May 17 to June 3 1956

Immediately after finishing her last Air Form, Cyn started this letter to her mother, and then finished it 2 1/2 weeks later, in the middle of their road trip to Michigan for their holiday. But the complaints about the weather are completely in agreement with Mrs. Edmunds’ letters which have interrupted the Costain accounts! Events in the last 2 hectic weeks of May included Mother’s Day, with a card and a visit from Lila, when Linda got to wear her new yellow-and-white outfit just completed by her clever Mama.

Box 330. R.R.1
17th May. 1956

Dearest Mummy,
I just finished an A.L. to you but discover it isn’t very late yet, so I thought I would begin this now & it would encourage me to get on with it & get it done in good time to mail next week!
I told you that I’d give you more details of Jim & Lee’s house in this – actually their street & front entrance is not finished yet, so we came from another street & entered by the back so I feel a bit turned around, but I’ll try to draw you a vague plan! It is grey brick with black roof & has a nice lot with quite a few trees which will be lovely – they get the front landscaped for them, but have to do the back themselves. Lee’s sister Johnny (the nurse who lives in California now) is on holiday & staying with them for a month or so, which is very nice & a big help to Lee. She was away in Montreal when we were there, but we hope to see her when she gets back. Dougie is a big boy running around now, but still not talking – Charlie is quite taken with him! He is about 10 times as tough as Charlie as Barry treats him rough & knocks him about & he takes it all! Can you imagine my little plum blossom?!

I like the plan very much & it is all nicely arranged & finished, but the sitting room is small which is our only criticism. Of course with the dining room added on it makes it seem larger, but even so it isn’t very big.
On Sat. the Swiss Fellow, Kurt Dressler (the one who made the funny remark about enjoying himself much more than he thought he would!) is getting married. His bride has come from Switzerland & we all thought they would get married very quietly, but he has invited all the Spectroscopy Dept. & is having a reception in the Church Hall, so it is very exciting. The Church is over on the Drive way not far from Jim & Lee & when the latter offered to keep the children we accepted with delight as we had asked Mrs. Martin to come but they were most unenthusiastic! (Linda said she would play outside & Mrs. Martin must never come out!) Mrs. M. was quite pleased to get out of it as she is very busy, so we are all happy now! While we were over at Jim & Lee’s last Sat. we went to Simpson’s Sears new store & I got a new hat – white with a brim – flat – & a veil – quite pretty – & also a wedding present – a set of square plastic kitchen canisters – flour etc. (red & white) – you know. Of course with the weather I have quite a problem what to wear! So I have 3 outfits lined up
1) Beautiful warm sunny day. New greeny- yellow dress I made – new hat- white shoes gloves etc.
2) Mild but dull day. Harrod’s tussore dress (just washed & ironed it) new hat – white gloves – black shoes.
3) Cold lousy horrid day! Grey suit – new blouse I got for my birthday – new hat – white gloves – black shoes. Will let you know which one it turns out to be!

MacTavish [their ’46 Chrysler] is away this week getting his face lifted before we go back to his home town! Cec is having the engine overhauled before our trip & also having all the bumps fixed & having him painted (the same colour) so we are very excited to see him looking pretty & shiny again. Til & Lois will probably be utterly amazed to see we are still driving him, but we thought at least we could take him down looking his best.
There was such a terrible accident not far from here on Tuesday night. A jet plane crashed from 33,000 ft. down onto a Grey Nuns Convent used as a Rest Home. It is between here & Orleans, but not on the road we used to drive but on a side road off to the river. It happened at about 10:15 & of course the plane exploded & the building was immediately engulfed in flames. I went out to the kitchen at about 10:30 & glancing out of the window saw this huge blazing fire, but Cec & I couldn’t think where or what it was. It is so difficult to tell distances at night & it looked so big. It wasn’t till about 15 mins. later that all the fire engines began tearing past & the RCAF fire equipment & so on – there were all sorts of reports on the radio but at last they told what had happened. At first they reported as many as 50 killed, but next morning they announced 15 killed all together, including a priest & the 2 pilots. Seventeen of the nuns were saved, but seeing the terrible devastation of the building it is incredible that anyone got out at all. The dreadful thing is that there are fields all around the convent for miles.

A Long, Long Time Later
June 3. On Our Trip.

Road Trip!

Dearest Mummy – Didn’t I get lost off with this letter? The last 2 weeks before we left were so hectic that I just didn’t seem to have a minute even to finish it, so finally I brought it along with me & I am writing this in a Motel in Chatham (half way between Toronto & Windsor.) I got your nice long letter just before I left & hope you won’t worry when you don’t hear from me for a little while but expect you will know I was busy getting ready for the trip.
It has been such cold rainy weather that we are all wearing sweaters & coats & although I have our bags full of summer dresses I don’t know whether we’ll ever wear them! It rained all day today & I can hear the cars swishing by on the highway outside. We set out at 9 a.m. yesterday morning – a gray cool day – & drove to Peterborough (about 200 miles) to see the Haywoods who live there now. The children slept part of the way, but after they woke the road was quite bumpy for a bit & although I had Charlie in the front he said he felt funny & suddenly turned pale green & began to cry! We stopped & got out hastily & it did the trick – he had a little walk in the fresh air & a cookie & we went on in about 10 mins. time & he has been fine since, although of course we handle him with care!

