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Autobiography of Henry O. Little, Sr.


I was born in the village of Concord in California on May 6, 1901. As my mother used to say, it was a village of a thousand people with eleven saloons. I believe that they were very happy in the village. My father was well accepted as pastor by the congregation of the Concord Presbyterian Church. In later years, the church burned down with a loss of all records. This caused problems when I sought to prove my U.S. citizenship after I moved from London to New York in 1938.

My father, however, wanted to be under the British flag again so he decided to drag us up to prairies of Canada. We left in November of 1902 when I was a year and a half old.

We changed trains at Mission Junction in the Kicking Horse Pass in British Columbia. They tell me that as the passengers were descending from the American train I stood at the bottom and, like I had seen my father do with the congregation coming out of church, I shook hands with everybody. They said I looked kind of cute. We traveled by Canadian Pacific east across the Canadian prairies to Winnipeg and then forty miles southwest to a village called Sperling, about twelve miles eat of the village of Carman in Manitoba. I remembered nothing about the place but they tell me that one day on the main street I was out in the middle of the road and a heavy team of horses pulling a grain wagon were in a run-away. They apparently ran right over me, a horse on each side, and I wasn't injured the slightest bit since I went between the wheels of the wagon and each horse avoided stepping on me.

One winter evening, they tell me, I was with my father when he went to visit a parishioner five or six miles from the village. While saying goodby to the gentleman, the fast team of horses dashed away towards home, leaving my father talking to the farmer. The land there, part of the floor of ancient Lake Agazzi, is dead level. As the team galloped away, they could see the kerosine lamp attached to the front of the sleigh as the team galloped towards home. The farmer immediately hitched one of this fast teams and followed the runaway sleigh into Sperling where they found me on the floor of the sleigh under the fur robes announcing "me came home in mine sleigh".

The following summer, on August 14, 1903, my brother Robert arrived. Named after Robert Waddell, his nick name being "Yankee Bob". They arranged for Dr. Cunningham to drive his horses the twelve miles from Carman during a very severe thunderstorm. The topsoil on those glacial plains is four feet of the stickiest mud in the world. Dr. Cunningham had to plow through it with the wheels up to the axles in mud. Bob was a twelve pounder and has been big ever since.

We moved to a tiny village named Hilton (no longer in existence) which was southeast of Brandon on a branch line. My first recollections of living in this world occurred in this village. It happened one afternoon, I was riding with my father in a two wheeled cart. The tongue of my toy wagon happened to fall forward and hit the horse, causing her to run away. The cart upset and my father broke his arm.

Also in the village there was another kid called Francie Bridon who many years later I met in Saskatchewan where he was making big money as a metallurgist.

Once I came dashing home from Sunday school shouting "lights a bites a men", repeating something that I had heard in Sunday school. They told me later that what I was trying to say was "In him was the light and that light was the life of men".

Three weeks after my sister Dorothy was born on May 13, 1905, we had to move into Saskatchewan. We boarded the Canadian Pacific train at Brandon on a very hot evening during the fist week of June. We traveled west to a town called Wolseley where we had to be driven seven or eight miles north into the Que Appelle valley where, through some misunderstanding, they did not know that my father was to arrive there. But the people treated us very well and we stayed with a family named Ellis. The place was called Ellisborough located in that beautiful valley.

One evening that summer, my fat brother Bob wandered away from the house. It became dark and we could not find him. The neighbors formed a big gang and marched hand in hand looking for him. At about eleven o'clock that night they found him up the south bank of the valley sound asleep lying on a pile of dirt where a coyote had dug his den. He was just fine.

Some months later we were transferred to the Town of Balcarras on the north side of the Valley where we remained for over a year.

Since Saskatchewan was made a provence that same year (1905) it was still pretty much pioneer country. Very little land had been plowed or cultivated. It was like one big park. Early in the spring, thousand of square miles were blooming with the purple crocuses. By July 1st, the tiger lily was in full bloom. Mile after mile on the prairie you could see the glow of those lilies. At present, no wild lilies have been found for many years. Today, one third of Saskatchewan produces half as much wheat as the entire United States. No place produces the amount of number one grade wheat that Saskatchewan produces. Saskatchewan at present, however, is suffering from hard times. The price of wheat is very low. The same is true with oil. They estimate that the ground in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta contain enormous reserves of Oil.

We returned to Manitoba in 1907 and in the evening of February 29 (leap year 1908) my father was at a winter carnival at the rink and my mother asked me (I was 6 1/2 years old) to go and get him. When I reached the rink after about a mile's walk in the dark, I was afraid to approach the ticket counter so I returned home and found my mother in great distress. She threw on a coat and dashed out and got Mrs. Rankin, a neighbor. Pretty soon Dr. Tisdale arrived and before midnight my brother Fred was born with the prospect of having a birthday once every four years (it was still February 29th).

