The Western Bretzes II

By Christopher Bretz

 

This is still a work in progress.

Below are the decendants of Frank Bretz (1878-1955).

 


 

These are the stories of the children of Madeline Bretz (1907-1989) and James McFee (1907-1987).

 

Maureen's Family

Maureen Verna McFee (1933- ) was born September 4th, 1933 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

She married Leo St. Laurent in 1955 in Winnipeg. They had one son together, Mark.

They live in Winnipeg.

 

Robert's Family

Robert Terry Mcfee (1938-2009) was born May 3rd, 1938 in Dauphin, Manitoba.

Worked for the RCMP for many years.

He married Linda Buchanan in 1963. Together they had two children; Johnathin and Heather.

He married again in 1985 to Donna.

Robert died in 2009 in Winnipeg.

 

Harry's Family

Harry Frank McFee (1941- ) was born May 26th, 1941 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He married Darlene McPherson (1947- ) in 1971. Together they had two daughters; Jennifer and Colleen.

Harry is an avid family historian and has produced several books, including; For We Were Young and We Had Wings : A Tribute to Those Who Volunteered to Restore Peace in the World by Harry F. McFee (2004)

Harry lives in Winnipeg.

 


 

These are the stories of the children of Howard Bretz (1911-1972). Many of the Bretz families found in western Canada today are descendants of Howard.

 

Gordon's Family

Gordon Hobson Bretz (1941- ) was born September 7th, 1941 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. His middle name was to honour a family tradition to keep the Hobson family name alive. It refers to the union of Abram Bretz and Alice Hobson in 1876.

Gord was born while his father was training at Portage la Prairie during World War II. His parents lived in a small house on the army base there. Gord's father was overseas fighting during his 3rd year.

As a boy he lived at 1198 Downing street in Winnipeg's west end, a house bought and built by his mother. He attended ???? elementary school, and later ???? high school.

Gord's younger brother David was born in May 1944.

At age 12 Gord's family moved into a larger home at 50 Havelock street when his parents were expecting another child. Baby brother Neil was born in November 1953.

The family went on several big summer road trips in the late 1950s, including; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in 1958, Chicago and Wisconsin, and the Dakotas and Mount Rushmore.

He graduated high school in 1959 in Winnipeg. He quickly enrolled into the University of Manitoba.

Gord's father was offered a promotion in 1960 which required that the family move to Vancouver. Gord decided to stay in Winnipeg and continue with university. He graduated and became an accountant.

The year the family moved away to Vancouver, Gordon announced his intent to marry his girlfriend Leigh Butts. He was just 20 years old and his parents felt he was far too young to be getting married. His mother actually took her first airplane flight ever to get back to Winnipeg and try to talk them out of it. Leigh's family wasn't any more accommodating as they were Jewish and didn't like the idea of their daughter marrying a gentile.

Gord and Leigh's first child was born in May 1963, Cordell (Cory) Paul Bretz. He was also Howard and Jean's first grandchild, and they were thrilled to hear the news.

A second child, Darren John Bretz, was born in 1966.

A family Christmas from 1968 with Gord's parents Howard and Jean can be viewed in the video section.

The family moved to Calgary in the early 1970s and stayed for several years.

Gord and Leigh adopted a baby girl they named Susan Gayle Bretz around 1970.

Gord's father died in 1972.

The family moved to Vancouver in the mid 1970s. Gord built a house in Richmond.

The family had a pair of Pekinese dogs for many years.

Leigh was an artist who loved to draw and paint. This painting on the left of Crater Lake was done by her in the early 80s, and was given to her mother-in-law Jean. She wrote and illustrated a book on diabetes in the 70s called ???.

Leigh died in 1989 from ???.

Gord eventually remarried and moved to Kamloops in the 1990s..

 

Children

Cory became a videographer and had 1 child. They live in Vancouver, BC.

Darren married Goldeen Webster and they had 2 children together. They live in St Albert, Alberta.

Susan lives in Vancouver and had a son and 2 grandchildren.

 

David's Family

David Andrew Bretz (1944- ) was born on May 22nd, 1944 in Winnipeg to Howard and Jean Bretz. He middle name was given to him after his grandfather Andrew Halliday. His father Howard was actually overseas in England fighting in World War II when he was born and wouldn't meet his son until he was over a year old.

As a boy he lived at 1198 Downing street in Winnipeg's west end, a house bought and built by his mother. He attended Sargent Park Elementary School, and later St. George Junior High for grades 4-6. Then Norberry Junior High for grades 7 to 9, and Glen Lawn High School for grades 10 and 11. (Burnaby South for grade 12, and then grade 13 at UBC) Summer school in Hamilton at the Wilfred Laurier. Teacher's College in Hamilton.

Radio was a big form of entertainment for the Bretz family in the late 40s and early 50s. The Downing street house had a breakfast nook at which the family would all gather round on Sunday nights to listen to various broadcasts. CJOB would play such shows as the Armice Brooks show, Jack Benny, serials like The Shadow, and music including; Patty PagePerry Como, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. His mother didn't like Elvis and rock and roll much at first, but it grew on her. They also had a large upright radio in living room.

