REMINISCENCES: Mary Aremel Anderson

Grand Forks' Mary Aremel Anderson recalls the city in the 1960s.

Mary Aremel Anderson

Mary Aremel Anderson

Born during the cold winter months in Tramping Lake, Sask. in 1933, Mary Aremel Anderson nee Senger is the eldest of 12 children.

Anderson recalled being told the tale of her birth, where her parents moved into town from their farm because the doctor was in town.

“It was very rural and quite a distance, but the doctor got called out to a farm far away,” she said. “Then there was a blizzard so he couldn’t get back and my dad had to deliver me. When I think about it, oh poor mom and dad.”

When Anderson was five, her family moved from Trampling Lake to Saskatoon, Sask. Life during the early 1930s and 40s were difficult and her father moved to British Columbia to work in Trail.

“When he had enough money he sent for us,” she said. “We moved to Rutland, B.C. via train and we went to school there. I grew up in Rutland, Kelowna and Penticton area and that’s where I met Bob, my husband.”

In 1954, the new bride moved to Grand Forks.

“Don’t ever ask me to move back to the Okanagan,” she scolded. “I love Grand Forks and I love this valley. I just couldn’t ask for anything better.”

From the gushing rivers to available hiking trails and sandy beaches by the shoreline, Anderson instantly fell in love with the valley when she moved here with Bob.

“I was more outdoorsy than anything else. I was a bit of a tomboy,” she laughed. “We hiked and we fished and we hunted, well, I was too chicken to shoot anything aside from grouse. I couldn’t shoot deer or rabbits or anything like that because you look at them and you just can’t. Grouse was OK though, I could shoot a grouse.”

During those times, she and her husband would go out once every two weeks because they couldn’t afford any more than that.

“You went to watch a movie or go to the bar,” she said. “We kept in touch with everybody and when you have a business you get to know everybody because it’s not that big of a town.”

It wasn’t long before the Anderson’s completed their home in 1965, where she still resides. Bob’s Meat Market, located behind the family home, was where the family spent many hours cutting up meat for the community.

Bob’s Meat Market used to be located at Ike’s, which is now Flexus, and in downtown Grand Forks where Curves used to be.

It was in the early 1980s when work became hard and insurance and interest rates rose to 23 per cent for businesses that they moved back to their shop on their property.

Pointing to her work-worn hands, Anderson’s fingers on her right hand reveal hours of hard work and time spent working behind the counter at the family’s meat shop.

“It’s from pulling thousands and thousands of rolls of tape for packaging the meat,” she chuckled. “You can imagine the amount of packages I’ve taped over the years. The doctors always say, ‘Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?’ and it never has. I’m guessing it was from the repetition.”

Mornings began early when Bob worked up in Phoenix while their house was being built. Bob would return from his shift work and come back to build the meat shop before going back to work. As her husband was busy running to and from work, Anderson would be running from the meat shop and maintaining her garden. Depending on the season, she would be planting or weeding constantly.

Their farm itself had several cows at a time, with more when their meat shop was doing well. The cows would be bought from mom and dad Doan (Bob’s mother and step-father), where the cows would be herded up to Snowball Creek in the spring and return for winter.

Anderson also remembers time spent running around to collect her three children.

“There was a bus service for the schools but they were into everything at school from sports to other clubs. It was a merry-go-round,” she said. “You know how most people don’t want their kids to grow up and drive? When my oldest son, John, turned 16 he was the guy. I sent him to pick up Sherry and David, and for errands.”

In their various activities, John happened to be a really good goalie in midget hockey and ended up being a Border Bruins goalie when the team started up, Anderson stated.

“We were very involved with Border Bruins,” she said. “We used to drive the players around in our two big Buicks and drive them to Nelson or Rossland or where ever the games were.”

Anderson spent many nights helping out at the ticket booth or raising money for the Bruins through various auctions. Along with hockey, she spent many hours with the Girl Guides, the wildlife club, the now defunct Black Powder Club, Boundary Stock Horse Association, and the girl’s softball team.

“We sponsored a lot of teams and many, many other organizations,” she chuckled. “When you’re in business it seems like you sponsor everybody for all kinds of things.”

Due to their busy hours, Anderson pointed out that her daughter learned how to cook and help out in the kitchen when she was a child, either by getting their meals started or completing the whole dinner by herself.

“A lot of times we’d be out there going crazy before you hurry and make supper because there might be more meat to cut or someone was coming,” she added. “It was always ‘Go pick more beans’ or ‘get more corn’ but it was enjoyable and everybody pitched in and did the dishes.”

With space for eight chairs, the table never seemed big enough to fit the family and its visitors.

“I often think, ‘how did we do as much as we did?’” she wondered. “We got into all kinds of things with the horses and different organizations and the sports, and hiking and camping with our kids when they were little.”

Grand Forks itself has changed little compared to other places, Anderson noted.

“I think that’s one of the main things that I like,” she said. “Whenever I hear people say, ‘I know where Osoyoos is and I know where Trail is, but I don’t know where Grand Forks is,’ I think you have to drive through it to get there. But at the same time I like that it’s a well-kept secret.”