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Royal memories treasured by Weyburn woman

In memorial of Queen Elizabeth: exclusive archive Weyburn Review story — Kathryn Groshong shares her royal scrapbook and mementos of Queen Elizabeth II.

This feature story originally appeared in the May 15, 2013 Weyburn Review

WEYBURN — Kathryn Groshong's first royal souvenir was a small porcelain statuette of two dogs, which she received in 1936, when she was 10 years old. She treasured those two dogs, which cost 25 cents, so much that only a few bits of the royal emblem remain emblazoned on the side and have not been rubbed off in the years of cleaning and handling.

"When I grew up, it was the 1930s, the Depression, and I remember very well the dust storms and the despair of the people when they couldn't grown any crops," said Groshong.

"The royals were an inspiration and hope to people in the Commonwealth countries."

Part of Groshong's interest with the royals stemmed from similarities she noticed between Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret and her own family. Queen Elizabeth and Groshong are the same age — with their birthdays weeks apart as Queen Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, and Kathryn was born May 19, 1926. Kathryn's younger sister Mildred was born the same year as Princess Margaret.

Groshong also learned to play the piano when she was young, like the young princesses. "I just started because I found I could pick out a tune."

In 1939, Groshong started a royal scrapbook, after attending a visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they were in Regina. Her parents made the trip to the city to see them, and so did many youth. Groshong's mother was a "great admirer of royalty" and encouraged her to keep the clippings.

"The roads were not good in those days," said Groshong, looking back on the long trip. A good road was a gravel road at the time.

Groshong said she and the other children from her high school all packed their lunches and sat on benches screwed into the back of a two-ton truck. "It was worth all the trip."

She went to one of the many two-room schools located all across the prairies at that time. At 13 years old, she was in the high school, or the older room. When her class arrived in Regina, they lined up along the parade route to watch the King and Queen drive past.

"We all cheered as they went by and it was only a brief moment that we saw them" said Groshong of the royal parade. "That was a magic moment that would last us for all of our lives."

"I know it was a navy blue vehicle in colour," said Groshong, as she reminisced about the day and pointed to a black and white picture of the King and Queen in their car that is kept in her scrapbook.

Her mother encouraged her to keep the Leader-Post clippings for her scrapbook of the royal visit and the first pages all are filled with those pictures.

During the Second World War, the queen served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Groshong formed a pen pal relationship with a girl named Ivy, who was also in the ATS. "Some of Ivy's letters were very long and very detailed," said Groshong.

Ivy wrote those letters from air raid shelters in London. "Those letters were very real to me." Groshong said the letters helped her feel closer to London and the war and understand the Queen a little better.

"The next exciting thing for me was when the queen got married," said Groshong. Queen Elizabeth II was engaged and married to Prince Phillip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark in 1947.

Groshong sat up and listened to the Queen's wedding on the radio late at night. She thinks it was about 2 a.m. "That is when radio seemed to be so modern," said Groshong.

When the newspaper came out covering the Queen's wedding, Groshong kept the whole thing, folded neatly, in her scrapbook. "I didn't have the heart to cut it up."

The next big event in Groshong's scrapbook was Princess Margaret's royal visit to Saskatchewan in 1980. She attended a banquet in the Princess' honour in which she was no more than six feet from her. "I remember thinking, 'Oh, she's a small person. She's quite petite'," recalled Groshong. "She wore a white gown, and was very beautiful."

Groshong's next encounter with royalty was with Queen Elizabeth II herself on May 20, 2005, when she attended a walk-about held at the Government House in Regina. "I actually got to speak to the queen," said Groshong. She had a bouquet of flowers to give to the Queen, who stopped in front of Groshong.

"I thought, what do I say?" Groshong experienced brief panic, but then told the Queen about her trip to Regina back in 1939 to see King George and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen's parents. "She was interested right away. She said 'you must have been very young at that time'," said Groshong.

Groshong replied to the Queen that she was 13 at that time. She also mentioned she was celebrating her 60th anniversary that year with her husband Fred, who had also been in Regina during the 1939 royal visit.

"The Queen listened attentively to every word and gave us her congratulations on the 'splendid occasion' of our 60th wedding anniversary." That night Fred and Kathryn returned to their Weyburn home and turned on the TV. The news was on and Kathryn saw they were covering the Queen's visit.

The Queen was holding the flowers Kathryn gave her and the corner of her head could be seen behind the Queen's light blue hat. Groshong grabbed her camera and snapped two pictures of the image on the TV. "I have taken pictures off the television for quite a while," said Groshong, with a chuckle.

Those pictures, along with the newspaper clippings from that visit, are in the scrapbook. "My first impression was how lovely her smile was and how expressive her eyes were," said Groshong of meeting the Queen.

In 2012, during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, diamond service medals were given to citizens across Canada, and both Fred and Kathryn received medals presented by Souris-Moose Mountain MP Ed Komarnicki, for their life-long community service. "We were surprised and very honoured to each receive them."

When asked if the monarchy is still important in society, especially in the Commonwealth countries, Groshong said that she believes they are. "It's a bond which, through the years, has woven the people and countries of the Commonweath together."

At the time this article was originally published, the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge were expecting their first baby. Kathryn had plans to add the picture of the baby, once it was born, to her scrapbook.

"I think it is very exciting because when they visited Canada, they were well received by younger and older people alike," noted Groshong.

Groshong has learned to focus on people's similarities through her years of royal watching. "Their circumstances might be different, but they are still like any family."

Editor's note: When Kathryn was contacted for permission to re-publish this article, the memories of the royal visit, and meeting the Queen were still very important to her.