The entire family piled into dad’s pickup truck

From our April 2018 issue

Mickey’s painting of dad, Joe Graw’s old yellow truck.

By Mickey Death – Lethbridge, Alta.

My dad, Joe Graw, met the spirited Calgary city girl, Eleanor Barry, at his sister’s and her brother’s wedding. It was love at first sight and they were married after seeing each other only a few times.

The happy couple moved 15 miles east of North Star and Manning, Alta., to their 12’ by 20’ shack. No running water, telephone, or electricity proved to be a challenge for mom, but help from her in-laws soon had her a seasoned country dweller.

To make life easier, dad went to town with two pigs as a down payment on a brand new 1958 GMC long box pickup truck. With its white grill and bumper, topped off with the black cab trim bordering the yellow body, mom thought it was pretty spiffy.

As the family grew from three kids to four, it was my time to make my debut. It turned out to be a cold, wintery January night and the truck was frozen solid and wouldn’t start. Dad hooked up the two big horses to the truck to try and pull start it.

Horses headed for snowbank

With mom in the cab not knowing what to do, dad ran the horses up and down the road. He had no luck of starting the truck because mom didn’t know how to pop the clutch to start it. Soon enough, dad got mom to guide the horses down the road between the high snowbanks.

Pretty soon the huge trotting horses had edged mom into the snowbank as dad couldn’t see because of the frosted windshield. Sticking his head out the window he saw what was happening and yelled “Whoa!”

Mom turned pantingly and said to him, “Joe, if this baby hasn’t come by now, it’ll wait til morning,” so back to the house they went. Dad lit a small fire under the block and the next morning, I entered the world in the Manning Hospital.

Our family continued to grow. After moving to a farm west of the bustling town of Hythe, Alta., in 1965, our baby sister was born making the family complete.

We had a system for all nine of us riding in the truck. My brother Joe sat on a box on the floor in front of mom, while she held baby Theresa. I think Hugh was tucked under dad’s right arm as he drove. Bruno sat beside them as he held Cecile, while I was scrunched in the middle.

Older boys got ‘boxed’

Cliff sat on the hump in the middle of the floor. When Theresa got bigger, she just stood on the seat by dad’s shoulder. Cecile sat on Mom’s lap or stood on the seat by mom as well.

Every weekend, Grandad and Grandma Graw would either come to our place from Pouce Coupe, B.C.. or we would go there. As the boys got bigger, the three oldest were switched into the back of the truck box. There just wasn’t room inside anymore.

Leaving well after dark from Pouce on warm summer nights, the boys huddled down in the back. I remember riding there once in the windy darkness and found myself happy to be back in the cab on the following trip.

The old yellow truck eventually got parked out in the barnyard and now is no more. We only ever got one picture of it and it was not a good one at that. After being challenged to do a painting of a truck for a friend, I thought I’d give a try on dad’s first truck.

I included the old two-car garage behind the GMC in the picture. It’s over 50 years old now and still standing at my mom’s. In all my research, I only ever found one truck with the same colouring and it was a Chev. Dad always made sure we called his truck a GMC, not a Chev!

There is something peaceful that comes when I look at the painting. Maybe it’s what it represented; family, fun, closeness, hard work, and making do with what we had. Yes, it was a good yellow truck.