Fiery Joe

Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West by Kathleen Carlisle, with Eileen Forrieter Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-485-8 Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West is a fascinating story of an incredible man. For those with a political bent, Joseph Lee Phelps was a man of many accomplishments. For those just interested in a good story, his standout feature is his personality. Author Kathleen Carlisle has produced a well-documented character study of an intensely political man. She credits Eileen Forrieter as co-author because her master’s thesis forms an integral part of this book. Using interviews with Phelps and his contemporaries, Carlisle brings him to life on the page. Phelps’ heart was firmly planted in the soil. Actively involved in numerous farm organizations, he juggled work as a telephone lineman in the Wilkie district and tended to his growing family. He later served as president of the Saskatchewan Farmers Union and was instrumental in establishing Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum. After Phelps was elected to the Saskatchewan legislature as the member for Saltcoats in 1938, a Leader-Post columnist described the rookie: “He is a fighter. He has punch. He has…

Road Through Time

Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move by Mary Soderstrom Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $26.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-477-3 Mary Soderstrom’s Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move may well be the most intriguing archaeological analysis since man set wheels on pathways. Partly memoir, it’s really a condensed history of civilization as seen through its roads. Soderstrom tells the story of humanity tramping through time, exploring, discovering, and moving on. The great trek started with early humans leaving Africa possibly as early as 80,000 years ago and continues to this day. One of the most fascinating chapters is also the most mysterious. Soderstrom outlines possible routes humans may have taken to reach North America. Some facts are known. She notes, for instance, that “every Native American throughout the western hemisphere shows common kinship with people who now live or who did live in parts of Northern Siberia.” But much is conjecture, so she titles the chapter “Mystery Roads.” One mystery she does explain is why, for most of its production period, the Model T Ford was available only in black, and it wasn’t because Henry Ford particularly liked that colour….

To Climb a Mountain
Jean Forbes-King / 5 June 2017

To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History by Jean Forbes-King Review by Keith Foster ISBN 978-0-9958599-1-3 Jean Forbes-King’s To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story of her late husband, William Forbes-King, who endures the devastating drought and depression of the Dirty Thirties, becomes an orphan at age fourteen, and is drafted into the Canadian Army as a teenager. Bill’s father, a British Army officer, survives the German gas attack at Ypres in the First World War but passes away before Bill is born in 1926. The next year, Bill’s mother leaves England with her two boys, moving to the small prairie community of Cadillac in southern Saskatchewan. As a “freckle-faced kid with sun-bleached hair,” Billy Forbes-King is a prankster. He’s also bullied, often coming home with a black eye, bruises, or bloody nose. He later learns why his older brother, Jim, who also bullies him, was himself ridiculed and bullied. After Jim joins the Royal Canadian Navy, Bill and his mother join him in Victoria, BC. Travelling by train through the Rocky Mountains, Bill is overwhelmed with their…

Towards A Prairie Atonement
University of Regina Press / 21 December 2016

Towards a Prairie Atonement by Trevor Herriot Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $22.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-454-4 For the Métis, who lived on the Canadian prairies for centuries, land was everything. They hunted on it, sustained themselves on it, fought for it, and died for it. In Towards a Prairie Atonement, naturalist Trevor Herriot’s same reverence for the land is reflected in the deep spiritual undertones embedded in his narrative. Enamoured with both the prairie and its inhabitants, Herriot pays particular attention to the birds and trees, as is his naturalist inclination. He argues that if man does not take care of the land, nature will exact its revenge, as it did in the raging dustbowl of the Dirty Thirties. If you sit very quietly in the outdoors, he says, you can hear the land moaning its loss. Herriot has a flair for playing with descriptive language, such as “fingers of grassland around bowls of forest” and “men and women as hardy as poplar trees.” He points out that some of our English words, such as coulee, originated from Michif, the Métis language rooted in a mixture of Cree and French. Herriot draws heavily on Métis Elder…

Otto & Daria
University of Regina Press / 14 December 2016

Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land by Eric Koch Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $25.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-443-8 When Otto Koch, a German Jew, suffers an appendicitis attack, he’s rushed to a hospital in the Third Reich reserved for non-Jews. As the anaesthesia starts to take effect, the last words he hears are his surgeon greeting his staff with “Heil Hitler.” In his memoir, entitled Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land, Koch vividly re-creates his life in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. He brilliantly captures the tension in the air as the Nazis insidiously gain control. His parents protect him from the encroaching danger and at first he leads an idyllic life, isolated from the terror that is to come. Otto continues his life chronicle, studying at the University of Cambridge in England, when he meets the mysterious Daria Hambourg, a woman at first shy but more than adept at expressing herself through her writing. She’s from a distinguished English family, but with a distinctively bohemian bent. She’s also a Socialist with no qualms about expressing her views. Otto and Daria begin corresponding by…

Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 30 November 2016

Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History by Edward Willett Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-76-8 Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History by Regina author Edward Willett is a masterful work of art in both narrative and illustration, solid in structure, and powerful in its rendition. It’s actually a revised and enlarged version of Margaret Hryniuk’s A Tower of Attraction, edited by Garth Pugh and published in 1991 for the 100th anniversary of Government House. That book is long out of print, and a lot has happened in the last twenty-five years – time for a new version for the 125th anniversary in 2016. The Government House Historical Society, with its foresight to preserve its past for the future, undertook both book projects. Willett revises A Tower of Attraction, which covers the period up to and including the term of Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Fedoruk, using it as his launch pad and taking off from there. This book is as up to date as it can be – going through to August 2016. In addition to interviewing the staff at Government House and the widow of former lieutenant Governor John E.N “Jack” Wiebe,…

Forever Changed
DriverWorks Ink / 11 May 2016

Forever Changed by Cheri Helstrom Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $16.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-27-2 Change is inevitable. Some changes are so massive that they can change one’s life – dramatically and permanently. In Forever Changed, Cheri Helstrom relates how a series of changes affected her father, massively and permanently. In this work of creative nonfiction, Cheri tells the story of her father, William Richard Scott, as if he is telling the story himself. Known better as Ritchie, he lives with his parents and six siblings in Alameda, SK, where his businessman father is the town’s first mayor. As the title suggests, Ritchie experiences several changes that forever affect him. The first is when his mother dies. Then the Great Depression changes everything. There are further changes when his father dies. World War II brings more changes. But perhaps the biggest change, and his biggest challenge, is when he gives up alcohol. One of Ritchie’s great joys as a youngster is going on a trip with his father to the Banff Springs Hotel, where he later works for the summer as a bellboy. Later still, he works as an office boy at the Coca-Cola head office in Toronto. When…

Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest
Hagios Press / 12 April 2016

Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest: Canada’s Home Children in the West by Sean Arthur Joyce Published by Hagios Press Review by Keith Foster $18.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-27-3 Even the best intentions can be paving stones to hell. In most cases, well-intentioned people like Thomas Barnardo thought they were helping homeless British children by sending them across the “golden bridge” to new homes in Canada. Their lives, however, were anything but golden. In Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest, Sean Arthur Joyce serves up some startling statistics. From the 1860s to 1967, “some 130,000 children were scooped up from the mean streets” of Britain “to be used as slave labour.” About 100,000 of them ended up in Canada, mostly on farms. Joyce, himself a grandson of a home child, points out that today there could be as many as four million descendants of these children – about one in eight Canadians! Conditions for homeless children in Britain were barely tolerable. In the East End of London, four out of five infants would die before their fifth year. Barnardo and Annie Macpherson started “ragged schools” – so named because the children were literally in rags – that provided them with at least…

Legacy of Worship
Coteau Books / 30 March 2016

Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Rural Saskatchewan by Margaret Hryniuk and Frank Korvemaker Photography by Larry Easton Published by Coteau Books Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-597-9 It was the happiest of times; it was the saddest of times. It was a time for weddings, and a time for funerals. Whether celebrating the best days of their lives, or enduring the worst, people in rural Saskatchewan gathered at their churches to share their joy or to find solace from their sorrows. With these thoughts in mind, Margaret Hryniuk and Frank Korvemaker bring flesh and blood to their stories in Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Rural Saskatchewan, a book they co-researched and co-authored. With limited space in this 251-page book, churches selected were restricted to rural areas, not cities or towns. Even at that, many worthy structures had to be left out. The churches chosen were those of historical and/or architectural importance, with many recorded as national historic sites. Church structures come in all shapes, sizes, and denominations. Some are not buildings at all. Indigenous sacred places, for instance, consisted of medicine wheels, effigies, rock carvings, and pictographs. This book features some of Saskatchewan’s most prominent and well…

Bread to Share, Volume 1
Three West Two South Books / 2 February 2016

Bread to Share . . . Stories about Saskatchewan’s early Lutheran pastors and their wives by Lois Knudson Munholland Published by Three West Two South Books Review by Keith Foster $30 ISBN 0-9735234-1-7 A sequel and companion volume to Pulpits of the Past, Bread to Share is a compilation of stories of Saskatchewan’s early Lutheran pastors and their wives. What sets this book apart is the prominence of the pastors’ wives and their families who are often relegated to secondary roles or neglected entirely in many church histories. The pastors are listed alphabetically by surname. After relating the experiences of the ministers, Knudson Munholland devotes space to their wives, lists the names of their family members, and provides references. Sources include interviews as well as history books. Although Knudson Munholland focuses on Saskatchewan, she also touches on other parts of Canada and the United States as pastors often transferred to various locations. Indeed, one pastor virtually toured Saskatchewan as he constantly relocated throughout the province. One of the strengths of Bread to Share is Knudson Munholland’s descriptions of the hardships pastors and their wives had to endure. During the Dirty Thirties, spouse Christine Stollee would routinely place dishes upside down…