Before I begin this letter, I want to say a few things about Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, in the 50s, and the area I grew up in. It has changed so much during my lifetime! But when Cyn and Cec moved to their new home- about 5 miles east from the Parliament Buildings- they had moved outside of the city limits, and were writing letters from ‘Rural Route #1’. (Now Ottawa extends 40 km. further east and south, with all the farmland turned into residential suburbs, apartment buildings, malls and highways.) Their duplex was on the Montreal Road- literally the highway between Ottawa and Montreal- and it was a good thing it had a clearly defined front garden screened by lilac bushes to mark the boundary for the children, because the road was a danger. The highway separated two suburbs, new since the war, existing only of single family dwellings- no shops or other amenities. On the other side of the highway was Cardinal Heights, with old Mrs Cardinal and her daughter living directly across from us in a low white house, and behind those houses, a gentle hill with roads, houses, and space for schools and churches as yet unbuilt. On our side was Rothwell Heights, built on the old Rothwell farm land, and it descended behind the 8 houses along our side of the highway, in three built-up levels down to the Ottawa River- the hill between the second and third level being quite steep, with modern houses clinging to the slopes, (and in the future, school buses getting down to the third level on a particularly icy day and being unable to get up either of the roads out again! Fun for us!) The original Rothwell farmhouse was a lovely stone building on the Cardinal Heights side of the highway, about 4 houses east at the bottom of the hill we were perched on, and after it, there were only fields and occasional farm houses on either side of the road and surrounding the 2 suburbs, until the village of Orleans, predominately French-speaking, 5 miles further east. Within Rothwell Heights there were amazing ‘modern’ feats of architecture, as well as ordinary houses, and because of the levels, tree-d areas left wild.
At the edge of these suburbs, just within the city limits, the National Research Council had a vast area adjoining the Canadian Forces Base, where they were expanding and building (white buildings) more offices and laboratories as well as structures for their experiments- a wind tunnel being the most obvious, although the NRC headquarters remained on Sussex Drive in downtown Ottawa, where Cec’s lab was. City buses came out as far as the N.R.C. and turned around, so Cyn would have had a 1/2 mile walk if she wanted a bus. And no sidewalks anywhere, along the highway or beside the roads in our areas, so wheeling prams would have been a challenge! Cyn had to drive a few miles into town to buy groceries, and if she needed the car, they loaded the children into the back seat (no car seats or seatbelts then!) and drove Cec in to work along the loveliest route through Rockcliffe Park and along the river cliffs to Sussex Dr., passing the Governor General’s and the Prime Minister’s houses before reaching the NRC building. (The road through the park wound along the cliffs and Charlie and I would kneel up on the slippery back seat of the Chrysler facing backwards and urge the parent driving to go faster, as we slithered from side to side around the corners.) Then we would return at 5 o’clock and pick him up from work. This trip had the advantage of having few traffic lights, so Cec’s commute was much less of a problem than the traffic Cyn describes when she writes of visiting friends in the west end of the city. However, until the Queensway was built in the early 60s (?) there was no way to bypass the tangle of lights and traffic in Ottawa, and so Cyn was, at this point, separated from her friends- the Douglases and Garrets and other NRC families in the Rockcliffe area, and the Ganders and Forsyths in the west end.
That was the Ottawa of my childhood- a small city, with stores, cinemas, public libraries, a CN Hotel- the Chateau Laurier, a museum or two, schools and two universities, but no proper theatre, and not much diversity- a lovely Italian restaurant was the height of sophistication! In addition to the government buildings, there were embassies and their ambassadors’ residences, and it was a civil service town- but directly across the Ottawa River in Hull, Quebec, was E.B. Eddy, an odorous paper mill, with log booms floating constantly down the river. With my Baby Boom generation growing up, Ottawa and Hull expanded continually- as did the rest of the country! The schools I went to were only a couple of years old when I started- and grew bigger as I attended. My high school, built beside the new Queensway Highway, was surrounded by green fields my first year- cows came and looked in the windows- but by my fifth year, there were apartment blocks on one side and a strip mall/grocery store/gas station on the other, and the school had a second floor and a tower, having grown each year. My university, Trent, was the same- smaller in student population than my high school and only five years old in my first year, 1969. It was a positive, forward-looking time to be growing up, the government investment in scientific research made it a Golden Age for the NRC, which was nice for my father and his fellow scientists, and Canada would gradually develop a social welfare net over time- Cyn is getting Family Allowance for both children in 1954, and, given her propensity for ending up in hospital, it is fortunate that a universal public health care system came along in the 60s. But this is getting ahead of myself- back to our new house!
