happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 3 (FGK 94)

My first thought was “If I’d found myself alone for the day in New York in my early 20s, the last thing I’d have done is gone to watch the UN.” But then I realized that I had found myself alone for the day in New York in my mid 20s and I spent the day at the Museum of Natural History – just a different sort of nerd I suppose.

September 22nd

We have been on the ship for a week and there are only 3 more days to go. I have my sea legs and am no longer sea sick but our cabin is a state of chaos.

They are holding a Model United Nations on board this afternoon but I went to sleep instead of going. It would have been fun to compare it to the one in New York —- which reminds me.

I haven’t told you about the first part of our trip yet. We had fabulous flying weather from Calgary to San Francisco. All the changing autumn colours over the mountains were low enough to see all the details. The customs men boarded the plane in Spokane for me, so I didn’t have to leave it once during the trip. It was interesting to see all the country we drove through by air, when we got near San Francisco I could also see the road by which we left.

The jet flight from San Francisco to New York was marvellous, it took us only 5 hours to cross the continent. There was no noise to speak of and no rough weather the entire way. We were up 29,000 feet.

Our boat was delayed by the hurricane (Donna) so we didn’t sail till 10 pm. The university rented part of a hotel and we were let loose in the city from 9am to 7pm. Five of us spent the morning touring lower New York in a bus. We went up to the United Nations building about 11:30 am and I was so fascinated I spent the rest of the day there. We made a fairly complete tour of the building and then attended a Security Council debate on the Congo. It was thrilling to sit there and see history being made. Gail and I got caught in the 5 o’clock rush when we were trying to get back to the hotel. They are really trying to kill off the pedestrians in that city. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, even on the “walk” signs.

Getting on the boat was chaos. Everyone was screaming at everyone else in a different language. We almost died when we saw the ship. It’s just a little larger than the one we took to Nassau I’m sure. The rooms make that one look like a luxury liner. Nevertheless, we are having all sorts of fun on it since most of the people are students who don’t really care about things like that. We got a wonderful view of the New York Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving the harbour. The next day and since then – we have seen only the waves and a few porpoises and birds.

By the way, I haven’t thanked you for my roses! They were just beautiful, and cheer up our little cabin no end. It was so exciting to get mail the next day, far out in the Atlantic.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France – 1 (FGK 92)

While mom was attending Stanford, she was chosen to spend a semester studying in France. She sent home letters describing her adventure, and Grandma sent those letters to the newspaper in Cochrane to be published. I remember mom telling me how upset she was with Grandma sending in her private letters for everyone to read. I remember Grandma telling me how happy it made everyone in her community following mom’s story and keeping up with her adventures. I have boxes of letters mom sent home from school which are sitting here waiting for the day my sister and I are ready to read them.

I have never read these letters that were published despite the fact that I remember a box of the printed letters sitting in the sun porch at Grandma’s for most of my childhood. There were two reasons for this. One was because I knew how upset mom was about the letters. The second (and the real reason) was because why would I want to read boring old stories about my boring old mom. Now that I’m older I don’t think her stories are so boring, and I’m grateful that my uncle kept a copy of these letters.

Margaret Copithorne, who is attending Stanford University in California, has just completed her first quarter examinations and has passed very successfully. The University of Stanford has a branch university in Germany, Italy, and France. Twice yearly they pick a number of their better students who have personal qualifications and send them to the country of their choice with parents consent. Margaret was very surprised to be one of the lucky ones chosen and will leave by jet for Tours France in September with a number of her close friends from the university.

Torus Study Centre is part of a growing cultural centre developed by the City and the University of Poitiers. The city is located int he heart of the chateau country only two and a half hours by train from Paris. It is a charming provincial French city of some 85,000 inhabitants which shares the rich historical past of the Loire Valley with its magnificent chateau and monumental cathedrals.

