Margy’s Boys Had Little Lambs (FGK-46)

So, I’m sitting here with my morning cup of tea thinking about how I have so much driving to do today – I have to go “all the way” to the far South of Calgary and do some errands. Which means a trip on the TCH-1 and then on the new Stony Trail. The easiest driving you can imagine. I am struck in many of these letters at how much driving they did in the ‘50s, way before the Trans Canada Highway was a thing (I do have a love/hate relationship with that road, it’s sure made life convenient, but man is it loud to live by). But they just zip around all over the place and seem perfectly happy to do so.

I don’t remember Aunt Margy, I’m not sure when she died. But she is someone who I often thought of when my kids were little. In our family history book it was written that when she had work to do she would lasso one of the twins to a fence, knowing that the other one would stay close by, so that she could work without worrying about them. Now, I never actually had to lasso one of my kids to a fence, but it was always nice to know it was an option!! Seriously though, imagine how difficult it must have been for these women, raising kids, cooking for so many men, looking after the house, and doing whatever else was necessary. It impresses me.

RR2 Calgary

Feb 21st (envelope is stamped 1954 and cost 4 cents)

Dear Margie

How are you getting along? Swell I hope. Thank you a million for your nice Valentine. It was very thoughtful of you to remember me.

We had a lovely time at your mom’s and dad’s last night. We missed you there, Uncle Harry was there, and he was the same fun as ever. He won the travelling prize, a very nice pocket knife. I played with him at the last table and he sure was a comic.

Sheila and two girls she had with her had to be in by twelve so they had to leave early. Marshall and Harvey took them back and then we met them above Barkley’s and Harvey came back home with us.

The curling is stopped, till we get more cold weather to make ice. Clarence’s team won in the bonspiel. Harvey and I lost out in the third game. The ice was getting very heavy.

Doug Munn is in, and had another operation for adhesions, he is having a bit of a time of it, that is, his third operation this winter.

Mr Hemming wasn’t very well last week but Mrs. Hemming said he was much better today, she is feeling fine she said and asked about you.

One of Jonny Robinson’s girls had mumps so Clarence figures Don will get it. So what a job they have to look forward to and aunt Irene has never had it either.

There is a few cases of jaundice around here. Wally was the last to get it I believe.

The boys have all the little lambs now. There was one set of triplets – all living. The rest were mostly twins They sure look cute jumping and bucking around.

Must close for now

With lots of love

Aunt Margy


Valentine Letters from Jumping Pound School (FGK-45)

I love these group letters from the kids at Jumping Pound School. Of course, the typing doesn’t reflect it, but the printing and handwriting shows the varying ages of the kids writing the letters. Bless Mr. O’Brien for organizing the kids to write these letters. I don’t know how the girls in school felt, but I kind of want to learn how to do the woodworking!! That said, I could use help learning how to properly care for my flowers as well haha. I didn’t do all that well on the Canadian Quiz, my history degree isn’t really making itself all that useful it seems.

Stamp Dated Feb 16, 1953 (cost of this letter was 4 cents, it was a heavier one)

Letter One

Dear Marg:

You know Mr O’Brien is always thinking of something now for us bright students to do. Well today we are writing you numbered letters. I got number one so I’m writing you the first letter.

I hope you will be back and helping us do these things soon.

Thanks for the candies and the lovely Valentines you sent us. You should see some of the fancy figurare(?) we have drawn today. They’re not bad for use Janet is visiting us today.

Your pal Rose

Letter 2

Dear Marg

I see a Valentine


Letter 3

Dear Marg

We started our new English book. We are having a Valentine party. The boys have started woodwork


Letter 4

Dear Marg

Wear a making a letter for you on Valentines Day. We are going to start our games at twelve o’clock. The teacher told us to write a letter to you. Today is James’ birthday. Jim, John and Lawrence are doing woodwork



Letter 5

Dear Marg

The boys have started woodwork. And the girls are making flowers


Letter 6

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine’s party today. Elaine and Rose made a Valentine box on Wednesday. We started the Red Cross corner this week. Lawrence made a pen ____ for the corner.

