All posts by Art Martens

A Foolish Decision, A Good Outcome (part 2 of 2)

Our days on the shore of Sheridan Lake were taken up with

Marie Curie
Marie Curie

physical work. Each evening, sitting around our campfire, we read a few pages of the biography of Madame Curie. As a university student passionate about scientific research, Marie Curie existed largely on buttered toast and tea. She and her husband Pierre conducted their research in a cramped storage room, the only space the university could offer. During one phase of their experiments, the Curies, mainly Marie, treated 8 tons of pitchblende to obtain one gram of radium. They could have sold it for $150,000 but decided to keep it for further research. Their commitment and sacrifice deeply stirred our imaginations.

Toward the end of summer, we began to realize we were living in a world with an extremely limited horizon. Marie Curie’s commitment to science awakened in me a desire to further my education. Swatting at hungry mosquitoes and trying to avoid the smoke of our campfire one evening, I said, “I’d like to go to university, but I know we don’t have the money.” Without hesitating, Linda said, “I could work.”

A few days later, while we were working in the water at the front of our lot, the black bear jumped over my corral and damaged our tent. It really didn’t matter. We were preparing to depart and broke camp a few days later.

Back in the Fraser Valley, I enrolled at Simon Fraser University and we found a basement suite to rent in Burnaby. In September I began working toward a BA in the social sciences.

That was 46 years ago. Now my hair is the colour of snow and I have retired after many years of working with inmates in provincial and federal corrections and then with young offenders in a remote setting. I still like to reflect on Marie Curie’s unswerving commitment and wonderful passion. Her life infused Linda and me with a sense of direction and purpose. Because of her example, our foolish decision had a good outcome.

Courting Linda (part 1 of 2)

It was at a church youth group party that I first saw Linda. I didn’t require a second look  to decide she was lovely, a girl I’d like to spend time with.  Even today, some 48 years later, I recall feeling inexplicably attracted to her.  But, she was with another guy and he was at her side continuously. I heard someone say they were “going steady,” as we referred to it then. Reluctantly, I dismissed the memory from my mind.

On a cool, dark night several years later, my friend Alvin and I were sitting on  bales of hay at the rear of a flat deck truck.  It was another event sponsored by the same youth group.  Although I didn’t attend the church or belong to the group, I knew they were  pretty accepting people and I had suggested to Alvin it could be fun.

Very close to us were two lively, fun loving gals, Linda and her close friend Jenny.  Attractive and congenial, they laughed easily. I again found Linda’s animated face, dancing eyes and lighthearted manner appealing. Her boyfriend of two years ago wasn’t there so I wondered if that relationship had ended. My interest was definitely and significantly rekindled.
For the next two weeks I mulled over the idea of calling to ask her out. I had no way of learning if she was still seeing the other guy. Finally I decided to take the risk of finding out, possibly the hard way. With great anticipation and even greater trepidation, I deposited a quarter into the pay phone at the corner of Clearbrook Road and the Fraser Highway. I didn’t want my parents to hear me being turned down.
A weight lifted off my young shoulders when she agreed to go to an Abbotsford Panthers basketball game with me. I had switched to Abby High for my last year of school and enjoyed the drama of basketball.  In their black uniforms, the players were impressive visually.  The cheerleaders had dazzling good looks and knew how to work the willing crowd.  A student at Aldergrove Secondary, Linda is still somewhat amused at my lack of creativity on our first few dates.  It didn’t immediately occur to me she might not be enamoured by the idea of watching basketball players she did not know.  At school the following week a friend said to me, “she’s a doll.  Where did you find her?”  I decided I would not introduce him to her.
She was the girl of my dreams and I was smitten, but I certainly

