Happy Fathers Day Dad!
Yesterday Judy and I attended the dance recital for five of our granddaughters. After the 6-hour event we met Laurel's family at the Spruce Grove McDonalds for a late supper. It was a long, fun-filled day.
I paused to reflect on my own father's life. He passed away on September 3, 1975 at age 69. During the intermissions at the dance recital, I started writing down some of my memories of my father. I continued after we got home.
George Buchanan was born near Neepawa, Manitoba in 1906. His father, Bill, was a blacksmith and owned his own business in the village of Riding Mountain, and later in the town of Neepawa. When Dad was young, his parents moved to Leslieville, Alberta, where he received much of his education. His family later moved to the city of Tacoma, Washington. Dad and his friends spent much of their spare time swimming in the bay. They all tanned, except for Dad. (Neither do I.) He also became an amazing swimmer. He could swim for miles.
Times were tough. He quit school after grade 6 to help support the family by cleaning streetcars. At some point he also worked in a box factory, making wooden boxes. When he was 17 his mother became sick and died. His father was left with four children, the youngest being 8 years old. Bill was under pressure to give her up for adoption. Instead he moved back to Canada, setting up a blacksmith shop in Millett, Alberta, where his brother-in-law Dick Watson had a farm.
Dad worked at various hard physical jobs, like building wooden bridges out of large timbers for the railroad. This may be where he developed a hernia that occasionally troubled him with dizzy spells for most of his life. He was not a large man, but was very strong. After he married my mother he became a farmer, and farmed without power equipment … just the muscle power of a team of horses and his own. In the winter he worked as a logger, cutting down trees with a bow saw, trimming off the branches with an axe, and skidding the trees to the picking up point with the help of his favorite horse, a black Morgan-cross named “Pet”. Later he worked as a pipe-fitter in the Camrose oilfield for three years. When the family moved to Edgewater, BC, he worked in the planing mill for about 10 years, and when the sawmill closed down he did maintenance for Kootenay National Park.
Dad was a hard worker and an honest man, and taught me to be the same. But there was much more to him than that. I remember watching him when I was a young child, as he give my little brother Lloyd “horsey rides” on the instep of his foot, while singing nonsense songs to him. He would tell us stories using made-up characters, like the Side-hill Gouger who always walked around the mountain in the same direction so one leg was longer than the other. And of a bird that always flew backwards to keep the dust out of its eyes. He loved the game of checkers, and I remember him making us a checker board from a sheet of cardboard and sawing wooden disks from a broken handle to make the game pieces. This was while we lived in the old log house west of Breton.
Over seventy years later, his cousin Gloria Burns Praill still remembered him telling ghost stories when she and her mother and sisters were staying at Dick Watson's place at Millet prior to their move to the USA in the 1920s. She said "I also remember the Buchanans visiting at Dick's place, particularly a Geordie who told us ghost stories around a campfire and scared us to death. He was GOOD!!!"
Dad regretted his lack of education. He had the mind of a good lawyer, but was trapped by a poor education. He was very intelligent and was an avid reader. In some areas of knowledge he probably achieved the equivalent of a university degree. His special interests were political science, economics, and the environment. He had a deep love and appreciation for nature. Nature provided the trees and the farm land and wild game he depended on to feed his family. He taught us to treat nature with respect. He recognized God as the creator of nature, but attended church only on special occasions, although he read the Bible and had a good basic knowledge of it.
To his very core, he deeply disbelieved in war. Maybe he sensed that WWII was a different kind of war, because he actually volunteered for it but was rejected because of his hernia.
Both my parents formed lasting friendships and had a strong sense of community. Dad was president of the Edgewater Senior Citizens’ Club prior to their move back to Alberta.
Physically, Dad stood 5’9” tall, with dark wavy hair, and never went bald. He had a black wolf’s head tattooed on his left forearm. The wolf had a red tongue. Dad had a very sharp mind, often perceiving the stories behind the news. After all, the official news is just one side of the story.
Like most farmers, he could build and repair almost anything. He and his brother Jack built Jack’s house in about 1944. In about 1951 he bought a town lot in Breton, bought a shack from the sawmill company, moved it onto the lot and created a house by building onto it. In Edgewater about 1956 he did the same thing. This time Reg, Lloyd and I were old enough to offer a little help. He did the carpentry, plumbing and electrical wiring himself. I learned much from him that helped me to build my own house. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that it is possible to build your own house.
He was a good man, and a good husband and father. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of being his son.
Happy Fathers Day Dad!
Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living at Onoway, Alberta, Canada.
Main website: http://billbuchanan.byethost17.com This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.
- Name: Bill Buchanan
- Location: Onoway, Alberta, Canada
I am a retired online school teacher. During July 2007 - January 2010, and September 2011 until the present I have provided part-time support for http://www.familysearch.org This is very rewarding. My greatest strength in this area is the free genealogy software Personal Ancestral File 5 (PAF5). I continue to help others with PAF and New FamilySearch. See
Since April 2010, I am an assistant director of Edmonton Riverbend Family History Center. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click http://mormon.org/
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Happy Fathers Day Dad!