Yours Sincerely,


Letter 7

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine’s party. Elaine and Lawrence are sick today and couldn’t come. Rose and Elaine are making flowers. Lawrence, Jim, Dave and I are doing woodwork. I have made Rose a cabinet for her bedroom. I wish you many happy returns

Sincerely John

Letter 8

Dear Marg

I see a Valentine


Letter 9

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine party



Substitute Teachers (FGK-44)

I can relate to the issues with the substitute teacher both as a student and as a former sub. I think one of the more challenging jobs I ever had was as a substitute teacher, but honestly as a student it’s fantastic to have a sub and to see how many of their buttons you can push.

I’m not sure who this is writing the letter. She mentions the Buckleys and my aunt, so it must be someone who knows the family. I figure it also must be someone who knew what kind of care mom would require in order for her to come stay at their place.

This letter was originally mailed to mom at the Junior Red Cross Hospital, but was forwarded to her at home. I’m assuming this was after she had been permanently discharged from the hospital, but was in for some operation . The cost of sending a letter had gone up to 3 cents by 1956.

701-21 Ave NW


January 19th, 1956

Dear Margie

Right now it is ten minutes to three and I am in music class. We are supposed to be having a study because our regular teacher is away. The sub we have is a woman of about 60 to 65 years old and is she ever crabby. The girl next to me didn’t have anything to do so she was just sitting there and the teacher took a book off her desk and handed it to her, the title is Stars of the Great Operas. I burst out laughing and she got real mad and told me that was enough, so I was quiet then. I was just looking over to see how this girl was getting along and the teacher made her move. Well I burst out laughing again, she told me to shut up and the next time she would get Mr. Cartwright (Herbie) (The principal).

You will have to excuse the paper as this is all I have. How are you getting along up there? I wish they had more visiting hours and I would come and visit you. What are you in for, an operation?

I haven’t been doing anything exciting, sitting at home with a book or going to the neighbours to watch TV but I have enjoyed myself.

Margaret has been having a good time at the Buckley’s lately, we hardly see her anymore. Sheila hasn’t been up to our house for simply ages.

Right now I am in bookkeeping and we are supposed to be posting our journal accounts to the ledger (Dutch eh). It is for me too.

When you get of the hospital do you think you mother would let you come and stay with me for a while? We haven’t got TV but we could find something else to do. I really think it would be fun.

The teacher is coming down my row now so I had better get to work

Goodbye for now

Will write soon

Sincerely yours,



Boy Crazy Girls (FGK-43)

It’s good to see that no matter the time or situation, teenage girls are teenage girls. Mom would have been almost 13 when this letter was written. I love the “teenager-ey-ness” of this letter. But under the typical teenage stuff, there sure is a strong underlying theme of some of the challenges these kids faced in the hospital. Thinking of mom 2 years on, still in bed, all of these kids going through operations, wearing packs, being so isolated. No wonder mom didn’t want to talk about these years. But like with so many dark times, this era of mom’s life is sure wrapped in love.

I feel like it was a real blessing I found these letters, and when I say found, I mean that God kind of put them in my path and made me trip over them. I don’t really know why I started posting them, except I thought it was a good way for me to understand mom a bit better, and this was a place to record it all. But I’ve been delighted by how many other people are enjoying reading them, and I love the history gaps that are being filled for me, and the memories that other people are sharing. So thank you all for joining me on this journey! There are lots more to come.

Box no. 235

Eckville, Alta

Aug 18, 1953

Dearest Margie,

Well, how’s my favourite girlfriend today? Just fine I hope. I’m still pickin’. Too bad, how sad!

How are you coming along, really? Can you move your legs any more since I left? You’ve got to get up and out of that bed soon. I couldn’t stand to see you laying down much longer. What you need is me there (as I told Janet with my “good” influence).

I got you guys something from Sylvan Lake. I think I’ll have to send them as if I I go to stay with ____ I won’t see you for a little while longer. At least not as soon as I’d expected.

Mary Anne’s doing alright eh? Gee, I was so worried for a while there! Here’s hoping things turned around for the best and that she will have and a successful operation. I know what it’s like to have unsuccessful operations. It isn’t very nice. One day – I’ll be going through the whole ordeal again. What an awful though eh? Oh well, I’ll have my fun first.

I saw Norman finally! Gee, he was nice. Just like I thought he would be. We were in Red Deer so I went to see him at work. We spent all our morning in a garage getting the car filled up. I went around talking to all the good-looking men. There was one in particular that caught my eye. He had a moustache (just a small one). Real cute.

