Coming Soon: Came To Canada, Eh? Adventures of a Scottish Nomad

Coming Soon: Came To Canada, Eh? Adventures of a Scottish Nomad

Exciting News! I’ve just begun the publishing process for Ian’s and my fifth book! Second time publishing with FriesenPress.

The next weeks and months will mean continuing on with keeping my nose to the computer and now dealing with their publishing consultant.

I’ll keep everyone apprised of the progression.

Title of the book: “Came to Canada, Eh? Adventures of a Scottish Nomad.”

It covers Ian’s astounding adventures in the years 1970-2004, including the many moves all over Canada of Ian and his first wife, Mary, Mary’s death in 2002 and our whirlwind romance and marriage in 2003 prior to our move to Mexico in 2004.

On February 22nd it will be exactly a year since Ian passed away from a sudden stroke.

Bringing this book to fruition has helped the grief process and kept him close to me.

Gayle Moore-Morrans

Here’s a photo of “traveling Ian” eagerly arriving at Glasgow Airport on a visit to the Old Country in 2000.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF IAN MOORE-MORRANS

 

Ian Moore-Morrans,loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, musician, author, raconteur, master machinist and craftsman, Scottish to the core, and all-around larger-than-life character, died suddenly at Misericordia Health Centre, Winnipeg on Friday, February 22, 2019 at the age of 86. Born in Glasgow, Scotland on May 2, 1932, Ian Morrans was raised, along with his elder brother Archie, by their mother “Wee Chrissie” and grandmother Maggie in a one-room attic slum in Campbeltown, a small, picturesque fishing-and-whisky-brewing town on Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula. His formative years as part of the poorest family in town were spent trying to get enough to eat and stay warm during the years of the Great Depression and World War II. Ian enjoyed and did well during his school years, though his formal education concluded when he was 14. During adolescence as a blacksmith’s apprentice, Ian also began a lifelong love affair with music making while wavering between the strictures of the Salvation Army and the “worldly pleasures” of the outside world where he excelled at ballroom and Scottish country dancing.

 

Life began to improve when Ian joined the Royal Air Force at age 18 in 1950. He served five years as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in the United Kingdom and then Egypt. In the latter, he experienced the consequences of the Arab “walkouts” that eventually led to the Suez Canal crisis. Ian was one of those chosen few who were selected to learn how to make palatable water for the British troops. He went on to supervise water filtration plants in isolated desert assignments while on loan to the British Army.

Finally returned to the RAF and back to Britain in 1954, Ian met Mary Fraser from Motherwell, Scotland, who had become his pen pal during the Egypt years. They were married on December 29, 1954. Ian completed five years of military service in 1955 and then began civilian life in the Glasgow area (though for a few years also part of the Territorial Army, i.e., a “weekend warrior”), first as a bill collector and a tram conductor followed by jobs related to his military training: machine-fitter, industrial mechanic, overhead crane operator and eventually shift scheduler at a steel mill.

Two daughters were born to Mary and Ian: Audrey in 1956 and Shirley in 1958. In addition, Ian and Mary cared for Mary’s elderly mother, Susan Fraser. After her death, Ian got “itchy feet” and began to think of emigrating. Misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Government of Ontario official to choose Canada over Australia, Ian, Mary and the girls endured a winter sailing over the Atlantic in 1965, including a collision in the St. Lawrence Seaway. They soon found Ian’s promised machinist’s job hadn’t materialized and the cost of buying a house had been enormously downplayed. Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and a suitable place to live in Canada led Ian to conclude that he had only moved “from poverty to poverty.” It took them five years to finally obtain the level of affluence they had reached in Scotland before emigrating.

Ian never did completely take off his “traveling shoes”!  His working years in Canada, 1965-1997, found him at many different machining jobs and residences in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, including four times in Winnipeg, where he eventually retired on his 65thbirthday in 1997. Besides many small machine shops, Ian worked for significant lengths of time for Douglas Aircraft, Northwest Industries, the Royal Canadian Mint and Burrard Iron Works. Occasionally, when machining jobs were unavailable, he found work as a building superintendent, driving his own delivery truck, teaching metal machining in an adult night school program, or even delivering pizzas. Recessions in Canada contributed to many lay offs and moves to seek work. Other times, moves were made for a better job or climate, family considerations, or just to satisfy the soul of a nomad. Despite the extreme climate, however, family ultimately drew him back to Winnipeg. (It was there, at age 44, Ian gained his “Grade 12” certificate through the G.E.D. program.)

After retirement, Ian and Mary moved north to the Flin Flon MB/Creighton SK area. There, Ian dove into his creative side big time: joining the Community Choir; performing in a community revue; organizing and soloing in both Robbie Burns’ and St. Patrick’s celebrations; acting in the play, Tom Jones; and joining the local writer’s guild.

