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Memories of the Early Years

A bit of genealogy to begin this story –

My father was Albert Joseph Wheaton born to Joseph and Jane (Robertson) Wheaton in Whyton, ON on June 8, 1882. My grandfather was married twice, both times to a Jane, and my father was the oldest son of the second marriage. He went to Woodstock College, taught at Stevensville, ON, for a short time, then came West to Brandon MB and taught in the Indian Residential School.

My mother was Electa Jane Rutledge born to George and Jane Rutledge in Hornings Mills, ON on July 29 1880. She was the second oldest of four daughters. She had five brothers. She too came West to the Indian School in Brandon where she and my father met. She moved to Winnipeg, MB in 1905 and worked for the T. Eaton Company in their Mail Order Department. My father also moved to Winnipeg where he drove a streetcar, worked on the construction of the St. James Bridge and got his electrician’s papers shortly after high school and worked on the building of the Union Station. Father and Mother were married on June 26,1907 by my mother’s brother, the Reverend Richard Rutledge at his home in St. Charles, MB, a suburb at the west end of Winnipeg. The newlyweds moved into a very small house on College Street, St. James, just north of Portage Avenue and behind the Royal Bank. I was born there on August 10, 1909.

Electa and A. J. (Albert Joseph) Year: circa 1932 C. A.'s parents on their 25 th Wedding Anniversary

Electa and A. J. (Albert Joseph)
Year: circa 1932
C. A.’s parents on their 25 th Wedding Anniversary

We moved to Saskatoon on May 8, 1911 and took up residence at 328 Avenue I South where my parents bought a house which was still under construction. The city was experiencing a building “boom” and the only way to find a place to live was to buy one.

My father became the new Electrical Inspector for the City of Saskatoon and remained in that position until he and my Uncle C. R. formed the Wheaton Electric in 1913. While my father was Electrical Inspector he compiled the first electrical code for the City of Saskatoon.

The Company had a shop in a barn at the rear of 328 Avenue I, South and the office was in the back bedroom of the house. One of the first contracts was to do the electrical work on the men’s residence – Qu’Appelle Hall – on the University of Saskatchewan Campus.

In the early ‘teens the Company moved to 315 20th Street, West where it remained until the twenties then moved to 236 2nd Avenue South, premises originally occupied by the Bank of Nova Scotia. The Bank of Nova Scotia was in 234 2nd Avenue, South. In the early thirties the Bank amalgamated with the Merchants Bank and moved to their building on the West side of the street in the middle of the 100 Block South. The Wheaton Electric moved into 234 2nd Avenue, South and subsequently bought the building from the Bank of Nova Scotia. The Company stayed there until December 31, 1959, operating a Retail Store, a complete Service Facility and an Electrical Construction Division.

On Jan. 1, 1960, the latter division opened at 615 1st Avenue, North and remained there until it was sold on June 1, 1965 as a “going concern” to Sun Electric of Regina.

The Wheaton Electric did the electrical work in many buildings some of which are:

Qu’Appelle Hall

The Chemistry Building

Walter Murray Memorial Library

Memorial Union Building

Addition to Qu’Appelle Hall

Classroom Wing and Theatre of the Arts Building

Curling Rink

Faculty Club

Prairie Regional Laboratory, Federal Department of Agriculture

St. Andrews College Addition

All the above are on the University of Saskatchewan Campus and were connected by electrical cables installed in underground tunnels which also carried the other services to the buildings. The pipes ran back and forth, not straight, and the electrical got burned.

Other buildings:

Saskatoon Federal Building

St. Paul’s Hospital Nurses’ Home and Powerhouse

Sask. Wheat Pool Oilseed Crushing Plant

Sask. Wheat Pool Flour Mill

Birks Building

Toronto General Trust {now Canada Trust}

Mount Royal Collegiate

Bedford Road Collegiate Addition

Buena Vista School 1913

Greystone Heights School

Saskatoon Technical Collegiate

Lorne Hazeton School Addition

King George School Auditorium

Victoria School Auditorium

City Park Collegiate Auditorium

Mayfair School Addition

Saskatoon Normal School 1924

Two Million Bushel Addition to the Government Elevator

Roxy Theatre

Broadway Theatre

Renovation to the Tivoli Theatre {formerly the Victoria Theatre}

Grace Church

Augustana Lutheran Church

St. Francis Xavier Church and Rectory

Sts. Martyrs-Candiens Eglise.

