Posts Tagged ‘Louise McNeill’

Cold Lake High: Cars, Girls, Rock and Roll

Written by Harold McNeill on September 27th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


CL Cover for IIIPhoto Collage: There was never enough time to do it all. Cars, girls, rock and roll were all part of the freedoms that came in the 1950’s.  If was a unique time in the Canada, and we made the best of it. The majority even managed to graduate with distinction. I was one of the non-distincts, however, my sister, Louise McNeill, graduated with a distinct distinction, that being the 1961 Honour Role. This post makes it clear why I failed to do so.

(Photo selection: Jimmy Martineau, Gordie Wusyk, Billy Martineau and drummer in the background, Gary McGlaughlinplaying at the Tropicana Night Club. Below, the Pinsky Cadillac. Harold McNeill and Aaron Pinsky in a “cool” shot at the Roundel Hotel.  Sitting across from us is Dorothy Hartman, an awesome dance partner. We worked out the fine points of the back over flip as shown in the photo top right  (Dance photos from the web).

Chapter 3: The High School Years

Link Here for Chapter 1 of the High School Years
Link Here for Chapter 2 of the High School Years
Link to Family Stories Index

1. Introduction

Perhaps the best way to pick my way through the final two segments of the Cold Lake High School Years is by selecting random memories. Not to worry, I will be discrete while keeping the history and stories interesting as possible. The post is not meant as a titillating account of a small town as in Peyton Place, but seeks instead to provide an account of how I950’s High School kids in a small town at the edge of the wilderness on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border lived and loved.  peytonbwonrockFor the most part, private matters between consenting students during our time in Cold Lake High would stay in Cold Lake High. That does not mean I won’t pick around the edges.

Peyton Place:  The sizzling movie version of the best-selling book was released in 1957, just in time for our coming of age. While the movie was toned down, it still raised eyebrows and was soundly condemned in many quarters.  By today’s standards, it would be relatively tame.

Another thing that will become evident, this story was written from the male perspective. To make any statements about what girls focussed on in the day will be up to them.  Any girls who wish to add to my descriptions, please write a few chapters of your own, they will be added to the post so we can compare and contrast our views of life in the 50’s.

Two things defined High School boys back then as today – cars and girls. In my day the two consumed an enormous portion of our limited and highly specialized brain space – girls occupied the left hemisphere, cars the right. As we boys couldn’t use both halves at the same time, the balance wavered from day to day. For that matter, our brains stopped working altogether when other parts of our anatomy kicked in.

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Cold Lake High School Years: The Journey Begins

Written by Harold McNeill on April 29th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 

Cold Lake Air Force Base

Early in the 1950’s the largest RCAF Station ever constructed in Canada was taking shape in Alberta. The small, remote, communities of Cold Lake and Grande Centre, that grew ever so slowly over the first fifty years of the century, would be shaken to their foundations as they struggled to come to terms with a massive influx of workers and their families. Our family was one of the many seeking to find their way.

Chapter 1:  The Journey Begins 1953
(Link to Chapter 2, Cold Lake High 1955 -1960)
Link Here for other Family Stories in this Series

Dear Reader,

For the several months, I struggled with how to write this post about our return to Cold Lake. To this point, it was easy to tell the stories as they were all generally positive. Even though our family was constantly on the move over the twelve years until this story, everything was relatively stable on the home front. All that changed in 1953 after arriving in Cold Lake and it continued in one form or another until our Dad passed away suddenly in 1965. While I will not dwell on the ugly parts, and there were many, I felt compelled to

Harold Louise Dianneexpress the feelings that enveloped me during those tumultuous years as a means to better understand myself and, perhaps, as a message to others.

I rather expect at least a few of my school friends shared similar experiences and might even take solace in knowing they were not alone.  The background to this story is alcohol abuse, but it could easily have been any of a dozen other things that cause family units to fracture – drugs, infidelity, mental illness, etc.  Children and teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable when this happens and need to know they are never alone, that even when things get really bad, the future can still hold a great deal of promise.

Indeed, this will become evident in parts of this post and in subsequent posts through the High School years and beyond. A great many positive things can happen even if life on the home front has spiralled into periods of darkness.

Photo: If taken between October and December 1958, I was seventeen, Louise fourteen, and Dianne four.  Louise remembered our ages as she recognized the skirt as one she sewed in her Grade 9 Home Ec class. Look at Louise for a moment. For those who know her daughter Karena, can you see Karina’s sassy smile and eyes? Looking at clothes, I also remember the day those grey ‘flecked’ dress pants arrived by mail order from Sears.  They became my favourite dress up in High School.  And, as for that sweet, innocent little girl on the right, my heart aches for having completely missed knowing her when she was young. 

