Mary and Jane McQuitty

Page 600 More Big Hill Country 2009

Mary McQuitty 

In a rainstorm in 1965, we arrived in Cochrane, having driven from Montreal, George to open a medical practice in Cochrane, with Jane, our daughter, and our dog. My first memory is of crossing the wooden bridge over the Bow and getting a first glimpse of Cochrane, a small village then, unpaved, which gave rise to the effect of a Chinook on our first or second night. George had gone to Calgary to collect some luggage. Late in the evening, a Chinook blew in. I had no idea what was happening, dust blowing with the odd bits of paper, etc. past the window. Jane and I huddled in a dark corner away from glass, wondering if I would see my husband, who should be on his way home and was perhaps blown off the road. He arrived safe and sound, the wind had abated and when we asked how he had survived he said, “It was only a strong wind”, he was on a paved road! 

Until his death, Cochrane was always special to George. He loved going to the old office twice weekly after it became apparent permanent residence was not possible because of the distance from the hospital. 

So many people were so helpful in those early days and the many kindnesses we won’t forget. 

One project that was important to George from the very early days was the need for a lodge so that elderly people were not sent off to Calgary, away from their families. Clarence Copithorne, then MLA for the area,

was instrumental in helping him achieve that project; the other was to have a resident doctor in Cochrane, which he was able to do when his practice became a satellite teaching unit of the University of Calgary. Nurses were provided and medical services grew. 

I have watched Cochrane grow into the large town it is today, and I am sure it will retain a great deal of its character through the many changes.

Jane McQuitty 

I had just turned seven when we moved from England to Canada, and remember arriving in Cochrane as the culmination of a most amazing family adventure. We had spent a week crossing the Atlantic on a huge ship called The Empress of Canada. It created a very favorable impression on a little girl, with stunning morning buffets of amazing dishes like stewed raisins, masquerade parties for children, the thrill of being reunited with a favorite toy that I believed had had to be abandoned in Birmingham, whales, and then the first sight of a forested island, I think it was Anticosti. There was the thrill of discovering Quebec City, a taxi ride during which my father spoke in French and English to the taxi driver all the way to Montreal (there was a train strike on), a few days in a hotel of an elegance I’d never seen before, while we waited to be reunited with our luggage. Next, the arrival of a huge station wagon, now ours, and the start of another cramped in like a sardine with the luggage, seven days drive west. West! The place I could only hope would actually be very like ‘Bonanza!’ and where I had been assured by the lady at Customs, I would find real live cowboys and Indians. Thrills of the drive were many, including the sequential blowing of all four tires on the station wagon, being

able to tell my parents that they were looking at a chipmunk (my T.V. watching in Birmingham had not been a complete waste of time, it had made me much smarter than I’d realized), hunting for mysterious things called ‘pollywogs’, which turned out to be tadpoles, with friends instantly made at a Thousand Islands picnic site and some stunning, bone-rattling prairie thunderstorms. I immediately liked Cochrane. It was really in the country and we were camping. It appeared that all three of us, Mum, Dad, and Patch, the dog, were going to be spending quite some time living on top of each other in the downstairs room at the back of Dad’s Main Street office. In spite of the terrifying Chinook my mother remembers, I remember the first weeks of July 1965 as hot and sunny and blue-skied everyday, perfect weather to be outside. Miraculously, something about the move from Birmingham to Cochrane had changed all the rules so that, for the first time in my life, I could wander in and out and find my way to the playground without anxious adult supervision. And, to my delight, the Customs lady had been serious, not just talking down to a child, there actually were real live cowboys and Indians. The first morning I woke up in Cochrane, I went outside to find an elderly lady with long braids, a blue cardigan, a print skirt, moccasins, and wrappings around her legs sitting on our doorstep drinking an Orange Crush, and there, walking by, was a real live cowboy with a Stetson hat, a press button shirt, and cowboy boots. 

People and children my age were kind and welcoming but I soon noticed, especially out of the stratosphere of my parents, that I wasn’t quite right; I talked funny and dressed funny. Getting out of pastel cotton dresses and Clarks, and into blue jeans, Keds, and my very own press button shirt from R.E. Moore’s was thanks to the largesse of my Dad. He couldn’t help me with the funny talk though, and I didn’t have the effrontery to suggest that maybe he and Mum should be doing something about their own stick-out-like-a-sore thumb funny talk, so I decided to work out a solution for myself. In the next few days, I put a lot of effort into copying the speech of two friendly girls from a trailer park in Ontario. In no time I was flawless at it. I was very sad when the camping ended and we had to leave for Calgary.

Deep Dive

Leave a comment

want more details?

Fill in your details and we'll be in touch