During the Great Red River Flood of 1950 David's mother took the kids and went to stay in Kenora for several months over the summer, largely isolated from the troubles back home. There were many trips to Coney island for day trips. His father would drive down on weekends, and several photos show he took the boys boating.

At age 9 David's family moved into a larger home at 50 Havelock street when his parents were expecting another child. Baby brother Neil was born in November 1953. There was a nearly ten year age gap between Neil and his brothers.

The family often went to the Whiteshell area on the Ontario border for tent camping during the 1950s. It was an area of lakes that was still considered 'roughing it' as opposed to the cottage country of Grand Beach on Lake Winnipeg.

Television broadcasting came to the Winnipeg area in 1954 with CBC station CBWT. Although it had existed as a curiosity for several decades, it was the 1950s in which television truly took off in popular culture. The price of the set was now affordable, and there were dedicated broadcasters to provide shows. The Bretz family's next door neighbors were the first people that they knew who had a set and so they would watch with them occasionally. David's father bought the Bretz family's first television in 1955, which would have cost about $140 ($1,100 today). Like many young children from these years, the Bretz boys enjoyed watching Howdy Doody. Their parents liked such shows as Father Knows Best and Perry Mason.

Grandpa Frank Bretz died in the summer of 1955. He was then living in a senior's home in Winnipeg which David remembered visiting him at, although he was not very fond of the experience.

Grandma and Grandpa Halliday also died in the 50s while they were living at an apartment on Morley street. David also remembered visiting them there.

The family went on several big summer road trips in the late 1950s, including; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in 1958, Chicago and Wisconsin, and the Dakotas and Mount Rushmore.

David joined Air Cadets around 1959 with a few of his friends. There is some film of them marching on parade at the Manitoba legislature.

David's father was offered a promotion in 1960 which required that the family move to Vancouver. David was 15 years of age then and recalled that he did not really want to go.

This photo to the left shows the three Bretz brothers in Vancouver.

The family toured around the west coast quite a bit after they settled in. They took film of themselves on Vancouver Island, at the Shuswap, Grouse Mountain, and the Georgia Straits. On another vacation they went as far as Waterton Park, in Alberta.

While the family was living in Vancouver they visited with Jean's Farish cousins for the holidays.

October 1962 brought escalating tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States and culminated in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was a real possibility that the two countries would start a nuclear war. Schools across Canada engaged in evacuation drills, and everyone nervously watched their televisions hoping for a resolution to the crisis. Fortunately the Soviets backed down and life returned to normal.

David's father was transferred again in 1963 and the family moved to Hamilton, Ontario. They lived in Burlington on Aldershot road. They filmed the drive out through Duluth and Chicago.

David was just 19 at this time, and although he had graduated High School in Vancouver, he had to gain extra credit for Ontario. He took German language classes in Kitchener for the summer, then had to consider a career. David had thought up until then he was going to go into accounting, but during his time at Kitchener had met a number of young teaching students who suggested it as a vocation. David entered into a teaching program in the fall but was quickly turned off the idea. Afterward he pursued a clerk position at a local accounting firm, but knew he would soon have to get degree.

In the US in November of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The networks carried around the clock coverage on television.

David and a friend drove down to the 1964 World's Fair in New York

David's father soon had enough seniority with his company that he was given his choice of locations to work from in 1964. After discussing it with his wife, and considering his son David's desire to attend university, they moved back to Winnipeg.

The modern red 'maple leaf' Canadian flag was introduced February 1965, replacing the 'Red Ensign' colonial flag used since 1868. While admired today, the change was not widely accepted at the time.

 

Dave and Judy

David met Judy George through a friend on a blind date in November 1965. He was just 21, and she 18 year old. They went downtown to a Laural and Hardy movie and ate at A&W afterward. Judy didn't like the film it but didn't tell David that right away, as she enjoyed his company. After a second date with him she went home and said to her sister, "I will marry that man", so sure she was in him.

Judy George was studying in the radiography program at Miseracordia Hospital at that time. She later left the program because of her feet not being to cope with standing so much all day. Later she worked for Beaver lumber in the back office, and then for Manitoba Medical in the claims department. To see more about her upbringing see the Western Georges.

David brought Judy to meet his family at their open house party for Christmas that year. She was nervous enough about meeting his parents but was surprised when, not only they, but all of David's extended family and relatives were there as well. His mother soon put Judy at ease however.

Winnipeg was blasted by a terrible blizzard on March 4th, 1966, the worst in nearly a century, and afterward known as the 'Great Blizzard'.  It produced heavy snows, high winds and -34°C temperatures. Three people froze to death and thousands of animals died. David's mother, Jean, was one of thousands of people stranded downtown overnight who took refuge in the Bay and Eatons. From the Winnipeg Time Machine by George Siamandas:

Snow started to fall after midnight on Thursday and despite the heavy snow, on Friday morning March 4, people still went to work. But by mid morning the streets were impassable. The buses were called in by 11:00 am. and would not return to the streets till the next Saturday morning. Schools closed for the Friday and the following Monday as did stores, restaurants and theatres. The big storm piled up 14.6 inches and was driven by winds gusting up to 70 miles an hour. This was the worst winter storm since March 1902. Eight foot high drifts were reported in the new suburb of Westwood. After the cleanup the plows created 12 foot high walls of snow along Ness Ave. Hundreds of cars were reported stranded on the Transcanada Highway. The Grain Exchange did not open for the first time in its 61 year history.

David got his first car in 1967, a green '62 Beetle.

David graduated from the University of Manitoba with Bachelor of Commerce in 1967, and then continued in a program towards a Chartered Accountancy degree. He articled as an accountant for Deloitte, Plender, Haskins, and Sells for a number of years both before and after completeing this degree. He was often sent out to various locations in the province to visit the firm's clients on site, some of which were only accessible by small plane. Some places, such as Lynn Lake, were mining companies and would require regular visits year round to check the books. While he was articling with Deloitte, David continued to study at the University in the evenings until 1970.

Throughout their courtship, David's parents were somewhat concerned things were moving too quickly for a couple so young, and would occasionally mention that they should be more patient. Howard and Jean themselves had not married until in their thirties.

On November 4th, 1967 David took Judy out for dinner to the Happy Vineyard, where he proposed to her at dessert. She was thrilled, but was worried what his parents would say given the conversations they had had. After dinner they went to Judy's parents to break the news to them, and then a small party with friends to celebrate. David's own parents were out until later that night but when they finally told them all Howard did was smile and say "Welcome to the family." He and Jean were both very happy for them.

Several bridal showers and a series of other dinners and events were held for Judy and Dave in the week leading up to their marriage. This notice is from the Winnipeg Free Press from September 7, 1968.

David and Judy were married on September 14th, 1968 at a wedding in St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Winnipeg.

They moved in together and first lived in a small apartment on Morrow St, then later others on Grant and Kildare, moving once per year. The couple's first car when they were married was borrowed off David's father, the old blue family Pontiac.

During these years the newlyweds would go over to friend's houses and play cards and have house parties most every weekend. Friends such as Grant and Leslie McJannet and Pete and Carol Kennedy were some of these close friends. Judy's uncle Kelly lived in Winnipeg for a while and he would have regular parties as well. The groups didn't go out to eat often, as they simply couldn't afford it. Perhaps once or twice a year for a special occasion.

In July 1969 NASA landed the first men on the moon after nearly a decade of development. The entire world was abuzz with excitement and everyone crowded around their televisions to see the event. David and Judy watched as many others did from their home.

David wrote his Uniform Final Exam in September 1970. He passed and finally registered as a Chartered Accountant, although they would not know the results until that December. He went out with his friends and classmates to celebrate upon hearing the news.

In October 1970 Canada was paralyzed by the FLQ Crisis, a series of events triggered by two kidnappings of government officials by the Quebec nationalist group Front de libération du Québec. The circumstances ultimately culminated in the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act in Canada's history. From 1963 to 1970 the FLQ detonated over 95 bombs, mainly in mailboxes in the affluent and predominantly Anglophone city of Westmount, but the largest single bombing was of the Montreal Stock Exchange on February 13, 1969, which caused extensive damage and injured 27 people. Judy remembered being very pregnant at the time and watching the events unfold in a hospital room with her father-in-law Howard, who was in for circulatory surgery on his legs. Most Canadians at the time, including the Bretzes, widely believed the government's response was appropriate.

David and Judy's first child was born November 8th, 1970 and was named Christopher Douglas Bretz. She was just 23, and he 25 at the time. Christopher was given his middle name after his grandmother's brother, Douglas Halliday.

Judy's sister Jen divorced her first husband around this time and it caused much stress.

The young Bretz family moved to Yale Street in Transcona in 1971, where David bought his first house anticipating a growing family. The home cost a total of $14,500 (about $90,000 today). He paid a $1000 ($6,000 today) downpayment from a Canada Savings Bond he had accumulated through payroll deductions.

Once in the new house, Judy and Dave began a regular tradition of large Christmas open house parties. They would continue these events most every year until the late 80s. They also hosted Grey Cup parties in November for a number of years.

Judy and baby Chris joined David on a business trip to Vancouver in November 1971, and it was her first time in the city. She and Chris flew out - for them their first experience in a commercial airplane, which was exciting. While there they stayed with David's brother Gord out in Burnaby. Unfortunately it rained most of the time and Judy did not like it much. One day the family tried to go see Stanley Park, but by the time they had driven through the city from Gord's it was too dark to enjoy, and as well, baby Chris had come down with an ear infection and was in no mood to be in a car that long. For Judy that was enough of Vancouver and she booked an earlier flight back to Winnipeg.

