Summertime diversions on the farm

By Elizabeth Donaldson
Special to the Times

You may think that living on a small farm in the 1940’s without electricity or running water and limited transportation would be all work but there are many memories of some special times and entertainments even though they may sound very simple now.

We made our own amusements and many children learned to swim in the LaVallee River. Some afternoons were spent with friends between the shady banks splashing and playing in the cool brown waters. The river was deeper and wider then. There was never adult supervision and we were just told “Be home by chore time.” The older children had a strong sense of responsibility for looking after the younger children and nothing bad seemed to happen and most of us learned to swim.

Sometimes on a Sunday in the summer we went to the Point Park with the Loney family. Three adults and eight children all packed into the car along with food and drinks. The ladies would reserve a picnic table by putting our food and things there and then we enjoyed the clear waters of Rainy Lake. Most of us could swim and Uncle Lawrence kept a close eye on the younger ones. I have a memory of a big water slide near the dock but don’t know if this was real or imagined. It was a wonderful day with cousins and ended with an ice cream cone from the pavilion.

Holmes and Edna Miller, a young couple with two young sons Gary and Jackie had taken over the grocery business in LaVallee, first run by David Strachan. Imagine our excitement when they invited us and the McCoy family for a day at Lake Hope. We were picked up and all piled into the back of his pickup truck with the two older ladies in the front. I remember the first time driving north and seeing the charred trunks of trees that had burned in the historic Dance Fire. At the lake we were able to practice our swimming and play in the water and sand. After a hearty lunch and more swimming we would arrive home in late afternoon where the animals were happy to see us in time for chores. These times were highlights of the summer.

The events that involved the whole community were the school picnic on the last day of school in June and the Christmas concert. The picnic was wonderful and we all hoped for good weather. There were good ball players in the Strachan and Cain families and it was so exciting to see the men playing. The Ladies Aid had a booth and sold treats. With the quarter that Mom gave us to spend I could buy 5 treats such as pop, gum, a chocolate bar and an ice cream cone. The ice cream had to be used up quickly! Every one brought food and a supper was later enjoyed in the school house.

When Aunt Edna Cain hosted family gatherings in the summer there would sometimes be the special treat of homemade ice cream. This was made in an ice cream maker that was like a pail or tub made of wooden slats that held a tall metal container with a crank connected to paddles on top. At that time there were people in Box Alder that still had an ice house where big blocks of ice cut in the winter could be stored in sawdust bins and lasted nearly year round. Pieces of this were broken up and put in the wooden pail. Then some reaction with rock salt being added to the ice caused the ice cream mixture to freeze in the tall metal can. It had to be stirred constantly and men took turns turning the crank as it got harder and harder to turn. When it was pronounced done the ladies served it in cones or dishes along with cookies and cakes.

They were simple diversions but a welcome change from routine as the anticipation and the memory of it was almost as enjoyable as the actual event. We did not have to be entertained as I am sure that had we ever said we had nothing to do that my mother could find some remedy to that.