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Writing women's history one mother at a time... since 2004.

Kim Hirst’s story of Margaret Rose


My mother was born Nov. 28, 1933 in Camp Lister, BC on the farm which was built by her parents, Margery and Fred Powers who had emigrated from England. She was the middle child, having a brother, thirteen years older and a sister, four years younger. They were among the original settlers in the Creston Valley and it was a very hard life. The farmhouse was a small, very basic building with a kitchen, living room and 2 bedrooms with no electricity until later years. My mother shared one of the bedrooms with her younger sister, Betty, sleeping in a double bed. The house was heated by a coal stove which also doubled as an oven. The bathroom was a wooden outhouse, and potties were used at night. Washing and bathing was done in large galvanized tubs.Her parents had no car and they got around by horse or walking. My mother had to walk 2 miles to the 2 room schoolhouse, even through large drifts of snow. She didn’t own a bike until she was twelve years old. Chores were to be done every day, such as filling the wood box and coal bucket and helping prepare supper. Saturdays were dreaded as she had to scrap the chicken droppings from the perches in the chicken coops. In the summer, she helped with the apple crop and also in the vegetable garden. The only products purchased during the early years were coffee, tea, sugar, flour and cheese. Other than the chickens which were raised, they had a cow and two horses, so they always had food and the farmers traded produce as money was scarce.

As they had no TV, the radio was their main entertainment in the evening, but usually she was too tired from all the hard work during the day to stay up late. Holidays were always a feast and the food was traditional English fare, which has followed through to my childhood and forms the basis of my holiday celebrations. She attended church every Sunday with the family and to this day is a devout Anglican, helping out in her local church.

In the winter, she learned to sew and darn socks, and these are things she still loves to do. When the snow was too deep to walk in, she would ride the horse to the post office and store for the mail and necessities. She would wake up Christmas morning, hearing the radio broadcast of the Queen’s message that her Dad would listen to. Then she would find her leggings left at the foot of the bed filled with candies, nuts, a small toy and a mandarin orange.

My mother was brought up with Christian values, and was treated firmly but with love by her parents. Good manners were extremely important and I recall when we were young having to obey such strictures as never leaving the table without permission; grace was always said at dinner and prayers before bed. This was the way I was brought up, but it seemed that showings of faith disappeared as it did in society.

In 1943, she started high school in Creston and had to catch a school bus as it was seven miles away. Sometimes she would ski to the bus stop when the snow was too deep to walk in. She loved gym and was on almost every sports team at school. However, she never really learned to swim, and she would go down to the Goat River in the summer and dog paddle around in it. My mother was a lively spirit and challenged her father occasionally.  Although she was an average student, she preserved and graduated and went on to nursing training in Vancouver at VGH. During this time her father died of congestive heart failure, when she was seventeen, placing a heavy burden on the family to run the farm. She did summer jobs, picking raspberries and cherries, saving money to buy a bike.

When she went to nurses training, she made a lot of new friends, and they formed a close-knit group. She worked hard and played hard, and certainly lived it up as much as she could! She met my father on a blind date with another nurse, and after graduating, she moved to Cranbrook to be closer to my dad who was working there as a geologist.

They were married Mar.17, 1956 in Creston at the Anglican Church. My mom and dad’s first house was an old log cabin in Merritt and she liked it there as it was a quiet and simple life. I remember her telling me that one night they heard a noise and my father shot a rat with his gun and blood went everywhere! They later moved to Vancouver and rented a house near UBC. My mother returned to nursing as a Private Duty nurse through VGH and my parents worked hard, saving to buy their first house.

My mother gave birth to me in 1958, then my brother a year later, then my sister in 1962. By then, we were living in North Vancouver, in their first purchased house. My mother cared for us mostly as my father was away a lot of the time. I remember lots of fun and laughter in the house, and always felt loved. She has been my role model as a parent, although I know I don’t always measure up. She could be strict as well, and I lived in fear of her hand as it was large and gave a wicked spanking!  Sometimes if she was really mad, she would hit us with the wooden spoon, but mostly it was just a threat. I think we must have really tested her sometimes, and she did suffer from depression for awhile.

