Maxine Berry is a resident at Heaton Place in Armstrong. This is her story. (Carrie O’Neill)

Maxine Berry is a resident at Heaton Place in Armstrong. This is her story. (Carrie O’Neill)

Can’t take the farm outta the girl: Armstrong resident

Heaton Place resident Maxine Berry recalls life on the farm in Alberta

Maxine Berry was born in Stettler, Alta., on March 6, 1929. Maxine’s father, Forrest Tucker (not the actor) arrived in Endiang, Alta., in 1909 from Kentucky. Endiang is a little hamlet about 80 kilometres southeast of Stettler. Maxine’s mom, Sylvia Loomer, arrived with her family by train from North Dakota about three years later. Sylvia and Forrest would eventually meet and marry on Nov. 26, 1916. They had five children, Maxine was the youngest.

Maxine has many fond memories of her childhood growing up on the farm. Her closest neighbours lived a mile or so away. Her playmates were the baby calves, colts, runt pigs, kittens and puppies that inhabited the farm. She recalls walking the two miles each day to Hunt Lake School. When the snow was too high in the winter, she and her brother had to either ride double bare back; or hitch a team to a cutter to get there.

In her last two years of school, Maxine and four other students were the total enrolment.

“School also doubled as the local medical clinic’” Maxine recalls, “The doctor and nurse would visit to provide immunizations; check tonsils and adenoids. If there were any issues, you were anesthetized right there and then; and out they came.

“I remember the school house reeking of ether. When money was scarce in the Depression Era, school kids found collecting crow’s eggs and gopher tails a good way to make a little money. Back then, the government paid a penny a piece for gopher tails and a half a cent for crow eggs. We spent many hours snaring and trapping gophers and hunting crow eggs. I even remember eating a crow’s egg once; but not intentionally.

Today, children often look to their electronics for fun,” Maxine said. “But in my day, we had to be both creative and imaginative to have fun and pass the time. For example, in the summer we played a sort of baseball in which each of us would have a turn at bat, catcher, pitcher and in the winter, we played a game called Fox and Goose, a form of tag in the snow.”

Being the tomboy of the family, it wasn’t uncommon to find Maxine outside watching the binders make the grain bundles; or riding along on the drill with her Dad while he seeded the crops. One year, Maxine’s father hired a young lad from back east to help bring in the harvest. After long days working on the farm, the family and hired help would gather to enjoy a home cooked meal made by mother and then gather for a singalong after dinner. The young lad had a guitar and taught Maxine how to play! When the harvest was over, the hired hand left, but not before presenting Maxine with the gift of his guitar.

“I was in seventh heaven,” she recalled, “But I must have driven my mom crazy while teaching myself to play it.”

Maxine would go on to play well enough to sing, and whistle and play The Beer and the Barrel Polka for the Red Cross concerts. During this time she would also teach herself how to play the spoons. Quite often when Heaton Place brings in musical entertainment, you will find Maxine playing her spoons along with the band!

Growing up in the “Hungry Thirties” was difficult for most, but Maxine shared that there was always enough to eat in her home. “Mom used to make all our clothes, even overalls and shirts for Dad and my brothers. When I was around 10, my father presented me with my own pony which I named Dimples.”

READ MORE: 98-year-old North Okanagan woman designs clothes for Barbie

READ MORE: Armstrong couple has deep roots in town

Maxine tells a story about how one day she was riding Dimples bareback to school when her Dad pulled up beside her in his 1929 Chevy! She decided to race him. Maxine took the early lead with her Dad right behind her in the car. When Maxine fell from Dimples, her Dad wasn’t able to avoid running over her. Thankfully she was not injured.

As Maxine recalls, “the Angels were with me that day. I got up; brushed myself off; got back on Dimples; and rode on to school.” However, life on the farm was not all fun and games. Maxine, like all her siblings had her “chores.” Her most memorable job was delivering milk in the morning to the locals before going to school. She loved this job because it gave her the opportunity to visit with everyone!

The family moved to Chilliwack, B.C., in 1946. Eventually, Maxine, now a young woman, would move to Kamloops where she met the love of her life and become Mrs. Al Berry on June 6, 1951.

Al and Maxine had 52 and one-half years of wonderful memories together. They never had a mortgage. They bought their first lot for $525.00 and built a small home.

“It was like a barn; it had pine plank flooring, two light bulbs and cold running water,” she said. “But we made it work and we were happy.”

They went on to have three children and in 1968, Maxine and her family would move to acreage just outside of Kamloops where they built their second home. She would once again be surrounded by all the things she so dearly loved, cows, pigs, chickens, a large garden and flowers galore.

“I loved every minute of the time spent there,” she said. “It was like reliving my youth. You can take the kid from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the kid.”

When the kids all left home, Maxine and Al would enjoy touring the country on their cruiser motorcycle pulling their homemade tent trailer, designed and built by Al. When asked to describe her marriage, Maxine said, “We worked together, played together, loved each other and had fun together!” Maxine has a strong faith, which she says “keeps me grounded and gives me great hope for the future.”

Maxine now resides at Heaton Place Retirement Community, in Armstrong, where she enjoys her time playing cards, meeting new friends, making music with her spoons and, of course, creating new memories.

— Carrie O’Neill is the resident relations co-ordinator at Heaton Place in Armstrong. These are the stories of its residents.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP paid tribute Saturday to Const. Marc Hovingh of the Ontario Provincial Police, who was killed in a shooting Nov. 19, 2020. (RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP honours fallen Ontario police officer

Const. Marc Hovingh was killed in a shooting on Manitoulin Island, Ont. on Nov. 19

The Armstrong Green Space Society is calling for the preservation of the Royal York Golf Course, which may be in jeopardy pending an application to use the land for a major housing development. (File photo)
Armstrong group calls on council to spare local golf course from housing development

The Armstrong Green Space Society was formed in 2019 after word of the development surfaced

Vicki Proulx, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, stands beneath a lights display the society lit up in Spirit Square Nov. 27, by way of announcing it will be taking over the 2021 downtown light-up event. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival Society lights up downtown square

The society announced it will be taking over next year’s downtown light-up event

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at Armstrong Elementary School prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

A former Nanaimo investment advisor is accused of lying under oath to the B.C. Securities Commission. (Black Press file)
Vernon budget opens for public input

Draft financial plan includes 4.47% tax increase for 2021

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP issue warning after woman assaulted while walking in Kelowna

On Saturday, the unknown man ran up and grabbed her in an inappropriate manner before fleeing

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A West Cabs driver is being investigated for an incident which allegedly took place this week. (West Cabs)
West Kelowna cab driver under investigation after altercation over his lack of mask

Passenger alleges cab driver became confrontational when asked about wearing mask

Supt. Brian Hunter will be presenting first quarter RCMP stats to Penticton city council, tomorrow (April 21). (Phil McLachlan - Western News - File)
South Okanagan RCMP superintendent wants to set up dedicated prolific offender task force

Supt. Brian Hunter plans to use the additional officers city council approved for the force

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

(Pixabay)
‘We need to be empathetic’; Kelowna support worker speaks out after disabled individual denied haircut

Individual with severe autism denied service at a Kelowna hair salon for not wearing mask

The Interior Wildfire Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10-15 acres to house a rehab centre for injured and orphaned wildlife like deer and moose calves. (Black Press file photo)
Okanagan group look for property to house wildlife rehab centre

The Interior Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10 acres for injured/orphaned animals

Most Read