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.

October 8 1950

803 Granger,

Ann Arbor. Mich. 

8th October 1950.

Dearest Mummy,

We are having a wet Sunday afternoon- nice – and I am writing letters and ignoring the chores! Cec was going to go back to the Lab. & do some work, but the rain has discouraged him & he is sitting reading- supposed to be writing letters too! He is busy again at work – building up his apparatus, having at last got some equipment. Dr. Sutherland brought him 2 things (tubes) from England which Cec has had ordered here for months but couldn’t get – so Dr. S. got permission to bring these 2 which Cec had used in Cambridge. Wasn’t that nice?

Talking of Cambridge, reminds me that Cec got a letter this week from George- remember the fair, shy, nice Canadian? He is in Ottawa now working there, having finished his thesis etc. but not heard the results. He tells us that your friend Charlie is finished too & is out at the Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver, & puts in brackets (married) so I am bursting with curiosity!! Bob Stewart he says is also going to U.B.C., but doesn’t say if he is there yet- I am wondering if Veronica really did have another baby or not. That means that all of his friends have really left Cambridge now, but it will be nice when we are in Ottawa because besides George working there, Cec says that most of the others will be going there fairly frequently, so we will be able to keep in touch with them. 

Connie and Leonard will be sailing from Liverpool on Tuesday, and I am going to write & have a letter waiting for them when they arrive in Montreal. I wrote to them when we got back from Canada & wished them a nice crossing etc. & invited them to come and spend Christmas with us, which I think will be fun. Cec had vaguely talked of going to Lee’s for Christmas, and Joan and Ray were very insistent that we come & spend it with them, but with seeing Lee this summer we don’t feel we have to go again, & although we would like to see Joan & Ray again, we would rather spend Christmas at home, and Cec suggested asking Connie & Len & I thought it was a lovely idea. Dr. S. saw Leonard in Cambridge & Len told him they would be here for Christmas, so that seems O.K. Len said in his last letter that Connie hadn’t been well, but I didn’t think much about it. However Dr. S. says that she had a kind of nervous breakdown, but I hope she’ll have a nice time coming over & feel better when she arrives.

Dr. S. himself came back last Monday from England (flew both ways) feeling very tired, and developed a terrible cold & has been in & out of bed all week. Poor Gunborg is pretty well worn out too, with all her work on the house so she hasn’t been feeling very cheery either. On top of all the work of getting the house ready– she has got the job this coming week of entertaining the Bishop of Ely who is coming here for about a week. They knew him in Cambridge – he was a Don or something there before he became Bishop – and he christened the children so they of course are very pleased to have him as they say he is a dear, but Gunborg is in a flat spin at the prospect of entertaining in her present state of chaos! She is having to give a dinner party for him on the Sat. Evening- 10 or 12 people – and has enlisted my aid, so I’ll be buttling for the Bish!

We got two letters from you this week- one mailed on 30th & one on the 26th-, & thank you so much for both of them. I was so sorry to hear that you were worried about us though, because you hadn’t had a letter, but was glad to see by your pencilled note on the back of the envelope that one had arrived. I thought that I had written long before the 22nd, but can’t be sure, as the first week or so that we were back seemed such a muddle. Now that I am organized, I will try and be better. In the first letter I wrote after I came back I know I told you of my raise at work and being on the permanent staff, so if you know about that, there won’t be any letter missing, but you said in your letter about Janie writing to you and your not getting the letter, and I certainly never heard from her either. I have been thinking that I should write and send some little thing for my god son, but thought I would wait till they got home, and now I feel that I might as well wait & send a little parcel at Christmas as we don’t know exactly when his birthday is. The Budleigh Salterton P.O. must have rats or something- Cec suggested that perhaps Bill was still carrying the letters around in his pocket, but surely he’d have found them before now! Tell Janie it wasn’t my fault this time, will you?! What is their new address?

I have just made a coffee cake, & put on the coffee instead of having tea – it seems more like a coffee day! My dieting is fairly good during the week, but is inclined to fall off at weekends, & I don’t think I’ve lost much weight yet! I weigh on Gunborg’s scales & haven’t had a chance recently – all the drugstore scales say different things- one yesterday said 134!! I’m still wanting Patsy’s diet & see what that will do for me!

We have had such a nice week this week. On Monday Cec gave me a surprise! We have begun a new budget since we came back, (saving our money for a car!) and we get $5 each pocket money- bus fares, coffees, stamps, birthday presents etc.! Anyway, when Cec took our week’s money out of the Bank on Monday he told me he had practically spent all his pocket money already as he’d bought something, but wouldn’t say what it was. I’ve been wanting a housekeeping purse, & on getting my P.-money suggested I go & buy one, but when we got to the shop it was very crowded & I left it- only to find when I got home that the surprise was a beautiful red billfold & purse combined which Cec had had for me all the time! It is lovely red leather & has a purse, place for identity card with cellophane cover, place for bills at the back, and a secret place for bills hidden away! It is lovely & I am so proud of it! Just a week or so ago, I got another present- a new band for my watch. The watch was fixed, & Cec got me such a pretty little gold band – tiny hearts & flowers – which goes so nicely with the little flowers on the watch. Aren’t I a lucky girl? Our budget seems to be doing well this time, & with our present rate of saving we hope to be able to get a 2ndhand car by Christmas- won’t that be fun? Probably won’t finish paying for it till Feb. but that won’t be long- then we’ll begin saving for a refrigerator! In Canada they cost at least $300, whereas here you can get a very nice one for $200, & if you have it for over six months you don’t have to pay duty taking it into the country, so it seems worthwhile doesn’t it?

