Now & Then

Dale and Joan Van Every

Both Dale and Joan spent time away from Manitoulin in their working years but they always regarded their Island home with reverence and nostalgia knowing they would eventually be immersed in the local ambience, the farm life and the friendships they had known in their earlier years. Dale spent much of his working life with the mechanical crew at Stelco in Hamilton. Joan cooked for a first-class facility, near Grimsby, before she joined her husband and retired to Meldrum Bay.

Dale begins with his story. “My family name used to be Vaneveren, of Dutch origin, before it was changed by a great-grandfather to Van Every.” There was compelling interest in joining the United Empire Loyalist movement in the 1800s and the name change may have facilitated that inclusion. “McGregor Vaneveren was the first person with that surname, going back to the late 1700s. It seems McGregor had befriended the Anishinaabe Chief Tecumseh. They fought on the British/Canadian side with ‘Butler’s Rangers’, against the Americans.”

“I never knew my paternal grandparents, David and Jane Van Every of Guelph, as they died before I was old enough to enjoy their company.” Dale was born to John and Elizabeth (nee Clarke) Van Every, on January 5, 1935. There were eight in the family, five boys and three girls, Blanche, Bill, Maude, Helen, Clarke, myself, Jimmy and Don. They were running out of names when they chose Dale,” he adds, grinning.

Cheryl’s wedding in the 1980s.

“My father John Van Every was a farmer and a woodsman. An early recollection, at age five, was watching dad hook up the horses in the winter and coming into Meldrum Bay to shop. It was a three-mile trip and always exciting. Most of all, I loved seeing the candy in the showcase at the general store.”

“Cleaning the barn and milking 12 cows twice a day, before and after school, was expected. I always milked the ‘bucking’ cow first, before she had a chance to get mean. Sometimes we used ‘bucking’ chains around the hind legs when we had to subdue a cow.”

“One time, at 12, I was watching a show, ‘The greatest person there was.’ Somehow, I identified with this fellow. Out in the barnyard, it seems my father was not impressed with this line of thinking when I declared, ‘I am the greatest person there is, there is no one better.’ I quickly found myself flat on my back.”

“We had a collie, Rex, who was really good at finding the deer after a hunter shot one. I used to be the guide. It was great when only one deer was shot, because Rex’s patience ran out before a second deer. However, he had other redeeming traits. I could lean my gun against a tree and ask Rex to stay; he would not let anyone touch it.”

Thanksgiving dinner.

“I also remember the ‘mud’ grandmother and my sister invented, and we built. She lived in a ditch at the back of the property and we would visit her occasionally. We made up little cardboard cars that would take us to the back field where she waited for us.”

Dale and his siblings went to school in Meldrum Bay. Eight grades held 18 kids. “I recall being the only student in my class (apart from one year) all the way through school to Grade 8. I was okay with that. The teachers were good. One cloudy day, when the hydro went down, our teacher asked for a vote. ‘Should we stay or go?’ he asked. Of course, we all voted to go,” Dale offers, smiling. “He was replaced by Christmas.”

“One day I opted for revenge after being bullied by a few kids. I armed myself with a broom and invited them into the cloakroom. They were simultaneously hit with the soft end of the broom and verbally berated. Unfortunately, the teacher heard it too. I got the strap. On a happier note, I also remember working on a cedar flagpole for the school. We removed all the little knots to make it smooth for the Union Jack.”

“We had no playground equipment, so we made our own fun. ‘Duck on the rock’ had one person (the guardian) standing near the rock (duck) sitting on a pedestal. The others had to knock the ‘duck’ off by throwing their own rocks. If you were tagged trying to retrieve your rock, or if you missed, you were ‘it.’ There was a similar game that involved stealing each others’ sticks without getting caught. If you were captured, you had to stand in jail for a while. The person with the most sticks won. Softball was always a favourite too, as was swimming on Bass Lake, a mile from our house.”

Dale and Joan Van Every tie the knot on June 7, 1963.

High school was in Thessalon, where Dale boarded with older sister Maude and her family. “We were closer to Gore Bay, across the North Channel, but didn’t know anyone there and we had no buses. Favourite subjects were science and history. I wanted to be a doctor but had to change plans when dad died. I was 15 and in Grade 10 in 1950 when my brother and I took over the farm. Jimmy and Don stayed in school. Clarke bought half the farm and I ran mother’s half until years later when I bought her half. We raised cows, pigs, turkeys and sold them in the fall. In September, the cows went to the Little Current Cattle Sales Yard run by The Manitoulin Livestock Co-op.”

In 1952 when Dale was 17, he went west as part of the Harvest Excursion. Mel Wicket had a brand-new car, lent to him by his parents. “We had a great trip through the States and we learned to use the six-foot binder and the 15-foot swather. Unfortunately, I drove this swather a little too close to the hydro poles on the side of the field. Luckily, I saved the farm implement from much damage. I learned to take more care after that.” The boys made $100 a month plus room and board. It was unfortunate that they spent their last weekend in town. “I had little money left to come home with and had to borrow $1.15 from the family.”