Now, why on earth did they cut all these weeds down on the lawn- just after I left? All the time I was there I was wishing they would do just that. I miss watching “the boy next door”. I miss that most. I was really getting interested. You know me!!!

How’s all your family? Will you please say “hi” to your mother and dad for me? I miss them (not seeing them anymore).

I got about five mosquito bites on the ankle of my “bad” leg. They were so itchy that I scratched them and now they’re infected and my whole ankle is swollen. That’s what you get for it. Bob always tole me not to scratch my “______” <haha – I googled the closest version to what I could understand this word spelled and I am NOT printing that in here>. He stayed in this house for 2 weeks. Gee he’s a big tease. He just left yesterday. He calls himself the “handsome, intelligent, red-blooded Canadian.” What a corny character.

Norman’s going on his holidays, so he said he was coming to Eckville , as a matter of fact he should arrive today.

I think I better close before you fall asleep. I’ve put Janet to sleep by being bored already too.

Well, be good! I’ll see you soon. Sure miss you honey

All my love, Lillian (MICKEY)

PS you should see the nice-looking boy that lives a couple of doors down from where I”m staying. Kevin Mullen. He sure is cute.

By the way, has any of the boys heard from George? I sure miss him.

How’s Louis? Is he walking legally, yet?

Also how’s Calvin? I hear he had his operation just recently. Here’s hoping they’re all fine.

I’ll be sending you a picture of me soon. That one you sent from the negative Diane gave me.

Love from “Mickey”

PPS has the pastel badge arrived yet?

So Betty Brown has a diamond eh? Gee I’m glad for her.

Will be in Calgary by Monday

Love, Lil


Time Waits For No Man (FGK-42)

My memories of Aunt Agnes and Uncle Harry are all good ones. Of course, Uncle Harry built the grandfather clock that sits in our living room, and there are several other ones in the community he built as well. Aunt Agnes painted the fences surrounding their yard in beautiful landscapes, and always seemed to have a bright warm smile whenever I saw her.

I only remember going to their place one time, Grandma brought me and I think I drove Grandma about crazy by the time she was ready to leave because I was so fascinated with their place and couldn’t keep my hands in my pockets. Not only did I have to spend much longer than was necessary looking at all the paintings on the fence, but when we got inside there were so many interesting little things in the house, including clock pieces and art supplies, that I could barely control myself. I just remember sitting in a chair, under the stern gaze of Grandma, itching to jump up and touch everything.

I had no idea Aunt Agnes was a writer as well as an artist, reading her short story here makes me wish she’d made it a longer story. I was captivated.

RR2 Calgary Alberta


Dear Margy

Hi, how are you doing? You didn’t get stuck in the honey jar I hope!

We were walking down the street one day. Harry was puffing and steaming and said, “By gosh, I wish it would snow.’ The sweat was just rolling off him. He had expected it to turn winter and had just put on his red flannels that morning.

No fooling, the weather is grand. I am taking full advantage of it too. Doing a lot of gadding about so that when winter comes I’ll be satisfied to stay at home.

I am sending you a short story. I have a longer one to send you when I get it whipped into shape. I had to re-write it, but I think eventually it will be pretty good. This one I am sending hasn’t been criticized yet.

I am very busy painting and writing. I don’t want to give up either. Although I know I should. I suppose I will settle for one of the other eventually. But right now I can’t choose between them.

I finally broke down and got myself a typewriter. David, Lawrence, and Mary are thrilled to death with it. They hang over my shoulder and ask questions and bother the life out of me! Lawrence especially, is simply dying to get his fingers on it. But I don’t know if I can let the kids play with it or not. Of course I’d feel like a stinker not letting Lawrence try it out once in a while.

My little grandson is a cute little feller. I’d like to take him home with me. Just a little doll. I think he’s going to have brown eyes.

I painted Harry’s portrait on Sunday. I don’t think he was too flattered!

Well the children are coming home from school so I must get at the cinnamon toast. Never saw such creatures for cinnamon toast. I could make a stack four feet tall and it would last no more than two minutes.

