In 1996, while my sister Elaine Crummy was researching our family tree, my mother’s sister Ethelann Olsen, Auntie Ann, told this story of her Grandpa John Wrench, my great grandfather.
ETS Leyland trolley #107 on McDougall Hill, circa 1939. City of Edmonton Archives, EA-75-877.
My great grandparents lived on the south side of Edmonton, not too far off 99th street. My mother’s family lived nearby. Grandpa John Wrench used to drive the trolley along that line and if he saw any of his granddaughters on their way to the store or elsewhere he would halt the trolley – it made a big sighing sound as he braked – and give the little girls a ride to the corner nearest their destination. He would turn to the passengers to explain that they were his grandchildren.
One day, Ann was sent to purchase potatoes from the store. She would have been about 8 years old. On the way home, the trolley came along and Grandpa Wrench was driving. He stopped the trolley as usual to let her on. She stepped up with her paper bag of potatoes clutched in her arms. Grandpa then drove to the next block to let her off. Unfortunately, just as Ann stepped down from the trolley her paper bag burst open and potatoes rolled and jumped every which way. Grandpa leapt down from the trolley and began retrieving potatoes. But there was nothing at hand to put them in.
He considered the problem for a few moments and Ann said he was always a resourceful man. He spied her roomy bloomers peaking out under her skirt and began to pop potatoes into them. Half a century later, Ann said she could still feel those potatoes rubbing against her legs and bum as she walked home.
Her mother Ethel, had a lady friend in for tea and the two of them just screamed with laughter when Ann arrived with her unusual parcel. The telephone was put to use to tell mother Wrench what ‘dad’ had been up to now!
My wonderful friend Lawrence Herzog has written about the Edmonton Trolley and Streetcar system from that time: