Reading Old Green & Gold Yearbooks

I haven’t finished reading James Urry’s book about Grunthal (On Stony Ground) — but that is why I went away for a while. But then I found these old Green & Gold yearbooks I’d salvaged from the MCC who knows when, put on my shelf, and promptly forgot about. Until now.

I’m becoming very immersed in the whole Grunthal-history thing. I agree with Urry’s offhand remark, or perhaps I imagined it, when he had said that Grunthal is a fascinating place. But my curiosity with his book was whether he would have uncovered what I had long thought but struggle to articulate. And I’m still not done reading it. But here I’m taking a little interlude to read these yearbooks that harken back to Grunthal school life in the 1950s.

I find myself squinting at the grainy pictures and reading every word I can. But I can’t read all of them, because some pages are completely in German!

The advertisements at the back of the yearbooks are interesting:

First, an ad for Grunthal Transfer: Walter Heinrichs. He was my great-uncle! I hadn’t ever thought about what his business would have been. And from here I thought of the story in his brother Danny’s book, which talked about my grandma hauling cordwood to Steinbach. Which reminds me of what I read briefly in Urry’s book, about people in the Grunthal area hauling cordwood. It’s just interesting to see what are, I suppose, fairly mundane facts about the region and my family in the past… but somehow learning bits and pieces of how it may have all fit together makes me feel good.

Warmly, I see Grunthal Bakery had already been on the map at this time. Their phone number had been 10-11.

Also an ad from the Manitoba Power Commission announcing “Your Hydro’s area coverage programme — begun in 1945 — has now been completed.” The year was 1956.

Opening up another Green & Gold from the pile at random, this one from ’54, I see a picture of the school board at the time, and a gentleman who looks familiar. I do not know him, but I know his son, who is my friend’s father-in-law. I love it when family resemblance is so strong that it reinforces my assumptions about who belongs to whom. (Albeit a dangerous game.)

In reading the writeup, I see they reflect on the history of the Goodwill School Division, and mention my great-grandfather, “Mr. D. Heinrichs” as having taught for two terms.

Until now I’ve been paging through these slim volumes in whatever order they happened to be stacked. But now I’ve decided to order them, so I have opened the 1955 edition, which declares itself the second edition, and that its purpose is to inform the wider community of the school’s accomplishments and how it benefits everyone. (I’ve never thought about the purpose of yearbooks before… and now of course they’re no longer being made.)

I find myself seeking an indication of what life was like in Grunthal in these years. People are wearing winter gear in many pictures, reasonably unselfconsciously and somewhat haphazardly, which comforts me because I think that’s kind of how we all end up through our long winters. In the background I see many bare oaks (Grunthal has a lot of oak trees, I think oaks prefer to grow on stony ground?) and occasionally I see village houses in the background of these grainy photographs. It’s like peering back in time. What I am really trying to do is decipher the world in which my father had been born into.

Was it really so different? (Also, is she holding an iPhone??)

What was the Rainbow Inn???

Grunthal Credit Union: “promotes thrift.”

Manitoba Power Commision: “YOUR HYDRO – USE IT”. Wow. Okay.

Grunthal Furniture: “Davenports – Chesterfields”

Now I will jump to 1957!

I see a lot of pressure for boys to grow up to run the world, and girls to be pleasant, cute, and helpful no matter what. This is pissing me off.

“Friendly, neat, and pretty.”

“Polite, well mannered, conscientious.”

“Quiet and attentive.”

“Neat handwriting.”

“Ready smile.”

These are essentially traits that I eschew.

Another pattern: walking into town at night.

“Exercises by walking to town at night.”

“Tries to wear out army boots by walking to town at night.”

“Keeps herself in shape by frequent moonlight walks to town.”

Which leads into a pattern I hate:

“She keeps her slim waistline simply by not eating.”

“Doesn’t eat breakfast in order to keep a slim waistline.”

Holy cow.

A few interesting adverts:

Steinbach Furniture and Appliances’ list of items sold includes “Beatty Riteway Milkers”. (Steinbach Furniture sold milking machines??!)

Loewen Funeral Home AND Loewen Ambulance Service. (Convenient.)

In the 1958 episode (I’m starting to think of these yearbooks as episodes, in an ongoing drama) I see some talk of Spencer:

“He has come from Spencer to study.” (Implies that Spencer was a smaller hamlet and Grunthal more of an educational centre in the area. Spencer being the area my Heinrichs family was from.)

“Hails from Spencer.” (As if Spencer is a long distance from Grunthal. I think it’s about four miles…?)

“‘I come from Spa-a-ncer.'” (Quoting a Martens, likely mimicking the flat E — sounding like a short A — of Low German. Are they saying not everyone in Grunthal had that accent? Is this a Kanadier vs Russlaender thing?)

And a few interesting preferences are expressed:

“Fond of the low German dialect.”

“Prefers ‘Plautdietsch’ to English.”

“Prefers Taunte Esther to rock ‘n’ roll music.” (This is the second mention of Taunte Esther that I have seen, in that she is better than rock ‘n’ roll. Who is this Taunte??)

Okay that’s it. I powered through all the Green & Golds. It was like stepping into a time machine that doesn’t quite work right. It was a nice interlude, but now I will get back to James Urry’s book On Stony Ground to see what he has to say about Grunthal.