When Jackie was two years old Harry Smith took him for a drive to Ninette, just six miles east of us. When he was going down the hill into the town he lost control of the car and crashed into the guard rail. Jackie was thrown forward against the windshield - no seat belts in those days - and his cheek was cut very badly. He still has the scar. Poor Harry was devastated and almost gave up driving.
That same winter I started developing tummy aches after every meal and Mom was sure it was just to get out of doing the dishes. Then I became really ill and had to stay home from school. There was no doctor in Dunrea and it cost $17 to call one from Wawanesa, so doctors were not called unless it was a real emergency. It just happened that a lady in Dunrea gave birth to twins that December, and as soon as Mom knew that there was a doctor in town she called him to see me. It was around midnight when he came, diagnosed appendicitis, and rushed me to Brandon where I was operated on at three o'clock in the morning. I missed the Christmas concert at school but all the kids wrote to me (orders from the teacher no doubt) and told me about the concert and the beautiful Eaton Beauty doll I had won. Harold wrote to tell me that Mr. Smith had built a radio, but I didn't know what that was so I couldn't get too excited. I got home just in time for Christmas and heard my first radio. Harold and I sat close together and shared the earphones - Chicago played cowboy music and we thought we were in heaven. Sometimes we would put the earphones in a glass bowl for an amplifier and we would all sit around the table with our ears glued to catch the faintest sound. It was great.
The one big event that happened the first year we were in Dunrea was when "The Strangler", who had murdered a woman and a 14 year old girl in Winnipeg, was reported to be in the Killarney area, just 18 miles from our town. Naturally all the mothers were concerned and no girl was allowed to go out of doors after dark. It was a tremendously exciting time for us as we made that two block walk to school, glancing over our shoulders as though we were expecting the Strangler to pop up out of the ground at any moment. It was almost an anti-climax when he was arrested that fall, tried and executed in January 1928.
Another major event was when Arthur Thwaites got a bicycle - the first one in town! We all shared in the glory, though Harold was one of the chosen few who was allowed to put his hand on the bike and run alongside it, while we lesser mortals had to be satisfied with running along behind. Fortunately the novelty wore off before we were run ragged.
The years went by quickly, punctuated by the highlights of the Christmas concert in the winter and Brandon Fair in June. I was grown up before I realized that the fair was primarily to show animals. We thought it was just to have rides and we all had our tickets given out at school. For one dollar we had admission to the grounds and 20 rides on Children's Day. Then of course there was an extra nickel or two for such luxuries as candy floss or a game of chance, and we all met at the car at noon for the picnic lunch Mom had packed. One summer on our way home it began to rain and Mr. Smith stopped the car to put up the side curtains. We were all snug inside until the rain began to drip through the roof on to Mom's beautiful hat, which was covered with rosy red velvet flowers. We were all so proud of Mom in that hat but the dye ran down her face and clothing and the hat was ruined. Life is full of little tragedies.
I had my first date when I was fourteen. The young brother of friends of ours was visiting with them and it was arranged that we should go together to a card party in the local hall. He called for me and gallantly knelt on the floor to fasten my galoshes (overshoes today). I was suddenly very self-conscious about the lumps made by my long underwear under my cotton stockings and I felt that I would rather die of pneumonia than endure such humiliation again. I needn't have worried - that was my one and only date in Dunrea!