Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Charles Ernest Slack (1895-1959)

Charles was the son of Samuel and Lizzie (Kinnaird) Slack which made him a first cousin to my Grandpa Kinnaird and grandson of our mutual ancestor, William George Kinnaird.  I have been patiently waiting for awhile now for his service file from WW1 to be digitized and released by Library and Archives Canada. Many of my ancestral connections have surnames starting with "B" and "C" and since they were being scanned and released in alphabetical order, it was finally the time for "S".  You can read all 60 pages of his service file here.  Charlie is the man with the X on his knee in the photo below.
Charles Ernest Slack  was born on November 26, 1895 at his parents' homestead near Bede, Manitoba. At that time it was known as "Ruth" until 1925 when the C.P.R. changed the name of the siding to Bede.  He had two older brothers and eventually three younger sisters.  Twenty year old Charles enlisted in WW1 on February 5, 1916 at Melita, MB and was given registration number # 292153.    He was described to be Presbyterian with fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair and stood 5 feet 7 and a half inches tall.  After training at Camp Hughes, in November of 1916, Charlie and the 46th Battalion sailed from Halifax on a ship named the Olympic.

As is the case in most of the service files I've read, it contains the soldier's will leaving all his possessions to his mother Lizzie.   One of the witnesses on the document from January 30, 1917 was John Owen Kilkenny  (#292140) from Broomhill, a neighbour who signed up in Melita a week after him.  A cousin of this John, another John Kilkenny (#292196) enlisted in Melita the next week and no doubt the three young men stuck together as much as they could and I wonder if these chums were also in the photo above.  According to the  R. M. of Albert history book, John Owen was known as "Ginger Jock" and his cousin was just "Jock".  Their fathers were brothers and built the general store that still stands in Broomhill today.  Tragically, both Kilkennys were killed in action,  John in November 1, 1917 at Passchendaele and John Owen on September 27, 1918 at Canal du Nord.

His file says Charles was awarded the Good Conduct Badge on May 4, 1917.  Records show that $15 was sent back to his mother Lizzie each month he was overseas as was customary. He was wounded twice, first on May 4, 1917 by a gunshot wound to his left foot and shoulder and then a shrapnel wound to his left on leg September 27, 1918, the same day his buddy J.O. Kilkenny died. He spent a short time in hospital but was returned to the front in a few weeks both times.  On March 15, 1919 Private Slack landed back in Canada.  Those three years would have changed him from a boy to a man and seeing the families of buddies who didn't return would have been so difficult. 

Tragedy continued with the death of Charles' father suddenly in 1926 in an accident as is detailed in the clipping found in my Grandfather's possessions.

Charlie married Mary Fenske in 1930 and they went on to have 3 children and continue farming the original homestead.  Charlie died in 1959.  I feel privileged to tell his story and welcome any further information in the comments below.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Hargrave Cooperative Elevator Association Pool No 81

On taking another look through scrapbooks complied by Fred Bowering that are in the Reston Library (see the previous about them post here ), I found a clipping from the 1963 Manitoba Co-operator about the beginning of the Hargrave Cooperative Elevator Association No 81 that has a family connection.  The postcard picture at the top of the post was among things from my Grandma Kinnaird's trunk and it was interesting to learn the story behind it.   Binding Our Districts history book written in 1989 helped me fill in a few details too.

The first grain elevators were built in Hargrave in the 1890's.  Ted Holmes built a private elevator and ran it until a tragic fire claimed his life along with 2 others and destroyed his elevator in 1903.  The Northern was a red painted elevator that burned in the same fire.  McLaughlin & Ellis ran a black painted elevator but farmers felt they charged too high shipping costs and their dockage for weed seeds in the grain was often inflated.  Wheat prices had collapsed in the 1920's and farmers were looking to maximize their profits.  Platform loading was possible onto producer cars where farmers pulled alongside a rail car and shoveled their grain in but it was back breaking work and they had to work fast to have it loaded in time.

On April 12, 1928, 46 men met to discuss the possibility of building their own Cooperative Elevator on the former site of the Northern. My grandfather Frank Kinnaird, Great Grandfather Alexander Milne and Great Uncle J.J. O'Neil were among those men.  Ten thousand acres needed to be signed up for the project to go ahead and this was soon done and the project was a go.  They decided the building would be built and equipped with nothing but the best including a five unit cleaner, electric lights and generator.  This article boasts there were only 2 years where the elevator's revenue did not meet the operating costs even through the dry thirties.

