Back in the ’60s, Mom was a member of the Silver Valley Ladies Club.
These days a Ladies Club seems very old-fashioned. I’ve no idea what their official mandate was, but I figure it was equivalent to the currently popular Book Club: women gathering to socialize & complete projects.
One of the projects that Mom & her peers created was the 1967 Canadian Centennial Friendship Quilts. Actually, they nixed the outdated quilt idea and chose to make the trending bedspread instead.
Each bedspread consisted of 24 personally embroidered squares. For just one lady, it seemed a daunting task to stitch that many squares, much less sew them all together into a finished product. So what the club did was divide and conquer.
Each month the club gathered. Each member brought a square of embroidery she’d completed. Together there’d be enough squares to create a bedspread. It was sewn together & the finished product would inspire the excitement to do it all again the next month.
By the end of the year, every member of the club had a Friendship Bedspread. Pretty cool, eh?
Mom cherished her’s – – so much so that she could barely bring herself to use it. I remember her stretching it out on the bed so I could check out each personalized square.
Mom had embroidered a rose on her square – – rose was her favourite scent.
Evelyn (+ Claude) Fox lived just south of us. They were one of the first young families to homestead in Silver Valley. They and Claude’s folks had filed claims in 1952. Building a farm from scratch was tough going. To make ends meet, the Fox brothers returned to Slave Lake for winters to work their sawmill.
That same year (’52), the Franks & the Frostads also worked their land.
Jessie (+ Aron) Derksen homesteaded in Silver Valley in the early years (’53). I wonder if Jessie was a founding member of the Ladies Club?
Helen + Jake Dyck filed for a homestead in 1953, shortly after my grandparents, Elsie + Joe Seekins. It took a year or two before they brought the whole family out. So started the ‘clans.’
Helen’s daughter Ruby wed Harry Fox, of the ‘Fox Brother’s Sawmills.’ I recall babysitting Ruby’s son Tim and still tease him about that.
Jessie’s daughter Sharon wed Helen’s son Harry Dyck. Sharon had the best strawberry patch out of anyone I knew.
Tina + Dick Remple also claimed a homestead in Silver Valley in ’53. They lived a few miles northwest of us beside a steep coulee. That coulee made the most incredible tobogganing slope. I barely remember their older kids who hung out with my Uncle Rick. Tina + Dick also fostered siblings Corena, Nancy & Jerry Moses. They were great friends of ours.
Justine + Bill Remple moved to the Valley at the same time as his brother Dick (+ Tina). They built homes within a mile of each other.
The Morrison contingent claimed land about a mile further on past the Remple’s. Astrid (+ John W.) Morrison helped out at their sons’ 3 homesteads.
Verna + Doug Morrison set up house in ’54 in what was basically a granary. Like many homesteads, the granaries were built first. Folks lived in them during summer, then moved to town each autumn, after the harvest. Once there was something more like a real house, families were able to stay on their land year-round.
Aganetha + John Dyck accompanied Helen (+ Jake) Dyck on their adventure. In ’55, they moved to the Valley with 8 of their 11 kids. They were all hard workers but knew how to have fun along the way.
Aganetha’s daughter Mary wed Dick Fox (of the above-mentioned Fox Brothers Sawmill fame). Mary + Dick lived a few miles southeast from us. Mary’s daughter Kathy and I were in school together from kindergarten through grade twelve. Kathy still lives in the area. Last year, when Dad sold our farm, I was in the Valley at the same time as Mary’s celebration of life. I learned Mary favoured roses, the same as Mom.
Aganetha’s daughter Susie wed Dwayne Frostad. (Son of Myrtle & Earl, homesteading in ’52) The Frostads were one of my favourite neighbours to visit. Susie had 5 daughters, all fun kids. My brother Mitch was in the same grade as Bonnie Frostad. Once he named a new milk goat after Bonnie, intending it to be a great honour.
Aganetha’s daughter Helen wed Jessie’s son Gordon Derksen. Helen hosted the first telephone in Silver Valley. Folks would drop by if they had a desperate need to get in touch with the outside world. Helen was a great tailor. I chatted with her son Melvin last year. He’s still a Valley resident. He echoes Helen’s laugh & wicked sense of humour.
