Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Grandfather and My Quilting--Connected

Tonight when I was speaking to my mother, she asked me why I didn't post about my Grandfather--today would have been his birthday. I replied that it was because Grandpa wasn't a quilter. My mother reminded me that although her father did not quilt, in the 30's he did sell the most important tool a quilter would need--the sewing machine.

And so tonight, my post is dedicated to my grandfather--who sold Singer sewing machines to so many lucky quilters and sewers in southern Saskatchewan in the late 30's.
My Grandfather was born October 12, 1911 on the family farm just outside Carlyle, Saskatchewan. My grandparents were married July 27, 1938. I have been blessed with copies of biographies written by both my grandparents and refer to the following excerpt from my Grandmother's biography:

At Christmas time, 1937, Clifford and I became engaged. In June 1938, I resigned my teaching position and were were married on July 27, 1938. Maizie very kindly let us have our wedding at her place, so I hired a neighbour girl to help Maizie for a week. I was busy making and decorating our wedding cake and making my "going-away" suit. A dear friend, Mrs. Charlie McRae had a shower for me at her place. I received many lovely things. A "sealer shower" was put on for Clifford at Mountain Valley. Each gift was in a sealer. Aunt Margaret and Uncle Charles gave us a two quart sealer of apricots that we didn't open until our 45th wedding anniversary. It still tasted alright. Wish the donors were still living so we could tell them.(Note: I was there when those apricots were opened and believe me they were not great--they were syrupy sweet--not anything like the canning we do today!)

We spent our first night in a hotel in Oxbow, and the next day at the River Park. Then we went home to get ready to go to Keeler, Sask, where West Marquis was waiting for us. I well remember the trip there. It was a very hot day, and the grasshoppers were so thick and flying in the air that we couldn't have the windows open.

We stayed at West Marquis for 2 1/2 years. We liked the little teacherage, and also the people in the district. Some of the pupils would rather play ball than do school work. We moved into Moose Jaw after Christmas hoping Clifford would get work. He had been a Singer Sewing Machine Agent. When he didn't get a job, we went to Slim Birkett's and worked for our board. In April we went to Carlyle and bought Grandma Clark's house in town from the Clark brothers. We paid $700 for it which was a reasonable price for a house at that time in its run-down condition. Clifford got a job in Mr. McDonnell's garage for $30 per month seven days a week.

My grandfather's biography reads:

"While we were there (West Marquis school in Keller, Sask.) I did get some work in the summer months. It so happened we bought a new singer sewing machine. This same machine our granddaughter Norma still has. After buying this machine I was able to get to be a salesman for Singer Sewing Machine Co. in our district which was from Moose Jaw to Riverhurst. While I had this job I was away from home a day or two so then one of the older school girls would stay with Roberta at night. "

I love these written accounts of the lives of my grandparents written in their own words which give me a glimpse of what it must have been like to live in the 30s and 40s in Saskatchewan.

As my Grandfather said, I still have that Singer Sewing machine so treasured by my Grandmother. My Grandfather regularly oiled and serviced that machine for my Grandmother and then for me after I took over ownership. I remember getting the oil for my Grandfather when he would visit so he could "take a look at that machine".

This machine still "sings" to this day when it sews.
See my post on July 30 for more details about my Singer:

This is a picture of my Grandfather taken on his 80th birthday. The children are his great grandchildren - my daughter, my son, and sitting on my Grandfather's lap, my cousin's daughter.

My Grandfather was a man who loved visiting with people, and a man who never uttered a harsh word against anyone. I am sure these qualities made him a great salesman for Singer and that he sold many women their first treasured sewing machine.

My Grandfather and I shared many interests including a love of horses. When we had our horses in Aldergrove, and he was still able to travel, my Grandfather loved to come out to BC and stay with us on the farm. I have many, many fond memories of my Grandfather and I and tonight I am reminded of another interest that my Grandfather and I shared--an interest in the sewing machine--one special Singer sewing machine in particular. I smile as I think of what my Grandfather would have thought of my newest "sewing machine"--my long arm--if he were alive today to see it!

I have spend some wonderful time tonight reliving fond memories of the past thanks to my mother's reminder of my Grandfather's connection to my quilting!


  1. Norma that was just wonderful...I'm glad your mom encouraged you to share yuor grandfather's story. It was just such a nice way to start my morning.

  2. It's a great story, family history is really important, what a treasure that you have both of their biographies.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather (grandmother too) and the man that he was. You are very lucky to have their autobiographies--more families should do something like that to preserve their family history in their own words.

    Here we were just talking about farming in Saskatchewan and tractors.

  4. What a wonderful story of your grandparents and some of their early life together. Such a treasure to have the sewing machine of your grandmother and the stories documenting it. Special memories for you and your family to treasure.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing the stories of your grandparents, Norma. What wonderful memories...and so wonderful, too, to have this Singer sewing machine. A really heartwarming story and a great way to start the day.

  6. What a lovely story. Great pictures of your grandfather. Thank you.

    It is interesting to read the history as they wrote it. The fact that when he was away for work then an older school girl would stay with your grandmother at night - so she wouldn't be alone.

  7. What great stories to share. How lucky you are to have grandparents that wrote down their memories.

  8. Beautiful tribute to your grandfather. How thoughtful of them to write biographies for their families.

  9. What a lovely story and how very lucky for you that you have these stories to share and pass on to future generations. What a treasure it must be to sew on that machine. Thanks for sharing.

  10. What an absolutely love post Norma..*VBS* I'm sooooo glad your mom prompted you to write about him. He sounds like an delightful gentle man. And what a gift to bring the joy of owning a Singer sewing machine to so many women(and men maybe?). I think that ranks right up there with being a Preacher..*VBS* Thanks for sharing, Hugs, Finn

  11. A beautiful tribute to your grandparents, and in particular, your grandfather. (He was born the same year as my dad!) What precious memories you have of him!