Written by Ann Hadcock
I didn’t want to go to the retirement home at first. I thought that my new friend and I would not be able to communicate at all, we were from different times, almost different worlds. When I finally met Elsie Dobson I was pleasantly surprised. She put me at ease immediately with her calm, compassionate eyes and soft melodic voice. I was incredibly wrong in ever thinking that we could not communicate. Elsie and I had much in common.
Both of us lov nature and the outdoors. Elsie grew up in the Muskokas, flourishing in the beauty of the landscape that surrounded her. Her father founded and operated a gas station for tourists as they ventured up to cottage country on their holidays. The family business provided jobs for Elsie and her many brothers and sisters during the summer break. In the fall and winter she attended school in a one room school house which housed all the primary and secondary trades. Elsie was able to earn her grade twelve credit which back in those days was quite an accomplishment for a woman.
When she was young things were different. People were driving around model T’s and model A Fords on dirt roads. I had recently read in my history textbook that a model T was only worth about $450 dollars fully loaded. When I informed Elsie of this, she smiled. It was then that she told me how much money this was back in her time when the average person only made 25 cents a day. She made a living with various jobs. She produced gun components in Toronto during the Second World War, which would be used by the allied regiments fighting in Europe. Later, in Owen Sound she worked in a nylon factory. Elsie was also a devoted and loving mother of two boys (an occupation in itself).
I asked Elsie about growing up in a time with so many scientific developments and how it affected her. She mulled this over for a while and told me that it was unbelievable. In her time she witnessed the arrival of the car, the walk on the moon, the television and the computer. The television greatly affected her life. When it first came out she would go to her neighbour’s house to watch sports (their neighbour was the first person on the block to have a TV. The time of isolation was over now she could be connected to the world with the press of a button. One of the things that Elsie found the most amazing was the computer. Her son recently purchased one and she was flabbergasted by how much it could do. She wouldn’t even know where to start if she had to use it.
Elsie witnessed the change in music and social patterns. She remembered listening to the mellow rhythms of the Big Band Era, tuning into the likes of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Bing Crosby and Perry Como. She also remembers the dawning of the age of Rock’n Roll. At first she hated the music, it sounded like a lot of noise, but over time she began to like a singer by the name of Elvis Presley. At the age of thirty Elsie and her friends (the friend was an Elvis fanatic) went to see the young Prestley boy dance on stage. It was very entertaining, something Elsie would always remember.
When her husband retired, Elsie moved up to the Miller Lake area on the Bruce Peninsula. It was beautiful and peaceful. But as Elsie aged she became sick and had to move into a retirement home in Wiarton so she could receive adequate care. Her husband misses her terribly and still sends her flowers once in a while to warm up her room and visits her once a week.
I don’t understand why I ever thought that Elsie and I would be so different. She was just like me only a few years wiser. I learned so much more than what a book could teach me. Through Elsie’s eyes I feel myself transformed into another time. The worlds we live in now are the same, only a few things have changed.
I had to open my mind and listen and when I did I could finally understand."
From An Anthology of Stories the EWR4A and Gateway Haven Friend-to-Friend Programme