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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.

June 2 1956

This is the second of three letters written to Carol (Dearest Mummy) in St. Vincent by a friend who is in Canada for medical appointments, and has lent her beach-side house to Carol so she and her sister can leave Kingstown and enjoy a local holiday.

June 2nd 1956

My dear Carol,
I was simply delighted to get your letter yesterday afternoon and to know that you and Trixie were going out to Villa on Monday. It was sweet of you to be so concerned about Prince on my behalf as I am so glad to hear that he was all right. It’s only natural he would be fretting but I know he will be so much happier when he has your company & affection- he loves a fuss!
You will have had my letter from Barbados long ago & will no doubt have already heard of our safe arrival here? Our flight was smooth all the way with lovely weather, but very tiring & we were both glad to reach journeys end. Lewis stood the trip very well on the whole but is quite certain that he could never have attempted it alone, or be able to go about Toronto on his own, & I am thankful I was able to accompany him.
The Medical matters are progressing well- the eye specialist advises quite definitely against an operation which relieves my mind greatly & re-assures Lewis that there is nothing more to be done but to accept the verdict, & to make the best of things as they are.
The Dr. is giving Lewis a course of treatment for the weakness in his limbs which will take about 4 weeks.
I’ve had a sinus x-ray & I am now awaiting the results – will let you know.
The weather was cold on arrival, warmed up for a day or two & then yesterday the 1st of June was a freezing day! It’s somewhat better this morning so I hope summer is on the way at last!
Toronto is a lovely city & the shops full of temptation – the prices are very high as you know so it’s no use wanting too many things!
We were so glad to know that your brother is now out of the hospital & do so hope that his recovery will soon be complete – it’s been worrying time for you all. Yes, we knew about poor Mrs. Hetherington & I’m so sorry for her & the Doctor – it’s going to be a long time before she’s well again I fear & she’ll need all her courage & patience to sustain her – & there’s so little one can do to help.
Well dear I am thinking so much about you & hoping that all is going well & that you are quite happy & comfortable at Villa & that you found all in order. Please don’t hesitate to ask me about anything that may not be as you wish it to be.
With my love to you & my kindest regards to your sister & a huge hug for my Prince please.
Affectionately yours,
Dorée.

May 23 1956

This letter to Carol is from her friend Dorée Edmunds, who is lending her St. Vincent cottage on the beach to Carol and her sister so they can get out of town and have a relaxing time, swim, and dog-sit!

The Crane Hotel
Barbados

23.5.56.

My dear Carol,
I was so sorry we didn’t meet again before I left & I tried to phone you on Sunday but just couldn’t get through.
Well, here we are on the first stage of our journey & so far, so good. The Hotel is most comfortable & the food is excellent.
I simply hated leaving Prince on Monday & have been wondering so much how he is getting on. Oscar promised to sleep in the house which I hope he did, & both he & Christine promised faithfully to give Prince as much attention & petting as possible. I shall be so glad when you reach the house & I know Prince will be delighted to see you. Do please write soon to
The Windsor Arms Hotel
Thomas Street, off Bloor Street
Toronto. Canada.
and give me just all the news!
I’m thinking so much about you & hoping you will spend a happy time at Villa & have no regrets. I do hope your little doggie will be with you too – I’m sure Prince will welcome her & be sweet to her. I tried to remember everything before I left, but if there is anything I failed to do or tell you please don’t hesitate to ask me will you? Don’t forget to use the tomatoes grapes & cabbages, also paw-paws, & the carrots need thinning out too, and do cut the flowers won’t you?
How sad for Mrs. Hetherington – I do hope she will get on as well as possible & not get too despondent, but it’s a long weary business, & there’s so little anyone can do to help.
Lewis is looking fairly well & I hope will not find the long flight too trying tomorrow, the plane leaves at 10 a.m. I shall be so thankful when we reach our destination – I’ll write you again from Toronto.
With my love to you & kindest regards to Mrs. Otway [Auntie Trix] & I do hope you both enjoy Villa. A big hug for Prince for me please & regards to the staff.
Yours affectionately
Dorée.

The hotel had its own Air Letter forms!

May 17 1956

Cyn keeps mentioning the Hazell relatives- so a brief review. Carol (Dearest Mummy) was the youngest of 12 Hazell children in St. Vincent, and at this point she is 62, so her surviving siblings are getting older and some are not in good health. Fred, who lives in St.Vincent, seems to be in hospital. Muriel (Auntie Moo) who is 10 years older than Carol and shares the house with her in St. Vincent, is visiting their sister Ettie in New York. Auntie Trix, who lives in Trinidad, is visiting Carol in St. Vincent as this letter was written, and they are preparing to take a vacation locally. One of Cyn’s stories about her mother’s childhood, with which I started this blog, described how the Hazell family took a holiday and went out to Villa for a picnic- Carol and the younger children sent early in a wagon, the ladies following in a carriage, and the men riding- and prevailed upon the local fishermen to take them over to the fort, and the little boys to climb up and get them coconuts. They bathed, ate their lunch, and returned home tired but happy. [After the Hurricane 1898]
Sixty years later, the journey of five miles does not take as long, and cottages have been built along the water facing Young Island. A Mrs. Edmunds seems to have loaned her cottage to Carol and Trix so they can swim and relax and remember old times, while she accompanies her husband (?) for medical treatment in Canada. [Cyn referred to this plan in her April 20th letter.] There are three letters from her which Carol kept and I will post them next, as an example of the vast web of friendships and letter writing that was so much a part of her life!

17th May 1956.

