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August Handsaeme
Isabella Meek Handsaeme and
Nellie Clark Handsaeme

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 329 - 331
Compiled by Ann Dixon (nee Ann Handsaeme) Oct. 1993

The Handsaeme Family by Anne Handsaeme (Dixon)

Our father, August Handsaeme, immigrated to Canada from Marquette, France, two years before W.W.1 broke out. He enlisted in the Canadian army and while on leave from the European war, met and later married a widow, Isabella Meek (our Mother). She lived in Belfast, Ireland with her 5 year old son James. Later on the three set sail for Canada to take up mixed farming on a small irrigated farm. It was here near Raymond, Alberta, where their family of four children were born at home with the aid of a midwife by the name of Mrs. Deardun.

At the young age of 40, our Mother came down with typhoid fever and passed away leaving our Father to care for her 17 yr. old son as well as their four children aged 11 to 5 years (me). James left home later on to attend college in the States. My Dad had hired several housekeepers over the following years finally marrying one of them, our stepmother, Nellie Clark. She had a grown family of her own who were more like uncles and an aunt than a step-family.

In 1939 when Dad sold his land in Raymond he purchased a dryland farm that neighbored Charlie Parry's dairy farm in the White School district.

Matt, Sam and I, the only three in our family who would attend White School, got our first glimpse of it that spring as we rode past perched high upon a hayrack full of household furniture. We were about to experience a drastic change in the way we would learn the three R!s. Now instead of attending a huge public school that was accessible by walking, we would be riding horseback to and from a small country school with several different grades taught in one room.

Matt's days at White were numbered but for the short time he was enrolled there he recalls all the typewriting classes being held downstairs in the furnace room. The basement was also used for P. T. classes wherein the whole school participated including boxing for the boys. Les Robinson and Matt sparred around with the gloves on more than once to vent their frustrations with each other.

When Bill Andrews hired Matt to help on his farm, this was a good excuse to quit school, so he did just that! He worked on other farms and on construction before meeting and marrying Elaine Hamilton. They purchased the Hamilton dairy farm, milked fifty head of cows and raised 9 children that included two sets of twins. I guess Matt didn't spend all his time milking cows!

Sam was destined to have a short school term at White because he had to take over the farm work at home when Matt left. And wouldn't you know it, he left just before the grade nine exams. He must have been terribly disappointed!

Sam never did tell us what he learned in class but he did explain in great detail all about the tag games the boys played up on the rafters in the horse barn. Louie Skiba, Wayne Burr and Alex Herman were just some of the guilty ones. Sam said the players had to be very fast, yet agile enough to skip back and forth on the narrow 2 x 4ys while being very careful not to slip and fall or get tagged. Each player took his turn at the hayloft window to alert the rest if Mr. MacKenzie was spotted heading their way. Was this the extent of Sam's education at White School.

Barney Gwatkin hired Sam to work for him then later on he worked for John Gwatkin before he met and married Doreen Gaught a teacher at McNally School. They moved around some, had three daughters then Sam took on management positions of several different Provincial Community Pastures. After twenty seven years of service he retired and they live in Medicine Hat.

Ann: I had to ride double decker with Sam to school on one of our work horses when Tony, my saddle horse, contracted sleeping sickness along with many other horses that year. I was horrified and thought he was dead when I saw him being raised to his feet in a huge homemade canvas sling. I fed and watered him in that standing position for what seemed like an eternity to me. Poor Tony, I thought he would never get well and when he did he just didn't have that old spark, but he was still my best pal.

Helen Holm Nielson, who lived east of us on Johnson's place, became a very special friend of mine. On weekends I'd skip across an irrigation flume that bridged a canal on the way over to her house; I just knew she would have that weekly "Popular Songs" book. We really got more than twenty-five cents worth out of it because we repeatedly sang and at the same time learned every new song in the book.

Every day I rode to school accompanied by Dorine Hearne and Dena Parry our close neighbors. On those beautiful sunny, summer days it was hard for us to think of being stuck in a stuffy classroom all day, so, with a mischievous glint in our eyes we would turn our horses westward and head for the cool, green, quiet river bottom. Here we could spend the entire day relaxing in the shade. One thing we never could quite figure out was how the teachers knew we were playing hooky until one day, as we cut off through a field on a high gallop, we looked around and there was Mrs. Andrews standing on their back step with her long black telescope trained on us!

Were our risky quests really meant to seek out the cool shady spots, or was the great attraction young, male personnel in uniform who were based at the airport? We'll never tell!

One summer Dorine, Dena and I decided to ride in the annual first of July Raymond Stampede Parade. I reluctantly agreed to ride a very choppy, stubborn little shetland pony that Dorine so kindly loaned me because Tony was laid up with a bad barbwire cut. I think the parade judges felt sorry for our trio having ridden so far to participate so they gave us a dollar each for first, second and third prizes. Needless to say that third prize did nothing for my jarred body and sore backside.

I have fond memories of attending Miss Kittleson's classes in the Mud Hut. One day a vehicle, almost obscured in a black cloud of dust, sped past the school with a police car in hot pursuit. Goldie, who was being courted by Ernie Snowden at the time, leaped out of her chair and flew outside to get a quick glimpse of that car. Immediately, curiosity flooded the classroom and all the students ran out behind her.

"Don't worry Miss Kittleson," said Aster Chow very calmly, "It's not Ernie this time." Among whispers and giggles a blushing young teacher returned to the Mud Hut.

A fatal heart attack took my Dad that year so Nellie sold the farm and took up residence near her own family in Calgary.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup