Category Archives: Photographic memory

Families — Different But The Same

1948 Marjorie & Ralph at c. 8 months

I face a real dilemma when trying to come to grips with the modern idea of a “family”. My generation lived in a very different era. We would have been baffled by the title of this essay. A dilemma about the proper structure of family life? What foolish talk is this? Back then we saw no other viable way of forming a family unit. There was only one good model, and it was ours!

By contrast, society today offers so many options. There are:

• A young couple with children, married or living in a common-law union.
• A couple in their 40s who pair off. If children are added, the parents are often in the last years of their 40s.
• Same-sex couples of all ages. If they choose to enlarge their family, they adopt or use sperm donation.
• Some families want children.
• Some families decide not to have any.

There are many more types of family unions, but the above will do for examples. Some similarities appear in these diverse examples. The couples I know consider themselves to be legitimate families. Each one strives to be loving, kind, and supportive of their particular “family”. Divorce or separation rates fall within the current national average.   Continue reading


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1942 c. Thompsons--Will, Belle & Marjorie

A strong sweep of emotion rushes over me when this picture appears. There I am, a 20-year-old, home for a visit with my beloved parents. It is the summer of 1942. I am delighted to be “home”, and it shows. Being in this house with those I love is a great tonic for me.

Unbelievably, that is 72 years ago. I remember, and feel again, many of the same emotions which stirred my 20 year-old heart then. But something is different. What added emotion am I sensing from my 92-year-old reality? Gratitude! That’s it!

Then, I took it all for granted. I was as sure of my welcome when I came home in trouble, as when I came home celebrating a success. My parents were loving and full of fun, but level headed and direct. I did not always like their advice, but always respected it. What a priceless gift life handed me – a home, a dependable home. It was a comfortable, safe touchstone, always there, always within my reach.

Did I recognize it then? Not fully.

Did I ever express it to them? In words, probably not. Hopefully, they knew. I believe that the actions and attitude of my sister and me made that clear to them.

Still, sometimes I regretfully wonder. There is a saying: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” It’s a mite late, Mom and Dad, but here’s your present. I deliver it with much love, gratitude — and memories, which never die. Love, Marjorie


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A Candid View of Life

Sometime in the late 40’s and early 50’s of the last century, a new occupation developed. It was that of being a Candid Camera Photographer. Throughout the United States and Canada these photographers were found on the city streets and public places. In retrospect, historians call the work of these particular photographers to be “social documentaries”. It pictured life as it happened, without the players being aware that they were being photographed. Turning to the dictionary, the word “candid” is defined as frank, or without disguise. Join “candid camera” and “photography” and we have the new occupation.

1953 Aug 10 Thompson, Will & Marjorie Gibson

When I saw this picture, many warm memories arose. Dad and I were walking along 8th Ave in Calgary, enjoying the sunny weather and doing some shopping. Sheldon and I and our two children were on a visit home to see my parents. Dad was 68, and a retired farmer. I was 31, a wife and mother and homemaker. For me life was good, and unfolding as I wished. For Dad, his health was uncertain, but he handled his problems with quiet courage.

Memories! Again my mind, piece by piece, fills in the jigsaw puzzle to tell the story. Dad died two years later, days before his 70th birthday. Mom lived on 20 years without him, and died at age 85. And me? I now am old. It is 61 years since that picture was taken. How I thank that unknown photographer. With one quick snap of his shutter, he saved for me not just a picture of the Dad I loved and respected, but also a visual reminder of the closeness of our connection, then and now.

Tennyson said it best for me, in one short piece of his wonderful poem “Ulysses”:

“— I am a part of all that I have met,
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.”

Here’s a toast to you, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and indeed to life itself. May I never cease to be mindful of, and thankful for, “… all that I have met.”


Filed under Photographic memory

Oh, Glorious Day

1943 Thompson, Marjorie  University grad


May is cooperating beautifully. The weather is warm and sunny. Family groups have been wandering around the campus everywhere. You can feel the excitement in the air. My parents are here and delighted to be sharing this great event. Sheldon is working for the seismic crew this summer, but his boss gave him time off so he could join us. My sister and I graduate tomorrow. Considering the rocky start I made of my first year, it’s amazing to be here. I’m on cloud nine!

