First Day at School

School starts again this week. Labour Day has passed and the time has come for my grandchildren to pick uo their knapsacks and go.

I never made it to school my first day back in 1944. It was Tuesday, September 5, the day after Labour Day. I was six years old, enrolled in Grade One.

The world was at war and food was being rationed. That began in 1940 and ended in 1954.

Staples like meat, butter and eggs were mucfrom laying hens in the chicken coop.

Dad and the hired man were out on the field that Labour Day harvesting the last crop.

Next morning was very busy as Mom made bacon and eggs and fixed my lunch in a Rogers Golden Corn Syrop pail, a sandwich with fresh-baked bread and tomatoes from the garden, and two Trail crabapples for dessert. Those were special crabs from a tree that began as a sapling from the Morden Experimental Farm soon after 1918, the year Mom and Dad got married.

Dad had decided right from the start that I would walk to school, two miles to the Village of Neuenburg where the Birkenhead School was located.h sought after in the Town of Winkler. But on the farm food rationing did not affect us much. Each year Dad planted a huge vegetable garden. He also had a big orchard where he proudly grew fruit trees and berry bushes, like raspberries and gooseberries. Meat came from an annual fall pig-slaughtering day and butter came from milking cows. Eggs cane

I walked the dusty road from the farmcome along and give me a ride.

No such luck. It was wartime and there was gas rationing as well. Everyone drove as little as possible.

I sat on my lunch pail and waited.

Noon came. I could tell it was lunch time because the sun was almost straight overhead. I opened the pail and ate the tomato sandwich, saving the crabs for later.

The afternoon wore on. Still I sat.

Finally I saw Dad’s car emerge from between the bushes on either side of the dusty road from our farm. The teacher had called, wondering why I was not in school that first day.

“Why didn’t you go to school?” my Dad asked.

“I was waiting for a ride,” I said.

Next day he took me to school and on the third day I walked with kids my age from the neighbouring Gruener and Hildebrand farms. We blazed a diagonal shortcut through a cornfield that cut the two-mile distance a bit.

We walked to school until the first snowfall, but throughout winter we were taken to Neuenburg in a horse-drawn sleigh with warm stones and big fur blankets.

Today, more than 75 years later, my grandchildren, Isabella going on 14, and Max, 11, are starting school wearing masks to protect them from the Covid-19 virus. I have taken them to see Birkenhe to a corner where cars from neighbouring farms sometimes passed. Surely a neighbour would

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