By Susan Weisenburger
I’ve heard wonderful conversations are had over a good cup of coffee at Stony Plain’s A&W on Saturday mornings. As I introduced myself to total strangers Jackie Taylor cleared her table and invited me to sit. There I was treated to a wonderful half hour chat with members of old and established farm families who have lived and worked in the area since 1901.
Our conversation took us back to a time gone by when young settlers arrived in the Tri-Region area from Volina, Russia or Strei, Austria or even Calgary, AB aimed at “rubbing out land” to establish a family farm. At that time Ft. Edmonton was the nearest trading centre to secure supplies. A person got there by horse and buggy.
Melvin’s people moved to Spruce Grove in 1901 and were able to get the farm up and running by April, 1902 in the Golden Spike region. Jackie and Darlene, sisters born at the Misericordia Hospital, also grew up on a farm in the Rosenthal district. We laughed out loud over stories the girls shared about being “Dad’s hired men”. They learned very early how to work hard on a farm – in the garden and with the cows and chickens. Jackie remembers being on horse back when it decided to gallop toward the water trough. When the horse came to an abrupt stop she was “flipped off”! Amidst our laughter it was clear to see they all enjoyed being a farm kid.
During “Threshing Bees” in Rosenthal extra hired helpers would come to take in harvest. Members of the Rain family were always there to help. We won’t mention any names, but one farmer was particularly afraid of mice – and there were always lots of mice around during threshing season. One day a mouse ran up the inside of the farmer’s pant leg. He was able to pull the cloth tight around his thigh so the mouse could not travel any higher! His buddies cut a hole in his pant leg to allow the mouse to escape! That was a very close call!
From 1964 -1981 Melvin remembers working 6,580 days straight without a holiday. When he finally took one he went to Disney Land with the family. He told me, “We just never even stopped to think about holidays. People knew how to work.” The Dittmer farm is still run by the 4th generation (by Melvin and Darlene’s sons Darren, Dennis and Ricky) and will celebrate its 116th birthday this coming April. It is now a dairy farm.
Friendly people keep the Dittmers and Taylors living and thriving in our Tri-Region area.
“Well look – just us sitting here today, getting together. We know lots of people and they are all so friendly.”
“We live in God’s country! We have fertile land and almost always get the rain and good crops”.
“There are no floods or earthquakes. We’re close to doctors and hospitals. Our kids have good schools.”
“We wouldn’t think of moving anywhere else! We have everything we need and close.”
“We LOVE our town with its wonderful Main St. and all the flowers in the summer.”
“This is where we have our roots!”
When asked what they need, or would like to have now in the area, all three of my new friends said, “More clothing stores!” Also they would like to see more +50 housing options that don’t remind them of “chicken houses” (narrow structures that take up little land but require stairs), a bigger hospital, and places for kids to get together for activities.
Jackie said that her mother’s cousin used to be mayor of Stony Plain. He had once told them, “Spruce Grove and Stony Plain are going to join one day.” No one could see it or believe that. “But it’s happening now, right in front of our eyes!”
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