Dad Ernie – Fabric Manipulation/Assemblage
Although Dad didn’t participate in needle crafts, he inspired my work in many other ways. I chose to include him in ‘The Tie That Binds’ because we shared an interest in genealogy that led to my desire to record family history in a variety of ways. In this piece, I even included one of his favorite ties!
JRE Miller (Ernie) was born at Glen Tay during WW1, attend Glen Tay Public School (SS#3 Bathurst, also my alma mater) and completed Grade 10 at Perth Collegiate Institute. During his time in high school he was near the top of his class in spite of missing school in the fall and spring in order to help with farm work. When he turned 16 it was decided that he was needed at home and his schooling would end but that wasn’t the end of his ‘learning’. He worked for many years with my grandfather on the farm, earning spending money from the sale of pelts from his trapline along Grant’s Creek.
Over the following few years he attended a number of agricultural short courses, studying the application of science to the practice of farming, helped to start the Ontario Junior Farmers Association and participated in a number of other community activities including the local softball team. During WW2 my father tried to enlist but was refused on several grounds – he was a farmer, he was an only son and he had sinus problems and flat feet! They didn’t want him!
He did help in the sale of War Bonds when he was photographed by Malak holding a 90 lb calf on his shoulders – a photo that was later use on a magazine cover for the Family Herald periodical. He always said it was one of the more exhausting days of his life!
In 1945 he and my mother married and they took over the family farm at Glen Tay. Life was not easy. In 1947 the herd of purebred holsteins was struck by bovine tuberculosis and were destroyed. He later rebuilt the herd to produce famous breeding stock, which was passed to my brother, only to have that herd destroyed by fire in the 1990s. He was one of the test farmers for computerized record keep in a pilot project conducted by the University of Guelph. He faithfully sent off hand written records to the room sized mainframe in the university and received printouts in return.
During his farming career Ernie took leadership roles in almost every farm organization that touched his life. In retirement he assumed a directorship on the board of United Cooperatives of Ontario and participated in Kiwanis activities in the Perth area. His agricultural work was recognized by a provincial Master Breeder Award and later by induction into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in Milton, ON.
Historical Research, Computers and Genealogy
Dad never lost his love of learning. He was a whiz with numbers, computing long calculations in his head – a skill that has appeared in my sons and is now appearing in my granddaughter. In retirement he purchased his first computer and began the onerous task of computerizing church records to make them available to people doing family searches. Working with a partner, Bob Sargent, he produced sixteen documents that were donated to the Kingston Genealogical Society for distribution This was the first generation of computerized records for local churches and cemeteries. Dad was on his third computer when he finally could not do the documentation any more.
Creating Dad Ernie 1917 – 1997
For this piece I chose to weave burlap and denim for the background and included some artifacts from his life – a small piece of a fur, a tie featuring holsteins which I also chose to feature via an applique, small bottles found along the banks of the Tay River, a blotter and fountain pen from his time. I inherited a collection of pens from him and decided, after spotting a few in antique shops that most were best not included in a traveling exhibit! The twigs included represent the maple sugar bush and the wood stoves he faithfully fed in our farm house during my childhood.