Day 207 - Sarah

Day 207 - Sarah (1st person I approached)
July 26, 2014 - Sarah was like a gift from the powers that be. I had plans to go to an event this afternoon with a couple of friends. I thought it would be great if I could meet a stranger earlier in the day. I came out of my local coffee shop, it wasn’t even 9:00am, and there was Sarah. She was just sitting on some steps, looking at her phone. It was like she was waiting for me! I approached her and explained what I was doing, and asked if she’d chat with me.

“I’m a photographer and writer as well, so yes, of course,” was her cheery, bright response. It set the tone for a wonderfully warm, connected and very fun chat, that lasted at least 30 minutes.


Sarah was born in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC).

“My parents moved from Victoria to Williams Lake (in the interior of BC) when I was two years old. My Dad was working for a large international office supply company and they were opening a new office. Williams Lake is smack dab in the middle of the province so it made sense to have an office there. But having an office smack dab in the middle of the province meant it was also smack dab in the middle of nowhere. As an incentive, the company bought them a house. With a young family to support, it wouldn’t have made sense to turn that down,“ said Sarah.

“I’ve never been back to Victoria since. My father always said Victoria wasn’t a city you moved from twice.” Sarah has one younger brother.

“I was really mean to him. I had a four year advantage over him and I used it.” By way of example, Sarah goes on to tell me

“I once wrote all over a wall in our house with a black felt pen, using my left hand, and signed his name to it. He told our mother that he didn’t do it, and it must have been me. She told him that was ‘ridiculous, why would Sarah sign your name? And it looks like your handwriting too!’ Yeah, I was really mean to my little brother. We get along okay now, we’re civil to one another.”


Sarah wasn’t big on school.

“I don’t have a very long attention span. About forty minutes into class, even if it was one I liked, I would check out. I'd realize that I no longer had any idea what the teacher was talking about. In Grade ten I was doing Grade twelve advanced accounting and coping fine. But they wanted me to complete the Grade eleven accounting first which didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. If I was managing the Grade twelve material, in Grade ten, why make me do the Grade eleven work? I completed Grade ten and then dropped out of school,” said Sarah. She got a job as a server, and started dating her future husband at the age of sixteen.

“He kissed me, on a bet with a friend of his. We were high-school drop-out sweethearts,” she said laughing. Three years later and eight months pregnant, Sarah was watching the news at home.

"I found out that the saw mill my husband worked at was going to close down. He didn’t even get to tell me. I found out before he got home from work that day," she said.

"The company he worked for were really good in trying to find other mill work for him. We had a few options to choose from. One option was too far north, and the other one wasn’t that far away from Williams Lake. I figured if we were going to move and make a fresh start, it should be somewhere else completely. An opportunity for Hinton, in Alberta came up. I’d never heard of it before and asked my mother where it was. She said near Jasper and I told my husband, ‘That’s it, we’re moving to Hinton,’ and when the boys were three months old, we moved. I had twins but I’ve never liked calling them ‘the twins,’ it’s always been the boys,” said Sarah. 


With her husband working at the sawmill in Hinton, Sarah stayed home and looked after the children until they were six years old.

“When they went to school, I went back to work. My first job in Hinton was at a little movie store, and I did that for a while. And then I got a job in a grocery store. In a small town grocers, it’s quite easy to work your way up and get to know everyone in town. I always say that it was Hinton that raised my boys. There’s only ten thousand people in Hinton.  Everyone knew who I was, and who they were, so there was always someone looking out for them,” she said. It takes a village. Everyone knew who Sarah was, I'm sure, in no small part because of her outgoing personality and great sense of humour and wit.

“I used to joke around with customers and I was always telling them what they should do. Not what I should do, but what they should do. I became good friends with the Editor of the local newspaper, which was owned by (a national conglomerate). One day he told me to put my money where my mouth was and asked me to come and do some work for the paper. I’m a photographer first, and the staff of the paper were going to a conference. He asked me to cover a couple of events on the weekend that they were away. I’d never done anything like that before, and I like a good challenge, so I said yes!” she said. Sarah photographed the events and wrote a couple of stories to go along with the photos.

“They completely tore the stories apart and I rewrote them, but I had enjoyed it. He offered me a job, but in the front office,” she said.

“I figured that would be a good way to get to know how things were run. In time, I worked my way around every department helping out and giving support.”


Some time later, the national conglomerate sliced several hundred jobs off their workforce. The paper in Hinton was going from a staff of twelve to a staff of seven.

“That meant things were going to get tougher. We were sitting around one day and a colleague said, 'If only someone would come along and buy this paper, we could keep this operation going.' The guy who had offered me the job initially was now the publisher. Together with him, the editor and I, we did just that. We started our own newspaper,” said Sarah.

“We’re doing really great too. We have a readership of about two thousand, or twenty percent of the population. Our main competition is a free paper distributed by the national conglomerate. But they centralized their production to India, so when it comes to copy and advertising, it’s not the best because it's not local. They can't describe a restaurant from personal experience, because their based in India! We’re holding our own against them, for sure,” she said. The environment of a newspaper also works well for Sarah. “Everything is done on a deadline, there’s a need to get the job done. So it works well for the way I like to work. I do well with deadlines.”


The boys are young men now, one is a Firefighter and the other an Emergency responder. They’re the first in the family to complete further education.

“They're both (six feet seven inches) tall. I'm the short one in the family at six feet. I’ve raised sons that keep me equal parts extraordinarily proud and continuously worried, with their jobs. They're good guys, and they’re the best of friends. They will always have each other. I’ve looked at my friends who have had one child at a time, some with a baby and a toddler. My boys kept each other company. There was a lot of work, but there were also moments when I could enjoy some time to myself. At the park while they played together they kept each other entertained. I didn't always have to be the entertainer." 


Sarah and her husband are in Vancouver for a little vacation.

“I’m a morning person and my husband, not so much. He’s still sleeping and I’m looking for a bagel shop I’ve heard about,” she said. I asked Sarah if she likes where her life has led her to at this point.

“Oh yeah,” she says immediately, grinning.

“I’m married to the man I met when I was sixteen, we’ve been together for twenty-four years now. He still works at the saw mill. It's changed owner's a couple of times. But anyone who works for that long at a sawmill isn't doing it because they love the job so much. It's because he was providing for his family. I’ve only been pregnant once and gave birth to a family in one go. I tell everyone they should have twins! I’m proof that you can be a high-school drop out and still be successful. And I’m forty years old and both of my kids are out of the house already! My husband and I can take a short vacation for a few days and we don’t have to worry about anyone else. Life is good, that’s for sure!” #notastranger