CHAPTER SIX       - STARTING AGAIN

 

 

       My brother Bert was still working in the Inglis plant in Toronto and I decided to go to see him. He urged me to stay in Eastern Canada, that the West had given me quite a licking and I should forget about going back there. He thought it would be a good idea if I try to get a job on the C.P. Railway again. I didn't think too much of the idea, but Bert was anxious that I do so. A couple of days later I went over to the Parkdale freight office and had an interview with the freight agent. He listened to my previous experience at North Bay, Dryden and Divornic, and immediately offered me a job. Not much of a job to be sure - abstracting way-bills - and I told him I had done that kind of work when I was a kid. He urged me to take it for a week or so to get settled down a bit, and he would have something a lot better soon. In a couple of weeks I was put in charge of Carload Department and life became more interesting.

 

       The war was still going full blast. Box cars were in short supply and my particular job was to clear about 250 carloads of freight every day throughout the Toronto terminal. Not a day passed without battles of words with the traffic managers of several large Toronto firms who were not loathe to use box cars for storage purposes. My pay was good and my working conditions very satisfactory, but, strange as it may seem, I was a lonesome kind of fellow. I still felt the call of the West and after a few months service with the C.P.R. I resigned and went back West with only the vaguest prospects of something to do. I had made up my mind against trying to farm again in the Kindersley district. On my previous trip from Regina to Ottawa I had made the acquaintance of Mr. A. G. Smith, wholesale grocer in Regina. He had taken a liking to me and when I said good-bye to him he asked me to come and see him in Regina after the war if I was interested in his line of business. So back to Regina I went and got a very humble job in Smith's Wholesale Grocery warehouse at less than half the salary the C.P.R. had been paying me in Toronto. This was in the late fall of 1918 just prior to the Armistice marking the end of the war. It also marked the outbreak of the great plague of influenza which killed thousands of people.

 

      I soon realized that the possibility of making any financial progress in the wholesale grocery business was decidedly limited. And furthermore it was a dull and confining job. On learning that the Civil Service Commission was advertising a competition for grade 2 clerks and that a course of training was being held at nights in the local collegiate, I decided to have a look at it. There was no fee for veteran enrollment but I discovered at once that the prescribed studies and oral examinations were simply over my head. Not that the subjects were so advanced, but because I had pretty well forgotten a lot of my elementary education. In other words if I were to get anywhere in that competition I would simply have to do a lot of "boning up". To do this I bought a whole series of elementary text books, - arithmetic, algebra, history, geography and grammar-, and concentrated on studying them for the next few weeks but not missing any of the night classes. Finally the day arrived in the early spring months for the written examinations. I thought they were pretty tough for the specifications of a grade 2 clerkship, but my hard studies paid off - in a sense. I learned later that about 1500 candidates wrote this exam throughout Canada. My standing was 15th or 16th, I forget which. But from that day to this I never heard from the Commission offering me a grade 2 clerkship. On the other hand the period of study had a dynamic effect on my whole mentality and generated a determination that I could do a lot better for myself if I quit my warehouse job,

 

      In the spring of 1919 demobilization of the Armed Forces was still in full swing. Parliament had enacted the Soldier Settlement Act and I learned that the organization to administer it was being put together. I had two things in mind - to explore the possibility of my successful re-establishment as a farmer under the auspices of this scheme of land settlement - or to explore the possibility of taking some active part in its administration. I proceeded to Saskatoon and hunted up the S.S.B. Office and was being interviewed at the counter by a young lieutenant still in uniform. (His name was Arthur Wood, a reinforcement officer of the 5th Battalion and many years later rose to a prominent position in the Federal Department of

Labor).

 

      Wood had cultivated an Oxford accent one could hardly cut with a knife, although he was raised in Western Canada. In the course of my interview I noticed a big fellow, in the uniform of a Major, walk through the general office. I knew that officer very well when he enlisted as a private in Saskatoon at the same time I did. He was a big burly Englishman who had not been long in Canada and certainly his employment at the time of enlistment was a far cry from agriculture. I asked Wood what that particular major was doing in the office and he replied, "Oh the Major is one of our land appraisers". From that moment I decided that the land appraisal staff in the Saskatoon district needed some capable people with real land experience. Wood informed me I would have to interview the Chief Inspector who turned out to be a gentleman named Barney Phillips, Homestead Inspector from North Battleford.

 

 

      Phillips more or less turned up his nose at my request for a job on the appraisal staff, but he conceded that he didn't actually hire land appraisers. The real man to see was Major Jerry Grims, local manager of the National Trust Co. and Chairman of the S.S.B. Loan Committee. I knew of Major Grims. His company had a first mortgage on my homestead which was now very seriously in arrears but nothing daunted I went to see him. I was not surprised when Grims would give me no encouragement, but I asked him to think it over for a day or so, because I would be back to see him again.

 

      It was not until my third visit to him that he began to thaw out and finally he asked me if I would produce a few good character references he would reconsider. I immediately got on long distance with Kindersley and explained my problem to three men; first the local agent of the National Trust Company; second, one of my old neighbors Bill Tyndall; and last, Judge Baldwin to whom previous reference has been made. All three agreed to supply the required references and after waiting a few days I again called on Major Grims. He had received all three of the references and admitted they were very good, particularly the one from Judge Baldwin. He read it to me and I have never forgotten how it read. "To whom it may concern. This will certify that I met Gordon Murchison in the spring of 1918. At that time he was engaged on a speaking tour on behalf of the overseas Y.M.C.A. I spoke from the same platform on two occasions I believe him to be honest but apart from this I have no knowledge of the man." Grims told me that anyone who could get that much out of Judge Baldwin must have something, and he forthwith asked me to report to Phillips to be taken on as a land appraiser. Phillips was a bit taken back and still pretty skeptical about me, but he handed me a sheaf of inspection orders scattered between Rosetown and Marengo, authorized an expense advance of $100 and that night I was on the train bound for my first land appraisal.

 

       I was in a position of trust and responsibility, an employee of an agency of the Federal Government, and it was now up to me to demonstrate that I knew quite a lot about farm land and also that I had some ability in judging people as credit risks. I vowed to myself that so far as it lay within my power and ability I would fully justify the confidence expressed in me by my three references and Major Grims.

 

      I had 2 parcels of land in the Kindersley district for appraisal and I took advantage of this opportunity to visit Edna Brillinger and her folks. In her quiet way Edna was very glad that I had found such employment. It was easy to see that she was not content with the prospects confronting her if she stayed on the farm with her parents. Her mother was a hard working woman, but very strict and difficult to get along with. Edna had had to leave school at the age of 14 years, when her family settled in the Kindersley district. She was an avid reader of all books she could lay her hands on but she received no encouragement from her mother in seeking to broaden her cultural knowledge. To state it bluntly Edna was like a bird in an unhappy cage and I was sure she had dreams of wider horizons. Her temperament and mine were distinctly different.  Her knowledge of the world was pretty well confined to the narrow circle of her daily life and she was worked like a slave by her domineering mother.

 

      On this my first tour of appraising I reported adversely on all parcels of land except two. I was away from Saskatoon for about two weeks and immediately on my return I was given a large batch of appraisals in eastern Sask. where soil and climate conditions were in sharp contrast with the dry rolling prairies west of Saskatoon. This second tour consumed a full month's time. Up to this point I had drawn no salary nor did I even know what rate of pay I was to receive. All I cared was that I had a most interesting job and my daily needs were met from expense money advanced from time to time by the Saskatoon office. When I returned again to Saskatoon I asked the Accountant for some money. "More expense money" he asked, "No" I said, "I would like to draw some salary, whatever it is."  He told me my rate of pay was eight dollars a day and expenses. I had worked for six weeks - Sundays included - and a simple calculation gave me credit for forty-two days or three hundred and thirty-six dollars for doing the most interesting job I had ever had in my life.

 

       He gave me a cheque for the full amount and needing a bit of a breather and having shopping to do I took a few says off. I shouldn't conceal the fact that during this brief lay-off I ran into an old army buddy or two and there was some time spent in reviewing the events of the war. On the morning of the third day I was having a shave and a haircut in the Flanagan Hotel barber shop and was discovered there by the office boy. He told me the Superintendent wanted to see me as soon as possible. I had some fears that I had committed a boner of some kind and was somewhat nervous about this call. However, it turned out quite pleasantly. George Johnston, the Superintendent, wanted to tell me that the Loan Committee had been very favorably impressed with my reports and recommendations and on the previous evening it was suggested to Johnston that he sound me out on the proposition of taking a permanent appointment at a monthly salary rather than a per diem rate. I listened to all this with the best poker face I could muster and after an appropriate hesitation I agreed to accept it. The salary wasn't quite as good as the per day rate, but it carried a nice guarantee against any lay-off during winter months when appraisal work had to be suspended. I was now a permanent member of the staff and the next objective was to earn and obtain promotion to responsibility in a wider sphere of activity.

 

      I had lots of friends and acquaintances in Saskatoon - in fact, I had too many for my own good. I was, in my own opinion, sitting on top of the world. How long could I stay there? In my quiet moments my thoughts were more or less always with Edna out there on a hard bitten prairie farm, eating her heart out in the frustrations which surrounded her. We were married at a quiet ceremony in her farm home on September 1st, and I brought her to Saskatoon where we started up housekeeping with the minimum of furniture in a garret apartment for which we paid a rental of fifty dollars per month. But it was home - it was a sheet-anchor which I needed - it was an escape from drudgery for Edna and we resolved that there would be better things for both of us. Our marriage was not based on the grand passion of the story books but rather on a very deep feeling of mutual respect and trust in each other, the kind of feeling that lasts and meets and overcomes adversity. We were to have our trials later on but time merely served to strengthen our mutual trust in each other to meet our trials bravely.

