By Joan Nordli
In the summer of 1945 – end of WWII – the Price family of Coleman, Crowsnest Pass, AB, ventured off to Banff’s Veterans’ Hospital to visit our Dad, Jack Price. My dad, a coal miner injured September 9th, 1943, was rushed off to Calgary General Hospital where he spent a year in a total body cast. At that time, medical sciences didn’t have the knowledge of caring for a broken back – it wasn’t the time of Rick Hansen’s knowledge or experiences. In 1944, Dad was relocated to Banff’s Veterans’ Hospital where paraplegics received physical exercises to keep their upper bodies limber.
Mom, driving into Banff, looked for a B&B with a main house and cabins scattered in a large fenced yard. Like magic, somewhere off the main drag, Mom found just such a B&B. Was it the brightly painted white house and cabins that drew her attention or was it fate?
We stopped in the driveway, got out of the car, knocked at the door to have a pretty lady answer. We had met Carolyn Dyson, owner and operator of the B&B and cabins. She directed us to a large cabin at the end of the driveway where we unloaded the car. Then, off to the hospital to see Dad!
What a shock to see Dad in a wheelchair! Mom knew but we children had no idea. I was 10 and remember hearing about Dad’s accident, which was discussed at gatherings of grandparents and family siblings; but sister Peggy was 9 and I don’t think she knew what had happened to Dad except he was not home; and brother Jack, 7, probably didn’t know anything except Dad hadn’t been home for a long time (The accident was nearly 2 years earlier, when I was 8, Peggy 7 and Jack 5).
The first night in the cabin was unbelievable! Upon rising early in the morning, I ran to the huge blind over a large window, to reveal a large black bear with nose to the window! Down went the blind! Back to bed and covered my head! I was used to seeing bears back home in the Pass, but not that close! Mom came to the cabin, woke us up, and we had our breakfast and she returned to work in the main house. Mom worked for Carolyn that entire summer and paid for the cabin with some money left over for food and fun.
We children visited Dad at the hospital daily, and in his wheelchair he toured us around Banff, even to the Banff hot springs! My sister Peggy and I took turns pushing Dad’s chair. Brother Jack was too small but we let him push one handle while a sister changed hands to help him.
Dad passed away February 1947 at age 35 and is buried in Coleman Cemetery. Mom and Carolyn had worked so well together and had formed a bond of friendship so strong, they corresponded until Carolyn’s death July 15th 1991 (diabetes & heart). They celebrated each other’s birthdays, seasonal greetings and on one occasion, Carolyn sent Mom a special bookmarker. On another Christmas card she had sent Mom a special piece of jewellery from Hawaii.
Before Mom moved into the Seniors’ Housing in Blairmore, she gave her children and grandchildren some special things as a keepsake. Mine was the handmade bookmarker that Carolyn had made. Into my family album it went.
As years passed, I kept looking at that bookmarker and wondered if I should return it to the Dyson family. Thus, started a search for Mom’s address book, which turned up at Peggy’s in Bellevue, AB. Phoning Peggy, I received Carolyn’s address and promptly phoned Carolyn only to find that Carolyn had passed away and the house had been sold. Unbeknownst to me, Carolyn’s son David had his address beneath his mother’s… Mom look! What luck, or was it fate?
In the spring of 2017, I phoned David telling him the story of the bookmarker, asking him if he would like it as a keepsake that both mothers had exchanged in correspondence over the years. He eagerly accepted the keepsake.
I sent the parcel soon after this call and received a reply – June 8, 2017, from David who was working as a Fire Inspector for a company in Calgary – a semi-retirement job.
Not only had I promised David the bookmarker but that I would write the story of it too. Two years later, May 31, 2019, the story is on its way to the editor’s office of The Rocky Mountain Goat. Hopefully it will be printed in the Goat and I’ll send David a copy.
Incidentally in the October 2017 issue of the Senior Paper out of Regina Saskatchewan appeared a story written by Charles Dyson age 101 about his being Calgary’s chief electrician and his life in Calgary with Carolyn and his children Arlene and David and their families. It was no wonder our family didn’t see him in Banff with his wife in 1945!
Hopefully I’ll find the copy in one of the boxes that remain to be searched. Today, Charles at 103 is still living in the Seniors’ Complex in Calgary.
After 74 years, the bookmarker has finally been returned to David after his mother sent it to my mom.