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
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
|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
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
|on to Clarke
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