Sample Questions & Transcripts
When you were young and anything was possible, what did you want to do with your life when you grew up?
What are your favourite memories of your grandmother?
In what ways were your family affected by (the depression/the war/”x” family scenario)?
As a couple
How did you meet your spouse?
What are you hoping your children will remember most about you?
Sample Story Transcripts
Illegitimacy in Bygone Years
As I know it, because who knows the whole story. I certainly don’t. She told me that she had a boyfriend and this was before she went down to that area. I don’t know where it was. I assume around M------ someplace because that’s where his family was from. They were supposedly engaged. Anyway, he talked her into having “relations” on the promise that they would get married and of course as soon as she was pregnant, he disappeared. And that happened a lot in those days. That happened a lot. There was no such thing as responsibility. Anyway, there she was. And how she ended up in the C----- District, I don’t know, but she ended up housekeeping for Dad. Again, as I understand the story, Dad needed a wife and she needed a husband. O----- was born on that farm of Dad’s. I know he was born there because Mrs. L----- was the midwife. He was born there in May and they got married the first of October of that year. And again, as I understand it, they just packed up and went to either M----- (place) or L----- (place). I’m not sure. And I assume that they probably got married in front of a justice of the peace-- or whatever they got married in front of those days-- because of the way that they said that they got married. I’ve never seen a marriage certificate. I don’t know who stood up for them. I don’t know any of those things.
Now you said, “Because of the way she said they got married”. What does that mean?
That they just went to L---- and got married or they went to M----- and got married. There was no prep or anything. She didn’t talk about a wedding. She just talked about getting married. That’s why I assume they just went in, got married, and went home. That’s why I assumed that. Cuz there was never anything said about it.
Did you and she ever talk about this freely at any point in time… about that time of her life or was it just snippets of information that she’d give you and you put together?
(Laughs) She told me originally one time when she had too much to drink. That was the first time I heard about it. After I was married. We always suspected that there was something.
Because the dates don’t add up?
No. Not even that. I didn’t even clue into that until later. Because they never made a big deal about their anniversary. They never did. So I never clued in. I never even knew how long they had been married. I was what, twenty one? Twenty two years old? It wasn’t an issue. And they never made a big production of it, so it wasn’t a thing. But she had too much to drink one night and she told me about it. She told me that Dad was not O-----’s father and then the pieces started fitting together. Then we started to understand a lot of things that had happened. Like when I think about it now, the community knew. We didn’t. The community did. They had to have. They were there.
And that would have affected how they treated you?
Yes. A---- came home one time. And I remember this distinctly. He was fifteen? Sixteen years old? And he said Mrs.Whoever he was working for said that O----- isn’t my real brother.” And both mom and Dad were in the room when he said it and they both pooh poohed it. “Oh, no!”, they said. “He’s your brother.” But they never stopped to explain that yes, he was raised as your brother and he is your half brother, but they just pooh poohed the whole idea, so it was a problem. The community knew. We didn’t.
It wasn’t until she told me. And then later, I asked her about it again. Then I heard a little bit more. But she would never tell me his name.
How did you find out his name?
I asked her sister, P---, after Mom was gone and that was just a few years ago. Four or five years ago, I went to see P--- and we were sitting there talking and I asked her and she told me the name and then I could look it up in the Local History book cuz I have Mom’s History book and his picture is in there and he looks like O----.
Do you ever think that maybe it would be nice for O---- to know?
The only thing O---- ever said and whether he said it because he doesn’t think about things I don’t know, but he did say that, “Well, Mom and Dad got married, but I was already a bun in the oven.” He wasn’t a bun in the oven. He was five months old when they got married. So, like I say, P---- told me. She told me the whole story.
Did your mom ever talk about how people treated her once she found out she was pregnant?
No. But she did say that Dad had the attitude that he had given her respectability. In his words: pulled you out of the gutter. Because that was the attitude in those days. And it boggles my mind because so many girls ended up in that situation at that time and nobody knew. You know what I’m saying? Like I can list them in our family. Not just Mom’s family, but my husband’s family too, so why was the attitude there? Even in Mom’s family. Aunt E----. L---- was 2 years old when she and B-- got married and L---- never knew until they celebrated their fiftieth Anniversary and he was fifty two. This is how well the secrets were kept. P---- told me, like her and her first husband R--- had four children. They didn’t get married until they had three.
That was done back then?
This is what I’m saying! It was so prevalent and yet the stigma was there. Why? It was all over the place, but again, a different time. A different place. Nowadays if a boy fathers a child, if a man fathers a child, out of wedlock-- and I use that term not like it was used back then-- society forces them to take responsibility for that. I told my son as he was growing up, “You create a child, you’re just as responsible as that girl.” Because I do believe that. Now we think that way. Back then they didn’t. If she was pregnant, it was her problem. My grandmother, Dad’s mom’s attitude was: “If there were no bad girls, there would be no bad boys.”