Cyn seated in front, NOT wearing bobby socks!

On Thurs. I was talking to Gunborg over the phone (I have my own telephone on my own palatial desk in my own office- shared with one other girl- at the office now! Important that’s me!) and she said that Gordon’s cold was so bad that he was in bed & asked me to go to a concert that night for which they had tickets. There are 2 series of concerts in A.A. this winter-the Big Series, & the Little or Extra Series- the S’s have tickets for the first, but we thought the Little Series sounded nice & 6 concerts would be just a nice number, so we got tickets for those & our first concert is on Tues. with Laurenz Melchior singing. On Thurs. Gunborg & I heard Helen Traubel sing- she is a great Wagnerian soprano & sings at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. She is an immense woman- 6 ft. or so, with a huge bust, but slim hips, so looks top-heavy! We could just imagine her in a helmet & breastplate being all Wagnerian! She sang some German Lieder & negro spiratuelles very quietly & beautifully, but when she stood & bellowed Tristan & the Valkyries etc. we didn’t think much of it!

On Friday I met Cec in town after work & we had dinner, then we went to the pictures. Gunborg & Gordon were to come too, but Gordon’s cold was still bad so Gunborg came alone & we went to see “Kind Hearts& Coronets”. It is an English film you know, & I had hoped to see it, but we didn’t get the chance before we left England, so were delighted when it came here. It was crowded & everyone who has seen it has said they laughed more at it than anything they’ve seen for ages, & we enjoyed every minute of it! It was a huge success – very amusing & well done, & very subtle wit and humour – we all came out feeling very gay, & Gunborg who had been very quiet the night before at the concert, cheered up immensely!

Yesterday, I did my housecleaning & grocery shopping – in the afternoon there was another football game, & Gunborg didn’t want to go, so Gordon, who is feeling a bit better, asked Cec to go, and as it was a nice sunny afternoon and Michigan won this time 27-7, they had a nice time! I gave them a drink when they got back, and Gordon felt fine! Cec got dinner for me, as a treat, and later in the evening we went up to the drugstore and had another Treat- chocolate milk shake! Spoiled!

You were scolding me in your letter about not telling you Anne’s News, but blame her not me! She wrote & told me with great injunctions not to tell anyone etc. so when I wrote back I said could I tell you, & saved her letter to send you all the Cambridge gossip, but now that she writes & says yes to tell you, she has told you herself! Her last letter made me quite cross – I had written all about my job etc. as being my only news, & she wrote back and & said, “Your big news was not news I’m afraid- you’d mentioned it in 2 previous letters- 1 before getting it & 1 after”  but as she never answers my letters at all, how was I to know I’d told her! She has told you all the gossip, so I won’t bother to send her letter, but re. the various people – the man Marion Knight is marrying is someone she knew long ago at her home in Blackpool – I think it is nice, as she was a nice girl really & I think John would be O.K. if he had a proper home. Margot’s “Hep” is a funny mousy little man who used to come & see her at weekends & she would always return to him after having been engaged to other people etc.! Sheila’s Bob is a fellow she got to know in Cambridge when I was there & she went to the May Ball with him. He left that summer, & Sheila was on & off with him that winter, & it was supposed to be off when I left, as he was v. serious in intentions & Sheila wasn’t. However her intentions seem to be serious too, now! His photo looks nice, so I hope they’ll be happy- I sent Sheila a card.

I was sorry to hear about your missing Patsy’s boat & not getting to see her off- also not being able to give her the cloth. I hope she has a good trip and keeps her elegant figure till she meets Tony! Cec and I laughed like anything over Alex Hughes flying to Barbados & being so scared – he sounds a dope! And from what you tell me about his being so conceited and bossing Peggy around etc. the more I hear of him the less I like the sound of him. Did the other girls ever say anything to you about him? When you write about them all visiting each other etc. I can’t help thinking of when Peggy got engaged writing pathetically to Brenda “that of course she realized they would never receive her or Alec in their homes” but it doesn’t seem to matter out there much, does it? I was amused about Patsy saying to you & A. Moo about Jean fussing so & never being content – it seems that other people think as I do!

I must stop now & go & cook dinner. I’ll answer the rest of your letters & send it by sea, so that this won’t be too heavy! 

        Lots & lots & lots of love from Cynnie

[Cec’s Handwriting] Dear Mom,

Yes, we are planning on getting a brand new 2nd-hand car, so sometime! we may be able to drive down part way – Too bad you are on an island. Cyn is ever such an important executive now – no longer licks her own stamps. Bye for now. 

        Love Cec

[Then in pencil at the start of the letter, Cec writes: PS I just beat Cyn at cribbage & she’s sulking & crying same as she used to. Love Cec.

October 1 1950

Sunday. 1st October. 1950. 

Dearest Mummy, 

I still haven’t got around to that long letter answering yours, but I still intend to, so it will be coming! I got yours of the 18th on Monday, & was so pleased to get it & glad that you were having fun painting!

On thinking back, I remember that it is 1 1/2 weeks since I wrote last, as I meant to write again at the weekend, & then got caught up in ironing etc. instead! I also managed to write to Irene for her birthday & send a box of candy- it wasn’t a very original present but I was so horrified when Dottie wrote & told me that she’d had to pay £1 on the waist petticoat I’d sent her for her birthday, that I thought I’d better send something that had no duty on. I intended sending “Les Girls” nylons at Christmas, but I think I’d better ask them if they want them first.

