Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Alice May Saunders 1912 - 1997

Alice Sanderson, about 80

My maternal grandmother, Alice May Sanderson, nee Saunders, was always a big part of Christmas for me growing up and into my adult years, so I am paying tribute to her here. Here are just some broad strokes today about her life. She, like my grandfather, William Sanderson, was the source for many of the family stories I heard growing up. They both intrigued me with their accounts of life in bye gone years.  I always wanted to know more. Now I get to share a little something about her. She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on November 16, 1912, the second daughter of Herbert Charles Saunders and Faith Cook (see my blogposts on both of them). She spent her childhood, and most of the rest of her life after World War One, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was bright and precocious. She told the story of how she went repeatedly to the principal of the elementary school when she was five, and pleaded to be allowed to start school. She said, “I taught my sister Clara her ABC’s, and she’s going to school. Why can’t I?” She eventually wore him down, and was allowed into Grade One.

She married my grandfather on February 23, 1928, at the age of fifteen. He was twenty-five. They had six children, two girls and four boys. She never got over the loss of her eldest daughter, Velma, to blood poisoning from stepping on a rusty nail, who was nearly three when she died. Alice also lost a son prematurely, Kenneth “Kenny”, who was hit by a car at the age of twenty-one. After the loss of Velma in a hospital, she had most of her other children at home. My grandmother was known in the family for her psychic abilities, and as you have already read, she had a first cousin who achieved recognition as a psychic. She told the story of what happened subsequent to the complicated birth of her second eldest son. She apparently died in the hospital, and my great grandmother was informed that they had lost her. My grandmother’s experience was that she felt the bed lifting up, and she found herself in a beautiful garden where she felt such peace and happiness. She remembered then having the thought, “What about my children? Who will take care of them?” She then felt the bed drifting down, and she came back to life. She always said that she lost her fear of death from then on.

She raised her family during the years of the depression and World War Two, and became adept at “making do” with very little. She did things like buying sweaters at rummage sales and undoing the wool, and knitting items for her family. She would also buy men’s suits and other adult clothes and make clothing for the children out of them. She, like her mother and grandmother, was a seamstress. She always managed to put on the best Christmases she could for her children, and one Christmas, she managed to find skis for my uncles, and also for a friend of theirs. She also helped make our Christmases merry and bright. She and my grandfather helped my mother tremendously when we were growing up. I still miss her, especially at this time of year.

My mother remembers how Alice would often “go above and beyond” for her as a mother. My mother had to attend a formal function as a young adult, and needed a ball gown. My grandmother used her ingenuity, and went to the costume department of “Theatre Under the Stars”, and managed to borrow a beautiful and appropriate gown for her. When Mom got engaged, one of my grandparents quipped, “I guess you’ll have to be in the society pages”. My mother, who was, and she will admit this, a bit of a “princess” at the time, did not think they were joking and expected that this would happen. The story goes that Gramma went down to the Vancouver Sun and convinced them to put my mother’s picture in the “society pages” announcing her engagement. (I will have to find the article someday). I guess Alice was part mother and part “fairy godmother”. She was an amazing woman, and a wonderful grandmother. Merry Christmas, Gramma.

Christmas with me all my grandparents:
Lena Sarah Weyman, William and
Alice Sanderson, and Tom Weyman

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