Part 12

In 1927 when my Dad died he left Mom $2500 in insurance, a princely sum in those days. It would certainly have eased the burden on her in the years to come, but she loaned it to her family to save the farm. There was no way it could be saved and Mom's generous gift only served to stave off the inevitable day when they had to leave. Elwood had married Mereta Cross some years before who had been a wonderful help both in the house and in the fields. They had one daughter Darlene. Frank was engaged to, or had married Florence Piddell. Leonard had already moved to Vancouver where he was working as a longshoreman on the docks, and he was sure that he could find work for his brothers. Grandma moved with them, and once the boys were working she was able to come to Manitoba frequently to visit with all of us.

Life in Dunrea went on smoothly. Somehow I remember long hot summer days and those hot nights when we coaxed Mom to let us sleep on the lawn. I don't think we ever managed to stay there all night, and by midnight we fled to the security of our very warm bedrooms. The winters were long and cold and the glass of water we took to bed each night was usually frozen solid on the window sill by morning. When Mom came upstairs each night to tuck us in she would remind us that when we were saying our prayers we must not forget to thank God for having a roof over our heads on a night like this. We dutifully thanked God though I didn't know of anyone who didn't have a roof over his head.

In September Mom went to Brandon for several days and we were wide-eyed with surprise and delight to find that she had gone to get a baby for us! John Beverly McLaughlin was born September 17, 1927 and we thought that he was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened. It is amazing that he wasn't spoiled rotten - at 8 and 10 we were too old to be jealous of him so we just enjoyed him. Harold and I argued about who could stay home from Mass on Sunday to look after the baby - it was a double barrelled pleasure.

Our first Christmas in Dunrea seemed to be shaping up to be a very dismal affair. All our friends were putting up Christmas trees and decorating their homes but Mr. Smith didn't seem to be interested in that sort of thing. We went to bed Christmas Eve feeling a bit depressed, and woke up to a fairyland. He must have worked all night to surprise us - there was a big tree beautifully decorated, and garlands stretching from corner to corner with a lovely centerpiece hanging from the middle of the ceiling. We had never seen anything like it in our lives, and if we were too overwhelmed to say "thank you" I am sure he knew from our faces how we felt. Every Christmas was magical for us in the eight years we spent in Dunrea.

The winters that the town men flooded an outdoor rink for us we spent every minute after school and in the evenings learning to skate. I don't know how or where Mom managed to get skates for us. Mr. Smith provided our family with a home and plenty of good food, but the Widow's Allowance from the Government was a measly ten dollars a month for shoes, clothing, and all the other necessities of life for the four of us. Probably skates were recycled every year just as clothing was. Mostly we flattened out cardboard boxes and took them to the hill to slide, or had friends in to play cards and games all evening. Mr. Smith was a generous host and we took over his house as though it was ours. I think we all came to love each other.

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