The Village was named Baldur, an Icelandic name with a large settlement of Icelanders. I sat in school with Ralph Fowler, the only kid I couldn't put down of my own age. He later became a famous hockey player and vice president of the International Paper Company.

My father also preached at Ninette, a village in a beautiful setting at the north end of Pelican Lake, about a mile wide and twenty miles long with well forested hills on both sides and bountiful with fish. A few years later Manitoba sanitarium for tuberculosis was built in the valley.

That fall, we moved to the very small hamlet of Dunrae, about twenty five miles to the west. On February 4, 1909 my little brother Fred died in his mother's arms from convulsions. Big for his age, he was a wonderful little fellow. My mother's youngest brother Fred, who at aged 19, happened to by there at the time and with his 75 cent Brownie camera, took some photographs of his little nephew and namesake after he had died. Years later, when I was in my final year of medical college, I was making rounds in the Children's Hospital with a group of students when the pediatrician leading the group presented a little boy who was recovering from convulsions. He told us that it was due to rickets (lack of calcium). All that he needed was cod liver oil for its vitamin D. There being plenty of calcium in his system but it could not be utilized without vitamin D. If only the young doctor had known this when my little brother had died. The photographs uncle Fred had taken after the little fellow had died showed the slight swelling on either side of the head and on his forehead called bosses which is a sign of lack of calcium.

In July of 1909 my father switched congregations and became a methodist. In our little buggy I grove a good many miles with my father to a place called Sidney on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. On the long drive we went through sand hills where nobody lived. We crossed the Assinaboine River on a ferry. The man turned the ferry one way and you went south and then turned the ferry the other way and you went north. We arrived about ten miles south of Sidney with some people who were part of his future congregation. Sidney is situated on the eastern brow of the Assinaboine delta. When the ice was melting during the ice age, a huge river was formed which ran through Alberta and Saskatchewan now called the Q'Appelle valley. and it entered Lake Agazee near Brandon, forty miles to the west. That became the apex of the delta which extended for about seventy miles south east towards the village of Carman and northeast to Neepaw and the lands at the edge of the delta drops so that the hills between the railroad and the next village east was quite a climb for the trains. The tracks rose about 50 feet to the mile. The freight trains used to require an engine called the Austin Pusher to help them up the hill. On his return back to Austin the engineer used to allow young fools like me and others to ride his engine down to a crossing near Moose Lake where we could go swimming. To return home, the trains returned slowly up the hills despite the pusher and we used to jump on the side of a box car and hang on to the iron ladders. Looking back, it is amazing to me how any of us survived.

After two years, we moved to the Village of Oak River. It was a very prosperous farming community. We Stayed there two years and then moved up to a village in northern Manitoba called Minitonas just north of Duck Mountain Forest Preserve (a million acres of unsurveyed country which had been preserved for growing trees). It was in the Swan River Valley which had very rich soil not far from Lake Winnipegosis.

We moved to Minitonas in the first week in July of 1913. My father and I rode in a box car, so that we could take care of our horse Kate on the way. Minitonas is actually on the ancient shore of Lake Agazzi at the foot of the Duck Mountains. The deep black soil is very fertile just like it was a Sperling. when Charlie Gilroy and I rode our horses four miles north to Hugh Danard's Corner, we faced a virgin white poplar forest. The white poplar trees seen in most places are just another stunted tree, but here, in that rich land, those trees grow seventy or eighty feet high. There is almost no underbrush except for the Saskatoon berry tree and high bush cranberries. You could ride your horses between those huge trees. Their trunks were so large that we were unable to put our arms around them.

No one lived any further north. Not long ago I remarked to an admissions clerk in the big Royal York Hotel in Toronto telling him that I used to live in Canada, and he said "where", and I said "Manitoba". He said that he was also from Manitoba, so I asked him "what town?" He said "Minitonas" telling me that his grandfather, in 1916, had taken out a homestead thirty miles north of the village and that his folks still lived there. By that time, you see, the war was on and the price of wheat was up to three dollars and a half so the country filled up with settlers rapidly.

We enjoyed living in that village for the next three years. One thing that I happen to remember was the abundance of wild raspberries for the first two or three years that we were there. About the turn of the century a huge forest fire had burned the timber down entirely, and in the burned out area you never saw such raspberries, growing six feet high with large berries. Many folks would go out with their baskets and pans and pick enormous quantities of raspberries. The forest fire happened in unsurveyed territory called the Duck Mountain Forest Preserve and there was great danger of getting lost. So just in case, when we went picking the berries we would hang a jacket or something on a remaining tree so that we could find each other.

Also, there were many holes dug in the ground because a year or two previously there had been a gold rush. A man's house had burned down, I think that his name was Elliot, and some jewelry and rings had melted and some people from the city found bits of gold in a turkey. They found out that it came from Minitonas so everybody went wild and thought that there must be gold in Minitonas so they were digging holes everywhere. Although they weren't very deep, there was always the danger of falling in and they were dangerous for young people.

Our neighbors in the village constructed an outdoors skating rink where they played hockey. One afternoon we played a team from the nearby village of Swan River. The Swan River team had a real expert hockey player by the name of P.J. McKay. We used to slam the side boards and shout in unison "PJ, PJ, he's no good, all he can do is bucksaw wood". Another time we played against Swan River at their town on the river, a clear piece of ice, and it was remarkable how bright the moonlight was in those parts. So on the twelve mile ride home, in an open sleigh, the man who had the team was a Mr. Coons. He had a fine tenor voice and he used to sing most of the way home. We all had a wonderful time.

The next year the war started and the price of wheat went sky high. The land quickly filled with settlers, homesteading as much as thirty miles north of Minitonas.

We had a great time living there and after three years we moved down to southern Manitoba. In July of 1916 we moved to the Village of Napinka which was wide open prairie country. A mile north of the village, the Souris River, in a moderately deep valley flowed northeasterly to flow into the Souris River. This valley was sort of unique. The valley floor was well wooded and it contained a surprisingly large variety of birds. This was probably due to the fact that it was located in the great migratory flyway in the center of the continent. The migrating bird flying north in the springtime, come up the Mississippi and bear left up the Missouri. At the great bend of the Missouri near Garrison North Dakota the birds can look north from their flying heights and see the wooded valley of the Souris river which actually had been the channel of the Missouri before the melting ice of the glaciers had formed a moraine which diverted the Missouri River south into Mississippi. My brother Bob, at that time aged 13, became very interested in birds and became quite an authority on them.

After summer vacation I began studying in grade ten in the three room school. The girl in the seat in front of me was Helen Wight who was about my age and played the foot pedal organ in my father's church. It happened that was a most remarkable person. Her father Edgar had a fairly large wheat farm a couple of miles south of the village. That spring, he purchased a new NcGlaughlin Buick car. At that time you could count all the cars in the area on your fingers (most of them were Model T Fords). This McGlaughlin Buick almost bankrupted the Wight family because that was the year of the rust, a fungus disease that attacks wheat. The wheat rust wiped out almost the entire crop of western Canada that year. Her frail little mother had three other daughters. Bessie, older than Helen, Winona and Carol and a baby brother named Lawrence. Helen, now a widow who lives near Worcester, Massachusetts, shows no sign of aging except for her hair. she is active in a Unitarian church and recently, following a bazaar, she invited the congregation to her home to hear her play the piano. Twenty couples arrived and paid $20.00 each to hear her play. She has a big rugged son named Barry. Her grandmother died at the age of 106 and her own mother at the age of 105 a few years ago.

In 1916 the war was on and almost all the younger men were off in the army. In the following spring of 1917 my father was transferred to the Village of Elgin, thirty five miles west of the Village of Napinka. It was a very modern Methodist church in a prosperous community. On Sunday morning he preached on Castle Hill, twelve miles to the south on land as flat as a pool table where you could plow a straight furrow in jet black land for as much fifty miles.

The following June I finished grade eleven in the Elgin school. A classmate of mine was Margaret McKinney who was the daughter of the Church of England preacher. Her sister was Florence McKinney who was married to Seph Sexton. The Sexton family had a large farm. When each of his three sons married Old Joe gave them three square miles of land. Old Joe retained several square miles for grazing his Hereford cattle. The lake on their property was so extensive that they used to take barge loads of cattle to islands where they could pasture. Seventeen years later when I was practicing in Saskatchewan I drove down that way and arrived at the Sexton home where they were having breakfast in their big kitchen. The youngest son Zeph was absent and his wife confessed that he had taken fifty heifers where there was pasture and that he had stayed there with them. This was 1934 at the height of the dust bowl. No feed of any kind was available. When I asked what did you do with the rest of the herd, the reply was that father Joe had shot them, three hundred of the best hereford cattle on earth. He had come from Iowa and hated mortgages and chose to shoot his animals rather than take out a loan. Even then it was uncertain that food could be obtained.

