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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Ivy (Bottreill) Kaasa
Date Posted: October 2/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1920's to 2000's

Ivy Bottriell Kaasa was from a family of four girls and four boys who lived in London, England. Her father was a pipe fitter as well as a bricklayer. Her mother was a homemaker. Growing up in England during wartime, Ivy recalls that everyone had to carry gas masks and tin helmets along with them when they went out.

There were lots of air raids, so most homes were equipped with an Air Raid Shelter. Ivy had one in her backyard underground and one in the house. The one in the house was a steel table in the kitchen with a mattress underneath. The table had chain link that would pull down around the sides.

One night in the air raid shelter in the backyard, Ivy got trapped for a couple hours with her father. Their house was near a railway station that was being bombed at the time. Ivy had her first cigarette that night, given to her by her father to calm her nerves. Whenever there was an air raid, sirens would sound for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and would be followed by an "All Clear" siren. Ivy also had a shelter at her work. A worker, called a "Spotter", would wait on the roof and watch the sky. If this worker saw an enemy plane a siren would sound to alert the other workers at the factory.

Ivy met George Kaasa through a friend, Jim Douglas, who was dating Ivy's sister Doris. It was Christmas 1943 and Jim was pleased to have his friend George with the family. George and Ivy began dating; they would go to movies and dances.

After almost one year of dating, George was sent off to battle in France, Belgium and Holland. George was a private in the Royal Engineers Chemical Warfare Branch as a dispatch rider. While stationed at Leatherhead, France, he had weekend leaves and would travel by train to England to visit with Ivy.

In 1944, while on duty in Tilberg, Holland, George was involved in a motorcycle accident and broke his leg in several places. George was in a hospital in Holland and then sent back to England with a severely injured leg. Ivy was a regular visitor and sometimes George could get a leave to go to Ivy's home. George got an infection in his leg so his hospital stay was longer than usual.

Soon, Ivy and George planned to marry, as did Jim and Doris. Ivy's parents liked George, however, they did not like the idea of them moving so far away. Ivy's father offered employment to both George and Jim Douglas to encourage them to stay but they refused. Ivy was old enough that she did not require consent to marry, but her sister Doris was not. Their father had initially refused to give consent to Doris to marry Jim. Both men were honest about their intentions to return to Canada. Ivy's father appreciated their honesty and felt that it would be better for the girls to be together in Canada and so he gave consent to Doris and the double wedding was planned.

George got a short leave and a double wedding was held on a beautiful sunny day with Ivy's sisters Peggy and Joan as bridesmaids on March 17, 1945. The wedding was held at a Church in Raynes Park, SW London. The brides wore white and the bridesmaids wore pale green. Ivy's younger sister Sylvia was the flower girl and little brother Peter was a Page Boy. After the wedding, George returned to the hospital and Ivy continued living with her parents. They were unable to honeymoon.

George was sent back to a Calgary Hospital in May 1945 just before VE day via hospital ship. Because of his injury, George was given priority and therefore did not have to wait for a ship.

Ivy came to Canada later on the Swedish ship S.S. Stockholm, August 6, 1945. The entire crew was Swedish and none of them spoke any English. They left from South Hampton, England destined for Halifax. For the most part, the weather was pleasant. Some of the war brides were seasick but the officers recommended that they walk around the deck a couple of times before eating. This helped greatly. Only the ladies who remained in their bunks continued to suffer from seasickness.

When the ship stopped at St. Johns to let off some forestry officers, Ivy was surprised to see all the little wooden houses perched on pilings amidst the rocky shore. England had mostly brick or stone houses, much safer from the fire that would come to strike Ivy's new home in 1953.

Ivy disembarked in Halifax at Pier 21 August 19 1945 and got directly on a train destined for Calgary. There was a mix up with the Red Cross communications and there was no one in Calgary to meet her. They put her on a train destined for Edmonton directing her to get off in Millet to meet her husband but George was in Edmonton. She thought Millet looked dead and desolate with only old and unpainted shacks. Ivy's in-laws, Christina and John Kaasa, met her in Millet then drove her to Edmonton to meet George, who was now in the Colonel Melbourne Hospital.

