Our Story:

Elvinus and Helen Hermanson

For the most part, Saskatchewan is a Province of Immigrants. Most of us have roots in other countries so let us begin by exploring the roots of Elvinus Hermanson and Helen Fett.

First Elvinus. As you might guess by the name his roots go back to Norway. His grandfather, Herman Helland, was a fisherman from the Vesteralen Islands of Northern Norway. In 1876, at the age of fifty-four, he lost his life at sea. He left his wife Ingeborg with ten children. The youngest, Edvard, was only two years old. Ingeborg tried to look after the family but two years later she had to give up and put the children in other homes. Not much is known of Edvard’s early life, but we do know that when he grew up he too became a fisherman. He married Agnes Thodeson and had a son, Hildor. About this time, a relative helped this young family to leave Norway for life in the new world. In June of 1900, they left for their new home in Clifford, North Dakota. Here Edvard, whose name became anglicized to Edward worked as a farm laborer and later rented some land.

Hermanson Family Year: circa 1905 Clockwise from upper left: Edward, Hildor, Agnes, Elvinus, Annie, and Thode Hermanson

Hermanson Family
Year: circa 1905
Clockwise from upper left: Edward, Hildor, Agnes, Elvinus, Annie, and Thode Hermanson

There were a number of Norwegian families living in the Clifford area, and some of them became interested in homesteads in Canada. In 1905, two men, John Austring and Mr. Langager, came to Canada and filed homesteads for five families. Edward Hermanson’s was NE-26-19-13-W3. In 1906, two of the men came to begin developing their land, and in the spring of 1907, the others came including Edward Hermanson. On July 17, 1907, Edward’s wife and family (now five children) along with the other immigrant families arrived in Waldeck, Sask. They had endured a long train trip and still had 25 miles to go by wagon to get to their new home.

The lives of these pioneers were not easy. They had to break the land, haul water and wood, etc. all of which was time consuming using horses. It has been said that Edward once used an ox and a horse as a team. Later he acquired more horses and had as many as 36 at one time.

After constructing a home, the settlers began thinking of a school and later a church. Most of these people knew very little English so the adults went to school too. But, there was work to do so the school year was very short. Even the children studied only a few months a year. At first church was held in the school. Edward was musically talented. He had played the violin as a young man in Norway, so he became the choir leader in the church. He also took part in the lay ministry.

One frightening event of those early days was the prairie fire. With so much grassland and our Saskatchewan winds, these fires were hard to control and very dangerous. The story has been told that one time Agnes took her family out into a cultivated field to keep them safe. The fire, however, did not destroy their home.

By 1913, the family was complete and comprised of:

Hildor Born in Norway, 1899

Annie Born in USA, 1901

Thode (Ted) Born in USA, 1903

Elvinus Born in USA, 1904

Viola Born in USA, 1907

Herman Born in Canada, 1910

Walter Born in Canada, 1913

In 1916, the family suffered the loss of wife and mother, Agnes. This left Edward with seven children, ages 3 to 15. Annie, only 15, had the responsibility of the household tasks and looking after the younger children. Edward was a strict father and kept his family under his control as well as managing the farm.

As time went by, Edward enlarged his farming operation and modernized it. He acquired a Model T Ford in 1919 and a tractor in 1926. He also began improving the buildings. A new barn was built in the late 20’s and a modern house in the late 40’s. Our family photo albums contain a picture of Ted and Elvinus walking on their hands on the roof of the barn when it was being built. It appears that they both had a “daring streak” in them.

The Hermanson family was very musical. They had no musical training, but all (except Hildor, who left home to further his education) sang and played instruments. Elvinus sang with his three brothers in a male quartet, and the two girls sang duets. They had a family orchestra with Annie as pianist. They could all play several instruments but each had their favourite. Elvinus played the musical saw. The family had a keen interest in church so their talent was used to sing and play in churches and camp meetings.

With a family of grown boys to run the farm, Edward and Annie decided in 1934 to move to Success, Sask. and organize a church there. The family helped in this endeavor by using their musical talents. Soon the boys began to marry: Herman in 1935, Ted in 1937 and Walter in 1940. Walter and his wife Clarine remained on the farm with Elvinus assisting with the work. Although not residing on the farm, Edward kept a keen eye on the operation until 1944 when he and Annie moved to Kenora, Ont. to continue with church work.