Dearest Mummy,
Thank you so much for your letters. I got an Air Letter Form & an A.M. letter at the same time just after my last letter & then a very quick letter mailed a week ago & got here Monday. I was most interested to hear all about your M.F. Dinner [May Fair Dinner, probably another Church fundraiser that Carol had told Cyn about earlier, because Cyn mentioned it April 20th] and was glad to hear what a success it was, but you really sounded tired out & it is a good thing it is all over. Cec & I were tickled at your scotch & soda but you certainly deserved it & I’m glad it pepped you up. The whole thing was a big undertaking without much help – you must now sit back on your laurels & have a rest – if A. Trix will let you!
I’m glad that Uncle Fred is improving & hope that he will soon be quite well again. He has had a bad time lately & I hope he’ll take a good rest & get quite better before he begins work again. Poor A. Moo getting a chill as soon as she arrived in N.Y. I will write to her tomorrow. I don’t wonder that she got it though – we are having the most disgusting spring possible. Do you know, there are no leaves on the trees yet. We at long last have some daffodils, but yesterday we had snow & the temp. went down to 26° last night. Isn’t it horrid? I have had a cotton dress on once & just can’t get our winter things put away. I can’t plan what we will take on our trip as I have been making the children shorts & thinking in terms of cool clothes, but if this goes on we will have to take winter woolies. The children’s colds are better although Charlie’s nose still runs, but poor Cec has had a dose this week & every person you meet is the same.


We haven’t done much lately but last week Cec & I went to one evening to see “Richard III” with Lawrence Olivier you know. It was very good as all of his productions are, but Cec & I both agreed that it was spoiled for us, because not long ago we read a book which proved that Richard really was not a villain at all, but a good honest man who didn’t do any of the awful things attributed to him, so of course when L.O. & Shakespeare made him as bad as could be we couldn’t believe it!


On Sat. we drove over to see Lee & Jim in their new house. It is very nice & we liked it very much & they seem happy & comfortable. I’ll tell you more about it in another letter.
On Sunday we went to S. School as usual & in the afternoon we had a Danish Prof. who is at the Council for a few months to dinner. He is at the Univ. of Copenhagen like Chris Möller & Dr. and Mrs. Langsett who were here a while ago & is v. nice. He has 4 children, 2 about L’s & C’s age, & as he is here alone he enjoyed being with children again.
Must stop, but will write a longer letter next week. Lindy & Charlie send hugs & kisses – I cut & washed Lindy’s hair today & she looks cute! Lots of love from us all – Cyn.

May 2 1956

True, Cyn’s 41st birthday was the month before, but I’ve already posted her mother’s card! This was from me!

2nd May 1956
To
4th May.

Dearest Mummy,
At last I am thanking you for my birthday presents! Actually they didn’t arrive as late as it looks, with my writing in May – they arrived the very day I posted your last letter – but that was bad enough, wasn’t it? Someone must have been trying to hatch them out! Anyway late or not, they were very welcome and it was really nice having them to look forward to! Thank you so much for my lovely mats. I do like them & of course we have already been using them. Everyone I show them to likes them just as much as I do, but I don’t think anyone would fall for them at $5.00 – my friends are poor like us! It is so nice to have eight too & I know that they will all be used to bits. I am still reluctant to part with my old ones, battered as they are. It was sweet of you to send me the panties too – very much needed! Of course Cec laughed & called them bloomers, but the fact remains that they fit my posterior a lot better than the tiny briefs! The children were just delighted with their books & “Henry’s Wagon” particularly is a great favourite. If you remember it at all, on the last page the little boy is all painty & he says “Bessie – I’m a little messy”! & the children think this is the funniest thing they ever read – they go into gales of mirth over it & are always quoting it!


Besides my birthday parcel & card we all want to thank you too for our pretty Easter cards & little presents which arrived at the same time. The children love “Puppy Pals” & I love my little notes which I have already been using. You will probably have nearly forgotten all these things as it is such a long time since you sent them but we are enjoying them just the same!
I am sitting in bed writing this – my favourite desk! – & snuffling away. The children got colds last week – not bad & they went very quickly, but we had a few busy days & they both seem to freshen them up this week & today I have it. It is no wonder as we have had the coldest, most un-spring like weather. On the few occasions the sun does shine, everyone thinks “Oh at last” & then it is gone in a minute. It was the wettest April ever recorded & imagine – our crocuses are just blooming & one or two brave scillas and nothing is growing it’s so cold. Summer time began last weekend but we are doing no gardening yet.