Cec & I have had quite a busy week, & the time seems to have flown, but thinking back we don’t seem to have done much. Last Sat. we went to Mary & Arthur Dockerill’s & chatted & had a cup of tea etc. They have a flat on the top floor of a big house owned by an old Physics Prof. & it is atticy & rather like our Cambridge one, but they have their own shower– bathroom. It is nice although not so modern as this one. On the Sunday, Cec went down to the Kaufman’s & watched a baseball game on television. The K’s had also taken us to the Market on the Sat. morning & among other things we bought a lovely bunch of mauvy gladiolas & on the Sun. we walked over to the Sutherlands & gave them to Gunborg. She is very busy with the house- painting etc. & it really is looking very nice.

Mon. I ironed (also Sun!) & on Tues. Cec & I & Gunborg went to see “Sunset Boulevard” which was very good. It is a film with Gloria Swanson in it as a star of silent days & she acts very well in it – looks awful though, I think!

Wed. we did nothing, but on Thursday Cec & I had hardly arrived home after work, when Kirstin came & asked us to come up as her Mummy was ill, & they had no one to cook their dinner. She was on her bike, but we set off walking & arrived in about 20 mins. to find the kids finishing dinner which was already cooked & Gunborg had told Kirstin to ask us to come later! However, we sat down & ate the remains! Poor Gunborg had been sick & felt v. poorly, but got better, & we saw the girls to bed & left her to have a good sleep.

We went to a big Michigan University football game yesterday afternoon, but M. lost & we were v. disappointed as it was slow & not much fun. We played bridge with Cec’s friend from the Lab. Pete & his wife Mary Jo who used to take me shopping – it was fun.

Must stop now, but will try & write again this week. 

      Lots of love


Costain Genealogy #2

Elida Eakin Costain, 1st left.

It is the premise of this blog that in the twentieth century LETTERS kept a wide-flung family together.  Cynthia and the women of the family on the Hazell side did write letters and keep in touch with the day-to-day events of their lives, probably because they had done this in previous generations- the colonial outposts of the empire looked to England and the family was wealthy enough to have the leisure to write at length, and visit, even in different countries.  I’m not sure that this was true for farmer families in North America, who moved across the continent in the hopes of a better life for their children, and who lived in a different economic bracket. Elida Eakin was born in Nebraska but must have moved in the 1890s or 1900s, because she and her immediate family lived in Ponoka, Alberta, in Canada, where her first 3 children were born.  Her husband, Henry Costain, moved from Prince Edward Island where he had grown up, to the West before World War 1, and married and lived in Ponoka before moving his family to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 1920s.  Elida kept in touch with her immediate family in Ponoka, Henry with his, but the familiarity with the more extended members of his Costain family in P.E.I. was lost- something that wouldn’t have happened if he had continued living there and had bumped into distant cousins as one does in a small community.

I’m sure Elida wrote to and occasionally visited her sisters; my Auntie Merle did the same with her cousins but they were not as close as the Hazells were. The Costain children knew their aunts and uncles who visited occasionally, but not the P.E.I Costains.  The families were as large, but it was a different culture; a busier, more hard-working lifestyle; and letters were probably infrequent and concerned with the major events of life, rather than minutia.  Also keeping in touch seems to have been the business of the women of the family rather than the men- certainly Cec’s letters indicate this- I doubt he ever wrote much to his aunt or cousins.  Both Cyn’s parents were the youngest of 12 children, but on her father’s Ewing side, she seems to have been in touch with only 3 or 4, and a couple of cousins.  (There’s a distant Ewing cousin in Australia who visited Cyn and went to Ireland, and sorted out that genealogy- I assume some of Gordon’s generation, or earlier ones, moved to America and Australia- and she gave him the ‘Antique cup and saucer’ listed in her Wedding Present List as coming from Uncle Jim.) When you look at the wedding presents on Cyn’s list, there were gifts from aunts, uncles, and cousins- 9 Hazells, 6 Ewings, 2 Costains, and the 1 Eakin aunt.                                                                                                                                                    

So I know very little about the Eakin side of my father’s family, having only met one of his cousins, Evelyn Abbott.  This rough sketch is all I know of my grandmother’s family- any corrections welcome!  

September 21 1950

Thursday 21st Sept. 

Dearest Mummy,

I have been meaning to write ever since I got home, but I have been that busy, & even now I have decided just to write this Air Letter, & write a proper answer to your letters at the weekend. I have all sorts of letters to thank you for because I found a lovely swadge when I got home, & then got another nice one with snaps last weekend – thank you so much, honey bun. I have letters dated 15, 21, 29 Aug. & 5 & 12 Sept. so I’ll save them all to answer at the weekend & will bring you up to date with our news in this one, except that I want to tell you that I thought the snaps of Bequia were fun, but was only sorry there weren’t more with you in, & as you say they are blurry etc. which is a pity. But one of Patsy & Tessa is the best as you say, & in it Patsy looks just like Jean I thought & not a bit fat! I am most intrigued at her loss of weight & want you to sit right down & send me her diet!! Since my holiday I have been trying to diet – no potatoes, puddings, pies or cake – only 3 slices of bread a day- no sweets- no coca-cola or sweet drinks – I feel very virtuous, but can’t see any effects yet!

When I last wrote to you we were in Ottawa & I think I must have told you that we had planned to speed things up a bit & get back to A.A. on 10th-, as I had been worried all along about taking more than a month from work, & Cec thought he should be back too, so we stayed a day less with Merle & Lee & in Ottawa & then flew to Toronto on the Fri. & spent till Sunday with Cec’s Auntie & Uncle. They were very sweet to us & we went shopping on Sat. a.m. & Cec  bought a new navy Burberry & I got a new winter coat- dark red- quite plain, but with a chamois lining which will zip in & out- lovely & cosey warm! They have a big Exhibition in Toronto every year, so we all went on the Sat. night & saw a beautiful fireworks display as well as other things.

We arrived back in A.A. on Sun. afternoon & on Mon. I went to work- & what do you think? They had a great surprise for me – I am now in the permanent staff at the salary of $2260 a year! Isn’t that something? Cec & I feel so wealthy & so pleased we came back on time!

Our evenings have been busy because the Sutherlands moved into their new house on 15th, so we went along most evenings & helped them pack linen & china & stuff, then on Sat. after the move we went & helped them unpack. To complicate matters, Dr. S. flew to England on Sunday for a fortnight for a conference, so Gunborg is left to cope with things & is very disconsolate. The house still has painters & workmen etc. in, but will be lovely when finished – will tell you more about it later.

Have just been writing to Connie & Len – they sail on the 10th from Liverpool in the Empress of France, so will be in a tizzy now. Must stop- bedtime – Love to A. Moo & Les Girls! – Lots & lots for you 

        from Cyn & Cec 

[Cec’s handwriting] P.S. It’s past her bedtime- as usual. Love C3

September 7 1950

Thursday 7th Sept. 

Dearest Little Momma,

Here we are in Ottawa, and staying in an elegant hotel, the Lord Elgin, for a few days. Cec is fixing money with the Bank, & is seeing all the people he knows at the National Research Council. It is practically certain he will work for them when he finishes in Ann Arbor, & they have given him a $1500 scholarship for this year – isn’t that nice of them? Dr. Herzberg is the head of the Physics Dept & Cec used to work under him when they were both at Saskatchewan, & they seem to have a mutual esteem for each other!

I like Ottawa very much from what I’ve seen- it is a bit like an English city, but not so big & not dirty & smoky! The Parliament Buildings are lovely – all granite with green copper roofs & in a lovely position in parks on a hill overlooking the river. You can see the Laurentian Mountains in the distance, & the countryside looks pretty & wooded. I am quite excited at the thought of coming here to live next year & think it will be very nice. It is much more like home than Ann Arbor & Cec has quite a lot of young friends here already. Did I tell you Connie & Leonard were coming here next month? So they’ll still be here when we arrive to live! We have been looking at the House for Sale Ads in the paper, & they seem to be more reasonable than Ann Arbor & sounded nice! We got quite thrilled over picking out the ones we liked!

When I last wrote to you we were on our way to Regina to visit Merle. We arrived there on the Wed. evening, & found her with the 2 boys, John (10) & Lorne (7) & the baby Bruce (3 1/2 mths) all waiting for us. Dixon was away at the time & didn’t come back till the evening we were leaving which was a pity, but we enjoyed visiting with Merle. The 2 boys were full of fun & out playing most of the time, & the baby was a pet. He is chubby & full of smiles & Cec & I had a lot of fun with him. We left Regina at 2 a.m. & arrived in Montreal at 2 p.m. & went out to Lee & Wendy’s where Lee was very proudly waiting to show us her son. He was a pet too, but only two months old, so of course seemed small after Bruce, but I got quite hot at changing nappies, & feeding bottles & burping! Lee also has a cat & 2 kittens, so we were always nursing a baby or a kitten & had a lovely time. We stayed in Montreal from Sat. till Tues. a.m. then flew here – only 50 mins. but it was bumpy & I was sick! We leave tomorrow & stay in Toronto with Cec’s Aunt & Uncle & then home on Sunday – it will be quite nice to be home again. Some of your letters should be waiting for me as we didn’t get letters forwarded after we left Saskatoon. Have just written Aunt Ettie, to wish her a happy trip on Sat. 

My love to Auntie Moo, with 

    lots and lots for you from


Cec’s aunt and uncle, Lillie and Milton Costain, lived in the same bachelor apartment in Toronto all their married life. Milton was a partner in a business that made custom cabinetry for commercial enterprises.

August 30 1950

The Costain Brothers: Cec, Russell, and Carman.

30th Aug. 1950. 

Dearest Little Mommy,

Thank you so much for your last letter, posted August 25, which Gunborg forwarded to me. I was so glad to learn that Jean had a son – I had been telling Mom Costain about it just that morning, & was so tickled to open your letter & see the news first thing! I was most amused at serious Peter rushing around blowing his horn after the birth of his son! Give Jeanie my love when you see her again.

I was sorry to hear that it was so hot & humid in St. V. now – it must be very uncomfy. Since we got here the weather has improved, & although it was so cold at first, it is lovely now, because the sun is warm yet there is a cool breeze & it gets quite cold at night. Just after we arrived we heard on the radio about a big hurricane heading for the W.I’s & we at once thought of you but it seemed to head further north & we didn’t hear of it doing any great damage. I hope that St. V. will escape & that you won’t have any bad storms.

