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From Scotland to Cochrane, life becomes an ice cream treat

Born on Aug. 8, 1925 and raised in Motherwhale, Scotland, Christine Beck had no idea that she would someday be Chris MacKay serving ice cream at MacKay’s Cochrane Ice Cream to movie stars, dignitaries and visitors from around the world.
Chris MacKay scooped her first ice cream cone in 1956.
Chris MacKay scooped her first ice cream cone in 1956.

Born on Aug. 8, 1925 and raised in Motherwhale, Scotland, Christine Beck had no idea that she would someday be Chris MacKay serving ice cream at MacKay’s Cochrane Ice Cream to movie stars, dignitaries and visitors from around the world. One never knows what life has in store for us — and what an interesting, rewarding life Chris has had — so far.

She met Jimmy MacKay, a Canadian soldier in Scotland while he was visiting some of his relatives during the Second World War. Jimmy was born on the Merino Ranch southwest of Cochrane in 1914, the son of Alex MacKay and Anna-belle Quigley. Chris and Jimmy were married in Wishaw, Scotland on Feb. 15, 1945. When the war ended in 1945, Jimmy was sent back to Canada. Chris was one of 1,500 war brides who came to Canada on a troop ship in 1946 and is now the only survivor of the 11 war brides who came to the Cochrane area. The population of Cochrane in 1946 was 400 people.

“I’ll never forget the kindness of the Canadian government at the time. It was a big job and they were so organized in reuniting the women with their husbands” said Chris fondly.

“The Canadian government gave each soldier $1,000 to get started again. With that Jimmy and I bought a house and four lots in Cochrane for $950, with $50 left over.”

In 1948 Jimmy bought the general store he had been working in for two years and in 1956, Johnny from the creamery suggested that they should try selling ice cream. Jimmy used his grandmother’s recipe and started with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry only, selling it from a window at his store. Soon people were driving out from Calgary to taste this amazing ice cream and Jimmy kept adding new flavours until he had 100 different kinds.

“I loved working in the store. I met some interesting people, but I especially loved the children. If they dropped their ice cream, I would always give them a free one. I remember one day we served 2,500 scoops of ice cream – that’s a lot of scoopin’,” said Chris.

Chris and Jimmy had four children: Heather, Alan, Rhona and Robyn; five grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren. After Jimmy passed away in 1983, daughters Rhona and Robyn took over the family business. Today, Chris’ granddaughter Megan, along with her husband, Mark run the business, the third generation to continue the MacKay’s Cochrane Ice Cream legacy. Chris says “this is the oldest business in Cochrane, besides the hotel.”

“I still like spending time at the store, sitting on the bench talking to visitors and asking them where they are from. (Prime Minister) Steven Harper was in Cochrane recently and he stood in line to buy his ice cream. I wish I had known he was coming, I would have been there to meet him.”

While Chris was in Hawaii, she met Dale Tetterington, a retired bakery wholesaler from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who lived in the same condo complex in Kona. Dale’s wife had also passed away and he finally got up enough nerve to ask her out for dinner. Chris and Dale were married on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1990 and enjoyed 10 beautiful years together. After Dale’s death in 2000, Chris returned to Cochrane to be near her family.

About five years ago, Chris decided to move into the Big Hill Lodge, which is located on part of the 30 acre site owned by James Quigley, Jimmy MacKay’s paternal grandfather. The white house on the corner was built by the Quigley’s and has received a heritage designation. You can say that Chris MacKay/Tetterington is now truly home.

Chris enjoys socializing with other residents in the lodge, participating in the activities and bus trips provided. Knitting is her main hobby, however she loves to sew and crochet too. She attributes daily walking to her youthful appearance and vitality.