We had lunch on the way & got to the Haywoods about 3:15 & had tea & a chat & stayed about 1 1/2 hrs. They like it there very much & all look well & happy. We then drove on to Toronto & got to a Motel not far from A. Lillie & U. Milton’s at about 7:30. We had dinner then & settled down for the night – rather a restless one! We had a big room with 2 double beds & one end as a sitting room, but of course the children were excited at all the strangeness. We tried to get them asleep & let us sit & read on the sofa, but of course they weren’t used to the light, so in the end we went to bed too, but I was up a dozen times I’m sure! They kicked each other & Charlie scratched his legs & Linda kicked him etc. etc.!!! This morning after breakfast we went to Auntie & Uncle’s & stayed & had an early lunch but both children were very tired & subdued! We set off again at noon & this time retraced our famous drive of Linda’s babyhood, but I can’t say I recalled any of the places!

We stopped here quite early – about 5:30 – as it was so rainy & miserable – & this time we have 2 adjoining rooms, which I hope will be better. We had dinner & put the children to bed & as this is a bigger bed we put pillows down the middle & they seem to be sound asleep now. I only hope they don’t call in the middle of the night or I have to dash out of one door & in at the other in the rain in my nightie!! We have only about 100 miles to do tomorrow so will get to Ann Arbour in the afternoon & will stay there till Thursday when we go to Toledo.

I spent the last week or so making Linda & me the dresses out of the material I got last year that you asked about. It is white with a little yellow dot & I have made us yellow jackets to go with them. Everyone thinks they look nice & I think so too, but this weather! It was cold for the wedding I told you about of course & I wore my grey (remodelled) suit, which I’m wearing now with a sweater & pleased to have it on!
I must stop now & go to bed – hoping it will be a quiet night! I’ll write again on the trip & tell you how we are doing.
Lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn.

MacTavish’s Travel Papers

June 4 1956

This is the third letter from Carol’s friend, who has lent her beach-side cottage to Carol so she can take her visiting sister for a local holiday to Villa which they knew from childhood, while Mrs Edmunds helps Lewis seek treatment in Toronto.

4/6/56 [but postmarked June 7th.]

My dear Carol,
Many thanks for your second letter of the 30th received the day before yesterday. It was so nice to hear you say how settled you feel already in Villa & that you & Trix are going to be happy there – it’s lovely for you having Fred’s car which will solve all the transport problems for you won’t it?
Thank you for being so kind to my Prince, & I’m sure he’ll be much happier now that you are there to fuss him – pussy too. At the moment Lewis plans on returning the first week in July – I’m sorry to say he’s not as well as he was on arrival & is somewhat depressed about himself – of course Carol quite between ourselves I don’t think there is anything the Doctors can do for him now – Glynn told me that a long time ago but saw how keen Lewis was on this trip to Canada & how much faith he had in this blood specialist here & hoped for a miracle, so said the best thing to do was to let him come. The Dr told me the same thing the last time I saw him & said he would give Lewis some treatment for the weakness of his legs, (which is getting worse!) but we didn’t tell Lewis this naturally, & I don’t want him to lose hope. I shall be very thankful to get Lewis safely home again – the responsibility weighs somewhat heavily at times, especially with the bad news of Glynn. After being without news since I left Villa I had a letter yesterday written from Hospital where he had had an internal operation 2 days ago! Another letter this morning saying he was still in Hospital & in pain but was hoping to be out in a few days time. I knew he was far from well when he went home & I only hope he will soon recover now & return to his old self.
I do hope you are making use of the radio and the piano? It’s sweet of you to bother to weed Carol, but please don’t work too hard – you’re supposed to be on holiday you know. You don’t mention your little dog so I presume you left her behind – what a pity – Prince would love to have her I know.
We’ve had all the seasons since we arrived here, weather unknown in Toronto for hundreds of years! June 1 & 2nd were bitterly cold, then some miserable wet days & now today we’re back to Summer again – I hope it stays now.
I’m still hoping to see Niagara Falls but I am dubious about taking Lewis – yet it would be too disappointing to miss seeing one of the world’s wonders.
With very kindest regards from Lewis to you both & with my love,

And here the story ends. If Cyn mentions Dorée Edmunds or Lewis in any future letters, we may find out some more details about their health- or Prince- but without Carol’s letters there is no closure. The only hint we get in Cyn’s summer letters is an offhand comment about the cook leaving- apparently Dorée’s ‘staff’ will be one short on her return!

May 2 1956

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

2nd May 1956
4th May.

