Harlan: Our Dad is Missing – Chapter 6 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 13th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


David Benjamin McNeill

Photo (family files):  Dad is Missing. The last we saw of our Dad was when he came to the door of the bar and waved to us:  “I’ll be right there, I’m just having a quick chat with some guy’s I met.”

Link to Next Post: Edmonton
Link to Last Post:  Movie
Link to Family Stories Index

July, 1949

The bus driver, having pulled to the side of the highway after being approached by one of the passengers, walked down the isle to the seat Louise and I occupied. “What’s wrong kids?” he asked in a gentle, caring voice. Louise and I were huddled in our seats as tears trickled down our cheeks. Louise, on the outside, responded in a quiet, quivering voice, “You, you left my daddy behind!”  She continued to cry as we held each other. 

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Harlan: Movie Night – Chapter 5 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


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Photo (FB Source).  Once every couple of weeks, a man came by with his movie projector, a projector something like the one used in this photo.

Spring, 1949

When the Movie Man came to the Harlan Community Hall not far from our farm, it was a highlife for the whole community. He would set up his gas powered generator outside the hall to run the projector and we would settle in for an evening of entertainment. At 7:00 pm they would cover the windows with blankets, close the doors and the movie would flicker to life on the portable silver screen.

Link to Next Post: Our Dad is Missing
Link to Last Post: Hunting Crows
Link to Family Stories Index

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Harlan: Snakes and Horses – Chapter 3 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Red Sided Garter Snake

Photo (Web) This red sided garter snake along with hundreds of other species can be found by the thousands across the prairies. The snakes are great for scaring people.

Link to Next Post: Hunting Crows
Link to Last Post: Interesting History
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Summer, 1949

One thing that is etched in my memory from our months in Harlan was the millions (perhaps trillions) of ‘garter snakes’ that thrived in the grass and bush land throughout the area. Most of these little snakes measured between 8” and 18” in length and although not poisonous, they could sit back, hiss and flit with the best of their forked tongue relatives.

While many people have a built in aversion to snakes (probably stemming from that incident in Garden of Eden), Stan and I had no such qualms. We took great pleasure in chasing down those slithering, twisting, hissing and flitting reptiles, grabbing them by the tail and putting them in a pail or box for ‘later’ use. That use usually involved chasing the girls at home and school.

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Harlan: A Tragic History – Chapter 2 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Memorial at Frog Lake

Photo (Frog Lake Memorial):  One man who died was the John Delany, the Grandfather of my Aunt Hazel (wife of my mom’s brother Melvin Wheeler), all part of the interesting history of our family.

Link to Next Post: Snakes
Link to Last Post: Old School House (First of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

While our home a Marie Lake, Alberta, (20 miles north of Cold Lake) was nestled within the pristine beauty of the lakes and evergreen forests dotting Northwestern Alberta, Harlan District was spread out along fields and poplar forests that gently rose from the northern banks of the North Saskatchewan River.  Situated just inside the Saskatchewan side of the border with Alberta, the community was less than ninety miles south-southeast of Cold Lake. Today it remains a small farming community not much changed from that time Louise and I lived there for a few months in 1949.

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Martineau River: Hauling Logs and Ice – Chapter 2 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 10th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 Hauling Ice and Logs

Photo (Cold Lake History on Web): Cutting, hauling and storing ice was a yearly ritual at a time when refrigerators consisted of an insulated box filled with ice.

Link to Next Post:  A Winter Dash to the Hospital
Link to Last Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Start of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter, 1945

My stomach was churning and my head splitting. I did not say anything to Uncle Tonnie but I could feel my stomach pushing into my throat. Suddenly, Uncle Tonnie stopped the truck. I fumbled with the door handle and as soon as it opened, I jumped out. When the cold winter air hit me I bent over and threw up on the pure white snow that lined the side of the road.

I heaved again and again and again, not even able to catch my breath. I thought I was going to choke to death. On the other side of the truck, Uncle Tonnie was bent over emptying the contents of his stomach.

Finally, after what seemed forever, my heaves began to subside and I was able to breath. I looked down and the new plaid shirt and wool breaches Santa had given me for Christmas were wet. When I saw small chunks of food stuck to the heavy, wool fabric, I stared to cry. Through my tears I told Uncle Tonnie: “I want to go home to mom.” Tonnie walked me over to the house.

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Martineau River: A Winter Dash to the Hospital – Chapter 3 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 9th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Dr. E.M. Savage

Photo (Cold Lake Hospital Files).  Dr. Savage was the difference between life and death as my sister lay critically ill.

Link to Next Post:  Wolves in the Wilderness
Link to Last Post: Hauling Logs and Ice
Link to Family Stories Index

Martineau River – Deep Winter, 1945

In early February, things took a dangerous turn. Mom clearly remembered the day:

“Louise became very ill.  She was running a high fever and after a few hours was going into convulsions. She was so little and helpless. Dave and I knew we had to get her to the hospital in Cold Lake as quickly as possible. About 5:00 am, Dave talked it over with Tonnie and both were worried the roads from the Camp to the north side of Cold Lake would be blocked with drifting snow as no one had driven to town recently. They felt, however, the ice road across the lake would be OK as it was regularly ploughed. She continued:

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Marie Lake: A Final Farewell – Chapter 11 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 28th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Picnic on Marie Lake

Photo (by Mom): Mr. Goodrich (L), Louise, Dad (C) and I prepare for lunch while Dad and Mr. Goodrich were doing some work along the lake. It would be our last summer in that idyllic setting.

Link to Next Post: Old School House (The start of Part IV)
Link to Last Post: Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

On the final day, as we were about to leave in the boat, a small seaplane circled lazily overhead. Then, to our surprise, it landed in front of our home and taxied in. While I had seen a few seaplanes around Cold Lake, none had ever landed at Marie Lake and I had never been close to one. 

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Marie Lake: Back to Hauling Logs – Chapter 9 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 17th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Bob sleigh with load

Photo (Cousin Helen Pylypow)  Uncle Denny Dewan with a load of logs.  During the early years many family members gained extra money by logging in the winter. My Dad did that for much of his life.  This story tells about the first experience Louise and I had in hauling logs on our own.

Link to Next Post:  Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Last Post:  On Thin Ice
Link to Family Stories Index

Late Fall, 1948

Dad was behind in his work due to injuries suffered in car accident that summer. As winter was upon us, Louise and I asked if we would be allowed to cut and haul some fire wood, a job dad had usually completed by this time. The snow had arrived early that year and by mid-November, after Louise had turned five, there was nearly two feet on the ground in some places.

When we approached Dad said ‘OK’ but Mom, of course, was not all that thrilled with the idea. She had previously watched us haul manure for her garden and lumber for our playhouse, so I suppose she figured we could do it even if she did not like the idea of us heading off into the bush with the team of horses for a full day. 

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Comments

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold