A peek into times past:
- Schuler’s Postal History
- First Churches and Customs That Were Different
- Entertainment in Schuler’s Early Days
- Getting Fuel in Schuler’s Settler Days
- What the 1930’s Were Like
Compiled by Jen Zollner
Schuler and Area Postal Service
1883 The transcontinental railroad came through Medicine Hat, and just prior to that, it came through the trading post of Irvine, from which Schuler mail was distributed. Mail would have been delivered by favour of friends or by the NWMP. The Mounties distributed a lot of mail as a courtesy yes, but also as a reason to visit folks to be sure they were alright and to find out what was going on in the area. Pick up or delivery of mail was not by established routes but more or less by random chance.
1910 Norman Banks Schuler (Tim) homesteaded, in the spring of the year, on 12-16-2-W4 (2 miles west of Schuler’s present location). (Tim is Ted Schuler’s uncle.) In the Fall he was given the post office to operate out of his General Store and thus ended up being named Schuler. Mail was hauled from Irvine to Schuler and Hilda by horse and wagon, the first postman being Sam Koch of Hilda.
1913 Tim Schuler built a larger post office and store that was later moved to the present site of Schuler and used until 1973 as a store (60 years), last operated by his nephew, Ted Schuler. The building still stands as a testimony to the past. (p.226, Bk1)
1916 Tim Schuler’s sister Evelyn came to help run the post office (and store) She also served as the registrar of births and deaths in the district; also working with census taking. She left Schuler in 1932. (p.139, Bk1)
1914 There was also a post office at Surprise (5 miles east and 5 miles south of Schuler). This is when Mr H. Matthews took over as postmaster at Surprise and remained so for about 20 years. His wage $10 a month. He also hauled mail from Kuest (where Emmanuel Schafer’s farm was in Saskatchewan) and Schuler for $1.25 a trip. (p.107, Bk1). Mrs. Herman Schneider looked after the Surprise post office from 1942 until 1952. (p.150, Bk1)
1923 The Schuler post office was moved with horses and wagons to a location near the railway to W1/2-9-16-1-W4 on land owned by John Connors. (p.26, Bk1) The site is where Randy and Kellie Wuerfel (granddaugher to Mack Schuler) had lived. (p. 30, Bk3)
Interesting to note that settlers in the southern Schuler district used Walsh as their mailing address, later changing it to Hatton, Saskatchewan. When Schuler was located to where it is now, these farmers changed their address to Schuler. (p.106, Bk1). Early settler’s also got their mail from Irvine. (p. 226, Bk1)
1924 Hip-roofed post office was built (there was a livery barn beside it). It was used as a post office until 1981; it still stands as a reminder.
1927-1934 Joe Daze moved to farm in the Rose Glen district. He ran the mail route from Medicine Hat to Rose Glen; his wife had the post office there. In the wintertime he used horse and sleigh encountering many snowstorms and blizzards.
1933 John Connors left the farm to take over the Schuler post office. He was also the district’s Justice of Peace. (p.26, Bk1)
1934 The mail came via trucks (and sometimes horse and sleigh) run by the Goodfellow families from Medicine Hat to post offices at Bowmanton, Vale, Rose Glen, Schuler and Hilda. A time schedule had the mail out and returned the same day. They also hauled freight and passengers, and did so for more than 40 years. The Goodfellow family consisted of Amos Sr, Amos Jr/Ame, Ed, John Knox and Dale Knox.
Mail delivery twice a week became three times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Following that it was four times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). In 1972 mail was delivered Monday through Friday as it is to this day. (p.227, Bk1)
1939 First regular flights of Trans-Canada airmail service to Calgary, from there to Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Before this airmail was temperary and on an experimental basis. (There had been experimental flights since 1930.) Post war mail and freight routes and flights were prolific.
1991 About this time the mail service was moved to a private home. The mailboxes, now Community Mailboxes, were moved outside to their present location on the south side of what was the store in Schuler. Mail delivery was contracted through Canada Post to deliver mail to the Schuler mailboxes. The first contractor was Ron Ehresman and then Wendy VanMaarion.
1992 Mac’s Cash Store bacame a Franchise Post Office Outlet meaning they provided all the services of a regular post office (stamps, parcels, etc.) (Jackie Schuler was also the switchboard operator for AGT in the store; it was a 24-hour service).
1999 Lori Jans and Dale bought Mac’s Cash Store and changed the name to Schuler Corner Store. They took over and had the postal franchise until 2009.
2009 Delivery of mail to the Community Mailboxes continues with a truck bringing and sorting the mail into the mailboxes located on the south side of where the Schuler store was located. Mail is still delivered Monday through Friday. Parcel pick-up, however, is at the Hilda post office.
2019 The town of Schuler and area residents were given a Physical Address (a 911 Location) which is now the address needed to receive mail. Rural and townfolk use the same mailbox but no longer use the former box number as their address.
List of Postmasters/Postmistresses through the Years:
Tim Schuler, 1910
Tim and Evelyn Schuler,1916
Jerome Bearrs, 1923, postmaster when the post office moved to where Schuler is now
Roy and Steena Hinks, for 10 years from the late 1930’s
Hugo Woelfle, from the late 1940’s
Christine Zacher from 1977, last post office in the familiar hip roof building
Marlene Squire, from out of her residence
Jean Miller Bolen (ran it out of her residence from 1982 until 1991 when there was a fire)
Janice Austin ran it temporarily out of Schuler Farm Supply, 1991-2
Jackie Schuler, from 1992, operating in Mac’s Cash Store which was also their residence
Lori Jans, from 1999, operating in Schuler Corner Store
Retail Postal Outlet (Franchise), from 2009 when the store closed
Note: (p.2, Bk1) refers to the page number in the first edition of “Saga of Schuler Stalwarts”
First Churches and Customs That Were Different
In the years 1909-1914, sod shacks began to appear in the Schuler district. These pioneers brought the religious faith of their homeland with them. Family members and friends tended to homestead in proximity to each other. At first worship was in a different home each Sunday and staying for a visit after a hearty meal. As schools were built, folks would gather there until they could build a church, the various Lutherans, the Catholics, the Evangelicals (Baptists and Church of God folk) and those forming a Congregational Church. The town of Schuler had three churches: the Catholic church (St Joseph’s Parish), the Good Hope Church (Lutheran Parish) and the Church of God (Peace Lutheran combined with Good Hope, then Good Hope with Kronsfelt and Bethlehem). Though church buildings in the district no longer mark the spot, metal signs and a cemetery remind us of a passionate congregation whose church once proudly stood there.
CHURCH CUSTOMS THAT WERE DIFFERENT WAY BACK THEN:
-men sat on the right side and women on the left
-children sat up front, parents sat at the back
-first churches had no pews or chairs except for the old and ailing
-church services were in German (Latin was the language to celebrate Mass and special services in the Catholic church)
-women needed to wear a hat
-only men could be ministers or assistants to the priest
-baptisms took place at a lake in the community
-there were week-long ‘revival’ meetings when determined guest ministers or priests had recruit services every night of the week
-churches had sombre Good Friday marches which followed the carrying of a heavy wooden cross
-there were no weddings or dances during Advent or Lent
-folks kept the Sabbath as a day of worship and rest (definitely no shopping)
-folks always wore their ‘Sunday Best’ to attend church
Entertainment in Schuler’s Early Days
Source: the Schuler History Books, Interviews and Personal Recollections
Commercial entertainment was unheard of, no phoes and certainly no cell phones, no such thing as television or computers and at first not even a radio. They made their own entertainment.
-were often held in the school houses
-ladies would fill a box with lunch or dinner for two
-boxes were carefully trimmed and secretly hidden so no one would know what their box looked like.