After writing her exams, Margie enjoyed ten days holiday, here is part of her letter describing it:

“I really had a good time at Wendy’s. They have an enormous house next door to Loretta Young at the Ojai Country Club. We spent most of our time at the pool getting a tan. Actually it was a very relaxing vacation which was what I wanted after the hassle of exams. On Friday the 25th (of March), I took a bus from Ventura and went down to see Anne and Dave (Cousin Anne Copithorne Campbell). They have the loveliest apartment with a perfect view of the ocean. I had my best time there. On Saturday we went to Disneyland which was fabulous. Anne and I went on all sorts of rides – the teacups, a submarine, a boat trip through Storybrook Land, the jungle cruise, a trip on the Riverboat, down the well in Alice in Wonderland, through the woods in Snow White, on an old fashioned streetcar drawn by a horse, and on a train around the whole area. I felt just like a little kid again. I wish you could see it – I’d like to go back again because they say every time you do there is something new. Anne and Dave were really great to me and I enjoyed myself no end while I was there. They drove me to the airport Sunday. The plane was quite late but I met a bunch of kids I knew from Stanford and we flew back together.”

On April 28th, General Charles de Gaulle, President of France will make a tour of Stanford University during his visit to America and Margaret is among the group of students chosen to meet him.

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happiness

More good people in the world than many of us realize (FGK 91)

I had to google the Trend House, I’d never heard of it. You can see it Here if you’re interested. This is the link for photos of the one in Calgary. Who knew?! This lady always seems to be able to put a positive spin on things, as I’ve said before I find her letters quite comforting to read and I wish I’d known her.

Monday, July 19 (1954?)

Dearest Margie

This time I’m answering right smart but I sure won’t promise to be so prompt the next time. Seems as though you are still a little short on mail.

We sure enjoyed your letter. Nice to hear of those people coming to entertain you. More good in the world than many of us realize.

Glad to hear your throat is better. Your mother said last night you had missed your drive again yesterday. That was too bad when it was such a nice day, but it looks as though we are going to have a few of those now.

Your Aunt Marjorie and I went to see the Trend House on Thursday. We weren’t too impressed with it. It had too many windows and steps for we older Janes.

Imagine a North door in your bedroom! Really quite an elaborate affair in some ways.

Bernard and the German boy we have just got moved (mowed? I don’t know – usually I can read her handwriting really easily – but I don’t know what either of these words would mean they’re doing for the next few weeks) on Saturday so you know what will be going on here for the next few weeks.

Hope you are well enough to be out next Saturday Margie.

Best Wishes

The Barkleys!

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happiness

Faith in Divine Healing (FGK 90)

I’m back!!! I decided to take a week long social media break, which turned into two weeks, and then over three weeks. It was kind of nice to cut the noise for a little bit, but I’m finding that since we aren’t socializing much (at all really) that I miss hearing what is going on with the people I care about.

I found today’s letter to be quite timely as I’ve been really seeking my connection to God in these last few months. God and I have had kind of a bumpy road (well, I have – I am pretty sure God’s road stays the same but I keep looking at other paths) and I’ve felt the need to deepen and better understand that relationship. I had the most wonderful Pastor in Virginia who really helped me see God differently. Not that she used different words, but she had this amazing relationship with God that made me curious. And once I started praying there, things started changing and happening in ways that I could not explain – so I’ve decided they must be God’s miracles showing up in my life.

As I’m reading these letters I’m understanding better the deep faith that my grandparents and my parents had with God and in their lives.

Friday Morning – Jenkins Breakfast on Radio

Dear Margie

The breakfast dishes are not done yet so I must hustle- it really keeps me hopping. This deep snow is sure causing Dad lots of grief. 4 little calves came last night, had to take the Jeep up to the field to bring them down, had frozen ears etc.

Last Monday Mary and George quit Nichols and came over so we had to dash around and tear down Marshall’s bed and get things ready for them. I gave them your dresser to take up to the valley. Marsh has Sheila’s bed now. Don’t know when we’ll get around to getting your bedroom suite. I put the little green table in your room where the dresser was and put all your clothes etc from the dresser in Sheila’s big trunk.

When Frank and Georgie were down Sunday night, Georgie said that when her mother was so sick a few years ago Charlie Coolie wrote to her like he did to us and Aunt Georgie really believes in Divine healing. She said her brother-in-law Mr. Costello had cancer and just made up his mind he wasn’t going to have it. He is Catholic, he used to get up early, early in the morning and go down to the church and pray for hours and he just cured himself that way, then he prayed for success in business and he sure is a wealthy man now – owns so much property and takes two long trips each year. I sure get a lot of inspiration from the Unity papers etc. Hope you read them regularly, they guide me so much and are food for the soul.

It must be hard to not ever have any privacy in there, but it is also nice to have company.

I wrote to Annie and Girlie last night and to Casino Carnival and put your name on it, so if you win $600 don’t be surprised. And I wrote to the radio programme so don’t forget to listen Sunday.

Smokey hasn’t been out hardly at all since it snowed and boy is he ever wild – just like a silly little kitten all the time!.

Well I must get to work now, will see you on Sunday eh? Hope to see you sitting up one of these days soon – think it’s possible?

I’m going to town this afternoon, have a hair appointment at the Bay.

Millie there always asks how you are.

Lots and lots of love

Mom xxxxxxx

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Curling is one of the best games going (FGK 85)

I was going to title this “Skinny cows and fat cows too” but I figured that would be taken wrong if one just read the title. Sometimes the gas plant near us lets off the most horrific smells, but nothing like what my uncle is describing here – it sounds pretty grotesque.

Mount Royal College

Thursday, Jan 29 1953

Dear Margie

How are you doing? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner, but I just didn’t get around to it. I am going to curl tonight. My curling team is fourth best on the league. I sure like curling! I think it is one of the best games going besides baseball or hockey. I’m getting so I can throw the rocks about right by any sweeping is kind of slow.

There hasn’t been much going on around home I don’t think. Dad and Ken went over to Grand Valley to help Reese build the frame of the barn. You know that they’re building a new barn over there don’t you?

We started to feed all the cattle last Saturday. We cut the cows and heifers into two bunches, the skinny ones in one, and the fat ones in the other. We took the skinny ones to 21 to fed them sieves. I think dad’s figuring on taking the other bunch to Springbank in a little while. Buckles or whatever you’re going to call him is sure putting on weight. Last weekend I was going to get him in and work a little of the fat off of him but I didn’t get around to it. I’m going to try and find time this weened or I’m liable to have to halter break him all over again. Him and the other three colts are out with the bulls doing nothing but eat and sleep and get in the road.

They tore the goose pen down and got quite a lot of lumber from it. Boy the oil well has sure been cutting up lately. Early Saturday morning they turned it on full blast without setting it on fire. The gas fumes caught in the wind which swept them down on me and Red who was riding through some cows and _____ stuff by the machine shed. There was some liquid gas with it and when it hit your face and eyes it would sting like the dickens. It pretty near choked you when you breathed. The cattle sure did some running around in circles.

They’ve got a new well site staked out in 24. You know where the ditch is where we dug out the den of coyotes when old Alex was along, it’s about a hundred yards west or so. It’s kind of going to be a bother but I guess we will get used to it. That are moving this same rig over.

I sure have been teasing Anne lately. Jeff N. has taken quite a shine for her but she hates him. Last Friday night at the dance he danced nearly every dance with her.

Last Sunday I came in with Ken and Delores and we went to Blanch and Fred’s and played cards till ten o’clock. When I got to the College I was locked out. I sure was scared for a while. Finally Mr. Schultz let me in. This week we had to change rooms. Wayne and I are in Bernard and Jim’s old room now and they are up on the third floor. I’ve had the whole afternoon off today because Mr Schultz was sick and couldn’t teach health. I always get off at two o’clock Thursday though.