Luff and best wishes


Time Waits For No Man

The last few days had brought a different feeling to the weather. The crows were holding meetings in great flocks and an occasional vee of geese honked southward.

Daniel looked anxiously at his ten acre field of barley, standing tall and golden. Waiting for the whirl of the combine. Tomorrow they would finish his father’s field. The day after was Sunday and Daniel knew his father would not work on the Sabbath. A deep resentment welled up in him.

That evening he said to his mother, “If I lose that field of barley, that registered seed barley, I will leave home. It has been ready for five days but as always the old man has to get all his crop safe in the bin first.”

His mother sighed. There was always strife between the father and this youngest son. Both were headstrong and wanting their own way. The boy always having to give into his father’s superior wisdom.

At the evening meal on the following day Daniel broke the silence. “We should work tomorrow,” he said. “The weather will break any day now. I do not want to lose my crop.”

His father laid down his knife and fork. “Six days shalt thou labour,” he said. “And the seventh rest.”

“We can rest after the field is cut.” Daniel argued. “We can sit on our backsides all winter.”

“Honour the Sabbath and keep it Holy,’ the old man quoted self-righteously.

Daniel insisted, “I see nothing Holy in waiting for the frost to kill my barely. I see nothing wrong with saving my crop on the Sabbath.”

“Let us hear no more about desecrating the Lord’s day,” exclaimed the old man defiantly. “the youth of today are indeed an ungodly lot.”

Daniel pushed back his chair, leaving his meal unfinished. “If the snow falls on my crop, or if the frost kills it, you have seen the last of me.” At the door he turned. “Time waits for no man.” He said.

The old man scowled and looked across at his wife. “This unruliness among the young folk comes from the softness of today’s living. The unholy picture houses you allow him to fritter away money on, against my wishes. The colleges where they apparently spend more time and thought on Atheism than the Word of God.”

Looking over at his eldest son he went on, “Thomas here, never went to college, nor does he to my knowledge squander any money on the pleasure dens of the town.”

Thomas kept his eyes on his plate. He burned inwardly at his father’s words. No, he thought to himself, his heart in his shoes, I am too big a coward to go against them. All my life I have bowed to his wishes. Now I seem to have no will left of my own. It will seve the old man right if Daniel leaves.

On Sunday morning it turned cold. The crows screamed it was time to go. The geese passed over in greater numbers and its increased urgency.

Daniel sat morose through the morning meal. Having finished, he rose abruptly and without waiting for family prayers he left the house. His mother watched him go. A mixture of pain and sympathy in her heart. She knew so well how he felt, being very close to this youngest son. She brooded relentlessly throughout the day until she heard him come in and go up to bed after the others.

On Monday morning a thick blanket of snow covered the fields. At the breakfast table no one spoke. From time to time the Mother glanced anxiously at Daniel who though silent, ate his meal as usual.

When he had finished he went up to his room. They could hear him moving about. So, his mother thought, he is going. Well, I cannot blame him. He set such great store on the barely, to have money of his own for college this winter.

She went up to his room. He was dressed in his best trousers and windbreaker. His bag was on the bed, packed.

She went to him and he put his arms around her, holding her close. She rested her forehead on his shoulder and struggled against tears. He voice choking she said, “You will write?” And he answered, choking a little also. “Yes mother, as soon as I am settled I will write.”

He smoothed her hair a moment, then losing her, picked up his bag and was gone from the house.

She stood at the window watching as he went down the road. When he was gone from her sight, she turned and walked heavily down the stairs thinking as she went, He is right, Time waits for no man.


Hazing Days at Olds (FGK 41)

Fortunately Froshing, or Hazing was no longer allowed by the time I reached high school or university, but I certainly read stories and watched it in the movies. Clarence’s description does not sound as bad as some of the more graphic stories I saw in the movies, but I’m still glad I avoided it. I grew up not really knowing his children, but about 4 years ago I had a rather dramatic crash off my horse and shattered my shoulder. Clarence’s son was the doctor at the cast clinic who looked after me, proving that Copithornes are everywhere, and the world is still a small place.


Nov 5/52

Dear Margie

Well how is my favourite cousin? Not too bad I hope. All the reports I hear are getting better.

