Home Town or Home Community:

Crane Valley

Our Story:

James Raymond Steward’s Autobiography

James Raymond Steward was born in the northwest corner bedroom downstairs in hisgrandfathers’ house on Section 16, Twp 19, Rge27, W 2nd Meridian on October 31, 1916.The attending physician was Dr. Storey of Tuxford. His father was William Albert Steward of the Crane Valley District and formerly of Avondale, Iowa. His mother was Margaret Alicia Steward who was formerly a Franks and was born in Peterborough, Ontario and brought to Tuxford by her parents.

A house was built two years before his birth and consisted of two large rooms downstairs, one a living room and one a kitchen dining room with a lean too summer kitchen. The upstairs had 3 bedrooms, one for the family, one for the hired man and one for the teacher or hired girl.

The heating system consisted of a combustion heater cook stove and a heater in the living room had an Isenglass door. One of Raymond’s fondest memories is one of his dad sitting in a chair reading to Raymond while a roaring fire showed through the glass door.

The upstairs heating system was stove pipes going up into the upper rooms with two small registers. On cold winter nights when the fire went out, the bed clothes would freeze to the bed while sleeping. There was a full basement where the vegetables, canned fruits, beef, pork and chickens were stored. The supplies which came from Readlyn which included apples also were stored there. It gave Raymond great pleasure to go down and get one.

In the summer, Raymond watched his mother milk the cows while the cats, dogs and calves played around him. This was part of Raymond’s lifelong love of animals. As he grew older he played with the colts that were left in the corral while the mares were in the field working. On one occasion a colt, anxious to get to its mother kicked Raymond in the head and knocked him unconscious. This led to a healthy respect of animals. On another occasion a young colt got blood poisoning in its navel. Although Raymond and his mother bathed it in cold water and gave it whatever medicine that was available at the time, the colt finally died. This made Raymond respect death and knew that it could come to those things which you loved.

Schoolchildren Year: 1924 Place Name: Marygold Marygold School #3438

Year: 1924
Place Name: Marygold
Marygold School #3438

Raymond’s formal education started at Marigold School # 3438 which was 2 miles west of their home. This one room school had a cloakroom and a wash room. The toilets where outside beside the barn which housed the horses that the children rode to school. There were double desks with two pupils side by side. The desks were put to the side for dances and special events.

The school was heated by a pot bellied stove. The children would set their frozen lunches on the stove to thaw out. As their lunches warmed up the lids often blew off.

The teachers were young men and women from the Normal School who had very little experience, but with extensive knowledge and managed to maintain good discipline.

As a result, Raymond did very well in this school and continued there until a school was eventually built in Crane Valley. The school was the centre of all social activities including picnics, Christmas concerts, dance, political meetings etc.

In the summer student ministers gave Raymond his first touch of bible study and hymn singing. His favourite hymn was “Bringing in the Sheaves”.

The closest town for the first ten years of his life was Readlyn. It was 18 miles to the south. One of the highlights of the summer would be trips with his mother and his Aunt, Mrs. Seth Steward, behind the old horse Maggie which was hitched to the buggy. Buggy trips in the summer and sleigh rides in the winter were often taken to the Kenny’s.

Most of the shopping was done in Readlyn. The larger items were ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue which came by mail to Crane Valley post office or were sent to Readlyn.

Hauling grain to Readlyn was an all day job, having to leave in the morning and returning late at night. Raymond learned at an early age to help his mother do chores such as milking or feeding the animals so that his dad could leave early.

When it was necessary to go to Moose Jaw, it meant hitching the team, driving to Readlyn, putting the horses in the livery stable, then catch the train to Moose Jaw which would take almost a complete day for a one way trip. While in Moose Jaw they visited their Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.

Here he was introduced to silent movies and street cars. The Robinson McBain building was a favourite shopping spot of his mother. So while she shopped, Raymond enjoyed riding the elevator repeatedly. About 1920 Raymond was introduced to the scientific wonder of the telephone. How could a voice come over those little wires? His mother was also enthralled with it and would listen or talk on it most of the day.

In 1920, his Aunt Ada Kenny who lived three miles away had a baby called Gordon. Raymond was intrigued with this baby who became a lifelong friend. From his birth Raymond was in close contact with his cousins, Iona, Gladys and Ruby (Seth Steward’s girls). They were older and he learned much from them. While visiting them he was often taken to Sunday School at Bliss Lake.