In those days David would supply Judy with cash in order to buy groceries. One day however, Judy came up short at the cashier and was quite embarrassed she couldn't pay for everything she needed, so the topic of a joint chequing account was soon discussed.

David's father died early in 1972 from a blot clot, a complication from a recent surgery. With one brother living in out west, and the other still a teenager, David was the one who took care of his father's affairs and looked after his mother in the months following. David was 27 years old at the time.

David and Judy's second child was born August 8th, 1972, Jeffrey Ross Bretz. He was given the middle name Ross as it was the shared middle name of both his great grandfather Harry and great grandmother Catherine Neilson.

Judy took Chris to his first movie, Herbie the Love Bug in September 1972.

The Summit Series was an eight-game exhibition hockey series which pitted Canada against the Soviet Union in September 1972. The Soviets had become the dominant team in international competitions, which disallowed the professional players of Canada due to a dispute with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). This event was organized to showcase a true best-on-best of the hockey world. The series was played at the height of the Cold War, and intense feelings of nationalism were aroused in both Canada and the Soviet Union, as well as on the ice. Most Canadians, including the Bretzes intensely watched all the games and it is still cited as one of the best games ever played in the sport. Canada won in game eight in what was a very close game. When Team Canada arrived back in Canada on October 1 the team was mobbed by an estimated crowd of 10,000 at Montreal's Dorval Airport. Also greeting the team was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and City of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau. 

In 1973 the Bretz family took their first road trip to Alberta. They visited Swift Current, Calgary and Edmonton, and also drove through the rocky mountains, something Judy had never seen before. While in Calgary they visited with David's brother Gord's family.

Judy and the kids took a passenger train from Winnipeg to visit her sister in Hamiota in the summer of 1973. It was an exciting adventure for the children riding in the train coaches. The train stopped in Rivers where they were picked up by her brother-in-law.

David was an active sportsman at curling from the mid 60s to early 70s. He also loved billiards and would play with friends on weekends.

Judy's hobbies were crafts and bingo. Being the 1970s, Tupperware parties were also quite popular with all of her friends.

The family moved to McMeans street in Transcona in the spring of 1974, anticipating they would need more room for their family. The new home cost about $29,500 (about $130,000 today). Grandpa George helped the move.

David eventually decided to leave Deloitte after seven years to form his own practice with a coworker, Bob Wilson. This newspaper notice is from November 9th, 1974 and shows the first business announcement. Their practice soon merged with another firm in January 1975 and became Wiebe, Wilson, Knowles & Bretz. The larger firm worked out of the Busybee Cleaner building on Nairn street. David was only 30 years old at this time, with two small children at home, and a wife who was unsure of the decision.

A particularly harsh winter blizzard hit Winnipeg on January 11th, 1975. It lasted 23 hours and the wind blew at 60km/hr, making for a windchill of nearly -60 C.

In May 1975 the family took a road trip to Swift Current for Judy's grandfather's 90th birthday celebration. It was a large occasion, almost a family reunion for the George family. Chris and Jeff remembered how Grandpa George would squeeze their hands hard when they met him, something he had done to their mother when she was young.

On June 23rd, 1975 David and the kids were downtown watching the Manisphere (Red River Ex) parade when they were hit by a large thunderstorm. They took shelter with others in a parking garage, and were captured doing so in a photograph for the local paper.

David and Judy's third child was born October 29th, 1975, and was named Andrew Ryan Bretz. He was named Andrew after his great grandfather Andrew Halliday.

Judy's sister Bobbi lived with her family in Hamiota where they had a small farm. Not really a working farm, but a hobby farm as Dick was a high school teacher. There were many regular trips to the Prawdzik's over the years, mainly in the summers, but one Christmas as well.

The children were treated to the Shrine Circus when they came to town in the 70s.

The first family pet was a bright orange goldfish. He only lived a few months however and was buried in the back garden in an aspirin box.

There were many family trips to Lake Winnipeg. Both of David and Judy's parents kept trailers up at Spruce Sands on the shore of the lake and would spend many summer days camping there. The Bretz family would join them regularly and have many good memories of swimming and adventuring.

The winters of 1976-1977 were particularly cold for western Canada. One blizzard on November 21st, 1977 was remembered for the large drifts it created. When the Bretz family awoke the next day they found that the snow was piled so high against the back of the house that it completely covered the back door up to the eaves troughs. David had to push the door out and dig a path through it. The kids later would tunnel into the drifts making forts.

The family got an audio tape recorder at Christmas 1976. David recorded the children singing and talking over the next year, and the kids used it for quite some time afterward. Listen the audio section to hear some of the recordings.

Fast food was becoming more widespread during the 70s and the children were first treated to it with trips to A&W drive-in around this time. A local Winnipeg favorite was also the diner Salisbury House.

In the summers David and Judy would take the kids to movies at the local Starlite Drive-In theatre and it was always an exciting evening.

