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Family Letters

When I first thought of reading my mother’s old letters to my grandmother, it was because I had been listening to CBC radio talking about the polio scares of the 1950s.  My husband Pat is five years older than I and can remember the public swimming pools in Windsor being closed because of fear of polio.  Had my mother worried about her children being affected, I wondered?  I should read her letters and find out.  But of course, reading one meant reading them all, for who knew where such information might be buried? 

I knew I had letters from my past in boxes somewhere and that some of the boxes from my mother had letters that my grandmother had preserved from their past.  I must have considered these of some value, since I had lugged them through our many moves (an average of every three-and-a-half years all our married life).  We have made our second-last move (back to our house in Haida Gwaii- the last one will be the one forced on us by old age and infirmities); have as much space as we’ll ever have; Pat and I are retired and thus I had lots of time to consider A Project. So I dug out the boxes, sorted the letters and other documents into binders, and then left them alone for ten years.

My Family Letters Project involves 80 years of letters saved by and written by the women in my nuclear family to their mothers. 

The youngest child of twelve, Carol Enid Hazell, was born in St.Vincent, West Indies into the British colonial empire of Queen Victoria.  She went to school in England, returned and married Dr. J.M.G. Ewing (Gordon) in St. Vincent, and after World War 1, went to live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with her husband and daughter.  It is hard to imagine how many letters they all wrote over the years: she kept in touch with her mother, brothers, and sisters in the West Indies, Britain, Canada, and the USA; but the only letters she saved were those from her daughter, Cynthia Ewing, written to her mother in Newcastle from boarding school in York, then as an adult, from Cambridge, Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Ottawa.  When, in old age, she joined her daughter in Ottawa, she brought those letters with her.  Between us, Cyn and I kept my memorabilia and those letters that friends wrote to me, although the letters I wrote home to Ottawa from England and Nigeria sadly seem to have disappeared.

This chain of personal letters to our mothers, of course, involves all our friends and the extended families, personal comments that I hope those living will excuse me publishing, and a lot of little details of life gone by, such as the information that my mother at boarding school as a teenager would have her hair washed every three weeks.  [Letter dated May 8th, 1929]  To the 21st century reader, this results in several thoughts, including ‘ick’, but also: at 14, someone else washes her hair? also, what did they all look like? and, oh that explains a few puzzling incidents in that Chalet School series (written in the 30s).  

Adding to the vicarious enjoyment of these letters is the fact that nothing very distressing ever happens because no one wants to upset her mother: so agonizing experiences (if any) are kept private and don’t enter into the flow of weekly letters; and major events happen off stage since the family tends to get together in a crisis and so no letters are written, and the accident or crisis is only referred to afterwards. 

As well, it should be admitted, I come from a very fortunate family: on both sides generally, there was health and enough wealth, in spite of the Depression and World War Two, no great tragedies happened, and if all marriages were not successful, most were, families were loving, and children were treasured.  For me, reading these was like enjoying a familiar novel, or maybe a prequel: you know the main characters and the ending, but you are getting all sorts of new and entertaining information.  As the boxes reached my memorabilia, 40 years ago rather than 80, there were notes and cards from my past, and that walk down memory lane was fun too. Those notes and artifacts add variety, since they are from friends to me- the odd letter in the collection from someone else added interest to my mother’s letters, but in 1951 she tells her mother how much she and my father enjoy the letters they get, but also says she is going to burn them since the collection was getting so bulky. How glad I am that my grandmother kept Cyn’s letters, one-sided though the conversation is.  

So I read the letters, put them in chronological order in plastic sleeves and binders, annotated them with stickies when I recognized the names, and supplemented the narrative with the oral stories I’d heard all my life.  My grandmother had a box of loose photos too, so I have slipped them in the sleeve too if relevant.  My mother took a writing class in her 70s, and wrote short stories about her mother’s life: the eruption, the earthquake, fictionalized versions of family sagas. I include similar tales we loved as kids: our mother being naughty with a midnight feast at boarding school. And long term?  As I wrote to my 97-year-old godmother in England, I can’t help thinking there is a thesis in here somewhere.  Now we have the Internet, I think publishing these may be a contribution to the domestic history of the 20th century.  My grandmother kept the letters from her daughter, and enjoyed reading them and putting them in order in her old age, and there are indications that my mother looked them over as well before her sight went.  Now we have the technology I feel they should serve a wider purpose than bringing a smile to my face as I enter old age.  The collection may lack drama for an outside reader, but the small details of life in the last century are strangely compelling. So I am posting these online and sharing the love with the world- because what these years of letters do show is a century of caring and long families and teasing, friends and connections and love.

August 27 1953

Round Lake. Thursday. About 27th (?) Aug! 

Dearest Mummy,

I am so sorry that I haven’t written for such a long time. I brought a whole scad of writing things up here & this is the first time I have even had my pen out! I sort of imagined myself sitting back with nothing to do but read & write while the children played contentedly in the sand by themselves, but of course it’s not a bit like that! However, it is a glorious place & we are having a lovely, lovely time, so what does it matter if we don’t have much “sitting back” time!

The lake is big – about 7 miles across & even longer I think- it reminds me of Ullswater or some of those in the Lake District & has one or 2 little islands in it. The nearest town is Pembroke 24 miles away & only one little store near her, so you have some idea how isolated it is, but the milkman calls 3 times a week which is nice. There are pine woods all round the lake & our cottage is built in the midst of them – then a sandy track (not really a road!) then the beach & lake. It reminds me of Millie’s & Ford’s camp, but being right on the lake it is even nicer & the cottages are spread out & mostly empty now, so we are very private. The cottage itself is adequate but not fancy – we have a wood stove for cooking & a pump over the sink & a little “house” up the hill! It has electricity though, & there is a beautiful fridge & lamps & a hot plate which is nice.

The weather on the whole has been perfect. We drove up on Sat. 15th & that night it got very cold – Cec & I sat under a blanket & huddled in front of a little electric radiator all evening! Next day Lee & Barry arrived (Cec went into Pembroke & got them from the train) & Jim didn’t come till Wed. as he had work to finish. Between Sun. and Wed. it was dull & cold, mostly, some days bright and sunny, although at night it was icy! However, we kept the stove on all day & it was all right although Charlie’s 6 a.m. feed was a chiller! After Wed. however it got warmer & warmer & is now around 85 – 90 in the day & just nice & cool at night. It was sweltering this morning but now a wind is blowing & the lake is all waves. Carman came up on Fri. evening & stayed till Mon. afternoon & enjoyed it thoroughly & on Sat. afternoon Joan Gallagan (the pretty girl who was Dr. H’s sec at N.R.C.) came with her sister Kitty (their home is in Pembroke). They brought corn & we had hot dogs & had a nice picnic & bathed & had fun. 

Costains & Ganders at the cottage: Cec, Linda on Cyn, Barry in front, Carman, Jim, & Lee holding Charlie.

I am going onto another A.M. as I haven’t told of what fun the children are having. 

Lots of love- Cyn.

August 9 1953

Tea time.

P.S.  Finished “Mrs. Mike” & cried & cried!                                                            

Aug. 9th. 1953

Dearest Mummy,

Thank you so much for your lovely, lovely parcel which came last week – it was like a lovely big surprise dip or a great big Christmas stocking & Linda & I had the most gorgeous time opening it. I hardly know where to begin and thank you for it because there is so much & all such fun!

First of all I saved Lindy’s black dolly & the towels for her birthday, so she got the two little blouses on the day we opened it & she insisted on putting them on straightaway! I have a little pair of navy blue shorts for her with a little navy & white seersucker blouse, & your little blouses look so sweet with them as well as her jeans. I also think I will make her another little pleated skirt for the winter – red perhaps & they would look so nice with that too. They both fit her perfectly & are nice & long, so don’t keep popping out & they are both such cute little styles – I think you are so clever to make them out of your “oldies” & they are a great success I think. I like both the little red check & the blue one – the shade of blue is very pretty & suits her well. Lindy also loved the book you sent about the three little elephants, with the cute little elephants attached. Although it isn’t such a pretty little book as the flower fairy one, I really think it appeals to her more – she likes a story that you can read or tell her & she likes stories of animals too.  Just this last week she asks questions by the dozen – “What’s that?” “Where is Carman?” “What’s Daddy doing?” & even “Shall we go for a walk & see the pussy Mummy? Shall we?” Don’t you think that was sweet?

Lindy also just loves her basket from Auntie Moo & the hankie from Auntie Trix – also the little jersey for Charlie from Auntie Moo. Please thank them for me & tell them that I am writing, but will send them by sea. The little T-shirt you sent Charlie is just the sweetest thing I ever saw I think! It fits in perfectly now & makes him look a little precious. I put it on yesterday with Linda’s old blue overalls all fixed up & you never saw such blue, blue eyes & he just grinned & looked so pleased, you’d think he knew! The wee swan with the tiny baby is such fun. Of course Linda commandeered them at once, but Charlie loves them when he can get them & likes to sit & hold the little baby in one fat little fist! Since I last wrote he is sitting up beautifully — all of a sudden seemed to decide he could do it! He sits up in the pram on the porch & watches the cars go by & thoroughly enjoys himself. He also sits in Lindy’s table & I have to strap him well in as he has heaved his way through twice! The pram is a wreck with his activities  — I don’t know what Lea would say if she saw it! He once poked the hood & “mattress” apart & rolled right out onto the porch floor & another time got his legs right through a split in the side & stuck halfway with his legs & bottom out and & his head & arms in! Isn’t he a horror?! He is trying to crawl & gets backwards a bit! Before I forget, Lindy was playing with A. Moo’s basket the day the parcel came & took it & her baby in her arm & said she was going shopping. So I said to get me some bacon at the store & Cec said to get him cigarettes & she grinned & said “Bacon- cigarettes” & trotted along the passage. The next thing we heard was the screen door banging at the back so I rushed to look & here she was down the steps & setting out for the road, so I called Cec & he caught her up just as she got to the road & was looking a little doubtful! So he went with her to the corner store & bought her a sucker, but I can see we’re going to have to be careful of the commissions we give her!

And now for all the things you sent me, Mummy! I am just delighted with them one & all! The basket is so pretty & will be both useful & ornamental – it is so sturdy & such pretty colours too, as well as being an unusual shape. I look forward to taking it on my trips to the shops when I don’t have a pram to plonk everything in! The breakfast cloth & napkins are just exactly what I like & I have had them on the table for breakfast every morning since they came! They are so bright & Cec says they cheer the whole room up – the tablecloth is exactly right for the table & the join and flaws you talk about aren’t in the slightest bit noticeable. I do like a nice small tablecloth like this – so nice to wash & iron. The white napkins are absolutely what I need & I do like them so much – thank you very very much Mummy & for the nice initials too- I like having them different! I shall use them my first dinner party! The talcum powder is very welcome – I’ve been using Lindy’s of course! – but it’s so nice to have some of my own! Cec is delighted with his tie & his share in the other things & enjoyed seeing them all nearly as much as Lindy & me! We also loved all the little cards & instructions & Lindy went round saying “Where’s my birthday card?”!

