little house. It smelled like a herd of sheep. That’s what the girls and women did but the boys were up to no good. Well, I don't know what they were doing but they would spend a lot of their time in the hay loft, probably shooting sparrows, and playing golf. The sparrows were all eating the grains so it was just as well. Chopping wood was a big job because each day there had to be a great big pile of wood chopped and they had their work to do outside, cleaning barns and the manure pile. By the time spring came the manure pile was so high you could hardly get into the barn.
So that was January and February, pretty well and then in March the snow started to go away a little and we started to get ready all the jars ready for canning, washing them and we started getting everything ready to start planting.
By April the boys were pretty well ready to start plowing and harrowing and getting the land ready for planting because the planting had to be done by the end of April or beginning of May.
Oh, my god the mud! Every porch has a foot scraper and sometimes you had to out there with a hoe because it was frozen and try to hack off the mud and it wasn’t mud like here it was gumbo. It’s heavy, one foot could easily weigh fifteen pounds, it just added and added on until you were just barely able to lift your foot. Often you lost your boots because you couldn’t lift them and you’d walk to the house in your socks.
The men would come in with the horses and plow up an acre or two for the garden and then we planted. And all of June, July and August we weeded, watered, harvested, canned and the whole thing started over again.
I think almost everyone was Lutheran. Almost everybody but there were the Catholics too. At school the Catholics sat on one side of the stove and the Lutherans on the other. Our teachers were both Catholic. We got into real verbal battles because we were staunch Lutherans and we they were staunch Catholics. The Lutherans almost always won the verbal and sometime physical battles because there was so many more of us.
Everyone who was Lutheran had to be confirmed into the church. Confirmation classes started when you were about twelve years old. It took two years and you went at least twice a week for three hours at a time.
You were confirmed in front of the congregation. You had to answer all these questions and you got your fancy white confirmation dress and the boys usually got new suits. Each person who was confirmed took guests home and there was a big celebration, a big dinner and lots and lots of people.
My father died in 1930.
I was thirteen and he had gone hunting to Hinton and Edson towns between Edmonton and Jasper for moose and deer. My mother wasn't feeling well and of course she found out that she was pregnant again. My dad went into Shragg Brothers Store in Edmonton, after he had taken Mum to the doctor to verify that she was pregnant. They picked up some groceries and found these two guys Bozanius and Krause who were getting ready to go hunting. He decided to go with them.
Then he took my mother home and picked up some things, blankets, food and heavy clothes because it was late fall by then. They went hunting on the Friday night and then on the Saturday he was shot. The three men had separated and they had made the arrangement that if anything happened, if any of them fell or maybe a bear charged them they would shoot three times and if any of them heard the shot they were to come running. We think that one of those guys shot Dad thinking he was a bear or a moose. My father was shot in the back and bled to death. I can remember Aunt Liddy and Pastor Eifort came to tell my mother that he was dead. They had an investigation and his death was ruled accidental. They brought him home in a coffin. It was in the living room and we were all able to see him whenever we felt able to but just more or less the family and close friends came to the house and then they transported the coffin over to the church. There were about four hundred people at the funeral. They came from far and near. There were cars and wagons right down the long driveway and along the highway. He was a well loved man.
My mother’s and father’s graves and Harvey’s and both grandmother’s and grandfather’s graves were in the church graveyard.
So this left my mother with a farm, seven children, pregnant and it was the hungry thirties and there was a mortgage on the farm.
The depression was tough. There wasn’t so much as a nickel in the house ever. We kept making and delivering the butter, that was practically the only money we made and even the people we delivered the butter to, some of them were lawyers and doctors, even those people had no money. There was no medical coverage then so no one had money to go to a doctor. And going to a lawyer was unheard of.
There was no Medicare and there was no welfare and there was no nothing and even the well to do people were losing their homes. They used to lock their doors and hide so that when the creditors came or the beaurocracy that do the foreclosures on houses, there was just nobody home. The men were out working for the farmers in exchange for food like painting our buildings and yard work. We had doctors and lawyers painting our farm buildings.
Their wives had no electricity because they couldn’t pay the bill. They just existed with either no light or a candle if they were lucky enough to be able to afford a candle.
