Tag Archives: drake saskatchewan

A Tipped Caboose, A Black Eye and A Wedding

The caboose tipped over!  I was visiting my 94 year old Aunt Viola in Saskatoon on the weekend and she told me a story about a time her family was in an accident on the way to a wedding.  

mom and her sisters

My aunt Viola and my mother Dorothy. Mom is on the right.  

My aunt and my mother were asked to sing a duet at the wedding of their hired girl Tina.  Tina was a recent immigrant from the Soviet Union.  My grandparents had a farm in Drake Saskatchewan and my grandfather often offered to go to the train station in nearby Humboldt or Lanigan to pick up new immigrants from Mennonite communities in Russia when they first arrived in Canada. If they didn’t have relatives or friends to stay with he would bring them home till they could find work and a place to live.  This happened with Tina, but she stayed on for quite some time and my grandparents gave her a job helping with the housework and yardwork.  Besides her own four children my grandmother was also caring for her aging mother and blind brother-in-law, so Tina’s help was appreciated. 

Eventually Tina met a man whose last name was Buhler and they decided to marry.  My mother and my aunt were both very musical and Tina asked them to sing at her wedding.  My Aunt Vi said this was a little unusual because normally their parents sang duets together while my mother accompained them on the piano, but Tina wanted Viola and my mother Dorothy to sing so they agreed. My grandmother would accompany them on the organ. 

mom' s family sleigh

The Schmidt family poses beside their caboose. My Aunt Viola is to the left of her youngest sister Leila and my mother Dorothy is to Leila’s right. Behind them is my Uncle Earl and my grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt.

The Schmidt family set off for the wedding in their horse drawn caboose, although my aunt said they usually referred to it as ‘the bus.’  The weather had warmed a bit and the roads were slushy and muddy and a real mess so my grandfather decided to go cross country across the land of their neighbor Hugo Bartel because his fields were still quite snow covered.  As they sailed across the field the thin runner of the caboose cut into snowbank and the caboose tilted and then tipped right over.  Everyone was thrown from their seats. No one was hurt too badly but my mother bumped her eye and it quickly became bruised and swollen. 

north star mennonite church

The North Star Mennonite Church where the wedding took place.

The family righted the caboose and continued on to the North Star Church. My mother and my aunt still sang at the wedding, although my mother was sporting a black eye during the performance.  Aunt Vi remembers that Tina had requested the song Keep On the Sunny Side  a popular hymn written by Ada Blenkhorn in 1899 so that’s what they sang.  

Later when the family looked back on the accident they remembered it with humour and often laughed about how they tipped over so suddenly and how my mother sang such a positive and upbeat song with a black eye. 

Other posts………

A Passport of Her Own

Wash Day Tragedy

Family Blueprints


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My Mom Starts School


Here is my mother ready for her first day of school in 1931.  I found this gem recently as I was helping to move my Aunt Viola who is also pictured here carrying a rather beat up looking lunch kit.  My aunt had penciled in on the back of the photo Dorothy’s first day of school. My Mom has a book under her arm.  I wonder if it was a grade one reader. My Mom told me that each grade had their own reading book with poetry and fiction as well as stories about nature and history.   I just love the girls’ hats, their woolen stockings and from the material sticking out of both of their sleeves they may have been wearing matching dresses or tops. This is on their parents’ farmyard. Look how my grandma has laid out neat little flower beds with stones. 


My Aunt Viola also had this photo of the Kansas School in her collection. See the children arriving for class in a horse and buggy?

Mom and her siblings went to the Kansas School in school district #1699 in Drake Saskatchewan.  It was called the Kansas School because most of the children who attended were from families that had immigrated to Canada from Kansas in the early 1900s as my own great grandparents had. The one room school had grades one to eight and Mom thinks there could have been up to 50 children attending.  Mom walked the one and a half miles to school with her brother and sisters, cousins and the neighbor kids, no doubt one of them her best friend Mildred, who lived just across the road. Sometimes in winter an older cousin took them to school in a sleigh. 


Mom with the other children in grade one at Kansas school during the 1931-1932 school year. Mom is third from the right.

Mom’s teacher in grade one was Agnes Regier and Mom really liked her. Agnes was also Mom’s first piano teacher and Mom told me that at the end of her first school year her class put on a musical on the porch of Miss Regier’s house and all their parents came to watch. Mom remembers how they used to chant their spelling words out loud together letter by letter. 

At recess they liked to skip in pairs and they had skipping rhymes to chant as they did so. Mom said they also played lots of cricket using the tree stumps on the school yard as wickets. 

In September my grandson started school in Saskatchewan and as I look at the photo my son sent of him setting off for his first day of junior kindergarten it is interesting to compare it to the photo of my Mom doing exactly the same thing…… setting off for her first day of school in Saskatchewan 85 years earlier. 

This post has been updated here. 

Other posts……

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

Remembering My Grandpa

Why Was This Special?

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Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book

“When you’re in the kitchen frying meat, remember me and my big feet.”

My aunt's autograph book

My aunt’s autograph book

Last month  I was helping my ninety-three year old Aunt Viola sort through some of her keepsakes. We came upon an autograph book she received as a gift in 1934. It was filled with messages from her school classmates.

aunt vi autograph book Before the advent of school yearbooks, autograph books served as a way to remember the young people with whom you had attended classes. And it certainly had served that purpose for my aunt.  first page of autograph bookI went through the book with her and she remembered almost every  person, telling me what they had done after graduation, whom they had married, where they had lived, what careers they had pursued and what kind of families they had.  forget me notShe recalled tidbits of information as well about their academic abilities or schoolyard behaviour from more than seventy-five years ago. 

teachersAunt Vi had also included a list of all her teachers from grade one through to grade twelve.

 Some of the messages in her autograph book were very funny, like the one that opens this blog post……..

funny autograph

Or this one………when you are old autograph

Others offered words of wisdom or adviceadvice autograph

Some of the poems in the autograph book didn’t apply to my aunt at all, like this one, since my aunt never married. wedding cake autographOthers did apply to her.life with purposeAunt Vi has lived her life with purpose.  She had a long career as an elementary school teacher.  She has traveled the world.  She has served as a volunteer in her church and community in a myriad of roles. She has maintained close ties with her family and has boxes full of guest books that record messages from the literally thousands of guests she has entertained in her home. 

Aunt Vi with two of her schoolmates

Aunt Vi with two of her schoolmates

I so enjoyed looking through Vi’s autograph book. There were messages from her classmates written in German, others contained lines of poetry, some conveyed  spiritual truths and each reminded my aunt of someone who had played an important role in her school life. Here’s a couple of my favorite autographs. wood chip
parlor lamp
There was one autograph that made me cry. It was the one my mother had penned in her big sister’s autograph book in 1938 when she was thirteen years old. Mom writes about always remembering her sister. Sadly my Aunt Vi is now the only one in her family left to remember. My mother and Aunt Vi’s other two siblings have all passed away. mom's autograph


Other posts……

Autographs from a Conscientious Objector

Aunt Vi

Visiting Aunt Vi

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When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old

jantz family 2 (1)

A treasured item found among my mother’s things after she died, was this photo of my grandmother’s family in 1904 just before they began the immigration process to move to Canada from Kansas.  My grandmother Annie E. Jantz is the youngest girl in the photo.  She was born in 1892 so she would have been 12 years old. 

In the front row sitting from the left are Marie -14, my great grandmother Marie Gerbrandt Jantz born in 1860 in Swiniary, Poland, my great grandfather Peter H. Jantz born in 1850 in Zosnow, Poland,  Edward-16.

Standing in the back row starting from the left are Matilda-19, my grandmother Annie-12,  Ben- 25, Henry- 20,  John -17, and Valentine-22. 

My great-grandmother Maria Gerbrandt immigrated to Kansas from Poland in May of 1875 with her family.  My great grandfather Peter H. Jantz immigrated to Illinois from Poland in July of 1874.  He moved to Kansas in 1877 and he and Maria were married in Kansas in 1879.  In 1905 their son Valentine moved to Drake, Saskatchewan, in March of 1906 their son Ben immigrated there, and in August of 1906 the rest of the family followed. 

Other posts………

Family Tree

A Good Understanding

My Grandparents’ Honeymoon


Filed under Family, History

Remembering my Grandpa

Me and my  Grandpa Schmidt

My grandfather loved to listen to the Amos and Andy show on his Philco radio.  He would lie on the couch and laugh and laugh until his mother-in-law Marie who thought listening to the radio was far too worldly, would shake her head and say to her daughter Annie, “My goodness. What is Pete laughing about now?”

Me and Grandpa setting off on an adventure

My maternal grandfather Peter Martin Schmidt was a talented whistler. My mother told me he could whistle any tune they’d name.  Grandpa was a farmer in Drake Saskatchewan and when he was working out in the field he was always whistling or singing.  He was partial to Negro spirituals and when he drove his Whippet and later his Ford V8 touring car he’d either be belting out a spiritual or a tune like Way Down Upon the Swanee River, Down By the Old Mill Stream or Let Me Call You Sweetheart.  

Peter and Annie my grandparents

Grandpa was a good driver and was especially proud of the state of the roads in his area. Besides being a farmer he also worked part-time as the road grader in their municipality. My Mom said his hands eventually became quite misshapen from handling that powerful grader but he wouldn’t let anyone else drive it, because he knew he did the best job of grading the roads.

