Gladys (Mjolness) Thomas
Life and Work
Gladys Irene Thomas was born December 11,1914 in the Didsbury Hospital. Her preschool years were spent playing on the farm at McDougal Flats. When it came time for her to start school, there was not a school in Sundre at that time, so she stayed with relatives and went to school in Didsbury for grade one. The following year, a school opened in McDougal Flats so she went up to grade eight there. She finished her education in Harmattan and Didsbury.
Her fondest memories of school were the hot soup and hot cocoa that were brought in daily by the families. These tasted so good in the winter time.
During her schooling at McDougal Flats she always drove a buggy in the summer and in winter a cutter. In the summer when coming home from school they would always stop and pick the wildflowers that were growing in the fields. In those times there were so many flowers and they were very beautiful. When winter arrived, there were always foot warmers and blankets to keep them warm. When she was not in school or helping her mother at home her favourite pastime was horseback riding and bringing in the cows.
The one person she remembers at school was the school inspector, Mr. Liggitt. When she was in grade eight she was the oldest in the class and he always asked so many questions. Gladys states that she was terrified of him.
An event in her life she remembers well is when she finally wrote her grade eight exams. She was so happy that she started galloping her horse home. The horse stepped in a hole and fell, hitting her in the back. Gladys said it scared her and took away her happiness fast.
When her father passed away in 1930, her mother was left a single parent with four children to raise. Times were hard and there was no money. Gladys was 16 at the time and by the age of 18 she had moved to Calgary to take a job as a housekeeper. At that time she earned $10 a month and sent it all home to help her mother.
In 1937 Gladys met Alf Thomas. They were married on July 16, 1940 and moved into a small house on her mother's land. Two years later their first son, Kenny, was born. When she brought Kenny home she was so frightened and nervous that she was afraid to handle him.
The house on the farm was too small for the growing family and so Alf purchased a lot in Sundre and built a new house. It was situated on the site that is now Trendies restaurant. When they moved into Sundre, Gladys thought it was great that she was moving into town. Two more sons were born—Ron in 1944 and Allan 1947.
Throughout her school years, Gladys had taken some lessons in piano and, later, taught herself with the aid of her mother. She loved music. When she and Alf married, he played the violin and, together, they played at many dances. Gladys also sang in the church choir and was very active with the United Church Women's group, being the secretary for many years. Her other social activity was as a member of the Royal Purple of which she was a lifetime member. Also, she and Alf did a lot of square dancing.
In August of 1966 Gladys and Alf changed their lifestyle—they sold their house and moved to Hines Creek where Alf became a lay minister. Gladys remembers these years as one of her happiest times. That time came to an end when Alf passed away suddenly in May 1967.
Following Alf's death, Gladys moved back to Calgary to be near her family. There she lived with her son Ken from 1967-1973. Ken then moved to Vienna to work and Gladys told him she would love to come and visit him. He told her to do so and, if she wanted, he could help to find her a job there. She went with the intention of staying one year but loved the city so much that she stayed for three years. Her work there as a housekeeper was very difficult. She had to have breakfast on the table at seven o'clock and was responsible for all of the housekeeping. She also looked after two children who spoke no English—all when she was sixty years old! The thing she remembers most about Vienna was the music. There was always music somewhere. When living there she attended many operas and musical concerts. After three years she longed to see her other children and grandchildren, so she returned home. In Calgary she found work as a housekeeper and remained working another four years.
In 1982 Gladys moved into a senior citizen's village where she still resides. She continues to be involved with music and continues to enjoy playing the piano, organ, singing and going to as many musical concerts as she can.
Gladys has many friends in Sundre and has fond memories of great times spent there.
Throughout the years Gladys has worked hard at being a homemaker—if not for her own family then for others. At all times she has had a pleasant word or thought for everyone and always has a smile on her face.
Gladys has had an interesting and varied life full of music, love, laughter and friends.
Letter of Appreciation by Lillian McGonigal
I have had the privilege of knowing Gladys Thomas for 50 years. She has been a steadfast friend and our families have enjoyed many good times together.
Music was a very important part of their life, Gladys and her husband Alf sang in the church choir for many years and they and Bob Rankin are credited with starting the first Community Christmas Carol Sing at the school, an event we still look forward to every holiday season.
Gladys had very little formal training in music, but quickly learned to play the piano by ear and was always called upon to play at church, sing songs, and dances. She still accompanies for the weekly sing songs at Parkview Village where she lives in Calgary.
Among my favorite memories are our two families standing around the piano in the Thomas home singing and Gladys playing those beautiful Christmas carols. There was always someone practicing on that piano.
Gladys kept house in a home where she listened to at least 3 pianos being practiced on at the same time and said it didn't bother her!