Broad Is the Way
Stories from Mayerthorpe
Publication Year: 2008
In 1949, Margaret Norquay moved with her new husband, a minister with the United Church of Canada, to Mayerthorpe, in northern Alberta, a village in the centre of what was in those days a pioneer hinterland. Broad Is the Way is a collection of stories from their seven years there. Told with affection and gentle humour, the stories cover the challenges, heartaches, and delights of a young community and a minister and his wife in a very new marriage. Topics include the experience of orphan children sent to work on Western farms, manoeuvring for a restroom downtown for farmers’ wives in need of a place to change their babies while their husbands did business, dealing with the RCMP over liquor found in the church basement, and the generosity of spirit shown by the community to the Norquays. Throughout the book, Margaret Norquay’s indomitable spirit and determination are evident and illustrate her passionate belief in making positive change and having fun while doing it.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Life Writing
My mother, Marg Norquay, has always been a storyteller. When I was young, she often said that one day she would write a book. Sometime after she retired for the second or third time, I started asking her to write her stories down. Finally, she took a writing class with Beth Kaplan, and soon the stories poured forth ...
The stories were originally written for my children. The events described occurred before they were born, or when they were very young. Now, ministers’ wives have their own careers—something unthinkable in the early fifties. The stories portray a time that is no more. However, readers may find some familiar truths. ...
1 As the Twig Is Bent
I was brought up to believe that there was nothing in the world I couldn’t do, provided I was willing to work for it. It was a rather useful belief for a child to have, but as I grew up I began to realize it wasn’t entirely true: I knew there were some things I’d never get to do because I was a woman. But at the time ...
2 Holy Matrimony
Years passed, and now, as a young married woman, I became aware that my suitability as the minister’s wife was in some question. I had not only been overdressed at my first appearance but had taken down the green plastic curtains on our bedroom windows, which horrified the secretary of the Ladies’ Aid, who noticed the ...
3 We Arrive in Mayerthorpe
I should have known what I was getting into when I got married in August 1949, for I couldn’t claim the innocence of most unsuspecting young girls who marry ministers. I knew quite well what it was to live in a community to which one could never belong. When I was a small child, my family had moved from Toronto ...
4 Not by Bread Alone
Within weeks after Jim and I arrived in Mayerthorpe, I invited the Ladies’ Aid to meet in the parsonage. When it was time for refreshments, the woman who had offered to help serve the lunch asked whether I had made the coffee. I said that I had made tea, assuming it wouldn’t matter. But I could tell by the woman’s face ...
5 Money Back Guaranteed
Growing up during the Depression, I was used to living on very little money, always making my own clothes, rarely going to the movies or the theatre, never eating out, and saving every penny. Poverty seemed almost a professional requirement of ministry, lest riches sully the work of serving the Lord. I was not daunted by the ...
6 No Hornets Here
A few weeks after we arrived in Mayerthorpe, the Co-op called its annual meeting. Jim had been a member of the Co-op ever since he had arrived the previous year. According to custom, a man’s membership automatically made his wife eligible to attend. The Mayerthorpe Co-op was owned by its members, most of whom ...
7 Mr. Kringsberg’s Christmas Dinner
The year Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, there was frost on the inside of the front door when we wakened, and the thermometer outside the kitchen window registered thirty below. We always got up early on Sundays, never knowing what the day might bring, for the roads were always unpredictable. We had to hurry, ...
8 In a Pinch, Use Tarpaper
We had just finished our coffee and listened to the eight o’clock news when Jim pulled back his chair and said, “Monday is supposed to be my day off, and by gosh this time I’m going to take it. I’ve still got my column to write for the Mayerthorpe Review, and I’m supposed to go to Cy Philips Hardware this morning ...
9 Sweet Singing in the Choir
I had just brought in a load of kindling to restart the stove and heat the water for the week’s washing when a knock came to the front door. It was a man I’d never seen before, but he introduced himself as Tom Harrison, the piano tuner. He said he came out from Edmonton once a year to tune all the town’s pianos. ...
10 Nobody Asked Me to Buy a Ticket
I had just got back from an interminable community meeting, in a great rush to have dinner ready the minute Jim got home. I knew he had to get away for an early meeting with the church Board. There was a knock on the door, and there stood two smiling children from my junior church choir. “Mrs. Norquay, the Anglican ...
11 No 911 in the 1950s
I’d been trying for two days to get around to ironing half a dozen of Jim’s white shirts, which I’d dampened and rolled for a second time the previous day. I was thankful, however, that unlike most farmers’ wives, I didn’t have to heat flatirons on the cookstove. But as I set up the ironing board and plugged in the iron, ...
12 Don’t Tell Your Husband Everything
Sunday afternoon at four o’clock, and the phone was ringing. The exchange was supposed to be closed on Sundays, but Mrs. George must have seen the flash and decided to answer. It was my sister Eleanor, saying she and Don were coming for Christmas from Regina. Wonderful! But how on earth would I manage? ...
13 Best to Hang On to a Big Jack
It was Easter Sunday, and my children’s choir, resplendent in their new choir gowns, had all lined up in the church basement. Half the choir was already up the stairs, waiting to proceed down the aisle, when the organ started up. Our small church was jammed, every chair in use. I’d even seen Bill Woodward, the town handyman. ...
14 Glad We Didn’t Have Noah’s Animals
It was 1953, the third summer that Jim had been building, directing, and running supplies for the boys’ camp at Surprise Lake. This year, while Jim was at camp, I was home alone with our new baby, our first child. Unable to get in touch with Jim because the camp had no phone, I began to feel a bit bushed. ...
15 Never Mess with the WCTU
One day after a Ladies’ Aid meeting, a knock came to the back door of the manse. Mrs. Judd-Jones came in, her face tightened and flushed. Without a word of greeting, she cautiously looked into the living room, as if to make sure no one was there, and said in a low voice, “I was cleaning up the kitchen after the ...
16 You Need to Dress Up for a Wedding
Saturday night was open house at the manse, when farmers and their wives, or sometimes only their wives, would drop in to talk about some problem they were having, or just to visit and wait until the rest of their family was ready to go home. We were never sure who would turn up, but we made a point of being home ...
17 Purged of Pity and Fear
After two weeks of twenty-below weather, I was suffering from cabin fever. So I called Hazel Stubbins, a woman who had produced some extraordinary costumes for a school Christmas pageant. No bathrobes. No bath towels. I said I was finding the cold depressing and was fed up with having frost on the inside of the front ...
18 Too Bad They Don’t Brew Beer
The day after the inaugural performance of the SMG Little Theatre, old Mr. Torgenson celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday. He was a retired farmer who had lived in the community for many years, and was known for miles around for his storytelling about the old days when the first settlers arrived. The notice in the ...
19 Scrub Trees May Have Deep Roots
It was summer, and I was at Surprise Lake Camp with our two younger children. I had just assured the chore boys that we now had enough wood to keep the kiln firing all night when we heard a car coming down the camp road. In a few minutes Slim Collins appeared through the trees. “Marg, the RCMP have been looking ...
20 Sympathy and Prejudice Come with a Crack on the Head
When we got off the train at Edmonton, we were welcomed by several members of the congregation and escorted home to find a refrigerator full of homemade casseroles, bread, milk, and fresh vegetables. The chairman of the Board arrived within half an hour to tell Jim they’d arranged for someone to assist him conducting ...
21 Recycling Gallon Cans
Three years after we moved to suburban Edmonton, I was directing the camp for the eight-to-ten-year-olds at Surprise Lake while Jim was away on a week’s study leave. I had just finished putting my three children to bed with the help of Maggie Schmit, our faithful young babysitter, when our camp cook appeared ...
22 Founding Edmonton’s United Community Fund
In 1956, Doris Anderson’s Chatelaine was almost required reading for middle-class women. These were the mothers of the baby-boom generation and, hemmed in with small children, they often yearned for intellectual stimulation. Jim had just been appointed the minister of a church in a new suburb on the western ...
23 Learning to Be a Woman
In the spring of 1960, when we were living in Edmonton, Jim decided to use his study leave to attend a sensitivity training workshop at the United Church Training Centre in the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan. He proposed that I should enrol for the same training. I readily agreed. I hadn’t been away from our ...