Local author’s latest book showcases New Westminster’s rich history

Features family stories from past century

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

New Westminster author Evelyn Sangster Benson celebrated her 80th birthday at a book signing for her latest work, A Century in a Small Town – One Family’s Stories, at Black Bond Books in Royal City Centre on February 1.

At the event, Benson shared some of the stories from her book, which is a collection of historical anecdotes from multiple generations of her family and relatives who lived in New Westminster during the past century.

She began by telling her stories as a schoolteacher, sharing with her students the day-to-day activities and adventures that she and her relatives had experienced over the years. Her students encouraged her to turn the stories into a book.

“I sat down and I just wrote anecdotes, incidents, what happened, how we shopped, what we wore,” she explained. “So the book is just little short anecdotes. Some of them aren’t even more than two paragraphs; some of them are a page and a half.”

The book reflects on growing up in different eras, including times when modern day technology had yet to be invented and the simple things in life were all that mattered.

“We always did family stuff together. We did the Sunday afternoon drive,” explained Evelyn’s daughter, Janet Benson, as she recalled her childhood with her parents and four siblings. “We’d go to the Fraser River and have a picnic. We thought that we were so rich because we got to do all of these things.”

Janet appreciates that her family history is recorded and feels fortunate that she can look back on the past through stories and photos. She said her husband thinks she is lucky that her parents can tell her stories about her great-grandparents, because his parents and grandparents have passed away and he doesn’t know those kinds of stories about his family.

Evelyn encourages others to tell their stories while they can so that their history can be preserved for future generations.

“Just collect your stories and then put them all together. Even if it’s just in your computer or just in a notebook, at least they’re preserved. Otherwise they’ll die with you and no one will ever hear the stories again.”

She has become so inspired to write about her family’s history that she has more than 80 stories ready to tell in a sequel to A Century in a Small Town – One Family’s Stories, including an adventure the family had when they travelled to Long Beach on Vancouver Island and got two flat tires in an era before credit cards were invented.

Information about the published works of Evelyn and her husband, Don Benson, can be found at www.westminsterpublishing.ca.

A Century in a Small Town – One Family’s Stories is available on www.amazon.com