13 Feb 2000

Ref:         wk14fe00.


Wanda  Keefe’s Story [WKS]  2000-001

Wanda Donna Keefe   [Wanda Donna Davis-Keefe]

Back to Alberta – 1956

[see also wk0011mr.doc for some background notes on discussion of wanda name etc. tht cam out when this doc was discussed]


In 1956 I decided to visit my family and relatives in Alberta, Canada. The distance form Seaford, NY to Kingman, Alberta was approximately 2,760 miles. In itself, not too unusual a trip.  But when the trip, for the first 956 miles to McHenry Ill., was made with six children - age eight months to 11 years - it was somewhat out of the ordinary.


We prepared for the trip by buying a new Ford Station Wagon. We set up the rear of the station Wagon so that games, snacks etc. were always available. Each child was assigned a task while in motels, way side stops etc.  Preliminary work completed, we left our Long Island Home on our way to my sister's home in McHenry Ill.  My husband was driving and I was in the front seat where I held the baby. Another child usually sat up front with us. The children were Jack -11, Kevin-9, Tim -7, Beth-5, Dona-3 and George  eight months. [edit note 7 months made consistent with 8 months above];


The Trip to McHenry went well. We drove through Manhattan and under the Hudson River. Once in New Jersey we picked up the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The children were fascinated as we drove through the tunnels on the Turnpike.


We stopped for the night at a motel close to the Turnpike. All was well with the children. Each was performing the chore assigned. To them. And they entertained each other.        The next morning  was surprised to see the three oldest boys starting to make their beds. I told them this was not necessary in motel.  Too bad I didn't know the magic formula as they seldom made their beds at home.  [Ed note: Might add the silly putty - almost chased onto the highway story]


            The trip on the Ohio Turnpike was made in good time and without incident. Unfortunately, the Indiana Turnpike was not opened when we went through that state.   It was necessary for ust to go through many small towns while heading to Illinois. In Illinois we had t o go through Chicago on the eve of July 4th - our way to Mchenry Ill.

[Ed note- Uncle Smitty meets us in Chicago?]


We spent time in Mc henry visiting friends and relatives o my sister and brother-in-law Gwen and Leroy Smith. As a fair was being held in town, all the children and their cousins rode the rides, played the games, ate the taffy etc.


My Husband, in the meanwhile had to return to his job. Gwen and her three Children Richie-10, Cindy -8 and Donnie -4 joined us on the last 1,856 miles of he trip. So I, at 35 years of age and Gwen, at 29 years of age left McHenry with nine children ages 7/8 months to 11 years


We started late in the AM from Mc Henry and only made Eau Claire Wis. That night. All the motels along the route were filled.  Fortunately one of the motels people called ahead and arranged for us to stay in a Eau Claire hotel - all the children under 12 free. $16.00


I dropped Gwen and the children off at the hotel and drove around to the parking area.  When Gwen registered at the hotel, people were coming into the hotel lobby to attend a formal affair. She was carrying George and the other eight , each carrying a ditty bay , were strung out behind her. She later told me " I felt like 'Ma Kettle'" [ed note Need explanation of Ma Kettle from movie etc.]


She was assigned two rooms. When I went up to the room I found her sitting on a bed surrounded bythe children.  She was quite discouraged and worried how we were going to sleep comfortably in two small rooms. We opened the door to the other room and found an extra-large suite with beds galore! We spent an enjoyable night in our home away from home.

·        James town 15.00?


Our trip through the remainder of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota was pleasant. and educational. My children found watching the dairy herds, fields of corn, wheat etc. a new experience.


We passed over the border to Canada at North Portali ND. I was back in Canada for the first time since 1945.  While in Saskatchewan we visited our younger sister and family: June and Johnny Maunder and their son Darol and Tommy. Johnny was working in the oil rigs near the town they were living in -Estaxan, Sask.

[Editor note: Trailer park?  Was the scene of the WK going to clean to community out house for the kids first out house experience]


While with June we did a ton of washing and caught up on the news of the family.


