In Grandma’s words part 6 (FGK 68)

Grandma told me the story of Grandpa flying through the freshly wallpapered room once when I was a teenager. I’m so glad the full account is here because while I was sure I’d remember it, I forgot some of the details. I had to google “Shivaree” and it indeed is a word, here’s the definition: a noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage or mock an unpopular person.

There were dry years and poor crops and I worked in Broughts cafe one summer holiday. Then later Mrs Allan asked me if I would help her in the busy summer months and it was like home to me to be with her. I took my grade eleven in south Calgary High School and decided to work steady with Mrs Allan before completing my grade twelve and going to Normal School. Ruth married Edgar Davies in 1927 and I rented a room from them while I worked for Mrs Allan. Then Percy Copithorne asked me to go with him to a dance in Jumping Pound Hall one day and we continued to go steady for over two years. We were married in Nov 1931 and so a whole new chapter of my life was started.

Percy and I married Nov 1931 in Knox United Church in Calgary. Jean Russell was my bridesmaid and Frank Copithorne, Percy’s brother, was his best man. We went to the coast for our honeymoon. Frank and Percy dug the basement for our cottage, then Mr. Frank Fletcher from Cochrane helped Percy build the cottage. We were fortunate to have natural gas in it right from the start. It was quite a change after my busy life in the store. The cottage seemed quiet and empty but I had wonderful neighbours who made up for that. First they shivareed us one evening. There must hav been at least fifty people crowded into our small house and they brought music and lunch and danced until the small hours of the morning. Fortunately we hadn’t finished the floors or the walls. There were heel marks half-way up the wall where they swung the ladies in the square dances. It was all great fun. Someone kicked the middle leg off our new chesterfield but we put it back on and that chesterfield is still in constant use 44 years later.

Then the community had a dance in the hall as they did in those days honouring every bride and groom of the district. They presented us with a lovely silver carving set and cake server.

Well we sure aimed to spruce up that cottage cute too. It was all shingles outside and wall board inside. I really don’t think any newlyweds should ever do their own decorating. We were so dumb and green about the job and choose the hardest wallpaper to match etc and just didn’t have a clue how to do it. Our ceilings are high and we thought it would look smart to have a drop ceiling. Percy brought in the sawhorses and put loose planks on them. We tried to put the paper up to the ceiling, across and down the drop on the other side of the room. What a smozzle. There was always one end of that long slimy wet roll of ceiling paper dropping off just when you had the other end all neatly stuck on. Then when you ran to grab it, the loose planks would upend and away went the paper hanger or the glue or both. It just wasn’t funny. Of course we were dumb enough to start in the living room and do all our practicing there. But when it was done it all looked lovely.

Then Percy decided his job was outside staining the shingles. He made himself a scaffold to stand on and one nice day when I had the front door open and I was in the pantry peeling onions with tears rolling down my cheeks from that job, his scaffold broke and he took a nosedive right in the front door. He brought his pail of brown shingle stain in with him and splashed it all over one wall of the newly papered living room.

I ran to see if he was hurt and was so relieved to se he wasn’t but when he saw my tear stained face he said “Good grief, you don’t need to cry about it.” I assured him I wasn’t crying, I was only peeling onions and he wasn’t’ so pleased about that either. Then we both saw the wall and I think we both felt like really crying.


In Grandma’s Words part 5 (FGK 67)

It’s easy to get lost in the nostalgia of the “olden days” (my kids now refer to the ‘80s as the “olden days” and that just seems wrong, but I digress), but it’s easy to forget how different it was for women back then. Even now in 2021 as a solo parent there are challenges that I face because I am a woman that I would not if there was a man living here. However, there are also certain benefits I receive for the exact same reason. The narrow line I try to walk is accepting the help I truly need while not taking on the role of “helpless woman” (which can be tempting). I am lucky because I have kids who help out, and my extended family (thanks guys) who step in whenever I really need anything. Figuring out how things work in this old house is a constant challenge. Nothing says an adventure like heading into the basement of a house that was put together by old ranchers who knew how everything worked, but who didn’t build things in the same way that the professionals would have . To their credit, this place is coming up on 90 years and it’s still standing so they must have known what they were doing!!! I added the Flapper’s Prayer and the Lawyer’s Advice in grandma’s handwriting, because if I hadn’t seen that she had copied these poems in her own handwriting I never would have believed it.

I sold gold cross(?) garden seeds to the neighbours and got a beautiful violin from the company. The seeds were really good and grew well but I have my doubts about the violin. Anyway I took lessons from Mrs Easton in Cochrane and conned Ruth into playing those terrible scales on the piano so that I could follow in tune. I loved the violin and still do. Alex Beadle took violin lessons from Mrs Easton too and once we had to play a duet at a concert in Cochrane. I shudder yet when I think of the awful squawks I got out of that instrument. But the Chautauqua that used to come to Cochrane were wonderful. They really were an inspiration. Then came the radio. And Oh My! It was wonderful. We got Philip Aries to make a crystal set and we would sit there just enthralled. And dear help anyone who walked across the floor and jiggled the needle off the crystal. I still think it’s magic that a thing delicate little thread of wire touching a piece of crystal rock could connect us to the world. Cochrane had an active minstrel show every winter for many years. We always looked forward to that. They used local talent and were popular in all the neighbouring towns too.

High school was fun but hard work too. We had a young-people’s group called the Rustler’s Club. At that time the Russell hotel had no bar, a lovely dining room and very nice people named the Dickenson’s running it. They allowed our group to meet and dance to their big gramophone on Friday evenings. The dining room was closed to the public and made a grand club-room for us. The teachers joined too. It was very enjoyable, and it gave us a chance to learn to dance. We also had a high school orchestra about that time and it was great fun.

Flapper’s Prayer

I want the lights that brightly shine, the big strong men, the taste of wine. I long for the fun without the price, I want to be naughty and yet be nice. I want the thrill of a first long kiss, I want the things that other girls miss. I want the arms and the heart of a man, yet be single if I can. So as a lawyer gave me advice on how to be naughty and yet be nice. I want to do as other girls do, tease and cuddle and trill and coo. Blacken my eyes and powder my nose, shorten my skirts and roll my hose. Drive a little and shimmy a lot and park my corsets when the weather gets hot. ride and swim, golf and skate. Take the fence instead of the gate. Break all records, all but one. Be good and true when the game is done. I don’t like pepper, but I do like spice. I want to be naughty and yet be nice.

Lawyer’s Advice

The advice I give is long and true, for you can’t eat your pie and have it too. If you want the men and want the wine you must pay the price while you eat and dine. The next must be a long kiss if the first one yields a moments bliss. If you want the things the good girls miss you will need be wiser than most girls, sis. So watch your step is my advice if you want to be naughty and yet be nice. Go to it kid with your grease and paint that makes you look like what you ain’t. Shimmy and drink to your heart’s content. Be hugged and squeezed till your ribs are bent. Park your clothes on a hickory limb, but don’t dare go in for a swim. Bath if you will on the dewy(?) green. But you can’t use mud and come out clean. The game you play is men’s long suit. Since Eve first nibbled the forbidden fruit. What ever you get you must pay the price. But you can’t be naughty and yet be nice.


In Grandma’s Words part 4 (FGK 66)

I was always so jealous of the riding to school stories, although now that I’m older and understand how much I don’t like the cold I’m not as jealous.

Riding to school all winter was sometimes quite a challenge. The horse would stand in the cold barn all day and could hardly wait for me to get on at night. By now I had two or three lively horses to ride. Sometimes it seemed we would hardly touch the ground but just sailed out of the barn until we climbed the hill north of the creek. I often drove a cutter to school when the sleighing was good. A kind neighbour gave me a set of sleigh bells and the pony I drove tried her best to run away from those bells but the harder she raced the more music they made. It was exciting. One very, very foggy morning while riding along the little path over the hills to school, I heard what seemed like a whole pack of coyotes howling quite close to me. Out alone in a dense fog makes you feel so all alone in the world. I rode over a knoll and onto a lone coyote sitting on the side-hill howling his heart out. I was really quite close to him and he had his head thrown back and was half way through a shocking howl when he saw me and shot straight up in the air then hit he ground and disappeared in a flash. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a coyote howl.