In the summer of 1918 my father had been preaching in the Methodist Church in Elgin, a village in southern Manitoba. The rest of us, my mother, my brother Bob, and myself lived in the parsonage next door. It was a very prosperous farming community with many fine people. I had attended the local five room school and had passed the exams for grade eleven in the month of June. My brother Bob was in grade nine while my sister Dorothy was staying with a distant aunt in Winnipeg called aunt Maggie where she attended school for grade seven. The village had a fine full sized skating rink. In those war years, however, there was no hockey being played because practically every young man had volunteered for the war.

My father did not do too well in the ministry in Manitoba. It might have been because he was a poor religious politician or because they resented a Britisher coming in and competing with the Manitoba graduates. Anyway, it was quite a struggle. In 1909 he switched over to the Methodist Church and went along a little better but still not too well. In the first week of July in 1918, upon returning from the conference in Winnipeg, he had been fired, kicked out the church, and there we were.

We never found out exactly why my father had all these problems with the church but he had hinted a time or two that there might be some truth to the theory of evolution and this might have displeased the church fathers.

My father was able borrow one hundred and forty dollars from the only life insurance policy that he had. He struck out for northern Saskatchewan to try and sell life insurance. He did not make out too well. In desperation he became a teacher in a remote school on the edge of the wilderness in northern Saskatchewan where there was a "teacherage", that is a house where the teacher could "batch". That went on for years. He taught in different schools in different parts of Saskatchewan. My father's income in the various remote country schools that he taught in had earnings that were barely enough to live on. As a result, he was unable to send us any money to help us to keep going. He used to come home to Winnipeg where we would put him up in a rented room since we were living in a very small quarters ourselves and did not have a spare bedroom.

We were turned out onto the street with no relatives or money and no place to live. We were sort of up against it. Its hard to describe what being in complete poverty and homelessness means when you live with very moderate means but still comfortable. I found a fellow who had an old shed where we stored our belongings. We sold our wonderful horse Kate and her son Prince for almost nothing.

My mother, who had turned fifty-four on March second of that year, went down to Winnipeg on the train to stay with my sister Dorothy who had been spending that year as a companion with distant Aunt Maggie. Aunt Maggie, who was a school teacher, was away at the time on vacation. Dora was just twelve when she went there. She was actually a Cinderella scrubbing floors and cleaning up after guests and that sort of things. During that year, however, she had completed grade seven in school.

It was summer vacation when this happened to us. Brother Bob, who became fifteen on the 14th of August that year, took a job on Tom Moffit's wheat farm and was paid one hundred dollars for the rest of the year.

I took a job with Percy Sparrow at $25.00 per month plus my keep. Thus our family was broken up until the first week in November when I moved back to Winnipeg to live with my mother, brother, and sister after having worked for Percy and then in a livery stable for the month of October.

My mother told us later that sometime in September or October she and my sister, while staying in aunt Maggie's apartment, were completely out of funds. They were walking on the street wondering if they should go to the police to see if they could get some kind of relief, when my brother Bob met them on the street with a check for $100.00 from Tom Moffit, the farmer that he had been working for during the previous three months. You had no idea how much that they were able to buy for that $100.00, including a suit for Bob for $10.00. It almost, you might say, saved their lives.

Percy Sparrow, about 25 years of age, had a square mile of the finest land and eighteen huge pure blooded Clydesdale horses. His farm was two miles from the village. One of my main jobs was harrowing a 320 acre field of his jet black land that was in summer fallow. He allowed me to use his new harrows which had a sulky with it that you ride on to drive the six beautiful purebred Clydesdale horses. In harrowing this field, I would ride in the sulky about a mile one way and then a mile back again. Being not accustomed to this kind of work I would become weary. The temperature each day would be about a hundred degrees and I would work from seven in the morning until noon and then again from one or two in the afternoon until about seven. The temperature one morning was 105 in the shade. As I was harrowing the field there happened to be a boulder that came within two or three inches of the surface of the ground. In riding Percy's precious new harrow I rode over the hidden boulder and broke or bent several of the spokes. Percy blew his top and demoted me to driving the old four horse harrow with no sulky. That meant that I had to walk a mile each way on big chunks of black dirt with the temperature close to one hundred from seven in the morning until noon and in the afternoon, from one o'clock until seven. It is amazing how your brain stops working. Under those conditions your mind is just like a vegetable or something. I became pretty exhausted.

The general opinion in the United States is that Canada is a very cold place. However one morning when I was working for Percy we decided to paint the barn and as the sun came up in five o'clock in the morning the temperature was 105 degrees. Fortunately the humidity was never very high, but still that is mighty hot weather.

On the prairie the big event of the year was the Brandon Fair where they had the provincial exposition at the end of July. Percy took us in his Model T Ford the forty miles to visit the fair. The big feature their was demonstrating how tractors could pull plows. However I met a kid from Sydney where we used to live named Bob Hood and he invited me down to his place forty miles away so I took off. His family was away for a few days so we did some "batching". On of the things I noticed was about green peas. In Upstate New York you have to plant them as early as you can to get one crop in the middle of June. In Manitoba you can plant a series of plantings of peas like you do beans and they grow wonderful peas.

When I returned to Elgin I had been fired by Percy which was actually a relief. I very soon obtained a job with another farmer by the name of Tommy Wilson. He had sixteen very fine Percheron horses which are not as big as the Clydesdales but more for general purposes. He put me cutting barley on a hundred and twenty acre field a mile down the road from a quarter-spur mile where he lived. He gave me four quite young Percherons, that is two four year olds and two five year olds. These are highly spirited horses and the flies were a terror. The horses pulled a binder which was a big thing that has an eight foot cutting blade and cuts the grain and ties it in sheaves and drops them on the other side of the machine. Tommy insisted that on each round of the field I was to stop and oil and grease the binder. You throw it out of gear, but still, if those highly spirited horses ever took off, it would be bad for your health to have that binder run over you. In all the time that I was cutting that field, however, once I said whoa they stayed still in spite of the flies and the awful heat.

Tommy's wife and his daughter Rose, who was a bit older than I was, treated me very well, and at lunch time they would bring me quite a lunch, usually with a half a pie, either apple or rhubarb. At age 17, working twelve hours a day, I could do justice to any amount of food. When we quit for the day at seven o'clock I would drive my four horses over to where Tommy was cutting a field of wheat. He wasn't a young man, but he loved his horses and he had them wonderfully trained. He would hitch his four horses onto a wagon and attach my four to the front end of the tongue and gave me the two sets of reins to drive the eight horses a mile up the road to the barn on a straight piece of road. For half the way you could keep them at a trot but once they got within a short distance of the barn where they knew that there was plenty of oats and hay they all went into a gallop. You talk about your Ben-Hur chariot race, well you ain't seen nothin'. Tommy just sat in his glory there watching his wonderful horses.

During the later part of August and September, Tommy worked with a neighbor in partnership with a thrashing outfit so we thrashed all the grain. By the first of October there wasn't anything more for me to do so I obtain a job in Elgin working in a livery stable of man named Sid Naylor. In those days, very few people had a car so when they came to the village shopping they came with a team or a horse and buggy. My duty was when they came to our livery stable I would charge them fifteen cents. For that price I gave the horse oats. For ten cents the horse only got hay.

There were very few cartons in those days so when the weigh freight came through in the afternoon, they left the supplies for the storekeepers in wooden boxes. It was my duty to gather the freight off of the platform and deliver it to the different store keepers. I also was required to deliver fifty five gallon barrels of oil, gasoline, and axle grease to farmers where they were working on the land. To do this, I had the weigh wagon, which had small wheels that were not too high. We had the most wonderful team of Belgian horses, extremely intelligent and very easy to handle. When I first took the job it was all that I could do to push one of those four hundred pound barrels of gasoline over. It is amazing, however, how you can develop muscles at that age and within a very few days I could waltz a half a dozen of those cans onto my dray wagon and deliver them around the country.

By the end of October Sid didn't need me so much so I was unemployed again and decided to go down to Winnipeg to stay with my mother sister and Aunt Maggie.

My job at the livery stable ended on about the first of November. On about the third of November, before I left for Winnipeg, I took out a life insurance policy with Confederation Life called a "twenty pay life", that is I paid twenty seven dollars and fifty cents for twenty years and then the policy continued indefinitely. At the present time it is still in force. It will be seventy years next year. I paid in premiums less than five hundred dollars and today that policy is worth a considerable sum. I've left it in force so that there is something to bury me with. I went into Winnipeg on about the sixth of November and obtained a job in the grain exchange branch of the Royal Bank of Canada at $37.50 per month. While I had been away from my family, however, the September school year began in Winnipeg. Despite our family crisis, however, my sister Dora was able to rise above it all and achieve remarkable success is a relatively short time. Dora had to go to the Mulvey School to take grade eight. After a few days of attending there the teacher in grade one became ill and the principal came to Dora and said "won't you please teach grade one?" Now Dora, just age thirteen, said "I'm not a teacher". The principal said "teach grade one". She did, and for a week or so received teacher's pay. When the grade one teacher came back, they said to Dora, "you're too smart for grade eight, go up to high school". So she went to the Kelvin Technical High School and began a course in being a stenographer. It seemed awfully slow though so we thought we might be able to raise the twenty dollars a month to let her attend the Success Business College in a nine month course. In three months she was working for the business college. Then she had a job for a short time in the YMCA. We happened to know a man in the Manitoba government named Hardiment, and he said "most people in the government are kind of stupid but they might take you anyway". So she took a job in the Department of Health. It is a unique system in Manitoba because in most places if a person loses their mind and is confined to a mental institution their will doesn't mean anything because your still alive so the government appoints a trust company to take care of your estate, whether it is ten dollars or ten million. In other places it is not long until your estate has died. My mother was a remarkable person. She had grown up in semi-luxury in Liverpool and you might say she had hardly ever washed a dish. She pitched in with that poor struggling preacher on the prairie for all those years and managed to keep us going. In the eleven years from 1918 until I became a doctor we were poor, by golly. I decided to become a doctor, maybe it was foolish, but I got through all right. When I got down to Winnipeg the first week in November (after working on the two farms and in the livery stable following my father's departure), my mother arranged to for us to board with some people named Dodds in another part of Winnipeg who allowed a couple of rooms for us. I wish we could meet those people again. They were wonderfully hospitable.

