October is a very busy month in our calendar year. We start with harvest, which has spilled over from September; celebrate Thanksgiving and end with Halloween. All of these events have created a lot of memories — both good and bad and evoke emotions to match the good and the bad.
With the appointment of Cook Myer by the Federal Department of the Interior as the official land guide for the Ponoka area many years ago, settlers began transforming the parkland into a populated farming community. Mr. Myer directed families to the area from the northern United States as well as from eastern Canada and overseas. Mr. Myer’s year-end report for 1900 stated that he had sold 31 quarter sections and located 112 homesteaders on suitable lands. These hardy people cleared the land or utilized small natural prairies, built comfortable log buildings and planted their first crops.
In the fall of 1901 the first threshing machine arrived in the Dakota area. It was a very crude, hand-fed machine with no straw carrier or grain elevator and was powered by eight-horse power. The following summer George Winslow arrived from South Dakota bringing with him an up-to-date, fourteen horse-power machine. In 1905, a horse-power machine trailed up the west side of the Battle River to Pigeon Creek, crossed over to the east and came south to Lloyd’s. It did the threshing on both sides of the river and took a total of 73 days. The same route was taken the next year with a Case steamer operated by the Hoar brothers. It was not long before steam whistles were heard in all directions. Today, forced by the shortage of labour, we have turned from the old methods of threshing to combines and there is now a combine on nearly every farm.
The threshing bees were very much a community event with every able body showing up to help. While the men were busy in the fields, the women were busy cooking and baking to provide the hardy meals served daily in the field. If it was a good year, harvest would have been nearly done by Thanksgiving and after the harvest was completed the annual fall suppers were held in every rural community hall. This was a time for eating, visiting and quite often ended up with dancing.
Halloween was another day for visiting and for the youngsters to dress up and receive candy and other treats from all the neighbors. In town, the children went door to door to collect treats, usually in an old flour or sugar sack and there was no worry about what you received — peanuts, suckers, popcorn balls and if you were lucky, McIntosh apples from B.C. Costumes were all home-made and not elaborate but made for fun times. And of course high jinx were a part of the evening from wrapping trees with toilet paper, throwing rotten eggs and occasionally moving the outhouse.
Today, when the Grade 1 students arrive at the Fort Ostell Museum to make butter each year we compare the old ways to new ways and without exception it is decided that new is better but some of the old sounds like a lot fun as well.