There was lots and lots of men on the road. We called them bums and they used to come to our place, we always fed them because they were half starved. We had to feed them because where were they going to eat they were flat broke. In the winter a lot of them froze to death. We would find them all the time. And they usually walked the railroad tracks because the railroad tracks were kept sort of clear but the roads were very narrow and if a car came along those men had no place to go because there was snow on either side. They wouldn't dare walk on the highway and the snow was so deep they couldn't walk anywhere else so they walked on the railroad tracks and our house was not too far from the railroad tracks and we got lots of bums. Those years were terribly hard but because we were farmers we always had food, no money but full bellies.
The years following were hard, really hard. You never got anything. But I did get a coat and it would of cost about $5.00 but it was a good coat. It was warm and it was a nice color, kind of a soft rose and it was pure wool. I kept that coat for about five years until the sleeves were so short they were up to my elbows.
Then the war started. Life, of course, got better with everyone getting ready for war. I was twenty-two years old when the war started.
Agnes was married first. She married Ted Folkman, a Lutheran minister and they had nine kids, Ruth, Dorothy, Teddy, Sharon, George, Tim, Frank, Gloria and Rocky.
Then Art got married to Ruth Dreiger. Ruth was a neighbour of ours and Ruth’s mother and my mother were cousins. They had three girls, Marlene, Joyce and Darlie.
Next Herbert married Liddy Stromberg from Boyle, a small farming area north of Edmonton. They had two kids Doris and Dennis.
I guess it was my turn. I married Elgin Cole. He was working in a bank at the time and a while later he bought a general store in a small town south east of Edmonton.
Our wedding was at home on the farm. We borrowed a large canvas from the church in case it rained and the boys built a dance floor and tables out in the yard. We hired a woman who baked ten angel food cakes, and the traditional wedding fruit cakes. We did all the rest of the cooking. About one hundred people were there. The wedding was outside and in the morning there was one hell of a storm and we had to go to Edmonton to get our pictures taken. After the storm it was about a hundred and five degrees, hot, hot. We were married in the little white church next to our house. In the afternoon I remember sitting on the verandah holding Marlene, Art’s daughter who was just a baby, for a good part of the afternoon because Elgin had to be upstairs with his mother who was having a tantrum. So he was up there most of the wedding.
That should have been a sign of what the future held. That was a sign. She was in a real snit, probably because she wasn’t getting enough attention. The attention was being given to someone else. I had the most miserable mother-in-law anyone could have had.
Then we got ready for supper and we had white table clothes on all the tables and flowers. We also had the cake out there at the main table. It was quite beautiful. We were just starting to set the table and a huge wind came up and everything just went flying. I can remember Jim Marshall, the best man, grabbing the cake because it was just ready to go over. It was one of those real prairie storms and then it started to hail and rain but it only lasted about fifteen minutes but everything was swimming. So we just took off all the table clothes and ate on the bare tables.
We had a band, in fact it was Leo Schnieder’s band, my old boyfriend. I went with that poor bugger for two years and he could never get over it that I ditched him. I don't know why I did it either.
After me, Ernie got married to Evelyn. They had two children, Elaine and Wayne. Later they divorced and Ernie married Jean which was a much happier union.
Next, Walter married Alice Stromberg, Liddy, (Herbert’s wife’s sister) and I wasn’t at the wedding for some reason, I don’t remember why we couldn’t attend. They had two children Irene and Bobby.
The last to be married was Eddy and he married Kay Baker. They had two children, Gary and Wanda, then two more, Carole and Ricky. Unfortunately, these last two babies died from “crib death”. No one even knew what crib death was in those days. A while later they had two more kids Laura and Doug.
THE FIRST YEARS
The next day, without a honeymoon, we went directly to Dodds. Besides our store there was a blacksmith's shop, two grain elevators and a few houses. We also had the only gas pumps and post office.
The living conditions were just terrible. It was so cold you could throw a cat through the cracks in the walls. There was no electricity and there was no water and there wasn’t even a well that you could get water. You had to melt ice or snow in the winter and make do with washing on the washboard and all those good things. In the summer we hauled it from nearby farms in big barrels.
We opened the store about 8:00 a.m. every morning and of course we had to have everything ready. First of all we had to have the post office bags ready to take over to the train which went through about 8:30. The people started to come in around then to shop and we cut meat, cheese and everything by hand because there was no electricity.
My first baby was born on April 21, 1941. Just mine and a half months after we were marmied. We named her Elizabeth but always called her Betty.
The second baby, Jim was born in 1943. We spent six years in Dodds. From Dodds we moved onto a mink farm and rented there for awhile before we bought a lot in south Edmonton for $100.00. We moved a small three room house from Nisku where my uncle William Lechelt and his wife had lived. They had both died and the Zelts then had turned it into a chicken coop. I scraped that chicken shit out of the house with a pancake tumer. We brought the house in from the country, raised it and put a basement underneath with two bedrooms in the basement. We turned the pantry into a bathroom. It was a three room house and it was quite comfortable for a few years. We only had the two kids then.
THE GROCERY STORE YEARS
We had bought a grocery store from Mr. Gordon and we kept the name Gordon's Groceries. It was in north Edmonton. The farmers’ market was right across the street and we were about a block from Eatons and Woodwards. We called it the “Egg Basket” because we got eggs from the farmers and took them over to the market to have them graded. The people brought their own bags and containers and we sold farm fresh eggs quite reasonably. After we had been there about three or fours years we moved next door to what had been a hardware and grocery store. We rented the first little grocery store out to a Goodwill store, something like the Salvation Army.
The church was always a big part of our lives. We belonged to Redeemer Lutheran Church in south Edmonton. Dad played the organ in the church for years. J sang in the choir. Betty and Jim were baptized and confirmed in that church. Betty taught Sunday school for some time. We spent a lot of time in the church especially before Christmas and Easter. We went to all the Lent and Advent services.
A lot of our social life was involved with the church. We had friends in the church, some young couples that we used to have over to the house and we would go on picnics in local parks. We were busy doing a lot of things with the relatives also. All the brothers and sisters their kids and my mother were around so usually there was some place to go and we had many of the family gatherings at our house.
We would often go to the store to do extra things because we were open six days a week and Sundays very often we were getting something ready for Monday. In that store what was interesting was the way Betty and Jim would work outside in the back with a tub of ice and water and they had to sell pop for a nickel a bottle. There was always a Saturday auction and in the summer everyone was mighty thirsty. Their hands were blue from the cold water at the end of the day.
We lived in south Edmonton practically the whole time. For a little while we moved to north Edmonton into what they called row housing. We didn’t like it there so we moved back to south Edmonton. An opportunity came up to buy a house in an area that had been a lake bottom. There was so much mud. There was no sidewalks or pavement and the kids used to come home up to their knees in mud and they had to just peel themselves at the door. I think they remember that because it was so terrible. They had just built a bunch of houses in the middle of a lake just a big mud hole.
It was too much for everybody, the kids could hardly get back and forth to school. Betty and Jim were both in school and it was just too much for everybody. Our third child Dodie was born there in March 1957.
THE RAVINE HOUSE
[N.B. the ravine house was located at 7006 85 St. Today this location is in Avonmore in Edmonton]
Finally I got fed up and I found through the paper this great big house on a ravine in south Edmonton on about two acres of land about two miles from the nearest bus stop. I loved that house. It had a huge dining room and living room with an arch in between, my goodness you could have a hundred people dancing in there and often we did. We had parties and dinner and many celebrations. Just after we moved into that house the oil furnace exploded and every inch of the place was covered with black soot. What a mess!
Dodie was just a few months old and I remember scrubbing every inch of that house. She was such a good baby, I was so thankful for that. We went sleigh riding in the winter and the kids skated on the creek. All the friends and relatives really enjoyed themselves there. The house was always full of people every weekend.
The whole upstairs was bedrooms. There were four big bedrooms and downstairs in the living room there was a fire place. In the summer we had wiener roasts in the ravine and in the winter we roasted wieners in the fireplace. Our kids and their friends just loved it. In the basement was an oil furnace and there was electricity but there was no water. We had a hand pump in the kitchen.
It was so rotten for all of us to go to the outhouse which was a long way from the house. In the winter the kids were up to their necks in snow. There was a coal shed that was just outside of the basement but we could get to it through the basement and we dug a toilet in there . We painted it blue, green and pink and it had three holes. Quite a magnificent place. Betty often entertained her friends down there. What they were doing, 1 didn’t know.
Our fourth child, Tom, was born in May, 1953.
I had some very good memories of that house. Very good memories because it was comfortable and it was always very welcoming and there was freedom there and the kids enjoyed it and it was good.
