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Memories Items from 2010:                                                 to enlarge a photo, click on it

Retirement   Childhood diseases   Still alive   The opening of the Open University  Tulips  Family games  Going to the lake    A day in the cellar   A goat named Salome   The psychodelic capital of the world   The teacherage    Tricks of memory          

I once was given a calendar with 365 'laws' in the style of Peter Principle and Murphy's Law - very entertaining. Some were just tautological word plays like 'when an object is found, it will always be in the last place you looked'. Then there are those that are not as obvious, even a bit counter-intuitive but once you think about them, they ring true. The Peter Principle, 'people reach the level of their own incompetence', and Parkinson's Law, 'work expands to fill the time available', are not obvious but oh-so-true. There were also some that you could think about all you liked but they were not the way things really work - but fun, like Murphy's Law.
I have first hand experience of the Peter Principle and this is very rare. Most people don't notice (or don't admit to themselves) that they have just made it past their level of competence. Here is how it happened.
All my life I worked in labs: in medical, research, teaching and industrial labs; in chemical, biochemical, microbiological, physiological, genetic labs; at the bench, in management and in computer services. I am at home in a lab. I get along with lab people and lab ways. Then at 60, I was moved without having a say in it, to a large IT office. The move should have been fine. I knew and liked many of the 50 or so people in the office, and in general they were welcoming and friendly. It was a promotion and a change. The work was challenging and the sort I liked.
I had thought that I knew 'office politics' in labs but, oh, was it different in a real office. I was used to people accepting evidence and changing their goals on the basis of honest argument. I was used to doing so myself. Now I was in an 'office politics' jungle. I also realized that I could not do my job as well as I wanted to. I had been good at communicating between the people in the lab and the computer experts but now I was communicating between computer experts and all sorts of users. I did not understand the work of these users the way I understood the work in labs. Some of the user groups had attitudes similar to those found in labs and I could understand their needs and priorities while other groups were a complete mystery.
Now in the shock of being moved out of the lab, before I found a welcome in the big office, a thought had flicked through my mind, 'I'm 5 years to retirement and it will take longer than that to fire me.' It was a funny little thought that was completely out of character for I was not looking forward to retirement and I had never thought that anyone would ever fire me in my whole life. But the seed was sown and I started to think about retirement. Then came the realization that I was doing a mediocre job which was upsetting because I had never felt that before. I had made mistakes, fallen in traps, missed important things and the like before – I don't mean that I was perfect, I was just pretty good and better than average at getting my job done. Working was a source of enjoyment and pride. Now I was often out of my depth.
At about a year into the new duties, I was doing calculations of exactly what was the minimum I needed to have saved in order to retire. I got ready to go, retired a couple of years early and have not regretted it. But in that time between taking retirement seriously and actually leaving, I started to notice the competence of the others around and above me in a new light. It was very easy to see who, like me, had passed the Peter Principle threshold, would never be promoted again and would do a so-so job from now on until they left or retired. There was no way to go up and no way to go back. I talked retirement with the older ones and new jobs with the younger ones with no mention of the PP problem.

Childhood diseases
My mother told me that when I was very young I had whooping cough. She was panicked because there was nothing she could do. I was just a little thing and would whoop and whoop and then stop breathing all together. Sometimes I turned blue before I whooped again. She was even more frightened because of a sister, Marian, who died before Mom was born. Marian had whooping cough as a baby and from that time on did not grow, finally dying after a few years. There was nothing unusual about getting whooping cough in those days, before pertussus vaccination. In fact there was a group of diseases that were called 'childhood diseases' and the only one that had an immunization developed was smallpox. Smallpox was a thing of the past but the others raged through families, schools and communities very few years.
There was chickpox, mumps, diptheria, measles, rubella, scarlet fever and so on and they could some times be serious. Flu, ear ache, soar throat, pleurisy, swollen glands were more a nuisance and not particularly feared. The idea in most people's mind was that you had to endure the usual 'childhood diseases' because they were much worst if you got them as an adult. Women were afraid of measles while pregnant. I got mumps while my father (who was not a well man) had never had it when he was a child. So I was put in my room and told not to come out of it. I had a potty that I could use and then put outside the door. And my meals were delivered to the door. If I needed something I yelled and it would be delivered, but I did not see my mother or father for days. I was sick and aching and miserable. One day my uncle Ronnie visited and he came to see me in my room. We talked and he inspected my swollen neck. Then it was time for him to go he asked if there was anything else I needed. I said I needed a hug. Oh, that was a memorable hug.
The disease that everyone was afraid of was polio. Some times in some places there was general panic about an epidemic of polio. When my brother was about 3, Mom noticed him dragging one foot. By the end of the day, he had been to the nearest town with a hospital, diagnosed, and flown to a clinic in the north of the province. We did not see him for some time. He did recover the use of his leg after endless exercises. A cousin almost died at the same time because he had polio in the throat and there was a delay in diagnosing it. He was uncle Ronnie's son and he picked his son up in his arms and walked him out of the hospital to the office of another doctor. Ricky probably would have died if his father had not taken things into his own hands. I was very sick during this polio season with a 'flu'. I later learned that I probably had a very mild case of polio and would be immune to it. A few years later there was the first polio vaccine.
Childhood diseases were a sort of Russian roulette when I was young – no one could predict which disease a child was going to get, when and how seriously. But it was a certainty that they would get a half dozen or more and there was a good chance that one would be serious enough to be frightening. Recent news about parents refusing to have their children immunized reminded me of those times. Half a century and a bit ago, the men who developed vaccines and inoculations were thought of as saints. Parents were so thankful for each new 'shot'. Now parents are refusing immunization of their children. How silly and selfish people are.

Still alive
I am now 70 but when this picture was taken I would have considered myself lucky if I lived another couple of years. And for the next few years, every single morning that I woke up, I felt better than I had the last morning. In fact, I remember the morning when I felt worse than the day before. When I realized the significance of that, I was overjoyed and rolled out of bed with a smile. That is the sort of deep long-lasting illness that someone gets from radiation sickness.
vancouverI had had cancer and an operation to remove the tumor. A month later I had another operation to remove everything that could safely be removed from my abdomen: ovaries, uterus, spleen, lymph nodes, and a bunch of connective tissue. A month after that I began radiation treatment. So my body went through the recovery process of the two big operations, a violent menopause and massive doses of radiation all at the same time. Radiation was the only option in those days, before chemotherapy.
Two things stick in my mind. One was the trips to get the radiation treatments. I went by bus, across the Granville bridge in Vancouver. On the way the bus would be uncrowded and I sat down, fragile but holding my own. On the way back, after another dose of rays, the bus was crowded and I just never had a seat. I would lock my hands in an overhead strap so that I would not fall. About half way across the bridge it would hit. Waves of nausea, pain and hot flashes would fight one another to be on top. At one stop just across the bridge, most people got out. I sat down and got off a few of stops later. I had two or three days before I had to go again. I don't think I will ever forget those minutes on the second half of the bridge where I clung on to the strap and my consciousness for dear life.
The other thing I remember was the day after a treatment. We lived in a little two room flat and I would sit all day the look at the wall. I had no energy or inclination to do anything. There were a few times that I seemed to even stop thinking all together. There wasn't even enough of me there to be frightened by that. There is something really weird about an empty mind.
Eventually Harry became very worried about how I was slipping downhill. He went to see the doctor and asked how long the radiation treatments were going to go on. The doctor said that I had a very rare sort of cancer and no one really knew how much radiation in took to kill that particular cancer. What they were doing was giving me as much as I could stand. So Harry said they were there – I could take no more. I didn't have to have another treatment.
About 6 months later, I was told that I had a fairly good chance of surviving for 5 years, 50-50 chance or maybe even better. That is when we went out and bought a dress, danced on the marble platform of a public building in the fog and took my picture. Enjoying life as much as possible was the order of the day.
This was long enough ago that cancer was almost like a death sentence and there were no drugs to help, just surgery and radiation. About a year later I was told that, ironically, it turned out that my type of cancer was unusually susceptible to radiation and I probably needed only a fraction of what I got.

