[The following memories of growing up in Summerland during the 1930s to 1950s were mostly written by Marjorie (Mott) Wright–some in an “autobiography” our dad got her to dictate to him, and some from notes my sister Marilyn jotted down as she and mom looked at old pictures. A short section at the end comes from notes by my dad, Bill Wright. The story starts with a bit of background on mom’s parents’ marriage and the birth of her sister Emily, then Marjorie’s birth in Alberta, and the family’s move to the Okanagan].– Norma J. (Wright) Hill
From the time John Mott laid eyes on Emily Clemons, there was no one else for him. However, it was six years before they were married in 1923, and John took his bride to the little church he pastored in D’Arcy, Sask. A pastoral move took them to Goshen, near Carnduff, Sask., and here, on December 25, 1924, a daughter, Emily, was born. Another pastoral move took them to Magnolia, approximately 100 km or 62 miles east of Edmonton. It was from here that mother Emily travelled to Edmonton to give birth in the hospital on February 25, 1926, to a second daughter, Marjorie Victoria, and it was back to Magnolia that she brought her new baby. The name Marjorie was for Marjorie Galt, one of Emily’s special friends, and Victoria for Marjorie’s Grandma Clemons, who had been named for Queen Victoria. In those days, a railway line ran from Edmonton through Magnolia, and the town had its own railway station. Railway, station, and the town are long gone, with Magnolia today being only a rural community, but that is where my memories first begin.
Early memories–in church, of course! Dad on the platform, Mother at the organ, Emily and I on the front pew. It must have been a small church, but full of people who loved the Lord. I remember Aunt Bessie Wellwood holding me in her arms as the congregation stood singing. She was a tiny woman with a beautiful voice, and I could look down into her open mouth from where the “joyful sound” came. On the way home our house, the parsonage, we ran down a path, then up again, through tall grass waving on both sides. Was it that the grass was so high, or that I was so small?
Our house was just right for our family. The back door entered the kitchen area where stood the wood stove and woodbox, sink–likely a basin on a stand–cupboards, broom, and dustpan. Of course, the water source was a bucket with a dipper. I remember sitting around the round dining-area table on my third birthday when we had a birthday cake and presents. I remember one present–a hankie with blue flowers embroidered in the corner, and it seems there was blue crocheting around the edges. Our guests were a couple who shared my birthday–both born on February 25. There couldn’t have been much extra furniture, but Mom always had a big rocking chair. More than forty years later we visited what was left of Magnolia, and I was amazed how tiny our house was–especially as I have read an account of a “Young Peoples” meeting in our house (Mom was the secretary) attended by quite a few people. I wonder how they managed! The house was still much as it had been–large enough for the one woman who lived there, and now tightly surrounded by many tall trees–saplings in 1928 or ‘9.
Christmas Eve ’28, we were excitedly listening to the Edmonton radio station, using earphones to hear Santa Claus speak through our crystal-set radio that Dad had made. Santa told Emily and Marjorie to look under their pillow for a Christmas gift. How exciting to race into our tiny bedroom and find a Christmas story book in the big crib that we both slept in! That room wasn’t large enough to hold a bigger bed, but was fine for us. It seems to me that we got “The Night Before Christmas”–big and colourful.
There was one old man who used to come to eat with us–the parsonage was always open to the needy–and I was so intrigued by his big white beard and droopy moustache. It now makes me squirm, but it was interesting to watch him sieving his food through all that beard! I don’t think there were many bearded men around at that time. There were quite a lot of black people in the area where we lived, and we loved to play with the little black boys and girls. Like our children and grandchildren, we had great fun piling up furniture and cushions and climbing up and down–rough and tumble games. Somehow, in my mind, I connected the little brown boys and girls with teddy bears–they gave us “bear hugs,” I remember. Through the rest of my childhood, I remember only one black man–Charlie. He led a herd of sheep through Summerland in spring and fall, and it seems to me that they came across the school grounds–or the road beside it. We were allowed to break our marching-into-school lines and run to greet Charlie and his flock as they passed through town. When I was in my teens, Dad used to tell me that he hoped I would be able to meet and maybe marry a young man he knew in Alberta–the finest young man he’d met–and as black as you could imagine. Years later we did meet (he was a married man then). I’m glad Dad was “color-blind,” and brought us up to appreciate all God’s creation. If Dad had had his way, we all would have married people of different races, and how he looked forward to the wonderful grandchildren he would have! What a wonderful place Heaven will be–all tribes and nations loving each other and rejoicing around the Throne–all one in Christ Jesus! Dad used to say that people who looked forward to having lots to do in heaven must have not worked very hard on earth. He looked forward to rest at last. His rest on earth was being out in the garden working with his beautiful flowers in summer and caring for his plants and flowers he was over-wintering in the house during the cold season. His hundreds of cacti stood sentinel around his special plants and flowers to protect them against the visiting children who had a hard time behaving. Mom was always so glad when spring came and the plants went back out to the garden. Then she could finally get the floors back to normal, after a winter of spilled water and sand due to Dad’s careful ministrations. In those days, we had no wall-to-wall carpets, thankfully.
Mom could “put up with” Dad’s hobbies–even joined him as she loved flowers too. She especially loved picking flowers for friends. Weddings were made beautiful with banks of flowers in season, and flower arrangements were made for attendants, and sometimes for brides. Dad managed to still have beautiful late flowers–dahlias, Mums, etc. for late fall weddings.