The last time I wrote was nearly 2 weeks ago & I was getting ready for my party. I finished my dress & everyone was very complimentary & I think it looked all right! I wore the black velvet cummerbund (I bought to go with that black lace skirt) & black accessories, but I’m still not too keen on the colour. I have worn my grey & black striped suit quite a few times & am very pleased with it – everyone thinks I’m so clever – me too! The party was kind of queer! Not our fault & the food was a success! I had drinks with cheese straws & cheese canapés; fried chicken, asparagus au gratin, salmon mould, tossed green salad, melba toast & butter; chocolate soufflé or mince pie & whipped cream; coffee. The queerness was due to the fact that everyone seem to be coming or going or gone all evening! To begin with Cec went downtown to pick up Pete & Lu & Santiago at 7:45, so I expected everyone about 8.0. Teddy & Fanni arrived then, but poor Cec had to wait nearly 3/4 of an hour as all the others were late, so they didn’t arrive until nearly 8:30. Then Teddy & Fanni broke the news that their wretched female guest was arriving by train at 10.0 & Teddy had to go & get her! However, we all got going & after a while began dinner, but before dessert Teddy had to get up & go, & then we’d all just finished our dessert & were having coffee & I cleared away when Teddy came back with Miss Hughes (I told him to bring her) so I served them dessert & coffee & we all sat back & then not long after they finished Pete & Lu said they had to go. It was just after 11, but apparently they didn’t want to be late, so of course Cec had to take them & Santiago & the others left too. Cec said later “What a mess!” & I felt so too – we never had time to sit & enjoy ourselves which was so annoying.
I had cleaned & worked so hard getting ready for the party that last week I just sort of sat back & let things slide! Pat & her girls came up to tea one day, & we took them with us in the car to the Library another day & then one morning we went to Margie’s to see the new baby. Of course Lindy had been longing to see her so she was very thrilled, but just saw her for a minute as she was going to sleep. Margie looks fine now & her parents were leaving this week as everything seems to be going well.
On Friday the children got an invitation to little Wendy Ramsay’s birthday party on Sun. so great was the excitement. I went downtown on Sat. to buy birthday presents for them to take & I got Lindy a crinoline! She has been longing for one, so I got her a little white nylon net waist petticoat & she wore it under Gunborg’s pretty red & white Christmas dress. I also got Charlie a new suit as his little brown suit is too small & he needed one for the summer – it has navy shorts & a blue shirt and he was just as tickled as Lindy! On Sunday we all went off to S. School (Charlie comes regularly now – tags along after me all the time, but is very good) & then had lunch & rests & got ready for the party. They set off with Daddy very pleased, holding their presents & full of excitement – Daddy was to leave them & call for them later & Lila was to be there! After a little while I heard Cec driving back & glanced out at him & here was Charlie with him! In he came, very red eyed & weepy & lip going down & his Daddy disgusted at him! Apparently they got in & got their coats off & all was fine when it suddenly struck Charlie what was really going on & he began to howl to go home! He was quite happy to be back although rather sad at missing the birthday cake! However Lindy had a simply wonderful time & Nan said she was as good as gold, so I’m glad one member was a credit to the family! S. School has really made an enormous difference to Lindy, so I hope it will do the same for Charlie – in time! About the S. School I am trying to get an assistant as I have about 10 nearly every Sunday now – about 20 on the register – & it is very hard to try and keep track of them all. If one wants to go to the bathroom & I take her, they all want to come too! So I’m trying to get a high school girl to come & help with them – I still make all sorts of cute things for them & we had a darling little model for David & his sheep & now we are doing Jesus at home in Nazareth & I have cut out pictures for that.
On Mon. I was at the dentist again & have one more time to go – Friday. They are all fillings but none bad – so far I haven’t had to have any injections to help me along. Charlie says he’s going to show the dentist his teeth on Friday but we’ll see what happens! Tuesday we had the car & shopped & went out to Orleans & got meat etc. I got some for Doreen, the New Zealand girl & took it round – she is just due to have her baby & is sitting waiting to depart! She is going to the St. Marie de Montfort Hospital on Montreal Road near here so I’m interested to hear what she thinks of it. Phyl & Alec Douglas & family have just moved out to one of the houses on Research Rd. (where Doreen Moore lives) behind the Montreal Road N.R.C. They are building this summer & had to move from Acacia, so have gone there in the meanwhile. It is v. crowded for them – only 2 bedrooms – but also just $40 a month rent! Fanni & her 3 boys are off to Switzerland on Sat. – Teddy will follow in 2 months time & they will all come back in Sept. They have let their house & Teddy is staying with friends. I don’t envy poor Fanni one bit – the thought of that ocean trip & then the train with the three boys makes me shudder! It is just about arranged that we leave on our trip to the States at the beginning of June & call at Ann Arbor on the way, as the Sutherlands are packing up around the 20th. We will really only be away for 2 whole weeks, but with 3 weekends, so I think that will be long enough for us all & yet give us time to visit. I keep planning what clothes we’ll take, but if the weather doesn’t improve I’ll have to change my ideas!
Did I tell you that all the Canadian Civil Servants got a pay boost? Cec’s is $500.00 a year & he will get another ordinary raise in June so it all helps! We are going to try to save the raise!
I have always meant to comment on the West Indian curry lunch you had when you were with Ford & Mill etc. at Bequia – it sounded very intriguing, but I don’t think I would ever have the nerve to make it “sight unseen” as it were! I’ll have to try it first! Actually I don’t care for curry too much, but maybe I just have never tried a good one – certainly I’ve never had one with all the exciting side dishes. I make one or two Chinese dishes now, but “American Chinese” really! I want to get a Chinese cookbook!
I am reading your old letters & come across the comments on Ken & Cec working out a fire alarm system – there are lots of them on the market – Cec & Ken just wanted to save money & make their own! Cec helped Ken make his & fix it, but we didn’t get ours yet! You also ask (re. Gordon Sutherland’s job) who is Director of N.R.C.- well, it is different – Dr. Steacie is the President of the Council, but the Council Members themselves are all from all over Canada (universities etc.) Dr. Herzberg is the Director of the Physics Division with a special affection for the Spectroscopy Dept!
Talking of babies, you were asking which June’s was – a great big boy apparently, so George should be pleased about that! I got a note from her & all seemed to be going well, but we don’t correspond regularly.
Cec was very interested about Angela Kellman not being allowed to get a job – he thought it was all baloney & he asked a few other fellows & they never heard of such a thing, but he says he will phone up tomorrow & find out for sure.
I have been meaning to thank you so much for your good intentions over giving me £10 for my birthday which were foiled by the British Gov’t! Aren’t they silly? Cec wondered what they would have done if you’d just sent me a cheque & I’d sent it to be deposited. Anyway it was very sweet of you to think of it. Sometime what I would like is a nice twin set – any colour except red! Actually if you got Nan or someone to buy it & mail it to me as a present I wouldn’t have to pay duty, so would really be much nicer for me than my ordering it from a shop. I would love little button up cardigans for the children too, as the little old blue ones have been so useful, but I don’t mean to bankrupt you! My boosum is 34” now!
You certainly seem to be having a general exodus from St. V. just now, but I hope some nice people come in their places! Have you seen any more of the young Hatch couple – the girl sounded v. nice, but you don’t say much about her husband. Is your stamp friend Mr. Turton coming back or is he leaving all together? I was very interested in all the scandal & wonder if any more has happened about the Webb woman – I can’t understand these females that leave their little children- I read “Anna Karenina” the other day & she made me sick. Always gawping on about how she loved her son & then going off & leaving him. So it’s not just St.V. – it’s in Russia too.
It is now Friday & I have got my teeth all finished thank goodness. Linda had a touch of earache last night & as it was a miserable rainy day Cec came home & stayed with the children while I went. They were quite sorry to miss the jaunt as they love to go in the bus & afterwards we usually have lunch in town. They sit & play in the dentist’s waiting room while I am having my teeth done & are very good. On Mon. my appointment was an hour & they just played & chatted together all that time.
Yesterday I made Charlie a little pair of shorts out of the famous blue corduroy & I have begun a little jacket out of it for Lindy, so she will have a little suit with the skirt. This is it & this is the nylon orlon shantung I made my other dress of.

