Have you ever heard of Botha, Alberta? I have always been intrigued by the dinner table stories and memories of my mother as a young teenager and of my grandparents telling of weekend dances and hanging out at the curling rink. These were the memories that connected to the old photo albums and the “ancient” home movie reels. Small town living, I’ve always believed, is not for me but these towns do have charm and as we found out, an gem of history can be revealed. I went to delve into my grandparents teaching past, but I discovered an interesting historical tidbit.
Did you know that in July 1907, a Mr. Underwood, Botha resident, made a “Flying Machine”? Following the flights of the Wright Brothers and others, Elmer, George and John Underwood set to work inventing a machine of their own. Apparently, it flew, tethered to a fence post, for 15 minutes with John at the helm. Today, a replica is on display, right on the edge of town. Who knew?
Nellie and Albert taught school in Botha from 1946 to 1953. Vivian Hinkle was in Grade 1 the year my grandparents left Botha, but her parents, Lloyd and Betty Hart were good friends of Nellie and Albert. Vivian was kind enough to meet us in front of the Mercantile building and share a few stories of life in Botha. The curling rink, potluck lunches and the weekend dances filled the spare time of my grandparents and their friends.
Two hundred people reside in Botha today. The teacherage where my grandparents and mother lived is still there, although it has been updated and it’s hard to envision their life there. The boardwalk to the post office has been replaced with cement, the train station is gone , the tracks removed, and the old school has been moved and is now the Seniors Centre. Things change. We located the home of my mom’s best girlfriend, Jean Walker, and the home of her teen boyfriend, Harvey Church. I could just imagine all the giggles and laughter that occurred on those front porches.
My favorite moment of my visit to Botha came when Vivian described her memory of my grandmother; “I always remember whenever Nellie laughed (she had a boisterous laugh), she always slapped her leg. I, too remember this mannerism and it made me smile.