An Adventure in America

Cynthia was a well- traveled person- she’d been born in the West Indies, had visited her grandparents and cousins in the North of Ireland on holiday in the 20s and 30s, popped over to France one summer with friends, and had gone to New York in July and August of 1939 to see the relatives there.  (See Travel Journal)  Letters and parcels kept family members in touch with each other, West Indian cousins were sent to school in England and visited, and as adults, came back and dropped in on Auntie Carol and Cynthia in Newcastle whenever possible.  But as the war ended, Cynthia organized an adventure of her own: she went on a teacher exchange to America for a year and positively blossomed.

Quite what the American teacher thought of the school system and work load of a Domestic Science teacher in an English girl’s school was never clear although Cyn implied that it would have been a shock to her.  Cynthia found that a Home Economics course was taken a lot less seriously in DeVilbis High School in Toledo, Ohio, and probably gave a few students a nasty shock as she involved them with her methods.  She made lifelong friends of the teachers she lived with- Til (music) and Lois (gym); traveled with them on holidays, met their families and saw something more of the States; and since it was part of her obligation as an exchange teacher, gave very well-received talks on British life and the war, to great acclaim and confidence-inducing return invitations.  She visited her American relatives and friends during vacations. And she bought new clothes- on returning home, she overheard the little charmers she taught speculating on what she actually had been doing to earn those clothes on her year away- which unfortunately were rendered unfashionable when Norman Hartnell lowered the hemline to mid-calf in 1947 (Cyn being so small, the dresses had assuredly been that length when she bought them and had been painstakingly cut off so that she could wear them- no letters remain to mourn this, but it’s a detail I remember hearing.)

This successful year gave Cyn the confidence and the experience to take a different path for her future.  Although successful and happy with her life in Cambridge, especially after Carol arrived, she looked to a bigger world and continued the adventure.  She enjoyed the company of a Canadian man, married him, and emigrated to a new life with a lot more knowledge of the new world and the culture than the war brides who had arrived a few years earlier.  Her American-born Canadian daughter is grateful she had an adventurous spirit.

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