The film Star Wars had a huge effect on many children (and adults) of the time, and the Bretz children were no different. Chris and Jeff very much loved the movie when it came out, and were excited to go see the actors on tour in Winnipeg in 1977-78. However, their brother Andrew was a little too young to appreciate the Star Wars phenomenom just then. Within a few years though this changed and Andrew would accumulate the larger toy collection in the family and even often demand to be called 'Luke' as he practiced his lightsabre skills.

In 1977 David started to plan out a construction project to finish the basement of the house into a rec room and spare bedroom. He did most of the work himself, drawing up the plans using a cigarette package as a ruler, and had friends help him where necessary. He had inherited many wood shop tools from his father which made the job much easier. They furnished with a bright orange false fireplace - round in style - and matching carpet.

David was called to testify at the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in 1977 on a case involving one of his clients accused of smuggling hashish. The RCMP first had approached David in the spring and informed him that they had been tapping his phone and following his movements for some time to ensure he was not part of the smuggling ring. Now satisfied, they asked him to testify in the case they were building against his client. From the Winnipeg Free Press November 18th, 1977.

David A. Bretz testified Babu asked him in April, 1976 to be the accountant of Femina Boutique, an India clothing store at 82 Donald Street that Babu and Dass operated. He said that though the two men told him they were living on their families' money, he saw no documentation of that fact. An income tax return Dass filed for 1975 showed he earned no money that year, Bretz said, and Femina Boutique wasn't doing enough business to even meet expenses. At his urging, they closed it from November, 1976 to February, 1977. This spring, Bretz testified, Babu instructed him not to give Dass bank statements, cancelled cheques or any financial records of B and A Enterprises, the corporation under which they operated the shop.

The Bretzes made a family trip to Fargo, North Dakota in the summer of 1977, but it didn't start out very smoothly. Judy was preparing for trip and packing the car while David was testifying in court (related to the court case mentioned above). The kids were helping, but at some point Andrew, who was only 2, overreached and grabbed a bottle of David's pre-shave lotion off the bathroom counter, spilling it in his eyes. Judy suddenly heard a terrible scream and came running to find out what had happened. She didn't know what to do so called 911 and the police were sent. Two large officers arrived and together they held Andrew down and washed his eyes out before taking him to the hospital to be checked out. Afterward Chris and Jeff both excitedly told their father about the police car ride they had gotten that day, while Judy and Andrew settled their nerves. The actual trip to Fargo later on was far more pleasant and less eventful.

David left Wiebe, Wilson, Knowles & Bretz to form his own practice in October 1977. A newspaper announcment records the move. Jean, his mother, came to work for him as a clerk for a few months.

David bought a Nikon 35mm camera and started to avidly take photos of family events starting in 1978. Many of these were done as slides which would then be shown on special viewing nights, complete with popcorn.

Shown to the left is David and his brothers Gord and Neil and their families. It was taken behind the family house on McMeans.

A vicious summer thunderstorm hit the Winnipeg area one summer night in June, 1978. The wind was very fierce and kept the family awake into the night. It was only the next day when it was discovered a tornado had passed within a few hundred metres of the house.

 

Moving to Edmonton

In early 1978 David began considering a move of the family from Winnipeg to Edmonton. At the time, Alberta was going through an oil boom and that meant more opportunities for many professions, including accountancy. A rapid rise in the price of oil in the early 1970s drove the Alberta economy to unprecedented and frantic growth. Winnipeg's economy was subdued by contrast, and working alone at his own practice he felt a move could help the family's long term security. It was not without precedent, as several of Dave and Judy's friends from Winnipeg had moved to Edmonton within the previous few years, including the McJannets and the Davidows. This also meant the family would not be completely alone in a new city. However, it would also be the first time both Judy and Dave were not nearby their parents or extended family for support and help with the children. In time, the whole family would view their new home in Edmonton as a very happy time, and one in which they felt the most at home as a family.

The Bretz family left Winnipeg in July of 1978 and settled on the south side of Edmonton at 3807 117th street in Petrolia. David and Judy were 34 and 31 years old at the time. The children were 7, 5, and 2. The house cost around $86,000 (About $260,000 today).

It was an exciting time getting to know the new city. Judy joined a community group called Newcomers which was made up of new arrivals to the city. It was through this that she and David met their long time friends the Crooks and the Sanfords. David began curling again and volunteered as the Treasurer of their local Anglican church. They would remember these years as a very happy time.

The 1978 Commonwealth Games were held in Edmonton, Alberta, from 3 to 12 August 1978.

The year following the move David formed a new accounting practice with George Penston, a former colleague from Deloitte who had moved to town a few years prior to the Bretzes. The new practice, Penston & Bretz, would do quite well.

Judy had surgery on her foot December 1978 (a further complication of her CMT) and was laid up for a few weeks.

During the holiday season of that year, the family had the first of many annual open house holiday parties, where many of the couples friends, old and new would attend.