Looking back, I realize how hard it must have been in the early years when the houses were not too well insulated, and the wood stoves, though stoked well, would go out, and in the morning the kettle would have ice in it. So much for the house-plants! Of course, the seed catalogues helped in keeping up the spirits of gardeners. How we poured over them–and used the pictures for so many things–especially greeting cards. No wonder we looked forward to early pussy willows which lined the creeks and roads, to late February’s first buttercups, to robins and then bluebirds–blue as a summer sky–then apricot and peach blossoms, saskatoons, apple blossoms, mock orange, and even skunk flowers. These last two we use for mock weddings–mock orange blossoms for the bride, skunk flowers for the groom. Was I really a man-hater in those days? Of course not, but I did have a reputation to uphold!
I celebrated my third birthday (1929) in Magnolia. However, Mother’s health problems resulted in Dad being granted a year’s leave of absence from the pastorate. Friends had suggested the Okanagan would be an excellent place for Mother to recuperate, so in May of that year, we began a move to the Okanagan. Dad had obtained an almost new Model T Ford as our transportation. Because of Mom’s health, we travelled only as far each day as she could stand, so the entire trip took about two weeks. We had a tent and camped each night. We were thrilled to see the mountains. One event that stands out in my memory was stopping for a swim at Radium Hot Springs. We rented bathing suits, and rod on Daddy’s back as he swam around the pool. The pool had a ledge all around it, below water-level, on which people could sit while soaking up the heat of the water. Mother sat down on the ledge, so I decided to do likewise–and because I was so small, I found myself in water over my head.
We arrived in Penticton on June 3, 1929. The Holiness Movement denomination had had a small church and an even smaller parsonage in Penticton, but these were not in use at the time, so we were able to move into the parsonage. Another Pastor and his family, the Starks, lived in the church.
One of Dad’s aunts, Janet Preston, had a little house in Kaleden. At that time, there was no store in Kaleden and she decided to open one. So in early March 1930, when the hills were covered with buttercups, we moved to Kaleden to live in Aunt Janet’s house, and Dad constructed a small store onto the house. With the store completed, Dad obtained a job thinning apples directly across the lake from Kaleden, and we went with him, living in a tent in the orchard. Rattlesnakes were quite plentiful in those days, with lots in the orchard. There was a Chinese gentleman in Penticton who relished rattlesnake meat and would pay for all the rattlesnakes he could get. Thus, I remember that on one occasion on the way into Penticton, we had a sack on the back floor of the car wiggling with a number of the creatures in it. Em and I were riding in the back seat, and Mother made sure that we kept our feet up on the seat. Then it was back to Kaleden, and on June 19, 1930, Laura Joyce was born in Penticton Hospital. We continued to live in Kaleden until March 1931. Once a week, Dad would drive into Penticton to pick up groceries for Aunt Janet’s store. He brought ice cream back, and there would be a rush of customers to get cones. Aunt Janet gave out small cones, but Mom greatly enjoyed selling big ones during the month that she looked after the store. The cones cost five cents a piece. I remember many incidents during our year in Kaleden–climbing the mountain, Sunday School, playmates, etc. Emily was bitten by a neighbour’s big dog, and what a rush trip from Kaleden to Penticton to see a doctor!–over a narrow, winding, meandering road in the Model T. There was an old swivelling office chair that I fell off, and another trip to Penticton to mend a bloody gash by my left eye. People always asked what had happened to my face after that–the scar was noticeable for many years.
The Hallowe’en excitement is still clear–the King’s spooky basement (rumpus room)–so exciting with witches, etc., beside the fireplace–and all the goodies. The school and Sunday School concert, with the girls dressed in crepe dresses, etc. Mine was green! Then Santa Claus same in to give out gifts. Such Christmas Even thrills!–and a real Santa Claus! We were called to get our gift, but I was too shy to leave our desk, so he came to me. I remember thinking that his hands looked like my Dad’s hands! I also remember saving my pennies for a toy train.
When our family moved to Kaleden, when I was three years old, the buttercups were in full bloom when we arrived. Every year I would search for the first buttercups.
When we lived in Kaleden, we walked to a little Baptist Sunday School. We had to learn a Bible verse every week. These were made into a chain that we could later take home. One time I slowed to pick spring flowers and so was later for Sunday School–I got a spanking for that!
Dad’s leave of absence from the pastorate was extended as the Great Depression hit in October 1929; and, as the congregations of many churches found themselves unemployed and unable to support their churches, many small churches had to close. Thus, there was no pastoral employment for Dad–a great disappointment for him–and he never did get back to holding a pastorate, although he had a great Christian influence throughout the rest of his life.
In March 1931, we moved to Summerland and rented the little house directly below the big Lipsett House. Dad’s aunt and her husband, Judge and Mrs. Kelley, needed an orchardist, so Dad worked for them for several years. Meanwhile, Emily was 6 years old and I was five. Emily was ready to start school but, that year, Summerland was short of students for Grade 1, with the result that although I would not be six years old until the following February, I joined Emily in Grade 1, and we went through school together.
