Right in the centre - Things my home town taught me


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

I was born at Holland, Manitoba in 1948 in the Holland Nursing Home. In today’s environment, that will sound strange but in that era, the Holland Nursing Home was a house with three or four beds and Dr. Ostapovich and his nurse wife lived right across the street. While I am sure that the privately owned nursing home dealt with many different cases, it was where expectant mothers went to await the birth of their babies when home birthing wasn’t available.


Our farm was five miles out of town and I was born Mar. 29. If there had been complications, a mid-wife (if there even was one) or the doctor might not have been able to make it to the farm as the roads were often “snowed in”. At any rate, I was the first Holland baby delivered by Dr. Ostapovich as he had just begun his practise at Holland, one that he maintained for decades. He had been a doctor during WWII with the Canadian armed forces.

That small town experience taught me that health care could be provided privately and without a lot of government intervention. While today’s world of medicine is considerably more complicated than it was in 1948, there are still likely lessons to be learned from that era.

Another thing I learned at Holland was how to live in a mixed cultural community. Holland was, in the 1940s, an almost all white community but the faith differences often came to the surface. There were three major groups and several groups with lesser numbers but we mostly got along OK. When people concentrate on the common good such as the community hall, the local school, the Ag Society and the 4-H and sports groups, things tend to work out.

I said Holland was almost all white but the residents came from English, Scottish, French and Belgian backgrounds. The backgrounds tended to be held in esteem, even in the midst of some suspicion and scorn, but when the thermometer drops 40 below or a house burns down, peoples’ differences don’t seem to matter so much. Nothing like a good threshing or wood cutting bee with some good home cooking to bring people together.

I also learned innovation in the town. My mother would say if a town had a good Ag-rep and a good doctor, it had a big leg up on its problems. I mentioned the “good doctor” above but we also had good Ag-reps. About 40 towns in Manitoba had a Manitoba Department of Agriculture office with an Ag-rep and a secretary. That was back in the day when we actually had a Department of Agriculture compared to the watered down version of the past 10 years or so. At the Ag-office you could receive advice on any aspect of farming and it wasn’t tied into a particular company or supplier. With an Ag-rep, the advice wasn’t linked into selling a particular product or services. In spite of the army of advisors we have today from the Ag industry, and the great advice received, I think the independent advice still would have a valuable place. Ag-rep offices also administered the 4-H program, the local Ag Societies, the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (PFRA) tree planting program and many other programs.

The Ag-reps, and the many progressive farmers in the area, helped advance the potato industry. I can remember when in the absence of potato sheds, harvested potatoes would be stored over winter in bunkers cut into the side of a hill and covered with straw and soil. Sometimes unused barns were used. Soon the modern potato sheds popped up around the country.

My father, on the advice of the Ag-rep, started growing corn for silage. He was one of the first in the area to do so. One farmer told me, “The best way to make a small farm into a big farm is to grow corn.” He was right. Now corn is grown in my home area for grain as well a silage and much further north than Holland.

At Holland, I learned to write. Some would say I still have a lot to learn but that’s where it started. It’s also where I learned how to speak in public, run a meeting, take meeting minutes and keep accounts through the 4-H clubs. Holland was where I worked on my first publication and it was printed in-house at our school and at the Treherne Times. I can honestly say I have been involved in publishing now for 58 years and in seven decades and it all started in Holland.

I owe so much to the life foundations that were put in place in my home town and I will be forever grateful for that.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in thiscolumn are the writer’s personal views andare not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.