Art & Linda During the Dating Years
Art & Linda During the Dating Years

was not yet thinking in terms of a life partner.  The idea of marriage wasn’t even on the distant horizon.  I did understand though that if I became serious about a relationship with a girl from a Mennonite home, there almost certainly would be a significant obstacle.
In the Mennonite faith and culture in which Linda and I had both grown up, the church and the faith were central.  They determined values, morals, ethics, and many aspects of lifestyle.  I was quite aware that most Mennonite parents at that time fervently hoped their children would follow in their footsteps in regard to the faith.  Like my parents, Linda’s parents were founding members of the church she was attending.  It was the church on which I had turned my back. When I began seeing Linda,  I didn’t need to be reminded that my lack of interest in the church or the faith would become a deeply troubling concern for her parents.
We were young though, and I wasn’t yet giving this matter serious consideration.  If it troubled Linda, she didn’t talk about it. Our focus was on enjoying the relationship and having a good time together.

 

Gas was relatively inexpensive then and we often explored backroads, looking for interesting , little known hiking trails.  Sometimes we took food and cooked meals in the outdoors. Rollerskating in Lynden and visits to Shakey’s Pizza Parlour became part of our routine. Sometimes we read a book together and this is where I became acquainted with Great Expectations and Gone With the Wind.

 

In winter we skated on outdoor ponds.  One night we went to an ice skating party at Lysak’s Pond on the border of Canada and the U.S.  We arrived late and were amazed to find the pond dark, deserted and silent.  We had the entire expanse of the pond to ourselves, skating hand in hand.  Suddenly, an ominous roar rumbled through the ice, as though it was about to fracture. Terrified, we made a speedy exit. We now understood why everyone had left early.
Still in school, I was living in the basement of my parents home.  In summer I worked with Dad operating a bulldozer and doing whatever was needed in his business.

Dad and I shared vehicles and when he saw I was dating a very

1957 Ford Fairlane
1957 Ford Fairlane

nice girl from a solid family, he bought a pretty red and white ‘57 Ford Fairlane hardtop.  He wanted to encourage our relationship.

Courting Linda (part 2 of 2)

In time, Linda felt we should begin talking about marriage, but I wasn’t mature enough to be ready. In part, the challenge for me was that I didn’t have a clear or accurate understanding of either love or marriage. Observing my parents should have been a lesson as to the nature of a committed relationship based on faithfulness, integrity and love. For them it was “steady as she goes.” They were too preoccupied with making a living, raising children and maintaining friendships, to focus on a need for glamour.

However, this example was overshadowed by the way love and romance were portrayed on the movie screen. Hollywood “love” was almost invariably characterized by constant, high level passion and glitter. For me this was confusing. I enjoyed being with Linda and we were having great times together. It was wonderful, but it wasn’t like in the movies. Did that mean I wasn’t in love? I didn’t want to make a mistake.

Linda eventually grew weary of my dilly dallying and her ardour cooled. It became a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” When she backed off, I realized I didn’t want to lose her.

It was a speedy and effective lesson in reality therapy and overnight Hollywood’s dazzle lost its capacity to confuse. Before long, our relationship again flourished.

I still needed to deal with the misgivings Linda’s parents had about their daughter marrying a guy who showed little interest in the church scene. Fortunately, they understood that this was what their daughter wanted and when I asked for her hand in marriage, they were gracious.

Only later did it occur to me that I never actually asked Linda to marry me. Since our relationship had resumed its positive tone, I simply assumed she would be delighted to receive a ring. I presented her with an engagement ring Christmas Eve, 1964. My assumption could have proved to be more than just embarrassing. Mom had come to love Linda like a daughter, and if she had refused the ring, Christmas would have lost its sheen for her and the entire family. Fortunately, Linda accepted and Mom didn’t need to cancel Christmas.

We bought our first home two months before the wedding. We were visiting our friends Jake and Helen Klassen who owned five acres on Defehr Road. They said, “the lady just up the road wants to sell her house and five acres. You should buy it.” As yet we had no precise plan for where we would live. We accepted their advice and visited the lady. Widowed and elderly, she was eager to sell. She considered our offer satisfactory and quickly accepted our agreement for sale proposal.

We had little money but Linda was working at the Royal Bank in Abbotsford and the assistant manager agreed quite readily to provide the down payment without collateral. Like me, he had come to understand that she was a woman of sterling character and fully responsible. We visited a furniture store and bought the items needed to furnish our home at a fairly basic level. On possession day we moved the furniture in and felt ready for a future together.

We were married in the Olivet Mennonite Church in Clearbrook

Mr. & Mrs. Art Martens September 18, 1965
Mr. & Mrs. Art Martens
September 18, 1965

on Sept 18th, 1965. Linda was stunningly beautiful in her wedding dress. After the reception she changed to a going away outfit, a deep blue suit with hat and gloves. I experienced great amazement that this lovely young woman was now my wife.

Upon returning to our home in the country after the honeymoon, I picked up Linda and carried her up the few steps to the back door and over the threshold. In the years since that memorable day, I have come to understand that courting Linda was just the first step in an exciting, challenging and rewarding life journey together.

“The Girls” and I Tackle Gate Maintenance

May 1st    “Maintenance on gate to chicken enclosure,” my To Do list instructed me this morning.  It had actually been on the list for 2 days so I decided to make it a priority.  With a screw driver and 4 small screws in hand, I went out to tackle what I was certain would be a quick, easy job.

The girls immediately exhibited their usual keen interest in having

Art & Curious Chickens
Art & Curious Chickens

some role in this project.  I’m sure they didn’t care much what that role would be, but they intended to become involved. Extraordinarily curious creatures, they are easily bored.  It quickly became evident that either I would include them in what I was doing, or they’d take measures to frustrate me. To acquaint me with their desire to assist, and get my attention, they immediately pecked at my legs with their usual woodpecker zeal. What they lacked in velocity they made up for with intensity.

Until this spring, I had credited myself with great cleverness and ingenuity.  By wearing rubber boots, I had avoided the irritation of their constant pecking.  In time though, they had begun to understand that their pecking tactics were having no effect on my mental equilibrium. Like sophisticated computer hackers, they experimented with new, more advanced strategies. By craning their skinny necks higher, they could access human flesh through my pant legs.  As efficiently as a highly trained group of militants, that is where they now aimed their 3 pronged assault.

Distracted by them,  I lost my concentration and dropped the first screw.  They evidently assumed it was something quite delicious and with their usual amazing speed pounced on it.  It was my quick witted response that spared the screw from being swallowed whole by a chicken.  I had only four screws so I didn’t want to lose one.  Also, swallowing a screw probably would not be conducive to fowl health.  Of course, it was much more their scrambling and bumping than my quick witted action that thwarted them.  Even the two identical, virtually joined at the hip, Cleopatras give no ground to each other if there is the prospect of a delicacy.  Everything is deemed to be a delicacy until they discover otherwise.

When I tried once more to get the screw started, the pecking resumed with increased intensity. Miss Lonely Hearts apparently had decided on revenge because I had deprived her of the screw.  I pushed her away with my foot, gently but firmly. She resisted, flapping her wings and squawking.  A power struggle ensued.

With the incessant drumming on my legs and no means to prevent it,  I simply couldn’t focus on getting that first screw started.  Determined to get my little job done, I bent over until I was just about nose to beak with Miss Lonely Hearts.  Alert so I would not be pecked in the face,  I said, “Lady,  you are stretching my sense of humour!  Go away and lay an egg!”

She stared at me, apparently amused.  Realizing I wouldn’t win this little contest without help, I scattered a handful of bird seed on the ground to occupy them.  It’s their favourite but infrequent menu item. Like children scrambling for candies thrown from a float in a parade, they raced to garner their share. I quickly completed the job.

My impatience with them subsided and I was able to think more rationally about how to handle this kind of challenge. I recalled that our neighbour Angelique had observed quite sagely when I was constructing the Hen House, “after all Art, they are only chickens.”  She is a longstanding owner of chickens herself and also a local politician. I respect her experience and knowledge concerning politics and chickens.  Maybe my expectations of the girls are beyond their capability.  After all, in their own way they just wanted to be included in my project.