In 2000, Mary and Ian returned to Britain, exploring retirement in the Old Country. However, they had become too “Canadianized” to stay, so relocated to Nova Scotia – a touch of Scotland and halfway between Britain and Manitoba (where their growing Canadian family was located). Ian relished his two years there, entertaining in many Scottish celebrations and ceilidhs while living in New Glasgow and then Pictou. Mary was unhappy away from the daughters and grandchildren though, so returned to Audrey’s in Winnipeg while Ian attempted to sell their house. Ian moved back to Winnipeg (5thtime) in October 2002. One week later, Mary, tragically and unexpectedly, died.

Though mourning, Ian vowed to get on with life while he still was able. He proceeded to write with abandon, attend seniors’ dances and explore the dating scene. In June 2003, Ian met a much-younger widow, Gayle Moore Johannesson, whom he quickly considered his soul mate. They were married on September 7ththat year at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, combining their birth family names to form a new one: Moore-Morrans. After Gayle retired in July 2004, they moved out of the country to explore “RVing” and retirement in Mexico.

Ian had always wanted to write, but had never found the time until, at age 63, he started to record some of the stories he had been telling for years and creating new ones. He felt Providence had a hand in his meeting Gayle, who was then working as a magazine and program editor. As he put it: “Every writer needs an editor!” Their sojourn in Mexico cemented their collaboration as Ian continued to write and perfect his craft, while Gayle began to edit his growing pile of writings. They settled into the world’s largest English-speaking expatriate community on the north shore of Lake Chapala and joined the local writers’ group. During the years that ensued, they formed a publishing team: Moomor Publishing. To date, they have published four books: Metal Machining Made Easy(a DIY book); Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie(a time-travel, Scottish adventure story); From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada(a memoir, 1932-1970); and Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie(a chapter book about a boy and two birds). Gayle began collaborating on the writing as Ian’s health deteriorated. She maintains a website for their writings at ianmooremorrans.com. Caring for Ian in his later years has taken a toll on editing the rest of his writings but she hopes to soon finish editing Ian’s second memoir: Came to Canada, Eh? Memoirs of a Scottish Nomad (1970-2004).

Ian’s passion was music-making. With a beautiful tenor voice, he loved to perform. During his teenage years in the Salvation Army in Campbeltown, he readily got up to sing whenever called upon. Highlights in his adult life included soloing at a concert in Abertillery, Rhonda Valley, Wales and, years later, at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in The Pas, Manitoba. With his trumpet, cornet or trombone he was much more of a team player, starting his training at age 14 and going on for the next over-50 years in church and military brass bands, concert, dance and community bands and small combos in Scotland, England, Wales, Egypt and Canada. When he wasn’t singing or tooting a horn, he could be found whistling a merry tune, even at work from his machinist’s bench. In his later years in Canada and for two years in Mexico, Ian performed at various Robbie Burns’, St. Andrew’s or St. Patrick’s functions, church suppers, house parties, Winnipeg’s Folklorama Scottish Pavilion and other Celtic ceilidhs. In his mid-40s, Ian competed in an annual talent contest sponsored by the Associated Canadian Travellers. After several rounds in a variety of Alberta towns, he won First Place in the Variety Division, over 363 original solo contestants. In his 70s while living in Mexico, Ian encouraged Gayle to join him in entertaining. They both sang in the Los Cantates del Lagochoir and spent many evenings perfecting their Scottish duet style.

By 2007 they had moved back to Canada (British Columbia) where they became known as “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie.” For the first year, spent in Penticton, Ian continued his “full-steam-ahead” pace. Then, shortly after they had moved to Vernon, he was felled by a severe illness in August of 2008. BOOP (Bronchialitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia) nearly took his life and resulted in over five years of ill health before finally burning itself out in February 2013. By that time, he no longer wrote or used the computer. His vibrant personality only occasionally showed itself and he was much quieter than anyone who knew him before could imagine. Initially his health began to improve, though his memory started to diminish with an eventual diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

In Summer 2015, they returned to Winnipeg (6thtime) to Fred Douglas Place, a seniors’ residence in downtown Winnipeg. By September 2017, Ian was diagnosed with an inoperable rectal cancer and continued breathing problems from lingering heart and lung issues, in addition to dementia. After a year and a half on palliative care at home, Ian was hospitalized just before Christmas 2018. He spent his final days at Misericordia Health Centre Interim Care, still proclaiming love for his “wee wifey” and family, his appreciation of Canada and his enduring attachment to anything Scottish. Though his voice was greatly diminished, he kept on singing to the end.

