I have divided this letter into two because it is so long and deals with quite separate matters- the Costains on their Michigan holiday, and then Cyn answering her mother’s questions of the last few months of letters which she has saved up. (I shall put the pictures of the end of their holiday with the second half, since there are no letters to follow to explain how it went.) But before the letter, here is a quick review of Cyn’s life already covered by letters from the post-war years 1946- 1951, to explain some of the American friends the letter mentions.
Towards the end of the war, Cyn had changed teaching jobs and left her parents’ house in Newcastle where she had been stuck for the war years, and moved south to Cambridge. She enjoyed living independently and in 1946 took on a greater adventure by being part of a teacher exchange between American and British teachers designed to foster greater co-operation in the English-Speaking Union. Cyn was sent to Toledo, Ohio, where she taught high school Home Economics for a year, and also spoke to clubs and meetings, very successfully, about whatever aspects of British life her hosts or hostesses wished to hear! She was lucky enough to find a very happy home that year boarding with two other teachers, Til and Lois, who involved her with their families- Til’s adult son Bill, Lois’ sisters who lived locally- and took her with them on holiday with other relatives so that she saw a bit more of America. Her enjoyment of that year comes through in her letters home to Carol, but she was also happy to return to Cambridge for the following school year, where her mother joined her. They both met Cec who was doing his PhD. there, and Cec and Cyn married in 1949, with the intention of following Cec’s professor, Dr. Gordon Sutherland, to the University of Michigan for a couple of years before settling in Canada. Their stay in Ann Arbor was part of a transitory community- graduate students like Cec finishing and moving on, Cyn’s fellow workers at the University marrying or having babies and stopping work- but they were able to keep in touch with the ones who worked at the university and with Til and Lois, and made friends within academic circles that persisted as careers took off and families grew and grew up, because they met up over the years at conferences or during temporary work arrangements, such as Cec’s months work at the University of Michigan in July 1962. Back when the children were 3 and 4, the Costains had visited the States just as the Sutherlands were moving back to England, and also had stayed with Til and Lois while Cec attended the Spectroscopy Conference in Columbus, so it is not surprising that their friends thought Linda and Charlie had changed in the 6 years since then!
23 July, 1962.
Here I am sitting on the porch typing away – it is Monday morning and it is quite grey and cloudy and looks as if it is going to be a storm and we can hear thunder rumbling around in the distance. We have had quite a lot of thunderstorms in the last few days but they are not as spectacular as the Ottawa Valley ones and they pass over very quickly, but the weather has been very changeable.
Charlie has been having fun with a boy who lives a few cottages down. They have been getting bait for fishing, looking under stones for ‘crawdads’ and catching little minnows and catfish with a little net. Now he has gone home and some little girls from the next cottage have come over and Linda is sitting on the steps colouring books with them. The neighbours are very nice and friendly – I think I told you we had a nice family with a little 5 year old boy in the cottage next to us. Well, they were here for 2 weeks and were extremely kind and took me shopping into Pinckney etc., then we now have another family with 3 little girls – Kathy 8, Susie 5, and Carol 4, and they have a baby boy, Billy 1. Besides the mother and father there is a Grannie and Grandpa so they have quite a family not to mention all sorts of relatives with lots of children every few days, but they are nice too and have offered to take me shopping etc. The father is a great fisherman and goes out night and day, but he doesn’t have much luck – Cec and Charlie have been out a few times but they don’t do much either – Charlie caught a little one but put it back as it was so small! On the other side the cottage is owned by a man and his family from Ann Arbor, so they were only out for a few hours at a time to begin with but last week they came out for a while and we have had a few chats with them. They only have one boy of 14 and he is always dashing around in one of their two motor boats – the father took us out for a ride in one on Sat. and we went all around the lake and saw parts we didn’t know existed. It was quite blowy and we bounced around and got water splashed on us much to Charlie’s amusement!
The thunder is really on top of us now and it is pouring, so the children have moved in and are colouring happily. It is nice that there is someone to play with as Linda has run out of her stock of books and Charlie is getting bored with Patience! Cec has begun to teach them to play Bridge but as he is in at the University all day we can’t do as we did at Mill and Ford’s camp and play all day. Since I last wrote the time seems to have melted away and we can hardly believe that this is our last week here. We will leave here on Sat. morning but Cec thinks he will need a few more days at the University so we will probably go to a Motel until Tues. morning and then go straight to Stratford as we see ‘The Tempest’ on the Tues. night. On Wed. we see the matinee of ‘The Gondoliers’ and then we will go and spend that night with Merle and a couple of days in Toronto and home on Friday. The Klemans go to a cottage for two weeks.