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Farming in Pibroch, Alberta

Written by Harold McNeill on January 28th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


2003

Photo (From Web)  Pibroch, AB, main street as it looked in 1951 when we arrived. During a trip to that area in 2010, the main street had not changed all that much.

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

Chapter 2  The Gypsy Years in Pibroch

January 9, 2015:  This post is brought forward for the accountant we met in San Francisco who looked after the accounts of several Hutterite Colonies in Alberta. He is retired but at one time worked with the Colony in Pibroch that is featured in this post.  If that accountant happens to pick up on this post please leave a message.  Regards,  Harold

1. Introduction:

After bidding a final farewell his youth, the years used up toiling away on a rock farm near Birch Lake, Saskatchewan, Dad was being drawn back to farming. In the spring he had taken over as foreman on the Murfitt spread in Pibroch, Alberta, a mixed farm with 200 head of cattle and about half the 640 acres under cultivation. It provided an opportunity to reconnect to animals and the land.

While horses had given way to tractors during the intervening years, Dad still had plenty of farming skills that made his services eagerly sought after and, as well, Mom would again be working in unison Dad. Taking over the farm kitchen she would work her magic as she cooked for a half dozen full-time farmhands in the off-season and twice that many during the harvest.

For Louise and me, it would be a new school and new friends, something we were becoming accustomed to as we shifted from pillar to post over the past two years. The great news about this move – Louise and I would be reunited with Mom and Dad in a country setting that was reminiscent of our early years. Our time at HA Gray and the big city was rapidly coming to an end as we would be heading North as soon as the school year was complete.

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The McNeill Family: Edmonton

Written by Harold McNeill on October 6th, 2013. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Edmonton Street LocationsLaura McNeill and Mr. Goodrich42

The McNeill Family: Edmonton/h1>

H.A. Gray School

Photo (From Web): The stately H.A. Gray Elementary School in Edmonton where Mom registered Louise and I in late August, 1949. It was a far cry from our one room school in Harlan, SK (see Chapter 2). Also, reference footer photo for comparison to a similar building in Victoria.

Link to Next Post: Pibroch
Link to Last Post: Dad is Missing (Last of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index
Link to the Old School House (First in the Harlan Series)

Chapter 1: The Gypsy Years

When Dad and Mom (Dave and Laura McNeill) took Louise and me 1 to live with Aunt Liz and Uncle Warren, in Harlan, Saskatchewan early in the spring of 1949, it was the first time we were separated from our parents. While we had made many moves in our short lives, this was just the beginning of being away from them for various periods of time ranging from a few months, to nearly a year. Our lives became a whirlwind of short-term home stays, new schools and new friends, many of whom remained steadfast for the rest of our lives.

Even our old pal Shep, the amazing Collie Cross, was left far behind in the care of our good friend Mr. Goodrich, our trapper neighbour at Marie Lake (A Final Farewell). Although the loneliness of being separated from Mom, Dad, Shep and our wilderness way of life, left a gapping hole in our lives, we had every reason to believe the hole would be filled once we settled in Edmonton.

Well, things did not turn out as planned and, in fact, Edmonton would bring the near death of our Mom and her younger sister, Aunt Marcia and the death of our one our best friends.

1Aunt Liz’s first husband Tart, a rodeo bronco rider, had passed away a few years earlier and Aunt Liz, Dad’s sister, had married Dad’s friend Warren Harwood around the time we were all living north of Cold Lake. (Smith Place)

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Marie Lake: The Trapline – Chapter 5 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Marie Lake Harold and Louise with Wolf 1

Louise (4) and Harold (7) hold a large Silver Wolf that Mr. Goodrich (photo below) had shot earlier that fall. Wolf packs were very common in the area, but they seldom bothered any of the area residents as wild game was plentiful (Photo by Mom).

May 8, 2014.  This story is brought forward as it is the 7th birthday of our Grandson, Grayson Edward Walker.
Grayson, check out one of the things Grandpa was doing during his 7th year.

Link to Next Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Last Post: Link to Explosion
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter of 1948 – 1949

Suddenly Shep stopped dead in his tracks and stood perfectly still. The hair on his neck and back bristled as a soft, low growl emanated from deep within his throat. I scanned the bush – nothing. He continued to growl and slowly sniffed the air off to my right.

Suddenly I caught a wisp of two large silver-grey animals moving furtively through the trees about 100 feet off the trail. Wolves! No doubt the rest of the pack would be nearby.

Marie Lake Goodrich with Geese  by our Home2Everything Mr. Goodrich had told me about encountering a wolf or other predator flooded into my mind.

“Just keep walking and go about your business! Don’t run. Stand tall. Keep chatting – make some noise – fire a shot at a tree if you wish. The wolves have been well feed this winter so they are more afraid of you than you of them. Remember, a healthy, well fed wolf or bear will seldom attack a human.