Ian was predeceased by Mary, his wife of almost 48 years; his mother, Christina, and stepfather, Irishman Bill Moorhead of Campbeltown, Scotland; and his brother, Archibald Morrans of Peterborough, England. He leaves these loved ones to mourn his passing and celebrate his life well and truly lived: his wife of 15 years, Gayle Moore-Morrans; daughter Audrey German (Eugene/Carl) of Winnipeg; daughter Shirley Lee (Brien) of Flin Flon; five grandchildren: Tammy German (Brad Falk) of Calgary; Calan German (Lisa) and Ainsley German (Phil) of Winnipeg; Ian Lee (Debbie) of Creighton, SK and Tiffany Falk (Chad) of Flin Flon; nine great-grandchildren: Leland, Hannah, Caleigh, Logan and Madison German, Lexi and Alex Lee, Brayden and Haylee Falk; three nephews in the U.K. and in-laws in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Norway.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, Tudor Crescent and London Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at 2 pm on March 23, 2019. Memorials are welcomed to SPLC Memorial Fund, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, the Salvation Army, Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart & Lung Association, Alzheimer Manitoba or another charity.

“So I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross, ‘til my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross and exchange it some day for a crown.”

Celebrating 15 Years of Marriage

Happy Anniversary to us! In the first wee hour of September 7, daughter Audrey came by after we had dressed up in our wedding finery so she could take a picture to complete the musical slideshow Gayle has been working on to document our 15 wedding anniversaries in several far-flung areas of North America.

The music is one of our favourites, Robbie Burns’ “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” which Ian sang to Gayle at our church reception following the wedding. On this slideshow the singer is Kenneth McKellar, the famous Scottish opera and concert virtuoso. If Gayle ever figures out how to isolate Ian’s rendition of the song from our wedding day video, she may one day substitute Ian’s voice for that of McKellar’s.

For the most part our anniversaries have been happy occasions celebrated first in Manitoba, then in Mexico for two years, nine years in British Columbia and now back in Manitoba for the last three years. Only our fifth anniversary photo illustrates the wedding vows “for worse … in sickness…” as that anniversary found Ian in the Intensive Care Unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital in British Columbia having been felled into a life-threatening situation by sepsus and BOOP (bronciolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia). By the time of our anniversary he had just come out of an induced coma but was unable to talk due to a tracheostomy tube. Gayle had been visiting every day and singing to him as he slowly recovered. She couldn’t bring flowers, wine or chocolates into the ICU to celebrate their anniversary so instead substituted two appropriately decorated helium balloons. These, however, caused Ian to freak out on anniversary night when he mistook them for ghosts as they floated around above his bed, so they had to be taken away. Frightening memories for him that we can now laugh about!

We hope you enjoy a second musical slideshow of our 15th wedding anniversary to a rendition of Ian singing one of his signature Scottish tunes, “Come In, Come In, It’s Nice Tae See Ye” (written by Andy Stewart and Ian MacFayen for the White Heather Club). This is from a CD of Scottish songs Ian recorded just before we left Mexico in early 2007. We hope you’ll enjoy it.

Regarding this slideshow, we’ve really laughed at the likeness to Churchill that Ian shows on the first photo, when Ian was caught unposed. Guess he looks like Winston when he is serious. We went out for dinner late on our anniversary NOT in our wedding finery. Just getting Ian kilted up for photos was quite a task now that he is not in very good health again. It was much easier when he could do it for himself. We do love his kilted look, though, and wish he could wear it more often.

As a last chuckle, we share this photo taken a few years ago at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park when Ian was hamming it up with his “twin.” We were struck by the facial similarity to Mol’s Winston Churchill bust. Leo Mol is the professional name for renowned Ukrainian Canadian stained glass artist and sculptor Leonid Molodoshanin (1915-2009) who died in Winnipeg at age 94.

Ian and Churchill

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE and, by the way, “GET STUFFED!”

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE and, by the way, “GET STUFFED!”

The old saying goes: Laughter is the best medicine. In addition, sometimes the strangest things can help one make, or accept, important, even life-altering, decisions. So we found out a few weeks ago. As a result, a new expression has become significant in our lives.

“Get Stuffed!”

 

First a bit of back-story. I (Gayle) grew up in an American-English speaking environment. To me the term “get stuffed” meant that one was preparing to overeat. Only after moving to Canada in my forties did I learn that “get stuffed” is a British colloquialism meaning, in the politer sense, “go away” or “get lost” or, in the cruder sense, “piss off” or worse. I became aware of the term while enjoying the satirical rants of Scotsman Jock McBile of CBC TV’s Royal Air Farce fame. Jock McBile, one of the most beloved alter egos of the late comedian John Morgan, was a mutton-chopped, kilt-and-sporran-clad curmudgeon, leaning on a cromach and using a thick burr to sarcastically and comically comment on current political and cultural happenings. His frequent climax to any dismissal of the antics of those whose actions met his disapproval was to tell them to “get stuffed!” as he marched off stage, menacingly brandishing his cromach. After marrying my own feisty Scotsman some 14 years ago, there were times when I wondered if Jock McBile’s cousin had come to live with me!

