Childhood home housed many memories

From our January 2014 issue

By Jack PickettRed Deer, Alta.

The house I grew up in was built in about 1920 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. It was a four-room house when my mom and dad bought it in 1926. It had one bedroom, kitchen, living room, and dining room. How all nine of us at the time managed, I don’t know.

I slept with my brother in the living room on a Winnipeg couch, that also served as a sofa, the rest slept wherever.

The back of Jack’s childhood home in about 1980.

Dad got a job at the Reliable Vulcanizing Works, about 1939 when WWII started. He earned $60 a month, with a mortgage payment of $15 per month.

Groceries and meat was more than the balance, so mother worked at the hospital sewing, to earn enough to pay the bills. Dad did as much hunting and selling furs as he had time for, trapping badger, coyotes, rabbits, and weasels.

In the early 1940s, my brother, Lester, bought a two-room building, which was attached to the back of the house, giving us two more rooms. Now we had a living room, dining room combo, three bedrooms, and a kitchen.

Lester and I now had a bedroom and mom had a new, larger kitchen. Of course, we had no bathroom or running water; we had an outhouse at the rear of the yard. We were so happy when fruit season arrived so we could use the fruit wrappers instead of the Eaton’s catalogue!

We carried water from next door. We had Congoleum on the floors which got washed and waxed regularly, our heat was from the kitchen coal and wood stove, and we had a coal and wood heater in the dining room which was replaced by an oil heater in later years.

Because we had cold floors, dad had beaver hides tanned and put on the floors in front of our beds. The kitchen sink water was piped out through a hole in the wall, to our garden.

Mom and dad paid $2 per month for the water. For washday, we hauled it in a boiler on a wagon in the summer and on a sled in the winter. Wash water had homemade soap added to it, and it was put on the coal and wood stove to heat up.

In about 1945, we got water piped in from the next door. In 1954, mom and dad had a well drilled and I hooked up a pressure system for them, but they didn’t get the sewer hooked up until the late 1960s, that’s when they made my bedroom into a bathroom with a footed cast iron tub, a toilet, and sink.

After dad was killed in a car accident in 1967, Lester built cupboards and hauled them from Manitoba and installed them along with a new electric stove. Coal wasn’t available anymore.

We had a dirt cellar that we only used in the winter. We stored our vegetables and canned fruit down there.
The attic in this house was used to hide things, especially at Christmas, but we kids didn’t know mom and dad would hide things up there. The only way to get up there was an opening to crawl through in the ceiling.

Mother wallpapered every spring and we always said it was that wallpaper that held the house together, as it had many layers on the walls.

This old house is still standing. It was originally sided with cedar shingles but mother had it stuccoed and later sided with prefinished siding.