An agent's cottage was also included and the final total cost was $22 851.  In October of 1928, P.J. McDonald was hired as manager and helped to make it a successful venture.  Later managers were men named Morrison, Shilson and Cullen. Albert Cullen was succeeded after 35 years on the job as manager by Don Leadbetter.  In a full circle moment, Don just happens to be the son-in-law of Fred Bowering ,the man who compiled the scrapbook of clippings!

Alex Milne served as president of the Co-operative for a time and J.J. O'Neil was the first vice president and later president.  At the time of the article that was found in the scrapbook, my uncle Keith Kinnaird was secretary.  The Hargrave history book confirms he held this position until 1979 when the elevator was traded to become  a part of  United Grain Growers property.

The Manitoba Historical Society has undertaken a project to catalog all past and present grain elevators in Manitoba and you can read more about it here. The page about this elevator now includes the Kinnaird postcard picture from 1946 here.  The cooperative movement of farmers in rural western Canada has an important history as well and one that led to the success of my ancestor's farming endeavours.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Milne 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1947

Almost seventy years ago, on December 17, 1947, friends and family from far and wide gathered to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my great grandparents, Alex and Jeannie Milne at Hargrave School.   More than just a celebration, the Milne's reenacted a Mock Wedding in front of friends and relatives to mark the occasion. Jeannie can be seen holding her bouquet and Alex is wearing the boutineer in the photo below along with some of their children.

The details of the evening were carefully recorded in a soft suede leather covered guest book pictured below.  The book along with the cards and telegrams were saved by the daughter, my  Grandma,  among her prized possessions. My Mom says the handwriting in the Guest Book  belonged to Bessie Carruthers (wife of Lorne)  and I understand she was keen on family history as I am.  Thanks to her, I am able to tell the story of the night so many years later. Telegrams were received from the Virden and Elkhorn Masonic Lodges, R.H. Mooney, M.L.A., Jack Mooney, Wallace Council, Hargrave Church Board and Elsie and T.A. Kerr. 

The photographer in this group shot below seems to be new to the camera or else was focusing on the flower girl, Margaret Kinnaird (my Mom) and the page boy Alec Milne (son of Charlie and Louise).  Mary Reid and Jeannie Milne are standing behind them and Alex would be the man with the boutineer in his lapel.  

The bridesmaid was Mary Reid, wife of William who was given the honour of standing in for the father of the bride to give her away.  A three tiered wedding cake was made for the occasion by Evelyn Kyles, Florence Stinson and Margaret Hitchins.  Six friends were named as the event decorators (Bert & May Foster, Jim & Gladys Odell, Marion Gordon and Harvey Odell) and three as dressmakers (Elsie Kerr, Gladys Odell and Bessie Carruthers).

The evening's entertainment was introduced by chairman Harvey Odell and started off with games of Euchre, then the Mock Wedding was held.  Instrumental musical entertainment was supplied by Lorne and Bessie Carruthers and Tom Gordon performed 2 songs dressed in Scottish costume.  Dancing in Scottish costume by Morine Hitchins and Joan Braybrook was next .  Community singing of Hymn 238 accompanied by pianist Marion Gordon followed.  I wonder what hymn this would have been?

Over 100 names signed the guest book and more were listed as "Guests but not present".  The honoured couple were presented with an electrical lamp and clock by Marion Gordon on behalf of the community of family and friends.  Margaret Kerr was noted as being a soloist and well as having the honour of poring the tea at the Guest Table. Reverend Fargey of Elkhorn gave a toast to the couple and it would ironically be the same man who would minister at both of their funeral services, hers the next April and Alex's in June of 1950.
Alexander Milne married Jeannie Morrison Jamieson on December 24, 1897 at the Lodge in the Mayne House at Rothiemay, Scotland.  Both were 21 years old (although he looks so much younger in their wedding picture above).  Alex emigrated to Canada in the spring of 1904 and Jane and their 3 eldest boys followed the next year.  Five more children were born in this country as they worked hard to become successful farmers and community members.  