What I really remember about that house was that big confirmation when all the cousins were confirmed. That is the way it always was. Everything was always at my place because it was such a big house and so easy to accommodate everybody. When Betty was confirmed, Marlene, Doris, Teddy and Marilyn Cole, were all confirmed and Pastor Rumpshs' boy and Hugo, my cousin's boy, and Tom were baptized the same day and Betty and Marlene were sponsors for Tom (sponsors were people chosen by the parents who had to promise in front of a pastor to ensure, in case of parents’ deaths that the child would be brought up in a Christian fashion). All that happened in one day. We asked all the families of the kids who were being confirmed and all the sponsors. There was about 150 people and we fed them all turkey dinner. We had four long tables going through the dining room and the living room and we could sit forty at a time. At 10:00 p.m. at night they were still eating. We had to do all the dishes by hand and re-set the tables for each wave of forty people. It was certainly a time to remember.
THE HARD YEARS
I had a miscarriage and when I came out of the hospital (I was quite sick and was hospitalized for a few weeks) your dad told me he had made a down payment on a new house. We had to leave the ravine house. We were practically forced to leave because they were going to develop that whole area.
It was a brand new house and it had three bedrooms and while we were there our store burned down. There was an electrical storm and there were some loose wires hanging in the back. It was an old building and we weren’t sure what happened but anyway, it burned to the ground. Then your dad had a nervous breakdown. He went to the hospital. Betty was already in nurses training in British Columbia.
Jim was fifteen and in high school and Dodie was eight and Tom was four years old. I had very little money as we hadn’t acquired much equity in the house and we had no insurance on the store but I managed to find an old run down cafe and pool hall in a little town about a hundred and seventy miles south of Edmonton called Didsbury.
I tried to find a small store in Edmonton but with so little money I didn’t seem to be able to find anything.
The coffee shop was a terrible mess. When I went to look at the chocolate bars while doing stock they were just full or worms. Everything was in that condition. We tried to move the machine that made the milkshakes and it was stuck and I thought it was bolted down but it wasn’t. It was in there so solid with dried ice cream that it couldn’t be moved.
Those were really hard years. I didn’t want to have the little kids looked after by anyone as J worked from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00-12:00 p.m. sometimes 1:00-2:00 in the morning. | opened at 7:00 a.m. because the bus drivers that brought the kids in to school stayed for breakfast and had a game of pool. There was bus drivers coming in from all over the country to the schools in Didsbury and all the kids came roaring in for chocolate bars and as soon as they left the farmers came in. They had their chores done by that time. They came in and they played pool and they ate hamburgers and had coffee and then at 12:00 noon sharp they got up and left and the kids came in. The boys came right through the coffee shop and into the pool hall and I gave them hamburgers and pop through a little hole in the wall and the girls turned on the jukebox and they sat around the counter eating. Then there was that mess to clean up and then the farmers came back for pie and coffee. Then they went home to do chores.
After supper the men came in from the oil fields and they played pool until about 11:00 p.m. and there was the hotel just around the corner and when the beer parlour closed the guys came in for onion sandwiches and coffee and ice cream and milkshakes. That was at 11:30 p.m.. So then there I was until about 1:00 a.m. still trying to clean up and of course I had plenty of money in the register by that time. It was so bloody hot that first summer, it was a hundred degrees. One night I had all the doors and windows open and a hand came down on my shoulder and this male voice said “stick em up”, I almost wet my pants. It was the local policeman just trying to scare me because I had all the doors open and I was counting out hundreds and hundreds of dollars in sight of anyone passing by.
The living conditions there were just awful. Just two store rooms, no linoleum, just planks and we froze in the winter and boiled in the summer. I hardly remember because I was just too exhausted. After three years I just couldn’t do it anymore so I rented it out and decided to go to British Columbia. That was in 1960. I was very very lucky, I rented it to some people from Regina who had lost their business there and they were looking for another cafe. They were sure decent people, I practically gave the place to them. | only asked a $150.00 a month rent for the use of the cafe. I just wanted to keep it in case I couldn’t make it in B.C. and had to go back. They ran it for me for about a year or so and then they wanted to buy. By that time I was sort of established in British Columbia.
