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Godfred Helmer and Susan Rau Helmer

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 334 - 336
By Mary Gunderson

The Helmer Story

First --- let me begin by saying thank you for the invitation to take part in this great history book project!

1, Mary Gunderson, would like to introduce you to the Helmer and Gunderson families and tell you a little bit about our corner of the world.

My Dad, Godfred Helmer was born in Saratov, Russia (of German descent) and came to the United States with his family in the late 1800's. I'm not sure how much time the crossing took but that ocean voyage may have seemed endless as some sea sickness had to be endured as the days slowly passed. Quite a contrast to today's travel with all it's discoveries as preventatives.

They arrived on American soil in 1902 in the State of Missouri and began pioneering with the help of my Uncle George.

My Mother --to be-- Susan Rau was also of German descent and came from Saratov as well, but was living in Idaho. Eventually my Father moved to Idaho and wouldn't you know -- "Cupid" soon arrived on the scene and did his little trick. On Dec. 4, 1906 wedding bells rang that united Susan and Godfred and thus began their journey of life.

Ten children were born to this union, six boys and four girls. The pioneer years, at times were pretty unsettled and it was necessary to move several times. In 1920 our family moved to Burstall, Sask. but only farmed there for five years.

Our next move was to Alberta into the Lethbridge area and Coalhurst was our town. School days were always fun and there were about 30 pupils in my class all in the same grade.

Once again a move was planned, this time taking us to south side Lethbridge, and there we attended "White School". I'm not quite sure why it was necessary to make changes in the 'Division' as to school attendance, but our family ended up being driven by horse van to Coaldale for some time. I remember the driver was Rick Murfin. There was no rapid transit in existence then!

Once more we were on the move. This time back to Coalhurst, settling in the 'Park Lake' area. My school then was "Rolling Hill'. We did have a great time here enjoying the lake with a very active community life, thus making many friends. We had to go through the depression years which most folk will never forget but I really never felt deprived of anything. Our home was filled with love and we all got along very well together. We each had our chores and little jobs to do and we knew exactly what was expected of us. My Father was the authority and head of our home and as I recall he was very strict. However we also appreciated that when we realized his fairness in all things. He lived by the 'Book' and the 'Scriptures' were faithfully read and taught by example in all of our growing up years. We had our definite times of quiet reverence and I can honestly say harmony prevailed in the Helmer household!

When I say harmony I mean that in every sense of the word. Ours was a home where music played a large part in our entertainment and our energies. We had lots of lively sing songs and I remember several different instruments being played and we all took part. What an enjoyable past time.

It did seem that I was usually found in the kitchen much of the time (away back then). There I learned many worthwhile tips, short cuts and little tricks while cooking along with Mother. In these years we often had to improvise in the 'culinary department' and even extend our expertise for the unexpected. Many, many times there were more than our own family around the table. The welcome mat was always out and hospitality greeted every hungry wayfarer. I thought at one time I would like to be a nurse, however that did not materialize and little did I realize I was being well schooled for the role I was to fill in order to care for my own little family in the years to follow.

Well it is with surety -- time marches on which meant our family started to leave the nest.

Fred (Emma) went first to Stony Plain but eventually came back to the Lethbridge area taking a position with A.G.T. working there until his retirement. They had two children but Emma was taken early in life and Fred remarried 'Linda' and two children were born to this union. Fred passed away in 1976.

Henry (Katie) took up farming for awhile. Six children came along having a set of twins among them. He moved his family to Burly, Idaho and as far as I know most of the family live there at this time.

George (Doris) had four children. George was a real handyman in mechanics and in helping out neighbors with trucking etc. George passed away Dec. 1991.

Dave (Esther) had two boys but he moved to the States to work with our Uncle. This was in Sacramento, California. He drove 'bus' most of life and retired in approximately 1987.

Next came Mary. I always took pleasure in being able to help out family, friends or neighbors whenever I could and this is what I ventured out to do when I went to Spring Bank, outside Calgary, to help in the Gunderson home. Wouldn't you know 'Cupid' was there too and this fellow Oris (with Cupid's help of course) won "Mary's" heart and we were married in 1939.

Oris who came from North Dakota in the late 1800's seemed to settle in southern Alberta but lived in various districts around the area. Oris had three children from a former marriage. Oris passed away in Oct. 1976.

To go back to the Helmer folk, my sister Ester (Roy) separated - no children, and Martha (Pete) 4 children --- 3 by a previous marriage. M o I I y -- deceased as a child - 1928.

Down through the years we have tried to keep in touch by having had several family re-unions. Our winter gatherings, quite often at Christmas time have been held at 'Bate's Lodge' in the Cochrane area.

It takes time to build a strong family foundation but once that is accomplished the inner strength should last a lifetime. The sounds and smells of "HOME" are printed indelibly on all our minds. The aroma of freshly baked bread --- the hum of the sewing machine --- the clicking of the knitting needles fun and games --- and bed time prayers. A home divided cannot stand and we all need togetherness! The family is the foundation of society and the children- are the building blocks.

These will be ---- the citizens of tomorrow ----

To all ---- may I say "Keep looking UP" and "Keep Smiling!"

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup