A day in the life in Fort Macleod (FGK 235)

I find these mystery letters quite interesting. It seems this was a pen pal set up through this girl’s Sunday School. I googled and found her mom’s obituary – these types of letters make me wonder how this story of this young girl turned out as she grew into a woman. What adventures did she have? I hope her life has been happy. Mom would have been 13 when this letter was sent, so they’re close to the same age. Both her mom and my grandma died in the same year (2004) although grandma was 4 years older. It’s easy to fall down rabbit holes with this stuff.

Pearce, Alberta

January 27, 1954

Dear Margaret

We get Sunday School Lessons from Mr. W R Johnson in Calgary. He sent us your address so I am writing to you.

I am 12 years old and my birthday is July 11. I live on a farm and have three brothers, 1 older than me and 2 younger and two younger sisters. All buy my youngest sister go to school. We go to school in Fort Macleod on a School Bus. We are 1 mile from Fort Macleod. We get on the bus about 8:25 in the morning and get off about 4 o’clock if nothing happens and the roads are good. We start school at 9 o’clock and get out at 3:30 in the afternoon.

I am in grade seven at school starting my first year of Junior High School. I have four teachers, one we get only once a week for Home Economics on Wednesday afternoon from 1 o’clock until 3:30. There are 35 pupils in my room, 16 girls and 19 boys. Our room teacher is Miss Hyssop, who teaches us mathematics, English, Spelling, Physical Education, Reading for Meaning, and Social Studies which she also teaches to the two other Junior High rooms grade 8 and grade 7 & 8. Mr. Sterling the 7 & 8 teacher teaches us Health, Literature, and Art which we get once a week. The three rooms also have a Student’s Union. We have meetings and programs once a month.

On our farm we have 1 horse which belongs to Jacob my older brother which he broke last year. She is a sorrel and about 12 years old. We have 4 young calves about a year old. 2 heifers and 2 steers which also belong to Jacob. Then we have 2 heifers which will have their first calf this year. One of them I call mine and the other Esther my youngest sister calls hers. We have 4 cows, a red one Garrett the oldest of my two younger brothers owns. A red white face that is also Jacob’s. Then we have a Holstein and a red white face. We have one pig which we want to get rid of as soon as it warms up as it it too cold to butcher it now in this sub-zero weather. We have around 40 chickens now, 3 roosters and the rest old hens and young pullets. Last spring I set a hen and got 8 chicks, 4 roosters and 4 pullets. They were really cute when they were babies especially my little black rooster who disappeared when he was bout 3 months old. He was quite tame. My other 3 roosters we ate. My 4 pullets are now laying eggs. We have 1 dog a white and black one about a year and a half old. He isn’t too much good except that he barks when someone comes. He is really a pest but he sure likes barking at anything.

I didn’t go to school today because it is too cold and we have got farther to walk now than before. Jacob was the only one that went. Last night the bus got stuck coming off the highway. The snow was so deep and full of ruts that you couldn’t expect much else to happen so the driver said we would have to walk that far. It really isn’t so far but it’s so cold outside.

That’s all for now.


Mary Ann deKoning

ps. Hoping that you will write back soon


More cooking, cleaning and gadding about (FGK 234)

How rude of Grandma to give brief details about what Slim had been up to but not go into greater detail. I hope for mom’s sake she heard the stories but that doesn’t help us much now 70 years later does it? Slim sounds like he was quite the man.

Friday 26th 1954

Dear Margie

My! It just did me the world of good to see you yesterday. I always get to worrying about you when I can’t see you and that’s foolish.

Dad and I made all the 12 loaves into sandwiches this morning and now I must hurry to get into town, the roads are going to be really bad and I’ll have to drive slowly. we came straight home from seeing you yesterday and were just having tea when in walks Slim. He stayed for tea and for supper and i could just write a book on all his activities if I only had time. He’s really been busy, it was he who started all the investigating into the Edmonton Police and he even pinched Dr Giffin the other day and took his nice Cadillac from him, he sure kept us entertained, I’ll tell you all the tales when I can visit you. He gave me his phone number and says he’d like to come up to visit you sometime soon – in his uniform – so you’ll have fun with the nurses eh? His fiancé – Marg the nurse in Edmonton up and married another guy the other day.

I couldn’t find a geometry set in the house but I’ll try and buy one for you today. Do you need any clothes at all? Let me know.

Well, I must scram now. I think Sheila is going to bring some girls out with her and the house is in quite a mess. Mr Kumlin’s funeral is at 2pm on Sat in High River and the nurses in Sheila’s class are having a tea at 2pm on Sat and we’re supposed to go to both. What will we do I wonder and how am I supposed to cook and keep house and gad like this, it’s awful. I’m sure glad to see you looking so well. Say, I’m worried about that swell report card of yours, I can’t find it, did it go in to you with the papers etc that I collect in the shopping bag? I sure hope you have it, i haven’t signed it yet and I hold have signed and returned to your teacher long before this. Please look for it amount your stuff, it’s in a long brown envelope with the Red Cross on it. Lots and lots of love dear. Maybe I’ll be able to see you today too if Miss Olson is back. (Thanks for that grand letter I nearly wore it out reading it over and over)

Mother xxxxxxxx


Hope this envelope gave you lots of reading (FGK 226)

I’m not sure who this is, but it seems to be someone who knows the family and also was dealing with polio. The return address on the envelope is from the Vancouver General Hospital

(Postmarked May 31, 1954 from Vancouver BC)


Hope this envelope gave you lots of reading. I had a lovely note from your Mother and she said you were now walking with crutches. I know what a job that is as I have started to use them also. I hope that it won’t be long till you can go home now that summer’s here.

I guess by now you have finished your school year. Did you pass.? Or did they give you only some studies?

I was very happy to hear Sheila was training to be a nurse and that she likes it.

Did your Auntie Marg tell you of her visit to the coast? It was very nice seeing them.

You must thank your mother for me. I did so enjoy the card. Say hello to all the family.

Love and best wishes

Donna R.


So busy with school and housework and gardening (FGK 224)

I’ve decided to post more of the hospital letters. it’s been a long 6 months for me as I’ve been addressing some way overdue health issues which has slowed my whole world down substantially. It’s created space for healing and reflection – as have these letters.

I don’t read any of these letters until I post them here. I thought at first maybe this was Aunt Annie, but it seems like it was a friend and probably someone who also had been in the hospital with mom. mom would have been 13 when this letter was sent.

Vauxhall, Alta

May 30, 1954

Box 341

Dear Margaret

Now I guess I will have to apologize for not writing to you but really I am so busy now with school, housework, and gardening.

You mean to say dear old Maryanne is still there? Well say hi to her for me. Tell her I still haven’t forgotten about her but I haven’t got any time to write anymore letters than I am now. Also to ______ and Verna when you see them. When you write or talk to Janet ask her for me whose turn it is to write. I think it’s mime but I don’t want to write when it is unnecessary.

It’s sure good to hear that you are getting along so well. You have sure been in the hospital a long time already . I hope you will be able to get out in the near future

Did you ever see Lillian anymore? If you do also say hi to her for me. Does she still come to Girl Guides? how aboutBetty Brown? Does she still come up? If so give her my greetings. I hope you will remember all these but if not it’s ok, I’ll excuse you this time.

Tell your mom thanks so much for all those good things she did for me while I was in the hospital. i will never forget them. She sure cheered us up often.

Last time I was at out-patients was April 9 and I couldn’t come up to see you because we were in a terrible hurry and I didn’t know you were still there. Honestly, we started out right away after we were through at the hospital. We went to Brooks, back around Bow City and the road was terrible. It had rained very hard. When you were between Enchant (?) and home we got stuck so terrible where we sat for I’m sure over an hour. Unit and transport came and pulled us out.

We expected to get home at four or five and we got home at twenty-after-eight. Boy were we tired.

I guess you are tired too of reading by now. So I will close

Bye for now

Write soon




Protected by mom’s love

Mom’s birthday was a couple of days ago so she’s been on my mind more than usual. Last night a memory came up that I shared with the girl and I thought it was such a powerful memory of mom’s love that I would share it here.

