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.

November 24 1969

I am posting this on the day of the Coronation of King Charles III, and so am moving from the memories of an event in my own life that this letter raises, to memories from this blog in earlier days, when I posted my grandmother’s Memoir and then letters to my grandmother from Cyn, about the royal occasions she witnessed which were important to her. If anyone is interested, search the blog for Royal Wedding- where Cyn experienced the crowds of London herself- or Coronation- where Cyn, 5 1/2 years later, is married, mother of two, and living in Canada. These are the documents:

Carol’s School Memoir (just scroll down to the Coronation postcard, 1911)
November 23 1947: The Royal Wedding;
Coronation Day 1953;
June 10, 1953.

I will be watching on television myself, although not at 5:30 am, partly because I love choral music and partly because I enjoy the pageantry but mostly because my mother and grandmother would have loved it.

Now, back to 1969, with the aftermath of our great graduation weekend.

49 Cedar Road

Monday – 24th?

Darling Lindy,
I hope that you had a good trip back, and that you and Bruce snoozed happily. Also that you got a nice welcome back and weren’t kept out of bed till all hours. You must have been really tired – I know that Daddy and I had an afternoon nap after you left and Charlie was in bed in fairly good time.
Now, before I forget:

  1. I found your little red umbrella in your closet under your dressing gown.
  2. You left your short brown kilt here – am I to do anything about it?
  3. You left your big score of the MIKADO here – do you need it?
  4. You mentioned taking your skates – now or after Christmas?
    I think that there is something like Parcels Express on the bus, so I could send the things by that I expect as they are too heavy to mail but let me know anyway. Perhaps if you are working hard and it isn’t too long till you come home you will just leave them till later.
    Daddy has gone to work this morning and it seems strange to be more or less back in the old routine after 3 weeks occupied with Daddy and hospital, etc. He seems to be fine, but he’s coming home early today to see the astronauts splash down, and will take it easy this week. [Apollo 12’s return to earth.] I have been doing the melancholy job of stripping beds, etc. and tidying up, which is always very dull after the fun of getting things ready for your visits, but I must fly around with Christmas parcels for England and Christmas cards and Christmas cakes and making things for the Coffee Party next Sat. week so the time will go quickly. Have you any particular yearning for a special thing for Christmas? If so, let me know and I’ll see if we can afford it!
    I just phoned the Arts Centre and asked about ‘Casse Noisette’. It is only going to be here 19th and 20th Dec. and the bookings open next week so I thought it would be nice for Charlie’s birthday on Friday 19th and will dash down and book the moment that I hear. It would be fun to go out to dinner and make a real celebration of it – I might even break down and get more expensive seats!
    I have been talking to Marjorie on the phone and we are having a Nursery School Committee meeting on Wed. morning, so I have to do some work on my accounts before that. I was offering to help Marjorie at her open house on 13th December (for her Silver Wedding but people aren’t supposed to know) as Jocelyn will just be just about producing then. I also said that if you weren’t booked, I thought you would like to help Jeanie with the passing around etc. One of Marjorie’s friends is going to be in the kitchen heating things, etc. and I will be there and I thought it might be fun. If you don’t think so, we can always make an excuse, but it will be mostly people you know from the Church I expect.

Well, honey – one of my questions was answered! I hope that you get the Mikado book soon – I mailed it yesterday afternoon, so it should reach you by Thursday at the latest. I spent all day yesterday doing N. S. accounts, and we had an N. S. meeting at Marjorie’s this morning. Fees and salaries up next year!
Thank you for your letter, and I am glad that you had such a welcome and enjoyed the bus trip more than usual. I am sure that you are bogged down with your essays, so I expect this will be a very nose-to-the-grindstone week. We aren’t doing anything very exciting, except that Margaret Savic has just phoned and said that they were taking a friend to the opera ‘Mignon’ tonight and she is ill and would Daddy or I like to come. Daddy isn’t interested so I am going with loud cheers – seems like a long time since I went out. It is at the Arts Centre – Theatre? I think.
Charlie told me yesterday that the Gloucester team had won the Debating at Merivale. Apparently Kiloran got best speaker, and Penny was just a point behind and they won the senior, and Penny Scoley and someone else were 2nd in the Junior, I think. Anyway, Mrs. Pierce said that K. and P. had decided to be funny and had kind of spoofed it – I don’t know what the topic was but the example she gave me was ‘A Rock Festival’ which they translated as being the Stoning of the Martyrs. Apparently they had the audience in gales of laughter, and afterwards all the other kids were saying ‘Did you practice a lot? Did your coach help you much?’ etc. etc. and in the usual Gloucester fashion they had never seen their coach and had been frantically writing their speeches the night before!
Charlie has been on the late bus the last 2 nights with Basketball games but he will be home soon, so I had better go and finish the dinner. Whoops – just caught the cabbage burning! Lots of love from the family and purrs from pussy.

