Recently, I was going through some of my papers when I came across my late mother’s autograph book. The first poem in this small leather-bound book, was written by Annie Stolz, on January 22, 1935. Numerous other short poems and thoughts and reflections about life and its challenges are found in my mother’s autograph book, written by friends, family members, and even one of her teachers.
The tradition of the autograph book has pretty much disappeared, an unfortunate loss. The autograph book allowed people to express their thoughts about life and their feelings for the owner of the autograph book itself. It also allowed people to showcase their cursive writing and in some instances to highlight their artistic talents, as sometimes a small hand-drawn diagram was included with the written text.
On February 2, 1935, Joy Cross wrote the following poem to her cousin (my mother), Wilma Clement:
We meet upon life’s river,
We meet and then we part.
But the friends we meet at E.S. [Ellison School]
Are the dearest to our hearts.
My mother’s friend, Mary Shaw MacLaren, wrote the following lines on October 28, 1938: “Dear Wilma, Cautious words, smiles of good will, these kindly actions are the flowers by the wayside which cheer the hearts of fellow travellers in the road of life.”
Sometimes, the message was short and simple. On March 18, 1935, my mother’s sister-in-law, Effie (née Mitchell) Clement wrote: “To Wilma: – With Love From Effie.” However, this short message was accompanied by a hand drawn and coloured picture, showing a woman and her infant child, attesting to Effie’s artistic prowess.
It is easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows along like a song
But the man worth while
Is the man who can smile
When everything goes dead wrong
For the test of the heart is trouble
And it always comes with the years
And the smile that is worth
The praise of the earth
Is the smiles smile that shines through tears.
On October 25, 1935, in beautiful cursive writing, my mother’s teacher, George Elliot wrote the following message to his pupil:
One thing at a time and that done well
Is a very good rule as many can tell,
Moments are useless trifled away
Then work while you work, and play while you play.
The thoughts, sentiments, poetry, and art work in my mother’s autograph book are beautiful and genuine, reflecting friendships and love from more than seventy-five years ago. They are timeless in their beauty.
By Bob Hayes, Director of the Lake Country Museum and Archives
Robert Michael “Bob” Hayes is a life-long resident of Kelowna and is a descendant of the pioneer Whelan and Clement families. He is a Life Member of the Okanagan Historical Society, and the Kelowna Branch (O.H.S.). This article is part of a series, submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Additional information would be welcome at P.O. Box #22105, Capri P.O., Kelowna, B.C., V1Y 9N9.