Remembrance Day was in remembrance of those who gave their life, who fought for us and survived and for those who continue to fight and protect our country. But let’s not forget about the women who stayed behind and waited for their loved ones to return home to them. While my grandma was alive, she wrote about her life from birth up to 7 years before her passing. She took time to tell her story and I want to share it with others. Oh, how life has changed since back then.
The Story of My Life
By Ruby Money Westbrook
I am going to try to write something of my life. I am not a letter writer, so please overlook any mistakes.
I was a premature baby. Mother said that I was so small you could hold me in the palm of your hand. The Doctor said, “I think I can save the Mother, but not the baby”. Grandma Lennox who was a midwife took me and wrapped me in flannel and put sealers of hot water around me. Grandma Lennox was midwife for all of my mother’s babies. That is all except Edith, who is the youngest. I never saw my grandparents on either the Money or the Lennox side. I must have been about three when Grandma Lennox died.
I was born on the homestead at Gledhow, Saskatchewan. It is now a wheat field. My Dad was not a farmer, and I didn’t do well on the homestead. I understand that he had a good job on the railroad in Ontario. Mother had lost a baby and was left crippled in a wheel chair. The Doctor told Dad that she needed a drier climate like the West. Grandma was already out there, so they went homesteading. I believe Mel was the only one born in Ontario.
From the homestead, we moved to Manor, Southern Saskatchewan, and rented a house from Jack Hammond. When he would come to see us, I would sit on his knee and he would give me a quarter. I thought I was rich.
I started school at Winterbourne, and walked most of the time. Dad bought the old Winterbourne School and moved it onto a section of land and was turning it into a house. They used skids and ten horses to move it. (I’m getting ahead of myself. We moved to a farm at Wauchope first.) I went with Dad, Sid and Uncle Harty to get the house ready. There was water in the basement, and snakes swimming in it. I wanted to see them, so I kept going over to look at them. Uncle Harty would pull me back and say, “Come away little girl”. We couldn’t have stayed long there, but I remember Aunt Annie and Uncle Ed (Shorty) both died while we were there. I think Grandma Lennox, Aunt Annie and Shorty are all burried at Wauchope. The dogs howled all night when Shorty died.
Sid went trapping muskrats, so we started taking the team and cutter to school. He would go to his traps on the way home, and we would sit in the cutter and freeze. We didn’t have very warm clothes. When we got home, we would have Kettle Sops to warm up. That was homemade bread broken into a cup with boiling water poured over it, and butter and pepper and salt on it. Boy, did that taste good!
Later on, we moved to Wawota. By this time, Edith and I were old enough to wander. Ray called us Pete and Jim, the Brush Wolves. We always found the first Crocus, the first ripe berries, etc. We had no sleighs or toboggans, so we used to open up stove pipes to ride down the hills on. We had nice hills, so we had a lot of fun. I read that you could use barrel staves for skis. I tried every way, but couldn’t figure out how to keep them on my feet. There was a barn at the school, so our favorite game was Anti I Over. We chose up sides and one side stood on each side of the barn. Some one would throw the ball over the barn and say, “Anti I Over”. If someone on the other side caught the ball, they would come racing around and catch as many as they could of the other team.
We went to Ardine School then. The town people called it the Bush Rabbit School. We had one teacher, and about nineteen pupils. She taught Grade 1 to Grade 10, and earned nine hundred dollars per year. I passed my Grade 7 there.
When we moved to Ontario, I didn’t go back to school, so I started working. I worked as a maid in Camp Borden for six dollars per month. Then the War started and all civilians were moved out of Camp Borden. I got a job in Barrie as cook, maid, etc. for twenty dollars per month. The people I was working for moved on, so Isabell and I went to Oakville to Lady Baillie’s daughter. Isabell was cook, and I was chamber maid.
