Stella Campbell has many memories from her 92 years living in Guelph. Some she recalls fondly and others she prefers to forget.
“There was a lot of hardship,” she said. “Even with my mom and dad it was hardship but we did have a happy life. We didn’t have much but we were happy, always.”
Campbell was born Stella Buschkowsky in 1926 the youngest of six siblings living in a small house on Sackville Street in the Ward.
“Her parents were immigrants from the Ukraine,” said Campbell’s daughter Stefanie Clark. “They came through Winnipeg and settled in Guelph.”
The family name changed to Bukeman when the kids got older.
“My sister Annie went to school and she didn’t like the long spelling so she changed it,” said Campbell.
Times were tough and everyone was expected to do their share. Her father worked the ovens at the IMICO foundry. She picked berries for the Matthews and Wells canning company and collected spilled coal along railway tracks to heat the family home.
“There was no furnace,” said Campbell. “We had two stoves where we burned coal and wood.”
Her mother kept them well fed and made their clothes from pieces she salvaged at rummage sales.
“My mother used to sew coats for me and the sleeves were different colours,” she said. “She’d make me a little dress. I just had to stand there and she would bring the material over and put it against me and never had a pattern or anything. She just made it and it was nice.”
Campbell attended Tytler Public School until Grade 7.
“I quit school when I was 15 because I didn’t have any clothes and I went to work at the Colonial Dress Factory on Northumberland Street,” she said. “I was a sewer.”
It was a life-changing experience.
“I bought my first coat while working for Colonial,” she said. “We used to get our pay from the Colonial and we would go across from the old City Hall to Vanos. They had a restaurant where you could sit on benches and we would by a club sandwich and an orange Crush. It might have cost 50 cents. They had homemade candy and everything.”
She worked at Colonial for two years then took a job at the Lancashire Felt Company on York Road.
“I worked there until I was having another baby and had to stay home,” she said.
She bought her first and only home in 1953.
“It was my first bathtub,” she said. “Can you imagine being 27 and that was your first bathroom because Sackville Street had no sewers so it was all outhouses. My mom sold her house on Sackville and came to live with me until I married Stefanie’s dad.”
She married Alexander Gordon Campbell in 1967 and together they turned their home at 136 Northumberland St. into a garden show house.
“She and my dad were always gardening,” said Clark as she pointed to a plaque they received from the Guelph Horticultural Society in 1976.
Campbell went on to work for the Homewood and Ker Cavan before retiring in the late 1970s.
Her husband died of cancer in 2012 and now she is planning to sell her house and move in with Clark and her husband.
“I didn’t think I’d ever make it to 92,” said Campbell. “My mom was gone at 93 so I’ve got another year.”
The idea of selling the house has made her nostalgic especially as she goes through her collection of history books, photographs and old directories.
“I love looking at the Guelph history because I remember a lot of it,” she said. “To get on the bus used to be 15 cents. I used to take it to go to the Homewood but to go to Przekop on Stuart Street, I walked for 11 years.”
Campbell’s vivid memory and sharp wit suggests that there are lots of chapters left to write in her life. Her daughter agrees.“If you want to do a series every Wednesday, she has the stories.”