It is a bit like this- very full skirt. I am getting pretty quick at making things now which is good as you know how my interest can wane!
Must stop as it is late & I have to add a bit to Cec’s letter to his mother. I didn’t hear from you last week so ‘spect I’ll get a letter from you tomorrow just after I mail this.
The children send hugs & kisses – they are just as sweet as ever – at times! And at other times they’re awful!!
Lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn.

I was charmed by Cyn’s mention of Cec and their landlord Ken fixing up a home-made fire alarm, even though one could be bought commercially. In those days, of course, there were no smoke detectors so I don’t know what they came up with (I was only 4 so have no memory) but it reminded me that Cec’s ingenuity was not confined to his Lab. Thirty years later when he had achieved his long-held ambition to have a swimming pool in the back yard, he spent a happy month clambering about on the garage roof with black hoses, installing his own passive solar water-heating system, to his great satisfaction. And I can put this laptop down on the coffee table he designed and made for us and remember all sorts of his clever projects through the years- sandboxes, a doll’s bed for Christmas 1955, and in the future as we grew older, a swing, a teeter-totter, badminton courts, vegetable gardens, and, working with his dad one summer, the final touch to the outside patio- a stone barbeque for summer parties.

April 20 1956

20th April. 1956.

Dearest Mummy,
I got your letter of the 15th today & thank you so much for it. I was wondering how you were getting on all by yourself and knew that it would seem very odd to begin with, but it is amazing how soon you get into a new routine & you are so busy with your May Fair that I expect the first strangeness will soon pass. It will be nice if you & A. Trix get out to Mrs. E’s house – it will be a change & you will get some bathing. A. Trix is a boss of course, but she is lively & will keep you on the hop!
Now for news – yes, Big News from Dottie! She is engaged & going to be married very soon & is terribly thrilled & lyrical about life! Isn’t it wonderful? I am so delighted & happy for her. She met him when she was down in Birmingham staying with Grace Spellar, & he is a widower, with 2 boys & is 44 & tall dark & handsome, so it all sounds eminently suitable, doesn’t it? His name is Ken – isn’t that fate! Apart from these details I didn’t gather with much more as Dottie’s letter was short & sweet, so of course I am yearning to ask 100 questions. Oh – and I forgot – Marjorie is engaged too! They are both such marriageable girls that it isn’t any wonder, but it is so nice, isn’t it! I feel really pleased about it all.
I heard the news on Tuesday & told Margie, Lu & Willa at our Ladies Outing! We went to the French Buffet (where we went with Phyl & her mother) & ate & ate & then went to a Honey Dew & sat over a cup of coffee & talked & talked! I had on my stripey skirt & jacket & hat & all the girls were most complimentary & I felt so tickled. Didn’t cost me a penny, m’ dear!! Did I tell you Cec & Pete went to Montreal last weekend for the Radar Officer’s Reunion? They left at 8.0 on Sat. morning so the children and I drove Cec down to the station and saw the train! They came back at 3:45 on Sun. afternoon after having had a good time, so it wasn’t a very long stay! I had to take Charlie to Sunday School of course, but he wasn’t too bad although stuck to me like a leech of course! However he liked it apparently as he says he’s coming every Sunday now!
On Mon. I cut out & began a dress for myself – some yellowy-greeny nylon orlon shantung I got a while ago. I’ve just finished it to wear tomorrow night when we’re having Fanni & Teddy, Lu & Pete & Santiago for a buffet supper. I want Lu & Fanni to meet & as Fanni & the boys leave for Switzerland at the beginning of next month there’s not much time. The Blachuts were having an unexpected visit from an English girl friend of Teddy’s brother, so we asked Santiago to even the numbers & now they get a telegram the girl isn’t coming till Sun.!! Will tell you about my dress in my next – can’t decide whether I really like it!
Will be thinking of you on Sun. Lots & lots of love from us all – hugs from the children- Love from Cyn.
P.S. Lindy has been a little devil this week – hope it’s a phase!