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

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

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

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

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

April 20 1956

20th April. 1956.

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

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

April 10 1956

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

10th April 1956

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

April 9 2021

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

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

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

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

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

March 5 1956

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

Another Costain baby-boomer out west!

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

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

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

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

February 28 1956

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

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

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

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

February 19 1956

A reminder note about the family members mentioned in the letters of 1956. The previous letter referred to Lee, Wendell and Daryl Atchison. Lena was Cec’s second sister, older than he, and trained as a nurse. When Cyn first met them in 1948, they were living in a manse in small town Ontario, Wendell was the minister, and Lee worked as a nurse. Daryl is now 5, and after some family- and money- troubles, with Wendell being a salesman, he seems to have a new charge: they are now living in Carp, a village near Ottawa, and Lee is expecting a baby.
Cyn’s father had been hospitalized in Newcastle after his separation from Carol a couple of years before Cyn’s marriage, and remains in an institution. Carol and Cyn had lived in Cambridge where Cyn taught, and where Cec met her while getting his PhD. Now his youngest brother, Carman, who seems to be as brilliant as Cec, has also won a scholarship to Cambridge, (although in a slightly different field, radio astronomy) and has married Leona. The 23 year-old newly-weds are experiencing life in England, and had enjoyed a visit from Pete Forsyth, a friend of the Costains from Saskatoon, with whom Carman had worked the summer he lived with Cec and Cyn in Ottawa.

Box 330
R.R.1 Ottawa
19th Feb. 1956
Dearest Mummy,
I am sending you this funny “mixed bag” by sea. Cec promised to send you one of the re-prints of his last paper when they came out, so he brought this home a week or so ago & solemnly presented it to me to send to you! I hope that you are much, much wiser when you have read it through! I am also enclosing the letter of my Father’s which you asked me to return. I had a short note from him a little while ago saying he’d got the first Reader’s Digest & thanking for it. The other thing I’m sending is an article on the Queen’s visit to Cambridge which I found in a New Yorker. It is a very pedestrian account I think – you or I could have made it much more interesting! – but I quite enjoyed reading it & thought you might.

We heard from Peter Forsyth that he had seen Carman & Leona & then on Friday we had a letter from them. They seem to be getting on fine – Leona got her R.N. exam in Nov. & has a job 4 days a week at a Chronic Hospital not far from Chesterton Road. Carman is playing in the Ice Hockey Team & they are both enjoying life. Pete said Carman’s work was going very well & that they were pleased with him.

Note the score. Sigh.

Yesterday was snowing hard. I sat down with the Catalogues & the telephone & had a lovely morning’s shopping! Their spring sale is finished at the end of this month, so I ordered some materials which they had on sale – 2 yds. yellow broadcloth to make jackets for the sundresses I’m going to make of the white & yellow material I got last summer! 3 yds. gingham to make shorts for the children & maybe a little blouse for Linda; 3 yds. yellow orlon/nylon shantung (45 inches wide) to make a best summer dress for me! Aren’t I ambitious?! I also bought a hand embroidered pillowcase for June’s baby; a pair of frilly nylon rubber panties for Connie’s baby; & 2 prs. plastic panties with pictures on for Fanni’s baby. Also a pretty maternity smock for Ruth’s birthday! The latter is a “big” present – partly because Amy sends such generous (& expensive!) presents to the children & partly because I feel sorry for Ruth after Amy’s accounts of their poverty!! The smock is a summer one – sleeveless, of white cotton with a flower pattern, & has a nice little collar & bow & big patch pockets – I thought it might boost her morale!
I have just had a long, long chat with Lu [Forsyth] on the phone! We talked mostly about sewing & all our big plans for our future wardrobes! We were giggling wildly because Lu was talking of “sheaths” & “caftan coats” & all the latest ideas from Paris, and I was holding forth on my summer colour scheme being pale blue & yellow with black accessories & after our dearth of clothes during the last few years we had to be amused at our big ideas! But we are both enthusiastic & even if just 1/2 our plans are realized we should do pretty well!
I must stop now as I have to write to Auntie Muriel & do my accounts! Will write to you by airmail this week anyway, so you will get it long before you get this. Today Linda told me I was the prettiest of all the Sunday School teachers! Wasn’t that nice!
Hugs & kisses from the children & lots of love from us all-


Christmas 1955

This Christmas the family was healthy and happy and had invited two of their favourite ‘singles’ from the Lab- Lila, and Santiago, a Fellow from Spain- to come for dinner. Both of them were good with the children who were happy to show their loot off! I had the ironing board I had apparently been wanting, and a doll’s bed and linens made by Cec and Cyn, I think. The doll was hard plastic and she walked, and Charlie had a selection of mechanical vehicles including a train.

Cyn made lists, of course, so thank yous could be written, and Carol properly informed.

The neighbours were not on Cyn’s Present List but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d received jars of Cyn’s festive mincemeat!