Well I’ve been up here about 2 weeks now and it’s not too bad when you get to know some of the kids. The initiation is over now. You know what that is, the kids who were here last year have the right to be boss over the new kids like me. Well this went on for a week and I’ll tell you what we had to do. They made us call them “Most Excellent Second-Year” whenever we met them, get off the sidewalk for them, polish shoes, make beds, and sweep floors for them. And we couldn’t object or they would throw us in the shower and soak us to the skin. We had to wear different shoes and different socks for a whole week along with wearing a towel or scarf around our head. We also couldn’t comb our hair for 1 week and we could only shave one half of our face. We had to wear our pants rolled up six inches about our boot tops.

If the “second-years” saw us doing something we shouldn’t be doing they could send us out to do some dirty job. Some of the kids were sent out with a water pail and soap and had to wash al the stop signs in Olds which is quite a few. Some of the others had to wash the dean’s car. I was a good boy so I didn’t have to do any of these things. The last day of the week was the worst. They made us wear all our clothes inside out and backwards along with all the other things I mentioned. the girls had to wear stockings over their hair and wrong shoes and stockings

On the last day they made the girls do up their hair in different ways. Pin curls on one side, curlers on the other side, braids on another side, and straight and uncombed on the other side. They also had to smear lipstick al lover their mouth. It looked really funny. On Saturday afternoon they put us all on a long rope and herded us all over town and that night they put us through the initiation ceremonies. They blindfolded us, walked us up a plank over wet macaroni, sprayed wet gooey stuff all over our face and then gave us a real shock when we weren’t expecting it. But after that we had a good dance and we are supposed to be real student of Old School of Agriculture now.

We were down on Tuesday to Calgary and went through the Burn’s Packing Plant. It was interesting with lots of blood and gore.

Say hello to your Dad and Mum for me will you? I think I’d better close now before I bore you too much so bye for now.

Clarence B


To the Girls in Ward 234 (FGK-40)

Sometimes I forget how young these kids were in the hospital. I mean, when I imagine my mom, aunt, and uncle I often just imagine shrunken down versions of their adult selves, which is silly because childhood me was not just a shrunken down version of who I am.

It must have been weird to be one of the ones who was discharged and back in the real world while their friends on the ward were still going through daily routines involving the painful packs and stuck in the day to day reality of polio wondering how their bodies would recover.

Mom would be 80 now and as I read these letters I find myself wondering what happened to her friends from the hospital, how did their lives turn out? I hope they all found peace and fulfillment.

(Addressed to the Girls in Ward 234)

Calgary, Alberta

July 1953

Dear Girls,

How are you all? I’ve been meaning to write for a long time but never got around to it. Terribly busy you know! Ha!

Is Iserna (?) out of her cast yet? If she is I bet she’s really happy. How about Margie? Has she still got packs? I guess Lil and Isabel and Mary Ann are pretty nearly home. Is Annie still in bed or is she up at all?

I sure wish I could get up to see you kids but because I’m under 16 i have to follow the rules. However Miss Baxter is away so I’ll try and get up one of these days.

How did you kids like the parade? I didn’t see it – but I took in al the rides one nite. I thought the stage show was very poor but I guess most people liked it.

I hear from Helen quite often. We phone back and forth all the time.

When is Rose coming in? I bet you kids will really have fun this summer. I sure hope you get well soon and are all out for the fall.

Love and best wishes always



Written on Birch Bark (FGK-39)

This is by far the coolest letter I have discovered so far. Not in content, but because of the “paper” on which it was written. It is indeed birch bark. He must have peeled some off a tree and used it. I can’t believe that 68 years later this bark is still intact. What a treasure. This letter is from mom’s cousin Lawrence.

For some interesting family trivia, the coasters that are holding the birch bark flat were created by Lawrence’s talented great nephew Yarrow and gifted to me at Christmas time because I bought one of his amazing wooden cutting boards for my boy.

Box 58

Cochrane, Alberta

July 16, 1953

Dear Margie

Queerly shaped paper I’ve got here isn’t it? I guess you know it’s birch bark. It’s not bad stuff to write on.

I just got your letter today. Gosh I wish I could have seen you the day of the parade! I’m sure glad that you had so much fun.

There was a man out from William Goett Co. Ltd the other day who sold us a machine called a rototiller. It is the same idea as the seaman(?) tiller your dad has.