Since I last wrote we seem to have been busy dashing around & today is our last day here. At 7 o’clock this evening we fly to Regina and stay with Merle & Dixon until Saturday, then we fly overnight to Montreal. I wrote last Wed. then on Thurs. Cec & I went into town again & I bought a pretty skirt – it is in pastel colours – sort of plaid in yellow, grey & pale blue. We also had tea in town & had cream puffs made in the shape of swans!! On Friday, Mrs. Costain had invited Mr. & Mrs. Moor & Pete & Lu to dinner, so she had a busy day. Cec & I went out & picked strawberries- yummy! – & I shelled peas & scraped potatoes & set the table etc. We had fried chicken which was lovely & for dessert we had Saskatoon pie! Saskatoon’s are kind of berry like blueberries a bit, & it was a lovely pie! Afterwards Pete & Lu had to leave early & Cec went with Pete to the University to see the work he is doing on the Aurora – he does things with it and radar & spends all his nights there & Lu is disgusted! He is trying to get Cec interested too & Lu keeps warning me, but I don’t think Cec is very keen! We saw the Northern Lights one night, very bright & lovely, but the night Cec was with Pete, they only got echos from 500 miles away & he came home about 3 a.m. That night Russell (the 2nd youngest brother) came home for the weekend, but he was late, so I didn’t meet him till Sat. He is big too, & tough as he works on the Govt telephones, but he doesn’t look like Cec & Carmen & Lee – he is brown haired & brown eyed & has a shorter, squarer face with a ruddy complexion!

Carman and Russell in formal dress!

Mrs. Costain & I washed that day & in the afternoon we were all so upset because Laddie, the lovely collie dog got knocked over by a car. He came home feeling very sick with a great scar in his head, his ear bleeding, his nose and mouth bleeding too & looking so badly. Cec washed his cuts & we tried to do what we could but his nose after we’d cleaned the cuts on his nose and ear so Cec called the Vet. (a lady) & she came & examined him, & put some sulpha ointment on, & gave him 2 great aspirins, so he finally laid down & went to sleep. He seemed to feel a bit better the next day, & by now is practically himself again. He is such a sweet dog – very affectionate & gentle & friendly & lovely looking – just like Lassie Come Home.

Elida, Henry, Russell, Cec, Carman, and Laddie.

That evening Cec & I went down to the Officers Mess at the Naval Barracks & had quite a nice little party & singsong & spent the night at Pete & Lu’s. We came home for lunch & to see Russell, & then in the evening Cec had work to do with Pete, so I went & sat with Lu. The next evening one of the Profs at the Univ. Dr. Petrie, & his wife (a young couple) invited Cec & I & Pete & Lu over for drinks & yesterday we went to lunch with an older prof Dr. Mackay & his wife, & Cec gave a talk to the Physics Dept on his work & I did the ironing! So we have been busy! Yesterday evening we spent at home & all had a jolly time playing Chinese Chequers!

We have had a very happy time here, & I have enjoyed it all so much. At first I was a little shy, but the longer we stay the more at home I get, & I feel quite sorry that we are leaving now. After we go to Montreal, we spend about 3 days with Lee, then go to Ottawa for about 3 days, then to Toronto & home about the 12th. The railway strike is still on, so we are very lucky to have our air tickets.

Must stop now & get the packing done. Love to A. Moo – Cec would send love, but is downtown just now. Lots & lots of 

               love from


August 23 1950

Russell, Cyn, Carman, Elida, and Henry Costain. All smiling at Cec taking the picture!

Wed. 23rd Aug. 1950

Dearest Mummy,

Here we are in Saskatoon at last! We’ve been here nearly a week now, & the time has flown although we haven’t really been doing very much, except having a wonderful rest & being very lazy!

I wrote from Windsor, so you should have our news up till then – at least I hope you got the letter all right, as I hadn’t any idea of its weight or the cost, & just stuck on a whole lot of stamps & hoped for the best!

We got up early next morning & got the bus to the airport at 7:30. We were quite annoyed, because we went into the Hotel dining room at 7:15 for a cup of coffee, & they were so slow that it arrived just as we had to leave, but when we were on the plane, we got a cup of coffee & some biscuits, so we didn’t starve! We got to Toronto about 9, & had about an hour to wait there, so we had breakfast in the Airport Cafeteria & it filled in the time nicely. The next plane we got was the big trans-continental four-engine liner, & it was very comfortable, but very noisy. There was only one stop at Winnipeg, & when we came down there, my ears popped so, that I was as deaf as a post, but when we went up again I was O.K, so when we got to Saskatoon I chewed gum furiously & it was much better! We had lunch on the plane which was fun, & arrived in Saskatoon at 3:25 – it was really 5:25 by the time we left Windsor, as we lost 2 hours on the way! Understand?

Mr. & Mrs. Costain & Carman were all waiting for us with a taxi, so we were home quite quickly & I soon got over the qualms at meeting my in-laws, & we get on fine! Gunborg had made us laugh before we left by telling us how nervous she was when Gordon took her to meet her future in-laws, that she had diarrhoea all the time! But you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t follow her example! Mr. & Mrs. Costain are both easy & jolly & very homey, so I don’t have any trouble feeling shy with them, & Carmen is just a slighter, younger edition of Cec, so he is fun, & Cec & he have a good time kidding each other. The other brother, Russell is coming home this weekend, so we will meet him then. Everyone of course is exclaiming about Cec’s size, & I feel quite proud of my accomplishment! Cec gets a great kick out of meeting people & watching recognition slowly dawning on them, & they all say it suits him to be fat!! Of course no one knew me in my slim days, so they just think I’m a natural podge!!

Sutherland is about 3 miles out of Saskatoon & is really in the country. There seems to be a great deal of sky to me, & it is most unusual for me to be able to look & see such a huge lot of land around, as of course it is flat prairie. The city is nice, built along the banks of the river, & I keep feeling surprised that everything is so new, but Cec says the whole province was only opened in 1905, so the city is younger than that. I’ve never been in such a young city before!

