Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Her Own Words - A Trip Home 1911

This is a continuation of the memoirs written by Ethel Hymers Glewwe of her childhood in Saskatchewan in 1910 - 1918.

       "The fall of 1911 came and it was decided that Papa would stay in Canada over the winter while Grandpa and Mama and I would return to St. Paul, Minnesota. It was necessary for someone to remain on the farm. The mare horse that we had bought from Papa's Uncle Jim's was in foal and couldn't be left alone. She was due in early spring, and Papa wanted to put a wooden roof on the house with wood on the walls and paint the walls, so he had plenty to do, along with feeding the chickens and stock. Grandpa wanted to go back to St. Paul. He hadn't been home for over a year and he missed Grandma and his family, and then he had heard that the fire department was selling the horses that he had driven as a team on the water wagon. He needed horses to break the ground, oxen were very slow and sometimes temperamental. We also needed farm equipment and Grandpa felt he could find better buys in the U.S."

(As an aside, I wanted to include a note about Grandpa John George Hymers. He was born in Blenheim, Burford, Ontario, Canada on Mar 1, 1859. He attended school with Rozella Kipp, whom he married 21 February 1882. They moved to St. Paul and he wound up working for the St. Paul Fire Department as a driver of the horse team that pulled the fire wagons. 'By 1889, the St Paul Directory lists John Hymers as a fireman/driver for Chemical #5. He and Rozilla were living at 887 Randolph from 1889-1892, and then their name does not appear again until 1898, when the address is given as 801 Hall Avenue. For most of their married life, they lived at 50 W. Belvidere in St Paul.' (excerpt from Lois Glewwe research 1980's) An article in the St Paul paper reports that in Jan 1891 "Engine Company #12 was put into service. It is one of the largest engines in service." Horses were on their way out as engine powered wagons took over. John retired from the fire department and wound up helping his son homestead in Canada.)

      "Mama's folks were so happy to see Mama and me, Grandma hoped that Mama wouldn't go back right away. Grandma was afraid that she wouldn't live to see us again so she arranged to have a three generation picture and finally when it seemed the time to go back was getting closer, she insisted that Mama's brother Bill, who was only 12 years old, had to go back with us. He could help Mama. Grandpa, my Papa's father had gone back on a freight train with horses and some furniture, farm equipment and tree plantings. We didn't have quite enough money for Bill, but Mama's father was a clean-up man and worked cleaning cars for the railway, and knew someone who could get a railway pass. So Mama, her brother, and I went back to Canada on a pass.  It meant a lot to Mama, but we didn't leave until her brother was out of school and on school vacation. My uncle told me we had to get back in time to plant potatoes, that was on Queen Victoria's birthday. We always planted potatoes on her birthday* - it was a Canadian national holiday. (*Note - May 24th)

      Mama was so surprised when Papa met us at the train with a team of horses and a two-seated buggy with a roof - they called them Democrats. We know them as surreys only I don't remember 'a fringe around the top.' The trip of 70 miles from Morris to our farm which normally took 4 days by oxen, was only 2 days and we only camped out one night. My uncle was a very excited young man and I suppose in his heart hoped he would never leave this adventurous life. Mama brought her sewing machine back with us and boxes of supplies. I'm sure she was happy to be back with Papa and looked forward to seeing her home. Papa had fixed the house over and it was more than she had hoped for.

      We had a brand new little colt and I don't think I can remember, I was only two, but they say that colt followed me wherever I went in the yard. One day Mama said it followed me right into the house and Mama had quite a time getting it turned around in our little house and out the door. In the process the colt burnt it's nose on the stove. Mama said she had to be careful when she hung up clothes she washed on the line.  If the colt was around he would chew on the clothes and one time she was cooling some pudding on the table by the open window. He stuck his head in through the window and took a nose full of pudding. He was always a pest when we fed the chickens and one had to be careful and make sure you hooked the door to the feed shed. Eventually it was through his nosiness that he met his death. He managed to unlatch the feed shed door and overate oat feed. And when Papa came up with the work horses to water at a well we had for stock, he drank with the horses and because he had overeaten on the oats - that no one knew about - he just swelled up. Mama said it was just awful and a big loss. This was our first horse and farmers need horses. I don't remember but I must have missed him. I have a picture taken with me on his back and my Papa holding me so I wouldn't fall.

      I don't remember personally, but my uncle said he was my babysitter whenever Mama was in the garden and I had to take a nap, he kind of watched out for me. He said he taught me nursery rhymes and cut out paper dolls and made toys out of milk cases and boxes that matches came in. He helped Grandpa plant the trees he brought from St. Paul and carried water to keep them growing. He slept with Grandpa in his little shack in the bank by the creek and then always came up to our house for breakfast. One day he thought he'd make a bonfire and cook some beans like the cowboys did, but Grandpa discovered him and immediately put out the fire and really scolded him. My uncle wasn't aware of the danger of prairie fires unless they are under tight control and water is near. My uncle never forgot. It was an unhappy young man when September came and he had to return to St. Paul and school - but a much wiser boy, with stories of adventure. I'm sure his school chums and the neighborhood boys could hardly believe him.

      It didn't seem right for Mama and me to go back to St. Paul for the winter. We had a fresh cow that gave rich, creamy milk. Mama could make butter and the chickens were increasing in number, eggs were plentiful, the garden had had plenty of water and there would be ample harvest. Grandpa was planning on returning, but later in the year. He had built a two-room house on his property and felt that it was time Grandma joined him the coming spring. So Papa took my uncle to the railway and he traveled back to St. Paul alone on the pass he used when he came - only now he was alone and the conductor questioned him and he felt he was older than twelve, not knowing that my uncle was only a week short of his 13th birthday and in those days children under twelve were one-half fare. But my uncle was on a railway pass and it was free. My uncle avoided being put off by disappearing into the washroom and locking the door and when the train stopped at the border he remained in the washroom until the train started and was well on the way. When my uncle came out and took his seat, there was a new conductor, the change being made at the border of Canada and the U.S. My uncle was scared, but the new conductor smiled, punched the ticket and told him to have a good trip. It was a welcomed relief and another adventure for a young traveler."

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