Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Back Then


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. Always served with yummy sandwiches.
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, Mr. Szabo, and I loved to go with Dad to his shop because it was fascinating to watch him fashion great hunks of leather into real shoes with his little hammer.
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 and shoe-horn the entire mob 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 in Mr. Madge's special North Pole plane, 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.
But that 'small-town' life is largely vanished everywhere 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?

12 comments:

  1. Since I was even before that time, the same kinds of memories from our small neighborhood, or visiting the very ethnic German neighborhood of my grandmother. But, our Hershey bars were a nickle.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember walking a mile to and from school by myself or with a small group of kids...no fear of being snatched...after all, who wanted another mouth to feed? Summers running wild outside all the long lovely day...somehow my stomach knew when it was lunchtime and dinner time. I remember freedom...freedom to run wild, freedom to create, to dream. Kids are missing so much these days.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, the good old days. I remember times when doors were never locked, being alone in the house because dad was at work already, getting myself off to school and home again to drop off my school bag, then go anywhere I wanted until the sun began going down, then I'd head home again.
    Funny to think that these days there are so many TV channels, yet there is still nothing on worth watching most days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Precious, priceless memories! And you're right. There's nothing good on . . .

      Delete
  4. "Before crime was invented", I never feared. Drugs and guns changed everything.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I grew up with less freedom than you had, but way more than my own kids had. The Trans-Canada Highway went through our village and right past our door when I was 10, so there was a lot of traffic from far away constantly streaming past. I stuck pretty close to home and we learned to lock our doors. I live in a small town now and we've had some of the crimes of larger centres right here. We kept a pretty close eye on our kids when they were younger. The times, they have changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And not for the better in so many ways!

      Delete
  6. Diane, you brought back some great memories of Milk River! It was like I was living there all over again! I love reading everyone's comments in this thread. Diane, you have inspired us all!
    Love,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Chris! If I can help someone reconnect with their memories, I'm happy!

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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