The Gentle Cowboy:
Calvin Johnson recently enjoyed his 96'th birthday! To commemorate such an occasion, he gathered friends and neighbours to the Edberg Senior's Centre for a coffee & sweets drop in. The Village of Edberg has been hard hit, especially since losing their school a few years back. The creamery that once thrived in the village has long since closed, as have many of the businesses. Still, the senior centre, and the life blood that flows through it, is a testament to the vitality of the community, in spite of its challenges. The room was filled with laughter and memories, as well as plans for today, and the coming seasons. This isn't the first time Calvin has been blessed by the community. Far from it. Over forty years ago, Mr, Johnson was diagnosed with severe Rhumatoid Arthritis. This condition remains a part of his life, but when he was first diagnosed, it had a very detrimental impact on his abilities. He often relied on his son Stanley for as much help as possible, who was only eight at the time. When it came time for his first harvest, after diagnosis, Calvin wasn't sure how he was going to be able to cope, with the amount of pain his hands and feet were in. Without being asked, and without Calvin's knowledge of their plan, the community rallied around the Johnson family in a tangible and astounding way. One by one, eighteen farmers pulled into Calvin's lane, that fall day. Calvin recalls the wonder of seeing eighteen machines working his land, coming alongside a neighbour in need, Calvin feels that community involvement is something that has grown more and more meaningful as time has passed. He has expressed this passion in a variety of ways. In 2012, Mr. Johnson was formally recognized as a "Battle River Living Treasure" at the inaugural, Culture Creativity and Place conference in Red Deer Lake. I have a feeling Calvin Johnson's heart has always been attuned to the needs of those around him; he in turn, has reaped the benefit of living a connected life.
Calvin has always had a heart for the creatures placed in his care. He grew up on a farm in Camrose County, and continued to work the land, and care for animals for most of his long life. He never took his privilege to handle horses or livestock lightly. Calvin also grew up with older brothers, whom he trusted with his whole heart. You will want to click on the button below, "LATE NIGHT RESCUE!" to hear of just one of the adventures that took place in Calvin's youth, as these two truths combined.
The photo gallery show the deserted Edberg school, the one Stanley Johnson, Calvin's son, attended. The next photo shows a re-purposed Stockholm school, once begrudgingly attended by Calvin, from six to fourteen. During this time, he accomplished ten years of learning, in eight. Calvin admits, though, he just couldn't wait to get home to the horses, the outdoors, and to the next adventure.
Memoirs of the Edberg Pioneers, pictured to the right, documents some of the history of community based education in the area. During the settlement era, many individual school buildings were constructed. Since a horse and rider could not travel more than 8 miles without water, that became the accustomed distance between communities. The process for "Big Four"school mirrors many of its counterparts.
The Big Four School District 1854, named because sections of four townships were included, began in 1908. Once the site was approved, settlers hauled lumber from Camrose, and helped to construct the school. Charles Swanson, (Karl Algot Svensson), the paternal grandfather of local anthropologist and author, Jane Swanson Ross, was the founder of Big Four. The school was completed in 1909. Mrs. Thompson, the first teacher, began with her four students, the following year. Attendance quickly rose to thirteen. The school remained in operation until 1950, at which point, the consolidation movement, having been fraught off for years, finally succeeded in ending an era. Students where bused to larger centers, like Edberg or Ferintosh. Sadly, the trend continues, now striking Edberg school, and many others, forced to succumb to closure, as students are bused to larger and larger centres. Smaller communities are left to languish. In many cases, only memories of what once was, remains.
Anyone lucky enough to frequent the Edberg Senior Centre, knows, Edberg is not planning any funerals for its community just yet! Thanks to monthly pot luck dinners, weekly connection times, and plenty of rock solid ties between hearts and homes, the community is weathering the storm of consolidation. Still, the cost of all encompassing "numbers" driven planning is gut wrenching.
18 Wheels of Adventure:
For some seasons of his life, Calvin split his time between the farming the land, and trucking all around the area. He has hauled coal, gravel, grain, even Christmas trees! Not surprisingly, Calvin used this profession to bless his neighbours often. Seeing that trucks in those early days did not come equipped with hydraulic lifters, Calvin also used the time to build a massive capacity for physical labour, persistence and endurance.
Memories remain, of many Saturday evenings spent on the ice built on his family's property, near Edberg. Almost weekly, a large group of friends and community members would skate till the early hours of the morning, before being welcomed in to the family home, to enjoy a light lunch. The fiddle and harmonica would come out, when home spun music would dance them through to daylight. You will enjoy hearing Calvin share some of his adventures, by clicking on the boxes below. (The photo of the 1930's truck above, comes courtesy of http://www.militariarg.com/trucks--pickups-logistic-utility-cargo-and-transport.html The photo of the Brownie camera comes courtesy of prezi.com. The photo of the spinning wheel below, was taken at the Donalda Museum.
The land beneath Calvin Johnson's feet, has remained constant, from his birth! He couldn't wait, as a child, to race home from Stockholm school to drive the horses that plowed the family land. Over the years, the Johnson's grew plenty of wheat, barley and oats. They had livestock, and Calvin became involved in breaking the land, trucking coal and gravel, along with his agricultural pursuits. Through all of the variations, Calvin's strong connection to the land remains. Please click on the box below to hear Mr. Johnson give a short overview of his own local history.
Hear more on family generations, school time memories, remarkable heritage of wise stewardship by clicking on the box below.
If you're ready to explore more of Edberg's history, check out "Memoirs of the Edberg Pioneers", gathered and compiled by Sylvia Edstrom and Florence Lundstrom in 1955. Treasured copies may be found at the Camrose and District Centennial Museum, or the Camrose Heritage Railway Station & Park.
The photo below is on display in the lower level of the Fridhem Church.
Calvin tells the story behind this incredible photo in the "Beautiful Life" recollection below. Be sure to check it out!
Calvin and his son Stanley spin more of the fabric of their life, beginning and ending with tales of the land on the recording attached to the box below. You'll hear fatherly recollections, along with more stories of people helping people through the lean years of the thirties.