-”kind of heart” ladies prepared extra boxes for the benefit of bachelors
-boxes were sold by auction
-men would bid on the woman’s box he anticipated he would have lunch with
-a young woman might drop hints to the young man she’d like to have lunch with
-the bidding involved teasing, joking and competition
-mystery and sometimes humorous results would add to the fun
-school picnics and church picnics would have contests for the kids: sack races, 3-legged races, potato races, relay races. Adults had tug-of-wars (two teams at opposite ends of a rope, ech trying to drag the other across the centre line).
-there was a picnic in Schuler on July 4, 1913. They came on horseback, wagons, buggies and on foot for miles around. There was an open air dance that night. They also had a greased pole about 20′ high with a watch on top which stayed there at all times. (p.109, Bk 1)
-there would be contests to see whose horse was the fastest or strongest.
-men would have running races against each other, maybe have boxing or wrestling matches, etc.
-sometimes competitions were part of the fun of working together e.g. whose horse could haul the biggest load or get up the steep bank the fastest or which man could a unload a hayrack the fastest
School House Central
-school children would put on an annual Christmas concert
-school dances were attended by all ages with community musicians
-children always went with their parents to the dances
-children slept on the floor in the schoolhouse coatroom
-each school had a student ball team that played against other schools in the area
-every school had a large prairie playground and a set of swings. Anti-i-over and ‘scrub’ were popular games.
-some communities had poker matches where men met in the backroom
-most child play was helping adults with their household and yard chores
-common games were leap frog, hide-and-seek, various tag games and see-saws made with a plank on a gas barrel
-girls would have rag dolls and make mud pies in tobacco lids (many men and the odd woman smoked roll-your-own cigarettes, the tobacco came in tins)
-girls’ long braids or their dress ties be the reins for horsemen
(as a rule, girls didn’t wear pants, it was always dresses with side to back ties at the waist.)
-boys play would use knuckle bones from horse skeletons (or pebbles etc.) that pulled stick farm machinery in the dirt or rounded up other homemade livestock
-boys would ride broomsticks pretending it to be their horse
-at individual farms e.g the Frank Ellis farm in the Rose Glen area. Alice Rieger wrote, “Baseball was a big part in our lives as people came from far and near to gather…Dad was bery often the “Ump” and I think sometimes\made a wrong call just to get some excitement into the game and very often because he didn’t see well. He was very short sighted.” (p.33, Bk1 )
-Gust Heine organized a ball team. They played on the ball diamond in a corner of Martin Frasch’s pasture. The Frasch’s had a large family as did other families around. (p.60, Bk 1)
-Ted Herman said, “Our gang played a lot of hard ball, changing to softball in about 1937. We used to sew that hard ball over and over again again until the leather was worn out.”
Billiards for the Men
-1930’s to 1937, Sam Schlaht had a pool room and barbership
-1957-1962, pool room operated by John J Schafer (brother to Dan, Adam and Emmanuel) When it burned down on New Year’s Eve, Joe Schafer converted part of his restaurant into a pool room
-1963-1976, Joe Schafer had Joe’s Poolroom (was also Joe’s Cafe from 1953-1963)
Visiting Family and Friends
-played cards (Schmeer was a popular one) and had a big ‘lunch’ at midnight which usually included fried sausage
-had work parties to help each other with big projects like butchering, putting up a building or quilting
-sang or made music at home or got together with other singers/musicians
-there were folks known for their jokes, story telling and the pranks they would play
-often folks went to church on Sundays then rested or were invited for lunch and an afternoon visit
Saturday Night Dances
-music for dancing before midnight, midnight lunch from 12:00 to 1:00, music and dancing resumed, usually ending at 2 or 3 a.m.
-dances would often last until six o’clock in the morning (p.148 & p. 60, Bk 1)
-the accordion was often the lead instrument, also the violin
-dances on December 26th and Easter Monday were a big deal because there were no dances during the 6 weeks of advent and lent.
