From prairie town to falling waters

June 2022

“When I was young and we’d have company, my mother would say, ‘Oh Enid, would you play Falling Waters for us?’ Well, she said it in front of the company! What can I do? I play Falling Waters, but I’m mad at my mom. If they want to hear Falling Waters, I say, they should ask me to play Falling Waters!

So, much later, my husband Jim brought this very old piano home for me, and whenever we would have company, he would say, ‘Oh Enid, why don’t you play Falling Waters?’ Jim! Honestly! Why is it always Falling Waters?”

Enid McKenzie laughs at the memory.

In fact, we all do. Enid is a marvellous storyteller, and I’m enjoying a lovely afternoon gathered around that very same piano (now at a ripe old 102 years!) with Enid and her friend, mandolinist and pickle-ball afficionado Sheila Peterson. The love of music is very much a theme of our conversation, one Enid has been living for 89 years.

“I remember sitting at the top of the stairs, when I was supposed to be in bed,” says Enid. “Listening to my mom at our family piano. My dad would sit beside her on the piano bench, with his arm around her while she played. We kids had piano lessons when growing up too, and right after dinner, I used to jump up and start practicing so my sister had to do the dishes! Janice was quite happy because she didn’t have to practice but I’ve had this pleasure all my life.”

A self-confessed ‘party girl,’ Enid grew up in Kenton, MB, a small prairie town of only 99 people.

“Janice and I couldn’t wait for someone to have a baby,” she says. “So that maybe one day, Kenton would have 100 people! But no, just before that baby got born, some old geezer would die, and we’d be stuck back at 99!”

Those family piano lessons paid off for her when she won a competition playing Falling Waters, the very same song she was always asked to play by friends and family. But despite her talent, Enid had no intention of pursuing music as a career. Instead, she studied Xray technology at Old Grace Hospital in Winnipeg.

“It was 1954 and I was an Xray tech before Xray techs were a thing,” says Mckenzie. “But I knew I didn’t want to stay in Winnipeg. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a boyfriend.
It was pretty boring. I answered a tiny ad in the Winnipeg newspaper from McKellar Hospital and got a job as one of the first Xray techs in Fort William. So, I had the money, now I needed the boyfriend!”

Enid leans in conspiratorially.

“I’m telling you all my secrets, aren’t I?” she asks with a sly grin. “I met Jim’s friend, first. His name was Danny and he asked me out on a date. It would have to be a double date because he didn’t have a car, but his friend Jimmy did. There was a girl that worked with me at the hospital, so we went off with these two guys to Uncle Frank’s Supper Club. She was in the front seat with Jimmy, but I noticed that, while we were driving, Jim was checking me out in the rearview mirror!”

Jim ended up driving Enid home and managed to line up a second date.

Enid was very aware of being from a small town, and she was desperate to look cool.

“I wanted to impress him,” she says.

“We went to the St Louis, on the side of the bar where you could take women.

I didn’t drink, so I thought I would bring cigarettes to look cool. It was 1954. Everybody smoked in those days, but I didn’t. So, I pull out a cigarette, and he turns to light it. I take a deep breath, and I cough and cough and cough! I couldn’t stand it but have this stupid cigarette and I like this guy so much! I’m still trying to impress him, so what do I do? I do it again! Cough and cough and cough!
Jim’s friends must have said ‘Where did you get this one?’ I just about died!”

Clearly, Jim was impressed, and soon, they were married in a small wedding back in Kenton. Enid was happy to stay home when the children came along – Jay, Jeffrey, Joanne, and Jacquelyn. The entire family were active skiers but also very musical, and her love of music kept drawing her back. She served as organist/choir director at Knox United Church for 19 years, and only stopped when her career in real estate began to take off. Because of work, she was introduced to Soroptimist International.

“You had to be a working woman to join,” says Enid. “And maybe even a boss-level woman, if I remember correctly. Soroptimist means ‘the best for women’, and we did a lot of fundraising for women and girls around the world.

There have been so many projects where we’ve been able to help, including the International Friendship Gardens here in town. That was a Centennial Project in 1969, spearheaded by the local Soroptimist group. It’s been a very enjoyable and important part of my life, because of the friendship and fellowship with other women. I’ve had a good life so it’s a great way to pay it forward and share the goodness.”

With the Soroptimists, Enid was able to travel and meet women in many countries. From Alaska to Nashville, Enid travelled sometimes with Jim, other times with Janice, with one of the highlights being a camel ride in Dubai. Things took a turn, however, when after 45 years of marriage, Jim died at the age of 71.

“He was a good man,” says Enid fondly. “Very kind, very smart. Anything he said that he would do, he did. You could count on it.”

With her many friends and active social life, Enid kept busy, even crossing the country alone to visit her children, grandchildren, and then great grandchildren. It was September 2001 when another newspaper ad crossed her path and changed her life.

“It said ‘We Play for Cookies!’” she says. “It was for the Senior Music Makers, a volunteer group of musicians that have performed at long-term care homes, hospitals and dances since 1978.

I happened to know the lady who was running this group. Her name was Muriel Sutton. They already had 2 piano players, so I’d only get to play 1 or 2 pieces. One night after practice, I drove the lead pianist home, and that night, she died! So, I took her place! That’s not suspicious, is it?”

Once again, Sheila and I burst out laughing. Enid is incorrigible and hugely entertaining.

Almost immediately, Enid became a core member of the Senior Music Makers. Her natural leadership skills came to the fore, and soon, she was making play lists, organizing gigs and arranging practices. But still, being the quintessential party girl, she also hosted jam sessions, hall parties and fancy dinners complete with musical accompaniment. Naturally, she also made the cookies.

“The dynamic is very good in our group,” says Sheila. “And even though Enid’s eyesight is getting worse, we still think of her as the leader.”

“I thought I couldn’t play anymore because of my vision,” says Enid. “But when we went to play for the Alzheimer’s Day Care the other week, they were all hootin’ and hollerin’ and dancing all over the place! So, I felt comfortable. I’m still happy to go there.”

“She underestimates herself,” says Sheila. “She’s very modest,”

“I’m modest enough that I want to play the piano for you,” Enid says. Both Sheila and I eagerly agree. Enid gracefully takes a seat at the 102-year-old piano and her hands know just where to go. We are spellbound as she plays a sweet, melodic, cascading piece that immediately takes you to the forest with a soft breeze and a bubbling brook. After the music ends, Enid turns to me, one eyebrow raised.

“And what do you think that piece is called?” “Falling Waters!” Sheila exclaims.

“Falling Waters,” Enid agrees, and there’s a mischievous glint in her eye. “Because now, it’s the song I want to play.”

For the 89-year-old party girl from Kenton, MB, I’d say she’s earned it.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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