By Franklin Vick – Prince Albert, Sask.
The Depression brought difficult economic times upon the families in our community, as it did in other parts of the country.
It was a period in which money was an extremely scarce commodity, a time of hand-me-down clothes, self reliance, and neighbourhood get-togethers for entertainment.
As a family, we suffered less than others I knew for we always had adequate clothing and footwear, and never suffered a shortage of food which was supplied from the farm and a productive garden.
Having been born and raised in this period, everything seemed perfectly normal to me, for one doesn’t miss a prosperity to which one has had no introduction.
I can look back on this period with a certain amount of nostalgia, for there were certain experiences that appealed to the senses that left a lasting impression on my mind as clearly as if they had happened only yesterday.
East of our house stood the old earthen-floored blacksmith shop, a place where I spent many hours turning the crank on the old forge blower, as my father hammered out dulled plough-shares, shaped welds or fit horseshoes, while the odour of forge charcoal perfumed the air with a rather pleasant fragrance.
On cold winter evenings, there was the daily trip to the barnyard with a coal oil lantern to light your way. By raising or lowering the lantern, a silhouette of varying dimensions was cast upon the white blanket of snow.
You could be a monster or a dwarf by the mere movement of an arm; walking legs took on the resemblance of a giant pair of scissors.
There it was – a limitless barnyard television screen on which one’s imagination could roam at will.
On those cold clear nights, the heavens above were alive with dazzling displays of northern lights, dancing in an arc from horizon to horizon, and one could stand alone in the silence, and hear the soft swishing sounds they seemed to emit.
The calm quiet was broken on occasion by the woeful wail of a coyote, or perhaps from a distance, the long-drawn whistle of a train would pierce the cold crisp air and reverberate and echo through the bush land hills.
I don’t believe there is a civilized sound made that could replace the welcome whistle of the steam engine, in the memories of the western people.
The fragrance in the cow barn was somewhat less delightful; however on those cold winter nights when the cattle were fed, you could pick up the aroma of hay and fresh milk.
In this atmosphere, the sounds of the cattle munching their feed, and milk hitting an empty pail, blended into a total environment that had an air of contentment far removed from the superficiality of today’s evenings in front of a television screen.