Note included with the Mikado book:
Monday a.m.
Darling – Just got the mail – here is your book – hope it doesn’t take as long to reach you as Charlie’s from you did. Went to coffee at Fanni’s to say goodbye to Claire- she gave me a little green clutch purse – don’t know if it matches your greens [Trent’s colour, gowns and all.] –
Love Mummy

I had been on the Debating Team. Although I had never won a whole tournament, I could certainly relate to the Gloucester methodology (which I carried on with my essays at Trent) of last minute preparation and had always assumed that the coach existed solely to drive the team of 4 to the event.
As for the score of The Mikado, I must have brought it home to pick out a tricky bit on the piano, and now needed it for rehearsal!

November 18 1969

This is the second letter posted under this date- the first was Cyn writing to her mother, and this one is to her daughter Linda. I am finally catching up with the letters already posted and trying to integrate the cache recently discovered with the letters carefully preserved by my grandmother. By the end of 1969 I hope they will all be published in chronological order once again. (Although there are so many new ones with imperfect dates…)

In this letter, all the events of November 1969 in the Costain household are being reviewed in a hasty manner. In Ottawa, Cec is home on sick leave from work, after a 2 week stay in hospital and a thyroid operation. Cyn is looking after him, dealing with the Nursery School accounts and focusing hard on Linda’s Graduation outfits which she is making, and accessories, which she is buying. Charlie is getting on with his Grade 13 subjects- top in Math, having trouble with an English essay- while he and his friends get ready for their Grade 12 Graduation which will be celebrated at the same time as Linda’s Grade 13. (I’m sure Cyn would be ordering his date’s corsage along with the one my cousin Bruce was asking her to get for me.) Meanwhile Linda is away at university writing her own essays, but not yet getting feedback by having them returned. (Both she and Charlie will do just fine.) The big exciting Graduation Weekend is coming up and Linda (and Bruce) will be jumping on the bus on Friday in time to get to Ottawa for the ceremony.

49 Cedar Rd.
Tues. 18th Nov.

Dearest Lindy,
What a horrid rainy morning. Charlie has just gone for the bus, Daddy is sleeping, and Saki is sitting on the radiator with her feet up on the window sill. I hope that if it’s the same in Peterborough that you can borrow an umbrella.
I am going to sew today & finish your long dress. The other one is done & I will make you a headband. Are you getting excited? Audrey Haynes phoned me last night about Nursery School money, and Janet chipped in to ask me to tell you that she & Carol Anne Dologh are having a “get-together” at the Dologh’s after the Graduation on Friday & you & Bruce are invited. She says it isn’t a party really, but it sounds fun. I asked Charlie if any of his class had come up with parties, etc. after Commencement, etc. & he said “Oh yes – Pat Kemp is having a breakfast party at 6 a.m. after the dance on Saturday night!” He said he & Bob Hirsch were trying to figure out what to do between say 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.!
As I told you on the phone Brucie didn’t tell me any definite plans when he called. You had better not tell him you know about his asking me to get the corsage as it is probably supposed to be a secret! I will call Mrs. Sylvester at the Maplegrove Greenhouses this morning & see how soon they have to be ordered. Oh, I nearly forgot- I had a letter yesterday from your Grannie (E) enclosing some money to get you a really nice pair of pantyhose for your Grad- wasn’t that sweet of her? I thought I would ask around town about the toeless ones & if I can’t get any I would just get you ordinary ones. I looked at gold earrings & got one pair, but they were too red a gold when I got them home, so I will have another look.
Daddy seems to be getting on pretty well. He is sleeping & eating well since he came home, but I think he had a kind of letdown. Perhaps he felt when he got home he would be OK but of course, he’s not & his nerves are jittery, &, he’s restless, but I thought that yesterday he was more relaxed, so perhaps it is improving. The scar on his neck is healing, & I got him a beautiful silk cravat to wear, so he should look very distinguished. He goes to see the surgeon on Thursday.
How is the English essay going? I hope that you were satisfied with Sparta when you got it finished & that you get this one done in time to give it to the typing lady. Charlie is struggling with his “Elizabethan audiences” & complicated matters by leaving his English notebook (plus essay outline) in the Rideau Street Library! However, he continues to top Grade 13 in Math so we can excuse his groans over English! Did you by any chance see Wayne & Shuster on Sunday evening? [Canadian comedians on TV. Their skit ‘Rinse the Blood off my Toga’ (Julius Caesar was on the Ontario Grade 10 curriculum so everyone was familiar with it) was a family favourite.] We thought they were very funny. Did you get back your 1st essay yet? Have to get Daddy’s breakfast so I must go. See you SOON.
Lots of love

