Category Archives: History

Like Father Like Son

I have been spending most of my time in the last couple weeks working on a history book about my husband’s parents and not getting too much else done.  I am discovering many interesting things about my in-laws as I comb through family photos, diaries and records. I learned that both my husband’s father and grandfather did alternate military service in a lumber camp. 

opa forestry service (1)

Abram Driedger is to the far left in the back row.

Dave’s grandfather Abram Driedger served in the Asov Forestry Camp in Ukraine in 1913 just prior to World War I.  

logging camp

Cornie Driedger is in the centre.

Dave’s father Cornie Driedger worked in a lumber camp in Montreal River Ontario during World War II.  

Other posts………..

Luxury Car A Family Story

Family Picture

So Many David Driedgers

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Filed under Family, History, Uncategorized

Family Picture

I am working on a history book about Dave’s parents for an upcoming family reunion. Dave’s cousin John who is the true Driedger family historian has been helping me by providing some wonderful photographs. My very favorite is this one of Dave’s Oma Margaretha Friesen, posing with her siblings and cousins in the village of Schoenfeld where they all lived.
Dave’s Oma is standing against the tree with a balalaika in her hand. One cousin with a very fashionable hat is riding bike and Margaretha’s brother Cornelius and another man are up in the tree. I think the photo reflects what I heard so often from my own grandparents about how almost idyllic and prosperous a life the Mennonites had in Ukraine before the revolution. There was time for leisure pursuits, farming was financially rewarding, Mennonites ran profitable businesses and established good schools and enjoyed music and other cultural endeavors. And then within a decade everything had changed and this whole way of life was gone.
I think this photo was probably taken around 1913. It is a reminder that a seemingly stable and good way of life can disappear dramatically.

Other posts……..

Dave’s Christmas Present

Thoughts on Refugees

Portraits in Hope



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Who’s Twiggy?

“The women are all bigger and well rounded.”  

Three Women at the Fountain by Picasso from Creative Commons

I was showing a group of teens through the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  After the students had spent some time examining a group of  prints by Picasso I asked them what they had noticed.  One girl said, “The women in Picasso’s art works are often bigger and well rounded. Why?”

I asked if she knew who Twiggy was.  She didn’t. Neither did any of the other teens on the tour.  I told them the current notion that women must be thin to be beautiful hasn’t always been the norm.  Failuresque_Twiggy_drawingIn the 1960s a super skinny model named Twiggy popularized the idea that women should be thin.  Before that women with more rounded figures were considered attractive.  Picasso painted ‘well rounded’ women because in the early 1900s that was more the norm.

The teens on my tour were surprised.  Tbey weren’t aware that what is considered the ideal body shape for women has changed over time.  I’m glad they know that now.  Perhaps it will help them become more accepting of their own body shapes in all their variety and unique beauty. 

Other posts………

Skin Color

Pray Naked in Front of the Mirror

Modeling Career- Different Perceptions



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Filed under Art, History, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Luxury Car- A Family Story

Heinrich Enns and his wife Gertrude

In 1912 my husband’s maternal grandfather Heinrich Enns bought a new car.  It was a German made Opel. The average car at the time was priced at around $700.  The Opel’s price tag was double that at $1,500 which gives you some idea of the wealth of Enns family.

Heinrich and Gertrude Enns lived on his family’s  large estate in Kowalicha, near the Schoenfeld Mennonite settlement in Ukraine.

My husband’s grandfather and his family on the lake in front of their estate 

The Opel Heinrich bought was an open touring car and was a deep red color.

A car exactly like Heinrich’s is in the Museum Sinsheim in Germany- Photos of the Opel by Kai Gruszczynski.

When the family went driving through their home village of Kowalicha or went down the road to neighbouring Schoenfeld, where they attended church and where their children went to school, Heinrich sat behind the wheel in a full driving costume complete with goggles. 

This map of the Schoenfeld settlement was made by Henry B. Wiens in 1912. Kowalicha where the Enns family lived is marked by a star. 

Beside Heinrich in the front seat of the Opel were his two older sons Peter and Henry.   In the back seat was his wife Gertrude and his two younger sons Johann and Diedrich as well as the boys’ nanny.  

Dave’s grandmother Gertrude Enns with her four sons outside their house in Kowalicha. Their nanny is behind the fence.

If rain threatened a canvas was pulled over the top of the car and fastened down with buttons. People in the village would come out to see the beautiful automobile. The village dogs were especially intrigued  by the car. They would run behind it barking and howling. It must have made quite a picture!

The car as well as all the family’s wealth was lost during the Communist Revolution in Russia.  After Heinrich’s family immigrated to Canada they were beset by a series of financial, agricultural and health difficulties that meant they were never able to afford another luxury car like that magnificent red Opel. 

Other posts………

Family Blueprints

Who Owns Family Stories? 

Dave’s Christmas Present

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Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre where the Winnipeg Jets play hockey. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now. When my family was shopping at Eatons, we would often rendezvous at Mr. Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999.  Later the statue was officially deemed a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre.

Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr. Eaton also had a nation wide mail order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I.  Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas.  Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. The company had lucrative government contracts as a result of the war but donated those profits to the war effort.

Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat skeptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.

The 3,500 pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department.  A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.

I’ve learned recently it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’ll have try  that the next time I walk by.

Other posts …….

Michael’s Geese

Celebrating in an Historic Building

Photographed Just In Time



Filed under History, Winnipeg

Happy Belated International Women’s Day

I know this is one day late because yesterday was International Women’s Day, but here are ten strong women I have featured in recent blog posts.

oviloo and her granddaughter TyeOviloo Tunille was an accomplished and talented Inuit sculptor who supported generations of her family with her work. She provides a highly personal glimpse into life in Canada’s most northern communities. hariot rowan hamilton dufferin public domainA sketching trip to Winnipeg’s railroad museum introduced me to the Countess of Dufferin a politically savvy Canadian woman who used her connections to provide health care for women in Pakistan and India.

Mrs. Claudette Brown daycare ownerOn a trip to Jamaica I met Claudette Brown. She has defied all odds and obstacles to provide quality childcare for hundreds of kids in Runaway Bay Jamaica.
listening-voices-steinbachI have come to realize grandmothers are often taking the lead in providing acceptance to members of the LGBTQ community.

sarah silverman photo wiki media commons

Sarah Silverman is a comedian who has used her notoriety to gain equal rights for women who come to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

audrey hepburn pixabay public domainAudrey Hepburn was a stellar actress who devoted the last years of her life to helping children through UNICEF. I learned she is the source of a significant quote about turning the impossible into the possible.

Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante abigail and david

I was preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson when I learned more about Abigail a biblical character who served as a rational peacemaker between two headstrong men.

veronica cathedral liberia costa ricaVeronica is another character from the Biblical narrative that inspires us with her compassion and care. I have been finding images of her all over the world.

dispatches from afghanistanOn a visit to the citadel in Quebec City I learned how portrayals of women in military history have changed from them being portrayed as pale and weak to being seen as strong, caring, inspirational leaders.

frances perkins roosevelt public domain

Frances Perkins stands behind President Roosevelt as he signs the social security act in 1935 a lasting legacy of Frances Perkins

Francis Perkins was the first American female cabinet minister. In her role as Roosevelt’s Minister of Labor she introduced legislation that improved the lives of millions of people.

 Happy belated International Women’s Day.


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Family Blue Prints

exterior-schmidt-houseGoing through some of my mother’s things I found these blueprints for her family home in Drake Saskatchewan.  Although my grandparents no longer lived there after I was born I still visited the house many times because my Uncle Earl and Aunt Lenora had taken over my grandparents’ farm and home. I have many fond memories of happy times with my cousins in that house and so it was great to find these blueprints. I asked my Aunt Viola the only surviving member of my mother’s immediate family if she remembered the house being built. She was 3 years old in 1925 when they moved into the house and can’t really remember a time before she lived there. My mother was born in this house shortly after her family moved in. 

