Friday, July 22, 2011

A Note from Elizabeth Davies Olsen to the Pilling Family

I took a few trips to the auditorium to stand in the line-up for the Wicked lottery, a chance for 20 people to buy tickets for $25 right in the orchestra (about row D and F).  I met an old friend there, Elizabeth Davies.  She had come up from Magrath for the same show and was hoping to get a ticket in the orchestra.  

Neither of us were lucky enough to have our names drawn, but we did get an hour together and after that meeting she wrote a lovely email note to Moiya and me, one about our parents.  I am sharing that note below.  Enjoy.

I want to share some happy pieces of my life with you. I woke up thinking of them. No one encouraged journals except for missionaries as I grew up. Too bad I didn't think of it myself! I have an extensive journal during that year and a half in Vancouver and Victoria that I spent on a mission, but no other record till Roger went on his mission. I did write spasmodically over the years after Dale died but it is sketchy.  (I hadn't realized meeting you would trigger so many of my memories, so you'll have to skim all this clutter).  Now a journal entry from my memory has been triggered by my meeting with Arta, which I am sure was not by chance.
Arta, you are so much both your parents- you just triggered so many happy Doral and Wyora memories for me.

You stopped right in the middle of everything and invited me to your home. Miraculously I had an unscheduled hour to wait for the play and you drove me over to your home. I mentioned Erva Sherwood and you turned right around and knocked on her door. That was so much like your mom- she went out of her way constantly for everyone. I treasure the visit with Kelvin and am so sorry he is not well. You just stopped your life and let me in- drinking cranberry juice from a lovely wedding goblet you still cherish. Thank you.

I remember Wyora's time in the Relief Society Presidency. She told me that when she was called to the job, she cried all the way home as she walked from the Crescent Road chapel. She had no idea how she could find time. I don't know if Glen was already born or if she was expecting him.

I didn't have time for Relief Society. I had two wild little boys and Relief Society was in the middle of the week. I didn't drive and Dale had the car all day at school anyway. Relief Society was for old ladies and I was young. Wyora gently enlisted my help. “Elizabeth, could you phone these ladies for me. I have a lot to do to get my family cared for in the morning, but if you load up my car I'll pick up these sisters and their children and take them to the meeting.” How could I refuse? This lady would give me the shirt off her back! Reluctantly I became a Relief Society sister, even if it was for elderly ladies. I would phone and when she came for me I told her who was coming.

Luckily in the olden days seat belts were unheard of and we piled those children and sisters into her car and had a great visit to and from the meeting. We were first there and last to leave but my week always went better. I remember when she taught the theology lessons. She made mammoth charts and I always felt inspired when I heard her lesson and realized she lived everything she ever tried to teach me. She later confided in me that all her car trips had wrecked the springs in the car. I wonder how they held out as long as they did.

The Relief Society offered to quilt for any sisters who wanted to do a quilt. Where else to do them but Wyora’s? She had the most time and biggest heart and her living room was bigger than most. Actually there were lots of bigger houses, but we always seemed to use hers. I had made two little bunk bed matching quilt tops. I brought them to Wyora’s the night before with my batting. By the time I got there next day with the lunch, she had already put one on the frames and somehow managed to make the first round on it. Obviously she had more spare time than the rest of us.

She had a shower for everyone and we all felt very much at home in your home. Of course Wyona's memorable bridal shower was the most vivid memory as your dad had such fun, in the kitchen, cutting up the a deer he had just shot while we enjoyed the elegant lunch and visiting in the living room.

I remember her story of having Bob Walker to dinner when he became a doctor in Calgary. Your dad felt she was being too perfect or something, so he tripped her as she brought the gravy in and the formal dinner suddenly evaporated into real life.  My sense of humour is not so hot for I would not have been able to laugh about this memorable experience, but she did.

When Roger was a baby we didn't have baby showers- there were so many new babies we would have gone broke on gifts. I had nice gifts for Roger but he soon outgrew the baby things. Garage sales were unheard of and there was no Desert Industries or thrift stores around like we take for granted now. I had no relatives there to hand down clothes but one day Wyora appeared at the door. She was the soul of tact. Would I be able to use any of these little boy clothes? Someone had asked her to distribute them. We all considered ourselves too proud to accept charity but we were all struggling. I am still amazed at how sweetly she helped me realize I would be doing her a favor if I could make use of them. When we went to Utah for Dale's masters degree I was DI's best customer and they had yard sales then, but I will never forget those clothes she brought me. Probably Glens come to think of it.  Thanks Glen!

Top of Bernie Road
We only went to the lake once with the children. We were on the way to visit Dale's brother in Nanaimo. We had all five children by then and stayed overnight.
I was amazed at those cabins, and at the joy they gave so many people who otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity for a vacation.
It was the first time I had had whipped cream and fresh strawberries on pancakes for breakfast. I still remember all the fun the Pilling kids were having there.

Our last time at the lake was the weekend Dale died. I had just lost Richard, our last baby. He was born in early February and was stillborn at eight months. I now realize I was in depression for some time because I had no desire to go anywhere. In March people kept saying “You need to go see Wyora, she's not going to be here much longer.” I kept putting it off. I just couldn't face much or seem to cope. I wish I had gone, but I know she'd forgive me.
At her funeral I sat in the choir and watched all the people she had touched file in. I remember George and Fern Kelly that I hadn't seen for years, but they were there for her. There were so many others.

By May I was just starting to feel my old self again and the Men’s Chorus trip to Vernon was our first outing in a long time. They sang Friday and we had all day Saturday to just walk around the shore and take in the beauty of that happy place.
I hadn't been anywhere without five little souls trailing behind and we had that beautiful day all to ourselves. I didn't realize then that day was to say goodbye. I've never been back to the lake again, but it was such a beautiful chance to be together. I spent that night in hospital and Melchin's brought me back to Calgary the next day.

The Lord just picked me up and carried me. He blessed me with five easy children to raise.  My brother Cam lived with us three years till he married and two years after that we moved to Magrath. My parents were a block away and were such a blessing in helping raise my children. The whole town helped.
I married Theran Olsen seventeen years after Dale died. The children by then were all out of high school and three were married. We had fifteen happy years together before he passed away in 2001.
I served a mission twice in Salt Lake at the family history library for a total of four and a half years and manage to keep busy here in Magrath now where three of my children live. Actually it takes twice as long to do anything so I am able to occupy my time.

Wyora always maintained the hill behind their house was planted with children’s shoes, at least one from each pair. She spent a lot of time hunting them, especially looking for the shoes her children should be wearing to church on Sunday. That magic house was able to expand to welcome everyone who came by or who needed a place to stay.

We stayed there several days . We were going to Edmonton to summer school our first year of marriage and had three days till we needed to leave. We'd had to move from our apartment as it was re-rented. She invited us over on the pretence that I could help Rita a bit with her reading.  I don't know who got moved out of their room to let us stay there, but I doubt if it was the first or last time.
Anyway, thanks again, Pilling kids. You were a flexible bunch. 
I'd like to know more about your lives and children.

I heard a little about Arta's but not enough. 

Much love,

Elizabeth Davies Olsen

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