My mother's scrapbook


13 July 2023
The cover of the scrapbook
Wayne Shepheard shares the story of a 48-page scrapbook put together by his mother, which appears to have been a project she did for her coursework at Normal School in Calgary in the 1930s.

It is a fascinating glimpse into her past and an interesting study of her talents. But it is also a neat representation of life and society from that period. (Some pages can be viewed in a post on my blog here)

Norma Mabel Miller – student at Calgary Normal School, 1936

The material is divided into several sections for each of which she found pictorial examples, mainly from then-current magazines. The first part is a selection of “Color Prints” that are mainly country scenes from several places around the world. Each one has vibrant colours and a restful theme. They are artfully displayed with obvious care and balance.

There are a series of pictures of the interiors of homes of the day – kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms – as well as illustrations of articles used in homes of the 1930s. There is also a collection of plans and pictures of the exteriors of many houses. Again, all have bright colours and illustrate pleasant and peaceful surroundings. Great design and care in homemaking was a central theme in all the pictures. A series of vases filled with bright and varied flower-arrangements completed the section on homes.

Mom put together many pages of the latest women’s fashions, subdivided by season. All showed elegant, sophisticated and, of course, bright designs of the day. There were also a couple of pages for children’s clothing.

There are many clippings about travel destinations leaving us wondering whether these were places she hoped to see one day: Spain, the Sahara, India, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Grand Canyon and Florida. They are curious selections as we never heard that she had any interest in visiting these areas. Perhaps they were just ads she found in magazines and thought they looked exotic.

The inclusion of one picture is curious – a dark-toned drawing of an old man, in a life insurance advertisement with the caption: “The misery of an old man is of interest to nobody”. I suspect this may have been just a social comment about the need to be happy and optimistic in life.

A happy outlook

The content and the mood expressed in the scrapbook, I believe, exemplify my mother’s general outlook on life – bright and cheerful. While the project may have had an assigned theme, the materials collected, especially concerning homes and fashion, may well have shown how she envisioned what her life might be like in the future.

I know my mother continued to have a positive attitude and a happy disposition throughout her life which was tragically cut short before her 58th birthday. Having this tangible reminder of her, made with her own hands, is especially valuable.

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