Ivy recalls when the train stopped and children would offer to buy the pasengers snacks. Not knowing Canadian money, Ivy gave one a twenty dollar bill for some bananas and received no change back! George's parents had a small Willis coupe to bring her out to their farm six miles west of Millet. The Willis coupe was a small grey car with one seat and a rumble seat outside at the back with a cover over it. George was discharged at the end of 1946 and together they purchased George's parents' farm through the Veteran's Land Act.

One day, Ivy heard some neighbours discussing a shower that was coming up. Since this was not an English custom, she looked out the window and said, "It doesn't look like it's going to rain". Ivy was surprised to find out that it was a "bridal" shower for her and George.

The roads were terribly muddy at times so when the little Willis couldn't make it, they used a horse and wagon to get to Millet or Wetaskiwin. On one outing out to Pigeon Lake in the Willis coupe along mostly gravel roads, the entire party arrived black with dust.

One day, Ivy asked her mother-in-law, "Where's your toilet?" Her reply was "Just go out the door and follow the path". Ivy tried but failed to find it. She didn't know it was the little house out back with the Eaton's Catalogue.

Ivy had a wonderfully kind mother-in-law and a friendly, helpful community. "Millet was a good community in which to live: everyone was friendly and helpful to me, a city girl, who didn't know anything about farming." Ivy recalls that not all war brides were as well received.

Once, when George was harvesting into the evening Ivy, with the intention of saving her husband some work, decided that she would try to milk their one cow. But, try as she might, in a pail that was always brimming full there was only two inches of milk after four hours of squeezing and pulling by Ivy. This was Ivy's first and last attempt to milk a cow.

On the farm, Ivy learned to drive the tractor, bake bread, keep a large garden and do a lot of canning vegetables and meats. She learned to wash clothes on a scrubboard and boil the whites on a big boiler of water on the oil stove.

They produced most of their own food and so beef and chicken was plentiful and there were lots of strawberries and raspberries. To keep food fresh, they used to put it down their well and put pork in a salt brine. Ivy also sealed cooked beef in a layer of lard and found that it kept well in a cool place. They had one son, Brian and now have two granddaughters and five great grand children.

In 1953, fire struck the Kaasa home. Ivy was baking bread and George was in the barn tending to their piglets. Brian was five at the time and the first to see the fire. The pump house, which had a frozen pipe, had caught on fire. George did not know until he left the barn and saw all the neighbours vehicles and the blazing pump house. The pump house burned very fast and soon the fire spread to the house. They were able to save a few things from the first floor but nothing from their bedrooms upstairs. Fire fighters were called from Millet, but by the time they had arrived it was too late. Everything but a recently built garage was destroyed.

After the fire, the Kaasas rebuilt the barn but did not have enough money to rebuild their house. They moved into the recently built garage and fixed half of it for their bedrooms and the other half into the kitchen a living room area. They lived there comfortably until they moved into Wetaskiwin in 1972 because of George's heart and asthma problems.

Ivy was able to return to England to visit about five times. The first time that she returned was nineteen years after her immigration. One year, Ivy did not have enough money to return to England, so George helped her out. George gave her eleven calves to care for and raise so that she could sell to raise money for her trip. She was able to raise enough for both herself and Brian to go. When Brian worked for World Air, the Kaasas were able to take advantage of his employee discounts.

Ivy and George farmed for twenty-seven years. When they retired and moved into Wetaskiwin, Brian took over the family farm. Brian farmed for several years and then sold the farm and joined his parents in living in Wetaskiwin.

George celebrated his eightieth birthday on August 21, 2002 at the Senior's Center in Wetaskiwin. This would be the last time that he would be surrounded by family and friends. George passed away in the Wetaskiwin Hospital on December 4, 2002.

Information compiled in 2003.


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Blaine Kjorlien
Board Member - Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum
Webmaster - Wetaskiwin Online


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