Florence and Alvin Fett Year: circa 1938

Florence and Alvin Fett
Year: circa 1938

Now, at age 40, Elvinus was able to reap some benefit from the farm he had worked on for so many years. It was now possible for him to start planning a life of his own, so in the late 40’s he began to think of establishing a home of his own. He began a courtship and also began to build a house in Swift Current, a house he would not live in until thirty years later. In 1950, just a few months before the wedding date, Elvinus and Walter were able to secure a ranch across the Saskatchewan River just north of their farm. More about that later.

Now for my (Helen’s) side of the family. My parents and grandparents were all born in the USA, my father in Ohio and my mother in Washington. Alvin Fett, second child and oldest son in a family of seven, was born in 1887 to Elias Fett and Mary (Hochstettler) Fett, in the small town of Beaverdam, Ohio. When he was ten years old, his mother died and he lived for several years with an uncle. About 1907, Elias remarried and acquired a grain elevator in which Alvin, now a young man, assisted. Elevators at that time and in that area were much different than here. The chief crop was corn. I remember my father telling about putting the grain in bags for shipping.

As time went by, Alvin decided to do some traveling. He met some people who offered him a job in Saskatchewan. So, in 1913, he arrived in Pennant where he worked for O.H. Zeller. In due time he applied for and got a homestead, the NW 36-19-16-W3. Later he secured the NE 36-19-16-W3 as a pre-emption. His younger brother also came to Saskatchewan and secured land. For a number of years, they farmed together and Alvin still worked at Zeller’s.

Alvin often went back to Ohio during the winter. In the winter of 1923 he made a trip back to Ohio and returned the next spring with a wife. His bride, Florence, was the eighth child of Charles and Ellen Ludwig. By this time, Alvin had acquired another half section with a two-storey house. It was here on the SE 34-19-16-W3 that I was born the following year. This was not to be their house for long. In 1926, it was destroyed by fire. To make matters worse, a hailstorm went through the district that summer and the crop was totally destroyed. Alvin built a two-room house, which became our home for about five years.

One memory of my pre-school days was a trip to Clearwater Lake. My uncle, who was newly married at the time, had bought a car and invited us to go with them for a day at the Lake. About all I remember about this outing was a boat ride in which we all got splashed.

In 1929, we took a major trip. My parents had never been back to Ohio since they were married so they decided to spend Christmas back with their parents. I remember my mother showing me pictures of little girls’ dresses in the Eaton catalogue and asking me to pick out two of them for our trip. Little did I know it would be a long time before I would get another “store bought” dress.

When we got back home, we were in for some changes in our lives. The stock market had fallen and the results reached nearly everyone.

It was then that my father decided to sell the half section where we were living as it had a mortgage, which he was afraid he could not keep up. We would move two miles east on to the pre-emption, build a larger house and settle there. This effort got off to a good start but after exhausting all the credit he could get for lumber, we still had just a shell for a house with no inside walls finished and no ceiling.

Helen and Elvinus, married Nov. 20, 1950

Helen and Elvinus, married Nov. 20, 1950

The 30’s were known as the “dirty thirties” because of the frequent dust storms, which were the result of dry pulverized soil and Saskatchewan wind. It is hard to describe those storms but it was common to have to light lamps in the middle of the day and shake the dust out of the bed sheets before going to bed. No one knows how much dust we ate with our meals or how much we breathed in. The 30’s were more than dirty. Money was almost non-existent. It was hard to feed a family of three on a relief voucher of $5.00 a month. Food was cheaper of course, but I can assure you we didn’t live by the Canada Food Guide. In fact, according to today’s rules we should have all died of food poisoning. We canned meat, fruit, and vegetables, even tomatoes without a pressure cooker. We didn’t know there were such things as pressure cookers. We even opened the sealers and ate the contents without cooking them, especially pork and beans and chicken. There was no such thing as pasteurized milk. Where did we get our food? Most people had a garden, and even if the potatoes were small, we made use of them. Then there were chickens and eggs and most people had a milk cow. One year my father was able to raise $10.00 to buy a pig and we felt like kings having ham and bacon to eat. The only meats we purchased at the store were bologna and wieners, but believe it or not, they tasted good. Partly because they were something different, and partly because they were made out of good meat rather than the junk we get now. We usually got a supply of flour so pancakes with chokecherry syrup and chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles were common foods. Mentioning chokecherry syrup brings to mind hours spent in the coulees picking berries. Saskatoons were the main fruit but we also picked gooseberries, chokecherries and sometimes we would find pincherries, wild raspberries and even a few wild strawberries.

