Ian Reid Interview Transcript

My name is Ian Livingstone Reid. I was born in Calgary Alberta in 1931 just in the Depression and I’ve been living in Selkirk since 1947 and I’ve been practicing medicine in Selkirk since 1956 and worked all the time here with my dad till he retired.

What was your favourite memory growing up?

Favourite memory growing up… There weren’t many memories. My life consisted of going to school and then playing with the kids. We lived on the river, and I lived in the river. That’s what you did: swim, because it was surrounded by bush and cornfields. I swam with my friends growing up. And then we had family hour every Sunday, Dad took an hour off to be with the family, and took us to the beach, and the forerunner for waterskiing started, called surfboards or aquaplanes.

When was that?

Almost as soon as we got there. We lived on this beach because the house wasn’t ready, so we lived in this cabin on the beach.

What was your childhood like?

How do you define a childhood?

I mean, I didn’t know we were that poor.

It didn’t make a difference?

No! I played with the kids in the street. We didn’t have a lot… I have one very distinct memory… Sitting on the curb, I guess I was 3 or 4, I had been…. she came out and gave me a candy wrapped in pretty foil and it was so pretty I didn’t want to open it! I’m sitting on the curb admiring it and a little kid stole it from me! Oh, heartbreak! But she saw it, and came out and gave me another one. That would depict a degree of poverty that I wasn’t aware of, that one candy meant that much. In that way Dad was a good father because we never went really without. He had a favourite secondhand store where he’d pick up stuff for us and fix it up.
He graduated in 1939 and that’s when we moved to Lac du Bonnet and that’s more where my life really begins in my memory. During the war, he wanted to join the air force but the government wouldn’t let him. He was the only doctor between here and Kenora, and that’s where the 25000 miles and the 10,000 patients. Doctors seeing 1000 patients think they’re overworked! Lac du Bonnet was the end of the road, from there you flew. There were four airlines operating out of Lac du Bonnet.

When I was twelve, I decided maybe I should try and get a license. And so I went into the town office in Lac du Bonnet. “Yeah you can have one,” he said and signed it and gave it to me and a month later he says, “you can’t have that, you’re too young!” so he took my license away, and somebody else reported me for speeding when I was twelve. The RCMP said “just don’t let him drive in town.”

When did you decide you wanted to be a doctor?

I never remember not knowing. That’s all I did. And Saturdays we spent a lot of time because there was a big holiday area out there, all the big shots from Winnipeg. The Jewish people went to Winnipeg Beach, the commoners to Grand Beach, and the rich people went to Lac du Bonnet. They all had places out there, and they all had fancy dogs and let them run loose and every weekend there would be a million dogs with porcupine quills and fish hooks [stuck in their muzzles]. Dad was also the vet, and I’d give the dog ether and dad would pull the hooks out and the quills. I remember one day we had to go to a farmhouse because a horse had gotten hit by a car and he sewed it up. What the custom was, because people didn’t have a lot of cars he would take a different route to every place. The butcher in Lac du Bonnet was an itinerant butcher; he had a truck outfitted with a big freezer so he went the same route that Dad went, so if anything happened the other one was on the road, it made sense! So if you wanted the doctor to stop at your house on the road, you put a red flag on your porch, if you wanted the butcher you put a white flag on your porch so they would stop along the way.

Another one that’s interesting; there were not many cars in those days and we were tired of sitting on porch doors on farms waiting for babies to come so anybody who was due that week Father would load them in his car, drive them to Pine Falls, induce them so they all had their baby that night and then be done for the week!

On one, we were halfway between Great Falls and Pine Falls (Great falls is a power station on the Winnipeg River, halfway between Lac du Bonnet and Pine falls. There were five of those stations, and they’re all still there making electricity.) But the guys were collecting pulp because Pine Falls makes paper. All around there are little pulp towns, collecting wood to make paper and these big 18 wheelers in the bush to get pulp with would pull in their rearview mirrors because going through the bush they’d get broken! So they’d get out on the road and off to Pine Falls but they’d never stop and put their mirrors out again! So Dad whips behind one of these, the mirrors down and they can’t see him, they’re roaring with that big motor and he’s trying to get there to get these ladies to have their babies!! So he is frustrated as hell, get’s his .38 out, leans out (he’s left handed) shoots the tires on the truck and they pull over [saying] how do you get a flat tire in the middle of winter out here?! And Dad would rip by to the hospital and deliver the babies!

My first radio was a crystal set, you’ve never even heard of that. It was a box, with a crystal in it, gallierium which is a type of metal that would vibrate with radio waves in the air, and then you had a little fine wire, a crystal hair and you’d touch the stone in certain places and it would pick up the vibrations and then by how much antenna you stuck out and grounded it and had WWI Earphones you could pick up radio. I picked up KFY Bismarck in ND.

From Lac du Bonnet?

Yeah. And that was my first radio, no batteries or nothing. My grandson has my Dad’s crystal set that I took over that he took over. It’s gone through four generations.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

I guess the first one would be three drug free, successful kids all of them university graduates. That to me is success. The other one is helping to raise a community of drug-free kids, as well as patching people up and taking out loose parts. To me, the kids are the story about everything. My kids, and other kids. Because they’re the future.

In the past, there wasn’t much anesthetic. The only anesthetic was ether. You pour it on the wound and it numbs it.

In another life, when I was going to school and money was short I became the town photographer by default. We had a town photographer and he up and died, and my dad had an old press camera that took pictures at 1/2000 of a second, so you could stop a bullet. So I did weddings, graduations and things like that.

They weren’t planning to come to Canada, Dad was working for the railway, Mother was still in school I guess, her dad was a medical missionary in Africa, and she got an acute case of pregnancy! When that happens and your dad is a minister, you’re sort of banished to the Colonies, and Canada was a colony. They had a relative in Calgary, and that’s where they were going to go, so Dad came here first, but he got to Winnipeg and got to the depot in Winnipeg and they were hiring so he stayed here and worked for the rail house, then sent for mother. Then he decided it wasn’t for him, and he was going to try to be a doctor. He got transferred to Calgary with the railway and then decided to go into medicine, and that was after I was born.

They didn’t have a medical school in Calgary, so we had to move to Winnipeg, and to make extra money mother worked at a store and made sandwiches and crochet, and sold candy to kids, and Dad would sell his blood. They paid for blood donations, so he would go in and give blood for whatever they paid, but they did it too often so he started getting weak and pale, and his professor made him quit because he was falling asleep in class. Then he joined the Royal Canadian Army Training corps because they paid for you to go to training sessions and they paid for summer camps and things like that. To save money, the little house we lived in on Berry street every summer we raised potatoes and chickens to sell. But if you close the house you saved on electricity and water so we went out to Assiniboine to live in a tent on the banks of the Assiniboine river for the summer and if you were still going to school, you’d wash up in the river.

This is Benjamin’s and it used to be Moody’s hardware store.
This is a regular occurrence in Selkirk in the old days; every year we had an ice carnival. The kids would figure skate, we’d have kids races, and a beauty pageant, and they’d sell tickets for queens. This was the queen and the two princesses that year. That was an annual event that happened every year.
This is a piece of real Selkirk history: Dominion Fish hatchery. It was a hatchery for all of Canada, and that was our town hall. Down there we had dances, plays, a lot of things were started in that old hatchery like badminton and basketball. In this old fish hatchery the ceiling wasn’t very high.
This is what it looked like from the river. In the summer in the early 1900s was a sailing club and up on the bank on top was lawn bowling.
This is the old old hospital built in 1908 and that’s where my son was born and where I did my first appendix. Right now it is Red River Nursing Home. It’s been torn down, but that was THE hospital.
This was Dad outside the old Hospital in a horse drawn buggy.
ON the south side was a building like this, a 3 or 4 story ice storage building. This is a long conveyor belt going right down onto the river. The ice blocks are loaded here. This guy stands behind and Is pulled up by this rope which goes through the building to a horse on the other side who pulls the whole apparatus up and if that rope broke or the horse tripped this whole apparatus would go right down in the river and that guy went with it, and that’s why he got what we call hazard pay, and those are the Goodbrandsons. Goodbrandson fish storage. They supplied all the ice for shipping the fish up they sent the boxes up and when they brought the fish down they were processed, packaged, and iced then shipped all over the world. A 12 year old kid would go down to the docks in Selkirk and for 20 cents he could have the collapsed boxes.
In Selkirk we had SUE- Selkirk Underwater Explorers and that club operated out of the high school. We had a diver come down and teach. We hold the underwater monopoly record for Canada!
This was the beginning of the Selkirk Highland Gathering, which still goes today. Back then, I had my Scottish heritage, and my dad piped but he didn’t have time to teach me, so we started the highland gathering here. This is a pipe band.
This is the three doctors back then. East, Dad, and me.

An old trapper came in with a bump on his side and needed it lanced and Dad asked him, “do you mind if my son does this?” he said it was fine so that was my first doctor’s experience. I didn’t get to do an appendix until I was sixteen or seventeen.

Dad had to leave, he was dying from overwork and so the new doctor’s coming in out of the army and he’d never done much surgery so Dad was taking him around and I went with them because I was going to have to look after him when Dad left. Dad was teaching him how to take out a tonsil, and said “Here Ian you might as well do the other side.” I was thirteen. But again, apprenticing with a doctor back in the old days was the way you learned. I was a little young for apprenticing but why not? And so Dad went so I was left on my own, looking after this new doctor and I was fourteen by then so I lived in a cabin on the shore by myself and my dad left me this saxophone. He was a wannabe musician and he never learned to play it so he left it for me with a book on what buttons to push and down in my little cabin I started practicing, and then I got a job with a little band at the beach where the waterskiing was and we were a little Saturday night dance band. I played the saxophone. I had a good year. It was a C melody sax and you could play with the piano. If you have a Bb or Eb saxophone you can’t play by ear but with a C melody you can play by ear, which is good because I can’t read music.
I had music lessons there when I was 10 0r 11 but I was so bad the teacher quit. Come lesson time I’d be out shooting squirrels with slingshots or something, music was the farthest thing from my mind.

Spending time with dad:
I spent a lot of time with dad then; he was a real taskmaster when I was 12. He was having a big party and we had wood for the wood furnace in the house and my job was to get the wood from the field across the way into the house to keep the fire going. I had to get out at 9 and go out and bring the wood in and fire it in through the hole in the wall, my thumb between the logs and got a big blood blister and I’m lying in my bed sorta whimpering away and didn’t want to tell Dad what had happened . But the house, the upstairs, dad had split the three bedrooms. He split one so he could have a bathroom up there, but the other half of that room was my bedroom so while the party was on all the people were traipsing through my bedroom. One of them finally heard me whimpering and got dad up there and he drilled a hole to lift the blood out. That’s a memory of my child. Then dad left, and then I worked for the doctor as a gardener and maintenance man because he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he couldn’t change a fuse if the light went out so I looked after him for awhile, then I went to boarding school, Catholic boarding school. I was supposed to go to St. Johns because we hadn’t had much church in Lac du Bonnet, we had a Catholic, and one we called “the Holy Rollers”. My buddies were all good Catholics and they convinced me to go because they had to go every Sunday or go to hell. One Sunday I went with them [to church] and it scared the hell out of me! You gotta wash your hands in a little puddle and they’re shaking things at you, smoke and water, and this guy in a black skirt, and he is speaking and I can’t understand a word he was saying, it was all in Latin. The prayers were in Latin and you had to memorize them all. That sort of put me off church for a bit. Back then, when I was finishing grade 8 in Pine Falls, I took Latin by correspondence with nobody to teach me, and you needed Latin to get into medicine. I guess you could say my future was predetermined!

Storm of 1977:
The biggest storm that I remember in Manitoba is the storm of 1977. I’ve got pictures of Eveline Street with the drifts right up to the eaves troughs, and we get a phone call and there’s a lady out in Patricia Beach having a miscarriage, and bleeding; send the doctor quick! The roads were all closed, because the town wouldn’t send out plows in that storm. So my dad gets someone to lend us his Bombardier, and we would drive it. The town said they’d plow as far as Lockport. At Lockport the drifts were as high as the telephone poles, and then we had to go down to highway 59 and over snow and around. Everybody thinks a Bombardier is invincible, but when you get ‘em up on the snow bank, the tracks just do that! (waving arm around and around) They don’t go anywhere! So we got a log, put it under the tracks, drove over it, got the log, put it in front, drove over the log until we got out of that snow bank. And then we put the log inside

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