Family Lines collects and preserves family memories and publishes them either digitally or in book form.
The way it really was: My life
This is the story of Karl, a German man who was born in Sudetenland, orphaned at age four, soldier at age 16, a prisoner of war for over three years and once released, spent time searching for his adopted family in a divided Germany after they were kicked off their farm in the former Czechoslovakia. Karl now lives in Calgary and it’s here I helped him get his story on paper.
Calgary Air: Flying High
How one man’s passion took flight
A boy dreams about being a pilot. Grows up to become one and then builds his own flying business. A memoir and tale about reaching for the sky and getting what you want. Click here to see more of the book.
In Her Words: The making of a war bride
Jeannie (Shearer) Booth
I may have lived in Canada longer than Scotland but Scotland is still my home. You leave a little bit of yourself when you leave Scotland. I never heard anyone say they were happy to leave Scotland. It will always be my home.
I grew up near Thurso in Scotland and was the second oldest of eight children. Sarah was the oldest followed by me, then Donnie, Daisy, Christina, Georgina, Sandy (Alexander) and Helen. We never fought, well, I don’t remember us fighting. We mostly got along but we did’na all live in the same house.
I lived with my granny. I looked after her and, well, we had a big four bedroom house and I cleaned the house. We also had a front room and a sitting room and a dining room and a kitchen. There are no wooden houses in Scotland and so this one was made of stone and was one hundred years old. Probably two hundred years old now.
When I was four I started going to school. Every day I had to walk three miles there and three miles back. If you got sick at school you had to walk all the way home by yourself because there were no phones.
In school the nurse used to come around every three months and weigh everybody and look at their eyes and teeth and all that sort of tripe. I did’na want anybody around when I got weighed. Not when I was little I sure didn’t.
I sure wasn’t heavy when I was younger. I weighed 59 pounds when I was 12 and it wasn’t because no one fed me. I can remember crying in the morning before school because they made me eat half an egg. So finally they let me go because I would be late for school.
Sometimes on the walk home from school kids would get turnips from other peoples’ gardens and clean them off in the grass. The rock fences had sharp edges to cut into the turnip so the kids could eat them.
I never went in and got one. That would be stealing. The boys used to go in and pick them though. We cleaned them off on the fence on the big slabs of the sharp stones. We called the turnips “neeps”.
I was 14 when I finished school. I went up to the level that would be Grade 10 in Canada.
My family had a farm but I never really worked out on it. At turnip time I would help with the hoe. We grew acres of turnips and we also had sheep and cattle and horses because it was a mixed farm.
I was scared of the horses. We had as many as 26 horses including one riding horse – a highland gareth. I never rode it. I did’na go in 50 feet of a horse.
I like the look of horses but I don’t want them near me. I remember always being scared of horses and not because I was ever kicked or anything. They’re such great big things and I would see people go up alongside them and think how brave they are going up next to them.
The horses were groomed every night but not by me. My mother did’na work out on the farm either. My father did most of the work when he was at home. He was in Africa with the Fourth Highlanders for a long while during the First World War. He wore a kilt as part of the Scottish Highlanders uniform.
While in Africa he was in Johannesburg, Cape Town too and Charlesbourg and other towns but I can’t think of it. Oh never mind. He got malaria somewhere there and was in bed for 13 weeks at home because the hospitals were full of troops.
My granny died in the middle of October in 1939 and then my dad died at the end of October. My dad was born in 1889 and died when he was 50 or 49 I think. His birthday was 19 of May. He had cancer but died of a massive heart attack.
During the Second World War I was at my uncle’s farm because there was a shortage of people to work on farms. My aunt and uncle worked outside and I did indoor stuff like housecleaning.
I met my husband, Jim, when he was stationed near my uncle near Alnus. Well, Jim was in the Canadian service corp. He was born in Kelby, I think that’s how you spell it, England but moved to Canada when he was younger with his family.
The Booths moving to Canada from England.
The Canadians were stationed right beside my uncle and Jim used to visit the farm and help them. My uncle did’na ask me to come and meet Jim — good God, do you think I remember how he asked me out? We didn’t go to a dance. Jim did’na know how to dance. He played soccer in England, football they call it, and if he had stayed in England he could have played professionally. That’s all water under the bridge.
In the past I’ve told people we got married in under three months but I think I knew him longer than that. We got married in a church and since it was war time we didn’t have big weddings. We did’na have no reception – no nothing.
My wedding dress was kind of – I don’t know what it’s called – something – kind of mauve – between grey and mauve. I don’t have a photo. I did but I did’na take them when I left Scotland. The photos are probably in the garbage now or my sister might have them. I don’t know.
I think I was happy at my wedding. As happy as you could be in war time. Always looking for the worst.
By marrying my husband I thought I might be moving to Canada. I didn’t really want to come to Canada but I went after a couple of years and with two daughters.
We went by boat in April. As we were leaving I remember everybody watched as long as you could see the British Isles. They sat and watched until they couldn’t see anymore. I was so sick on the boat I sure did’na sit up and watch.
I was very sick. We hit rough weather and icebergs and so had to go a different way. We were a day late docking in Halifax, Nova Scotia because of the icebergs.
I was glad to get off that boat. We were landed at 11 o’clock at night. Then we took the train all the way to Winnipeg. My first impression of Canada was I thought it was the last place God had made and he forgot to finish it. I didn’t cry though. Why would I? Wouldn’t help me any.
We stayed in Winnipeg for the weekend because I had relatives there. I had umpteen on my granny’s side – more than that – Mowatts. One of my grandmother’s brothers had 10 children and there were only two in Scotland and eight went places in Canada. My uncle was in Canada too, Uncle Davey Shearer. He never married.
Then we went on to Emo, Ontario and stayed there for six weeks with Jim’s family – his mother and father and a brother – Emma and Thomas Booth and Ted Booth. Then we went to Nestor Falls, Ontario for the summer.
In November we went into a little house in Devlin, Ontario. We were there two years and moved to a farm in Burris, Ontario and I was there for 33 years with five children and I liked it. It was a nice place to live – Burris. People were friendly.
Now my impression of Canada is a little better. I still don’t like it as good as Scotland.