It makes me happy that they had a chance to celebrate this milestone anniversary surrounded by their loved ones and especially happy that the pictures and guest book remain to share the celebration with my readers today.  As I write this post, tomorrow is my Mom and Dad's 57th anniversary.  Best wishes on your special day!  Love, Sharon

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Dieppe's 75th Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary the disastrous raid on Dieppe, France. News stories reminds us it was the bloodiest day in Canada's war history.  Of the 5000 soldiers who took part, 916 were killed and as many as 2000 were taken prisoner.

  One of those who gave the supreme sacrifice was a Milne connection, Charles Gilchrist Gunn. He was the 21 year old son of Louisa (Milne) and Donald Gunn of West Kildonan which made him a first cousin to my Grandma Kinnaird.

"Louie" as Louisa was known had immigrated from Scotland in 1911 and Donald came in 1913.  They were married in Winnipeg in 1918.

Charles was born in 1921 although he puts 1918 on his attestation papers. He is an elevator operator and declares his home address as 264 Belmont Avenue in West Kildonan.Charles had an older brother Jack and a younger sister named Muriel.  Their father Donald was the chief fireman in West Kildonan and was Pipe Major in a local Scotish pipe and drum band.

Charles Gunn was a member of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders regiment out of Winnipeg. He was given service number H/19405.  As well as training as a soldier, he was a piper with the regiment to help keep up morale. Bagpipes and war are a historical combination as written about here. The skirl of the pipes puts fear into the enemy and fortifies the troops for the battle ahead.  It is said on that day - Wednesday, August 19, 1942 - the pipers started to play from one mile out at sea and then onto the beach at Dieppe.  Of the 505 Camerons who set off to capture the rocky French shore that morning, only 159 able-bodied men could be assembled afterward. Charlie was declared as missing that day and an agonizing 4 months later for his family, he was finally declared dead. 

As to their mission that day, the Veterans Affairs website here says :
On that ill-fated day they were to land at Pourville, about four kilometres west of Dieppe. They were to support the South Saskatchewan Regiment. The daunting plan for the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada was that they were to land 30 minutes after the South Saskatchewan Regiment, push beyond the village of Pourville, occupy a German airfield, destroy a German Battery, and finally connect with allied tanks and raid a German Headquarters south of Pourville. These tasks would have been impossible for any troop in the Second World War. In reality, the events did not go as planned and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were stopped well short of the town and were faced with enemy fire. When the Dieppe Raid came to an end the Regiment had lost 76 brave soldiers.

The book Winnipeg's Ladies From Hell by Murray Burt tells the stories of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders including the following about Private Gunn:
I remembered the story of how the pipes Charlie was playing were shot from under his arm on Pourville Beach that day, and  how he was killed when in a fit of anger he attacked the pillbox of the German machine-gunners that did it.  

 Charles Gilchrist Gunn is buried at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. Carved on his tombstone is the following somber verse.  In most cases the sentiment on the stone was chosen by the family.

Sunshine fades

And shadows fall

But sweet remembrance

Outlasts all.

Above is a link to a Youtube version of Flower of the Forest - a bagpipe lament dedicated to the fallen. We remember your sacrifice today Charles, along with all your comrades.  

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tonsillectomy on the Kitchen Table?

This year's third annual tour of local family landmarks (first year blog post here) included a stop at the former farm home pictured above of my great uncle and aunt, Bill and Mary Milne near Virden in the Boss Hill district.  During the drive, my Aunt Marjorie added a memory of hers about this house that I just had to look into further!

She said her older brother Keith Kinnaird and cousin Jeff Milne had their tonsils removed on the kitchen table of this house by Dr. George Clingan (1868-1944) in the mid 30's!  Clingan had many experiences over his life including M.L.A., mayor of Virden, commander in WW1, and president of the Manitoba Medical Association.  I suppose I shouldn't doubt his methods.   His wife Ida wrote The Virden Story in 1957.

Tonsil and adenoid removal is so rarely done now, but was very routine at one time as were housecalls for medical matters.  The availability of antibiotics and change in medical opinions on the usefulness of tonsils and adenoids has resulted in fewer removals.

A similar memory is retold on this 2009 blog written by Robert Keith Smith who lived near Oak Lake.  At this link  almost at the bottom of the page, you can read about his experience with his tonsillectomy at home.

Just to prove anything that you want to learn about is on Youtube, the brave among you can watch this silent film of the procedure developed by Mr. George Waugh from London in the 1930's.  I have not it watched it myself, by the way.  Some things you just can't unsee after all!

Thinking about that day, it's one of those moments that makes me think of this phrase: