Tuesday 29 July 2014

My Mother’s Scrapbook

Among some of the memorabilia and mementos of my family is a scrapbook put together by my mother. It appears to have been a project she did as part of her coursework at Normal School in Calgary during her final year of training as a teacher, 1936-37. It is a fascinating glimpse into her past and an interesting study of her talents, but it is also a neat representation of life and society from that particular time-period.

The material is divided into several sections for each of which she found pictorial examples, mainly from then-current magazines. The first part is a selection of “Color Prints” that are mainly country scenes from several places around the world. Each one has vibrant colours and a restful theme. They are artfully displayed with obvious care and balance.

There are a series of pictures of the interiors of homes of the day – kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms – as well as illustrations of articles used in homes of the 1930s.

There is also a collection of plans and pictures of the exteriors of many houses. Again, all have bright colours and illustrate pleasant and peaceful surroundings. Great design and care in homemaking was a central theme in all of the pictures.

A series of vases filled with bright and varied flower-arrangements completed the section on homes.

Mom put together many pages of the latest women’s fashions, subdivided by season. All showed elegant, sophisticated and, of course, bright designs of the day. There were also a couple of pages for children’s clothing.

And there was a section for travel leaving us wondering whether these were places she hoped to see one day: Spain, the Sahara, India, San Antonio, Santa Fe and Florida.

The inclusion of one picture is curious – a greyish drawing of an old man, in a life insurance advertisement with the caption: “The misery of an old man is of interest to nobody”. Was this a social comment about the need to be optimistic in life as well as a practical recommendation to protect against any setback? I don’t really know.

The content and the mood expressed in the scrapbook, I believe, exemplify my mother’s general outlook on life – bright and cheerful. While the project may have had an assigned theme, the materials collected, especially concerning homes and fashion, may well have shown how she envisioned what her life might be like in the future.

I know that my mother continued to have a positive attitude and a happy disposition throughout her life which was tragically cut short well before her 58th birthday. Having this tangible reminder of her, made with her own hands, is especially valuable.
Norma Mabel Miller – student at Calgary Normal School, 1936

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.