I must acknowledge the help we got from Eastern Canada. They sent boxcar loads of food, potatoes, turnips, apples and even codfish. The codfish is a story of its own. It was dried and most people did not know how to cook it so it became the brunt of many jokes. We also got baled hay for our animals. These were square bales tied with wire, which was carefully stored away and used to wire together worn out machinery.

What was school like in the 30’s? The simple answer- very different from today. We lived in a rather isolated area so school meant driving several miles. My school life began at Wheatbelt School, but only lasted a few weeks when my parents got the correspondence courses and taught me at home. I went to Valentine school in grade two and again from grades six to nine. Valentine was the usual one room school with one teacher and grades one to ten. It was one of the older schools in the district but it did have some features that most schools did not. There was a basement and furnace in contrast to many schools where there was no basement and a potbelly stove for heat. We were also fortunate to have indoor chemical toilets for winter use only. Our school library consisted of one bookcase and a big dictionary. There were no lights in the school so for a couple of months in the winter we came at 9:30 because it was too dark to see the blackboard at 9:00. Our most common game was baseball. We didn’t have enough players to make two teams so we often played “move up”. Our equipment was one bat, one catcher’s mitt and one soft ball which often had to be taken home to be re-sewn. Other games we played were hide and go seek, anti-I-over, pompom-pull-away and prisoner’s base. In winter there was fox and goose or on cold days we played tag in the basement. We also were fortunate to have a hill just outside the school yard so nice days found us out there with sleds and toboggans. Of course, there was no such thing as running water. One of the families brought a cream can of water each day and we brought our own drinking cups and a towel. In winter we heated water for washing in a pail held in the furnace (on a poker). In summer the boys often carried the wash water out into a pasture across the fence to drown out gophers so they could get the tails to sell.

Hermansons Year: 2000

Year: 2000

We didn’t have many extra-curricular events, but there were two that we looked forward to each year, the Christmas concert and field day. There were only 15 to 20 of us, so everyone was involved in the Christmas program. We started about the end of November or first of December by choosing our dialogues, recitations, songs, etc. and deciding who would take each part. We got our parts copied and began memorizing them, and as soon as Christmas exams were over we began practicing them. The men put up a stage in the front of the school and hung curtains. When the night of the concert came we would all be dressed in our best clothes and we were very excited. There were gas lamps hung from the ceiling and a Christmas tree with lighted candles. The school would be packed to capacity. I can just imagine the fire departments of today going into a place like that! I’m sure there must have been some fires, but I never heard of any. At the close of the program, Santa arrived and we all got a bag of candy. We also drew names so each of us gave and got one gift.

The other big event was field day when all the schools in the area met for track and field events. Even though we were a small school, we had some very athletic children although I was not one of them. I do remember getting the odd blue or white ribbon, but I don’t think I ever got a red one. We did well though and over one three year period, we won the shield for highest number of points each year and earned the right to keep it permanently.

In 1939, there was another big change in our lives. My father had suffered from arthritis for years and he was now farming under very adverse circumstances. He had never owned a tractor and during the winter of 38-39 we lost our two best horses to encephalitis, so we had to hire someone to do the farming. By this time I was in grade 10, the last year I could go to the country school, so the decision was made to move into Pennant. That winter we lived in a bunk car, a sort of trailer used by threshing crews. How three of us survived in those small quarters, I don’t know, but we made it through the winter and in the spring we were able to move the house in from the farm. Very few improvements had been made on the house over the years, but for appearance sake we had covered the living room walls with cardboard boxes and papered over them. As finances improved we began, little by little to make the house more livable, and before leaving Pennant we even had it wired for electricity. There was still no running water.

School days in Pennant came with some new challenges. Instead of just one classmate, I now had six or seven except in Grade XII when there were just four of us. Pennant had a four room school and a library, small by today’s standards, but much larger than we had in the country school. The full basement, half for girls and half for boys, also provided a lunchroom and a chemistry lab, and a little room where the janitor, Ab Smith, lived. Ab was good to us often treating us to his cooking which didn’t always look appetizing. We tried it anyway, even his rabbit stew. We had very few extra-curricular activities; these were war years and there was rationing of food and gasoline and any extra money we might get went into Victory Bonds. During the war, we had a daily ritual where each morning we gathered in the hall to sing “God Save the King” and salute the flag, which would then be taken out and raised on the flagpole for the day. Several of the students volunteered for army service, some even quitting school to do so. With so many men in the army, the work force opened up to women. Banking for example had been a male domain, but now women were in the teller’s cage counting out the cash.

After completing High School, my ambition was to go to Regina and enter Business College, but a couple of problems emerged. The first was financial. We had come through the “dirty thirties” with nothing. My father was unable to work and income from a half section of land with only about 125 acres cultivated was hardly adequate for living expenses without even thinking about education. Secondly, my mother’s health was failing and I felt I was needed at home. My plans were changed to a correspondence course and working at odd jobs, mostly babysitting which paid from 35¢-50¢ a night, or housework which paid 75¢-$1.00 a day.

Upon my completion of my course, a position opened up as secretary treasurer of the Village. It was only a part time position paying $20.00 a month. It was during this time that Health Region #1 was organized. A group of men representing several municipalities and headed by Carl Kjorven, Reeve of the R.M. of Riverside, were meeting to work out the details of the Health Plan. Our overseer (Mayor) J.C. Hughes, was deeply involved in this procedure and often invited the group to our Village office for their planning meetings. They sent a delegation to Regina to discuss their plan with the provincial government who agreed to enact legislation to make possible the formation of Health Region #1. This was a boost to my finances. The Health Region and later the Saskatchewan Hospital Services Plan required that residents be registered and pay a premium and it became the responsibility of the Municipalities to take on this task. Both plans paid a commission for these registrations and collections, and since this was extra work for the Secretaries, the commission was usually given to them.

A couple of years later I had the opportunity to add another part-time job to my activities. The district had organized a Credit Union. The manager was a grain buyer who handled the Credit Union affairs from the elevator office. This did not work well and the growth of the organization became somewhat stagnant so they approached me with the suggestion that I take over the management and run it from the Village office. About the same time I was given the opportunity to act as payer for Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. None of these jobs paid much, but put together I was able to eke out a living.

My mother had passed away in 1944 after a bout with cancer and my father’s arthritis was steadily worsening so I found myself settling into my numerous jobs and keeping house for my father. However, one day an unexpected guest appeared at our home, a gentleman from Stewart Valley, whom I had met a number of years before when attending a camp meeting at 17-Mile Bridge. He was several years my senior so I had pretty much forgotten about him but apparently he had not forgotten me. With a little encouragement from a mutual friend, his visits came more often and included outings on several occasions. You have probably guessed this man was Elvinus Hermanson. In due time a diamond appeared and wedding plans were being made.

We had set a date for our wedding and Elvinus was busy helping build a house in Swift Current, which we expected to make our home. Then, one day when Elvinus came to see me he said he wanted to show me something. We drove down to the Saskatchewan Landing, crossed the river on the ferry and drove through miles of pasture, opening and closing gates every few miles. Finally, we came around a hill and there was a brick colored house and a big red barn. We went in the house, which was only about two years old, with nicely painted walls, a row of kitchen cupboards, tile floor in the kitchen, and hardwood in the other rooms. After looking it over, Elvinus asked me if I thought I could be happy there. For a young woman who had lived in an unfinished house most of her life, this was a dream come true. I certainly could never say no!

