What better way to share my journey of starting a small business than letting you in on the journey so far? The journey began way before the idea of becoming my own boss, focusing on my passion of securing family memories for the future and helping people simultaneously.
Let's start way back...to where it all began... It happened when my mom met my dad...
...and they eventually had me.
Part 1: My Early Life
The photo above is definitely one of my favorites. I was the third son in the family, but my sister, Trina, was born 3 years later to break the streak of boys.
I am a Southern Alberta boy. Born in Taber, I moved with my family to Lethbridge very early on, and immediately it became home. I learned the value of community and family and developed strong relationships within various community groups and many family events. My two older brothers were 9 and 12 years older, so we didn't have much to do with each other. As I've shared on my Shoebox Scanning website and on social media, my brother, Clinton, passed away from a brain tumor at age 14. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 12 and underwent numerous radiation treatments and surgeries during the next two years. He was such a happy and fun-loving brother and taught me all the great things brothers do. I have some cassette tapes of him talking and being creative that I have yet to digitize, but they would be great to listen to; I know it will be a bittersweet moment.
After getting in a motorcycle accident and breaking his foot, my oldest brother, Bob, was recovering after surgery in a local hospital and one of the nurses left a little miniature dachshund in his bed while he slept. Well of course she came home with us (the dog, not the nurse), and we named her Sasha. She was part of the family right away and my sister and I loved having her around. I think my parents did too as it kept us kids busy so they could focus on the more important things weighing on their minds. She was such a happy addition to an otherwise preoccupied household. I'm so glad I have this short clip of her recorded by my mom to share with you. She was so sweet.
As Clint got progressively sicker from cancer, he was scheduled to receive treatments at the Calgary Children's Hospital followed by surgery. Because it was a brain tumor, there was a need for Clint to stay to recover in Calgary and the expense of staying in hotels was too much for my family. Luckily, they were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary to be closer to the hospital without having to travel nearly as much. The Ronald McDonald House was exactly what my parents needed and made us all feel so welcome. Without their support, I know the whole experience would have been so much more stressful. Below is a short clip of an interview with my parents and Clint while they were staying there. Spoiler, the Ronald McDonald House received their funding that year and the organization is still around today, supporting many families during their time of need.
As Clint started to feel better and while in between his cancer treatments, our extended family purchased a trip for our immediate family (thank you to all those of you reading who were part of that) and we flew to Disneyland in July of 1986. It was our first time on a plane (all but my 2-year-old sister who stayed home with cousins), and although we were there under less than ideal conditions, we had a great time in the "Happiest Place on Earth" (even back then). My brother Clint was in a wheelchair when he got tired, my brother Bob had broken his foot in the accident I'd mentioned before and was on crutches, and I was on a harness (like they have now for dogs & cats...and now kids). I was typical 5 year old, full of energy and my parents had enough on their plates to worry about without losing me in a huge theme park. It was quite a sight to see (see picture below with Clint holding the leash).
In 1986, many parents didn't like the sight of me on a leash. I don't think they took in the entire picture of the family and what we were going through though. One lost child would have been devastating and at one point during the trip, Clint did get separated from us due to the confusion of ride entrances and exits (but we found him shortly after). I specifically remember the Seven Dwarfs walking by and Dopey taking me by the leash to meet Snow White and the rest of the dwarves. We definitely made the best of the situation and so did the park staff.
The trip was, in so many ways, an escape for our family from all the hospital stays and daily stresses. I will always remember this as a last good time for our family; a breath between the pain and sadness. The rest of the summer slowly faded into fall and in October 1986, we said goodbye to Clinton Reid Hall, who passed away at the age of 14. He's been watching over us ever since. Now he's along for the ride with me with my business venture Shoebox Scanning. I think he would be proud.
I'm just going to pause here, for a moment, to reflect on his life.
By the way, if any of you have any stories about Clint to share, please reach out and let me know (email@example.com or 403-382-1250). I have learned so much over the years about my brother from those people who knew him.
My family did its best to carry on. With two small children and my older brother, my parents had their hands full, but our family seemed to normalize a bit after our loss. I don't honestly know if many people knew about my Clint's death, as we never brought it up or shared it publicly. As time passed though, we didn't forget Clinton, we just continued our lives without him physically with us. We would often go to visit him at the Taber Memorial Gardens, the cemetery just north of Taber, where he now rests. If I'm ever in the area I still do.
