Wally Knapp grew up on a dairy farm in Waterloo County. He graduated from OAC in 1948. He entered college in Sept.1944, just as the Air Force was leaving the campus and the influx of returning service personnel was beginning. He comments on the mixing of his class with the larger classes that followed, including initiation and college life. Following graduation, Wally served for two years as the Assistant Ag. Rep. for Perth County. He returned to the home farm in the spring of 1950 and shortly thereafter switched from Ayrshires to Holsteins. During his thirty-five year career as a dairy farmer he was active as a 4-H Club Leader and in the Waterloo County Federation of Agriculture. Wally was proud of his involvement with the Holstein Friesian Association of Canada. He judged many major Holstein shows in Canada and internationally and commented on his off-shore experiences. He served as a member of the Ontario Milk Commission from 1973 to 1984. Following the sale of his Holstein herd in 1985, he became Agricultural Manager of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, retiring from this position in 1992.
AudioWallace J. (Wally) Knapp interview
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
Interviewed by Ed Brubaker
E This is an interview with Wally Knapp in Guelph on February 8, 2000 for the Alumni-In-Action oral history program. Wally is a graduate of OAC in the year 1948 and he’s had an interesting career in the intervening 50 plus years. Wally, you were raised on a farm in Waterloo County. Can you tell us what type of farming it was and why you decided to come to the OAC?
W Well, Ed, first thanks ever so much for inviting me to give this interview. I’m really not too sure why, but when I look back on the life that we’ve had so far it’s been both challenging and interesting and a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed the whole thing. It must be almost 70 years ago, that I made up my mind that I intended to come to OAC and be a graduate of OAC. Most of it was because of my father’s connection with OAC. It was my ambition to be a graduate of OAC, go into extension work for a couple of years and then return to the farm. I was an only son, along with two sisters, and so that was the route that I had laid out. I can remember sitting in public school, and the public school inspector coming along and tapping me on the shoulder and he said “Knapp, what do you intend to do with your life after you finish public school?” And I said, “I want to graduate from high school and then go to the Ontario Agricultural College, be an Agriculture Representative with the Ministry of Agriculture and then farm for the rest of my life.” That’s what I will do.
E And your dad was a graduate in what year?
W Dad graduated in 1914. He was one of the first assistant Ag Reps in the province for the Department of Agriculture at that time. He was an assistant to F.C. Hart in Waterloo County. Mr. Hart came to Guelph and was on staff at OAC and dad took over the Ag Rep office in Waterloo, from 1914 to 1924.
E And then went farming on a full-time basis?
W He had been farming for a couple of years around the time that I was born. But the edict came down from the Department of Agriculture that you only worked for one boss and he decided that if that was the case, he was going to be his own boss and he would farm. That was the farm that I was raised on, the farm that dad bought in 1924 and the farm that I began farming in 1950.
E You came to Guelph in the fall of 1944, during the war. What was the campus like?
W (Chuckle) The campus seemed to me it was mostly fences. The air force was on campus and there were certain places that were out of bounds to us as students. The administrative offices were in what we knew then as the horticulture building.
I remember coming with my father to meet with Archie Porter, the registrar, and Dr. Christie, the president, to investigate the possibility of being accepted as a student in the fall of 1944. I was armed with my exam results of my last year at Galt Collegiate and showed those to Archie and said I wanted to be a student in the class of ’48. That was about all it took to be accepted. I had the marks and I was a graduate of grade 12, which was all that was necessary at that time and I was in.
The campus was completely different. Johnson Hall was occupied by the Air Force. What we knew as the Entomology Building was a war- time building, and is still standing today. In the basement was a shooting range. MacDonald Hall was also an Air Force residence. The dairy, beef, swine, and sheep barns [now Alumni House] were all accessible to us, but there were some spots that we weren’t allowed to go to.
We lived off campus. You had to find a place to live, which is no different than students do today. We had to find a place with room and board, or just plain room and eat out. I was very fortunate. At that time, for a student to register in OAC it was necessary that they have had some farm experience. Well, having been brought up on a farm, that was no problem for me. But we had a son of Prof. Keagan [Prof. in field crops] spend the summer with us at our farm near Galt to gain his farm experience. So Prof. and Mrs. Keagan took me in as a boarder until Christmas.
Following the Christmas exams and the Christmas holidays, the college took over, or were given back the facilities. The fences were opened up and we were allowed to move into residence in Johnson Hall. Fourth floor Johnson Hall; I think it was room number 406. I know it was the second set of windows on the left on fourth floor, if you’re looking at the clock tower today. I shared this room with Ken Kingsbury from Hull, Quebec. Ken did not return after his first year, he couldn’t stand us or he couldn’t stand me, I guess, as a roommate. We have always remained friends and visited back and forth ever since. It was a wonderful experience to room with Ken at that time. All of the class of ‘48 was on the fourth floor and it was different to boarding life. The boarding out experience was something for me, never having been away from home either.
E There were relatively small numbers at OAC, until the fall of ’45, when year ’49 came in with a huge class. What changes did you see when that occurred?
W It was such a major change. We started with something like 110 in our class, the class of ’48. None of us had been in the war. We were a year or two younger than the boys returning from the war in ’45, and, we were extremely fortunate in the class of ’48, in that boys that came back into second year, from the war, had already had one year at OAC. They had gone through the initiation period and
knew what college life was like. They had one thing in mind, they were coming back to finish off their education.
The mix was an amazing situation. It was amazing the way it worked out. We just melded together as a pair of young fellows, some still wet behind the ears, and boys that had experienced a totally different lifestyle than what we had ever experienced or even thought of. I do remember when coming back for our second year, some of us roomed in Mills Hall, some in Watson Hall, and some roomed in Maid’s Dorm. A few of the boys in the class were married and lived off campus but not the majority.
If we had a meeting of any sort, a class meeting, we would always end up in the common room on the first floor of Mills. Very shortly after registration, we had a class meeting and as I recall, the class President at the time was Walt Hanbidge. Walt suggested that we as second year students who had been there the year previous, reach out the hand of friendship to the boys that had returned from the war, and already had had their first year before they went to battle. Whether that was what helped make the melding together of the two groups, I don’t know, but I know it certainly helped. It was a great meld of experience, something that all of us in our class, the young fellas especially will remember. I do know that the boys that came back from the war felt the very same thing.
There had always been an initiation process when you came in as a freshman. There was a hazing period. In fact, if you were caught talking to a girl before Hallowe’en night, you were really in trouble. There were various restrictions and duties. You had to do fatigue work for senior students and things of that nature to put you in your place and bring everybody down to a common denominator. You didn’t dare show up on campus with an award sweater, or sweater that showed that you had been prominent on a football team in your collegiate days. And we, a class of about a hundred fellows, thought we could handle approximately 400 students that came back into their first year in our second year.
Well, it didn’t work. Ed, let me tell you it didn’t work, but we made some very good friendships back and forth with the class of ’49. It was a different class than ’48, and forever will be a different class. We need to remember and appreciate the reason. It was because the class of ’49 was a mix of fellows, some as we were, wet behind the ears, and others that had experiences that none of us can ever imagine. If we can appreciate that as one of the main reasons that there was that different atmosphere between the two classes. Although we’ve got good friends in ’48 and we’ve got good friends in ’49, I know both years appreciate the other.
E There was animosity between the two years at the time, but when we graduated that disappeared and we certainly get along well together. You mentioned Walter Hanbidge, your class president. Can you recall two or three professors who had a lot of influence on you here, or that you particularly appreciated?
W My major was Animal Husbandry at that time, now called Animal Science, I suppose the profs that meant the most to me were An Hub profs. I think of Prof Runions, Bunny Runions, who was our Prof in dairy cattle breeding. He was our coach of the dairy cattle judging team and in fourth year, Prof. Runions took us to
the intercollegiate judging competition at the National Dairy Congress in Waterloo, Iowa.
Prof. Raithby, a dairy scientist who did not, as far as I’m concerned, have an equal anywhere in the world. Just a super person, and you’d learn more about the function of a dairy cow from Prof. Raithby in an hour’s lecture than you would in a lifetime almost. Appreciated as an authority by every dairy cattle breeder in Canada and throughout the world.
Other Profs that I think of include Prof. Blackwood, head of the Dept. of Ag Engineering. He used to say that marks depended on the weight of the ink on your exam paper, when he stood at the top of the stairs and threw the papers down the stairs. The ones with the most ink weighed the most and got the higher marks.
Prof. Moffatt was just a tremendous brain in ag science and taught ever so many ag science high school teachers that graduated from OAC. I also think of John Weall, who came to this country from England and was on the horticultural department staff, teaching us landscaping. Every landscape drawing that he prepared for the front of your house had a certain curve to it and that was Prof. Wheal’s presentation.
Then there was the day we were having a lecture on rutabagas, but I don’t recall the prof’s name and was one of the memorable occurrences of the class of ’48. A classmate stuck up his hand. The Prof. acknowledged him, and he asked, “Prof., what is the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga?” The Prof. looked at him and said “considerable”. That was the answer. I still don’t know what the difference is between a turnip and a rutabaga, but that was the answer that we got in ’48, and is still sometimes mentioned at reunions by the class of ’48.
I also remember Prof. Staples, and the horse business. Also the herdsmen in the various barns, the swine barn and the sheep barn and the dairy barn especially, and then Jimmy Florence in the beef barn. It was just a wonderful experience to be part of it.
E Can you recall any particular pranks or activities that stand out in your mind?
W Yes, I think of our graduation banquet in the Desert Inn, in those days it was Paradise Gardens. Dr. and Mrs. Reek were at the dinner that evening. Dr. Reek, as president of the college, said there were three things that he missed as far as the class of ’48 was concerned, and had hoped he might have been present for.
One concerned Jim Fuller in our first year. Jim had a date with this girl downtown, but he didn’t have enough money to take her to a show or whatever. So Jim, being a bit of a character, suggested that he would swallow a goldfish. He had two in his room in a bowl. He would swallow a goldfish and charge 25 cents admission to see this happen. He hoped to make $5.00. That would take he and the girl out for the evening. Any balance could go to the class treasury. I don’t recall how many dollars went in the class treasury, but Jim swallowed the goldfish and got the $5.00 for the date.
The second thing that Dr. Reek recalled was at the time of our final exams in our second year. The class had a, I don’t say it was a bad attitude, but we had a bit of an attitude. We felt that we were not receiving what we should have received as
far as lectures and education and so on, furthering our education to the extent that we thought we should have had, by the end of the second year. I think some of it came as a result of the boys in our class who had returned from the war. They were looking for more depth in their education and I think we as the young bucks that didn’t know any better, and maybe were prepared to go along with the status quo. We didn’t have quite the same feeling as the boys that returned from the war, but I can well appreciate why. We decided we were going to boycott and not write our final exams in second year. Dr. Reek said he wished he’d been around to be at the meeting that we held in the basement of Massey Hall when we decided to not write our final exams. There was a compromise drawn on that proposal, and we did write our final exams and I think the message got through to the powers that be.
The other prank that ’48 carried out was the painting of the water tower. The water tower was brand newly painted white. Craig Leuty climbed the water tower with a stepladder strapped to his back, and painted a great big 48 on it about the second day after it had been painted white. Dr. Reek said those were the three things he would have liked to be present for; Jim Fuller’s swallowing the goldfish, the class of ’48 refusing to write our second year exams and Craig doing the painting of the ’48 symbol on the water tower.
E Wally, at graduation you went to work for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. What kind of work was that?
W Well, first of all, Ed, I want to say, not too long ago, I had a dream that I was writing my final exams at OAC and no way was I going to graduate. I was so confused, so befuddled that there was no way I was going to graduate. Thank goodness, I already had. That night I woke up and I was moaning and groaning. Peggy woke up at the same time, and she said, “What in the world is the matter?” I said, “Well, I’m dreaming that I’m writing my final exams and there’s no way I’m going to graduate.” Thank goodness it was only a dream.
In the summer of ’47, I was fortunate to have had a placement with the Department of Agriculture as an assistant ag rep in Carlton County, in charge of junior work for the summer. On graduation I was offered a position with the department as a full-time Assistant Ag Rep in Perth County (Stratford). I accepted, and for two years was an Assistant Ag Rep. I met Peggy in Perth County, and we were married in ’49.We celebrated our 50th anniversary this past summer, the summer of ’99.
We made the decision in ’50, that if there were an opportunity, we would return to the home farm at Cambridge and share the operation with my mother and father. At the same time, we were offered the opportunity to move into Toronto to the head office of the Ministry and to take over the junior extension position. We made the decision to come home to the farm. That was the April 1st, 1950. We returned to the farm, split the Ayrshire herd, and bought another farm for mother and dad. They moved to it and we got on from there in the dairy farming business until 1985 when we dispersed.
E Besides running the farm with your mom and dad and building up the Ayrshire herd, you did change breeds at one time. You also became involved in a lot of other work, too, while you were farming. Can you tell us about some of that?
W I’m not that much different than the rank and file, as far as that goes, but we’ve been very, very fortunate over the years, in where the cattle business took us. We changed breeds in1955. Not that we didn’t like the Ayrshire cow, I think they’re one of the most hardy breeds. The problem at the time was that the Association was not doing the job of promoting a good cow; there was more emphasis placed on the turn of the horn in the Ayrhsire cow, than there was on milk production to make ends meet. There was not a good market for the breed and no certainty of an export market or any promotion such as was being given by the Holstein Association to its membership. All our friends were Holstein breeders around us and we could see what was going on, so we changed breeds, changed to Holsteins in 1955, and that was the best thing we ever did. We were very fortunate to have bred a herd that took us to being awarded a Master Breeder shield in1981, I think it was, which is the highest award that can be given to you as a Holstein breeder.
At the same time, with the experience gained from all my judging work at area shows and the judging and competition work that we had done here at OAC, I ended up becoming an official judge for the Holstein Association of Canada. As a judge and ambassador for the Holstein breed I traveled to many foreign countries. There is only one show that I did not judge, that I would have liked to, and that was the All Japan Show. But in the period of 18 months of ’74 and early ’75, I judged 5 national shows and that was enough in 18 months.
E And they were where?
W The Royal Show of England, The Royal Highland Show of Scotland, The National Show of Mexico, the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, Australia and our own Royal Winter Fair here in Canada. I’ll tell you this much, when it comes to the prestige of judging a show, if there are any honours to the job, you’re on the hot seat right from the start. The Royal of Canada is the greatest show in the world to judge, no matter where.
Having done all that judging and having visited many foreign countries, first thing that you would be asked as a breeder, and as a judge, if they knew you were a breeder especially, would be whether it is the right bull to use. There were so many Canadian bulls available on the semen market, and well-proven bulls, the first question would be what is the right bull to use, and secondly, when is the Royal Winter Fair, because we want to come to the Royal.
Having been in Chile, Australia, Scotland, England, Italy, and a lot of the shows in the States and every provincial show here in Canada, you get a fair bit of exposure. It’s not a job for the weak of heart or the ones that don’t want to take criticism, but you do what you think is the best that day and you live with that opinion, and not everybody is made to be a judge.
You have to not only know what you’re doing; you have to appear to know what you’re doing. The most difficult thing to do in placing a class, at least in my
opinion, is when you can’t find a winner and you have to place from the bottom up. Of course, once you get to a certain level of shows you’re judging, there’s always a winner, and then you hope that there’s a pattern that you can follow that suits your judgment. And even at that, as I’ve said many a time, you’re placing is the official placing but it doesn’t necessarily say it’s the right placing.
E Wally, you went to Chile once, as a judge and had some good experiences there. What were they?
W Actually, Ed, 1968 was the first time that Holstein Canada sent me out of the country to judge, and that was a trip to Chile. I honestly think making that trip to Chile, Peggy and I when we left home, we thought we were going off the end of the world. We had a connecting flight out of New York City to Panama City. They landed there that night, about 3 o’clock in the morning, and the weather was hot, sticky and humid. They let us off the plane just to stretch our legs and into the terminal, which was a little chicken coop of a place. We were the foreigners there, the only white people in the terminal. I think if there’d been a plane coming back to Canada that night out of Panama City, we would’ve been on it.
But the trip was an experience that we will never forget. It was a wonderful experience and the start of friendships with people in Chile that we have cherished ever since. The conditions were something we had never seen before. There was the next thing to a rebellion in Chile at the time. The government had changed completely. The military was almost running the country. Soldiers were everywhere, soldiers and the police. It was almost a military state and with machine guns slung over their shoulders.
But we made it, and were met by the Chilean people and taken to the hotel where we had straw mattresses. And again that was a wonderful experience. We had a little fun trying to make them understand our English when we would order a meal in the hotel.
But it was just a great way to start at this level of judging and as a public relations person for your association. You were not only there to place a class of Holsteins, you were there to promote Holstein Canada. It was just a wonderful experience for us. If we had ever decided that after that first visit, we didn’t want to do another one, we would have missed an awful lot of wonderful experiences.
Just before were to leave for Canada, the office in Brantford called and asked if we could cut our stay short in Chile. They just had a request for a judge in Peru. “Could you stop in Peru on the way home, Wally, and judge this show.” We said, yes I guess we could manage that.
We got into Peru, and oh man, we didn’t know what we were getting into. We found out that in Peru they were importing cattle from the Netherlands, a completely different style of black and white cow than what we had at the time in North America. The cattle were somewhat dual purpose, or more dual purpose than strictly a dairy cow.
The government was importing these dual-purpose cattle into the country; in fact, they had a boatload of them in the harbour. They were trying to convince the bankers to give the farmers money to buy these dual-purpose cattle and the
farmers didn’t want them. They wanted a cow that gave milk. If they’d wanted a cow that gave beef, they would’ve promoted a beef cow, rather than a dairy cow. We were taken in, as a neutral, to settle the argument.
I’ll never forget judging that day. In the stands on one side were the bankers, and on the other side were the government people. In the middle were the farmers that the government was trying to get to buy the boatload of cattle in the harbour. In fact they brought 3 or 4 heifers into the show and I was to place them amongst the dairy type Holsteins that they had in the ring. They were good cattle for what they were supposed to be, but they didn’t fit with my upbringing. I was there to judge dairy cattle and not dual-purpose cattle, so, needless to say, none of them won. But I finished the judging and I thought we were done for the afternoon.
I turned around, and here coming into the ring was one bull that was of the dual-purpose style and one bull was of our North American style Holstein. I was asked if I would tell the farmers which was the right one to use. Well, you can imagine, when you realized then, why you were invited to stop in Peru and judge this show. Well, I thought for a moment, and I went over to Peggy, sitting at the edge of the crowd, and I said if there happens to be mutiny before I finish, you make sure that you get out of here, whether I get out of here or not.
I was working with an interpreter who was translating my reasons for my placing in each class. He translated my speech as I gave it to him, and really and truly, I didn’t say anything. I worked around the questions, and what I ended up with was that my experience was, if you were in the dairy cattle business, you milked a cow that produced milk. If you were in the beef business, you kept a cattle beast that was strictly for beef. If you want to be halfway, well and good, that is your privilege.
You have two markets. You have a market for milk and you have a market for beef. It depends on where you put your emphasis. And, that is your decision, and you make up your own mind. It was not my intention to tell them what they were supposed to do.
When I finished, I said to the interpreter, “and I suppose you would call that a politician’s answer?” I had wondered during the day whether he was saying what I was saying with respect to my reasons. When he interpreted “and I supposed that is a politician’s answer,” everybody clapped and laughed. So I knew that he must have been at least saying what I was saying. With that we got off the hook, and everybody seemed to be happy. But it was not a situation that you wanted to be in too often, with all the guns and military officers standing around. So, needless to say, we didn’t stand around too long to socialize.
The next day we came back for the second day of judging. I spent an hour or more with the breeders after I finished the show, and talking with them – they were the finest group of people you ever met and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. There are other experiences in the judging business that you run into, but basically you have to be in charge. You have to enjoy doing it, and you have to know that it’s your answer, your decision for that day.
E Wally, you eventually became manager of the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. When and how did that come about?
W Actually, Ed, it was not quite manager. In 1985 we dispersed the herd, and not ready to completely retire at that point, I ended up at the Royal as agricultural manager.
Our connection with the Royal goes a long way back. My first Royal, maybe I was 6, and I can recall going with mother and dad. Two things stood out on that day’s visit to the Royal. One was when we came downstairs on one side of the main coliseum. At the bottom of those stairs was a Coca-Cola display/promotion. There was a mechanical black bear, with a bottle of Coke in his hand and with the hand going up and down, drinking this Coke. Well, if you see any of the commercials on television today, you will see a polar bear with a little one, and the mother, drinking Coke, that goes a long time back. The bear is connected with Coca-Cola, and this is not a commercial for Coca-Cola, but I can remember that display many years ago. Three years ago we put on an archival display at the Royal, and this coming year another archival display is planned. I want to approach the Coke people and see if by any chance they might resurrect that bear. I don’t know if it is around or not.
The other thing at the Royal, mother and dad said we had better go to the horse show that night. I remember we watched the cattle judging during the day. And that night, my father knew that that the last event during the evening performance was the musical ride of our Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Always, a crowd pleaser at the Royal, and still today, they perform at the Royal. Dad knew that it was the last event, so in order to beat the crowd out, he suggested that we go down and stand at the end of the coliseum ring, and watch the Mounted Police ride. I’ll never, ever forget the sight of when the Mounties lined up at the far end of the coliseum ring and had to charge to the south end of the ring. We’re standing there and I’m looking over the boards and I thought for sure those horses and the police from the Royal were coming over the top of the boards to where we were standing. I hightailed it out of there. You couldn’t see me for dust. And I could still see those horses coming down.
The first time I showed at the Royal was 1946, the first Royal after the war. We showed a bull that did well. We didn’t show every year from then on, but I believe from 1952 through to 1984, we showed at every Royal. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve judged at the Royal three times, judged the Holstein show once and the junior show twice, and went in as agriculture manager in 1985.
I can’t say I made any great changes at the Royal, but there was a period of time when the Royal was sort of getting a little bit rundown. There didn’t seem to be the same focus on the future, and keeping up with the times at the Royal, as perhaps there should have been. It was just the same old show every year, year after year. My complaint at the time, as far as the commercial exhibits were concerned, it was almost becoming a bazaar, a rummage sale, in some cases, and it was not anything to do with the reason that the Royal began. At the time I went in as agriculture manager, I recall there were about 500 head being shown in the breeding beef classes.
There was quite a backlash against the Royal, in that you had to stay at the show for too long a time, the expenses were getting so high, and the accommodations
were too crowded, with all breeds in at the same time. Both dairy and beef cattle in the barn at the same time, along with hogs, sheep and horses and they just were not being able to show their stock the way they wanted to promote them. I have to say that the exhibitor of today, is a completely different animal than the exhibitor, of, back in the late 40’s and very early 50’s, as far as the show is concerned. You had your professional herds, those that traveled all across the country. You had the western support because you did not have the Agribition or the Edmonton Farm Fair, and so, they came to Toronto as the national show. But there were something like 500, 550 breeding beef shown in the first year I was agricultural manager, and when I retired at the end of ’92, we had about 1,100 head of breeding beef cattle shown at the Royal, and part of it was because they didn’t have to stay as long.
The shows were split out so we had beef one week, dairy another week. Now that accommodates the exhibitor. I don’t say it accommodates the spectator to the same extent, but in order to keep the show running, we had to make some changes. I can’t say that I was instrumental for too many other things at the Royal. I did begin, along with the manager of the day, the national junior beef show, which is a show for 4-H members and has gone ahead by leaps and bounds, just a fabulous show for the youth. With that and the dairy show for youth, around 1,000 exhibitors are brought in, mainly 4-H members and Junior Farmers. And, that’s where our exhibitors are coming from in the future.
The Royal is still the showplace of agriculture in Canada. The foreign exhibitor, or at least the foreign content of the spectators that come is still amazing, and, it’s Canada’s marketplace. It’s kind of a show window, and continues to do that. The day that the Royal and those responsible don’t appreciate what it’s doing for agriculture – the Royal will disappear. There are various groups that think the Royal should be moved out of the City of Toronto. I don’t. It’s the only place that can accommodate the shows that we have. It’s the only show in the world, the only fair in the world that has the mix of the evening horse show, the pomp and ceremony that goes with it, and the down to earth farmer with manure on his boots. It’s just a fabulous show, and as I said before, the number of people from foreign countries that wish to come and see the Royal, you can’t imagine it, unless you experience it. It’s the place to be in November if you’re connected with agriculture.
E Very good Wally and you stayed there until 1992 when you retired and moved to Guelph. Can you tell us a little bit about Peggy, whom you met and married in Stratford and your family and children and maybe some of your community activities?
