Gwen Elsa Mault Clark
Life and Work
Elsa was born in North Wales, England on Dec 8, 1924 near a little village called Cymau. The family was self-sufficient, and during WWII, when food rationing was common, the Maults managed to live comfortably. Planes carrying firebombs would fly over North Wales and set fire to the roofs of buildings. In Elsa's family home there was a pantry with a stone shelf, under which they would hide when the planes were heard overhead.
Glynne Clark, a young soldier raised on a farm east of Mulhurst, Alberta, joined the Canadian military on February 12, 1943 and was soon sent overseas with the Glengarry Highlanders. Glynne's mother had been raised in Cymau before immigrating to Canada in 1910. Glynne was stationed in Aldershot with the Glengarry Highlanders, and he often came to Cymau to visit his grandfather. On one of Glynne’s walks to visit his grandfather in 1944, Glynne met Elsa who was returning home from her piano lessons. Elsa stopped to say hello and was taken aback by Glynne’s friendly smile. The chance meeting of Elsa and Glynne turned into a two-year courtship. Often, they would visit, go for walks, watch movies, and visit with Glynne’s relatives.
Elsa continued to work in a Welsh steel factory in the cost accounting department while Glynne and his division fought in France. They were married April 20, 1946 in a small wedding ceremony at the registrar's office. Many war brides wore short dresses since wartime in Britain had caused huge shortages in many commodities and rationing coupons had to be saved up even to get a new dress. Elsa saved up her allotment of coupons to buy a new outfit for her wedding--a blue crepe dress and matching hat.
Glynne returned to Canada about three months before Elsa, sometime in July. Elsa came to Canada via ship, the Queen Mary in September 1946. The ship was very crowded and the voyage was rough. It took three days and four nights. Elsa says, “I was scared because I knew no one”. Most of the war brides were homesick.
Elsa disembarked in Halifax at Pier 21. From Halifax, Elsa began a three-day train ride to Alberta. “I remember seeing the country and thinking the country was so big and there was a lot of bush. We don’t have that in England.”
When Elsa got off the train, she asked for Wetaskiwin, and the workers were about to put her on a train for Waskatenau. After some confusion, Elsa was put on the proper train headed for Wetaskiwin. Glynne met her there and took her to a rented small log home near his parents' farm at Pipestone.
Clearing the land and building a log home was an experience never forgotten by the young bride. The work was hard and unknown. Elsa said, "I had never lived in a log house because [in England] they were all made of brick. I had an oak hope chest at home in Wales and I brought my embroidered pillow slips, tablecloths, tea towels, aprons, and pot-holders to my new home."
Elsa often felt homesick, especially when Glynne worked off the farm driving truck to the oil rigs, and she was alone in the bush. "At first my new life was so far behind Wales. There you could just go to the bakery to get your baking." She was fortunate, however, to have her in-law's help in learning to manage the unfamiliar household tasks. Glynne's large family was very friendly; his mother had immigrated to Canada from Cymau, North Wales and understood the apprehension and inexperience of her new daughter-in-law.
Elsa worked diligently at all of the farm jobs, including the outside chores, even as her family grew to nine children: five daughters and four sons. The Clark home had routines and the large family was able to manage quite fine. She liked to tend her large garden and the responsibilities of feeding a large family. She liked canning most of all, which she knew would provide nourishing meals for her family all through the winter months.
When Elsa baked bread she simultaneously made the children’s favorite treat: fried bread dough that they could eat with jam or sugar and cinnamon. Glynne’s favorite treat was warm gingerbread served with whipped cream. Family gatherings centered on Christmas and Easter, where turkey or ham were the highlights of the meals.
In the 1960s, the Clarks built a larger home on their property and continued to live on their farm until 2000. Glynne passed away December 16, 2000, and Elsa treasures the memories of their 55 years together. As of 2003, the family numbered 69 members. A hall in Wetaskiwin is rented for their large Christmas parties, and in the summer they sometimes gather for a family barbeque at Wizard Lake.
Information compiled in 2003.
Compiled by: Sylvia Larson, Gabrielle Kristjanson, Marilyn Hawkins
Contributors: Elsa Clark, Sheila Gunno, Vera Krause, Audrey Stewart, Betty Reardan