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Jack and Lou got married in 1908, and during the next 15 years they had 8 children. In 1916, they moved by train from Listowel, Ontario to the West, and eventually settled near Youngstown, Alberta.

As their family grew up on the farm, they had many interesting experiences, they lived a fascinating lifestyle, and they became part of a thriving rural community.

This is all in the past. Today, the lifestyle of the remaining farmers has changed, and many of the rural communities have disappeared. What follows is an attempt to recreate the times of Jack and Lou by organizing and retelling the memories of some of their children.


Moving To Their New Home:

After growing up, marrying and starting a family in Ontario, Jack and Lou decided to head west by train. In 1916, they loaded their livestock and furniture onto a combined freight and passenger train. Friends and relatives were at the station, and many tears were shed as they pulled out at 2:00 o’clock. At this time, they had 5 children to look after. Sheldon was 7 years old, Helen 5 years, Ross 3 years, Gladys 2 years, and Bill was 6 weeks.


train heading West -  2 kb

Henry Zinn (Jr.) met the train at Youngstown and took everyone home to his homestead. Henry, who was a bachelor at that time, had to share his 2 rooms with Jack, Lou, and their 5 children for an entire year. Their good furniture was stored in the granaries, and their livestock grazed on Henry’s pasture.

After renting a couple of places, in 1924, they moved for the last time so they could live on a farm which became home.  This time they moved their livestock, furniture, and belongings to the Bowie farm which was 14 miles (22.4 km) southwest of Youngstown.  At the time of this move, they had 8 children. Lyla was 1 year old, Roxy was 5, Clinton was 7, Bill: 8, Gladys: 10, Ross: 11, Helen: 13, and Sheldon 15 years old.


flat prairie - 14 kb

This is where they chose to call home.

This is the road which leads to their farm from the east (photo taken in 1985). Their farm is located close to the horizon in the photo, on the left side of the road. But it probably can't be distinguished due to a slight haze.





a   Life on the Farm
b   The House
c   Homemade
d   Daily Work



Jack and Lou rented a farm from a Mr. Bowie for 1/3 of each years crop. Along with the farm, Mr. Bowie supplied about 10 horses and some tools. This arrangement lasted for about 20 years and then the farm was purchased from Mr. Bowie.

Jack used the one square mile of land to plant wheat and keep his cows. They kept 15 to 20 cattle, about 100 chickens, and sometimes a few pigs. Jack had about a dozen horses. He had about 8 big work horses and a couple of light horses which were used for riding and to pull the buggy. One horse named Lucy was brought out from Ontario with them. She pulled the buggy for many years. They had a dog named ‘Jeff’ that was always frightened by thunder.



The house had three levels. The upstairs had a hall and two rooms. One room had two double beds in it for the 4 boys, and the other room had two double beds for the 4 girls. The rooms were not insulated, so the rooms were very hot in the summer, and cold in the winter. In the winter, the chimney brought some heat to the upstairs. There was also a register, which would allow the warmer air in the living room to rise through.

front house

This is what is left of the
front of the house in about 1960.

On the main floor, there was a living room in which there was the folding chesterfield that Jack and Lou slept on. This room had a round coal heater. A 20 pound (9 kg) chunk of coal placed in it would last the night. The main floor also had the kitchen. On cold nights, they kept the cook stove going all night in an effort to keep the house warm. In the summer, using the cook stove made the house very hot. Later, Jack built a summer kitchen on the north side of the house.

The bottom level, the cellar, was reached through a trap door. They kept most of their food there. This included pickles, canned fruit, vegetables, meat, butter, and eggs. The cellar had earth walls. The girls were afraid of going into the cellar because there were lizards there. When one was spotted, the boys were called upon to use a dust pan to get them out of the house.



This is the north side of the house. The photo was taken around 1940, after the summer kitchen and a porch had been added onto the north side. This photo was enlarged and slightly modified from part of the photo on branding which is located below.


The house had wooden floors, which had to be scrubbed so they would stay clean and white. The wood gradually wore off, so now and then, the nails had to be pounded down. They also scrubbed the unpainted wooden chairs.

In the winter, it was more convenient to take a bath in the kitchen, where they could heat the water on the stove. They used a round tin laundry tub. However, in the winter, they still used the same outhouse. It was located over 100 feet (30 m) from the house. They often used the Eaton catalogue for toilet paper. It was a good thick book which lasted quite awhile.




A lot of what they used on the farm was also made on the farm. Lou bought cucumbers in season and pickled them. Fresh fruit was also preserved in jars. Eggs were kept in a liquid jell. Jack cured the meat by rubbing it with salt, pepper, and saltpeter. Lou boiled pig fat and lye in a pot to make soap. In the early part of winter, Lou would preserve butter by placing it outside to freeze. She would then wrap the butter in butter paper and brown paper, before placing it in a granary and covering it with wheat. This would keep it frozen, even when it warmed up outside.

Lou won first prize at fairs for her homemade butter on several occasions.

Making good butter:
While well fed cows give milk that produces good butter, Lou's skill was also important. Lou would begin by using a plunger and churn to churn the cream into butter. Then she washed the butter in cold water to get the milk out. Next, she would squeeze and pound the butter to get the water out. This was done in a large wooden bowl with a large wooden spoon. The butter had to be worked properly for from 15 to 30 minutes, until the right texture had been achieved. Lou would mix in just the right amount of salt. The butter would then be worked into a rectangular shaped box so that it would form a one pound block.

In the fall, Lou would make a mattress by sewing a large canvas type bag and then stuffing it full of straw. This made a round and thick mattress which eventually settled and flattened.




In the morning, Jack and family had to milk the cows, feed the chickens and do whatever other chores were necessary. Jack would then hitch up the horses and work in the fields from about 8:30 A.M. until noon. At this time, he would feed and water the horses, and then give them a chance to rest. After dinner, at about 1:30 P.M., Jack would hitch them up again and then work in the fields until about 6:00 P.M. At this time, the horses would be turned loose and Jack would go and milk the cows.



Jack is branding with his sons in about 1940.
Clinton is holding the calf down while
Billy holds the rope.


Having a large family was convenient because Jack could use lots of help. Somebody had to get the cows at 6:30 A.M. and again at 5:30 P.M., every day. Jack, Lou, Sheldon, and Ross milked the cows. Later, after the two older boys left home, Clinton and Billy learned to milk.

Lou was helped in the house by the 4 girls. Helen helped to prepare supper, make lunches, and wash dishes. Gladys, who was 3 years younger, dried the dishes. On Saturday, Helen cleaned the upstairs and Gladys scrubbed the chairs. These jobs were never rotated. When Helen left home, the jobs were reassigned. Gladys took over Helen’s jobs. Roxy and Lyla also took on the various jobs as they grew up.

Other jobs included gathering wood for the morning fire, gathering eggs, and washing clothes. Lou and the 4 girls all took turns scrubbing clothes on a washboard in a round tin tub. Handkerchiefs were boiled in water and vinegar on top of the stove. The water was changed several times before they were fit to go into the regular wash. Diapers were also washed daily.

Water had to be hauled from a well located across the road, just south of the farm. The farm well, which was at the foot (30 cm) of the windmill had water that was full of alkali. The cattle drank this water, which was pumped out of the well with the help of the windmill.



This is Jack in the winter time.


When they ran short of coal, they had to take a three day trip with a wagon and team to the Sheerness strip mine. It took a day to break out and load the coal. They took their own blankets and slept in a cook shack. In the winter, the men ate frozen sandwiches along the way.

When the Stoppington post office closed down, they had to get the mail from Youngstown. It was a long days journey. When the men were returning on a winter’s night, the children would go out and listen for the bells on the horse’s harness. They could hear them through the clear crisp air long before they arrived. Later, Jack bought a Model T Ford, so the trip became much quicker.


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Posted January 10, 2001 .