MacNutt Memories
by Garry Morrison, Elaine (Morrison) Digby and Judy (Morrison)Becker
In the spring of 1947 we moved to MacNutt with our parents, Wilbert and Anne Morrison, who had purchased Mike Tkatchuk’s general store. This store was two buildings north of Wagner’s Garage on the west side of Main Street. Our first home in MacNutt was behind the post office which was two lots north of the store. We remember this as one large room downstairs and two upstairs and being a very cold place. We lived there only until Dad could get a residence built for us behind our store. We had a kitchen and living room on the main floor and three bedrooms upstairs. It wasn't a big house, but it was a busy one. There were kids coming and going, jam sessions around the piano, friends and family members in for coffee, Mom hosting Community Worker's meetings, Bridge Club and family dinners. Many times people would come after the store was closed for something they needed from the store and stay to visit.
Mom and Dad were always community minded and attended a lot of meetings. Dad belonged to the Board of Trade, was on the hall board, the curling rink committee, the town council, and later was active on the committee that established a Credit Union in MacNutt. He was on the board for many years. He was also on the committee that worked tirelessly to build the community center. Mom belonged to the Community Workers and supported all community events. Our closest neighbors were the Art Metz family who had the "Red and White" store. They had living quarters behind their store, too. After Metz's moved away, Johnny and Mae Onofriechuck had the store. Andrew and Anne Antony lived there later and had the front of the building as a restaurant. The Adolf Haberstock family were across the street and lived behind their store, as well. Howard and Verna Kendel owned the cafe which was next to the Red and White store and they lived there with their children. In 1952 Mark Wo bought the cafe. The Dan Fuhr family lived across the back alley and had several lots with a big garden and chicken barns. Mr. and Mrs. John Zoech lived behind us, over the lumber yard which Mr. Zoech operated. It was interesting to see Mrs. Zoech hanging her wash on the clothesline on top of the lumber shed. Our ball often went over the roof of the lumber shed when we played anti-i-over over our ice house. Mike Tkatchuk’s family were across the street from Fuhrs.
We carried a lot of our drinking water from their well. Quite a few people from MacNutt drove to Johnny Peppler’s for water as they had much better tasting water than you could get in MacNutt.
We will tell you a bit of what we can remember of the early days of our store ownership. We used gas lanterns for light. These were indoor lanterns that didn’t have a glass covering the mantles. These lanterns were filled with high test gas and had a little hand pump to fill them with air. Safety standards today would not allow something this dangerous to be used. We had a "Booker" coal stove to heat the store, and there was a wood and coal shed out back where the coal was kept until it was carried in with a coal scuttle.
As the title "General Store" would indicate, we sold almost everything one could want including a full line of groceries, tobacco, snuff, cigars,cigarettes, shoes and boots, material, thread, buttons, ribbon, lace, pins and needles, yarn and crochet cotton. Men's clothing included shirts, pants, socks, underwear, jackets, smocks, overalls, felt boots, felt socks, rubber boots, 4 buckle overshoes, toe rubbers, woolen mitts, leather mitts and gloves, parkas, colored and white hankies. We even sold suspenders, garters, arm bands,belts and neck ties. Everything a man needed to dress for any occasion. We don’t remember selling as many ladies clothes, but there was underwear, stockings, shoes and overshoes, house dresses, and sanitary supplies wrapped in brown paper. We also had an assortment of medications and toiletries including aspirin, Ex-Lax, Dodd's kidney pills, Beef, Iron and Wine Tonic, Absorbine Junior, ointment, Vicks vaporub, Buckleys cough syrup, cod liver oil, combs, razor blades, cold cream, hair nets, baby soap and powder. Taking stock of all these things at the end of the year was a tedious task. Every yard of fabric, pair of socks and everything else in the store was counted and measured.Many groceries were bought and sold in bulk. Vinegar came in kegs; customers brought jars or jugs to be filled. White sugar came in 100 pound bags. We poured the sugar into a bin and then made up 5 and 10 pound packages, but if someone wanted just a pound or two, we could do that too. The sugar was put into a paper bag and then to make the package stronger, we wrapped the bag in brown paper and tied it with string. Brown sugar came in 50 pound bags and was similarly packaged. Dried apples, raisins and prunes came in boxes and Mom packaged these in cellophane bags. Cookies also came in bulk and had to be packaged or could be just sold by the pound. There were gingersnaps, chocolate eclairs and fig bars. There might have been more varieties, but not that we can remember. Rice came in 100 pound bags. Coconut came in big tin cans with lids. Nuts, shelled or not, came in bulk. Some of the spices, like pepper and dry mustard, were bulk but most others were in boxes or bottles. In the early years bananas came on a long stem and were hung from the ceiling. This stem was raised and lowered with the help of a pulley. The bananas were cut off the stem with a banana knife. Bananas were packed in barrel shaped boxes. In later years bananas were shipped in crate type boxes and packed with shredded newspaper. The boxes were returned for refund.
Once a year the grocery stores would order a car load of stock salt and it would be divided between them. This salt was to be used for cattle and horses. We recall bags of horse hair in the warehouse. Dad must have bought it from farmers but we don't know who bought it from him. It was used in wartime for padding in furniture.In the early years we sold canned milk, but no fresh milk. Some brands were: Alpha, Carnation and Pacific. Cheese came in big wheels and was cut into wedges. We got bread from the 4X Bakery in Yorkton and in later years bread was trucked from bakeries in Roblin, Russell and Canora to supply the little country stores. We remember when sliced bread was the latest thing!
For our packaging, we had many sizes of paper and cellophane bags. We had two big rolls of brown paper. The waxed paper was used to wrap meat and the other one was regular brown paper. The string was on a cone shaped spool and was always handy to tie packages. There was a big roll of paper tape on a dispenser which had a little water well in it to wet the tape.
Self- serve grocery shopping had not been heard of in these little stores. When the customer came shopping, he or she either handed you the grocery list or asked for item after item as the storekeeper got it and brought it to the counter. Then the items were written in the counter check book with their name the date of their purchase and the amount for each item. Education tax was paid on many items and was written in a separate column. We didn’t have an adding machine so the bill was tallied up manually and the customer either paid for the groceries or asked to have the bill charged. The groceries would be boxed or bagged and carried out for the customers. Shopping was very different than it is today.
A big job at Christmas time was to prepare 150 or more goodie bags to be given out by Santa at the annual Christmas concerts. We don’t think that we did this every year and can’t remember how it was decided which store got the job. We also packaged a lot of bulk Christmas candy and nuts at this time of the year. A very popular Christmas gift would have been a Flat 50: a flat hinged tin container full of 50 tailor made cigarettes. Players containers were blue as were the packages of tobacco.
It was common to witness a signature on a check for people who couldn’t read or write. They would have to sign their name with an X and then we would write their name and sign ours as a witness. Other things we remember are: customers paying for their groceries with their cream and egg checks, women with their money hidden in their bosom, pinned to their petticoat or stuck in their stockings (which were held up with an elastic garter). We also remember the grocery orders for special Ukrainian celebrations. Their needs included large quantities of sugar, flour, kielbasa, boxes of apples, candles and yards of ribbon. Twice a year traveling salesmen, mostly Jewish men, came to sell dry goods and clothing. They brought very large metal suitcases full of wares to sell, or for us to order for the next season’s stock.
The CN train ran through our town 6 days a week bringing all of the freight and all of the mail in and out of town. There was a stockyard where cattle were gathered and then loaded onto cattle cars. George Rathgeber coordinated the gathering of the cattle, which were then shipped to the Winnipeg Stockyards. Grain was shipped from the three elevators. Cans of cream and crates of eggs were shipped to the MacNutt Creamery and then the empty cans and crates were shipped back to the producers. The dray hauled the empty cream cans from the creamery to the train and picked the full ones up from the train and took them to the creamery. Fuel tankers, coal cars, passenger cars, box cars for grain, lumber, ice cars and freight cars made up the train. Freight for the two hardware stores, lumber for Mr. Zoech at the lumber yard, groceries for the four grocery stores and the restaurant were delivered by the drayman. Mike Kozak hauled freight for many years. Fertilizer was brought into town by train and unloaded at the fertilizer storage sheds adjacent to the respective grain elevators. In the springtime, baby chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys came in flat boxes and were sometimes kept warm in the waiting room at the station until they were picked up. Bees were also shipped to the beekeepers by rail.
The waiting room at the train station with the wooden benches, the telegraph clicking the Morse code, the station agent behind the wicket and boxes with fuzzy, peeping little birds are all long gone. The platform with the freight being loaded and unloaded, the mailman with his mail cart in summer, and sled in winter, and the sacks of mail on it, and the people waiting for the arrival of a special person, all a part of history. There was always a buzz in town when the train arrived. We remember the modified boxcar where the section foreman lived and also the section men looking after the railways on their jiggers.
Other things we remember, in no particular order of importance:
Carl Zorn’s big hog barn. The buttermilk from the creamery was used to feed the hogs and when the churning was done and buttermilk was ready, the manager would blow the steam whistle to announce to Mike Kozak, the hired man, to come and pick it up.
The big old hall. Basketball lines on the floor, a movie on Friday night and two movies on Saturday night, Christmas concerts, box-socials, whist drives, dances, John Deere and Case shows, Tuberculosis clinics, square dancing, fowl suppers, and amateur hours hosted by CJGX and UCT. We remember our Mom playing basketball with the ladies but don’t know what other groups played basketball there.
Fires. The elevator fire in 1948 was very traumatic for us as we were very young children. The fire was at night and the whole world seemed to be lit up. We remember hiding under the blankets and being very afraid. We also remember the fire in 1960 that destroyed the Norman Andrews building and the Wintonyk Hardware.
School: Children five years old went to school some Friday afternoons.
Some of our classmates couldn’t speak English when they started school.
We disliked "Saskatchewan Listens"—Art and Music radio programs.
Field meets were important as all of the rural school kids came to town and competed against each other. After the track events were finished, we marched from the school grounds to the sports grounds for the ball games. Each classroom and country school had a banner. Country schools that took part in the field days were: Beresina, Rothbury, Zorn, Landestreu, Minerva, and Flower Valley. There was a fierce competition between the schools in the soft ball games.
We all remember the yard stick that Mr. Theissen used to get our attention and his strict rules.
We spent a lot of time practicing for Christmas concerts in school and then the last few days before the big day, we got to go to the big hall to practice some more. Everyone from grade one to twelve took part. There were recitations, plays, drills, acrostics, songs, dances and the Nativity. At the end of the concert all of the students went on the stage and sang a couple of carols and then Santa would arrive and he would give the children a bag with an orange, some nuts and candy. As we got older it was always fun to figure out who was playing Santa.
We can barely remember the big old school. We all went to school in the new school, and we remember when some grades had to go to school in the old bank building, also when the addition was added on to the north side of the school. When space was needed a little country school was brought into the school yard for Mrs. Rathgeber's primary class.
Sports Days: Sport's Day was usually the last Sunday in May and there was always a huge attendance. Days before the big event we prepared by mowing the grounds, white-washing the hot-booth, cleaning the cold-booth, and hauling glass cups and plates from the hall. It was a very social event and people came to watch some good ball games, to visit and to eat. There was baseball, mens and ladies softball, and fish ponds and kids races (for money-likely five or ten cents). Teams came from Yorkton, Roblin, Langenburg, Hohenloe, Inglis, and Russell. Some of the umpires were: Rev. A.O. Borchardt, Joe Wagner, Harry Peppler and Alfred Schaan. George Rathgeber watched for foul balls and when a kid returned a foul ball he would get a dime.
The cold booth was operated by the store keepers and their families. We sold chocolate bars, gum, ice-cream cones, popcorn, cigarettes and bottled drinks.
The hot booth was operated by women in the community. They sold hot dogs, meals, home-made pies and coffee which was brewed in a boiler on top of a wood stove.
Curling rink: Everyone in our family curled. High school curling was after school from 4 to 6. Evening draws were at 7 and 9. Sometimes we curled all three draws. At times, you would have to sweep the snow off the curling ice that had blown in through the cracks in the wall as there were drop-down panels and holes made by hockey pucks on the skating rink side of the curling rink. The water used for flooding was alkaline and the knees of your pants would turn white where they touched the ice. Bonspiels went all day and big meals were sold out of a very small kitchen which would not pass inspection today. The ice was generally so crooked that you had to play against the turn. There were high school bonspiels, ladies bonspiels and men’s bonspiels. It would be standing room only when the finals were being played.
Skating Rink: We spent a lot of time at the skating rink as well. We helped to scrape the ice and had to throw the snow over the fence when we were done. Sometimes it would snow again before we had a chance to skate. We remember school and birthday skating parties, playing fun hockey, "crack-the whip" and "pom-pom pull-away." We recall the hockey games and the ice carnivals on the old open skating rink. The figure skaters would come from Yorkton and were wonderful to see in MacNutt. We watched from the outside of the tall fence that was around the rink.
Gypsies: Nobody trusted the gypsies, so when they came to town there was a general rush to lock things up and put other things away. They came with covered wagons, the women wore long full skirts and gaudy necklaces. They usually had something to sell and they were suspected of stealing these things from the last town they were in.
Indians: They weren’t called aboriginals back in the 50s. The Indians would set up their camp of several tents on the east side of town. The men would be hired by farmers to do the stooking or picking stones and the women stayed in town at their camp. They also would be in the area to dig Seneca roots.
Freight: Some of the dray men that we remember hauling freight from the train were Frank Rupp, Mike Kozak, Gustave Andrews and Julius Kauk. J.B.Andrews had a cattle trucking service which hauled cattle to Winnipeg. Harry Toderian picked the cattle up and kept them at Driechel’s barn until they went out on the big truck.
Red Cross: We held Red Cross meetings at school every Friday afternoon. There was a secretary, president and a treasurer. The community also had a Red Cross organization. Funds were raised for people in Canada as well as other countries and also took first aid and home nursing courses.
Board sidewalks: There were board sidewalks from Mike Markowsky’s to Fred Kendel's . We remember pushing Howard Comfort in his baby carriage on this sidewalk. That was before there were too many broken boards!!!
Livery barn: The livery barn that we remember was just east of Markowsky’s garage. Hitching rings were across the street from the livery barn and also two of them by Fuhrs.
Businesses: Telephone office, Lindenbach’s and then Mack’s meat shop, pool hall, Dreichel’s blacksmith shop, egg candling station, Locker plant, machinery dealers, car service and sales, fuel dealers, grain elevators, creamery, 2 hardware stores. The telephone office had a telephone operator who connected and disconnected the lines as needed. Our phone number was 32 and was two long rings. It was on a party line, so you had to check to see if someone was on the line before you rang for the operator. If there was an important announcement such as a fire, the operator would ring one long constant ring, and everyone was to answer their phone to get the message.
Red Cross Swimming Lessons: Members of our community put a lot of work into making it possible for their children to have swimming lessons. They built a road, a change house, outhouses, a pier and a diving board about three and a half miles east of town and called their resort "Boundary Beach". Lots of fun and sunburns happened there.
Good old days: Do you remember when?
We melted snow and ice in the winter for soft water
We used gas and coal oil lamps
Hot water was in the reservoir of the stove
Furnaces and heaters burned wood or coal
Cleaning the stove pipes
Chimney fires
Putting on storm windows and doors
Ladies wore homemade cotton dresses, aprons and cardigans
Bloomers, long stockings garters and waist belts
Buckle overshoes, felt socks and felt boots
Students boarding in town to go to high school
Kids getting to school by horses
Threshing machines, hay stacks, horses working in the field
Conductor on the train
Putting bottle caps and pennies on the tracks before the train came
Home-made butter and home-made bread
White margarine came with little packets of color so you could mix it to make it look like butter
Fish peddlers in the winter
A gate into every farmyard and another gate to the house there are very few fences
Milk cows and pail fed calves, pigs and chickens
Canned everything, homemade and home grown
Saturday night shopping, socializing in the stores, the cafes, the movies, the beer parlor and on the streets. Teenagers cruising the streets.
We lived in the league of nations where a variety of languages were spoken including German, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Icelandic, etc.
The ice house, coal shed, oil and fertilizer storage, box car doors, all near the railway tracks
Outdoor toilets, slop pails, rain barrels, cisterns and cistern pumps, water wells and pumps
The ice house, cream separator, wringer washing machines, bluing, laundry starch, clothes horses and frozen fingers taking frozen clothes off the clothes lines.
Treadle sewing machines
Fountain pens and ink wells
Back alleys covered with cinders (Residue from burning coal)
Pea jackets, bobby socks, circle skirts, saddle shoes
Crew cuts, duck-tails, brush cuts and Brylcreem
Pin curls and home perms (Toni's) Our Mom did a lot of these for other women!
MacNutt yell: Eat em up, Chew em up, Zim, zam, bah, MacNutt, MacNutt, Rah, rah, rah! Are we in it? Well, I guess, MacNutt, MacNutt Yes, yes, yes!!
We have tried to remember the names of people who lived in the business radius of MacNutt from the earlier days. We know we have missed some and apologize for missing them. We have no telephone book or other means of accounting for them.