Leaving the question of my behaviour aside- I was actually very sweet- I thought I would remind readers about Cyn’s close friend Dottie Burton, whom she hadn’t seen since she left England in 1950. Dottie and Cyn had met at their domestic science college and had spent the years becoming great friends as well as learning to teach. Dottie knew Cyn’s Newcastle friends too, so they shared social events, and Dottie may have been the first one of their circle to marry- one of the men they played tennis with! But the war intervened. Dottie’s husband died in 1944, leaving her with their son Peter. Now in her early 40s, Dottie has met and is marrying Ken Wilyman, and creating a blended family which was more unusual in those days than it is now. Cyn is delighted at her happiness and that of her sister (?) Marjorie. Dottie was my godmother, was lovely to visit whenever we turned up in England, and supported the idea of this publishing project. I’m only sorry I didn’t start it while she was still alive- she died in 2014 in her hundredth year.

April 10 1956

Cyn’s birthday was at the beginning of April, but she doesn’t mention any family celebrations to her mother until May when her birthday parcel from the West Indies turns up! Carol’s birthday card may have arrived earlier- it is in the scrapbook and it appears that Carol is hinting- the sweet peas on the front are labelled L. and C., then inside there is a question mark for the third flower…
The newspaper clipping also from the scrapbook may have been included- Linda’s friend Joanne and her sister, unfortunately subjected to Linda’s colouring prowess!
The letters seem infrequent, but I don’t know if some are missing or Cyn is just writing fewer AirMail forms as her life gets busier.

10th April 1956

Dearest Mummy,
I am enclosing more odds-and-bobs! One bundle you will recognize your property – I found them behind the bookcase in “your” room – No! this is not the first time I dusted the bookcase since you left! I found them ages ago & thought I’d send them sometime and then forgot about them. I am also sending Anne’s last 2 letters so that you can catch up on all the news about the ex-Coleridge staff. They still sound a queer lot, don’t they?!! I was even dreaming of Jessie Fisher last night – I can’t think why! Some man had deserted her again & I was very indignant!!
I got an extra S-Sears Summer Catalogue so I am re-directing it to you. I am thinking of getting a bathing suit & saving it for your Christmas present! So if you yearn for any particular one you can tell me!
Am writing a proper letter so will stop this – must tell you of Charlie’s flights of fancy – he was telling Lindy & me at lunch today that Bani’s Mummy goes outside and brings some clouds from the sky to put in her milk!!
Hugs from the inf-inks & lots of love from us all
Cyn.

March 20 1956

20th March 1956

Dearest Mummy,
I seem always to be behind with myself these days, but for once I have an excuse as we have been leading – for us! – a hectic social life! However, don’t think we have been whooping it up – I am including 3 visits to the dentist in the agenda, because that means 3 trips to town & for us, that’s exciting!
Thank you so much for your last letter telling about what you all did at the end of Mill & Ford’s visit – no wonder you were missing them & feeling very flat after they had left. Not only the end of all the fun & games, but also that they are such darlings & so interesting to be with that they are like a party in themselves. We had a St.V. card from them saying we must come & visit, but I’m afraid it won’t be this year as we plan to spend about 3 weeks or so on our trip to Ohio & Michigan, so that will be our holiday for the year, but we think next year maybe.
Your next excitement will be Bill & Jane & A. Trix arriving I suppose – although I’ve forgotten exactly when they’re coming. And then A. Moo will be getting all set for her trip! My, what a busy little people! You’ve never said what you’re going to do when A. Moo is away – I mean will you stay by yourself, or will you have somebody really riotous to stay with you? Miss Mann for instance! I was most interested to hear about Bill & Jane’s plans for going to New Zealand. Cec thinks they may find wages out there a nasty shock – we get quite a few N.Z. Fellows you know & Canadian salaries seem millions to them after what they get at home, but I said to Cec that perhaps after W.I. salaries perhaps the N.Z. ones may seem all right. I think apart from the money it is really a very good idea and that they are very courageous to take the leap. It will obviously be much better for the boys & I am sure it will be good for both Bill & Jane to get away from – well, shall we say Trinidad?
I am at long last sending you the pictures of your departure & one of Christmas. Cec’s as camera is still sticking & not working properly, so quite a few were spoiled of the Christmas ones, but we got one nice one & I think the ones at the airport are fun, don’t you?

Now to tell you of our hectic life! You’ll laugh! I wrote to you last when Charlie had a bit of a cold & I know I didn’t get out to mail your letter for quite a few days. The weather was bad & we stayed in – in fact on the Thurs. we had our worst snow storm of the winter – Cec took the day off to shovel the driveway! He had lots of leave due & even shovelling his hardest he couldn’t get out till noon, so he took it easily instead! On the Fri. evening we went to Gudron & Benke Kleman’s – Phyl & Alex were there & Dr Herzberg (Mrs. H had a cold) & Santiago. We just chatted & Gundron had nice “snakes” & coffee. The Sat. was a lovely bright day so in the afternoon we all went to Rockcliffe Park & watched the skiers & now Lindy is determined that Santa Claus will bring her skis next Christmas! On the Monday we (me) took Linda to the doctor for her check up. I had given Charlie a comic book as a reward after his turn & Lindy was crazy to get one too! With this bribe she was quite excited about going & although not perfect she was so much better than previous years that I was greatly relieved. She did what she was told without fuss & although she cried a bit, she didn’t scream & yell & kick! The whole trouble is this dislike of anyone touching her & when the nurse & doctor did that upset her, but oh! what an improvement! She got her comic! She is now 41 1/2” tall (tall for her age) & weighs 37 lbs.- grown 2 1/4” & gained 5 lbs. in a year. Charlie is 37” tall & weighs 29 lbs. 10 oz. – grown 2 3/4” & gained nearly 4 pounds & Dr. W. thought they were both doing fine. I weigh 119 pounds now & still trying!!
On the Wed. evening we picked up Cy & Margie & drove over to Pete & Lu’s & Stewart & Willa Woods were there too. Lu wanted to have us all before Margie’s baby & Pete has been away a lot, so this was the first chance – but a Mon. evening outing was most unusual for me. Lu was showing us all the things she made – they are lovely – I hope practice makes me perfect too! On the Tues. I had the appointment with the dentist at 10:30. The children sat in the waiting room & were very good & I liked the dentist very much – more than old Dr. Flora. He just did a scale & cleaning the first time & found five or six holes – but small. Afterwards the children & I shopped a bit & had lunch at Freiman’s Cafeteria which they loved! On Wed. evening I went to a Sunday School Meeting! Aren’t I the one!! On Thurs. evening at dinner time Mrs. Martin phoned to say she had a free evening if we wanted her to see it – we’d asked earlier everything & she wasn’t sure – so off we went to a movie at 8 p.m. and didn’t get home till 1:20 a.m.! We saw “Mr. Roberts” & “The Country Girl” with Grace Kelly & Bing Crosby – such a good show. I was particularly pleased to see “A Country Girl” as the acting was really excellent, I don’t know when we were last at a film so it was extra nice to see good ones.

