The first thing I used to ask when arriving to a new place was, “how many people live here”? It was an important thing to know when where you came from, was less than 5,000 residents.
That town was a place called Devon, Alberta. I attended most of my elementary grades there. Those are formative years. They help set your character. What kind of adult you will become grows out of that time.
For me, those were very happy days. The town had a kind of innocence. Modern life had not really bore down on us. We lived through the ’70’s in much the same way as decades before us had done. Because I didn’t know any different, life was good.
Then, my Dad’s job took our family to Calgary. That was the height of the super high mortgage rates in the ’80’s. Times were tough for many families. Homes became worth less than what was owed to the bank. People were forced to walk away, having to completely start over. While my family was not badly effected, these were problems that had not really touched any of us back in our small town.
And so it went. I was getting older, becoming a teenager, time to grow up and understand what was going on in the big city. Those years in Calgary taught me all of that, (and probably some stuff I’d like to forget). Then a funny thing happened. Back to Devon for grade 12.
So here I was graduating high school with many of the same folks I had played with on the elementary school ground. It was a little strange at first, but I fell back into that small town life pretty easily.
After high school I kicked around the area for a year, working and trying to see if I fit in. In the end, too much time had passed and something was pulling me back to Calgary. In truth, I really only applied to post secondary schools located in Calgary. So the odds were pretty good I would be moving.
Through a series of events, with the program I was taking in Calgary, the school was forced to close and I ended up moving out West to finish my education. Little did I know then, my heart would be captured by Vancouver. First by the beauty of the place. Then the weather. And finally, meeting my husband.
But somewhere down in my soul, I was a small town girl. Luckily my husband sort of felt the same. And we couldn’t afford the city anyway. Now that we can afford to live there, we won’t move anyhow. There is something about a small town that is very special.
It was that particular brand of Alberta small town charm that my daughter has been experiencing this week. My Aunt has been giving my daughter the opportunity to live the way I used to. My daughter was marvelling at the freedom she has. Her bike is the locomotion and she is free to roam. And she likes it. I asked her if she was concerned about getting lost. She says, “it’s too small to get lost”!
On Canada Day, my daughter joined a family outing to an even smaller town in Alberta called Rosemary. In fact, it is a village. But no matter. There was a parade where candy was thrown a plenty. A tractor race for the kids. Tractor pulls for the grown ups. Food and drink and celebration. Everyone talks to each other, like a big family. To me, that is the core strength of a community. Which is probably why people stay.
Always makes me think of the Hal Ketchum song – Small Town Saturday Night.