-in earlier days dance tickets were ribbons and pins, ladies were ‘free’; they brought lunch
-women sat along the side walls while men stood at the back
-there was no drinking in the hall; the men went outside for that
-some of the dance-steps that aren’t as popular now: Russian Polka, Schottiche, 7-Step, Butterfly, the barn dance, etc. During the evening here was usually a square dance or two; the caller was local
-these ‘ordinary’ dances were replaced by social dances by 1971
-toilets were outside until 1982
Friday Night Picture Shows
-from 1953 weekly movie nights were held in the community hall
-kids sat at the front on low backless benches
-first there were comics, then the main attraction was shown
-movie was projected through a little square hole opening upstairs in the back wall.
-Ben Beck ran the projector much of the time
-movies would often jitter
-the cost was 35 cent for children, 50 cents for adults
-when TV came in 1959, the Friday night movies were discontinuted
-Dances and picture shows were held in the Community Hall.
-every Sunday in the summer a different little community would have a Sport’s Day e.g. Horsham, Bitterlake, Dunbrody, Hilda, Surprise
-travelled to all the sports days and played ball. Our sport at the time was baseball. (pg. 80, Bk 1).
-at one Schuler Sports Day there was a prize, a 100-pound sack of flour, for the largest family attending. Nick Weisgerber thought he had the prize when his seven were on the plank platform. Suddenly George Beck came with his eight kids and won the prize. Nick Weisgerber said in his broken English, “You wait, next year I’ll beat you!” (p.184, Bk 1)
Getting Fuel in Schuler’s Settler Days
In the words of Schuler’s early settlers
In the first edition of “Saga of Schuler Stalwarts”
This was the time of when folks picked cow chips or other manure to use as fuel in the coal-and-wood stove. It baked the best bread but it did create a lot of smoke. It was free, however it burned off quickly so they needed coal to heat their drafty houses.
“Finances were meagre so a saving could be made by digging for coal instead of buying it.” (p.63)
“One of the major problems of the pioneer settlers was getting fuel for the long cold winter and after harvest was over, the men for miles around would gather to dig coal out of the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. In spite of the cold, hard work and inconvenience they had to contend with, I think a lot of them enjoyed it. They had many contests as to whose horses could pull out the most and how fast they could get their wagons loaded.” (p.33)
Some farmers would go by themselves. “In the winter he would….dig his coal bringing it home by wagon and a four-horse hitch.” (p.29)
Some “farmers would make up a party and go west to the river in the fall to dig coal for the winter. The trip took a week to 10 days. People had to use from 8-10 horses to pull one wagon up the river bank.” (p.46)
“My dad used to stay at the camp while his group hauled the coal home especially if they struck a good spot and wanted to keep it. Possession was nine points of the law. “(p.33)
“During the 1930’s …. neighbors generally spent about six weeks hauling coal from the river for their yearly fuel supply. In some places the coal could be taken right from the river bed as the water was low enough. At other times it had to be dug from the banks and lowered by tubfuls on an improvised winch. One spring (these 3 men) went with two outfits for coal. There was water on top of the river ice and the horses slipped and fell. One (man) held up the horse’s heads while the other (man) unhitched them and put shoes on them. By this time the first man was wet to the waist. A fire was built to dry his clothes. Unfortunately his socks fell in the fire so there had to be a general sharing of clothes. They did get their coal loaded and recrossed the river just in time. The next morning the river ice had gone out.” (pp.78-9)
This is the story of folks who went to buy their coal. “During the severe winter of 1914, (two men) drove together to Walsh for coal, only to find there was none available. Several other homesteaders were also waiting for some, so the Station Agent told them if they waited until after dark, they could help themselves from a supply of brickets in the CPR boxcar that they had for their own use. They were satisfied with only a small jag, which amounted to three washtubs full each when they divided it at home. In the meantime, (one of the wives) was waiting at home with only a few blocks of “sheep lignite” they had obtained from the sheds of the sheep ranchers in the spring. This was damp, so she had to put one block in the oven to dry while the other burned. Finally this supply was all used, so (this woman) started to pull the boards from the partition between the two bedrooms for firewood. The one bedwoom was even being used to store their flax crop. Imagine driving 26 miles for only that amount of coal.” (p.91)
