It’s no surprise to my family that I am behind the times when it comes to music, television and movies. It’s not uncommon for me to latch on to a song that came out years ago. The same with television. I was a late comer to “Downton Abbey,” “Gilmore Girls” and “The Great British Baking Show.” I have my oldest daughter to thank for putting these shows on my radar because she knows her mom so well. That being said, I confess I’ve spent some late nights recently and most of the past weekend binge watching the beginning episodes of Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart,” now in its sixth season.
For those not familiar with the show, it’s based on a series of books written by Canadian author Janette Oke about pioneer life and love after a devasting coal mining accident in 1910 Ontario. At age 44, Oke wrote her first book, “Love Comes Softly” - the beginning of the “Love” series. Now age 84, she has written 79 books that have become wildly popular Hallmark movie series. And if you think love and hope don’t have a following, Oke’s book with strong female characters have sold more than 22 million books which have been translated into more than 14 languages.
While many consider most Hallmark Channel fare as pure fluff, I beg to differ. The first lesson I was reminded of while watching “When Calls the Heart” can apply to every facet of life, be it relationships, business, politics or war. You can’t jump in the middle of something and think you know everything there is to know. There is history at play to which you have not been privy, creating a void in perspective. Learn the history behind anything you engage in.
Reminder No. 2 was the resilience of those who came before us and their will to survive. Because of the mine disaster, women and children lost fathers, brothers and sons who provided the necessities of life. Back in the day, it took the labor of the entire family to survive. Women worked the homestead while their men and boys worked long hours in often dangerous, dirty circumstances, and to lose a husband or son could doom a woman and her children to a homeless, wretched existence. This was the reality of poverty before taxpayer funded safety nets and IRAs.
Reminder No. 3. Though known as the channel of love and happy endings, Oke’s books brought to life on Hallmark reminded me that there was a time when many unions were created out of necessity, not love. A far cry from the ridiculousness of shows like “The Dating Game” or “The Bachelor.”
And yes, even our favorites in the series have feet of clay. A pillar of Hope Valley’s community on the screen, actress Lori Loughlin’s involvement in the college admissions scandal, was contrary to the morals of her character Abigail. To Hallmark’s credit, they dropped her, necessitating rewriting and refilming the remaining episodes in Season Six. Whether you like Hallmark Channel or not, they took an ethical stand that another broadcast network recently failed to do.
And the point is? I don’t know exactly except that I need to be reminded from time to time through these peeks into the past just how good I really have it. And I’m glad to know media entities still exist that have standards. So, I thank Janette Oke who is still going strong with her writing at 84 years of age as well as the Hallmark Channel for introducing me to these marvelous characters through their family-friendly entertainment.
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.