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Our fading origins

153Last night at a celebratory dinner at Mercato West, Al, Nona, Elaine and I got onto a revealing topic. And a great treasure and potential loss came into view.

We are all baby boomers so this is unique to our generation – perhaps. Actually the more I think of it, there are likely newer citizens who are closer now to their sacrificing folks than we are – or were.
Someone started a conversational tack with “Where did your people come from?”

Nona spoke of her German origins and the “beachhead” her people established in Compeer, Alberta.
Elaine of her mother born in Kursk, Russia, the whole family on the run at the end of WW1.
Al of his pride in being his Grandpa’s boy back in New Brunswick.
Me of the Boueys who emigrated from South Uist – a treeless rock in the Western Hebrides.

The turns and twists of the stories were magnificent but one thing was clear. These folks, who formed the backbone of working Canada in their time, were tough, sacrificing and principled people.

Al spoke of his carpenter Grandpa – a framer who after arriving home and finding spare nails – left over from the day’s work on site – in his apron, walked back to the job to return them.
Nona’s grandfather had died when she was 3 and his widow chose not to remarry lest harm should befall her children if there were to be an unwise union. So she toughed it out on her own.
Elaine’s Granddad had come from Lithuania via Chicago and San Francisco [he was there for the earthquake in 1905!] and ended up homesteading the rocky country at James River, Alberta.
My Grandpa was a towering figure in Saskatoon but his wife spoke only Gaelic and died mysteriously when my Mom was 14.
These folks were tough. They made their way. They established a life, some after they had just been dropped into small town Alberta in strange communities starting with nothing.
Elaine’s Mom’s was the only Catholic family – moved into the midst of the Mormons of Sterling, AB. You can imagine the day to day awkwardness of that situation in the late 20’s!
Then the depression came along and all bets were off. Everyone had to rethink, remake themselves to cope with the hard times. And they did, they succeeded.
The point is that we are the last in our lines with such closeness to the noble people: makers of our origins in this country. Our children will not have the immediacy of the stories of struggle and courage that made the earlier settlers of this land. We’ve had the opportunity to know these originals and those memories are going to fade as the generations roll on.
Our friend Pat once gave Elaine and I a great idea. “Bundle up our parents and go back to their old home towns.”
When we got there, she suggested we get tape recorders and cameras going as the parents wandered the landscapes of their early days. It was revelatory. The scenes and the stories of Regina – the back porch my dad and uncle slept in over winters while inside the house the boarders who paid the family’s way in the dirty 30’s were warm. Surprises. The “great house” of legend in Saskatoon my Mom’s family lived in – to my eyes, a typical two story brick house.
We heard the stories, just some. There were many more behind those that were told, I’m sure. But we were privileged to be shown these backdrops to resolute existence that left us here to enjoy lives of prosperity.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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