November 10 1969

49 Cedar Rd.
Ottawa 9.
Monday 10th

Darling Lindy,
Just a short note to send your cheque and to say thank you for your sweet little note on the sewing machine. I am glad you had a nice time honey & it was lovely having you at home. I’m sorry I was cross sometimes but I was worried about Daddy & tired with dashing about.
It seemed awfully quiet when both of you had left last night & there was just Charlie & me, & pusskins left. I went to bed & read Little L. Fauntleroy!
This morning I talked on the telephone to Phyl, Fanni, Ruth L. a Nursery Sch. woman, Johnson Motors, Betty D. Mrs. Davis & Mary Catto, so I didn’t get much work done! Some phoned me about Daddy & some I called about Marjorie & Dick’s Silver Wedding.
I also measured at & pinned your blue skirt & will have it ready for you. I am going to go down town now on the way to see Daddy. I want new white frilly for my red dress as the other has lost its oomph & I will go into Astor Chapeau & look for the purse while I’m there.
Did you have a good trip back & eat all the goodies? I wonder what the hot cookies did to the fudge. I hope they were all edible anyway.
Must run – will phone tomorrow night, so I’ll be talking to you before you get this probably.
Lots of love

P.S. Had a letter from Grannie (E.) this morning & she had got your letter forwarded from New York.

October 31 1969

Oct. 31st 69

Dearest Lindy-
I carefully wrote down your college address – & now I cannot find it, so this must go to Ottawa & be forwarded. It will probably turn up sometime after I posted this – I am enclosing a PC to remind you of the tropics now that winter is here!
I have now been home in St. Vincent two weeks & 2 days – but it seems ages and ages ago since I flew off from Kennedy Airport.
Last week we had a great celebration as St. Vincent assumed its ‘Statehood’. There were all sorts of functions beginning with a Service of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral, which was truly packed; Jack Otway [their nephew] came from Trinidad that morning & went with us to the service. Then he went with me to a Cocktail party next afternoon at the Botanical Gardens – fortunately, it was fine – as there were quite 1000 people there, but inspite of crowd, Jack & I quite enjoyed ourselves – eating snacks, & drinking juice! There were also banquets & balls, & lots of jumpings-up & steel bands in the streets, & much rejoicing everywhere. We now have a Governor (English – at present) & a Prime Minister, & other men to run the government – mostly black.
I am so glad you got home for Thanksgiving & I wonder if you are returning for your graduation sometime soon? A case of better late than never eh?
Your Mum told me your friends were talking of going to spend a weekend with you. I wonder if it came off & if they all packed into your room? What a squash!
How about your music & singing. I hope you’re keeping them up – & are you in the choir? Write & give me all your news. Mill writes they’ve had snow already – very early surely? I hope it’s not too cold with you?
Very much love from me, & Moo, & Jacko!
Yr loving- Grannie.

Indian Bay & Villa Point, St. Vincent, West Indies

On the postcard, with only the generic address of Trent University, Canada:

Dear Lindy, I send you this view to warm you up now that Winter is upon you! The Hotel on the Point is where Mill & Ford stayed when here last year, & and we had some lovely sea bathing. Soon you will have to come & enjoy some swimming in this nice blue sea! I hear you wrote me, but I missed yr. letter – so I will write soon & tell you all about our Statehood. Love & XXX, Gran.

October 28 1969

49 Cedar Road.
Ottawa 9, Ont.

Tues. 28th. Oct.

