We were lucky to have been raised in a home where neither parent drank, and both parents quit smoking while we were very young. Now that I am a school teacher I see first hand what alcohol abuse does to children, and I thank God for my family as I was growing up. My parents had a drink of wine at Christmas time and drank a wee bit socially, except I don’t remember seeing Mom with a drink until we were all grown up and supplying it. I never saw my mother or father drunk. Not once. I am very proud and happy, and extremely fortunate, to be able to say this. As a child I never thought about it, but being a teacher, seeing what other children live with, I now realise my good fortune.
The boys in the Sklapsky family, many at any rate, did enjoy letting off steam once in a while by going on a toot. Uncle Norman was one who enjoyed getting into the spirit of things. He had a habit of coming home late at night and just throwing himself onto the bed. Mom said he would take a little run and make a flying leap, landing in a soft spot to rest for the night, or what was left of it. One night things changed somewhat. Unknown to Uncle Norman, the ladies had done some housecleaning during the day and rearranged the upstairs furniture so the bed was not under him when he took his flying leap, I’ll bet everyone knew what time Norman arrived home that night!
Uncle Norman, nicknamed Hans as he and Uncle Fred reminded their dad of a pair of mischievous lads from the comic strips named Hans and Fritzi, the Katchenjammer Kids. The names fit well indeed. They were certainly mischievous enough, and it shows in the family album where a person would be lucky to find a serious picture of Uncle Norman. On many pictures he is shown clowning around. I don’t remember Uncle Norman too well, because although they lived at the homestead when we were kids, they didn’t stay long after the birth of Joyce, who is not much younger than me. I remember going over there a few times, though I was pretty young, once with my father and once with my mother as well.
I remember cousin Madeline taking Arny in the front seat of the car with her, he being just a little fellow, and even then having a way with the ladies, and putting the rest of us, except for Sheridan and Eddie I believe, into the back seat of their old car, She put her legs over the seat and kicked the living daylights out of us, or so it seemed to us at the time. Never let it be said the Sklapskys could not find a way to entertain themselves!
One day Mother told us about being left with the Krepps children as her parents were away. They had been left at the Sklapsky homestead with Thelma in charge, she being the eldest left at home. Donny Krepps was just a baby. Thelma decided to leave the little kids alone for a while in the afternoon and she went to visit with her friend Jessie. Well the children all got to playing as was their wont, with the active imaginations of healthy children.
They held barn dances on the roof of the barn with the wash tub as a musical instrument. They put on rodeos for each other by riding and roping the farm animals. They concocted a horrible tasting, fizzing brew called ginger beer made with baking soda, vinegar, powdered ginger, sugar and water. They had a wonderful time as kids will when there are no grown-ups to spoil the fun with practical responsibilities and sensible activities of adult life.
Suddenly someone noticed that the baby, Donny, was missing. They began a serious hunt for the missing baby and their fears were not pretended, but very real. They roamed the farmyard searching everywhere and calling his name, then the surrounding countryside, but finally they had to give up and return to the farmyard without finding a trace of the missing child. What a dreadful load on the shoulders of little children!
In despair they went into the house to pray for guidance, and await the return of the parents, to find Donny sleeping peacefully on the couch, blissfully unaware of the consternation he had caused. They enjoyed a few minutes of blessed relief and played happily inside for a while until one of the children happened to look outside. What they saw scared them more than the loss of the baby had.
The sky was dark and sinister looking, the sun a blood-red ball, and they wondered what it could mean. Aileen assured them that it meant the end of the world was here. They began to cry in terror. Imagine, the end of world coming when their parents were not at home! Someone suggested they pray, and they all fell to their knees, tears streaming down their dusty little faces as they sobbed out their fears and anguish to their Heavenly Father. Such earnest praying from frightened little ones! Can’t you Just imagine their promises to do only good deeds from now on and their apologies for any misdoings, real or imagined, their abject terror at the end of the world, alone without any support from the adults in their world?