The first thing that I did upon returning to Winnipeg in early November was to try and find a job. I went down to the business district. The first place that I called on was in the grain Exchange. At that time this was the worlds biggest Grain Exchange with thirteen acres of floor in the building. I thought that I was going to be working for a prosperous grain broker. After a few days, however, I discovered that I was working for the Royal Bank of Canada as an office boy earning $37.50 per month. I got the job on the seventh but didn't go to work until the eleventh, that was the day that the war ended. Soon after I got to the office, I went out in T Model truck with a bunch of other fools and when yelling my head off, in rather chilly morning in a drizzly rain, and right away I caught the flu and nearly died. During the winter that I was in that bank I never really got completely recovered from the flu. I was coughing and spitting all the time.

Although this branch of the Royal Bank of Canada was a small office in the Grain Exchange, they did quite a business. At that time there were a great many grain companies (nearly all the wheat in western Canada came through Winnipeg). A grain company receives telephone calls from their grain elevators in the country so they knew how much wheat they had on hand. To pay for it they had to borrow money. For instance, the Norris Elevator representative would come and speak to our accountant and the accountant would say "well how much today?" The representative would answer "give me two". So the accountant would write a check out for two million dollars and have Mr. Baird the manager sign it and hand the fellow two million dollars. We would do this for quite a few companies so we had quite a good clearing at the end of the day.

Now there are only five grain companies and the Federal government takes care of the grain business mostly.

My brother bob had been working for about a month with the Hudson Bay Company. At that time they had their old store down near the Union Station and he worked for three dollars and fifty cents per week. He is sorry now that he didn't keep it up because the Hudson Bay store is something these days. He soon took a job in the Imperial Bank at thirty seven dollars and fifty cents a month. That was about the same pay that I was getting from the Royal Bank. We went along through the winter that way but for several weeks we were both so sick with the flu that we couldn't do much. I remember walking to church when we thought we were able to go and we sort of had to hold each other up we were so weak.

Being used to the fresh air out in the country I nearly suffocated in that hot office at the Royal Bank of Canada. On the ninth of April, 1919 I accepted a job in a survey party for the Canadian National Railway, surveying railroad lines in northern Saskatchewan. A wonderful outdoor life, and I became very strong. On September 9th, exactly five months later, I returned to the city and, of course, I immediately caught a cold again. All those five months that I lived in a tent I was perfectly healthy whereas I had a miserable sinus blockage and cold all the time that I was in that bank.

I, and the other members of the survey party, arrived by train in northern Saskatchewan in the town of Melfort. My mother and I invested almost all the money we had in Eaton's store to by a canvas sleeping bag for twelve dollars and a woolen blanket for about the same. In Melfort the ground was frozen and sleeping in a tent on that frozen ground was mighty cold. One of the other fellows was Bill Murdock. He was also cold so we pooled our sleeping bags and blankets and slept together and got a fairly good night's sleep.

We ran a survey line north into the wilderness of the Carrot River country. There were about eighteen of us in the party. I was a hind chain man, that is the chain is a steel tape one hundred feet long. The head chainman carried a red and white pointed bar. When the hind chainman reaches the stake that the headman put in, he yells "chain" and the head chainman stops and turns around and the transit man, maybe a half a mile behind on a rise of ground, lines them up and he then puts in another stake. That's how you survey a railroad line. Of course then the levelers come along and figure out how much dirt it is going to take and make the grade and that sort of thing.

The axman who removed the trees was a frail little fellow named Siddald. The chief saw that I was much more adept at swinging an ax so the rest of the summer I was the axman. I cut trees down all the time and developed a fairly good physique.

