home page for a little history.com1874 The Mounted Police Tame the Wild Westthe Metis half of the 1885 Northwest Rebellionthe Native half of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion1900-05 Diary of a student and young teacher1908-1920 homesteading experiences and lifestyle1920's farm and community lifestyle1954-56 diary of a boy, before the effects of televisionthe future: extending human limitations through technology (eg. computers and inline skating), presenting history with applets, a family recreation program, etc.





a. The New And The Strange
b. Connected By Modern Technology
c. The Dry Years
d. The Dam
e. Surviving The Depression
f. The Story Comes To An End



While the Zinns were living near Tuxford, a neighbor brought his car, a McLaughlan, to the farm and gave a number of the Zinns a ride around the yard. Ed Zinn was the next to get a car, and he also came to the farm and gave some of them a ride around the yard. Jack and Lou used their buggy until about 1925, when they bought a second hand, 1921 Model T Ford.

house and car

We thought we didn't have a photo of their car.
But after discovering one in the background of a 1940 photo,
modern technology helped to enlarge it and make it real again.


The Zinns saw their first airplane in about 1920. The plane landed right in their field. When Jack went over to talk to the pilot, the pilot sold him a life insurance policy.

While they were living east of Youngstown, Jack, Sheldon, and Ross went to a neighbors and listened to their first radio. It was a Calgary radio station. Later, when they were living on the Bowie farm, in 1924, Jack bought a radio. The next day, the Jack Dempsey and Tunny fight was broadcast. The entire family and two neighbors listened to the fight. Gladys made a 4 mile (6.4 km) trip with a horse and buggy from Henry Zinn’s place in order to listen to the fight.


Connected By Modern Technology

By the time the Zinns moved to the Bowie farm, most homes had a telephone. The Zinn’s phone was one of many that were on the same line, on what was called a party line.

When a phone call was made, all of the phones would ring on that line. Each home that was on the party line had a different ring, so everybody knew who was being called. It was frowned upon if you listened in on somebody else’s phone call. If you did this, you were "rubbering" in on their privacy. Sometimes, maybe 7 people would get on the same party line, and they would hold what today would be called a telephone conference.

During the 1930’s, most of the lines were shut down because nobody could afford them. The Zinns helped Carman Hughs hook up their own telephone system. A line was hooked up to an old radio speaker inside their house, and ran outside where it was hooked onto a barbed wire fence. The fence ran west for half a mile (0.8 km), where it was connected to an old telephone line. This line ran south for 4 miles (6.4 km) to Carman Hugh’s home, and then another 2 miles (3.2 km) to McBride’s home.

The Zinns could hear the radio and other noises in Carman Hugh’s home in their speaker. The Zinns placed a towel in the speaker so that the noise in their house wouldn’t go through the line. If you wanted to talk to someone, you just had to go to the speaker, remove the towel, and holler into it.

Electricity wasn’t installed at the farm until the 1950’s.



Times were hard in the 1930’s. Crops and gardens failed because there was no rain in summer and very little snow in the winter. The last good crop that they had was in 1928. In some years, the wheat grew to be only 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) high. When it was harvested, they only got enough seed for the next year, and a little feed for the cattle. In 1929, 1930, and 1931, they were completely hailed out, so they had to use the partly grown wheat for cattle feed. In other years, the crops were burnt out and the kernels dried up to about ¼ of their normal size.

The dust storms were bad. Good top soil blew off the fields and especially off the summerfollow. The ditches filled up until they were even with the roads. Sometimes a granary would have about 12 inches (30 cm) piled up around it like a snowbank. However, the farm was on a hill, so the soil blew onto lower ground.

During this time, the garden was very poor. The peas would be all dried up. Green caterpillars, which they called "ARMY WORMS" destroyed their garden twice. Jack tried to save it once by pouring oil into trenches, which had been dug around the garden. The ARMY WORMS crawled in and got stuck. More kept coming and soon they were able to crawl over the stuck ARMY WORMS, and they ate the garden.

They could be seen crawling along the ground in wide strips, a large mass of moving green. They destroyed every plant that was green; everything from leaves on the trees to weeds in the field. When they went through a wheat field, they would wipe out the weeds, but leave the wheat standing.

In about 1931, Jack's brother and family: Bill, May, and their son, Billy Zinn arrived in their Model T Ford. They were hungry, broke, and almost out of gas. They stayed for 3 ½ months, and worked at temporary jobs. When they decided to leave, they were given fried chicken, baked bread, extra clothes, and a blanket to keep their legs warm. It was mid October, and May was pregnant. With a little money, which they had saved that summer, they headed for the United States; and contact was lost for about 15 years.



During the dry years, they had very little money to spend. They could not afford to buy food such as fruit or cereal. The children would get a jam tin full of wheat, pick it over and clean it. Next, they would go to the granary and put it through the grinder, so they then had ground wheat cereal.

In some years, they didn’t have money to buy gas for their car. Jack put the car up on blocks, and they used the horse and buggy instead. The government helped a little by shipping in clothing, apples, and fish from the east. The fish were very tough and salty. Jack had to go into Youngstown and get what he needed off the train.



The dam was built in 1933. After that, water was hauled in a wooden barrel for about half a mile. A horse pulled the barrel, which was carried on a stone boat. A stone boat, which is seen on the right, is a flat sled with two wooden posts for runners.



Lyla and Roxy are ready for a ride on
a stone boat.

hockey in 1937

This is hockey on the dam about 1937.

In the summer, they could now go swimming, and try a little boating. In the winter, there were skating parties and hockey games held at the dam. Before everybody went home, Laura served the children cocoa, sandwiches and cookies.



Early in 1943, Jack had a heart attack. He complained about having a pain in his arm. After seeing a nurse in Youngstown, he traveled thirty miles (50 Km) to the town of Hanna to see a doctor; and then went to the Hanna hospital.

The next day, before supper, he complained to a nurse about pain in his arm. She gave him a shot to ease the pain. A little later, after the nurse returned from supper, Jack was found dead. His supper was untouched. Later, his children speculated that the shot she gave him was the wrong medicine. This happened on January 7, 1943, when Jack was 58 years old.

Jack at about 56 years of age.
(1885 - 1943)

Lou at about 70 years of age.

Jack was buried in Youngstown. In about 1960 his grave was moved to Memorial Gardens, on the east side of Calgary, Alberta. Lou stayed on the farm until 1952, when, at the age of 63, she retired in Drumheller. Clinton took over the farm. Lou moved to Olds in 1969, and died in 1975 from old age. She had lived for 86 years. Lou was buried in Memorial Gardens, next to Jack.

Today, only a few farmers remain in the area around the Bowie farm. It is interesting to note that in 1931, Canada had more than 50% of its population living on farms. In 1941, this had decreased to 27% and in 1981, only 5% of our population lived on farms. Half of Jack and Lou’s children spent most of their lives on farms. [As of 1983] Out of the 20 grandchildren, only three are living on a farm.

The people who own the old Bowie farm, have torn down all of the buildings, with the exception of a small storage shed. They were replaced with new and modern buildings.

Nothing is left on the Crocus Plains school grounds. The old school building was moved into Youngstown where it became part of a Church.


rural dance

But the spirit still lives on. Country gatherings with small bands and good country dance music still exist. All ages are there to dance and enjoy themselves. This photo was taken in 1989 at the twenty-fifth wedding aniversary of one of Jack and Lou's grandchildren.


back to the opening page.


to:     home page for a little history.com



Questions?  Suggestions? Comments.
  Contact the author.