I learned a lot about that place in the weeks that followed. The building site, bordered on the south by the South Saskatchewan River and on the north by a large hill, also consisted of a house, barn, chicken coop and garage actually built into the side of the hill. This had been the “winter quarters” of the old Matador ranch. When the Matador ceased operation, most of their holdings became a community pasture, some of which was later converted to the Matador Co-op Farm in the west, and the Beechy Co-op farm in the east. Several miles of riverfront were leased to private ranchers. The “winter quarters” was one of those ranches and was originally leased to Lawrence Omatch, who later sold his interest to Perrin Ranching Co. When Perrins had the opportunity to secure the Minor Ranch a few miles downstream, they contacted the Hermanson Brothers about taking over the old “winter quarters”. The offer was accepted and the deal was made. The ranch was really not too far from the Hermanson homestead, however, there was a river between and to get from one side to the other by road was about seventy five miles and took nearly three hours since there was a ferry to cross, winding “wagon rut” roads, and a possible fourteen barbed wire gates to open and close. Transportation would be much better in winter when one could cross the river on the ice.

We were married in a quiet ceremony in Swift Current in November of 1950. A day or two into our honeymoon it turned bitterly cold. When we got as far west as Lethbridge, the thermometer registered -20°F. This was considered very cold for Lethbridge so we decided it was time to head back home. The ice on the river was thick enough to cross so moving was not a problem. We realized that our roads might be impassable in winter so we went to Swift Current and bought a good supply of groceries: flour, sugar, oatmeal, coffee, and cases of pork and beans, tomatoes, and vegetables, a total of $91.00 worth which was a lot at that time.

That first winter we had 44 calves to look after and a herd of over 100 older animals so most of Elvinus’ time was spent hauling hay and straw and opening water holes in the river. We had hired help for part of the winter but he left and Walter helped haul some of the feed. The roads blocked up about January 20th so transportation after that was by team and sleigh with one exception. In mid-February we went to Swift Current by plane. Small planes, equipped with skis would land out in the country to provide this type of winter transportation. With spring came a period of about two weeks isolation during the time when the ice on the river was unsafe to cross and the road north was still blocked with snow. That year the ice finally moved out on April 7th and we were able to get a large bundle of mail, via boat, across the river.

Our first years on the ranch were a curious mixture of pioneer and modern life. We had a late model pick-up truck but our roads to the north were winding “wagon trail” ruts and we were connected to the district south of the river by a telephone run on fence wires- a break in the wire or a rain made it useless. We had a power plant, which produced 110-volt A.C current and was meant to start at the push of a switch but we often found ourselves pulling a rope and if that failed we had to resort to the faithful kerosene lamp. There was a coal and wood stove for cooking and a furnace for heat, which meant coal to haul, wood to cut and ashes to carry out. Water was hauled to a cistern in the basement and conveyed to the kitchen by a hand pump. We had a tractor for haying and hauling in summer but most of the feeding in winter was by team and sleigh. Holes were cut in the ice to water the cowherd and water for the calves came from a shallow well near the river equipped with a hand pump. It often required a kettle of hot water to thaw it out, followed by an hour of pumping.

Our nearest neighbor to the north was the Beechy Co-op Farm, a distance of about six miles. They were just getting organized and were almost as new to the area as we were. On the south, C.H. Funk had a winter residence about a mile downstream from us. Throughout the years several different families lived there in winter and they were often our main social contact during the cold winter months. No doubt most people thought we were living dull, isolated lives, and there were times when I would have to agree, but there were also some interesting and scary times.

Elvinus and his brother Walter operated the farm and ranch in partnership until 1962 so we had interests on both sides of the river. During seeding and harvest, Elvinus spent a lot of time up at the farm. To facilitate transportation we kept an old car or truck on the south side and boated across the river in a small rowboat. I went along sometimes but often he left early in the morning and got back late. Sometimes he stayed overnight and I would be left alone for a few days. The first year my father stayed with us but he found our pioneering life rather hard so the second winter he went to Vancouver. He returned in the spring but decided to go back permanently.

In the summer of 1951, we attended the opening of the Saskatchewan Landing Bridge. No more waiting for the ferry! No more paying to cross late at night! That is what we thought, but that convenience came to a temporary end the following spring. Watching the ice break up on the river was always interesting. We could sit by our living room window and watch huge blocks of ice tip on end and break off another piece. While we were anticipating this event in the spring of 1952, we got some alarming news. There was an ice jam about three or four miles upstream from the ranch and the river flat was flooded. A blasting crew was sent out with dynamite to break up the ice jam but they were unsuccessful. The following morning, April 6th, we woke up at about 5:00 a.m. to see huge blocks of ice going down the river and water nearly up to our barn. We turned on the radio and got the morning news. The bridge was gone!