What the 1930’s Were Like
in the words of Schuler’s pioneers
When homesteaders came to this country, they “saw the country turn from total prairie to farm land, saw dust storms, bumper crops, crop failures, grasshopper plagues, gopher damage, hail, sunshine and rain.” (p. 171)
“I can remember the dirty thirties very well and the big black clouds of dust that would roll in from the west. (p. 55)
“The daylight disappeared in mid day with choking dust. Dad brought in a tarpolin and took the family into the cellar and covered them.”(p. 172)
“For six years they experienced the same depressing situation. No rain. No crops. A time that has been so aptly labeled “The Dirty Thirties”. (p. 156)
“When they (the dust storms) were here, everything was dark as night. Many times I ran to put the children down the ice cellar. I would run out to the field where my husband was working. All we could do was get the horses unhitched and let them run with the harness on them. They would run home for the barn.
“We had a hard time finding our way home to the children. Next day after the storm the children and I would walk the prairie looking for our chickens. Some would be behind sage brush blinded by the storm. After the storm I would have to shake everything in the house. We had two inches and sometimes more dust all over the place. A person that hasn’t gone through those years just can’t believe it.” (p. 86)
During the years when sugar was rationed, for this bride and groom, “Each guest gave up half a cup of sugar towards our wedding lunch; in those days that was half a month’s sugar ration.” (p. 94)
My husband was gone again looking for work…We hadn’t threshed much wheat again. (A man) came to our place from Irvine…to collect as we owed him some money. I was about half mile from home picking dry cow and horse chips to burn as there wasn’t such a thing for use as wood or coal. I had four big gunny sacks filled with dry chips, two over each shoulder. I struggled with those four sacks as I only weighed 98 pounds. (The man) came to help me with the sacks. He took two and I carried two. By the time we got to our house all he had to say was, ‘I hope your husband finds work.’ He didn’t even say what he came for.”
“We, like our neighbors, had a big garden from which we canned, dried or salted down…We kept enough cattle, pigs and poultry for our own use curing and canning meats for summer use. We rendered down our own lard and made our own soap. During the dry years it was hard to grow vegetables even with our watering them….We crushed wheat for porridge” and often traded their home-grown foods for things like sugar, tea and coffee. (p.146).
“These were the years when it was necessary to get government assistance known in those days as relief.” (p. 67) “I had to admire their determination (of many) to stand on their own. They could have gone for government assistance but this was not for hardy men and women” (p.136) “We lined up at the boxcars for hay and grain, feed for our stock and also our six dollars a month cheque for groceries (the relief cheque). (p. 80, Bk1) “The cost of the relief was to be repaid. When defaulted it was charged against the land titles. Many farmers repaid their bills, however there was legislation brought in later that cancelled these accounts.” (p. 67)
“The shoe repairing was very slow, we had no money and received no help from relief. There was no credit at the stores either, so one day …. we went to Hilda to apply for relief. We were refused because we didn’t have a charge account in the grocery store (there). Sam Krassnoff (the grocery store owner in Hilda) heard that we couldn’t get relief and he gave us all the groceries we needed.” Mr. Krassnoff not only negotiated with the committee to give them the relief, he picked them up, drove them to Hilda and drove them home again with the groceries they needed. “We have never forgotten his help and kindness.” (p. 96)
“We sure had hard times in the 30’s. We ate more blowing dirt than bread. There was nothing but stones and rattlers and piled up dust” (p.171)
These are quotes from the First Edition of Saga of Schuler Stalwarts. Putting the stories together helps us to picture what times were like during those desperate drought years.