Darling Lindy,
I have just finished writing to Grannie and will just write you a short letter too to say that I hope you have a lovely weekend in Brantford and survive the change in Toronto, etc. all right! I know that you will but it is alarming to think about things beforehand sometimes. Maybe Uncle Dix will drive you in on your way back. I forwarded your Commencement invitation to you yesterday, so you will be able to make all the arrangements with Bruce about when he is to come etc. Daddy and I will get your ticket to the dance through Charlie but anyway, we will be able to talk about that when you are home next week. It’s so nice that you have this time at home so that we can get organized because it would be so hard to make things for you at a distance. I have been ironing and piecing the bits of the green sari and I am now sure that I can get it out of the material, and I think it will look very pretty. Daddy and I laughed like anything over the account of the girls measuring you in the letter we got yesterday, but anyway, I must say that I think the pear-shaped Hazell bit is preferable to having hips 31 as well as bust! I hope to have a dress more or less done by the time you come home so that we can try it on and do any minor alterations before finishing it, and then I can concentrate on the long one. I spread the gay material for your lounging pyjamas on the floor of your room with the pattern on it to see how it would go and Saki is delighted! She keeps rushing in and skidding on it, and of course loves lying on the rustly paper pattern! I haven’t the heart to put it away, but I will cut the pattern out today so that at least the paper isn’t all scrubbled up!
I was so delighted to know that the weekend with Janet and Joey went so well. In your letter that Janet brought you sounded as if you thought Joanne might be bored, but both the girls were very pleased and excited about it when I talked to them and I am sure that they both had a lovely time. You sounded as if you enjoyed it too and I think that this is a good criterion – if you enjoy a visit or party other people do too. I am glad that the goodies were a success, but I don’t suppose you had many left after the weekend. I don’t think that there are any more Snoopy strips to send you – the ones I put in the parcel were all that there were about the Head Beagle- actually, he just went to see the H.B. all filled with fear and trembling, and he never turned up, and now it has kind of faded out.

Charles Schulz October 1969.

To go back to the weekend and Jean – did you by any chance see her Formal that she made at Th.giving weekend? It is out of sheer material, I hear, but knowing how sloppy Jean’s sewing can be, I wondered if you had seen it and what you thought of it. Did Janet mention Commencement or wasn’t it possible to talk about it because of Joey?
I don’t think that I have anything thrilling to tell you about since I last wrote. Oh, except, Charlie went to Dr. W. yesterday afternoon to get a tooth filled and I went to the book shop again, and I got a lovely oldie! It is called ‘T. Tembaron’, and it is by the Little L. Fauntleroy person only this is supposed to be an adult book, not a children’s. It is all about a New York paper boy, who inherits a great place in England – does the plot sound familiar? Anyway, it is enormous fun, and I sat and read it all yesterday evening – nauseating and ridiculous and I am enjoying it hugely! Something for you to Read in Reading Week! By the way do you have loads of work to do when you are home? I think that we will have to have an Early To Bed curfew so that you can catch up on all those lost hours of sleep. Poor lamb, Daddy and I were so sorry for you when you wrote about the practical joke they played on you when the kids wrecked your room. It is no fun being the victim of a practical joke and unfortunately I don’t think that you can live a communal existence without coming up against it. Let’s hope that they will grow out of this immature business, and that you won’t have to put up with it much more. The only thing to do that I can see is to pretend that you don’t care, but it is very hard. It was a shame that both Terry and Cathy were away so that you had no moral support, but I think that you were probably even more upset because you were very tired, and you must try and get to bed a bit earlier now that your essay is over.
I told you in my last letter that we were going to the Smorgasbord on Friday evening. Actually, Charlie was involved with a Basketball tournament on the Friday after school so he didn’t even know if he could come, but in the end he came with Alan and they just ate together and then disappeared. I went down at 1 o’clock with Marjorie and Mrs. James and Mrs. Davis, and Betty and Chris Best were there, and we set tables, made salad and scalloped potatoes, cut the peameal bacon I had cooked etc. We were there till about 4 and then came home. I was supposed to help Marjorie keep the buffet table supplied, but Daddy didn’t get home till 5:30 and then he was pooped so we had a drink and then went and collected Edna Renault’s casserole and got down about 6. The place was seething! We had set places for 114, but I think that we must have had about 150 altogether. Marjorie had lots of help so it seemed mean to leave Daddy on his own, so I chickened out and went with him and ate. It was a bit of a scramble, but it was OK. Not nearly as nice as when there was a smaller number of course and some of the casseroles looked very dull, and Daddy had one that he said was absolutely tasteless, but there was enough of everything except desserts and I think Mrs. G and Laura were a bit generous in the way of 2nd helpings to small boys! I made a big upside down cake, and was conservative and had a piece of it myself! Afterwards I went and helped serve tea and coffee a bit, and then when the magician came, Daddy and I came home. They made 100 dollars profit so that was quite nice.
Fr. Graham phoned me on Sat. and asked if I would have one of these Sherry parties for the parish, but he wanted it next week or the week after, so I told him that with Daddy going into hospital I just couldn’t do it. We have left it that if he can’t get anyone else to do it in this area I’ll have it later in the month. You asked on the phone for me to tell more about why Daddy is going into the hospital – well it is for tests to begin with. Dr. K. thinks his throat, sinus and nose trouble may all be caused by an allergy, and of course Granpa has had this all his life and both A. Merle and Carman have the same trouble. In addition to this the thyroid gland is enlarged, so what they are going to do is take a sort of picture of the inside of his throat with measurements and do tests for allergies, etc. and then decide on what to do. If they decide to operate (take a piece off the gland or something – Peter Savic had it done a few years ago) then Daddy would be in hospital for a week or 10 days, and three weeks off work, but we will have to wait and see. We have heard nothing more from Dr. K about going in or anything, but I presume they will let us know this week. Daddy doesn’t say anything about it you know so I can’t tell you if he is worried or what. You will be here next week anyway and find out what it is all about.
I must stop as I am STARVING! Doesn’t that sound like one of your letters? I want to sew this afternoon and horrors! I have forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer for dinner! Daddy and I go to the Arts Centre on Thurs. for ‘Hamlet’ – Charlie goes another night in Much more expensive seats! Britta Lagerquist has just phoned up to ask Daddy and me to dinner later this week- I hope she doesn’t use so much perfume this time!
Lots of love from us all and PRRR – p from Saki!
See you soon – nice –

