Pearl Sklapsky-Holben Memoir – written April 22.1989

They all survived the train derailment and the railroad company had to provide for them while they awaited the next train. A settlers’ camp where there were stoves to cook on was set up. This way, and with sandwiches and cookies, Mother kept her family fed. Picture books kept the little ones, Virgel, Thelma and Fritzi pretty well under control.

A young man from Michigan, George Krepps, who was travelling with them talked to Dad about the New Land they were headed for. Fare to Canada was only fifteen dollars. George had made up his mind to stick with this large friendly man. He had earlier made up his mind to go to  Canada to strike out on his own and get some land. For the story of George Krepps and his family you are encouraged to read As Sparks Fly Upward by his son, Rex G. Krepps. George Krepps travelled on the same train as the Sklapsky family and I think two brothers of George, Bill and Charlie came along at this time as well. George was only eighteen and hadn’t been far from his folks before, because, although he was away at school with an Uncle and an Aunt, he got home on weekends. George was lonely and as Mother and Dad were used to having young people around, they took this young man under their wing, so to speak.

Dad explained to George, the Homestead duties; you filed on a quarter section, stoned it, cleared thirty acres, plowed and built a house and lived there for six months for ten dollars. That left you with six months to go out and work to earn more for your nest egg for the next six month of doing your duties. At thirty acres a year, after three years the one hundred and sixty acres belonged to you. You could preempt another quarter section for three or four dollars an acre but you didn’t have to live on it.

The family had to stay in Winnipeg for a week while awaiting the settlement on the wreck. A building where you could stay and cook meals and a sleeping place were there. Here Hilda really proved her worth and her spirit again, as Lottie said, “When you put Hilda in charge NO ONE took their food or stole their cooking utensils.”

A dresser of cherry, reddish colored, which Dad had bought for Mother as a wedding gift had the mirror broke so the rail company put in a new one. Years later Virgel found a sparkling crystal stone which he claimed was diamond. Someone told him that if it was diamond, it would cut glass, whereas a stone wouldn’t. Young Virgel proceeded to scratch “Thelma Sklapsky” in the corner of the mirror of the wedding gift dresser. Many years passed before Virgel confessed to the deed for which Thelma was blamed. Both dresser and mirror are now owned and treasured by my daughter Linda Ducharme.

The Singer sewing machine Dad had bought for Mother when George was born was brought along and the drawers got broken off. Mother made George’s new baby clothes on it, as well as all those of her next babies. Lottie and Hilda both became beautiful seamstresses on that machine, and Thelma and I, well, we could sew, and we all learned on that machine.

I used it to make my babies’ clothes and everything else my children wore until my husband, Jim, traded it for an electric one. I nearly cried as I didn’t want to part with it. The salesman asked when I’d had it repaired, but I never had and neither had my mother. Mother had only bought it a new shuttle as the original one had a hole worn through it. We’d kept it well oiled and clean. The salesperson was surprised that there was no ‘play’ in the spindles, but then things were made to last in those days. It was over fifty years old and still sewed beautifully.

Their transportation finally came and everything was cleared up. They went on to Stalwart, Saskatchewan where Dad’s sister Lillian and her family were. Uncle Elmer had built a big house and there was plenty of room, with space outside for children to run. What a relief that must have been for them as well as their parents! There, Mom and the two older girls, Lottie and Hilda, and the younger children stayed while Dad and the older boys, Frank and George went on to the homestead at Brock with George Krepps.

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