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.  

As the Freshies in Pembina chew this over, we get a break. The University student paper carries a picture and a short write-up about some students at St. Stephen’s College. They are freshmen, and are entering into Frosh Week with gusto. The theme for this year’s Frosh event is “Sadie Hawkins Week”, after the cartoon strip of the same name. The rules given for this week are that a Freshie may ask any male student out for a date, the man must accept, and the woman picks the place and pays the bill. The idea is intriguing, but daunting. But this newspaper article – here’s our chance.

Our recreation room buzzes with excited conversation. Finally we have eight girls willing to go for it. After all, the students are from St. Stephen’s College,  a residence for theology students. Surely guys, many of whom are heading for the ministry, but who still have the nerve to dress up like Sadie Hawkins characters, must be both trustworthy and fun!

That settled, Mary is elected to call St. Stephen’s and invite the eight young men named in the newspaper story to join us for a coffee and doughnut date at the Tuck Shop. She instructs her contact to gather his group and meet us at 3PM on Saturday in the rotunda of the Arts Building. We did not tell them our names, but said we will arrive and introduce ourselves.

In the past few days our group of eight Freshies has done a lot of guessing and laughing. We finally decide to just walk in and go up to anyone who takes our eye, pair up, and all head for the Tuck Shop. I must admit there is one I have seen before. His name is Sheldon Gibson. I saw him for the first time this past week, when he was asking Doris to go to the Tuck Shop for coffee. Later she told me they were in Grade 12 together in Calgary. When I asked her what he was like she replied, “Nice enough, made very good grades, but I hardly know him.”

I decide to say no more.

The big day comes, and we all feel a bit nervous as we head across the campus towards the Arts Building. I am walking with Doris and finally say, “Who are you going to ask to be your date, Doris – will it be Sheldon Gibson?”

“No. I’m interested in meeting someone new. I’ll take a look when I get there.”

“Fine with me, Doris. In that case, I’ll take him.” And I did. He is easy to talk to, and it goes well. I hope I see him again.

Little did I know then, but see him again I surely did. We had a casual, easy relationship from then on. In those days young people could, and did, have several friends of the opposite sex. Most young people eventually settled down to one. So it was with us. Before I finished my third and final year we were committed to one another. Two years later, when Sheldon graduated, we married, and spent the next 65 years together. Little did I know when I said that day, “I’ll take him,” that I was choosing for a lifetime.


Filed under Photographic memory

13 Responses to The Choices We Make

  1. Jim Taylor

    Marjorie, I met my wife Joan at a Frosh mixer at UBC. I was a senior, she was VERY new to both the university and the big city. A line of girls from the residences came in at once, and stood helplessly, looking at the floor full of dancers. I went up to one of them and asked, “May I have this dance?” “Who me?” she replied, She looked so surprised I almost said to the tall brunette next to her. “No, you!” But I didn’t, and we have now been married 54 years. As you said, “little did we know….”
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      Jim – I love these stories of how my readers met their spouses! The apparently random choices we make in life seem to have a similar chord, don’t they? Practically, we probably remember best the ones that turned out to be life changing. Looks as if you did well to stick to the instinct that led you to speak to Joan.

  2. Leone

    Hi Marj,
    I loved that story. Our story is similar except that the “pickup” occurred at a Young People’s function at the church. Dave’s friend brought him along as moral support when he wanted to pick up my friend. They dated for about a year and Dave and I have lived happily ever after!


    • Marjorie

      Hi Leone – and continuing to live happily, because of what life offers, and despite what it throws at you! Continue on your path, you are doing fine.

  3. Alison Uhrbach

    It’s always interesting to hear how couples met! My daughter says it’s a question she asks to “older people” (that would be MY generation) to put them at ease. She says they always like to tell the story – and isn’t that the truth? So glad you told YOUR story!

    • Marjorie

      And how did you meet Corvin, Alison? That’s another story to tell your grandchildren. Funny, I never thought of grandchildren, let alone great-grandchildren when I fell for Sheldon.

  4. Ian H.

    Hi, Mrs. G…I always read your stories with great interest. This one made me chuckle, because it caused me to flash back to my own Frosh Week at the U. of Calgary. That was, of course, in 1965, not 1940.
    Apparently some things never change. The Dean of Women told the story of a previous address to a group of Freshman women which she ended by saying: “And remember, girls, if you should be tempted, simply ask yourself ‘Is an hour of pleasure worth a lifetime of regret? Now, are there any questions?”
    A girl in the back row put up her hand. “I have a question. How do you make it last an hour?”
    I don’t know why this stuck in my brain for almost 50 years…but there it is! Keep writing!
    Cheers, Ian

    • Marjorie

      Ian – Is that story true? True or not, it made my day. No wonder it stuck in your brain! Keep well, and in touch.

  5. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. You have made me think about my “little” decisions today with a sense of awe. Every little decision we make becomes part of a much larger journey. If we take care with the small ones, the outcome should be satisfying.

    • Marjorie

      Laurna – I agree, and disagree too. Your statement about the importance of little decision, certainly agrees with mine. Our small, day by day decisions, shape and show who we are. They also indicate how we are apt to handle big challenges.
      Here we part company a bit. The above we should do to our best ability … but obligatory as it is, it does not guarantee a satisfactory outcome. Life seems to be made up of countless, unexpected turns. There is a saying; “Man plans, and God laughs”. This is a rather sardonic expression of life’s reality. I do not think it should deter us from following our plans. What do you think?

  6. Marjorie

    Here’s a comment from Ellen Nygaard via email – White gloves and a visit with the matron – what a hoot! The vestiges of Marjorie’s era were very much in evidence when I came to U of A in 1967 at the age of 17. Although we were in the new residences, many of the old rules applied – we women had curfews (midnight, with a limited number of later “passes” for special events such as proms), men were absolutely NOT allowed in the women’s residence except in the foyer to wait for their dates, and we had to put on skirts to go to meals in the dining hall except for Saturdays. There were senior girls (proctors) on each floor whose job it was to keep all us freshmen in line. They were big defenders of the status quo – they wore little navy blazers with the U of A crest, white blouses and grey skirts, and told us we all had to act like ladies. During frosh week they herded the freshmen (by this time probably about 3000 of us) into the Jubilee Auditorium for a co-ed talk from the University’s director of health services about S-E-X. All of that changed dramatically during the 4 years I was an undergrad. Hard to believe it was still like that in ’67.

  7. I think, if you are paying attention, you recognize when the true adventure of your life begins — and you jump in, matronly warnings notwithstanding, eh, Marjorie?

    • Marjorie

      Well, Barbara, perhaps I did not recognize it then, but my life began to change from the time we met. We were 18 then, and certainly did not start out making life-long plans. Before I graduated, three years later, we knew we wanted a life together. Plans are not always realized. We were so fortunate that ours were.