Quest in Roots:
Brookdale Manitoba History

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GEORGE AND HARRIET BYRAM FAMILY

Harriet Ann Richardson and George Byram were married in Toronto in 1898. George was the son of John Byram, who together with his brother, had journeyed on a sailing ship from Lincolnshire, England, in 1884, at the tender age of 12. John settled near Peterborough, and his brother travelled south to the United States.

Harriet was born in Havelock, Ontario, in 1870, to Edwin and Agnes (Brooks) Richardson.

Her grandfather was Robert Richardson. The story goes that Robert Richardson was a coachman in England. He worked for the wealthy Wahls family, and eloped with their daughter Lydia. They came to Canada early in the 19th century. It must have been a very difficult adjustment for young Lydia to come from a privileged life in England to what must have been rather primitive conditions in this country.

Harriet and George settled on a farm at Keene, Ontario, near Peterborough. Four children were born while they lived at Keene: Myrtle, Archie, William and Harry. The family moved to Firdale, Manitoba, in 1906. Clair and Margery were born there. During a cold, bitter March, the family moved again. This time it was a shorter distance to the Oberon district. They settled on the farm where Debbie and Larry Jakubowski live now, and remained there until they retired to Carberry in 1944. They lived in the same home in Carberry until their deaths - George in 1956 and Harriet in 1960.

Myrtle graduated from Manitoba College in 1923, as a teacher. She did some of her practice teaching at the school in Ingelow. She went on to teach at schools for the deaf in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Myrtle travelled quite extensively and had a wide network of friends. During the war she decided to visit her brother Clair in England. She made the journey on a ship against the wishes and advice of the authorities. Imagine Clair''s surprise when he looked up at a funeral service he was attending and saw his ''big sister'' standing across the grave from him! She worked in Hawaii for two years, and everyone remembers Myrtle demonstrating the ''hula'' at a family reunion after her return.

She moved to Florida in the 1950''s where she met and married Dr. Joseph Matera. They lived in Miami for quite a number of years until deciding that they would like quieter surroundings. In 1983 they built a new home in South Carolina where they live now.

Archie farmed the Jack White farm near Oberon. He married Pearl Beck in 1938, and they had three children: Myrtle, Stan and Ray. Archie drove the school van for quite a number of years. It was the horse-drawn kind with the little stove in it for warmth, but must have been more of a hazard than anything. What a luxury to go to school in a car after one of those, even if everyone was piled three deep in the back seat! Archie died in 1977 after a lengthy illness. Pearl still lives in their home on the farm. Ray and his family also have their home on the family farm.

Again gaining retail experience with McLeod''s Men''s Wear in Calgary, William(Bill)purchased the Oberon General Store from Frank Radcliffe in 1929. The operation of a country business in those days was far from a nine to five job. In the summer he would start the day at five or six o''clock in the morning delivering farm fuel in 45 gallon drums with a half ton pick-up truck. Then it was back to open the store at eight. Any spare moments were spent in his role as the Oberon postmaster, getting the mail ready for train time. Occasionally, the train would drop off a boxcar load of coal that would have to be shovelled into the coal shed before the next train arrived to pick up the empty car. His good friend, Bob Barrett, the Brookdale baker, would arrive during the day with his large wooden bread box. In the earlier years, bread retailed at four loaves for a quarter. The store was the focal point of the community and stayed open until 10 or 11:00 p.m.

Customers would come in for their groceries, hardware, sundries, mail, and fuel for their lamps and vehicles; then stayed to talk and visit with friends and neighbours. Dice were always available and rolled to see who would be ''stuck'' to pay for the bars and drinks. Sometimes cash was used for purchases, but everyone had a ''book'' in which purchases were entered with payments made monthly, or sometimes when grain or livestock was sold. Every evening before dark, several gas lamps had to be filled and pumped up. Periodically on Sundays the hardwood floor would be scrubbed and given a fresh application of oil. In 1935 Bill married Dorothy Baker and they had two sons, Keith and Edwin. In 1947 he sold the store and bought the Donald Carmichael farm (E 9-13-15).

Lifeon the farm was less hectic, but was marred by the untimely death of Dorothy in 1948. In 1951, Bill and Freda Becker were married. They had three daughters: Betty, Lynn and Dorothy. Bill''s death in 1973was the first break in the ''half-dozen'', the term he used in referring to his family. Barry and Sharon Mikkelsen bought the farm, although Freda still retains her home there.

Harry stayed on the home farm after his parents retired. In 1949 he married Mrs. Pearl Parfitt, and gained not only a wife but two sons and a daughter: Selby, Don and Gail. They sold the farm to Del Watts in 1951 and moved to Shoal Lake where their son Clarence was born. Later they moved to Rivers and then to California in 1960.

Harry worked on construction in California until they moved to Vancouver Island in 1969. Harry and Pearl retired to Neepawa in 1977 and renewed many old acquaintances with friends and relatives alike. Their home quickly gained a reputation among other members of the family as a place where superb family dinners were held, a tradition Pearl has upheld since Harry''s death in 1979.

Clair interrupted his civil engineering education to join the RA.F. His instructors at the university advised him that it would be the best move as the job opportunities were very poor then. After completing 12 months of RA.F. training in five months, he was commissioned ''Acting Pilot Officer''.

In 1932 he was sent to England, and from there stationed in Amman, Jordan. He flew missions of every sort (including mail runs) from Dover to Nairobi, Jordan to the Rhine Valley and Cairo back to Canada. The planes and their navigation equipment were quite primitive in those early years with the Air Force, and Clair could entertain by the hour telling about some of his adventures in the air and on the ground. Because he spent time training troops in Canada, his family did see him on rare occasions during those years. He retired from the service as a Senior Flight Squadron Leader, the equivalent of a Colonel in the American forces. He married Phyllis Bell of Medicine Hat, Alberta, after the war. They remained in Canada for a few years and then moved to California where Clair was employed by the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles. Phyll died suddenly in 1973 and later that year Clair retired. He spent his summers in Canada and winters in California for a few years before settling in Packwood, Washington. While living in Packwood, he met and married Lucy Jennings.

Clair died in November, 1985, after a brief illness.

Margery (Madge), the youngest of the family, took her teacher''s training in Brandon. She taught at Montrose School before she married Arnold May in 1934. They spent their first winter together with her brother Archie on his farm. Eventually they made their way to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Arnold obtained his electrical training. Their first two sons, Byram and Morgan, were born in Canada.

In 1939 they moved to California where son John was born. Arnold worked for Edison Electric for many years. After his retirement they moved to Packwood, Washington, where they built their retirement home. However, Arnold''s death in 1975 meant that he did not enjoy it for long. All of Margery''s family remember her enthusiasm for music. She could play any keyboard instrument. All the gatherings of the family included a time for music and singing. Margery died very suddenly in March, 1986.

 

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