W Yes, I’m very, very proud of our family, very proud of Peggy, as my wife of over 50 years. Peggy, a farm girl from Perth County, who at the time that I went to Perth in 1948, was vice-president of the county junior farmers, and of course, being in charge of junior extension, we worked together considerably, and finally, appreciated each other and were married in ’49. Peggy had just won the Junior
Farmer provincial public speaking competition. She had been spirit of camp at the first Junior Farmer’s camp, held at Lake Couchiching.
Once we moved home to the farm, Peggy became involved in the Women’s Institute. She went through all the offices locally, district, area, and then became Ontario president in 1989 – 1991. Peggy is a real student of the Women’s Institute movement and has a tremendous amount of experience in it. Following her retirement as president in Ontario, she was elected president for Canada for the Associated Country Women of the World. This is the parent organization of all Women’s Institutes in the world, an organization in approximately 70 countries and about 9,000,000 members in the world. She was president for Canada for that body, on the world board and has since retired from that as well. In 1998, Peggy was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame – an organization that honours those who have made a contribution to agriculture. She was nominated by the Women’s Institute. I’m very proud of what Peggy has done for her community, her province and her country.
E The family?
W One daughter, Beth is married to Murray Pearson. They have a dairy farm operation at Kintore, Ontario. Beth is a registered nurse, and though she hasn’t practiced nursing since she was married, she is a bit of a florist inside of her home and mother of two children. Christy is in early childhood education here in Guelph, and Mark is a helicopter pilot working in Northern Alberta in seismology, the lumber business, the diamond business and the oil business. Different than dairy farming, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s very exciting.
E It pays well.
W I guess, maybe it does, once you get flying. If you’re not flying, it’s not as much. You start at the bottom. If you’re going to look after a million dollar machine, well they have to know that you’re going to be dependable before you start flying.
Son Bob is a figure skater and was on Canada’s National Team as an ice dancer. He is living in Toronto and in show business.
Son David, who farmed with us for 15 years, lives in Toronto with his wife Diana.
David is in an agricultural business as a livestock advertising associate with the Holstein Journal. David is a terrific cowman and a good farmer. When we dispersed, he decided that he didn’t want to start over again in the cattle business. He wanted to do something different. So, he’s discovered there are weekends. He is now in barns and on farms, selling advertising to breeders two weeks of the month, and the other two weeks putting the magazine together in Richmond Hill.
So, that’s what the family is doing.
I’ve been fortunate to have had exciting positions in the figure skating association in Western Ontario as chair of the section and with the Federation of Agriculture in Waterloo County. Have also been quite active in the milk business. I seem to have cut my teeth in the milk business, following in my father’s footsteps. He was secretary of the Galt Milk Producer’s for 29 years. I accepted an appointment to
be a member of the Ontario Milk Commission in ’73. I was a member up to ’84 when it was changed to the Farm Products Appeal Tribunal. The milk board has been good to us for a long time, and so I was prepared to give something back to them with that appointment.
Locally, at the University, I’ve always been active in class functions and other things of that nature. The odd time I speak at career nights, and active in the Alumni Association of both OAC and UGAA. And more recently I was on the board of Alumni-in-Action. A wonderful organization, a group of retired graduates of yesteryears that carry on giving something back to the university. Am still active with the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Board and also with the Royal on a volunteer basis. Peggy is an honorary life director of the Royal and so we still keep out of mischief when it comes to putting in our time.
E Wally, you’ve done a lot of work with 4-H over the years. What are some of the highlights?
W What I like most about 4-H is working with the youth, and the enjoyment that you get from that. Two things I can think of especially. One is the program, which I started in Perth County in Stratford, of the kids showing their calves as calves, yearlings and two-year olds. That show, I was told at the time it would never go, is still going today.
The other thing that I really enjoyed with 4-H was organizing the first senior dairy calf club, and this took place in Waterloo County. Boys and girls, who were 16 and over, formed a senior club and conducted a more advanced program. In fact, the members kept us, as leaders, going to keep ahead of them. It was a wonderful program, and as far as I know, that program still exists.
And those are the kids that have been involved in 4-H for a few years and they’re dedicated to becoming farmers. They are going to be our good farmers and our good breeders of the future.
E Thanks very much Wally. We appreciate your time and the many stories that you recalled and told us about. It makes a good tape.
This has been an interview with Wally Knapp in Guelph on February 8th, 2000 and was conducted by Ed Brubaker for Alumni-in-Action.