Cheryl is raring to go but dad is not.

At age 20, Dale got work training as an electrical helper with local electrician Doug Steele who was still busy wiring houses after hydro was connected to the area in 1950. Dale learned a lot about the basics of electrical wiring over the next five years or so.

Dale was 25 when he met Joan Duncanson in 1960. “I was still working for Doug at the time. I noticed this pretty girl at our local dances and we started to date. Joan was the daughter of Ellen (nee Pope) and Norman Duncanson, born on August 7, 1941. Joan explains, “Mother was a teacher at the Silver Water Public School for five years, and the Long Bay School for three. She met and married Norman who had moved back in with his dad in Silver Water, when his mum, also a teacher, died of a stroke. Norman was a farmer too.”

“I was the first of four children,” Joan Van Every notes, “and I was named Norma Joan. My second name was used to reduce confusion with ‘Norman,’ already popular in the family. Ken was next, then Myra and Iris,” Joan explains. “Ken lives here on Manitoulin. Myra spent 45 years at the Bank of Montreal in Gore Bay. Iris did legal secretarial work and bookkeeping.”

Dale at 27 at the dock in Kagawong.

“My maternal grandmother, Janet (nee Robertson) Pope of Ice Lake, made hats for a ladies’ shop. Her husband Tom farmed. He gave mum a car when she married dad and she thought she was a rich lady.” Paternal grandparents were Jenette and Laughlan Duncanson, originally from Dutton. They met when Jenette stationed herself at the end of her driveway in Silver Water, and began to draw pictures. Grandfather Laughlan would go over to chat. Eventually they were wed. Jenette taught school on Manitoulin. They had four children and Norman was the youngest.

An early memory for Joan was playing in the barn. “Mother always said ‘keep your feet on the ground to avoid falls from great heights.’ She needn’t have worried, as my time in the barn was short. I tried to help dad with the haying when big bundles of hay came into the barn. They would be tied and placed high in the barn. After 10 minutes of this, I couldn’t breathe. I was allergic to the hay. Dad took me back to the house and said, ‘I know you want to help but your allergy doesn’t allow that, so you be mother’s helper.’ Perhaps that’s where my love of cooking came from.”

Joan loved school at SS#1 Robinson in Silver Water. “I liked all of it, reading, history, math, and later French in high school.” As a teen, Joan worked two summers at Pine Haven, a tourist resort in Elizabeth Bay. “I enjoyed meeting people and the work was good, but I was shy and didn’t date until I met Dale, my first and only boyfriend. Dad liked him, he was on the cattle board and he had a great sense of humour.”

August 1963 together on the lake.

Dale and Joan married on June 7, 1963, on his brother Don’s birthday. “It was a nice sunny day in Silver Water and we had two ministers, Murray Arnel and Reverend Manson of Gore Bay. It seems our first minister was still waiting for his official document in the mail, so we had to get a second minister for the signing.” After the nuptials, a dinner and dance were enjoyed by all. “My mother had donated the potatoes, eggs, milk and butter from the farm,” Joan adds.

After the celebrations, the couple headed to the Wagon Wheel Motel in Little Current. The next day, one of their ministers had breakfast with the newlyweds. The honeymoon took them to traditional Niagara Falls. “We stayed in the home of brother Bill and his wife Pauline in Hamilton and we also made a side trip to the Welland Canal. It seems that there was always someone from home nearby, like Calvin Kelly who apparently travelled the same route as we did on our honeymoon.” Dale shares “I remember a lot of questions about Joan’s age at the time. She hadn’t been one to frequent the bars, so they may not have realized she was 22.”

In 1965, after two years on the farm, Dale understood the property was not large enough to support two families. “I sold my portion to Clarke. Joan and I were expecting our first baby and we were told we could come back to the farm anytime.”

The couple’s son Scott’s wedding in June 1994 in Grimsby.

Dale left for Hamilton where he found three weeks of work at Firestone, putting up a new building. Afterwards he found employment at Stelco in the washer mill. The continuous pounding-out of washers, like the type used for plumbing, was very loud. The machine cut six at a time. “From there I went to the Bloom Mill to cut billets and stakes; I stayed for 30 years.”

“Joan joined me in Hamilton in March 1965 and our Cheryl was born in August of that year.” Later, Scott and Lynn were added to the family. By that time, they were living in Grimsby. Eight years in Grimsby were followed by 22 years in neighbouring Beamsville. After her children were older, Joan returned to work at the Beacon Motor Inn, a large local facility with 70 rooms, a big swimming pool and a dining room that sat 120. Her employer sent her to Niagara College for a cooking certificate. She soon supervised six ladies in the food production area. “We provided buffets that featured soups, sandwiches, fancy seafood and baked goods. Buses carrying 45 people would stop in regularly.”

