By Joanne Rawluk – Gypsumville, Man.
It was in 1945 that my dad, a five-year veteran of the Second World War, returned home to his wife and three children, ages eight, six, and five.
He tried working in Winnipeg, but was not happy there. The Lands Branch offered land to returned servicemen and he applied immediately. Within weeks, dad was headed 12 miles north of Birch River, Man., to claim a quarter section of land.
He left Winnipeg with another veteran whom he’d met at the branch office. They helped each other build houses in the spring and when school was out, we joined dad and began pioneering.
Us kids were ecstatic to be going into the wilderness to build a farm! My mother was not so happy to leave the city and all the conveniences, but she adapted well.
Our first animals were a team of horses, which were useful in pulling the sleigh and logs out of the bush for building. The first barn built was made of logs and housed the horses, a cow with calf, and two pigs.
10 were needed to start a school
It was such an exciting time for us children to have our own animals and with much land to explore! We heard our first coyote’s howl, explored the bush, picked wild strawberries and cranberries, and loved following the creek flowing through our property. Learning to milk a cow and harness and drive the horses was also part of the early experiences.
We loved cutting wood for the house with a bucksaw and sawhorse. One of us would sit on the log and two would cut with the saw. We took turns sawing. The process of sawing, splitting wood, and carrying it inside was so novel when we had come from a house that’d been coal-heated in the city.
We didn’t go to school for two years. There were only us three children and 10 were needed to start a school back then. The third year, another family moved in with one child and there was a four-year-old who was allowed to attend Grade 1, so the school inspector arranged for the settlement to start a school with only five children.
The youngest student, Brian Chestworth, was only four years old. The other students were Pat Bauder, and us three Sitoski kids: Joanne, Marian, and Ron. Our teacher was Edith Johnston from Mafeking, Man.
Learning, dancing, and praying
The school was built of logs and a permit teacher was hired to start the school, named Pasadena. I have many wonderful memories going to that one-room school. Eventually more settlers came and there were soon 20 children attending.
The school was used for dances, and people came from miles around. Once a month, when the weather was good, a church service was also held. My pioneer years of living four miles from the foothills of the Porcupine Mountains, will always remain as some of the best days of my life.