Dearest Iris: August 25, 1942 by Leslie

The letters between my Grandma and Grandpa are fascinating me. I'm pretty sure I have to transcribe them all and put them in order because I want to read them from beginning to end. They show my grandparents falling in love and anxious to marry, while living apart. It's so sweet. There are also letters from after thier marriage, when my Grandma was home with small babies and my Grandpa was away working, but these early letters when they were falling in love are amazing.

Here is the transcription of a letter dated August 25th, 1942. It is to my Grandma Iris, from my Grandpa Eddie, nine months after they met. Iris is almost 19, living in Calgary and attending secretarial school and Eddie is 24 and living in Hilda working with his Dad on the Farm.

Box 358
Hilda, Alberta
August 25, 1942

Dearest Iris,

should have written to you long before this, not alone by virtue of my promise to write soon, but because just now I'm keenly anxious to hear from you. It may be that I'm somewhat spoilt in this business of expecting letters. Some of the letters I received from you while at Innisfail, though, did things to me I should never ordinarily attribute to letters.

Got home okay, and since then have done a little of everything to pass my holidays. Took in a branding session and played cowboy for a day. Killed several rattlers a few days ago, kept the rattles and have tacked them up in the car as trophies. The country down here seemed especially barren for a few days after I was backsecretly I'm a bit homesick for Innisfail, and all the little wonders that make it such a place.

Had an offer to go down to Estevan to work as assistant manager for the YMCA, but with a salary cut of ten dollars per month—so didn't accept. This was to have been only a temporary placing until another position comes along as before. Didn't feel like going to work anyway. But just now I've agreed to run one of Dad's combines at $7.50 a day, which isn't going to be too bad until something better comes along with the Y.

I may get the urge to come to Calgary sometime soon. One of Dad's trucks is in Calgary every other daya likely route if I wished to take it, without being ------?------. Had another tire blowoutdidn't walk this timeand got the tire vulcanized. This was strictly on business though.

I miss you terribly Iris—please write soon. With this letter I am blowing a kiss and may reminiscence grant the enchantment I felt when I gave them otherwise.

With Love, Eddie.


It's that lovely and sweet?! And I love how my Grandpa is showing my Grandma that he is a bad ass with the rattler tails hanging in his car. Awesome.

If I do transcribe them all, it will be quite a task. There are about 70 letters from my Grandpa, including telegrams and all in their original envelopes. There are at least twice as many from my Grandma, and hers are much longer, though not as many in envelopes. I guess my Grandpa kept only the letters.

Oh, this is exciting! I stopped writing this post to see if I could quickly find my Grandma's reply to the letter above. I was lucky and I found it right away! I can't believe it. It's a long one! Eight pages, so I'll just transcribe a few parts here.

1206 - 4th street NW
Calgary, Alberta

Dearest Eddie,

I've wanted to write to you so much—but not knowing your whereabouts I just had to be satisfied and wait for some word from you. I felt like a dish rag when I came into the house tonight about 7, saw your handwriting staring me in the face and it changed my feeling in a jiffy. Mrs. B had it set up in plain sight in front of the clock and as I soon as I came in she said 'the letter you've been waiting for'. She knew it was from you. I don't feel the least bit peeved, though somewhat neglected. I felt low coming home every evening and finding no letter. But I knew you would write, of course. I've been teased about your having another one down there, but I can laugh up my sleeve, because I know something they don't know.

<six paragraphs follow about what she has been up to in Calgary, including detailed descriptions of games played at a school picnic.>

It may do you good to get back to nature again. I wish I could—I'd love to be back on the farm for a while. The life you've been living may tend to make you an old softie. But with all this harvest labor shortage you've probably happy you can pass the time away doing that. As for the rattler business—I don't mind your having the rattlers for trophies but please remove them if I get the chance to ride in the car while you still have a fancy for them. As I've said before, I hate reptiles—even the tail ends of them bother me. I did spend the day among all the handsome prehistoric animals but they were quite unlifelike.

Wish you were still here so you could be in Innisfail next weekend. It will hardly seem the same happy holiday without you there. I miss you too, Ed, and would be so happy if you should come up this way soon. It's probably too much to expect you to be posted close to Calgary but I'm still hoping. You seemed closer at Bowden because I knew I'd see you before long even when you never wrote. But up until now I hadn't any idea, whatever, where you were and you did seem so far away.

I could scarcely control myself the first Sunday after you left. I was down at Vie's. Auntie Hazel was telling me she and Vie had had their teacups read. The reader said Vie was going to be very unsettled for a time. That's true, since they are giving up their place and Bert's going in the army. She told Auntie Hazel she was going on an unexpected trip and also that she was going to hear of an engagement and it was to be a long one. Auntie Hazel teased me and looked at my 'third finger, left hand.' I laughed about it, but secretly 'bubbled.' It won't be so hard to tell her as I thought it might be. She likes you a lot and that helps considerably. Today down at Vie's Grandma said it's funny Eddie hasn't written to you, then remarked to Vie that you were one of the nicest lads she'd ever met. That's the second time she's said that in my presence. I wish I could have had you at the house more often. The family have all given me their opinion of you—good from all stations. I don't suppose it's good taste to tell you all this but I just want you to know that I'm proud of you and love you with all my heart. I've always wanted to please the family, but certainly wouldn't do it at the cost of my own happiness.

<More about her family, and her Dad being sent away again and worry about him going into real battle.>

If you should come up to Calgary soon and it's during the week and during school hours, leave a message at the school by phone or come to the school and don't feel shy about it. Otherwise of course phone the usual number. I'd certainly love to be able to take you home next weekend. I'm repeating myself, I know, but that's how much I'd like to have you with me.

I must get ready for bed so I'll be ready to hop in when they come. Tomorrow is a busy day. Bet my feet will be cold tonight. One night I had to wrap my housecoat around them they were so cold. Wouldn't you like to keep them warm for me?

Don't wait too long before you write again, will you? I feel so happy tonight every time I read your letter. Now I'll go to sleep with a nice taste in my mouth.

Lovingly, Iris. xxx

Wow, right? Iris was a firecracker, setting Ed straight about the rattler tails in his car and being all flirty with her cold feet. And apparently they were secretly engaged! Right? That's what it seems like to me at least with her hinting at something she knows that her friends don't and her feelings about it being easier to tell her Auntie Hazel than she thought. They wouldn't be married for another year and two months, so it would certainly be a long engagement for that era.

Now I really have to get these letters in order and read from the beginning. And I really hope Eddie writes to her more, don't you?

Treasures from Another Era by Leslie

I posted this picture on Instagram yesterday and more than one person called it treasure. That is totally how I feel about it too. I love nothing more than vintage papers: cards, postcards, letters, certificates, diaries, etc... These are the things that tell our personal stories and document our lives in real ways. They contain the details. If I am ever in a second hand store or yard sale, that's where I go, to the paper. And anything I've ever found has been beautiful, but it has not told a story that I was a part of.

Until now. 

When my Grandma died, I didn't expect much, there was a stainless steel cream and sugar set that I loved and reminded me of her and a glass dish that my Grandma's dill pickles would be served in at Christmas time that I really wanted, but that was it. I spent some time at my Grandma's house with my Aunt, helping to sort through a lifetime of belongings and support my Aunt with the massive task of dealing with it all. There was a good amount of stuff, two small rooms full I suppose. I'm sure some people leave more things behind, but what really interested me was not the stuff. It was the paper.

I wondered if there were love letters between my Grandma and Grandpa and if she had kept a diary. What stories were hidden in the boxes and among the newspaper clippings? My Aunt and I found so many amazing things that day; cards, letters, baby books, cook books, calendars and more, but it wasn't until my Aunt emailed me a few weeks later that I got really excited.

She was going to give most of it to me.

I cried a little, at the responsibility of owning my Grandma's personal papers, but also at the amazing opportunity and privilege of being able to spend quality time with these things. You know that I will be photographing them, and sharing them with you. I'd love to make a book, to share with her family at the very least, but it might be an interesting enough portrait of a life lived in the 40's to share with a wider audience too. 

There is a sublime level of detail with all these things together. Along with my Grandma's marriage certificate from 1943 was a receipt for her wedding bouquet. It was $5.00. Her diary from 1942 details her courtship with my Grandpa. The first entry on January 1st tells about her family's New Year's turkey dinner and a dance she attended, in a black taffeta formal dress. She danced with ten men and the last one was my Grandpa. A defining moment that set in motion all the things that would lead to my own life. 

It's a strange feeling, looking at a single sentence in a seventy year old diary and wondering, without that sentence would I even exist? I felt like I was in the movie Back to the Future and without that sentence, my image would just slowly fade away from the picture. It's so weird.

That moment did happen though, and now here I am reading about it. Three weeks later there is an entry, "Saw Eddie downtown. Don't know whether he knew me or not" and then another week after that, "Eddie at the dance. He walked me home. Crazy!!" I can just feel her excitement and I wonder if he kissed her. My Grandpa starts showing up regularly after that. In September and October there isn't a lot written, but I did find this on Sept 23, "Letter from Ed today. No hope of seeing him for a time yet."

It's just awesome. Sweet, wistful and exciting.

Obviously more to come. Stay tuned!

Vintage Photographs of my Grandma by Leslie

I love this photograph of my Grandma on the left, holding my Aunt Denyse and standing next to a train with her good friend Gwen. It's such a classic shot from another era.

Today is my Grandma's funeral, and while it's a very sombre day and saying good bye is hard, it's also been wonderful to be with the family, tell stories and look back at vintage family photographs. My Grandma told me that whenever I mentioned her here on my blog, she felt famous.

So today, she is the star.

Grandma is in the bathing suit in the photo on the left and on the right she is holding her first baby, my Dad. In the photograph above of the amazing ladies playing hockey, my Grandma is on the right.

On the left is my Great Great Grandma Ethel (my Grandma's Grandma) and on the right is my Great Grandpa Denys, my Grandma's Dad, who was in the Calgary Highlanders.


Above on the left is my Grandma and Grandpa shortly after they were married, and the formal portrait on the right is from the same year. I simply love her hairstyle.

Today, as we honor my Grandma, pay tribute to her wonderful life, and say goodbye, please think of your own family and hug those that you love a little closer. Our time is so short.

Artifacts from the Farm: The Barn by Leslie

Last week I shared artifacts that I had gathered from the house at my family's abandoned farm. This week I would like to share the items that would have been in the barn or the shed. These things are less recognizable than the household items and the function of some of them are a mystery to me, but they were all used in farming. My Dad said that the washers hanging from the leather string would have probably been used as a counter weight. I find such beauty in these items. I appreciate them for their colors and shapes and I find the rust patterns beautiful. I love what happens to metal when it is exposed to the elements.

How do you feel about old rusty objects? Do you see the beauty in them, as I do? 

Artifacts from the Farm: The House by Leslie

I have visited our family's 100 year old farm twice now and I love to spend time there. My great grandfather, on my father's side, obtained the land in 1912 when land was free in Canada for farming. My family farmed it for 60 years and now it is leased out to other farmers. The buildings are still there, unused and falling down. There is a house, a barn and three or more outbuildings. My great grandparents lived there for about 30 years until their family grew up. They moved to Medicine Hat about 1950. Then the farm was run by their son Otto and his family lived there for about 20 years. After that the house was only used in the summers when the men would stay there alone.

When they finally stopped farming and began to lease the land, the stuff that had been left there by the men farming in the summer just stayed there. Most of the valuable materials have been collected over the years, like the leather and the stained glass windows, but so many small items still remain. It's a little strange to see a toothbrush sitting on a shelf, as if the place was left in a hurry and everyone forgot to take their things. What makes it even more strange for me is that these things belonged to my relatives. It's my family history out there, blowing in the wind and succumbing to the weather and the animals.

I collected a bunch of recognisable objects, as if I were on an archeological treasure hunt, and photographed them on a white backdrop. When the items were at the farm, laying in the dirt, they were garbage. I cleaned them up and now they are artifacts from the past that tell stories about who my relative were, what they liked and how they lived. This is part one, everyday items from the house. Stay tuned for part two next week, hardware and items from the barn.

Let me know what you think of these items. Do any of these old products look familar? I love the Dippity-do jar.