Fonds RBSC-ARC-1455 - Ralston Family Fonds

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Ralston Family Fonds

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15.25 m of textual and photographic materials.

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Biographical history

Harry Keith Ralston (born September 3rd, 1921, died June 20, 2009) was the oldest of three sons of Henry Wellington Ralston (1887-1943) and Gertrude Marinda Walker (1884-1964). Keith was educated at Oaklands Elementary and at Victoria High School, where he won the Royal Institution Scholarship for Victoria District on his graduation in 1938. Proceeding to Victoria College and the University of BC, he received a BA with 1st Class Honours in History in 1942 and later completed an MA at UBC in 1965. He also did graduate work at the University of Toronto. In 1942 Keith entered the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman and was discharged in 1945 as Lieutenant after serving on the Atlantic Coast. A lifelong socialist, Keith was the legislative correspondent in 1952-55 for the left-wing weekly Pacific Tribune as well as for The Fisherman and other labour newspapers. Turning to teaching, he graduated in 1956 from the Vancouver Normal School with distinction, an honour given to only ten graduates among more than 500. From 1956 to 1960 he taught at Templeton Secondary School on Vancouver's east side. In 1960-64 he was first curator of the newly-established Vancouver Maritime Museum and mounted its initial exhibitions as well as assembling its early collection. After further academic study, he was appointed to the History Department of UBC in 1967. There he specialized in teaching the history of the Canadian West and developed UBC's first course in British Columbia's history. He retired at the end of 1986 with the rank of Assistant Professor.

Edith Mary “Mollie” Ralston (born March 11, 1922) , died December 18, 2011) was a teacher in the Vancouver school system. Born March 11, 1922 in Prince Rupert, eldest child of James Owens (1887-1978) and Margaret Janet Owens (nee Anderson) (1890-1982), at the age of five months, she and her mother went to the Bulkley Valley where her father had taken up land in the community of Evelyn, 12 miles north of Smithers, BC. She grew up on the farm, and walked the 2 and a half miles to the one-room Evelyn School until Grade 8, and completed a further three years of high school through the provincial correspondence program. For Grade 12 she went with her sister Janet to Prince Rupert where the girls boarded at the convent run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mollie graduated in 1939 from Booth Memorial High School and came down by steamer to attend UBC that fall as WWII broke out. At UBC she completed the first two years in the Arts and Science faculty, then enrolled at Sprott-Shaw Business College to take a one-year program. She then went to work for Northwest Mortgage, the first of several office jobs. In 1944 she left her position at Marsh McLennan to travel across Canada by train to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where on July 3, 1944 she married Keith Ralston, whom she had met at UBC and who was then serving in the Royal Canadian Navy. There followed a period of moving about the country, to Vancouver in 1945-47, Toronto in 1947-49, and Victoria in 1949-54. In all these places Mollie was the major family breadwinner as her husband pursued a graduate degree in history. Mollie's two children were born in Victoria, Bruce in 1952, and Delia in 1954. In mid-1954 the family moved back to Vancouver and Keith attended Normal School, thereafter becoming a teacher in the Vancouver school system, a move made possible by Mollie's continuing office work. Settling into their first house in 1958 both were employed while Mollie also went to evening degree classes at UBC. By 1965, she had accumulated enough credits to take a year in the Faculty of Education and qualify as an elementary teacher. This second career was to last 18 years and to take her to several Vancouver schools, including Begbie Annex, General Gordon, Sir William Osler, Seymour and latterly Carnarvon. All this was plus a year in the English Midlands as an exchange teacher. Along the way by taking UBC Summer School courses she completed in 1968 the UBC program she had started almost 30 years before. Retiring in 1984, she had completed a working life of 42 years in which, as she said, there was only one year she did not file an income tax return.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds predominantly consists of the Household Accounts series, which includes documents supporting the daily activities of the Ralston family from 1956-2003, including bank statements, life insurance documents, receipts, correspondence, and three photographs of Mollie. The Income Tax Files series consists of tax returns and supporting documentation for the years 1965-1996. The fonds also contains a Construction and Upkeep of House series with files related to the construction of the Ralston’s house on West 28th Avenue in Vancouver, built in 1969. The Educational Notes series includes notes written by Keith, Mollie, Bruce and Delia during their grade school and university educations, and includes notes from 1935 to the 1970s.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Keith and Mollie Ralston in three accessions: Educational Notes series on December 8, 1989, additional material on June 15th, 2007, and additional boxes of correspondence in 2012 via David Breen.


Material from the second accession was stored chronologically by the Ralston family in labelled envelopes, which were stored in boxes according to their functions: Household Accounts, Income Tax Files and Construction and Upkeep of House. This arrangement has been respected so that the series in the fonds reflect the boxes they were stored in. The labels of the envelopes have been transcribed, and comprise the titles of the files within the series.

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Records in the Income Tax Files series are accessible if the research agreement is signed.

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No further accruals are expected.

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