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)




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.


Auntie Marg


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


In Grandma’s Words part 14 (FGK-76)

The only stories I ever heard about Mr O’Brien were ones like how incredibly strict he was, being a military man and all, how one time he’d got really angry and thrown chalk across the room, and of course the firecracker story – which was of course more mom just responding to his flippant statement about putting a firecracker under someone than her deviously planning to light a firecracker under a classmate’s butt. But through the letters I’ve seen a much different man. From what I can see, he’s the one who organized the students to send those big class letters in for mom at the hospital. In the letters, the kids are describing doing such interesting things in their classes (growing plants, doing woodwork, and so many other activities). I have heard from many people what a big deal those JP Christmas concerts were. Hats off to Mr. O’Brien – he sounds like quite the man.

Mr. O’Brien did so much for the children and the social life in the district it is difficult to tell you just how far reaching his influence really spread. He had been a Sargent major in the army, a scout master of many years experience, and had taken a course in dramatics. All these talents and experiences were put into action immediately and the students experienced the unexpected pleasure of discipline, responsibility, and a scope for their own creative originality.

The fame of the JP Christmas concerts was so widespread the Community Hall had crowds far beyond its seating capacity, standing room only. I remember one concert where one part of the program was a quadrille on the stage by the students to the tune of a current favourite of the time “Buttons and Bows”. The crowd just went hilarious, stomped their feet, clapped their hands, and sang their loudest. Another time he used an Alberta artist talent of a play taken from the book “Johnnie Chinook” a local story and it was a big success.

He formed a Red Cross society among the students. Made them elect their own president and other officers in the correct parliamentary procedure. All this besides their regular schoolwork. And for the first time the students learned how to enjoy well organized sports at recess.

Every so often the students would invite the parents to the school and entertain them by having them take part in spelling matches etc. We became involved in many of the students’ activities, especially helping with the concerts and enjoyed their social life so much.

The annual school picnic was an elaborate affair where presentations were made to students graduating etc. All the speeches and work was done by the students themselves. Mr O’Brien would just strand in the background. but the results of his guidance was made manifest in so many ways.

For a little one room rural school house the ultimate achievement of most of its graduates is quite impressive.


In Grandma’s Words part 11 (FGK 73)

Remember how I said I’d never seen a photo of the lean to kitchen? Apparently I just wasn’t paying attention, because there’s a photo of it here in today’s post. The sun porch still looks almost exactly like it does in this photo, and we use it every day.

It wasn’t long before we were issued a “ration book” for each one of us. Transient help would come to work with all the tabs sold out of their books and we would just have to cope it it somehow, but they weren’t very popular. In Feb 1940 I left Sheila and Marshall with my sister and Percy, and I took Aunt Ada and her bachelor brother Roy Wills on a motor trip to visit Aunt Lil in Palermo, California. We thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the wonderful Redwood forest. And visiting the old fort where the Russians had landed in 1872. The fort was standing in good condition because Redwood won’t burn nor decay.

Before I left, I taught Clarence how to bake apple pie. When we got home, the man who helped him batch said they just made steaks out of the whole half beef and had that and apple pie nearly every meal. And his pies were just about the best I’ve ever tasted, much better than mine, but I doubt if he has ever cooked one since. They were certainly glad to quit cooking.

We decided to turn our lean to eating area into a kitchen as it was three steps down from our tiny kitchen and the steps proved very awkward. Mr. Mervin Wallace, the carpenter, came out and he built that kitchen with loving care. I was so proud of it, it was beautiful and quite convenient but could have been larger. It was all white and blue with accents of red here and there. It had a long low window in the west and I made cottage style curtains out of white and blue polka dot material with a wide border of eyelet embroidery.

By now I had a gas Servel refrigerator. Mr Wallace also built me a sun porch for my house plants. From three thirty on in the afternoon I used to just about wear a hole in that window watching for the kids to come riding out of the bush in Nicoll’s field a mile or so west of us.

A Servel refrigerator

I would always have a dish of dessert of a bowl of soup waiting for them and would listen to them unload all of the problems of the day, then all was forgotten and the real enjoyment of the day would begging for them. Each one to his or her living, such as curling up with a good book to read or outside to play.

Grandma and her kids. I’m not going to comment on how my uncle’s got his tongue sticking out (see what I did there). Mom looks like the cat who just swallowed the canary, at least my aunt managed to pass off as normal for this one.

By now we had a Delco in the house – no more coal oil lamps and those frightening Coleman gas lamps. At first we had a gas engine to charge the sixteen-two volt batteries. Then we got a wind charger which worked fine when the wind blew. We were so glad to have just the lights, we never thought of complaining because there were no electric gadgets to be got on the 32 volts.