St. Philip Neri Church

Original St. Thomas More College

St. George’s Residence

General Motors Parts Depot (now Acklands}

MacCosham Van Lines

St. Anne’s Hospital, Humboldt, SK

North Battleford Hospital, North Battleford, SK

Capitol Theatre, North Battleford, SK

My first memories are of moving into a new white brick house at 328 Avenue I South, Saskatoon, SK in May 1911.This was “Boomtime” in the city at that time and accommodation was very hard to obtain so we moved in before the house was completed. I can recall the carpenters still working around the place while mother was preparing meals and doing other household chores. Much to the disgust of the workmen I was always in their way and asking questions.

Marion (standing), Edyth, Donald & C.A. Wheaton Year: circa 1935 The children of A.J. & Electa.

Marion (standing), Edyth, Donald & C.A. Wheaton
Year: circa 1935
The children of A.J. & Electa.

The house was constructed of white sand and lime brick manufactured by Mr. J.W. Wilson in a brick works located on Avenue 0 behind the Quaker Oats Mill. It was built on a fieldstone foundation which consisted of a rectangular ditch approximately six feet deep filled with wet concrete and stones tossed into it. The ditch served as a form and when the concrete was set the dirt was pitched out by hand and the house was built on this foundation. Later a concrete floor was put into place.

The house had three bedrooms upstairs, a front hall, a kitchen, dining room and a parlor on the main floor with a full open verandah at the front and a summer kitchen across the back.

The basement had a coalbin and a large hot air furnace which produced large quantities of ashes which had to be labouriously carried out to the back of the lot where the City wagons hauled them away. As there was no sewer and water on the street when we moved in, we had a well in the back yard and a privy at the rear of the lot. The latter consisted of a seat with two holes and an Eaton’s catalogue. It was serviced by a “Honey Wagon” drawn by a handsome team of Belgian horses.

It was a few years before Avenue I was made “modern” and we had plumbing installed. Making the street “modern”, consisted of digging a deep ditch down the center and installing sewer and water pipes. The ditch had to be more than six feet deep to get below the frost line. Of course this was well below the water table and as a result the roadway was a muddy morass completely closed to traffic. Muddy water always has an attraction for inquisitive small boys. I was no exception. Mother got me all dressed in a new suit and sent me outside to wait while she dressed my baby sister, Marion, and put her in the pram to go down town. Leaving a small boy unattended was a fundamental mistake on the part of my mother. I wandered out to the street and fell off the curb and landed face down in the muddy mess. After appropriately chastising me she patiently started all over again and prepared me for our trip.

C. A. behind the wheel of a 1936 Ford there were only 2400 manufactured

C. A. behind the wheel of a 1936 Ford
there were only 2400 manufactured

We proceeded east on 20th Street and upon getting near Avenue F we noticed a commotion across the street at the entrance to the bar of the Alexandra Hotel. The “bouncer” ejected a drunk and sent him flying across the sidewalk and into the gutter. My mother, a Methodist teetotaler, said “see what happens to a man who drinks liquor”. This must have been in the summer of 1912.

Some girls that CA went to school with eventually moved into the first Wheaton family home in Saskatoon. The house still stands – behind the house the North Battleford Trail passed by the garden.

Speaking of 1912, I can recall a visit paid to us by my father’s parents; Grandfather Joseph and Grandmother Jane Wheaton. My father hired a fine team of horses hitched to a “democrat” and we all went riding around the city and out to Sutherland, the Canadian Pacific Railway Divisional Point, situated on the east side of our town. My Uncle C.R. Wheaton lived with us at that time and he had a large box camera which used glass negatives. It had to be loaded in a dark room. He took numerous pictures of the family sitting on the front verandah of 328 Avenue I South.

When I was about three years old my mother had a strap with bells on it which she fastened around my waist. Attached to this belt was a leather loop through which my mother inserted her wrist. This device kept me tethered with about five feet of “wandering distance”. I could always be dragged from behind a counter or a piece of furniture while my mother was shopping. I saw the construction of Princess School on the north side of 20th Street between Avenue G and Avenue H. It even had an air conditioning system which consisted of a large grill in an outside wall through which fresh air was drawn through a room where a cold water spray chilled and humidified it and thence to a huge slow-turning fan which distributed it throughout the school.

