Author sharing family history
Book: Reading at Okotoks Public Library on May 22
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 08:03 am
A foothills woman is bringing to life more than 60 years of family history in a collection of short stories she hopes will captivate Alberta readers.
Lorraine Lohr Cathro spent a year and a half putting on paper the highlights of important moments in her family’s life since her grandparents first stepped on Alberta soil 114 years ago in her self-published book of short stories Roots & Adventures: A Prairie Childhood. Cathro will read excerpts from her book and talk about the publishing process at the Okotoks Public Library on May 22 at 7 p.m.
“I come from a long line of storytellers,” she said. “These were stories told to me when I was as child growing up. The most challenging thing for me was to bring this all into one meaningful piece.”
Roots & Adventures: A Prairie Childhood delves into the history of Cathro’s ancestors and describes her grandparents’ arrival in Alberta in 1900, the joys and struggles of farming and ranching in the Stettler area and her own childhood years in the ’50s and ’60s. The stories are accompanied by 43 photographs that date back 100 years.
“I think there’s great interest in family stories,” she said. “I believe that everyone has stories and that it’s really important that we get these stories down and we record them or write books or tell them as a way of sharing.”
Among Cathro’s favourites is the story of her great grandparents’ arrival into Canada from the United States via railroad in September 1900. Cathro said they continued north from Calgary when they realized many of the good ranching areas were taken and got off the train at the last stop in Lacombe. They headed east on a wagon in search of a home and were unexpectedly caught in an early fall blizzard.
“They almost didn’t survive,” she said. “It was a blizzard they found out killed other people.”
Cathro said her great grandparents were rescued by a Metis boy and brought to a hay camp where they spent the winter in a shack. Once winter had passed, they were able to establish a homestead southwest of Stettler.
Cathro shares this and other intriguing stories of her ancestors in the first two sections of the book. The remaining eight sections refer to Cathro’s years growing up, including her experiences with the 4-H steer club, farm life, school life, country dances, taking meals to the field during harvest and fishing at Buffalo Lake.
Among the stories she shares is her family spending their summers on the fair circuit, including the Calgary Stampede, where they showed their Percheron horses. All family members were responsible for the chores involved during those summer days including watering the horses and collecting manure, she said.
One of the most frightening stories described in Cathro’s book was in 1959 when Robert Raymond Cook was charged with murdering his family in Stettler. Cathro describes how there was an extensive manhunt for the young man for days.
“The police drove into our yard one Sunday morning and told my parents he was on the loose,” she said. “He was the last man sentenced to be hung in Alberta.”
Cathro said the book ends when she left Stettler at the age of 20.
She spent her adult years in Saskatoon and Calgary and in 2005 moved to an acreage southwest of Spruce Meadows.
It was in 2012 that Cathro decided to share the stories that were written on paper and told to her by her parents and grandparents, as well as her own stories, for her family and friends. It wasn’t until people started encouraging her to share them more publicly that she decided to publish a book.
Cathro is already writing a sequel that begins where Roots & Adventures: A Prairie Childhood left off.
Roots & Adventures: A Prairie Childhood is available at FriesenPress.com/bookstore, Amazon, Amazon’s Kindle, iTunes Bookstore, Chapters and Indigo’s Kobo, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
To register for Cathro’s free reading call the Okotoks Public Library at 403-938-2220.
For more information go to http://www.lorrainecathro.com