By Dorothy Isted
Special to The Pioneer
One hundred and two year old Marjorie Stringer began life in a resort community. With few roads, holidaymakers took a train to one point and boated the rest of the way to the Muskoka, Ontario lake area. Her Irish immigrant great-grandfather had pioneered near Baysville, Ontario in 1870.
Born on May 3rd, 1914, Marjorie (affectionately known as Marj) Langford had one younger sister, Margaret. Their father Henry built homes, transporting the lumber in his boat the ML, named for his daughters to the building sites. He purchased a sawmill employing 10 men. His wife Rose, prior to their marriage, was a bookkeeper and so she easily moved into that role for their company.
For the birth of her first child, Rose took a boat and then a train to a nearby Huntsville nursing home. Growing up in Baysville was idyllic for Marj, who was an avid reader. A library was opened in the town hall on Saturday nights. Marj always took out her allotment of two books, reading just about every childrens book available.
And back then, no matter how poor people were, they always seemed to have a piano or organ in their homes. Marj learned to play chords despite quitting piano lessons after just six. There was always singing and square dancing happening. Lots of time was spent playing outdoors as well.
She went to a two-storey school in the town. Officials, concerned about safety should there be a fire, strung a thick rope from the second story windows. Children had to practice climbing down the rope in a fire drill, something Marj recalls as a petrifying exercise.
She graduated from a three-year nursing course in 1937 and worked at Western University Hospital in Toronto, earning 30 cents an hour. During the Second World War, Torontonians opened their homes to servicemen at Christmastime. Marjs friend wanted to entertain handsome blond Norwegians and made that request. When the guests arrived on the doorstep they were asked if they were Norwegians. Arthur Stringer replied: No, Im a poor fellow from northern Alberta!
He and Marj were married a year later, in 1942. The couples first four children (they had five in total) were born in Ontario, and attended the same school Marj had. Art enjoyed building houses with Marjs father. Then his brother called and asked: What are you doing down there in all those rocks and rivers? Dont you know weve got oil in Edmonton?
They moved west in a van outfitted with two bunkbeds with their kids and a dog in 1951.
There was a housing crisis in Edmonton. The booming economy, with returning servicemen and war refugees, created difficulties. Marj recalls homes they rented were always being sold out from under them. Art became a plumber, often requiring outside work, which was a very cold endeavour in Edmonton.
Theyd camped once in Fairmont Hot Springs and decided to return to explore the Columbia Valley. After returning to Edmonton, Art was undecided until someone from the valley hed spoken with called and said they could really use him. They moved to Invermere in 1965. Art was the only plumber between Kimberley and Golden. Of their five children, their son Brian, born in Edmonton, became a plumber like his dad, while sons Robin and Dale and daughter Sue became teachers and daughter Marilyn became a nurse. According to Sue, her favourite memory of her mother was her love of music and her ability to play the piano.
We have lots of memories of singsongs at home. All you had to do was hum a song and she could play it. Many old-timers in Invermere have danced the night away to Moms tunes, Sue reminisced.
Marj worked part-time as a nurse after getting married but then did bookkeeping for their plumbing business, like her mother Rose did for her fathers sawmill.
Her advice for young couples today? When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, you tell yourself youve had a good life and youre going to keep on having it. Everybody has problems and gets mad, but we never brought the kids in on it. We never argued or blamed each other in front of them.
After 66 years of marriage, Art died in 2008.
Regarding the changes Marj has seen in Invermere since she first arrived, she notes people have more money now to keep the shoreline clean and give their homes curb appeal. Recalling past economic downturns, she said: People didnt know what to do. Invermere picked up. Calgary discovered us and thats a good thing!