m. 9 Sept 1877
Facts and Events
Our grandfather, Alfred Wilder, moved from the family farm in Iowa to a new farm just outside Yorkton, SK in 1899. His memories of the trip are transcribed at the Saskatchewan Development Museum "Prairie Gamble" web site under SparlingKennyWilderGettins: 4 Pioneer Families which I put together during Saskatchewan's centennial year in 2005. He was one of the younger children in his family. He particularly looked up to his brother, Roscoe. He was also very good friends with the husband of his younger sister, Queenie, i.e. Johnny Myers.
Since he lived on his parents' homestead in the middle of nowhere, he was sent to live with his married paternal aunt in Melville for high school. An epidemic swept through town, killing his cousin and close friend. His mother brought him home to the safety of their farm. That was the end of his formal education. He had his grade 8. Later in life he had aspirations to be a writer. We can presume that he would very much have liked to have stayed in school.
When World War 1 broke out, his older brother, Roscoe, enlisted. Why on earth, Roscoe, who was married with 2 children, would enlist as a soldier, is unclear. However, Europe had not had a serious war for 100 years. People had apparently forgotten what it was like. Alfred also enlisted in the army. His mother fetched him home again. I have a collection of postcards which Roscoe sent to Alfred during his training before sailing for Europe. Roscoe came home a war hero. It was considered something of a miracle that he survived. Uncle Roscoe was in most of the major battles involving Canadian soldiers during that war.
Alfred worked for the Standard Grain Company as an elevator agent. He met our grandmother when he was posted to the grain elevator in Eskbank, SK. He always worked for that company, as I understand it. He did not approve of the co-op movement. He always thought he would make his fortune and therefore identified with the owners rather than the workers like himself. He let his "get rich quick" schemes interfere with his role as provider for the family on some occasions. Stock promoters in Toronto had his name and phone number. He was always receiving phone calls about hot stocks he just had to buy. He put every nickle he could get into such schemes. Not one of these companies made him any money. When he died, our father looked into selling his shares. They were all worthless. Alfred also left his wife and daughter to live off the charity of relatives while he drove out to an area near Yale, BC to work on a placer gold mine. I have all the letters he wrote home during this enterprise. This was during the early 1940s. According to Mom, he loved it in BC (around Boston Bar, I think). Another very close friend and partner in the mine(Les Wilder?)died of a heart condition during that time. When Alfred finally gave up and came back to Saskatchewan, they moved to Weyburn. The only job he could find was as an orderly at the mental hospital there. He was miserable but Mom was ecstatic to be off the the Gettins homestead and attending better high school. They lived in one room in a boarding house.
During the Dirty Thirties, Alfred was employed by the grain company in a series of grain elevators. As one area dried up and the elevator closed for lack of business, he was moved to another. Then he decided to tell of the boss' son. Fired! Gramma was not amused. Hunger and extreme poverty was all around them. A relative loaned/gave him money to set up a garage in Ortthon, north of Yorkton. I have a picture of him posing by his gas pump. He also employed a mechanic. This was the business he abandoned to try his luck with the placer gold mine in BC.
By the time Mom was ready for university, he had a better job, perhaps with a grain elevator company again. After she started at U of S, they moved to Gainsborough where he operated the Standard Grain Company elevator. Alfred and Reta were very active in the community. Mom said she thought they were happy there (and therefore not so happy elsewhere?) Alfred belonged to all the men's organizations, including the Masons, the Orange Lodge, sports clubs, Eastern Star with Gramma, and the local hospital board. He coached the local boys baseball league. I can remember visiting them in Gainsborough. I do not remember the very long drives from North Battleford to Gainsborough over gravel roads, but they must have been quite the trips with 2 and later 3 very little children in the car for the very long day's drive each way, summer and winter. Once we took the cat with us, too. Alfred built a play house for us to one side of their house.
Grandad died of prostate cancer. He stayed employed through much of his illness. His employer was very good to them. They were allowed to continue to live in the company house until after he died. I remember his last Christmas. We must have gone home after Christmas and drive back to Gainsborough at the end. Pat and I were sneaked up to his hospital room by the nurses so he could see us one last time. Of course, we did not understand. Arnold Torgerson says the funeral procession from the funeral service in Gainsborough to the cemetery in Weyburn was very long. He was such a popular man.