Linda Henry was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was the daughter of Gordon and Ethel Henry. During the war years, her father went overseas with the army, while young Linda and her mother moved to Lake Frances to live with her maternal grandparents, George and Beatrice Vidal, until the end of the war in 1945.
Before her husband’s return home, Ethel bought a house on a farm and moved there when he came back from overseas. In 1946, Linda’s brother Art was born.
“In those days we didn’t have a car and every time we went to visit our grandparents, we had to go with the horse and buggy during the summer months and the horse and sleigh in the winter. We used to heat up a large log and wrap it up and put it in the bottom of the sleigh to keep our feet warm,” she recalls.
“We kept busy all year round. We had cattle that we used to sell and also we shipped and sold cream to other places, and my mother did the fruit and vegetable canning in the summer. She also canned deer meat hunt by my father. During the winter months, my dad used to trap muskrats to sell the furs in the spring.”
The family also raised chickens and a pig every year. And with the cold winters in Manitoba, it was not a problem for them to preserve the meat.
No doubt that life in the small Prairie communities was quite different from today’s life in most of the Canada we know nowadays, with no electricity, no running water, and no phones available in most rural areas, life centred around the family nucleus.
“I remember when I was six years old, they installed the first phone lines on our road and once we had the phones available, we didn’t know what to do at the beginning, so I would call my Vidal cousins up the road and sing songs over the devices. Also, maybe two or three years later, the hydro poles were set up, which made quite a change in our daily lives. No more oil lamps!”
The family had two wood stoves, one in the kitchen for cooking and another one for heat in their living room. And with no running water, Linda and her family had to go out every day to the pump house and pump water from the well. Although they owned a manual washing machine, they had to move the handle back and forth to do the washing.
Years later, the family acquired one with an electric motor.
“I remember that one day my brother, out of curiosity, put one of his fingers in the machine motor causing some damage in his finger which was soon healed by the doctor,” she said.
“My dad built a box around the motor, followed the accident.”
Linda learned to cook, knit and sew when she joined the 4-H Club in Manitoba.
“Learning how to sew helped me a lot years later in my life. For example, when my youngest daughter Janine got married, I made all the bridesmaids dresses for the girls, while my oldest daughter Deb, who also enjoyed sewing, made the wedding dress for her sister; and when my grandchildren were in dance classes, I sewed all the costumes for their dance performances.”
Linda’s maternal family came from Ireland and her paternal ones, Lillie, from Alyth, Scotland. It is interesting to know that her grandmother’s family, the Vidals, were originally from Spain and one of their relatives was a bishop in Toledo.
“I never met my Henry grandparents. My grandfather James died of blood poisoning before I was born, and my grandma Kate died three days after I was born,” she said.
Read part two in the November seniors section.