I returned the tools to the shed. Locking the door, I retreated to the sanctuary of the house with the rare pleasure of knowing that the girls and I had successfully completed the gate maintenance project.

Endangered Food Systems a Threat to Humanity

Dr. Kent Mullinix quickly captured the attention of his audience at

Dr. Kent Mullinix
Dr. Kent Mullinix

the Hedley Seniors’ Centre Friday evening when he said “No sustainable food system, no sustainable humanity. Food sustainability is going to be mankind’s supreme challenge.” At a time when crises threaten the outbreak of serious military conflict at various points on the globe, we did not expect to be told the most dangerous issue facing humanity could soon be a shortage of food.

Dr. Mullinix is Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at the Kwantlin Polytechnic University. His two Phd.’s in agriculture related fields and almost 4 decades of experience in agriculture make his views worth listening to.

There was a discernible passion and intensity in his voice when he spoke of the significant threats to our food system. “Think about the trend,” he urged, “and about the logical conclusion the trend indicates. It’s the trend that is important, not a snapshot of the present.”

He said the agricultural industry is an 11,000 year old endeavour. The soil in the Similkameen valley, he said, took thousands of years to develop. The present industrial agricultural system has been in existence 50 years and, in his view, lacks adaptability and resilience. He pointed out that there is less diversity and it requires “propping up” with pesticides and fertilizers. These are damaging to the earth, thereby causing habitat and biodiversity destruction.

Dr. Mullinix considers the present system to be “hugely costly.” “It requires great amounts of oil and natural gas for energy,” he said. Small farmers are getting out. There is a tremendous consolidation in the agriculture sector. (In my conversation with him after the session he referred to large agricultural corporations as “robber barons.”)

“Money, machines, and fossil fuels have replaced strong backs, big hearts and youthful exuberance,” he told his audience.

The result, in his opinion, is that there is less nutrition in our food. “We have to pay more and eat more to get the same amount of nutrients. Spinach now contains little iron.”

Other consequences of industrial agriculture, he noted, are pesticide and fertilizer contamination, soil erosion, salinization, desertification, pollution of air, water and soil. Problems also include acquifer and ground water depletion and greenhouse gas emissions. Referring to information published by the National Academy of Sciences, he said “Current practises by large agricultural entities are producing the kind of conditions that create dust bowls. This begins to happen when carbon dioxide levels reach 450 ppm. We are now at 400 ppm.”

Dr. Mullinix compared the experience of conventional (industrial) farms versus organic farms in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch. On organic farms there remained 40% more topsoil, and an average of 20% more vegetative cover. There was also an average of 40% less landslide incidence, 47% less soil erosion, and 69% less gully erosion.

“In B.C.” he said, bringing the situation closer to his audience, “there will be less precipitation, a smaller snow pack, increased temperature and higher sea levels. The cost of food will rise.”

In view of his dire predictions, we might expect Kent Mullinix to be immobilized by anxiety. Rather, he is working with others to educate and empower people, such as the group he addressed this weekend. He wants people to become aware of the challenge and develop a plan to respond.

”Our program is a people/community proposition,” he asserted.

He said they are working to establish Farm Schools, also referred to as Incubator Schools, to prepare young people for small scale farming.

“We need to support small scale farming,” he suggested. “It is possible to create jobs, businesses and produce food in the Okanagan. It’s a community builder and driver. Let’s work to keep the jobs and the money here.”

Dr. Mullinix’s keynote address set the tone for this second in a series of Community Conversations organized by Angelique Wood and Kim English. The conversation continued Saturday morning. Participants were divided into three small groups to discuss threats, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths, as they pertain to sustainable food systems. Date of the next “Conversation” will be announced and the organizers invite all interested citizens.

