Taylor Roth

Stories from the past highlight Prairie culture

Library, museum host writers to mark Alberta Culture Days

Lorraine Lohr Cathro enjoys telling stories about her family, her life and the province she calls home, making her an ideal speaker for Alberta Culture Days.

The former local resident and author of Roots and Adventures: A Prairie Childhood was invited to speak at the Stettler Town and Country Museum on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Cathro spoke for roughly an hour about the culture of the Prairies and her ancestors, and the formative effects it had and continues to have in her life.

In 1900, her great-grandparents, the Lohrs, arrived in what was then the Northwest Territories, before the land had even been surveyed.

“They were very, very tough people to come out and survive on the Prairies,” Cathro said. “They were very resilient.”

In her view, the people of the Prairie provinces have a different understanding of life, compared to those living on the coasts or in central Canada.

Cathro discussed three major cultural influences from her childhood: literature, music and a love of animals, especially horses.

She read stories from her book, which was one of the projects she’d planned for her retirement years. She took writing classes and had plans to share her work with her family, but others encouraged her to publish the book for a wider audience.

The book details her family history and her upbringing on a farm south of Erskine in the 1950s and 1960s. Cathro said she worked on the book “seriously” for about a year and a half and published it through FriesenPress in May.

She and her husband Doug now live on an acreage southwest of Calgary. She said Saturday that she has a second book in the works, which picks up where the first one left off, around 1970.

Saturday’s event also included a pie social and free admission to the museum.

Manager Karen Wahlund said the museum hopes to continue marking Culture Days each year with new events.

Copies of Cathro’s book are available from Evelyn and Don Strandquist, the Stettler Town and Country Museum, Big Valley Antiques and Collectables, and online at www.lorrainecathro.com.

Cathro is also scheduled to speak to the Stettler Genealogy Club on Thursday, Oct. 2, beginning at 7 p.m. at Paragon Place. She will discuss her experience in writing and publishing her family history.

Library hosts children’s author, dancers

Down the street at the Stettler Public Library, children’s author Hazel Hutchins gave a reading from several of her books, including The Sidewalk Rescue and Norman’s Snowball, to a group of about a dozen children.

Hutchins, whose visit was sponsored by the Writers Guild of Alberta, grew up on farms in southern Alberta, near Strathmore, and often visited her mother’s relatives near Stettler. She now makes her home in Canmore.

She has written more than 50 titles, including picture books and short novels for kids up to age 12. Her books have been translated into various languages, from Japanese to Arabic. Her work has been honoured with several awards and shortlisted for more.

In her visits to schools and libraries, Hutchins said, she has to be prepared for audiences of different ages, but she’s noticed a certain “magic” about the power of a story.

Though kids may be distracted and restless when she begins talking, she said, they snap to attention when she starts reading from her books.

“As soon as you read a story, no matter what age they are, they sit and listen,” she said. “It’s really lovely.”

The library’s celebration for Culture Days also included performances by Rhonda McCulloch’s Danceology students, as well as refreshments, a short video series called “Prairie Tales,” and an art display and silent auction featuring the work of local students.

Program and event co-ordinator Darlene Philpot said she thought it was an excellent opportunity to showcase local talent, and she hopes it will continue in coming years.

“Every year, we’d like it to grow,” she said, “because the library should be used as a venue where we can showcase everything that central Alberta has to offer.”

For more information on Hutchins and her work, visit www.hazelhutchins.net. For details on library programs and events, visit www.spl.prl.ab.ca.


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