Raymond watched his dad make many frantic trips to Readlyn to get medicine for many neighbours who contacted the “flu” He also watched the deep concern of his father who went to Seth Stewarts’s to do chores and take supplies when Seth had Small Pox.

Raymond remembers their first Model T Ford. He remembers the accident they had while his father was an inexperienced driver. He also remembers that the car made for quicker trips to Readlyn and Moose Jaw. The trips to Readlyn involved such antics as backing up the hills because the Model T had more power in reverse. He remembers trips to Moose Jaw through the sand hills on Number 2 highway, which was just a graded trail through the sand. On several occasions the sand would drift into the ruts which required putting sacks or rugs under the tires to get started after being stuck.

Raymond heard his first radio in 1922. Jim Kenny ( his uncle) had arranged for a “cat whisker and a crystal” to make what was called a “crystal Set”. Stations such as CHAB, Moose Jaw; CKCK, Regina were available through ear phones.

First Tractor Year: 1927 International 15 - 30 tractor.

First Tractor
Year: 1927
International 15 – 30 tractor.

In 1923 Nels Franks who was their hired man and two neighbours built their first “peanut tube radio”. With this Radio they were able to receive KOL, Salt Lake City; WOC, Des Moines, Iowa; WLC, Chicago and many more. In 1924 Raymond watched the railroad surveyors directly north of their farm. That year a bad hailstorm pounded down a lovely crop of oats.

In 1925 people began to move into Crane Valley. Soon there were many children who walked to Marigold school with Raymond. They experimented smoking dock weed and horse manure. Raymond didn’t like the taste, so consequently he never smoked.

In 1926, Raymond and his “Puppy” watched the railroad being built with elevator graders pulled by 24 mules. In the fall of 1926 the railroad was completed and the first train ran past the farm.

This train and the ones of the future were pulled by a steam engine and had box cars for grain, a passenger car and a caboose. A railroad station, three elevators, a community hall, two lumber yards, two stores and a two room school and many residences were quickly built in Crane Valley.

The school was divided into Grades 1 to 6 in one room and 7 to 12 in the other room with student in each room. Marigold school was then moved to Crane Valley and became the United Church with the idea that it could be used as a school if necessary, which it did later.

In 1927 William build a large barn with a cement floor, a large area for cattle and horses and a large loft. Raymond enjoyed helping with chores in the bottom of the barn, but the loft was the most intriguing area. He and his friends spent many hours up there going hand over hand on the track that carried the hay car.

In the fall of 1927 Raymond’s mother developed a blood clot in her leg which made it necessary to take her to Rochester, Minnesota. This ride on the “Continental Train” with sleeper cars, dining cars and porters was a great adventure for Raymond. Arriving in Minnesota they stayed at the Nicolette Hotel which was a new hotel with glass door knobs, elevators, fancy beds and bathrooms. The next morning they boarded the” Rochester Special”, a red train with brass fittings which could go 100 miles per hour.

Raymond’s mother was put into the Mayo Clinic. He and his dad spent much time in the animal park. Within a month his mother was better so they traveled to Iowa to visit his Grandparents, and many of his fathers brothers , sister and cousins. While there they attended a Klu Klux Klan meeting. Raymond learned how deep rooted prejudice could be. Before leaving for home they bought a factory made Attwater- Kent radio.

The community hall became the centre of dances, chautauqua traveling shows which was a week of entertainment extravaganzas including plays, musical programs, and speakers.

In 1928 the Steward’s had one of the best crops they had ever had. By now they had a 15-30 International tractor and Sawyer Massey threshing machine by which they did their own crop. They had a very successful year on the farm.

Unfortunately Raymond’s Grandmother died at Tuxford that year and they had to travel through miles of mud to get to the funeral. In 1929 Raymond’s dad built a new modern house with a large Hicklow furnace in the basement and electrical wiring. Raymond had his own room. There was lots of room for the rest of the family, the hired girls and men, and for company.

In 1929 they bought a new Dodge sedan. It was a black six cylinder car with ample room for six passengers. 1929 was a fair crop but the grain market crashed in November which caused everyone a great deal of concern. The next four years were a disaster. Dry weather and dust storms made it necessary to feed the cattle Russian thistle hay.

Raymond’s schooling was progressing well and as the school population was increasing, it was necessary for him to take grade 11 and 12 in the church building mentioned before. He was very interested in school work and organized a literary society. He also participated in debates, mock trials and radio programs.

1934-35 was a very snowy year. It piled into the trees near the house so high that Elva Sewell who was boarding with them, and Raymond, would have to step over the telephone wires on their way to school.

Next year was the end of dust storms but the wheat rusted badly. In the fall of 1935 Raymond went to Moose Jaw and stayed with his uncle Ivor Brekken and took second year University at Central Collegiate. At this time he became very fond of his uncle Ivor and went down to the Robin Hood mill with him. On the 24th of May that year, which was a very windy day, he went to the top of the Robin Hood mill to put up the flag.

In 1936 it was back to dry weather and dust storms. Raymond didn’t go back to school that fall. He and his dad together with two 4 horse outfits hauled 18 ton of coal from the mines in Readlyn to heat the house in winter. Money was very scarce and so coal could be bought for $1.87 per ton if hauled from the mine. These trips to the mine were very unpleasant, starting at 2:00 am and getting back at 3:00 PM. They had to unload the coal, sleep for a short time and then be back on the road again. This went on for 3 days in a row.

Wedding of Raymond and Bessie Year: 1942 Raymond married Elisabeth Ruth (Bessie) McGrath, a teacher who had boarded at the Steward's, on October 12, 1942. Up until that time not a bushel of grain had been threshed.

Wedding of Raymond and Bessie
Year: 1942
Raymond married Elisabeth Ruth (Bessie) McGrath, a teacher who had boarded at the Steward’s, on October 12, 1942. Up until that time not a bushel of grain had been threshed.

1937 was a year to end all years. Jim Kenny and family decided to go to Quesnel, BC. In the spring they left with all of their belongings. A little bit of crop did come up. It looked like there might be some Russian thistle to put up as hay for the cattle. Then along came the army worms. By the time they were done they had eaten everything in their path. There was no grain and no Russian thistles either.

As there was no crop to be taken off, Raymond and his dad fixed up the car with sleeping accommodations and went to Yellowstone Park over the Red Lodge road. This was a wonderful experience for Raymond, however, his dad got sick due to the height of the roads. The sites and experiences were one of the best things they had ever done. On returning home Raymond’s dad went to Manitoba to buy hay to feed the cattle during winter.

1938 was another disappointing year. There was enough rain to produce a good crop but it was badly rusted. Also the 15-30 tractor, which had never given any trouble, decided to break down at threshing time. Raymond had to use Jim Kenny’s old “Waterloo Boy” tractor, that he had left for them to sell, to finish harvesting. In 1938 Raymond also rented a ½ section of land but the crop hardly paid for the expenses.

1939 was not much better but there was enough crop to grow feed for the cattle.

1940 was the turnaround year. The Steward farm was the best it had ever been. It was so good they paid all of the debts and even bought a new 1940 Dodge car.

Now let us consider Raymond’s life by categories rather than year by year and let the first category be family.

In 1937 after returning from Yellowstone Park, there was a new teacher, Bessie McGrath, living at the Seth Steward’s. Upon meeting her, Raymond became very interested and they continued to court for 5 years. In 1941 he and his mother, father and Bessie took a trip to Banff to visit the Brekkens who were also visiting Banff. Then they went to Jasper, on to North Battleford and back to Moose Jaw.

After the trip their relationship became very serious and they decided to get married. Raymond’s dad gave them a parcel of land on the NW quarter of section 25 to build a house and so Raymond bought a house and moved it there. In 1942 they were married on October 12 in the Grant Hall Hotel in Moose Jaw. The year they were married was a very wet year and not a bushel of grain had been harvested. By the end of the fall all of the harvesting was completed and Bessie and Raymond finished working on their new home.

On April 26, 1944 their first daughter Marilyne was born followed by their second daughter Patricia on June 3, 1946. On June 30, 1949, Nancy was born. She was to be the last until 1955 when Shirley was born on July 23. The four girls were Raymond’s main interest. He and Bessie saw to it that they went to Sunday school and to school with the best teachers possible. They also joined such groups as CGIT and 4H and they tried their hand at piano. 4H became the most important part of their education besides their school work. They all had grain plots and belonged to “Home Craft”. Marilyne won a trip to Toronto through 4H and Nancy won a trip to Prince Edward Island through school. All of the girls did well in school.

Marilyne became a dietician, Pat a teacher, Nancy and Shirley both became nurses.