I didn’t know what a Delco was, so I looked it up. Here it is, complete with the “old time” kind of advertising. I want to be sarcastic and say “lucky, lucky wife”, but I”m realizing that it shouldn’t be sarcastic at all. Given how hard these women worked, anything that made their lives easier must have been a real blessing (same for the men).
A Delco
I’m not sure where this photo was taken, but it was stuck in with this story.
Just in case you feel like doing any baking…. grandma made some pretty fantastic doughnuts and gingerbread cookies (pro tip, the gingerbread cookies are fan-freaking-tastic when dipped in her Christmas sauce).

In Grandma’s Words part 10 (FGK 72)

Has anyone ever had a well behaved Shetland? My sister’s Peanuts was considered to be a good one, but it really was only in comparison to how incredibly naughty and evil my Tango was. Why did we all have Shetland ponies??

Margaret, my last child was born in Oct 1940. We let Sheila name her, she was so thrilled to have a baby sister, so she said “I like Margaret Bateman, let’s call her Margaret”. She was a dear little baby, had long dark hair when she was born and always was very lively. I lay in the hospital listening to the battle of Bristol on the radio and wondered if it was right to bring a child into such a world.

One fall a cattle buyer who bought our steers, gave Marshall a Shetland pony when he was about four years old. I have never liked Shetland ponies, but Marshall was very happy and wanted to be on it all the time. One fine afternoon when I decided to ride across the creek to get the milk cows in, I let Marshall ride his pony and come with me. My horse stopped halfway across the creek to have a drink and I looked back to see how Marshall was doing. Clarence was building a fence nearby. The Shetland had stopped at the edge of a deep pool to have a drink too, and I could see both Marshall and the saddle were slowly sliding over its head. I called to Clarence just about the time Marshall plopped head first into the cold water. The dumb Shetland sat on the bank like a dog sits down and it had the saddle on its head like a hat. Clarence and I both headed to the rescue but things happened too fast for us. Marshall no sooner hit the water then he bounced out again and was on a howling rage. It all looked so comical, Clarence and I just went into helpless laughter which made Marshall furious. He walked home in a huff and we were so weak from laughing at that crazy looking pony we could hardly get the saddle off.

This looks like the yard at Kumlin’s (aka Jack Copithorne’s)

Later that pony ran away with Sheila one day and threw her onto a big rock and broke her elbow. My father had sold his farm and rented an apartment in Calgary. While Sheila was in the hospital with her broken arm – it had to be broken a second time to get it right – my dad visited her every day and read stories to her. He also helped Percy cut crop a few times when help was scarce. He loved the children dearly and always called Margie “Peggie”. The last day he visited us, in Nov 1942, Marshall and Margi clung to his legs and begged him to stay but he had two companions with him and returned to town. That night he died of a heart attack.


Remember That and be Happy Always (FGK-26)

This letter from Grandma made me so emotional, especially the part where she described how she had made it all the way into the hospital only to be too late for visiting times. Instead of complaining or whining about injustice, she reminds mom that she is their guest and show appreciation for being there. Considering it seems we are just starting to acknowledge the mind/body connection, it seems Grandma was decades ahead here on the ranch by reminding mom that a glad heart purifies the body. I really needed to hear that. I always had a special love for Grandma, but these letters make me love her even more, she really was a remarkable woman.

March 14, 1953

Saturday afternoon 4:15 PM

Dearest Margie:

Just have to write you and let the work go hang. Sheila and Marshall are out helping Dad de-horn and I scrubbed and waxed the kitchen floor alone. We washed clothes this morning. Trudy Usher gave Sheila a lovely bouquet of spring flowers for her birthday and Sheila wanted to leave them in with you last night but I said let’s bring them home for the weekend to enjoy them too and then take them into you on Sunday. they look so nice on the kitchen table, the whole kitchen looks so nice and shining clean now.

I haven’t done any cooking today, made Sheila a birthday cake yesterday and we ate it at supper last night.

Wish I could have seen you last night, did Helen tell you I was so near, just at the office, but rules are rules, we don’t own the place, you are their guest and we must remember and show our appreciation to them for having you there.

Sheila and Marsh went to the dance last night, Dad and I were too tired. They said it was a very nice one. Slim was there with _______ – isn’t he a rascal?

Old Smokey is really feeling cute these days, guess I’m feeding him too well, he just seems to know everything you say to him.

Sheila just came in looking frozen. She said the men weren’t going to stop for tea so I packed up a snack and some hot coffee and sent her over wth it to them.

I phoned Aunt Ruth but she was up town – her and Aileen as usual, but Gordie answered. He is all excited he is going to the boy-scouts chuckwagon race or something.

Hope you see a nice show this afternoon. We saw Clarence Buckley at the garage yesterday, the Olds school were chosen to see the judging of the fat calf show or something.

Guess the bull sale is next week, Dad says he isn’t going to buy any bulls – but we’ll see.

