‘Packed car, headed west’

From our January 2013 issue

By John ReimerMedicine Hat, Alta.

The story of my parents’ John and Esther Reimer’s courtship is a bit blurred. They had known each other for a while and had run in the same crowd from time to time, but somewhere along the line the love that has lasted half a century was planted and sprung to life.

However it happened, they decided to get married and set the date for Jan. 28, 1950. The big day arrived and the coast was blasted with one of the worst snowstorms on record. Both the preacher and the best man were a no show – but snow or no snow, power or no power – Neil Chadsey and “Aunt” Hilda Spenst signed the register as witnesses and the deed was done.

The newly married couple moved around a bit before they settled on a dairy farm of their own. One of the most memorable ‘first’ homes was a large two-storey they shared with Uncle George and Aunt Martha Sawatzky.

Mom and dad got the upstairs and the Sawatzkys, who were also newlyweds, got the main floor. Stories of putty dropping on a balding head, driving lessons for the girls, and the turkey business make us think that they had more fun than sense. Young and foolish might best describe them.

Faye and Ron were quickly added to the family and the Reimer boys were apparently so scarce that mom had to strip Ron for her Reimer in-laws to prove that he was indeed of the male gender. Dad found that dairy farming didn’t always quite pay the bills and he took to selling sewing machines on the side for the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Janet was added to the happy little family two years after Ron and the family seemed perfect and complete. Sometime later, just when mom was starting to breathe again after raising three little ones to school age, I was born, six years after Janet.

Apparently I was brought home from the hospital on the first day of summer vacation. That same day, Ron brought chicken pox home from school and two weeks later gave them to Janet, who gave them to Faye, who gave them to me two weeks after that. By that time summer was over, and mom wished she had never been born.

Those were days of family visits, church events where everyone knew everyone, and growing. In 1964, dad felt the need to spread his wings and the summer I turned four he packed us into the car and headed west, Alberta-bound (Tyrel), 800 miles from family and friends and everything they knew. We went from the mountains and the sweet smell of rain, to the prairies and dust and flatlands.

Dad accepted the position as the manager of the Singer store in Medicine Hat, Alta., kissed the farm good-bye and rejoiced at the birth of his second son all in the same year. Melvin was born three months after we moved to the “Hat” and has always been the “Medicine Hat Kid”. In Medicine Hat we moved in next door to some people by the name of Faliser, attended a church in Seven Persons, and became the first Reimers in the phonebook.

Medicine Hat quickly became home to us but the link with B.C. remained strong because of our frequent treks back to the coast. It’s 800 miles from Medicine Hat to Chilliwack and we are familiar with all of them. Mom often packed sandwiches for lunch and there were no stops unless the car was out of gas.

One of the most memorable trips was in our station wagon with a brand new portable record player. The tune of Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardsman is hauntingly familiar to us. We played it over and over for 15 hours. It could be our family theme song.

My parents’ adventure of watching their grandchildren grow and live their lives is, of course, their favourite pastime, and with seven grandsons, five granddaughters, one great-grandson, and a granddaughter-in-law – this could be a full-time job.

The greatest gift mom and dad have ever given us is their long and strong marriage. What an example!