When I was 10 years old, our grade 5 class was supposed to spend the week skiing at what was then Paskapoo for a week (it later became Canada Olympic Park or COP, later Winsport). Unfortunately for me I got sick, and not just a little sick – fever so bad I remember getting delirious and I couldn’t eat or drink anything for days. I remember mom feeling so bad for me because she knew how much I had wanted to go skiing, and now that I’m a parent I’m guessing she was a little concerned as well.
On one of my super sick bed days Mom came into my room with a box I’d never seen before. She had a gleam in her eye and she told me this was one of her most treasured pieces and she wanted to let me play with it for the day. It came with a ton of warnings about how delicate it was and how playing was going to look more like touching gently, but her excitement was contagious and I was excited to see what was in the box.
She opened it, and it was a lead toy replica of the Queen’s coronation carriage. Made even more special was the fact Mom told me it was a gift to her while she was in the hospital – and even then I knew we never, ever spoke of the hospital – so this was a big deal.
In my memory this was the turning point in my flu sickness. I remember lying in bed with the carriage on my lap, spending hours looking at the details and the horses and wishing I was the Queen. Of course at this time Lady Diana was just making herself known to me and although I had no idea I was about to enter years of adoring Diana and the royal family.
And then the carriage got boxed back up and I never saw it again. It was never mentioned again, and I figured maybe it had been misplaced or broken or was just buried with other treasures. After all this time I’d given up on it.
This afternoon while I was rage cleaning my room (it’s a thing) I climbed up the step ladder to bring some of dad’s awards and frames down from the top of the bookcase. Guess what was on the top of that stack of things? The carriage!!!
I have to admit I sat down and cried for a little while. The 5th anniversary of mom’s death was 2 days ago and there have been so many emotions I don’t know how to describe them. But seeing this carriage was like getting a little hug from heaven.
Mom was funny! I sometimes feel that I missed out on her sense of humour. Maybe our senses of humour were just different. But I get a real kick out of some of these letters. And while she hardly ever sent me letters while I was away, she would send the kids little tokens all the time – little souvenir type things or bookmarks – so that they knew she was thinking of them. And they loved it, they would get so excited when there was mail from Grandpa and Nana.
Also, it figures her phone number had a CL in it….
618 N. Halifax Ave
Oct 17, 1956
You’re probably wondering if I’m still alive or not it’s so long since I wrote to you! I’m beginning to think you’ll just have to be satisfied with two letters a week.
I’m glad you got my telegram Sheila, but i”m sorry I got you out of bed. What time did it come? You see i had to get it off before school so I did it quite early and forgot about the time difference! If I know you, you probably needed something to get you up!!!!
We’ve been having rather rough weather here as you’ve probably read so actually I haven’t been going out very much. Yesterday I went to Mrs Frank’s and she thought that I was doing just fine. Some Saturday she’s going to drive Jetty and I over to Florida State University in Gainesville because she thinks I’d be able to go there. I’m writing for a catalogue first. She’s sure nice isn’t she?!
Jetty’s father arrived last night and she’s leaving at noon tomorrow. He rented a car and after I had physio we went for a drive down the beach. We went further than I ever had before and farther down there is quite a bit of wild life (animals you own – maybe people too!!)
Marshall was right – he said everyone would write a lot at first and then drop off – well so far everyone else has been pretty faithful but I would like to hear from my family once in a while. Yesterday I got a little note from Sheila – first word in a week! So – get to work. If you stop so will I!!
School’s going fine. You’ll get a report card around the first of November. It’ll probably make you rather ill but they say it happens to the best of us so maybe you’ll recover!!
I just got my last letter sealed up when I remembered you wanted my phone number so I wrote it on the outside. If you missed it it’s CL2-8072.
Oh yes, the man at the laundry and the man who runs the National Airlines both said to say “hello” to you mom!! You sure must have made a hit down here! I’d keep my eye on her if I were you Dad!!
I’ve only spent $10 since you left two weeks ago and that’s not bad considering I bought some clothes and all sorts of extras kept cropping up. I pay my rent again this Saturday. I hate writing cheques!!
