Dryer, Robert McEllen

Regimental Number: M17190
Regiment: Loyal Edmonton
Rank: Private

Bob, born on January 23, 1917 at Hanna, Alberta, was the 2nd oldest in John (1890) and Margaret (nee Frakes) (1892) Dryer’s family of nine children. He had four brothers; Arnold, William, David, Jack and four sisters; Mabel, Fay, Iris, Daisy. John and Margaret were both born in the USA; John had immigrated in 1909 and Margaret, in 1902. Bob was educated at the Red Rose School District. The “dirty thirties” actually began in 1929 in Hanna. By 1931, as once again there was not a crop to harvest, the Government passed a bill whereby a boxcar would be provided as well as transportation costs paid for any farmers who were willing to move to Northern Alberta. The Dryer’s took advantage of the program and arrived in Grande Prairie in August 1931. John, Bob and Bill travelled with the household effects and machinery in one box car along with a car load of horses. The rest of the family, Mabel, Fay, Dave, Iris and Jack and Margaret, arrived by passenger train. They settled on the Eldred farm which is now where the Eldoe’s Trailer Court is located. Once the fall work was completed, the Dryer’s rented the Morrison farm (NW 25-71-4-W6) at Glen Leslie and lived there for 10 years. The first winter, a horse was traded for a wagon load of potatoes and the family lived on those along with rabbits that were very plentiful. All the children attended the Somme School.

On April 3, 1940, Bob enlisted in the Army with the Edmonton Regiment C.A.S.F. in Grande Prairie – the same day as his brother Bill enlisted. Once Bob arrived in England, he was stationed at Eastbourne and met Phyllis “Pat” Payne who was working in a canteen for the English Forces. Pat also worked in a Sperry’s Factory in her hometown of Feltham, Middlesex. They quickly established a relationship and married on May 27, 1943 at Feltham. A son, Robert Jr. was born in 1945. Bob was wounded in Italy in 1945 and requested to be discharged. The discharge was approved and Bob sailed for Canada and was officially discharged on June 16, 1945 at Calgary after which he returned home to Grande Prairie. Private Robert Dryer served in Canada, England and the Central Mediterranean Area and received the Voluntary Medal & Clasp, 1939-45 Star, War Medal and the Defence Medal.

Pat, on the other hand, had to wait to receive permission from the Canadian Wives Bureau to immigrate to Canada. Permission was finally granted in June 1946 and Pat and Robert Jr. sailed for Canada and arrived at Halifax where they were processed through immigration at Pier 21. From there, they travelled across Canada by train to reach Grande Prairie on July 4, 1946 where they were met by Bob and the entire Dryer family. Arnold’s wife, Violet, arrived on the same train. The Dryer grandparents looked after Robert Jr. while Bob toured his wife around Grande Prairie. The young family settled in Grande Prairie for a few months before they decided to move to Darwell, AB where they purchased a ½ section of land as well as an additional 60 acres. They lived on the ½ section where they raised their five children; Robert, Doreen, Maureen, Brenda, and Tracy. Bob found employment working as a farm-hand for Harry Brown for a period of time. Pat settled into her new way of life and relished her new surroundings. She was kept very busy raising the children and growing an exceptionally large garden. Although Pat was homesick at times, she did return to England on several occasions to visit and her brothers and sister came to Canada to spend time as well. Bob worked as a labourer on road construction crews for the Department of Highways; however eventually found employment with Building Products Company in Wabamun where he worked for 15 years until he retired. Bob was diagnosed with cancer and passed away on June 6, 1979 and was buried at the Darwell Cemetery.

In her later years, Pat loved to paint and her children have several of her paintings on display in their homes. Pat passed away in 1999 and was laid to rest alongside her husband.

Contributed by Wanda Zenner

Source: Smoky River to Grande Prairie pp. 426-427
Grande Prairie Herald Tribune – Obituary- June 14, 1979
Grande Prairie Herald Tribune – July 11, 1946 p. 1 c. 5 (bride arrives)
Interview with Doreen (Dryer) Barsi – daughter
Discharge Certificate