Stefan (Istvan or Pista) Melus finished Grade 4, which was the end of elementary school in his homeland. He went to school during the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Slovakia and all his classes were in Hungarian. He was not allowed to speak Slovak in school or on the way to and from school.
At one time he (or his family wanted him) wanted to be a priest but his family could not afford the education. This was expected of the oldest boy in the family. Stefan served as altar-boy for several years.
When he was eleven years old he was pulled off of a wagon by the team of horses he was driving. He was trampled by the horses and his nose was flattened. The family could not afford to get a doctor and he was not expected to survive. Later, because of his nose, he was not eligible for the Czechoslovakian Army. He worked on the farm with his brothers.
Steve Melus came to Canada via Liverpool, England in 1926. He landed in Halifax, then took the train to Kipling, Saskatchewan to work on a farm in a Hungarian area (Estevan). He started in the wheat harvest. The huge fields made him lonely for his country where people lived in villages, not on their farms. This was at a time when the Canadian government was advertising for people to settle the country. He quit that farm after the harvest because the farmer he was working for wanted him to marry his daughter. Stefan was not ready for marriage. He planned to return to his homeland after making his fortune in Canada, in 2 years.
That winter he moved east. He worked in Toronto for one month at Swifts Company, salting hides and shredding stale bread. He spent a month working in construction, digging basements, in Toronto. Then he got a job with CNR, North Bay, shoveling snow and removing railroad ties. After that he went to Montreal to visit Slovaks for six weeks. He then worked in Midland, unloading ships. Then he moved to Port McNicholl. His job was building a grain elevator. He made $0.40 a day. He rented his room at night; someone else rented it during the day. Most of his traveling was done on top of boxcars. Then he moved to Cochrane. He worked on a power-house at Fraserdale, along the power line to Moosonee, forty kilometres from James Bay. He was also a cook at camp (lumber or hydro?), cooking for 300 men.
In about 1930 the Ontario government was trying to settle the north, as teh south was occupied by farmers. The government was looking for more money through land taxes. Steve bought his homestead at Hunta. It was seventy-five acres, the west half of Lot 5, Concession 11, Calder Township, in Cochrane District. Land records in Cochrane do not show whether he ever paid off the homestead. He cleared land and built a log house. His first house and all of his belongings burned soon after it was built.
His sister Anna came to Canada in 1932 to marry Stefan Alaksa in Flin Flon, Manitoba.
Stefan became a Canadian citizen (British subject) in December, 1935. At this time he knew Viktor Gulis and through him learned that Viktor had two unmarried sisters in Slovakia. Steve decided it was time to get married so he wrote to both of them. Maria was engaged to be married, but Anna started corresponding with him. After about one year of correspondence, she came to Canada. Steve had rebuilt his log house by this time. They were married on October 19, 1937 by a Roman Catholic priest in Driftwood, Ontario.
Their son John was born in June,1938. Their second son, Edward was born in July, 1940. Both were born in Cochrane. Edward died about 2 weeks after they moved to the Ekfrid Township farm. Mary was born in 1945 in London, Ontario.
The family stayed in Hunta until 1942, growing potatoes and boot-legging beer and whiskey. They lived in a primarily Slovak-Hungarian-French-Russian area. There was no market for their produce and slowly residents were moving south with their families to take jobs in cities or buying farms. Jozef & Jakub Koncovy went to Alvinston with Vince Pavlech. Mike Solcz went to Windsor and his brother Martin bought a tobacco farm near Rodney. Joseph & Elizabeth Lesso moved to Toronto. Anton Jancek, Podoba and Jan Dobias were some of the others he knew in the north. They either returned to Czechoslovakia or died in the north. Christmas cards were exchanged with Stanley Lubczinski (Polish descent) until the 1960s. Stanley stayed in the north. The Blackburns were good neighbours.
On April 2, 1942 Steve & Anna bought a one-hundred acre farm in Ekfrid Township, Middlesex County for $6500 from Robert B. McKellar. It was located in the south half of Lot 21, Second Range, north of Longwood's Road (Highway 2). On May 27, 1942 he paid $3250. to Mr. McKellar. He remortgaged the remaining $1750. when his brother-in-law in Flin Flon renigged on a promise to lend him the money. (There was a formal loan arrangement with Stefan Alaksa which was legally ended May 7, 1942.) Probably Steve then borrowed money from another relative, Jan (John) Dobias. When John Dobias, labourer, died in Toronto (264 Bathurst St.) on June 7, 1945 Dad owed his estate $375. On April 30, 1945 Wm Annett in Alvinston held a $3500 mortgage. This 7 year mortgage was paid off in 4 years.
The 1946 Income Tax form indicates he paid wages to widow Mrs Ray (Roy?) from Newbury, Steve, John and prisoners [of war held at Glencoe Fairgrounds] for topping sugar beets, and thrashing [threshing] help.
Once the farm was paid off, Steve would lend money to farmers starting out. He was able to make more interest in private deals like this than investing at the bank. He was fortunate than anyone he lent money to was good at keeping up payments.
On March 6, 1967 Steve sold the farm to Stanley and Judith Pazitka for $33 000.
He knew from when John was quite young that John had no desire to be a farmer. Both Steve & Anna expected their children to attend university. Education was very important to them, probably because they did not have an opportunity for much education themselves.
In 1949 Steve bought his first car (a Graham-Paige) and learned to drive it from the driving examiner, Mr Calderwood. I vaguely remember Mom walking up the hill near Alvinston because the Graham-Paige did not have enough power go up the hill with the whole family in it. His first new car was a 1950 green Pontiac.
In 1960 he bought a black Chevrolet demonstrator with a red interior which he drove until 1976 when he gave up driving. (He bought a TR3 as a graduation gift from university for John in 1960 as well. He bought Mary a Chevelle in 1967 as a graduation gift.) For a few years before he gave up driving, Anna served as his eyes while driving. Although he was legally blind, he could still see to drive.
While on the farm their friends were the Brnka, Bajan, Puspoky, Junas, Pustay families. Steve was also good friends with the Hungarians in the neighbourhood - Steve Kerekes, George Nagy, Dan Beke.
In 1967 Steve & Anna bought Lot 31 in Plan 312 on the corner of Symes and Randolph Streets in Glencoe, from Roy Henderson for $750. They built the house for $14,800 and added the carport shortly after. He and Anna worked several summers planting tobacco (Jung farm) and picking tomatoes (Pazitka farm). They also worked on gardens around Glencoe and in Mrs. Beatty's (Beatty Haven, Wardsville) farm garden. In Glencoe there were several Slovak families they visited with - Murza, Pustay, Plaskon, Maruscak, Junas, Antonia Dobias. By this time they had renewed their relationship with Victor Gulis as well.
In 1970, Steve Melus had prostate surgery and his kidney stones removed at Victoria Hospital, London. The surgeon was Dr. MacIninch.
In the early 1970's he was declared legally blind by both Dr. Cruikshanks, Sarnia and Dr. Mailer, London.
In 1976 he had a heart attack and shortly after a stroke. He was in Four Counties Hospital, Newbury. His doctors were Dr. Bahro and Dr. Sanders.
His pace-maker was inserted in October, 1988 in University Hospital, London by Dr. Yee.
In May, 1991 he entered Four Counties Hospital with fluid build-up. In June he had a prostate-resecting in St. Joseph's Hospital, Chatham. In October he moved to North Lambton Rest Home. Shortly after he fell and cracked his ribs and bruised his face. Then he climbed out of bed and broke his hip in November. Dr. MacKinlay put a pin in his hip at Sarnia General. He was moved back to Four Counties Hospital for therapy. In April, 1992, he had an ulcer on his toe, so his toe was removed, in Newbury. He suffered from dementia and had several TIA's (Transischemic Attacks). He died in Four Counties Hospital in Newbury.
Dad enjoyed country and folk music - Tommy Hunter, Irish Rovers. He used to sing to himself (in Slovak or Hungarian) while working in the fields. In retirement he enjoyed just sitting and watching the world go by. It was his job to wash and dry dishes. He also looked after banking and any postal duties. He never complained about life in general, and loved to talk about his days in Canada before he was married.
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Father: Valent Jozef Melus
Mother: Veronika Dobiasova
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