The basketball team is starting up at school now! Just wait and see we’re going to beat all the others – that’s if our star players don’t get kicked out of school first!!
Well, I just go do some French – just homework I’ve done in it compared to Latin it’s a snap.
Most of these letters are a lot of fun for me to share, as I’ve said some of them make me a bit more emotional than others, but in general this has been such a great experience for me as I’ve been learning more about who mom was – and as a fortunate and unexpected byproduct more about my grandparents, extended family and community (not to mention more about myself). The last newspaper clipping here though was really hard for me to post. As I’ve said, I typically just reach my hand in and grab a letter and share it, reading it for the first time as I type it out. That clipping, however, which is mixed in with the letters and a ton of other clippings, keeps placing itself in my hand. It hurts my heart to look at it and so I’ve continued to shove it down to the bottom of the box because I don’t want to look at it. Today I decided that’s exactly why I do need to acknowledge it. That’s how my mom lived in the hospital. In wards like that. Rows and rows of children who were sick and fighting for their health and in some cases their lives. It’s humbling.
These non-hospital related articles were just left around the two that had relevance, but I found them kind of interesting – it’s cool to see what was important in 1956. Turkeys apparently.
If you don’t know who Eric Harvie is he’s worth learning about. I learned about how he was part of the group of business men in Alberta in the early 1900s who put money into beautifying the faces of small towns in Alberta. His legacy lives on in the Glenbow Ranch – the provincial park that is just east of Cochrane. I remember his son Neil (who was older than my parents) coming to see my dad for legal advice- never would you imagine his net worth as he was such a humble and down to earth person every time I met him.
Eric Harvie Gives Cash to the City
Mayor D.H. Mackay said today the city is trying to place building sites to the west of River Park on sale as soon as possible. This followed the signing of an agreement Thursday between the city and Glenbow Investments Ltd handling the donation of 2 1/2 acres of land and $100,000 from Eric L. Harvie QC.
The mayor was surprised when the large cheque was handed to him Tuesday. He had expected only to sign the agreement.
The signing and handing over of the cheque marks the end of a four year controversy over Mr. Harvie’s contributions.
Because, seriously, who doesn’t want to read an article about a turkey thief?? I’d so much rather read about this than the headlines of today.
Turkey Thief Goes to Jail
A 29 year old Calgary man, Douglas Shaben, Tuesday in Supreme Court was sentenced to 12 months at hard labour in Lethbridge jail after being found guilty of obtaining 17 turkeys form a local food wholesaler last Christmas by false pretences.
The stay of proceedings was granted by Chief Justice C.C. McLaurin on a second similar charge.
The sentence was handed down after evidence disclosed Shaben had posed as a buyer for Shell Oil Co and in return sold the turkeys for $241.89 to the Calgary Electric Light Department.
A character witness, Robert Leslie Howell, a minister of the Christian Church testified Shaben was “a sincere fellow willing to help people at all times.” The minister also stated Shaben had been generous in his donation to the community fund.
Shaben was represented by J.S. Palmer. Earnest S. Watkins was crown prosecutor.
You know me, any opportunity to drive home the importance of wearing a helmet. My life was saved in my “rushed unplanned dismount” a few years ago because I had my helmet on.
Safety Helmet Saves Worker
And employee of Mannix Construction Ltd was saved from serious injury by his safety helmet about 9:30 am today when a piece of pipe fell on him at 9th ave and 1st St. W.
Bill McLean was taken to General Hospital by Starr’s Ambulance. He suffered head cuts but his condition was considered satisfactory.
Witnesses said the man’s safety helmet was flattened when the piece of pipe tumbled down on him.
Plaster Casts, Wheel Chairs and crutches have not dampened the spirits of the girl guides shown above. They are members of a company in the Red Cross Crippled Children’s Hospital, and are pictured during a lesson in know tying at their meeting Tuesday night. Smiling happily form left to right are: Muriel, Brenda, Emily, Patsy, who is yet a Brownie, and Lillian.
