Year 1997 by Pauline Hrynuik (nee Shalansky)
My maiden name is Shalansky, but it may have been different if certain events had not occurred. To fully understand what I am about to relate it is important to know that in the early 1800’s, in what was then Poland, life was very different. In those days there were large landowners. They owned farms, villages and towns. And then there were the peasants who worked the land, had businesses in the towns, but paid a good percentage of their income to the landowners. The peasants worked a good portion of their day on the landowners’ property in exchange for a small plot of land for their own use. The landowners (called pun by the peasants, literal translation into English - master)had an overseer to run their places as few of them bothered with the day to day running of their property. Some of the masters were good to their people and some were not. The same with the overseers.
The sons of the landowners were usually sent away to school till they were 18 and then would go into military service. One such boy came home for a holiday before going into military service. He got on his horse and went riding on his father’s property and saw the overseer using a whip on a pregnant woman. Being a kind person himself he got very angry at the overseer, took away the whip from him and killed him with it unintentionally. When he saw what he had done he got very frightened as he knew he would be convicted of murder. He got on his horse and ran away.
He rode to a village called Hryhoriw. There he got a job with a small landowner who had no sons, just one daughter, and whose last name was Shalansky. He married the daughter and took her name. The father-in-law gave him some land for his own. He started his family on this land. Whether he had any daughters I do not know, but he had only one son. That son was my father’s great grandfather. He too had only one son. This was my father’s grandfather. He too had only one son. His name was Harasim. This was my grandfather.
Since each of the ancestors had only one son the land was passed on from father to son without dividing it. How much land they had I do not know but they were considered to be well off. However my grandfather broke the mold of just having one son. He had three sons and three daughters. The oldest was Tomko, then Pawlo (Paul) and my father Yrko (George). They were all fairly well educated. My father spoke Ukrainian, Polish and German. When he was 13 his father died leaving the land to the oldest son. Two of the girls married and emigrated to Canada with their husbands and so did the second son. He took my grandmother with him, leaving my father and a younger sister behind. Father had to leave school and help on the land. At that time young men had to serve three years in the army and if they had no land then they had to stay in for seven years. So just before his eighteenth birthday my father too came to Canada. He became 18 by the time he arrived. He got a homestead and he spent the next three years proving it (building a house and breaking five acres) and working on the railroad. His mother came to live with him.
At age 21 he married my mother on February 14 on her 17th birthday. I do not know what year that was. He came to Canada in 1905 so it must have been 1908 or 09. He left Hryhoriw by train to Hamburg, then by ship to Halifax.
Demko & Kelyna Babak
My grandparents on my mother’s side came to Canada in 1903. They landed in Halifax and then went by train to Winnipeg, where their immigration papers were processed, and from there on the train to Yorkton. They were not your ordinary immigrants. Grandfather had money so they came across the ocean in reasonable comfort, not in steerage as most did. He bought a farm near Yorkton but for some reason did not like it there, so he sold it and moved to farm about 10 miles north of Buchanan, which at the time was a nice thriving town. Unlike other people who started plowing fields with oxen, Grandfather bought horses. He farmed that land until his death in 1929. I don’t remember him very well. All I can remember is he was a very big man. I remember one time he came and brought us some bananas. I had never seen or eaten one before. I didn’t like the taste, but not wanting to hurt his feelings, I would walk outside, break off a piece and throw it away, pretending I had eaten it.
My grandmother (Kelyna Dron was her maiden name) as a young girl lived in a village called Sewoleski. Like everyone else she had to put in some hours a week working for the landowner. She helped with the serving in the dining room. She used to tell us stories about the behavior of the gentry, but the only thing that sticks in my mind is that not only would they burp out loud but would often lift up their behind and let go. She said by the time the meal was over it would be pretty smelly in the room.
As was the custom, she married young. However, her first husband did not live very long. She was still a teenager when she became a widow. She married my grandfather (Demko Bobak) when she was in her early twenties. In those days girls got married very young, and not always to men of their choosing. My mother’s parents came to Canada because of the unstable conditions in Europe.
My mother had one brother. He was three years younger than her. They were both born in what was then Austria. My mother only went to school for three weeks. Why she had to leave I do not know. In those days they didn’t believe girls needed education. Uncle Fred, however had several years of schooling in Europe. There were no schools in the area where they lived in Canada so the kids did not get any schooling. By the time there was a school they were too old for it. Ukrainian is a phonetic language and my mother learned her letters in the three weeks she went to school and never forgot them. Though she herself could not read and write until she was in her fifties, she taught us all to read Ukrainian before we went to school.
Mother was 13 years old when she came to Canada and married father on her 17th birthday on February 14th. (year?) (My mother’s name was Tekla)
How did my parents meet? Well, actually they didn’t until about a month before they were married. There was really no place, or for that matter, time, for young people to meet. After all there were no cars or dance halls or even a church. The summer before my parents were married the people in the area got together and built a small church out of logs in the hopes that they could get a priest to come occasionally. They called the church and the district Hryhoriw, named after the village where most of them came from. In January word came that a priest would come to bless the church on February 14. He would also perform any marriages and baptisms. That was great news for the bachelor farmers. Farmers needed wives, so as soon as the news came that a priest would be available all the bachelors scurried around to find one. Love had nothing to do with it. Dad’s brother Paul lived a half mile away from my grandparents and he told my father they had a daughter of marriageable age. He (Paul) discussed it with my grandparents and they were agreeable, then uncle Paul brought father to their place for an introduction and to see if they liked him and if George (my father) and Tekla (my mother) liked each other. Nothing was said at the time about a marriage.
Here I must digress and tell you how things like marriage proposals were done at the time. Even if the boy and girl knew each other for some time and decided they wanted to get married they couldn’t just go to their parents and say so. The marriage proposal actually came from a family friend or relative. It was all very formal. The intermediary would go to the parents and ask their permission for the boy to marry their daughter, while the prospective groom waited outside. If the answer was yes then the boy would be called in and the parents would ask him what his plans were for looking after a wife. Then the parents of the boy would come and visit the girl’s parents and wedding arrangements were made. In my parents’ case there was only his mother and Paul. Since the date had to be February 14 there was not much time for planning.
In those days and even later in my sister’s time weddings were three day affairs. The day before the actual wedding the bride’s friends gathered in her place and braided a crown of myrtle for the bridal couple. These were used as wedding rings were used later. There was always a lot of singing of folk songs telling the bride how to treat her husband and especially her mother-in-law. The next day the actual marriage took place in the church and then everybody went to the bride’s home for a meal and dancing. The bride still stayed in her home until the next day when the groom and his friends came to get the bride and there would be feasting and dancing at the groom’s place. There was a lot more to the weddings but I will explain later.
My parents had 12 children. One boy and two girls died infancy.
Steve, the oldest, never married. He homesteaded for a few years in Porcupine Plain, from the time he was 18 till about 30. Then he went to BC and worked in a lumber camp. He died there at age 49 of a heart attack.
Bill was a year younger. He too homesteaded in Porcupine Plain. He married Rosie Kwasney in 1932. Four years later he found he had diabetes. He died of double pneumonia in 1940. He had one son.
Paul was the third son. He got married in 1941 to Doris Glowatsky. They had three boys, Jim, Gary & Ricky. He worked in the mine at Flin Flon where he was killed in a mining accident in 1957. He was in his late thirties.
Then came Julia who married Peter Kwasney in 1932 when she was 17 years old. They had 6 children - 4 boys - Carl, Steve, Walter & Rudy; and 2 girls - Mabel and Helen.
Stella was next. She married Mike Stefanyshyn in 1937. They had 7 children: Marvin, Ernie, Jerry and Leonard were the four boys and the girls were Jane, Linda and Carol. Linda and Leonard were twins. Stella lives in Preeceville.
