Their Stories – Catherine’s Project

Hi I am Catherine, oopoomoo's favourite photo assistant!

Oh no! I’ve set the deadline!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved listening to people talk about ‘times gone by’. When I was a youngster my father would tell me stories about his childhood in rural Northern England. As a teenager, I volunteered at a Senior’s Home. My job? Listening and chatting with the residents.  They were always eager to reminisce! During my university days, I worked in the geriatric ward at the University of Alberta Hospital. Once again, I was able to listen to numerous remember when stories.

My only regret is that I didn’t keep any records of the people or their stories. Many stories, world wide, have been recorded as family memoirs, documentaries, novels and scrapbooks.  However, even more stories have been forgotten, never to be shared again.

Even though my parents told me stories of their past, none of it was written down.  My brother and I have boxes of old black and white photos dating back to the early 1900s. We have no idea who some of the people are, where the photo was taken or how the photo relates to our family history. Peter and I are now the ‘Seniors’ of our family. We only have a chapter or two of  family history  to pass down to the younger Browns.

My oopoomoo project is to interview three ladies of the prairies and tell their story. You will be introduced to Freda, 94 years old,  who lives in Manitoba, Elizabeth, 93 years old,  in Saskatchewan and a yet to be found Alberta Pioneer lady. They will tell us about the trials and tribulations of living in the prairies  in the early 1900′s and how ‘modern’ conveniences  helped or hindered them….

WHOA!!!! STOP THE PRESS!!!! I just came back from a road trip to Saskatchewan\Manitoba and I’m interrupting this post. I’m changing my mind about my project. (Hey! I’m a photographer and I’m entitled to change my mind when I see something in a ‘different light’!) My husband and I went to Neepawa, Manitoba to pick up his mom, Freda, so she could come to Alberta and spend a week or so with us. While there, I met numerous people for the first time. I had a visit with my mother-in-law’s twin sister (these ladies are 94 years old!!) their grade 3 teacher (106 years old!), my husband’s cousin who is an antique collector , a portrait photographer and  a fellow who has a snowmobile museum in his back yard quonset . I was very fortunate being  able to visit with these individuals. Of course I had a million questions for them!

Don’t tell Sam and Darwin this, but I was a photographer’s assistant while on my trip. (They may think I’ll be wanting a raise.) Mitch was working on his own that day and I helped out with the lighting while he took portraits of Freda and Florence with their teacher.  I felt at ease with all three ladies and was chatting with them throughout the session. Mitch told me that I was a natural portrait photographer…..

FLASHBACK to about October 2011 when Sam and Darwin gave me a challenge: “Catherine, you have a knack for chatting people up.”

(Was that a nice way to say I talk a lot?)

“We’ve noticed though that you steer away from using that all important  skill when taking photographs . How many portraits do you have in your portfolio?”


“Well, we’re giving you a challenge. Take 3 portraits by the end of December.”

This challenge has yet to be completed. As mentioned in one of my other oopoomoo posts, they did not tell me WHICH December!! Oh, avoiding something that makes you feel uncomfortable  is extremely easy isn’t it!?  Soooo…I am setting the date today. By December 2014 I will have 12 or more portraits in my portfolio. I will also have stories to go with the photos. These photos and stories will be available in an oopoomoo ebook.  Oh my! What have I done? I believe this is called a commitment and it’s out there on the internet for all to see and pull up when I try to deny it!! I have a tummy ache.

 However, I have all my fans out there in oopoomoo land who will support me along the way! Right? Follow my project as I collect twelve or more portraits of people between the ages of 4 and 94 and they share  Their Stories. If you would like to help me out with my project, please feel free to get in touch with me at But – be prepared for lots of questions and laughs!!

©Catherine Byram – Freda and Florence and their Teacher!


About the Author

I am a retired school teacher and enthusiastic photographer and traveler.


  1. Chris Fox
    December 11, 2013

    Catherine, this project sounds both challenging and fascinating! I cannot wait to see the final result, but also to follow you along your journey as you complete this project. I have a passion for both photography and history so this really strikes a chord with me. Good luck and have fun with the project!

    • Catherine Byram
      December 12, 2013

      Thanks Chris! Watch for an update in January!

  2. Mary Alston
    December 11, 2013

    Looks like you are off to a great start with the beautiful portrait of Freida, Florence and their teacher. It is fantastic idea for a project and I look forward to seeing the results. Best of luck!

    • Catherine Byram
      December 12, 2013

      Thanks Mary! I have already interviewed Freda and hope to give oopoomoo readers a little peak into her very interesting life, in January.

  3. Ron
    December 11, 2013

    Catherine, this will be a terrific item to follow as you work on your assignment. I have one question. You say…

    ” I had a visit with my mother-in-law’s twin sister (these ladies are 94 years old!!) their grade 3 teacher (106 years old!),”

    Does that mean the teacher was only 12 when she worked with the twin sisters? Imagine being only 4 years older than your students. Times have certainly changed.


    • Les Howard
      December 11, 2013

      The average grade 3 student is 9. The teacher is 12 years older than the two students. So I would expect the teacher to have been about 21. Makes sense to me.

  4. Sheila Holzer
    December 11, 2013

    What a wonderful! I loved the change of direction. Best Wishes on your new project.


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