I have been thinking about why it has taken me so long to write about my father's book, since it was the first one I worked on. Possibly it is because at various times and in various forms, it was completed in some sense.
Perhaps my first comments may be my own preface to Dad's book.
In 1957 at the age of sixty-two Joseph Edward Hinde, called Bob, suffered a cerebrovascular accident which came close to killing him. He survived the stroke, and found himself largely paralyzed on the right side of his body. Walking was difficult, speech was severely impaired and he was unable to use his right hand for any fine motor-manipulative skills such as writing. His mind, however, like his optimistic philosophy, was unimpaired. He discovered this was the case when he began to write of his life. With the continuing support of his wife, he learned to type one-fingered with his left hand. While the process was slow and difficult, his writings about pioneering in Saskatchewan and his thoughts about opening up the land in the wider context of prairie, Canada and world events are valuable as part of Canadian history.
Bob Hinde's story is most important, however, as family history. It is the documentation of the experience of an English family that chose to uproot itself from a working class district of Birmingham to make a new life in the vast empty plains of central Saskatchewan. The transformation for the family was from urban poverty to rural landowners. Initially they were landowners in poverty but later there was comfort if not the affluence that came with the next generations. This story is of great interest to those succeeding generations. The manner in which the writing reveals the man allows his descendants to know him not only as a revered and somewhat mythical ancestor, but also as a person. That he chose to spend a part of his retired years in writing this story of a family can never be sufficiently appreciated by those descendants.
In 1976, in Victoria, Bob Hinde joined a creative writing class. In that class he began a process of selecting from his memories, some already written into his long narrative, some original. These he formed into self-contained short incidents and anecdotes. Some of them he wrote in a number of versions, for different purposes. To the extent possible, the content of these short stories has been woven back into the long narrative in chronological order. The reader may notice some duplication, and should regard the chapters as essentially independent.
Bob Hinde wrote the long narrative over the course of almost two decades, from 1957 to 1974. The short stories, reproduced for the family in five binders, were written between 1975 and 1978.
The occasional explanatory note has been provided at the end of chapters to clarify terms or events which might prove unfamiliar to readers of more recent generations. Authorship is given for most notes; those unauthored were written by the editor.
That preface was written about a decade ago when preparing the compilation of all of Dad's stories into a book. That book - several hundred pages of it - was then put into a three-ring binder. Over the next several years, many of Bob's family read and annotated it, with corrections being made in the computer draft. That volume was read aloud to Bob's widow Susanna by her grandson, my son Jeffrey, in visits to his grandmother over several years. Because the volume was already in an accessible form, work on finalizing it and printing it in many copies did not seem urgent, and other projects occupied my time.
It is startling to realize that I have been working on Dad's book for about twenty years. I began by copying all of the stories in his duo-tang binders into my computer - now many generations obsolete - several years before I retired. Shortly after retirement I spent many hours with my sister working on getting those stories into date order. At the same time we considered what illustrations should be included, and, having decided that ten copies of the book would be made, made ten copies of each of the chosen illustrations for later inclusion. The whole was typed into the computer, with chapter end-notes because I had not yet figured out how to do footnotes - and I did not figure out how to include illustrations with text until very recently. So this book is a product of both primitive technology, and primitive understanding of the capabilities of the computer.
In April 2008 I completed Aunt Elsie's Diary, described earlier, and along with the original diaries at the behest of her son, sent a copy to the Saskatchewean Archives Board. They telephoned back in great excitement about the import of this donation, and I was moved to tell them there would be more coming - my father's book - and that it would be coming before the end of 2008. Sometimes making a commitment like that can drive action, and it has done so in this case. Last week my son organized the chapter headings and index - an insuperable task for me - and yesterday I printed off a copy. Remaining to be done is organization of the illustrations into groups and writing the captions for the illustrations. I anticipate that will be done within two weeks; then I will print off the many copies, assemble them with the illustrations, bind them and send them off to family members and the Saskatchewan Archives Board.
Dad got me started with this business of making family history accessible by writing copiously and well about his life and the life of his family. My mother carried on with encouragement and with her own writing which was compiled and printed sooner than Dad's. I had not understood when I retired that this was to be the work of the rest of my life. Then, I thought that would be working with a local literacy group in the cause of adult literacy. I did that for ten years, but by then the full force of the charm of making family books had had its impact, and now my life centers around family stories, family genealogy, family reunions, family letters and emails. This occupies me fully and happily. I believe it will do so for the rest of my life.