Jim, Dodie, Tom and I loaded up the old station wagon to the roof, sold or gave away the furniture and stored some appliances in a chicken coop on a farm outside of Didsbury. Gerry and Betty, on their honeymoon rented a U-haul truck and brought the appliances back to B.C. covered with chicken shit. I rented an upstairs suite in New Westminster where I took care of some kids and made a kind of a business at home for a little while and then I got a job in Hollywood Hospital that was in New Westminster. Jt was a hospital that catered to LSD therapy patients. The reason it was called Hollywood Hospital was because a lot of the people from Hollywood, the actors, singers etc. were addicted and came to be treated there. It was so far away that no one from California would ever find them. It was more like a high class hotel than a hospital. It was what
you would call a luxury loony bin.
I stayed there about a year because the pay was so lousy, seventy-five cents an hour and all that shift work. From Hollywood Hospital I went to Steveston, a small Japanese fishing community on the Fraser River close to Richmond. I worked in the only general store there owned by a Chinese brother and sister. The fisherman bought all their gear and groceries from us. Steveston then had four large fish canneries and a reduction plant run totally by native Indians. Steveston and all who lived there smelled like one huge dead fish. Without a drier all the clothes on the line smelled terrible, the smell even permeated the houses, cars, your hair, everything. We were the only white family in that community. The place was also over run with rats as big as alley cats. One night I remember the cat had brought into the house this huge rat and dragged it under Dodie’s bed. With all the snarling and ruckus Dodie woke up and I told her to stay in bed because I was terrified that the cat would lose the battle and a dangerous wounded rat would be tearing around the house. She went into hysterics and was jumping up and down on the bed screaming. I tried with a broom and flash light to get the both of them out from under the bed but it was impossible. Just then Jim came home from work. Thank God! He put on these big electrician’s gloves that he had and I stayed on one side of the bed with the broom, we blocked the end of the bed off with plywood and Jim went in under the bed. The cat had a death hold on the rat but the rat was still alive. So Jim took the cat and the rat and flung them outside into the ditch. Dear old kitty survived but the rat was never seen again.
We had some really good times there and our Japanese neighbours were so warm and friendly, probably the best neighbours I have ever had. I stayed there for two years. From there I went back to New Westminster and opened a book store which is still there and doing well. We rented yet another house there but we only stayed one year because | couldn’t make enough money to support us.
From the book store in New Westminster we moved to Vancouver where I bought a rundown coffee shop. Jt had been abandoned by a Chinese guy who left everything and closed the doors and went broke. All the meat rotted, the electricity was turned off, everything was taken out and the place was empty and I was lucky enough to be able to take the money I had, $1,500.00, and buy the place. What a mess it was! Gerry and Betty and everybody scrubbed and painted until we were all practically dead. There was an elderly couple who had a fish and chip shop, a small one somewhere out on the highway. I bought the equipment for the coffee shop on Oak Street from them at a very good price.
I bought a small house behind Oak Street. By that time I had sold the business in Didsbury and so I had some cash and I was able to buy the house I was lucky enough to find a house right behind the coffee shop. It worked out so good because I could phone the kids and wake them up for school. I was there long before they got up and then they were able to run across the street and have breakfast and go to school and IJ could stay at the coffee shop. Then they came back and had lunch and supper and I could still stay at the coffee shop and it worked out just fine. I was there for about three years. Long hours again, from five o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night.
After three years I was absolutely exhausted again so I worked at Boomer's Dmg Store which was just down the street from the cafe. After about a years I was a little more rested. I couldn’t go directly from one coffee shop to another. Then I bought another rundown cafe on Kingsway. This was a smaller one not nearly as much running to do. I bought this one from a drug pusher, a real seedy bugger. I sold the house behind Oak Street and bought a bigger house and I got that for $15,000.00. Can you imagine that, $15,000.00 in the middle of Vancouver?!!
It was a huge house. It had just been renovated on the inside so no big mess to clear up for a change. I was able once again to walk from the house to the coffee shop on Kingsway and that worked good for the kids and I. There on Kingsway, Mr. Foster, an elderly gentleman, came in one day and he asked if I would know somebody or some place around there where he could room and board. I said I have an empty room upstairs. It was a big house, so he moved in. Dodie helped in that coffee shop and Barb, Gerry’s sister, lived there too and worked in the cafe.