On February 26th, 1979 there was a solar eclipse which moved across western Canada and the US, and was seen as a total eclipse in Winnipeg. Everyone talked about it and tried to get a safe glimpse. Here is a CBC special from that day which everyone watched.

Judy's father, along with several of her aunts and uncles came to Edmonton for a visit in the summer of 1979.

Judy grew a large vegetable garden in the back yard for a few years in around 1980, something she had always wanted to do but had lacked the space at previous homes. Her own family kept a huge garden when she was growing up and she wanted to share the experience with her own family. She grew tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots, and even tried corn, although in the more northern Edmonton climate, it didn't do very well.

The family attended many sporting events in Edmonton, including the Drillers for soccer, the Eskimos for football, the Trappers for baseball, and of course the Oilers for hockey. They even had season tickets to the Oilers for a few years in the early 80s. It was a time which was very exciting and historic that team, when renowned players like Gretzky, Fuhr, Kurri, Messier, Anderson, Coffey really came into their own.

The Bretzes made many road trips for their summer holidays around Alberta and BC. David bought a small trailer for camping in 1979 which the family used for several years. Pictured here is Judy and the children inside while on a trip to Penticton.

One particularly large trip took the family from Edmonton to Vancouver through Jasper for Jean Bretz' 65th birthday celebration with David's brother Gord. She then returned with them to Edmonton for an extended stay.

Chris, Jeff and Andrew all joined Scouts Canada during this time. Chris and Jeff started as a Wolf Cubs and eventually went on to full Scouts. Andrew was in Beavers. The kids would go on various camping trips and activities with the troops.

McDonalds debuted the first Happy Meals in the summer of 1979 and the children would get them occasionally as a treat when eating out.

David and Judy took their first of many trips to Las Vegas in 1979. For their first trip, they were invited by Judy's sister Bobbi to join them, and afterward they were hooked. In the years since they have been well over a dozen times. Moderate gamblers, they both preferred the slot machines, but Dave occasionally dabbled in Blackjack. They also enjoyed the shows and the food.

Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18th, 1980. While it was far enough away it did not impact the Bretzes directly, they were amazed when they found a layer of ash on the car after a vacation in Calgary that summer.

In 1980 David was in a car accident which totaled his car, but thankfully only gave him a bad case of whiplash. He replaced the car with a large maroon Delta 88 which he drove for the next ten years.

The Great Divide waterfall flowed from the High Level Bridge for the first time in 1980, a project done for Alberta's 75th Anniversary. The family went down to watch the opening.

Summers in Edmonton were a busy time. The annual Sourdough Raft Race on the river was always a favorite. As was Klondike Days and the multicultural food fair.

The Edmonton Journal newspaper conducted a 'gold treasure hunt' in the September 1981 where clues would be drawn into the form of a cartoon in the Saturday paper. Families would then go around the city seeking out the golden treasure, and the Bretz family joined the race.

After some convincing, David bought the kids their first video game system in 1980, an Atari 2600 console. There were many fun hours of Pacman, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and more. Compared to today, the cost of these games was somewhat steep. Each game new was about $50 in Canada or approximately $140 in today's dollars, and some games could price even higher.

The federal government introduced the National Energy Program in 1981. It's goal was to secure energy independance for Canada and to allow all Canadians to share in the huge profits of the oil industry due to record high gas prices. The program was extremely unpopular in Alberta. Because natural resources were constitutionally within the domain of provinces, many Albertans viewed the NEP as an intrusion by the federal government into the province's affairs. In Western Canada the NEP was perceived to be at their expense and benefiting the eastern provinces. The Alberta economy slumped during the years of the NEP, and many Albertan blamed the NEP for causing the downturn. However, the impact of the early 80s recession affecting the US and Canada was a greater contributing factor. Construction slowed, retail sales dropped and unemployment rose from 4% to over 10%. Fortunately the accounting business was relatively unaffected by the downturn, as people needed their services coming down the economic ladder as much as they needed them going up it.

Petro-Canada, the government-established oil company headquartered in Calgary, was made responsible for implementing much of the Program. Out west, Petro-Canada was derogatorily called "Pierre Elliott Trudeau Rips Off Canada" by opponents of the National Energy Program, and the Petro-Canada Centre in Calgary became known as "Red Square." The popular western slogan during the NEP – appearing on many bumper stickers – was "Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark".

West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in the world at that time, opened in September 1981. The Bretz family, like many people from Edmonton and the region, went to see the spectacle.

The Bretz family adopted a dog in early 1982, a puppy whom they named Sparky. He was a lightly coloured Samoyed/ English Setter mix from the Edmonton SPCA. No one in the family had ever owned a dog before and there was a good deal of learning how to care for one. Sparky was loved by the Bretz family and would sometimes come along on summer vacations with them. Sadly he died in 1993 after accidentally getting into a box of chocolates.

The family first bought a number of appliances which we all take for granted in our modern life in the early 80s. A dishwasher, a toaster oven, a microwave, a VCR (betamax), and others. The family also was an early adopter of the new subscription movie channels, like First Choice.