Bill Day: A Force in Adult Education (part 1 of 2)

Bill Day & Nellie, his 1930 Model A
Bill Day & Nellie, his 1930 Model A

It isn’t likely you will hear Bill Day talk about his MA in Adult Education, his years as President of Douglas College, the Order of Canada Award he received, or his service as a Citizenship Judge.  After visiting with him and his partner Lynn Wells for an hour, I came away with the distinct impression that at age 80, he’s just too busy and goal oriented to focus on past accomplishments.

From the beginning, he received very little without effort on his part. “We were depression babies,” he says.  “Things were ok until my alcoholic father was fired from his position as a prof at UBC. The next 5 years were terrible. We were hungry a lot.  I remember card boarding my shoes. Work was scarce in those days so we considered it a stroke of good fortunate when my mother was hired by Finning Tractor. Her pay wasn’t great but at least the family had a steady income and stability.”

 

Necessity made it essential for him to be proactive and creative. “To pay my camp fees at YMCA’s Camp Elphinstone,” he remembers, “I cleaned out-houses.  It was something no one else wanted to do. I was my own boss. I liked it. I learned that if you do work others don’t want to do, you get respect.”

He developed the habit of doing whatever it takes. To pay for his UBC tuition, he worked at the paper mill at Ocean Falls. “I learned on the job and became a millwright,” he says. “I loved the work and I loved Ocean Falls.  It was there that I started teaching English to immigrant men in the evening in the bunkhouse.” Helping those men put him onto a path he was to walk on the rest of his working life.

One day his foreman came to him and said “Bill, I’ve been authorized to offer you a job in administration. However, I don’t think you should accept it. In a few years you would be bored.  My advice is go back to school and train for a career in teaching. You have a gift for it.”
(continued in part 2)

Bill Day: A Force in Adult Education (part 2 of 2)

 

Bill Day & Lynn Wells at Hedley Farmers Market
Bill Day & Lynn Wells at Hedley Farmers Market

Bill had the good sense to accept the advice of his mill foreman and returned to university. After completing his training, he began his teaching career in Quesnel.  Here he taught during the day and tutored Italian railroad workers in English four evenings a week. Subsequently he taught in Maple Ridge, continuing to teach English at night, and then accepted a role in Surrey as one of the first full-time Adult Education administrators in B.C.

His growing experience and expertise in Adult Education brought an invitation to go to India for a year, to advise the Rajasthan State government in this field. “They didn’t really need me,” he says, “I learned from them and it was a wonderful experience. I loved India.”

Upon returning to Canada, he was asked to plan the development of Douglas College. He subsequently became Dean of Continuing Education and then served as President for 15 years. He also wrote feasibility studies for two other Community Colleges.

Bill considers himself very fortunate. “Until I retired,” he says, “I was always in the right place at the right time. I served under people for whom I had great admiration.”

Observing him participate in the community organizations of Hedley, it quickly becomes evident that Bill’s good fortune had less to do with luck than with preparation and the willingness to do what is needed.  Undoubtedly, a positive outlook and a touch of charm helped too. His partner Lynn Wells describes him as “a hard worker, very bright, personable and proactive.”

Understanding that everyone appreciates recognition, he gives it quickly and enthusiastically. He is convinced that by working collaboratively, a community can accomplish what seems impossible. This positive, proactive thinking has many times attracted the attention of people in authority and power. For his work in Adult and International Education, Bill was awarded the Order of Canada.  Then, after official retirement, to his great amazement, he received a call from Ottawa offering him a position as Citizenship Judge.

“I was certain at first they had the wrong Bill Day,” he recalls.  “When they assured me they didn’t, I was thunderstruck.”  Pausing as though reliving that moment he says, “it was very affirming. It told me I had actually done a good job.” “I loved the work and carried on for ten more years until I reached mandatory retirement at 76.”

Bill is still doing a good job, even if he doesn’t get paid for it now.  At the Hedley Museum he said to the Directors, “tell me what you need done and I’ll do it.”  Last year he spoke at Hedley’s Canada Day celebration and also at the Remembrance Day ceremony.  He is currently spearheading the development of Unity Park in Hedley.  He and Lynn are “devoted” volunteers at the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. This morning, before our visit, he painted woodwork and washed windows at the Seniors’ Centre.

After sitting across the table with Bill and Lynn for over an hour, I realized that his mind hadn’t lost its focus even for a moment.  He is optimistic, bright, high octane, apparently healthy, and community minded.  I wasn’t surprised when he said at the end of our time together, “it’s being a great life.”

Life and Times of Carrie Allison (Part 1 of 2)

Although as a child Carrie Allison completed only the fourth Carrie has a green thumbgrade, I came away from a two hour visit with her feeling I’d been educated in history and wisdom. She was sent from her home in the Merritt area where she was born, to a residential school in Kamloops at age 8 and was educated there until age 12.

Carrie is now 83 and even though her experience in the residential school wasn’t as horrific as what we often hear about in the media, the memories still haunt her. A note of sadness creeps into her voice when she says, “my dreams about it are always bad. In one dream I hearing a baby crying at night, but it is dark and I can’t find it.”

She pauses a moment to reflect, then continues. “I was away from home 10 months at a time. There wasn’t enough to eat and I was always hungry. We ate in the same room as the staff, and we could see they had meat on their plates. We were given only vegetable soup and one slice of bread. At Easter they gave us one egg with our meal. I knew mostly the language of my people, but I was punished if I spoke it. In winter they made us walk to town. My hands and feet got really cold. We weren’t allowed to talk to the boys or even look at them. We were in the classroom half a day, the rest of the day we had to work. The girls cleaned up the dormitories, the priest’s room, the hallways, play room and dining hall.”

Knowing she looks after the diminutive white chapel situated on a bluff overlooking the Similkameen Valley, not far from Hedley going toward Keremeos, I ask why she is still involved with the Catholic faith. Many would have turned their backs on the faith because of the pain caused by the school experiences.

“People sometimes ask me that,” she answers. “I tell them God didn’t do that to me. It was people. I never look back. I tell the kids to always look ahead and try to make something of themselves.”

Carrie never knew her father. Fortunately her mother was deeply committed to her family and Carrie speaks of her as a wonderful role model. “She was very small,” she says. “She tanned hides and traded them in town. She also made gloves and moccasins.”

Carrie recalls clearly the injunction of her mother to “take care of yourself. No drinking. Before you go away, do the dishes and clean the house.”

Now a mother and grandmother herself, she does all she can to pass on the values of the older generation. “Young kids don’t know what we went through,” she says with a perceptible hint of disappointment. “Sometimes I think we should take them back to our time. No electricity, no indoor bathroom. We had to pack water from the river. Mom didn’t have a washing machine so she carried her laundry to the river. She heated water in a tub there and after she washed the clothes, she hung them on branches.”

I sense now that in her mind she is reliving those times. “Sometimes we bathed in the river. In winter we heated water in the tub and bathed there. Those were happy days. I was with my family.”

 

Life and Times of Carrie Allison (part 2 of 2)

In 1942 Carrie’s mother married a member of the Upper Carrie in her homeSimilkameen Band and they moved to Hedley. “The town looked new to me then,” she says. “People dressed up.
I saw ladies wearing hats and white gloves.” She recalls they could flag down the Great Northern train and catch a ride to Oroville.

When she was 12, her stepfather took her to the home of Charlie Allison, at that time band chief. Here she met Edward (Slim) Allison, her future husband. Slim was told by the Indian Agent, “you should be on the band council. You can read and write.” In time, Slim became band chief. When he was in this role, she worried about him. “You can’t please everybody,” she says, again experiencing the concern she had for her husband at that time.

“Slim always gave me the pay from his work at the sawmill in Princeton.” I sense her pride as she remembers how responsible he was about finances. “He told me to pay the bills and if there was anything left, I could give him some.”

At age 40, Carrie attended 3 semesters of academic upgrading. Someone at the school suggested she enter a hair styling course. She accepted this advice and registered for a course in Vernon. For the last two weeks of the course she made the long trip from Hedley to Vernon every day. Having had my hair cut by her many years ago, I still recall her cheery attitude and words as she clipped.

Now at an age when no one would be critical if she retired to a rocking chair, Carrie gives little indication she is ready to slow her pace. In addition to cleaning the little chapel, once a year she hires boys to harvest the weeds from the adjacent cemetery. Records indicate the chapel was likely built in 1901 and she feels a responsibility to those who made it a reality at a time when remoteness of the area made this difficult. “I think of the old people who worked so hard to bring the lumber and windows and other supplies here to build it,” she says. “We should keep it up in their honour.” When there are 5 Sundays in a month, the priest comes and she attends the service. In winter she often invites the people to meet in her home, due to lack of adequate heat in the chapel.

“It is important to preserve the Indian culture and ways,” Carrie says. “I’m learning a prayer in the band language. I don’t want the language to be lost. Not many can speak it anymore.”

On the first Wednesday of each month she attends an elders lunch in Keremeos. She still sews quilts. “I tried making moccasins, but I’m not good at it.”

Carrie is a committed fan of early Country and Western music. “When I was in Nashville,” she tells me, “I saw Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Earnest Tubb and Kitty Wells.” When I ask if she likes Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for his Great Balls of Fire hit, her response is enthusiastic. “Oh yes. I like him.”

Carrie has experience, wisdom and an enthusiasm for life that many with a Masters Degree would envy.

 

View Looking West From Carrie's House
View Looking West From Carrie’s House

 

Dad’s Upward Path (part 1 of 3)

In Mr. Loeppky I saw one possible direction, a downward path. In Dad I saw another possible direction, an upward path.

By age 12 in the mid-1920’s, Dad was already working on his father’s threshing crew in rural Manitoba. Shortly after the devastating stock market crash of 1929, crops began to fail due to prolonged drought, and work became scarce. As a young man in the midst of the Great Depression, he joined hundreds of other out of work men who leapt into empty boxcars or rode the rods, looking for employment. Often his pay was $1.OO per day, when he could find work.

After his parents lost the family farm in the 30’s, they moved to a small settlement known as Barkfield. For the most part, its inhabitants consisted of two large families, the Martens and the Funks.

At times Dad worked in the bush with the young Funk men, cutting cordwood for which there was a market in Winnipeg. He developed great admiration for their ability with axes and saws. “They were skilled and very quick,” he told me in later years. “I could never keep up with them.”

Dad and the Funk boys became close friends. One day Jim Funk asked him, “are you going to the barn dance tonight?” Dad said, “No, I don’t have anyone to take”.

Mom & Dad's wedding day, Dec. 1, 1939
Mom & Dad’s wedding day, Dec. 1, 1939

“You can take my sister Annie,” Jim said, as though there was no doubt she would agree. Annie was a light hearted young gal with long black hair. She did agree to the date, the beginning of a romance later culminated in marriage.

When World War 2 started, Dad was drafted but registered as a Conscientious Objector. Many adherents of the Mennonite faith were pacifists, one of the primary reasons they had emigrated from Russia. They had left behind established villages, thriving farms and a stable, satisfying existence. A judge questioned Dad as to his reasons and apparently decided his motivation was genuine. He was sent to a forestry camp in Ontario and then to work as a tipple operator loading train cars at a coal mine in Saskatchewan.

In about 1946 Dad bought a Model A Ford and prepared to move the family to BC. All our belongings were in a single truck strapped to the back of the vehicle. With two paying passengers to help cover the cost of gas, our family made the at times arduous trip to Abbotsford, B.C.

Dad’s family had made the move previously and his brother Cornie was working as a heavy equipment operator. Although Dad’s experience with motorized equipment was limited, Cornie got him a job running a bulldozer. When the dyke along the Fraser River was being constructed, he was hired as a heavy equipment operator. Because he refused to work on Sunday, which in the Mennonite faith is considered a holy day, he was let go. His faith would always be important in staying on what I think of as his upward path.