There was plenty of food. We got a half a carload of the best that money could buy because we were working for the federal government, the Canadian National Railway, but there was no fresh food. There were no potatoes, no meat. There were, however, plenty of what they called "Canadian National strawberries" (prunes). So, we ate lots of beans and bacon. For breakfast we had beans and bacon. For variety at supper we had bacon and beans and for dessert, we had "CNR strawberries".

One very chilly morning we were out on the line and we hadn't tasted a potato in two weeks. The leveler saw a log house on the edge of the woods in the distance and he said, "by golly, I bet those people have some potatoes". He and his assistant ran the half a mile over there with a bucket and brought back some potatoes with a sprouts a mile long and sort of soft and without peeling them we sacrificed what we were going to have for tea and threw them into the pail of boiling water over the open fire. Honestly, I have never enjoyed anything more than those potatoes that chilly morning on the line.

1919 was quite a hot dry summer so we suffered quite a bit from the heat. In fact, during April, the temperature would go quite high but chilly at night. The first camp we had was by a creek. The beaver had settled there before us. When they would fell a big tree at night, the crash would often awaken us. It was amazing the dams that they could build.

The wilderness land that we were surveying was once part of Ruperts Land which had been owned by the Hudson Bay Company. King Charles I, in the 1600s had decreed that any land in America that drained into Hudson's bay belonged to his cousin, Prince Rupert. This was a huge tract of land that took in about 25% of all of North America. In 1867, when the Dominion of Canada was formed, the Hudson Bay Company sold quite a piece of Rupert's Land to the new Dominion government. "The Bay" as it was called, developed trading posts all over the interior of western Canada. The first one that they built was on Hudson Bay near the mouth of the Nelson River. The second trading post was in northern Manitoba at Cumberland House. The third was at Fort Pelley in Saskatchewan and that was were our party was moved to in June of 1919 to run a survey line.

The fort was in a beautiful setting where the land slopes towards the Assinaboine River. The old Pelley Trail that was the only means of transportation for many years was up to four hundred wagon ruts wide. Not far from the fort there was a spring in the hillside where pure drinking water came out. Over the years so many travelers had stopped to water their animals that a deep gully had formed from the trail to the spring.

One fine morning while we were surveying we were following the trail and an Indian (Indians were the only ones living anywhere near there) on a handsome pinto pony decked with buckskins and beads from head to foot came along. He got within 25 yards of us and he put his hand up and yelled "Hi ya Scott, what in the hell are you doing here?" Scott was the head chainman and he couldn't believe his ears. He was four hundred miles from home and here was an Indian recognized him. It turned out that Scott had spent the whole First World War in the same company with this Indian. The Indian's father was a chief in that area and he must have preferred living the life of an Indian to being civilized.

It is really a shame that some historical society did not acquire Fort Pelley which, at that time, was still in pretty good condition and preserve the grass covered ruts of the old Fort Pelley Trail.

On the first week in September I returned to Winnipeg and immediately caught a cold. My lungs had been absolutely clear during the five months that I had been sleeping in a tent. I took a job in a furniture warehouse. I was in pretty good shape from cutting trees down all summer but this furniture warehouse was quite a challenge. Since I had the energy to take a chesterfield in a crate and stand the crate on end and back up against it and carry the crate up a flight of stairs. I only worked their a few weeks.

I then got a job in a trust company that stayed open on Saturday when all the banks were closed. I worked there for about a year and a half and I was getting $75.00 per month. Then my pay was increased to $90.00 per month. One Saturday afternoon a young fellow whose brother was the chief veterinarian for the government came into our office. I though they were reliable people. His story was that he was getting married and he needed more money. I cashed a check for him for $275.00. About an hour later he came back and he needed a little more money to I let him have another hundred, making me $375.00 in debt because both checks bounced.

At about that time I had myself a haircut on Portage Avenue at the corner of Kennedy Street at the usual fifteen cent rate in a temporary sheet metal building. I had known the barber previously from the Village of Elgin. In the conversation I mentioned that I had cashed bad checks for $375.00 and the future did not look bright because I was paying so much of my huge income to pay off my debt. At that time where the beautiful Hudson Bay Store is at present was just a big hole in the ground and you could look across Portage Avenue and see the Medical Arts Building. The barber remarked "well, why don't you become a doctor". I replied, "how the sam hill can I become a doctor I'm already $375.00 in the hole?" He said "those fellows don't act like millionaires but they seem to get along alright. Anyway, I sat there in that barber chair thinking and I made my mind up that come hell or high water I was going was going to be a doctor.

I figured that I might take a course in normal school and become a teacher and teach school and go to medical college on alternate years.