Isabell had a boyfriend named Bill. He was in the Army. I guess he got tired of me tagging after them, so one night he phoned and said he was bringing a fellow for me. I said, “I’m not going out with him”. By the time they got there, Isabell had coaxed me to go with him. She said, “He has a car, and you don’t need to go with him again”. We didn’t know until later on that he had stopped to give Bill a ride, and Bill said, “Come on along. My girlfriend has a sister”. It was love at first sight. Bell said, “He’s cute, Ruby. Why don’t you hang onto him? I said, “I plan on it”. I still have him. He is my nurse. My everything.
We got married when he was nineteen and I was seventeen. We had to get my Dad’s consent. Dad said if it was anyone else but Al, he wouldn’t give his consent. We were married in Angus in the Mance of the United Church – the same place my parents had been married thirty-eight years before, only it was called the Methodist Church when they were married there. Sylvia and Walton were our witnesses.
He was gone for four and half long years.
Al (Elmer) stayed one night, and then had to get back to Camp at Petawawa. We had two or three weekends together, and then I went up to Petawawa for about a month and then he was shipped out. He was gone for four and a half long years. While Al was overseas, I went back west for a while. I stayed with sister Dora and her husband, Henry, first, and got a job in Alison’s Store in Wawota. Saturday night was the big night there. The Legion ladies used their precious rationed sugar and made pies to sell. The farmers would come to the store and give their orders, and we would put them up while they waited or went to the show and had coffee and pie after that.
Sister Flo and her husband, Ab, asked me to come and work for them because they couldn’t get any help as everyone had gone to war. Flo and I took turns driving the tractor. When I drove it, Don, their thirteen year old son rode the binder. When it came to threshing time, everyone was using German Prisoners of War for harvesting. Flo and I said we would not have them in the house or cook for them, but we gave in. The main thing I remember about them was that as soon as they got off work, they would head for the horse trough and take off their shirts and have a good wash in ice cold water.
While I was there, we all had scarlet fever. Flo said that I had two rashes. She said that I had the measles at the same time. We asked the Doctor what I should do about writing to Al, and he said to put my letter in a tin in the oven. Then take the tin out to the mailman and he could take the letter out. I’m afraid Al got a few scorched letters.
When Al came home from the war, he was a complete stranger because he had changed so much. I got pregnant right away and we had a baby boy whom we called “Allen”. We were so proud of him. Al took a carpenter’s course, so we decided to build our own house. We moved into a tent with our baby, one police dog and a budgie bird. We got our house built, and along came another baby boy whom we called “Gene”. This was at Newtonbrook, and from there we moved to Agincourt.
One day we decided to go to Cobourg to see Al’s Aunt Em. She had a beautiful sixteen roomed house, and it was for sale. We bought it and moved to Cobourg.Al got a job immediately, but it only lasted a month. They said they lost his papers for unemployment insurance, so they couldn’t give it to us. At that time, it was nineteen dollars per week. We shared the house with Aunt Em and Uncle Jack while waiting for the deal to go through. By this time, we had a third boy named “Ron”. Christmas came and we had nothing for the kids, and nothing to eat. Aunt Em came out and saw that I was crying and she said, “Didn’t you get any money yet?” She lent me one hundred dollars, and that made our Christmas.
Allen started to Mervin Green School just outside of Cobourg. There was no bus then, so he had to get a ride with a farmer up the road. He loved school so much! The farmer always brought him into the yard, but this day he had a load of chop, so he let Allen out at the side of the highway. Allen tried to cross the road, but was hit by a brewery truck and was killed instantly. He was six years old.
We had twins about a year later whom we named “Linda” and “Larry”. Three years after that we had “George”. Seven years later came “Vincent”. I think we must have set a record as we had children in the same school for twenty-five years.
We built three houses at Cobourg, and then started all over again. We lived in a tent in Verona (near Kingston) until we got a house up. No hydro or phone while we were building. Linda had an apartment in Kingston and we would go in for a bath. I think we will stay here. We have been married fifty-five years. Now I have lost my kidneys and poor Al is my nurse. He takes good care of me. We have six Grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.