 

      Promotion in my work was rapid. Within two years I was appointed Chief Appraiser, a little later I was named Loan Adviser and replaced the local loan committee including my old friend and sponsor, Major Grims. By the spring of 1922 the onset of disastrous post war economic conditions plus quite a few administrative errors in judgment, resulted in fairly large scale abandonments by veterans settled on the land. A situation of near chaos was developing and I had added to my other duties the job of supervising all the adjustments resulting from these farm abandonments.

 

      In the fall of 1922 I was assigned the job of organizing and carrying out the appraisal of some 800 parcels of land held by Old Colony Mennonites in the Rosthern-Hague area of Saskatchewan. Mennonites were in a very unsettled state and were contemplating a mass exodus to South America. Bishop Lloyd had an option on all this land at a price of $25 per acre and proposed to settle on these farms English immigrants selected by the Anglican Church in England. He required the approval of the Canadian Government to facilitate raising the funds he needed for the project. I was chosen to carry out this important assignment. It was out of the question for me to do all the detail work and I recruited sixteen of the best known appraisers from our Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Edmonton offices. When the field work was completed it confirmed my first estimate that it was a bad deal for Bishop Lloyd and he was so advised.

 

      At this point I want to introduce a man who doubtless played an important part in the progress I had made this far as an official of the S.S.B. During the winter of 1919-1920 I was more or less filling time in the office until field conditions would permit resumption of land appraisals. In this new organization there were some weak spots, and quite a bit of creaking in some of the administrative procedures. Mr. John Barnett, Western Counsel for the Board, undertook a survey of the various offices to correct some of these things. When he visited the Saskatoon office I had an interview with him. I was asked for my opinion of the form of the land appraisal report in use and my reply was that I didn't think very highly of it, that it could be greatly improved in some essentials and generally the thing looked or read like something a lawyer had prepared. This gave him a good laugh and upon asking him what he was laughing about, he replied "I wrote up that form myself". In place of giving me a blast for my somewhat caustic views, he was quite complimentary. Said he was glad to meet a person who wasn't just a "yes" man. From that day forward John Barnett was my friend and the progress I made for the next sixteen years or so had some relation to his confidence in my judgment. We didn't always agree but we were fast friends with a deep mutual respect for each other. His name will come up several times before the closing chapters of this story are told.

 

      My work in Saskatoon brought me into intimate touch with every aspect of the attempt to rehabilitate veterans by giving them a start in agriculture. It brought me into close touch with the bravery and patience and toil of fine fellows and their wives and families. It revealed the tragedy that overtook some of them due to imprudent judgment of the responsible officials of the Board. It brought to light the basic courage of many of these veterans in the face of great handicaps. It revealed the sluggards and the dishonest.

 

      The severe economic setback which began in not more than a couple of years after the close of the war, spelled complete frustration or ruin to many and the accounts of the Board fell hopelessly into arrears. This was a testing time for the senior administrative officials as well to record a long series of incidents which took place during those first few years, but a few samples - probably somewhat extreme - should be mentioned.

 

  A certain settler established about ten miles north of Lanigan on a good farming enterprise but hopelessly beyond the ability of the veteran to operate successfully, chased the field supervisor off the farm at the business end of a shotgun. The field man had endeavored to collect some money from this fellow which was long past due. The field man called the District Office asking for someone else to visit the veteran because as he said "I'm not paid for facing shotguns". I was assigned the job of getting this affair straightened out.

 

      On arriving at the farm I was confronted by a very hostile veteran who "allowed that I was just another of those S. S. B. bastards looking for money and I better get my shotgun out again." The man was clearly irrational, a nervous wreck, a "neurasthenic'~ of a type all too common among veterans. I told him to go ahead and get his gun if he thought it would do him any good, but I wasn't there to collect money. I explained to him that I was there to help him.  Clearly he was a sick man saddled with an enterprise and a large debt he couldn't possibly cope with. He had a disability pension of $75.00 per month and in place of breaking his heart on that farm he should be living in a comfortable little home in the village, free from care and worry about a big farm. He quickly agreed with me, but who was he to disentangle himself from the farm. I inquired if he knew any tenant farmer in the district who might be interested in taking it over. He knew of a French Canadian a few miles away with a big family but probably no money.

 

      I went to see this man and made a tentative offer to turn the veteran's farm to him lock, stock and barrel and would take his promissory note for a few hundred dollars payable in three months. This appealed very strongly to the French Canadian - just what he was looking for.

 

      Back then to see the veteran and drove into Lanigan where we located a snug little cottage standing vacant which he could rent for a very modest amount. The next step was to take a Quit Claim Deed to the farm including all the S.S.B. stock and equipment and get the veteran and his family moved into the cottage in Lanigan. Back to the Frenchman from whom I took an offer in writing to buy the farm and equipment at the debt standing against it and supported by a promissory for five hundred dollars and he moved into possession, returned to Saskatoon and reported what I had done the Superintendent said "that's all very well, but surely you don't expect the Board will ever approve such a 'straw sail'. That Frenchman will never pay that note and I suspect that you know he won't." I fully agreed but on balance it was the best way I knew to get rid of a mentally sick veteran with a loaded shot gun. Incidentally, the farm was repossessed from the Frenchman when he failed to pay the note.

 

      Another was the case of an unmarried veteran on a good farm who had harvested two good crops but avoided making any payment on account. His current crop had been placed under seizure, but that didn't deter this fellow from stealing it and squandering the proceeds on strong drink. He was reported to be an ugly customer to deal with and again I was asked to take charge of the case in the field. There didn't seem too much point in laying a charge of theft against the man and relying on court action to put him in jail, as this would not recover the money he had wasted and it would also result in the farm lying idle. The thing to do was to get him off the farm and try and establish someone else with whom the Board could transact business in a normal way.

 

      So I took along a warrant for repossession of the premises as provided by the S.S. Act. I called on a farmer a couple of miles distant from this veteran's farm and arranged with him to come to the farm with a four-horse team in a couple of hours to haul away all the loose chattels  and hold them in safe keeping pending sale. On arriving at the farm I found the veteran and a crony of his sitting in the shack, both of them in a surly mood. After stating my mission the veteran proceeded to give me a real cussing and after working himself into a verbal lather he reached up on the wall for his 30-30 rifle and ordered me out of the place. Maybe I was foolhardy but I grabbed the barrel of the rifle and gave him a slap in the face. Whether he was surprised or just revealed himself as the real bully he was, I had no further trouble. I threw his rifle out in the yard and told him to put his belongings together and get off the farm because I was going to nail up the door and windows in twenty minutes. Within that time he and his boozing pal went down the road on foot with a warning that if they returned I would promptly go to the police and lodge a charge of theft of a large amount of wheat, the property of His Majesty.

 

    On the other side of the picture were many many instances of worthy fellows and their families who had done their best but were still staring defeat in the face and proposing to abandon their homes and go in search of non-existent jobs in this or that town. The best advice we could give them was to hang on where they had a home over their heads in the hope of better things to come.

 

      One particular instance was that of a fine fellow named Batchelor who had enlisted with me in Kindersley in August, 1914. "Batch" as he became affectionately known to thousands during the war, was an English Public School boy. He made rapid progress in the army and rose through the non-commissioned ranks to a captaincy. In 1916 he lost an arm just below the elbow during a raiding party. After a long time in the hospital in England he continued to resist a return to Canada. Rumor had it that "Batch" made himself so obnoxious around the base in England that he was sent back to his unit in the field, which was exactly what he wanted. It is a matter of official record that he made a four day tour of the front line as a Company Commander, probably the only case of its kind during the whole war. Following this he was appointed 2nd Brigade Quartermaster and served in that capacity until the Armistice in November 1918.

 

      On his return to Canada he applied to the S.S.B. office in Saskatoon for a loan to get started in farming on a homestead and pre-emption he had in a part of the country which had very limited possibilities. His application was declined following inspection of his land, but "Batch" personally appeared before the loan committee and raised so much fuss that his loan was approved. A little more than two years later he had to admit defeat and it was certainly a disagreeable business when it fell to me to close out that loan. "Batch" and I were old friends. He left that district with a few head of livestock and moved to a very sandy farm about 300 miles away, which he rented.  In another year or so that venture failed. When I next met Batchelor D.S.O., M.C.M.M., he was reduced to selling Fuller brushes to supplement his army pension. But better things were in store for him.

 

During the term in office of Lord Byng, former Commander of the Canadian Army Corps, as Governor General of Canada, he made a tour of the Dominion and made a point of visiting many Soldier Settlers. Lady Byng accompanied him. We had quite a party for their Excellencies in Saskatoon. John Varey and I had been warned by the Chief Inspector of Western offices, Benny Boyd, to stand by and escort the Governor and his Lady on a rural tour to visit a number of Soldier Settlers. John and I met Boyd at the "Royal Train" on a side track. Boyd boarded the train to greet their Excellencies and the general idea was that we would be presented to them when they got off the train.  Benny was the big shot for the S.S.B., but things got mixed up a bit. While he was trying to meet the Governor on board the train, Varey and I were a bit surprised to see Lord Byng and his Lady step off and greet us with outstretched hands and tell us who they were. We promptly arranged to have the Governor step into Varey's Ford car and Lady Byng into mine and we both drove off on our pre-arranged tour.

 

      We didn't see Boyd again until the next day and he was really browned off. It had been arranged that I would stop at a certain Settler's place for lunch, - the main reason being that this settler's wife was a very fine person. She had a great local reputation as a cook and besides she had an excellent set of dinner dishes. Lady Byng was her gracious self and the luncheon went off without a hitch, but I had a distinct impression that her Ladyship was not as favorably impressed by the evident ability of the Settler as a "going concern" farmer. He sure wasn't, but his wife carried off her part with high honors.

