Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Memories of My Home Town

My home town!

Southern Alberta small town life in the 50s.
Crime hadn't been invented yet.
It was, literally, an entirely different world.
Our doors were never, ever locked.
Every house contained numerous children, who ran hither and yon (good term) all day long. In and out of each-others' yards and homes and refrigerators.
Mom, like all of the other moms, worked in her home, cooking, polishing and cleaning.
She would come to the door at meal times and call out into the street, whereupon (another good word) her various offspring would head home for home-cooked food.
Canned soup was something new and wonderful.
At some point during the day, one of us kids would be sent downtown with a pillowcase to the local post office to retrieve the mail.
Shopping inevitably meant going to one of the two (yes, we had two) grocery stores, or, if clothing or dry goods were required, Robinson's.
The drug store ran a tab (a sheet of paper with our names written on it) for chocolate bars purchased.
At ten cents each.
Freshly-roasted nuts could be procured from the display in the centre of the store.
Trips with Dad to see the insurance agent inevitably meant a Hershey chocolate bar, because the bottom drawer of Mr. Hofer's desk was full of them.
We had our own cobbler, and I loved to go with Dad to his shop because it was fascinating to watch him fashion greats hunks of leather into real shoes.
A trip to one of the two local car dealers turned into an adventure when he showed us his brand new Polaroid camera.
That magically developed its own pictures while you waited.
Every Saturday, Dad would send us to the movies with fifty cents. Twenty-five for the movie. Ten for popcorn and ten for a bottle of Grape Crush with a straw.
With five cents left over.
Until I discovered that the five cents could be spent on a package of licorice. Whereupon (that word again), I started coming home empty-handed.
But happy.
The theatre also had 'cuddle seats'. Double sized seats at both ends of every other row.
Perfect for two sweethearts to cuddle in together while they watched 'Santa and the Martians' or 'Sinbad' or 'Lassie'.
All candy contained sugar and natural flavours.
Most of it was made on this continent.
Our clothes were mostly cotton.
Easily wrinkled, but pressed into shape by Mom's ever-present iron.
Easter Sunday was an opportunity to wear one's new spring hat and matching outfit.
And absolutely everyone attended church.
Thanksgiving was a chance to gather, not only one's own enormous family, but any and all extended family members. Somehow, the entire mob was shoe-horned into any available space.
At Christmas, an enormous, real tree was erected in the centre of the intersection of Main and First streets.
The traffic happily drove around it for the entire season.
The arrival of Santa, a much anticipated event.
And, once again, everyone went to church.
Midnight mass with one's Catholic friends was a special treat.
We rode our bikes down dirt - then gravel – roads.
One always held one's breath when a car went past until the dust cloud following it settled down.
Cars always drove slowly because the streets were inevitably teeming with children (or better known by their technical name - 'small fry').
There was only one channel on the black and white TV set, so if the program airing didn't appeal, there was literally nothing on TV.
In the evenings, when one wasn't involved in cubs, scouts, or CGIT, one was home with the family, watching the one TV channel or playing games together.
Mom always made treats.
Yummy ones.
We had whole neighbourhoods of Hungarians, Germans and Japanese.
And all of them were terrific cooks.
Funny how so many memories revolve around food . . .
Sports events were exactly that.
Events.
Ball games were played in a dirt lot and the crowd sat on the ground or brought their own chairs to enjoy the fun.
Basketball was huge.
The whole town would pack the high-school gym to cheer on our teams.
Winter sports were limited to home-style rinks, or the town rink, and only when it was cold enough to support ice.
The curling rink, with its refrigeration unit, was always popular.
'Bonspiel-ing' was a sport in itself.
The town was founded on and supported by, farming and ranching.
Most of the vehicles that rumbled down the streets were dusty farm trucks, many containing a farm animal or two.
And everyone knew everyone else.
Their address, phone number, family members.
Even pets.
It was a wonderful way to grow up.
Like an enormous, caring family.
I loved growing up in Milk River.
It was a perfect life.
And it's largely vanished now.
Oh, one can catch glimpses of it.
Friendly neighbourhoods.
Caring neighbours.
But the absolute freedom of those days is gone.
Replaced by something . . . darker.
More suspicious.
It's a great pity.
What are your memories of growing up?

6 comments:

  1. Much like yours, the freedom to run free with no fears, everyone knowing everyone else and reporting to your mother on you, innocence, gentle gentle times...all gone now.

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  2. Beautiful. And nothing on TV..that's a side splitter. Little towns or little neighborhoods in big towns, we were all the same. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Addendum: Paul Madge used to put skis on his Piper Super Cub airplane and fly up to the north pole to pick up Santa. They would land on Main Street right in front of the Catholic church and thus began Santa Claus day.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. My family thinks I was born too late. I love music, tv shows, books, fashions, and traditions from before my growing up years. What you have described here sounds just about perfect to me. My grandparents and extended family were from a very small town in eastern NC. A rural, farming community which still supported several churches. So I am blessed to have some similar memories. And I loved going to Mr. Garland's store with my grandmother where we would get our drink and a nab (one of those baby Cokes in the bottle and a package of Lance crackers) and he'd tally it on a sheet for Grandma to pay for later. Great memories. I pray that I will be able to provide safe and secure memories for my children. Because there is too much that scares me in the world these days. But your memories will keep me warm today! Thanks so much for linking up with NOBH. Smiles -

    ReplyDelete
  5. I LOVE that sign! That sign says so much more than the words that are printed on it.

    Your hometown and mine are so similar and, yes, I too feel that sense of loss for how it used to be. My favorite thing to do with my sisters was to walk the 3 blocks to the post office and get the mail. We had a box on the very top row and I couldn't reach for a very long time so I would go to the window and ask Sister Slade or Sister Greenwood if they could get it for me. They always asked how my mom and dad were and what my sisters and I were up to. Then we would walk next door to the Modern Store and get some penny candy to eat on the way home... I always got the bubble gum that had the cartoons wrapped inside the wrapper. My sister always got licorice. Our post office box back then didn't take a key. It used a combination lock with letters. I still remember our combination... it was EFCEF. :) Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It made me smile today!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This has been such a fun post. Especially for the memories all of you have shared with me! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    ReplyDelete

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