Childhood Work and Play written by Avonna Stevenson
Childhood Work and Play
“We had few toys. We made our own entertainment,” said Anna Stevenson when I asked her about her childhood. “We all had our own chores to, but that didn’t hurt us any.”
Chores for Miss Stevenson consisted of “fetching things for Mother” when she was very small and doing increasingly difficult tasks around the house as she grew older. The second oldest girl in a large family, much of her time was spent looking after the younger children. It was her special job on Saturday nights to see that all the shoes were cleaned and ready to wear to Sunday school. The boys split the kindling and kept the wood box filled. Small boys brought the cows home from the field and older ones helped with the milking. There was always work to be done and everyone did what they could. As the children got older they went out potato picking for neighbouring farmers. Work started after breakfast and they often worked until dark. For the day’s work Miss Stevenson received fifty cents, dinner and supper. If they worked until dark, a lunch was brought to the field at 4:00pm, and supper was eaten in the evening when work was finished.
Toys were usually homemade. Ragdolls were made from printed patterns which could be ordered from Eaton’s catalogue for about twenty-five cents. These were cut out, sewn up, and stuffed. An old two-wheeled hay rack made a good teeter-totter, but it wasn’t evenly balanced, so several children had to get on one end. After the hay was brought in it was fun to hang by your knees from a trapeze rigged-up from rope and a broomstick in the hay loft.
Family concerts were put on quite often and included recitations, singing, and dancing. These were “staged” in the barn. Miss Stevenson recalls that on one occasion they invited Laura (Mrs. Will) Bulman, who lived on the next farm, to attend. Mrs. Bulman came, sat through the entire performance and seemed to enjoy it.
Miss Stevenson remembers a Christmas when she was quite small, and an older brother made a doll bed for her from some old bed slats.
Ball was a popular game with both boys and girls. Bats were shaped from a stick of wood, and a good ball could be made from tightly wound yarn. If you had a piece of cork for the center, it had more bounce, and a cover of cloth or leather sewed on made it last longer.
Miss Stevenson still works hard and still enjoys her leisure time. She seems to have found the perfect balance between the two which enables her to enjoy her life and enhance the lives of people around her as well.
(Since this paper was written Anna Stevenson has passed away.)