I’m doing some research on what life was like during the 1930s for a new book I’m contemplating starting and I’ve discovered that books like those shown here are an excellent source of information. I have three such books–two that include stories about my adoptive family and a third that came from my birth family. Until recently, I viewed them only as sources of information about my family history but I’ve come to see them in a different light.
The red one, called Toil, Tears, and Thanksgiving, contains not only family stories but the complete history of the tiny village my mom grew up in. Benson, Saskatchewan, is a tiny village even today. According to Wikipedia it has a population of 91 people.
I have many childhood memories of our visits to Benson to see my grandma and uncle who both lived in the same tiny house my mom grew up in until they died. This picture is of my grandma the three children she raised alone after her husband died shortly after their youngest daughter was born. (That’s my mom on the right.) The house is still standing–Gerry and I visited it last year–I was saddened to see that someone had gutted the interior. It wasn’t locked, and I didn’t hesitate stepping inside. It still feels like mine somehow. I was struck with how tiny the house is; I’m almost certain that the bedroom we have today is larger than the main floor of that house.
I’m engrossed reading Toil, Tears, and Thanksgiving and the story of how the tiny hamlet of Benson came to be. I’m fascinated reading about what a bustling little place it was at one time. When I was a child the buildings that lined the wooden sidewalks were all boarded up, but at one time Benson was home to a cafe, a hotel, a dry goods store, more than one service station, a post office, a telephone office, and a variety of other businesses.
Part of my heart will always be left in Benson. (There is more about this tiny village in my memoir.)
You might think that part of the reason for my fond memories of Benson have to do with my grandma. After all, it was Grandma we came to see when we visited. My grandma wasn’t the type of grandma I remember with any fondness. I don’t have any memories of special times with her. She was not the kind of grandma one would like to cuddle up next to. I’m not sure she liked me or even considered me part of her family.
Many years after her death I found this picture in the attic of that tiny house and I saw a side of her I had never considered. Look at her! Doesn’t she look like a happy, perhaps mischievous, young bride?
I want to tell her story. I want to write the story of this woman who lost her husband on the cusp of the Great Depression and who was left to raise three children on her own. I want to imagine what her life might have been like–what brought her joy and what grieved her. I know some of her story from things Mom told me and what I’m gleaning from reading letters, documents, and these books. I’ll have to use my imagination on some aspects and that’s why I’m researching life in the 1930s.
This is not a book I expect to finish soon. It’s something I plan to linger over. (Oh please, may I not become obsessed with this one like I was with Two Hearts!)
So, that’s the new project that’s occupying my mind these days. What’s happening with Two Hearts: An Adoption Memoir? Stay tuned…all in good time….
She does look like an interesting person. I look forward to hearing what you learn, and what you intuit about her life. But sometimes an obsession can be a good thing, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. 🙂
You’re right, DJan. Obsession about the right things isn’t necessarily a negative thing. right? right?!
Thank you so much for visiting my blog! Glad to hear that you love milk glass too! There is just something about it… I can’t wait to hear about your new book venture. The 1930’s intrigues me as does your grandmother’s life that you want to write about. It’s so interesting! I’d buy it right away! Alyssa of Boston Bee
Oh Linda, What a fascinating story lies behind your grandmother’s mischievous smile! I love how the story is calling you to write it, as if to say, you’re not done yet. There is so much more to share. Now that “Two Hearts” is close to birth, you are pregnant again-full of life and love and treasures to keep on sharing. Wishing you many blessings in the New Year as you uncover more treasures 🙂
I love the way you stated that, Kathleen! “…you are pregnant again-full of life and love and treasures to keep on sharing.”
Wishing you a Happy Writing-Filled New Year!
That’s a wonderful picture of your grandmother! I sometimes look at pictures of my mother and wonder at how happy she looks. In most of my memories, she’s not – and yet clearly she was, the pictures show it.
What wonderful photos, I really enjoyed reading this post and can relate to how you feel about the books because one of my holiday gifts was a book written about the history of my hometown that is bringing back some great memories for me and teaching me things I never knew about the place. It’s also leading me in directions for writing ideas that I never expected…but then, that’s the best part of the creative life, isn’t it?
I also love the time period of the early 20th century and have done extensive research on the 1930s, the period in which my parents grew up. If you ever are searching for answers on a particular topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me, I might be able to find the answer for you in my collection of materials from that time period. Good luck with the project–I’ll look forward to reading the completed work!
I do research for the mid 1800s and I find I get so involved in the people and their lives. I’m sure you’re stories will be heartwarming and fascinating. Good luck.
I was just searching the net for pictures of the benson cnr station house as a child I was raised there with my grandparents my grandfather was the section forman and we lived in the station house I lived there from 1960 until school age 1964 or 65 then spent every school holiday there
According to the 1921 Census of Canada, my maternal grandfather lived in Benson with his parents and siblings. This would have been after they left Lang, and before they moved to British Columbia. Is there a graveyard in Benson that one might visit? Any suggestions, anyone?