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Charles Patching and
Gladys Watson Patching

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Page 402
by Fern Patching

Charles came into Alberta in 1909 from North Dakota to get a homestead at Etzikom. There he met Gladys Watson, whose parents were also homesteading there. They were married in 1914. The first years were hard for them as that area was hard hit by the drought, and they moved to Magrath after a few years, and then to a farm about seven miles northwest of Stirling about 1924. By that time they had four boys - a daughter was born in 1926. Their two older sons had been attending the Farm HiII School situated about four miles north and west of Magrath and they completed the spring term at the Galt School in Stirling.

The two oldest boys continued to take classes in Stirling for the year 1925, travelling to school on horse back, and being joined in 1928, by younger brother in a two horse farm cart built from the running gear of an old Grey Dort car. Since there was a good deal of open uncultivated land in the area at that time, they were able to head off in the general direction of Maybutt over the bed of Stirling Lake, which at that time was dry. Duck hunters had been shooting at this lake for many years so they were able to find empty beer bottles which they traded at "Pa" Loders grocery store in Maybutt for jawbreakers or licorice strips when they picked up the mail. During the winter, travel was too difficult for youngsters so Gladys and the children moved to Maybutt for the winter months while Charlie stayed on the farm to take care of the livestock. The first winter, a house was rented beside the livery stable in Maybutt, and the second winter an apartment of three rooms was rented in the Maybutt Hotel.

Families with children were beginning to move into the area and in 1927 the McMahon School opened its doors. Charlie Patching was the Secretary Treasurer and also supplied quarters for the first classroom until the school building arrived. Along with other district residents he helped build a barn, build fences around the school yard, and erect whatever playground equipment was available at the school. Since there was no school teacherage, the teacher often boarded at the Patching home.

Charles was a good farmer, and very progressive. The farm had electricity back in the 1930's (a wind charger) and indoor plumbing (a windmill and large water storage). Most of the building and work on the farm was done with very little outside help, with the exception, of course, at harvest time. For the first years there were teams of horses and big threshing machines, but these gave way to tractors and combines in the '30's.

Charlie, and the boys, loved cattle, and always had some lovely Holstein calves in the fair, and some good milk cows. Gladys made a lot of butter, and took a lot of cans of good rich cream into the Crystal Dairy.

Charlie was usually on the school board and in his later years was on the Lethbridge Fair Board. He was active in the United Church, and after retirement spent a lot of days working at the Canyon Church Camp in Waterton. He also pursued his hobbies which were fishing and curling.

Gladys was also active in the united Church, and a staunch member of the Ladies Aid. She was involved with the IODE in Lethbridge, and they both enjoyed their games of bridge. Charlie loved baseball, having played it when he was younger, and was quite well known around the Foremost-Stirling area as a good ball player. They loved their church, and their community, and their family.

They farmed full-time until 1945-46 when two of the sons returned from the services and took over the farm, then Charles moved into Lethbridge and only helped on the farm in seeding or harvest time.

All of the Patching children went to McMahon School through the ninth grade.

About 1920 the family moved not too long after this to a farm north of Magrath, and then in 1925 to a farm between Wilson and Stirling with the farmstead on the N.E. corner of 11-7-20. In 1926 Charlie completed a house on the farm. Meanwhile the family stayed at the Maybutt hotel (Maybutt was a small village on the north end of Stirling that had a store, hotel, church, train station, elevators and several homes. It is now quite deserted with the exception of perhaps a couple of elevators.)

The family attended McMahon School, which was about 3/4 of a mile west of our home. School attendance in those years varied from 9 to 18 students, and of course all nine grades were taught by only one teacher. A lot of credit goes to those young women that did such a fine job with such varied classes. Other families that attended McMahon School were Smiths, Hudsons, McMahons, Jorgensons, Wocknitz and Hydechucks. One of the highlights of our school year was of course the annual Christmas concert, with the borrowed sheets strung across the front of the school to hide the make-shift stage. The endless exciting hours practicing our plays and drills, and of course Santa's visit. For a number of years I felt bad that my dad was never there to see Santa when he came in -- Dad always had to go out and check his horse or car at that time. Another highlight of our school years were the visits of the music teacher, Mr. Williams, from Lethbridge, and then of course, the Music Festival.

During those years of the dirty thirties many times we were sent home from school in a big hurry when the big black cloud appeared in the northern sky, and several times the Hydechuck children had to stay at our home which was closer than theirs, the dust making walking further impossible.

The Bishop family later provided van service. The roads were still very poor, with just a few miles of gravel - the rest being dirt - and the Bishop boys did quite a heroic job. We did have a lot of snow drifts to shovel, and ditches to get pushed out of, but we usually managed to get to school on time. White School at that time was growing, with several school districts getting pulled into it, so we met a lot of students that we hadn't known before. It was a good experience, and we had a lot of fun times. Of course we all remember the fine dances that went on till two in the morning - with time out at midnight for lunch. And I remember the good music that we had usually Herb and Lew Bishop, Layne Harvey and Bert Parry. Oh, those moonlight waltzes! Oh, those sore feet when the dance was over!

We have had a good home life, and I am glad that I experienced the little one-room school house, and the joy of having been a little prairie kid in those by-gone days.

The Patching children have fond memories during the time that we were growing up. More initiative was required to create their own activities. There was activity in sports with local baseball teams and of course basketball when in high school. With four boys in the family and only one little sister there was always a lot going on. There were the many fishing trips with Dad and then there were times too when the boys would get a little rough with each other, like pups, and the parents would tell them they had better get outside, then go to it. Despite the depression of the thirties there was still the camping holiday in Waterton each summer.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup