In Our Valley – Edna Partington

Edna Partington can track her family through the intricately woven quilt that was made by two of her daughters for their parents 50th anniversary, a quilt that occupies a prime spot in the passage of her home.

Another wall in her Kitimat home is crammed full of photos of her family, 15 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, understandable considering she and her late husband Tom had seven children.

The 92-year-old, who still lives in her own home and drives herself around town, first came to Kitimat in 1964 when she was 39. Her husband had left their home in Calmar, Alberta, population 1,000, while she was still pregnant, to start working at Alcan, bringing four of their children to Kitimat with him.

She waited until her last child was born, before boarding a train from Edmonton with the youngest two children, her newborn baby and a dog, to join Tom in Kitimat.

“It was still dark when we arrived in Terrace,” said Edna. “I had to phone Tom and wake him up to come and fetch us at the station.”

Tom fetched the rest of the family and brought them to their home on Lillooet Street, the house which she still lives in today where she and Tom raised their family of five girls, Arllis, Linda, Cathy, Marilyn and Shelly, and two boys, Ken and Richard.

Considering they only had a three-bedroom home, it was challenging at first, the girls in one bedroom, the boys in the second bedroom, and she and Tom in the third bedroom.

“Back then you just did it. We came from Alberta where we had nothing,” said Edna.

She said she marvels at children today who have to have their own bedroom, which she said would have been considered a luxury back when they were growing up.

Edna said the move from Calmar to Kitimat wasn’t difficult, because when she arrived in town she was struck by how similar the towns were at the time.

The family soon settled into a routine, the younger children starting school, their oldest daughter Arllis already having finished school back in Alberta.

She said the children had a good childhood, playing in the creek where they weren’t supposed to, bringing their friends over to the house all the time.

“The kids entertained themselves back then. My house was always full of other kids as well as my own,” said Edna.

She added that back then Kitimat had a lot more opportunities for young people, even a bowling alley and a theatre.

“Back then the kids would be outside a lot. It’s a pity that nowadays you wouldn’t dare leave kids to play out on the street by themselves anymore,” said Edna. “Here you always knew what your kids were doing.”

She said while Kitimat has also changed, along with the rest of society, it has also stayed the same in many regards.

“Before you knew all your neighbours and you could just knock on their doors and walk in, even if it was just to borrow a cup of sugar. Nowadays people hardly know who their neighbours are,” said Edna.

“The other thing I noticed over the years that very few houses are the same in my neighbourhood as they were back when we first moved here.”

She said despite that change, Kitimat is still the clean town it has always been, without garbage lying around and without a lot of traffic, unlike in the bigger towns and cities down south.

“Kitimat has always been like that. It’s one of the reasons Tom and I never really felt the urge to travel a lot,” said Edna. She said she has no ambition to move out of Kitimat down south like many other retirees have, even after Tom passed away seven years ago.

“It’s too crowded down there. I wouldn’t live in Vancouver for all the money in the world,” said Edna.

She said she wouldn’t move in with her children, because young people like to move around a lot. Her oldest daughter Arllis passed away 12 years ago, and Ken, Linda, Cathy and Marilyn moved away, with Richard and Shelly still living in Kitimat.

“I just don’t care much for change anyway. I am very comfortable here in Kitimat,” added Edna.