Friday, April 30, 2010


Once in a while there's a page in this album that is just leftovers or experiments.

This group appears about to be "blissed" or picked up by extraterrestrials! Some kind of transcendent light clue there behind them! Bruce at the left, Glenn crouching in front and the blonde must be May. My guess is that it's Seth in the middle and the rest are probably Hendersons.

This is my Aunt May Strachan Mclean. My father's caption was "a student of tree bark." At least it's not growing out the top of her head! I can't explain the apron or pinafore -- whatever it is.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Dauphin is a good-sized town next to a lake. It's in the same "riding" as Swan River, and on the Vermilion River. The dam pictured here appears to be an earthen one, a kind of berm or levee. It's on the way to Winnipeg, so it may have been a stop-off on the return trip to college.

"The nearby lake was given the name "Dauphin" by the explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La VĂ©rendrye in 1741 in honour of the heir to the French throne. [This explorer is thought to be the first European to sight the Rockies, which he called "the Shining Mountains.] Settlers began arriving in the area in 1883 and two early settlements, Gartmore and "Old Dauphin" were established."

"Incorporated as a village in 1898 and as a town in 1901, Dauphin became an important centre for the transportation of grain. Farming still plays a central role in the economy of the area, but its role has been greatly reduced." Fishing is popular. Riding Mountain park is nearby.


First formal exhibit of the SS Strachan and Sons Kovar Quack Grass Killers!

Sole Canadian Distributors! And it appears that if one is not harrowing out the quack grass at the moment, the springy teeth make convenient seats on top! Ethelbert, population 474 today (which is slightly larger than Valier), is near the Duck Mountain area so dear to Strachans. This is August, 1926.

I notice a restraining wire or string marking an edge, though the crowd seems unobservant. Maybe there will be a race at some point. I doubt that such a safety measure would be needed for a parade. Note the elevator at the left, the only tall building in town.

The caption, "Ox team near Ethelbert" doesn't explain whether this team was at the Fair or was simply doing its ordinary job. Surely the black and white cattle make a stylish team!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is the summer of 1926.

My father's caption is "It seems to be a serious matter." The man to the far left might be Glenn, but I think Glenn is holding the camera even as Bruce keeps the case. Seth is standing in the background. May is the blonde shooting a glance across at her brothers.

The caption is just "boathouse" but there is no boat! OMG! Bruce must be taking this photo. Glenn on the far left and May next to him. Seth, still in a mood, is at the far right.

Caption: John Henderson & Glenn take a dip." Those endearing swim sets are not made by Speedo, I think.

1926 is midway between the big World Wars, but my father's caption is "Thinking about war?" I supposed that's because they've built a sand fort. But these are young women -- they would never want to destroy a fort. That's a man's idea. May Strachan is the blonde.

Now the ducks are in a row. Bruce is the farthest out, May is next, Seth is the far right. Glenn must be holding the camera. And look! Two of these fellows are actually wearing proper boaters!

Glenn appears to be having trouble with his galley slaves or are they about to do some sculling? Some seem to be in a mutinous mood.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


"The Orange Institution (more commonly known as the Orange Order or Orange Lodge) is a Protestant fraternal organisation based mainly in Northern Ireland and Scotland, though it has lodges throughout the Commonwealth and the United States. The Institution was founded during 1796 near the village of Loughgall in County Armagh, Ireland. It is strongly linked to unionism. Its name is a tribute to Dutch-born Protestant William of Orange, who had defeated the army of Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690).

"Observers have accused the Orange Institution of being a sectarian organisation, due to its goals and its exclusion of Roman Catholics as members. Non-creedal, non-trinitarian denominations (such as Mormons, Unitarians and some branches of Quakers) are also ineligible for membership. (These denominations do not exist with numerous members where most Orange lodges are established.)"

Thanks to the anonymous poster who contributed this to Wikipedia.

The opposite of Orange, of course, is green -- Catholic. There is a LOT of political schism and paranoia under this simple parade, but we'll just stick to the images, with the note that a parade is more than a celebration: it is a show of strength. Here, so far away from Britain, on July12, 1926, it is still possible to muster a flag, a band, some vehicles and a lot of people to both march and line the sides of the road. I'm very pleased to see "Hemings Drug and Bookstore" in the background!

The women are all up in front, wearing white and sashes. I don't know why there isn't a photo of them. It appears that the photographer might have changed locations since the beginning of the parade.

One hopes that the vehicles came at the rear of the parade for the sake of people who didn't want to dirty their shoes in "horse exhaust." This team appears to be ponies. The riders in this carriage seem to have a fur over their shoulders in August. Does it demonstrate wealth or is it symbolic in some other way? There is no sign or decoration on the vehicles. Maybe they weren't official participants, but just came to see the marching people. The wall in the back would suggest they were passing a wood yard.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Change is underway. This is the summer of 1926.

One thing never seems to change. That's the fascination with cross-dressing! It appears she's breaking in someone's nice new three-piece suit for him -- but whose? My father's caption is "The clothes don't make a man."

My father was always hopeless at sports. His caption here: "Swan River baseball catcher." I think this is Seth but he doesn't appear to be a catcher -- more of a batter!

I can remember my Grandpa Strachan using this early version of a rototiller (muscle for motor) even in his old age. I can't tell which son is pushing this but there is only one daughter: May.

And then the inevitable picnic. From the left: May, Glenn with gaping mouth, Seth, Sam Strachan (Papa) in the middle back and Beulah in front on the right. Her hair is shingled in order to treat erysipelas, a very unpleasant contagious skin disease that some people think is related to stress. Did stress motivate change or did change cause stress? The other family is the Boyds and judging from Mrs. Boyd's hat, they are the ones who traveled. This doesn't appear to be wilderness unless the buildings in the woods are summer houses.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


A move is in the works. It's unclear whether the family is moving "from" or "to." They won't leave Swan River Valley yet. There is considerable fondness for this particular house so probably Bruce made these photos over Christmas vacation from college. It is December, 1925.