 

                  This was my first "close-up" of a Governor General of Canada and his wife. I drove Lady Byng around the district for a couple of days and had an excellent demonstration that real English aristocracy are real folks too. As a matter of fact, Lady Byng told me that her prominent nose resulted from her mother being a Greek. I don't claim this reference to her nose as the hallmark of nice folks everywhere, but she was certainly no snob.

 

 

     Another incident I should include was a visit to the Saskatoon office by Dr. Fay, a great economist from Cambridge University. He was accompanied By a Dr. Blayden, a professor from Oxford I think. They were making a Canadian tour in the course of which they too had a close-up of many Soldier Settlers. These two gentlemen, both of them great scholars, were as unlike in physical appearance as can be imagined. Fay stood well over six feet when he would stand erect and he had one of the most homely faces I had ever seen. But his mind was a veritable gold mine of knowledge and he was a most interesting companion. Blayden was a dapper little Englishman with an Oxford accent that made me want to laugh when he talked.

 

      I took them on an automobile tour in the Eastern part of Saskatchewan. Both of them were puzzled at the ease of my knowing where we were at all times. In a very modest hotel in a place named Raymore we were spending a night. The place was deadly dull but Fay got himself into a conversation with half a dozen local farmers who were having a "bull session" about the pros and cons of trying to make a living growing wheat. In a matter of moments these fellows were listening spellbound to Dr. Fay expounding in simple language the problems facing farmers in other parts of the world and the great privilege it was to farm in Canada. On our way back to Saskatoon, we stopped for dinner at Watrous, and Fay, like a true absent-minded professor, walked out and forgot his hat. We resumed our journey and when we had gone about ten miles Fay observed that the evening was getting a bit chilly and "where is my hat?". I offered to return to Watrous for it, but he wouldn't hear of it. "Just go on to the next village and I shall buy another one". At Young there was a store open and he bought a big floppy harvester's straw hat. It was so large it dropped down to his ears and made him look more homely.

 

       My Ford car engine was heating up too much and I stopped at the next village to get some oil. This solved the problem but not for long. When we were still some thirty miles from Saskatoon, and late at night too, the old Ford got so hot it wouldn't run. I had a look and discovered that the fellow who had sold us oil had failed to close the oil cock on the crank case and the damn car was dry of oil. To relieve my feelings a bit I sat down on the side of the road and with some choice profanity I proceeded to describe the situation generally. Suddenly, the dapper Blayden piped up, "That is all very interesting Mr.Murchison, but would you mind explaining what it is all about?". When I explained in more intelligible English, he was quite incensed and proposed "that we go on to where we could get some more oil and and then we should return and slaughter the blighter". I managed to coax the old Ford along at a hundred yards per start and got some oil at the next station and delivered these two learned gentlemen to the door of Quappelle Hall in the Saskatoon University campus after midnight. They were very worth while people to know, and for several years afterward I received Christmas greetings from them. Contacts such as this had a broadening influence on my general outlook.

 

      Then there was the time when one of our field men and I found ourselves in a ludicrous fix. I was making a field tour with Ernie Duffus, the field man in the Biggar district. As this particular day closed in we were in a place named Cando, where some sort of celebration was going on. We had supper and decided to accept a pressing invitation to attend a barn dance being held that night in the loft of a big barn a few miles away. It was quite a dusty place for a dance, but we stuck it out until after midnight when we started on our weary way to Biggar about forty miles away. We were riding in Duffus's Ford car. The prairie trail was a dim one and made more difficult by detours to avoid flooded sloughs or low spots in the regular trail. Both of us were sleepy and from time to time Duffus would fall asleep at the wheel and we would be bumping around on the prairie. He finally gave up and climbing into the back seat where he could really sleep, he asked me to take over the driving. I didn't do too badly for some distance when I too went to sleep at the wheel but only to be awakened by a loud splash. All I could see on both sides and ahead was water. I had just driven into a very large shallow slough filled with a couple of feet of water. The motor was still running but finding I couldn't back out I decided to go ahead, with the thought in mind that the water might not get any deeper, but it did. By this time I had the car out near the middle of this small lake and Duffus wasn't at all interested. He allowed that since I had gotten us into this mess I could damn well get us out. By this time it was becoming pale dawn, the air was very cool but there was nothing for it but to take off my boots and pants and wade ashore, and then walk about two miles to the first farmer I could find. He turned out to be a Russian who couldn't speak much English. I got him to understand what I wanted, but he wouldn't budge until he had breakfast. Then, hitching up his team to a wagon, we went to salvage the car and Duffus. He was still asleep in the back seat when we rigged a chain to the Ford and hauled it out on dry land. Then followed the job of getting that Ford motor dried out and started again. We got to Biggar about noon.

 

      I mention this incident as an illustration of the trials and tribulations of field work in those hectic times. There were many times during my earlier work as a land inspector when I was completely alone and had some hair-raising experiences in navigating a Ford car over trails that were barely passable for a team of horses. But such experiences made me a fairly efficient driver - excepting the case where I drove Duffus and I right into a small lake. It never happened again.

 

      Mention should also be made of an experience I had with another field supervisor. My first Company Officer when I enlisted in 1914 was an English chap named Harboard. I can still hear him saying "pick up the step -left, left, left, right, left." He was a fine soldier though, won the D.S.O. and finished up the war as a Lt. Colonel. He played a prominent part in developing the system of trench raiding and land bombing, brought to a high state of efficiency by Canadian troops. After the war he was given the position as a field supervisor but things did not go well in his district. I was asked by the superintendent to visit Harboard's district, attend to a few problems and try to find out what was wrong with local administration.

 

       Harboard was a big fine looking man, every inch a soldier. But that was precisely what was wrong so far as civil administration was concerned. Harboard was distinctly surprised to find that I was his superior. Couldn't figure out how a lowly N.C.O. such as I should be in my position. During our drive to the first objective I questioned him about various aspects of the work and it became quite clear that Harboard was trying to do his job on the basis of military rank. I asked him what the first thing he did when he made a first visit to a Soldier Settler. His reply was as follows: "The first thing I did when I got this position was to have my official calling cards printed. When I made a first visit I presented my card to the Settler. You know, Murchison, that after all Army Rank means a lot to these chaps and once they know who I am they pay me a lot more respect than they otherwise would."

 

      I asked him to show me one of these cards and behold it was Lt. Col. Harboard, D.S.O., M.C. Field Superior for Soldier Settlement, Invermay district. Nice printing job, too. After listening to him talk and seeing his card I decided the time had come to try and put Harboard right on a few things, namely, that if he had to rely on his Army Rank to control this business, he was making a serious mistake, that the average Soldier Settler respected rank when it was dressed in uniform, that I had the highest regard for his service record and his rank as an army officer, but this was a different business and so far as I was concerned his rank, in a civilian capacity didn't amount to a damn thing; and generally that the sooner he came down out of :the clouds the sooner he would get the goodwill of the Settlers he was dealing with. Harboard didn't last long as an employee of S.S.B. He was a fine fellow in many ways, but he was in the wrong job. There were quite a few ex-officers who took  a long time to forget their temporary rank in the army and it used to burn me up to hear some of these fellows talking loftily about this or batman they had to wait on them during the war. To me, and to all those who made a real success of being a field superior, the job was a religion, not a place to talk about army rank.

 

      By the end of the year, 1924, I had gained experience in every branch of administration. Indeed I had been tentatively offered the position of Superintendent early in 1923, but I declined on the grounds that I did not feel sufficiently experienced to accept it. I sensed even then, as I often sensed afterwards, that major responsibility carries both status and risk. By this time Edna and I had two fine children, Robert Bruce and Doris Irene. My mother had never seen Edna or the children and so we arranged for Edna and the kids to make a trip to Eastern Canada for about six weeks. It was no small undertaking because I was not being paid a large salary, $2,800. Per year I think it was. Shortly after her return I was asked by the then Chairman of the Board, my friend John Barnett, to visit the Prince Albert District office, make a full examination of all phases of its administration and report to him in Ottawa in two weeks with a full report on my findings. Quite a tall order.

 

      I sensed at once that this might mean the end of my services in the Saskatoon office, but I had no fears or regrets. My work in Central Saskatchewan had provided a wonderful opportunity to gain valuable experience and build up confidence in myself.

 

      The Prince Albert office administered the work throughout a territory of approximately 30,000 square miles in which there were about 3,000 Soldier Settler accounts. The Superintendent had resigned and gone into the real estate business in Florida. The 1924 crop had been badly damaged by frost and many of the settlers lacked seed for the 1925 crop. The accounts were generally in poor shape. Within the specified time I completed my survey and presented my report to the Board in Ottawa. It included my appreciation of every member of the office and field staff. The only comment at the time was "Very judicial and complete, you may hear further about this when you return to Saskatoon." I did. I was appointed District Superintendent of Prince Albert, and thither Edna and I and family moved on short notice. And I might mention here that it was the first of a long series of moves, the details of which will come to light later on.

 

      My Predecessor held a very prominent place in the official and social life in Prince Albert. As District Superintendent, he held the ranking Federal position in the town. To this was added the Presidency of the Board of Trade, President of the Rotary Club, Director of the Agricultural Society, and officer commanding the local army unit. No wonder he needed a higher income, but I sensed at once that the people of Prince Albert expected O'Leary's successor to become equally prominent and a leader in local affairs and it was not long until we sensed some disappointment on their part. I had to explain that I had a big job of work to do and just couldn't afford the time and cost of even trying to emulate my friend O'Leary, and besides that I had held no commissioned rank in the army and felt out of place in that kind of atmosphere. It took me over a year to get the people of Prince Albert convinced that I wasn't such a bad guy after all- that I knew my business and stuck to it.