Marsh says Mrs. Barkley has a really good dishwasher, isn’t that nice?

Have you done any letter writing? I wish you’d write to us. Sure wish those old chicken-pox would clear up.

Sheila says all the Normans were at the dance, and Gladys strained her stomach curling but she was there anyway. Springbank is sure curling crazy.

8:30 pm

Well here I am again Marg – Bill went to town so there was only us four for supper and we are all sitting quietly around the dining room now. Sheila is hard at work on her homework, wish Marsh would do that.

Hope you are getting along good with your school work. I just phoned in and they said you are well. This phone is almost impossible though.

We had a very lovely Star meeting on Thursday night. There were people from all over the province there.

I’m sending you in a corsage of imitation heather we wore, Dorothea Andison (?) made one for each of us, they’re made out of wire and needs. Betsy Bloom the Worthy Grand Matron is Scotch so we were wearing them to please her – we hope. You can give it to Mary McKinon if you like – she’s Scotch too.

The gophers are out now – around here anyway, wonder if they get Rabies too.

Dad was riding up in the hills last week and he saw the skeleton of a moose and also som huge wolf tracks.

They are going to de-horn our calves on Monday and the Lazy J cattle too – so suppose Winnie will be bringing up a fancy tea for them eh?

How are those old legs of yours coming along lately Margie? Hope you are finding the exercises easier and that you can move them a little more every day and the back too. Do you still go down for the tank etc at around 2pm? I am praying almost constantly to help you but more so around then if it’s possible at all. we must have patience though, it takes almost 18 months to heal those nerves they say, but I am sure you will be walking before that, even though they may not be entirely healed. It is certain that a glad heart speeds up circulation and sweeps impure matter from the bloodstream and health appears. Remember that and be happy always.

I couldn’t get that record of the Lord’s Prayer for Sheila at all so I got her the medium sized suit case to match her others and a nice card and Marsh signed it from you and him. Dad and I gave her a suede jacket so with the twin sweater set she got plenty eh?

Aunt Gertie phoned and wants us to go up for dinner tomorrow, so seeing we can’t get in to see you, I guess we’ll go.

Well, I must close now and sure hope I can see you on Wednesday.

Lots and lots of love dear

From mom xxxxxxxxx


Unplanned quiet and Clean kitchen surprise

Yesterday was a long-ass day. Most of it was good, but it still was long and involved a trip to the doctor and X-ray for my girl. As we left X-ray, I ordered us Indian food, which besides Italian is our comfort food of choice. When I arrived to pick up the food, something had gone wrong with the order and I had to wait quite a while. I’d left my phone in the car with the girl, and found myself in a place that smelled awesome, played funky music, and besides the music, was fairly quiet aside from other people coming in to pick up food.

So, I sat in their chair and waited. Waited without a friend, without a kid, without a phone, without a book. Just me and my brain. You know what? It was some of the most peaceful time I’ve had lately. I just sat there and thought of all the things I was grateful for, how much I love my town, and how my life has slowly evolved into one that I’m absolutely loving.

And then I got a discount on my food for waiting which was even better.

The girl and I got home to find out that the boy had been feeling a great deal of school stress and had decided to channel that into cleaning the kitchen. So the job I’d been really not looking forward to upon my return was done. As someone who has no “back-up adult” in our family, I can’t express how awesome it is to find some of these chores done for me without having to ask for it.

And so we sat together as a family and shared our meal, shared our time, shared our love.


Section 7

I finally got a bunch of my section 7 expenses filed. It’s not fun, it is time consuming, and it’s frustrating to feel that I’m filing more expenses that he will refuse to pay. But I’ve got it done.

I wish this part was easier, but we are so much safer and happier, that I figure it’s the price of freedom.

So today I feel a sense of relief and joy that I know I’ve done my part. That’s all I can do.


Explain yourself

I was telling the kids today how someone close to me had spent a lot of time trying to explain their actions – maybe justify their actions is a better way to put it. The boy looked at me and said

You should never have to explain your actions to someone else. If you’re doing the right thing – there’s never any explanation for your actions needed. Look at Grandpa – he never had to explain or justify what he did or who he was – he lived with integrity and you never had to doubt that what he said and what he did was the right thing.

I was so proud of my kid for picking up on that and understanding what it means to live by your word. I’m so grateful that my kids had my dad as a role model for as long as they did.


Talk about it

The girl and I had an explosive moment this afternoon after school. I had decided to venture into her bedroom earlier to grab some laundry. Well that was a scarring experience to say the least.

How we handled it was interesting – I was upset but trying not to freak out too much and so was she (both for different reasons). But we quickly moved to a place where we both expressed how we felt about the disaster that was her room. And she came home and spent the evening cleaning it – no complaints. It was incredibly mature of her and I was so proud. I’ve got some awesome kids.