53 Names

53 Names

This morning I am expecting a delivery of ink cartridges for the new printer. It came with sample cartridges, and I doubt they will last very long. I was shocked at the price of cartridges, and found a Montreal business, 123InkCartridges, that sells them for more reasonable prices. Actually, I have purchased cartridges from them before, about nine years ago, and was lucky to find them online again, as my memory for details like business names is almost nonexistent. I was pleased with my purchase nine years ago, and am optimistic about a positive experience this time around.

The delivery will be to the door, and I am required to be home, and to answer the door. Working on my genealogy book is a perfect activity for waiting for deliveries to the door. So that is what I will be doing today until the ink cartridges arrive.

I am looking at Rural Preliminary List of Electors for 1938. The Great Depression ended in 1939, with the onset of World War Two. My Grandparents lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression, times of great chaos and uncertainty. My Mom lived through the Great Depression and a World War. With few resources, small communities were turned in towards each other for support and survival, creating the rich environment that faded slowly, but remained strong during the years of my childhood, and of which vestiges still remain, recognizable only to those who enjoyed the warmth and acceptance that only strong communities can provide. These are the communities that have been largely displaced by monster home estates and cottages.

An analysis of economics and larger scale business paints a picture of decline and neglect. While in the strict sense of economics this is a true picture, it is only a partial picture. Yes, the small community suffered financial loss, loss of it’s schools, Post Offices, local stores, railway line, and farms, gaining only low wage employment as servants to the affluent who bought most of the land and increasingly dominate local political power in the area. This is all true.

There are however strong ties that bind the families of the communities that consisted of the original settlers, who came to the land in the 1800s. The old values are still alive and recognizable to those who experienced these communities. “Foreign” city values stand out in sharp contrast to the values of those who grew up in the communities that were gutted by centralization, global agriculture, and the influx of recreational city money.

For example, when I wanted to buy a local history book, written by members of the Women’s Institute, I called the author to request the book. Once she heard my name, she knew who I was, where I belonged in the community. She knew my Grandparents, and many of my relatives. I offered to send her a cheque to cover the cost of the book before she mailed it to me, but she would have none of that. She insisted that I wait until I receive the book, then I could send her a cheque to cover the cost of the book and the postage on the package. She trusted me, knowing that I would not even think of failing my part of the agreement.

There are 53 names listed in the Voter’s list that I am looking at today, six of which are my Great Grandfather, three of his sons (one is my Grandpa), and two of his son’s wives (one is my Granny). All of the names are familiar to me, I knew many of the people, and heard all of the names throughout my childhood. My Mom and her brother and sisters were young children when this list was created, they had been born during the depression years.

My Grandpa and Granny operated a General Store and the local Post Office during the years of the depression. My Mom told me that the house, attached to the store was wired for electricity, but that it was not working during the depression. They used coal oil lamps for light. She remembers doing her homework by the light of coal oil lamps, in the kitchen, beside the wood stove. She remembers travelling to school in the winter by horse and sleigh, and running behind the sleigh to keep warm when the deep cold of winter would seep into their clothes if they sat in the sleigh for very long.

Every memory my Mom shares is a treasure. People who lived through The Great Depression, and through World Wars, know something the rest of us don’t. It isn’t something you can learn from books, or from studying. It is an organic, primal understanding of what humans and human cultures are capable of, an understanding of how chaotic and unreliable the world can be. My generation did not experience World Wars, or a Great Depression, and those of my Children’s and Grandchildren’s generations are even further removed from these human catastrophes than my generation. Canada has not always been the relatively safe cocoon that most of us take for granted.

53 names represent a small community, a community under economic siege; a community with strong integrity and values that are completely invisible when one discusses the larger forces at work, such as the decline of the railroad, the logging industry, or agriculture. We are mistaken if we only look at large infrastructural changes when it comes to human activity. Most of history is unwritten, most of it is lived.

Note: The cartridges did not arrive. The delivery was by CanPar and they sent it to the wrong terminal, the tracking said it was “missort”, who knows when it will get here!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 5:00 PM EDT Wednesday 6 July 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 24.4°C
Dewpoint: 18.7°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: SSE 14 km/h
Humidex: 31


“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
Napoleon Bonaparte
1769 – 1821

As an Emperor, I think Napoleon’s use of the word people is a Nosism. I agree with Winston Churchill’s observation that, “history is written by the victors”. I do agree with Napoleon though, that there are versions of history.


  1. Maggie, this post will help me whenever I stop to reflect on my childhood in Northern Alberta, and try to understand what became of the farms and village I grew up in. Yes, we were a united community, depending on each other when we needed extra support, but I do remember some of the other elements, unkindness and intolerance and harmful gossip. So all of the various sides of humanity were there, the good and the bad, just like human society today. I hope you are writing more about this. I love the topic!

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with ink cartridges for my printer. I feel that we are being royally ripped off regarding them. If you find a good price then are they really full? How many pages do they print out? I’ve stopped print much just because of the exorbitant (is that really spelled right?) cost of the ink.

  3. Diane, I am so very glad you brought up the “other elements”. Humans do participate in unkindness, intolerance and harmful gossip, whatever type of community or environment they live in. The difference between a small community and most of the present urban communities is how this is handled. I have observed that the larger the community, the greater the impunity for negative behaviour eventually reaching a threshold of almost total social impunity. In small communities the “mean” are well known, other members of the community are well aware of these individuals. Because any given individual may at some point need the support of other members of the community, they must balance their negative behaviour with possible consequences; this puts a ceiling on the amount of damage they can incur on other members of the community. In addition, because those who practise destructive social habits are known to others, the victims are seldom without emotional affirmation. Of course, domestic violence is usually exempt from this dynamic, and it is often as unchecked in small communities as it is in larger communities. In my Granny’s community the Church, and the Women’s Institute, were local structures that offered some degree of balance to domestic violence; offering subtle, indirect assistance to suffering families. Males often faced economic sanctions for violent behaviour. I don’t really think the intolerance is any worse in small communities, it is just there in a different form; in urban settings intolerance is often superceded by indifference and avoidance, which are not available to members of a small community.

  4. I know what you mean Bex! I tried getting a Canon cartridge refilled at Costco last year and was shocked by how little printing I was able to accomplish with it, as compared to the cartridges sold by Canon. I didn’t save any money by having the cartridge refilled. I will say though, that the last order I received from the 123inkcartridge people, the cartridges worked just as well as the name brand cartridges. It remains to be seen if this is still the case.
    I think you did spell exorbitant correctly!

    If there were a local print shop that was reasonably priced, I would do my printing there, but they charge so much that ink cartridges are the cheaper way to go.

  5. It’s interesting, you’re looking at this small group of people, this small town and you see family. People came together and worked to make something of this small place, so they and those around them could have comfort and good life.

    Lately, I’ve been reading and watching a Facebook group that mostly consists of tribal members who live on a reservation in North Dakota. These people, most of them, are distant family to me. I’ve never been to the reservation but still I feel for them in their attempts to make their homes a positive place.

    I hear a lot of concern in this small town of 2700 in the middle of almost nowhere. They have few options for jobs, not even having affluent people they could work for as servants, and for the most part their leaders don’t lead. I’m thinking there are options that they could use in the way of government grants but everyone seems in a stasis. As I said, the leaders don’t lead – and yet they won’t give way to those who would make more of an effort.

    When I hear good ideas suggested for the town’s advancement, I’m open about supporting it. But those who become excited at prospects seem to have no outlets and so eventually they sink back into the quagmire their do-nothing leaders have stuck them in. ๐Ÿ™

  6. ” leaders donโ€™t lead โ€“ and yet they wonโ€™t give way to those who would make more of an effort.”

    Teri, I am not familiar with a poltical system where leaders are not elected, it sounds like an extremely challenging situation!

  7. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    Well… the leaders are elected, Maggie. I’m jusy not sure what it would take to remove them. I think it’s sometimes a lifetime position, though I’m not sure of the particulars for the tribe.

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