Cecil Clifford Costain, my father, was born in Ponoka, Alberta, Canada, in 1922. His father, Henry Hudson Costain, was a teacher who had grown up on a PEI farm, gotten part of a university education, and gone west as many of their generation did.
I believe he taught and became principal of schools in the west, and in 1915 married a student who had been to Normal School (Teacher’s College) possibly taught by him- Mary Elida Eakin. Teaching did not support a family, so Henry moved from Ponoka, Alberta where Cec was born, to Saskatchewan and farmed near Saskatoon. Cec had two older sisters and two younger brothers. The Depression was hard on western farmers, although the Costains were better off than some since they raised poultry. Cec apparently said he hadn’t seen his father smile for ten years.
Whatever the hardships, the Costains raised their children to believe in education. The eldest, Merle, went to the University of Saskatchewan, Lena became a nurse, and Cec also entered the University of Saskatchewan at 16, and got his BSc. at 19.
By then the war had started.
Cec taught new officers,
then joined the Canadian Navy and became a radar officer.
He was seconded to the British Navy (making more money than even the Captain of the aircraft carrier he was assigned to) and ended up in the Pacific on H.M.S Indomitable. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross when a late night check of his radar equipment enabled him to warn the fleet of approaching Japanese bombers in time for them to scramble their own planes. (In his last year, he said that he’d never expected to live to be 21, let alone have the life he had.)
Some of his letters home survive from this period- assurances that he is well, comments on local surroundings, queries about his little brothers at school, censored or general bits of news. A few snaps of a skinny Cec show how young he was.