My grandparents' car standing outside their farmhouse in Drake, Saskatchewan

This is how the completed home looked.  My aunt thinks my grandfather ordered the house from somewhere and it came with all the lumber pre-cut and ready to build.  I did a little research and found out this kind of house was called a mill cut house or a mail order house.  You picked a house design from a catalogue and then tens of thousands of pieces of lumber and every single other building material that you would need to construct it were loaded into box cars and sent to the customer’s hometown. In Canada the Eatons Department Store was one of the main sources of these ready to assemble homes but on the prairies various Grain Growers Associations also provided this service to its members. That makes sense because in the corner of each page of the blue prints its says Saskatchewan Grain Growers Regina. My aunt thinks my grandfather put the house together with the help of a carpenter. basement-schmidt-houseOne thing that is interesting about this floor plan of the basement is the little square labeled Dumb Waiter on the right hand side.  My mother remembers what a cool feature that was about their house. When I was interviewing her for her life story she said…… We had a dumb waiter in the kitchen.  It was behind doors and had several shelves. We could place items on there that needed to go into the basement and them lower them down with a pulley system.  This came in especially handy when my mother was canning and we had to transfer all the jars to the basement. We kept potatoes, vegetables and onions in cold storage down there.  Our basement also had our cream separator and storage areas for wood and coal and my mother’s washing machine. ground-floor-schmidt-houds

 The ground floor had my grandparent’s bedroom, a parlour, huge diningroom and kitchen. Here’s how my Mom described the diningroom. In the centre of the diningroom was a big table with lots of chairs because we had a family of six and my grandmother and uncle also lived with us as well as our hired man. We had a plate railing high up all around the dining room wall and Mom not only kept plates there but also all sorts of other knick-knacks. There was a couch by the stairway leading to the upper floor. This couch is where my father used to lie to listen to Amos and Andy on the Philco radio. He loved that show. There was a wooden sideboard on one wall for dishes and our wooden party line phone was on another wall. 

Mom said the parlor was where her parents visited with company and it had a desk for her Dad that was always covered with his papers and it is also where they kept the piano and their organ.  Mom said the kitchen had a wood stove and her Uncle Alvin who lived with them chopped the wood and kept the stove going.  Mom’s uncle had epilepsy and he was nearly blind so after his parents died in the influenza epidemic he came to live with my grandparents. upper-floor-schmidt-house

This is the upstairs floor plan.  See those stairs over on the right? Mom said…….

Wooden steps with a banister led upstairs. I remember my sisters and I used to sit on those steps holding hymnals and Bibles. My brother Earl played the role of the pastor and we pretended to have church on those steps. Beside the stairs was a beautiful stained glass window. Not many houses had them in those days. My Dad always bragged however that our house had the best of everything and I guess that included a stained glass window.

My Mom shared the bedroom right beside the stairs with her sisters. They liked to play with their dolls in the long walk in closet. One of the bedrooms upstairs was for my mother’s maternal grandmother Maria Jantz who lived with them and the other was shared by my Uncle Earl and Paul their hired man. 

Can you see the bathroom over in the right hand corner?   Mom had lots to say about that!

The bathroom was at the top of the stairs. We were one of very few families to have an indoor washroom. We had a washstand and basin. There was a claw foot bathtub. My mother heated water and filled it up every Saturday so we kids could take a bath. My sisters and I took turns bathing in the water one after the other and then my brother Earl was last. I’m sure the water was pretty cold and dirty by the time he got into it. In wintertime we brought in snow and put it in a big barrel beside the wood stove in the kitchen to melt and then used the warm water for our baths. We had an indoor toilet as well. It had a pail and my Dad took out the pail and emptied it every morning before the rest of us woke up.

I’m so glad my mother kept these blueprints.  They tell a story not only of a house but also of the family that lived in it.

Other posts……

Remembering My Grandpa 

When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old

My Mother’s Childhood Christmases


Filed under Family, History