‘Seldom attack?’ ‘Well fed?’ I certainly hoped so. At under four feet, even ‘standing tall’; I was not going to make much of an impression. As for the part ‘they are more afraid of you than you of them!’ there is no way on God’s green earth, one of those big, silver-grey wolves could possibly be more afraid of me. It probably didn’t help that mom had been reading all those ‘big bad wolf stories’ when I was a little boy.

Photo: (by mom):  I do not have any photos of Mr. Goodrich hunting big animals, but in this photo he stands holding his shotgun in front of our house. Beside him is several geese he had shot early one fall morning in 1948.

As for wolves, just the previous week Mr. Goodrich had killed a large male not many miles from my present location. He  also told us he had observed a kill site further north where the wolves had taken down a deer. Louise and I had held the skin of that large male and had to pull hard just to keep it to off the ground. It must have stretched six or seven feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

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Marie Lake: My Best Friend – Chapter 6 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Louise and Shep on Wagon

Photo (by Mom):  While was a good friend with who I spent considerable time exploring the wilderness around our home, by best friend was my little sister Louise. Together we spend hours building things, helping around the house and taking school lessons from mom.

Link to Next Post: Link to Crash on Highway 28
Link to Last Post: Link to The Trap Line
Link to Family Stories Index

1947 -1949

Life can be fragile, a fact our family had plenty of chances to learn – Louise nearly drying from a killer fungus, then, nearly drowning and mom’s injury from the explosion.

The coming summer, to be our last at Marie Lake, would find dad left for dead in the Cold Lake Hospital. That fall, Uncle Warren and Cousin Emerson would stare down the grim reaper on the thin ice of Marie Lake, the lake that had nearly taken Dad, Aunt Marcia, Louise and me to the bottom.

It was a time when Louise and I would be drawn more closely together than at any time in our lives, before or after. While our dog Shep played a prominent role in my young life, I would have to say that Louise grew to be my very best friend over the two short years at Marie Lake. We played, worked, studied and planned new adventures and, Shep was close by our side. It was an all too brief interlude in our lives, a time when life stood still.

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Marie Lake: Explosion – Chapter 3 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Stove at Marie Lake

Photo (Web).  A wood cookstove that nearly ended our mothers life.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Easy Come, Easy Go
Link to Last Post: Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Family Stories Index

July, 1947

It was one of those quiet, lazy July mornings at Marie Lake. The dead calm waters reflected the morning sun and the leaves on the poplar trees, usually twisting and fluttering in the slightest breeze, hung as if frozen in time. The only noise to be heard was the quiet chatter of a few birds and of the laughter of Louise and me as we Mom before firedredged out wet sand to complete our giant sand castle – to be a surprise for mom and dad.

Suddenly, the serenity of the morning was bluntly ended by a loud, deep ‘whooomp’ coming from the direction of the house. A split second later the silence was further pierced by a blood curdling scream that echoed through the trees and down to the water. Louise and I sat there, momentarily frozen.

With the screams rising in intensity, we jumped up and run towards the house. As we topped the small sand bank we saw mom running with flames and smoke rising from her body. We were stricken with fear at a site we couldn’t fully comprehend.

After a short distance, she fell and rolled in the sand, grass and pine needles covering the yard. We stopped dead in our tracks not knowing what to do. At that moment dad came running from the mink pens. He frantically tried to smother the flames with his jacket but it wasn’t large enough to cover her whole body. Each time he moved the jacket, flames would spring to life.  An eternity passed before the flames were finally extinguished. The nauseating smell of burnt cloth, plastic and flesh permeated the air.

Dad hollered: “Harold, Louise, get a sheet off the bed.”

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Marie Lake: The Mink Pen Adventure – Chapter 1 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Line Squal moving in over water

A line squall moves toward our boat as we crossed Marie Lake.  The high winds and waves placed us in mortal danger.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Last Post: Link to Near Death on the Dock  (End of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

1947 -1949

Marie Lake was suddenly rough, very rough, as the wind stirred up white frothy waves to a height of three or four feet. The ice had been out for no more than a week and small chunks could still be seen floating nearby. We were being drenched by the freezing spray and at this moment were in imminent danger of being thrown into the freezing cold, dark waters.

Aunt Marcia1 reflected upon that hair raising boat trip:

“That crazy uncle of mine was so smart but he had no sense when it came to being cautious. When we left the dock he could see storm clouds on the horizon and the wind was rising. I was only fifteen but even I knew Marie Lake could quickly become rough enough to swamp our small boat.

Now, here we were, spread-eagled on top of a boat covered with stupid mink pens. Mink pens, can you believe it – stinking, dirty mink pens. I suppose we were lucky Uncle Dave had not kept the mink in them. I asked him to wait, but he laughingly chided me – come along or stay by myself. Stupid me, I went along. Now we were in the middle of the lake and things were going from bad to worse.”

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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