Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Thursday, March 22, 2018

Just a Glimpse

Grandma Stringam. Then.

During her growing up years, Grandma Stringam was ‘happy and active and busy’. She was taught to darn, knit and embroider and also how to do all the household tasks.
Most amusement was found out-of-doors, playing such games as Fox and Geese, Run Sheep Run, Hide and Seek, baseball and horseback riding.
Once a week, they went to the school for what they called ‘Physical Culture’ when they exercised and worked with ‘Indian Clubs’.
She attended a one-room schoolhouse which was heated with a large, wood-burning pot-bellied stove in the center of the room.
This building was also used for church on Sunday and for ‘dances and other forms of amusement’.
For the first years, she did all her writing on slates and all she needed was said slate, a slate pencil and damp sponge or rag to erase (usually attached to the frame of the slate with a string). The families all purchased their own school supplies: slates in the first two grades and then notebooks and textbooks thereafter. They had no libraries.
The first teacher Grandma remembered (around 1890 or 91) was Ephrium (Ephie) Blackburn and what she recalled most was getting ready for the twice-a-year concerts at Christmas and just before the end of term. His wife played the organ and he taught the schoolchildren to sing.
Their school term was shorter than the present day. About six months, from the first of October to the last of March or early April.
Every Monday, after she turned twelve, she had to stay home to help her mother with the washing.
Grandma asked her mother why her older sister, Jane, couldn’t take over alternate Mondays so Grandma wouldn’t have to miss so much school. Her mother told her Jane didn’t get things clean enough in the first round so when they came to her mother for the second round, she had to work too hard to get them clean.
Grandma didn’t complain much after that, knowing that she was making things a little easier for her mother.
She attended school until she finished the eighth grade, which was quite an achievement in those times and in that particular community.
After she finished, she worked for one school year in her Uncle Charlie’s store so his daughter, who was a year younger, could take her grade eight.

I am fascinated by these glimpses into another era. And more grateful than I can say that I have access to these writings…

11 comments:

  1. That's a bit heartbreaking, to know that Martha had to pick up the slack and did it so willingly to help her mother. Ouch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep wondering how it affected the sister who didn't wash as well. Did she ever improve? Grandma's journals are woefully sort on final details . . .

      Delete
    2. Maybe that's one of the secrets to her long and useful life, though - "don't dwell on stuff"! But I wonder, too :)

      Delete
  2. Really makes you appreciate the lives we've had doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It SO does. (As I push the button on my dishwasher!)

      Delete
  3. Martha by name and nature it sounds. I assume the shorter school year allowed children to contribute to the work of the family.
    These journals are an incredible treasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I'm thinking. It was so important to have their help with the crops. Daddy always had to wait until a Saturday for our help. Or evenings. Ugh.

      Delete
  4. These glimpses are fascinating, and a reminder of how much things have changed since the age of television began.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true, River! I love these glimpses into another era. But I don't think I could have lived it!

      Delete
  5. My aunt told me that my grandparents, when they were about 12 years old, would only be able to attend school for half-a-day, the other half they had to work in the mill as all other children did.

    Even bearing this in mind their hand-writing was so beautiful, a lot better than mine.

    Joan (Devon)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They probably crammed more learning into their half-day than the rest of us did with our whole!

      Delete

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