I learned early in life that creativity comes in many forms, not just with painting and drawing. My Aunt Gisela was one of the creative people that influenced me as a child. We were neighbors in the Highridge area; a tiny blink and you’ll miss it, quiet sort of rural community in the rolling, rocky hills of north central Alberta. Living in the same neighborhood made it easy to participate in the many activities that she facilitated.
This is during one of the dance classes inside the Highridge Hall that my Aunt organized. Here I am pictured with my Aunt’s son, Gary. I was a little older in this photo than when the play took place.
A Creativity Mentor
Gisela would often be the one to organize activities for the small community which would usually take place in the Highridge Hall. Among a few of the activities offered were sewing classes, powder puff mechanics (taught by my Dad) driver education courses, cake decorating and dance classes. If my Aunt didn’t come up with the idea and make it happen, she and her family were at least participating in the event and often signed my family up, even if we resisted.
Comfort in Community
As far as I was concerned, my Aunt had a creative imagination and always had something fun going on. She and my Mom were best friends and would often talk my mom into getting involved in pursuits outside her comfort zone. It was good for my mom and it was good for me. I learned a lot from her way of looking at life, her keen interest in learning and trying new things.
Taking part in those activities formed some of my best memories growing up and helped to give me a sense of community.
A Little Ambition Goes in a Fun Direction
I also remember her love for composing rhyming poetry, and how she would ask my family for an audience to test out some of her drafts. We’d be either rolling our eyes or rolling on the floor with laughter!
One of the projects that she initiated and one I remember quite clearly, was a little more ambitious than usual. It involved, not only composing a poem, but creating a play from it. It was entitled “A Day Well Spent in the Highridge Hospital. I must have been about 9 or 11 years old at the time and was already exhibiting some artistic skill. She encouraged the development of my abilities by asking me to help with making the signage for the play and some of the props. I got an acting part as well.
We had a few practice runs which didn’t seem like a lot of work to me, but I am sure it actually was for the adults. The rehearsals were a riot with all of the little mishaps that took place and we received a lot of laughs from the audience during our presentation. A hospital room is suppose to be a quiet space, but you wouldn’t get that impression form the animated performance. It is a shame that there is no video of this little play as I am sure that it would bring as many laughs now as it did then.
A Historic Find
I stumbled across this handwritten poem when I was cleaning out the basement a few months ago. It took me a while to figure out what I had found and I was pretty excited to see it again after so many years. Reading it brought a smile, a few tears and a flood of great memories!
As you read her poem shown below, try to imagine youngsters from ages 6 or so to about 12 or 13, acting out the scene, dressed in makeshift costumes using old cots as hospital beds, trays on squeaky wheels and all kinds of sound effects. There might have been a ‘patient’ (my cousin?) with a thickly bandaged leg that was some how suspended in the air? It is interesting to note the way a hospital stay is described and how much has changed or stayed the same, since almost 5 decades ago.
A Day Well Spent in the Highridge Hospital
poem written by Gisela Hansen
Late at night when we are sleeping
In our room they come a creeping
With a flashlight shining bright
Did you take your pills tonight?
In the morning, bright and early,
In they come, their hair all curly
Pulse is taken, temps are shaken
One would think the earth is quaking
Next come all the breakfast trays.
“Sorry, none for you today”.
Then our beds are pulled apart.
Off we are to an early start.
“Did you take your bath today?
In you go and don’t delay!”
When you’re in pain, a shot comes handy.
“Boy some doctors give a dandy!”
For a while, all is so still.
Then comes a nurse, “Here’s another pill”.
Then they watch you while you swallow it.
And Down it goes into the pit.
“Now our aches and pains are gone.”
Doctor comes, the curtain’s drawn;
Here an “Ouch” and there a “Squeal”.
“It makes you feel like such a heel.”
Sobbing slowly dies away,
And we wish for a peaceful day.
Then the dinner trays appear.
“Oh, my goodness, look what’s here!”
Ice cream, milk and soup galore,
There’s no use to ask for more.
After dinner, while we rest,
In they come to dust our nest.
Visitors come and visitors go,
Hours drag by oh so slow.
Now I hear a wagon clatter.
“Juice is early, what’s the matter?
I’ll take grape, cause it’s the best.
Never mind about the rest.”
Pill again, then supper time.
Another shot, “Glad it’s not mine!”
Once more the visitors appear;
Some walk fast and some in slow gear.
“The time flies by, the loved ones leave.
And we’re left here in bed to grieve.”
The juice comes slowly rolling by.
“Like a cookie?” comes the cry.
Then wait for old Doc one more time.
He’d better come or it’s a crime.
The beds are made, the backs are rubbed.
“Once more real quick, get in the tub.”
We’ve said good night to one another.
We’re off to sleep, no one to bother.
But all in all, we like the staff,
We’ve had some tears and some good laughs.
So we say thanks to all you gals,
And think you’re all a bunch of pals.
A staff more wonderful than you
Cannot be found and that is true.
It’s an interesting, tiny snippet of the culture of that era. I am really grateful for the experiences Aunt Gisela gave us and for using her form of creativity to help strengthen a community . It must have taken a bit of courage, lots of energy and hard work to fit these extra activities into the busy family and farming life that she had at the time.