Summer 1964

The summer of 1964 was packed with activities and events. The major event was the wedding at the beginning of August, and everything else had to be fitted in around it. The first activity for the children was camp. Now I know that countless North Americans look upon their time at camp as idyllic childhood summer fun that they joyfully repeated year after year- but such was not the Costain experience. Going to camp was sold to us by our parents as a thing we ought to try- it would only be two weeks out of the summer, we would be able to have swimming lessons and canoe, we would have fun with friends. My friend Janet’s mother was working and her English parents probably thought this would be a chance to have a holiday instead of being home alone all day. But because of the time crunch, Linda and Janet were sent to the Anglican Church youth camp with girls 2-4 years younger than they were, with a couple of the mothers from the Women’s Auxiliary of our church working there too, for reassurance. We were miserable, two teens (but not teens old enough to be counsellors) in a sea of 9 year-olds, divided into wooden cabins full of bunkbeds, herded from dining hall to fireside singsong in a cloud of gloom. The activities were unexciting, the cultural appropriation of ‘Camp Pontiac’ was painful, the religion classes boring, the swimming a disaster of shrieking splashing little girls, there was not enough free time for reading! (and there was an enticing library) and the food- not what we were used to, somehow, coming from English backgrounds. Charlie’s Boy Scout Cub Camp seemed less well organized- when he returned home with a pack of wet, muddy, and mouldy clothes, it appeared from his account that he and other inexperienced tent mates were abandoned to set up their equipment themselves, and had been flooded out at the beginning, spending the rest of the fortnight in soggy surroundings. (Strangely, this was not enough to turn Charlie off camping- he’s just returned from a Labour Day weekend camping trip in Algonquin Park. It didn’t rain till Monday.)

When we returned from camp we were upset to find that we had missed the beginning of visits from relatives gearing up for the pre-wedding excitement. It was always fun having people to stay and we were glad to be home. John had completed his theology degree and was ordained, Sharon had trained as a teacher, Lorne had already been teaching that year, as were his parents, and he and Liz had baby Debbie who was adorable. Charlie and I had swimming lessons again and then in August, we were off to Brantford for the wedding, to be combined with a trip to Stratford to see King Lear, The Marriage of Figaro, and Yeoman of the Guard.

For the wedding, Cyn had made herself a dress out of a beautiful sari that the Kalras had been commissioned to buy years before in India. It was shot silk, a rich green in one light, brown in the other, with the ends embroidered with gold thread. Cyn took those ends for a wrap, and the dress from the middle yardage with the gold embroidery at the hem, and with it she wore a wonderful hat of long narrow iridescent blue and green feathers, close to the head. Merle, the mother of the groom, had a more commanding hat, pink petals outstanding, and Auntie Lily from Toronto represented the older generation. (John’s charge as a minister was ‘out West’ so the Costain grandparents, and uncles and families, could see the newlyweds once they had moved closer.) There were lots of Lees from the bride’s side, two red-headed younger brothers being groomsmen along with John’s two brothers, to escort the bride’s attendants. I was moderately pleased with my green dress, had white gloves and shoes (and nylon stockings) and a floaty headdress that blew about in the breeze. The bouquet was a surprise, being white carnations- with half of them dyed green- as if nature did not produce enough greenery for a bouquet! But I was thrilled wth a bridesmaids’ gift of a string of pearls to wear, and kept my opinion of the flowers to myself. The weather was lovely, the service went beautifully with all of us doing our parts properly, the pictures in one of Brantford’s riverside parks looked good afterwards and were relatively painless to take, and the reception was full of family and we all had fun. Then the Costains went off to Stratford and had a marvellous time.

We had been going to Stratford since I was 8, and Cec and Cyn had always bought tickets off to the side of the thrust stage down in the first couple of rows, thinking that the children would be fascinated by the actors brushing by them to enter and exit even if the plot was beyond them. (It never was, what with the summary in the programme and the play in front of us.) So on this occasion, Gloucester’s eyes were gouged out realistically above and in front of us, and I bet I was not the only one hiding my eyes! The Gilbert and Sullivan productions were always marvellous, and The Marriage of Figaro has, from that summer on, always been my favourite opera. It was a happy time and a lovely holiday.

When we returned to Ottawa, Merle and Dix joined us for a visit, and brought Liz and Debbie to stay with her family in Ottawa. I had a birthday, became a teenager, and then a new adventure would begin- Gloucester High School.

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