The opening of the Open University
The Open University opened in 1971 and I was in the first year's enrollment. There was about 50,000 of us guinea pigs. We had just come back from Africa, heard about it, and immediately enrolled. Harry dropped out in the first few months but I carried on for 6 years. We had not been around in the lead up to the creation of the university and so Jenny Lee and Harold Wilson's fight to make it happen and Ted Heath's decision to let it continue were not part of our knowledge until much later. Apparently there were quite a few people who expected and wanted the project to fail.
The first thing to happen was a mail strike that caused havoc with the distribution of course material. But everything was a little disorganized. The students were new or out of practice with learning, the tutors that were hired locally to help and assess students were new to the whole idea of distance learning, the materials to be used for studying were newly written with a new philosophy on how materials should be written, the staff at Bletchley had no idea what their students and assisting tutors were like. But within a few months the whole thing was buzzing along. The lecturers were idealistic and extremely committed. The tutors, who were employed in conventional universities were impressed with the material, the students had paid good money for their chance at a degree and were not about to fail.
In those early days, there were complaints that the work load was too heavy. One of the professors went on radio to tell the students to relax. He explained about 'the curve' and that something like half the student should be satisfied with 'C' or less. This was not happening; the marks were very high and therefore the students should stop working as hard as they were if they found the workload a burden and just accept slightly lower marks. The courses had to be equivalent in load to the courses being taken in other universities and those students in the other universities accepted average marks. There was a storm of anger. How dare the university suggest that a 'C' was OK? Average might be OK for some others but it is not OK for me! everyone was saying at once. It was a little while before the students and the staff got on the same wavelength on this subject.
We got to know one another at the first summer schools. The OU rented other universities when they were empty in the middle of summer. Over the summer, groups of students would attend all day and evening classes, labs and field trips for a week. The whole student body, all the tutors and lecturers, a group at a time, came to these weeks for each course. We lived in the university dorms and used their facilities. It welded the institution together.
One event put this all into perspective for me. The first summer school I attended was for Foundation Mathematics. The students ranged from practically innumerate people, to people who held down jobs in heavily mathematical fields. (This turned out to be true of all the courses in the first few years – students ranged from knowing nothing on the subject to knowing as much as their tutors.) A problem that the mathematically knowledgeable had was that the OU was using an very new way of writing calculus. It was as hard for the math types to change nomenclature as it was for beginnings to get started with calculus. A tutor held a lecture where he dealt with how to translate from the one system to the other, both ways. He used a huge set of rotating black boards on which he had written out all of the illustrations for his lecture. He was young and nervous and really 'into' his lecture. Talking fast and rotating his boards to the right illustration. It was something to behold. The students (both kinds and those in between) got more and more excited by the clarity of the presentation. Under the nervousness there was a showman or a magician. By the time he had finished, smiled and given a little bow to show he had finished, everyone spontaneously stood and cheered. The poor man was so taken aback that tears came to his eyes and he mumbled something about how nice it was to teach people who wanted to learn. One of the students said that it was nice to have someone take teaching so seriously. The lecture had to be repeated a couple of times until all the students had a chance to see it.
Nowadays the OU is very large (about 200,000 students) and it sells materials to many other universities. It is compared to Cambridge in the quality of its teaching. It is the world's authority on media use in teaching, distance teaching, adult education, educational TV etc. But it has probably lost the excitement and drama of its original year.


The Open University, Bletchley, UK:

Foundation Science
Foundation Mathematics
Biological Bases of Behavior
Organic Chemistry
Comparative Physiology
Genes and Development
Electromagnetics and Electronics
Physiology of Cells and Organisms
The Periodic Law
The Earth's Physical Resources
Systems Behavior
The Nature of Chemistry Part I
The Nature of Chemistry Part II
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Bachelor of Arts (honours first class)

tulipsWhen I was young, I do not remember playing in any garden that had tulips – not my mother's, grandparents', aunt's, neighbour's. Of course, I knew what they looked like and that they went with windmills and wooden shoes.
My father died in the spring of '51 and in those days no one ever discouraged flowers at funerals. Our house was full of flowers. I had time to kill. Everyone was busy and I found it best to just be out of the way. There was a corner at the table, behind a group of flower arrangements that took up most of the table. I sat there, not hidden but not easily seen, with paper, crayons and pencils, quietly drawing flowers. People came and went, brought things, said nice things, cried sometimes and even occasionally panicked. I sat in my corner trying to figure out what I was expected to say and do, or even think.
The problem was that I was actually relieved that my father had died. I was young but I still knew that he was not going to get better, he would never walk again, never see and he had even stopped listening to the radio. George and I had to be very quiet all the time because our voices hurt Dad's ears. Mom was on the verge of tears went she came out of the room after looking after him. He was so thin that she could easily lift him. When he died, Mom was very upset but the next day she was melancholy and relaxed. George was also doing well. (I realized later that he understood very little about what was explained to him. What he got was that Dad had gone away and he had taken his suitcase and people would not tell him when Dad would come back. He could live with that. The truth dawned later.)
Meanwhile I made many drawings of tulips. They were very intriguing flowers – so beautiful, sturdy rather than flimsy like many other flowers, with geometrically perfect centers. Since that day, when I see a tulip close up, it gives me a feeling of comfort and a memory of my father's death and the days that followed.
For the first time I have tulips in my yard. I didn't plant them; they came with the rented house. But I like to see them.

