She went from clerk to teacher to artist
loria (Proudlock) Thorpe was born in Vancouver at the Grace Maternity Hospital in 1932 just two days after the Burrard Street Bridge was officially opened. Gloria said, “I am 85 and I am just as old as that bridge. In fact the Burrard Street Bridge has been assessed by heritage consultants as being one of the top historic buildings in Vancouver. Over the years improvements and repairs have been made to that bridge and like me I need some repairs too as I anxiously wait for a much needed hip replacement.”
The Burrard Bridge also known as the Burrard Street Bridge opened on Dominion Day, in 1932. The five lane bridge, built to the tune of $3 million, was quite an amazing structure back then even though some people thought it was a monstrosity.
Gloria was raised and educated in Vancouver. She attended Lord Tennyson elementary school in Kitsilano, studied piano and joined the school choir. She was part of her elementary school group that sang the Messiah at the Orpheum Theater.
When she was in Grade 8 and 15 years old her mother convinced her to take the Toronto Conservatory of Music exam. Her score was in the high 70s but since she had always been a perfectionist she cried because the score wasn’t near perfect.
The Toronto Conservatory of Music changed their name to the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto in 1947 and quickly became the most prominent music training Conservatory in Canada. The Royal Conservatory examinations provided a national standard for students, parents and teachers to measure progress and achievements. It has been noted over time that successfully completing an examination builds self confidence and helps students develop a sense of pride.
Gloria attended the Little Flower Academy, an independent Catholic girls’ high school run by the Sister’s of Saint Ann located in the Shaughnessy neighborhood of Vancouver.
When she was in grade 11 she quit school and went to work for the telephone company. She worked the old cord boards for the company down on south Granville until she joined the military.
Gloria said, “I served in the Air Force for three years. I worked as an accounting clerk but I still had to wear a uniform, learn how to stand at attention and learn the skill of marching and that meant keeping up. I am just over five feet tall and I have short legs but I still had to stay in step and keep up just the same as everyone else. I hated marching.
“When I discharged from the Air Force I returned to the home of my parents in Vancouver and worked for MacMillan Bloedel as a clerk accountant.
“Later I attended Columbia College in Vancouver and took the upgrade courses I needed to qualify for entrance at UBC. Upon completion of all of that I took my teachers training.”
Gloria’s first teaching job was in Merritt and that is where she met Leonard (Len) Thorpe who at the beginning was just a good friend.
Gloria reminisced and said, “I shared living quarters with three other teachers and we quite often had parties. Len was working in a sport shop fixing small motors at the time so I invited him to a drop in a the open house party.
“We dated for a year and got married in 1965. About a month before our wedding day Len broke his leg. His doctor advised us to postpone the wedding but we went ahead with the wedding as planned.
“It took six years of healing before Len’s leg was back to near normal again,” she said. “Len was a qualified carpenter and when he was offered a job as a building inspector in Prince George he took it and we moved north. That was somewhere in the mid 70s and it turned out to be a good job and a great move.”
Together they raised three children; Lori, Ruth and Crystal.
Sadly Leonard passed away in 2010 after ten years of continued poor health.
Gloria said, “I taught school for 33 years. I didn’t like teaching at first but I loved all the children. My only problem was that I really didn’t manage the classroom very well because I wanted to be everyone’s friend. I took an additional classroom management course and when I returned to the classroom after the course, I came back as a different person.
“Classroom management is a process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive behaviour by students. It teaches prevention of disruptive behaviour by keeping students organized, orderly, focused and attentive on the classroom instruction.
“When I look back at all those years as a teacher I can say that they were the best years of my life. I love it when a former student remembers me as their teacher, approaches me, says hello and then gives me a big hug.”
When Gloria was 61 she successfully fought cancer and because she never felt right for a long time after that she retired at the age of 63.
Gloria said, “I have loved painting all of my life and I have always enjoyed visiting art galleries. I attended a Vancouver art school and took up pottery and painting. I had to give it up for awhile because I had to spend my summers doing all the upgrading needed to obtain my degree and I simply did not have the time for it.
“Several years before I retired I found that I had more spare time so I went back to my love of art.
“Vivian Antnonev at Studio 2880 became my friend and mentor in oil painting. After some formal lessons I just painted on my own and joined the Artist Co-op which has become my second home.
“I joined the Artist Co-Op Workshop and Gallery at 3955 Hart Hwy. The Artist Co-op is a non-profit society formed in 1987 with artist’s ranging from beginner to professional. It is our purpose to create a place for artists to meet, learn and teach each other. It is a great place to give and receive support and encouragement from other artists.”
After 33 years of teaching in the public system, Gloria retired and became an active member of the Artist Co-Op where some of her art is on display.
She enjoys working with watercolour, oil, acrylic, coloured charcoal, pastel chalk and a pen and ink combination.
Gloria sighed and said, “I have been slowed down for now by the fact that I need this darn hip replacement. It is hard for me to get around and I have had to give up my beloved Tai Chi for now but as God as my witness I will be back.”