Some of my earliest recollections spring from my grandparents’ farm in Rutland, at the present-day corner of Craig Street and Hartman Road.
Coming from Melville, Sask., they owned the dairy farm between approximately 1950 and 1965, but they also had chickens, pigs, cats, and a German shepherd.
On that farm, my grandfather, John Hoffman (1896-1977), and my step-grandmother Mary (nee Schick; 1907-94) raised seven sons and a daughter: Raymond, Arthur, Ernest, Wilfred, Edward, David, and twins Lionel and Leona.
My father, Martin, was the only surviving child of my grandfather’s first wife, Mary Mann.
I was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in Manitoba, but between 1952 and 1970 my parents, brothers and I travelled many times by train as far as Kamloops.
No train service being available to Kelowna, one of my uncles picked us up and we drove to the family farm. Emblazoned on my senses were the smells of sulfur from the lumber mills, pine forests, and the splashing of towering waterfalls.
Always arriving in the wee hours of the morning, I knew that I was in Kelowna when I awoke, tried to sit up, and bumped my head on the sloped ceiling.
I explored every inch of the two-storey house, from the cubby holes attached to each bedroom, to the little-used parlour in the front, to the closet on the back porch where the dog biscuits were kept, to the cellar where the cream separator lurked.
My grandmother’s large kitchen often saw her, even with her arthritic hands, ironing eight pairs of pants and eight shirts. Looking back, I could see how overworked she was, but she always managed to keep the cookie jar filled.
The countryside was so much more open then, with few houses or schools and lots of orchards.
I loved watching the cows come in for milking and the pigs in anticipation of a topped-up trough.
After milking, I used to crank the handle of the cream separator while my uncle poured a bucket of milk into the bowl.
Frequently, a lumbering milk truck would appear to empty Grandpa’s milk cans into its refrigerated tank. We cousins would compete for the cream floating on the top of the glass milk bottles in the fridge, milk still warm from milking.
Nothing in the grocery stores today tastes like Grandma’s farm butter.
Two of my favourite jobs were collecting eggs from the chicken coop and picking strawberries which, with cream and sugar, we could have had coming out of our ears each June.
Another favourite chore was throwing out the table scraps for the chickens. The fowl entertained me with the way they would come running as soon as they saw the can of scraps.
As I readied the can for the toss, the chickens turned around to run the other way and then they’d come running back again once the potato and apple peelings were airborne.
The house sat right at the bottom of a steep hill that still exists, on Hartman Road.
I would borrow a bike from a shed, push it panting up the hill and then bumped down that gravel road — it was impossible to sit down — to see how far the momentum would take me. I usually swooped right past the house, up to a row of poplar trees, where a collie named Prince would out and bark. A speedy u-turn brought me right back home.
I climbed a weeping willow tree centred in the front yard and spent many happy hours reading.
My only encounter with an electric fence occurred near that tree. I grabbed onto the innocent-looking wire, not realizing the peril, and the subsequent boom roaring through me set my heart to racing.
I decided to lie down in the grass for a while to rest my ticker, but it occurred to me that if I died on the spot, nobody would find me in that tallish grass. And so, I stumbled my way back to the house, not admitting my foolishness.
My brothers and I would play hide and seek in the hayloft, covering our faces with straw and hoping that our noses wouldn’t get flattened by the seeker’s foot. Even as an adult, I sometimes have dreams about that barn, wherein it is transformed into a small concert venue, with an audience milling about. With so many distractions, in dream after dream, I’ve never been able to get into that hayloft again.
With a farm to run, my grandparents had little time to spare, but they did enjoy the garden parties hosted by Premier and Mrs. W.A.C. Bennett. I only heard about them in my adulthood, but I delighted in the stories.
Some of my grandparents’ neighbours were Stan Siebert, Danny Bach (lived where the YMCA and Rutland High School are located), Ed Dahlam (lived across the road from the Hoffmans), and Art Reisheimer (had an orchard in that part of Rutland). Other friends included Jack and Elaine Senger, and the Flegel, Hilldred, and Dombrowski families.
It saddens me to think that some of my younger cousins who have lived in Kelowna all of their lives never even once were able to walk through this precious house, which has been demolished.
I suppose they have their own favourite childhood memories.
Now retired, after a labyrinth life of work and travel, I finally persuaded my husband to move back to this beautiful valley.
Much has changed but my memories have only deepened. My father’s spirit is a frequent companion. He’s glad I’m finally here.
This article is part of a series, submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Additional information is always welcome at P.O Box 22105 Capri P.O., Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9N9.