When I was a little kid- I don’t know how old but probably in the 6-8 year old range – some of the horses here got into some gopher poison. The carrier for the poison was oats so when the horses discovered a big bucket of oats they devoured it. I remember lots of yelling and then mom, dad, and I (and I think Grandma and maybe some others – I’m a bit sketchy on these details) were standing just outside of the yard in the square field watching Grandma’s horse Captain and another horse named Stick run flat out up and down the field. I remember the adults all freaking out and the horses both snorting loudly and having kind of wild looks in their eyes. At the time I had no idea what was going on but I knew something bad was happening.

Suddenly mom turned to me and yelled at me to run back to the house and grab her purse.

Now I was a little kid, and a curious and kind of defiant little kid so I stood my ground and stared at her demanding to know why she was sending me off when clearly shit was getting real. I don’t know how she said it but something in her voice let me know that I really needed to run back to the house and get that purse. I was grumbling my way up the driveway when I heard more shouts and cries and things were kind of chaotic. My stomach sunk because I knew something bad had happened and I recall having a moment of gratitude for my mom who had sent me away.

The horses didn’t survive the incident and it was pretty devastating, I remember how much my Grandma loved Captain.

Mostly what I remember though is how mom’s immediate thought was to protect me from what was undoubtably an extremely traumatic scene. Because mom couldn’t just pick me up or grab my hand and kind of force me to leave she had to choose words that would convince me to run. There’s a fierceness in a mother’s love that I don’t think you really find anywhere else and I’m so grateful that mom pulled me out of a really tragic situation.

Mom protected me in many other ways throughout the years, especially near the end when she was my strongest supporter throughout my divorce. We had so many bumps in our relationship but there are these moments when her love shines through so clear and bright.


Grandpa’s turquoise ring

When I was a little girl of about 6 we went to Phoenix to visit my Grandpa who used to winter there. I remember very few things about the trip. Some woman with cleats stepped on my bare foot and then yelled at me when I cried because it hurt. We went panning for gold and I found a nugget in my pan and got to keep it. And I got a pretty little turquoise ring.

My foot has recovered and I’ve learned to stay away from cranky people in cleats when I’m barefoot. My parents took the gold because they said I was too young to be responsible for it. Once in a while mom would pull it out and show it to me, but even as an adult I never was given my gold nugget back. I assume it’s somewhere in the treasure pile that is our home. But I was allowed to keep the ring.

When I was little the ring was too big for my hand. As I got older my hand was too big for the ring, and I kind of missed the tiny little window when hand and ring were both the right size. But I do wear it often as a pinky ring. It’s made all of my moves with me and has always had a small and special place in my heart.

Last night I was left unsupervised again which is never a good thing. My hands had shrunk in water retention/swelling/fat to be smaller than they have been in ages and I was playing around with my rings. I put my turquoise ring on my ring finger to see how close it would come to fitting and then twisted and shoved it right onto my hand.

Huge mistake

So then my hand swelled up and I couldn’t get it off. After looking on google and YouTube, I tried lotion, soap, ice, and the ribbon/dental floss trick. Nothing. And the ring was starting to hurt.

This morning I did a walk of shame into our Urgent Care and told them what I’d done. The staff there were so kind and thoughtful as I told them what I’d done. They brought me back into the little cast room and a nurse came in to try the windex trick again. Nothing. Then about 5 nurses all came in – one was their “ring getting off professional” and i think the rest were women who could relate to what I was going through. She tried windex again but it wasn’t happening. Finally she got out some archaic looking device that was able to cut through the ring and free my finger.

So now my precious little ring is broken and I will somehow figure out how to get it fixed. But I figure it kind of adds to the value of the ring through this story. There was never any real monetary value to the ring, it was all sentimental. And I figured Grandpa being the jokester that he was would have got a real kick out of my plight. I am so grateful for our Urgent Care. They have saved us in much more serious incidents, but I appreciated the dignity and humour that I was afforded in this less serious one.

The “before”
Icing icing icing to get the swelling down
My poor little ring, but man my finger feels better.

Old pictures, old friends, old houses

A few years ago a dear old friend of mine (in years not age haha) gifted me a picture she’d found of the “old house” here. The “old house” is the one by the barn that my great grandparents built, and the house that we moved into when we returned home.

It’s cool because not only does this picture look exactly like the “old house”, it actually IS the old house.

I wasn’t sure where to hang it and have tried a few different spots in different rooms. Then today I was looking at the Braeside house where my Grandpa Ramsay lived (you may remember the story my Grandpa Ramsay told, you can find it Here) and realized that these two pictures belong together.

The house where my great-grandparents Copithorne lived, where my grandpa was raised, and the house where my grandpa, and great grandma Ramsay lived with my great-great grandparents in Ontario. And they should be hanging here in the house my grandparents built – our home.

I feel so much gratitude towards this friend who found this picture for me, made a special trip to meet me to give it to me, and who generally has just been a great person to have in my life. We met 21 years ago when we were expecting our now adult sons and have stayed in touch throughout the years.


Thinking of Grandma

It was 18 years ago today that Grandma left us here and returned home to God and to be reunited with all of those who had left before her. I will forever remember her last weeks as some of the most difficult, but also some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had in my life.

It was important to Grandma that she return to the ranch and that she not die in a hospital where nobody knew her. My parents and uncles and aunts arranged for her to come home to her house, and they set up a hospital bed in the living room for her.

Probably what I remember most is how the family gathered. It seemed like the house was full of her children and grandchildren – all of us eating, drinking tea, and sharing stories. I’ve always felt Grandma’s heart in this house, but never more than I did during that time.

There was even a moment – one that I call the “I’ll love you forever moment” where she wanted to join us all in the kitchen but was unable to walk from her bed. My loving cousin Ryan picked her up the same way I’m sure she had picked him up countless times when he was small, and carried her into the kitchen, gently placing her in a chair, so that she could be part of the fun. When I would read “I love you forever” to my kids I always burst into tears when the son carried his mother because of this moment. It was so simple and beautiful.

Dad called me at work when she died. Somehow they let the call go into my classroom so I got the news while standing in front of my students. At the time I was teaching mostly kids who had been labeled with behaviours so extreme they were not allowed into regular classrooms. I can’t think of a better bunch of people to hear the news with – most of these kids knew sorrow. They were so good and kind and all of them said something nice to me as a I grabbed my things and left for the ranch.

When the boy and I got out there (he was almost 3 at the time – I’d grabbed him from his dayhome) the house was much quieter. My uncles and aunts were there, grandma was still there although her soul was already dancing in heaven. My aunt headed out to the field for a quiet moment and returned with crocuses – it’s very early to have them here on April 5th and we don’t really get them here at all anymore. I remember we all just sat there, sharing stores and supporting each other. My other aunt knew Grandma well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to go out with her hair all a mess so she sat down in the living room at the bed and redid that fabulous updo that Grandma sported for as long as I could remember. Another beautiful act of kindness and love.

I have learned a lot about how to love and how to grieve from my family. And a lot about how important it is to have faith. I have faith that Grandma is in a better place that is filled with love and joy. I hope she looks down on us living here in her home and knows how grateful we are for the space, and for the memories that live within these walls.

From Grandma’s Kitchen has been a series of stories and photos that was created here in the kitchen she loved so much, but really it is has been a way for me to honour one of the greatest, fiercest, most loving and faith filled people I have ever known. This home was a place of refuge for me when I was younger, not because of the building but became of the home that Grandma created within these walls. She taught us all the importance of family, of loving each other, and of loving God (and also of cows and to always dress and act like a lady).

Grandma I am so grateful for all the gifts you gave me- I carry that wisdom deep in my soul. You are missed and you are loved.


Days Gone By 8 (FGK 221)

Grandma and her friend Jean are in the front. Not sure who the woman is standing in back.
Yes, this is “me”. One Sunday in the country. The other party is a cousin. He is a ______ – sixteen years old. Don’t think for a minute he is half as ______ as he looks. He is the biggest mischief I have run across for quite a while. Louise
I would have sworn this was a Ramsay photo – but nope. There are a few ski ones – and I’m not sure if they weren’t in Ontario for a visit.
John Brown with nieces Edna and Ruth
McDougall memorial 1927
I think we’ve seen this one before, but it’s a great photo so I’ll throw it in again.