Sunday, May 4, 2014

52 Ancestors #18: Biking Across Western Canada in 1930

Ancestor Name:  William Warm

I have blogged about the adventures of William Warm before, which included stealing a train during World War I; he was the husband of my second cousin once removed. William and his family arrived in Canada on 27 August 1927 aboard S/S Seydlitz. With the help of Rev. Emil P. Wahl of the American German Baptist Mission, the family made their way Winnipeg, Manitoba to help harvest a bumper crop of grain in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Bill decided to stay and try his hand at farming. After a few years of battling dust storms and other crop failures, Bill realized farming in that area of Canada was not for him.

He took off on 30 July 1930 on the one-speed Opel bicycle he brought with him from Germany and headed for Vancouver to look for his uncle, Dave Janzen. The description of the trip is included in Lucille Fillenberg Effa's wonderful book, Our Schalin Family: 1770-2003. I've included an excerpt here:

"He reached Calagary sooner than expected so carried on to Banff, before stopping for the night beside a river, near the roadside. Bill's slumber under the stars was soon interrupted by a bear attempting to ransack his rucksack. Thankfully, the furry thief was scared off when Bill jumped up abruptly and shouted at it.

Photograph of Bill's Opel bicycle during his trip across western Canada.
Photograph taken by William Warm

West of Banff, he headed south through the Windermere valley to Cranbrook, then west to Creston where he crossed the Arrow Lakes by ferry, at a cost of $0.05. Leaving Nelson, he continued his journey pedaling through the West Kootenays. Arriving at the foot of the 12-mile long hill outside of Rossland a kind soul in a Ford touring coupe stopped and offered him a rope tow. Bill accepted the offer but made the mistake of tying the rope to the spare tire on the back of the car. His second mistake was tying the other end to the bike's handle bars. Up, up, up they went through many switchbacks, before reaching the crest of the hill -- at least a half hour's grind. But as the law of gravity would have it, what goes up soon comes down -- rapidly. Bill, pell-melling behind, shouted for the driver to stop. He did. But Bill zoomed right on by, only coming to an abrupt halt in the ditch when the rope length ran out and snapped. After picking himself up, he immediately noticed the bicycle wheel now in the shape of a figure eight. What to do? He took the wheel off, picked it up, and bent it back into shape across his knee, reinstalled the wheel and carried on, declining an offer for further towing.

Interesting escapes weren't yet over. Upon arriving in Grand Forks, Bill was greeted by a bevy of stark-naked ladies protesting something as they paraded about the town trying to make a political point. Thankfully, this occasion was not planned for Bill so he kept on pedaling by, leaving the local RCMP officers to handle the problem presented by a group of Russian Doukabour 'mommas.'

Bill eventually arrived in Vancouver but still had to find Uncle Dave, without an address nor a phone number, but knew he lived on Lulu Island somewhere. Bill remembered having seen an advertisement for the Ebenezer Baptist Church in the German magazine Der Sendbote. He found the church on 52nd Avenue near Fraser Street. As it happened the pastor, Rev. Fred Mueller (son of Rev. F. A. Mueller[1]) knew Uncle Dave and directed Bill to his home.

William Warm and his Opel bicycle

Thus ended Bill's long journey sometime in August 1930. He averaged over 70 miles a day, and more amazing, never had one flat tire."

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

William Warm was born on 13 Dec 1909 at Millirowa, Russia, to John and Helen (Janzen) Warm. After being displaced several times during World War I and afterwards, the family arrived in Nova Scotia, Canada, aboard the S/S Seydlitz on 27 August 1927. William married Norma Viola "Minnie" Grapentine on 6 October 1936. He died on 26 Aug 2007 at the age of 97.

To read more about William Warm's early life and journey from Odessa to Vancouver, including stealing a train, click here.

[1] Rev. F. A. Mueller was the German Baptist minister responsible for bringing several families from the Volhynia region of what was then Russia to the Leduc area of Alberta, Canada, including my maternal grandmother's Schalin family.

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