The caption is "Looking North from the brow of the hill."

"Close-up - looking north."

"From the highway - looking Northeast."

"From the highway - looking east."

So all those photos on the porch were afternoon photos when the sun was low enough to warm the space, even in the winter.

Monday, April 19, 2010


It's fall, 1925, and the threshing crew has brought their steam engine back to Sleep Hollow.

There's not a lot I can say about this annual event or this massive machine with it's long conveyor belt. The relationship to today's custom harvesters is roughly the same as a Model A family car to a massive 2010 combine. The irony is that that long-ago inefficient way was probably healthier for the people involved in several different ways: the genome of what they growing, the amount of exercise the men got, the local economy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Three photos on this page, taken in the summer and fall of 1925.

The archetypal homestead of the Renouf family in Minitonas.

"May and Gladys start for school," says the caption. Is it meaningful that May carries notebooks and Gladys carries what I think is a lunch pail along with her handbag? And what's that on May's head? It appears to be a beret that sort of got carried away. Gladys has a proper hat. Can it be that this "start" is to travel to Winnipeg to college? They look quite the young ladies. The photo was taken, naturally, by "The Shadow."

This time it is Seth Strachan who is all grown up and appears to have a girl friend whose name is Edyth. No last name recorded. Things are moving fast now!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Whatever the reason Sam went to Minneapolis -- maybe to visit his father who was widowed and liviing alone there or maybe specifically to find something to add to the farm work -- it was a turning point in the family history. Kovar machinery, for the years the Strachans represented it, lifted them into the profit zone.

Quack grass was a deep-rooted rhizomatous pest for fields. The Kovar Kultivator was able to hook onto those long stolons and roots and drag them out of the ground, to lie on the surface and die in the sun.

This is a smaller one-section Kovar and I believe that's Bruce behind the team.

The machine parts were sent up from Minneapolis to avoid a higher tariff for the whole machine. The Strachans assembled them, marketed and delivered them. Then the tariffs were reorganized and the project became economically unviable, but by that time the Strachans had left Swan River.

Friday, April 16, 2010


The Hendersons and the Strachans ventured out onto the water this time.

It's a little unclear which is the point of embarkation, as opposed to debarkation, but this is labeled "At Kamsack Landing." This seems a rather modest boat for so many people. I see that May Strachan and Florence Henderson are dressed alike in gym suits. I believe that's Grandma Strachan far to the right with maybe Seth to the left of her. "Papa" with hands on hips with another Strachan boy just behind him. Some of these people must be the boat owners and operators.

Then the boat trip on the lake.

And the "Swan River Landing." Now we see a crowd of people, so the boat must be taking them out in batches and then bringing them back.

It was summer, so shade for the picnic was essential. May's bright hair to the left, Seth's or Glenn's soft cap to the right. Otherwise, I can identify individuals. But this scene was repeated over and over and over in my childhood, every holiday and every time out of town company came. The botany was different, but the food was pretty much the same and the people overlapped.

This is labeled "boat repairer." It does appear to need a little moss removal and a few layers of good paint! But these guys are not afraid of work. They could sit right next to it and never get upset.

Madge Lake beach is a regular Coney Island! Boats, a water slide, and look at that wonderful big model sailboat! A long shallow beach so the swimmers can choose their depth. This is August, so the water temperature must have been bearable, even refreshing.

Here's a closer look at the slide, but what's that in background? For lifeguards? Two at a time? Sail of a boat just leaving the left border.

Fog settling in now. Must be almost time to pack up and head for home to nurse sunburns.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Don't think that because the oldest in the family, Bruce, went off to university and now dresses nicely for picnics that he's not expected to carry his weight!

Here's Bruce in his bib overalls cutting seed potatoes, one "eye" to a piece -- that's what you plant in the spring, because every eye becomes a sprout and every sprout grows into a potato plant. That's how rhizomes work.

The album caption is "Experimental plots in hardy nursery stock." Looks to me like rhubarb in front of May. My family always did love rhubarb and it grows in this yard, too, though I try to root it out and the temps dive to forty below. Pie plant in spring just can't be beat!

Here's what the youngest, Seth, has been up to. This is probably a barn owl that either fell out of the nest or that Seth climbed up to catch. (He LOVED climbing everything.) I don't think it's a great gray owl. Since it can't fly yet, it's tethered to a post in the yard. Seth always loved birds -- he was a fly boy!

This faceless pup is not an owl but just about as downy! My father's caption is "Waggles is a fuzzy puppy." No lie.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Young people attract young people, especially when it begins to be time to pair off.

Having a pretty sister is especially helpful in attracting guys. These compatriots are (left to right) Otis Ennis, May and Seth Strachan, and Katherine and Harvey Turner. No way to tell whether the last two are married or siblings. They look rather alike.

This is the spike elk herd -- too old to stay with the cows and too old to be welcome with bulls. Left to right, Melvin Allan, Glenn and Seth Strachan and Otis Ennis. In this photo it appears that what looked like a pipe might be a pole, possibly for stringing an electrical line. The foundation of the house is revealed to be cement block.

I have no idea where they managed to find a tennis court or maybe they just strung up a net where the wintertime hockey rink had been. These gents are, left to right, Bruce Strachan, Otis Ennis, Glenn Strachan, Tom and Cecil Spicer (Cecil with pup), and Seth Strachan.

The game in progress. The pup is bored and leaving. Farm wagon at left. Trees grazed off as high as a cow can reach. This is summer, 1925.