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Adeline Clarice (Nichol) Peterson




Life and Work

Adeline was born just before midnight of March 31, 1917 (no April fool is she), in a little gray cottage in Didsbury, Alberta. She was the third of eight children (second baby son died at three weeks) born to John and Hilda (Knudsvig) Mjolsness. My grandfather, (whom I never had the privilege of knowing) with help from his brothers and friends, had built this small house for his family and the house is still standing.

Both sets of my great grandparents, Jon and Clara Mjolsness and Jon and Aasta Knudsvig, all of Norwegian descent, had moved to the Bergen area from Minnesota and North Dakota in the early 1900’s and to this day there are members of the Mjolsness clan living and involved in the Sundre/Bergen area.

My grandfather was in on the building of the power plant in Didsbury in 1912 and in charge of producing electricity for the town until 1927 at which time Calgary Power took over supplying the power from Calgary to Edmonton. Calgary Power hired him, transferred him with his family to Red Deer in 1928 then a year later to Innisfail. Adeline was eleven and in grade six by this time. Because of the depression, granddad’s job was terminated, so the family moved to the original Mjolsness farm in Bergen in 1931.

Besides mom’s role as the eldest daughter in a large family, she also was the janitor for the Bergen school when she was in grade nine. Adeline then went back to Innisfail where she worked for her room and board, mostly for the Nichol family while she took grades ten and eleven. After grade eleven she went to work for Dr. Green (dentist) in his office and his home. Then mom moved to Calgary to be a nanny for a friend of the Green’s. During the year mom was the nanny, my father, Walt Nichol, came courting and they were married March 6, 1937.

With the country still deep in the depression, the newlyweds started their life together on a farm owned by my Grandpa Nichol north of Innisfail. Both of my brothers were born there, Jack on March 25, 1938 and Bruce on November 20, 1939. My parents felt they were doing well as farmers until my grandfather sold the farm out from under them, forcing them to move to a poor farm near Duffield (west of Edmonton) in the spring of 1940. There they lost three of six cows and a horse in the muskeg, endured terrible water and other hardships. They survived with fish from Lake Wabamun, chickens, three geese (noisy creatures), a good garden, milk and cream from the remaining three cows and without any transportation. Just before hunting season that same year, the little family moved into Edmonton and lived for a while with Grandma Mjolsness and four of mom’s siblings. Grandma had a large home with five bedrooms but only one bathroom for nine people (unheard of today I’m sure). Dad got a job delivering milk for a “natural” dairy, using a team and sleigh. The dairies making pasteurized milk put his employer out of business by appealing to the health authorities about “unsafe” milk. By the time I (Joyce) was born on April 6, 1941, my family had our own home next door to grandma.

In 1942 dad enlisted in the air force, was sent for basic training in Saint Thomas, Ontario and later to Mossbank, Saskatchewan in the spring of 1943. Mom and we three children joined dad there and lived in a little furnished cottage in Expanse, Saskatchewan between Moosejaw and Mossbank. During the war hired men were hard to find so mom helped a nearby farmer put up his hay while his wife cared for us kids. That fall dad was posted to Claresholm, Alberta where we lived in an abandoned farmhouse near the base. Mom recalls that we had fun touring the foothills in our old Chevrolet made up of parts from three other “brands” of cars.

By fall of 1944 Jack was school age so the family moved in to SW Calgary. The following year Sandra was born on July 26, 1945, dad was discharged from the air force and my parents started making plans to get a farm again. This plan took us west of Sundre, one mile south of the McDougall Flats School in June of 1946. The main attraction for dad was to be able to go logging, which he did, for Mjolsness Bros. West of Sundre. My sister Linda was born February 5, 1947. Since logging was much better than farming the gravel pit we found ourselves on, we moved in to Sundre in October 1947.

Adeline was so happy to be settled in a solid home where her children could go to a good school and we all settled in happily. Sundre was in need of people interested in its’ progress. There were many energetic activities in which to be involved and mom was there. Walt continued logging and in 1951 formed his own company, Alberta Pine Pole. Dad was always a good provider for his family. Since his work kept him out of town at least five days a week, mom certainly faced many of the challenges of single mothers with large families. Mom was probably very tired many times, but as a child I thought she had endless energy, love, patience, kindness and understanding. She always took time to listen and help us solve any problems we might have. She taught us all to be independent thinkers and doers. She must have wondered at times if some of us had learned this particular lesson too well. Our mother was always so hospitable and kind, often resulting in a very full house. Friends, relatives, young men working for dad who had no family around and of course the numerous friends of six kids. We lived on two acres on the west end of Sundre so our place was popular with lots of our friends, room to play plus milk and cookies for all.

Adeline’s family always came first, but she always found time to be a valuable and willing volunteer in the community, helping to build up projects like the United Church where she and Marion Wood were co-leaders of the C.G.I.T., taught Sunday school and was very involved with UCW. Other community interests and participation were the expansion of the school to accommodate the growth of the community, building of the curling rink and skating rink. In the early 50’s mom was one of the many parents who fought with the County to have our own new high school in Sundre rather than having our students bussed to Didsbury where the push was to build a huge consolidated high school.

In 1952 late spring flooding of the Red Deer river washed out the east side approach to the bridge, so my very pregnant mother (among other expectant mothers) had to walk on 2 x 12 planks to get to the Olds hospital to have my sister Debbie who was born July 16, 1952. Needless to say, when news came down about ten years later that the “powers that be” were planning to build an addition to the Olds hospital to accommodate the residents of Sundre and district, mom, among others rallied together to change their thinking. Adeline and Muriel Eskrick joined forces and drove miles in every direction knocking on doors to recruit the wives and mothers in the district. Others spread the word around town. Eventually ninety-five women descended on Mr. Nidrie and his council at the County offices to demand that they build a hospital in Sundre. With the realization that these women and the families they represented were determined, a hospital was eventually opened in Sundre in 1968. By the time this happened mom was already living in Victoria, B.C.

In 1964 Walt had to retire, so mom and dad sold the business and the house and moved to Victoria and took on the task of caring for Adeline’s aging parents and their ten acre cherry orchard. It was a sad time for mom, as she loved her life in Sundre. This was “home” to all of us, even though Debbie was the only child still living at home. Mom, however has the spirit to always make the best of any situation, and being the true Norwegian that she is, took to the stormy west coast like a fish to water.

Shortly after arriving in Victoria, mom got her Real Estate license and became the major breadwinner in the family. She was very successful in her career and put in twenty years, retiring in 1986.

Mom and dad parted ways in 1971 and dad moved to Invermere. Mom remarried in 1983 to Wally Peterson. They sold real estate as a team until they retired. Now it was time to travel, fish and spend extra time with family and friends. Widowed since February 1997, mom lives by herself in the home she and Wally built and does a great job of keeping pace with her ever increasing family which by July of 2003 will total an even one hundred.