We had a letter from Gudrun and all goes well at 2043 Montreal Rd. and Nicki seems quite happy and is presenting them with dead mice as usual! Thank you so much for your letters which Gudrun forwarded to me and also for the one which you sent to the Physics Dept. here. I was so sorry to hear about your poor little dog being killed. I know how much you will miss him and how sad you would feel to have him killed so suddenly when he was still so young and enjoying life. I hope that after a while that you will get another puppy for companionship and also as it is so useful for you to have a watchdog. At first though I know you can’t bear the thought of having one for a while. We are surrounded with dogs here and the favourite is a great big Basset Hound called Shorty. His legs are so small that he practically touches the ground but he is as solid as a rock and weighs about as much as I do. To see Charlie trying to move him is quite a sight, but he is very good-natured and doesn’t seem to mind how much he is pushed and shoved!
Not long after I last wrote we had some bad luck. Linda got a sore throat and an ear infection, and so she hasn’t been able to have as much fun in the water as the first week. She had one really bad night of earache and the next day I kept her in bed here on the porch and gave her aspirins etc. and after that she didn’t seem ill although the ear was still aching a little, so we let her get in the water but not put her head under (she wears a cap and protector band of towelling underneath but still her hair gets wet) and that was all right until suddenly last week it began to ache again, so she was out of the water for a couple more days and is so disgusted over it. It seems nearly better now so maybe she could go in for a little today, but it is such a pity as she loves the water so much and had such a wonderful time in it. Just after Linda’s ear ache began poor Cec woke up one morning with an eye infection and all his left eye swollen up. He gets this every so often if you remember and if he doesn’t do something about it, at once it spreads to his other eye, so he went to Pete’s Dr in Ann Arbor and got various drops etc. but it wasn’t until he gave him some antibiotics that it cleared up. Told him he was working too hard and should have a rest. He seems quite all right now, but the weekend before last he was feeling pretty miserable. Charlie and I have kept well and full of high spirits, and it is really lovely to see Charlie so well and happy. He is so good-natured and helpful and sunny and he has such a wonderful time in the water now – you wouldn’t recognize the boy who sees how long he can swim underwater and dives through my legs etc. as the little fellow you used to know!
We have been socializing a little bit as well as swimming around in our lake, and the first time we went out was to Mary and Arthur Dockrill’s for dinner. They have a nice new house in a new suburb of Ann Arbor, but not just a field with a lot of little houses in it but all trees, and winding roads and little hills etc. very pretty. Arthur is a real wizard with his hands you know, and he has fixed up their basement beautifully and they have everything very nice. Their one little girl Jill, is 4, and she is a little pet. She is small and has two little brown pigtails and speaks in a very English way in a funny little high voice. Linda loved her and both the children were fascinated because she had just about every toy going – Charlie said “I think Jill has everything!” We had a nice dinner and a really pleasant time, but we haven’t seen them since as they were going on their holiday at the end of that week. They had a Volkswagen bus like Hugh and Ginny and Arthur had fixed it up like a caravan with bunks etc. and they were going up into the Upper Michigan Peninsula.
Last week our big excitement was that we had a letter from Til saying that they would come up on the Wed. so we were very pleased. They arrived just after lunch – Til and Lois, Lois’ sister Ruth and the granddaughter from Florida, Cathie. Til and Lois and Ruth all look just the same and we had a wonderful time catching up on all the news of people I knew. They said I looked the same too and I said “Fatter though!” but they were kind! They were amazed at how the children had grown, but Cathie who is 11, made them look like little shrimps! She is a really big girl – big bones and then quite chubby too, and I think Til had quite intimidated her by telling her not to be wild and hoydenish as Linda and Charlie were so well behaved! All the Americans think Linda and Charlie are so good! However, after Cathie had got over her alarm she and the children had a good time in the water, and although she is full of bounce and quite exuberant she is not sophisticated and blasé which poor Til and Lois were quite worried about. But poor kid, what a life she leads – the mother is apparently no good and her own parents threw her out when she walked out on Bill, but fortunately the grandparents have Cathie most of the time, and they are nice people, but the little girl is chopped and changed from one to the other. Of course I was very interested to hear what they all thought about Bill’s marriage to Lois and Ruth’s sister Mary, because they all thought so much of Mary and so little of Bill – even Tilda, his mother! – but apparently although they were all shattered to begin with and tried in all ways to talk Mary out of it, she went ahead and married him and they are very happy – in fact, according to Til they are so in love it is rather nauseating! Cec and I roared as this is such a Til-ish remark. Cec came home a bit early from the University so he had a chance to chat too, and they brought all sorts of things to eat, so I had very little to do. They told me in the letter that they would bring corn and a ham, so I had rolls and made a potato salad and bought a coconut cake and had raspberries and cream, but they brought no less than 3 doz. ears of corn and two huge melons as well as the ham and jars of applesauce etc. so we had quite a feast. Til is taking Cathie down to see C’Zelma’s in Kentucky for a while this week so we won’t see them again but it was such fun to get the chance of meeting once more and we had as good a time as ever!
Do you remember when I was in Toledo some of the teachers took me on a trip one day up to Dearborn, near Detroit where we went to a museum which Henry Ford had made, and while we were there we saw him? He was in a wheelchair going around his museum, and he actually died not many months later, but I was always pleased that I had seen such a famous person. Anyway as well as this museum there is a Village – Greenfield Village, in which Ford collected and had set up the homes of all sorts of famous American people as well as all sorts of little shops and crafts which they used to have in the pioneer days. Thomas Edison was one of his best friends, and he has the house he was born in and all the original furniture and then all Edison’s Lab. and also the same for the Wright brothers and Stephen Foster and all sorts of other famous Americans as well as the house he himself was born in. It is all set out like a little old-fashioned village with brick streets and sidewalks and horsedrawn carriages and ducks and geese and peacocks wandering about, and a windmill and a forge with a blacksmith and beautiful old trees and lovely gardens for all the houses. I forgot to say that Mary Jo took us – we went into Ann Arbor with Cec in the morning on Friday and he dropped us off at the Peters’ house and then after a while everyone was collected and we set off in their station wagon. One of their boys was at camp, but there was Mary Jo and me, Linda and Charlie, Jody and Helen each with a girl of the same age, Vinnie and Terry – 10 of us! Mary Jo and the older girls have been before but none of the rest, so it was great fun, and it was a grey dullish day inclined to rain so we weren’t sorry to leave the cottage. We got there around 11, and they give you a map telling you which each house is and suggesting a route, and then in each place they have a girl who tells you some of the history of that particular house and shows you around. We were lucky and got ahead of the main crowd, but actually it is so big that you never feel you are in a mass of people. We had lunch in the Village Inn and we were amused as they said something about old-style American food, and it was cafeteria style and we had things like tuna fish sandwiches and potato chips! There was an old village shop and postoffice, and the children loved the forge where the blacksmith was making horseshoes and rings out of horseshoe nails! We also saw a silk mill with silk worms, a pottery and a glass blowing place, but during this time it had been getting very dark and thundery and suddenly it began to pour and we had to make a rush for the nearest building. This turned out to be a very dreary place with a lot of machinery in it so after staying there about 20 minutes or so while it poured down we decided to try and dash for the next building and of course we all got soaking wet! Eventually they sent around buses to take people back to the main gate, and as it was after 4 and we were all wet we decided to give the museum a miss and go home. We went back to the Peters’ house and Pete and Cec came and we had dinner there and eventually got home around 9 o’clock – we were tired!
Linda got some dry shoes and socks at the Peters that night, but yesterday she did better still. Dr. and Mrs. Hecht from the Physics Dept. live quite near here, in fact he is the one who helped Cec get this cottage and he has been very kind about driving Cec in once in a while to let me have the car. Yesterday they invited us to dinner and came over around 3 to show us the way. They live in a most fascinating house away off in the woods. A man had this as his summer place previously and built up the land around which a little river loops, and then built a bridge, cleared the undergrowth, built the house and made beautiful stone fireplaces inside the cottage and outside for outdoor meals and even dammed the little river to make a swimming pool in one place. The Hechts live there all year round and love it, and have added a furnace and a few improvements, but are thinking they must move into Ann Arbor soon as their little girl Liz, is six and they have the school problem. It wasn’t a good day for us to see it as it was quite dull and thundering and rainy which made it very dark with all the trees around, but it cleared up enough for Ted and Cec to cook our steaks on the outside fireplace although we ate inside – the mosquitoes were wicked. While this was going on Linda and Liz went to the little river where Liz had a small plastic boat and after a little while what should appear but two dripping wet little girls – the boat had tipped up and landed them in the water! They were both giggling and we couldn’t help laughing as they looked so funny but they were well and truly soaked. Fortunately, with a squeeze Linda could get into some of Liz’s clothes, and we had brought her an extra pair of shoes along, so she was all right, but we are making quite a collection of clothes here. I laughed at Lindy afterwards, she said to me with a funny little grin, “My dignity was hurt!” This reminds me of a remark of Charlie’s that amused me – not long after we got here one day we were all sitting on the porch reading except Charlie, and he kept making remarks until finally Cec said “Why don’t you stop chatting and get something to read?” at which Charlie replied “Oh I pride myself on being a brilliant conversationalist you know!” Apparently this is a quotation from one of his comics, but the way he brought it out just made us roar with laughter.
This week I don’t know if we will be doing anything much – I wrote to Mrs. Pasquier in Toledo and told her we were here and asked if she and her husband could come up one day, but they might be away for all I know, or they might not care for such a long drive. We usually have the car one day each week and we go into Dexter to the Coinwash and into Ann Arbor to the Library and any other shopping. The Peters lent us their Library tickets so we have been doing quite well, but Linda of course finishes her 4 books in the first day or so, but she doesn’t get them changed for a week. There is an ironing board here and I brought my old electric iron so I am able to do the ironing as usual – lovely!