October 20 1969

As Cyn was making Linda’s garments for her high school graduation, Linda was preparing for it by visiting her aunt and uncle in Brantford to solidify plans for her cousin Bruce to be her escort for the occasion. These two notes from Merle Moor (Auntie Merle) refer to the arrangements for Linda to visit over the weekend, but the exciting thing in Merle’s life was the Education degree she was pursuing in her sabbatical year at Wayne State University just over the U.S. border in Detroit. It would have been a 3-4 hour drive from Brantford, and my brother Charlie remembers that she bought a little Mustang- red perhaps?- to handle the weekend trips home. She was delighted with it and everyone else was charmed by Merle driving a sports car! As a teacher in her 50s, it was a sensible financial move- a Master’s degree would increase her salary and prospects of advancement, and her pension upon retirement would be based on the salary of her five best years.

College of Education Building, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.

Dear Costains —
Thought you might like to have a look at the bldg where I am spending some time. Lectures last 2 1/2 hrs – usually a bare 10 min. break in the middle.
Fussy [their cat] seems to be somewhat better, but apparently her heart is not beating properly- just fluttering so she may not live much longer. 16 1/2 yrs is a ripe old age. I think somehow we figured that she would stay with us!
Just drop us a note Linda re time of arrival – Oct. 24 – I hope. We are looking forward to seeing you.
Love, Merle.

62 Lorne Cres.
Oct. 20, 1969.

756-5433 (us)
759-3425 (Lorne)

Dear Linda,
Just a short note to say how pleased I was to hear from you & to get the pictures. (If the Halls want some, I’ll get the negatives from your mother.) So glad university isn’t quite as bad as you feared & that you are enjoying it for the most part. Those TV lectures must be unbelievable, especially in subjects such as Math. [In my letter I must have alluded to my friends’ experiences at other universities, because we had in-person lectures, seminars or tutorials, plus I never had to take Math!]
Everyone here in top shape at present. We are hoping to see you this weekend so won’t try to give you any news. Since we don’t know when – or if for sure – you’re coming, we’ll meet Friday evening trains. If you arrive & find no one there, phone one of the above numbers for immediate service!
Looking forward to seeing you soon.
P.S. Bruce will be home this coming weekend of course. He is finding work fairly heavy this year.

