Ladner Portraits: Stories by the elders of Delta’s village
There was a time when all the families in Ladner knew one another, helped each other through tough times, and came together for seasonal dances at the old City Hall. In the winter, boys and girls would go skating and play hockey on the frozen cranberry fields, while in the summer they would play hide and seek in the hay lofts and walk around in their bathing suits and jump into the slough when it got too hot.
Those days may be long gone but the memories remain firmly etched in the minds of the elders in this South Delta village. Two Ladner women, photographer Sharon Wright and writer Anne Sanders, have set out to document those stories in a project they call “Ladner Elders.”
“The more I learn about Ladner the more I realize it’s more about the people,” explains Sharon, about the project. “There’s a lot of families that have been here for generations and generations and I thought it would be wonderful to do a project that highlights those people.”
The concept is to interview people who have lived in Ladner for at least 50 years, who are over the age of 75, and yet still have all their wits about them. And if you find it hard to recall what you did just last year, imagine trying to reach back 80 years in time.
“Some of the people we photographed, their memories were way better than ours,” says Sharon, who has called Ladner her home for 24 years. “We were just amazed at some of the stuff they remembered growing up in Ladner, not only raising their families but when they were little kids.”
Geraldine Swenson, 90, is a retired school teacher who has lived on her family farm on Westham Island all her life. She recalls the days when commuting over the bridge was tricky because sometimes the cars had to wait for the swing bridge to crank open and closed to allow the passage of ships. Sometimes an impatient mariner would collide with the bridge, leaving the residents of the island cut off from the rest of the world.
“When it was knocked out they had to put their car on a boat to get it across the water and the kids had to go on a fishing boat to get the school bus on the other side,” says Sharon.
Anne says one of the most interesting interviews was Lorraine McKinnon (nee Guichon), the 93-year-old granddaughter of one of Ladner’s most famous pioneers, Laurent Guichon. Lorraine tells stories about helping her mother serve three big meals a day to their farmhands during the Great Depression, feeding them pies and buns and pots of soup and roast chickens, even during a time of scarcity.
What struck Anne most of all, she says, is that the women of this generation remember all the good times and don’t dwell on their great hardships.
“Some of these ladies remember being the queen in the Ladner May Days parade,” she says, adding many stories of how they met their husbands are quite romantic.
Public dances and events were the “social media” of the day and women met their future husbands at these community-building get-togethers.
To date, the duo have interviewed and photographed seven elders, with the Facebook page “Ladner’s Landing” as the source for people reaching out to Sharon and Anne.
To see the stories and photos you can visit “Sharon’s Photo Expressions” on Facebook. And if you don’t use Facebook there’s no worries. It will be on her website soon (sharonsphotoexpressions.com) and the project will be on full display at the Ladner Pioneer Library in April 2017.