When Bev Falconer moved to Powell River in 1935 at the age of five, the monthly electric bill was $2 a month. She knows this not only because she has an excellent memory, but also because she writes everything down.
“I write to think,” she says, adding that she’s always had trouble communicating verbally.
When she was a teenager Falconer wrote away to purchase a book on conversation, but it didn’t help so she wrote. She wrote letters, had many pen pals and was always jotting and journaling. She journaled her way through university, the raising of her three children, through the death of her husband, Ray, two decades ago, and has even had some of her writing published in local history books and travel stories in the local newspaper.
Then, for some reason she stopped writing.
“I hadn’t journaled for the last four years or so,” she says, “so the Memoir Writing for Seniors course came along at just the perfect time. It got me writing again.”
Falconer is one of 10 seniors who meet weekly with instructor Sandra Tonn of Powell River Public Library, who is also a writer, editor and member of the Association of Personal Historians. The seven-week course is held at various locations around Powell River and is sponsored by the library. The current group meets at Powell River Historical Museum and Archives.
“I’m excited all week about the class,” Falconer says with a big smile. “I love the memory prompts our teacher uses in class, such as smells and the music. It’s so inspiring and is helping me get my stories started.” As well as sharing her own stories through the course, Falconer says she loves hearing everyone else’s stories. “They’re all so different—different backgrounds and experiences. It’s better than going out to a night at the theatre; it really is.”
Falconer’s stories are very popular with the group. They say she could be the next Lucy Maude Montgomery, but she shyly reminds them that she’s writing her memoirs for her family. Each story takes the group back in time, telling a tale as if it happened just yesterday. Her use of dialogue is especially effective. One classmate exclaims, “It’s as if you remember everything that was said when you were a child.”
“I really do feel I know what I said then,” she says, “as well as what I felt and how things smelled and tasted.” This, in part, is due to her much treasured memory book, which she started more than 15 years ago. It’s a ratty, tatty well used notebook chock full of valuable information from her past. She has lists of childhood expressions such as, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” and ways of describing a favourite record album, such as “dreamy.” She also remembers and records favourite sayings of her mother and grandmother, bringing them to life for her readers.
“My thoughts and memories come and go so quickly that I have to write everything down,” she says. “I’d be lost without a pen and paper.”
The public will have an opportunity to hear one of Falconer’s stories, as well as stories from a small group of her fellow course graduates, at the upcoming Memoir Masala event taking place at 7 pm, Thursday, June 9 at the library. The event is free. Tonn says, “The event will showcase brief stories from a wonderful mix of personal histories and writing styles. Our seniors are so interesting and talented their stories just have to be shared.” For those who can’t make the event, stories will be added to the library website as the courses continue.
As for her memoirs, Falconer plans to continue writing one story a week even after the course ends, which should result in a book for her family by next year. Only time and writing will tell what stories the book will include since, as Falconer says, “I write to think so I won’t find out myself until it’s written.”