This is the photo – it sure brings a lot of feelings for me. Also though, how cool that Gene Autry came to visit. I remember when I was teaching in Airdrie years ago the kids talked about how Paul Brant would go to the Children’s Hospital and visit them – and this was when his songs like “My Heart Has a History” were topping the charts. It meant so much to them and I’ve had a lot of respect for him since then.
Cowboy Star Visits Hospital
Young patients at the Red Cross Crippled Children’s Hospital Thursday morning got a real thrill when cowboy movie star Gene Autry paid them a visit. Autry is shown above talking to a ward full of bed-ridden youngsters. He was in Calgary for a show at the Corral Thursday night.
As far as I can tell this is mom’s valedictorian speech when she graduated from high school in Florida. Personally, I found it really interesting to hear her perspective on private schools since, as I’ve mentioned, I always thought I was sent to one because they just didn’t want me around. One thing I found extremely stressful about that school was the fact that we were divided into “sets” – it was either 1-4 or 1-5 I can’t remember which. Set 1 was the “smart kids” and we got progressively stupider as the sets went down. This wasn’t something that was hidden or suspected – it was just a fact. Then all of our grades were publicly posted outside the classroom. So it would be Melissa, Math 10, set 2 (I actually was in set 2 for math it stressed the hell out of me- pretty sure I belonged in set 4), grade 62 or whatever. And I would be there ranked in order along with the rest of the class so we all knew each others’ business. That said I got a remarkably impressive education that year that I was there – it’s only been recent years that I’ve really appreciated that and sometimes wondered what my life would have been like had I completed school there. Either way – it makes me very happy to read and remember how much Mom loved her time in Florida.
Faculty, fellow students, friends, needless to say tonight is full of expectations for the future and , yet, we cannot help looking back over our past school days. As we do we are grateful for the many advantages that we have received. We have been a little more fortunate than others perhaps, in that we have had the extra benefits available in a private school.
Our opportunity for this additional education dates back to the early schools in America. These schools were based on the English Grammar School, using their textbooks, teachers, and methods. “Dame schools” were established and small children were sent to the homes of the village women to learn their alphabet and a few words. Since the government, at that time, was reluctant to undertake the education of the masses, all these schools were independent. In later years, the sure place of private schools was established by Supreme Court decisions which stated that everyone has the right to go on and try to obtain a higher education, if it is possible.
The growth of the private school since the early days has been phenomenal. Today, in the continental United States 13.9% of the total school population attend independent schools. Most of these schools strive to avoid becoming overcrowded, but at the time of the report they are filled to capacity.
We feel there will always be a continued need for independent schools as they are particularly suited for the rigours instruction of the ablest students and have the opportunity to find, guide, and educate adequately these students. This overcomes one of the serious drawbacks in mass education – the fact that since the average high school is geared for the overall student, there is no real program for the advanced student. By tradition, equality in education has been used to develop the rising generations, but contrary to general practice, the private schools do not equalize their students. They do not limit their exceptional students to the requirements of the average. Each is given work according to his abilities and those who can go on ahead are not kept back. Students are developed to the full extent of their capacities because each is considered as an individual – not merely the member of a group. It has been truthfully said that a student goes through a large school, but a small school goes through the student.
As some 92% of private school graduates enter college, emphasis is placed on the scholastic side of the curriculum. the student spends more time on his studies which are not the “snap” elective courses, but the heavier courses essential for success in college. The University of Kansas reported that of a survey made of 300 freshmen, two-thirds had not taken the necessary literature courses required for college. Private schools try to overcome this defect by giving the student as much preparation as ossicle for their freshman term. Because of the small classes instructors can give the prospective college students the work and advice required more easily.
We have found an independent school can better fulfill the needs of the student. It is free from political control, hence it is in an advantageous position in that it can carry out methods that cannot be tried in the larger, more complex systems until proven. This means that it is able to adapt its curriculum to the changing needs of today. A well balanced program can be planned to fit the total personality of the student, developing him to be independent intellectually and socially. He is not only guided in his classes, but is taught how to appreciate his leisure time. He is encouraged to do extra reading, attend dramatic performances, and be active in his community. We feel, that under the present pressure in education today that the private school is preparing its student more for society and his obligation to society.
The fourteen of us who have stepped across another threshold of our lives here tonight maintain that we are here for two purposes. One, to be honoured: honoured by you, our parents, our instructors, our friends, upon the completion of a task begun 12 years ago. But, more important, is the second reason we are here- to proclaim to you our belief in the future and our promise to take our places in that future. Being now a part of the young adult world, we are aware of the uncertainty of the future but with the guidance you have given us during our formative years, we strive forward with the strength and faith you have nurtured in us. For this we are grateful.
There is a beautiful Ingenious saying which said “A man once said to a lump of clay ‘What art thou?’ The reply was ‘I am a lump of clay, but I was placed beside a rose and I caught its fragrance.’ We have been placed in your hands for these years and we have caught your strength and faith – your fragrance. With your continuing guidance the future is bright in an age of uncertainty.
With tornado scares and tobacco greenhouses being built we certainly know we aren’t in Alberta anymore! No wonder mom enjoyed Florida so much (not for tornadoes and tobacco -but other things), it really sounds like she was having a great time and had lots of people to hang out with and care for her. I had to include a photo of the letter – I know I talk a lot about the handwriting in some of these letters – but this one was particularly beautiful. And it was on that crinkly paper that people used to use (she says like she wasn’t alive and writing letters in the time of crinkly paper).
As I go through these letters I realize that this could be the last generation where we can find these kinds of gems – who wants to sort through the millions of spam emails I have to find anything of value? And even at that most of what I send is via text and that gets lost with time. (Although I did blog when my kids were little and that has left us with a wonderful diary of that time. I printed them off into little books for Dad years ago and now they’re mine again.) I so appreciate all of these letters. I started this journey as a way of grieving mom and trying to learn more about her – but it’s given me so, so, so much more than that. I’m really grateful for this whole process. And I should say it hasn’t always been an easy one for me. It’s brought up a lot of feelings, memories, and emotions that I’ve been working through. While it hasn’t been easy it has been so worth it. There’s plenty more to come, but I also want to thank all of you who read this and share these memories with me. It means a lot ❤️.
624 N Peninsula Drive
April 20 – 58
Dear Mrs. Copithorne
Every week I think of writing you but things get in the way.
We are having beautiful weather now -sunny and warm. Margaret and Nancy were on the beach again yesterday afternoon and they are both getting quite brown.
We had a tornado scare one day this week. The schools were let out at 1pm but the storm passed by on either side of us.
Mr Adams flew home a week ago and phoned last night that he expects to be back by Wednesday morning. Had to see about getting the tobacco greenhouse started before he came back.
Margaret says you may come to Daytona next month. If you do we would very much like for you to stay with us. We have an empty room with Bill being away to school.
If you would consider this we would enjoy having you.
We would not want you to feel tied down – but be free to come and go as you would like.
Expect this is a very busy time on the ranch. Doesn’t seem like another school year is almost over.
i was asked this afternoon to be one of the chaperones for the junior-senior prom next month. Peg is a junior this year.
Know you will enjoy seeing Margaret graduate. We will miss having her stop by when she goes away to school next year. This is all part of their growing up and being able to manage on their own.
Hi!! Just thought I’d better write you and let you know I’m still alive. These past two weeks I’ve had so many other things to think of that I”m afraid my schoolwork and letters got neglected. Don’t expect too much of my report card this time especially in French and Latin and I don’t feel Mr Rich would feel so so disposed as to give me extra good marks either. – you can imagine what they think of me!!! Right now I’m busy trying to get my schoolwork caught up.
Christmas – sorry to get this bit up so late but —- Adam’s have been swell get them something really nice. Carharts have also been nice and i don’t know what I’d do without the Colonel so… if you have time try to get something for Donna, Kay and Janet. I think I’ll buy Mrs Franks an electric alarm clock. That seems to be all I can think of right now but I’m so sleepy (I just finished my homework). Mrs franks is rally making me behave. When I was on my own I kept later hours etc but she is making me go to bed an hour earlier and seeing I do my homework!! One of the boys from school picks me up in the morning and takes me home in the afternoon. I go down to Robbie’s at noon with all the other kids from school for lunch. Mrs Adams phones me up last night and invited me over for lunch today so I went and had a nice chat with her and Nancy. There’s the nicest pair of girls my age – Bobbie Lou and Sherry – living next door and we have a lot of fun visiting back and forth. Jetty phones every night – she has got permission from her father so she will probably be leaving Rich’s any day now.
I’m sure having a lot of fun with Mrs Franks. We’re always fooling around. She considers me her daughter already I think. There’s this character here who I’m out particularly crazy over when he phones up we have a system now either I haven’t done my someone etc so I can’;t go out or we’re just leaving to go somewhere. Works too thank heaven.
We had a shower for Kay yesterday before she goes to the hospital yesterday. We went to her house in New Smyrna and had a ball. New Smyrna won’t forget us soon.
I’ve got so many invitations for Christmas I don’t know what to do. Sounds like I’m going to be busy round ‘bout that time.
Well, this letter is certainly an interesting gem that I never imagined that I’d find. Auntie Sheila was going to join Mom in Florida? I’ve never heard of this before – has anyone else? Every once in a while I come across something in these letters that reminds me how deeply Auntie Sheila loved my mom. I can only assume that she was wanting to relocate there to be with her 16 year old younger sister. I wonder what happened? This certainly could have changed the course of her life since she met my uncle at her job placement in Vulcan not too long after this.
State of Florida
Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education
230 West Forsyth Street
November 7, 1956
Miss Sheela Copithorne (this is their typo not mine)
Dear Miss Copithorne
This is to acknowledge with thanks your letter of November 2, 1956 regarding licensure as a Registered Nurse in Florida. For your convenience, we are enclosing a reciprocity application form.
We would like to call to your attention that in order to be eligible for licensure in this State, the applicant must be a citizen of the United States or have declared legal intention of becoming a citizen.
The applicant must also have had three months Psychiatric Nursing (written in pen beside this “I’ve only had 6 weeks” – Must have been written by Auntie Sheila), including both theory and experience.
Please be sure of our desire to give you every assistance possible in becoming licensed in Florida, and we will be looking forward to hearing from you.
Florida State Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education
How are you all? For once the weather was warm enough to go out and get a tan. Some of us went down to the beach this afternoon and it was just jammed . All the race fans are in town.
I went to a party last night with Barb and some of her friends last night. We had a very good time.
It was supposed to be a wiener roast but it started to sprinkle so we moved it indoors. It got nicer later however.
We went to a rock’n’roll show last week. It was in the Peabody Auditorium. That was the first time I’ve been there. It’s a lovely building, just new.
I got my ticket all right, thanks. It will be nice to have that $18. I’m getting Col Sampson to write an educational letter for me so I should get someone else to write the personal one, and someone who has known me for a long time. Or do you think I should get Mrs Webb or Mrs Franks to do it?
I couldn’t wait for my doctor’s forms any longer and had to send in my application papers without them. Please send them down as soon as you can so I can forward them.
School is doing ok I guess. It gets rather boring sometimes but I think I’m passing. French and Latin are still my hardest subjects.
I got a letter from Sheila last week and one from Geordie.
We are all doing fine here. Mrs Webb has had a cold all weekend but so far Barbara and I haven’t got it.
Sounds like you are having lots of excitement with the curling. I’ve been trying to explain to them down here what curling is. The nearest thing to it seems to be shuffleboard.
Say “hello” to everybody for me. Must go now and wash my hair.
“If I wouldn’t eat so much maybe I wouldn’t get sick” these words were soooo relatable. Especially since I’ve spent the last year rebuilding my gut and body after years of cramming my feelings and food down there. Sounds like it was a really nice New Years – she may think she isn’t sharing much news, but I find it fascinating!
January 9, 1956
Hi kid! I was sure glad to get your nice long letter. I guess I’ll have to give you writing paper more often, eh? I gave your letter to Kay to read on Friday and she forgot to give it back so if you asked any questions, I’ll answer them in my next letter. Ok?
Gosh I’m glad you’re getting along so well Marg. When do you have to see (I forget what you called it) all those doctors? What do they do?
I sure wish I would have known that anyone could visit the hospital on Christmas Day. I could have gone in to see you I think. We didn’t go anywhere.
Sounds like you got less sleep than I did New Year’s Eve. I went to Jumping Pound with Scotts. After the party at the hall, Mr and Mrs Scott went to a house party, and Max and Heather and David and I went over to Ollie Edge’s. Gail and Myrna and Bob and us four were the only ones there because Ida and Ollie went to the party too. We really had fun. We danced , listened to the radio, and ate until 4:00 o’clock! After that, we went to Rowan’s to get Mr and Mrs Scott, and then we went home. I got in the house at quarter to five! So we really celebrated. I didn’t have to get up at six o’clock though. I didn’t get up until ten. I wouldn’t have gotten up then but we were having company for dinner and I had to help.
Gosh, are the teachers ever piling on the homework now. One night, I had four hours of it. I guess they really mean business.
We’re going to record our cantata on Friday. It’ll be kind of nice to have. I really like it because it has so many carols in it.
The choir is thinking of doing Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta “HMS Pinafore”. It’s really hard but it’ll really be fun. I sure hope we do it. It would take about a year to learn so you can imagine. It takes two hours to sing.
Guess what? I think I’m going to cut my hair. I don’t see David until the end of April and by that time it’ll be long again. The split ends are getting so bad that I just have to do something to it.
Gosh, there just isn’t any news around here. Oh – there was a hockey “round robin” yesterday with Bowness, Springbank, Morley, and Cochrane. Morley won. I didn’t see very much of it because I had too much homework to do.
Mum made me stay home from school today because I’m sick to my stomach. If I wouldn’t eat so much maybe I wouldn’t get sick. Oh well.
Hi! Gosh was I ever surprised to hear that you had gone to the hospital. Sis told me that you had been phoning and I was going to phone you but she said you were going to phone back (that was kind of long and drawn out wasn’t it?) Well, anyway.
Honestly, Margie, you’re going to get some awful silly letters from me. I can write pages about nothing. I’ll write “heaps” of them as you say, so don’t worry I’ll just tell David my letter writing time will be divided equally between you two. I’m mad at him. I finally get a little short letter from him on Tuesday but I haven’t got one since. No, I’m not really mad at him because he really has been busy. You know those two fraternities that were rushing him? Well he got “bid” in 100% to both of them (Gosh don’t think my buttons didn’t pop!). He joined the Phi Delta Theta Frat so he’s a ‘big guy’ now.
Mum is working in Andison’s store for about six weeks because June Morris, the regular clerk, has gone to Kelowna to lean the business of Andison’s store there. They’re going to move it to Cochrane or something. Well, anyway I’ve got the job of making supper for “my family” every night (they’re going to get spaghetti quite often). Nothing like learning when you’re young eh?
Oh, do you know what? I made the cheerleading team. Was I ever surprised because there were a lot of really good kids. I’m pretty proud of myself anyways. Heather made it too.
I think I’m going to work on the year book this year too. I don’t know what the set up is yet though. I think Heather is too, and Lawrence Copithorne, too.
Do you know what else? I got a brand new pair of flight boots to keep my ‘tootsies’ warm. They’ve got squirrel lining in them. Gosh!
Gosh, Margie, if you think of anything I could give David for Christmas for heaven’s sake let me know. I’m wracking my poor feeble little brain to death. Mum and Dad thought it would be a good idea for our family and his family to get together and get him a portable record player. That would be a good idea because then I could give him that record “Dream on my Love, Dream on”. Let me know what you think about it because I just don’t know. It’s an awful problem. If he was a girl it would be so much easier (ha ha).
I might be going to the dance at JP tonight although I’m not to fussy about it.
Well I just had super and I also found out I”m not going to the dance because it’s snowing and Mum’s afraid it’ll turn into a blizzard. They’re having the macasin (? Maybe moccasin? ) dance tomorrow night so I”ll be able to go to that.
Well, seeing that I have such a weak brain I can’t think of anything else. I think I”ll go to bed now and catch up on some sleep. Honestly I’m about beat.
Bye for now. If I get up early enough I’ll write more before I mail this.
Didn’t get up early enough, will write more later.