 

Now, what in the world does that have to do with me making or accepting life-altering decisions? If you have followed my blog, you will know that I started it to publicize the writings of my Scottish-born husband Ian and the books that he and I have produced over the past years. Recently, progress on future publications has slowed as Ian’s health has deteriorated. I’m struggling to continue with editing future books since care giving is taking up most of my time. As things settle down a bit with the provincial palliative care that has recently begun, I’m looking forward to finding more time to get back to editing our next book, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story and, hopefully, progressing to other of our unpublished writings. But first, let me relate our most recent adventure.

Ian had a check-up with his GP to assess if his breathing distress (that had increased after his inoperable rectal cancer diagnosis in September) was being helped by a month’s dosage of morphine and whether it was time to curtail some of the other medications he has taken for other serious long-term medical problems like heart disease, a history of small strokes, peripheral neuropathy, GERD, hypertension and dementia. As the cancer would eventually be terminal, did he need to keep on all the other medications to prevent serious complications from other diseases? In other words, has all the medication become overkill? Ian is content to leave these decisions to me. (A daunting task indeed.) However, I already have lost my late husband to early onset Alzheimer disease and multiple small strokes, so have a bit of perspective to aid me. At the moment I’d prefer Ian not have a stroke that could cause paralysis so I could no longer care for him at home with palliative care until or near the end (which we would both prefer). So we opted for him to stay on Warfarin to aid in preventing a stroke, even though it adds to the bleeding from the incurable rectal cancer.

Next it was time for the clinic’s nurse to administer an annual cognitive test to decide whether Ian should keep on the dementia-slowing drug that he has been on for the last three years. His memory continues to worsen but the regression has slowed on the medication – a luxury that my late husband didn’t have as the drug wasn’t yet on the market when he needed it. Our nurse started the familiar test and I could see that Ian’s awareness of time had deteriorated since last year – “What year is it?” (“Well, it’s later than 1932.” – Smart Aleck – that is his birth year!) “Do you know what month we are in?” – (“Spring?” – hardly!) He could follow sequential verbal directions to take a piece of paper, fold it and place it on the ground, but only remembered one of the three words he had been given and then later asked to recall. “Truck,” readily came to mind but he had no recollection of “velvet” and “church” which he had repeated multiple times just minutes before. He correctly answered a few questions involving numbers and did not do too poorly in copying two geometric figures on a second paper. Then came the last assignment: “Write down a sentence, please.” I smiled thinking of what Ian had written last year. “I love my wife.” This time he readily jotted down a two-word sentence, handing it to the nurse with a smirk. She let out a hoot when she read: “Get stuffed!” There was a twinkle in his eye, though, so we saw it as a touch of sarcastic humour and not a nasty protest at the process.

Ian’s score was only a point below last year’s so I thought he should keep on the drug rather than taking a chance of his memory and abilities getting worse at a faster rate, even though this could also add to his bleeding. The medical staff thought differently, though, and recommended a trial period of 10 days off the drug to see if its absence made a difference. Those 10 days did not go well, however, as Ian had a growing number of disturbing hallucinations and worsening memory. As I still had about a month’s worth of the medication on hand, I started him back on it and will be monitoring him before we see the doctor again to assess whether to continue it. After only a few days, I’m encouraged that the hallucinations have lessened, though I’m not sure about the memory.

 

As irascible as he gets at times, I’d like to keep my old sassy Scotsman around awhile longer if possible. I’ve also started to tell him to “get stuffed” a few times when he gets carried away. That usually brings a chuckle, followed by a cuddle, which helps to alleviate the grumbling. Here Ian is a few years ago, all decked out to sing at the Okanagan Military Tattoo when he was still able to walk with the help of a cane (instead of a cromach).

Ian summed up his “get stuffed” afternoon with: “If you have a choice, it’s better to laugh than to cry.” The day following his medical exams he was so exhausted after our outing that he hardly got out of bed. At least it gave me some time to do some creative writing and fuel another blog post.

As difficult as care giving is, I’m determined to help Ian in these last years (or months) to make life as positive as possible and try to keep myself healthy and productive at the same time. Thank God for palliative care that offers growing support, as it becomes needed, and for the love and concern of family and friends.

 

 

What encouragement old friends can bring, even those who live far away. A recent letter came from Friedemann, a dear friend from my days living in Germany in the 1960s and ‘70s. He had recently lost his wife, Maria (another beloved friend) to cancer and was writing to comfort me after hearing of Ian’s cancer diagnosis. His profound words bear repeating:

“I am really grateful to you for keeping in touch with me and now with the follow-up news on Ian’s health crisis which will no doubt continue to occupy you both. I was sorry to hear that surgery is no safe option for Ian and do hope and pray that he remains without pain and comfortable and that you can both continue to live your interesting lives together.

“I seem to detect a note of optimism in your account–but then you always had what is basically a positive attitude to life, and although I have never met Ian, from your letters I have the impression that he is a person who prefers to see the bright side of life, too–a very healthy attitude (that I sometimes wish I had more of). Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Maria and you always got along so well, way back in the Heidelberg days. You both might have had good reasons for complaint in your lives, but you always managed to see the silver lining: a result of being embedded in your faith?

“Anyway, I do hope you can both find something to look forward to and enjoy each day. I often think of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, i.e. give us today what we need just for today (and tomorrow we will ask again).

“A month or so before Maria died she wrote an article for a magazine in which she quoted a poem by a German cabaret artist, writer, author of children’s stories and actor who died in 2005, Hans Dieter Hüsch. The poem apparently appealed to her way of thinking–I imagine also to yours and Ian’s—(In German–which you presumably still read? ):

Psalm

Ich bin vergnügt, erlöst, befreit.

Gott nahm in seine Hände meine Zeit,
mein Fühlen, Denken, Hören, Sagen,
mein Triumphieren und Verzagen,
das Elend und die Zärtlichkeit.

Was macht, dass ich so fröhlich bin
im meinem kleinen Reich?
Ich sing und tanze her und hin
vom Kindbett bis zur Leich.

Was macht dass ich so furchtlos bin
an vielen dunklen Tagen?
Es kommt ein Geist in meinen Sinn,
will mich durchs Leben tragen.

Was macht, dass ich so unbeschwert
und mich kein Trübsinn hält?
Weil mich mein Gott das Lachen lehrt
wohl über alle Welt.

Hanns Dieter Hüsch

 

“In English (roughly!):

I’m cheerful, redeemed, set free.

God took my time in his hands,

my  feeling, thinking, hearing, speaking,

my triumphs and despondencies,

the anguish and the tenderness.

 

How come that I’m so cheerful

in my own small domain?

I sing and dance to and fro

from the cradle to the grave.

 

How come that I’m so fearless

on many gloomy days?

A spirit comes into my mind

that seeks to carry me through life.

 

How come I’m so light-hearted

and no gloom has hold on me?

Because God teaches me to laugh

at the whole world no doubt.

 

“So I hope God continues to give you both your daily bread and brighten your life for as long as God sees fit.

“Cheers and the very best of wishes.

(nicer in Latin: Pax et gaudium–et fortitudo = peace and joy–and strength!)”

Your Life Is Your Story. Write Well. Edit Often.

20 Inspirational Cancer Quotes For Survivors, Fighters – Inspirational Quotes Ideas

Well, we surely are editing our life’s stories at present. Cancer has reared its dreaded head and we are in the first stages of finding out how Ian’s life story is being edited.

Ian has just spent 3 days in the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre emergency room, having gone in with severe bloody diarrhea, had a colonoscopy and CT scan and is now home. The medical team found a rectal tumour which is the source of the bleeding. That means cancer, of course, but we are happy to hear that it is localized and not expected to metastasize elsewhere. We are now awaiting a consultation with a surgical oncologist to see where to proceed from here. Thank God, he is not in any pain, just really exhausted. We’re sure the surgeon will have difficulty in deciding whether or not to operate since Ian is 85 and in poor health otherwise, so it might not be possible. Time will tell. Prayers are being sent up!

Gayle is anxiously trying to master the art of injecting Ian twice a day with an anti-coagulant that is necessary to prevent a stroke, since he is highly susceptible to them and has been on Warfarin for several years. That has been discontinued and a twice-a-day injectable anti-coagulant that is easier to counter-act if necessary has been prescribed. To say the least, nursing was never a career choice for Gayle, but she seems to have been forced into a non-professional form of it now and earlier in the care of her late husband. Again, prayers are being sent up for guidance, patience and endurance.

Present circumstances have sent us in search of some inspiration and these quotes have helped.

Though no longer writing, when he can stay awake and alert, Ian takes great pleasure in reading one of his published books. Right now he is concentrating on our children’s book, Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, chuckling from time to time and marveling that he ever managed to write it. The latest chuckle came when he pointed out a section where he had brought in a Scottish reflection to his fictional story. It reminded Gayle how, as the past editor of a thematic magazine, her life often seemed to reflect whatever theme was being worked on at the moment. Quoted below is the passage Ian read aloud:

“Some months later, the week after Jake’s twelfth birthday, another problem appeared. And Jake was sure a certain kid was the cause of everything getting all messed up again. As far as Jake was concerned, he didn’t want to go through any more troubles. But that little kid appeared at his door and sure screwed things up for Jake in a BIG way!

“Now Jake’s Grandpa was an old Scotsman who loved the poetry of the even-older Scotsman, named Robert Burns. Even Dad had started quoting some old sayings of Burns’, so it wasn’t surprising that a phrase from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” came into Jake’s mind. He had often heard both Grandpa and Dad say something like, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”– meaning that you can make really good plans but they can often go wrong. However it was stated, Jake thought, the saying must apply to 12-year-old boys too, for things certainly did go wrong for Jake—well, for a little while anyway.”

