city of bees, part two

(Continued from city of bees, part one)

This article is very valuable to me. I would like to sit and read it there in that place, the former site of Gruenfeld, and consider what it all means.

Also in the faded newsprint, there is a photograph of a building that lives on in my memory – an old little weathered grey but very square building that sat in a field near the original village site. I always stared at it from the car window and asked questions about it. I cannot recall the answers I received. Apparently it once held a printing press! The first iteration of what was to become The Carillon News. I think that building is gone now… but I know precisely where it once stood.

A note on hydro, I had no idea that Kleefeld had electric lights before the arrival of hydro power to this rural community. In 1927, C.S. Fast operated his own light plant! “This was merely a bunch of car batteries, with a little gas engine and generator, but it provided light for several homes.” Wow! Apparently by 1967, Kleefeld had “ten mercury vapor lights”. I have never heard of mercury vapor lights. They sound romantic and dangerous! (I googled it and apparently some are still in use in North America… so I guess the mercury thing is fine?)

“Listen to this!” I announced to Andrew. “In 1907 Kleefeld/Gruenfeld received their first telephone service, connecting three homes! Later the whole community was on one party line with more than thirty different ring signals.” WHAT?! The story ideas this generates. It sounds like pandemonium!

I guess the “whole community” was 30 households… and they all shared one line. I’m trying to imagine how this transformed communication in the community… for good and ill. The potential for gossip and the listening-in factor would have been extreme… yet at the same time the ability to call for help in an emergency would have been made much more efficient. I think this may have preceded the advent of prayer chains – you know, where you call the next person on the list to pass along urgent prayer requests. I’ll have to look into this. (For example, when was “later”? The article does not say – simply sometime between 1907 and 1960. Hmm.)

I’m grateful she thought to pass this article along to me.

This newspaper article is itself an artefact, as the education section refers to “the present school” as a four-room building. The only reason I know what it’s referring to is because I have paid some attention and explored and listened and looked with new eyes – so to me this is the “old” school – today a residence with a little sign in front of it. I never thought of the Kleefeld School of the 1980s as being “new” – it just was what it was. But I suppose back when I first set foot on those shiny September floors as a five-year-old, it was a fairly new building. (Long torn down though, by now. I suppose it may have only stood for a few decades.)

And. The part about religion in Kleefeld? Fascinating. Sad yet hopeful, I think. “In the year 1881 a church was built in Gruenfeld. However it didn’t get finished, as late that fall John Holdeman came to Manitoba, where he brought about a revival in the Kleine Gemeinde churches. Elder Toews, as well as several ministers and between one third and one half of the members left the church and were baptized into the Church of God in Christ.” This means… when the settlers arrived to settle Gruenfeld, the first village on the East Reserve, they were all of one church group, the Kleine Gemeinde. The advent of John Holdeman resulted in the first church split – first of many ongoing splits. The “anabaptist sickness” as they say. Many more had preceded this split in the old country, and many more followed here. But this one was significant given the time and place. But that can be its own post.

The reason I find it hopeful too, is because in 1903 when a school was built in Kleefeld, both church groups shared the space.

Thus ends the article. It makes me think of visiting Kleefeld more this summer, pondering more, and finally finishing that post I was writing about reading Henry Fast’s masterpiece, Gruenfeld.