Community Memories from Lovina McTavish

Lovina McTavish, known by most as "Lovey, arrived in Thompson in May, 1960. Born in Calgary and having lived in Winnipeg for years, she found conditions in Thompson very shocking. "There were few amenities—just The Bay and the Thompson Inn as gathering places." Like many others, her husband, employed by Paddy Harrison, worked long hours. "It was a depressing time for women who came with young children. It rained all summer so the mud was really bad. There was no road out.  They took the train from Winnipeg—a 24 hour ride. They had no family here, so most people got very close to other families. They did a lot of crying back then. Shopping for food and other necessities was a problem. If one didn't make it to The Bay by Friday, there would be no bread or milk left. "So it was hard, especially when you had little kids. You had no car, and in the winter time you would load up the kids on a toboggan and tramp through the snow."

A typical day for Lovey consisted of cleaning, cooking, laundry and caring for the children. Having no dryer at first, she had to dry clothes indoors. Pampers were not in common usage at the time, so with a small baby there was always a pile of laundry.

For entertainment, there were movies at the Strand Theatre.  Lacking baby-sitters, young couples would trade childcare duties.  For the most part, though, parents took their children along wherever they went.

Lovey describes the lack of opportunity for women to work. "There was nothing, which was sad, especially for women who had an education and a profession. Nurses who had been working had to give up their jobs if they married. The majority of women stayed home and looked after the children. As time went on, and The Plaza was built, more jobs became available." Lovey worked at a variety of jobs, first taking in boarders and babysitting in her own home, later working at a florist shop, the golf course and curling rink.  She also took in foster children.

Something she found very upsetting was the number of suicides in the early days, a result of isolation from family and friends.  The men worked long hours and shifts and the women had no one to talk to.  A lot of women had no break from their kids.  The winters were so long and cold.

In spite of the hardships, Lovey was never tempted to leave.  "Being separated from your spouse before you got here was difficult, so it was great to be together.”  Socializing with friends and neighbors, sharing childcare and visiting were means of coping.

Lovey remembers Christmas in the early years.  She kept waiting for The Bay to get stuff in, but they still hadn't in November.  So she had to order through the catalogue.  She remembers getting Christmas trees. One year they had to tie two trees together to make a decent tree, and in the morning there were hardly any needles left on it. After that, it was artificial. 

Over the years, Lovey noted many events, which she attended such as a visit by the Queen, the grand opening of Rec Centre and the opening of the Plaza. She also spoke of a number of drownings and her experience of a collision with a gravel truck on the one-lane Bailey Bridge.

Lovey appreciates the improvements and the progress and the growth of the city, and fondly remembers participating in many events—bowling, badminton, curling, choirs, drama club, etc. 

She remains faithful to her church.  She believes Thompson was a good place to raise her family.  Schools and recreation facilities were close by.

Lovey does not recall any examples of discrimination against aboriginals in her own experiences.  "All my foster children were aboriginal, and my son married an aboriginal woman, and I don't regard them as any different from us.  We probably learned a lot from the Native culture: how to put up with the cold, dressing warmly.  You can go to church in parkas and mukluks."

Lovey also mentions the improvement on nearby reserves as a result of INCO and Hydro. She thinks all communities have benefited because of Thompson. All in all, Lovey has enjoyed living here and experiencing the growth of Thompson.