We celebrated Linda’s birthday yesterday & all had a lovely time. We decided that it would spread out the excitement more if we had it now instead of waiting till we were away & also that she would probably enjoy it more at home. We got her a dear little red & white tricycle – just a wee one (but not wood- a real tricycle) – & a little red wagon (Richard has one & she loved it ) & a big beach ball & a book (the latter was a request!!) Cec & I could hardly wait till Sat. to give her the things, we were so excited!! When she woke in the morning, we went in & said “Happy birthday, Lindy” & gave her the book & she was just enchanted! She was so thrilled & kept saying “Lindy has a birthday book!” & when she saw Chrissy out of the window she kept calling “Look Chrissy – a book”! After breakfast we took her in the sitting room where we had all the presents & she just stood and said “O-oooh!” Then she ran to one & the other “A bicycle a (for) Lindy” “A wagon a Lindy” “A big ball a Lindy”! She didn’t know which one to go to first & it was such fun to watch her! Then she opened the parcels & was really so astonished at the black dolly!

The towels are known as “Lindy’s very own towels” & she has one in the bathroom now – they are sweet, Mummy & she loves having her own things. The tiny wee straw hat & purse are so sweet- I also gave her a wee tiny dolly and a little wicker pram (25¢!) (made a mattress, pillow & blanket for it) & the hat & purse just fit the dolly! Amy’s parcel had also come with a very pretty little blue & mauve lawn dress for Lindy (with pants) & cloth book for Charlie. Also their christening present for Charlie – a really lovely napkin ring with his initials & the coronation hallmark & Queen’s head! My high chair to Ruth was evidently a lapalooza so I don’t feel overwhelmed! By the way, Amy asked me to send her last letter on & I will, by sea, but the reason was that her mother had a Coronary thrombosis & was taken into “The Green” & died very quietly a few days later.

I must stop- it is 12! I made Lindy a choc. cake with white marshmallow bunnies on & she loved it – she calls it a “party cake”! We all send lots of hugs and kisses & thanks for all our lovely presents.   XXX Lindy & Charlie,     Love from Cyn.

July 27 1953

Costains in their best clothes!

Mon.  27th July 1953

Dearest Mummy,

Here are the christening pictures, so at last you are up-to-date on how the family is looking! Actually we are not often all so dressed up, but at least it shows we can do it once in a while!! Lindy & I both have our new hats & dresses on- our hats are white & my dress white with red & Lindy’s white with little brightly coloured flowers – she looks so grown up in some of the snaps, but not so much in real life! I was quite surprised that the christening dress still fitted Charlie quite well, but there was no such thing as draping it elegantly for the picture! He kicked & wriggled & stuck his feet out & didn’t approve of skirts at all! He is so different from Lindy in so many ways it is really funny – when he cries he still floods with tears whereas she rarely can squeeze a drop out; he just loves to be kissed & squeezed & cuddled & laughs & chuckles, while Lindy is quite an independent little piece & just likes to cuddle on occasion; at his age Lindy was sitting up by herself, but Charlie has no interest in sitting, he just loves to get on his feet! He is quite steady & needs very little help, but sitting by himself he wobbles around & can’t balance on his little bottom! Do you remember how Lindy used to wake up for her late feed with such a sweet little smile? Well Charlie is so funny – he’s just like his Daddy & has such a struggle to wake up – rubbing his eyes & screwing his face up & blinking for ages! Altogether, it is so amusing to compare them & in looks they vary quite a bit now – Charlie is a real honey-blonde with curly hair & his eyes are a very bright blue – Lindy’s hair is brown & her eyes are quite a different shade of blue – everyone says she is like me & Charlie like Cec- I don’t know, of course! It is sweet to see them together though as they are going to be such friends I think – Charlie loves to watch Lindy & laughs & gurgles at her whereas Lindy is getting fonder & fonder of him & talks to him & wants to hold him & bath him & even feed him! If he cries she runs to him & says “It’s all right Charlie” & of course if either of them really howl the other does too! She gets such a thrill if Charlie uses her things too- no sign of possessiveness at all – if Charlie is in her table or wears overalls of hers or anything she is so tickled & pleased about it! Lindy’s talking is really going on wonderfully we think – she is getting quite good at personal pronouns & says “I’ll get it” & “I’m tired” & “Charlie in his carriage” & also has began to use negative statements & says “That’s not Lindy’s Daddy” when she’s waiting for Cec & a car goes by & “Lindy can’t reach it” etc. which we think is very advanced. She has picked up some funny expressions from Carman- when he’s pleased he sometimes says “Oh, bully, bully!” & Lindy is always saying “Bully, bully says Carman”! One morning after breakfast she got on my knee & bounced & I said “Oh don’t do that – I’m full of breakfast.” so she grinned & said “Mummy full of breakfast – Lindy full of beans!”

I just wrote a note with the other snaps last week, but really I have very little news – it has been so hot that we tried to do as little as possible. It is pleasanter now – has been very damp & humid, but is now warm, but not so roasting hot. We got Lindy one of those plastic paddling pools – just a little one, but she loves it – has only been in it twice as it got a bit rainy for a few days, but I think will soon get very used to it. At present she is chary of lying down & doesn’t even sit much, but loves to stand & pour water on herself from a little pail! She has a little yellow terry cloth bathing suit & I tie her hair back & she looks a pet. We have all this on the front grass as there is no back now of course, so all the passersby enjoy it!

On Sat. Margie & I decided to go over & see Lu & the baby in hospital, so Margie drove me in their new car. She has driven her Dad’s cars for years & Cy was the one who’d never driven before, but they both have licenses now. It seemed very odd & “chuggy” after MacTavish! We had the latter all overhauled last month & various new engine parts & he goes like a dream now. Lu was looking wonderful- her entire labour lasted exactly 2 hours beginning with the water breaking & she had precisely 2 pains! We saw the baby too & I really think it’s not just my newborn babies who look funny!!! He is to be called Peter Alan after his Daddy- Lindy thinks baby brothers are all the go — she was reciting last week “Leslie has a tiny wee baby brother – Nancy has a baby brother – Danny has a baby brother – Lindy has a baby brother, Charlie!”