Getting in touch with the normal school, they informed me that they had a fifteen week course teaching people to be third class teachers qualified to teach in country schools. The course started in the fall so in the few weeks until then I went out to Napinka where my father had preached to work on a farm. My father had begun preaching in the first week in July 1916. The young lady that played the foot pedal organ was what I thought was the most beautiful and remarkable young lady that I had ever seen. The farm that I was working on was near her farm home we got together on several occasions. Seventy years later my opinion is the same. Now a widow, I have made several trips to Massachusetts to see her.

The days went by quickly and it seemed like no time before I was back in Winnipeg beginning that course in normal school. The main building for norman school is on William Avenue where some of the teaching was to take place. Our building, however, was an abandoned one room school in St. Bonaface away across the river. We were a class of fifty. Forty five young ladies, some of them French Canadian and different nationalities and five were men. There was John Stevens, a husky lad, fairly heavy who went in for distance running and John Sweet a very charming young man and two quite pleasant Ukrainian men. Part of our training in the main school on William Avenue was in dramatics. In a couple of plays that they had me in the teacher in charge of dramatics said before the whole four hundred students in normal school, that she considered me, Harry Little, the most natural born actor that she had ever had in her classes. Perhaps I should have gone to Hollywood.

The fifteen week course in normal school ended about December 31, 1921. I took a job teaching in a country school ten miles south of Oak Lake, which was the first station west of Brandon on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. I had a group of about seventeen or eighteen students. Some of them were French Canadians. I boarded with a family named Robinson, very nice people with several boys and a girl about fifteen. The first night there (new years eve) it was chilly and we went skating and playing hockey on a frozen pond near the house. I put on an extra pair of socks because it was 40 below zero but apparently it made my feet fit two tightly. Although my feet felt cold at first, they felt fine while playing hockey, but when I came in and took off my socks, both of my big toes were snow white and they sounded like they were made of wood when I tapped them on the floor. For the next month or two I had to wear several pairs of thick socks and moccasins in my mile and half walk to school.

I mentioned that part of the class was French Canadian. Their families resented them having to go to school and listen to a British Protestant teaching them. We had several fights but I was able to manage them. Pretty soon, however, I was fired. In going back to the city, I took another teaching job way up in the wilderness near the shore of Lake Winnipegosis. This lake runs north and south to the north of lake Manitoba. Each lake is about two thousand square miles in area. It is not really the summer resort type of lake because the beach because there is strip about two miles wide of hay land bordering the water the whole length (about 225 miles) of the lake. There is some farming beyond this but the only farm product that amounts to anything is hay. They were always coming around with petitions from the farmers who wanted to drain the lake somewhat to lower it so that they could get at the hay all the time because it used to flood when there was a north wind. At other times the fishermen would come around wanting to dam the outlet up and raise the level of the lake so that they could catch more fish.

I boarded with an English couple with a teenage son right on the edge of the hayland. I had to walk a mile to school. Most of the time there were two or three inches of water in this hay area. You think that you have seen mosquitos? Well forget it, if a white horse drove by in the road, his color was the same as mosquitos. To get the school, I wore combination denim overalls, tied twine around my ankles and my wrists and wore a bee keepers hat with a net over it in order to get to the school. On about the first of June, all of a sudden, no mosquitos. However if you looked up about twenty feet above you there was a ceiling of dragonflies that seemed like small airplanes. Dragonflies eat mosquitos. So for the rest of the summer there were no mosquitoes. However, there were black flies and plenty of other insects to bother you.

I had a class there of eighteen students and the average was attendance each month was exactly seventeen. The reason was that one family with five children in school had to leave one child home each day to take care of the five children too young to go to school. So only four of them came each day. One of the little boys was a genius at mathematics, he was only in grade two but if you gave him anything in mathematics he could do it. I would like to know what happened to him. I'm sure that he was a genius.

They closed the school on the first of August so that the students could go to work on the harvest. By the time that the harvest was over winter was setting in so they closed the school until the first of May the next year. The winters in those parts are such that children couldn't walk to school.

I went back to the city on the first of August. My first day there a smooth talking young fellow named Allard from Hartford Connecticut stopped at our home and my mother bought a six month subscription to MacCleans magazine for a dollar (he was working his way through college). While my mother was getting the money he asked "what are you doing young fellow?" Well I says "I just finished teaching school and I'm planning now to go out now and work on a farm". "On a fahm?" he says, "what do you make on a fahm?" Well I said "you get four dollars a day". He then asked "and how many hours a day do you work?" I said "maybe sixteen". "Ye gods" he said "come with me and you will make more than that in an hour". I said "nuts". "Come along anyway". So I went with him. He was right. So I didn't do anymore teaching school but I put myself through the seven years of pre-med and medical college by selling yearly subscriptions to MacCleans magazine which came once every two weeks. A subscription was three dollars a year or two years for five dollars.