Until we meet again, Clint.
As the years passed, our extended family (both on my mom's and my dad's sides) got together frequently during the holidays, a few times in the summer, and for various birthdays. Each family met up once every three to four years in the summer in various locations across Alberta. We had lots of great times together and learned about who we were related to at the various reunions, shared stories of the past and what had happened recently, caught up with people we hadn't seen for awhile, talked about those family members we had lost, and met all the new family members added through births, marriages or dating.
As time ticked on, I was enrolled in the French Immersion program at Agnes Davidson Elementary school here in Lethbridge and learned to read in French even before I could read in English. I also learned to play the piano from a wonderful lady named Irene Palmer and then continued for a few more years with Linda Davies, mainly playing songs by ear, which frustrated my instructors. When I decided to quit piano in grade 6, I was told to pickup another instrument, so I chose the alto saxophone. I played from grade 7 to 12 in both concert and jazz band. I don't have many pictures of the concerts, but the photo below is one of the best (I'm in the front row, second from the left).
My sister and I played soccer growing up (both indoor and outdoor) and spent a lot of time roaming the coulees with friends, biking, rollerblading and trampolining. Lethbridge has so much to offer in terms of outdoor areas to explore and we definitely took advantage of it. The video below is of me and my sister riding a quad in the summer of 1988. My dad always seemed to have gadgets, toys, and various vehicles for us kids to enjoy, making our house a popular place to hangout with our friends. Side story, our two story farmhouse was actually moved from an acreage in Foremost to Lethbridge where it still sits today.
As we grew up, we were always surrounded by family and we were lucky enough to be able to entertain our grandmother, Gertrude, through music, sports, and card games. If you've never played Skip-Bo, it is a fun family game and was a staple in my family for years; that and Shanghai Rummy. We learned to be competitive very early on. We played a lot of cards and still do.
We were also fortunate enough to be able to go horseback riding at our extended family's ranch in Cochrane during the summers, allowing us to reconnect with family between our reunions. I remember many summers playing Monopoly between rides...and no one flipped over the game board or the table. :)
As I moved into junior high, I attended Gilbert Paterson Junior High School, the same school that my brother Clint had last attended. After his passing, the school had set up an award in
his honor which was given to the student in grade 9 who "most exemplifies determination and willingness to achieve". Now, I was a pretty good student, but by the time I was in grade 9, I'm pretty sure the selection was rigged, but I was given the honor that year. I know Clint would still have been proud. The plaque was filled with the names after twelve years and twelve recipients and was given to our family as a keepsake.
It was a strange feeling to surpass the age when my brother had died. To know that I was now experiencing "more life" than he had had the chance to. This feeling has stuck with me ever since. Even now, I can't help but think of the fact that I have had decades of time longer than he had. From time to time, I also hope that he would approve of the decisions I've made along the way.
I worked throughout high school and university in positions at McDonald’s (working my way up to a Swing Manager at Fairmont Plaza and the Walmart locations), at The Movie Mill (as a Manager), and as a server at the opening of Lethbridge's Tony Roma’s Restaurant. I developed a strong sense of customer service from each employer and remember those times fondly. Between working and school, I played in a soccer league, played some video games with friends, and went on a few trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas with the family, visiting family friends in the US as we drove there.
My first trip off of North America was to Honolulu, Hawaii. Flying across the Pacific Ocean to end up in the middle of nowhere, 3,800 km from the mainland coast, was a unnerving feeling. I settled in easily after a few hours, and took in some of the cultural activities. I even won an evening cruise hula dance-off, much to the disappointment of the other men. Think I may have gotten a free drink for it, but the picture below is sufficient. The weather was fantastic, the food was amazing, and the scenery was beautiful. I would highly recommend visiting if you haven't.
I also took a number of road trips with friends around Alberta, BC, and into the United States. Our most memorable road trip was to Las Vegas just before graduation from university. Now of age, we were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city taking in shows and entertainment, while also trying our luck at some games. It was a fun way to celebrate completing our degrees.
Now that I was a University graduate, it was time to find my place in the world. But what to do first?
If you enjoyed this first part, please let me know. This is my story and I love to share all these photos and videos that I've digitized over the years with you. Follow along to find out more about my journey in Part 2: My First Time Living Abroad.