World War II was over. Jeane and her best friend, Veronica Blair, signed new contracts to go to Coutts to teach.
All of a sudden Veronica’s sailor came home. They were going to be married when the war was over, but for the next year she kept the contract and came to Coutts. Before leaving for Coutts, they had the best celebration with her sailor, bought a case of beer and went to a park. He went to the Peace River and ran an elevator and they were married the day after school got out. Veronica and Jeane travelled by train to Coutts. It took all day from Lethbridge to Coutts stopping at every village with freight to load and unload. Their was a family and a bachelor also renting the house; they had the two rooms in the middle. Every whisper carried. They had a coal cook stove for heat, a table, two chairs and a double bed with a clothes closet.
The school had hardwood floors, windows and electricity! Jeane didn’t have to arrive early to warm up her school room, there was a janitor and an indoor gym. The girl from the telephone office took them across the line to Sweetgrass. Hershey Bars with almonds and real peanut butter which she hadn’t tasted for five years. They dreamt of what they would buy with their first paychecks and stopped at George’s Bar for a rum and coke. Her visions of nylons and chocolate and nice clothes disappeared with an edict from the local school board that while employed they were to refrain from leaving the country. And be given extra duties; Jeane’s was to teach Saturday football, tumbling around with a bunch of high school boys. In her words Jeane was not very professional, “My comments would have made “drop dead” sound like a blessing and when I slammed the door of the principle’s office it’s a wonder every window didn’t break.”
A letter from her mother, Josephine October 20th, 1945
Dear Jeannie with the light brown hair; Your lovely letter came yesterday. I knew things would brighten up. The sun always follows the dark days. I’m glad you didn’t quit. Pop heard about a sale of army trucks in Calgary so went to Red Deer and got a permit for one. He spent 4 days away and came back without one. They drew names out of a pool for them. He didn’t get drawn. There were over 1000 farmers for 45 trucks. Pop took old Ponty over to Greens to get her patched up. Always, Mom and Pop
Miss Miller was teaching grades 5-6 at the Coutts School in 1945. Mr. Bryne the superintendent wrote on her report: Miss Miller possesses a well balanced personality with a dignity of bearing and a degree of self-control productive of fine pupil teacher relationships. For so young a teacher her techniques are direct, workmanlike and thorough. January 24, 1946. His recommendation to the Dept. of Education gave her a permanent teaching certificate, which was a license to teach grades I-X inclusive in Alberta. One of my favorite stories was told to me by one of her students, that said if it wasn’t for my mother teaching him a lesson that he could do anything he tried at, he wouldn’t have amounted to anything. Apparently he slid under his desk and was not about to finish his work assignment. Out he came and wrote the lines, “I think I can, I think I can, I can!” just like the little train engine that could! over and over on lined paper That 10 year old boy never forgot the lesson
“Whooper” Joe arranged to give all the single teachers a ride from Coutts to a church supper and dance at Allerston that month of December. Romance must have been the air. A young cowboy politely asked Whooper, that if it was okay he would take Miss Miller home? He told her he’d bring her flowers in the spring. And the rest is history! Johnny didn’t wait for spring to come a courting.
The first Friday in January, 1946, Johnny was back at her door asking for a date. Johnny was on the ranch 20 miles away and Jeane was teaching. They saw each other often. Jeane turned 20 that March 12, 1946. Johnny’s birthday card read, “Happy Birthday to my Sweetheart, Can’t say how much I love you, Nor all you mean to me. But I can say I hope your day, Is happy as can be, And I can say that worlds and worlds of loving wishes, to come with this, “Happy Birthday” Meant especially for you.
(signed) Lovingly Johnny
Jeane had Easter vacation and Johnny was between calving and seeding. Jeane took Johnny home to meet her parents at Pine Lake, wearing an engagement ring. My sister’s wrote a poem for their 50th and this sums it up:
In 1945 to the south country she did go, To teach the children and help them grow. A handsome young cowboy she happened to meet And before long was swept off her feet. They travelled north her folks to see, And break the news that wedded they’d be.
There wasn’t much money after the war years, and her mother wanted to see her youngest daughter married. So… why didn’t they get married while they were there? This was decided on a Tuesday.
Their plans were made, they’d go to Red Deer. They were in love. They had no fear. It rained, it hailed, the wind it blew, But nothing deterred them from saying, “I do.”
They had known each other for three months. Back in 1946 a couple needed blood tests to get married and of course a marriage license. These were obtained at Stettler, on April 23, 1946. Johnny had the license in his coat pocket and it disappeared. Was her Pop making her think about this more? He must have changed his mind because the license reappeared. Johnny had an old 39 Coupe car. When they went to leave Friday morning it had a flat tire. Pumped up again the four of them crowded in and were off. They started on the road to Pine Lake but road work with dozers had pushed up rocks and brush and they crept along in first gear. The poor old Chevy spluttered out of gas. Another car came along and helped them get gas and they were off again.
Josephine, Jeane’s mother, insisted her daughter have a bouquet.
