How Will We Remember Abbotsford’s Pandemic Experiences?

Phyllis Hill-Tout; The Reach P711

Abbotsford, BC – How has your life been affected by COVID-19? Have you been keeping a journal or taking photos during the pandemic? What new skills have you developed in response? What do you think is most important to collect and remember from this historic period? The Reach Gallery Museum wants to document how Abbotsford is responding to COVID-19 and they want to hear from you.

The stories and material culture collected will create a legacy of knowledge for the future when we look back at this moment in history. The Reach collections preserve our collective history that includes personal recollections and stories, photographs and objects.

Already in The Reach archival collection are the journals of longtime Abbotsford resident, Margaret Hutchinson who recorded her memories of the Spanish Flu of 1918. Margaret’ friend, Phyllis Hill-Tout, succumbed to the Spanish Flu in October 1918 and her memories of the day of Phyllis’ funeral invokes a sense of the loss felt by so many during the pandemic.

“Phyllis Hill-Tout took ill when going to college in Vancouver and came home ill. She died and I was asked to be a pallbearer. I was working in the Royal Bank at that time and Mr. Hill, the Manager, allowed me to go the Hill-Tout home. The service was in their big living room. We four girls sat looking down at our friend in her open casket. It was pouring outside. No hearse could be managed so Mr. Parton offered his little pickup truck. We had a long, muddy road to go to the cemetery and we girls traveled in a car right behind the coffin. It was pouring while we stood at the grave.”

COVID-19 is an experience being shared worldwide. How it affects us personally and as a community, and how each of us responds will provide insights that we can build on in the future, just as we are drawing on what we learned from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemics.

Your experiences and stories are the record of this moment in history that we need to document. To help The Reach preserve them for the future contact Kris Foulds, Curator of Historical Collections: kfoulds@therach.ca.

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