The Scrapbook

Olive Delmage Hawley (1878-1951) was my grandmother. She was the eldest of six daughters born to William Julius and Minetta Price Delmage in the last 20 years of the 19th century.

There were two categories of Delmage daughter – homespun, plain spoken and hard working, or elegant, well educated and career oriented. Grandma Hawley fell into the first category. She didn’t have an easy life. Grandma married George Hawley – a farmboy and horse carter – in 1904. They had a life of hard work, frequent bouts of unemployment and a crippling personal injury suffered by my grandfather. Olive herself had severe lung problems in the 1920s surviving on the other lung into her 70s. A tough lady for sure.

She was said to enjoy fun and jokes -she’d have had to with my grandfather and Uncle Rocky around – but she wasn’t the life of the party herself. That is according to my mother.

Grandma experienced the Depression when her family had to survive the winter of 1930 with only $40 on hand. She was a hoarder of sorts although not as messy. She saved paper, metal foil and string; she made do. My uncles had a wood cutting business so Grandma burned the scraps in her wood stove.

She was a pretty good artist, seamstress, diarist, and archivist. She would have loved Pinterest and WordPress. I don’t think she’d be posting selfies on Facebook though.

But I digress.  What I really wanted to write about is one of my greatest souvenirs – Grandma Hawley’s scrapbook. Here’s a bit of history on it.

Oh my, what a difference 100+ years makes! If you or I were starting a paper based scrapbook now – a decade and a half into the 21st century – we’d hop in the car, drive over to Walmart , buy a brand new book, and start pasting in our stuff. We might even download articles from the Web to include in it. Or just scan everything and go digital – no book needed.

Alas, no such luxuries were available to young Olive Delmage when she started her book in the early 1890s. Even if she had the money for a new book, it was a three hour drive to the nearest town by horse and buggy to buy it. So she recycled her scrapbook, or as she would have said: “I made do with what was at hand.”

Grandma’s scrapbook started life as a prestigious legislative volume: “The Sessional Papers of Upper and Lower Canada, No.3; Victoria 30, 1867.” It originally belonged to Mr. John Martin, who is lost in the mists of the past – he was possibly the uncle (born 1845) of Olive’s Aunt Estella (Martin) Price.

For nearly 50 years my grandmother laboriously covered the pages of this dignified old lawbook with hundreds of articles, obituary notices, recipes, and words of wisdom from the countless almanacs and magazines and newspapers that found their way into her hands. She never failed to find something to keep. Of course she had more time as a youngster and as a mother of grown children, so there’s plenty of stuff from the 1890s and the 1930s and 40s, but not as much around World War I.

The scrapbook stayed with her sons after Grandma Hawley’s death in 1951, and after they passed away in the 1980s, Rocky’s wife (Aunt Evelyn) kept it until late in 1997. Aunt Evelyn then handed it on to my mother, the last of Olive’s children, and in December 1998, the book came home with me.

The articles and stories and poems in the scrapbook give a unique look into the thoughts of a very Victorian lady and her times. Along with her photo album they give me an insight into Grandma Hawley that a five year old boy would never have had based on personal contact. I’m grateful.

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