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Ernest Mercer Sr. and
Ellen Wright Mercer

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Page 381 - 384
compiled by Debbie Morgan,
daughter of Della Mercer Banack

Born to Richard Mercer (March 25, 1875-July 2, 1942) who was a blacksmith, and Ellen Wright (May 24,1874January 8, 1945), who were married on February 13, 1899 in Ditton, England. All of their children were born in England except Richard (Chic), who was born in Lethbridge.

Florence Mercer: November 27, 1899-June 10, 1900 (Diptheria) Ada Mercer: February 27, 1901-September 8, 1901 (Diptheria) Ernest Mercer: May 14, 1904-November 25, 1972 Nellie Mercer: April, 1907-October 13, 1990. Married Lester Christianson, two daughters. Married Jim MacDonald. William Mercer (Weasel): April 21, 1909-March 29, 1960. Married Mary Gray, two daughters and two sons. Married Evelyn Tilley, three daughters.

Grandad (Ernest Mercer Jr.), came from Lancashire England in 1910, with his dad, when he was six. His parents had a blacksmith shop on second street behind Niven's Machine Shop. Their home was on nineteenth street. Granddad worked for Harry Snowden when he was sixteen -that's how he met Granny -- the farm was just north of where Granny lived. He used to borrow Snowden's car to court Granny. This car had snap-on sides and doors

Marion (Mercer) Arnold was born on May 10, 1908, in Treheame Manitoba, to Alexander and Alice Arnold. Alex was a farmer who married Alice Dellahunt at the age of twenty-one. Granny Amold's parents travelled to Manitoba in Red River carts. The squeal of wheels was a sound remembered by all settlers. Marion was number three child.

Alex and Alice Arnold moved to Strongfield, Saskatchewan. They lived in the front of a machine shed. When Aunt Ethel was born, Granny was disappointed. She thought she was getting a doll, not a sister. Grandpa stayed and Granny Arnold took the family back to Manitoba because of no money. Marion stayed with the Stones and later went to Manitoba. Granny remembers the time Ethel bounced a cream pitcher off of her head. They had been playing in their playhouse. Ethel had a temper. They had chipmunks for pets. Hazelnuts grew wild and Granny Dellahunt was always picking berries.

Marion lived with Aunt Lizzy in Bethune Saskatchewan, prior to moving to the Dykstra farm at Lethbridge with her parents in 1920, at the age of twelve. Aunt Lizzy, Granny Arnold's sister, took Granny (age nine), to be company for Mary (Fishley). They drowned gophers together and picked wild strawberries. Granny traveled to Lethbridge by train. She distinctly remembers the stink and black from the old steam train powered by coal. Grandpa and Granny Arnold retired after Grandad had worked as a caretaker at the Cayley School.

Marion attended White School when it was located south and west of its current location. Marion took a horse and cart to school and students kept their horses behind the school. Granny rode a white horse named Tango. Lily Morris (Mrs. Dick Henderson) was a teacher Granny remembered. Granddad would always hit her horse with his reins. Granddad always had spirited horses. Granny rode to Readymade with Mamie Ryder to a show. After the show, they spent the night with Mamie's sister.

Marion Arnold's and Ernie Mercer's Life Together:

Marion and Ernie were married in the United Church in Lethbridge. Aunt Nellie (Granddad's sister) and George Osborne were the bridal party. The dance was at Burgmann's Hall. Whittaker played the piano and someone threw the wedding cake out the window. Because of the rain, Granny and Granddad spent their wedding night at Aunt Daisy's (Granddad!s aunt). They went home the next day to the farm (the Windmill Place). It was rented from John Snowden. It was a one room shack with curtains that were bought by Mrs. Maclntyre. Granny recalls getting many nice things. While living at the Windmill Place, Uncle Ab lived with Granny and Granddad. He always had a sling-shot. He shot over the house, hit the telephone pole, the rock ricochetted, and took out the kitchen window. Just after this Granddad added two rooms to the house. Granddad had a blacksmith shop at the farm. He moved the equipment and building from town. He sharpened plough shares and the forge was turned by Della. He also shod and broke horses for people. After getting their work done, customers stayed for lunch.

At this time transportation was with a horse and a democrat - (a buggy with four wheels). Granny used to go to Ann Netimeyers (Niedermier) to get her hair done, with Duke pulling the democrat.

Grandad and Granny went to dances at all of the schools. One time because of snowy, muddy roads, they went on a stoneboat to a Maclean dance. Dancing " Call of the Pipes" was a favourite with Tom Coupland. They went one time with Harold and Daisy Jelfs to a dance. There was always a crock of wine in the buggy. Grandma Coupland was known for her home remedy of brandy.

Washing clothes and bread baking always happened on Monday. Water was hauled in barrels with Dolly and a stoneboat. Uncle Don burnt his shoes while Granny was milking the cows. Apparently they were wet, and he put them on the coal stove so they would dry faster. Grandad always had jobs off the farm. They included hauling beets and grain to Coaldale for other farmers.

Grandad went from horses to tractors and then the bottom fell out of the wheat market (Dirty Thirties). Machinery was repossessed and the farmers were devastated. As a result, they went back to horses.

They moved to the Marshall place. The blacksmith shop was built out of the wood from an old house at the Windmill Place and Grandad brought equipment from his father's blacksmith shop in Lethbridge.

Louis Banack came to the farm in the summer of 1939. He and Louie Wilke, his friend, were riding the rods. They had gone from Roundhill (near Camrose) to Portage la Prairie and were on their way home. There was always a fear of being arrested for being a vagrant. The boys kept their money in the sole of their shoes. Lou missed the next freight train and endedup working for Grandad as a hired man for $1.00 a day for six years.

In 1943, the old barns burned down (hog, horse, and cow). One had been used for grinding chop as well. (Cows got into the chop one time and all of them died.) Grandad was burning fertilizer sacks and one sack hit a barn. In between the barns was straw, so everything burned. At that time Grandad tried to sell a sow and 12 piglets. However, they were worth nothing.

Lou and Ernie went in a Model A Ford down to the mine past River Junction to get Frankie Bachelor to help with the building of the new barn. Coming back up the hill in the mud and rain they burnt out the clutch, and had to walk to O'Neill's to get a ride. The War was on at this time and lumber was brought from the Concentration Camp to build the barn. They used the 1936 Red International truck. Uncle Gordon, Lou, Couplands, Ernie, Grandad and the neighborhood people built the barn. It was shingled for $200 and Grandad supplied the shingles. The floor was made tongue and groove. The walls of the barn were whitened with lime for disinfectant. It was completed in 1944 and barn dances were held in it. Della had her wedding dance in the barn, and the "Alberta Ranch Boys" played. Mr. and Mrs. Uchida helped with the wedding. We were worried about fire and as a result the dances ceased.

Crops grown were sugar beets, hay, oats and wheat. Cream was shipped to the Crystal Dairy (4 cans at a time) in the back of the Pontiac car.

In 1954, Grandad built the "big house". The house was built by George Hunt and Ernie. Kay did the varnishing and shellacking of the doors. After thirty years of marriage Grandad bought Granny the "Lady Hamilton" silver.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup