LoveChild 11: My Mother’s Parents, Bruce and Alice MacDonald
“You don't stumble upon your heritage. It's there, just waiting to be explored and shared."
As I indicated in the two previous posts, Alice was born in Wapella, Saskatchewan, and had lived there all her life, but Bruce was born in Victoria Harbour, Ontario, and had bounced around quite a bit. Part of the time he was with his mother and sister in Buffalo, but more often he was with his mother's family in Ontario or Manitoba. His mother's parents eventually settled in Lauder, Manitoba, and at least one of his uncles (Stephen) also settled in southwestern Manitoba.
According to the 1906 Canadian census, when Bruce was 20, he was living in the Gainsborough / Carievale area in the south east corner of Saskatchewan. That's south west of Lauder, Manitoba (a 50-minute drive by car today), and south of Wapella (about an hour and a half drive today). Of course, travel would have been a lot slower back then.
At that time, Bruce listed his occupation as "labourer" and he was one of five boarders at the home of John and Dora Whitfield.
I assume he went where he could get jobs, and may have later moved to Wapella for that reason.
However he got there, the story I've heard is that Alice met Bruce at the Wapella skating rink. Since I discovered that a new skating rink was opened in February, 1909, it's entirely reasonable to guess that Bruce would have visited the new skating rink (perhaps with friends) and thus met Alice.
In any case, Bruce and Alice were married in Wapella on July 15, 1910 (one day after her 17th birthday). Bruce was 26. (Alice was born on July 14, 1893, and Bruce on Oct. 20, 1883.)
Their first child, a daughter, was born in Wapella on March 8, 1911. The little girl was given the name Olive Margaret after Bruce’s sister.
The picture here shows Alice holding Margaret at her christening, a few months after her birth.
And yes, Margaret grew up to become my mother. And her siblings became my uncles and aunts.
Two years after Mom was born, on September 22nd, 1913, Alice gave birth to a son, James (Jim) Arnold.
Margaret with Jim. About 1916-1917.
I have to add that Mom hated this picture. She detested bows, in particular. She didn't like the dress. And the sun in her eyes made her squint.
I’m sure she wouldn't have kept this picture, but it was one of only two she had of herself as a child.
Not long after Jim was born, Bruce and Alice moved their family west from Wapella to the village of Whitewood, Saskatchewan.
I'm not sure when it happened, but it might have been with this move, that Bruce stopped being a labourer and became a barber.
A second son, Mervin Gilbert, was born in Whitewood in August 6, 1915.
Another son, Hugh (Hughie) Lorne, was born on March 12, 1918.
This picture above shows Margaret with her brothers Jim and Hughie on either side of her, and their cousin Leslie next to Hughie. Margaret would have been about nine here, Jim seven, and Hughie two. Leslie, who would have been about five, was the daughter of Alice's older sister Ethel (Ettie) and Bert Hawkes.
Yes, Mom disliked this picture, too. Especially the bow. But also the shapeless dress. And her hair.
This is the earliest picture Mom had of her dad. I expect he and Alice had a wedding picture, but if so, Mom never had a copy.
It shows Alice (33) and Bruce (42) with Mervyn (seven) and Hughie (four).
As far as I know, the family stayed in Whitewood, where Bruce worked as a barber and Alice looked after her family, until the summer of 1927, when they made another move, to Neepawa, Manitoba, where Bruce had a barbershop and probably a pool hall. They may have actually lived in Arden, which was a village near Neepawa.
At this point, Mom decided to go to Winnipeg instead of staying with her family. She had turned 16 in March, and graduated from grade 10 in June. She was ready to start a new life.
Two years after their move to Neepawa, and 11 years after Hughie was born, on October 27, 1929, Alice gave birth to another daughter, Brucie Delores, who was named after her dad.
The picture to the left shows 20-year-old Margaret (Mom), on a rare visit home, holding two-year-old Brucie.
As you can see by this picture, she had managed to ramp up her appearance and style considerably.
The picture to the right, likely taken the same day as the one of Mom and Brucie, shows Mervyn, Hughie, and Jim.
Some time in the early 1930s, Bruce and Alice moved again, this time a bit further north and west to Rossburn, Manitoba. I’m not sure of the exact date, but they were there by 1935, as shown by the voter’s list for that year.
Bruce again had a barbershop with an adjoining pool hall. The family lived in a small apartment above.
In November of 1933, Alice gave birth to her fourth son, Thomas Terrance (Terry).
Two years later, in December of 1935, she had her last child, a daughter they named Alice Fay.
Bruce would have been 52 and Alice 42 when Fay was born. I could be wrong, but given the number of years between Hughie and Brucie, and then Brucie and Terry, I wonder if Alice might have had a few miscarriages. But that's pure speculation based on the fact that Alice's mother as well as many other women back then seemed to have a child every two years.
When I do the math, it seems that Margaret was 18 when Brucie was born, 22 when Terry was born, and 24 when Fay was born. It must have felt surreal for her to have siblings young enough to be her children. And since she was living in Winnipeg, and travel wasn’t easy in those days, plus her dad never owned a car and she didn't have a driver’s license, she can’t have seen much of them.
The picture to the left shows my grandmother Alice's older sister Ethel (Ettie) Hawkes (Leslie's mother) on the left behind Terry, and Alice behind Fay.
The face in the car window looks like Lorne (Mac) McTaggart, who was married to Alice and Ethel's other sister, Maud (Maudie).
The picture to the right is of Fay and Brucie in 1942.
The photo here shows Bruce and Alice in August of 1942, with Brucie (13) standing between them, Terry (5) in front, and Fay (3) next to Alice.
The picture below, taken at the same time, is the only one Mom had of just Bruce and Alice together.
Money was always very tight for the MacDonald family. For example, Fay (my aunt Fay) told me that in Rossburn the family lived above the barber shop and pool room, where Bruce worked until midnight each night.
They had no electricity—just gas lamps.
And there was no running water, either. Alice washed clothes out on the roof at night.
Plus, when it was windy, the whole building moved.
There were only two bedrooms, each of which held two beds. The youngest three kids were in one room with Alice; the older boys in the other room with Bruce.
Meanwhile, Margaret was in the city of Winnipeg, where she had to make a choice between finishing school (she had grade 10) and getting a job.
Not that difficult a choice in those days, but one she'd continue to question until she was in her eighties.
Can You Relate?
Have you ever sat down and asked your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents to tell you the story of their lives? And why they made some of the choices they did?
Do you have details like birth/marriage/death dates written down somewhere? It can be really hard to find them after the people who remember accurately are gone.
LoveChild: Life Lessons from an Ugly Duckling is the story of my struggle to adjust to the life I was given, and my eventual discovery that, not only had I become a swan but, contrary to my perceptions, I had always been one. Though I didn't realize it until many years later, my life was part of a much bigger plan that all made perfect sense.
I'll be blogging my story once a week.
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