Family sleigh pulled by their horses

In winter Grandpa put his car up on blocks and used their horses Gypsy and Prince to pull their sleigh. When Grandpa was sixteen his family moved to Saskatchewan from Kansas. They made the journey by train and Grandpa had to ride in the cattle car with Gypsy and Prince’s parents to take care of them. 

Grandpa’s parents Peter Schmidt (1855-1923) and Maria H. Harms (1858-1924) were both born in Deutsch Michalin Prussia and immigrated to the United States with their families in the 1870s settling near Newton Kansas where my Grandpa was born on December 8, 1890.  He was the eighth of ten children. His family immigrated to Canada in 1907 and settled first I believe in the Lockwood area. 

Peter and Annie Schmidt in 1917

Grandpa met my grandmother at the North Star Mennonite Church in Drake where both of their families attended services. My grandmother Annie Jantz was born in 1892 and had immigrated to Canada with her family from Hillsboro Kansas when she was fourteen.  Grandma was musical too and she and Grandpa often sang duets together.  They performed at many weddings and funerals and when my mother was around thirteen she became their accompanist.

My grandparents leaving on their honeymoon

Grandpa had saved a nice nest egg before his wedding in 1917 and he took his Annie on a honeymoon for several months before they settled down. They traveled by train all the way to Vancouver and then down the American west coast visiting relatives in California before going on to Kansas to visit more family members and take a winter course at Bethel College in Newton Kansas.

The blueprints for the house my grandfather built for his family

By the time my mother, their third child, was born in 1925 Grandpa had built a brand new house with the help of a local carpenter. He ordered the blueprints and all the materials to build it from the Grain Growers Association.

The house my grandfather built for his family in Drake Saskatchewan

My grandfather bragged their house would have the best of everything. It was one of the few homes in Drake with an indoor bathroom. It featured hot-air registers, an ivy-covered front porch, a parlour, four bedrooms with deep walk-in closets, wooden bannisters, a dumb-waiter, a large dining room and even a stained glass window. Grandpa was generous about sharing his home. His widowed mother-in-law lived with them as well as his brother who had epilepsy and was nearly blind and they took in a displaced man from Poland after World War II. 

Peter and Annie Schmidt with their four children

According to my mother, my grandfather was very outgoing and popular. He had lots of friends. Mom remembers going to Saskatoon to shop. Her Dad would wait on a bench outside the various stores and when she and her mother would come out of the store her Dad would be having a friendly conversation with whoever had happened to sit down beside him. 

Grandpa liked to dress up on Sundays

Grandpa always wore suspenders. He had grey striped overalls for working on the farm but liked to spiff up for Sunday in a nice suit and tie. Grandpa had subscriptions to two different farming magazines and read them cover to cover.  He was a member of the Wheat Pool Board and the Sunday School Superintendent at his church. He also served on the Mennonite Central Committee Board and on the board of Rosthern Junior College, the private Mennonite high school my mother attended and where later she was a teacher.

My Schmidt grandparents are to the left of my parents at their wedding

My mother said her siblings often thought she was their Dad’s favourite. She liked following him around outside and he taught her to mow the lawn, stook wheat, milk cows and change the tires on their car.  Grandpa instilled in his four children an appreciation for hard work but he also wanted them to have fun. He made a swing for his children attaching it to a big tree on the yard and it provided them with many hours of pleasure. Sunday afternoons Grandpa’s sister Katie Ewert and her husband Ed who lived just down the road would come over with their family. They had a great many children and so there were plenty of people for scrub baseball, and games like Pom Pom Pull Away and Hide n’ Seek. 

My grandma and grandpa kissing my mother good-bye as she leaves on her honeymoon

My Mom always had to sit beside Grandpa in church because she was quite mischievous and he would give her his pocket watch to play with. When you opened it there was a picture of my grandmother inside. I remember playing with that pocket watch too when I was a little girl. 

One of the last photos of my grandparents together

My Mom remembered her Dad reading from the Bible and praying at breakfast every morning.  Other than that her parents rarely talked about their faith. “It was important to them,” my mother said, “but they lived it so they didn’t need to talk about it.” 

My grandparents with their four oldest grandchildren seven more would follow

My grandfather died in 1961 when I was just seven years old.  He was in Calgary that summer at a church conference and was hit by a car as he crossed a street. He died in the hospital the next day. My grandparents often came to visit us in Winnipeg and they had been there shortly before Grandpa died. My mother tells me that on that visit my grandfather taught me how to ride the bicycle I had received as a Christmas gift. 

With my grandparents as a baby

Through my mother’s stories about her father, I have come to appreciate Grandpa’s legacy of love, faith and service to others. My Grandpa enjoyed life and took pleasure in music, his work, his home, family times, fun and travel.  I wish I’d had a chance to spend more time with him. Happy Father’s Day Grandpa!

Other posts about Grandpa……..

Family Blue Prints

A Good Understanding

My Grandparents Were Both Readers

Two Stories About Grandpa

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