Ruby + Len Lofgren started breaking their land in ’57, then moved onto it in ’60. Ruby homeschooled her kids for a year. Then Len took the new job of school bus driver. He drove the Silver Valley kids, including my Uncle Rick & Aunt Star, to the Fourth Creek School. It wasn’t until ’65 that our local school opened.
Jantje + Dries van Norel emigrated from Holland to Silver Valley via Lethbridge. Her accent was so strong that I was never able to understand more than a few words of any comment she made. Her tone of voice was always kindly though.
Jantje’s daughter Betty + Corny Knoot, set up their home across the yard from her. They farmed the land across from the original Lassiter Camp (the post-war, federal project that surveyed & made the cut-lines delineating land parcels.) That camp eventually became the home to the Silver Valley Community Hall, where the Ladies Club held their meetings.
In 1964 Betty Knoot started Alberta’s first chapter of the Girl Forest Guards. The group met up at the hall, eventually becoming co-ed as the Junior Forest Wardens. Many of my camping skills developed through that club.
Irene + Jim Hale were the first homesteaders in Silver Valley to successfully make a living raising bees. Their biggest challenge was all the bears. Most farmers kept some fields in clover to improve the soil. I was always thrilled when Hales rented a patch of our field for hives because they paid us in honey. So sweet.
Donna + Rolly Boucher came to Silver Valley in 1961, along with the Hales. Their kids were our age, too, so I enjoyed visiting, but my earliest memory was that Donna made the BEST cookies. Later on, she became a school bus driver, which I thought was pretty cool. Even cooler was that Donna was the first adult I knew to go back to school & graduate high school. Many homesteaders hadn’t the luxury to graduate high school, much less go to college. (My Dad followed her example years later)
Audrey + Bill Rehaume filed their land claim in ’62. Back in the day, the roads were pretty bad. Sometimes Audrey arrived at Ladies Club meetings driving their trusty tractor.
Jean + Andy Scarrow decided to homestead after his sister, Audrey Rehaume, passed on the adventure bug. They settled on a parcel of land just north of my grandparents’ place. Our families used to visit & play cards. Neighbours played a lot of card games back then. Electricity hadn’t come to the Valley yet, so there was no zoning out for nights on end, watching TV.
Leona + Mason Ritchie won their homestead draw in 1963. Their land was halfway between Ruby Fox and Helen Derksen’s. I remember Leona leading the 4 H Sewing Club when I was in my teens. She hired me for my first paid job outside of babysitting: picking rocks! Sometimes it seemed like young fields sprouted more rocks than anything else. Rocks were hard on the farm machinery, so we moved them out of the way.
Evelyn (+ Benny) Frank had one of the early homesteads but were ‘summer farmers ‘ until they moved the family out to the Valley full-time in ’65. Evelyn became our local hairstylist because she was confident enough to try more than the classic ‘bowl’ haircut.
Doreen + Marvin Peterson’s application for a homestead in Silver Valley was awarded in 1963. After the 3rd summer, they stayed on the land full-time.
To be honest, I don’t remember who Maggie Rinke was, even though she embroidered a square on Mom’s Centennial Friendship Bedspread. Something tells me she was related to the Rehaume’s… maybe. Silver Valley was such a small community, everybody knew everyone else. My memory is to blame for drawing a blank. I wasn’t even in kindergarten in ’67, so that’s my excuse.
Mom tucked her friendship treasure away, covering the bed with the old chenille bedspread that she wasn’t as worried about getting dirty or wearing out. I have vivid memories of laying on top of the bed staring at the rows of chenille & slowly pulling out tufts in a pattern creating road maps on the blanket. Mom knew what she was doing. Even then, I was a creative child.
late-breaking news, a friend has tracked down & shared the great cookie recipe 🙂
- 1 cup butter
- 1.5 cup brown sugar
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 2 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
Melt butter, mix in all other ingredients, pour into pan and press flat. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares while still warm.