Another milestone in our lives happened in August of 1952 with the birth of our first child, Elwin. Because of our location I decided it would be best to stay with friends in Swift Current to await the birth, and since this baby was in no hurry to arrive, I was away from home for nearly a month. It must have been difficult for the haying crew but somehow they survived. During Elwin’s early years one memory stands out. Elwin, age almost three, and I were going to a Tupperware party at one of the neighbors. We took off in the truck, only standard shift in those days, facing poor roads, gates to open, and I did not have much driving experience. After going through the first gate, I put the truck in neutral and got out to close the gate. After closing it I turned around to see the truck rolling back towards me. Seconds later it hit the gatepost where I had been standing. Only God’s protecting hand had kept me from being crushed.

The Hermanson Ranch Year: circa 1965 The Hermanson Ranch before Lake Diefenbaker was created. Old Matador "dugout" buildings can be seen in the upper portion of this photo.

The Hermanson Ranch
Year: circa 1965
The Hermanson Ranch before Lake Diefenbaker was created. Old Matador “dugout” buildings can be seen in the upper portion of this photo.

In September 1955, our second son, Norlyn, was born. About three months after his birth, I was scheduled for thyroid surgery. I had a neighbor girl care for Elwin while Norlyn was left with his Aunt Clarine. While I was in the hospital, we had a three-day blizzard, which created transportation problems, and I was forced to stay in Swift Current an extra day while the men shoveled out the snow drifts. This was followed by another blizzard just before Christmas. In all our years on the ranch, this was the only time we had to use team and sleigh to go to Walter and Clarine’s for Christmas. It was also the Christmas when we got word of Elvinus’ father’s death. Fortunately, the district south of the river had a snowplow and was able to get roads passable for the funeral.

Life on the ranch was somewhat a yearly routine. January and February were a steady grind of feeding cattle and opening water holes in the river. March was dehorning time and preparation for spring. April was fence repair and constantly checking the herd for newborn calves. May was seeding up at the farm and later on our own on the north side. Late June or early July was branding calves. This was an interesting occasion. Often the riders would gather the herd the day before and then get up early on branding day, bring the cattle into the corral, separate the cows and calves and heat up the branding irons. Neighboring ranchers came to help so there could be a good-sized crew. At first, the calves were roped and held down by a couple of cowboys while the needles, ear tags, and brands were applied but later we purchased a calf table so the calves could be run through a chute where they were caught in a head gate, then the table was tipped over for easy access. It was hard work but also a time of socializing. July and August were haying months when Walter, Derwood, sometimes other family members and hired help would come and spend hours in the hayfield to get a good supply of feed for the coming winter. Over the years, haying evolved from a mower, rake and loose hay operation to the more modern baler and bale wagon. Then came harvest, which was a joint affair until 1962. This meant Elvinus would be spending much of his time up at the farm. The next big event was weaning the calves. The herd was rounded up and the calves separated and kept in the corral while the cows wandered around the yard constantly bellowing for about three days. Now the job of feeding and watering calves had begun heralding the return of another winter.

1958 was another important year in our lives. That was the year we were connected to Sask. Power. We could now have an electric stove, fridge, freezer and numerous other appliances, and a light in the yard. This year for the first time since our marriage, we took a real holiday. On June 10th we set out for Oregon where we would attend Elvinus’ nephew’s wedding. It was a long trip for the four of us in the cab of a half-ton truck, but after a couple stops on the way, we finally saw the Pacific Ocean. We came home via Vancouver where we visited Elvinus’ sister and my father. That fall we faced another problem; Elwin was now school age and not only was the school several miles away, but we discovered we were not even in a school district. So, we got the correspondence course and I added teaching to my daily chores. The most tragic event of our lives on the ranch also happened in 1958. While assisting some of the neighbors to swim cattle across the river, our hired man was thrown off his horse and drowned.

