Blogging local history was the start of a hobby that has carried retired Reston teacher Sharon Simms through the first year of COVID-19 with flying colours. It started as a collection of family history, years ago.
“I found I wasn’t as interested when I was young and busy,” she says. But now, Simms has created fascinating chronicles.
Simms, own history begins as daughter of Margaret (Kinnaird) and Don Simms. Her mother, also a teacher, took a position in Oak River and that’s where Sharon was born and raised. Her parents still live in the Oak River community.
Simms, always an elementary teacher, worked in a number of schools including Mary Montgomery, before settling in Reston for her final years with her students.
She has four blogs to her name. Room 21 contains stories of school activities. “I started blogging as a classroom teacher to share pictures and news with parents and families. I liked it better than paper newsletters since you can add lots of pictures and videos as well as links to other websites and YouTube videos.”
Her most recent project was a way to commemorate Manitoba’s 150. She decided to highlight Reston’s built history.
In Historic Reston Bricks and Boards, she began telling the stories of beautiful old two-story houses.
“It’s a real study in differences,” she says, “the new subdivision and all the beautiful new houses there, and then you run into a street like Second Street … big, old two-story houses. I’m glad that they’ve been saved. That somebody appreciates them and lives in them.
“I guess that’s another thing that I hope my blog helps people see. We have an amazing grocery store. It’s a two-story stone grocery store that we just take for granted. We go in there and get the milk, but when you look at it and think, this was built in 1902 with hand tools and it has got the old [metal] ceiling. It’s still being used for its original purpose, 118 years later.”
Simms uses many history books that are available such as The Trails of the Pipestone.
“If it hadn’t been for COVID, I could go to talk to the people at the people who have the memories. But, it’s been mostly from the history books, or these Boulton (family) receipts.” These details enrich her stories.
There’s even a story of a bank robbery within Historic Reston Bricks and Boards.
Chapter by chapter these stories provide a 10-minute read – just right for busy people.
“I put them on FB so the local people read about it.” She looks for their comments.
Last week featured Reston creamery. Her husband knew of Tim Paddock, connected to the creamery. He was a well driller, out of Brandon and lives in Kelowna now. Because of his family connection to the creamery, she contacted him and he appreciated her work. “He was so thrilled.”
52 Ancestors - 52 Weekswas Simms earliest blog of her own family.
In 2010, Simms came into possession of a collection that got her started. An aunt had kept “family trees, newspaper clippings, obituaries, funeral cards and that sort of thing for the family. But there were so many stories that didn’t just fit with the birthdate and the death date. There’s the whole story of what they did and how many kids they had. So that’s when my family tree turned into a blog.”
She went on to chronicle the Boulton Family in a blog by that name. Sharon and husband Randy live in the old family home in Reston.
“So, after I finished my family, I started into my husband’s family. He’s a Boulton from Reston. They moved here in 1892 and I swear they didn’t throw out a paper, a receipt or a picture or anything. And it’s all in this old house that Randy grew up in.
“That was my second blog. It’s kind of family history, but kind of stories. You know, you find a receipt for somewhere and it was, you know the pump organ or the cream separator.”
Years ago, Simms, who didn’t know she would spend hours on historical blogs, now says, “There has to be somebody there to catch the torch.” Sharon Simms has.
Blogging defined (short for weblog), is like writing a diary on a regularly updated website or web page. Simms uses Blogger.com which doesn’t cost her anything.
But she has also gone on to produce a hard cover book of her family’s history blog, mainly for her mum and dad who are in their 80s.
“Mum and Dad have an iPad and they kind of look at the stories, but to have it in the book would really have some permanence to it, rather than just a blog on the internet. So, I found a place to put all of the weekly posts into a book, and that was a real nice thing. And, for other people who like to have it in their hands.”
Find her weekly blogs including the latest of Historic Reston Bricks and Boards, at: www.blogger.com/profile/06169261818373181696