Norm & Margaret Dyck fonds. — 1964-2016. — 43 cm of textual records. — 58 photographs. — 1 maps. — 2 sound recordings.
In 1964, Norman and Margaret Dyck filed on a homestead in the Puskwaskau District north of DeBolt. This was an era when the Alberta Government was opening up more land for homesteading in the Peace Country.
Norm was born in May 1940 to Wilhiem (Bill) Dyck and Helena (Lena Reddekopp) in Three Hills, AB. He was living in Red Deer, Alberta in 1963 when he married Margaret Jones, a recently-arrived immigrant from Liverpool, England. The young couple joined forces on the homestead with Norm’s father Bill, brother Allen, and cousins Bev and Vern in 1964, but for that first year Norm taught at Sexsmith and Marg opened a hairdressing salon in the back of the teacherage.
Vern and Norm’s father Bill had cobbled together an old D7 caterpillar for brush cutting. It was hauled up from Sunnyslope along with an experimental land breaking rotary plow and D4 cat which were purchased when Norm and his brother Allen bought into the partnership. On winter weekends the crew attempted their first brushing with very limited success. The following summer custom breaking with the rotary plow and custom fescue hauling to Edmonton saw marginal returns.
The partnership dissolved and Norm, having decided to leave teaching, found employment with AGT in Calgary where Michael and Steven were born in 1966 and 1967.
During the winter of 1968-1969 they contracted Art Matlock to clear 60 acres on their homestead while they built pre-fabricated panels for a home. In the spring of 1969, the panels were trucked to the homestead, and with the help of Norm’s father they constructed their farm home. They were still living in Calgary at this time, and in March 1970 moved from Calgary to Grande Prairie where Norm worked for AGT and Marg and the boys lived out on the homestead from May to October. October found all of them in Grande Prairie where there was running water.
In 1975, after leaving AGT, Norm moved his family out to the homestead, and in 1976 daughter Christine was born. They enjoyed their neighbours in the Puskwaskau, especially the baseball games and hockey on the local dugouts. They built up a herd of cattle and grew wheat and grass seed. Norm’s fescue took first prize at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto in 1989. The previous year, in 1988, he had run for the New Democratic Party in opposition to the Convervative Free Trade Deal with the USA.
The 1980s also saw many new families move into the Puswaskau District, but unable to make a go of farming. The Dyck family story in Bridges to the Past concludes with, “We would never have believed the changes from the sixties to the nineties, but for belonging to the National Farmers’ Union. It, in hindsight, predicted what would happen to Canadian farm families and we owe our survival to that organization, as we arranged our farm to survive these hard time. Surviving was one thing but the isolation as our neighbours left was devastating and so in 1995, we built a house in Grande Prairie.” They continued to farm, commuting from Grande Prairie, until they sold out in 2002-2003.
The records were deposited at South Peace Regional Archives by Norman and Margaret Dyck in 2014 to 2016.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists textual records, photographs and sound recordings, divided into the following series: farm and family photographs, personal papers, and farm records. The material covers the family’s experience on a family farm, beginning in Calgary with their filing on a homestead in the Puskwaskau area north of DeBolt, NE 13-75-26-W5. It follows their move to Grande Prairie in 1970 and then the move to the homestead in 1975. The fonds includes financial records and activity calendars from 1980-2001 and a scrapbook from 1988 when Norm ran for the NDP party in the federal election. The sound recordings contain Norm and Marg’s memories of homesteading in the Puskwaskau area. There is also one reference book “Merchants of Grain” by Dan Morgan, which was removed from the records and added to the Reference Library at the Archives.
Table of Contents
|Series 598.01||Farm and Family Photographs|
|Series 598.02||Personal Papers|
|Series 598.03||Farm Financial Records|
|Series 598.04||Farm Activity Records|
|Series 598.01||Farm and Family Photographs. — 1959-2002. — 58 photographs.
The series consists of 58 photographs from Norm’s first visit to the Peace Country in 1959, through the homesteading experience, to the selling of the farm in 2002. Subjects include Norm and Marg and their family as the years went by; construction of the farm home and outbuildings; farming activities and machinery for breaking the land, caring for livestock and harvesting crops; neighbours in the Puskwaskau community; and clearing land for the Puskwaskau Community Hall.
|Series 598.02||Personal Papers. — 1988-2016. — 4 cm of textual records. — 2 sound recordings.
The series consists of Norm and Margaret Dyck’s memoirs of farming in the Puskwaskau; documentation regrading the change in land ownership changed from individual farms to large corporate farms; blueprints and papers related to a new home built in Grande Prairie; and papers relating to the 1988 federal election when Norm Dyck ran as the NDP candidate for the Peace River constituency in Northern Alberta.
|SubSeries 598.02.01||Memoirs. — 1988-2016. — 1 cm of textual records.