For a number of years governments had talked of building a dam on the river near Outlook. We had heard the story so many times that we didn’t get too excited when the subject came up again in the late 50’s, but this time we found out it was for real. It was really going to happen! Soon our quiet valley came alive with archaeologists roaming the hills for artifacts, PFRA people checking the terrain, and crews with bulldozers taking down trees. Our buildings were close to the river and we were told our building site would be less than forty feet from the water so we began negotiating with the PFRA to relocate. After checking water levels, soil stability, etc. a site was chosen about a mile and a half upstream.

The summer of 1966 was a very busy time. A road had to be built to the new site making it possible to move the house and barn. A road to the north was also built which was a great improvement in our accessibility to the Beechy area. Another early activity was drilling a well. The drillers had almost given up when at 360 feet they struck water, an artesian well with salty water and enough natural gas that you could light a flame at the top of the well. The water was too salty to drink, but good for all other purposes, and best of all it would be piped into the house so at last we would have water on tap. Water bowls were also installed for the cattle- no more pumping! The power line also had to be extended to the new site. Throughout the entire summer there were crews putting in water lines, power lines, a basement for the house, a foundation and floor for the barn, building sheds, corrals, a shop, etc. Early in the moving process we had purchased the Vendale School and moved it to the new site and it was there that we lived while the house was being moved. Cooking for work crews on a two-burner camp stove was not easy and I can assure you I was glad to get back in the house. During the following year, we watched as the water level began to rise and the old landmarks were swallowed up, never to be seen again. I remember Elwin taking his little sister, Fern, who was five years old, and telling her she should remember how it looked because she would never see it again, however, she says she does not remember it.

By 1961 our family was complete and consisted of:

Elwin Norris born Aug. 1952

Norlyn Edward born Sept. 1955

Evelyn Fern born Jan. 1961

In 1962, we made some changes in our farming operation when Walter took over the farm on the south side of the river and we purchased the Lopeter land on the north side. This brought about a shift in business and more contact with the Beechy area. Over the next few years, we saw many changes. Our quiet little valley was to be changed forever. The river became Lake Diefenbaker and was now about a mile wide and became a fishing attraction. Our boys got involved and I cleaned so many fish that I began to wish I would never see a fish again. Our little rowboat was no match for this body of water so a motorboat replaced it, but since we had less interest on the south side, the boat became more of a pleasure craft. Over the next few years we could look out our window and see the beginning of what is now the Resort Village of Beaver Flat on river flats we used to farm. How different to see lights and civilization across the water!

The 1970’s were reasonably good years. Grain and cattle prices had their ups and downs, but on the whole conditions were good and this brought about improvements in equipment including irrigation and what I suppose our boys appreciated most, a bale wagon. We also invested in a small caterpillar tractor equipped to clear roads in winter. This became very useful when our boys got drivers’ licenses and got involved in youth groups on both sides of the lake.

Both Elvinus and I had been brought up in homes where God’s Word and church were important, and although our location and roads restricted our church attendance, we endeavored to pass these values on to our children. Perhaps because of this and also a desire to get away from home, Elwin decided to go to Bible School at Eston. Norlyn followed and in due time Fern also went. So, for nine years we had one member of our family at Eston. Having teenagers found us attending functions in Eston, Beechy, summer camp and hosting Bible school friends on weekends.

The late 70’s saw both of our sons marry, and since both showed an interest in farming and age was taking a toll on Elvinus’ ability, we decided it was time to turn the business over to the next generation. In 1978, Elwin and his wife Gail (Barr) were busy building a new house, Norlyn and Bonnie (Anderson) were making wedding plans and we were redecorating the house in Swift Current that Elvinus had built thirty years earlier. In 1979 we said good-bye to the ranch and retired in Swift Current. In 1982 Fern married Greg Howe and settled in Eston.

Since that time the family has increased and now consists of:

Elwin & Gail and family: Ehren (1980), Byron (1981), and Marlyn (1985).

Norlyn & Bonnie and family: Darla (1980) and husband Halden Lindbjerg – great-granddaughter Aida (2004), Devin (1983), Anders (1985), Perry (1986), and Marysa (1997).

Fern & Greg Howe and family: Amanda (1987), Brett (1990), and Clay (1991).

Elvinus passed away in 1993 and I am now living in a comfortable condo in Swift Current.