By Lyonel Doherty

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If you’re looking for the secret to longevity, just rub shoulders a bit with Fern Oglestone, a 95-year-old grandmother of five generations.

Hot porridge, fruit and, don’t tell anybody . . . a beer a day keeps Fern as spry as anyone in Invermere where she lives on her own, but in truth, is never alone, what with six grandchildren, eight great grandkids, and three great-great grandchildren to keep her busy.

“Just enjoying life, travelling lots, socializing, and staying active,” she told the Pioneer, hinting that the lager (in moderation) is indeed the special formula.

Like many matriarchs, Fern loves to tell stories to her grandchildren. “I like to tell them about my childhood, places I’ve worked and lived. I will tell them anything if they are wanting to listen.”

She grew up in Chauvin, Alberta in 1929. 

“Growing up in the dirty 30s, no one had much money,” Fern said, adding that she and her four younger brothers had plenty of chores such as tending the garden and milking the cows.

Her grandparents lived on the Saskatchewan border about seven miles from Chauvin, which gave her a good excuse to visit them on horseback quite often. 

“Growing up, my mom made all our clothes from scratch. Women didn’t work (outside the home), they did housework and looked after the children,” she said. Her father travelled between towns buying horses that were shipped via train to Ontario.

Her first real job at the age of 12 was working at the movie theatre on Saturdays; like in the movies, she recalled showing people to their seats with a flashlight. At 15, she travelled to Banff by train to visit relatives. While there, she worked at the Mount Royal Hotel doing laundry. 

Fern and George on their wedding day in 1949.

Fern married George Oglestone in 1949 (in her grandparent’s living room), two years after they met in Banff. He was working for Parks Canada at the time. They later had three children, Carol Robideau, born in 1950, Ken Oglestone, born in 1952, and Howie Oglestone in 1958. The family moved to Lake Louise in 1955 when all three kids were educated in a one-room schoolhouse that accommodated pupils from Grade 1-9. There was no kindergarten back then, Fern said. 

The family often visited Windermere on holidays, pitching tents at Dean’s Beach. They eventually bought property by the lake in Invermere in 1978 and built a house there a year later.

Fern often reminisces about growing up on the farm, especially working with the horses. Every time she sees a horse today, her mental time machine starts whirring and takes her back to her youth. 

“Marrying George was one of my best memories. And of course, having my three children will always be my best memories; they’ve given me grandkids, great grandkids and great-great grandkids into my life which has brought me so much joy.” 

Needless to say, Fern has seen a lot of changes over the decades.

Fern as a child

“It’s sad seeing the youths’ moms working so much and sad seeing the kids be brought up by other people. Kids never have chores nowadays which is weird to see as we didn’t have playdates or sleepovers as kids. We’d come home and start working on the farm right away. We had no electricity . . .  we had coal/oil lamps that we had to clean every morning so they were ready for the night. I grew up as the oldest, so I was like a second mom in the family.”

Perhaps the biggest change Fern has noticed is the “cool” modes of transportation now, such as airplanes and cruise ships.

Today, Fern loves to socialize with family and friends. Hallmark movies are her favourite shows to watch on TV because they “leave you feeling good.”

If Fern had a real time machine, she would whisk herself back to 1949 when she married George. “It was such a fun time in my life. We square danced so much, for over 20 years. George was a caller and all my children danced and even some of my grandkids.”

The next time you pass over Oglestone Creek on Westside Road, you’ll know where the name came from — George’s uncle, Harry Oglestone, who owned a ranch in the area. Just another piece of family history that Fern will always cherish.

Fern is never truly alone since she has so many loving family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren. PHOTO SUBMITTED