Dick Hunt's Blog

April 2, 2011

The Bunk House

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 1:41 pm

The Bunk House.
by Dick Hunt, April 2nd, 2011.

Around the year 1914, my Father hired a master carpenter to build  the first Ranch House of wood and appropriate materials.  Prior to that, the house was built of Prairie Sods,  plowed and hauled to the site and laid one on top of the other to form a warm  “Shack”. At the same time he had a “Bunk House” built to house the hired men, near the house.  And that bunk house has a history spun from the people who lived in it over the years.  Obviously I have no knowledge of the people who occupied it before my earliest memories.  I was born in that Ranch house in 1920, the third child of my parents. I remember some of the residents after my 5th birthday. In the early years they were all men as the shack had only one room.

Begining in 1930, immigrants from Europe were coming into the district looking for work on farms and ranches. My father hired two men from Romania who had wives and children.  John and Mrs. Engel had one son.  John and Mrs Schill had four children.   The Engels lived in the bunk house.  The Schills lived in a house a mile away on a farm owned by Dad.  The eldest son of the Schill family lives in Coquitlam and has suffered from ALS for many years, a rare case of the arrested Disease. Both families had suffered major privation in their homelands during and after the first world war.  The next family to live in the shack was Theodore Prokapuk from Russia, with his wife and daughter.  Those three families eventually acquired farms of their own and with their hard work and determination, made good livings and raised their children to be good citizens of Canada. As late as last summer, I met one of the family members at the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Endiang District in which I grew up. The Bunk House is still intact, preserved, cherished as a piece of history spanning nearly 100 years.
When my Elder brother Wilfred was married to Alyce Gormley in June, 1943, they first lived in that Bunk House.  Wilf who could turn his hand to almost anything, built cupboards and other furnishings in it, added a porch, (there was no back door) and furnished it appropriately to make it cozy. A year later they moved into the ranch house and continued to be a major part of the family Ranch team. Wilf was by that time a very well qualified and largely self taught mechanic, designer, inventor  and welder and carried on as such until he was too ill to continue, when in his early 90’s.  Alyce continued to help our Mother in the house in looking after the care and feeding of an always hungry Ranch crew.

In the meantime I was in my third year of service in the R.C.A.F.  I was by then stationed in Calgary in a Radio and Communications repair facility.  Soon after arriving in Calagry I had met Ruth Brandon at a youth social in St. Stephen’s Hall in south Calgary. That began a new life for both of us as we fell deeply in love over the next few months, became engaged on April 1st 1944 and married in St. Stephen’s on October 14th. My trade in the R.C.A.F. was overstaffed in a big way at that time and Agricultural workers were in great demand.  I therefore applied for a compassionate discharge to return to Agriculture and was granted my discharge on Januay 6th, 1945, five months before the end of the war in Europe.

Ruth left her employment as a Steno/Bookeeper in Calgary  and we travelled to the Ranch on the bus plus the last 30 miles by car – and moved into the Bunk House.  It was still furnished as it was when Wilf and Alyce left it, which was very fortunate for us as we owned nothing but what we had in our suitcases (in my case, kitbags). We lived in that small home 12’ X 14’ until we were violently evicted by a skunk just outside our window at the head of the bed in July of that year.  The dog had cornered it there and it blasted us loose at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. We were sooo sick.
The story of the skunk is written in another story in my hard drive. We had been planning for the future however and had already had a substantial house moved to the ranch site onto a foundation including a full basement. We hurriedly camped in there and gradually made it liveable over the next few years in our spare time and with our few spare dollars. In 1946, our parents moved to Calgary with the intention of retiring and were living in a comfortable house they had bought on the North Hill.  But Dad could not adjust to living in the  city.  They soon bought a stock farm just outside the city limits off the McLeod Trail and were happily back in Agriculture until Dad died at the age of 71 in April of 1957.

One of the couples who lived in the Bunk House  after our parents moved away wanted a bit more space and convenience so I built two more rooms on the back  One room had a cellar dug under it by Otto Irion a long time employee at the Ranch, to accommodate a wood heater and add some storage.   That addition is now part of the Bunk House, complete with a new Steel roof to match the other buildings.

Wilf and I with our families happily Ranched with our families until I went to Saskatoon with my family so I could study for Ordination to the Anglican Ministry.  At that time too BIll was in the process of selling the Ranch at Cessford in eastern Alberta.  When that was accomplished, he moved with Lee and the family to Endiang and took over the operation of the Ranch. Lee still lives on the Ranch which has much decreased in size and is just her home. Wilf and Alyce and their family moved to Bashaw Alberta and farmed there until Wilf retired and their son Gordon and his wife Judy bought and operated  the farm.  Wilf and Alyce built a new home on an acreage taken from the farm.  Now it is the home of their only daughter Joanne and her husband Randy. So goes the history of the family which began in 1904  with just Dad.

The Bunkhouse 2008

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