Television was a major part of family life. Everyone would usually gather in the family room and watch shows in the evening after dinner. Series such as, Battlestar Galactica, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, That's Incredible!, Greatest American Hero, M*A*S*H, and Newhart were favorites. Movies were also important. Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others made a huge impact during this time. Andrew even insisted on being called 'Luke' for a summer.

The Day After was a television movie broadcast on November 20th, 1983 which portrayed the buildup to and the aftermath of a nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, as told through the experiences of everyday people. It was a very powerful film which provoked a lot of debate and shocked people, including military and political leaders, with the horror and reality of what World War III could be. It was very much tied to the politics of the Reagan era and the Cold War. The Bretz family was also affected by the viewing.

Edmonton's new Space Science Centre opened on July 1st, 1984. It replaced the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium where young Chris had belonged to an astronomy club a few years earlier.

Judy's father, Orville, died after a fight with cancer in September 1984. She returned to Winnipeg for a few weeks to be with her family and say goodbye.

 

Moving to Calgary

David's business partner, George Penston, had struggled with depression for some years, and eventually it began to affect their work. David was in the position that he had to put more of his own money into the practice, and this just wasn't sustainable. Although concerned for George, David decided he had to look out for his family and took a CFO job with one of his clients, the Columbia Satellite Company of Calgary in late 1984. The company manufactured large 14' cable television dishes which had been growing in popularity at the time. He was also looking for a change of pace and it was the first time he would work on the other side (client-side) of the accountancy business.

David and Judy did not agree on the move, however, and it led to strain in their relationship. She was in Winnipeg grieving the loss of her father when the decision was being made, and it took some adjustment for her to accept abandoning the home they had built in Edmonton. But David insisted it was the right move for the family and their well being.

The family left Edmonton in December 1984 so that the children could change schools over Christmas break. The move to Calgary was rougher on them now that they were older (ages 14, 12, and 9), as they had to give up their longtime Edmonton friends and relationships. The move would have a lasting impact on the family, and no one was really happy in Calgary for next few years.

Unfortunately, within six months of arriving in Calgary, Columbia Satellites went out of business - a victim of the newer, smaller dishes which could be mounted on a window rather than be cemented in a yard. This put additional strains on the family, and David scrambled to find a new plan. He quickly got work as the controller of Calgary Public Library System and held that role from 1985 to 1990.

The family moved several more times in the late 80s to different homes around Calgary. The first home was a rental in Rundle for part of 1985, a location which was close to Columbia Satellites for David. After that ended, they then moved to a rental in more upscale Lake Bonavista in the south for a year, but Judy didn't like the neighborhood much so they then moved to Canyon Meadows over in the southwest part of town in 1986, which was closer to the local high school, and more middle class in nature. The family stayed here for a number of years.

Here is a television commercial from the mid 80s called Hello Calgary! from local channel 2&7, celebrating the Calgary area.

The first computer in the Bretz home was a portable IBM 5155 from Columbia Satellites. It looked like a piece of luggage, weighted something like 30 pounds, and had a 5" or 6" orange and black text screen. It was only on loan, however, and was returned.

In the summer of 1985, the George family held a large family reunion in Neepawa. Many of Judy's aunts, uncles, and cousins were there and the Bretz family drove out for the happy occasion.

Judy's sister Laurie moved to Banff in 1985 from Winnipeg for work. Later she moved back and forth to Calgary a few times before settling there permanently around 2000.

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after takeoff on January 28, 1986. The family had been avid followers of the space program and were shocked at the tragedy that day.

Both David and Judy smoked heavily from their teenage years on, as was the habit of much of their generation. Judy decided to quit on February 4th, 1988, after attending a non-smoking clinic at the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic and encouraged herself by putting up pictures of diseased lungs around the house.

Judy returned to the workforce after nearly twenty years of being a mother and a housewife. She studied accounting and took jobs in payroll with various oil companies in downtown Calgary, including Home Oil in 1987, Page Petroleum in 1988, and Enron in 1991.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Five purpose-built venues were created, including the Saddledome, Olympic Oval and Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, and the Canmore Nordic Centre and Nakiska outside of Calgary. Olympic Plaza for medal ceremonies still lives on as a place to gather and celebrate. During one of the medal ceremonies at Olympic Plaza Judy was there, and briefly got to hold the Olympic torch.

David and Judy briefly participated with the right wing Alliance Party, partly due to the involvement of their friend, Mark Waters. David was even treasurer of the party for a year.

The Bretz family got it's first personal computer around 1990, and their first modem to connect to the nacent internet a few years later.

Dave and Judy's first grandchild, Katie, was born in 1990 to their son Jeff.

Starting in August 1990, the Gulf War was fought by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait. It was the first time such a thing had been broadcast by live television into the world's living rooms and the Bretz family watched the events unfold intently.

