Extended family helped after dad disappeared

From our April 2012 issue

By Dianne Nelson – Swift Current, Sask.

During the war in the early 1940s, my mother, Meryl Powell, was attending Laboratory Technical Training in Lethbridge. She had met my father, James Carl Tache, at a riding stable.

Due to the war effort her teachers weren’t available, so mom and dad married and moved to Edmonton. Dad worked painting stained-glass windows in churches and restored storefront mannequins.

He was born in January 1945. One day in April he disappeared under strange circumstances. To this day I don’t know any of my family on his side of the family.

Our story of survival takes us to my grandparents’ farm northeast of Lancer in northwest Saskatchewan. Mom enrolled in a secretarial course from Manitoba and they sent her a typewriter. She eventually got a job in Swift Current at the PFRA, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration.

My grandparents, Jenkin and Isabelle Powell, had a surprise baby four months before I was born, so I got to be raised with my Aunt Gaylynne. Grandma was 44 and grandpa was 64 and they had six other children at home.

It was a good thing my great-grandma Charlotte Morice and her bachelor sons Art, Les, and Bill were only a few miles away so we had lots of people to help with us. I was on the farm until I was six and loved every minute of it.

Gaylynne and I were quite a handful. One day we decided to venture up into the hayloft to see what was the big deal about us not being allowed to go up there.

We were enjoying our fun in the hay when we heard grandma calling us. We scrambled out of there fast and were looking for grandma when we hear her screeching our names.

She was hanging from the loft by her elbows and we stood there and laughed. She finally pulled herself up and had cracked some ribs and I’m sure our bottoms were warmed.

I remember at both my grandparents’ and great-grandma’s house, the wonderful smell of apples and coal whenever we had to visit the washroom.

Mom told me that the people down east sent rail carloads of apples, salted herring, and blocks of round cheese for the poor farmers in the 1930s and ‘40s.

We lost Great-uncle Howie in WWI. Great-Uncle Les got meningitis in the trenches and was never heard from again. Great-uncle George lost his leg below the knee in WWII.

In ‘51 when I moved to Swift Current to live with my mother and new stepfather, Ralph Campion. I was able to take part in Brownies, figure skating, and piano lessons from a neighbour, Mrs. Crisp.

She played for First United Church where I sang in the choir for 11 years under Mrs. Genevive Beggs. Mrs. Beggs was an opera singer from down east and her lawyer husband brought her out here. When she sang the Lord’s Prayer in that huge church it was a memory I’ll never forget.

The First United Church had three balconies and lots of seating downstairs. We had three services each Sunday; two in the morning and an evening service. In those years everyone helped each other out and our churches were full.