That was her saying. If there were no bad girls, there would be no bad boys. That it was totally the girl’s responsibility. Totally. Totally. And that attitude spilled over onto other things too. And a lot of it came from—I shouldn’t say the church, the Catholic Church because that’s where I was raised-- but I think it must have been in a lot of other places as well because I remember the nuns saying, “It’s the woman’s place. It’s a woman’s job to keep a home happy. It’s a woman’s job to keep a man happy-- that if the family falls apart, it’s the woman’s job to put it back together.” The responsibility was totally on the woman. The man created the children. He brought the food to the table. It was the woman’s job to see that the children were raised as good Catholics and were well-fed and well-clothed and clean and kept the family together. It was the woman’s job. It wasn’t a shared job. It’s the woman’s job. So if a girl got pregnant, it was her responsibility. Nobody else’s. Excuse me. I don’t believe that.
But again, in those days, it was quite prevalent for a guy to get a girl pregnant and disappear into the sunset so guys like Uncle B--- probably created babies all over Canada. (laughs) Well, he was a horny old goat. I’m sorry. He was horrible.
He had fourteen that they accounted for, but there were more I’m sure.
Your grandmother… what was her relationship like with your mom?
Not good. Again, I was too young when grandma left to really know too much about it. I was probably seven or eight when she went down east, so I don’t know. I know from stories that I heard. I know that because A---- was Dad’s child, that she differentiated between the two. A---- had brown eyes and in those days and she was thoroughly convinced that his eyes were strong and O-----’s were not because they were not brown and ironically O-----’s eyes were not good and he had glasses from the time he was about four years old. She would stir up trouble between the boys-- make them fight. I’m sure it was not easy for Mom in that situation because Grandma was an old Catholic, Irish washerwoman and it would not have gone over well with her. Mom used to say that Grandma would get mad and say, “We could have found a good woman if we’d stayed in Ontaria.” And it was always Ontari-A.
The old cars. Oh dear. Well, Mom told the story of them going to L----- (place). I don’t know what kind of a car they were driving. Probably some kind of old Model T something or other. I don’t know what year it was. But they lived on the south side of the Battle River between L---- (place) and C----- (place). Anyway, they were going to go to L---- (place). They get in their little car and away they go. I don’t know if they had kids with them. Probably. Probably the boys at least. And the river hills were really bad in those days. Now river hills can be bad, but in those days they were worse. They were steep. They were windy. There was probably no gravel on them. But anyway, this poor old car didn’t have brakes. So I guess they got down—and I don’t know how they got down-- and across the bridge and trying to get up the other side. They’d get up so far and the car would stall and start rolling backwards, so Mom would jump out and grab a rock, and of course there were lots of rocks in that area, and stick it under the back wheel. Dad would get the car going again. She’d hop in. They go a little way. The car would stall. She’d jump out and get a rock under the wheel. He’d get the car going…. All the way up the river hills. That’s how they got to the top of the hill! Then, coming home, they’d have to do the same thing all over again.
But I remember some other car that they drove and again I have no idea what it was. It was probably a Model T of some kind. And that stupid old thing would stop and Mom would open her purse and take out a package of cigarette papers. I don’t know if she had a pin or what. She’d poke a hole in the middle and hand it to Dad and he’d get out and go under the hood and put that on top of something and away we’d go for a mile or so. And it would stop again. She’d open her purse. Take out a cigarette paper. Poke a hole in the middle and give it to him all over again. Something to do with the distributor??? I don’t know. But there was always this package of cigarette papers in her purse. I don’t know what that was all about. Not the tinfoil. The cigarette paper. I remember it. Leaning over the seat and watching Mom take the cigarette paper out and handing it to Dad and he’d go do something under the hood.
And then they had a car that they had trouble starting and one year—now I don’t remember this personally, this is a story of Mom’s—Grandma was staying with her. It was threshing time. And they had to go to town and get meat ‘cause they didn’t have meat in the fall. If they’d threshed in the middle of winter, then they’d have had their own meat. So they had to go all the way to town. Fifteen miles. And they had trouble starting this car and it had a crank in the front. So they’d get a block of wood and a great big long pole and they’d put that pole (lever) underneath the axle and pry it up and lift that one back wheel off the ground and then Grandma would sit on the end of that pole to hold the whole thing up. I guess they had to have it in gear. I guess that’s why they had to have that tire off the ground. And then Mom would go around and crank, crank, crank, crank and it would finally start. Once it started, of course, it was in gear so this back wheel is just a-goin’ and there’s dust and leaves and crap all over Grandma ‘cause it’d be going a million miles an hour until Mom could get in and take it out of gear. And then Grandma would have to go get changed and washed and then they’d go to town and do their shopping, but they couldn’t shut it off. They’d have to go all the way there and back without shutting it off.