Quest in Roots:
Brookdale Manitoba History

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Time marches on and brings many changes.

But now that we have the time to glimpse back into the past, we stop and think of our childhood days and reflect on the memories of our friends and our activities.

Our family moved into Brookdale iIJthe spring of 1921. Our father had died the fall before and our mother kept boarders and sewed for the ladies of that area.

We feel it was a good place to grow up in - nothing moved as fast and furiously as it does today and made life kind of pleasant and relaxing.

It was a busy little town and served a large farming area. The mode of travel was horse and buggy or wagon as there were very few cars.

Our first home was over Loader''s General Store which was one of four buildings on the Main Street that housed stores, a restaurant, post office, and pool room. Other businesses operating as well were a hardware store, butcher shop, bake shop, drug store, bank, doctor''s office, blacksmith shop, garage, two grain elevators, harness repair shop, a railway station, Oddfellow''s and Masonic Halls, lumber yard, church, and a consolidated school.

Each season seemed to bring its own activities and as there were no T.V.''s and very few radios we had to make our own entertainment.

In the spring of the year Pest Control was exercised by the municipality and they would pay 2q: for a gopher tail and the same for a crew''s egg. So that was one way of earning a little spending money - the kids from town would hit for the bluffs around the outskirts of town and climb the trees looking for and robbing the crows'' nests. Then we had to be careful how we "blew" them out and not break the shells so we could turn them in for cash. This was done by making a hole in each end of the egg with a Din and blowing on one end to get rid of the contents. We were not always successful in saving the empty shell. The gophers were plentiful in the spring and we would either snare or drown them out of their holes and turn in their tails to the Municipal Office.

The old brickyard which was a favorite place to go and play was located just east of the town. In those days the chimney, oven, and drying racks were still there so there were lots of places to run and hide. Merrill tells how a bunch of boys were playing there one day and lit a fire with twigs and dry grass and had smoke coming out the chimney and a farmer passing by noticed the smoke and inquired of a merchant when the brickyard had started operating again.

Carberry Field Day was one of the highlights of the school year, which included all schools in the North Cypress Municipality. It was usually held on a Friday - the end of Mayor beginning of June. After the winter we were anxious to participate in summer sports, racing, jumping, and ball games, etc. Every chance we got we practised the various sports as we were eager to put on a good showing for our school. The day started with a parade for all schools so marching had to be practised. Each school carried a banner with their school colors and everyone looked their best with spotless clothes and usually matching outfits and fresh hair cuts. It was a long tiring day as we had to be up early as the events started in good time in order to get it over in one day. If it was a hot day sunburn as well as sore muscles had to be contended with in the following days. I think this event was special as it was near the closing of the school for the summer holidays.

In the winter there always seemed to be big snow banks especially on the north side of town along the eight foot snow fences the railroad men put up. Banks would often be so hard we could dig tunnels through them and they were great ones to slide down.

We had an old pair of skis and had to take turns using them. On a nice day a bunch of kids would hit for the country and the straw stacks covered with snow made good skiing. Farmers came to town with horses and cutters or sleigh boxes and often they would let us tie our sleighs and toboggans on behind their vehicles and let us ride a mile or two out in the country. If we were lucky we would catch someone coming into town - but often we had to walk back.

Before the rink was built we went to Kinney''s big slough just west of town to skate. There seemed to be a narrow stretch the wind would blow the snow off. If not we had to shovel it off before we could skate. We would walk out there and change into our skates and often our shoes would be too cold to put them back on so would walk home with our skates on. Occasionally, some one would take a sleigh load to Oberon on a Saturday night after their rink was built.

In the winter of 1928 we built an open air rink beside the school. Doug Aikenhead, the principal of the school, was a big instigator in getting it built - along with the high school boys, Lou Mikkelson and Harry Parker, the section foreman.

We put on dances to raise money and bought an old barn from southwest of town, then known as the Miller Place, we tore it down, hauled the lumber to town and built a waiting room out of it and put a board fence around the rink. In the early 1930''s the rink was moved to the present location. We had to level the ground and dig a well. We pumped water by hand to flood it. Mr. Parker would take pity on us at times and use his engine from his railroad motor car at nights to help flood. We worked hard but got a great deal of satisfaction out of having been a part in the construction. After we left town the closed-in rink was built.

Hockey games were played with teams from Wellwood, Oberon, Mentmore, Moore Park, and Justice. There were no leagues as games would depend on the weather as most had outdoor rinks.

It was an all day event as we would have to clean the ice in the morning before the game - often we would do it the day before only to have to do it again in the morning if it snowed or the wind got up to blow the snow back on it again.

Hockey gear was nothing like it is today, our pads were made of old magazines or newspapers and tied around our legs with laces or sealer rings under our stockings. There was never any place to change our clothes after a game and our underwear would become stiff and cold as we would become heated up and sweat during the game. We didn''t have too many players as the boys from the country were too busy with chores and never had the chance to get to town to play hockey. Games were played Saturday afternoons or during the holidays as we had no electricity for lights for night games.

We remember mother telling us of the time her Grandmother Clegg died in March 1923. Her mother (Grandma Nichol), Mrs. J.P. Lawrie, and mother went on the train from Brookdale with the body for burial in Brandon. The next day after the burial they boarded the train for home and a snowstorm came up and left the train stranded over night and it was well on into the next afternoon before a snow plough came from Portage La Prairie to clear the tracks for them to continue to Brookdale.

In those days the trains were heated with coal heaters and they melted snow to make tea and ate cookies.

Money was scarce and many a toy was made from empty thread spools which were used for wheels, pulleys, with cardboard boxes for the body.

Socks were stuffed for rag dolls and dressed from bits and pieces of material left over from sewing. I remember making a threshing outfit out of shoe boxes - the boxes were used for the tractor and thresher, shoe laces for the belts and spools for the pulleys. A good many hours were spent making and playing with the toy. When I met Harold Fryer at the Centennial Celebrations, he asked if I remembered it so it must have made an impression on him.

There were several fires in Brookdale in this era and very little fire-fighting equipment. Fires can be very frightening and make a lasting impression on you as you never know what is going to happen next. One of the first fires I can recall was when the office of the Grain Growers Elevator burnt - I think it was the winter of 1923 or 1924. We lived across the street so we watched it very carefully.

They were able to save most of the building but the roof was badly damaged. Fires in the kitchen of the cafe and pool room also caused some excitement.

Christmas Day 1923 the four room consolidated school burnt. We were out of town at Grandpa Nichols for the day and the neighbors, the Jardines, alerted us about the fire and we all watched the reflections from the distance. Much to our dismay school continued as classes were held in the Odd Fellows and Masonic Halls and the church as soon as it could be arranged.

I think it was Christmas Day 1924 when Loaders'' General Store burnt. We had moved out a couple of months before and as we had moved to a smaller house we left some of our belongings there because he wasn''t going to rent the rooms above the store again. This store was located where Bill Mitchell''s house now stands. Mr. Loader was going to Winnipeg for Christmas so he built up the fires in the store before going to Ingelow to board the train, and shortly after leaving town the stove blew up and started the fire that completely destroyed the building.

We vividly recall the day the United Church manse burnt in 1926. It was located where the present one is. We were going to move into the brick house we called the Morden house - where Bill Jones now lives. My brother Merrill, Ross Smith, who stayed with us and went to school, and myself went to put on a fire in the furnace to warm up the house before we moved in. We started the fire and went home for supper. Later, we called in to check the fire and when we came upstairs we noticed a red glow out of the window and the manse was on fire. Some gasoline had been spilt on the table when filling the lamp and when the mininster went to light it the gas ignited, and in his excitement he kicked over the gas can which had no cap on it.

Before going home that night after watching the fire, we went and got a pail of water and doused out the fire in the furnace - no way were we going to leave a fire on that night. I was only 13 years old.

Another fire was the Hamilton house, where Dale Jones lives now. This happened during the night and was completely destroyed but the family all got out safely.

Visiting the pool room was frowned on by many in those days. It was often called the "Den of Iniquity" - Jesse Naismith boarded with us - he was a barber and operated the pool room and barber shop. We went and helped him clean the place on Saturday mornings and we learned to play pool and still enjoy it today.

We were anxious to make a little spending money so would do odd jobs on Saturdays and holidays. In 1924 and 1925 the spruce trees which surround the old school grounds were planted and Bill Borland who was the school janitor would pay us 25q: a day the following year to pull weeds and hoe around the trees.

Sandy and Rod McCrae lived just east of town by the brickyard and I often went out there on Saturdays to drive a team and do odd jobs.

Fried sausages and Lily White syrup seemed to be the fare of the bachelors and was a change for me.

One fall I worked for Lyle Thorn of the Oberon district and I sure enjoyed Mrs. Thorn''s prune pies. I think it was the whipped cream topping.

One year at Teachers'' Convention time (which was usually two days before the Thanksgiving long weekend), I went out to George Aitkens to work and was there only a short time when I put a pitch fork through my foot, so that ended the job and money I had counted on. Instead I spent the time soaking my foot in an epsom salt bath - no visit to the doctor or Tetanus shot then, but I had no ill effects, only a slight scar remains.

Russ McMillan operated the butcher shop and I spent a fair amount of time hanging around there and helping out. Even if we just got our meals or an odd piece of meat it meant something in those days.

He delivered meat to the farmers in the Wellwood and district north of there so we got out in the country to know where a lot of people lived. A trip to Winnipeg with him was an experience one doesn''t forget. I recall one trip we made in July. We started out after supper and called at various farms and bought crates of eggs and old hens which we crated and loaded into the back of an old Y2ton truck. It was near Humeston siding - north of Wellwood and about midnight when we lost a wheel off the trailer which was full of crates of eggs. We had to wake up a family on a nearby farm and get a wheel off an old car and continued on our way. We stopped at McDonald and had a sleep, then on into Winnipeg where we delivered our load - then back home again that day. Needless to say we were a little tired.

Merrill recalls a bunch of boys going with him and picking barrels of wild cranberries over near Arden, then taking them to Winnipeg and selling them door to door.

Dances and card parties were held quite regularly during the winter months. Often an evening would start with a few games of whist before the dancing as this would bring out the older people and often the whole family could come - children and all. Of course there was always plenty of lunch which the ladies brought instead of paying admission. It never seemed to be hard to get an orchestra to play for the dances - usually local people would get together and play - some that I remember playing for the dances were R.T.

Chisholm, Cleave and Percy Chudley with Mrs.

Brown on the piano. Wellwood was noted for their orchestras over the years and occasionally they would come to Brookdale on the railroad motor car especially when the Johnsons played as he was the station agent at Wellwood.

It always seemed that people were moving away and new families moving in as it was mostly odd jobs until the war broke out in 1939.

To us these were the good old times - not that we had many of the advantages of the present generation - but they were the days of our youth - free from responsibilities and cares.


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