Betty Thorvaldson Interview Transcript

My name is Marnie Chic, the date is March, 30, 1983. I’m here with Elizabeth Ross in the home of Betty Thorvaldson.

Mrs. Thorvaldson, where were you born?
I was born in Selkirk, Peguis, or down there down the river.
In 1916.

What was your association with the S.S. Keenora?
I was in grade four and my dad went to Hecla to build the pier, and I came in on the S.S. Keenora on a trip. I was just a little kid, and it was a nice boat, they had a piano. You see it wasn’t a long trip, from Hecla to Selkirk. It doesn’t take that long on the boat. It was a lovely boat then, but that was quite a few years ago. I remember it got kind of stormy, that lake can get real stormy you know. I was kind of seasick.

Did you leave your room?
No, no I was out where the piano was, and the music was going. I thought, well, maybe I’ll feel better. You know it was a nice boat, in it’s day, really nice. It would be better if somebody had been taking a long trip up to the lake on the boat, they could tell you more about it than I could. You know I just went from Hecla to Selkirk.

Where did you leave from?
From Hecla. Well, that’s where I got on the boat in Hecla, to come into Selkirk.

How long did it take?
I have forgotten, not that long.

Did you make any stops or did you go straight to Hecla?
No, no from Hecla to Selkirk we never made any stops.

Was that the only trip you have ever taken on the Keenora?

when you got on the boat, what was your first impression of it?
I thought it was a nice boat. I’m sure they had a lot of recreation if you stayed on it, like a lot of people did, for a week.

Did you have a cabin?
No, I don’t think I needed a cabin, it didn’t take that long.

Did you associate with the crew while you were on your trip?
Not exactly, I was just a little kid; I was in grade four.

Did you eat while you were on the boat?
I’ve really forgotten. I don’t think I did, because I got kind of seasick.

Did you meet any people on the boat?

Did you find that a lot of people got seasick on the boat?
Well, I think there were a few, but then a few didn’t, and you know they danced. But like I said I was so young, and I really wasn’t interested.

What did you find yourself doing most of the trip?
Well, most of the time I was turning the pages for the fellow that played the piano. The fellow that played the piano, did he play the piano regularly, was that his job?
I think he did, I don’t know that it was his job, but he’s long dead since. That was quite a few years ago. You should go see Martha Scagford, maybe she could tell you a lot more about the Keenora than I. She was on the lake a lot, but maybe not on the boat, you know.

Do you remember what the boat looked like on the inside, like maybe, what colour the walls were painted?
Yeah, I think they were, it was a nice boat, like I say it was real nice in its day. I remember when I was at Hecla, you know coming back from their trips they’d always stop at Hecla and put on a dance in the hall there. They’d stop for a couple hours. (You mean other trips?) Yeah, other trips. I haven’t gone on those trips.

It seems as though the Keenora was a mode of transportation for you to go to school. Did you go to school in Selkirk?
No, I went to school in Hecla, they had a school. I finished my grade four and then my grade five. When I came here (Selkirk) I started grade six.

What sort of school was it? It had two rooms, the lower grade and it went to grade seven in the higher grade, in the other part. No more, Hecla is a resort now.

Do you remember how much it cost for you to go on that trip?
No, I don’t remember.

Now we would like to get an idea of the general living conditions in Selkirk around that time.

What kind of education was offered in Selkirk?
We could go to grade 12. When I went to school we had to pay for grade 12. I went to grade 11. We had a pretty good education, but nothing like what you have now. I went over to the high school and saw the gym, and it was fantastic. I remember when I was young there was a basement in the school and that’s where we played, and we didn’t know any different. As far as education we were fortunate. We had a lot of good schools.

Were the boys allowed to take home economics, sewing and things like that?
I don’t know, but I don’t think so. No.

Was church going an important factor?
Yes, we always went. You’d have to go to Sunday school every Sunday and you would have to get confirmed. And you had to go to church.

Were there any modern facilities available in the town, maybe indoor plumbing?
Oh, yes, I think a lot of homes did, but we didn’t have it. People who were fairly well to do, they’d have indoor plumbing. There were a lot that didn’t in the outskirts of town, in the North end. We had outhouses, and the old Eaton’s catalogues (ha, ha). But we survived. Now everybody has indoor plumbing.

What were the roads like?
They were gravel. Not like now, paved. Of course, it’s been for quite a while, paved roads. They were just gravel and the dust would go flying.

What were some of the bigger stores in the town?
Eveline Street was very busy. There was Finkleman’s and Epstein’s those are department stores. They had stores on Main Street too, where the drug store is now. They had everything from groceries to feed.

Did you have a car?
No, I’d go to the city in my aunt’s, it was a touring car with flappy window curtains.

What types of recreation did you partake in?
We used to play baseball, basketball and volleyball.
Were there organized teams that you could join?
Yes, but not like now, because now they go from one town to another, in fact they go from one country to another. Now everyone has TVs and things. I remember when radios came out, it seemed like a luxury. We take TV for granted. I think that’s why kids are so smart. At five or six they know. They are real intelligent, they seem a lot smarter.

Did you find that political parties were instrumental in the town?
Yes, just like they are not. There’s no difference. There’s good ones and bad ones.

What sort of medical care was offered?
Nothing like what we have now. I thin we’ve got a real good medical care. You go to a doctor, you don’t get a bill. We’re covered by Medicare. If you had to go to the doctor back then they didn’t charge too much. It is far superior now though.

Was there a big hospital in the town?
That old hospital, it used to be the Selkirk nursing home, after they built this new hospital, but now we have another new one going up. I was never a patient there. I was never in the new one until I had my stroke.

Were there any major physical catastrophes in the town while you were growing up?
Not really, there was a fire, one of the big stores at night. But they had typhoid at the mill, all the men that worked there, not all. We haven’t had tornadoes or anything, we’re lucky. We just get the odd snow storm.

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