Monday, August 23, 2010

The Marr's~Early Days

Florence Fitzsimmons, age sixteen, on her family farm. This is the happiest photo I have ever seen of my Grandma. She was the youngest in her family, and she said her sister Dolly grumbled that she was "spoiled", and didnt have to do chores because she was the Baby. Flo was the first girl in that farming community who had her own saddle horse and rode for pleasure. She cut quite a stir when she galloped into town, pulling the reins up smartly, so her horse reared up.

"Who's THAT?" asked the dreamy-eyed young new bank manager that all the town girls were swooning over. Soon he came calling. My Grandma used to dance up a storm at the county dances too. She said the town girls were put out that he had gone courting a farm girl. He always called her "Floss". Grandma said they were engaged for two years and that it was hard to wait that long. But he was trying to get himself established.

Flo and Kentucky saddle horse Monte, whom I just found out was bought by my grandfather, so he could ride with her.

Wildred Lloyd Marr. "Wilf". On Monte. In the scrapbook, I have just found a typed note of some of my Grandma's memories of my grandfather's history, as told to my aunt and transcribed by her.
"I Remember" - Flo, as told to her daughter.
Wilf was born in Ontario, to a photographer who came from Scotland, David Lloyd George Marr. He married Kate (Kitty) Little, who was very sweet. They never had a cross word. She would meet him at the gate when he returned home, with little Wilf in tow. When Wilf was four years old, Kitty died in childbirth and the baby boy died too. Grandpaw Marr took Wilf to visit his mother's grave.
[Grandpa felt sad all his life about his mother, who was French. I have a cane, which my Grandma used until her death, that apparently belonged to Kitty. It is so treasured I dont use it. It leans against the wall in my bedroom.]
Wilf's father spoke little about her after her death, except to say he loved her very much.
Some time later he remarried and a number of children were born. Two of Wilf's half-sisters died.
Wilf joined the Union Bank when he was sixteen years old. He was transferred to Esterhazy by the bank as teller when he was 24 or 25 years of age. That is where he met Flo.
He bought a Kentucky saddle horse so he could go riding with her, since horses were her first love. After three years of coutrship, they married at St Mary's Church in Esterhazy. He was bank manager at Guernsey then, very handsome, a smart dresser and a gentleman. The notes say "There was no one quite like him either in or out of the bank."

"The second Mrs Marr didnt approve of the marriage between Wilfred and me for religious reasons and as a result, inter-family relations were pretty well terminated, though Grandpaw Marr came to visit as often as he could, and Dad would take you kids to visit him as well. He was a delightful man, and love was mutual. Just as Wilf loved Maw Fitzsimmons, I loved his father. He died suddenly in Saskatoon at 66 of a stroke, on New Year's Day."

"Your Dad went to Oregon while we lived in Brandon during the first war to seek a better paying job. He landed a position as accountant, but when he returned his company offered him a position to match the offer in Portland, so we stayed in Brandon. His various positions were Bank Manager, collector for International Harvester, before going into the IH office. At my insistence, he took a position as bank teller in the Bank of Montreal, but toward war's end returning soldiers would take up the jobs they had left. So he resigned. His family had meantime moved to Saskatoon so he returned to that city and took a position with an accounting firm, subsequently moving on to become credit manager for Cockshutt Plow.

Depression days arrived which forced staff layoffs, he being one of them.

He practiced bookkeeping for various companies and individuals and became involved in the herbal business. He was offered a position as auditor for the Workman's Compensation Board which put him on his feet so he was ultimately able to devote full time to what later became Health Products.

I Remember: Audrey (the youngest daughter, second youngest in the family of five children)
Dad wished that he could have joined the Navy at the outset of World War I but as Mother was expecting the birth of LaVergne at that time it wasnt possible. He couldnt leave her. She wouldnt let him. He wanted to serve his country.

He had a great fondness for Oregon. [I do as well.] But Mother didnt want to move there.

I remember him taking us to play around the farm machinery in the warehouse of the Cockshutt Plow where he was credit manager. Quite an adventure. The steel ball bearings were marvellous toys, but everything had to be left tidy as it was before we arrived.

I remember his unwavering love and trust.

On the back of this photo is written, perhaps by her mother : This was your wedding outfit. That's her dog, Tango, beside her. Grandma told me she sent away for this outfit, which was patterned after a New York fashion. I vaguely recall her saying it cost eighteen dollars, a fortune in those days.
Flo and Tango in front of their first home, Guernsey, Saskatchewan 1914

Flo with LaVergne, her first child. I love the soft wistful look on her young face, gazingly so wonderingly at this small creature who had suddenly appeared in her life.

I have this one out of sequence - Flo with Monte, Wilf with Punch. At least that is what the handwriten note on the photo says. So Flo must have been still on the farm when this was taken, I believe the date was 1913. And Punch was still alive. Unless the notation is incorrect.

The note on this one says "Guernsey Bank 1913" . Wilf and Flo are in the centre, and the writing says Irish is on the left and Rocky on the right.

I love this one. Underneath it in the scrapbook, it said "Bank after Hallowe'en". But when I turned the photo over, it says "Feeding eggs to the dogs at noon at Four Corners Store near Meadow Lake." The store is the size of a small cabin and there isnt a road or a corner in sight:)

Out of sequence again . Flo and ranch horse at the farm. I wish my mom was here to fill in the gaps in the history. I remember her saying she got "sent to the farm" in the summers. I assume this must be either the old family farm, or my grandmother's brother Frank's farm. Or perhaps he took over the family farm. Horrible how history disappears with each generation. Not many people left to remember all this any more.

Here is my grandma holding my mother. My mom had the same face her whole life, and a very distinctive personality. She had "star power" and was always quite dazzling.

In my grandma's writing, it says "dirty '30's" beside this photo. Life was hard in those years. It was the Depression, and they had five young children to raise. My grandpa did the books for various stores and businesses, in exchange for a sack of coal, or whatever they could offer in exchange. My grandma washed all the pinafores, dresses, leggings, smocks and sheets for five children by hand in the bathtub. She would walk for miles down to the railway tracks, to buy bruised bananas cheap, to make dessert for the family. Hard hard work. For a young girl who had been rather pampered, I wonder how she found this adjustment.
Family legend says she ruled the kids with an iron hand when they were young, and they rebelled in their teens. I knew her as a highly responsible, disciplined woman, with a high sense of propriety. But she also had a wicked sense of humor and was a source of unending comfort and care to all of the grandchildren, most of whom she spent some years looking after when we were small.

I like this photo as it is the one photograph where she isnt a mom or a grandma, but simply a woman. A young woman, in a pretty dress. My grandparents had a long marriage, of over sixty years. It was a given that they loved each other, though given the times, there was little affection shown in public.
I hope they were wild about each other. I hope they had joy.

I hope they had a blast!


  1. Fascinating set of photos and stories...

  2. Isnt it amazing how the world has changed in the less than a hundred years since these photos were taken? zowie!

  3. Your grandmother looks like a movie star; Gorgeous and what cheek bones!
    She is dazzling~

    It is so magical you have these photos to enjoy! I want to hear more~

  4. This was an absolute joy to read... and the photos are so cool... you are a good writer. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing some of your 'history,' Sherry. Love those old photographs and the stories you have told. You are very lucky to have them all in one place.

  6. Hey this is interesting, what lovely memories, cherish them like the treasure they are.

  7. I loved this Sherry--I loved the pictures and I loved that you know so much about your family. Thank you for sharing these with us!!

  8. I so enjoyed this, Sherry...loved the story of Flo and Wilf. You know I see a bit of you in that baby held in your grandma's arms...I sure do.


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