My Background

I was born in a salvation army hostel in Dauphin Manitoba on June 30, 1943. oldest of four children born to Nellie (nee Clarke) and Jack McPhail. Grandma Clarke came from England when she was very young and raised her family in Kamsack Saskatchewan.  I was the product of a chance meeting  of two lonely people one dark night, both sneaking into box cars headed for another adventure and hopefully a beginning of  a new  life somewhere along the way. The woman running from her father who had traded her for a cow.  The man a hobo, hopping boxcars looking to find a job in another place with more opportunities.  Is it any wonder the long lonely sound of the whistle of a freight train in the night would always touch me deeply?

Nine months later the hobo was passing through Dauphin Manitoba and found he had left the woman with child who was giving birth at that moment in a hostel not far from there. He found and married her in the hostel.  When she and and the baby were ready to travel they went on their way as a family of three.  The roaming was over for the hobo, he had to become a man, he had a family to support now and he took his position seriously.  Uneducated, he considered himself lucky to have good health and a strong body.   He worked hard and the  family grew, but the jobs only lasted so long and he had to move on when they were done.  We lived on the road so to speak and eventually settled in Jellicoe Ontario.  He built a log home there on a small piece of property in the tiny village and we stayed put until it was time for me to go to high school. 
For some strange reason, my memories of my childhood are scant at best.  I know we left Jellicoe when I had just turned thirteen years old, but the years before that are full of blank spaces. When I consider my past now I realize that most of the  real memories I have are the horrid ones.  I remember the quarrels between mom and dad, I remember the screams in the barn,  I remember Mom wouldn't get out of bed for many days after that.  Then a package came in the mail, it was a set of repaired false teeth.  That was great because we had mom back again. I remember when a higher grade student than I  chased us girls and threw a gallon pail of wriggling, squirmy snakes at me.  My screams were heard almost a mile away, they tangled in the spokes on my bicycle, slithered down my legs and I just kept on screaming.   I don't know why, but as hard as I try I cannot remember many happy times.  I know there was some, but the unhappy ones are the vivid ones.  I seem to  remember every detail of those. 
I failed the first year of high school as the traveling principle predicted.  He gave us all a talking to trying to prepare us for the inevitable. He said we were at least a year behind in our little village school and it wasn't our fault, we would fail the the first year in grade nine. He was sure if  we applied ourselves we would all pass the following year.   I had great marks in public school. I loved reading, and the teacher would let the pupils make the selections for reading material from the traveling library van. A combination of marks and amount of books we read would give us points towards the amount of  books we could choose to stock our school shelves for the next couple of months.   I was always able to make the most selections each time the van came around.
I did fail the first year in grade nine, but repeaters did not have a choice of which course they would take..  They put us where they chose.  My ambition was to be a registered nurse and I know I would have made a good one.  When I learned the course they put me in did not count towards that goal, and they would not change it for me I was so discouraged.  I was almost glad to quit school  it was April and all of my teacher's were dumbfounded, they told me I was sure to pass, without having to write exams and tried to talk me into staying. I had lost complete interest.   Mom and Dad wanted me to help out,  a couple who had four children.  The mother had contacted polio and was hospitalized for many months.  I lived  in and looked after those four children while the father stayed at the bush camp just a short drive from there.       
I know nothing of my father's side of the family, other than I am named after his twin sister Rachel, and his was a big family. Dad worked hard, played hard and died young in 1970. My only sister died in December of 1996, Mom died in December of 1997. My oldest brother lives here in Thunder Bay, the other in BC.
Denis and I were married January 3, 1967 and raised two sons and one daughter.
As the children were growing up we spent a lot of time camping. Music was another thing the family enjoyed as a whole. We all played, some more than one or two instruments. When we came together as a "group" the music of common choice was "Bluegrass". Individually a wide variety of music was enjoyed. I could walk down the hallway in our home and hear everything from "Leona Boyd style guitar", to "heavy metal" and "country" coming through their bedroom doors.
People would say our family life was uneventful, while in reality we have our share of skeletons in the closet. The main thing though is that all three are happily married and own their own homes here in Thunder Bay.

If there is a lesson here it is as simple as:
"learn to accept the things you cannot change
and live your lives around them."



There is a funny side to everyday life. Here are some stories....
Letting go is hard sometimes
Family album


I know very little about the McPhail side of our family. I know the family was large, but don't know the exact number. Jack (dad) was around fourteen years old when he left home for good, and from what he says he never returned. There are bits and pieces of information I learned and stored in memory over the years.
Dad's mother and father were never names, just mom and dad. Grandpa McPhail was on horseback trying to herd the cows during an electric storm when he was killed by a bolt of lightening. All his children were watching from a window. Dad claims the coins in his father's pockets were fused together
Grandma McPhail "took up" with another man and Jack never warmed up to him. Apparently there was a violent fight in the barn, a pitchfork was involved. I never did know the specific's but dad walked away that day never to return. He left behind a twin sister Rachel, they were born October 7th 1910. I understand there was a brother around two years of age when he left. They lived in Saskatchewan....
Dad tried to join the army, at one time, but was turned down because of an old back injury. He was about 5'8" with a lot of red in his med. brown hair, and of course the freckles to go with it. He spoke of being jailed once, accused of murder, but was freed. Mistaken identity he called it.
Mom told me she made an attempt to search for his family once about
30 years ago. Dad found out about it and told her if she did she would be sorry. The way mom tells it she was never clear as to weather dad would make her sorry or she wouldn't like what she found.
I realize there is very little chance of someone stumbling on this, much less find anything vaguely familiar about the sketchy memories I related above. I will always hope though to find someone from his side of the family. He never returned home, but he spoke of his two year old brother with a fondness on his face, and he must have thought a great deal of his twin sister because I am named after her.

Hopefully someone somewhere, remembers or has heard of
a set of twins born in Saskatchewan
A boy and a girl
October 7th 1910
Jack and Rachel McPhail.

Please report any broken links here
on to Clarke

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