 

We rejoice that Ian has these writings to fall back on. They help to jog his failing memory and keep his spirits up. It’s good to always look for the silver lining in the inevitable clouds. Peace be with us all.

Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Gayle has intended to post this story in the past but couldn’t readily find where she had squirreled it away in her numerous storage tubs of memorabilia. Now, after a hiatus of 67 years, it is finally getting published on this blog! As far as she knows this was her first attempt to write down a story and she is pretty proud of her first efforts, despite the extremely slanted lines, childish but rather cute errors in grammar and spelling, yellowed cellophane tape “binding” and less-than-awesome artistry. Even then, however, she made a good attempt at sharing an engaging autobiographical story and finding a suitable, descriptive opening and closing.

The story was written in 1950, probably around November since Gayle would have turned eight on the 11th (and Doreen and Barbara would have been six and five until the next spring) and hunting season for ducks would have been in full swing. The setting is a house on Central Avenue in the small town of New Rockford, North Dakota.

The New Puppy CoverThe New Puppy Page 1The New Puppy Page 2 1The New Puppy Page 3 1The New Puppy Page 4The New Puppy Page 5

Note that Lady has a docked tail and Spotie’s tail is normal. A lot of waterfowl hunting dogs at that time had their tails docked to prevent wagging tails giving away the hunter’s hideouts in the reeds to birds as they approached a wetland site. Odd that Spotie has no spots and that the three girls look more like dressmaker’s forms than little girls! The spelling of the puppy’s name is also unique. “Spotty” or even “Spottie” would probably have been better choices.

But for the existence of this little story, the incident of the new puppy would probably have been lost as their parents have been dead for years and Gayle’s younger sisters, who were 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 at the time, have little recollection of what happened. None of the three can remember what eventually happened to the new puppy either. Only Gayle (who was a “grown-up” eight year old at the time) remembers that they later discovered that Spotie was deaf. He only reacted to touch and not to sound.

Spotie’s mother Lady was the same age as Gayle, so eight years of age when she gave birth to Spotie, who was her only offspring. Gayle also recalls that Lady had been hit by a car some months before Spotie’s birth, though she hadn’t seemed to be injured. Mom Mildred and Dad George had later surmised that the hearing of the puppy fetus had not developed properly as a result of the car accident. We know that Spotie did not grow to maturity and Gayle has a vague recollection that she was hit by a car and killed, probably in her first year of life. (The trauma of that death most likely contributed to the girls’ poor memories.) No photos of Spotie seem to have been taken, surprising when recalling how many photos and 60-mm films their daddy took over the years. There are numerous photos of Lady, however, and Gayle is sharing one of those, as well as photos of the girls from around 1950.

The three girls were very close in age. Gayle was 16 months older than Doreen who was a year and three days older than Barbara. Lady and Spotie were American Water Spaniels, a breed begun in Wisconsin in the early 1800s who were bred as hunting dogs. George Moore, their daddy, was an avid hunter who brought home many wild fowl and deer over the years. The Moores’ freezer was always full of wild duck, wild goose, partidge, prairie chicken, grouse, pheasant and lots of venison. They lived in central North Dakota, in the Central Flyway, a haven for hunters of migratory waterfowl. The surrounding prairies were also teeming with other game birds, Whitetail deer and elk.
Gayle & Lady-1948
Although no photo of the new puppy exists, Gayle has chosen the above photo from winter 1948/49 of Lady, the mother water spaniel, and herself. About a year and a half later she wrote the story about Lady’s new puppy.

Water Spaniel puppy

Because of his name, the new puppy “Spotie” was obviously spotted, as was Lady. Included herewith is a closeup of a vintage online photo of an American water spaniel puppy.

In the photo below the three little Moore girls pose on their parents’ bed in their “clown pajamas” for what became the Moore family’s Christmas card of 1949. They are from left to right, Barbara Ann, 4; Doreen Joyce, 5; and Gayle Irene, 7 .

Moore Girls in Clown pjs-1949The only photo from 1950 that Gayle could find is the below shot of Gayle reading the “funny papers” to Doreen, who would have just started school and probably wasn’t yet able to read them for herself.

Gayle reading to Doreen-1950

 

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

We send greetings to all our readers, hoping that you have had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations and that you will have a happy and peaceful New Year 2017. This year’s celebration has been a cozy one for us, though Ian’s health is fragile, necessitating a lot of sleeping, sometimes into late afternoons. He has to be cajoled (Gayle’s task) to get dressed and participate in some of our celebrations though he didn’t get out for church services, Gayle’s choir concert or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s glorious performance of Nutcracker. We did host his Winnipeg family of daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their spouses, plus five great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve, though. Thirteen of us in our small penthouse floor apartment made the choice of the description “cozy” a true reality, but our gathering was nonetheless enjoyable. Chinese takeout and frozen pies made for a festive but easy supper. The adults and one teenager huddled in around our large dining table while the four younger kids enjoyed kneeling around their own festive coffee table. With city lights twinkling below us through our decorated windows on our 17th floor apartment, candlelight inside, festive decorations, goodie bags for all, new pjs for the kids to don, some early presents to exchange and some Christmas carol singing and dancing, we all had a great time. As a long-time percussionist, Gayle has a collection of rhythm instruments that she brought out to enhance the music from our Christmas CDs, so we could all participate in singing and making music.

 

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How enjoyable we find reading through many short stories in a favourite Christmas present: the 2016 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder, compiled by Amy Newmark with a foreword by “Mrs. Nicholas Claus” and highly recommend it for your holiday enrichment. We also love to re-read and recall holiday stories of our own.

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In past years we have shared several holiday stories from Ian on this blog: (Dec. 10, 2012) “Unusual Holiday Flavoured Passages from My Memoir” (including “My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood” and the New Year’s Eve story of his youngest daughter’s premature birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky) and (Dec. 31, 2012) “Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year” an excerpt from our yet-to-be-published autobiographical book “Mexican Follies.” Below pictures Ian, Gayle and our poodle Peppy in our motorhome patio in Mexico in December 2004.

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In December 2014 we blogged a spontaneous play that Gayle and her then-4-year-old daughter had originated “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne” complete with Gwynne’s original illustrations.

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This year Gayle wants to share her story of a unique holiday trip she and her late husband Gus Johannesson made in December 1972 from their home in Germany to visit Gayle’s family in North Dakota. She calls it “The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” For those who don’t know German, Strassenbahn means “streetcar” or “tram.” Those who read her story will understand why Gayle is reluctant to consider any more extensive travel during the wintertime. Pictured below are Gayle’s family at the time: back row: husband Gus, Gayle, sister Barbara, niece Danelle, mother Grandma Mil, sister Doreen, nephew Todd and brother-in-law Bill; front row: nieces Billi, Lisa and Lori. Missing is brother-in-law Danny who presumably took the photo.

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The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga

Gus and I had moved to Germany in summer 1965 where he began to pursue a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and work part time as a civilian chaplain with the US military and I worked as a secretary for the Judge Advocate, U. S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. By 1972, we had already spent seven Christmas/New Year’s holiday seasons in Europe, either with Gus’ aunts, uncles and cousins in Norway or with our friends in Heidelberg and were excited to finally be flying home to the States to spend the holidays with my family members.

In many ways, 1972 had been a disastrous year for us–mostly because of Gus’ health. He had lost over 30 pounds due to an illness which was finally discovered in July and had already taken four bouts of rectal surgery for abscesses and fistulas, leaving him with a lot of pain and sapped strength, all of which grossly interferred with continuing work on his doctoral dissertation. In addition, I had shattered nerves after terrorist bombs had killed three people in the barracks where I worked and our headquarters were plagued with continuing bomb scares and security precautions. Despite Gus not really feeling well, we had been able to get away to Spain in June for a few weeks’ respite touring the Moorish treasures in Grenada and then relaxing at the home of friends on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, sunning, swimming, snorkelling, exploring ocean-side caves and touring quaint fishing villages with Gus doing a lot of napping. However, returning to Germany and our daily routines led to more stress and, for Gus, the string of surgeries. We were really anxious to get away from it all and back to family and a traditional holiday at “home.”

In December, after several days with friends and attending to business in Chicago and Minneapolis, we flew on to North Dakota, spent some time with each of my two sisters and their families and then finally took a bus from Fargo to my mother’s home in New Rockford (middle of the state). We had a few relaxing days alone with Mom before the rest of the family arrived for Christmas. Here’s Mom (Grandma Mil) and Gus on one of our walks.

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It was wonderful for me to bask in the smells and flavours of the traditional Swedish-American Christmas of my childhood. Picking out and decorating the live Christmas tree, stringing coloured lights, putting up the manger scene we had sent Mom from Germany,

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singing melodious carols in English, Swedish and Norwegian, helping Mom to bake spritz cookies, sandbakelse, krumkake, Julekake, pepparkakor, and Swedish almond bars (from my grandmother’s recipe brought from Sweden), buying and wrapping gifts, preparing turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs and even Lutefisk (though I still didn’t like it, but good-old-Gus sure did!).

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Gus and I got away a few times for walks alone. The photo above shows us posing on the frozen James River, not far from Mom’s two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex right across from the church where I had spent so much of my childhood. (I had been shocked when we first moved to Heidelberg to find out that the Neckar River there usually stayed open all winter long, only having frozen up once during the Twentieth Century, right after World War II.)

