A Century Later

When time stands still it can be pretty impressive.

My sister dropped off an envelope of family photos she thought might be of interest. Included was one of my paternal grandmother, Isabelle Anderson, taken on a visit to Parliament Hill in October 1922. Given that date, I think I can say with confidence that my grandfather took the picture.

My first thought was that Parliament’s West Block looks pretty much the same today as it did a century ago. The landscaping has changed, but the building hasn’t. Some places are just built to last.

I wonder what brought her to Ottawa from Arnprior on that day? Today I can make the drive from Parliament Hill to the old family home in a little more than half an hour if the traffic is good and I don’t worry about the speed limit. For her it would have been a train trip that would have stopped at every hamlet in between Arnprior and Ottawa. It must have been at least a couple of hours.

I doubt there was any alternative. My family were poor, not middle class. My grandfather was a natural mechanic, and I know he woned a Ford Model T at some point. but i don’t know if that was as early as 1922.

And what brought her to town? Just to see the big city? Maybe it was a honeymoon trip. My grandparents were married in September 1922, maybe it was their first chance to get away.

Or maybe they came to Ottawa looking for work. Were she and my grandfather contemplating relocating, thinking about seeking a new life in the big city?

Somehow I can’t imagine that. To me my grandmother is in my mind synonymous with Arnprior, the town where she lived most of her life. Even though she has been dead almost thirty years, and I only have a few distant cousins left in the town, I still think of our family as being from Arnprior, and the family house, where my father was born, as being home. I never spent more than a couple of weeks there at any one time, and avoided it in my teen years, but somehow, Arnprior is still home.

In 1922 the Ottawa train station was a couple of minute’s walk from the Hill. Maybe it was her first visit; maybe she had been here often. I’ll never know. And I suppose it really doesn’t matter.

It isn’t really a great picture of her, and it has faded a little with time. She had no idea (I don’t think) that her new husband’s health was not the greatest. She would be married for only 24 years – and a widow for akmost twice that length, outliving two of her three sons and her.eldest grandchild.

So much family history vanishes when someone dies. I think that is true in every family. There are questions we never think to ask, until it is too late.

In this case, I didn’t think to ask becasue I just saw the photo for teh first time this past Sunday.

West Block today. I didn’t have the 1922 photo with me, so I didn’t get exactly the same angle.

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