While at the Calgary Library, Dave was in a commercial spot shown on local ACCESS television. He played the 'chairman of the board' of a fictional business situation, as he was the only one there with a suit that day.

There was a moderate economic recession in the early 1990s which affected Canada and other countries with close ties to the US. It was caused by a growing saving and loan crisis in the American banking system. Real estate prices tumbled and jobs were lost.

Judy had a hysterectomy in 1992.

Dave and Judy moved the family to a townhouse in Braeside in 1992, where they stayed for a number of years. Their eldest son Chris moved out of the home in 1994.

David moved into the role of controller of SAIT from 1991 to 1993. He did not really enjoy the job very much as, due to cost cutting locally and provincially, he had to let a number of people go every year. As well, he and the vice president did not really get along very well in terms of their business phiolosophies, and many senior staff lost their jobs. Eventually, after installing and training everyone in his group on a new computer accounting system, Dave himself was informed he would no longer be required.

After SAIT, in 1994 he opened his own practice again, which he maintains to present day.

The Bretz family's beloved pet Sparky died in early 1993 from accidental chocolate poisoning. After they mourned his loss, Judy and Dave eventually adopted another dog, a shih tzu cross named Dudley whom they loved for many years.

David's old business partner George Penston tragically committed suicide in 1994, after years battling depression.

In 1994 Dave and Judy took their first of numerous ocean cruises. It involved a trip to Vegas and then a quick voyage down to Baja.

In September 1997 Dave and Judy embarked on what would be their worst cruise experience during Hurricane Linda. First there was no one from Carnival to pick them up at LAX. Then there were mysterious picketers at the cruise line office. Once aboard they could see the hurricane on horizon and the sea was so choppy it made many people on board seasick. After Linda passed, a second forming hurricane forced ship to an alternate port and the ship had to backtrack to avoid the new hurricane. One night, a loud clang rang out and all power was cut - the engines had broken down and the ship was now listing. The panicked passengers confronted the crew with questions, but they denied anything was wrong. They missed another port and with the ship finally limping back to LA, Carnival finally admitted the problems but to compensate offered everyone 25% off their next cruise. Dave and Judy never went back.

Judy's niece Kristie moved to Calgary in fall 1997 for work in physiotherapy.

Dudley accompanied Judy and Dave to Winnipeg for a family wedding in 1999 and was briefly lost. For two days everyone in the family looked for him before finally finding him near a railway yard several kilometres from Judy's sister's home. When they thought they had lost him, Dave and Judy were visibly quite shaken and distraught.

Judy's mother Diana passed away in 2000.

Judy began painting in her spare time in 2003 and took several classes to practice her skills. Some of her paintings can be viewed in the George family's photo section.

David's mother Jean passed away in 2005.

Dudley died in 2007 of old age. Judy and Dave adopted another dog in 2008, another shih tzu cross they named Jasper.

A selection of photos of the family can be found here.

A selection of Dave's favorite songs.

  Buddy Holly
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

A selection of Judy's favorite songs.

Mockingbird Hill Patti Page
Paper Doll Mills Brothers
How Much is that Doggie in the Window Patti Page
Silver Bells Bing Crosby
That’ll Be The Day Buddy Holly
In Dreams Roy Orbison
Blueberry Hill Fats Domino
Blue Velvet Bobby Vinton
I Want to Hold your Hand the Beatles
Put Your Head on my Shoulder Paul Anka
Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen Neil Sedaka
My Girl Temptations
It’s not for me to Say Johnny Mathis
It’s My Party Leslie Gore
Blue Hawaii Elvis
Red Roses for a Blue Lady Vic Dana
More Andy Williams
Satisfaction Rolling Stones
Joy to the World Three Dog Night
Old Time Rock and Roll Bob Seger
Kokomo Beach Boys
These Eyes Burton Cummings
I’m Scared Burton Cummings
The Gambler Kenny Rogers
Forever and ever, Amen Randy Travis
Rodeo Garth Brooks
Friends in Low Places Garth Brooks
Beer for my Horses Toby Keith
My List Toby Keith

Children

Christopher and his partner Monica Esteves live in Toronto, Ontario.

Jeff married Whitney Horwath and they had 2 children together. Jeff also had 2 children from earlier relationships. They all live in Langdon, Alberta.

Andrew married Cindy McMann. They live in Guelph, Ontario.

 

Neil Bretz

Neil Howard Bretz (1953- ) was born November 7th, 1953 in Winnipeg. He was given his middle name after his father.

He was nearly 9 and a half years younger than his two brothers and born quite late to his parents. His father was 42 years old, and his mother 39. He never really knew his grandparents as they died when he was still very young.

The family moved around for a few years beginning in 1960, so Neil was bounced around different cities and schools between the ages of 6 and 11.

Neil's father died in 1972 when he was only 18 years old.

He never married.

Worked for the Manitoba Provincial printer for many years.

As the only one of his brothers remaining in Winnipeg, he cared for his mother into her later years.

He took many road trips down to the US and was an avid concert goer.