Three years ago the two of us boarded a bus and headed for Edmonton. Doris was nineteen and I was eighteen, leaving home for the first time. We were entering a new environment with anticipation and no worries about handling it. After all we were “grown up”, and just going on with our education. What was there to worry about?   Continue reading


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The Choices We Make

ASG 1943 Sadie Hawkins article

September 1940, and back-to-school time – but what a difference this year. We’re in Edmonton, in order to go to University. My sister Doris and I arrived a few days ago, and are living at Pembina, the women’s residence. She’s nineteen, and I am eighteen. We feel very grown up, but a bit scared too. Everything is so new, and so different.

First the business, the official registration. We fill out papers, choose courses, and follow directions until our heads ache. Classes start right away. We have to learn where the right buildings and classrooms are. Advice is coming from all sides. On top of everything there are signs everywhere announcing that this is Frosh Week, with special, not-to-be missed events. What in the world is Frosh Week?

No time to find out, we are due back at Pembina for a meeting with the Matron. She runs the place. All the new girls–the Freshies, as we’re called–go to Miss Gregory’s special meeting room. She gives us a serious talk about the dangers of alcohol, how to dress and behave properly, and the house rules which all residents must obey. For example, curfew time is 10:30 PM, for evening engagements of any kind. If we fail to make it on time, we lose our permission for evening dates “until further notice.” Seems rather juvenile to me, but there it is. The older student residents keep sneaking us information about how to get in after hours, without being caught!

What’s a new gal to do? Getting “properly” dressed, and putting on white gloves as well, just to have tea with the Matron, does not qualify as fun! Not knowing what Frosh Week is all about makes it hard to choose what to do.   Continue reading


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How Did You Spend Your Summer?

ASG 1942 newspaper photo_copy

The summer break is flying by.  My final exams at the University of Alberta ended on May 20th.  Registration for the fall term is September 7th.  That doesn’t leave much time to earn money for the next school year.

I’m lucky: Dad needs help on the farm.  With this war going on, available labour is scarce.  Part of my job is keeping the house livable, and making meals.  The other part is driving the tractor and pulling whatever farm implements Dad wants to use.  I’m a novice at both, but do my best.  Dad is patient and good natured.  We enjoy our days together.

The men who are students have a lot to handle.  As well as their university courses, there is the C.O.T.C., the Canadian Officer Training Corps.  Those who are physically fit are automatically enrolled in the C.O.T.C.  This adds obligatory military duties, such as training to use guns, marching, and classes.  Then when summer comes they must attend the Sarcee Military Camp for two weeks of further training.  In the time left they can work at civilian jobs to earn money for the next university semester.    Continue reading


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Summer Rendezvous, July 1942

This is the first in a new blog category for me: Photographic Memory.
Each will feature a photo from my life
and the memories it provokes.


Marjorie Mae Thompson & Andrew Sheldon Gibson July 1942

Marjorie Mae Thompson
& Andrew Sheldon Gibson
July 1942

It’s a warm and sunny weekend afternoon. Dad and I have come into Calgary from the farm. I’ve been working there for him, since the university year ended. Sheldon has the weekend off from the Imperial Oil seismic crew where he is working. It is such fun to be together again. At university in Edmonton we’ve been “going steady”—a state somewhere between dating and being formally engaged to be married—but with both of us working out of town, it’s rare to have a summer day together.

I want Sheldon to see the farm, the school I attended, the area where I grew up. Mom wants to restock the food in the farm house, so out we come from Calgary. While she is doing that, Dad drives us over to see the South Valley School.

In the small town of Claresholm, where his Dad was the bank manager, Sheldon went to what seems to me like a big school—four rooms for eight grades. I spent my first eight years of school in this one-room school. But “big” school or small, we both have happy memories of those early years.

As Dad takes a picture of us, leaning up against the school, I’m glad I’m wearing my favourite summer skirt today. The colours are so nice, blue and pink stripes, and I love the way it flares. Sheldon likes it when I wear pretty things.

As we stand there, squinting into the sun, I can hear a meadowlark singing, and feel the prairie breeze blowing by. I’m warmed by the summer sun and by my love for Sheldon. It’s a day to remember.




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