Ottawa R.R.1 (Rural Route)
Wed. May 5
First of all, I got the batteries from Mr. Pridham today & have just packed them up for mailing tomorrow – at least I hope tomorrow but it depends if Cec can get to the P.O.- he has been working so hard lately – goes at 8:15 & often isn’t back till after 6 & then back again after dinner- tonight left at 7.0 & then isn’t back till after 12.0,- so he doesn’t have much time for stopping on the way. However, he hopes that the worst will be over in 2 weeks time, so we will both be thankful! He has everything working now & is hoping to get results – just to get the whole equipment working is so complicated – sometimes as long as 2 days to heat the big valve up to the temp. he wants & certain pressures etc. before he actually begins to use it & of course it isn’t safe to leave for long without attention, so it is a very demanding business!
I have so many things to thank you for & have been so long in writing I’ll thank you first of all & then make my excuses! Three letters actually- 2 A.M. forms, 7 & 26 & one nice long letter on 22nd, & we all enjoyed them so much-particularly your adventures at your cottage by the sea- the animals!!! I nearly screamed just reading about them! Linda is just like me & goes into hysterics over a fly or a little beetle, so what the pair of us would do I can’t imagine! Also I want to thank you so much for Charlie’s 2 parcels- he was so pleased to have a parcel for himself & Lindy was very intrigued & not at all jealous! The little red plaid overalls are so cute, I think- Charlie looks sweet in red, whereas it is inclined to make Lindy look a little washed out, & I have just ordered him a little red “windbreaker” jacket like the green one I got Lindy last year, so he should look very smart! He is as pleased as Punch when he has on something new & strokes his fat little tummy & struts along! They are a very good fit by the way- I have to move the buttons on the straps to make them a little shorter & the legs are just a shade long, but the waist is fine & his legs will grow!
Talking about making them for Ruth’s boy – have you seen a picture of him? Amy sent me some snaps & he looks a lovely boy, but huge! He must weigh more than Linda let alone Charlie!
The little white T-shirt is so nice & just what I like best for Charlie & I must tell you that the make “Ladybird” is quite the best I have come across. Margie told me about it ages ago, & said they kept their shape so well & the necks didn’t stretch or anything & I got one for Linda & have certainly proved it as most of the others go shapeless in no time, so I was particularly pleased with your choice.
The little packet with Charlie’s Sudermo & the wee purse for Lindy came a few days after the other & Lindy was so tickled with her purse! We have been using the Sudermo on Charlie- actually his eczema has been better these last 3 or 4 weeks but we have come to the conclusion that nothing he eats or nothing we put on it really makes any difference. Suddenly for no reason it all dries up & then suddenly he gets another patch – we have tried 2 prescriptions of ointment from Dr. W. & your Sudermo & they all relieve the itch & stop him scratching which is the main thing, but I think the real cure is the fresh air & sunshine & now he’s out more it’s having effect. It was awfully sweet of you to send it though & it has a much nicer smell than the others!
I must tell you about Lindy and her purse – she was so tickled with it & I gave her pennies & Cec gave her 5¢ to put in & she was very pleased with her money. Cec said she could put it in her penny bank, but I’d said something about “you could buy things with money”, so she told her daddy no- it wasn’t for her penny bank, it was to buy things with. Then Cec asked “What things?” so Linda thought for a long time & then said “Groceries”! In the end she came shopping with me on Sat. & Cec & I gave her a bit more to put in her purse & she decided she’d buy herself a book, so we went to Mr. Dube’s & she settled herself down in front of the rack of children’s books & you can imagine! She is really too young to choose & got quite confused & just picked up anyone – then she saw a “Little Lord Jesus” one, as she calls it but as she already has 2, I dissuaded her from that! Any one I suggested she would say “No” & grab another & I would look at it & find it was much too old for her or something & we had quite a time! In the end she finally attached herself to one called “Please Come to my Party” about a little boy having a birthday party & took it to Mr. Dube & gave him her purse! She had enough for a chocolate bar too!!
If you remember when I wrote last I was saying Lindy was getting a cold I thought. Well it never did turn into a cold, but she got very miserable, poor little thing & was really very poorly all week. On the Thurs. evening her temp went up to 103 & we decided to call Dr. W. if it wasn’t down by the morning, but when we lifted her at 11 p.m. she was quite cool again & in the morning it was normal. Such a business to get her to stay in bed, but Thurs. & Fri. she was in bed most of the time, & by Sat. felt better. She didn’t eat anything for 3 or 4 days but got back her appetite fairly well & is now eating very well – for her! Actually she was poorly & not like herself for about a week or more, but by the end of last week she suddenly seemed to get really well & full of pep! It was such a lovely change- her eyes sparkled & her cheeks were pink & she was running around – & even her hair curling more than usual! It made us realize that even though she has been well all winter it was a long time since we’d seen her so full of fun. Of course the weather is getting nicer all the time & she is out more & it all makes a difference.
Poor old Charlie has had a bad time too – the Friday Linda was ill in bed he was playing on the sofa in the afternoon & I just went into see Linda & I heard a bump- not very bad – but ran & here was Charlie on the floor just about to yell. I picked him up & he cried and buried his face in my shoulder & I shushed him & then feeling rather damp- from tears I thought – was about to move his head to my other shoulder when I found it was blood! My blouse & his shirt & overalls were drenched & it was pouring from his mouth. I took him & bathed it at once, but it was bleeding so I couldn’t see what had happened until that evening, actually. Linda’s little chair was by the sofa & when he fell he must have bumped his chin on it (there was a bad bruise under his chin) & his top teeth went inside his front lower teeth (not having any side teeth to stop them) & cut a great gash right through his gum. After the initial shock he didn’t make much fuss about it- we gave him soft foods for a few days & it healed well, but I think it must have loosened his lower teeth as he is still very wary of biting & will give back a cookie for me to break into pieces rather than bite it. Also, the shock seemed to quite upset his usual contented little nature & he has been quite weepy & wanting “Up! Up!” all the time which is most unlike him, but he is gradually getting over it. However, all these events & demanding little children have kept Mama on the go, so that is why I have been so long in writing!
Remember my mentioning the Calamans? He (John) is English from Oxford & Esther is Swiss, & they were married last summer & came over here in Sept. Anyway, they had a son 10 days ago so we had John to dinner on the Monday. They remind me a little of Gordon & Gunborg – not at all in appearance, but he is quiet spoken & she is very vivacious & lively. That same Monday we had snow again, but on the Wed. the temp. began to rise & we had some gorgeous spring weather – in fact on Sat. & Sun. we were out all day without coats – right until 9 p.m. Sun. evening – & not a leaf on a tree yet!
You will be amused to hear we are gardening busily!! But this is the first time we’ve had a decent garden & we are going to do our best! Actually this hill is just rock! Mr. Scott had to cart in soil & manure etc. & has built the garden up with beds of soil, held by a little stone walls, but he has worked hard over it & has made it very nice. The front is like this:
the single bed on the right of the drive is empty and we are digging that up & going to get plants. Cec is very keen on canna lilies – do you know them? They are a red lily which flowers all summer & we thought they would be nice as a centre with maybe white flowers on either side & a border. The bulbs are lovely- the bed is packed full- crocuses are over now but the scillas & grape hyacinths are out & a little pink & white hepatica, the daffodils are just coming & the tulips are in bud. The other bed at the side & along side of the house has masses of poppies & irises & lilies & seedlings of marigolds etc. The back has just a little bed along the edge of the terrace, but Mr. Scott says the hillside is a mass of wild poppies. We have bought a lawnmower, spade (small size!) & clippers! Really going into business!
Must stop now, but will write again soon – a great big hug from Linda & Charlie & lots of love from us all- Cyn.