Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

I was sad to hear of the recent devasting prairies fires near Hilda where I was raised in southern Alberta. Many farms and ranches were affected as wildfires, spurred by high winds, raced through acres of land destroying property, machines, stored grain, feed and livestock. In efforts to contain the fires, volunteer firefighters worked tirelessly. One young volunteer, a father of three, lost his life when the water tank truck he was driving overturned. I learned he was the son of a former schoolmate of mine. My heart goes out to his wife and children. Fires are so awful.

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A photo I used as a prompt for my writing workshop in Vancouver.

Our family was not spared, although not to such a great degree.  The house my great-grandfather, Henry Hoffman, built in 1915 soon after immigrating to Canada was destroyed when the fires swept through the homestead. Although the house stood vacant for years it contained many memories. My own mom, Henry and Katherina’s granddaughter, was born in this house almost 89 years ago. By the time I was born, my great-grandparents had retired to the city and it was their son, my great uncle John, who lived in the house with his wife and family. Since we lived nearby and they were our favourite relatives, I spent many happy times sharing meals and playing with my second cousins at this place.

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A recent picture of the Hoffman house taken by Debbie Hoffman Nagel, granddaughter of Henry and Katherina Hoffman.

Over the years, whenever in the area, we would visit the homestead and reminisce. I particularly loved the old barn, built from rocks and clay by my great-grandfather, as it had so much character. Sad to say it was also destroyed by the recent wildfire.

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The barn built by Great Grandpa Hoffman

This was not the first time fire has visited this farm. Back in 1910 when they first arrived at their homestead, a wooden shack was built for Henry and Katherina, their four small children and Henry’s parents to live in. While they were all out digging a well one day, a suspicious fire consumed their shack. Not to be deterred, they replaced it with two sod shacks until the large two-story wooden building was built to accommodate the growing family. Nine additional children were born in this house. Sadly, as often happened in those days, only five survived infancy. The nine surviving children produced hundreds of descendants who remember this farm with fondness.

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What was left after the prairie fire, October 2017

The buildings are gone, but the memories will live forever through pictures and stories from the many descendants of these enterprising people.

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A picture taken in 1927 of  Great Grandpa Henry Hoffman standing outside the house and barn he built.

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Henry and Katherina with their children and some of their grandchildren, taken in 1942.

Note: The pictures are a collection of mine and my cousin’s.

Us farm kids are tough!!Thought you might enjoy this.

bluebird of bitterness

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. I hope you are too.

Tell Walt and Elmer that the U.S. Army beats working for old man Doggett by a mile. They oughta join up quick before all of the places are taken.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but I am getting so I like to sleep late. All you got to do before breakfast is straighten up your bunk and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay … practically nothing.

We go on “route marches,” which the sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different. A route march is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city boys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

I keep getting medals…

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Today I am a special guest on Sally Cronin´s Living History blog. I hope you enjoy the story of my two great-grandmothers.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Living HistoryAuthor Darlene Foster shares the story of two great-grandmothers who despite the hardships they faced, worked tirelessly to give their families a home and provide them with the tools needed to survive and thrive.

darleneA Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”Edmund Burke

I was fortunate to know both of my maternal great-grandmothers. They passed away when I was in my early teens but I remember them well. They were formidable elderly women with hearts of gold. One thing was for sure, you didn´t mess with either of them.

Both women were born into German immigrant farmer families living in South Russia and came to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century to help populate and develop the Prairie Provinces. They certainly did their part in populating the area as they had twenty-four…

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Happy BD

It seems another birthday cropped up on me. How did this happen? Didn’t I just have one? This is my second birthday in Spain. Last year I celebrated at a historical Spanish Finca turned into a restaurant. I wrote about it here. This year hubby took me to a Thai Restaurant called the Papaya Tree where we were joined by my in-laws and friends, including my sweet nine year old friend Ana-Lucia. We had a great time. The food was delicious and the company wonderful.

The birthday guests

Special birthday guests

Haley AnaLucia

Enjoying her dessert

Enjoying dessert. Don’t you just love her crown.

The cocktail bar next door had a special drink just for me (or so it seemed!)

sign

Here are a couple of pictures from past birthdays.

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My twelfth birthday with my curious brothers. The gift I’m opening was my very first watch.

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My son found this one from my nineteenth birthday!

I have been blessed with many fabulous birthdays over the years. They are always best when shared with good friends and family. I was overwhelmed this year by the many birthday wishes I received from all over the world via social media. I felt so loved!

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. Madeleine L’Engle

 

I don´t consider myself a poet. I have far to much respect for poets to include myself as one of them. But I once composed a poem about my dear grandmother, although not that good, conveys how I felt about her. A cousin found it in a family history book and sent it to me recently. I thought I would share it.

Grandmother

I feel her blood running through my veins

I see her in my dreams

In my daughter´s determination

She often comes to mind

when I am baking

I still feel her soft warm hugs

Hear her reassuring words

Letting me know I am loved

I feel her frustrations

Dreams that didn´t work out

The power of her love for her family

The lack of love for herself

Her confusion enters my mind

Her craziness stirs my soul

We lost so much when she left us

She left us with so much

Darlene Foster, 1999

 

My grandmother, Lydia (Hoffman) Mehrer, was born in 1910 and passed away in 1978 at only 68 years old. I loved her so much and miss her everyday.

A picture of her and my grandfather shortly after they married in 1928. Grandpa kept this picture in his wallet for years. I have a copy hanging in my office above my computer to keep me going.

Gramma & Grampa Mehrer

Grandma and Grandpa with their  six children taken in 1950. My mom is standing next to Grandma.

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I was the first of  her 32 grandchildren.  She was a wonderful grandmother who loved us unconditionally and made us all feel special. I consider myself blessed to have had her in my life.

Page in the family history book

Page in the family history book

 

 

My children and grandchildren still have them; but there are not many my age that are still in possession of their tonsils. For some reason, they were removed when we were children. I was about twelve years old when my younger brother had to have his tonsils surgically removed, so the doctor suggested we all have it done. Did we get a family discount?

I remembered overhearing a story about a child who bled to death during his tonsillectomy. So when it was my turn, I was convinced I would have the same sad fate and was very frightened. Coming out of the anaesthetic, I saw a blurry image of my mother bending over me touching my wrist. I guess she had the same concern.

Having survived the operation, I did what any aspiring writer would do; wrote a letter to my aunt who was my age, and my best friend. She had undergone the same operation a few months earlier. She has, amazingly, found the letter I had written to her. (I love that our family saves things like this.)

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I no longer have readable penmanship. However, I still have terrible spelling and use the word lucky a lot.

Do you still have your tonsils? Do you remember having them removed?

Tonsiles, Darlene

 


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