A word of explanation before this long letter: Since Cyn’s year teaching in Toledo in 1946/7, her interest in canning- bottling, as she called it then- has cropped up before in her letters to her mother. However, a thing well known to Carol then, and the rest of her family as we grew up, was her dislike of vinegar and anything that tasted of it. Which explains the capital letters, the underlining, and the exclamation marks when she tells her mother about making dill pickles! Carol would have been amazed.
Another note about the houses in the area they have moved into, which comes up in this letter, is that every house had to have its own well and septic tank- being outside the city limits, there were no water or sewer systems available. I must have been in my teens before the Gloucester Township, with new subdivisions being built, invited the existing residents to pay to join a municipal system.
15th Aug. 1954
I haven’t written for ages & I have a million things to thank you for, but oh!- life has been SO Busy! Mom Costain left on Fri. night (6th) & Cec worked each night & all night over the weekend, then on Tues. the Sutherlands arrived & stayed till Fri. so you can imagine that this weekend we took a rest we needed!!
Both your parcels arrived a week ago & I was so excited! Fortunately they came when the children were asleep, so I was able to open & sort at my leisure & have fun, & I hid away all the birthday things & just kept out the others for them to have then. My dress is just darling & was such a surprise! When you said you were sending me a funny present that would amuse Cec I never thought of a dress but I am simply delighted & thank you very, very much. Cec doesn’t think it is at all peculiar, but nice & so do I – as you will gather we aren’t taking a holiday this year, so I put it on here at home & felt holiday-ish instead. Cec says I remind him of the Tattooed Lady in it-
“Round her hips
Were fleet of ships
And right above her kidney
Was a birds’eye view of Sydney”!
Cec says there are lots more rude words, but he has forgotten them!
I loved all the things for the children & already they have been wearing their overalls hard! They are so sweet & fit them perfectly & the children do look cute in them – I dressed them up in them when the Sutherlands were here & they all exclaimed over them & were most taken with both the children & the overall! Please thank Auntie Muriel so much for the dear little bibs – Lindy & Charlie just love them & they are quite the prettiest I have seen- Charlie really needs one hanging down to his knees practically, but we use the pretty one for special occasions & give him something tidy to eat!! Lindy was most taken with her little petticoat – she is very intrigued with having lace & pretty flowers on & is very feminine! She has had it on & it fits nicely – although a pretty clinging fit to her little chest, but at least I doubt whether she will spread much there for sometime!! I haven’t put the little trousers on Charlie yet as he still looks a bit funny in little trousers – his legs are too short or something! He looks cute in rompers or sun suits or long trousers but you know he has no hips & shorts slide down & he looks so funny! I hope he will wear them soon & yours will be better as they button onto the blouse – the pair I tried was a little red pair Dotty sent him & they have elastic in the waist. I have kept the dolly & the banjo – so cute – & the 2 little shirts for Lindy’s birthday & the little Prince Charles’s shirt for Charlie then too, as we are giving them both a few presents, so he won’t feel left out. I will write & tell you all about how they like them when they get them. It was a simply lovely parcel, Mummy darling, & thank you so much for every single thing. I haven’t planted the flamboyant seed yet – I had no plants as the few survivors had died while I was in the hospital! – but the Hayworths bequeathed me a couple of African violets & a loathesome looking rubber plant & Lindy & I are growing a grapefruit pip, so we will add the flamboyant seeds & see if we can’t get something exotic! I thought I might give Mr. Scott (our landlord) a flamboyant seed as he is a madly keen gardener & loves to try everything new, so I know he will think it’s fun.
Another thing Lindy wants to thank you for dear Grannie, is the dear little book “The Sleeping Princess”. I read it to her straight away & although I think it is a bit above her head, she loves it.
Just looking at the list of things in your parcel, I see “scraps” & it is such a good thing you sent them, because Jean was right after all & the straps of the dress were too short! Actually it wouldn’t have mattered too much except that it made the waist too short & even the skirt a bit short, but when I added about 2″ to each strap it was just right & looks so nice. The children are very taken with it & Lindy at once noticed that it was just the same as my green one! The weather has been so queer this summer, that I haven’t worn sundresses as much as usual but with having the little white jacket the green one has been so useful & looks so nice. Do the girls all wear strapless bras in St. V.? I have such shoulder strap trouble with sundresses! As you will gather I altered the green dress very successfully & have worn it so much. The dress itself I just took in a little under each arm, but the jacket was so big right in the front, (where I should have a large bust!) that I ended by cutting about 1 1/2” off each side of the opening & putting on the buttons again & making new buttonholes. It looks lovely now & the neck fits nicely as well as the waist part & I am so pleased with it.
While I am on the subject of my clothes I must tell you about the glamour skirt you sent me. While Mom Costain was here I dashed downtown one afternoon & got myself a black blouse, a black cinch belt & a nylon net crinoline petticoat & I now have a gorgeous outfit!! The blouse is sleeveless (black cotton) with a low round neck with scallops around the neck and sleeves & otherwise quite plain but has a side zip and fits nicely.
I got it reduced a dollar in the sales & the belt reduced to 75¢ so felt delighted with my bargains. The belt is black with a gold thread running through & a gold clasp, so looks very nice & I have a black & gold necklace Nan sent me once which matches exactly. The crinoline is fun! I have been hankering after one all summer, as they make the skirts look so pretty & finally I got this teenage one which is just the right length & I feel so bouncy & flouncy! The skirt really does look lovely & we had a little party while Gordon & Gunborg were here & I wore it & they all remarked on how lovely it was & even the girls said I looked nice, so that was a big compliment from the critical younger set!!