Family games
Madeline has told me several times about her affinity with our aunt Mildred and how it took days for her mother to undo the mood that a visit with Mildred created – a very carefree and active 'high'. She and Mildred played the game of battleship. She remembers Mildred setting a alarm clock to ring in 45 mins. Then they would work like mad as fast as they could for 45 mins. When the alarm went, they stopped and played some battleship. Back and forth between work and play all day long and they had a great time while getting an unbelievable amount of work done.
I did not play battleship with aunt Mildred but I did play it with Grandmother, Mother and cousin Marjorie. Did all Grandmother's daughters learn this game and teach it to their daughters? I wonder. In any case, Marjorie and I spent whole days playing battleship – summer days on section 28. We also played jacks but that is a different sort of thing, not a thinking game.
It is odd how a game can become almost a compulsion. For about 5 years I have hardly started a day without doing a sudoku and for several years it has been a Killer sudoku. This started when I was staying with Madeline. Getting up was difficult as it took a little time for my pain killers to actually kill the pain in my joints in the early morning. I needed to just sit still and keep my mind on other things for a half hour or so. I got up, got the paper, and did the puzzle with some coffee. Madeline started doing it too. It was a lovely way to start the day. Now Harry and I do Killers the same way to start the day.
I did cryptic crosswords, one a day, in little bits and pieces of time throughout the day. I loved them but I always thought of it as therapy rather than entertainment. I remember Grandpa being addicted to a cryptic crossword in Macleans magazine when I was a kid. It was a puzzle with a lot of current affairs in-jokes. When he 'got' a particularly clever, funny one, he would go around the little Yellowgrass house repeating it and laughing. There were times when I would find myself doing the same thing many years later and I was reminded of his pleasure although I didn't understand it at the time.
I think games are often family traditions. Chess (and also exasperation with chess) is certainly common in the Wights. Will my relatives be playing the dictionary game at my funeral?

Going to the Lake
dad allenI have many fond memories of being at the Lake. The oldest is going to Echo Lake with my parents and the Campbells. I don't really know how often this happened but my memory feels like it was several times each summer. It was probably much less often. There were two big canvas tents, one for each family, a boat for Allen and Dad to go fishing in, a camp fire and sometimes pails to pick Saskatoon berries. Fish was cooked on the fire. As I recall I didn't go in or on the water but wandered about the trees and rocks and played with Lorna. The site as near B-say-tay but I have not been able to identify it. (Picture is Dad and Allen going fishing)
The clearest memory of this time that I have is not at the lake but one of the trips to get there. There was a little valley that we went through on the way, which my parents called 'Winiger Walley'. (In my fifties I finally got the joke that this was how a German family who lived there would call Vinegar Valley.) I thought this was the steepest sided valley there was – the road went straight down, across a little level bit and then the road went straight up the other side. It bothered my stomach going across Winiger Walley.
On this particular day, just as we were clearing the top of the road out of the valley, a wheel came off the car. The tire and the car rolled back down to the bottom of the valley. There was a farm not far away and so we walked there to get help. We called and got no answer but after a few minutes a dog started barking and then a person appeared. I spent the rest of the time there trying to figure out in my mind whether this person was a man or a woman. The cloths, shoes and hat were a man's, the voice was a man's, the height was a man's but the work she was doing was a woman's. The person gave Dad directions to find someone to help. Mom and I sat in the kitchen. At that point in my life I had never seen a gooseberry. This kitchen was full of gooseberries - tubs of gooseberries, pails of gooseberries, sealers of gooseberries, jars of gooseberry jam, gooseberry pies. 'She' fed us gooseberries while we waited, which was a long time and so we ate a lot of gooseberries. I was intrigued by the name. Why would a berry be called a gooseberry? As well as concerning myself with the gender of the person and a weird name for the green berries (and why was a berry green of all colakelours?), I was also worrying about how it was possible to put a wheel back on a car. After a long time, Dad came and got us to walk back to the car and drive up and out of the valley. Was I scared that we would fall back down and held on tight!
This Echo Lake of my early childhood was one of a string of four lakes called the Fishing Lakes in the Qu'Appelle Valley. It is the one named after the 'Who calls?' legend. The others are Pasqua, Mission and Katepwa. In the 80's we bought some land on a point on Katepwa Lake and were going to build a house on this very beaRegina beachutiful spot. For many reasons we didn't and sold the land, but we spent many hours on it. (Here is my drawing of the view of Katepwa from the point.)
As an older child and teenager I spent some great days at Regina Beach. It is on Last Mountain Lake, close to the Qu'Appette Valley but not in it. My uncle Bert was a teacher and a diabetic. By the time that the school year ended, he was not that well. He would disappear to his cottage at Regina Beach and pick saskatoon berries and eat them. He could gauge his exercise, his sugar intake and his insulin to a very fine balance because he had complete control and familiarity with his life at the beach. His health improve during the summer. His family, relatives and friends came to the beach to see him. Mom would always greet him with, “'how's your health?” He would answer with a big grin and, “I'm blue, pure blue.” This is a reference to the colour of a normal blood sugar test. There were many days in the water with cousins. (Photo is me with cousins and other children.)

A day in the cellar
The hottest day in Canada was in Yellow Grass Saskatchewan in 1937. I had not been born. But I know that if it was 113F (45C) in Yellow Grass it was the same down the road a few miles in Lang. The hottest day in my childhood was 110F (43C) and we spent the day in the cellar. It was an adventure.
The natural limit in that part of Saskatchewan was about 105 F (40 C). It usually reached that temperature or very near some time during the summer but only rarely went higher. Harry used to say that Regina was balanced on 0 because the temperature went up to 40 and down to -40 but no further. Well the extra 5 degrees F (3C) make a great difference, the difference between normal life and a weird day.
In hot weather Mom opened every door and window at night so that the cool night air blew through the house. She was up at dawn, closed up everything and brought down all the blinds. No one was allowed to open a door unless they had to and they had to get in and out as quickly as possible. No hot air or sunshine was to enter the house. Otherwise it was life as usual. I was expected to play outside and I did in the little wind break of trees where there was shade. If I got too hot I went in the house got some water on my face and hair and sat in the cooler house until I was ready to go again.
But on the 110 day, we stayed in the cellar. Dad went out a few times to do chores that needed to be done and so did Mom but I only went up once to go to the toilet. Coming through the door into the house was a shock. Up to then I had wanted to go play rather then stay in the cellar but I didn't ask again.
The cellar was small, not the full size of the house floor plan. It had a stair down to an earth floor that was usually damp. The walls were stone and I don't know what kept the cellar from caving in. There were bags of root veg on the floor. And often salamanders in the corners. All around the walls were shelves for quart and pint jars in which there was preserved peas, beans, carrots, other vegetables, fruits that had been bought by the boxes shipped from BC, saskatoons, pickles especially dill pickles, chicken, and the saviour that day, root beer.
Mom made root beer a couple of times a year. The flavour came in little bottles from Hires. The flavour was mixed with boiling water and lots of sugar in a big crock. When it cooled somewhat, the yeast went in and finally it was 'canned' in mason jars. It was not at all like the root beer pop that is available today. It was only slightly bubblely, only moderately sweet, with a yeasty taste as well as the root licorice-like taste. It was only very, very mildly alcoholic the way Mom made it. It was very good at quenching thirst. We sipped root beer during most of that hot day and didn't have any meals. Mom was not about to light a fire in the kitchen range. Sometimes when I have a drink of root beer, very occasionally, the taste reminds me of that day in the cellar.
My other memories of the cellar was finding it a bit scary prior to the hot day but not after that. I also used to catch a salamander from the cellar and give it one of my tests to see just how dumb they were. One test was to put one between two not very long sticks. My young mind could barely believe that the salamander would walk back and forth between the sticks and never notice that it could go around the end of a stick and escape.
I used the cellar door to change from being a bad girl into my goody-goody other person. I would go through the door Janet and came back out as Alice. Then I would make my peace and slowly become Janet again.

A goat named Salome
When we lived in Austria, we had a goat named Salome. We bought her from a neighbour when she was old enough to leave her mother. She was a beauty and a dancer – hence her name.
She was blind in one eye which prompted everyone who know us to tease Harry with remarks like, “Never buy a goat that you haven't looked in the eyes.”
For the first couple of nights she and her mother called to one another over the couple of intervening farms. But then they stopped and she became attached to us. She would sit on the steps with me and lean against me. She would follow Harry when he was mowing. A good rub was a real treat for her. And she skipped and jumped and ran around the place.
Watching her I figured out how goats can be so sure-footed. There was a pile of fire wood against the house. It was not wide and not that stable; the round pieces of log rolled against each other easily. This was one of Salome's favourite places. She would jump up on the logs – they would move under her – she would jump straight up and come down in a slightly different place – the logs would move and she would go straight up, over and over. She never tried to regain her balance where she was but left any footing that was unstable behind her as she went up in the air. When I watch mountain goats on TV, I know that if the rocks move underfoot, they will not go down with the rocks. They will go up and come down nearby until they are standing on something stable.
Salome loved to sneak up behind you and give you a bunt. I always made sure I won at games like this, knowing that this animal was going to become an adult and needed to know she could not beat me (before she was strong enough to maybe win). A bunt was an invitation to push. I would put my hands on her forehead and we would try to push the other backwards.
I know people who do not like goats. They say they are crafty, always getting into trouble, always escaping and eating someone else's garden. All that is true, but they are also smart, affectionate and entertaining. Besides goat's milk makes the greatest cheese.

The psychedelic center of the world
When I was 17 or so I belonged to the Young CCF club. As I recall, all we did during the time I attended was to chat and listen to folk music with a very occasional guest speakers. There was one evening with a very odd speaker. I have often wondered about this event. I don't know who the man was (and didn't then), or who invited him or where he came from.
He talked about a drug that we could take, as a group, under his supervision that had weird effects which he described in detail. It was LSD he was talking about and we were all looking forward to trying it by the end of his talk. As I recall, all that was left to settle was when and where this would happen and to do the paperwork. There was a sort of 'informed consent' to be filled out and signed. I guess we did not look our age because when he found out that our group contained a few under 18s and (panic) two under 16, he gather up the papers, said 'sorry can't do' and disappeared into the night.
I have wondered over the years what this was all about. A few years later, LSD was in the news. Soon it was not easy to get and stories about it were frightening. Who was this man who was offering to give LSD to a group of young people in Regina Saskatchewan of all places in the early 50s of all times? Was this the CIA doing one of its alleged secret experiments?
I have just run across a little history of LSD and it turns out that probably the only place it would be more likely to be offered LSD then Regina would be Weyburn Sask., the world center of LSD research in the early 50s. Early research into mescaline was led by Humphry Osmond at St. George's Hospital in South London. In 1951 he took a position in the Weyburn Mental Hospital with support for his research from the government and Rockefeller Foundation. He was probably part of the great brain drain from Britain in 51 when Churchill won the election and lefty civil servants came to Saskatchewan as the only English speaking place on earth with a somewhat socialist government. He collaborated with Abram Hoffer and they started using LSD in their research in place of mescaline. Osmond gave Aldous Huxley his first mescaline trip and became his friend. Osmond coined the word psychedelic (from the Greek words for mind and to manifest) and launched that word on the world in 57.
LSD was used in psychiatry and medical research in the 50s – more than 1000 papers were published describing 40,000 patients taking LSD. It hit the streets in the 60s. If you say the psychedelic decade, everyone knows you mean the 60s with its widespread use of LSD, mescaline and marijuana. By the time the 70s came, all these drugs were no longer illegally produced or used and research on them was extremely restricted.
Who would have thought the scene was once in Weyburn? You would have to have see Weyburn to know how odd this is.