One Saturday, George Campiden decided to be generous and let his sister Elise and me go fishing with him. We walked the two miles down to Big Hill Creek and got quite bored standing there quiet, watching George fish. Suddenly he caught one, much to his surprise I think. He yanked it out and it hit Elise across the face and she fell off the bank into the murky edge of the creek. She got all wet and muddy and so did I helping her and we got heck from George for being so noisy and clumsy, so we went home and left him there.


In Grandma’s Words Part 1 (FGK – 63)

When it was time to clear out Grandma’s room at the Wentworth, I was invited to choose a few things I wanted to remember her by. My items were her desk (the boy uses it every single day and it has been a most treasured item for him for most of his life), her bible, and the memory book created for her 90th birthday party. I carried all of these while we travelled, and when I felt disconnected from who I was, I’d read her bible or look through the memory book to remember. Her memory book is made up of her autobiography and photos put together (I think) by my aunt. I thought I’d take a brief break from the letters and share her story here. As I’ve been reading and sharing her letters I’ve begun to better understand what an incredible woman she was and thought it may be interesting to share her life story in her words.

I remember Grandma telling me of her adventures sledding down the hill in Cochrane with such a look of happiness on her face, until she looked at me and saw the wheels turning in my head. The stories always ended with “but it’s not safe now, you should never do that”. So instead I went tobogganing down the buffalo jumps until I got caught, apparently that also was not acceptable haha. It also didn’t make for a very smooth ride so I was happy not to have to repeat it.

Cochrane September 27th 1908

The Fairies and the Leprechauns were in Cochrane and they clapped their hands in glee

When the Doctor spanked the bottom

Of a baby that was me.

Woe is me.


“Ow”. That was me when Dr. Park spanked my bottom when I was born in our house in Cochrane. What a difference to the soft touch the babies have now when born. No wonder we’re a hardy race, it was survival of the fittest. Then I remember my mother trying to talk me into an afternoon nap a few years later. My father rocking me in his arms in the rocking chair and singing to me to ease the pain of an earache with a bag of warm salt pressed to it. The rocking chair had a coyote skin draped over it, a big hide tanned and lined with red felt with scalloped edges.

These dear old hills of Cochrane provided endless fun and adventure for a child living in the village. Picking flowers in the spring. Building play-houses out of stones just laid on the ground in a pattern etc and galloping around on my stick-horse. Then when the winter snows came there was nowhere could compare with the marvellous speed of a bob-sleigh coming down the hill, then hitting the road and flying down nearly to the front street. The only traffic was horse drawn and they panicked from us, not us from them.

It was awful having only one sister and she was six and a half years older than me. I just couldn’t keep up to her, hard as I’d try, and she tried equally as hard to leave me behind. So I amused myself with whatever was handy and that nearly always was a horse.

This is her sketch of the stone houses they’d build
Grandma and her sister: Ruth and Edna Brown

Everyone Has Television (FGK-47)

Last summer my girl decided she wanted to paint her bedroom. It is the “blue room” at Grandma’s – one of the original bedrooms in the house. I tried to explain to her what a nightmare it had been 25 years ago when my sister and I painted the living room, dining room, and hallway. A nightmare because walls had shifted and the amount of repair work was unbelievable, but also kind of fun because it was like uncovering a time capsule. There were several layers of wall paper, then different portions of the wall were painted. We could even see where one time Grandma had painted around the furniture resting against the wall in a panic because she was having people over. It was an experience, but one I’d be just as happy not to do again.

