|in the early days|
I recently learned that this house holds many more happy Maendel memories, when I started talking with other people who called it home. The late Mike and Anna Maendel and their family lived around the corner from my grandparents till they moved to Qak Bluff Colony in 1952. “My most precious years!” Their daughter, Dora in Oak Bluff told me on the phone. “When I hear a train, I’m back in Elm River.”
Dave, another brother, living in Winnipeg, MB reiterated the same sentiments when I called him. “It’s all true, Linda! Those happy times are all stored in my ‘computer’ and I couldn’t delete them if I tried.” He then told me enthusiastically, that whenever he gets together with his siblings, they always reminisce about Elm River. “I was wondering if we’d get a call from you asking permission to take the house down,” he joked.
“That’s the call,” I joked back. “Not asking permission though, but inviting you to come have one last look at your childhood home, before it’s gone.”
Walking around the house with this family a few weeks later was really special and I was glad that we invited them. Every room evoked new memories: “This attic crawl space is where my mom stored the apples and candies.” Dave exclaimed, crouching down to look inside.
“There were eleven of us living in this three-room house.” Emma (Maendel) Penner, another sister continued. “But we were content. It never even occurred to us how crowded it was and we certainly never felt deprived.”
“This was the best house on the colony!” Dave excitedly added. “Sort of off to one side, with the public road right beside it. We’d sometimes sneak out and walk to the little general store in Newton three miles away, to get ice-cream. The good old days!”
I am especially grateful that I was able to connect with, Jake Maendel, another brother who now lives at the Spring Valley Bruderhof, Pennsylvania. The memories he shared were heart-warming indeed: “Elm River is the most marvellous community I’ve ever lived in!” he told me over the phone. “I remember one year, your grandma was sick for months and my mom nursed her back to health. Don’t know what home remedies she used, but they worked!” He remembered those two mothers, both with a big family always helping each other out as neighbours and friends. “I have nothing but happy memories of your colony!”
Yes, this historical house that sheltered many families is now gone. However, the memories will remain etched in the hearts of the people who created them, and will be kept alive by reminiscing and sharing them with loved ones.
“Old homes! Old hearts! Upon my soul forever
Their peace and gladness lie like tears and laughter.”
-- Madison Julius Cawein
-- Madison Julius Cawein