When we arrived it was bright & sunny but quite a breeze blowing, which was a nice change from the heat of A. A., but Mrs. Costain was saying that it was the coolest summer she ever remembered, & the previous night they had quite a frost which had nipped quite a lot of her garden. Since then it has been cold & windy, & yesterday the wind got icy & last night there was another bad frost, so Mrs. Costain is very sad about her garden produce. She says it has finished all the corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans & squash, which is such a shame as they have a great big plot, with all the things just ready to ripen. We have already had lovely strawberries, raspberries, peas & green beans from the garden, & Mrs. Costain has been canning peas & beans & rasps & peaches, but she says it is just nothing compared to what they usually have.

The very first night we had gorgeous fried chicken & fresh eggs every day, so we are living in luxury! You will probably have heard that there is a big railway strike on here which began this week, & everyone is very worried because there will be no coal, so that will curtail electricity, & eventually food shortages & so on, but with all the chickens & eggs here, we don’t have to worry! We are very lucky to be travelling by plane & to have all our reservations as we would be stuck otherwise. We went down to the Air Office yesterday to check our reservations & the man there told us they were worth their weight in gold, because of course everyone is rushing to try & get air passages now & they are booked solid for a month ahead.

The first few days we were here we didn’t do much, except sit about & talk, but on Sat. afternoon Cec took me to town & I was tickled to bits because I went shopping at the Hudson Bay Company! It made me feel as if I were in the outposts of the Frozen North, but they have a nice modern shop here, & I bought a yellow cardigan made of nylon! Also a new suspender belt & brassiere!! We went to the pictures to see “Twelve O’clock High” with Gregory Peck, & then had ham & eggs & chips in a restaurant & went home!

On Monday we all went to dinner with Mr. & Mrs. Moor- they are Merle’s husband’s parents & a very nice old couple. We had a lovely dinner, & then Mrs. Moor showed us her garden which was very pretty, but I got eaten by mosquitos! I simply love the gardens here, as they are so lovely & well-kept, with a beautiful show of flowers, whereas in A.A. now there’s not a flower to be seen. In that way it is very like England here, & I enjoy it so much.

Yesterday morning Cec took me up to the university to meet some of his old professors. He, of course, had been up before but he introduced me to Dr. Harrington, the head of the Physics Dept. & two other Profs & I met Pete there & some other fellows. I also saw the Betatron which is a great big thing they have there & with which they are experimenting with in the treatment of cancer & meeting with some success.

In the afternoon we went downtown again, & Cec went to the Bank etc. & then we shopped for him & got 6 shirts, 6 prs. pants, 8 prs. socks & 2 ties! We were to go to Pete & Lu’s for dinner, but we were so exhausted soon after 4 by all our shopping, that we phoned Lu & went out there early! Their little girl, Leslie, is 10 months now, & is the sweetest little thing – red-gold hair, lovely pink cheeks, & big, slightly slanting blue eyes like her Daddy! She can stand & walk holding onto things, & has 2 teeth & says Dada, & Mama & Baby! We loved her & she was cute, but a little doubtful of Cec!

Leslie Forsyth.

We had a grand evening with them, with lots of reminiscing & with drinks before dinner we got quite hilarious & thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We are all going in a party to the Naval Barracks on Sat. evening, & expect to have fun – Cec was always telling me about the parties they used to have there! I have to let out my grey & yellow taffeta!!

Do you remember Cec talking about his lovely collie dog, Laddie? Well, he is just beautiful – so big yet as gentle & playful as anything, and of course just loves Carman, although he is devoted to the whole family. Carman has joined the Air Force Reserve this summer, so is away for classes etc. at the Airport each day except Sat & Sun. Mr. Costain is home though, as he is taking his holiday from the Hatchery which he manages, & is working amongst his chickens & garden all day.

Now for your letters – the first one was your last from Bequia & you were telling us about the hilarious party on your last evening & we thoroughly enjoyed it! Especially the bit about Uncle Fred emptying the flower vase of Bren etc. to get you a quiet audience for your song! I’m glad you kept up your reputation as a great singer – you’d probably have done even better though if you’d had 4 sherries! We were so glad that you had such fun though, & thoroughly enjoyed hearing all about your adventures, & the crazy ongoings!

We were pleased that you had a nice time on our wedding anniversary too, & had a nice sea bathe & drank our health! It seems an age ago now, as so much has happened lately. I was interested to hear about Alec going to N. Zealand & feel sorry for Peg that she can’t go too- I would be mad if I were her! But it’s a grand thing for him to be able to go. I’ll be interested to hear how Arthur’s job hunting goes & if they are going to stay out there. I wonder if Bren would really like to settle in England after such a luxurious life in St.V. – it sounds so wonderful, especially when you have children, but of course there are drawbacks.

I was amused to hear about Patsy’s diet sheet, & glad that it is having some effect- I’ll have to follow her example when I get back, but I don’t think my consumption of alcohohol can affect my weight much! I am sorry I didn’t get the typed copies of the paper you sent, done before I left home, but we had such a scramble, & I didn’t think you would want them in a hurry, so I will do them & send them off when I get home. I took the colour films to be printed, but they take quite a while, so I will have to send them when we get back as well – I look forward to seeing them. I had a letter from Dottie after her op. & she seems very cheerful & was going home next day, so I hope she will be all right. Poor Dottie – it sounded horrid & such a surprise too to find she had something like that. She said Pete had been better lately so that’s one good thing.

Was so glad to hear Auntie Mil’s house is so nice – I am longing to know if Jean has a son! I expect you will have written to tell me, but although Gunborg is forwarding letters, none have come yet. My love to Auntie Moo & the girls – with lots & lots for you 



[Cec’s hadwriting] 

Dear Mom,

Sorry to report Cyn went out like a light last night, tut-tut, I had to wake her to bring her home Lu was out as well & Pete & I had to do the dishes. Too much I guess, 

Love Cec.                        [Cyn:] Gross exaggeration! [Cec:]  oh yeah!