Marilyne worked in Montreal, Ottawa and is presently lives and works Calgary. Nancy worked in PEI, Ottawa, and Saskatoon and is now a public health nurse in Edmonton. Pat taught school in Saskatoon and Regina. She married Larry Hesterman in 1968 and lived in Saskatoon where they had three boys, Chris, Kent and Kevin. Larry’s job eventually took them to Regina. Chris is an electronic engineer at Nortel in Ottawa. Kent teaches computers to high school students in Cochrane, AB and Kevin is and Optometrist in Red Deer, AB.

Pat worked as a child care provider for 10 years after her teaching, but now is a homemaker and enjoys it immensely when the boys come home.

After Shirley finished her nurses training, she worked at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina. While there she met Lorne Ozipko and in 1986 they were married. They moved to Roblin, MB. Shirley nursed there again until Ryan was born in 1988. Tracey was born in 1990. Lorne owned a Case International dealership until they sold the business and moved to Emerald Park where he works for Bourgault Industries.

Farmyard Year: 1960

Year: 1960

Raymond’s mother passed away in 1960 and his dad in 1965. Since then all of his aunts and uncles and most of his cousins in Canada and the USA have since passed away.

In the category of farming we must start in the 1920’s.

Raymond learned to milk cows, to harness horses and to do all of the chores before he was hardly tall enough to get the bridle over the horses head. He loved all animals, particularly his dog “Puppy”, and many cats who became the companions for this single child.

The primary farming power source on the Steward farm was two 6 horse outfits. In 1927 his dad bought a 15-30 International tractor. It became Raymond’s first interest and with the help of his self-taught Engineering skills he kept it going until 1953 when he bought a International WD 9. This tractor was the power source until 1965. In 1942 an International Farmall H was also purchased to do light duties such as to pull grain wagons and swathers. A backhoe was eventually attached to dig there water system to do custom work and to dig graves at the Crane Valley grave yard.

Tillage equipment consisted of plows for summer fallowing, drills for seeding and a disc to work the ground before seeding. Raymond did much of the plowing with the 15-30 tractor after school and on it he did much of his homework and prepared for exams.

The drill had always been pulled by horses on the Steward farm and the first disc was pulled by a 6 horse outfit and later by tractor. Then came the Tiller. It was a one way disc that had 24 inch diameter discs and a seeding attachment on top. After this came the discer which had 16 inch diameter discs and was much wider than the tiller. It also had seeding and fertilizer attachments on top. Cultivators were used very little on the Steward farm because it would not scour properly.

Threshing was done first by custom contract outfits and then by home owned threshing machines. Threshing time was always Raymond’s favourite time of year because of the comradery of the threshers who came to run the stook wagons.

Starting in 1941 a series of pull type combines and one self-propelled combine were used.

Raymond never liked the combine because it was just he and his dad and the comradery of the harvest was now lost.

Other farming practices also changed. After the blowing dust of the 1930’s, people started using fertilizers. This restored the land after the bad years of the 30’s. Also 2-4-D was introduced to kill stink weed and mustard. This was used until the end of Raymond’s farming career. He found that over the years stronger weeds emerged and consequently stronger chemicals were required.

During the 30’s Raymond and his dad milked 10 cows, shipped cream and sold calves for a little income. These cattle were fed Russian Thistle hay which they loved quite well. The hay was cut with a mower, raked into piles and hauled on wagon racks, then stacked or put in the loft. After 1941 horses weren’t used.

Raymond changed the barn over to accommodate cattle and pigs. They grew Short Horned cattle and bought a Holstein bull. He bred them with the Red Polls and Short Horns which gave good quality beef cattle that gave lots of milk. He bought calves to put on the cows so that each cow would raise two calves.

In another part of the barn he raised 30 to 50 pigs. These were the cash crop of the farm. When you took them to market you had instant cash. The grain and cattle income was used to pay the larger bills on the farm. Bessie and the girls always helped with the farm especially the garden which provided much needed produce.

During Raymond’s time on the farm, it was a way of life and Raymond was always involved in local community affairs. In school he organized the literary society, Christmas concerts, and field days. Later he graduated to 3 act plays. He was in two three act plays every year from 1935 to 1953. He was on the United Church Board and was Superintendent of the Sunday School for 37 years.

He was also interested in the Board of Trade and worked on highway committees until they got Highway 36 from Moose Jaw to Scobey, Montana. He was also involved in building the Crane Valley curling rink in 1946. Some years later he was President of the Curling Club and Draw Master. From 1940 until he quit farming in 1986, he was a member of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Committee. Served on another committee which was responsible for getting the new elevator in Crane Valley in 1982 and the rebuilding of the railroad.

He started on the local school board in 1950 and was chairman for over 20 years. During that time a new school was built in 1956 and an addition was built in1965. The 4H club was formed in1952 and in 1954 Raymond became leader of the Grain Club, later to be the Multiple Club. Wood working, auto mechanics as well as other things served the needs of the children at that time.

Oro Lake Regional Park was formed in 1960. Raymond was secretary when the park was developed including the building of the change houses, a concession, the water system and the installation of electricity. A large Quonset building was built for dances and other entertainment. Swimming lessons and an annual Park picnic were organized. While he was on the Church Board and the Board of Trade, he was instrumental in buying a motion picture projector. This was used for educational purposes and a weekly movie was shown from 1940 to 1953.

Raymond was always a volunteer grave digger and after 1953, when he bought his backhoe, he dug all of the graves with the help of other people. He continued this until he moved to Moose Jaw in 1982.Voluntarism is the rural way of life. Raymond took part in this along with Bessie and the girls the entire time he was on the farm and later in Moose Jaw at Timothy Eaton Gardens.

Raymond, Bessie and all of the girls loved to travel. A grade 12 trip was arranged for each of the girls. Marilyne went to California. Pat to Banff, Nancy to Expo 67 and PEI and Shirley went to Hawaii.

The first big trip included Raymond’s dad who went as far as Chilliwack to stay with the

Brekkens. This trip also included a visit with the Ross’s in California from whom Raymond had rented land. Their daughter Marion was just beginning her career as an actor. Marion became famous in the show “Happy Days” as the mother. Pat’s trip to Banff was a fun time. Nancy’s trip to Expo was a family affair together with Larry Hesterman. There was also a stop in Montreal to visit Marilyne who was interning there as a dietician. Shirley’s trip was their first trip to Hawaii and there first trip across the ocean.

After the girls left for university, Bessie and Raymond started to travel with Western Farm Tours. One trip was to California and Mexico, followed by a trip to Figi, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. Another trip was to the 6 islands of Hawaii. Trips to England, Scotland and Wales soon followed. Other tour companies then took them to Europe including the Scandinavian countries and in 1980 to the Passion Play at Oberammergau, Germany, Austria and Italy.

In 1978 Raymond and Larry took a trip to the Holy Land, which included Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Greece.

The Stewards also took a Winnebago motor home trip with Pat, Larry and their two sons Chris and Kent to Florida by way of Iowa then back up to the east coast and on to Ottawa to visit Marilyne.

Another interesting North American trip was taken by car, with Marilyne to Maine and Massachusetts, where Raymond’s ancestors had lived.

Bessie was not interested in exotic trips so Marilyne and Raymond traveled to Japan, China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. On another trip Marilyne and Raymond traveled to Kenya and Tanzania in Africa and their final trip was to Nepal and India. The whole family then had a trip to Hawaii where Raymond rented a condominium where the whole family came to enjoyed it very much.

There were many car trips to Vancouver, and Banff and one more Winnebago trip to Banff, which ended in disaster as the Winnebago broke down.

Raymond and Bessie’s retirement started when they bought a house in Moose Jaw at 1259 Albert St. It is a brick bungalow with a garage and a large number of fruit trees. For 5 years they returned to Crane Valley in the summer to supervise the hired farm work. After that the farm was rented.

Bessie resumed her interest in the Rebecca Lodge and Raymond became interested in outdoor lawn bowling. They both attend Zion United Church which was Bessie’s church when she was a girl. They are both involved in Timothy Eaton Gardens where Raymond ran a program called “Coffemates” which Bessie attended. Indoor lawn bowling and shuffleboard are also an interest. Timothy Eaton Gardens is a place of retired farmers and former acquaintances. It is as close to a setting of a rural area as you will get anywhere. It has been a life saver for us and has kept us from getting bored in the city.

Raymond could not break his association with animals completely and they still have a cat or two since they moved to Moose Jaw.

Editor’s notes of August 2005:

Raymond and Bessie continue to live in their own home and occupy their time by gardening, visiting friends and family and in church activities. They enjoy reasonable good health and retirement has been a pleasant and rewarding experience.