Just before Gordon & Gunborg came we had another big project which has been a great success – we covered a chair! It’s the one we bought when we first went to Eastview you remember, well it got used well there & then we put it in Dan’s room & he wore it more & Charlie finished off its beauty with pulling the wool out as you know! Anyway, the same day I went to town, I went to Ogilvy’s Furnishing Dept. & got a sample 54” square of a very nice material- a nice reddish brown with a gold (plastic) thread woven through. Mom C. helped us cut it out & we pinned & sewed & tacked & stuffed the holes etc. & have finally turned out a very neat job & are thrilled with ourselves! It always had a slight forward tilt so Cec cut a little off the back legs & it both looks elegant now & is nice & comfortable. We are so inspired that we think we may try the other big arm chair we have- it is wearing thin on the arms too & it & the sofa are a winey red which I have never cared for, so I think it would be fun to try. It is so much easier re- covering than making a loose cover, as you can pull it to fit, but of course you can’t take it off to wash, but without a machine I can’t make loose covers anyway.
It is now Thurs. & you will never guess what I have been busy doing- making PICKLES! I told you about Mr. Scott, our landlord, being such a keen gardener – well at his new house just down the road he has a big garden which he has just really begun to cultivate this year of course, but he works like a slave at it & already has it looking very nice & his vegetable garden is beautiful. He has just about every vegetable you could think of & since things began to ripen he has just about kept us in vegetables- lettuces, radishes, wax beans, green beans, kohlrabi (have you ever seen this? – I was fascinated with it. When I cooked it & we had it for dinner Linda said “Why is it hot rabi now?”!!) spinach, green peppers, eggplant, corn, tomatoes & cucumbers! Lindy & Charlie & I all go down carrying our baskets & come back laden. Anyway a week or so ago Mr. Scott (Ken from now on – he is one of those thin, sparse, sunburnt men that could be any age) came in & asked me if I had a recipe for dill pickles. His wife was in hospital (op. for varicose veins) & his cucumbers were ready & he wanted to make pickles. Of course I had to tell him I’ve never made any but I got out my recipe books & Mom C. was here & she found one like hers & we gave it to him. It was so simple, I was amazed & Ken said that he’d give me some cucumbers & dill later & I could make some for Cec. Well on Mon. evening he phoned me that he had some ready for me & I went down & got them – had to make two trips there were so many! And I have been pickling ever since! The weekend before the Sutherlands came I canned about a dozen jars of fruit – plums, seedless grapes, cherries & blueberries – no rasps. this year, they were very expensive – 65¢ a quart- so I only had 1 dozen jars left & I filled those all with dill pickles & still had dozens of cucumbers left! So today I got 2 doz. more jars & have just made 6 jars of bread & butter pickles & still have more left & think I will make a cucumber & onion pickle with those! I think Cec will have a wonderful pickle-y winter as he has never had 18 jars of pickles in our 5 years of marriage & now he has 18 for 1 yr!! I want to can peaches next week, so will be glad to get the pickles over. The funniest thing is that Mr. Scott & Mrs. Rothwell are not on very good terms – she is very domineering & must have her own way & will never admit she is wrong & although he is the nicest man going, she drives him crazy over certain business things – for example we share a well with Mrs. R. here & you have to remember not to be too careless with water or it runs dry, & Mrs. R. has 3 or 4 times done this & will not admit it’s her fault! Anyway- every time I come up from the Scotts with vegetables of course I bump into Mrs. R. & I feel most embarrassed! Finally the other day she asked me if Mr. Scott would sell any!! Mrs. Scott is rather shy quiet person – they have a grown-up married daughter with a baby & a young (20-ish) son & now Mrs. Scott has gone back to teaching – music & singing at lots of different schools. We had them up to spend an evening when Mom C. was here & they are awfully nice – he reminds me of Ford in that he is so interested & enthusiastic over everything.
Talking of Ken’s garden reminds me of ours, which is really looking very nice now. The petunias & asters & nicotina have done very well & have been blooming steadily for weeks. We have a big border of portulaca which looks beautiful just now but the balsam has done nothing nor nasturtiums & just this week the canna lilies have at last produced 2 buds, but of course we were late getting them in. I have lots of tomatoes – all very green though! & the back has been lovely with a carpet of wild poppies for ever so long. We are very pleased with it on the whole though & will know more about it next year.
I was so pleased today – my Gor-ray skirt arrived & it fits perfectly & I had no duty to pay. Of course the material is quite different to what I expected! They sent me little patterns to choose from & I chose a brown & blue & thought it would be quite gay, but seen in the skirt the weave is so fine that the general effect is a kind of mole-y color! However, it looks very nice & fits me like a dream, so I am delighted- thank you Mrs. Ewing! Do you know, my dress from Harrod’s has never come yet! The one I ordered was out of stock & by the time we wrote back & forth & they sent me another catalogue & I chose another it was months, but I hope it comes soon.
I have told you nothing about the course of events in this letter & haven’t answered one of yours, but I will try & do better next time, now that my spate of visitors is over. You were asking me about a long sea letter I said I was writing you – well I must admit that I am sorry to say it never got done! But I still plan to do it one of these days! We liked having Mom C. very much – she is a nice person, quiet but a sense of humour as you can imagine knowing her son!! She helped a lot with the children & I think liked them very much, – although she never says, you know! Lindy was fine with her & of course Charlie is friends with everyone but I think Lindy is getting over her shyness a bit now too. Anyway Mom C. told Mrs. Rothwell (who told me!) that she thought I was a very good mother!!
I will tell you more about what we did & about the Sutherlands visit- it was lovely to see Gordon & Gunborg again – they are just the same- but it was hectic with so many people & such a short time. Gordon is coming back to N.R.C. sometime this coming year for a month or so & maybe Gunborg part of the time so we’ll see more of them then.
Kisses to the dearest of Grannie’s from Lindy & Charlie- & thank you lots & lots. With much love from us all