Costain Genealogy #1

The Costains emigrated to Canada from the Isle of Man sometime in the first two decades of the nineteenth century and settled in Prince Edward Island. My cousin Sharon Moor did a thoroughly researched family tree that runs to 248 pages in a PDF file that I find hard to navigate- if you know the name of the Costain you are looking for, no problem, but finding his father- I couldn’t. 

However: Thomas Costain married Jane Brydson in 1793 in the Isle of Man and they died in P.E.I.  John, Paul, Thomas, and Richard Costain were born in the Isle of Man but died in P.E.I. after marrying and having lots of children, so I assume they emigrated as a family, leaving a married sister behind and bringing the unmarried ones with them.  John married Isabel Leard, a P.E.I. girl, in 1823, the rest followed suit, and they all proceeded to populate the island.

A generation later, Job Costain married his first cousin Mary Costain in 1877 and they had 7 children, one of whom was my grandfather.  So that is where my amateur tree will start.

There was one other son, Stephen Darrell, born to Henry and Elida in 1937 with Down Syndrome, who died in infancy.

Henry Hudson Costain had grown up on a farm in Prince Edward Island, had gone to university but not taken his degree, and went west as a teacher. He married Elida Eakin, a teacher, and they started their family during the First World War. Henry’s brother Harry joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought overseas, being seriously wounded in 1918 and not returning to Canada until 1919. Henry and Elida moved from Ponoka, Alberta to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 1920s and farmed there- perhaps because that was where the provincial university was. Harry moved west also, and lived in Calgary.

Although the Depression was hard even on poultry farmers, Henry’s children were able to go to university- Merle got her B.A. before she married and later became a teacher. Lena became a nurse, and kept working during her marriage. Cecil got his B.Sc. and became involved with the new invention, radar, during the war, and served with the British Navy as a radar officer. His wartime letters home have been posted. He emerged as Lieutenant Commander and went back to the University of Saskatchewan for his M.Sc. and then got a Commonwealth Scholarship that sent him to Cambridge in England for his Ph.D. where he met and married Cynthia.

In 1950, he is still working on his Ph.D but at the University of Michigan, where his professor, Dr. Sutherland, has moved. Once he has his degree, he expects to be working in Ottawa at the National Research Council, and this holiday trip includes some ‘business’ he has to see to in Ottawa. His brother Russell is working in Saskatchewan, and expecting to get married soon, and the youngest Costain, Carman, is still at school-or university- and has classes during the summer with the Air Force Reserve.

Cyn and Cec will meet the first members of the next generation on this 1950 holiday- Merle’s 3 sons and Lee’s baby- and I will attempt the next part of this genealogy once I’ve been born, the brothers are married and all my cousins safely arrived in the 60s!

August 16 1950

Wed. 16th Aug. 1950.

Dearest Mummy,

Here we are in Canada! We arrived here this afternoon, after our usual Costain mad rush at the last minute, and now having got everything organized we are sitting back in our hotel room feeling that we are on our holidays!

  You will notice that we postponed our date of leaving, as Cec had some work to finish for Dr. S. and I was just as pleased as it gave me time to do everything I wanted to, instead of every other thing! I finished work on Friday, and since then I’ve washed & ironed all our clothes, mended them (!!!), cleaned the flat thoroughly including scrubbing all the floors, so I feel very virtuous now! I packed my case last night, & got all Cec’s things ready, but this morning what with washing up & cleaning the very last things out of the fridge etc. we had quite a scramble to be ready at 10:30 when Gunborg very kindly came & gave us a lift down to the bus depot. We got the bus into Detroit, which takes about 1 1/2 hrs, then took another bus through the tunnel under the river to Windsor. We had to get here before the banks closed to get our Canadian money, then we went to the Airline Office & payed for our tickets & at last had lunch & we were hungrey! We thought we would go to the pictures tonight to see “Kind Hearts & Coronets” which we missed in England, & then get to bed early, as we have to be ready to get the bus to the Airport at 6:30 a.m.! We go to Toronto, then change planes & arrive at Saskatoon at 3:25- isn’t it incredible, when it would take us nearly 3 days in the train.

I haven’t written to you properly since my Epic, although I did send a sea letter of funny things from Ann Arbor. In that time we got 2 letters from you, & thank you very much honey. I have them with me, & will answer them in this, or if I haven’t time, will answer them in my next from Saskatoon.

We don’t seem to have been doing very much but the time has flown, & of course I have been busy with my chores as usual. We had a grand day in Detroit with the Sutherlands, & I had lovely time. We drove there in their car arriving about noon, & as we hadn’t been able to book tickets for the Ball Game, we went to the stadium & found we’d have to go & get them at 6 in the evening. Gunborg & I were all for having a nice dinner but with having to go so early to the game, we decided instead to have a nice lunch, & we went to a very nice Swedish restaurant we had heard of, called the Stockholm. It was lovely & cool for which we were grateful as it was a sweltering day (I wore my new green suit) & we had an extremely nice lunch- there was a Smorgasbord first (a kind of hors d’oeuvres- all sorts of dishes hot & cold, set out on a big table, & you go & help yourselves) then steak, and I being adventurous had a peculiar dessert that wasn’t very nice, but I didn’t mind!