The girl uncovered at least 5 layers of wallpaper in her bedroom, a mystery door frame, as well as a window on the wall joining her room to my room (Grandma’s room), which made sense as it had once been the end of the house. After several months of work and buckets of frustration tears, she decided to wallpaper over the walls. There was no way we were ever going to get the walls in good enough shape to paint them with our level of expertise. But now the room looks fantastic. There really is something to be said for how fresh walls change a room.

This letter was a little over 3 years after mom got polio.

Cochrane, Alberta

Oct 24/1954

Dear Margie

We’ve sure had a busy week. The paper hanger was out and hung paper in six rooms. Some of it I like and some I’m rather disappointed in, but anyway they look nice and clean. Somehow papers don’t always look the same on the wall as they do in a small demonstration piece.

The school children had their field day on Friday. Brushy Ridge came and competed too to add a note of interest. They did very well too but when the final totals were taken our school was a few points ahead.

Our new refrigerator came on Friday. It holds a lot more food than our old one did, especially in the freezing compartment.

This week the men almost filled the barn loft with hay. Then the children came home and they had a wonderful time playing in it. They built tunnels and houses and played hide and seek for hours. Boy were they dirty and dusty when they came in. They sure needed a good bath and clean clothes.

The boys were getting to be good shots with their shot guns. They bring in ducks or chickens every week and today they had to break the ice in the lake ahead of the boat so they could get the ducks that were shot down over the water. I guess winter can’t be too far of as the ice is forming thicker all the time.

Hector McDowell, who built our barn, was back last week and built a nice sun porch on the front of the bunkhouse. It is 22’x8’. Someday I may use this place as a cook house so I won’t have quite so much work every summer.

We weaned our calves this week and there sure was a racket for 3 days with their eternal bawling. This is about the last of the fall work so we are just about caught up. I’m so glad so I feel like getting out and visiting folks once again.

Everyone around here seems to be getting television sets. We can’t and now we don’t have 110 volt power. I’ll bet you’ll enjoy seeing the one at your home when you get back. George says it sure is a nice one.

Well so long for now. Hope you are already improving

Lovingly yours

Aunt Gertie

PS Last night George and I went to see “Seven Wives for Seven Brothers”. It was quite comical and we really enjoyed it. I want to see “Brigadoon” when it comes too.


It’s an every day thing now

I came home this evening after dropping the girl off at a friend’s place to find a text from the boy asking for a ride back from my mom’s house. Then he decided he needed to stay longer and I would have to come later. It seems that they were watching a show and visiting and he wasn’t quite ready to come home.

That is one of the huge perks of living where we do. I have so many memories of going over to my grandma’s to have tea, a visit, or just be spoiled like only a grandparent can. Now my kids are able to do that as well. It’s not once or twice a year like it was for so long, it’s an every day thing now. And that is happiness.


Who’s who? My dad

I spent a lot of time today with the memory of my dad. I feel like the past few weeks have been so filled fending off the poisoned barbs of hatred that I kind of lost focus on letting in the things that are really important to me.

My dad was one of the things that was really important to me. He wasn’t perfect, but he was such an influential person in my life. He was exceptionally unreasonable during my teenage years (I have no idea why…) and we could really get into it sometimes, but through it all I knew that he loved me unconditionally and always had my back.

Actually, my parents were/are such great examples of what unconditional love is. Even when I’ve been at my most lost and scattered, they have always provided me with a safe place to land. That security of having people who are there for me no matter what is so important, it gives me the freedom to take chances and explore who I am and what my purpose is.

After Dad died I had a lot of friends and family come up to me and express their gratitude for things that Dad had done for them. He had often stepped in and given support, and frequently free legal advice as well, to the people in our lives. He not only provided me with that sense of security and trust, but he gave it freely to so many others as well. He lived with a sense of abundance, not holding onto his knowledge or love, but spreading it around because there was enough for everyone.

He showed me what to expect from a man. Someone who not only worked hard and was successful at his career (and he was very successful), but who lived with integrity, spent time with his family, laughed, loved, and jumped full on into life. I think I took it for granted that because this was my experience all dads are like this. I will never take that for granted again. They’re not.

He not only took great interest in the things that we were doing – I can think of him sitting for hours listening as I babbled on about whatever was my current obsession, probably wanting to stab his eyeballs out, but smiling and encouraging – but he shone that same love and support on his grandchildren. My kids still talk daily about things they did with grandpa and how much they miss his presence. The way he lived his life has made a huge impression on Jacob, and he talks often about becoming the kind of man grandpa was. Jacob is already a good, honest young man. I have no doubt he will make his grandpa proud.

I realize the older I get how exceptional my dad was. I’m realizing in fact how exceptional my entire family is. I don’t know how it happened, but I won the awesome family lottery in that I have this ready made tribe of people who are so strong, loving and kind.

My mom sent me an email this afternoon letting me know that my dad was listed in this year’s Canadian Who’s Who. It’s so wonderful to read about his accomplishments, but to me his real achievement was the kind of person he was. The way he lived his life is something I can hold onto and aspire to. I will always have his tendency to have temper meltdowns (blow it out and move on), but that’s part of being human. To live with an open heart so that people can trust and depend on you as my dad did – that’s a real life achievement.


 I miss you Dad xox


Kid-knees and whoopee cushions 

Tonight we celebrated the February birthdays in the family – my nephew (today) and my sister (tomorrow). After having missed years of these family celebrations I am continuously thankful that we are here now to participate. Having this extended family around us is so incredibly important in helping guide us and give us that sense of grounding and support 

While the entire evening of the family gathering together was my happiness moment, I had a couple of events stick out as especially funny ones. 

The first happened as I was reading a book with my niece about the different parts of your body. We were on the heart page which she was convinced was the kidney. Once she realized it was not (after her mommy confirmed that for her, because she’s still at the age where mommy knows best) we continued searching until we found it. Once we were on the correct kidney page, my niece put her bent  leg up towards me, pointed and said see auntie Melissa? Here’s my kid-knee. Priceless

Next, I walked in the room to find my nephew (who turned two today) jumping up and down on the whoopie cushion yelling fart fart fart over and over. 

There’s nothing like kids to being unexpected and delightful laughter. What a blessing that we have all these cousins around to enjoy. 

In a sentimental moment, I heard my uncle playing with my nephew, and the noises my uncle was making were exactly the sounds my dad made. For a minute I stopped and my heart thought dad was here. But my uncle is like another dad to me – in fact we call uncle dad – and it was so fitting that the laughter and joy were coming from those two. 


It’s all part of the same family

Tonight we had a wonderful happiness moment in the form of a family supper. Jacob and I came late to the party as we wee back in urgent care getting his ribs checked (again). Arriving tired, emotional, and hungry, it was so heart warming to come into the house and see it full of family. 

That house has always been a multi generational home in my heart. As far as my memory goes back there have been grandparents, parents, kids, siblings, and cousins running around the place. The people may have aged and the generations shifted, but there we are all the same. 

Tonight once again there was laughter filled in the dining room by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and everything in between. Keeping these roots that help me grow strong is so important. 

As we were leaving, Jacob looked down the driveway and said there’s three different families all sitting here waiting for us to pull out (we had parked everyone in). And I replied and yet we are all the same family. 

Having those bonds with the ones I love is priceless. This is what being home is all about and I’m so thankful I can provide this kind of grounding and security for the kids. 


Girls in the barn 

This old barn holds so many magical memories. Generations of my family have worked and played inside it. My grandfather handpicked all the logs and then built it about a hundred years ago. It is one of those special places that holds my heart. 

This afternoon Jenna had a friend over to play and the first thing they did was run up to the barn to play. They ran around looking for cats, and then just enjoyed playing outside in the corral. 

I love that I can look out my kitchen window and see this building that holds such fond memories of my youth. I spent countless hours either playing in the loft or grooming my pony inside while looking out towards the mountains. 

It was a great happiness moment to see my child enjoying an earthy, blissful moment in beautifully grounding and stable (haha get it) place.