Sunday, May 16, 2010


One last swing past "Sleepy Hollow," the first home in Manitoba, and the Strachans are on their way to a newer future than they would have suspected. The Kovar company went flat in Canada because of new import tariffs and the invention of chemical weed killers. The family went on to Oregon and POW! The Great Depression!! Just scraped through that and BLAM !!! WWII.

Caption: "Last look at our first Manitoba home." Looks like that "add-on" is finally underway.

Caption: How the raspberries have grown since we left Sleepy Hollow! My grandfather was a genius grower of raspberries! We cousins scavanged the bushes behind the little house in Portland where the senior Strachans ended up. Sam died in 1951 (76 years old) and Beulah in 1953 (82 years old). The last of the next generation to die was May, who died in 2006 (99 years old).

So up, up and away! This is Seth, destined to be a WWII bomber pilot and transport pilot -- then a pilot for TWA for many years.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Now "the Sims place" has become a "ranch," a status upgrade! But the Strachans have decided on a new economic strategy and they intend to live in Brandon in the best house they've owned so far. In fact it is where Martha Ostenso, famous author, once lived. Their work now will be the assembling and marketing of Kovar Quackgrass pullers.

The Sims house is almost as big as the Ostenso house but it's hard to beat a good screened porch! The Sims mom, pup and boys must be comfortable there. I think the only Strachan in the photo is Beulah in the middle, so May must have taken the photo. The caption says, "'Billy' Sims home." He must be one of the boys.

It's October, 1927, and there's bite in the air but warm enough to linger a moment, holding hands, on the front steps. Sheila is on the left, then Mrs. Sims & Beulah.

May and Sheila Prosser mime a little farm work by perching on the Fordall.

The caption says, "Now they inspect the grain separator." If that's a straw stack behind them, the work has been done recently and the machine not moved.

But people DO move and here are Beulah and May ready for their new life in Brandon.

Walk on by.

Monday, May 10, 2010


September, 1927, and things are beginning to change, but first more picnics!

Caption: "Starting line up at Hendersons."
The original photos are tiny, but enlarging them on the computer, I believe Bruce is at the left, then Beulah, then Sam. Skipping the man in the straw boater, the next is Glenn and then May. Seth may be the second from the right.

Caption: "Portrait of McLaughlin Buick car and people." Even enlarged, I don't know these people. I get the impression that my father didn't either, so it must have been the vehicle that was important.

Caption: "Turn off to Valley River. We change cars." What intrigues my eye is that church in the background. Is it half-built or being demolished? Does the pastor live in the house to the right?

This may have been a separate expedition. It's at Madge Lake and is meant to be a demonstration of "table manners." In short, a "pignik." Sam and Beulah Strachan together at the left. May dripping the last drop (must be Folgers) from a cup into some gentleman's mouth at the right. I think the most egregious demonstrators are the two closest in the center: Glenn and Seth. I wonder how many of these young ladies were smitten?

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Three views of the tedious work of tilling the land, made somewhat easier by the inventions of the industrial revolution. I'm not sure I've seen a tractor with fenders before.

The caption says: "Father starts the Fordson & Kovar on a new quack grass field."

Caption: "Seth continues on the quack grass."

Caption: "Quack grass is gone by fall."

A descendant of the Kovar family made contact a few years ago. He's keeping an archive of the family business, which designed and manufactured more than just the Quackgrass harrow at their plant in Minnesota.

The tractor also has a family story: "Fordson was a brand name used on a range of mass produced all-purpose tractors manufactured by Henry Ford and Son from 1917 until 1920 when it was merged into the Ford Motor Company, which used the name until 1964. . . The first Fordson Model F was completed in 1916 and was the first lightweight, mass produced tractor in the world, making it possible for the average farmer to own a tractor for the first time. It went into mass production in 1917 and sold for $750. The original Fordson used a 20 horsepower, four-cylinder vaporising oil engine, a three-speed spur gear transmission (the three forward speeds ranged from approximately 21⁄4 to 61⁄4 mph), and a worm gear reduction set in the differential.

Friday, May 7, 2010


When the flowers are in bloom and the roads are passable, the festivals are in order.

Caption says, "Memorial Day Service (Minitonas, Manitoba, July 31 1927) It's a particularly lovely photo. The sacrifices of WWI, the War to End Wars, were still sharp and noble and the emotion of the people was sincere, unmixed.

And now we go to Dominion Day, July 2, a bit of patriotism to pre-empt the Fourth of July, which was, of course, an act of rebellion and secession! This is the Swan River band.

And here are the proper floats, the way we still do them in small towns. Things were going pretty well and no one saw what was just around the economic corner.


This is the summer of 1927 which must be just before the invention of the flashbulb -- one had to set off some powder in a little open box.

Reactions appear to be very mixed. Glenn, farthest to the left and all dressed up for some reason, looks joyful. Sam, "Papa," is also grinning. Bruce, the usual perpetrator, is a little over-the-top in more ways than one. May, also dressed up, is happy. But Beulah looks dubious and Seth, bottom middle, looks overcome!

By now the Strachans and the Hendersons are a little more composed. It is Bruce who is front and center and still looking a little over-excited. May has passed out! Sam and Beulah are resigned. The Hendersons are amazed. Glenn is behind Bruce. That leaves Seth to be the photographer.

The little pump organ made the trip to Portland, Oregon, and I played it as a child when I had to stand up to make the foot pumps work. I have no idea what family portrait was hanging on the wall or where it went. May might have painted the little landscape. Late in life she painted quite a lot.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Once the snow is out of the way, there are games to play!

This is Seth standing on Glenn. (The tree growing out of Seth's head is irrelevant.)

This is May standing on Seth. (I think the sky phenomena are developing marks.)

Though to a modern eye what looks impressive is the work of beating dust out of a carpet in the days before vacuum cleaners, what impressed my father was his sister, the ladylike May, in trousers! Between little chores like this and the wall of split wood behind her, it's no wonder that they had the "core strength" to make bridges of themselves!

Judging from the clothing in other photos, this is probably Glenn, but WHAT is he up to? Or down to? Maybe a somersault.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

PORTRAITS, April, 1927

And so it was that in the absence of their parents, the "children" became all "growed up," and promising specimens at that.

Here's Seth, readdy for a game. Softball? My father's caption is "Sportsman."

Caption here is "Wind Blown Bob" but we know her name is really May, which it is.

After a winter of rain rather than snow and after making a grand tour of all the relatives which was probably bankrolled by the estate of Archibald Strachan, Sam's father, who had died in Minneapolis in 1926, the Ranger returns. Sam and Beulah had visited South Dakota, Oklahoma, California, and on up to Victoria, returning to Portland until Spring. Photos document relatives living both hardscrabble and in mansions, spread out by choices and luck. (See "Strachans on the Prairie," available at


Christmas had been at the Henderson's this year since the senior Strachans were in Portland, lIving in the Ranger across the street from the First Congregational Church.

May's handwriting on the back says, "The Strachans, A pleasing "gate-scape." Dec. 1926. George seems to have escaped from the view." The Strachans in question are (l to r) Seth, Bruce, Glenn and May. George, of course, is a Henderson.

When the weather begins to improve, people like to go visting. These two small ones are from the Innes family.

Caption says, "Lila Pearl Innes tries to keep up with Seth." Looks to me as though she's doing pretty well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It's getting late in September which means snow, but the senior Strachans are planning an over-winter scouting trip to Oregon.

The cozy little house with its bay window and two chimneys might be harder to leave if one didn't remember the previous winter. My father used to say that all day long one trudged out to the coal shed to get more coal, and then took the ashes and klinkers back out the path to keep from falling on ice. The back of this photo says, in handwriting I don't recognize, "Swan River, Man. Sept 24, 1926. Snow two days old and six or seven inches deep." The white foreground is the garden.

The cows are no doubt hoping the hay is stacked high somewhere. The same handwriting, possibly my grandfather writing to my father at college, says, "Swan River, Man. Sept. 24, 1926. snowing 22, 23, 24 Sept. 8 in. deep on level." My father's caption says, "And the stock look for the sun."

This looks like Seth to me -- always the daredevil -- showing he's up to the task of keeping the farm going while the folks are gone. My father's caption claims this is a "tough guy" in his snowsuit.

And this is the escape capsule, an early RV unit ready to set on the truck frame. I happen to know that they only got about a mile down the road before they mired in mud and had to come back for a tractor. Probably the mud came from this snow melting.