After I got home on Sat. I was just cooking dinner around 6 when the phone rang & this was a cousin of Cec & Carman’s called Cliff who was driving out to Nova Scotia, and had just got to Ottawa, so of course Cec asked him to come over & with a little judicious stretching (onion soup I had already made – bacon with the liver – a big salad + the veg I’d cooked & cake with the raspberry sherbert) there was enough dinner! He is in the Air Force (a Flying Officer) & is just Carman’s age (21) but he’s already married. You were surprised that Carman had a girlfriend at his age, but he thinks he’s a bit slow as so many of his pals are already married! Anyway Cliff’s wife is called Elsie, & although we all liked Cliff very much, none of us cared for her & I thought she was awful! They were stationed last in Saskatoon so Carman knew them quite well, but Cec hadn’t met Cliff since he was 4! He is quiet & pleasant, but she is loud voiced & has an annoying laugh & seems quite brainless & isn’t even pretty! What got me was that she was so gauche & seemed to have no kind of social sense at all – when I, as hostess, offered to take her upstairs to the bathroom she just said “Oh, I’ll just sit awhile” & then when I said I hoped they hadn’t eaten as dinner was just about ready she said “Oh well, we did eat sometime this afternoon – when was it Cliff?” & I could have kicked her teeth in! Apparently Cliff had dated her in Edmonton & then was posted down to London, Ont. & was lonely & fed up there & after 7 months wrote & asked her to marry him & she went right off & did- poor boy. Cec & I were just saying that she’s not going to be much help to a fellow in the Services with a career to make – Services’ wives always seem to have to fit in well, or else it reflects on him. They were just staying overnight in Ottawa, so we put them up on the sitting room sofa-bed. Cec & Carman were sweet though- Charlie has given us a few disturbed nights lately- more teeth, we think – so they packed me off to bed & washed all the dinner dishes & on Sunday morning Cec got up & got everyone’s breakfasts & brought mine to bed & I just got up to wave the guests farewell! 

Yesterday of course was our 4th wedding anniversary. We had thought we’d go out on Sat. evening & have dinner at the Château Laurier etc. but on considering our finances & the fact that we are going away next month, we decided to postpone the splurge until later, & actually with Cliff & Elsie turning up it was just as well & we really had a lovely day. As I say, Cec brought up my breakfast in bed & he’d decided (for no reason!) that the 4th Anniv. was china & so here on my tray was a lovely card & a beautiful china cup & saucer. It is English china – one of these cups just white with a gold rim outside & inside a lovely spray of yellow roses – the pattern is called “Golden Rose”. My present to Cec was much less enduring – a bottle of Graves! We had a yummy dinner – grilled steak with mushrooms & tomatoes, mashed potatoes, celery & radishes, then fresh blueberry pie with ice cream – & of course the wine! I was talking to Phyl Douglas on the phone in the afternoon & it turned out it was their wedding anniversary too- the 8th! They were going out to dinner, but we said they must come up & have a glass of wine with us before they went – Alec just got back from Europe last Tuesday. After dinner Cec & Carman & I just sat & chatted & then Carman washed up for us & Cec & I strolled down to the corner for cigarettes & seeing the Earle’s light on we phoned when we got home & asked Patsy to come over. Carman was feeling a little lonesome we thought, so Pat helped cheer him up – she is working in a Bank now & is really a cute girl. The Earles just had a big shock a little while ago – their son (22 or 23 I think) finally divulged that he got married last March! Another bit of gossip – remember the Orans who lived on the other side of the Grahams? There was the old lady, her daughter & her granddaughter – another Pat- anyway the Mama – a very bossy woman we think- just got married last week, so I heard Pat telling Mr. Labelle! We’ve seen her dating this old boy, but didn’t know he’d brave all the women!

I mentioned a page or two back that we were going on our holiday next month & I am getting quite excited. Phyl & Alec Douglas & family go on Sat. for 2 weeks to this cottage on Round Lake (up towards Chalk River) & we have it for the last 2 weeks in Aug. It is right on the lake, has a sandy beach & shallow water, a screened porch & all sorts of amenities like milkman calling daily etc. & Phyl & I are going to arrange to share baby equipment – i.e. she takes up playpen, crib etc. & then leaves them & uses mine here & we bring hers back. Lee & Jim & Barry are coming with us, so it won’t be so expensive ( it is $35 a week) & will be fun too-  there are 2 b’rooms with double beds & a couple of camp beds for the children. I was trying to explain to Lindy today about the holiday, but the only thing that registered was that we would “play & get all wet!”

Thank you so much for your long letter posted on the 20th- it arrived on Sat. so was quick. You asked about Boris – he is of Jugoslavian extraction, but came to Canada when he was 8, & you would never know that he hadn’t lived here all his life. His surname is Stoicheff & his home is Toronto- his parents (he is the only son & has 5 sisters) live in a kind of Jugoslavian community there- own church, school etc. & Boris & his sisters are some of the few who have moved out of the close national circle as it were & gone onto Univ. etc. He came to N.R.C. as a Fellow, but is coming on the staff this fall, much to his joy as he likes NRC & the work very much. He got the little silver mug engraved with “Charlie” & it is really sweet – Charlie drank his orange juice out of it today.

Ruth and Peter Haynes’s baby announcement.

About Ruth, Amy just sent a P.C. by sea, but I wrote back A.M. & have since heard from Ruth. She was quite upset as she couldn’t feed the baby, but he is thriving now. She chose a high chair from Harrod’s & should have it now so I hope it’s nice – Amy tells me she is sending Charlie a silver napkin ring- hope he uses it more than I use mine now! I am having Harrods send me a few Viyella rompers etc. & will see what the duty is. We are looking forward to your parcel which hasn’t arrived yet, but we are all enjoying “Mrs. Mike”. Cec has just finished at & I am 1/2 way through – I read a short version in some magazine once, but am enjoying the book very much. We have decided that it will be less confusing for Lindy if we celebrate her birthday at home before we go away, so we are going to have it the weekend after next & by then I hope your parcel will have come. We plan to get her a little tricycle & she will enjoy that at home & it will save taking it up to the cottage. Lindy is getting to know about birthdays now & I told her she was going to have a birthday soon & she is quite tickled & says “Lindy has a birthday – Daddy say “Happy birthday Lindy” – Charlie say “Happy birthday Lindy”!  By the way, we hope Lindy’s shyness is passing- she was quite friendly with Cliff & demanded to “Kiss Clip good- night “!

Technicolour!

By the way- we did see the same coloured Coronation film as you & I thought it was absolutely beautiful – the colour was easily the most glorious I’ve seen, & I thought the whole thing was perfectly done- television was lousy compared to it.

Must stop or this will weigh a ton – Charlie’s o’alls (as Lindy calls them) will be lovely I’m sure. Kisses from Lindy & Charlie – Love to A. Moo & A. Trix with lots & lots of love from us all —

              Cyn.

July 23 1953

Note plus snaps of spring and early summer.

23rd July

Dearest Mummy,

Just a very hasty note as Cec is coming home early & I am going to make a lightning dash downtown to look at the Sales! I was to go on Sat. but it was so hot – ever since I last wrote we have been in the 90˚s & only down to 70- something at night, so it has been pretty juicy — or rather I should say we have been juicy — oozing in fact!!

We are all fine & well except that little Charlie has a slight tummy upset with the heat I think & is only eating milk. We got Lindy one of those little plastic paddling pools yesterday & she is so cute in it. Your parcel of “Mrs. Mike” & Lindy’s fairy book arrived yesterday – thank you lots & lots. Lindy will hardly part with her NEW book!

Just got the news at noon that Lu Forsyth had a son this morning! Only 2 hrs labour- pretty good!! Boys are the fashion just now, aren’t they?

Must dash, but will write very soon.

Hugs & xxs from us all – 

                                        Cyn.

July 14 1953- By Sea Mail

Jumping on Daddy!

14th July

Dearest Mummy,

This is a couple of pictures Dan took, printed, enlarged, & mounted for me (I have copies.) He thinks they are wonderful, but we don’t think there’s anything super about them except that Lindy is having fun & they show our “back” as it used to be- no nice trees now. They were taken on Sunday a.m. when Cec had dressed Lindy etc, so so she is not poshed up!! It was early June I think & the bits of girl visible are Leslie Crabtree!!

I am enclosing the “corners” you asked for- can’t think why I didn’t get more than one pkt. but will send more when you need them. 

                            Lots of love, 

                                                  Cyn.

Cyn was having a busy summer and it is obvious that her lodger, Dan, can do very little right in her eyes now.  The pictures are bigger than the snaps normally were, and are unposed and spontaneous, which Cyn doesn’t seem to like, but I think show a fun moment in time!  Dan’s picture of Charlie captures a charming moment too. This was written on the same day as the air mail letter that arrived in Kingstown, St. Vincent on July 24th, but I’m sure it got there much later!

July 14 1953

Tues. July 14, 1953. 

Dearest Mummy, 

Thank you so much for your nice long letter about your holiday in Mustique – I am so glad you had such a lovely time & that the trips there & back weren’t nearly as alarming as you expected. We were all very interested in your description of the island & tell A. Moo that the map is very clear! The letter arrived this afternoon & I am very sorry you were disappointed in getting no mail from me – I know by now you will have, but I have been slipping from one week to two lately I’m afraid. I like Carman very much at & I’m delighted to have him with us, but there is no doubt about it that I am kept busy with 2 babies and 3 men! I get up at 7 as Carman has only one bus he can catch & pack lunches for both him & Cec – he has no canteen where he works & it is ‘way out in the country – isn’t it silly? Of course with him here I cook & bake a bit more- cookies etc. & although I don’t do his personal washing there are extra towels, sheets, etc. & the children seem to wear more & more clothes all the time! Claire has been coming fairly regularly recently thank goodness, so that has been a blessing.

Carman’s present for his brother! I remember him as very good at presents, and am sure they enjoyed it.

Since I wrote last, who do you think we have seen? Your old friend Charlie Barnes & his wife! She is an Ottawa girl & they are here from B.C. visiting her family, so we had them over on Wed. evening. Of course I was very curious about Mrs. B (Phyl) (ex-air-hostess) & she is very nice- slim & dark with short hair- vivacious & slightly gushy!! But Charlie is FAT! Yes, & of all unbecoming things has a chin like a bullfrog!! But still nice! They have a little girl of 9 mths, Nancy. On Sat. evening George had a meeting of the ex- Cambridge Canada Club with Cec & Charlie & one or two others (Jim couldn’t go) so I had June & Margie over & we had a Girls’ Gossip! I knew Margie was curious to meet June, so I am now all ears to hear what she thought of her! But she is so much nicer & more content now. She has got a Fellowship at N.R.C. for next (academic – Oct.) year, so will be doing congenial work again too- is keen to start a family though!! Poor Margie has been having a bother again- she asked Cec & me & Carman & Pete & Lu to dinner last Fri. evening (Lu’s baby due a week today) & on Fri. morning had to cancel it as Danny had ‘flu. She was so fed up as the boys have had coughs & colds on & off & the baby has never really been good, so she has had such a time. However, as we had Donna (the babysitter) all ready & I didn’t want to cook dinner (!) we took Carman & collected Pete and Lu & went out to the Island & ate Chinese food & of course enjoyed it as much as ever!

I can’t remember if I told you in my last letter, but it is so important – your Grandson has 2 teeth! He was fretty for 3 or 4 days after we had him to the Dr. & we thought it was the shot & then Cec suddenly found 2 front bottom teeth! Don’t worry about the overalls being big – he is wearing all the clothes now that Lindy wore at 1 yr. & will soon be out of those! Lindy wears all the dresses she wore last summer- I turned down hems of 3 or 4 & then found they were all too long & the unturned ones looked far better!

I have been thinking of poor little Irene all week & know you will be too – I can hardly believe it yet. I wrote to Bill & Mrs. Scott, but there is nothing to say except that I loved her & miss her already.

xxxxs from your babies & love from us all – Cyn

July 6 1953

Mon. 6 July. 

Dearest Mummy,

I seem to get worse & worse about writing letters, but somehow I always seem to be odd- jobbing in the evenings these days – and – like you – Cec & Carman & I play cut-throat once in a while! 

Thank you so much for your Air letter which came today (29th June) & A.M (25th) & a long A.M. letter (22nd June) which came last week.  You were all set for your trip to Mustique (?) & I hope that you had a simply lovely time, not marred in the slightest by the whale boat! 2 1/2 hours didn’t sound a very short or quick trip to me, but as Jean’s descriptions often tend to be a bit dramatic, I hope that this was the case & that you didn’t find crossing nearly as bad as you expected. The bathing & picnicking will be fun & I’m sure you will be enjoying the change.

Since we last wrote Charlie has been christened. It was on the Sat. afternoon (27th) & just Cec. & Lindy & Charlie & I were there as Boris had a previous engagement at a wedding. The Rev. Stuart was very nice indeed – so sweet with Charlie, who chuckled & “talked” through the service! Lindy was most intrigued with the brass plate jug etc. by the font & Cec had to keep grabbing her to prevent her grabbing them! The original idea was that Boris & his girlfriend Joan & Jim & Lee & Barry would come to a buffet lunch on the Sunday at 12:30. However, a very sad thing happened to some friends of Jim & Lee’s- a young Jewish couple called Leon & Toby whom they originally knew in New York. They moved to Ottawa about the same time is J. & L. & have a little girl Robin about Barry’s age & now have a baby boy 3 mths. old. Well, Leon was killed in a car accident driving from Toronto & the funeral was on Sunday, so J. & L. & Barry went & looked after the children for Toby while it was on. Boris & Joan couldn’t change their time because of other arrangements so we had a kind of busy day – they came to lunch at 12:30 (Chicken Tetrazzini, salad with stuffed eggs, hot cornmeal muffins, christening cake & ice cream) then left at about 3:30. Boris brought Charlie a lovely little silver christening mug & is having his initials put on it – this was the first time we met Joan, his girlfriend, by the way & although she is pleasant, we don’t think she is nice enough for him! The Ganders arrived about 4, just exhausted. It was a terrible hot, humid day & Barry’d had no rest, so we had tea & fed the children & put them to bed, then later had a salad supper around 8 & played a hand of bridge.  I was tired!

Wednesday was Dominion Day & Cec & Carman had a holiday, so we went a little picnic to Rockcliff Park in the afternoon – Lindy loved it. We had Charlie to Dr. W. for his 6 mths. check up a week ago on Friday- he weighs 17.6 & is taller than average- says he is doing fine. He got his 2nd shot & was quite fretty (for him!) for 3 or 4 days & had us up at night or so – however last Sat. Cec discovered 2 new teeth- bottom front! Have some snaps to send taken after christening.

You will of heard by now of Ruth’s son & also I expect from Nan of Irene’s death. I got Nan’s letter today & can hardly believe it- poor little Irene- she loved life so much. Nan & Dottie had said she wasn’t well, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. When you are away you can’t help but think that people are the same as when you left. I feel so sad for Bill & Mrs. Scott – they will miss her so terribly & so many other people will too.

Lindy & Charlie send hugs and & kisses.  With lots of love from us all – Cyn.

June 23 1953

First jeans!

                                                                                            Tues. 23rd June.

Dearest Mummy,

I am sorry that I didn’t get a letter written last week, but with one thing & another I just seem to be spinning all the time. “One thing” was the weather which suddenly got terribly hot (93° in the shade on Sunday) – that awful humid heat where you are just wet continuously & “another” was the noise at the back, which really got on my nerves. All last week, day & some evenings till 10, we had a chainsaw (noise like an outboard motor on a boat) cutting down trees, a bulldozer steam shovel digging holes & digging out rocks & tree stumps & a tractor scraper. Sometimes they were right up against the house & the noise was deafening – of course the children couldn’t sleep properly & Lindy was scared stiff of the saw & wouldn’t go outside without me, so you can imagine how hectic it was. We called both Police & City Eng. Inspector to no avail – can make any noise till 11 p.m.! Thank goodness it is better this week, but you wouldn’t recognize our lovely “park” – it is all raw earth – no grass – no trees – great rocks & tree stumps here & there & huge trenches dug right up to our back paths. My poor little seeds were just coming up nicely & they are all trampled on & finished. So sad – but at least we had one year.

Thank you so much for your A.M. of 15th July- I am glad some of the odds & ends arrived safely. I sent off a tiny packet from Charlie for you not long ago & I have some photo “corners” that I must send. We are all looking forward to your parcel – it sounds very exciting & will be such fun. The books haven’t arrived yet but will come soon I expect- I had heard of “Mrs. Mike” but haven’t read it so will love to get it.

Last week was Cec’s birthday you know, so he had his b’day cake (choc.) on Sunday & on Tuesday a.m. Lindy & I took his presents into him & Lindy woke him up with “Happy birfday Daddy”! I got his big photo of HMS Indomitable framed for him & we gave him a new ashtray (lead shot type like his old one) & a couple of books & some new glasses. I also got him a sub. to an English book club but none have arrived yet. In the evening we got the children to bed & at 8 o’clock Margie & Cy & Phyl Douglas (Alec has just left for 6 wks in England & Europe for N.R.C.) came to a buffet supper. I had cold chicken, hot stuffing balls, hot sausages, salad & hot rolls (made myself!) & then fresh fruit salad, the choc. cake & coffee. We had lots of fun & the girls insisted on washing up, so I didn’t even have that to do! On Thurs. we had the Herzberg “children” to dinner. Paul is 16 & Agnes 14, so they would be insulted! Dr. and Mrs. H. had both gone to a big meeting in the U.S. & they were looking after themselves, so we thought it would be nice to have them. I was scared they might be vegetarians like Pop but they both tucked into pork chops with a will & it was lovely to watch them – I had forgotten how teenagers could eat! They were very easy to entertain & with Carman there it helped. They said they had a wonderful time most enthusiastically & I think they really did.

At the weekend it was so hot & miserable we thought we’d take a picnic dinner to the Arboritum for a change. Jim & Barry came with us (Lee had a sore throat so stayed at home) & we just got all set – food out – Charlie’s bottle ready & it began to rain & thunder! I don’t know whether I’ll managed to persuade Cec to do it again as he is no picnic fan & this just put the tin lid on it! It was “Father’s Day” on Sunday & we gave Cec cigarettes & a pocket knife, so he did well last week! I just got Lindy 2 sunsuits & a little bathing suit from Eaton’s & they look so cute- it is quite cold & raining now, of course!!

Big hugs from us all & xxxs from Lindy & Charlie – will write soon again. Lots of love from Cyn.

June 10 1953

Friends in England must have sent Cyn the Daily Mail newspaper from Coronation Day with the Everest headline and the details of the ceremony, and then the Illustrated London News from June 6th, a magazine with a few colour photographs and lots of black-and-white ones covering the whole day.

Wed. 10th June. 1953.

Dearest Mummy,

I have two nice letters to thank you for since I last wrote- one long & one A.M. form, 28th & 31st May. I have been meaning to write all this week, but of course I have been busy!

The last time I wrote was the day before Coronation Day & I wrote you a note on the day with the new C. stamp, but I sent that ordinary mail, so you won’t get it for a while. Coronation Day was nice, but somehow very wearing & we all felt exhausted next day! There was a church service at St. Margaret’s at 11:00 & I wanted to go, but I had invited the Garretts with Margie’s Mother & Father to come over for coffee, so I phoned Margie & explained & we arranged that they would come between 11:30 & 12. Charlie had me up at 5:45 a.m. for his feed, so I turned on the radio & listened to the broadcast from England. It was just before the Queen arrived at the Abbey, so I sat & listened until 7:30 just as she was crowned, then I felt so sleepy I went back to bed for an hour until Lindy got me up! I dashed around & tidied & made breakfast (& cookies!) & got to Church on time. It was a Communion Service & the little Church was full- the Vicar gave a very short, but nice little address, so altogether it was quite a long Service. The Garretts had arrived when I got back, so I chased around & made coffee & we had quite a pleasant – but confusing! (7 adults, 3 children & 2 babies) little visit! After they left we had a sandwich & at 2:00 we listened to the round-the-world broadcast & then Churchill & the Queen. There was a big procession & display etc. in town & the Queen’s speech broadcast in the Square & just after was a big Air display, so we just went out on our front grass & saw the planes going over – the climax was a group of jets flying a perfect E II in formation & they were excellent. I then went in to do all the washing up & get dinner ready & had just begun when Mrs. Hughes called me to come in for a moment- the television had begun & the Queen was on & looked lovely, so I went in & they had quite a few neighbours in. Cec & Carmen took it in turns to come in & I sat & waited & waited to see the Queen – saw all the other people going into the Abbey etc., but of course she didn’t appear for ages & then just as she did, I realized Carman had come for Cec & I went too & found it was 6 o’clock & both my children crying, poor little things! After we finally fed them & got them to bed & had dinner & drank the Queen’s health & washed up at last! Carman & I went back to the Hughes’ & saw more of the television- there had been a delay in a part of it arriving, so they were showing it over & we saw the Crowning & the remainder of the whole ceremony which was just what I wanted to see.

Then I came home & Cec went & saw some of the procession back. It was wonderful to be seeing the whole thing actually on Coronation Day, but I was a little bit disappointed in the television. In the Abbey many of the shots were taken from high above & then enlarged so that the people looked odd & foreshortened & some quite unrecognizable- I didn’t know Princess Margaret at all & when Lord Louis Mountbatten & the Duke of Gloucester came in together I couldn’t tell which was which. Also of course, all the time you felt so much was lacking without colour & I am looking forward hugely to seeing the colour film- it is on this week & Cec and I hope to go tomorrow night, if everything is under control. Anyway that was our Coronation Day & I was tired! I bet poor little Elizabeth was too.

After that we all just rested on Wed. & on Thurs. Cec & I went along to our “local” & saw Bob Hope & Bing Crosby in “The Road to Bali” – so nice having Carman as sitter! Lindy & he are quite good friends, but she is at a very shy stage with strangers just now & takes a long time to get used to people- Cec made the mistake of trying to sit her on Carman’s knee in the car, a few days after he arrived & that upset her & made the process longer, but tonight she actually kissed him goodnight. She made us laugh yesterday at seeing a particularly gaudy sweater of Carman’s hanging over a chair, she said “Carman’s? Carman’s pettitote?”!! She is so funny & cute just now – she is full of beans & feeling well – she is outside nearly all day playing in the sand. M. Labelle made a little sandbox for her & Richard (Reeshard!) under the tree at the back & Cec got sand for it & she just loves it. She is quite content if Richard is there playing beside her, but if he tries to take her things (or even his own if she wants them!) she gets quite alarmed & cries- she is still a bit young for playmates & he isn’t old enough either, but he is a good tempered little boy – the language is a bit of a difficulty – I can’t tell him when not to do a thing except by saying “No- no” and he just says “No” back!

Lindy is beginning to say such a lot of quite complicated things now – she realizes that they have names & says “Boy called Richard” & “Daddy’s car called Tabish”! Sometime she gets stuck & doesn’t know what something is- the other day she pointed at a little spot of paint on the window & said “That’s a – that’s a- ” then she stopped & thought & finished up triumphantly with “that’s a porcupine!” with a great grin at me! Sometimes when she begins to cry I’ll say “Who’s making that funny noise? Is it Lindy?” & she’ll stop & say “No” then I say “Is it Barry? Donnie? Tommy? etc. etc.” & she’ll say no to each one & then when I say “Well, who was it then?” She’ll say “A truck!” or “Daddy” or someone else & I’ll say “Well, I am surprised!” & of course she laughs & laughs. Well, last week she was chatting away & said “Daddy hiding round the corner” – (telling me of something that had happened before) – & then she changed it to “I am surprised at Daddy hiding round the corner!!” We think she has a marvellous memory too for her age- yesterday I put on little yellow rompers on Charlie & she said “Charlie’s suit- Mrs. Herzberg?” & sure enough it was the one Mrs. H. had brought him about 2 months ago. Charlie is good & bonny & cute too – he is like Lindy was- such a bright looking baby & so responsive. Other babies seem to lie like lumps in their prams, but he looks around & laughs & coos & squeals – he is so active – thank goodness the mattress for the little bed came today so we can soon get him into the crib. Do you know, he is wearing the little white shoes & socks we got for Lindy when she first stood up at 9 or 10 months? He has kicked & worn holes in all his booties, so one day I tried on the little shoes & they just fit – soon to be too small for him. He is nearly out of the little white cotton rompers I first got Lindy & I can see all her last summer sunsuits etc. will just fit him – if ever we get any nice weather.

Milton and Lillie Costain, when they visited Saskatoon in 1946.

Carman went to Toronto last weekend to the big Trade Fair & to see his Aunt & Uncle, so Cec & I just messed about at home. It was my last weekend with the sewing machine I rented & I worked hard & got everything done I wanted – I was so pleased & really enjoyed it. Altogether I 1) turned sides to middle of 3 sheets 2) made 2 sheets for Lindy’s bed 3) sewed patches on sheets, shorts, underblankets etc. 4) made a new soiled linen bag for Carman 5) made 2 pillowcases & 1 sm. one for Lindy’s pillow from a bolster case I had (in a set from Sheila- wedding present) 6) made curtains for Carman’s room (material from Eaton’s catalogue! – a slaty blue with a raised white spot- 6d. size- quite a different colour to the one I expected, but o.k. as I wanted something neutral- the couch cover is so bright.) 7) quilted your patchwork cover 8) made 3 cushion covers for the sitting room 9) made Lindy’s dressing gown- at last! Got the material at Xmas you remember & never got around to it- white Viyella with little blue flowers, faced with plain blue & 10) a little kilt for Lindy made out of my yellow & black tartan skirt! It never hung right & shrunk in the wash, anyway. Wasn’t that a good $6 worth? I really did have fun though & wished I’d had time to do more, but I hadn’t much chance as Charlie has been a bit restless in the evenings off & on so he’s been in the dining room & that is where I had the machine. During the evenings this week Cec & I have also had a spurt on & we have finished & varnished Lindy’s chest of drawers (natural colour) & it looks really lovely. We have also stained the other one we bought 2ndhand last autumn. It was such a wreck- Cec had to use varnish remover by bottles full & then sand & sand for ages & he got kind of discouraged but at last we got to it again & after putting on oak stain it looks quite nice (antique effect!) & we’ll shellac & varnish it too. It will go in Dan’s room (match the desk) & we’ll take back the maple chest of drawers which we loaned out of our room.

With all these “extracurricular activities” I have a pile of ironing as high as your hat & of course owe hundreds of letters. I heard from Amy – she & Charlie will be G.P.s but Boris is going away to Ohio for a week for a meeting, so we’ll wait till he comes back for the christening. I also had a letter from Joan Appleyard- she & Ray are coming to Chalk River (Atomic Energy place 50 miles from here – Joyce & Les Hayward are there) in September, so won’t that be fun? They are having another baby in Oct., so they are following in our footsteps!!

 I now must iron a shirt, finish washing some woollens, finish the formula, wash the lunch dishes & make dinner! It is now Thurs. afternoon & I want to get all done so we can go to the pictures tonight. Will answer your letter soon – looking forward to the parcel so much- Cec’s b’day next week, so it will be his b’day present too! I hope that you enjoyed your big C. Day  reception

& that you are doing some gadding with A. Trix – Cec & I laughed & laughed over the 4 mths. but know how you feel! 

Big xxs & hugs from Lindy & Charlie & much love from us all- 

                                   Cyn

Coronation Day 1953

Queen Elizabeth II, June 2, 1953.

Coronation Day 

Dearest Mummy,

Charlie & I were up at 5:45 this morning & listened into the Coronation Service. It was wonderful to hear it, but of course I had to have my little weep! I expect when we hear the Queen this afternoon I will flood the place!

I went to Church at 11 a.m. (Communion Service) & it was very nice. The little church was full and Mr. Stewart gave a most touching little address. Afterwards Margie, Cy, Tommy, Danny, Baby Peter & Margie’s Mother and Father all came to coffee, so we had a full house! Did I tell you Margie’s Mum & Dad had given them a car? Isn’t it lovely?

This is the Coronation Stamp & I am sending them off to Peter & Ann Sutherland for their collections & they should be dated today.

Not a very exciting stamp…

We heard the news of the climbing of Mount Everest on the midnight news & I was so thrilled. Tonight we go to watch the Hughes television – I wish you could come too. 

Coronation Kisses from Linda & Charlie.

                                                         Love from us all 

                                                                                 Cyn.