October 15 1969

As this letter suggests, Cec’s presents from his travels in Australia and Japan have finally arrived in Ottawa- and Peterborough probably! There is no letter describing my gift, and I can’t find it to insert a picture, but: one day in the Porter’s Lodge of Trail College there was a large battered box with my name on it, come all the way from Australia. It created much excitement, which was topped only when the box was opened and a soft cuddly koala bear emerged, not quite life-sized, but pretty big, and very huggable. The soft fur was actually kangaroo, and he made a sensation on my floor. The present that was not so exotic was an opal ring, also Australian, greenish blue, because my father knew I loved opals.
Meanwhile, my mother was very kindly making the rest of a sari (which had already become a wedding outfit for herself at a summer family wedding ) into a mini dress for me to wear for my high school graduation in November, and was urging me to find a pattern for a formal dress for the graduation party the following night. This was the preoccupation of many of the girls in first year at college- snare a new boyfriend and then go home and show off! Since I had no ambitions in that direction, my mother and aunt had arranged for my cousin Bruce, now in his second year at McMaster University, to come up for the weekend and be my escort. Charlie and Bruce and I got on well so I was delighted when he agreed, and eventually we had a good weekend.

49 Cedar Road,
Ottawa 9, Ont.

15th Oct. Wed.

Darling Lindy,
I have just got a big parcel in the mail with Coral marked on the outside, so I wonder if you have got your parcel yet. Is it nice? Are you excited? I haven’t opened mine yet as I thought I should let Daddy and Charlie have some of the fun too, but I am filled with curiosity. I’ll let you know what it looks like later.
I have spent the whole morning dunning (duning?) Nursery School parents for their fees. So many excuses you never heard – car accidents – husbands with big contract – carried around in purse for weeks, etc. but the favourite is a breathless silence and then ‘Hasn’t my husband sent those in yet?’ I am having my elevenses now (coffee with no milk or sugar – ugh!) and then plan to retire up to your room and sew. I have taken up the machine and hope that your black table won’t collapse under the strain. I cut out my navy blue material yesterday afternoon and want to get it made to wear tomorrow night to go to the Little Theatre – I go to a WA meeting tonight, but I don’t think that I can get it done for that! After I have made that I think that I will make your green graduation dress and for that I want:
Bust 31 1/2_____ Waist 24 1/2_
Hips 36___ Length______34___ (filled in with pencil)
Can you get one of your friends with a tape measure to fill this in and then send it back to me soon. I know we should have done it but I quite forgot. The length I want is from the middle of the back at the neckline down to the hem. Probably if you decided which of your dresses is the length you want your green one to be and measure that one, that would be best – I don’t want to have to lose the lovely coloured edge of the sari so I need the length to be fairly accurate so I can just make a tiny hem. I am getting quite excited about making it, so I hope it looks nice. When you are down town go on looking for a pattern of a formal you would like – try the Vogue book if you can find one and if you find a short dress you like that would be OK we could just make it longer but it would be best to have an A-line so that you would have room to walk. Ditto with material – if you find something GORGEOUS, go ahead and get it!
I went upstairs this morning and found your bed which I had carefully made yesterday with the coverlet all pulled down at the top, so obviously your pussy cat snuggled in there sometime yesterday! Charlie was out at his Driver T. class last night so it was probably then. He doesn’t get to drive for quite a while yet, so is a bit disappointed I think. On the way home from seeing you on the bus, he suddenly said “I never got a chance to drive the car.” So I suggested that we go into the NRC parking lot then and there and he could have a little lesson, and that is what we did. He managed fine except for a few jerky starts, but he was cottoning onto it by the time we finished.
How did you make out on your bus trip? I hope that Amanda was a better travelling companion than the girl you came up with, and that you weren’t too late getting back to Traill. Did you get a taxi all right? We never got a chance to say a proper goodbye, but it was a lovely weekend honey, and it was wonderful to see you so happy and full of fun.
I found your winter gloves yesterday (inside your fox hood), so I am sending them to you, as it is getting quite chilly for the little paws. I have your mittens too, but they are bulky so they can wait till you come home next time. Did the other girls have nice weekends? I can imagine the chit-chat going on till all hours of the night. Is there anything you want me to send down by Janet? I thought I might give her a cake to bring down so that you would have something to eat with your cups of tea, and so that Janet won’t starve with all the Traill food she won’t like!
The dinner is on cooking and I am waiting for Daddy. I got on beautifully today with my dress and should finish it easily tomorrow – I have to do the zip, put in the sleeves and do the hem and I think that it is going to look nice. I will get that bluey-grey material from SC and make the same pattern with short sleeves I think. Lee Gander phoned up today and we are going out to a Chinese dinner before the theatre tomorrow night, and on Friday Daddy and I are going to a CAP dinner, so we are having a tres gay week. Tonight Charlie and Daddy are watching a football game, and hoping that Ottawa will redeem itself.
Next Morning.
Ottawa did win, so I came back from the WA meeting to find two happy men! Nothing very exciting happened at the meeting – I sat beside Edna Thomas and knitted. Remember your pale blue sweater to match the pale blue skirt? I cut off the sleeves sometime ago and now I picked up the stitches and knit on a welt to make short sleeves- at least I got one finished and began the other so that will be ready for you when you come home. The brown check jumper has got the zip in I discovered, but it needs shortening and I don’t know how much, so I may measure against one of your other dresses or wait till you get home.
I am finishing this letter in a scurry as Daddy has gone down to the Montreal Labs and I have the car until he comes back and I want to go to SC and St. L. We opened the coral last night and it is very pretty- one they call, staghorn, like branches, white with little green tips, and another that is like a flower in bloom – a sort of hollyhock blossom if you can imagine it. It is a creamy white and lovely, but Daddy expected them to be mounted on something, and they’re not, but they look very exotic anyway.
Must fly- Lots of love from us all