Johnny paid for the flowers of pink carnations with white stephanotis and fern for $5 with white ribbon, 2 boutonnieres, $.70, a bridesmaid’s corsage of 3 cosmos and silver ribbon $1.75 totaling $7.45 with $4 down and $3.45 balance due. A windstorm blew the roof off the greenhouse after they placed the order and they salvaged a few flowers. Then they went to find a preacher. All the churches were closed up and the good reverends were taking a few days off after the busy Easter season. Finally a minister answered their knock on the manse door. When he understood they wanted to get married, he questioned them, “Do you two have any idea what you are doing?” Johnny answered, “Yes, we want to get married”. Arrangements were made for 2 PM. William and Josephine Miller (Pop and Mom) were the witnesses. Jeane and Johnny were married April 26th, 1946 at the Presbyterian Manse in Red Deer, Alberta by Reverend Daniel J. Firth. The bride wore a grey suit. Johnny wore a suit and tie. He didn’t have a suit after the war. It was still pouring rain. They got back to her parent’s farm. Pop wanted a party, but after a glass of wine, the couple were on their way back towards Coutts. The couple stopped at Three Hills for supper, sorting through dimes and purchased two cups of coffee and split a piece of raisin pie. There were two more flat tires, patched and no spare. Just before Carseland, Johnny was rolling the flat tire down the road, a car picked him up and he was able to get a new tire for $3. They stayed their honeymoon night in the Carseland Hotel, with the bathroom down the hall, no running water and the toilet was a big pipe you couldn’t see the bottom of.
The next day was Saturday and they drove to Lethbridge. They bought two pillows and an alarm clock and stayed at the Lincoln Hotel on 5th Street. Sunday they arrived back at Coutts. Vera wasn’t back from her planning her wedding and Johnny stayed the night. He went back to the ranch. They were twenty miles apart and only saw each other two or three times, until the end of June.
A blushing bride and a handsome guy, Shared their wedding supper of coffee and pie, Then into the coupe and down the road. They changed flat tires and continued on bold. They were in love. The last tire gave out in the mud and the sand, But There! up ahead was the town of Carseland. Let’s set up housekeeping, they were in love. We’ll buy a clock and pillows too, We don’t have much but our love with see us through.
Jeane finished teaching the rest of the term and moved out to the ranch, The June roses were blooming on the south side of the house. Vera and her sailor husband, having married July 2, came back for John and Jeane’s wedding dance in Coutts on July 4, 1946. Mr. and Mrs. John and Jeane Miller Waddell had a cookstove, a set of dishes, table with 4 chairs, a bed, her trunk and a radio. Jeane’s brother Herb gave them $50 for a wedding gift and they bought a pressure cooker. Jeane knit all Johnny’s wool socks and sewed most of their clothes. Josphine and Jeane wrote each other weekly. In March 1947, Jeane received a birthday card from her mother. Jeane was 21 years old; old enough to vote. In the letter was news that the government was catching up the back taxes owed and notices of 45 million dollars were being sent out.
People still didn’t have much money. Sugar was rationed.
The young couple were still living in the same house as Johnny’s parents, Gordon and Olive Waddell on the ranch SE 7-1-12 W4. The winter of 1947 was a cold one. There was lots of snow and hoarfrost on the trees and as the Chinook’s blew in and melted the icicles dripped and froze from the roofs nearly to the ground. Johnny fed the cattle with a team and sleigh. For their first anniversary the couple went with Johnny’s brother and wife Vangie to see Gold Butte in Montana, site of an early mining camp. May 24th they went to the Taber Rodeo.
While visiting Jeane’s sister, Bubble and son Richard, near Duchess, Jeane had an appendicitis attack. She never went to the doctor for surgery. It ruptured and healed gradually on its own but left an area quite noticeable. Over the years doctors discovered this and marveled that she survived.
At the end of August, 1947, the secretary of the Foremost School Division, came to visit them. They didn’t have a teacher for the high school at Aden. Johnny agreed with her going back to work; the salary would be $1200 for the year and Jeane could ride the bus. It was a distance of 34 miles one way. It was an old van with 2 wooden benches in the back for the kids. Jeane got the front seat. The roads were not graveled or snow ploughed. Everyone piled out to push the van through the drifts and up the coulee hills in the mud. The school was called Grassy Butte School. It was the old Indian Rock school Johnny had attended and had been moved to this site. It was like going into a cave, it was dark! Some unhappy kids had gouged holes in the blackboards. There were ten students, three taking grade 12 by correspondence lessons which she was to supervise. The grade nines could barely read. During that winter there were several days the roads were impassable, so no school. In the spring of 1948, there was so much mud she rode horse over to catch the bus, both Ramsay and Erickson coulee were washed out. Altogether there were 142 days of school. In order to get their credits students needed 150 days. Jeane sent along a note with the attendance records and they overlooked the shortage. The high school closed the next year.
In 1948 the ranch had a good hay crop. It was cut with a mower, raked and put up with a stacker, all pulled by teams of horses. John and Jeane rented the ranch and later bought from his folks who retired to Creston.
P. S. Dear Mom; I’m not finished telling your story yet. Today is January 2, 2021 and 13 years have passed since you left us. Thanks for the stories and the memories that I can share with others. Love and miss you everyday, your daughter, Wendy Jean.