A salesman sold mom a nice sewing machine yesterday. She was very happy.

We are going to Banff now so I have to go.



Mom Standing, School Dances, Neighbourhood News (FGK-38)

Stressing about school seems to be something that is timeless. My poor girl seems to spend as much time stressing about school as she does in school, and I know I was the same (am the same still since I’m back in school now). I’m guessing the trip Edith is taking is the one for the Stampede Queen that was written about a while ago. These school dances and parties sound like they were really something!! Nothing boring at all about a small, one room schoolhouse.

Oct 27/53

Dear Margie

It seems like ages since I last wrote. Sheila just phoned, she said you were getting along fine. I was very happy to hear that you had stood up for a few seconds by yourself.

We get our report cards in about a week and am I ever worried. We had the hardest math test, and the worst French test I ever saw. I was lucky I thought to make all my subjects last year, this year’s just out of the question.

My sorority is putting on a party a week this Saturday and we have to ask boys. I haven’t decided who I’ll ask yet but it will probably be Ron Scott.

I am rather looking forward to the Halloween dance that the school kids are putting on. I don’t know most what I want to see; Mr. O’Brien drunk or the kids have a good time and a good crowd.

My Grandmother and Grandfather went down to Rochester on a trip and a medical examination. They plan to be back soon.

Did you hear about Marilyn and Don Edge? I guess they will be married soon.

Hasn’t the weather just been grand, everyone must surely have their crop in by now. It will save quite a lot on feed too.

Kenny just got in from from going to a show with Ken McMilan, they go around a bit together. Tommy is sure growing up, he can talk quite well now. He calls me Toes which sure sounds cute, he makes such an effort.

I guess the Light Horse Association had quite a party last Wednesday. Mom and Dad went and had a good time. It was for members twenty one and over so that left quite a few out.

Edith’s and the rest of the family’s picture was in the paper. I guess she’s going on her trip on the first of November. Lucky girl!

Well I hope you can read the sprawl and make out the words.

Hope you are getting along fine.


Anne M Copithorne


A note from Grandpa (FGK-37)

This is the first letter I’ve found to mom from Grandpa. Like me, Grandpa was born left handed, except in his era left handed people were not allowed to be left handed and he got his knuckles rapped regularly to force him to write with his right hand. I have to say, his penmanship is quite spectacular, especially considering he wrote with his non dominant hand.

Grandpa died when I was only seven, and given the short amount of time I had with him I have many happy memories. I realize now as an adult that means that he must have gone out of his way to spend a lot of time with me (and his other grandkids) to make such an impression. My favourite Grandpa memory is of the time we drove up to our cottage (only steps from their house) and Grandpa was standing on the driveway. As soon as I got out of the car he called me over all excited to show me something. I was maybe 5 or 6. On the driveway was a garter snake, and Grandpa looked at me with a huge smile on his face and told me that I should take it inside and show Grandma and her friends because they loved snakes and they’d be very happy to see it. Grandma was having a tea party in the dining room with a few ladies and I danced into the room holding the snake up for all to see. I remember screaming and people running, and then the snake slithering across the kitchen floor while Grandpa laughed and Grandma yelled at him. Turned out the snake didn’t want to leave the kitchen either, and Grandpa had to sweep him out the kitchen door several times before he finally went on his way.

March 10, 1953

Hello Margie

Here is Dad at last with a note. Have been thinking of you a lot, seeing that I can’t see you these days. I was up in the hills yesterday to see if I could find any more cattle but did not find any. Len, Clarence, and Frank was with me. We put our horses in the truck and drove up past the ranger station and rode from there. Sure is a desolate country this time of year. Just snow and not a track of anything.

Anne is gone now so Mom and I have an awful time deciding who is going to get up in the morning and prepare breakfast. So far I think I have been getting the worst of it.

Rees is in the Hospital for a minor operation but is getting out on Thursday. So I had Jimmy Patterson to feed the steers in Grand Valley.

Marshall and I were riding on Saturday and the hound caught another coyote. Buster and Rex helped and between us all we got him killed. Rex chewed on a front leg.

Hope you are doing fine and didn’t catch any more chicken pox.

Am sending you a card to mail to anybody you care to.


I included his letter so you could see his penmanship. I love this letter, I wish I’d known Grandpa for longer.