 

      However, there was an amusing incident happened at the first big social affair shortly after our arrival in Prince Albert. The wife of the proprietor of the Avenue Hotel put on a big party and on our arrival I was somewhat surprised and a bit amused to see all the male guests in white ties and tails. Edna was O.K. as she had a pretty smart evening dress which easily outshone quite a few others but I was in the dog house. The hostess drew me aside and expressed some surprise that I wasn't "dressed" for her party. I had to tell the good lady that I was wearing my good black Sunday suit and didn't own anything better. I promised her, however, that I would get me some dress togs before I attended any more social affairs of that kind. The most of my male staff was present and all in evening clothes, if you please. None of them could really afford to "live it up" that way, but that was a social "must" in Prince Albert, a little city of 11,000 people

 

      Another hallmark of distinction common in Prince Albert was a plucked beaver coat. The origin of this probably dated back to the prominence of quite a few people in the fur trade with the Indians. Civic pride was high. One of the leading merchants, an old timer, made his big start with a couple of bales of trade goods consisting largely of cheap mirrors and glass beads. Quite a town was Prince Albert. Edna and I soon became a part of it on the social side and I was a fairly important fellow on account of my official status.

 

Previous pages recount a fairly good cross section of my official experiences in the Saskatoon district, and at the risk of wearying the reader I feel I should describe a number of experiences and incidents in my capacity as District Superintendent in Prince Albert. I could write a fair sized book on that subject alone, but I will try and confine myself to the more outstanding items.

 

      My first problem was to convince the Board at Ottawa that regardless of the poor standing of the accounts, heavy financial provision would have to be made to supply hundreds of the settlers with seed grain or many farms would stand fallow and force the settlers to quit. I had an excellent field staff with a few exceptions. By a combination of mutual confidence between the field men and myself, a realization on the part of the settlers concerned that it was their best interests to protect their credit position fortunately a good crop in 1925. All the seed grain loans were repaid and the payments of principle and interest on capital debt stood well ahead on any other district in Canada. This record didn't do my status as a Superintendent any harm. It certainly added to my status with the field staff.

 

      The next year I initiated quite a heavy program aimed at bringing much more land under cultivation on many of the settlers' farms in the bushy district. This paid off just as expected. The third year we put on a livestock promotion program aimed at improving the quality of cattle in the district which was notoriously bad as far as pure bred beef or dairy cattle were concerned. Pure-bred or high grade stock was brought in by the carload and sold on easy terms to veterans who were interested and had the know-how of looking after good cattle. Some amusing incidents occurred during this program.

 

      For example, my livestock expert, Jack Morrison, a graduate in animal husbandry and veterinary science would arrive at Prince Albert with a couple of carloads of milch cows, most of them full of milk. The beasts had to be well taken care of before they reached their final destination and on several nights Morrison and I sat down to milking a dozen cows each, and we had so much milk it was a bit of a problem to dispose of it unless we just threw it away. I know my kids got plenty of it.

 

       It was not expected that this livestock program would show immediate results but a start in pure bred stock, strategically placed, would have long-term beneficial results. It had. I recall one settler who was supplied with a pure bred Shorthorn heifer carrying her first calf. She gave birth to a fine bull calf which the settler reared as carefully as one of his own children. The field man encouraged the settler to enter that calf at the Winter Fair in Saskatoon, where it won first prize in its class and perhaps of equal importance the settler established an acquaintance with many prominent breeders and a reputation for himself. From that day on the settler was a good livestock enthusiast. His whole farming enterprise took on a new vigor and it is a matter of record that it was not long before he became a recognized leader in his community, and thence to the Provincial legislature as an elected member.

 

      I had under my administration a pioneer settlement known as the Prairie River Settlement. This was a large area of Dominion Crown land reserved for the settlement of Canadian veterans. It was all bush or heavy scrub covered land and it was always a mystery to me why it was named Prairie River. One hundred and eighty odd veterans were settled in this block and very few of them had had any experience in developing such land into productive farms. Progress had been very slow, and whilst it had become necessary to continually provide grub stakes for these families, these very practices brought about a general reliance on S.S.B. to feed them and more often than not contributed to tardiness in clearing their land and producing cash crops.

 

      The settlement was an isolated one, seventeen tough miles over bush and corduroy roads to the nearest town, Prairie River. The low level of economic prosperity and general attitude of defeatism brought about a notable breakdown in social relations which made the job of field supervision even more difficult. Something had to be done to revitalize that settlement or it would simply fade out of the picture and the huge capital outlays of the Board would become a dead loss.

 

      There were two resident supervisors in the settlement; one of them was a famous character in my squadron in France, Raymond Tooley. He had risen to the rank of Sergeant before he was quite badly wounded and sent to England. He finished out the war with the rank of Sergeant Major at the Cavalry Base. During the Rhyl riots by Canadian troops awaiting repatriation to Canada he killed a man by striking him on the head with a bayonet scabbard. The soldier was one of a group determined to enter and wreck the camp orderly room. Tooley was a pretty tough customer, very effective in some ways but he lacked the touch or sense of command and leadership in a spot like Prairie River. His colleague was also a fellow who believed in big stick tactics. I removed both of them. Tooley was transferred to another territory more in keeping with his talents. The other man was loaned to the Department of Immigration and sent overseas.

 

       I made one tour of the settlement and was impressed by the number of cattle roaming around the country. All this livestock was originally supplied from S.S.B. funds or were the natural increase. Nevertheless the settlers were boot-legging the proceeds of any sales and never considered it necessary to turn any money over to apply on long overdue accounts. The problem was to find someone who could successfully undertake a revitalizing program. Certainly it was no place for a weakling, but it had to be someone who could command respect for authority and gain the good will of the settlers.

 

       My old friend, Batchelor, was reduced to pretty sorry straights trying to sell Fuller brushes around Prince Albert. It took some convincing but the Board agreed that I take him on trial. I put it up to Batchelor that here was a challenge he should meet ad I gave him a pretty free hand. It was suggested to him, for a start that he should organize a round-up of all the cattle he could find in the settlement and drive them to the stockyards in Prairie River. This would probably serve to discover which settlers claimed ownership, but he should feel free to sell the cattle to a buyer at the stockyards and use his own judgment about division of the proceeds with the settlers who claimed ownership.

 

      I guess that first round-up was a bit of a classic. I didn't take part in it of course, but I heard plenty about it. Batch and his two hired riders lost quite a few from the herd during the drive to Prairie River, but he got there with over a hundred head. He had arranged in advance for a buyer to be on hand and this buyer would quote a dollar figure per head depending on age and condition. Batch got several thousand dollars for the lot and he turned over about a third of the proceeds to the veterans who were clamoring about this high handed action. He then proceeded with a second round-up and the performance was repeated. This was followed by a meeting with the settlers in their local schoolhouse, during which it was proposed to them that every dollar he had retained from the livestock sales plus an equal amount to be advanced by the Board, would be made available to bring more land under cultivation if the settlers concerned would get busy and cut down the brush and scrub.

 

       And that was the start of real progress in that settlement. A couple of tractors were hired to do the breaking and the sight of several hundred acres of virgin black  soil brought to the stage of cultivation was just the "lift" that was needed to give the settlement a real start. Batch became a sort of a hero in their eyes in place of a cattle thief. My confidence in him was well placed and fully vindicated. But there is more to follow about Prairie River.

 

      When I took over the Prince Albert district, the Board had approximately four thousand vacant farms throughout Canada abandoned by Soldier Settlers or foreclosed. Farm land was a drug on the market at the prices paid for these lands during the early years of settlement when prices were very high. Our Chairman, John Barnett, conceived the idea of making a sort of bulk sale of these lands to British immigrants to be selected by the Department of Immigration. Roughly, the deal was that S.S.B. staff would be added to the Immigration Inspectors in Great Britain for this selecting work. The British government would make available $25 per family to assist in their settlement in Canada, for the purchase of livestock and equipment, etc. The immigrants would be placed in possession of selected farms in Canada on a probationary basis and if they measured up satisfactorily they would be sold their farms without a down payment. The scheme was known as the 3000 British Family Settlement scheme. Barnett had set pretty high specifications for the farms that would be made available for this big exercise. So high in fact that I didn't have very many available in Northern Sask.

 

      I was under considerable pressure to use more imagination in deciding on acceptable specifications, so taking my courage in my hands and ably assisted by a few bold spirits on my staff I made a proposal to use about 25 vacant wood lots in the Prairie River settlement, if my specification as to families could be accepted, namely that agricultural experience was secondary. Age limits under forty, not more than 2 children, and a local reputation of being willing to do a lot of hard work. We made a special project out of the Prairie River proposal and in due course it was accepted. Small frame houses were erected to house these newcomers on arrival and each home was equipped with basic household equipment. On arrival the newcomers were organized into working groups of three plus a working foreman hired locally. The job was to clear land at a rate of $2.00 per day with $1.00 held back for reserve purposes.

 

      It was astonishing to see how well the idea worked out. Next was the job of bringing the cleared land under plow. Again this was done by tractor power, and largely for the reason that none of these newcomers knew anything about horsepower, nor did any of them have any horses. The district had a bad record of swamp fever among horses and something had to be devised to by-pass the risk of supplying these "greenies" with valuable horse flesh. Remembering my old days on railway construction work and the abuse that army pack mules could take, I decided to supply these new "farmers" with mules, but where to get them was another problem.

 

       I had recently taken a bright young fellow on my field staff, Joe Canfield, a highly successful soldier settler. We discussed this problem and Joe was authorized to go out and find two carloads of good work mules, buy them and ship them to Prince Albert. Joe found the mules wintering on the open range in South Alberta near Rockyford. They were owned by a railroad contractor who priced them at around $100. per head, none of them were alleged to be more than 20 years old and all were in good condition. In due course Joe arrived in Prince Albert with the mules. We had them quartered in the stockyards where he proceeded to have them washed and generally smartened up and paired off. Batchelor had been instructed to have a wagon and harness for each team assembled at Prairie River along with a sufficient supply of disc harrows and seeders to divide up among these new farmers. When these details were reported ready Joe shipped the two carloads of mules to Batchelor. The general idea being that he would arrange to have these Britishers on hand at Prairie River to take delivery of a pair of mules and a wagon and among them transport the farm machinery out to the settlement.

