CLIFTON MAGNUSSON AND FAMILY
by Irene (Arnold) Magnusson
Clifton was born in Elk Point on March 7, 1912, courtesy of his parents Charles and Elizabeth Magnusson, and with the help of Dr. Wolfe. He found his five older brothers and sisters already on the homestead, having moved in from Knox, N. Dakota as settlers in 1909. His first years were uneventful, happy and secure. Another brother, Vernon, joined the family two years later. About this time the family were busy building a new home on the farm, and Charley worked as the Elk Point ferryman.
Clifton and Vernon, at the time about five and three, were playing in the woods one day, (a favorite pastime) when they found a pool of water with a plank across it. An irresistible challenge, they started walking across. Vernon fell in, Clifton grabbed him by his hair and clothes and dragged him out. They were very frightened, as they thought this to be an old well.
At seven, Clifton had inflammatory rheumatism and lost a summer of school, school being open March to Christmas only in those years.
The winter of 1919/20 was the second year of the Big Flu, and was also known as the Hard Winter. Snow came early and stayed late; there was prolonged cold; feed was scarce and of poor quality. Men struggled valiantly to keep livestock fed and on their feet. Cattle, especially, would fall, on steep hillsides and off built-up paths, and too weak to regain their footing, would expire if not quickly raised. It was not an easy task. The search for feed of any kind, was endless.
The Magnusson family, like many others, was stricken by the flu. By March Charley had strained his already weakened heart beyond endurance, and he died. Changes came fast to the family after that.
(Mrs.) Elizabeth Magnusson, 1946.
First there was the mortgage. Elizabeth (Lizzie) was unable to pay it up, cattle having died and no income available. The bank foreclosed and she was forced to move with her children to an empty farm house near by, old and cold after the big new house so recently completed. By this time some of the older children had left the nest.
Ray and Emma Keitges, at their home in Glendon, 1947
THE CHARLIE MAGNUSSON FAMILY
LEFT TO RIGHT Clifton, Emma, Ted, Ed, Lawrence, Myrtha and Vernon. Alberta -missing, 1955.
Myrtha had married Ira Merrick in 1915; Emma married Ray Keitges a couple years later, and they had a store in town. Theodore (Ted) and Lawrence went in search of work, wherever or whatever they could find. Edward, the eldest boy remained at home, working hard to look after the few remaining livestock and to earn what he could for the family. There had been one more daughter born, Alberta, who was eight months old at the time of her father's death.
A meager relief allowance of $10.00 a month was doled out to Lizzie by the M.D. of Lincoln. For some reason each month she was required to go a distance of twelve miles to the home of the secretary Tom Johnson to pick this up. This she drove with a horse and buggy or cutter. Once she was unable to get there on the set day, and the allowance was cancelled for that month.
Through the long cold winters, with the help of the two younger boys Edward hauled wood to Elk Point, to exchange for groceries and supplies. Lizzie did housework for her neighbors, took in sewing, mending and laundry. She bought an Auto-knitter on time and knit sox and mitts, for the company and for friends and family. Clifton learned to operate this machine and helped her with the knitting.
An abandoned homestead was located and Lizzie filed on it. There was a small building on the place. Edward added a couple of log rooms and the family moved in 1925. He built a barn for the horses and few remaining cattle, a shed for the chickens and pig, cleared and plowed some land. They cut wild hay and planted a garden.
Paramount school was four miles away, and the kids went there, sometimes horseback, but mostly afoot. When Clifton finished grade six, he quit school and tried to get work, for farmers or on the road. In 1926 and '27 Ed and Clif went on the Cutknife, Saskatchewan area to thresh, Ed pitching bundles and Clif feeding straw to a steam-driven tractor which ran the threshing machine. In winter the boys put out traps for weasels, skunks, coyotes, muskrats and rabbits. The two younger boys became good shots, and kept the family supplied with venison, grouse and duck. Wild berries were picked and canned; Lizzie's garden yielded well, if there was rain. Few dollars were seen, but no one went hungry.
Lizzie's mother, Mrs. Larson ("Little Grandma") had come to live with them before they went to the homestead, as her husband had died in Dakota, and she wanted to be near her daughter. A dynamic tiny oldfashioned lady, she was always active. A devout Adventist, she was sure no good would come to the dancegoing grandchildren. She lived with Lizzie until she died at 84 years, in 1933.
Ed married Grace (Boos) Garneau, a widow, in 1928. They farmed in the Elk Point area until his death in 1962; a good neighbor, fond of horses and dogs, always willing to lend a helping hand. They had one daughter, Dolores, who made a career with the T-D Bank. She died a few weeks prior to her mother, Grace, in 1976.
Grace, Dolores and Ed Magnusson, 1950
Emma and Ray Keitges left Elk Point in the '20's; he later became a grain buyer and they have lived in the "banana belt" at Lethbridge since his retirement. They had two children. Ted married a teacher, Helen Anderson from Angle Lake. He also followed a long career as a grain buyer for U.G.G., many of those years at Lindbergh. After retirement they lived in Vermilion, until his death in January in 1978. They had three children.
