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In my exhibit, I try to balance representations of hardship with those of hope. This reflects Dale’s outlook – in spite of the hardships, she somehow managed to remain optimistic, and she balanced her diary passages where she was obviously feeling disheartened and weary, with those of humour and hope.

The Randalls lived in a tent for a couple of months in 1920, enduring winter weather for part of that time; the first snowfall was September 25th. However, the log cabins that they lived in did not offer vast improvement: mosquitos and black flies invaded the cabins, the stove-pipes had a habit of falling over in wind storms and spewing soot, and rain often leaked through the sod roof, soaking them and their belongings, and causing other misfortunes such as in this instance:


“All my dishes are broken” by Marlena Wyman. 16″X12″. Monotype, oil stick and oil pastel on encaustic and paper. 2015 (photo is of an unidentified woman [1920] Glenbow Archives NC-50-304)

We all go to bed and are almost asleep when Bang! Clatter! Crack! The cupboard shelf Guy fastened to the logs for my dishes falls & all my dishes are broken on a pile in the mud room on the floor. I have but 2 saucers, 3 plates, 1 deep dish left – all dessert dishes, meat platter, saucers & the great pile of plates gone besides cups etc… We see that logs have sprung & sunk due to the storm until the window has a hole 3 in. above it at one corner.

Alda Dale Randall Diary. Page 91 – 92. Saturday July 24, 1920. (Provincial Archives of Alberta Accession #PR1994.0202)

After the episode of the broken dishes, Dale observes wryly:

Mrs. Helmer said to me July 4th “If I ever had another family to raise I’d get granite dishes” and I’ve decided right now “Granite for mine.”

Posted by Marlena Wyman