We left Esteran and spent the next night in Moose Jaw , Sak.[$15.00]. The following day we left for Kingman, Alberta. For much of the day he trip was uneventful. But before reaching Tofield, Alberta we ran into a hailstorm. Some of the hailstones actually dented sections of the car hood. We pulled off the road until the hailstorm stopped.


A torrential downpour followed the hailstorm.. We took to the road and proceeded to Tofield. Parts of Tofield were flooded and streets were masses of mud.  We pulled up in front of a gas station to ask for directions to Kingman.  Two men, wearing hjip boots slogged to the car. We asked if they knew how to get to Dede and Wyman Christenson farm in Kingman. Fortunately they knew Wyman. As it was eleven miles to the farm over a muddy road they said they would show us the way . They hopped into a truck and drove to the farm.  I followed them while praying that we did not end up in  ditch. The rain was still coming down in torrents and the road was a field of mud.


[Ed notes: Told kids to pray, one later said he fell asleep praying and thought he woke up still praying as we arrived]

At the road leading into the Christenson farm I had a bit of difficulty getting over a hump in the ground. No problem.  By the time my parents - Wildy and Stanley Davis - and all the Christensons were aware of our arrival. Wyman drove down the road in the tractor, hooked the car to the tractor and pulled us up into the yard.  From then on it was glorious reunion. We had a summer ahead of us for __family gatherings and friends reunion.


The children were fascinated by their newly found cousins: Sharon -7, Davniel-5, Chris-3 and Greg-3 weeks. Preparations had been made for our arrival. Over night, the farmhouse family went from six persons to nineteen people - quite an increase. But my parents, Dede and Wyman had prepared for the increas. A kitchen [and community eating table] was setup in a silo and beds were arranged in tents and cars.


The children had free range of the farm. Wyman built with them huts in the woods and would take some of them while he was handling his chores. They would be clambering about him while he milked cows, fed chickens, attended to the cattle in the fields, watched over the piglets etc. Roaming freely over the farm, the children now and then became quite dirty. It was not an unusual occurrence to have several of them fall into a pig pen or to just be covered with dirt. My sister, mother and I spent many hours daily washing and drying clothes.


Later my brother Fred, wife Riva and the children drove down from the Northwest Territory to see us. We spent many hours visiting relatives throughout the providence of Alberta. We mad day trips and, in some instances, over night trips. The overnight trips found us visiting relations who were farmers. As we did in Kingman, we did on the other farms: sleeping in homes, tents and cars.


On one trip we visited my Aunt Mable in Halfway Lakes. When I was a girl we lived on a farm on the other side of the Athabasca Trail from the McVelly's - My aunt's family. That side -trip I was able to show my children the log-cabin my father built and in which I was born.  As a young man he homesteaded, built the log cabin, cleared the fields, etc.  showed them te one room Gullian School located about a mile away from our home on the Athabasca Trail. I told them of the Clydesdales [horses?] on my Uncle Rolland's barn yard and the intensity of the thunder of their hoofs.


It brought back memories of going to dance3s with my parents while bundled up in the cutterbox [a horse drawn sled?]. I recall going to dances, when I was in high-school in Clyde, a nearby small town.


As we tooled around the Province we saw the towns that were a part of my growing up. Westlock, Clydashegal??, Vinny, Gibbons, hardisty, St. Albert, etc.


By late August we had spent time with aunts, uncles and cousins galore.  We met school mates, I last saw in 1939, when I told them goodbye as they boarded one of the first Canadian Troop [planes/trains?] headed for Eastern Canada where they boarded ships for Great Britain.


Late August found us leaving for home. After saying our goodbyes we returned home on the road we traveled on the way out:. Moosejaw, Jamestown, McHenry and home. The trip back went smoothly as we had refined our travel procedures.


We have been back to Alberta many times since 1956. But, all who made the 1956 trip agree it was the best trip of all: seeing grandparents, relatives, living on a farm, etc.  It was the best of all possible trips.


[ed. Note when the kids arrived on the farm the milk which went more directly from the cows to the table tasted "funny". But when they got back home after two month of the "real thing" they found the NY milk tasted funny and watery. The greatly missed the free reign of the farm, their little self made huts of straw and timber and other experiences of a farm life, which  a few months earlier they didn't even know existed]