Mr. Foster was an old farmer from Alberta that just happened to walk into the cafe and he was an excellent person. Old Mr. Foster and I shared many joys and sorrows together.
Then I found another border named George, he was kind of crazy but it worked out okay. He rented another bedroom, we had quite a few bedrooms in that big house. I didn’t get to know that house very well because I spent practically all my time at the coffee shop but anyhow I got it going into a really good little business. I was there for about three years. I could only survive about three years. That was about the limit. This was the place that Dodie and Bill met and have been together now for twenty-seven years.
Then I sold the house and the coffee shop and I bought a house in New Westminster. We called it the Liverpool] house because that was the street’s name. There J had a lot of bedrooms. There were three bedrooms upstairs and two bedroom down in the basement and two bedrooms on the main floor. So there were seven bedrooms.
At first I turned it into a boarding home and I had every nut, fruit and flake living there. It was really Granola City, but interesting. I have quite a few psychiatric patients, that had the most bizarre behaviours but we coped. I had about ten boarders in all. Crazy George and Mr. Foster were the two that came with us from Vancouver.
That was a never ending house of fun, we had so much fun. The kids remember it and it had a fish pond in the back that turned into a wading pool for all the grandchildren. I saw more of the grandchildren when I moved to Liverpool. I was just too busy making a living before that. I eventually got a job at the Royal Protestant Children’s Home as the head cook.
There were seventy-five people to cook for. There was the staff and about twenty-seven kids plus a day care centre downstairs with about thirty kids that I also had to cook for. Kiersty, Betty and Gerry’s daughter was adopted while I was in the Liverpool house and Kim and Corrina, Bill and Dodie’s daughters were also born while I was there. Three years later they had a little boy named Nathan who died when he was fourteen months old. It was so sad.
After I came home from the orphanage I did all the cooking for the boarding home. Except some of the Chinese girls, students from Simon Fraser University, like Anna, when she was there she cooked with her friends. Her Chinese fiends would come and they all had woks and rice cookers and they did their own cooking . They didn’t like North American food. The kitchen was big enough, two tables. I eventually turned the living room into the first Crisis Centre in the lower mainland. They put seven phones in and it was manned by volunteers twenty-four hours a day. Those were the years of the hippies and there was so much drug abuse. It was interesting but a little hectic. LSD was the worst. They weren’t supposed to bring anyone to the house but once in a while someone was so close to suicide they would sent the flying squad to get them. There was more than one suicide attempt in that house. One woman slit her wrists and bled all over my new bedspread, I was so mad.
The inside of that house was okay, but the outside was a mess and I just had too much to do to look after it. Mr. Foster decided that he was going to turn that terrible yard into something and he did. It was just like a small park. We had some wonderful picnics both dead. My little grandson’s death was such a heart break. But there’s lots of good things, Kim, Dodie’s oldest is married and has a little girl and Kyle, Betty’s second son married a girl from the States and they have two sons. They live too far away though thirty-five hundred miles, in Washington, D.C. I have seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Weil, I guess I had better get back to the rest of my life.
After the cafe on River Road, three years there as usual, I bought a townhouse on Scott Road in Delta and started working at Crescent Beach, a resort area about twenty miles from Delta on the ocean. There I took care of ten mentally iil people and I would be on four days and off fours days. The days on were twenty-four hours each. I worked there for about eight years.
Then I moved from the townhouse to Surrey. It was quite a big house and I had the basement renovated and four bedrooms and a kitchen put in. The guys downstairs looked after themselves but upstairs I boarded disturbed kids from Social Services. Boy I had some crazy times with those kids.
After Dodie's baby died they moved over to Sechelt which is on the Sunshine Coast in BC and they lived there for six years. Bill stayed with me. I remember moving Bill into that house on 152nd Street and the basement wasn't finished and poor old Bill moved in. I had a bed down there but it was just an open basement and I hung some curtains around his bed. He was good about it, all he wanted was a place to sleep during the week because he had about an hour and a half drive to Horseshoe Bay, then an hour ferry trip and then about another forty-five minutes to Sechelt. It was just too far to commute.
Then Dodie and Bill came back and bought the house. They bought the house because Bill was tired of commuting and I had had enough with some of those kids. Bill still works for Esso, Dodie works in a manufacturing plant, Gerry still works for the B.C. Assessment Authority and Betty works for Surrey School Board. Tom is still with Canadian Air and Sylvia opened her own business and works in an extended care hospital.
