Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Paltry Sum

A few days ago, Husby and I went to a movie. 

We enjoyed it.
And we got in for the price of $25.00 for the two of us.
And that included two drinks, and a bag of popcorn to share.
And as he was swiping his debit card, I was remembering another theatre experience.
In another time.
For the paltry sum of fifty cents . . .

Fifty cents used to be a lot of money.

And gave you the ability to do amazing things.
Let me explain . . .
That wonderful day of the week when one didn't have to dive frantically from their beds, feverishly dash through a morning routine, and drive frantically to catch the school bus.
On Saturday, one could leisurely climb out of bed.
Enjoy a healthy breakfast.
And spend the morning . . . diverting.
Okay, well I don't know about the rest of the family (ie. Mom . . . and everyone else), but could.
And the best part of Saturday?
Talking Dad into taking me and my siblings into town for the movies.
Remember, we lived twenty miles away.
On sketchy 'gravelled' roads.
Sometimes, it took a great deal of talking.
On the days we were successful, he would pull up to the theatre, hand each of us fifty cents, and wave as we scrambled for the door.
The smell of freshly popped and popping corn would wash over me the instant I stepped inside. Clutching my money, I made a dash for the admissions counter and handed over half of my precious coins.
Then I took up a post in front of the all-important concession and eyed the limitless possibilities.
After several moments of tempting myself with mouth-watering indecision, I made my choice.
Inevitably, a glass bottle of Grape Crush (with the all-important paper straw) and a bag of popcorn.
With a nickle for a package of red licorice.
Then, clutching my booty and my ticket, I would approach that magical doorway to infinite worlds and possibilities.
The door-keeper would tear my precious ticket in half with a grin and an, “Enjoy the show!” and I was inside.
The curtains, deep green velvet, would be tightly closed, hiding the magic behind them.
Reverently, eyes glued to them, I would slowly make my way down the sloping, creaking wooden floor to my chosen seat.
Somewhere near the front.
Preferably in the first two rows.
Then, one hand stuffing popcorn into my mouth, and the other clutching my precious bottle of pop, I would settle back.
Waiting for the magic.
Waiting to be transported to another place and time.
Suddenly, the house lights would dim and a bright beam would shoot through the air and snare the green curtains in a noose of light.
They would slowly begin to part.
I should mention here that, for years, I thought that the thick, heavy curtains actually became opaque.
And that the beam of light was shining through them from the back.
Yeah. So, Einstein, I wasn't.
Moving on . . .
For the next two hours, I was somewhere else.
Watching the lives and/or exploits of someone else.
It was magic.
Occasionally, reality would intrude for precious seconds.
Especially if the projectionist was a bit slow in starting the second and/or third reels.
But mostly, my immersion was happy and complete.
Another world.
Another time.
Another life.
Complete with yummy snacks.
All opened to me for the paltry sum of fifty cents.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Making of the Beds

Okay, that's not me, it's my little brother, Blair.
But that is one of the beds.
Picture me in it . . .

I have just realized that Mom was infinitely more patient than I am.

It's a bit of a painful discovery.
A moment of silence, please.

Now I will explain . . .
When I was four, I used to follow Mom around as she went through her morning routine.
This was before she really expected me to be of much help.
Though I did try.
I should mention, here, that about the time I became a valuable helper, I no longer wanted to follow Mom around.
Oh, the irony.
Back to my story . . .
I watched Mom clean the kitchen.
Pick up clothes and discarded items.
Vacuum and/or sweep.
And scrub bathrooms.
But my most favourite activity . . .
The one I waited patiently for . . .
Was 'the making of the beds'.
Because Mom never just made the beds.
That would be boring.
No, what Mom would do was 'make me in the beds'.
I would snuggle in and she would pull the covers up and proceed to make the bed.
With me in it.
I would lay quietly until she said, “Okay that's done. Time for the next bed.”
That was my cue to squeal and sit up abruptly, totally negating her efforts.
She would pretend to be flabbergasted. (Oooh. Real word!)
And I would laugh uproariously.
Then she would order me from the bed and make it again.
This time without any stowaways.
And we would move on to the next bedroom.
And the next bed.
Where the routine would be repeated.
I don't ever remember Mom making a bed just once.
That's something other mothers did.
Moving ahead fifty or so years . . .
Several of my grandchildren were staying over.
Everyone had finally crawled out of bed.
And were awaiting breakfast, which Grampa was cooking.
I took advantage of the interim to make the beds.
I decided to teach them the game I used to play with my mom.
“Hide in the bed,” I told them. “And don't move.”
They crawled in.
And managed not to move.
But giggling was definitely optional.
I made the bed, then said, loudly, “Well that's done. Time to move on to the next bed!”
Three kids suddenly sat up. “Gramma! We fooled you!”
I pretended to be shocked and ordered them out.
Then I made the bed a second time and we moved on to the next bedroom.
“Can we hide in this bed?” they asked.
I looked at it.
Then thought about having to make it twice.
“No. Once is enough,” I told them.
“Awwww . . .”
“Next time we'll do it again,” I promised.
They were happy.
And I had made two conclusions.
My first was that being the made-ee was infinitely more fun than being the made-er.
My second conclusion?
My Mom used to play that game at every bed.
Every bed.
She was much, much more patient than I am.
I'm sure you agree.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Get Lost With Me

Yes. That's me.
Just before I turned fifty, Husby took me and our two youngest children on a holiday.
To Italy. And, even more exciting, on a tall ship cruise through the blue Mediterranean waters surrounding Italy.
We met our second son there. He was stationed in Bosnia and was quite happy to make the short hop to meet us when he was on leave.
There are lots of stories.
The one I’m going to tell you about could easily be titled “Scuba Diving for the Direction-ally Challenged”.
Ahem . . .
Whilst Husby was topside, exploring such wonders as . . . Malta. Sicily. Corsica. The rest of his party was under the water--air canisters strapped to our backs and flippers and wet suits correctly and prudently donned-–exploring the wonders of undersea ship wrecks. Fish schools. Sea life.
We still argue about who had the most fun.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
First we had to get in the water . . .
It was a perfect day.
Perfect as only a bright, sunny day in the Mediterranean can get. The tender, filled to the gunwales with happy, excited tourists all attractively clothed in black wetsuits, made its way out to the center of the bay immediately adjacent to the Island of Malta.
We had been given extensive instruction.
Do this.
Never, ever even attempt to do that.
We were ready.
Our first duty was to attach any and all tubes necessary to continued breathing and/or life, and fall backward into the warm, welcoming depths of the blue, blue water.
I emphasize the word ‘fall’.
It was a simple procedure.
All you had to do was fall.
And this is precisely where I came to grief.
I flipped over backwards, twisted around a bit.
And came up under the boat.
Under the boat.
It was about then that I got totally confused.
And forgot which way was up.
I was equally muddled about which way was down.
While I was thrashing around, trying to sort things out, my knowledgeable (and very attractive, but that is a different story) instructor, who fortunately had up and down . . . erm . . . down, reached in and extracted me.
We had an amazing time. We swam through great clouds of yellow fish. Past entire undersea gardens. And flew out over a cliff.
The best of all was the WW2 battleship wreck which we covered from stem to stern.
An entire new hemisphere opened to our eyes.
And me? The instructor kept me right by his side the entire time.
His reasoning was simple.
If I could get lost falling out of the boat, just imagine what I could do with a whole ocean.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Who Needs Enemies?

Don't blink! Blink and you're dead
Way, way too scary . . .
We had been visiting with our daughter.
Had a wonderful time.
Making puzzles.
Playing games.
And she had introduced us to the TV show, Doctor Who.
Yes I know that most of you will have seen this program.
I know I had certainly heard of it.
But I had never actually sat down and watched it.
Our daughter (loving person that she is) chose, for our first experience, an episode called, “Blink”. Also known as the 'Weeping Angels' episode.
A story of statues that come to life when you aren't looking at them.
And do terrible things to you.
It was, in a word, SCARY.
Truly frightening.
Chilling enough that I watched the entire thing snuggled close to my Husby.
And holding his hand.
Okay, so . . . brave, I'm not.
Through the last half of the episode, I had to visit the 'little girl's room', but was watching the screen so attentively that I . . . didn't.
Once the show had finished, I shivered, then turned on every light as I made my hasty way down the hall.
A few seconds later, much refreshed, I opened the door.
And this is what was sitting on the floor directly in my path.
I screamed.
And heard loud answering laughter from the family room.
I hate my family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Dinner Talk

An actual conversation . . .
The family of Second Son (hereinafter known as SS) was gathered for supper.
All had been quietly and happily munching.
The meal was winding down.
Time for the most important part.
Youngest Son of SS (Let’s call him YSSS to be creative) was studying his father as the latter was talking.
Then, completely ignoring the ongoing conversation, he burst out with, “Dad! You have really big, black hairs in your nose!”
The current discussion derailed.
SS looked at YSSS. “Yup!” he said. “They’re like trees in there. What else would my nose beavers chew on and build stuff with?!”
YSSS’s eyes looked back and forth as his mouth hung open, speechless.
YSSS’s mother blinked and did the same.
For just a moment, all were silent at the table.
Then Only Daughter of SS (okay, yes, ODSS) spoke up. ODSS: “I’m not going to touch Dad ever again.”
Yep. ‘Nuff said.
SS and family at dinner.
Not (clearly) pictured: Nose Hairs

Monday, August 6, 2018


“I’d do anything for love,” it said,
               In the lyrics of the song,
Or, “Do it all for you!” Another,
               Equally as strong,
Just “Do it for the World!” we’re told,
               To treat our planet nice,
And, “Do it for the children!” Heard
               Oh . . . once or twice or thrice.
“Please do it for your country!” Found
              When things have gone awry.
And “Do it for your neighbourhood!”
               It sometimes is the cry,
 “Please do it now for Peace!” I saw,
               In the news just yesterday,
“Please do the things that must be done!”
               Mysterious, I’d say.
Now, with all this advice right here,
               And good, it is. And true,
What is it that’s impelling and
is motivating you?
For me, I find that nothing pushes—
               Causes, drives or money,
Like the motivation CHOCOLATE gives,
               As it goes from mouth to tummy!
Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, you'll find, with them and me,
Our favourite summer memory!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Just Like Dad

It's Ancestor Sunday.

Time to talk about the preceding generations . . .
My Dad, aged three.
And yes, that is a gun. Don't ask.
Okay, I admit it, I have had a few . . . misunderstandings . . . with the family car.
One where I hit the ditch. (Only my pride and my Dad’s $400.00 deductible suffered.)
One where I backed into the tractor. (Who needs a fender?)
Another when I filled the gas engine with diesel. (Oops.)
And one where I ran into the carport. (Repeatedly.)
The hardest thing about each of these was the actual ‘Telling-of-The-Dad’.
Actually, with that last one, I didn’t have to tell him because he appeared. In his jammies.
Now that’s a sight I’ll never forget.
Moving on . . .
2014. I was visiting with my Dad.
And discovered, to my everlasting joy, that he had also had his share of automobile . . . mishaps.
The first when he was just a little gaffer (his words).
Gleefully, I tell you about it . . .
He and his mother were on their way to Cardston.
A town approximately 34 km (21 miles) from their home in Glenwood.
His mother drove.
Little Mark divided his time between playing about on the floor and looking out of the window.
It was 1928. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet.
They crossed the river and little Mark was interested to see a couple of young men sharing a picnic lunch beside the gently-flowing water near the road.
Their car passed the young men and started to climb the hill.
And that’s where it stopped.
The car, I mean.
His mother slammed on the brakes to keep the vehicle from rolling backwards and sent her young son back to the two young men to elicit aid.
Putting his own spin on things, little Mark, sure that his mother was in dire circumstance and picturing all sorts of disasters if the car rolled backward on the road, fairly flew to get help.
Almost incoherent in his appeal, he finally managed to convey the gravity of the situation and said aid was immediately procured. (Ooh! What big words I’m using today!)
The young men hurried to the rescue.
Within seconds of their arrival, they ascertained that the engine was being starved of fuel.
Now, a little background. The elderly car which little Mark and his mother were driving had its gas tank up front, under the windshield. Perfectly situated to gravity feed fuel to the engine, but not really the best position for safety.
Or, as it turns out, for a little boy’s inquisitive fingers.
The gas line snaked down to the floor and from there to the engine. And, somewhere on that line, was a little pet valve.
That turned easily.
Back to my story . . .
One of the young men followed the line with his eyes. “Hey! The valve’s been shut off!” He immediately effected ‘repairs’. “I wonder how that could have happened?”
Mark's mother’s eyes went to her small son, who had suddenly become very, very quiet.
The young men started the car and the trips to and from were accomplished without further incident.
My point is this: All right, nothing was actually ‘damaged’ in this story. And repairs were minimal and complete. But you have to admit it’s proof that my dad and cars have a history. And that he has done things that caused some automobile – and driver – grief.
It’s a leap, but it’s all I have.
I’m taking it.

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