On a Fri. morning I was at the dentist again at 10:30, & although we didn’t stay for lunch we had coffee & then went to the Library & got groceries, so on Fri. evening I’d meant to go round & see Fanni, but I was so sleepy, I called it off! We didn’t do anything at the weekend except Sunday School of course, & then today we were in at the dentist again & had lunch again! Shopped for your birthday present too!
It was now 11:30 (Cec is at the Lab.) so I will stop & go to sleep. I really will go through & answer your letters next time – I have quite a pile here. Oh – I meant to tell you – every night now when Lindy & Charlie go to bed Charlie can hardly wait till I go because then Linda tells him a story! He loves them although what they are like I don’t know- I asked Linda what they were about & she said “Oh – mostly about babies in hostipals!” She can now say the Lord’s Prayer by herself by the way & quite a few others – Charlie always says the same one & this is how it sounds: Nangyou for the world so sweet
Nangyou for the food we eat
Nangyou for the birds that sing
NangyouGodforeverything!
He is also very fond of “Amen” & sometimes says it after I’ve read a story!
Hugs & kisses from the dear little children & lots of love from us all – Cyn

April 9 2021

Today I think the post has to address the current events of April 9 2021, because the lives of both Carol and Cyn were touched by them in the 20th century, and they would care about what happened in this one.

Ash cloud from the volcanic eruption on St. Vincent- CNN


First, La Soufrière, the volcano in St Vincent, erupted today, as it did in 1902 when Carol was a child, and again in 1979 when I was teaching in Nigeria, and getting world news far away from my family, Carol then living with Cyn and Cec in Ottawa. Thankfully, the world has better systems in place now, scientists- and earthquakes- warned of the increased volcanic activity, and St. Vincent’s emergency plan was put into action by the Prime Minister so people in possible danger were warned and are being evacuated now. But it is a time of uncertainty in pandemic times, and we are concerned about the people of St.Vincent.


Secondly, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died today. When Cyn stood in the London crowd in 1947, with her radio broadcasting the royal wedding service to her friends and the people around her, I’m sure they all wished the royal couple a long and happy marriage, but I doubt they visualized it lasting 73 years. Both Carol and Cynthia, confirmed royalists, would want us to acknowledge Prince Philip’s constant service to the UK and Commonwealth and support for the Queen, and join in expressing sympathy for his family and the people who knew him.

The Queen and Prince Philip in Ottawa, the year of my birth.

March 5 1956

In this letter, Cyn mentions the fact that in the coming September, Linda will be going to school! The interesting thing about school, is that a new elementary school was being built that year, in Cardinal Heights, the subdivision on the other side of the highway, so that Linda, and Janek, and Joanne, would be in the first Kindergarten class in the new school, within walking distance of their homes. Cyn has mentioned the Sunday school at St. Margaret’s that she has been helping with- and it now appears that the congregation has divided and that they are holding Sunday School classes in the unfinished new school for local Anglican children. I assume that church services are being held there too- it went on for a few years until they managed to get a church built right next to the school. Baby boomers expanding the amenities!

Another Costain baby-boomer out west!