Well I hope you’re feeling alright

Goodbye

Love, Marshall

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Snow, rain, hail, and sunshine (FGK-84)

This letter from Aunt Ruth has no year on it, and was sitting without an envelope so I am not sure when she sent it. Apparently my grandparents were headed off on a trip of some sort. It’s clearly fall time, but not so dry that they can’t have a big bonfire (gosh it’s dry here now).

Sat Morning

Dear Margie

Well I guess your Mom and Dad will be on their way by this time. I do hope they are having better weather there than us. We had snow, rain and hail and sunshine yesterday – talk about variety. We sure get it, no fooling. It all ended up being a lovely evening and the scouts went up to the very top of the big hill and had a bonfire and wiener roast, it sure looked pretty from down here. I bet you could have seen it too from your windows Margie if they had been facing this way.

Gord is in the scouts now and went proudly off with all with Marshall’s scout suit on, it just fits him perfectly, he is very lucky to get it as they are quite expensive to buy new.

Your Aunt Lottie, Olive and Aileen and myself, Lloyd and Pat of course all went up to Banff to Johnson’s Canyon on Tuesday of this week. The trees are lovely up there now all in their autumn colours but it was rather a chilly day. I seem to be putting so many “sures” in the note this morning, have a one track mind I guess.

How is Janet getting along? Fine I hope, remember me to her Margie.

The school bus does not come in from the north now as well the kids go that school out there, but the Kerfoots and the Curtins still come in from Grand Valley. We have six teachers here, so there are still plenty of teachers and pupils for the size of the school. There was talk of bringing in a class or two of the Indians but it didn’t come to pass so far.

Tomorrow we start Sunday School again, last Sunday was rally day. Mr Thompson spoke very nicely, we do enjoy his sermons so much. Have you got your Sunday school papers from Central Church Margie? It will be nice for you to have them to read every week. We are going to miss Marilyn as she played the piano in Sunday School all the time. Maybe Donna Desjardins will play for us now.

We were in the drug store last night and I picked up these little toys as I thought you might have a little fun fooling the folks with the kitty’s meow, they would not know where it comes from. And the other thing reminded me of someone getting their exercises, it wouldn’t be you would it?

So bye for now Margie and when you get time and feel like it drop me a line. I do enjoy hearing from you but feel you have so many to write to that I don’t mind if you miss me.

Love Aunt Ruth

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Gee I’m mad! I’m boiling! (FGK 82)

Auntie Sheila’s letters are some of my favourite – she is so open and honest in them. I really appreciate how vulnerable and real she is when she writes. Because of that I’ve chosen not to post some of them, they are clearly private conversations happening between sisters but it has given me a lot of insight into who she was and what a really loving and remarkable lady she was.

Based on this letter I’m also understanding how it is that she received that award that Grandma spoke of in her autobiography. You can tell she takes her schooling seriously, it seems all she does is study – well and perhaps buy shoes. I can relate to the shoe purchases much more than the studying although I’ve spent the last couple of years studying more than I ever have before.

Nurse’s Residence

CGH Calgary

21 Aug 1956

Dear Marg

Well I bet you thought I’d forgotten you, hey! I’ve been meaning to get up every night this week but never quite made it.

Gee I’m mad!! I’m boiling!! We have to stay in here and study all day from 8am to 3:30pm! On a beautiful day like this! We’re supposed to be supervised but nobody is supervising us and everybody’s talking like mad. It’s just a waste of time.

Oh by the way I hear you went on a big date last night or rather you were supposed to go. Was the show – good?

Marg and I went to see the “High and Mighty” last night, sure was good. There was a big banquet and dance at Penley’s thurs night that all the kids went to except me. Maurice “had to study” so-o-o Kathy said I could go with a friend of one of her boyfriends but I didn’t like her boyfriend so-o-o. I stayed home and studied. Guess it was pretty good. I phoned home Wednesday. Well they didn’t have any news so I stayed in and studied some more, about a quarter to ten Maurice phoned and we went out until ten thirty. He was up to the library at tech all night.

Went over to the Macmillan’s for supper on Tuesday night. Uncle Frank and Aunt Georgie picked me up half way there- I was walking. Apparently ______ and Ken are staying in town for a few days. Marilyn and I drove all over town looking for _____ for canning. She’s buying them second hand. I guess she’s getting married at the end of October this time. Honestly that girl. She’s got more ______(I really wish I could make out this word lol).

Went to a baseball game between the Holy and us on Monday. We lost 18-11 but later we won two games so now we’ve got the cup.

Well I must start studying. I think I’ll get a pair of shoes before I go home. Am going on the bus.

See ya next week maybe

Love

Sheila

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Nosy Old Women (FGK 81)

This letter was written by my great aunt, who was the mother of twins. A while ago I mentioned a story in our family history book where the mom would lasso one of the twins to a fence so the other would play close by- this was that mom. Imaging trying to do that now? Back then it was probably the safest way she could watch her kids and also get her work done. The life of a mom, always trying to find balance between chores/work and kids. I guess according to this I also am a bad scholar, exams send my anxiety through the roof (and I honestly don’t think they should be the only way that students prove what they have learned).

(Postmarked December 12, 1952)

RR2

Calgary

Wednesday

Dear Margie

Here I am at last. I have sure been slipping up and down- say it anyway you like it feels anyway.

I hear you are getting along quite nicely which I am very glad to hear.

I saw your mother at Uncle Clarence’s Monday night, there was a Stockman’s meeting and you know we nosy old women – we had to trot along too.

Harvey had a hockey practice Tuesday nite and he is going to another this Friday nite and then he will know if he is on the team for the winter. He says his name is – it should be Wills, Callen or Longeway and then it would be easy sliding for him. I don’t think that I would like any of those names, the one I got sounds better, how about you?

Clarence is busy on his exams this week. He says that they haven’t changed since he last wrote and that he doesn’t like them any better so I’m afraid he will make a poor scholar.

Harvey is busy hauling grain to town, he makes two trips a day, so he is kind of tired at nite and likes to lay down and sleep.

Harry was here today, he was going to work on the garage and put in another door for us, so I also got him to put up boards for my drapes, believe it or not I have my drapes now. I sure have to get that room painted – the curtains sure show it up. But not till spring I guess. Everyone is too busy now and after Christmas it will be too cold, so I’ll wait.

Well Margie, keep the good work up and I’ll try to write a little quicker next time.

Love

Auntie Marg

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A Dreary Winter Day (FGK 80)

What better way to get back to the letters than one from Mrs. Barkley, she is always a ray of sunshine for me- even when describing a dreary winter day. This letter was sent to the Junior Red Cross Hospital and then forwarded home to the ranch. I assume it must have been one of the times when mom was in and out of the hospital. At this point it had been about 4.5 years since she contracted the polio virus, and she would have been 15.

Sunday – 15th (Envelope says Jan 16,1956)

Dear Margie:-

You sure can’t complain about not being out in the Sunshine! Isn’t it just the dreariest winter!

How are you progressing? I hope really well and that your time in there is getting short.

I took our tree down on Wednesday and such a mess. It seemed to shed so much this year. I think it may have been because it was so full of frost when it was cut. Of course I haven’t taken the cards down yet. I like to enjoy them for a month or so.

Mr. Barkley and I had hoped to go to Lethbridge this week but the weather took care of that. I guess they had no snow there but suppose they have some now. It is getting quite deep in the fields now. Just about up to the men’s knees.

Did you know they made a tape recording of the Cantanta(?) Friday evening? Also the trip! We hope to have a record of it.

I guess I better retire. Hope you are well. All are well here thank goodness

Best Wishes,

The Barkleys

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