 

      But Batchelor ran into an unsuspected snag in the proceedings. The settlers came to the stockyard in a group and after peering through the bars of the stockyards at the mules the prime reaction was uttered by the first one. "I'm not 'avin any bloody donkeys," and there stood the deadlock. Batchelor was stumped. He was a true Britisher himself and didn’t have a very high regard for mules. He wired me for advice as to what could be done. My reply took the form of calling Joe Canfield in for a consultation. I told him, "Joe, you bought those damn mules, now you go down to Prairie River and sell them." Joe didn't argue with the Britishers. He went to the local school house and "borrowed" half a dozen kids, whom he took over to the stockyards. Then selecting a mule he put a bridle on him and hoisted a school kid to its back and giving the mule a slap on the rump the school kid went for a mule ride, much to his delight because a mule is an easy gaited beastie. This performance thawed out the objections and by mid afternoon the cavalcade was on its way to the settlement.

 

      I didn't go near the settlement for about 2 months after this affair but it was a real highlight to visit all these new people in turn and each of whom assured me that he had the best team of mules in the whole settlement. All of us associated with this venture derived lasting satisfaction from the progress these new people made. They had a hard row to hoe, but they were, with very few exceptions, made of the right stuff. Not only did they do themselves credit but they were an example to quite a few others who had not been "pulling their own weight" for a long time. It resulted in friendly rivalry in the matter of farm development and played an important part in bringing that settlement out of despair and fast becoming one of the soundest mixed farming areas in Northern Sask.

 

      I regret to say, however, that there were many British family establishments in other parts of Northern Sask. and in practically all districts in the Dominion where the same measure of success was not achieved. There were two main defects - weak selection of families and a burden of debt beyond their power to cope with. This problem was by no means unique to the British Family scheme. The same factors applied generally to all Soldier Settlement accounts plus the forces of deflation and adverse climatic conditions in large parts of Western Canada. Government had authorized certain financial adjustments prior to 1925, but these were ineffective in that they did not materially reduce capital debts - they merely washed out some accumulated arrears or by consolidation of arrears increased the capital debt structure. The general situation was so bad that in 1927 it was decided to proceed with revaluation of the lands purchased for Soldier Settlers and to write them down to what was deemed to be a realistic basis. It was quite an undertaking.

 

      A great many farms, purchased in a limited state of development had completely changed in appearance by development carried out by the settlers in the intervening period. Some of the more conservative minds in the administration held strongly to the view that farms should be valued on the basis of their present state of development. I took a strong stand against such a practice since it would obviously penalize the settlers who had worked hard in developing their farms. My opponents argued that it would be practically impossible to determine at that late date, the state of development when the farms were bought. As a former land inspector who was mighty careful in the work of inspection for purchase, I argued that the original land report should be accepted as a general guide. There was quite an argument around the conference table in Ottawa, but after listening to argument by both sides, our chairman, John Barnett agreed with my approach. It was a long and laborious task, but it accomplished something worth while. Instances where we couldn't reach an acceptable settlement with the veteran were referred to the Exchequer Court for decision. I think the best lesson that was drawn from the exercise was a greater administrative awareness of the problems confronting the settlers.

 

      We had our share of tragedies in Northern Sask., the same as in practically all other districts. I will describe one case which illustrates an extreme type of trouble and how it ended.

 

      Gilbert McKay was the supervisor for the Tisdale district. "Gilly" as he was affectionately known, was a true native son. His ancestors, several generations removed, came into Canada via Hudson's Bay. He served overseas during the war and lost a foot just below the knee. But he had an amazing ability to get around with an artificial foot - dance - skate and tramp over any kind of ground.

 

      His particular buddy during the war was a boy named Billy Paine from Kindersley, Sask., with whose parents I was well acquainted. Billy was killed shortly after "Gilly" was wounded. It may sound strange but this seemed to forge stronger the bond of comradeship I felt for Gilly McKay. One day I received a letter from the head of the Children's Aid Society in Regina, giving me an outline of a report on a certain family in the Tisdale district and asking me if I could do anything toward solving a tragic domestic situation. The family was that of a notoriously irresponsible soldier settler, whose wife had reported to the Children's Aid Society that he was tampering with his own thirteen year old daughter. McKay was asked to go and see the condition of the family. He reported the family in destitute circumstances and the veteran absent most of the time on "moonshine" parties. Winter was approaching and the whole family needed winter clothing. There were several hundred bushels of coarse grain stored on the farm. The loan account had not been paid for years and generally it was a bad mess. "Gilly" was authorized to seize and sell all the loose grain and with the proceeds order an outfit of warm winter clothing for the wife and kids and get in a supply of basic food. This was done and a couple of weeks later "Gilly" went back to the place to see how things were going. The settler was not home. His wife said that he had gone away to work in a sawmill about fifty miles distant, otherwise the family appeared to be O.K.

 

      I didn't hear anything more about this case until the following summer when I had a visit by Detective Sergeant Scotney of the Mounted Police. He had spent considerable time in unraveling the sordid history. The settler's wife had died of pneumonia in a Tisdale hospital, leaving three children, the eldest being the daughter about thirteen years old, From remarks made by the wife before she died and from close questioning of the children the following story unfolded

 

      Shortly after "Gilly" had seized the grain and bought the clothing and food for the family, the father was sleeping off a drunk on a rude cot in the downstairs part of the house. He had again attempted to meddle with the little girl. The mother had crept down the rude stairs and using her husband's army pistol shot him dead in his sleep. Then summoning the older boy they lugged the corpse outside and using a wheel- barrow took it to the nearest straw stack and proceeded to cremate it. The unconsumed bones were taken back to the house and burned in the kitchen stove. The girl had become mentally unbalanced and the local authorities had taken charge of all three of them. Scotney was sure he had the truth of the situation but it was a case of no "Corpus Delicti". The mother was dead, poor soul. The settler was doubtless dead and Scotney agreed with me that the case should be considered closed. What a rotter of a man that settler turned out to be. Cremation was too good for him. He had been a commissioned officer, too, and there was no imposing record of hard service in the war.

 

      During the work of land revaluation I ran into a situation where politics entered the scene. Friend Tooley had been transferred from the Prairie River settlement to the Ridgedale district - a part of the Federal constituency of Melport. The sitting member was Malcolm McLean, Liberal. Tooley had had to get tough with a number of his settlers who had harvested good crops but avoided making payments on account. These birds complained to McLean charging tough treatment and of course Tooley was then in McLean's "doghouse". I knew that Tooley was a good Tory - if there is such a creature, and I suspect that he was not averse to feeding the fires with McLean. Things came to a head one day when McLean called to see me and charged that in three specific instances Tooley had made only a token re-inspection of the farm for revaluation purposes and was in a drunken condition when he visited the three settlers concerned. I told McLean that he had been badly misinformed - that Tooley wasn't that kind of a person. I drew the files and showed him the farm reports - complete with detailed diagrams drawn to scale. This didn't satisfy McLean. He insisted his information was reliable and practically demanded that I fire Tooley. This I flatly refused to do and quite naturally McLean declined to put his charges in writing. Being a Liberal myself, I was otherwise on a friendly footing with Malcolm but this was more than I could stomach. I told him I would make a personal investigation in the field, which I carried out in a very thorough manner. I inspected all three of the farms, and Tooley's land reports were found accurate in every detail. I cross-examined the settlers and each of them finally conceded that there wasn't an atom of truth to the charge of drunkenness. I took statutory declarations to this effect from all three of them and returned to Prince Albert.

 

      McLean was in to see me again in a couple of weeks and I showed him the sworn statements. He was very offhand about it, suggested that in my position I could apply pressure to get these settlers to sign almost anything. I had to warn McLean not to push me too far. He was relying on "friends" who were not friends but outright liars, and any veteran having the service status of Tooley was not going to be victimized by such tactics, if I could help it. This closed the incident but from that time on there was a definite coolness between McLean and Myself. As for Tooley, he made up his mind that he was going to do what he could to make it tough for McLean during the next election even if it cost him his position. He was as good as his word, too, although it happened after I left the Prince Albert district. Tooley and Batchelor made no secret of their activities during the 1930 Federal election. The Liberal government was defeated, so was Malcolm McLean, and obviously these two fellows escaped any political wrath. I will again refer to the results of the 1930 Federal election later on in this narrative. I too, had made some political enemies.

 

      Before leaving the Prince Albert scene I should recount the appearance of my old friend Nobby Clarke. I received a muted telephone call one Sunday asking me to come down to the Avenue Hotel. The voice said, "This is Nobby", and there he was accompanied by a redheaded woman. He told me he had been running from the police for some time and only succeeded in evading them in Edmonton by the co-operation of some members of the old squadron of the 19th Dragoons. He had heard that I was in Prince Albert and he just wanted to say "hello". He told me he was heading for the mining fields in Northern Manitoba - didn't need any financial help, just asked me to keep mum about seeing him in Prince Albert. I asked him if he had committed a serious crime and his reply was just a little cattle stealing in Southern Alberta. I was torn between my duty as a responsible citizen with a responsible position and my regard for this rapscallion of a man who had no respect for the law. We had quite a long conversation before I bade him good-bye and good luck. Considerable time was to elapse and many things were to happen to me before I saw Nobby again. More about him later.

