Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Hard Winter on the Farm

Mother with her two children arrived back on the farm just before Christmas 1941 and remained there until late spring in 1942.  She was only 28 years old and was faced once again with relying on her parents who were now in their 60s, to provide shelter and comfort to her and her young family. The war was on and the RCAF had posted her husband to Pat Bay on Vancouver Island.  It was already a cold winter and the nights were long with the darkness broken only by light from the coal oil lamps flickering in the room. The summer kitchen was closed off and the wood burning range had been moved to the main room of the tiny house.
Hot water bottle 
 The chimney which had connected to the summer kitchen was reversed for the winter months and the range along with a wood burning space heater were
 the only sources of heat for the family.  Bedtime was always early as it offered an escape from the cold and darkness.   My grandfather would then rise before dawn to fire uthe stove, milk the cow and bring water from the well.  Grandpa had banked snow up against the side of the house but the walls remained cold as there was little in the way of insulation to offer protection from the elements. 

In those days the expression, going to bed with the chickens was very true. Heavy quilts and a hot water bottle were the only way to stay warm.  

My mother loved to play the piano and could play all our favourites by ear.  The piano in the farmhouse was the one she had learned to play on as a child.  We all enjoyed listening and the sharing of her music entertained us through many cold days that winter.  There was a battery operated radio but it was only turned on once a day for the war news.

Not quite the same but the reservoir on
the right was how water was heated for baths.
I think mother would have preferred staying in the city during the war with its conveniences of electricity and running water but it wasn't possible.  There was no family to assist her there and everyone was facing their own challenges.  Three of my father's brothers had joined the RCAF and were sent overseas.  His two younger siblings, who were just in their mid teens, were caring for their ailing mother while their father was at work.  Dad's mother passed away a year late

Meanwhile, at Pat Bay Dad considered the possibility of bringing the family out to Victoria.  He had been turned down for overseas duty because of a heart murmur, so having the family close by seemed like a good idea.   He started looking around and found a small furnished cottage at Cordova Bay which would soon be available for rent.  
I loved seeing the steam locomotive.

Within a few days Mother was packed and ready to go.   Grandpa was once again ferrying our small family to the train station, this time in the early hours of the morning to catch the westbound train to Vancouver.   It was late spring and the sun was already starting to rise. We saw my uncle out in the field with his tractor and my grandfather commented that his son liked to get an early start on his day, An hour later we were in Biggar and I looked with anticipation as the big black steam locomotive puffed its way into the railway station.  I watched Mother bid a tearful goodbye to her father, then we were off.