Judge Kelly sold us the little house just up the road from the Lipsett house, and either while Emily and I were in Gr. 1 or 2, we moved there. This was to be our home until March 1938. It was while we were living her that Preston was born–22 February 1935. Because Judge Kelly’s wife was Dad’s aunt, we were sometimes invited to their place for lunch. However, if the meal was in the middle of the day and Dad would be working for them, we would eat at the table; but Dad, in from the Judge’s orchard, would have to eat his lunch in the basement as the hired man. Each Christmas, we would take turns hosting the Christmas dinner–they would host our family one Christmas–dinner and cooks! We would have them the following Christmas–along with a couple of old bachelors who were far below the Judge’s social standing and would never be invited to his house for dinner. I can remember having 17 guests around our dining table–except that we smaller ones sat at a little table.
Meanwhile, Mom had made the mortgage payments to Judge Kelly but he would never give her a receipt. Although Mom had kept an accurate record of the payments and knew the debt was paid off–except for $400–the Judge claimed that we were behind in our payments, and he foreclosed on us–his near relatives. He had become a millionaire by foreclosing on people all over Summerland and thus came to own most of the town.
Meanwhile, Dad’s Uncle Daniel had retired and he wanted Dad and Dad’s brother George to take over and share his farm in Glen Ewen, Sask., near the U.S. border. The foreclosure on our home and having to more out was Dad’s excuse to move us to Glen Ewen. So, about the 18th of March 1938, we left Summerland. I had just turned 12 years old and was in Grade 7. Dad and Preston travelled by train, while Mom and we three girls travelled by car with the Bergen family–a Mennonite family who owned a large farm at Swan River, Manitoba.
The seven years we lived in Summerland before moving to Saskatchewan bring back many memories. Miss Banks, who lived just down the hill from our Lipsett home of later years, was my Grade 1 teacher. Miss Hobbs was my grade 2 teacher. Miss Dale was my Grade 3 teacher, and Stella Wilson was my Grade 4 teacher. In those days, we attended the Baptist Church, where both Miss Dale and Miss Wilson were my Sunday School teachers. These three ladies remained my friends throughout their lives. Miss Wilson also taught me piano lessons and my biggest thrill was to go to her place every Friday evening for a lesson and to sleep over with her. Miss Garnet and Mrs. Tingley were our other teachers. Mr. MacDonald was our principal. In high school, most of the teachers were men. I remember that many of my teachers in Elementary did lots of music with us and read us lots of books.
At recess we skipped and played softball. We also played “giant strides” and had swings and a sandbox. In bad weather we played jacks. Where there was snow we played “snow pie.” We’d tramp the snow down like a pie. The “it” would be in the middle and the rest of us had to run along the edges and try not to get caught. When it was time to go into school we lined up and walked in 2 by 2.
Every spring there was a school concert in the Ellison Hall. We sang and each class put on its own play. Our costumes were made of crepe paper. In grade 2, I was a daffodil. We did our plays out of our readers, things like Mother Goose. We did not have school trips.
Other memories of those days include reciting. Em and I belonged to the Loyal Temperance Union; and the WCTU, under the direction of Aunt Laura Kelley, put on reciting contests, one of which I won. We found great pleasure at the beach of Okanagan Lake and of rides on the “S.S. Pentona” to Kelowna and to Penticton. And, of course, the pleasure of having friends and relatives visiting us.
For Valentine’s Day, we made cards to give out to family members and to everyone we knew. We would have class parties and everyone would bring something to share, like popcorn or candy. My parents always made something special for us to take.
Miss Stella Wilson taught me to knit when I was 8 or 10. My mom taught me to sew at four years. I remember sitting in my high chair sewing, and my mom taking out my “poor” stitches for me to re-do.
My dad always entered flower arrangements at the Horticultural Fair, and he was eventually made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Summerland Horticultural Society. For many years he was gardener at the Summerland Hospital and of course always gardened at home. When he was elderly, he did gardening at Parkdale Place where he lived after my mom passed away.
I remember that in the spring, robins were the first birds, followed by mountain bluebirds. In the orchards, the first blossoms were apricots (white), then cherries, peaches (pink), and apples (white and pink). At Easter, we would put away winter clothes and start wearing summer dresses and ankle socks, home knit cardigans instead of jackets (we knit our own from an early age). Everyone hoped for an early Easter.
Every Christmas I got a new doll; when I was younger, from Santa, then later from my parents. I named my dolls with double names, like Mary Lou. My last doll was purchased from the Eaton’s catalog. I saved up to pay half its cost. Some of my favorite childhood games were checkers, Chinese checkers, softball (at school), and skipping (at home and at school).
We always went trick-or-treating for Hallowe’en. I usually dressed up as a tramp. I’d act like a boy so nobody would know who I was. I’d put together my costume from men’s and boys’ clothes. Our jack-o-lanterns were goofy, not artistic. They usually had big teeth. We’d put a candle inside them to light them. Treats were usually nuts, Hallowe’en taffy, homemade candy wrapped in waxed paper, popcorn and popcorn balls.
One of my favourite summer activities was swimming in Okanagan Lake. We would sometimes walk to Trout Creek and fish along its edges. Sometimes the small fish we caught would be fried by the Eskimo mom of a neighborhood family.
On the Thanksgiving weekend, on the Saturday or Monday, the whole family dug potatoes. My dad did the digging and the rest of us bagged. For supper that night we’d eat sausages, salads (from homegrown vegetables with homemade dressings), vegetables, and apple pie. If we dug potatoes on Saturday, we’d go on a big, long hike on the Monday. Lots of our friends would go with us and then, often we’d go to friends’ for dinner. We decorated the church with harvest/Thanksgiving things. We sang Thanksgiving songs at church and at home. On Thanksgiving Sunday, we always either had guests or were guests for dinner. At home we all helped prepare dinner, then washed the dishes together–1 washed, 2 dried, 1 did pots and pans. We sang in parts while we did the dishes. Our Thanksgiving meals included chicken, salads, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, gravy, cakes, and pies. Mom did the meat because it was too precious to take chances with.
For Christmas, we would go up in the hills to find a tree that suited us, and haul it back home. Our decorations were mostly homemade. We first had electric lights during the war (early 40s). Mom and Dad put them on after bedtime. They made it look like fairyland. Dad read The Christmas Carol, we hung our stockings (one of Dad’s) on our beds or wherever else we found room, and the younger children would go to bed early. On Christmas morning we always woke up earlier that we were supposed to, to see if Santa had come. Either we took our stockings to Mom and Dad, or by the tree to open. I usually got a tiny doll, candy, nuts, an orange, little books, and other small things. In the toe was an apple. I got a Mac and Emily a Delicious.
We made a lot of our presents. We often gave Dad pencils and Mom, pincushions. Sometimes we went to the 15 cent store in Penticton. With a dollar we could buy small gifts like hankies for our relatives and friends. My mom made a lot of our clothes. After presents we would go to our neighbors to wish them a Happy Christmas. Sometimes we had a goose for Christmas dinner. Dad would always read the Christmas story on Christmas day.
When I was young, our family had a black, curly-haired dog we called Laddie. We got his name from our Grade 1 reader. We had to leave Laddie behind when we moved to Saskatchewan for a year. I also had my own Rhode Island Red hen that laid small eggs, and I got to eat her eggs myself.
Our stay in Glen Ewen lasted one year, as the proposed partnership did not work out. During out stay there, we lived in a little house near the town-well, and it was my job to bring water from the well–no indoor taps and running water. Also, we had no electricity–our light source was from a kerosene lamp. A highlight of our stay there was a trip to Killarney, Manitoba, to a Camp Meeting. There I met a girl, now Doris Radford, with whom I have corresponded over the years, and my children will remember that we visited her near Tompkins, Saskatchewan, where she and her husband have a farm. Other memories in Glen Ewen include one down on the farm. Because Em was the “big girl,” our Grandma Mott required her to help in the house, while I was allowed to “help” outside. However, my cousin Woody and I would burrow into a haystack and hide there, avoiding work.
We left Glen Ewen by train, and travelled via the C.P.R. to Sicamous and down to Kelowna, and from there via bus to Summerland, arriving there on March 11, 1939. Word had got around that we were coming, and there was quite a crowd of friends to meet us. As a token of our return to “Heaven,” for years after, my Dad made a point of planting peas on March 11–even though one year it meant shovelling snow aside in order to do the planting.
We moved into a house on the edge of a clay cliff overlooking Okanagan Lake, on Squally Point, north of the CPR wharf–electricity, running water, and a big upstairs which made it possible for us to rent rooms to girls who worked during the fruit season, and even to keep a handsome boarder during the winter months–poor Mom’s extra contributions–and extra friends for us all! In the warm months we slept on a big sleeping porch–which would accomodate any amount of extras who happened by. And yes, we drank goat’s milk again! There was a big garden–flowers and vegetable (huge squash and pumpkins that broke off and rolled down the 250 foot cliff–amazing how many people stopped their cards on the highway below to take them home for supper.
On Saturdays we had to clean the pantry. I also helped prepare meals, like peeling potatoes. My least favourite chore was washing dishes. We had to sweep and scrub the floors with old clothes. We had to look after our own bedrooms. We piled up orange crates and hung a curtain in front for cupboards. To do laundry, we had to heat wash water in a tub, then use soap and scrub! Rinsing was done in a separate tub. We also had acres of vegetables and orchard to weed and work in.
My mom was a wonderful cook. She used lots of fruits and vegetables grown in our orchard and garden. We ate potatoes every day and she had a specialty we called “the dish” that had rice in it. We also raised chickens that we canned. During the week we always had homemade bread as well as cakes and cookies. On the weekends we inevitably had guests, and mom would make a big cake or pies.
In the summer, there was always lots of home-grown vegetables and fruit. Often, when corn was in season, we’d have a challenge to eat our length in corn cobs. Then we’d eat fresh peaches, just picked, for dessert. It was usual for us to have guests in the summer, and everyone would eat tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, etc. We kids would be given a gunnysack and we’d to pick enough corn for everyone that was expected for supper. At suppertime, everyone would take their food and sit on the verandah and steps to eat.
When I was 13, I went to a girls’ camp on Okanagan Lake.
The view we had of Okanagan Lake–especially at night when the moon rose up over the mountains and painted a shining path three and a half miles long over the lake, and on nights when the winds blew up a cheerful greeting, it seemed a waste of time to go to sleep. Oh yes, we had big window seats in the bedrooms, too. Our closest neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Moffat who were like grandparents to us–and they had a phone!
We lived there for the four years that we were in high school–and we enjoyed riding the school bus during those years. I liked almost everything except math and science. I took Latin instead of French Those were the years of the war, which took so many of our boys overseas. Although the times were hard for our parents, we found out what it was like to pray and depend on God to hear and answer. The hardest winter was when Dad had pneumonia, and Mom nursed him through a whole month of serious days and nights when we didn’t know if he would make it. It we hadn’t had many friends holding him and Mom up in prayer, our lives would have been very different. Today, we would send him to hospital, but it seems that Dr. Andrew felt Mother could nurse him better at home. What a strong person she was! Afterwards, Dad wasn’t able to work, and we had to pay $10 a month rent, or else! As I remember, “it just came in”–just in time.
Finally, Dr. Andrew suggested that Dad get on the “municipal work crew” until he felt able to do harder work. Poor Dad… he did get on the crew, but he just couldn’t stand to “loaf,” and felt some of the men thought he was trying to “show them up.” About that time, he was able to dig ditches for laying a water line in our area. For some time, he managed to find other work, till he was able to obtain employment at the Experimental Station–flowers in summer and in the office during winter. To get to work, he rode his bicycle down to a friend’s place at Trout Creek.
I rode borrowed bikes until I finished high school and earned money to buy my own bike. We liked to ride to Penticton (10 miles with lots of hills) and eat at a little cafe–usually soup and crackers. when I was older, we’d come home on the night train.
Emily and I graduated from High School in 1943, and that Fall, we moved to the “Blasted Hole.” The site of this house had been blasted out of the side of Giant’s Head, which accounts for its name. Because the route from the Blasted Hole to the Experimental Farm was basically level, Dad would now ride his bicycle along Giant’s Head Road and then push it across the Trout Creek Railway Bridge to the Farm. One advantage of Dad’s working at the Farm was that he was able to obtain Jersey milk for the family; and he had to carry it home on his bicycle. It was wonderful–we had cream on everything!
When Emily and I graduated in 1943, there were only 7 or 8 of us left because the others had already left to join up for the war. Because of the war, we didn’t do anything really fancy. One time, when our teacher left the room, all of the girls (except Emily) jumped out of the window and hid by laying down behind the hedge. We also all joined the Cadets. I was a Quarter Master Sergeant. We did not have a prom as most of the boys were gone, but we did have a banquet. Our school’s colours were gold and blue. We did not have a mascot. We also did not have a band.
At school, we mostly just played pick-up softball at noon, for sports. We didn’t have a lot of sports because of the war. In the early days, there were some basketball games and I’d go when I could. During the winter, we’d have at least one skating party. Instead, Cadets took over. We learned to march and shoot. The war also meant that there weren’t enough men to look after the orchards. During those years, the school year ended at the beginning of June so students could all work in the orchards. School didn’t start again until the end of October so that we could work in the packing houses.
A new family, the Moores, had moved into Summerland just before we left for the prairies. They had a daughter who was a grade behind me in school, and I can’t remember even knowing her name before we left for the prairies–except that I remember that, at first, she was called “Green Pants.” Being from Alberta, she wore a green snowsuit. We were not allowed to wear pants at school. However, as soon as we moved into the house above the lake, she and her mother came to welcome us home, and out of this, we became the best of friends–Rhodena Moore–more commonly known as Dena (now Dena Nesbitt).
Other special friends of mine included Mary Beer in grade 1; Ruth, Gweneth, and Noreen (Sparky) in High School; Marietta Embree from Trout Creek for grades 1-12 and church; Emily, my sister, was always one of my best friends; Ruth Daynard from Kelowna during my teens; Mary Zebroff, grades 1-6 (I remember sleeping over at her house and listening to the Dukhobor men singing late into the night); Gladys Daniels from grade 5 on (she was from Ireland and was part of a BIG family); and the Hicksons, especially Phyllis (we went to school together and to each other’s birthday parties).
The years went by, and Em and I graduated from High School. We worked full-time in orchards, packing houses, and pitting plants to earn money. In the spring of 1944, Em left to begin nurses’ training at the Royal Columbia Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., because she had won the CKOV (Kelowna) Scholarship which helped her finances. That gave me time to earn enough to pay for my intended three-year nurses’ course. Dena graduated in 1944, and in February 1945, she and I went off together to take our nurse’s training, also at the Royal Columbian Hospital.
While we lived in the house above the lake, in the early spring, it was fun to fish off the wharf for suckers, so that the local boys could have exciting fish fights–an entertaining evening if our homework was done. In the summer we would go fishing off the old C.P.R. dock. This necessitated walking along a road and then sliding down the steep hillside. Of course, the cooling off that we received in the lake was offset as we would crawl back up the slope on the way home. Friends would often gather at our place and, in the late-peach season, the boys would throw peaches from the edge of the cliff, trying to land them in the lake.
In the winter, we skated on the edge of the lake at the foot of our bank (about 2-300 feet down) where, with a few of our friends, we played mock-hockey, often on very poor ice. Sometimes we went down the steep bank with our skates on, to act as “brakes.” Pretty hard on the blades! But a help to get back up, also. (We used old boys’ skates which friends had abandoned).
We sometimes had quite a few evenings of skating, depending on the weather. After walking a couple of miles to town, we skated on Charlie Wharton’s outdoor rink to which he devoted himself every winter. The rink was at the foot of the cliff on the edge of what is now City Park. Skating there was always exciting as the ice was really good, the rules of Mr. Wharton kept us all in line, and what fun to skate to music–either Radio CKOV (Kelowna) or records. As I remember, we could get hot cocoa sometimes, if we had a dime or so. Once we had to get Dad to come with us to verify that Emily was a high school student and so was I. Mr. Wharton didn’t think I was old enough to pay a high school ticket, while he was sure Em was an adult! Tough o me! As we grew older, we could sometimes skate till closing time–which could include the 10 o’clock news and then “O Canada” for which we had to stand still. And then walk home again. We didn’t go very often, of course, but that just made it more special. One time, Dad and our minister, Mr. Stewart, skated with us!
The church youth groups would climb up Giant’s Head, overlooking Summerland, and we would hold our own Easter Sunrise Service up there. Easter also meant a change to summer clothes. My mom made us new dresses for East Sunday and sometimes we’d have a new hat. For breakfast we’d have piles of hard-boiled eggs (sometimes colored), and everyone would eat as many as they liked. Eggs were hidden in the yard for younger children, and we had candy Easter eggs as well.
The house above the cliff was built on unstable clay cliffs and people often worried that our cliff might slip and our house would slide down. In fact, while we lived in that house, a part of the cliff did fall away and half of a neighbor’s house split away and went down with the slide. The neighbors came to live with us for awhile. Our property included an old hay barn, close to the edge of the cliff, and the hayloft was a favorite place of ours to play and also to have Laura practice her violin lessons when she was small–poor child! Sometime after we had moved out of our house, it was condemned and torn down.
Shortly after Em and I graduated for High School, we moved to the “Blasted Hole.” As explained earlier, my time in that house was spent in earning money to pay for a course in nurse’s training. Em and I worked in a cherry-pitting plant.
Of course, one of the greatest blessings of our high school years was having Rev. C.P. Stewart, with Mrs. Stewart and family as our Church family. Also the Church District Quarterly Meetings were great times of encouragement, and the opportunities to meet and get to know other people up and down the Valley, and to be encouraged spiritually. The Summerland meetings tended to be the best attended, and I think of the extra work all our mothers had as we billetted and fed all who came from far and near.
Meanwhile, my Uncle George and Aunt Carrie had bought the Lipsett House and they, with Sylvia and Wanda, lived in Summerland for a year. They then decided to return to the prairies, and sold the house to use shortly after I left for my nurse’s training, and it was to this house that I came home on my first break in training. This became the family home for many years–the place where we brought our boyfriends home, where we were married, and where we brought our children as the years went by. Because Dr. and Mrs. Lipsett had been our neighbors and surrogate grandparents from the time we moved to Summerland in 1931, living in their home (built in 1907) was home to us!
Meanwhile, the Second World War had started in September 1939, and the young men flocked to join the forces. Boy-girl relationships had been mainly in church youth activities–hikes, etc. With the war on, the school young men would head to Vancouver to join one of the armed forces, and then return to Summerland to complete their schooling. Once they were in the forces, they would return on leave and we would have get-togethers. Soon, however, there was a shortage of men our age, as they were all gone to war. I had fun with various boys but never anything of a romantic nature. By the time I graduated from high school, I had decided that I was in no hurry to get married. During the summer after my graduation, a young Air Force man, from a family whose parents were friends of Mother and Dad back in Alberta, came to visit. We went for a bike ride down along the lake and he climbed up on the clay cliff and carved his initials and mine–HW and MM. Several years later–1954–when I was engaged to my future husband, Bill Wright, I showed him the initials. He climbed up and carved in the top and bottom of the H to make it a B, and the initials BW and MM are there to this day–2001.
When I went to the coast for my nurse’s training, I often, on my days off, would go to visit my Dad’s uncle, Uncle Daniel and Aunt Margaret. It was at his place that I met Ed. Although the war was still on, Ed had been a motorcycle dispatch rider in the army, had had a serious accident, and therefore had been discharged from the army. It was obvious that he was quite interested in me, but I was in no hurry to consider marriage.
As noted earlier,I went to the coast for my nurse’s training early in February 1945. We were given three weeks’ annual holidays in July, so, of course, I came home. Then back again to training and having to spend Christmas at the Coast. Meanwhile, because of the war, there was a great shortage of staff–no nurses’ aids and not enough nurses; so we student-nurses became nurses’ aids as well as being given responsibilities normally taken by graduate nurses. Also we were fed a very strict diet, so the sum result was that I was always tired and always hungry. On one occasion, when I had worked two shifts, I was so tired that I slept in, missed breakfast, and the other student-nurses pulled my uniform over my nightie and dragged me down for the morning roll-call. The sum result of overwork and lack of sufficient food was a breakdown in health and, although I had my annual three weeks’ holiday in August (1946), about October I had to go home to rest and recuperate. I was home for six weeks and then returned to training and the work-overload, but my health really gave out and two weeks later, I had to quit the course and go home for an extended rest period–a real disappointment for me!
If it had not been for the intense pressure at the hospital, I would have enjoyed my nurse’s training. As part of the practical training, I worked in the Delivery Room and watched the birth of several babies–a real miracle happening before my eyes. The training in Pediatrics was very interesting, too. As part of the classroom training, we were taught how to recognize various diseases. One of those diseases was diptheria, which could be recognized by its pungent odor. The war being over, men were coming home and bringing diseases from other lands. One one occasion, while attending a patient, I noticed the strong odor and informed the nurse on duty that I was sure the patient had diptheria–he did!
On our time-off–a day and a half each week–we were able to attend church or visit in the homes of church friends–one home in which we were most welcome was the Barnes’ home. One problem–especially after evening service at the church–was the necessity of catching the bus back to the Hospital to check in by 10 pm. As soon as the evening service was over, I had to run the four or five blocks down the 8th Street hill to the bus station on Columbia Street, hoping to catch the bus before it left. Arriving late at the hospital meant the forfeiture of our next time-off. Sometimes, I could not afford the bus fare to even go to church.
As I regained my health, I worked at various jobs to earn enough money to attend a Business School in Penticton. Because of my health, it was felt that I was still not well enough to handle a regular job, so when the opportunity came up in 1947 to operate, on a crop-share basis, a small orchard just down the hill from our Lipsett House, I took the job. My Dad offered to help me, but I think he did most of the work.
I began my Business School course in September 1947 and continued the course until the Spring of 1948. During the week, I lived with a widowed friend in Penticton, going home to Summerland on weekends. Because Summerland was a small place, I helped Dad and Mom around home until a secretarial position became available at the Packing House by the lake. Before having to leave the ministry, my dad had served with the Holiness Movement Church. This denomination was holding its annual conference in Saskatchewan while I was waiting for the secretarial job, so my Dad wanted me to attend. I rode the Greyhound bus around the Big Bend Highway, through the Rockies, and out across the prairies in the late prairie spring–through vast green fields of early grain, among large and small prairie lakes covered by a great variety of birds as they raised their young.
I began work in the office at the Packing Plant about August of ’48 and remained at that job for almost three years. In 1949, my Grandmother Mott in North Dakota was dying. I was able to get time off from my job to accompany my Dad down there. It was the first time ever that Grandma was in a hospital and she was unaccustomed to nurses, so I nursed her in the hospital for a few days until she settled in.
In the Fall of 1949, Em wrote home to tell us that she was coming home in three weeks to be married to Cecil Holden, or we could go to Vancouver for a small family wedding. Of course, we told them to come home, and we got very busy preparing the house and plans for food, etc. The Hope-Princeton Highway had just been opened, so they were able to come home over that new road. On the afternoon of November 12, as guests began to arrive, so did the neighbours! As I remember, Mrs. MacDonald brought pans of cookies ready for the over, the Aunties Banks brought other things, as did Mrs. Famchon, and they took charge of the kitchen while we went on with the wedding. They made sure the phone was off the hook during the ceremony, that Skippy didn’t make any noise, and that the turkey and the food for the reception was taken care of, etc. Of course, they owned up that they wanted to be in on the excitement.
The house was banked in flowers. Dad had beautiful large chrysanthemums and all the beautiful autumn flowers he could save. The fireplace was decorated with ribbons, and the minister, Rev. C.P. Stewart and the Groom and Best Man waited in front of it, while Laura played the Wedding March. I was Emily’s Bridesmaid–so excited that I descended the stairs two at a time, by managed to slow down so Emily and Dad weren’t left behind. The traditional wedding ceremony was followed by Preston’s solo, “O Perfect Love,” followed by congratulations and pictures. The guests that we managed to include were all relatives and special old friends, and our neighbours a special part of it, so Emily and Cecil didn’t have the tiny wedding they prescribed! It was good that we had a house that could accomodate everybody! Laura and I decided we wanted our weddings to be the same. Of course, Dad argued that since he and Mom had attended so many weddings, one of us had to have a big church wedding! Guess who!
During this time, a branch of Youth for Christ was formed in Summerland and I became one of the group sponsors. Also during this time, I taught a boy’s Sunday School class. Preston was one of the boys. The group extended to include hikes and other activities. We even earned and pooled money to buy a small set of hymn books for the church–books which have recently been donated to Angus Place and are now used in our Sunday night Hymn Sing. My efforts must have been appreciated by the boys for, when I left to move to the Coast, they gradually dropped out of Sunday School but always turned up when they heard I was home on holidays.
I remember one winter when the lake froze over. One noon-hour, a couple of the Packing House employees and I planned to skate across the lake at noon-hour, but the lake turned out to be too wide and the wind too strong, so after reaching mid-lake, we had to return to the Packing House. In the summer, a dip in the lake was always welcome after a day at the office. There were always a number of young people swimming off the wharf, and they would form a circle facing out and holding their towels in front of them while I, standing in the center of the circle, would change to my bathing suit. I never had to worry about any of them peeking.
In the spring of 1951, I quit my job. I thought I would like to work in a children’s camp and, hearing of a forthcoming camp, I wrote inquiring about being a counsellor. The next thing I knew, a South African couple visited Mom and Dad. They ran a Summer Children’s Camp at Crescent Beach near White Rock and needed counsellors, so they had come to check on me. I was accepted and headed to the Coast to spend the summer helping at their camp… With the Camp over, I went to Em’s, and this is where Laura found me.
What next was the question? Laura had graduated from High School, had gone to Normal School (teacher-training), and was teaching, and she advocated my attending Normal School. She obtained from the Vancouver Normal School a registration form which she filled out, even though the registration date was past. However, I signed the form and was accepted as a student-teacher. I obtained a job as a care-giver to an elderly lady in New Westminster and received room and board plus bus fare to the Normal School. Later, when the lady decided she didn’t need me any longer, I moved in with Em and Cec, who at that time were living in the Joyce Road area of Vancouver, and I would travel by city business to the school.
[Then continues details about Normal School… and meeting Bill Wright]
Upon graduation from Normal School in June 1952 I obtained a teaching position in Delta High School in Ladner, teaching business subjects, because of my experience as a secretary at the Packing House. (more details on that)…
Meanwhile, Bill had brought a new car, and he bribed me to let him come up to visit me in Summerland [during summer holidays] by offering to bring Em with little Joyce and Janice to visit the folks in Summerland for a week. How could I resist the opportunity to get Em and girls home? Being in Summerland, Bill wanted to see the Okanagan,so one day we took them to Vernon with us. On the way home, Bill let me drive. In those days, the highway between Peachland and Summerland was like a steeplechase. I, of course, was used to the road but Bill wasn’t, and I took pleasure in trying to scare him off permanently by driving furiously around the curves, etc. [It didn’t work!]
[Another year teaching in Ladner, and Bill convinced Marjorie to accept his proposal of marriage, so they were engaged]…
I, of course, went home for Christmas, while Bill stayed at the coast to have Christmas with his folks. However, the next day he drove up to Summerland to spend the rest of the holiday with me. When he arrived, I wasn’t there to welcome him–poor Bill! I had gone skating on a little lake up on Cartwright Mountain, but my Dad took him up there to find me. [More teaching at the coast…]
At Easter, back to Summerland for a week. A highlight of this week was when Bill and I climbed to the top of Giant’s Head. On another occasion that week, when we were driving along the lake, I pointed out the initials on the cliff–the story I told you earlier–and it was at this time that Bill changed the HW to BW….
At the end of June, I resigned from my teaching position because of my forthcoming marriage. Obviously, we wanted to teach in the same district, so we had applied to several districts and were offered joint teaching positions on the Queen Charlotte Islands….
[Summer School in July]. When summer school finished… I went home to Summerland where I was feted at two more showers–one by the church and the other by neighbours [she had also had 3 showers at the coast!]. I had given Bill orders not to show up until the day before the wedding–and order which he reluctantly obeyed.
[The following information was written by Bill in his memoirs, and is drawn from those notes]: And then it was August 14, 1954. Preston Mott, Marjorie’s brother, was Bill’s best man, and the two of them stayed the night before at a neighbor’s, Wes Prior. Lyle Barnes, who was taking pictures, was supposed to drive Preston and Bill to the Free Methodist church, but he was too busy taking pictures of the bride and her bridal party–Marjorie’s sister Laura, Bill’s sister Audrey, and little niece Joyce (Em’s daughter) as flower girl. So it was not until the last moment when the bridal party was leaving for the church that it was realized that Preston and Bill had still not been picked up. Thus, the bride arrived at the church before the groom. Mel Barber (Audrey’s husband)and an old Summerland friend, John Graham, were ushers. The couple were married by a long-time friend of Marjorie’s, Rev. Joe James.
Finally, Preston and Bill stood at the altar of the church, while the flower girl and the bridesmaids walked down the aisle. Then the wedding march, and Marjorie came down the aisle to Bill, on her dad’s arm. Joyce loudly whispered, “Auntie, are we getting married now?” Then the vows, and Pastor Joe saying, “I pronounce you man and wife… I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Wright.:
Then the couple were outside amidst confetti and congratulations. They drove around town while the guests moved down to the lawn of Mr. and Mr.s MacDonald who lived across the street from the Motts. Then the wedding party returned to the church where a professional photographer took wedding pictures, following which the bridal party joined the guests on the MacDonald’s lawn, a lunch was served; Marjorie went to change to her going-away outfit; then there was more confetti, and the couple got into their car which had been hidden–unsuccessfully, as they found out–in the MacDonald’s garage. Lyle’s mother, Mrs. Fern Barnes, saw some of the fellows hanging around the door of the garage where the car was “hidden,” and realizing what they would be up to, she placed herself on guard at the garage door–which was just what her younger son, Lorne, needed. He was already in the garage, unknown to his mother, and while she stood guard, he worked unhindered on “decorating” the car with cans hanging from the back of the car, and on playing havoc with the clothes packed in the trunk. Just as Bill was about to back the car out of the driveway, a group of the men grabbed the rear end of the car and lifted the rear wheels clear of the ground, so the newlyweds could not go anywhere. Then they were let down, and were on their way to their honeymoon. They swung into a side road and watched as the cars chasing them went rushing up the main road.
They drove down to the United States border where the American customs officer took one look at the “Just Married” sign on the car, and said they were the eighth set of newlyweds across the border that evening, and waved them on. After their U.S. honeymoon, the newlyweds returned to Summerland to pick up their wedding gifts, and then they were off to their new home and new teaching jobs on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
When they had packed the trunk of the car for the honeymoon, they had placed all their camping clothes [as they planned to do some camping on their honeymoon] on top of their more formal wear. Some of the fellows had found the car and “worked” on it. When they got to Omak and opened up the trunk, they found their camping night-clothes tied in knots. The joke, of course, was on the fellows–their night-clothes for the honeymoon night at a motel were underneath and untouched–but it was embarrassing that they might have thought that the camping night-clothes were the best they had–in fact, Marjorie learned later that this had indeed been so.