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Conversations

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Q. Who were your parents?
A. My parents were Jim (James) and Adelaide Lambert. They moved from Bracebridge, Ont. in 1898 to Tent Town. My oldest sister Grace was born there before they moved to their homestead in the Square Plains District. They had six children in total, I am the youngest – born in 1926.

Q. Why did they come to the Valley?
A. My mother came from England, I believe in 1896, and married my dad. They were advertising homesteads here and that’s why they came. They loved the area, they thought it was beautiful. I don’t think anyone has known crop failure here and they really liked the people here.

Q. How did your family make a living?
A. In the early days they farmed then when they came to town, they had a livery business. When I was born, dad was mostly around home, he loved to play pool. He’d go out to the farm and check on things – I think he rented it.
My mother was a homemaker. A woman’s work is never done.

Q. Your mother was quite a bit older when you arrived. Can you talk about life growing up with such a significant gap between yourself and your siblings?
A. I think I was what they called a mistake. My oldest sister was already married and had a baby of her own when I came. My mother was 49.
I know they didn’t plan on me so I never felt I was in the family. I was always alone at home because most of the others had gone. My sister closest to me was still there for two or three years, but I think she regarded me almost as a nuisance.
But, when I was 49, I had great sympathy for her. I thought, poor soul to have a baby at that age, especially when you have just become a grandmother.

Q. Did your parents ever talk about the early days of coming here and getting established?
A. I gathered that when they were in Tent Town there was a lot of camaraderie. I think they all got along well – they weren’t there that long. They always spoke fondly of everybody in tent town and I think they were a close group.
I regret not asking more questions of mom and dad, but back then you were sort of seen and not heard.
As it happens, my husband’s grandfather (Peter McKay) was there and started the first store then they moved to Swan River in 1899 and they had a store there. I think it burned in 1909 and then they built the brick building that was there for a long time.
It was a general store and they had everything – ladies fashions, men’s, shoe department, china and groceries.

Q. What are your earlier memories of the Swan River? What was it like?
A. I don’t know how to answer that. I still think we lived in the best of times. I walked from one end of town to the other for school, walked home, just got home and had lunch and had to start back again. I never thought anything of it. There wasn’t that much traffic as very few people had cars.

Q. What are your memories of school?
A. I would say I liked school. I enjoyed it. I went to Duncan school for Grade 1, and they had Grade 6 in one of the little cottages, so I went there for Grade 6. I had Miss Heyes for a teacher, who I just loved, and then it was back into Duncan and stayed there. Finally they had a Grade 12 and I was able to take it. They hadn’t had it before.

Q. How has the area changed from when you were growing up to now?
A. Dramatically. Back then there was nothing to fear, and now we have so much crime. I don’t think my mother and dad ever worried about me walking to school and back - you just never thought of anything happening.


Q. How did you meet your husband?
A. I met Don after he came back from the war but he said he remembered waiting on me in the store and selling me bubble gum. I think he was full of beans.
We both had that connection of coming from Tent Town. He didn’t live there either but it was still a connection. He liked playing hockey and other sports. For our first date he took me to a hockey game. I didn’t know anything about hockey, but I learned.
We were married almost 60 years. I hope I did enjoy every moment – I think everyone should enjoy those moments, and travel, because before you know it, you’re not well enough.

Q. What do you miss about the way life was when you were a child?
A. I would say it was better back then. I’d say we’ve lost something. It seems today money drives things and it makes you wonder. I never thought it did when I was growing up.