A while ago I posted a writing by Lottie Sklapsky-Krepps (Frank J. Sklapsky article) in which I was lamenting not knowing the source of said writing. A copy of that article was also recently posted to the ‘Sklapsky Reunion’ group page on Facebook. I thought perhaps it had originally been seen in one of Rex Krepps books and to be sure someone from the group page would know.
Since then I have been told by a number of family members that the column in question had not been been in one of Rex’s books but had originally been published in a book titled “Memoirs of Hillsburgh”.
Well then, that would mean I must acquire a copy of said book. To that end I’ve ordered a copy and will be able to post any additional articles written that may interest ‘us’. Permission is available.
In the spirit of sharing I was also in touch with the Krepps family to see if sharing excerpts from Rex’s book “As Sparks Fly Upward” would be possible. Kindly it was, and thank you to Rex and family for that option.
So to cut to the chase here is Chapter 23 from Rex G. Krepps book “As Sparks Fly Upward”. It is a conversation had with his Father, and Mother, one in which they answer a number of questions he asks.
My comment on this and so many other family articles would be that the faith or the writers, and their belief in God, was a powerful support for them and an impetus to take on whatever trials and tribulations they might encounter. It is likely something we might all learn.
“Rex, you asked me if I ever questioned why I came to the Saskatchewan prairie, and if I had any regrets about coming. The truth is, I have never questioned my decision; I have been content to live out here. In Michigan, I may have been a clerk in a store all of my life, or I may have been a farm labourer out for hire, tied to the soil that belonged to someone else. I could go no further than I did in school, which was grade ten, for there was no way to get further schooling. No one understood my desire for further education; they thought, and believed, that I had enough education. Oh, I tried, indeed I did try. I went to town and stayed with my uncle, once divorced then remarried, something disastrous at that time — to be divorced was to create a scandal. My uncle and his new wife were very good to me. She was a very good woman. It is said that she read right through her Bible seven times.
There was no where to go. There was a sort of depression on, even then, in the States. God knows I tried, I tried desperately, but there was nowhere else to turn.
I was an avid reader. I read everything that came to hand, including Newspaper advertisements. One day, while reading, I read that there was land available up in Canada, out on the prairie, for one dollar an acre. That set me to thinking. There was no future for me in Michigan; there was a future in Canada. The more I thought about having land of my own, the more convinced I became that I ought to look into it. I finally decided that I would enquire, knowing that if I didn’t venture anything, I didn’t gain anything. I did enquire, and I met several other people who were also enquiring, many of them right from around where I lived. The Sklapsky, the Wilcox, the Federspiel families, all were interested, so I knew I would not be entirely alone. I was so excited, exhilarated really — at the very thought of going to Canada and owning my own land.
No, I have no regrets, Rex, none at all. I met hundreds of people on the prairie. I always felt that God was near, no matter where I was at the time.”
For my dad, that was a long speech.
The conversation continued; I wanted to learn all I could learn about our parents. Their life had been such an interesting life, that I did not want to forget what I learned.
“But Dad, I’ve heard people tell about their hardships; you never mention the hardships, and I guess that is alright. But were there any happy days?”
“Most days were happy days, for there was some happiness in every day. The days I enjoyed in the community were the days when we pulled together and accomplished outstanding feats by our team efforts. We did volunteer work to establish the Fair Days, the Sports Days, the Ball Tournaments, and the Horse Races, and we built, or helped to build, one anothers churches, and the arena.
Men and women from the north, east, south and west of the village helped to build the community buildings and to establish the activities which you see today. We were the happiest when we were working together as a group, not as individuals. We needed one another. By working together as a group, we all benefited physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
At times there were problems in the district. I remember the time when the Municipal Secretary was called a liar by one of the Municipal Councillors. The Secretary was furious and demanded a retraction of the statement. It was forthcoming, but it was slow in coming. The Secretary then went a step further and demanded a public apology, or else the man would be sued for libel. The public apology was to take the form of a written apology, and it was to be posted, on the public Notice Board, in the local Post Office, for all to read.
The Councillor wrote the bare apology and posted it on the Notice Board as demanded. You know son, that was the first time I ever knew that a person could be called to account for calling another person a liar. We certainly did not know that a public apology could be demanded. Then again, I don’t know the law about that public apology. I do hope the Municipal Secretary was not just bluffing the Councillor.” he said.
