By the beginning of 1933 there were 1.5 million unemployed Canadians on relief and many were evicted from their homes when they could no longer pay the rent. The wind blew and blew, raising clouds of dust which even buried fence posts in the fields. I remember Mom soaking towels in water and laying them on the windowsills to prevent the dust infiltrating our home.
There were relief camps for the unemployed, but the boxcars on the freight trains were loaded with men heading west where they felt times would be better - my brother Harold included. He was able to work for the farmers in harvest time but there was little else available and the winters were long and cold. I doubt if a week ever passed without a stranger coming to the door to ask for food as he was on his way west to find work. Mom fed them all. After all, Reg was making a whole $65.00 a month and there were only five of us to feed! And maybe somebody, somewhere, would do the same for Harold some day.
But for us the winters passed quickly at the outdoor rink, tobogganing at the river, or just walking to the overhead bridge and seeing how close we could stand to the train as if came thundering past. And now that the "talkies" had arrived we all flocked to the movies with our fifteen cents to see Hollywood's latest. In summer we walked or went swimming at the river or had family wiener roasts or picnics. The radio provided all the entertainment anyone could ever need. We used to sit huddled in our coats in the chilly livingroom while we listened to the Lux Radio Theatre. Mom always went to sleep before the play ended and we were so disappointed that she had missed it.
Then one momentous evening on Dec. 10, 1936 we were all wide-eyed and tearful when King Edward VIII came on the radio to tell us that he was giving up the throne for the woman he loved. He had been King for less than a year. Unhappily, Wallis Warfield Simpson was a twice divorced American and deemed totally unsuitable by the British Parliament to be a Queen of England. We wept with him and for him but we felt that he was such an honorable man that he had no choice but to abdicate. Today, history judges him much less charitably when more is known of his Nazi sympathies. His shy younger brother became King George VI, and created a title for Edward - "His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor". The title "Royal Highness" was not extended to his Duchess. They left England to live on the continent, mainly in France, but in 1940 he was made Governor of the Bahamas where they spent the remainder of their lives.
At the time this happened, Bob McKenzie was attending Brandon College and I had only met him once when he drove a carload of girls to the movies one rainy night. In 1937 while he worked in his dad's store, he attended English classes at school for additional credits. Naturally we got to know each other. It was a busy year for me as Grade XII exams at that time had ten papers set by the Dept. of Education and marked in Winnipeg. We wrote four English exams, Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry, Chemistry, Algebra and two French papers. It was a heavy load.
On June 10th, 1937 my little half-sister Marilyn Anne Brannan was born at home. A nurse - I think her name was Frances Paddock - came to look after Mom and the baby but she actually took over the whole household. This was a different generation of nurses. Reg was so proud of his little girl but between school and preparations for graduation I had little chance to get to know her. This was the first Grade XII graduation to be held in Rivers. We had our class picture taken in the little park to the west of the station, followed by a dinner and dance. We thought it was a wonderful affair.