After Bill and Dodie bought the house I moved to a brand new house m Surrey. I rented the upstairs and J lived in the suite downstairs. Then I sold it because it was too far away from the bus and shopping centers etc. I can remember walking to the store and carrying groceries back about a mile and a half.
Then I moved from there into an apartment, again in Surrey. That was probably the place I liked the least. It was certainly a nice enough place with two bedrooms. I only had room for one boarder, a former boarder from the Liverpool house, Barb, Gerry’s sister’s ex husband. I guess I was bored. There wasn’t much to do in an apartment.
I got a job through a friend at a psychiatric hospital in White Rock. I cooked there. It was only supposed to be temporary but I ended up staying there for two years. By this time I was seventy-five and decided that this was my last job.
I sold the apartment after the crescent beach job and bought the house I am in now, once again in Surrey. Still lots to do, cooking, cleaning, yard work, grocery shopping. I now have a cart with wheels to go shopping.
The only health problems that I have ever had was two years ago. I had open heart surgery and had a quadruple bypass. J recovered very well but now I have diabetes, well controlled with medication but I guess now I am going to have surgery on my back. I have been in a lot of pain for the last ten years or so. I also had a hemorrhage in my good eye and could have gone blind. Hopefully they’ll be able to do something about it. But other than those few things, I am as healthy as a horse.
T would just like to tell you a few highlights of my life. I always liked travelling. I have had quite a few good trips that I wouldn't have been able to have on my own. I went to Hawaii with Tom and the kids, to Mexico City with Kiersty, to Europe with Gerry, Betty and Kiersty, and across Canada in a motor home, on a cruise with Scott to Mexico and I also went to Disneyland with Tom and my grandkids.
I have one favourite spot that I have always liked and this all started about twenty-five years ago. Betty and Gerry bought some property close to a little town called Lytton in the Fraser Canyon. It’s on the side of a mountain, Botanie Mountain, and it's beautiful up there, quiet. We cleared the building site and cut all the brush and stuff and then we were going to build a log cabin. So we would go there weekends and Gerry cut down trees and we hauled stones and peeled logs, it was going to be a big cabin, and we hauled stones for the foundation for the big cabin, but in the meantime Gerry and Hugh (Hugh and Win are long time friends of Gerry and Betty and they’re just like family to me) were building a storage shed just to get the experience of building a log cabin. Betty, Win and I were busily gathering stones and doing this foundation for the big cabin but by that time Gerry and Hugh were so sick and tired of trying to build a log cabin from scratch so they decided that what was going to be a storage shed became a little cabin. And did we have fun in that little cabin. We had a loft upstairs where the kids had to play while we made supper because it was so small. There were four bunks where we could sleep on the main floor. This was the situation in the winter. We had to haul everything up the mountain on our backs and with a toboggan because we couldn’t drive up in the snow. Everybody always went sleigh riding and skiing up there in the winter. All of them would come in soaking wet. We would put all their mitts, gloves and caps and boots on nails. There were nails all around the cabin and it was like a Chinese laundry in there.
On weekends twenty or thirty people would come up to work on the cabin. We had many, many good times building that cabin. Gerry would haul the trees out of the bush with the van and it took about eight of us with ropes to haul the logs out and then we would peel them all by hand. It was fun, we love it to this day. And we eventually built an addition. Now it is a big cabin after all. In the evenings we have a big campfire and we sing and we drink some wine and sometimes got fairly pickled.
We still always go up there many times a year but Thanksgiving is the most fun. Usually there is about thirty people and we roast turkeys over an open fire on a rotisserie which takes all day and everyone takes a turn at turning the turkeys. You’ve never tasted anything like those turkeys, wonderful! Then we have a feast and what a feast! That cabin is still my favourite place and when I die I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered at Botanie.
Well that brings us up to date. I have had a very full, rewarding life. I have worked terribly hard most of the time and have had many tragic times but always made it. My life has always been interesting and challenging. I would like to leave you with one thought:
“Tf you believe in yourself, you can do anything and always remember to believe in family for they are your comfort and solace for all of your life”.
- ↑ Henderson's Greater Edmonton Directory. 1955. Peel's Prairie Provinces. University of Alberta Libraries. Page 79.
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