Found in the space between the walls and the baseboard during a home renovation was a sepia-toned photo dated from 1948 of two young women standing outside the front door, dressed for an occasion.
But the picture was a mystery for homeowner Nicky McIntosh and her family, who moved into the Park Avenue property in Terrace in 2013.
“When we found the picture, we thought ‘we need to find where this came from and who these people are,’” McIntosh says. “Are they the ones who lived here? Were they friends?
“I think it was an exquisite reaction of wanting to know more, and understanding the history of the house that we bought and are raising our family in.”
She posted the photo publicly on Facebook last October, asking users to help identify the women and their relation to one another. She soon had a name but the story itself had yet to be entirely revealed.
She learned that on the left was the late Marion Purschke, who had lived in that home for decades and planted all the fruit trees that surrounded their yard. Alongside her husband Al, she was known in town for running Al’s Shoes that stood on Lakelse Avenue until 1986. She had studied nursing but opted to help out with her family’s business ventures instead.
“They were a big part of the community, with their shoe store,” says McIntosh after finding out. “I brought the picture to work and [one of my co-workers] was saying that she remembers buying shoes there as a little girl for school.”
McIntosh was virtually introduced to Marion’s daughter, Linda Furrey, who recently moved to Vancouver Island but grew up in the house as a child and recalled many fond memories of living there.
They connected, exchanging details of what remained in the home while trying to figure out where the photo was taken and who the other woman was. A name, ‘Lola Carter’, was scribbled onto the back of the photo but it was someone that Furrey says she had never heard of.
Her mother, originally from Medicine Hat, Alta., was famous for documenting important moments of her life, so it was a surprise that it had been lost for so many decades and why she didn’t recognize the person smiling beside her.
“I find that very strange. My mom being my mom, she loved photographs so she kept a bunch of pictures and was very particular about them,” says Furrey. “My mom in that photo was younger than she was when she came to Terrace… If I’m correct, that was in the bedroom that it was found in. It might have fallen when they were trying to fix something.”
That same week in Grand Prairie, Alta., Lola Wright logged onto her Facebook and received messages that an image of her aunt, who she was named after, had been widely shared and made its way into her social media circle.
“Someone must have posted on the Terrace page, and people started sharing. It clearly says my aunt’s name on the picture, so it wasn’t even a mystery to me,” says Wright. “She died so young and we thought that [since] she went to nursing school, it was a friend from there.”
At age 28, Lola Carter’s death left a big mark in her family. Wright never met her aunt, but her dad spoke highly of his sister and she felt it was an honour to carry on her name.
“To this day, people will meet me and say that they knew my aunt and she was lovely… it’s always met with a very positive reaction,” says Wright. “That’s why we [wanted] to know who her friend was, there’s a lot of her we don’t have.”
According to Wright, her aunt attended Edmonton General for nursing where she met Marion. Wright discovered many photos of them posing in their class yearbooks.
She then married an American soldier, also named Al, who served in the Korean War. When she was pregnant, she found out she had breast cancer and was advised by medical staff to abort the baby as she developed metastatic cancer in her back, which was causing her a lot of pain.
Despite the complications, her son Mark was born but by the time he was three years old, cancer took her life. Mark also died young from a heart condition later on, around the same age as his mother.
The photo that McIntosh found, was probably one of the last pictures of Marion and Lola together, Carter says. She reached out to Furrey to learn about this little-known chapter of her aunt’s life and discovered they had a lot more in common than they initially thought.
“Linda and I had a long chat on the phone. We shared a lot of history and stories and found so many similarities in our families. We think that is maybe why Marion and Lola would have connected so well in nursing school back then,” wrote Carter in an email to the Terrace Standard afterward.
They found out the popular variety store ‘Al’s News’ in Grand Prairie was opened by Furrey’s father, before their family made the move to Terrace. It was sold to the Goldsack family, who kept the original name and has been running it for 44 years.
Following her phone call with Furrey, she says she walked over to the “treasure trove of a place” to share the story with the store’s second-generation owner, Jim Goldsack.
She asked to take a picture with him to “spread the good cheer”, so she could send it to her new friend Furrey.
“Finding this picture was a message for me to make sure I have all the history in place before the people who know the details are all gone,” she writes. “It’s such a small world in so many ways.”