The teacherage
A small country school on the prairies in the first half of the last century was a standard package. The school yards and income were part of the original surveying. Each township/range package of 36 square miles (or 36 sections) of land was distributed as follows: sections 11 and 29 were school land, section 8 and 3/4s of section 26 were Hudson Bay property, the 16 remaining odd numbered sections were Canadian Pacific Railway property, the remaining 16 1/4 even numbered sections were kept by the crown and used for homesteading and NWHB Script settlements. The Bay and CPR sold land to farmers to pay for the new railway and recompense the Bay for its lost of title. But the 2 sections of school land was rented to finance schools with one small area being made into a school yard on one or both sections. A yard would have a small school building with a single classroom, an entrance hall and a storage room. There would be a barn for the children's horses, a playing field and a teacherage. The teacherages were tiny.
When I grew up there were not that many of these schools left. The little villages usually had another standard package, the four room school, and children came by bus from the surrounding countryside. But there were still some one room schools left and Mother taught in one after Father died. The three of us, Mom, George and I lived in the Waverley teacherage.
They were built for a single woman and not for a family. The building was divided in half and then one half was divided again to make 3 rooms. The one small room was a sort of kitchen but by the time there were cupboards in it, it would only hold one person at a time. The other small room as a bedroom which would hold a single bed (in our case a bunk bed) and a small dresser and wardrobe. The furniture sort of overlapped to leave a small bit of standing room. The larger of the rooms had an oil heater, a table with chairs, a sofa (where Mom slept) and that was about it. The toilet was outside.
The kitchen had a single ring hot plate. It was difficult to cook a meal with just that. Mom, though, was very inventive. She found ways to cook on top of the oil heater with recipes she developed. She could make a meal in a big cast iron pan in the morning, put it on the heater, teach for the morning and have a meal ready for lunch, put other dish in the pan, put it on the heater, teach the afternoon and have part of the evening meal ready. She even made cakes in that pan on the heater. She had a pressure cooker that she used on the hot plate - again for one dish meals.
I remember how we cooked, ate and slept but I don't remember other things. I have examined the little place in my memory and there is no place to washing cloths or iron or sew. Yet these things happened. There was no place to have a bath and yet I am sure we did have baths. I have to assume that we went to Grandma Wight's place in Yellowgrass for that sort of thing. And I suppose that Mom did many things after George and I were in bed and she had the main room to herself.
Thoughts of the teacherage always bring a particular event to mind. The first time I said no to Mom. She had a habit of not giving commands but instead asking a rhetorical question. “Would you like to set the table?”, did not required an answer but a start at setting the table. It had been so all my life and I just didn't think of this as a question but as an order. Shortly after I was living in Regina and in Grade 9 but Mom and George were still in the teacherage, I was back for a weekend. I was tired from getting there and it was late. Mom asked “would you like to …?”, and I said “no”. Then I realized that this was Mom speaking and it was not a question. I held my breath and waited for the howl or the thunder or whatever but absolutely nothing happened. I was shaking but Mom was fine and the world had not ended. “would you like...?”, could be treated as a real question; I had a choice after all. It felt good but I never overused the option to say no. I remember the exact spot in the teacherage where I was standing when this happened.

Tricks of Memory
“Have you noticed how as you get older your long-term memory seems to become increasingly sharp?
I am not suggesting that any of us does other than tell the utter truth as we recall it, when we narrate these intensely-remembered moments from our personal past. Rather, I am admitting that, as someone with a reputation, I hope, for telling persuasive stories from my own life, I might not always get it absolutely right, and that while that does not detract from an entertaining tale, for on-the-record purposes it might not quite match other versions of the same events.
When we historians try to recover the past, the first person "I" of oral testimony, the voices of those who were there, are particularly seductive. Their strength of feeling communicates itself to us as no written record ever could. It connects us, compels our continuing attention, prevents our ever forgetting. Where the factual detail is concerned, though, if I'm anything to go by, I suspect it would be a good idea to cross-check for historical accuracy.” -Lisa Jardin

There have been a few instances lately of Harry and me both remembering an event but with very different detail. (It is not at all uncommon and not upsetting for him to remember something that I have forgotten or vice versa.) But when we differ it has been somewhat upsetting as we both are so very, very sure of what we remembered. The latest one has to do with swear words and how children learn them. Harry and I remember the same event but Harry has Ciara as the baby on the floor and I have her little brother Kai.
We were discussing the price of tickets to a Center of the Arts show and how it was full price for children. Someone asked what the age was when children needed tickets. Merrilee said, “postpartum!” and everyone chuckled. Someone asked what that meant and Zena said (well almost shouted), “born!” Everyone laughted very loud. (Well you would have to have been there to find it funny.) The child playing on the floor looked around at the adults laughing. Later when there was a lull in the conversation and quiet, the little one on the floor said in a very loud voice, “born!”, and looked around expectantly. When no one reacted, the infant looked a bit puzzled.
Harry and I both noticed this, talked about it later and had the same idea – this is how children learn swear words from one or two exposures. The 'born' word was said and reacted to by the group like a swear word would be. The baby tried in on as a new important tool and was disappointed with the zero reaction. Harry remembers Ciara on the floor, I remember her standing and asking what postpartum meant. I remember we also talked about it to Merrilee but she does not remember the event or the discussion. However, she does remember how expensive the tickets were for the Joan Armatrading concert but still cannot what year it was.