When I started writing my mother’s story, it didn’t feel right. When I changed the story to be in my mother’s voice, it worked. The facts became clear, and I was able to understand how she may have looked at her world. My sisters and I were very proud of our mother, who passed in 2008. She was our cheerleader and never wavered in her support of us. I hope that I have done her beautiful spirit justice. Here is my mother’s story as I imagine it, in her voice.
My name is Beryle Maxine. I was born on October 9, 1927, in a rural community outside Ottawa, Ontario. My mother, Jenny, was eighteen and unwed when I was born. Her parents had both passed and she was living with her brother, but had no means to support me. She took a job on a farm, working for the Mackie family as caregiver to Granny Mackie, an invalid. Granny Mackie had two grown children, Florence and Borden. Aunt Florence was a teacher at the one-room school house in the community, and Uncle Borden ran the dairy farm. Read the rest of this entry »
Dorothy Marrian MacDougall was born on April 30, 1918, while the Great War raged in Europe. Her father, Donald John MacDougall, and his American-born wife, Agnus O’Sullivan, already had four young children – Loretta, Jean, Tom and Cecil – when little Dorothy arrived. Her father, a Canadian hotel manager, and his family lived behind the café on the main floor of the only hotel in Radisson, Saskatchewan.
Her father, often transferred, moved his family from hotel to hotel. Among their playgrounds were the old Jasper Park Lodge and the MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton. Dorothy dreamed of being a nurse, but had to leave high school in grade nine to stay home when more children joined the family. The birth of three babies in her mid-40s put Agnus in bed for months. Dorothy became the substitute mother of Don, Lloy and Pat. Read the rest of this entry »
Her name was Karolina, but her close friends, those who knew her in “the old country” called her Lola. She was the second youngest of five children born to Anton and Mary (Baker) Schnurer on November 26th, 1903, in a small Polish town called Rownia. Part of the house that Lola grew up in was leased to the local police. Her father, a carpenter, died of pneumonia when Lola was only three years old. Her mother was a nurse and midwife. Sadly, when Lola was about fourteen, her beloved mother died of typhoid fever, which she contracted while nursing the sick during an epidemic. I have a picture of Lola with her mother and sisters, but she didn’t speak of them, so I don’t know what my mother did at this time. A family friend told me my mother delivered him, so maybe she took on her mother’s job as midwife. Read the rest of this entry »