I have associated with Hutterites all my life. Although I never considered becoming one, I admired their communal life. I like their food, served to women on one side of the dining hall, and to men on the other side.

We had lots of visitors on the farm near Winkler where I grew up, especially cousins from California. My aunts and uncles, parents of my cousins, had long ago left Mennonite life in Manitoba and had moved to Los Angeles. Later on they came back to visit.

My Dad was a great host. He put aside his farm work and took our visitors to points of interest. One of them was the Hutterite colony not far from our farm. I went along. I never made friends my age, just sat with the adults and listened to them talk.

When I enrolled in Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, a high school, I went into Grade 9. All of us were high school age.

Except one adult student. His name was Peter Maendel. He was there to start a path that would eventually give him a teaching certificate.

Hutterite children had to attend school to Grade 8, taught by a non-Hutterite from the city. The teacher at Fairholme Colony, Peter’s home near Portage la Prairie, was not working out.

Peter was the pig boss with lots of time on his hands. He was often found reading a dictionary or the Bible.

“Why don’t you get an education and come back to teach our children?” an Elder said to him one day.

So that’s what he did.

Peter and I played checkers at noon in Grade 9, and he always won. No one could beat him.

Years later I was editor of Manitoba Moods Magazine. My staff and I had planning meetings to which we brought story ideas. I suggested an article on Hutterites, and I would write it.

I had heard about Elie Kleinsasser from Crystal Springs Colony near St. Pierre, the second Manitoba Hutterite to get a teaching certificate.

I went there to interview him, discovering him to be an innovative teacher who brought pottery and art into the school there.

There were 56 colonies in Manitoba then. Now there are many more.

As a result of the article I was welcome at colonies I visited later on with guests, bringing them to observe these unique communities, just like my father.

Peter and Elie have both passed away, but their pioneering spirits have lived on so that the Hutterite view of education has become more progressive.

I still go to Crystal Springs and other colonies on rare occasions in retirement.I lived on a farm two miles from Oak Bluff Colony near Morris Manitoba where I found friends and continued my lifetime love for people I admire.

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