Right in the centre - Fifty years in the making!


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

In January 1971, my wife Christine and I moved to Neepawa. We bought a little house at 261 Fourth Avenue in Neepawa for $4,000. I set to work in my new job as Assistant Ag-Rep under the watchful eye of my boss, the late Alan Nebbs. My job was to help with the 4-H Club program, tag along after Mr. Nebbs and occasionally offer advice to farmers. There is a rare farmer in the area that is kind enough to say that my advice was helpful.

To provide context, there were about 40 Ag-rep offices in Manitoba, most with a rep and a staunch secretary. There were about 20 Home Economists and a whole battery of livestock, crops and engineering specialists spread out across the province.

Our son Michael was about nine months old when we arrived in Neepawa. Son Robert was born late in 1971. Our family has lived in about nine different homes and farms around the area. Our numbers have grown to include two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, a grandson-in law, two great grandchildren and another great expected in the spring.

Our extended “family” has grown to include literally hundreds of friends, customers and business associates. We have been blessed beyond measure. Unfortunately, as comes with age, many of our friends are now passed away. Knowing full well that life goes on, and indeed comes to an end at some point, we have purposed in our lives to cultivate friendships with the new born and youth all the way to people in their nineties. It’s healthy to be in a good relationship with every age group. You never know when you will get some good advice and, once in a while, be able to offer some advice.

Our family has interwoven itself with the Neepawa area. Although the sons don’t live here anymore, the roots run deep and stay connected.

In late 1970, around Christmas time, we got ready to move to Neepawa. We loaded up what we could in our 1967 Chevy half ton and our 1959 Pontiac sedan. The rest of our furniture was loaded onto a Hare’s Cartage transport truck. We lived in a second floor apartment on Jubilee in Winnipeg and, who should come bounding up our stairs to move us but Harold Ishenberg? Harold was a big-hearted, rough hewn man who made Neepawa a better place by his larger-than-life presence.

On my first trip to town, Alan Nebbs introduced me to Homer Gill, a retired school teacher come realtor. He wrote us up a deal on the tiny Fourth Street house. Then it was off to see Des George at the Bank of Montreal. Banks don’t let bankers be bankers like Des George any more. The conversation went like this. “So you going to work with Allan?” “Yes sir.” “How much are you going to make?” “$7,050 per year.” “Ok, that should be fine, sign here.” The loan was a 100 per cent mortgage.

We spent nearly two years as Ag-rep at Neepawa and about eight at Gladstone. By 1973, we had moved to Arden and by 1975, to the farm east of the village. From 1975 to 1986, we battled drought, floods and high interest rates to the point where we had to give up the farm. We were advised to pack the boys, our best clothes and tools and head for Alberta. We didn’t take that advice as I couldn’t face the idea of not paying off our local bills. They all got paid eventually. We ran Ken Waddell Auction Service from 1979 to 1999. We moved to an acreage east of Neepawa in 1986 and built the auction barn in 1987. Both my parents died in that time frame.

In 1989, options fell into place to start the Neepawa Banner. Thirty-one years later and over 1,600 columns gone to print, we are still here. Life included both Christine and I being involved with a lot of organizations and two pretty tough terms as mayor of Neepawa. Few regrets, but I am pleased now that many of the things some of us wanted to get done years ago have now been accomplished. It was just too bad that Country Meadows took 10 years longer than necessary, the fire hall 20 years longer and the CN land development 30 years longer. In total, those delays cost the area in the neighbourhood of $20 million in capital. The other project is the medical clinic and it moved along fairly quickly and of all the major investments made by the area, in itself, is the most important one.

There are many more stories to tell, but for now, may God bless you and yours in the New Year.