Mary Colonna says she never had a job, but she always worked. That statement isn’t quite true. What originally brought her to the area was a waitressing job working for the CPR in Field in 1952.
Twelve girls had jobs at the restaurant in Field and with trains and tours always stopping in, it was a busy place. She met her husband on her first day in Field, married him two years later and never had another job. But she always worked.
Colonna and her husband Carmel had four children together, all of them boys. For most, that would mean a busy household and more than enough stress. The Colonnas, however, took care of more than just their own children. The couple generously and frequently took in boarders that were stranded and in need of a place to stay.
“One family came through and they were living in a car with a little boy. Just a little guy. I guess they talked to a policeman, and he said to go up to the Colonnas and see what they will do, and we took them in. Things just happened because they needed to. There was a need for things.”
Another night a group from England got caught outside in the pouring rain. The group of travellers ended up staying in the Colonnas’ living room.
Eventually the Colonnas received an approved accommodation sign from Parks Canada.
They took in numerous other families throughout their time in Field and formed several long lasting friendships with a few of their boarders. One woman, Jean McDonald, lived with the family in Field when her husband died.
“She had been a war bride from Scotland. When [her husband] died, she moved in with us.”
Usually the Colonnas would receive some money from boarders.
“If they could [afford it], but that wasn’t our first question.”
Throughout her time in Field, Golden became an increasingly important place for the family. As Field grew smaller and smaller, trips to Golden started to become a necessity rather than a simple luxury. In 1988, Carmel was transferred to Golden and when the couple moved, McDonald didn’t want to be left behind so she packed up and came with them.
McDonald and Carmel both died within two months of each other in 2007.
“I went from a full house, cut down to one, and I don’t like it.”
According to Colonna, what makes her living situation better is the family she has in town.
“That’s what makes it worth it. If they weren’t here, I don’t know what I would do.”
Today, Colonna’s favourite room in her house is her kitchen.
“I like baking and cooking and I can usually find someone that will eat it for me.”
Colonna makes regular runs to the post office and her credit union and she will often bring along a few of her baked goods as a token of appreciation for their work.
She’ll also bring snacks with her to the senior centre, where she is a participant in a regular cribbage game, and she attends the United Church on a semi-regular basis.
Overall, Mary is happy with how things have turned out.
“It feels like a very ordinary life but I’m happy with it.”
It’s been an ordinary life spent surrounded by friends, family, and boarders who are surely grateful they ended up stranded in a town with a resident like Mary Colonna.