I wish now I'd had a better camera

FTLComm - Tisdale - Wednesday, March 12 2003

It was summer 1958 and we were all a little anxious about the way things were changing. Not only were we growing up, but our microscopic world in the village of Langbank was trying to deal with the closing of rural schools and the bussing their students into our overcrowded school with its two teachers, but farms were already beginning to grow larger and small holdings were shutting down.

Frank Wallace lived only about three miles from town and had three children in our school. William had distinguished himself as a survivor after been hit on his bicycle and spending an eternity on crutches, Janet who as only a few months younger than me and Wayne who was younger. It was William who during class one day (remember a multi-grade classroom, there was time for such things) explained the mysteries of football to Billy Brown (on the right) and me as we heard him describe a "first down", "field goal", "tackle", "eligible receiver", "punt." Billy and I soaked it up, we were in grade five or six at the time and William had spent all that time in hospital mending and listening to the radio. He was a year older and it was his mission to spread the word.

It was less than a mile North on the East side of the road that Jimmy Cairns lived (with his arms crossed) and Billy and I had made the trip out to Wallace's and the Cairns farm on our bikes. Jimmy was the same age as Janet (she was thirteen when these pictures were taken) and was Billy's first cousin.

Besides, Morris, Alex, Melvin, Phyillis (Billy's sister) Freddie Wilton, Wilma, Jeannie, Marilyn, Dorothy, Margaret and Bunny we were about the only kids in town, or who had been in the village school before the bussing began.

But it was tough making a go of it on the little farm and Frank Wallace decided it was time to sell out and take his family to live somewhere else. This was a new thing for us. Kids like me had moved in and even left like Roger and Dennis Leonard,(station agent's kids) but somebody moving away was really a shock. These pictures were taken shortly before the family left and this was the last time I remember seeing Janet.

From that short list you can tell that we were a pretty close knit bunch and besides going to school together, we all attended Sunday School together and the Langbank United Church Sunday School was a powerful and important institution. Margaret and Bunny were catholic, Morris was older and Alex was Hungarian but the rest of us, well except for Freddie, who already smoked, sang in the choir. Melvin played the organ and we were essentially part team and part extended family.

In 1958 the centre of the town was the railway station. Freight, mail and the passenger train all stopped and left from this busy hub of activity. In the picture above, shot from a vent at floor level on the top of the Pool elevator you can see Dad's jigger parked in front of the Station.

The road heading off to the East beyond the bush at the centre of the picture points due East while the track angles southeast seven miles toward Vandura. At the road allowance (edge of the dark field) you just went North two miles to the Frank Wallace farm. His brother Russell, has passed on, succumbing to years of exposure to grain dust. It was his Pool elevator from which these pictures were taken. He and I did not get along, it had something to do with the fact that I liked to enter the elevator so that I could go to the top to get pictures like these. Actually, when I was fourteen he hired me (50¢ an hou)r to clean out the bottom of the leg, Jimmy Parker, the National agent, paid the same, but Russell had me wear a mask, Jimmy Parker didn't)

Our house and yard sat across the tracks from the elevators as you can see in this picture taken in the spring with still a few snow banks visible.

Florence Bruce (now Dr. Bruce) and Darlene Varjassy had attended Montgomery school North and West of Langbank. Although I may be mistaken, Darlene may have gone to Golden Plain. Their schools had closes and they were becoming Langbank kids. These pictures were taken at the end of school trip, to Kenosee Lake in June of 1957. You can see the beach and lake behind them due South in this picture.

I had my precious camera, it was a plastic box contraption I had bought for very little money, because I had very little money and it used 620 film, printed in a square format. The cheap lens was largely the problem with it, as you will notice, these pictures are only barely in focus, in the centre of each picture.

But, it was my camera and I was going to document this outing. I think that is our 1952 Chevy the girls are standing beside. This picture is looking North, the beach Park Store would later be built just to the left of where the car is pointed.

Margaret Jamet is on the left, she and I were in the same grade and depended upon one another all through grade school and high school. Jean Knoblauch was a year younger then Margaret and lived five miles North of town on the West side of the highway. Janet was the short one, but was truly the character of all of us, witty and up for a dare anytime. Wilma Jean McKillop was the leader and worshiped by everyone, boy or girl and not because her mother was the principal, but because she was nice to everyone and was loaded with talent. She played violin and was the very best accompanist on keyboard I ever had to sing to. Of the four, Margaret married a farmer North of Langbank and Wilma is overworked with her home business in Vancouver. I don't know where Jeannie is, or Janet, but if any read this, I would certainly enjoy
hearing from them.

At that same 1957 outing these were the older girls. Bunny (Yvonne Jamet) is Margaret's sister. I don't recall the name of the next girl but above her is Melvin Hurst's cousin Thelma Sawyer who lived North of Wallace's and West of the Cairns farm. Phyllis Brown, Billy's older sister is on the right.

As I mentioned earlier we were very close, sharing the experiences of growing up. Bunny and Phyllis were really older sisters of mine and more than once were there to help me and lend me support. Many times Wilma, Melvin, Phyllis and I had sat on hard chairs waiting for each of our turns at a music festival, working out the nervous tension and the tedium of hearing the same piece abused one more time, then sweating out the wait for the adjudicator and bracing for the final verdict. Phyllis was not good at waiting.

Phyllis' dad and I became very close in the last days of his life as he suffered through cancer treatment and the waiting for his life to come to an end. I would go to the Gray Nuns hospital in Regina and be with him, for he had shared so much of his life with all of us as kids, both as a Sunday School teacher but also letting us just hang around his welding shop, it only seemed fair to be with him when he so badly needed company. Stanley had been a John Deere Mechanic for the McPherson brothers and had gone off to war as a mechanic. Serving with a repair unit attached to a tank company he had been there through the Italian campaign and suffered considerably from the memories of cleaning up tanks damaged in battle, battles in which their crews had did not have the opportunity to ever return home.

This blurry picture is of my cousin Ron who left Kelso after grade one when his family moved to live in Moose Jaw. His picture seems to fit with this group of pictures not only because it was taken at the same time but my family had moved away from all of my other cousins back at Kelso and the kids at Langbank had become my new family. Each summer I went up to Moose Jaw to spend a couple of weeks with Ron and his mom and dad. Amazingly both of us shared so many common interest, both became teachers, both played guitar and both moved form education to computer technology. He has two sons and I have three.

Below is the best friend I ever had in my life. Dad brought him home from work one day as a little white puppy who never really got to be very big but Pat was my friend. Loyal and remarkable in his devotion to duty, protecting me and my family. As a Terrier, though small, he was tenacious and enormously brave.

One day when Pat was only about two, my father's boss, a rude and repugnant individual came marching into our yard to get my dad to come to work. Pat and I saw him coming and Pat immediately challenged the aggressive man. He turned to the barking dog and kicked at him. I was shocked, but I was also very angry, kicking at my dog! I advised Pat to take defensive action, actually I said "get him Pat."

Now Pat was clearly upset with the guy and beside, he had already demonstrated that he had not come in peace, his duty was clear, defend his master. He dodged the tall man's kicks and leaped into the air at a flailing arm. It was magnificent. No five year old could be defended better. Pat's jaw closed and his sharp fangs dug into the man's wrist and the little dog hung there in space, hanging from the screaming man's arm. He finally shock him off but there was blood, quite enough to make me enormously proud of him.

My father did not view the incident in the same light and kicked poor Pat many times in the ribs, it was my mother that ended that and consoled me and the injured dog. Though I was sobbing and Pat's ribs badly hurt, both of us would cherish that victory throughout our lives. Jack Hoye had kicked my dog and my dog made him pay.
Pat lived a full life, defending us against all, as he grew older. During my first year of college Pat was a bit over weight and moved pretty slowly. George McClement, the Co-op manager, had made a delivery to our house and was backing out of the yard, either Pat had not seen the moving truck, or had lay down in the shade behind it, one or the other, he was fatally injured and been missed ever since.
Trapped in each image are the memories of the times and of those individuals. I wish now I'd had a better camera to record those precious moments and I also wish I had captured so much more on film. I have no pictures of all of us in the choir, or at a music festival only the memories and the emotions and the life long affection for those people and Pat who gave me so much of what would become my life.

Timothy W. Shire



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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