Here is abit about one of these individuals.
|Regina Leader Post article, Margaret Hryniuk, August 28, 1990|
I met Bessie, with a group of daycare children, when we visited the Regina Plains Historical Museum. Bessie was a gentle, tiny woman, with a far away look to her eyes, who led myself and my children on a lovely tour of this museum in 1990. She finished our tour with an interesting story of a family of gophers, she had raised as a child, with the authority of a true story teller. At the close of this story, several of my children spontaneously jumped up to run into her arms.
So when I needed to interview an older adult, as part of a Social work and Aging class I was taking the following winter, I immediately wanted to interview this woman who had captured the hearts of my children.
I was able to find her through the museum, and she readily agreed to see me. So, began a friendship which came to mean so much to me.
I learned that Bessie had been a strong, single woman all her life - growing up on a farm just near our city; that she had taught business school for many years, as a young adult; then became the provincial registrar for the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), until her retirement in 1968. She had been an active volunteer throughout her life - for the St. John's Ambulance(eventually achieving the rank of Commander Sister); as an elder in her church in the inner city; and her most recent involvement was volunteering as a tour guide, with the Regina Plains Museum, I think since it's founding.
|From, Making History,Regina Plains Museum, Autumn 2001|
This is her and her dog Spot
Our friendship developed over a few years, and was focused on my interest in hearing her stories. Bessie had been a writer of short stories throughout her life - she had at least 10 large scrapbooks bursting with these stories which had been published in various journals. She had predominately submitted stories to Onward, a youth journal for the United Church of Canada; but as well her stories had been in a few other journals, and she had as well written articles for the Regina Leader Post. I was enthralled with her stories - written by a true story teller, about life in the depression years in Saskatchewan. The stories were about ordinary people, in life altering circumstances and the choices people made then; some life affirming, and some destructive of moral values, and the consequences people met through poor decisions. She vividly described the shabbiness, dirtiness, and shame of being poor in the 30's in Saskatchewan - describing plagues of grasshoppers, and dust storms, from the very personal level. The narrator seemed always to view the people in the story with utmost compassion.
Bessie's health diminished in our 2nd year of friendship- she entered the hospital, and from there lived in a nursing home, although in a wing allowing independence. She became "legally blind", as she described it, saying how interesting it was for her, that after all the years of helping the blind with her work at the CNIB, she was now the recipient of these same services, and how grateful she was.
I asked her if we might make a book together for her family of nephews and nieces I bought myself one of those tiny handheld tape recorders with the tiny, cute tape reels , and we were ready.
|We were able to record several lovely stories of Bessie's girlhood years on the farm, predominately featuring some amazing animal stories|
I transcribed the tapes, and a friend typed it up for me, and her husband who owned a printing company bound it. We were able to send this to many extended family members, who appreciated this little volume of pure Bessie.
Even while her body had weakened, and her life circumstances had narrowed, she was able to talk into this little tape recorder telling her stories from memory, with a wonderful lilting story telling cadence. I just believe these animal stories would be wonderful to share with children .
So I thought why not try to illustrate the stories? I like to sketch, but am not a very good or detailed drawer, mainly doing it for the fun of the process.But sometimes illustrations for children's stories are not truly realistic - maybe I could pretend to be illustrating in a kind of folk art style (not in true proportion, child like sometimes, not in perspective I think)(This is recognizing that artists who draw this way, are usually also accomplished at all the techniques of drawing).
I also thought I might experiment with illustrating with fabric art.
So I combed through her tape recorded stories for my favourite ones:
|This is the first cloth picture I did, of Bessie's remembrances of watching the rabbits play in the light of the full moon.|
|I posted this a little larger,thinking it might show up better. The model for the farm house is my little house I just sold last year.|
|Spot, the family dog featured in several stories, Here is one of "how Spot knew to get into the house - by bringing in fire wood". I used my nieces as the children for the illustration, in contemporary clothing.|
|Bessie appreciated even the small creatures such as ants, and gophers. This illustrates a story from her girlhood of observing an anthill. Naturally her companion Spot is nearby.|
|Watching a mother hawk "take a bath" in some large cumulus clouds on a sweltering day, and how mother hawk swooped down to tell her babies she would be back, they would be fine.|
I just love this story, it seems sort of mythical, there is a lovely story in a similar vein in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, featuring ducks...not really the same, but it has a similar feel... a true yarn.I'd love to draw a picture of this with cars from the 40's, and people in the clothes of the 40's, trying to move through these geese. Bessie said there was a newspaper article about this, so that was how she came to learn about the reason for the tremendous migration of geese she'd never before witnessed.
I still have the tapes of Bessie telling her stories, and I would like to have children have the opportunity to hear her voice, with it's wonderful, lyrical cadences telling her stories. I've thought of bringing the tapes to the museum, but don't want them to be hidden in the archives. I've dreamed of some sort of installation with photos, and mostly fabric pictures illustrating the stories, along with her voice as background, but not sure how to even think about doing this. I think I should try to have the tapes transferred to cd's and will have to look into this.
Just thought this would be fun to share. Thanks to those of you with the patience to actually read to the end of this post!!! :)
Wishing everyone a Happy Sunday - here the sun is shining and warm. I'm headed to a picnic with some friends.