Once my sisters and their husbands and children had arrived, we were a family of 12. One sister had married a local boy so those five could overnight at his parents’ house just a few blocks away. However, my other sister’s family of four stayed at Mom’s, as did we. She and her husband slept in the living room on the couch bed but their two little ones got to sleep with Grandma Mil. Gus and I, as the “honoured guests from across the Atlantic,” got the guest room. This was fortunate as I had to be the nurse who cleaned his open (rectal) wound several times a day. (Surgery in that area has to heal from the inside out without any stitching.) It was a bit difficult to maintain much privacy, however, especially with five little ones underfoot. We got the biggest laugh of the holiday one evening when our two-year-old niece came out of the bathroom wearing two long “q-tips” (that I’d previously used to probe the wound and thought I had disposed of discreetly), one in each ear!!! (Even now in her late forties, she doesn’t appreciate the humour when reminded of the situation.)

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Other laughter was more pleasant, while unwrapping gifts, joyously sharing the Christmas story, telling the little ones of Jesus’ birth, singing, eating, going to church, playing games, taking walks in the snow, shopping and loving being together. Billi, Lori and Todd even got in some ice skating time. billi-lori-todd-skating-1972How wonderful for me to be at worship services in our home church again, sitting with my sisters and singing all those beautiful carols in three-part harmony as we had always done in the past. We revelled in a sunny, snowy North Dakota winter (coming back to a gray, rainy Heidelberg winter seemed a bit of a drag). With five small grandchildren, three daughters and three sons-in-law under foot for a week, Mom (“Grandma Mil” was then in her late 60s) stood up surprisingly well. Here’s Uncle Gus taking nieces Lisa and Lori for a walk. Our church, First Lutheran Church of New Rockford, is in the background at the left and part of the school I attended through Grade 12 is in the background at right centre.

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After our week together my sisters and their families drove back to their homes further east and we had another couple of days resting at Mom’s. Then came the start of our return trip, which I’ve named the “Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” The trip started with a wild bus ride in a near-blizzard to Fargo. This is usually a three-hour drive and took about twice that long. We were met by my sister Doreen and driven to her house in Fargo’s twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota.

Instead of flying out the next day we had a day’s delay caused by full-blown blizzard conditions which closed down the airport, plus everything else in the twin towns. We were to have flown from Fargo to Minneapolis and then on to Chicago where we were catching our international flight (a military charter airline from Chicago via New York to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). Listening to the radio, we learned that there was still a possibility of our getting out of town to meet our plane. The Great Northern railroad had a train plowing its way from Montana and across North Dakota, due in at 1 a.m. The only problem was that we couldn’t get to the depot (in Fargo, about five miles away from my sister’s house in Moorhead). My sister’s car was buried under layers of snow and, anyway, the roads were not passable. Fooling around in the snow in front of their house was about all we could do.

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Absolutely nothing was moving … but snowmobiles. Gus had heard on the radio that emergency snowmobiles were evacuating people. He figured that we qualified for an emergency since we had to meet a “military flight” in Chicago the next day. He called, explained our situation and we were granted clearance from the city police. To my two little nieces’ delight and my terror, we were picked up by two snowmobilers at midnight. Gus and I rode behind one snowmobiler; the other one carried all our luggage. There we went, over the (Red) river, through the woods and over 18 inches of snow, not to mention four to five feet of snowdrifts to Fargo’s train station. I hung on for dear life and had visions of falling off all the way; but we made it, only to have a long delay. The train arrived three hours late, struggling across North Dakota with a snowplow on the engine. I was too flustered by the whole situation to get any photos at the time.

So at 4:00 a.m. we boarded the train. Delay continued to be the motto of the trip, however. We missed our first plane connection from Minneapolis to Chicago and barely squeezed onto the last possible one, making connections at the Chicago Airport five minutes before we were to report in for our charter flight. Luckily, we had friends in Chicago that met us at the airport and got us from the domestic to the international departure area in record time. Had we been on our own, we never would have made it in time. We were delayed an hour getting out of Chicago, had to circle New York for two hours because of fog, were delayed in New York because of waiting for other passengers who were late in coming in from connecting flights, made an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland (we never did hear why) and finally landed in Frankfurt six hours later than scheduled.

Once at the Frankfurt airport, we had to take the subway into the city’s train station, then take the train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg (an hour away) and then the Strassenbahn (streetcar) to our stop on Rohrbacherstrasse and walk a block to our apartment on Turnerstrasse. So – bus to car to snowmobile to train to airplane to another airplane to subway to train to streetcar to foot – and we were finally home. (I think we had just about every mode of transportation but ship and dog sled.) It was time for a long winter’s nap – well, at least two day’s worth – before I had to get back to work and Gus to start cracking the books again … then surgery again. He had 16 surgeries in all over a five-year period before the problem finally resolved itself. I ended my Christmas/New Year’s letter that year with the following: “Neither of us has ever had a great deal of patience, but we’ve had to develop it lately. Once one gets through the inevitable periods of despair and self-pity and gets back to the basic trust in God’s presence and strength, things look better. So, we’re hoping for a year of fulfillment and health – and wish you all the blessings of our Lord for the New Year.”