 

      Things had not been going harmoniously with the Board in Ottawa. Robert Forke had been elected to Parliament as a Progressive. McKenzie King was having some trouble and to strengthen his control of Parliament he appointed Forke as Minister of Immigration, and in this department the parliamentary responsibility for Soldier Settlement administration was centered. Good old Forke had some political forces of his own to keep in order and insisted upon appointment of his nephew as District Superintendent for Soldier Settlement in Manitoba. His nominee was a good man too, but totally inexperienced in this work. Barnett sensed the writing on the wall and resigned as Chairman. The vacancy was promptly filled by Mr. Forke selecting an old friend, Colonel John Rattray. Rattray had a fine record in the war and was a genial friendly type of man. He knew little or nothing about the business, but he quickly gained the goodwill of all the District Superintendents. I was sorry to see Barnett leave, but I sensed he felt relieved to be free from the cares and worries of top responsibility in administering an operation that was always bristling with difficulty and showed many signs of increasing trouble.

 

      Shortly after Christmas in 1928, I received a letter from Rattray asking me to make a survey of the administration of the Vernon District office in B.C. The accounts there were in deplorably poor shape. The auditors had recommended closing the office. Major Ashton, a member of the Board had made an examination and he had concurred in closing, but Rattray felt that before taking such a drastic step he should have the views of an experienced District Superintendent, such as I.

 

      The District Superintendent at Vernon was a fine English gentleman, Colonel Johnston, but he was obviously unable to place and keep local administration at an effective level. I had met Johnson at numerous conferences and no one could help liking him. Nevertheless it was with some trepidation that I, a former Corporal, should descend on a full Colonel to investigate his office. I need to have had no fears on that score because he welcomed me most warmly and was glad that a man of my experience in the rough and tumble of district office administration should come and see if a remedy could be found other than closing his office.

 

      After spending a few days examining files and talking to his senior staff I began to sense what was wrong. Johnston had simply delegated too much authority to his subordinates and these subordinates had not yet learned the "facts of life" so far as debits and credits were concerned. The main segments of the accounts were located in the fruit growing areas of interior B.C. Many of the settlers concerned had been lulled into a false sense of security. The production of tree fruit crops on a commercial scale requires heavy outlays for pruning, thinning, picking, shipping, etc. It was the regular practice for these settlers to obtain short term loans from the local banks to finance seasonal operating costs. These loans were secured by liens on the growing crop of fruit and listed in the local packing houses through which all these tree fruits had to be marketed.

 

      I soon discovered that the only thing wrong about this arrangement was that the district accountant had been authorized to approve these crop liens, most of which were for quite substantial amounts but no action was taken to have S.S.B. share in the crop proceeds. Tree fruit ranching as it was called was a deluxe kind of a business, for those who could afford it and spend most of the growing season patronizing local tennis clubs, drinking lots of good liquor and doing a spot of trout fishing now and then. The trouble was that too many Soldier Settlers had become infected with these nefarious habits and were living the life of Riley. As nearly as I could judge, most of them raised hefty loans from the bank and hired practically all the slave work incidental to growing a crop of tree fruit. The fruit would all move into the packing houses in August or early September, the banks would get paid off and any balance handed to the settler. Soldier Settlement accounts were payable on October 1st, but by that time the crop was all sold and the proceeds distributed. The files were replete with reports that the settler lacked ability to pay Soldier Settlement Board anything on account, notwithstanding that the apple crop had produced anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 boxes of apples !

 

       I asked Johnston to call in his field staff for a conference, and I suggested to them that hereafter they would review every one of these bank loans and in place of giving the settler and the bank a blank cheque they should insist that the settler do less fishing, play less tennis and do more work, the idea being that Soldier Settlement should also take a lien for several hundred dollars and thereby start these fellows on the road to ownership of their orchards. Up to that point the Vernon district had never collected more than 25 to 30 % of the amount due each year. It is a matter of record that the season following my visit the district jumped into front place in the Dominion. The district office was saved from extinction, Johnston's reputation very greatly improved and I had an interesting experience. The mystery to me was why no one else had discovered the glaring weaknesses which had brought the district into such poor repute.

 

      It was also of great interest to me in coming back to B.C. and particularly to the Okanagan Valley in a capacity which was such a long, long way removed from my status when I helped old Munson to bring his settler's effects to Kelowna in box cars twenty-three years before. It was a bit exhilarating for me to be able to talk to the S.S.B. field men in terms of familiarity with the Kelowna district, Black Mountain and Scotty Creek before the tree fruit industry had replaced cattle ranching. The general attitude of people in B. C. is to heavily discount the views or brains of anyone coming from east of the Rocky Mountains, but in this case the boys had to admit that this fellow Murchison seemed to "know his onions" or perhaps apples, too.

 

      When I had completed my survey it was arranged for me to meet Commissioner Ashton at Sicamous Junction. He was very pleased with the outcome of my visit to Vernon. I then returned to my own bailiwick in Prince Albert.

 

      Within the next thirty days I received another request from Chairman Rattray, namely, that I accept a transfer to the Regina district in Southern Sask. George Ewart, who had been District Superintendent for several years, had resigned to take an important post with the Hail Insurance Association of Hartford, Conn. Neither Edna nor I relished the idea of such a move. We now had three young children and I knew that the administration in Southern Saskatchewan was no sinecure. Things were well in hand in the Prince Albert district. We had made a lot of nice friends and I was getting a little weary. On the other hand, the move was a promotion and the Board was anxious that I should take it, so with some reluctance I agreed to the move. The send-off by the people of Prince Albert was really something. It lasted all night. Edna and I still have the grandfather clock presented to us. Little did I know then of the troubles that were to befall us after moving to Regina, but looking backward now, it was one of those things which change the whole course of one's life. It took a long time and many trials before the good results became apparent.

 

      Before leaving the Prince Albert scene, and lest the reader should have an impression that our stay in Prince Albert was "all work and no play", mention should be made of some typical good times. In addition to the fairly regular round of nice social affairs, including quite a few dress parties under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge, which were really gala affairs, we had many pleasant camping trips, although some of them were marred a bit by hungry mosquitoes or bad weather. Bruce and Doris had reached an age where every trip of this kind was a new adventure and they loved it. Wayne was born on November 12th, the 36th anniversary of my own birthday. When he was still an infant in the summer of 1926 I organized a little safari to Waskesiu Lake, later incorporated into Prince Albert National Park. It was located seventy miles north of Prince Albert. The road was mostly bush trail through miles of logged-off lands and four to five hours traveling was considered to be making good time by car. But the wonders of the lake fully warranted the tough trip. There was no camping facility in the park, but on that wonderful beach lightly wooded with spruce and birch trees we pitched our tent and cooked our meals on an open camp fire. The first trip we had Wayne along Edna gave him his bath in the open air. The lake was alive with mammoth Northern Pike and altogether it was a glorious spot to relax. After finding out for ourselves just what a grand place it was for a camping trip I organized a few long weekend trips which included several congenial souls on my staff. I'm sure none of us ever forgot the nightly sing-songs around the bright camp fire. But these adventures became things of the past when the park was formed, good roads built and the beach quickly took on the atmosphere of a tourist resort. Our Federal Member of Parliament was the Right Honourable McKenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada. When the park was officially opened he was present and gave the main address. It was quite an affair, approximately 4,000 people, many of them from very distant parts of Saskatchewan gathered at the beach the previous night and all camped in tents or slept in their autos. I understand some of them didn't waste any time in slumber.

 

      The Liberal Association had built a very attractive rustic bungalow for Mr. King and this was presented to him as a token of the local respect and esteem in which Mr.  King was held. In his address Mr. King thanked the people for this fine gesture of their goodwill but he pointed out that this beautiful cottage was resting on public domain and it would be improper on his part to accept it as a personal gift, but he overcame this technicality very nicely by accepting the gift in his capacity as Prime Minister of Canada on behalf of all Prime Ministers of Canada in perpetuity.

 

      Catering to this big crowd was quite an undertaking. It was solved in part by serving all present with barbecued buffalo steaks. I'll never forget the steak served to me, it was fully a foot in diameter, a good inch thick and thoroughly interlaced with sinews so tough that eating it was a job that only a starving man could cope with. The Murchison family never fared too badly on these camping trips because I had quite a full compliment of camping equipment and I always loved to do some cooking for them, and of course I always had a hankering for lots of good food.

 

     During the summer of 1927 we decided to pay a visit to some old friends living on a farm near Young, Sask. some 130 miles distant. We packed the three children in the car and had a very pleasant visit but on our return to Prince Albert on a Sunday evening, we ran into some real difficulty. When about half way home we ran into a regular cloudburst, and the roads turned into a regular morass of mud. However, we kept chugging along as best we could. The children were all asleep in the back of the car quite oblivious to the road conditions. The night was as dark as pitch and suddenly smoke began to show under the instrument panel of the car and there was a strong odor of burning rubber. Edna wasn't for taking any chances.  There was still quite a drizzle of rain falling, but she jumped out into the mud, opened the rear door and hauled all three of the kids out of the car and deposited them on the wet roadside.

 

      The car kept smoking and I soon discovered that due to a short circuit somewhere the insulation on the complete wiring system had taken fire and it just burned all the ignition wires bare. The car wouldn't start again and here we were out in the mud and rain in the middle of the night and more or less in the middle of nowhere. I tramped the road to the first farm that had a telephone and succeeded in getting a garage man out of bed in the nearest village about five miles distant. He was a real friend in need because it was no small job to completely re-wire the ignition system under the flickering of a flashlight, but he got the job done and the car started.

 

      By this time daylight was beginning to break, the rain had stopped and the road had become gluey mud. One tire chain had been broken and lost and I simply had to do something to improve traction. Stopping in front of a farm I went to see if I could buy or borrow a tire chain or equivalent. No one answered my knocking on the door, so looking around the place I located a rope halter shank about ten feet long and used this for a tire chain. Better progress was made from there on home where we arrived at about 9 A.M. I was pretty well pooped but the kids thought it was a good adventure.

 

    We had all grown to like Northern Saskatchewan. The winters were bitterly cold. There were large areas of pioneer conditions but there was an almost complete absence of drought conditions. The famous Carrot River Valley was developing quickly into a major grain and livestock producing country and generally there was a feeling of confidence in the whole future of that part of the country. It was a good place to live and raise a family, but our fortunes had decreed otherwise - we were to move to Regina and the open prairie country and leave behind us a large circle of friends including the little friends of Bruce, Doris and Wayne.

 

      Regina and district had enjoyed a few years of high prosperity. Crops had been fairly good; prices at a good level but some ominous clouds were in the making on the economic horizon. Most people who had some "surplus" money were gambling on stocks and in the grain market. Housing was very scarce and rentals high. I had to pay the transportation costs of the family and household effects. The only habitable house I could find was an unfinished semi bungalow which I had to lease for 1 year at $75.00 per month. We had a modest amount of savings and decided to build our own home rather than pay such a high rent. I had been assured of continuity of my position in Regina. We were most anxious to avoid any more moving around until our children completed their public school work at least. Our new home was ready for occupancy when our lease expired. The contract price was $8,300, the down payment completely absorbed our capital savings, but we had a nice comfortable home on Angus Crescent, and were all set for living in comfort and as we fondly hoped, in comparative security.

 

      On the whole the accounts in the Regina district were in good shape. My predecessor was a strong executive and he had a few senior staff around him who had firmly adopted the principle  "The settler who pays is the settler who stays". There had been very few settlers established on the expansive land known as the Regina Plains, which after all was only a good sized fragment of the geography of all Southern Sask., a large part of which is contained in the South Westerly part of the province where drought conditions were more the rule than the exception. I had seen a lot of that kind of territory during my land hunting expedition on foot from Moose Jaw away back in 1909.

 

      The chief problem confronting me was the completion of the work of land revaluation. There were scattered cases in dispute but the main problem centered on the farms in two former Indian Reserves. One of them, the Piapot Reserve was only 22 miles north east of Regina. Agreement had been reached with the majority of the settlers concerned, but there were half dozen cases when the settlers were clamoring against the injustice of the settlement offered to them. I could have stood pat and let these cases go before the Exchequer Court, but I felt it wise to make a personal inspection of the farms concerned and compare them with those where settlement had been reached. In three of these cases it seemed quite obvious to me that considerably greater adjustments should be made without any reference to Exchequer Court procedure. The others appeared to be reasonably satisfactory and the settlers had not, in my opinion, any legitimate grievance.

 

       Before making the next move I called a meeting of my local advisory committee, one of them was Chairman of the Provincial Assessment Commission and the other was local manager for one of the leading mortgage companies. I took these gentlemen on a visit to these contentious cases and they expressed considerable surprise and annoyance that the particulars I brought to their notice had not been revealed in the first place. With their concurrence it was decided to make an attempt to get the situation tidied up. I called a meeting of the settlers in the local school house and advised them the action I proposed to take. There was no doubt whatever those adjustments would have to be made in the 3 cases, but with respect to the balance I asked the settlers concerned to select one of their number whose case would be taken to court. If the settler lost his appeal I would expect the rest to drop their case. Alternatively, if the settler won his appeal I would make similar adjustments with the rest of them without Court proceedings.

 

       But before these plans came to fruition there were two sinister factors entered into the scene. The 1929 depression set in and the Tories under R.B. Bennett were on the war path. We heard a lot about McKenzie King's famous five cent speech[1] . The Gardiner government in Saskatchewan had been defeated and Anderson was the new Premier. A Federal election was in the offing and the Federal Tories were out for blood. These Soldier Settlers on the Piapot Reserve were in the Regina constituency and a fresh agitation broke out for "more reduction in the value of their farms". The Tory candidate had openly promised further reductions if he was elected, which I thought was a new "low" in politics, particularly by an expert lawyer such as the Tory candidate who knew perfectly well that these things had to be done in legal fashion. I was able to stall off any further action until after the Federal election and things quieted down, but so far as I was concerned that turned out to be a forlorn hope. The Liberal government was defeated and pressure on me became almost unbearable.

 

      Our new Minister, the Hon. Wesley Gordon from New Liskeard, Ontario, appointed his election campaign manager to make a survey of the administration of Soldier Settlement throughout Canada, the chief object of which appeared to be to make it tough for anyone even suspected of being Liberal in his politics. This traveling expert was a bird by the name of Tom Magladery. In his first visit to my office there was no unpleasantness apart from the difficulty about these land revaluation cases there was nothing he found to warrant any criticism. The big depression was upon us all and to make matters much worse, the year 1929 saw the start of a long cycle of drought conditions which brought despair and poverty to tens of thousands of farmers, including Soldier Settlers.

 

      Amid all the stresses and strains consequent upon falling commodity prices, severe drought over wide areas of Saskatchewan which greatly aggravated the administration problems facing me, I was nevertheless one of a very few privileged to meet and spend some time with a man whose name will live forever in the history of the world. That man was Mr. Winston Churchill; whom my friend Jack Moore and I had failed to salute in Hyde Park, London, in the autumn of 1914.

 

      The Socialist, Ramsay McDonald, from Lassiemouth, near Elgin, Scotland, was in power in the British Parliament, and Churchill, the stormy petrel of the British Parliament was spending some time in the political wilderness. In the autumn of the year 1930 he made a tour of Canada and the U.S.A. accompanied by his son Randolph and a nephew of whom were about the same age. On this particular day I received a telephone call from Government House in Regina, the residence of the Lieut. Governor of the Province, former Judge Newlands. His secretary asked me if I could come for lunch and meet a guest they were finding a bit difficult to entertain. In my normal direct fashion I asked the secretary the name of this difficult person, and was told it was Mr. Churchill. I had met or had been presented to quite a few prominent people from the British Isles, but for the moment or two I was nearly breathless at the mere thought of meeting such a famous man as Mr. Churchill. But I couldn't very well refuse to do so. I asked the secretary what the trouble seems to be and was advised that Mr. Churchill was in a rather vile mood and she hoped I might be able to suggest something that would interest this "cranky fellow". So I hurried home, told Edna about it and putting on my best front I proceeded to Government House for lunch.

 

      Mr. Churchill had been given a sitting room for his private use and there I was presented to him. He was a bit gruff but he shook me warmly by the hand and appeared interested in meeting someone a bit different from the usual run of Government House habitués. He was quite evidently not enjoying himself very much judging by the near scowl on his countenance. On the other hand Regina did not hold much in the form of attractions for such a famous visitor, but Regina did have the advantage of being located in the midst of the largest and finest grain producing areas in the world so far as I knew. Nowhere else within my knowledge could the headlight of a railway locomotive be seen forty miles on a clear night. The Regina wheat plains south of the city are so level and the lines of railway so straight that no one who has never seen these flat prairies can readily visualize them. Thus the best suggestion I could make to Mr. Churchill was that he should get out in the open air and pay a visit to one or two typical wheat farms where harvest was in progress. I had to apologize for the current crop being below average but he could still see the potential richness of the district. He readily agreed.

 

      There was quite an imposing company for lunch. Our host, the Governor, Sir Frederick Haultain, Chief Justice of Sask., Judge A.Y. McDonald (incidentally the Judge was an uncle of my own secretary Miss Hilda Gillies), Judge Brown, a couple of members of the Saskatchewan Government, a "horsy" looking English spinster doing some kind of research on immigration from the British Isles, the Churchill party, and representing compositive obscurity was G. Murchison. As I recall it the general atmosphere during lunch was somewhat "stuffy" but the food was good.

 

      After lunch I got the secretary aside and told her of my arrangement for a drive in the country. She was delighted and quickly arranged for two limousines for the trip - the Governor's official car for Mr. Churchill and me,   and a second one for young Randolph and his cousin. As we set off for the drive I thought to myself that my mother's second son was really making progress.

 

      Our first stop was at a large farm about ten miles south of the city. The owner was busy with the wheat harvest and was using what was then a revolutionary type of harvesting machinery - a thresher-combine hauled by a tractor. This outfit was capable of cutting and threshing about 75 acres of wheat per day. I knew, from hard experience, all about the old fashioned way of cutting, stooking and threshing wheat crops on the prairie. I recalled my first experience on these same prairies at Milestone twenty-two years previously. I pointed out to Mr. Churchill that this modern type of harvesting machinery would exercise a profound effect on the future ability of transient labor, including new immigrants from Europe to find gainful employment for upwards of two months in the Western harvest fields.

 

      We stopped by the roadside and walked into the field to wait the arrival of the approaching combine harvester. I am sorry I do not recall now the name of the owner, but I introduced him to Mr. Churchill and the boys and he was quickly put at ease by Mr. Churchill showing an animated interest in this big machine. His face was alive with interest and in a few moments he observed to the owner that he would "like to have a go at running it". The farmer was somewhat dubious until I suggested that history was in the making and he should become part of it. This young Randolph was just as curious as his dad and he expressed a desire to run the tractor.  And so it was arranged, Randolph was given a quick briefing on the tractor controls and his father climbed up on the "hurricane" arch of the combine and shown the controls there.[2]  The farmer and I stood aside and away went the Churchills harvesting wheat.

 

      This was a very large field and it took some time for the machine to make the circuit but everything seemed to be going fine. When they got back to the starting point, Mr. Churchill was well covered with dust and chaff, but was hugely pleased with himself.

 

      Following this we called at another farm and drove into the farmstead consisting of a nice farm home and a couple of large barns. The farmer was absent but we had a pleasant chat with the farmer's wife. She was perfectly at ease and talked freely with Mr. Churchill about their farm and their problems. Churchill sat on the edge of the verandah and was just about the friendliest kind of a person imaginable.

 

      As we drove along, making a wide circle back toward Regina, I had the most interesting talk with Mr. Churchill. He told me that the only plains he had seen which bore a good comparison with the Regina district, were the great plains of Hungary in Europe. I brought up the matter of immigration from the British Isles and mentioned the problems we had encountered in establishing the families brought to Canada under the British Family Settlement scheme. I observed that in my opinion the selection of many of those families left a good deal to be desired, that I had had  considerable experience with them and making Canadian farmers out of some of them was a pretty hopeless business. Churchill, with a twinkle in his eyes, observed that he had some knowledge of that scheme too. "You know, Murchison, that the British Government made quite a handsome financial contribution to that deal and we felt that Canada should take some of the bad along with the good". "We knew that quite a few of the family heads - probably those who had  been on the "dole system" for a time - would be difficult to deal with, but the big point to keep in mind was the new horizons being opened up for their families".  And with quite marked solemnity he went on to say "Regardless of the troubles you have had with some of these folk you should never forget that these people are all pure British stock and the day may not be so far distant when you will have need of them and wish you had more of them", Here was the great student of history and the man who could then visualize the things to come. He gave me a new perspective.

 

As we neared Regina I remarked to Mr. Churchill how greatly I had been honored in having this privilege of meeting him, and that I never dreamed when I had first seen him many years earlier that I would ever have the privilege of making his acquaintance. Again that mischievous twinkle as he turned to me and inquired if there was a story behind my comments. And so I recounted the details of my first army leave to London and seeing him and Sir William Robertson riding in Hyde Park and failing to salute him. This story gave him a big laugh and I venture to hope he remembered it.

 

      As we neared Government House I thought it would be a smart idea to have Mr. Churchill visit the Commandant of the Mounted Police barracks. He was quite agreeable. The Commandant was delighted of course and in short order there were drinks being served in the mess. I drew the Adjutant aside and suggested that he invite Mr. Churchill and the boys to go for a ride before they left for Government House. This was quickly arranged and when we emerged from the mess here were a couple of smartly turned out Mounties with beautiful horses for the Churchill party. There I bade good-bye and good luck to Mr. Churchill and I can never forget watching them riding into the evening sunlight of the Canadian prairies and leaving me with the realization that I had met a really great man and with memories I would cherish as long as I lived. I never saw Mr. Churchill in person again, but some fifteen years later I stood outside the official residence of Great Britain's Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street in London and let memory take me back again to the time it had been my privilege to help to entertain the one and only Winston Churchill. Few Canadians ever had such experience. Years later when I was to hear his voice on the radio pouring scorn on Hitler and all his works and standing steadfast in the face of disaster, his words held particular significance for me because I knew him.

 

      In the autumn of 1930 conditions in Western Canada were really grim. Employment for labour was practically non-existent. A conference of District Superintendents was called at Ottawa. There we met our new Minister, who was also Minister of Labor. He had in mind that Soldier Settlement staff interest itself in finding employment, even at very small wages, on Canadian farms. I was asked for an estimate of the number I could so place in Southern Sask. My answer was that this was putting the cart before the horse, -for about thirty years Western farmers had been absorbing new immigrants in search of employment, that now was hardly the time to expect Western farmers to bear the problem of vast numbers of unemployed. Gordon asked me if I had any alternative plan. I had. My proposal was that any farmer who would house and feed an unemployed man he didn't need, should be paid approximately ten dollars a month instead of paying wages and board for surplus help. And that was the origin of that very policy which played a worthwhile and relatively inexpensive means of taking care of many unemployed men.

 

    I made a further suggestion to the effect that a few labor camps be established on my two large group settlements on the Piapot and Broadview Indian reserves for the purpose of clearing a lot of land ready for the plow. This was also adopted in collaboration with the Provincial Government and in a short time there were several hundred men so employed. They were paid two dollars per day and Board. The Settlers upon whose farms these clearing operations were carried out, entered into simple agreements to pay for the clearing at modest rates, over a period of three or four years without interest. I don't think any of them ever paid it but there was a good deal to show for the labor involved and it was much better for the morale of the boys who did the cleaning work because it was entirely different from the kind of work best designated as hauling water out of one hole and pouring it into another.

 

      So passed the winter of 1930. In the meantime the Tories had apparently decided on some major surgery so far as the administration of Soldier Settlement was concerned. The Board as such was abolished. My good friend Colonel Rattray despite his fine humanitarian qualities was simply fired. He was too old then to obtain new employment. Sam Maher, the Secretary, was retired but he was a permanent Civil Servant and had a substantial pension to rely on. Major Ashton was retained in a minor capacity at Head Office. The District Superintendent at Winnipeg was summarily fired - because he was a known Liberal. He was replaced by Jim Fuller from the Toronto office and known to be a good Tory graduate from the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph. Noting that these things were happening I surmised that I was in for some bad times at the hands of these bloodthirsty bastards. It all began to happen in the spring of 1931.

 

      First on the scene was the Board solicitor from Winnipeg, Colonel Chandler, a fine English gentleman but doubtless a strong Conservative. He told me he had been appointed to organize a complete review of land revaluation on the Piapot reserve, including a complete and detailed inspection of every farm in the settlement. He was instructed to see the Provincial Attorney General, Mr. McPherson, to obtain a list of names of men whom he could engage to make the appraisal. I had known McPherson for a long time and thought very highly of him. Still do for that matter. But he was an integral part of the Tory machine and personally I don't think he relished having certain political chores to perform. He gave Chandler a list of names all right, most of whom I knew by repute, all of them Tory "hanger-ons" Chandler asked me for my recommendations in selecting six of them from the list. I told him to go ahead and pick the first six, the middle six or the last six - it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference to the end result. So he engaged six of them at a handsome per diem fee plus expenses and the big inspection was on. I declined to have anything to do with it because in my book it looked like a political "fix"

 

      After the inspection work had made a start I had another visit from Magladary. His greeting was "I have some bad news for you. This office is being closed and moving vans are now on their way here to remove all the office furniture". He was as good as his word; I'll say that much for him. He interviewed each member of the staff, male and female, and offered them the alternative of being fired or transferred to the Saskatoon office. I'll never forget the reactions of some of them. L.M. Littlejohn, a tough Scot looked him in the eye and told him what he thought of him and had no intention of moving to Saskatoon or anywhere else. The "office boy", a former member of the 5th Battalion in France didn't stand on ceremony at all, he simply told Magladary to go to hell. My Collections Manager, another Scot, and a very devout Presbyterian was greatly disturbed. He and McPherson were brother elders in the church. When old Jock came to see me after his interview with Magladery he said "Mr. Murchison, if there's a God in Heaven he won't allow this thing to come to pass." About all I could say was, "Jock, you better pray hard and fast because this bird is really tough". I suggested that he give his friend Murdo McPherson a call on the "phone, which he did. In a few minutes Magladary hurried out of the office. He had received a call from McPherson. When he returned he told my friend Jock that he had changed his mind and would keep him on the payroll in a skeleton office. Presbyterians, -What Ho!

 

      This was a terrific blow to Edna and I. So far as I could see I had done nothing to warrant such treatment. We had a big mortgage on our home and without employment it was obviously impossible to live in it. Conditions were so bad that the house couldn’t be sold for anything near its value or cost. Bruce and Doris were old enough by this time to sense that a real disaster had beset us. When John Barnett resigned from the Board several years earlier he was employed for a time in expanding the mail order business of the Robert Simpson Co. Ltd. When the Gardiner Government in Saskatchewan was defeated Barnett was employed by the Anderson Government as Deputy Minister of Lands for the Province and he was in that capacity when I was suddenly thrown out of employment. John was just plain angry at the stupidity of Magladery & Co. but there was nothing he could do about it. He had no job for me but said he would manufacture one which would at least pay for our living expenses.

 

      Edna and I decided otherwise. The whole country was in the grip of a serious depression, the skies in Southern Saskatchewan were filled with flying dust - we had had a bad licking but we didn't intend to sit around licking our wounds or trying to live on the sympathy of our friends. We would go west to the Pacific Coast, where in a more friendly climate we would try to ride out the terrible conditions prevailing on the Canadian Prairies. Thus, early in June we bought a second-hand Oldsmobile car, stored our furniture, gave a Quit Claim to our nice home and loading the kids and luggage in the car we started for Vancouver, B.C. Eight years were to elapse before I next visited Regina, but it was in an  important capacity.

 

      Magladery had created quite a casualty list among S. S. B. employees. Cummings, the District Superintendent at Winnipeg, B.C. Wormworth and Bill Horton at Prince Albert. I.T. Barnet, District Superintendent at Vancouver was demoted, the Vernon office was closed and my old friend Col. Johnstone transferred to Vancouver as Superintendent. I knew all these people well, and no doubt everyone of them belonged to the Liberal creed, but like me none of them were active in politics. I was hurt most of all - not only had we lost our home and income, but all three offices where I had taken a leading part after leaving Saskatoon were closed. These things have always been fairly typical of Tory politics and many a time I marveled at the generosity of the Liberal party in avoiding such tactics. But that was the way of McKenzie King. On leaving Regina I vowed to myself that since I apparently had the reputation of being an unrepentant Grit, I would henceforth live up to it, and do what I could in my own small way to make life short and unhappy for the Tories as the ruling political party in Canada. The only thing I can record in favor of Magladery is that I was given six months pay along with my summary dismissal. This put Edna and me in funds with which to try and make a new start on the Pacific Coast. I always had the idea that Magladery knew he was doing something quite unwarranted as far as efficiency of my administration was concerned. The power behind him was the Tory machine in Saskatchewan.

 


 



[1] Mr. King, in the House of Commons, April 3rd, 1930, said he would not give “a five cent piece” to any Tory government for “these alleged unemployment purposes. (Unemployment was a Provincial - not a Federal responsibility. {Colombo’s Canadian References}

[2] On this perfectly level field there was little an amateur need know apart from how to start and stop this big rig.













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G. W. Murchison

E-mail Bibliography
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003 15:01:34 -0600
From: "G. W. Murchison"
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Subject: Homesteading in Kindersley



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