“Heartbreak” is the title of Chapter 11 in the journal style memoir written by Louise Alice Thomas Bills, the eldest child of James and Mary Winnifred Thomas who lived at 1037 Clifton Avenue from 1920 until 1935. In a one page excerpt from “Gram,” she tells about the February day in 1924 when “til death do us part” came true and in her words, “the bottom seemed to drop out of life.” Louise starts with a nostalgic story about a family playtime that led to a slight scratch on her husband Dick’s face. A bad cold seemed to look like the beginnings of pneumonia, and Dr Storry visited. Within a very few days, the seriousness of infection was cause for Mr Bills to be admitted to the Tuxford Hospital. Because the Bills’ farm was about 12 miles from the town, a plan was made for Louise to stay in Moose Jaw and ride the train out daily to Tuxford to visit her husband over the 10 days that Dr Storry said he would need to be in the hospital. It seems that before they were able to make the transition to Moose Jaw, a call came from the hospital. Louise’s brother, Arthur, drove them, but they didn’t get there before he died. The Moose Jaw paper published Dick Bills’ obituary describing his funeral at Broadfoots’ Funeral Parlors.
Now a widow at age 32, Mrs Louise Bills had to plan for her future and that of her four children. She had been a teacher before she married, but only with a temporary certificate. It made sense to her to return to Normal School to obtain a permanent teaching certificate so she could get a job at a school that provided a teacherage for her to live in. Family members helped out with her children some of the time by taking the older ones into their homes. The summer of 1924 was a time of rest and renewal for them all as “Papa Jim” took them camping at two different sites on Last Mountain Lake. (also called Long Lake) In the fall, Louise attended Normal School for a few months to improve her certification. The demand for teachers was high, and the new Normal School would be opening soon. It is quite likely, though, that in 1924, the course that Louise Bills took in Moose Jaw would have been offered at Alexandra School, the one that used to be where the Bentley is now in Moose Jaw. Somehow with Louise in Normal School, and other members helping with her four children, the family managed to commemorate the 80th birthday of Grandpa Frank Headington on January 12 of 1925.
By the summer of 1925, the Thomas family was living their “new normal.” James and Winnifred took a trip with their youngest daughter, Gertrude Helen, to Yellowstone Park in the state of Wyoming. While there, the family became acquainted with another family who was visiting the park. The young people were 4 years apart in age; Gertrude Helen was 16 years old. Mr. Eldon Krieg was 20.
Louise Thomas Bills, as a widow, soon accepted a position teaching at the Queen Alexandra School in Truax, Sask. Her son Burdette was enrolled for grade 8 in the Truax school where his mother was teaching. The summer of 1926 was to include a trip to a church camp just south of Moose Jaw in Kingsway Park. However, a sunny Monday afternoon in the meandering waters of the creek near the camp took a tragic turn.
After the full report of the incident was printed on Tuesday, July 20, there followed another article about the funeral that happened on Wednesday.
In the midst of the grief following the funeral of young Burdette, plans continued to be made for the Christmas wedding of Gertrude Thomas and Eldon Krieg. Just as the Moose Jaw Times had been so thorough in reporting the funerals of 1924 and 1926, now the paper can share some happy news from 1037 Clifton Ave. The house was full of music and flowers that day as the bride with her father entered the living room. Gertrude carried a sheaf of pink roses.
No rose in all the world until you came. No star until you smiled upon life’s sea. No song in all the world until you spoke. No hope until you gave your heart to me.
O rose, bloom ever in my lonely heart. O star, shine steadfast with your light divine. Ring on, O song, your melody of joy. Life’s crowned at last, and love, and love is ever mine.
Two sisters and the bride’s sister-in-law provided the music for the wedding. The paper reported that there were four generations of family present that day plus a few friends.
They are looking a little more dignified than they did on the beach at Yellowstone Park where they had met 18 months earlier.
The bride and groom were young, but they moved to the US and had a long life together, reaching their 50th anniversary in 1976. I found an obituary online for Gertrude and through that and Facebook, located a granddaughter.
She shared with me a plate that was decorated by Winnifred to honour their golden anniversary.
Here is some of what Eldon and Gertrude’s granddaughter wrote: