2043 Montreal Road,
Ottawa 9, Ont.
21st Dec. 1962.
What do you think that Cec and I are giving to each other for Christmas? A NEW HOUSE! Of course we have done it all in our usual slow deliberate fashion – thought it over carefully – discussed it for a long time – didn’t do anything in too much of a hurry, and took a whole week over it!
Now, having given you the initial shock I can tell you all about it! First of all it is the house that Dorothy Scott’s father owned – he died in the spring of this year and left his property divided amongst Dorothy and her 2 sisters. They tried to sell the house all summer but had no luck and at last a few weeks ago Mrs. Scott told us that she had taken the house as her share of the estate and that she now had the deed herself, so that is when we began thinking about it. I don’t know if you remember the house – it was next to Ken’s place, but around the corner on the way to Fanni’s – it is a small white house and very neat and pretty from the outside – the type they call a Cape Cod house. Cec and I had always liked the look of it from the outside, and actually I had quite often thought that it was just a sort of place that I would like to have, but when Dot and Ken sold their house and went to live with Mr. Watt we saw the inside and got such a shock! Of course, Mr. Watt was an old man when he built it for himself and his wife and it was as he wanted it, but it seem to be all cut up into little rooms, full of great big old furniture, and it was quite a disappointment. In the summer when it was for sale Cec and I talked about it casually and wondered who would buy it and decided that whoever did it would have to spend quite a bit of money modernizing it and and what they could do to improve it, but all in an academic kind of way!
Anyway, when Cec was away this summer, the Hansons next door in the old house sold it and moved away. Not that I regretted them much as neighbours but all along the highway here is zoned as commercial property and I began to wonder what on earth we would get beside us as the house is worth nothing – no plumbing or water or anything, and the land might be sold for a service station or goodness knows what. Then of course, Myrtle is always a thorn in the flesh, and I felt that she probably wouldn’t be able to stay out here by herself much longer and then something would be done with her house, so with one thing and another I began to feel that maybe we should begin to look around and see what other places in the area were like and prices etc. Cec and I talked it over when he came home, and he thinks that maybe I have been a bit restless since the accident, and perhaps unconsciously that has had something to do with it. Anyway we saw some advertisements of houses being built down by the river in Rothwell Heights, and they seemed quite good value, but neither of us were keen on going so far away from the school and buses etc. Then one Sat. evening we had Ken and Dott up to see Cec’s pictures of his trip and in the course of conversation Dot told us about having the house herself now, and also said that they had tried to sell it for 20,000 dollars in the summer and that she thought that this was too much and that she would be happy if she got 17,500 dollars for it. After they left Cec and I were sitting talking and he suddenly said “You know, instead of buying a house right down by the river, I would rather buy Mr. Watt’s house.” So we began talking about it and wondering and sat up till all hours of the morning discussing it and then went to bed and couldn’t sleep, and next day Cec phoned Dot and asked if we could come down and look at it. We looked over it and Dot gave us the blueprints of the house so we could see if it was possible to alter it into the kind of house we wanted, and we sat up most of that night and most of the nights that week drawing plans and putting stairs up here and pulling walls down there until we were exhausted! The biggest problem was that instead of the stairs going up opposite the front door from front to back as they usually do in that type of house, Mr. Watt had put them in sideways and not only did this take a big piece out of the size of the rooms downstairs but it meant that upstairs there was only one big nice room – the other room had the stairs coming right up into the middle of it and there was a big long passage around the stairs to the other bedroom. Then downstairs there was a little living room with 2 doors in it, and the dining room ran right into the kitchen and had no less than 4 doors in it counting the door to the basement and 2 outside doors. There is quite a big entrance hall, but no coat closet, just a big old hall stand, and actually the closets were very few – none upstairs and then each of the 2 downstairs bedrooms they were long and thin and just hooks – no rod for hangers, and a little thin linen closet so deep that you couldn’t reach.
Well, after all our cogitating and drawing and many trials and errors Cec and I came up with the plan which I have drawn for you, which we think will solve all our problems! We are going to have the stairs reversed – i.e. from the hallway we will have the entrance down to the basement stairs, and we will have the stairs going up into the middle of the upstairs instead of to one end. On the plan I’ve shown by the dotted line where they come now, and how much space we will save when they are put the other way. That leaves two lovely big rooms upstairs – the ceilings slope at the side but they are light and nice and we will have closets built in. There is already a small washroom there with toilet and washbasin and we will have a nice linen closet in there. [I really wish I could see that plan, but it doesn’t exist now. There is a plan of her kitchen in the scrapbook, but the plan of whole house went to St. Vincent.]
Now downstairs we will not only have the stairs reversed but moved along a bit to make the passage smaller and the dining room bigger, and then we will have a wall built between the kitchen and dining room with a sliding door between and the wall between the dining room and living room knocked down giving us a lovely big L-shaped room just about as big as the one we have here. Also – joy of joys – we are going to have a FIREPLACE put in! We will close up the one outside door, just leaving the one into the kitchen, and instead of having the stairs coming down into the dining room we have curved them around to come into the kitchen opposite the back door. The kitchen will be small but at present it hasn’t much in the way of cupboards or counter space – a big old kitchen dresser is there and so on, so we are going to have it all taken out and remodelled into a brand new modern kitchen for me. The refrigerator will be on one side with a nice long counter – low for me to work at! – and on the other side I will have the stove and sink with a window above and cupboards at the side. [Cyn was only 5 foot so if there was no room for a kitchen table, she needed a counter suitable for her own height.] There will be a small partition the height of the stove between it and the back door and I will have a little shelves on it for my spices etc. Now, what else – the two downstairs bedrooms are both nice big rooms, I think I have made the bathroom too big and the end bedroom too small on the plan but you will get the idea. That bedroom will make a nice study–spare room – all ready for grandparents! – and oh! what bliss to have a proper bathroom with a BATH. The front bedroom will be ours and it is about the same size as the one we have here. The only change we will make in it is in the closet. We are going to do away with the skinny linen closet and instead make us a long closet in the bedroom with sliding doors and a closet into the hall also with sliding doors to take coats.
There is an acre of land, all the front nicely landscaped and with all sorts of nice old apple trees, and a big shade tree in the back, and a hillside left wild behind that – not nearly as deep and rough as here though. There is a garage for two cars and a porch and kind of covered veranda round to the back door, and we plan to enlarge this a bit and screen it in so we will have a lovely big screened porch. For all of this we are paying 17,500 dollars, and what do you think – Dot felt that maybe she was asking too much so she is throwing in a beautiful automatic washing machine and a dryer of her father’s as well! Of course all the alterations will cost us $2000, and we have a carpenter who has worked for Ken on his new house in Cumberland all ready to begin in the New Year. Now you will wonder where on earth we are going to get all this money – particularly as we haven’t even mentioned selling this house yet – we are a TWO HOUSE FAMILY! However, we will begin to try to sell this one in the New Year – the alterations will take about 6 weeks, so we don’t expect to move until nearly the end of Feb. and we really don’t own it until Jan. 5th although we were down at the lawyer’s office signing the deed today. Dot will hold our mortgage and we are paying her $1000 now and maybe another 1000 or more when we sell the house – she doesn’t mind if we don’t pay her any more as she looks on it as a source of income and will buy an annuity with it. The money for the alterations we borrow from the Gov. as a Home Improvement Loan from the Housing and Mortgage Corp. and we will pay this back when we sell this house too, so actually though we seem to be running around spending money like mad at the moment, we think we will be fine once we get it all settled.
The children are so funny – at first they were horrified at the thought of moving, and didn’t ever want to leave this house. Then, when they went down and explored the big garden down there and found all sorts of exciting places to play they began to get quite thrilled, and now they’re all ready and set to go! They still can’t imagine themselves living in the house I don’t think and I must say that I am the same – up here when we plan and draw out the rooms etc. I can visualize it all beautifully, but when I go down there and see it and all the rooms full of furniture I can’t believe it is true! We will take some ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures so that you will be able to see what it is all about, but I hope that you will be able to make out most of it from all my elaborate drawings!
This is our big New Year’s Surprise for you, and I haven’t managed to write about anything else, but I was waiting till it was all signed and sealed before breaking the news! I will write about other things in my next, but this letter is really a fat one already, and I really can’t think of anything but House!
We all send big hugs and kisses and all our good wishes for a Very Happy New Year for both you and Auntie Muriel.
With much love from us all – Cyn
Sadly, this is the last letter we have until 1966! I am glad it exists because this was a big change in the Costain household, but I am sorry to only have a few pictures in a scrapbook to cover the new house, the alterations, the move, and the changes in the years that follow. It is the small details of daily life that I think make Cyn’s letters worth reading, but I will cover the missing years briefly and we will join her again in four years.
I am also sorry to be having technical difficulties at the moment that prevent me from being able to publish any pictures at all, which is why the usual documentation and photos are missing. I hope to be able to add them later, but until then there will be a brief pause!