TENA HOPKINS, by 1891 a resident of Hartney, was influential in Hartney
in her boarding house that became a social centre for the school
teachers, bankers and unmarried business people of the town.
When Dr. McEown left Hartney to practice is Souris, Miss Hopkins and
her mother secured his house on Spencer Street. It had four rooms on
the second floor and, besides the kitchen, dining and living rooms on
the ground floor, had a large room with separate entrance from the
veranda, Dr. McEown’s former office. For many years this extra room on
the ground floor was used by two or more young men as a bedroom. At one
time the Parham brothers, owners of a general store, lived there, and
later bankers and store clerks and school principals were its
occupants. The female teachers, Miss Hopkins and her mother occupied
the upstairs rooms. Besides those who lived in the house, there were
several men and women with sleeping quarters elsewhere who took their
meals at the long table in the dining room.
The lawn at the south of the house was laid out as a tennis court and
there Miss Hopkins, who herself played better than average tennis, the
boarders and their friends spent many pleasant summer evenings playing
or watching the games in progress.
Miss Hopkins had a maid to serve at table and assist her in keeping the
house in faultless order, but she herself did all the cooking and
baking. She loved to cook as much as she loved to paint pictures. She
liked what she cooked to appeal to the eye as well as the palate. Her
dining-table, set with snowy cloth and dainty china was centred by an
artistically arranged floral centre, in winter as well as summer.
No matter how many men and women there were at her board all were her
friends. When a newcomer arrived among them, Miss Hopkins made special
efforts to make him or her a part of the family. If one were not well,
he received special attention and if any had problems that worried
them, they brought them to Miss Hopkins for advice and sympathy. Her
boarders looked upon themselves as a social unit, gave themselves the
name of “Hopkinites”, and became friends with a special family feeling
for one another.
After almost forty years in her boarding house, Miss Hopkins, in 1940,
the year before her death, found herself unable to continue her
household duties and closed the house that she had made a home for the
many young men and women who remained her staunch friends.
Adapted from The Mere
Day in the Life of a Boarding House
By the 1880s, boarding was an established way of life in many North
American communities. Private boarding houses typically kept several
boarders, generally single, unrelated individuals. For many women,
keeping boarders was a readily available way to earn money that
permitted a flexible schedule. A married woman's income from boarding
was often more reliable than her husband's income, and could well be
the primary income for the household. Keeping boarders was also a
source of income for some widows and mature single women.
For many landlords and boarders, the household intimacy of boarding was
part of its appeal. Boarders not only took their meals within the
household, but often participated in family activities. Boarding house
residents met daily in the shared spaces of the dining room and the
parlour. Late-nineteenth-century reformers approved of the family
environment of boarding houses, which they felt acted as a welcome
social restraint on boarders.
The decline of boarding could be seen as parallel to the transformation
of the semipublic “parlour” into the twentieth-century private “living
room” in which boarders would seem to be strangers.