Alex followed Stella. He was in the navy for three years during the war. He married Ellen in 1946. They lived in Toronto and then London, Ontario. They had two children, a girl named Gwenneth and a boy named Robert. Alex died of a heart attack at age 70. He changed his name to Shaland.
Fred was two years younger than Alex. He spent 2-1/2 years in the army during the second world war. After the war he went to work in a mine in BC where he died of a heart attack at age 38. He was never married.
I (Pauline) was born in 1924. I spent the first 17 years of my life on my father’s farm. At age 18, in 1942, I went to Toronto to work. My first job was in a factory that made Enfield rifles for the army. Then I worked in a factory that built Lancaster bombers. In 1944 I went to Flin Flon where I worked for a mine that made zinc. There I met Nick. After a few months I left and went to work in the Prince Albert sanitarium. In 1945 I went to work in a hospital in Winnipeg where Nick joined me and we were married on January 7, 1946. We had 4 living children; Nat, born in 1948 in Winnipeg; Stephanie, born in 1952 in McDowel; Dale in 1956 in PA and Maureen in 1959 in Regina.
In 1933 Leona was born. She went to Winnipeg in 1949. In 1951 she got polio and had to walk with crutches and then with canes ever since. She still lives in Winnipeg.
Life was not easy for my parents. They brought up their family in a log house of two rooms. It had a straw thatched roof. My father homesteaded 160 acres. It was mostly bush and a large slough. By the time I came along he had 100 acres under cultivation. He grew wheat and rye for flour and as a cash crop, oats to feed the horses and barley to feed the chickens and the pigs. They had no conveniences as we now have. The house was heated by wood with a stove in the kitchen and a tin heater in the second room. In the kitchen was a bed on which my parents slept and a large table with benches around it for the family to sit on for meals. The laundry was done on a washboard and the house was lighted by coal oil lamps. The ironing was done by heating what we called a sad iron on the stove. Of course there weren’t that many clothes to iron since we changed clothes once a week - Sunday morning. The second room had a large bed and a wooden couch which was used for sitting on in the daytime and would open up at night and would make another large bed.
It would be hard for today’s kids to believe, who must all have separate rooms, That five of us slept in that one room. There was also a fair sized log cabin which we called the little house where the older boys slept in winter. That was Steve, Bill & Paul. Come spring we would all move out to sleep in the granaries - we had 2 - and the cooking and eating was moved to the little house. Come fall the process was reversed.
My father always farmed with horses. He would always have eight horses as it took four horses to pull one piece of equipment. That way two people could work at the same time. In those days after the crop was taken off the fields they would plow the stubble under which would also leave something like little ditches which would keep the moisture in from the melted snow. In spring they would go over the ground with a discer which would level the ground then harrowed to smooth it out and then it was seeded. With horses you started work at first daylight and worked till about eleven o’clock. Then you stopped, fed the horses and let them rest for about four hours during the heat of the day and then work again till dark. During harvest time the days were shorter and cooler so they worked from dawn till dusk with an hour for dinner. The horses would be given water and feed right out on the field.
The women never ran any of the equipment but we did work out on the field during haying and harvest by piling the hay into mounds and stooking. The women also took care of the cows, pigs, chickens and the garden besides cooking and cleaning. There was always a big garden. We grew enough potatoes, carrot, beets and turnips to last until next year. Also a lot of cabbage for sauerkraut and to make cabbage rolls.
My early childhood was a happy one. My brother Fred, who was two years older than me, were very close. We always played together. I can’t remember exactly what we did all day. In summer we would raft on a slough that was on our farm. We would pick wild strawberries, raspberries, chokecherries, pink cherries, and, of course, saskatoons, all of which grew on the farm. Of course I don’t remember too much before I was four years old. One of my earliest memories is one that has effected me to this day. Near our house there was a dugout. It wasn’t very deep so that Fred and I could walk across it. One year it had completely dried out so that father had a well dug in the middle of it. The following spring it was full again but the well was still there. Fred and I decided it would be fun to raft on it. The dugout was about 200 ft by 200 ft. We had a lot of fun rafting on it. One day when I was about five and Fred was about seven years old we took the raft to the dugout and when we were in the middle of it I slipped off it. Normally it would have just meant getting wet but I fell off right over the well and that was deep. Fortunately our parents were just a little ways away planting potatoes. Fred started to yell and somehow managed to get me out. What happened after that I don’t really remember, but obviously they brought me around with no physical harm done, but that was the last day I ever went anywhere near water and, of course, Fred was never allowed to take the raft out on the dugout again.
One other activity we enjoyed was climbing trees where there were crows’ nests so that we could throw out the eggs as crows were not really wanted around the farm. There were other things too like playing ball by bouncing it against the wall, skipping rope, and every spring father would put up two swings.
Living on a farm there really wasn’t too much time for playing. There were chickens to feed and eggs to gather. This was a job for the youngest in the family. There were also geese ducks and turkeys. Pigs had to be fed twice a day and cows to milk and then turn the cream separator had to be cleaned twice a day. Selling eggs and cream were the only cash we had for the summer. Sunday was a day we always looked forward to as the only work we had was what was absolutely necessary and we could have friends over or visit our friends. In winter we had chores to do too, such as helping with feeding the animals, cleaning out barns and making sure there was enough wood in the wood box to last for 24 hours.
Since we had no radio, television, or even a telephone, we had to make our own entertainment. Cards were the favorite pastime but there was also checkers and, most important of all, there was conversation. Father had a very good voice and we spent many evenings singing. Ukrainian songs, of course. Some evenings neighbours would come over and the adults would tell ghost stories. When I was about 10 years old a Ukrainian library opened up about 4 miles from our farm. It was opened on Friday only. Father would go and get a book and evenings I would sit and read out loud while the others would listen while doing things such as knitting, mending, etc. I read the book BEN HUR first in Ukrainian.
I started school when I was seven years old but then I got sick and stayed home for the next year and a half. I really don’t know what was wrong with me as in those days doctors really didn’t know as much as they do today. They did not have the equipment they have today. They had to use their eyes and their hands. Mostly people got sick and they either died or they got better. I got better and at age 9 I went back to school. I loved school, mostly because there were books to read and so many things to learn. I learned to read in Ukrainian when I was 4 and I would read the Ukrainian newspaper to mother as she could not read.
Because of my age the teacher let me go through my schoolwork at my own speed so I went through the first four grades in two years. I was an “A” student in everything but history because that meant remembering dates at which I was never good and am still not good at. I loved history except for the dates.
I left school after I finished seventh grade because my mother was ill and needed an operation. Also I had a seven year old sister, a seventy year old grandmother and a brother who had diabetes and had to be on a strict diet which he would not follow so somebody had to watch everything he ate. I more or less took over the household and the care of the people. Besides this there was the milking of the cows, chickens and so on.
I first went to work when I was 16. I worked for my uncle, doing housework, in Porcupine Plain for the princely sum of $13 per month. This was just for one winter. Then I had to come home to help on the farm. Mother was well enough to do the housework but the other chores, including the garden, were left to me. I had to help with the haying and the stooking.
My last year of school was a pretty hard one. It was a dry year and no water in the sloughs for the stock, so before school I had to take the cattle (36 head & 6 horses) to a well 1-1/2 miles away from home where I pulled water from the well with a bucket into a water trough till all the cattle and horses had enough. Then I would I would send them on their way to pasture and go to school for 9:00 o’clock, and three times a week I would put an 8 gallon can of cream on a bike and take it to Preeceville Creamery. This was a six mile trip and then two more miles back to school. After school I would go back to the creamery and fill the can with good drinking water and bike back the six miles home. This was 1939, the year the second world war was started.