Fifty years later I saw Princess School demolished and the south third of the schoolyard sold to Canada Safeway who built a large grocery supermarket on the property. Safeway subsequently closed the store and the Knights of Columbus now operate a Bingo Game in the premises.

Alexandra School, constructed in 1907, sat on the north half of the yard. It was torn down in 1984 and the present Princess Alexandra School built on the site.

In the summer of 1915 Alexandra School was damaged by Fire. A large hole was burned up through the building above the furnace room. The Wheaton Electric, a company recently formed by Father and my Uncle C.R., had the contract to replace the damaged electrical work.

I began my formal education in September 1915 in Princess School in a Grade One class taught by Miss MacKinnon. She was a specialist in phonetics and introduced the system into the Saskatoon schools. I never did learn why “phonetics” was not spelled “fonetically”. I attended the Saskatoon Normal School in 1933 – 1934 and Dr. Aselstine was the principal. He had married Miss McKinnon, my first teacher.

I was moved over to Alexandra School for Grade 2 then for Grade 3. Miss Inglis became our teacher and I remained in her class until going into Grade 7 where Miss Sutherland presided.

In the fall of 1922 I went into Grade 8 in Princess School where Mr. William Sharpe was the teacher. He was a marvelous teacher of mathematics and geography, however, he had an uncontrollable temper which caused us a problem from time to time.

In June 1923 I graduated from elementary school and in September 1923 I entered Grade 9 in Bedford Road Collegiate. This was a new building having been opened on one previous February 1st with Mr.J.A. Speers as Principal.

My first teacher, in “Room 1A”, was Mr. Percy Ecob whose specialty was Latin. He was a veteran of World War 1 and had been shot through the right wrist. It was stiff and he used it to box the ears of unruly students. He had taught himself to write with his left hand. The class was made up of only boys. For Grade 10 we stayed in the same place but it was renamed “Room 2B” with Mr. Ecob still presiding.

September 1925 found me in Grade 11 in “Room 3A” with Mr. R.V. Humphries as class teacher. He taught Physics. He was a good teacher, even showing us how to make gunpowder, and detonating it on a steel plate using a hammer.

Major Carson, a “ramrod” straight Irish veteran of the First Great War, was my Grade 12 teacher in “Room 4B”. He was a fine English Teacher although he certainly did not look the part. In June 1927 I wrote Government Departmental Exams which included an extra language and an extra science class, so that I was covered for any course at university.

C. A. and Eileen (nee Kennedy) Wheaton Year: 1939 wedding photo July 15, 1939

C. A. and Eileen (nee Kennedy) Wheaton
Year: 1939
wedding photo July 15, 1939

I attended the University of Saskatchewan for two years then the “depression” caught up with us and I went to work for Wheaton Electric. In 1932 I wrote the Saskatchewan Government Electrical Examinations and became a Journeyman Electrician. I

had been working at the “shop” during the summer holidays since I finished Grade 8 and had served my apprenticeship time.

During the summer of 1933 I drove a carload of friends, in a 1929 Pontiac, to Chicago to see the World’s Fair. It was a wonderful event. General Motors assembled Chevrolet cars right before our eyes. Many other companies had fantastic displays.

I attended Saskatoon Normal School for teacher training. I graduated in June 1934 with a First Class Certificate.

In July I got a job as an electrician installing Imperial Oil oval signs at the service stations in Northern Saskatchewan with Arthur Peberdy.

In the meantime I spent every available moment writing applications for a teaching position. The 65th letter was successful and I went to teach in the middle of August at Standard School. It was a one room school with grades up to Grade 11 located about five miles west of Landis, SK. I had board and room with Mr. and Mrs. Howard Graves and paid $15.00 per month up until Christmas and $20.00 per month for the spring term. My salary was $500.00 for the ten month year.

I must say the meals were excellent, especially those evenings when Mrs. Graves produced Boston baked beans and Boston brown bread. She had acquired the art in Boston, having lived there for a while after leaving her birthplace in Nova Scotia and before moving to Western Canada.

Farm life was certainly different as, until that time, I had always lived in the city. I walked one and a half miles to and from school, occasionally getting a ride home with one of the pupils. Entertainment was rather scarce. We listened to the hockey games on the radio on Saturday nights. About once a month we drove in a “caboose” to the Landis Town Hall to attend a Red Cross Dance. The caboose was a cabin built on a bobsleigh and drawn by a team of horses. It had two seats and was totally enclosed with a glass windshield – the luxury models had a small heater – ours did not. At the dance the men paid twenty-five cents each and the ladies brought the lunch. There were some fine fiddle players in the country and we had a great time.

In the fall we built a rink at Standard School. The Farmers donated wheat. It was traded for lumber and nails and a bee was organized to construct the walls. All the kids received skates for Christmas and learned to skate. We kept summer hours and had one and a half hours at noon so we could all skate.

Standard School was a one room building with a full basement. In the basement was a large pipeless furnace which was stoked each morning by one of the boys who lived across the road. Coal was used which had been obtained from a small mine located about seven miles south west of the school. It was hauled by one of the farmers using a grain box on a bobsled. He received credit on his tax bill for his work. This was in the middle of Great Depression and the job was passed around so that each farmer in the school district could earn a tax credit. They needed such a credit as there was very little money around – wheat was selling for about 32 cents a bushel.

The farmers raised their own cattle and pigs. They formed “meat rings” and each farmer in turn would slaughter an animal and distribute the meat to the members of the “ring”. Thus there was always a supply of fresh meat. We always ate very well.

Speaking of eating – Fowl Suppers put on by the various church congregations were gourmet delights of the fall. I can recall going to one in a church about six miles south of Landis. We all sat at long tables and the food was brought out by the ladies. We spent the whole time, while eating, passing plates heaped with turkey, vegetables, homemade jellies, pickles and pies around the table. There was so much that there was not enough room to set plates down.

C. A. Wheaton family Year: circa 1989 Kathy, C. A., Eileen, Nancy and Katy (mom, Dad, two daughters, granddaughter)

C. A. Wheaton family
Year: circa 1989
Kathy, C. A., Eileen, Nancy and Katy (mom, Dad, two daughters, granddaughter)

The Wheaton Electric Company owned, and operated a radio station known as “The Voice of Saskatoon”. It was an AM station broadcasting on wave length 329.5 with a power of 50 watts which was shortly increased to 250 watts. The call letters were C J W C. The station came on the air on September 28,1925 with the first program being broadcast from the Grey Room of the King George Hotel. The broadcasting station was located at the Corner of Idylywd and 33rd street where the Kelsey Institute is now located. There was a small building housing the broadcasting equipment and a tower for the antenna. The tower was made of four 2x2s held together with lath to form latticework. It was about 100 feet high and was held in place by a set of guy wires. It blew down in a wind storm and I can recall my father and my Uncle CR rounding up a gang of us to hoist it back into place.

The first studio was on the mezzanine floor of the Wheaton Electric at 236 Second Avenue South. Later a room about fifteen feet square was constructed behind the store in the warehouse area to serve as a studio. All four walls were draped with unbleached cotton gathered to provide a rough, soft surface to absorb the sound and prevent echoes. It worked very well and was in use long before acoustic tiles were thought of.

The first announcer was Miss Martha Bowes who was the bookkeeper for the Company – She was the first lady to announce in Saskatchewan and the third in Canada. She regularly read the news “over the air” at noon having first compiled it from the morning edition of the Star-Phoenix.

The “station” was sold to J.H. Speers Seed and Feed Company on July 1, 1928 and the call letters were changed to C.J.H.S. J.H. Speers eventually sold it to A. A. Murphy and it was amalgamated with C.F.Q.C. on October 5 1929.

While the Wheaton Electric owned the station some very interesting programs were produced. One was for children and was put together in the early evening by Mr. and Mrs. Alex Cuthbert. Mrs. Cuthbert sang children’s songs and Alex, known as “Mr. Sandman”, told bedtime stories. It was very popular with the young kids. Another was a musical program put on by a local violin teacher, by name, accompanied by pianist Helen Zailis. He was a fine teacher of classical violin; however he was fond of all kinds of music.

In the winter my father kept his car in the Hillcrest Garage owned by Mister Lunquist and located on Broadway, about six blocks from where we lived. The drill was to drive the car to the garage, pick up a driver, be driven home and the driver would return the vehicle to the warm storage for the night. I took the car in about midnight one day and as there was no driver available so I had to wait. I heard sounds of music coming from the garage so I wandered back to discover the source. Here was “Dode” Stephenson, a local policeman, wearing his buffalo overcoat, giving our violin teacher a lesson in old time fiddling. They passed the violin back and forth until the violinist could play the tune to satisfy “Dode”.

Many of the programs were “repeat” broadcasts originating in various locations around the city. An announcer was sent out and the program was carried by a telephone line to the broadcasting station on 33rd Street for transmission. One of the regular broadcasts was of an orchestra in the Zenith Cafe owned by Sam Serif and located at 144 Second Ave., North. Mr. Roy McKenzie, a teacher of typewriting at Bedford Road Collegiate, was the usual announcer. He had a marvelous resonant voice.

Madame Sherry, who had a glorious operatic soprano voice, performed over CJWC. Her voice was so powerful that the operator had to watch his meters very carefully or the station would be blown off the air.

My uncle CR would occasionally walk into the station and remove the record as it was not the type of music to be broadcast on Sunday.

Eileen Mary (Mae) Kennedy (January 11, 1916)

  1. A. met Eileen Mary Kennedy in 1937. They met at the Station located at 2nd Avenue. Eileen was at the Station saying goodbye to friends. One of the friends introduced C. A. to Eileen and they began courting. This went on for two years. Eileen worked for Archie A. R. Weir, Registrar of the University of Saskatchewan. C. A. would take Eileen out to supper dances at the Bessborough and Victoria School. C. A. made a moon to hang from the rafters at Victoria School and was responsible for the lighting of it. They would also go out for car rides and one time he took her gopher hunting. C. A. was V. P. at Haultain School at the time. They planned a trip to New York for the World’s Fair and planned on a six week trip. To ensure a successful trip they married the day before they left, July 15, 1939. Rev. Tait of Outlook married them on one of the hottest days Saskatchewan has ever experienced. They left right after the nuptials and travelled towards Moose Jaw encountering one of the most horrific thunder and lightning storms. Their honeymoon did last for six weeks driving all the way to New York staying in Bed & Breakfasts and living on $5/day.

Upon their return from the Honeymoon, Eileen did not return to work, as married women were not expected to work. They bought their first home at 839 Main Street and lived on a household budget of $25/mo. (Bread – $ .05/loaf, Milk – $ .10/quart, Eggs – $.05 for cracked ones)

In 1941 C. A. and Eileen moved to Ajax, Ontario to work in a Munitions Factory. C. A. ran the production line and Eileen worked it. They stayed there until the end of the 2nd World War with C. A. staying on longer to see the destruction of the factory. Following their return in 1946 Eileen found herself with child and on January 20, 1947 their first daughter, Kathryn Andrea Wheaton, was born. She Graduated from the U.of S. with a B. A. and moved on to Carlton University where she completed classes giving her a Master’s in English. Kathryn continues to teach English in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

On May 27, 1950, a second daughter was born to Eileen and C. A.. She was christened Nancy Evelyn Wheaton. She received her B. A. at the U. of S. leaving Saskatchewan to attend the McGill University where she recieved her Doctorate in English. Nancy married Andrew Bjerring on May 29, 1971. Andrew and Nancy became the proud parents of Katy Bjerring on May 10, 1985, giving C. A. and Eileen their only grandchild. In 2004 Katy is presently enrolled in the University of Queens.


Electa Jane Rutledge born July 29,1880

Albert Joseph Wheaton born June 8,1882

Cecile Albert (C.A.) Wheaton born August 10,1909, passed away August 11, 2005

Marion Wheaton born October 6,1911

Alice Wheaton (Deceased) born 1916 deceased 1916

Edyth Wheaton born August 2,1919

Donald Wheaton born October 7,1923

Eileen Mary Kennedy born January 11,1916

Katherine Wheaton born January 20, 1947

Nancy Wheaton born May 27, 1950

Katy Bjerring born May 10, 1985