September 30 1969

This letter is from my Costain grandmother, Elida Eakin Costain, whom we had visited in British Columbia just the month before- which may explain the letter I sent, to which this is a reply. She and my grandfather lived close to their youngest son and family, and she mentions Leslie, her younger granddaughter, but it is true that our generation had many more boys than girls, so that I was the oldest granddaughter.
It is amusing to note the similarities between the letters from both grandmothers [see previous post]- practically identical notepaper, hopes that university is enjoyable for me, family news, personal interests, local events, and an awareness of the importance of tea! I’m not sure they ever met, and they were quite different people, but I was lucky to have both of them in my life.
In her discussion of the family, she refers to Merle Moor, her oldest daughter, who was taking a sabbatical to finish an Education degree in the States, her 3 sons now being adults. The Elizabeth she mentions was Merle’s daughter-in-law, mother of the 2 great-granddaughters, and I think Elida was pleased that yet another Costain connection was going into teaching. The 4 grandchildren who lived near her in Penticton were of most interest to her and the details about David’s various Okanagan Valley pets were always of slightly horrified interest to us. The clipping is sadly not very clear- Penticton was and is a tourist town but I’m not sure she approved.

357 Townley St., Penticton
Sept. 30, 1969

Dear first grandaughter,-
So good to receive a letter from you. We just received it a few days ago and the teapot stand, which I put on the table to try it out. The three legs or feet on it makes it easy to tip if the tea pot is not put carefully on the centre of it.
We hope you are all settled in well at Trent by now and beginning to enjoy the classes and getting down to study. Also, hope you are making some good friends.
Good to see Auntie Merle & Uncle Dix almost before you got unpacked from the holiday trip. Does Cyndie make up with you more quickly now? Both she and Debbie are both pretty cute little girls. [Her 2 great-granddaughters.]
I expect you will be going to Brantford for Thanksgiving holiday maybe. Auntie Merle will be home then most likely. I think Merle said Elizabeth was going to Normal school.
Too bad dad & I are not in Ont. this winter to keep house for Dix. He is going to be lonesome I am sure.
I will tell Leslie you are expecting a letter from her. Leona was here this AM for a few minutes, but I did not get her to write down your address. She did read your letter.
David has a man teacher this year and likes him very much. He is one of the Curling Club members.
David had a bull snake for a pet. He found it down at Oliver. Even Leslie got used to it and put it under her blouse. It went around her neck and then down and came out of her shorts leg.
Oct. 2
We have coastal weather this fall. [Unusual for the Okanagan which I connect with desert.] For three weeks we have had showers in the day or at night, and very little sunshine, – an hour or two, but rarely all day, so it is getting monotonous. We have a lot of green tomatoes on the vine and more sunshine would ripen some of them, I think. It does keep the cucumbers growing a little so I may get a few more dill pickles.
Are you able to use the tea set in your room? Or do they allow you to boil water?

There is a Church of God Convention in the city now and the city is full up in the north end. The paper says they are spending lots of money here. I am sending a picture of the huge tent. We have not seen it yet. There are over 6000 people from Canada and the U.S.A. and some even farther away. They plan to come every year. They keep Sat. instead of Sunday, like the Seventh-day Adventists.
I must close now and make a trip down town for some sewing materials – thread, zipper & ribbon for my new dress.
Much Love to you,
Granma C.