By 1941 things were pretty dreary around the farm. Fred had left to work for a dairy farmer in Brooks, Alberta. Paul got married earlier that year and he and his wife lived in the “little house”. I no longer had to work outside as Paul was there to help dad and Doris to help mom if she needed it. With the war on all the young men were in the army so there were no longer any Saturday night dances.
There, of course, was no TV or even radio to listen to. Actually, we did have a battery radio, but we were only allowed two hours a day to play it. There was no library in town so the only reading was the weekly newspaper, one Ukrainian and one English. In short, life became unbearably lonely at home for a 17 year old, which is why in February of ’42 I went to Toronto where I immediately got a job in a war plant making Enfield rifles. I worked there for a year and then went to work in an aircraft factory making Lancaster bombers. In the spring of 1944 father begged me to come home, which I did. But I only stayed home that summer. (How are you going to keep them on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?) In the fall of 1944 I went to Flin Flon, much against my father’s wishes. He wouldn’t even drive me to the train. I walked the six miles to Preeceville with my suitcase.
I worked in the zinc plant there. That is where your father and I met. This was in October of ’44.
In February of ’45 I went to PA and got a job at the sanitarium where I worked until the end of April, spent May at home on the farm. This, I decided, was not the life I wanted, so I went to Winnipeg in June and got a job as assistant cook in the King Edward Hospital (it no longer exists). Nick came to Winnipeg in the fall and on January 7, 1946 we were married. The first few months we lived in a hotel that rented its rooms out by the month. There were no cooking facilities so we had to eat all our meals in restaurants. Over the next few years I worked in a variety of places; sewing factory for awhile, Eaton’s mail order and a laundry. For awhile we rented a two room apartment where we were allowed hot water only once a week. We cooked on a gas range that you had to feed quarters to get gas. Later we bought a house on two acres of land. This was in 1949 when Nat was one year old. In 1950 Nick’s parents and brothers came to visit us and convinced Nick to come back to the farm where they would help him get started in farming. It seemed like a good idea at the time but things didn’t work out so we moved to Prince Albert where Nick got a job in construction. Before we went to Prince Albert we lived in a house near McDowel. That was where Stephanie was born.
We built a house in Prince Albert in 1955. In 1956 Dale was born and Nick took a job with the federal government. His first job was at Isle-la-Crosse where we stayed for about six months. Then we went to Radisson for about one year. Nick then applied and got a job with the Saskatchewan Government and we were sent to North Battleford for a while and in 1959 we came to Regina. Maureen was born here.
As Ukrainians we celebrated Christmas on January 7th, but the excitement of Christmas began long before that. Beginning of Advent the whole house had to be cleaned from top to bottom. Since it was a log house with clay plaster it was whitewashed with white lime. The girls would make crepe paper flowers to go around the holy pictures that were on the wall. Mother would go to town every week and bring foods that we had only on holy days. She would buy a box of dry apples, enough for about six pies. The cost was about 25 cents. Two boxes of Jello, each contained four flavours, and a fruit dish. This too was 25 cents. Rice to make cabbage rolls. The rest of the year cabbage rolls were made with buckwheat as it was much cheaper. Closer to Christmas she would buy cookies, animal crackers, popcorn and Christmas candy to hang on the tree. The day before Christmas eve mother would make special bread, the pies, cabbage rolls, Jello, a big tub of doughnuts and several bowls of headcheese. This was the only meat we had during Christmas. If it had been a good year we would have some garlic sausage.
The big day of the Christmas season was Christmas eve. We had fir trees on our farm and sometime during early fall father would find and mark the perfect tree for Christmas. On the morning of January 6th father and the boys would go out and cut down the tree, bring it in and set it up. We would spend a good part of the day decorating it. We would string popcorn, put thread through the cookies and animal crackers and sticks of gum to hang on the tree. There were always a few glass ornaments and candles and a star on the top. The candles were never lit, of course, because of the danger of fire. Then just before dark father and the boys would go out and bring large armfuls of hay which was put down on the floor in the room the Christmas tree was in. The hay signified the manger in which the baby Jesus slept.
Christmas eve supper was the important meal. It consisted of 12 dishes for the 12 apostles. There was boiled wheat (kuta), borsch, fish, different kinds of vegetables, cabbage rolls, buns and doughnuts. There were absolutely no animal products in this meal. Crisco was used whenever butter would normally be used. This meal would start whenever the first star was sighted, so one of us was always outside looking for it. When the first star was seen all the food would be put on the table and we would all stand around the table and say the Lord’s Prayer and sing one Christmas carol. Then the eating began, starting with the wheat. Even though I hated the wheat I had to have some, even if it was only a teaspoonful.
After supper we would all sit around the table and sing all the Christmas carols we knew. Then the older girls would do the dishes while we younger kids played in the hay, mostly doing somersaults. When the supper was over that was also the last bit of work mother did for the next three days. Christmas lasted for three days, Christmas day, boxing day and the feast of St. Stephen. During the three days (including Christmas day)no meal was fixed. Everybody ate when they got hungry as there was a lot of food. We just had to clean up after ourselves, and otherwise did just as we pleased. Of course there were still outside chores to do. The younger kids (those under 10) even slept on the floor on the hay, swiping the occasional candy or cookie off the Christmas tree.
We believed in the English Santa Clause, but not as the jolly man who came down the chimney with gifts for good boys and girls. Santa came to the school on the day of the Christmas concert, which was held on the last day of school, around December 22nd. He would bring all the boys and girls a bag filled with peanuts, candy and, usually, an apple and a tangerine.
The Ukrainian St. Nicholas did not come down the chimney. Being a spirit he could just walk in. We hung our stockings on the bedpost and St. Nick would fill it with peanuts and candy and, if we were lucky, an orange and one small gift. I always got a doll and the boys would get a windup toy. So we were excited about Christmas, but not because of what we would get, but because of all the wonderful food available to us that we did not have during the rest of the year. It being winter, and cold, we did not have church services.
The Christmas tree stayed up until 19 of January, the day Jesus was baptized. We refereed to it as our “little Christmas”. Again food was made ready ahead of time and the important meal was on the 18th of January. On the eve of “little Christmas” the girls over the age of 14 would go outside and bang spoons together as loud as they could. The custom was that from which direction there would be dogs barking then that’s the direction their future husbands would come from.
The tree was taken down on the 20th of January and by that time all the cookies, candies, etc. were gone so there was very little to take off the tree.
New Year to us was just another holiday, the day we put out the new calendars. Just like our birthdays, just the day we became one year older, no parties or presents.
Easter Sunday was a day we all looked forward to from the first day of lent. Food too was the reason. Not so much because of all the good food we had on Easter Sunday, but because during lent on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we could have no animal products. That included milk and eggs. Our meals, needless to say, were very low in fat. For breakfast we’d have bread (no butter) and tea (no milk). Dinner usually consisted of borsch or sauerkraut and bread. For supper would be just boiled or baked vegetables, cornmeal mush or buckwheat mush. There is a poem in Ukrainian that does not translate easily into English, but the meaning is, before you ask me why I am all skin and bones, ask me about our Lenten meals. Of course, the other five days we could eat anything we wanted, that is, until the week before Easter. Then it was back to “lean cuisine”. On Good Friday we fasted all day until the evening when we had cornmeal with prunes.
On Good Friday the men of the community brought out the body of Christ on the cross and laid it on the alter (this was a painting on linen) and from that time on somebody stayed in the church (mostly old women) until Sunday. During Saturday evening everyone over seven went to confession so they could have communion on Sunday. Every housewife prepared a basket of food such as eggs, butter, cheese, special Easter bread and any other food that would be eaten Sunday. After the Sunday church service there would be a procession around the church with the body of Christ and it was put away for the next year. Then, weather permitting, all the housewives would bring their baskets of food outside for the priest to bless. If it rained it was done indoors. All this would take about three hours, so it was usually 11 or 12 o’clock before we had anything to eat. We all had to taste some of the blessed food and then we could fill up on anything.
One of the wonders of Easter is that we all got new clothes and when you have new clothes you want to show them off. After dinner the people would again gather at the church grounds. The women and young girls would hold hands and go in a circle and sing special songs. The old people would sit on the grass and gossip. The boys and men would mostly play games. Leap frog was the favorite and, of course, they would look over the girls to decide which one they would court that summer. On Easter Monday they would again gather in the church grounds for more singing and games, but the old people mostly stayed home.
The day of Pentecost was another celebration. On the day before the male members of the family would cut down trees and plant them in front of the house while the girls would go in the bush and pick flowers, mostly tiger lilies, and stick them into the thatched roof of the house. For some reason we always referred to this as the Green Holidays. Of course this had to discontinue when we moved into a house with wood shingles.
Only a video camera or a good writer could show what a Ukrainian wedding was like, but, lacking both, I will try to do my best.
Most weddings took place in the fall, after harvest, or in the winter. I shall write about my sister Stella’s wedding, for it is the one I remember best.
By their time their was no intermediary to the proposal. The couple would decide to get married and they would both go to the girl’s parents with their intentions. The marriage itself would usually take about one month to prepare. Ukrainian weddings were famous for their singing, their food, and the booze.
Since nobody could afford to buy legal liquor a lot of home-brew was made. It took about 10 pounds of sugar for every gallon of home-brew (besides other things), and it required about 10 gallons of the stuff for a good wedding. Therefore, one of the first orders of business was to buy 10 - 10 pound bags of sugar and distribute them amongst the neighbours. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew how to make it, some better that others. Since home-brew was illegal it had to be kept quiet as to who got the sugar. It took about two weeks from the time you got the potatoes and yeast until it became alcohol. Once the alcohol was made it was brought to the wedding place where the people had to be pretty creative in hiding it as having home-brew on your property was a jail offense. They would also buy about four gallons of wine (at a dollar a gallon) and a bottle of legal whiskey, for the bottle.
In the meantime, there was much else to do. Clothes for the bride had to be new, even if they were home made. The bridal gown and veil was bought and paid for by the groom.
Every mother who had daughters had extra feather quilts as part of the dowry. She also had extra pillows and embroidered pillow cases.
No wedding invitations were sent out, instead the bride and bridesmaid would go from house to house and personally invite every member of the family to the wedding. They would walk into the house and the bride would say “Stella and her mother and father would like you to attend the wedding on such-and such a day (it was almost always on Saturday). Then the bride would go to each adult and bow all the way to the floor and then kiss them on the cheek and shake hands. With the children she would only kiss them on the cheek and shake hands. These sometimes took several days. Then about three days before the wedding the neighbourhood women would come over and make cabbage rolls, grind meat to make sausage and make head cheese (another reason weddings were in the fall, the food would keep). There was always borsch and sauerkraut. There were also apple and raison pies and Jello for desert and, of course, bread and doughnuts and cakes. The cakes were brought by the families that came to the wedding.
While this was going on at the bride’s place a similar scenario was taking place at the groom’s place.
The night before the wedding the young women, both single and married, would gather at the bride’s home to braid the crowns of myrtle for the bride and groom. Even though by now the wedding bands were used the priest would still put the crowns on the bride And groom as a symbol of eternal fidelity. There were a lot of special songs for the occasion, mostly in reference that the bride would no longer be under the protection of her mother but must now serve her husband and mother-in-law. Lucky was the bride whose husband-to be had his own place. Usually he just brought her to his parents’ home where she became the unpaid servant. The songs were very sad for they go back to the times when marriages were arranged and the bride had no say in it. The songs would tell the bride how to treat her mother-in-law, how to behave in her new home and how to behave so that her husband would not beat her. They would also have her try on her bridal outfit .
The morning of the wedding the groom, his best man, and a lot of his friends come to the bride’s home to get her. They all stand outside and, here it’s almost like an opera. Here again are special songs. The groom’s party sings, asking the parents to bring out their daughter. The bride’s party sings asking the groom if he will be good to her. The groom’s party then sings about what a wonderful life she will have. Then the bride’s parents bring her out and, again, sing about what a wonderful treasure she is, how they do not want to give her up, but they lead her to the groom, from where they go to the church to be married. After the marriage they all come back to the bride’s house. By the way, neither the bride’s parents nor the groom’s parents go to the church.
After they all come back from the church the groom’s party is fed and they go to his home, including the groom, while the bride stays in her home.
Around 6:00 PM the invited guests start arriving and the supper starts. Because only about 16 people can be seated at a time there has to be many seatings, so the supper would last until 11:00 o’clock or so. Nobody would sit down to eat unless they were asked by the hosts. There was also a master of ceremonies whose job it was to give everybody a drink.
Ours was a three room house. In one was the food dish washing, in the other was the table for supper and the third room was for dancing. Since we didn’t have very many plates, knives and forks, some were borrowed from the neighbours, but if you had over a hundred people, you had to continuously wash dishes.
During the evening the master of ceremonies walked around with a bottle of home-brew (put into a legal bottle) and a shot glass. There were none of this mixed drinks. Everybody would be poured a shot glass, he would drink it with one swallow. Some, of course, had quite a bit during the evening. As a matter of fact, most of the men would be quite drunk by midnight.
At midnight the table would be all cleaned up and the presenting would start. The bride, the bridesmaid and the master of ceremonies would sit behind the table and in front of them would be a bottle of whiskey, a pitcher of wine and a pitcher of home made soft drink (something like home made cool aid) and a plate for the gifts of money. Not many people brought real gifts, although some did. There was a certain protocol with the presenting. The father would be the first one to come. He would put his money on the plate. The master of ceremonies would give him a shot of whiskey or wine or whatever he wanted. Then he would shake hands with the bride, kiss her cheek, and leave. While this was being done the women would sing an appropriate song. Mother would follow and repeat what father did and she too would be sung to. To the parents the song was always something about losing a daughter.
The brothers and sisters came next and often there came relatives and close friends and then there came the rest of the people. For everyone there was a song . People who gave $5 or more would just put it on the plate. Those that could not afford that would put it in an envelope and put it on the plate. Since whole families were invited to the wedding there were always lots of kids and they too would come with their parents to present. They would probably put a dime on the plate and were given a small glass of soft drink. The presenting took about an hour and after the presenting food was again put on the table and people helped themselves. The dance would go on until the wee hours of the morning. By 6:00 AM everyone had gone home. There were chores to do.
The family did the chores early as this was only half the wedding. Around noon the groom and his party would come to the bride’s place. Again there was a lot of singing. The groom’s party’s songs were about taking the bride with them while the bride’s family’s songs were about not hitting her. The bride’s brothers would hide her and the groom and his best man would try to find her. When she was found there was more singing demanding the bride’s dowry. Then the mother would come out with the bedding and more singing about how warm the feather quilt was, how beautiful the towel and pillow cases were embroidered and how fortunate the groom was to get such a wonderful wife. This took a couple of hours and, of course, liquor was passed around the groom’s party. After the bride and groom left the family would get a couple of hours sleep as that night there was the same kind of a wedding at the groom’s place, food, liquor and dancing.
The orchestra was not paid by the hosts but they would stand at the door and they would play for every family that came in and they would throw some change into the guitar and the orchestra (guitar, violin and banjo) would split the money. After presenting the bride would give them some money, $5 or $10. At Stella’s wedding there were about 150 people including children and she got about $200. In those days that was quite a lot. There was presenting at the groom’s place too, so the couple had a nice sum of money to start with. There were also gifts of towels, tea towels, pillow cases, cups and saucers and pitchers with glasses.
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