Lawrence married Florence Trott in the late '20's, and made his life's work farming. In 1944 they moved to Angus, Ont., birthplace of Florence, where they farmed until retirement. Florence passed on some years ago. Lawrence enjoys his retirement in the town of New Lowell, Ontario, near some of his seven children. Alberta married Lyle Valentine, and they farmed in the area until 1947, when they moved to Dapp. They had seven children. Alberta lives now in Sangudo, with her second husband, Bob Emsley and their son Walter.
Vernon married Helen Tiger around 1940 and they farmed near Stoney Lake, moving later to Lindbergh, where he worked at the Salt Plant. They had three children. Helen died in 1964, and the family moved to Edmonton and Wildwood. Myrtha, now a widow, lives in the town of Elk Point.
Lizzie Magnusson developed a heart condition, so a small house was moved to her daughter Alberta's farm around 1940. Here she lived until her passing in 1948 at the age of seventy. It is ironic-and perhaps typical of the
pioneers-that this courageous woman enjoyed her old age pension for just three months, after having struggled all those dreary years, against almost overwhelming odds, never giving up, never complaining. For a few years in the '30's, Lizzie was blinded by cataracts, underwent a successful operation and recovered. She never stopped mending, fixing, remaking and saving. Truly she "used it up, wore it out, made it do or did without". Her children were taught honesty, truth and kindness, to help each other, and the meaning of working with their hands. Clif doesn't recall ever being spanked, or his mother's voice raised in anger, yet she was always obeyed.
Clifton and I, Irene Arnold were married in Elk Point in 1934, in, we were told, the worst of the depression years. We lived with Clif's mother for two years, at last were able to set up housekeeping on a rented farm near by. We had one team of horses, one cow and one pig. Clif plowed about ten acres of soddy, gone-back field with a walking plow, seeded it to wheat and harvested it. The garden, cow and a few chickens, plus the trusty .22 supplied most of our food. It was so cold in that little shack that we kept our potatoes at his mother's place, bringing a half a sack as we needed them, and left them on the porch, frozen solid... just popped them in the boiling water at meal times. I always took the dippei out of the water pail at night; it would have been frozen in by morning.
There was no money left after the rent was paid so Clif was willing enough to accept a job working for Bill Andrishak at $1.50 a day, 10 hour days. This he continued to do for many years, and for Fred Andrishak after he took over the farm from his father. Wages did go up over the years. This was summer work only. During the winter Clif sawed wood for farmers and in town with an outfit he made and hauled on his bob-sleigh. This brought $1.00 an hour for man with outfit for many years. If hiring a crew, customers paid 25cents to 50 cents an hour per man. Often they did exchange work to get this job done.
I truly believe the pioneers did not live through tougher times than many in the Depression. I remember one morning we had nothing to eat, no flour, bread, meat or porridge. There must have been milk and butter, for it was summer and we had a cow. I got up and tried to think what do do-we were hungry! I went to the garden and "robbed" a few hills of their golf-ball size potatoes, scrubbed them off and fried them. We ate a lot of potatoes that morning, laughing along with it, as we had faith something would turn up. Sure enough, a man who owed us some money stopped in, paid us the $2.00 and we were O.K. again, a sack of flour and a pound of coffee made things bright once more. This was in our first year on our own, nothing canned yet, or put by.
Clif and I lived in various vacant farm houses the first twelve years of our married life. They were small, dark, dreary log buildings, leaky, buggy, cold in winter, hot in summer. We had an old tent and slept in it when the weather was warm enough, until we were crowded out by our growing family. We tried to keep these places tidy, cutting the grass with a scythe, planting flowers and trees, mostly wild or given to us. Whitewash or calsomine were applied as liberally as our very small income would allow. We had a lot of help from our families, who were as hard up as we were, at times.
When the first Baby Bonus, a whopping but once-only $15.00 came along, following the birth of our fourth child, I recall that I bought shoes for all my brood. By the time our fifth one came along, in 1945, Family Allowance had become a regular monthly god-send. They had cod-liver oil, shoes, oranges, and I paid a few dollars each month on our horrendous doctor bill, accumulated over years of deliveries and some illnesses. The hospital bill loomed ominous, too, although we were counted as rate-payers and only charged a dollar a day. Out-of-the-municipality patients (non-ratepayers) paid $6.00 per day.
THE CLIFTON MAGNUSSON FAMILY
BACK ROW, Left to Right: Melvin, Lynn, Patricia, Charles. SEATED: Irene, Dennis, Clifton.
Our five children were Patricia, Melvin, Lynn, Charles and Dennis. All took their schooling in Paramount or Elk Point. Patricia was valedictorian for her graduating class in grade nine and again in grade twelve. Melvin and Dennis graduated from grade twelve, too. Pat became a bookkeeper, working at this in Calgary for many years, where she lived with her husband Majoric Bedard and two daughters, until her death in 1977.
