The Way We Were
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the September 07, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.
The most beautiful place in the world
by Catherine Joyce
Leila Bates stands on the gentle rise above the land she and Keith have farmed for almost 50 years, at the junction of Carman Road and the 105. The land is laid out like a quilt of golden fields, cut through with dark pine. In the distance the hil1s rise hazy in the summer sun, the sky a dome of childhood blue.
"This is the most beautiful place in the world," she says.
Keith, born in this house in 1932, remembers a time when only two lights were visible at night from their hilltop. "I'd go out and check on the barn before going to bed in the winter. If I looked to the south, I'd see the kitchen lamp on at Dunlap's farm, the only light along the road. If I looked east across the river to where the golf course is now, I'd see a solitary light at Levi Reid's farm. Now the hills are lit up year round. You can't see the stars."
The 105 runs right through their farm but Keith remembers a time when there was no 105. "It took them ages to get that road constructed. It went in finally around 1945. Years later, it still wasn't paved." He laughs, "I remember going to school one day and seeing huge paving equipment parked near the Earl House. 'It was the day before an election. One day later they took the machines away - you just knew it'd take more than promises to get the job done!"
In their lifetime the Bates have boarded horses, raised dairy cows, sheep, goats, pigs, beef cattle and pheasants. "We tried everything. In the early days when Keith cut the hay, I raked, baled and piled the bales on the wagon. Our kids, John, Terry and Carol, each took their turn - starting young as six years old - steering the tractor. Everyone worked. We had fun. It was a great life."
So much has changed. "When we were married in 1956, there were 22 working farms between Hull and Wakefield. Now there's not a cow left - we had to give away our last two and this past spring the Hendricks finally sold theirs."
Born in 1935, Leila grew up at Captiva Farm near Edelweiss. "We lived miles away. As a teenager I couldn't wait to escape but now I cherish the memory of the quiet, of the deep winters when we would be snowed in weeks. You'd sit in the window and watch the blowing drifts. There was no electricity. We cooked on a wood stove and read by kerosene lamp - its soft glow left all the rest of the room in darkness. We walked three miles to school over roads rolled to a slick, shiny surface. There were no snowploughs back then, only horses pulling the big snow rollers."
Leila and Keith remember the good times as teenagers. "We hung out at Alexander's Restaurant at the north end of Wakefield. There was a jukebox for dancing, booths for enjoying hamburgers and soda - even a movie theatre for Friday night movies. We were rowdy but people put up with teenagers in those days. We had a ball growing up here."
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