After lunch we left the S’s to go shopping, & Cec & I went & saw about our re-entry permits for coming back to the U.S. & then to the Airline & arranged about our tickets & paying in Canadian dollars etc. We had arranged to meet the S’s at 4 o’clock, & it was still early, so we went to the great big store, Hudsons, & shop gazed & didn’t buy a thing! We met the S’s, & they shopped a bit more, then we had tea & finally went out to the stadium. We had to queue till 6 o’clock, then dashed in & got tickets & tore up the ramps & got seats!

In no time for seats were all filled (unreserved) & the game didn’t begin until 8:30, so we had a long wait, but it wasn’t dull because all the players were out practising & we had our programs & picked out the ones we knew from the radio broadcast, & it was fun. We ate hotdogs & drank pop, & it didn’t really seem long to wait. The Ball Game was Fun! Detroit was playing the New York Yankees, & they are great rivals, so it was very exciting, & Detroit won! I stood up & yelled & got so excited right at the beginning that Cec was worried my voice wouldn’t last through the game – I had a lovely time & enjoyed it hugely & so did Cec. Gunborg didn’t think it was very thrilling, so we were a little bit disappointed in her! We got back to A.A. about midnight, & I felt very pleased with my nice day.

Jessie Forsyth came that weekend to say goodbye, as she was leaving. We won’t see her in Sask. as her home is in Medicine Hat, but we will see Pete & Lu.

Last week we were busy at the office, & one evening I even did 3 1/2 hrs. of typing at home for one of the men- got paid of course too! Then we suddenly got a card from Joan & Ray Appleyard saying they had been driving out West & were returning to Yale via Ann Arbor & hoped to see us on Thurs. So of course, we were tickled to bits, but they didn’t actually arrive till Friday mid-day. They look just exactly the same (Ray thinner) & had with them a couple Bid & Denis Manon with whom they used to play bridge in Cambridge & used to call the Porkers – I didn’t know them. They had been driving most of the night, & got lost, & the car broke down, so they were in a dirty, sleepy condition when they arrived. We all had lunch in town together, then Cec took Joan & Ray back to the flat while I went back to work. The Manons went to a hotel, but I asked them to dinner & we had quite a successful meal of steak with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, tossed salad & cantaloupe. We asked the S’s over for a drink afterwards & we had a very nice evening. Joan & Ray slept on our sitting room sofa which pulls out into a double bed, & said they slept very well, then after breakfast set out at about 8 o’clock to collect the Manons & go to Niagara & then back home. They are going to stay in Yale another year – they were both asking for you & sent their love.

We have been to the movie & are back & going to bed now. We didn’t see “Kind Hearts & Coronets” as it was a long way away, but went to see “Stage Fright” instead. It was quite good, but there was a stinker on with it, which we sat through to see the beginning of the other!!

Will write soon again from Saskatoon. 

     With lots & lots of love from us both

           Cyn & Cec

So Cyn and Cec were on holiday starting in Windsor, and there also in Windsor Ontario, was a red-haired 4-year-old boy who would grow up to marry their daughter!

Cyn may have been nervous about meeting her in-laws for the first time, but she also was interested in seeing more of Canada, going West, and then visiting more of Cec’s relatives, as well as their trip to Ottawa where they expected to be living in the future. And I’m sure the Costains liked her- Carman would spend a couple of summers living with them, and when Merle and Dix moved to Ontario in the 60s, the two families became close, and shared quite a few more holidays!

August 13 1950

I have already posted most of these photos that Cyn sent Carol to illustrate earlier letters when she was telling her mother about the events. She put the duplicates in her Scrapbook but unfortunately she didn’t copy the ones she thought were poor, so there are no pictures of Dr. Sutherland.

Sunday. Aug.13

Dearest Mummy,

This isn’t a proper letter. It’s just to send you some snaps & some other funny things to amuse you! The snaps are mostly of the Sutherlands, so that you can see what they are like, & I have numbered them on the back.

  1. This is Anne- the oldest one- & is good of her- taken in their back garden.
  2. This is little Mary & Gunborg, taken on their porch. The canvas screen behind is to keep the sun out on a hot day. It is good of them both I think, but Gunborg says it makes her look like the Crown Princess of Sweden- all nose & teeth! 
  3. This is the 3 girls – Kirsten on the left – it is cute of little Mary we think. 
  4. This is Gordon (Dr. S.- we have been told to call him Gordon) & Gunborg at their front door. It isn’t very good, but will give you some idea of how they look.
  5. This is me with Arthur & Mary Dockerill on the picnic we went with them. Notice our picnic basket prominently displayed! We took one with Cec on too, but forgot to turn it, & took a squirrel on top!
  6. This is our pet squirrel, Blossom, taking a cherry from me. We are on the Campus.
  7. This is Blossom again with a plum! He is halfway through it, but finds it rather heavy to hold! Isn’t he a pet?

I must stop now, as I am very busy! I have just done a Big Wash of all our things to go away, & we have just had tea. Now I must clear away & begin dinner. I have all the ironing to do, the floors to wash, the house to clean & the packing to do, before we leave on Tues. morning! I was just saying to Cec how nice it would be not to have to think of what to have for dinner for the next 4 weeks!

I have been meaning to tell you for a long time, that I went to Woolies to get you some rubber washers, but came away foiled! There were some like what we had in England, but they were for garden hoses, & had all different sized holes in the middle. The wash basin kind were different- like sort of rubber buttons. Anyway Cec said if you could send an old one, it would be the best thing.

The little map is to show you where we are flying on our holiday. From Windsor to Toronto, then to Saskatoon. We go from there to Regina by train, then fly from Regina back to Toronto, then to Ottawa, then to Montreal, then back to Toronto & Windsor.

With lots and lots of love