Jim is two years older than me and we spent a lot of time together as youngsters. We both liked being outdoors and that just suited me fine: I would rather milk cows than do dishes any day. Even now!
Jim, like Gordon, was a quiet, shy boy. When he was six years old and in Grade 1, he was victim of physical bullying. Jim had to have a hernia operation and I’m sure this was a result of being forced into carrying heavy older boys around the school yard. When he started school the first day went well but it was downhill after that. The worst was when the older boys climbed up on the partitions in the barn and pissed on him, followed by the threat that if I told their actions would be even worse. A six-year old would believe it. Jim did, and it took him a long time to stand up against them.
Looking back, I don’t know if I realized he was being bullied or not, after all, I was younger than he was. Before my sister Georgie died, she gave me a stack of letters that she’d saved over the years – many of them letters I’d written to her when I was little – and there was a letter written by Jim that outlined the bullying he’d been subject to. He wrote it in 1999 and I believe he wrote it because my older sisters Marjorie and Ruth told Georgie what had really gone on when we were young, and she asked Jim about it. It was a situation where the teacher probably knew this was happening but feared of losing her job if she acted on the problem. Jobs were scarce in the dirty Thirties and no one wanted to rock the boat. I’m sure Jim never told our Mom and Dad.
Times have certainly changed and this type of behavior is not tolerated and children are supposed to have an opportunity to report such happenings without repercussions. But even today, as a parent, you have to talk to your kids always about what is happening at school.
Not long ago my daughter, Bridget, reported to the Principal of a school when she observed bullying by an older boy to a younger boy when the boys got off the school bus on her street. Yes, it took time for her to find out what school this bus was carrying kids from and to get in touch with the principal, but she did it.
We had five milking cows on the farm. Jim and I would take turns milking that fifth cow. Two in the morning and three at night one day and vise versa. Sometimes Jim would be kind and milk the extra cow for me.
Milking the cows was just one of the only opportunities we had to make money. We brought the milk to the house and saved about a gallon of whole milk for drinking, and the rest of the milk was put though the separator. The cream from the separator was collected and refrigerated morning and night. We had cream cans that held about five or six gallons and when we had enough cream to fill a can, our Dad would take the can to Strongfield and it was shipped to a dairy in Moose Jaw. A cheque was mailed to Dad and he would cash it and give Jim and me half each.
We had a trap line along the fence south of the big coulee for snaring rabbits. A good rabbit skin would sell for $1.50 so you did your best to make sure it was not damaged. It wasn’t easy to skin a rabbit and not cut the fur and as you can guess the price went down if the fur was cut.
Slim and Willie
It must have been in the fall of 1947 when a drilling crew was hired by the P.F.R.A. to do some preliminary testing of the river valley of the South Saskatchewan River to find a stable base for an earth-filled dam to be built spanning the river. The crew came by our house to see if they could arrange to eat at noon at our place instead of driving back some 14 miles to town to eat there. My Mom and sisters negotiated a price for the noon meal and that’s when we first met Slim and Willie.
Slim and Willie were part of the crew that came to our place for the duration of the testing, which lasted for a few weeks. I do believe Willie, who was a talker, was more interested in dating one or more of my sisters than eating! Slim was more of the quiet type, and I really liked him. I was just 13, but I do believe I had a crush on him!
Then, in the winter of 1948, they actually set up camp on our side of the river about a mile or so from our home. So one Saturday morning, Jim and I went down to snoop out the happenings down by the river and Frank Murphy, the cook, invited us into the the cook’s trailer for pie. Well, I, for one, was hooked on the first bite. There were a few trailers set up for equipment and sleeping. AND a cook’s trailer where Frank Murphy cooked and fed the crew.
The drilling rig was set up on the ice in the middle of the river. Of course they had an open hole where they could get the water they needed to do the drilling. One day we were down checking out the drilling operation and Jim fell into the open water by the rig. It must have been -30 F but he was able to get out of the water and go to the camp and dry off in the cook’s trailer. IT’S FORTUNATE THAT HE WASN’T SUCKED BELOW THE ICE OR WE’D NEVER SEEN HIM AGAIN.
We probably spent every Saturday going down to the camp for the visit. Not only did Frank make a great pie but he had at least a hundred country music records. Lots of school nights, we would rush through dinner so we could go down to the camp. We spent a lot of time with him listening to music and eating pie. There was many a night we would go down to the camp after supper for a couple of hours. My heart would skip a beat as I first laid eyes on Slim, but there was music to listen to, and pie to eat, and then the work was completed and they were gone.
Pigs and Ponies
Dad would buy piglets in the spring and fatten them up to sell in the fall. One fall, he traded the two pigs for two ponies and he gave them to Jim and me. Jim’s pony was named Pal and mine was called Nettie. My pony died shortly after we got her of encephalitis and Jim’s pony, Pal, had been caught in a barb-wire fence and was a very scared and nervous horse. Jim tried hard to break him but Pal would buck him off every time. I remember one time after a bucking exhibition in the yard west of the house that Jim said as he’d been bucked off that time, that he could see the top of our big red barn. He was flying!
Jim was an excellent student. I know his High School marks were excellent. He got 100% in Trigonometry (only 96% in Algebra) in grade xii. In grade xi I got 100% in Geometry, 92% in Algebra. After high school, Jim got a job at the Royal Bank in Lumsden for a short while. My sister Georgie and her husband Bill came home from Hamilton for a visit, and Bill took Dad aside and told him he had to find a way for this excellent student to go to University.
Mr. Kyle, the principal and high school teacher in Strongfield suggested to Dad that Jim take Chemical Engineering, and so he enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan and was accepted. Jim says if it weren’t for Bill, Mr. Kyle and our dad, his life would have certainly turned out different.
Jim earned a degree in chemical engineering, and was the first child in our family to have a university degree. He had a lifetime career with Procter and Gamble and for most of his 37 years with them, their toothpaste, Crest, was his baby. He helped solve quality problems with Crest in Mexico, and was in charge of the startup of the brand in Venezuela.
He even starred in a couple of Crest television commercials in Venezuela as a Cientifico Americano. As you can see, Jim really looked the part. He got the TV assignment because the receding hairline of the other candidate for the job caused highlights on the screen test. He also developed a formula change for Crest that was used for some time in Mexico.
After retirement he carried out volunteer assignments for CESO. Canadian Executive Service Organization. CESO assignments were two in Lima Peru and one in Bangkok, Thailand.
Jim and his wife Nora have three children: Sue, Lindy and Leah