March 5th. 1956.
Dearest Mummy,
My, what a gay time you’re having! Cec & I are enjoying hearing all about it practically as much as you’re enjoying having it! We got your A.M. letter from Bequia on Sat. & loved hearing about all the fun you were having there & are looking forward to the next installment! Thank you so much for writing when I am sure you had lots of things to do.
You will be waiting for the next installment from me too, as I have been very bad about writing lately – the time seems to have flown & I am amazed that it will be Easter so soon. One reason why the past week has flown is that we have been in great demand socially- most unusual! You know how it is – we go months without going anywhere & then suddenly we get all the invitations at once. I told you about going to Mr. & Mrs. Green’s last Sunday night to meet Leonard & then that Leonard came to dinner on Monday so that was quite a busy beginning to the week. Then on Wed. the Dalby’s – a young Canadian Fellow and his wife whom I’ve mentioned before – asked us to bridge & Gundron & Ben Kleman too. Phil Derby & Gudrun don’t play bridge so I played with the men while they played Scrabble. It was quite fun, but she produced coffee very late (also very strong) with huge slices of angel food cake with ice cream & frozen raspberries – lovely, but Gudrun & I both had indigestion next day! Both Cec & I felt quite “hung over” next day – due to lack of sleep, not liquor! This mid-week frivolling is so unusual for me nowadays! On Thurs. I had the car for shopping & in the afternoon the children & I went to Gudrun’s for tea & Phyl Douglas & her family were there too. Both Phyl & Gudrun were most impressed at how much Lindy’s shyness has improved. She is quite self-possessed now with the other children & was away with them having tea which is a change. Charlie still sticks to me, but Lindy is really doing so well now & I think it is the S. School that has helped her a lot, as well as her age & the fact that she is is growing out of it too.
On Friday morning we went round to Fanni’s for coffee & Lindy even stood up to Daniel, so she is coming on! On Sat. morning Margie phoned & begged us to come over that evening as she was so fed up & wanted company, & could we get a sitter, so I called Fanni & she said she’d come. She has been wanting to come as she insisted she owed me a sitting, but I usually get Mrs. Martin. However, Mrs. M is now permanently booked on a Sat. night by the French Dr. in the new house up the road – isn’t that mean? So it is nice if Fanni & I can exchange. We had a nice chat at Margie’s & a short game of bridge, but it was 1 a.m. again before we got home so I really feel dissipated! Margie is due to produce in 3 weeks time, & really looks fine. The Dr. prophesies another boy! Can you imagine – Peter is 3 this month & she is still feeding him! She says he is too lazy and won’t eat if she doesn’t! On the other hand, when the children & I were there to tea one day Peter ate a whole box of cookies quite as a regular thing! He is so disobedient too – 3 or 4 times Margie told him to do things & he just ignored her & Margie just did them for him! Grrr!
Both my little angels!!! have runny noses and croaky voices today, but I hope that neither will get much worse. They have both been so wonderful at throwing off coughs & colds this winter, but I’m hoping they will do the same again & that they won’t get bad. Charlie has been really drippy today, poor little fellow, but quite cheerful.
Besides all our gallivanting I have been quite busy sewing. Or at least preparing to get busy! Mom Costain sent in her Christmas parcel a piece of navy linen-y material left over from something of Leona’s to make Lindy a skirt. It wasn’t very much & I tried this & that but no way could I get it that it wasn’t going to be very short for her, & it seemed silly to make her something that would only last a little while. So I dug out my scrap box & found an old navy & white cotton dress Gunborg gave me & cut a piece from that & made a nice little pinafore skirt like this-

with inserts of the patterned material. The skirt has unpressed pleats & is full & the whole outfit looks very fresh & cute with her white orlon blouse. Next I had bought some pale blue pinwale corduroy at S.Sears sale for 97¢ a yd. & got 6 yds (the amount the pattern said) (36” wide) to make me & Lindy each a “jumper” i.e. pinafore skirt. However when I spread it out on the floor I cut out my skirt, then Lindy’s, then a little jacket for her & there is still a piece left big enough to make trousers for Charlie!! I feel like one of these cartoons of women who buy material at a sale & have the whole house & family draped in it! I began Lindy’s little skirt this afternoon & made it just the same as the navy one as it looks so cute. I thought the little jacket & skirt to match would make a sweet little suit in the spring & of course everything I make is made with 1/2 an eye for now & 1/2 an eye for school in Sept.! But it is really fun seeing Lindy’s wardrobe grow under the shadow of my machine – I think I get even more fun out of hers than mine, & she is thrilled at each thing I make! Maybe by the time she is more critical I will be more experienced!
I have been talking about Sunday School but don’t think I have ever told you about our start at the new school. First of all, the day it was to begin (the Sunday after our party) we awoke to find ourselves snowed in! Cec began shovelling the driveway at 10:15 & 11 a.m. he had just cleared one tire track to the road & it was up to his waist in places! Pat Tomlinson phoned & we decided we’d have to give up as we couldn’t get the car out & walking would be pretty tough too & we certainly couldn’t take the children. However we have been each Sunday since (3 times) & it is going fine. I have about 10 little children on my register but happily have only had 6 at a time & that is plenty! I am not taking Charlie at the moment- I told him if he came he wouldn’t be able to hold my hand all the time because I had to look after the other boys and girls too, so he decided to stay at home with Daddy! Lindy is in Pat’s class & is very good & doesn’t bother about me at all now. We still have a few disadvantages- 1) none of our teaching materials have come yet i.e. pictures, books etc. 2) there are no toys for my little ones to play with although we are trying to collect them. I bring things from home in the meanwhile 3) the school is not finished yet & odd jobs are being done all the time, so it means we have never been twice in the same room. In the end we will go into the Kindergarten room when it is done, but we have 3 groups – mine (2 to 3 years) Pat’s (4 to 5) & a Mrs. Dunn’s (5 to 6) so it is quite difficult. Particularly I find it difficult to keep the little ones’ attention when there are other things going on but however I suppose I can’t have everything perfect! Lindy is still very thrilled with Sunday School & of course is getting nicely familiar with the school itself. She has learned the Lord’s Prayer by heart from having me read it a few times & hearing it on the Morning Church Service on the radio. I am enclosing one of her pictures for you which I know will amuse you & Auntie Muriel!

A potluck Lab. party to make up for not having one at Xmas!