The sub-series consists of a January 28, 1993 news clipping from Western People with a story written by Christina Dyck (daughter of Norm and Margaret Dyck) about her grandfather’s last years on the family farm; the typed memoirs of Norman and Margaret Dyck and three cassette tapes containing oral histories based on the memoirs but with supplementary memories; a 1988 map of the DeBolt and Puskwaskau area showing families living there in 1988; three partial maps from the MD of Greenview in 1997, 2001 and 2015 and a list of family names which show how the concentration of land ownership changed from individual farms to large corporate farms over a few years; and a news clipping from the October 27, 1994 Western Producer showing Norm & Marg demonstrating with the National Farmers Union against removing the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly. There is also a reference book titled “Merchants of Grain” by Dan Morgan, which tells the reality of what happened to the grain market in Canada during the time Norm and Marg were homesteading in the Puskwaskau.
|SubSeries 598.02.02||9257-96 Avenue, Grande Prairie. — 1995. — 1 cm of textual records.
The sub-series consists of the blueprints and costs for the new house built at 9257-96 Avenue in Grande Prairie in 1995.
|SubSeries 598.02.03||Norm Dyck, NDP Candidate. — 1988. — 3 cm of textual records.
In 1988, Norm Dyck was nominated as the New Democatic candidate for the Peace River riding in the November 21, 1988 Federal Election. The issues which brought him to the poliitcal arena were opposition to the free trade agreement, concern about the exodus of farm families from rural communities, and support for family values. An article in the Daily Herald Tribune on September 14, 1988, described Norm as “a DeBolt-area farmer and long-time National Farmers Union activist”. His campaign slogan was “For People Like You”, and he was promoted as “A Broadbent Candidate”. His campaign manager was Bernie Desrosiers, who had run for the Alberta NDP in 1982 and 1986. His campaign literature included a stance on Fairness for Canadian families, Fairness for rural Canadians, Fairness for women and men, and Tax Fairness. On November 2nd, 1988 a federal election forum was held in Grande Prairie and described as “an all-out battle on free trade”, with Norm Dyck (NDP) and Helen Rice (Liberal Candidate) against the deal and Albert Cooper (Conservative) and Dan Fletcher (Reform) for the deal. The final result in the Peace River riding was a win for the Progressive Conservatives, with the NDP a “distant second”. “I had no illusions,” the DHT reported Norm as saying. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy to unseat the Tory machine, but I was prepared to make that commitment and my family was prepared to support me.” His final warning to MP Albert Cooper that evening demonstrated why he had entered the campaign. “He had better be aware of the consequences of the U.S. spending more money on the export enhancement program and he had better be prepared to open up the coffers to help out Peace River area farmers.”
The sub-series consists of three written speeches Norm made as the NDP Candidate for the Peace River constituency; articles portraying Free Trade as “the Great Destroyer”; Norm’s position on Abortion, which was another big issue of the 1988 election; and a scrapbook containing campaign literature, news clippings, articles and campaign advertising. There is also a Preliminary List of Electors for the DeBolt North polling station, which was the place they would have voted, and a “copy of statement of the votes” in that station.
|Series 598.03||Farm Financial Records. — 1967-2003. — 31 cm of textual records.
The series consists of the financial records of Norm and Margaret Dyck’s farm, beginning with the single quarter homestead and increasing to six quarters. The records begin in 1967, when Norm and Marg were still iving in Calgary, and follow them north to Grande Prairie in 1970, and the permanent move to the farm in 1975. From 1967 to 1999 there are financial ledgers with Credit, Debit and Balance columns. Starting in 1990, there are also annual Prairie Farm Account Books kept for Income Tax Records, with sections on Crop Income; Livestock Income; Machinery and Crop Expenses; Overhead, Building & Livestock Expenses; Wage Records, Income & Expense Summary; Capital Transactions, Credit Accounts; Nonfarm and Cash Flow Records; and Income Tax. The last two sections are not filled out, presumably because those records are kept in the financial ledgers and on income tax submissions. In addition to the account books, there are also assessment and tax records, and income records for each year which detail the organizations which contributed to farm income, such as Canadian Wheat Board, Alberta Wheat Pool, Peace River Seed Co-op in Rycroft, Grande Prairie Auction Mart, and neighbouring farmers who purchased seed, hay and beef. Donations to the Canadian Food Grains Bank are also recorded.
|Series 598.04||Farm Activity Records. — 1978-2002. — 8 cm of textual records.
The series consists of hand-drawn paper plans for what will be seeded on various acreages from 1978 to 1986; and yearly calendars from 1981 to 2002 on which the family kept notes of activities such as the weather; seeding, haying and harvesting notes; crop prices, delivery dates and grain tests; auctions and meetings to attend across the Peace Country; activities at the Puskwaskau Hall (dances, film night, hall meetings); get-togethers with neighbours, children’s activities, health appts and concerns, and TV programs to watch.