Melvin became an electrician and works at a gas plant near Fairview. He married Aline Gagne of Vimy and they have three children. Lynn married Gary Young, the-boy-next-door, and farms with him on the old Merrick place, not far from Lizzie Magnusson's homestead. They have four children. Charles lives in Edmonton with his wife Ann and two daughters, where he is a mailman at the U. of A. Dennis became an electronics technician and salesman. He lives in Coquitlam, B.C. with his wife Rhoda (Gibson) and one son.
Our family love music and many hours were spent with the rafters ringing. Clif worked for a week for Amel Schults, (this was before we were married) for an old violin, which he gave me, and I still have. Much later he traded a horse to Earl Young for a banjo. Clif and I played at farm homes, schoolhouse and barn dances, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes there were others. We often took our kids with us, and it was fun to get out, but hard work, too, and we earned the $2.00 or $3.00 each we were paid. We needed it, too, Later our kids joined in. We got an accordion for Pat from Eatons, and they were so much better than I that I let them have the honors. The "Variety Four" were Pat, Gary Young on clarinet, Clif and Steve Boratynec on guitar - and they were good.
Pat left to find work and the boys took over. Pat and Lynn both married in 1956, and about that time our three boys together with Art Thomson from Heinsburg formed the "Rockbusters". This orchestra played for many dances, far and wide, and survived long enough to put all our boys through school. They were a rock group, but played old-time and pretty, too. One by one the young people moved away to work or school elsewhere, and the band died.
'ROCKBUSTERS' ORCHESTRA, 1958-63
LEFT TO RIGHT: Melvin Magnusson, Art Thomson, Charles and Dennis Magnusson.
Elk Point and district has a high export rate; we produce and ship out more young people that anything else, it seems. Of my thirteen brothers and sisters, only I remain here; of our five children we have only one near us. Most families are the same.
Life in the Elk Point district has not always been easy for us, but we have persevered and eventually prospered. We bought land in 1948 and have farmed for ourselves since then. Clifton is an innate mechanic, keeping his machinery running, often against its will, and he has never been afraid of work. I have worked with him in any endeavour, with crops and livestock, fencing and fixing. The only things I can't recall ever doing are castrating or combining-oh, and I never ran the rock-picker. I do know about rocks, though.
We have been involved in our community, supporting farm organizations, Red Cross, recreation and others. We have both spent our lives within miles of where we were born, and really have no wish to do otherwise. During the war we did try Vancouver, ship-yard work was plentiful, but we both felt trapped in the city. We were soon back in Elk Point. The Peace River country beckoned, but far from hospital and doctors-with children I wouldn't risk it. Guess I'm not a pioneer!
We are still farming grain, no livestock now, and free as the breeze we haunt the lovely lakes and woods within our reach, or roam the province and outside, looking down many interesting roads. I have a multitude of hobbies, and more I haven't tried, and the outdoors always calls. Clif shares some of my interests and has some favorites of his own. He no longer hunts with a gun, rather with a telescope or tape-recorder; enjoys the nature programs on TV and reads the Geographic and such.
I'm not sure we will leave the Elk Point district any richer for our having been here, but I do know we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
by Irene Magnusson
Oh sure, I recall Depression years
Though I was just a kid;
It was hearing the grown -ups -
How they'd talk -
Left to myself I might have never known
And thought all times the same as those
In which we lived.
"Hard times! "they'd nod... or
Shake their heads. "Times are so hard!"
And Dad would say "Easy on the sugar, there.
It's gone to three cents a pound, you know,
And it's Depression years!"
So we ladled the three-cent sugar
On our great bowls of steaming oats, afloat
With cream-rich milk from our own brindle cow.
"Be careful of that shoe leather -
Shoes at a dollar a pair!" he'd warn,
So we'd tweek them off and run and slide
On our own tough soles -Thro ugh bush and grass and gravel,
Through creeks and woods and even snow -
And no one said, "Spare your bare feet."
Even in Depression years.
We'd all go to the sports days
Held near town - to watch endless ballgames
And to run in the races -
Often to fail - but if we won the dime
It bought another hot-dog or two ice cream cones,
Or slice of home-made pie the ladies brought
To sate our ravening appetites... 'Earning our own keep'
Brought a little grin to Father's face
As ceremoniously he doled
Into each waiting hand in turn
Our ration of a quarter...
Well yes, I can recall those years -
Work scarce... pay low...
Still, I might have missed it -
Thin king back - when I remember
Mother's biscuits and the home-made jam
And mashed potatoes running butter.
Or the saskatoons we picked by tubfuls
'Neath the blazing summer sun,
And raspberries cool and wild along the creek...
I feel again the bleached flour bags -
Our sheets, our shirts, our linens - and
The rough hand-spindled woolly mitts;
The hand-me-downs from some kind city ladies
Made-over to our needs -
And sometimes pretty... and Mother
Sitting evenings, beside the tiny lamp,
Head bent to sew again
A patch on patch on patch.
No, I might not have known...
Excepting for the grown -up'stalk...
And thought myself a happy cared-for creature,
Full of good food and tough from hard work -
As one with all of nature -
Reading of unreal other worlds,
Playing my games, dreaming my dreams...
Although they said, "Don't dream too big -
There's little hope -
In these Depression years!"
-by permission of the author