“Oh, here you go again, Rex, asking questions. There is never an end to your questions. Do I regret coming to Canada? No, I have not regretted coming to Canada, and I have no regrets. I dearly loved the State of Michigan with its tall trees, brooks, rivulets and rivers, and the green, green grass. I loved my aunts and uncles and my cousins; I was really close to them. But, I had a choice; I didn’t have to come to Canada. Even when I was in my early teens, my health was not good, and my parents were trying to make a decision whether or not I could stand the trip. I overheard their discussion and I was devastated. I loved my parents; how could they ever think of leaving me in Michigan? When they talked it over with me, informing me that I could stay with Uncle Johnny and his wife, I was adamant. I was going to Canada with them!
Now that I think about it, I realized even then that my parents did not have much money. If I did stay behind, I was afraid they wouldn’t have enough money to send for me later. No, no siree, I was not to be left behind; I would go where they would go.
No, I have no regrets. True enough, I often think of what might have been if I had stayed in Michigan, but I made my choice, and after all, I did meet your Dad up here, along with dozens of other bachelors! But your Dad was the man for me. The prairies had some draw backs, like flies and mosquitoes, that nearly drove us crazy, too much heat in thesummer time and too much cold in the winter time; but it has been the life for me.
I truly believe that Canada is a great and a wonderful coun try, with a great and a wonderful future. We have you six children, and my parents are still living. Except for Frank and Virgil, who went to the Peace River district to homestead, my sisters and brothers are near. Frank married Bernice and Virgil married Lily. I am going to see them all someday.
God has always been good to us. I have believed that He was with us at all times. He knew our happiness and our sorrow. My faith has been strengthened, and for that I am happy.
No, I have no regrets, I wouldn’t have it otherwise. It has been my whole life. I’ve learned to love the prairie, as has your lDad. God is good. ”Mother concluded as she spoke with feeling and great understanding.
“Mother was there ever anything humorous happening dur ing the early days and in the later years in this community?” Rex asked because he was interested in knowing.
“Why, yes, son, there were humorous incidents. One, that I recall, was not so humorous at the time, but since then, Bella and I have laughed over it many times, so I suppose you could call it a humorous incident.
We ladies liked to keep up with the modern day styles, both in our clothing and in our hair styles. We went through all the changes in clothing styles and hair styles. I’ll never forget the braids, the tight curls, the boys’ bob, the finger wave and now, the permanent wave.
Your Uncle Mal’s sister, Eva Huckaby, was a hair stylist. She worked in Brock as a hairdresser for several months. At one time Eva decided to put a “special” on the price of a “perm”, and most women went for the “bargain perm.”
Bella Melville was undecided. She was not certain if her straight, jet black hair, would take a perm. It was because of her uncertainty that she consulted me.
“Lottie,” Bella said in order to get my rapt attention. “What would you say if I was to get one of those perms? Do you think my hair would curl?” Bella had noticed the effect of the perm on many of the ladies in the district, and it did improve their appearance.
“Why, yes, Bella, I do think you should give it a try. I see no reason why your hair would not curl as well as anyone elses’ hair,” I gave my honest opinion.
The hairdresser, Miss Huckaby, did the job up great. Bella’s perm turned that straight black hair into curly black hair, very curly black hair. It was too curly to meet the satisfaction of Bella. When she arrived home from her hair appointment, her family must have been aghast, for the next thing we heard was that Bella was combing the curls out of her hair. Bella combed that curly hair with fury. Bella combed that curly hair with an unheard of zest. She wanted her straight black hair back again.
Never one to leave a riddle unsolved, I pointedly asked Bella what the problem was. It turned out that Bella had never had her hair curled before. When she looked in the mirror, after the permanent, she did not like the image she saw and she wanted her hair straight again.
I felt guilty about the permanent. I had been the one to en courage Bella to get her hair permed. I thought I owed her an apology, so I went to her and I humbly proceeded to beg her pardon.”
“Never mind, Lottie. It’s alright. I’ve got my hair straight again now, so don’t you worry.” and she changed the subject from permanents to the weather.
“Bella had combed, brushed and cut her hair until it was comparatively straight,” Mother concluded.