In 1936 my mom was attending teachers college in Stratford, Ontario. The love of her life, my dad, was off to see the world. Well, western Canada, actually, but in those days, worlds away from home. He and a buddy headed west to find work and adventure.
Amongst the treasures I gleaned from home this visit were pieces of correspondence between my parents, and letters they sent to, or received from other people. Interesting stuff. And amazing that it has survived all these years.
This was written on the 15th of May, 1936.
Dear Marg, We reached Grand Forks North Dakota at two o’clock Friday. We’re getting along fine now. Hope you’re keeping well. This is a big city. I don’t like it. The surrounding country is prairie. Love Hank.
“Getting along fine now” suggests that things might not have been quite so fine before that. Imagine two young men with minimal mechanical abilities setting off across Canada in a Model T Ford.
It may have looked like this new, but after thousands of miles and many flat tires and gravel roads later, perhaps not quite so lovely.
On the 30th of May, fifteen days later, he sent this postcard from Calgary.
Dear Margaret, We’re in Calgary. We can’t keep still in one spot. We’re heading for Rimbey for a while. It’s about 250 miles. Send mail to Newton and I’ll get it. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself. I’m having the time of my life. Although I sometimes get rather lonesome. We worked for about a week. I’ll write later. Love Hank
Dad was travelling with a friend from home, also off on an adventure, kind of like the ‘work as you go’ holidays people go off on today. Except they go to Europe or somewhere slightly more interesting than Rimbey, Alberta. Dad also kept in close touch with his family back home, thus the reference to Newton, his older brother.
There was work in Rimbey and I know that he stayed there for awhile. When my parents came here to visit us in the 1990’s we drove them out there to look up the people he knew way back when. Obviously they made quite an impression on eachother.
It’s unfortunate that I didn’t pay closer attention to the details of the stories dad used to tell us in bits and pieces about his time “out west”. I was more concerned about the fact that they were so far apart for so long and either one of them might have married someone else. Apparently both of them were worth waiting for.