In the spring of 1957 Cyn had told her mother about their finances and a plan they had for saving- but by Christmas, Cyn and Cec decided obviously decided to spurge and to fulfill a long-time promise to her mother Carol by visiting St Vincent for 7 weeks over Easter! I am so sad I have no letters that explain their decision, but some of it must have been based on the children’s schooling and age. I also miss details about the preparation, because I have memories of the clothes my mother made for me for Easter! But there is a copy of a speech my mother must have made to a women’s group after their trip- a thing she was good at after her experiences with American clubs during her exchange year teaching after the war- so I will be able to post Cyn’s St. Vincent experience.
Travelling with children involves a lot of preparation. After the explanations about visiting Grannie in St. Vincent where it would be warm- snowsuit weather in Ottawa of course- Charlie and I asked our teachers for school work for March. I distinctly remember us driving across Ottawa to buy my school books! By the time we got through the traffic home, Linda in the back seat had finally been able to read to the end of her ‘Dick and Jane’ reader- a thing we were not allowed to do in class! (There wasn’t much plot development.) My mother took the other reader and saved it for the actual trip…
Charlie’s teacher answered with a note to Cyn explaining that when Charlie came back, she would have moved and there would be a new teacher, which might be upsetting. As it turned out, however, his second Kindergarten teacher was a lovely woman, Mrs. Verna Steele, who lived in our neighbourhood and was always fond of Charlie.
The New York cousins, who had visited Moo and Carol for a winter holiday in previous years, sent Bon Voyage cards; the itinerary had to be arranged so that as many West Indian Hazells as possible could be visited, the tickets bought, hotels booked, and cat boarded.
What do I remember of the trip? Charlie and I were flying in airplanes for the first time, and we landed in Trinidad for a few days first, staying at the hotel owned by a Hazell cousin, but the only thing I remember is the final leg to St. Vincent in a Grummond Goose which landed on the sea with a splash that sparkled through the windows of the little plane as it motored up to the landing ramp!
We stayed with Grannie and Auntie Moo in their house in Kingstown and then in a rented bungalow out by the sea, close to where the seaplane landed so we could watch it. As children do, we accepted their servants Doris and Luenda, Hilda and Amelia, but now can’t think they had 4, so maybe one pair worked in the bungalow. Mr. Cox drove us around, and local relatives connected with Cyn, some of whom she hadn’t seen since before the war. We visited, Cyn met their spouses and showed off her husband and children.
When we napped or went to bed in the evening, white mosquito netting was draped over the bed and tucked in, so that we had to be extracted on waking, and sometimes a little lizard would be sitting on the netting a foot above my eyes when I woke up. (They were very fast though, so I never got to pet one.) There were beautiful flowers in Grannie’s garden, and chickens running around, and one day I decided I wanted to see the cook make dinner- from the beheading of the chicken to the final product. Apparently I did witness the execution and then, having put two and two together, was not willing to eat her, but what my brother remembers is that the chicken was tough and didn’t taste nice!
Out at Villa the fresh fish was wonderful and appreciated by the whole family, and we loved the tiny bananas. The coconuts were an entertainment although I didn’t like eating them- a man climbed up the tree with his cutlass and knocked them down to the ground, then cut them open expertly so we could drink the coconut water and scoop out the soft jelly-like coconut. The sea was warm and I loved swimming- although there was a feeling of betrayal at my only swimming lesson when my father took his hands away from supporting my tummy and I sank instead of floating, coming up with burning eyes, tears and salty coughing- and Charlie became more used to the water and no longer played by himself in the sand while others paddled.
One beach we visited had black sand from the lava which looked wonderfully muddy when plastered on, and I remember intriguing rock pools with tiny fish and plants trapped in them by the receding tide. One day our parents got up very early in the morning and went to climb the volcano, La Soufrière, with Hazell cousins, and once we went out in a glass-bottomed boat so we could see the coral and the fish our father had been telling us about when snorkelling. We collected tiny shells and I acquired three dolls for my collection- Hilda and Amelia in brightly coloured prints, head-ties, and earrings, and Mr. Cox with overalls and his cutlass in hand.
Easter was a festival in St. Vincent. Of course all the ladies, Black and white, wore beautiful hats (and still did in the 90s), and I had new Best Clothes for the occasion. My mother had made me a white dress with frills for sleeves out of a stiffish material, and it had a turquoise pinafore of the same kind of material over it, that could be a sundress on its own. I had a choice of two hats- crescent moon-shaped hat forms covered to match my dress- one white, one turquoise. And no one took a picture! Cyn’s work was appreciated at the time, but not immortalized- we ate the beautifully decorated cakes, wore and then outgrew the clothes- without her art being recorded- such a pity, I now feel.
We ended our visit in St. Vincent and said good-bye, knowing that Grannie would come and stay with us in a few years, and took the Goose to Barbados where we stayed before climbing on a Trans Canada plane home, arriving back to a chilly Ottawa spring. There were apparently no repercussions from missing so much school, and ordinary life resumed.