Charlotte Rash was proud to recite her place of birth, as recorded on her birth certificate: “Section 30, Township 45, Range 22 west of the 3rd.”
This was on a homestead south of Battleford, Saskatchewan on Feb. 8, 1915.
Charlotte was the first of three daughters to be born between 1915 and 1918.
Sadly, their mother Caroline Stewart Thomson died of the Spanish flu when her youngest daughter Ruth was a baby
Charlotte’s father John Thomson had the task of raising his three girls with the help of other relatives and housekeepers.
John was from the Orkney Islands, where only the fittest survived, which perhaps accounts for the lifelong good health and longevity of his three daughters.
Education and school teaching were family traits.
Charlotte’s mother, Caroline Stewart, was born in Marquette, Michigan with a slightly crooked back and one leg shorter than the other, so it was assumed she would not marry. In an era when education for women was not a priority, she became a school teacher. Two of her daughters and both of her grand-daughters would also become teachers.
Charlotte finished grade school, and wanted to be a teacher like her mother.
The nearest high school was in Battleford, but the family had no money to board here there. The United Church of Canada came to her rescue. It ran a school home in Battleford, a place for out-of-town children to board while they finished high school.
Farmers had more produce than cash, so the school home agreed to board Charlotte in return for a sack of potatoes. She was eternally grateful for this favour, and became a lifelong member of the United Church.
After high school, Charlotte attended normal school in Saskatoon. School teaching in depression years was not a good way to earn money.
She taught grades one to 10 in several small communities, where teachers earned room and board, but only a promissory note or a token $1 per month payment.
At one school, the board gave her $5 at the end of the year, and a letter of thanks for her excellent work with the children.
At a Saturday night dance, Charlotte met her future husband, Lenard Rash, a farmer. They were married in 1938 and moved to Copper Mountain, a small mining town near Princeton, B.C., where Lenard worked in the copper mine as a diamond driller. Their two daughters, Lynne and Wendy, were born there, and Charlotte resumed her teaching. The family portrait with today’s article was taken by a traveling photographer in December 1949.
In 1954, the Rash family moved to Maple Ridge, where Lenard returned to farming their small property.
The family became members of Webster’s Corners United Church, where Charlotte led the United Church Women for many years. She taught Grade One in Blue Mountain school in Coquitlam for several years, spending the rest of her career in Maple Ridge. She served in Mountain View School, Yennadon School, Alouette School as head teacher, and Albion school. She ended up as principal at Thornhill School, and was not happy to be made to retire at age 65 because she loved the children and was respected by everyone.
Charlotte’s kindness extended to several adults she tutored, and to three girls she fostered, Dolores, Sharon and Donna.
These responsibilities, her church work and her teaching helped give focus to her life after Lenard died in 1970.
Charlotte’s two daughters both became teachers following her good example. Charlotte was proud to have earned her Bachelor of Education, Elementary in 1967 after several years of summer school. Her death on August 15, 2012 at the age of 97 brought to a close an admirable life.
Sheila Nickols is past president of the Maple Ridge Historical Society.