Both Dale and Joan attended Brock University where Joan took French and Dale took a statistics course, he found rather trying. “After my first day, I knew less than when I came in,” he concludes, “and it was downhill after that.” He took a drafting course at Mohawk so he could read blueprints at work.

Turkey and partridge hunting was something Dale enjoyed. “We would hunt turkeys at the back of Lynn’s place near Dunville. We also helped with fundraisers for our community, like a pig roast at the centre. Once, the Grimsby Agricultural Society was a little miffed when part of the pig fell into the fire. We had done our best to wrap up the pig, but accidents happen.”

A family trip in 1979 to Banff, Lake Louise, was beautiful. “It was an awesome place to visit but we ran short of time because the kids had to get home for their first day of school. Our last rainy night in Kapuskasing had us looking forward to a cozy bed and a television. Unfortunately, all the channels were in French.”

Other places that the family visited included England, Scotland and Wales in 2002, and Australia, where Dale’s nephew David worked. Popular stops down under were Melbourne, Sidney, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. “We also saw the East Coast and took a second trip to British Columbia by plane. We took a cruise in Alaska.” On the Skagway train, the tour guide for their group pointed to a building that belonged to current US President Donald Trump’s grandfather. “It seemed unusual to make that connection up there. Lastly, we lost our luggage in Seattle on the way back, but it was returned two days later.”

Dale helped with the Boy Scouts, but felt he lacked the confidence to excel. “I’m sure I was the worst leader,” he shares. “I lovedthe kids, but I wasn’t good at retaining the information we were to share with the boys.” He felt more success as a Big Brother. “I had two Little Brothers and it was a rewarding experience to see how the relationship led to the positive changes in these young lads.” Joan led the United Church Women in Hamilton and she was head of the Sunday School. She spent five years cooking at the Beacon Motor Inn, and later worked in St. Catharines at a buffet restaurant.

Dale and Joan taught their children well. “I recall two of kids going cherry picking one summer. After an hour or so, they came back, saying it was nice out and the other kids were all going swimming.” Dale told them, “That farmer hired you to pick cherries, you go back and pick those cherries.” Instilling a responsibility for one’s actions is a valuable lesson, best learned while still young.

The three children have accomplished their chosen goals. Cheryl lives in Guelph where she works for the government with a job-search program. She has two sons, Alex and Arthur, and a daughter Dayle. Dayle and Alex are in school and Arthur is working. Son Scott has his Masters in Electrical Engineering and he is responsible for 75 cranes at Dofasco in Hamilton. He has two daughters: Samantha is taking medical radiation sciences at McMaster and working at Joseph Brant Hospital. Sidney is at Mohawk College and she works as well. Daughter Lynn helps her husband run a grapery. They have one daughter, McKenzie, 13, in school.

After Dale retired from Stelco, in the mid-90s, the couple moved back to Manitoulin.

Dale’s strengths seem to be telling stories. “We lost our dad at an early age and telling stories helped us get through the lean war years. One winter, we didn’t have much food, the kids complained because it seemed we were living mostly on turnips. The stories we created helped reduce the stress and added a little variety and spice to our lives. It made me feel that I was helping in a small way. Our neighbours came through also. Archie Wickett, Wilfred Joyce, Lawrence Morrison and Web Steele helped us. We needed to know so much, like how to load hay on a wagon so you can get it off again.”

Joan’s strengths revolve around the cooking she learned at her mother’s knee. “I love to cook and bake and watch people enjoy the food.” The couple likes watching houses being built on HGTV. Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, nature shows and the Blue Jays are popular. Joan adds she would still like to see the Dempster Highway to Alaska.

There is nothing either Dale or Joan would change if they could go back in time. “We are happy with the life we led then and now.” Nephew John owns 2,000 acres here and he taps 300 trees for maple syrup each year. We love to join him in the shack and tell stories, play cribbage and drink maple tea.”

These days, a good game of cribbage, or euchre, is a welcome opportunity for Dale to spend a little down time. “I used to play euchre with sister Helen until she died at 90 last year.” Bother Bill was the oldest living recorded Van Every before he died in Gore Bay in October last year. Don and I remain from our family.”

“Manitoulin is a paradise. People are honest, and you feel safe here. You can choose something at the store and you are good for it till the next day. The storms are not as bad, and you are not likely to get shot here,” Dale adds, smiling. “Our car was stolen in Beamsville and the thief even knew where to find the keys in the house.”

“We left the Island for 30 years for work but always knew we were coming home,” Joan adds. “At first I was a little hesitant to come back. I was afraid I wouldn’t find work, but I got a job cooking at Lafarge in their new state-of-the-art cook-house.” Dale adds, “After being back two weeks, in the fall of 1995, we felt like we had never left. We bought ten head of cattle and added them to Clarke’s cows on the farm. We are very happy here now, still working a little and enjoying our life, one day at a time.”