She got us involved in a lot of activities, we were always busy! From swimming, skating, skiing, church, to piano lessons, she opened lots of doors for us as were exposed to many things. She would take us to the beach in summer, to my granny`s farm in Lister every summer and maintain all the household responsibilities by herself for most of the year. I do remember we had a maid to help my mom when I was a preschooler, Mrs Finter, and she was a great help to my mother. I remember we would have tea parties while she was doing the ironing. I`ll never forget my mother`s lessons on ironing. Everything had to be perfect, no wrinkles allowed! And we learned to make beds like a nurse, with metered corners. She would inspect it to make sure we did it right.

My mother was always concerned about presenting yourself in a polished manner, which meant hat and gloves for church and dresses always for girls. I was only allowed to wear jeans after much rebellion when I was 15. Hair and nails were immaculate as well. I am thankful for her diligence in instilling belief in your appearance as part of who you are, as that is what people see when they first meet you.

|My mother was happy in her marriage to my father initially, as they grew used to the arrangement of him being away a lot of the time. She cared for us, kept house and garden and nursed occasionally. When he was in town, they entertained and played bridge and travelled to exotic locations. Our family moved to Australia while I was a teenager and life was good there. Mom loved the climate and the people were very friendly. She continued helping us with our activities and sports. We travelled a lot while living there and I remember it as being one of the happiest times in mom’s life.

When we moved back to Vancouver in 1973, my parent’s marriage began to break down and my mother tried initially to try and make it work with my dad but eventually they split and my mother granted him a divorce a year later. I remember the day the divorce was final, how she cried, which surprised me as I thought she would be happy. She told me that it was like a part of her life was dead.  But she quickly got over her grief and began enjoying life to the fullest. She would sometimes accompany me and my friends to nightclubs, and turn out to be the life of the party. This trait of hers is still with her today! She never could fully be herself with my dad as he was a bit too stiff to let loose.

She went on to meet the love of her life, Bob, who proposed to her just before she was to leave for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to work for a year as a nurse. She went on this amazing career trip, and it marked the beginning of her worldwide adventures. She left after a year to return to Bob, as he had cancer, and she wanted to be there for him. They married and had a short, fabulous life together as Bob would die six years later. She knew he was her soul mate, but she believes in fate and has a strong faith and did not let his death destroy her youthful spirit. I am reminded of a picture that I have from my granny that has a saying from the Queen on it: “Above all, we must keep alive that courageous spirit of adventure that is the finest quality of youth and by youth I do not just mean those who are young in years, I mean, too, all those who are young in heart no matter how old they may be.”

She took up working as a travel agent, so as to further her travels. She educated herself in accounting and finance and took control over her own matters. She has done so much on her own with help from no one and owns her own place now and can go on trips and enjoy her retirement. She has travelled to many countries and gone on many cruises with friends and family.

She has helped all her children and grandchildren through much travail, offering wisdom and guidance when needed. The number of friends she has is a testament to her, as she gives of herself to others often. She now lives in her apartment in lower Lonsdale and loves to garden in the grounds around the building and has made it look fabulous. She is very involved with the running of the building, making sure everything is attended to.

She still plays bridge and loves to entertain. A couple of years ago she met a man who turned out to be from Creston and is her contemporary. They enjoy each other’s company and go out often, enjoying dinner, dancing, movies and even cruises to other countries. I see her when I can, but I call her at least once a week and she always has lots of news to tell.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is my mother’s health as she doesn’t let it concern her too much as she doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone. She has bad arthritis and a bad back, as well has a thyroid problem. But she doesn’t complain and the way she works sometimes you wouldn’t know she had any ailments. But she is getting more shaky on her feet and a little more hunched over but for someone who is about to turn seventy-eight, and has worked hard on a farm and as nurse for much of her life, she’s doing pretty good.


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