The other thing I was going to tell you about was the Valentine Party which I really think was a big success. I had all the girls leave their food in the cold room downstairs & Lila had made a lovely centrepiece for the table – a big red heart with white frill around and BE MINE on in sparkles & little Cupid’s hovering over an old-fashioned lady & man kissing! We chatted & had drinks & then had games I had arranged – by the way it wasn’t a surprise for Cec – he knew all about it, but just he had no work to do for it!! We played the “Book Titles” game where you draw & then a form of charades where a man & a woman’s names were picked out of a hat & then they drew a slip telling them what to act out for us to guess – i.e. my name & Alex Douglas’ were drawn & we picked Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald; Mrs. Herzberg & Jack Shoosmith did Bluebeard & his 8th wife; somebody else Grace Kelly & the Prince of Monaco etc. It was quite fun. Then another game was a Magazine Treasure Hunt & each group was given scissors, a pile of magazines, & a list of things to find i.e. 1) a wedding ring 2) a bouquet of flowers 3) a love nest etc.! By this time it was 11 p.m. so we got the supper ready & what a banquet! The main trouble was that we had too much! I had told each to bring one ordinary family size dish but so many brought 2 or 3 dishes! I made a big dish of assorted meats (ham, salami, boned stuffed chicken, spiced beef); Mrs. Herzberg hot rolls; Joan Stoicheff, tea, coffee etc.; Phyl Douglas a moulded salad; Phyl Dalby a tossed salad; Mrs. Shoosmith peanuts, chips etc. for earlier; Mrs. Narrasinham was to bring 1 Indian dish, but brought 2 of rice & 1 of veg! Mrs. Velasco also brought 3 or 4 different kinds of snacks & Doreen Moore & Nan Ramsey each brought 2 huge trifles! Oh – I forgot, Gudrun brought a lovely hot fish casserole too. You can imagine how we all stuffed! Fortunately I persuaded everyone to take their leftovers home, so we weren’t left with all the surplus! Everyone really seemed to have a good time though & enjoy themselves & the funny Swiss Dr. Dressler said as he left “Thank you very much Cyn, I enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would!” !!
I must stop now as I want to include Lindy’s picture – will write again soon. Love & hugs from us all – Cyn.

February 28 1956

By February 1956, Cyn and Cec had already decided on their summer holiday, and had started to make plans for it. They had written to their friends in Ohio and Michigan and asked if they could visit as a family in June when they drove down to Cec’s annual Spectoscopy Conference in Columbus, Ohio. They hoped to stay with Gunborg and Gordon Sutherland in Ann Arbor and with Til and Lois, the teachers Cyn had lived with during her US exchange year, in Toledo, and see their friends in the area.
Gordon Sutherland, Cec’s professor at Cambridge and his wife Gunborg, had become good friends with Cec and Cyn during their years at the University of Michigan, and in the early new year 1956 the science community heard that Gordon would be leaving the University of Michigan and returning to England to become the Director of the National Physical Laboratory. Cec called to congratulate him, and got in return a post card of the University of Michigan Stadium (annotated by Gordon to point out that its seating capacity of 97,000 would be raised to 100,000 next year!) of thanks:

A.A. Feb. 6th 1956
It was so very nice of you to telephone your congratulations. This is to give you my warmest thanks & to let you know that it is now official & was probably published in the London Times today. We look forward very much to your visit in June. Leonard Bovey will be here this weekend.
Yours ever
Gordon.

Carol knew the Sutherlands from her visit when Linda was born in Ann Arbor, and also Leonard Bovey and his wife Connie, who were friends and colleagues from Cambridge days whose son Christopher had been born just after Linda, but had moved from Ottawa back to England a few years earlier. Leonard is obviously on a business trip to North America this February.

Tues. 28th Feb. 1956.
Dearest Mummy,
We were so delighted to get your nice long letter yesterday & to hear of all the fun you were having with Mill & Ford [Cyn’s cousin, Milly and Ford Pembleton from New York]. I knew that they would be the nicest guests possible, but it is so lovely that you are having such a good time too- a sort of holiday for you as well – & of course they are both so enthusiastic over everything that it must make it extra nice for everyone. I am sure that you will have a wonderful time in Bequia & I am most curious to hear all about the Soufriere & how you get on.
I am afraid that I have been a long time in writing – I sent a lot of odds & bob’s by sea one day, but I meant to write you a long letter & somehow it got put off, so this is to tide you over in the meanwhile. I seem to have been busy – nothing special, but this & that! The party was a big success but I’ll tell you all the details in the long letter & the S. School is doing fine. There must be about 60 – 70 children altogether, but of course all divided up we don’t see them all – thank goodness! I have about 6 tiny ones – between 2 & 3, & that is enough at first.- We are not really organized yet, but it is beginning to get going now & will do well I think.
Who do you think we had to dinner with us last night? Leonard Bovey! He dropped a note after Christmas saying that he might see us in Feb. & I wrote saying to stay with us if in Ottawa, but he actually stayed with another couple, the Greens. They had a “do” for him on Sun. evening to which we were invited & then last night Cec brought him home to dinner. He looks much the same, but his face is fatter & – shh! – a little bald spot! (Leaves tomorrow- has been all over U.S.) He had pictures of Christopher & Connie & the baby – the latter prettier than Christopher was, although he looks a nice little boy now! Connie had a bad pregnancy & has more migraines etc. now, so doesn’t seem to be in the pink exactly. I took Charlie for his annual check up with Dr. Whillans yesterday (everything fine) & then dashed home & got dinner for Leonard, so I was busy – & pooped at the end!
On Sat. we had the most awful weather of the winter – a storm with the highest winds ever recorded in Ottawa & freezing rain. Ford & Mill will love hearing this!! All sorts of damage & power lines down etc. – we had no electricity for 3 hours, but fortunately it came on again in time for dinner. Everything is now sheeted in ice & it has been cold since but sunny. How nice when spring comes!
I will write again soon – hugs from Lindy & Charlie – they are both well & full of fun. Lots of love from us all – Hello to the Pems – from Cyn.