September 28 1969

18 Curley St.
Long Beach.
Sunday Sept. 28th 69.

Dearest Lindy,
How are you getting on at College? Of course, I heard from your Mummy all about your arrival there & that Charlie went with you, & everything went well, but I want to hear more details from you, now you are nicely settled.
I gathered you had a very nice room to yourself – but the colour scheme must have been rather a shock at first – reds & purples sound loud after your creams & gold, but it’s wonderful what one can get used to isn’t it? Cyn told me it was very nicely furnished and carpeted – so I hope you are remembering to keep it nice & tidy, is it inspected daily? [Shades of a pre-WW1 British boarding school!]
It was nice that you 1st year students were there earlier than the others & had a chance to get to know one another before the rush & studies began – & I hope you have met some really nice boys & girls you can be friends with. I wonder how you got on, as just after you went to College, we heard on the radio that temperature in Canada had dropped from 80° to 40° & I thought of you & how you would not have your Mum handy to turn on the thermostat as soon as the temp. dropped – did you wake and shiver? We have been having some lovely, fine days, sunny, but chilly in the shade.
You will be surprised to hear that I am still in New York. My time with Monie was cut short – as an old Uncle of Owen’s came to stay with them so I have been with Marguerite in the meanwhile, but will be returning to Mona this week until the 15th Oct. when I fly off to St. Vincent once more. Soon after I get back, our little island is to gain its independence, & there are to be great celebrations I hear – so I’ll be just in time for all the excitement!

We have had quite an exciting Service in Church today as the Bishop was there for confirmation & there was also a christening & Marguerite was presented with the Bishops’ cross- a big honour, but poor Margs was so nervous she didn’t enjoy it! although she did get a kiss from the Rector, who is a fine big, jolly young man – Must fly to the post now, so bye-bye. Write soon. Much love,

September 15 1969

I have the nicest brother.

Brief review to put this letter in context: Linda has just been deposited at university and is feeling homesick although enjoying herself too; Charlie has just started Grade 13 and is involved with coaching a young kid’s football team; Cec (Dad) is away at conferences in Australia and Japan; and Cyn (Mom) has been getting the church’s Nursery School off to a new year, and fixing up the house, which involved Charlie in painting outdoor nursery school furniture and indoor walls and ceilings in his spare time.

15 Sept., 1969
49 Cedar Rd,
Ottawa 9, Ont.

Dear Lindy,
I have just finished reading your letter. First of all, I will dismiss the subject of the football game against Jim in one line.
Next – things around here have been pretty quiet with the exception of Saturday. That is one of the worst days that I can remember.
We had a football practice in the morning, which was exasperating. I had planned to listen to the football game on the radio (Toronto at Ottawa) while painting Mom & Dad’s room. However, I couldn’t find brushes, the roller, or the pan for the roller. Mummy & I chased around the parish for them, but couldn’t find them – we finally borrowed a roller & pan from the Greenwells.
The game was a close one, and gave me several heart attacks while painting the room. There were only a couple of minutes left in the game & Ottawa was winning by 6 points; I was rolling the ceiling – then suddenly I stopped rolling the ceiling, because I had just knocked the pan for the roller full of paint off the top of the headboard and upside down onto the floor. I screeched and Mummy came running, and she began to clean it up. She had her back to me. Then Toronto threw a long pass, got a touchdown (6 points) and it was a tie game. Then they try for the convert (1 point) which would put them in the lead. The convert was good, and I put my fist through the bedroom wall. I was extremely displeased. Mummy didn’t see the hole – she thought I had just hit the wall. I said “I’m going down to the Church to get the polyfilla.” (I had been using it on the slide.) Mummy didn’t know why I wanted polyfilla, but I stormed off to the Church, and she kept mopping up the paint. When I left, there was still 90 sec. left in the football game.
By the time I got back from the church (with polyfilla) Mummy had finished clearing up the paint, seen the hole in the wall, recovered, and told me when I walked in that Ottawa had won the football game (they kicked a field goal [3 points] in the last second of the game). This time I restrained myself because, even if I hadn’t heard it, Ottawa did win.
Murray came over that night, and by the time I went to bed I was 1/2 way to feeling human again. The hole is now patched & waiting to be painted.
Laura & the Greenwells have asked me if “Linda has settled in” about 5 times already, and Maureen about 2 times. I haven’t seen any of your other friends except Joey & I didn’t say anything to her as I was in a hurry.

I hope your day hasn’t been as bad as mine has – hope your profs are O.K. I have to do my homework now, I’ll be hearing from you.

P.S. Roller & pan turned up – we had roller & think the Grahams had the pan.