Round Lake August 1953

Once they were home from the holidays, and had the pictures developed, Cyn made a booklet for her mother to show her cottage life. She put her own photos in the scrapbook, continued to write her mother letters, Carman went back home to university, Cec stared working hard, and Carol, on receipt of the pictures, pasted them all in her own photo album featuring her grandchildren! It was a memorable holiday all round.

Summer in England 1953

While Cyn was experiencing cottage country in Ontario, her friends in England were also on holiday with their children, and sent her pictures. Although some are wearing swimsuits as brief as the Costain children, somehow it looks a little bit colder. Dottie, Cyn, and Nan (Sandy’s mother) knew each other from Newcastle days, but I’m afraid I don’t know which Mary (and Alison) this is.

Dottie & Peter Burton with Sandy.

Christopher was born in. Ottawa but is in England here.

Anne Winnick and Cyn were colleagues teaching in Cambridge before their marriages, and I assume Rosemary is another. Janita is Anne’s daughter, and Rosemary has another Charles!

Nor do I know who these two are but they look sweet.

I’m sure all the children had a happy summer so long ago!

July 14 1953- By Sea Mail

Jumping on Daddy!

14th July

Dearest Mummy,

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

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

                            Lots of love, 

                                                  Cyn.

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

New Year’s Day 2021 and April 1953

A year ago in January I started posting these letters, a thing I had long been meaning to do, with the feeling that I had better get on with it or I would run out of time!  2020 was an unusual year, even- especially?- for those of us isolated on a small island, but working daily on this project gave me something to do, and, I hope, entertained some of you reading.  I have covered over half a century this past cyear, starting with the nineteenth century roots of Carol’s family, her stories and schooling, and then following her daughter Cynthia through her letters from the age of 14 to the war, travel, marriage, and immigration. Now I have come to the 50s which are described in much greater detail (and a concentration on babies) with perhaps much less action.  

2021’s letters will focus on my parents’ daily life in the Ottawa of the 1950s, bringing up 2 small children and interacting with friends and relations.  Some of the mundane details interested me- the furnace that had to be stoked daily with coke in the Ottawa winter: $200.00, as compared to the cost of a beef heart from the butcher: 25¢! But of equal interest, I think, is the personality of the writer, Cyn, as revealed by these letters to her mother- her humour, her self-awareness, her closeness to her mother, her happiness in the life she was living, and What a Good Mother she was! (I may be biased.) This 18 page epic is an entertaining start to what we all hope will be a happier year in our present, and readers of this blog are invited to follow the Costains through their (spoiler alert- happy!) life as my brother and I grow.

Make yourself a pot of tea- this will take a while.

31 Acacia Ave.

Tuesday. 14th April.

Dearest Mummy,

Here I am beginning that long letter I promised- it better not be too long or goodness knows when you would get it. As it is, I hope it won’t be too late for your birthday as it brings many many happy returns from all of us & lots of love and best wishes. I am sorry that my parcel isn’t even on its way let alone in time for your birthday but time seems to mean nothing to me just now & I get so little chance to shop.

I am sitting in solitary state in the breakfast nook in the kitchen as poor Cec has gone to bed with a horrid cold. He was getting it on Sunday when the Herzbergs came to tea & yesterday it was awful – all in his head & violent sneezes etc. so he stayed at home & slept most of the day. Today he got up & went to work, but when he got home he looked awful & just picked at his supper & he felt as if he had a temperature, so he went to bed straight afterwords & I hope a good night’s rest will make him feel better. It is such a shame as he has kept fairly well all winter, but this is a regular snorter. Lindy has had a cough for about 2 weeks now, but it doesn’t seem to get any better or any worse. This in-between weather is awkward – some days it is so hot & you let the furnace right down & the next day it is cold & wet & miserable. We have had some nice spring weather, but of course it is very changeable as yet. The grass is looking a bit green now, & there are buds on the trees, but so far spring hasn’t really burst upon us! We still have our nice park at the back- cross our fingers! – although there have been various men measuring around out there. We hear it is all sold now, but no definite news. The Grahams are to move at the end of this month, but as far as we know they haven’t got another house. They have looked at several around here apparently, but the last we heard they hadn’t bought or rented anything yet. I saw Mr. Labelle (our landlord) in there one day last week with his wife & three boys I think- one little fellow about Linda’s age – I wonder what it will be like when they move in. The Hughes, our other neighbors, have been in Florida for about the last 2 months I think- who wouldn’t sell washing machines!!

Since I wrote you last on Saturday nothing much has happened except Cec’s cold! He & Jim were a bit disappointed in the tennis on Sat. evening – not nearly as good as the games we saw in Ann Arbour with G. Gussie & Pauline Betts as well as the men. I got up on Sunday morning & went to 8 o’clock service at St. Margaret’s, & there were very few there, but Mr. Stuart took the service & was just the same as ever. I have always meant to tell you of the visit we had from the Rector of St. Bartholemew – that is the little church on McKay Street (opposite the Governor General’s residence) which you went to once. It was about noon on the 2nd day Charlie was in hospital that he came to see us, & he told us he’d seen Charlie’s name on the C. of E. list in the hospital. I don’t know if you remember seeing him in church, but he has a long pale, rather miserable face & was very difficult to talk to, but I thought it was nice of him to call & it was the first time any clergyman had taken any notice of us in Ottawa. Cec was home, so we talked a little while then the rectory said he must go & something about seeing us again, so I said oh yes – & that when Charlie came home we’d be wanting to have him christened, whereupon he began telling us about what to do if Charlie was going to die. Cec & I were so taken aback, because we were worried enough without instructions about getting the Dr. or a nurse to christen him if there was no time to call a clergyman. I suppose the man thought he was doing his duty, but it was most tactless to say the least, & as soon as he’d gone Cec & I decided that we weren’t going to ask him to christen Charlie. We will ask Mr. Stuart to christen Charlie, as he did Lindy I think & we thought we’d have it done after Easter now that the weather is better, but we have this other operation hanging over us & also we are a bit stuck for godparents! I said to Cec that calling him Charlie the obvious thing was to ask Amy & Charlie, but after our “words” before we left England I didn’t know if to or not, but Cec thinks they would be hurt if we didn’t ask them, & that as Amy has sent him a present anyway it won’t be like asking for more. I think what I’ll do is write to Amy & suggest it, but say that if she feels a grandchild & a godchild in the same year is too much to let me know & I’ll quite understand. For the other godfather we thought of Boris- of whom you’ve heard us talk. He is a bachelor & both Cec & I like him very much – also he is extremely clever & all set to be a brilliant scientist Cec thinks, so if Charlie is following in daddy’s footsteps a godparent like that might be nice! One thing is, we have no idea of Boris’ religion – he is of Jugo-Slavian extraction, but Cec doesn’t think he’s a Catholic, so we don’t know – anyway we may ask him & see what he says. It is difficult to find a man for a godfather-over here so many people are Methodists etc. who know nothing about god-parents. Talking of Boris, I am sorry you didn’t meet him – he isn’t very big & looks rather like Napoleon (only thinner!) but he is as easy & natural as can be & full of humour. Cec says he is quite irrepressible & “kids” Dr. Herzberg in a way no one else would dare, but Boris is so good humoured that no one minds. He has just been appointed to the “staff” at N.R.C. (only Alec Douglas, Cec & Don Ramsay on it before) & we are all so glad, as the “Fellows” are only here for 2 years & it is a shame to have nice people always leaving. Ruth & Keith, & Angie & Paul both leave this year – the latter has gotten very good job in California – Keith is still looking around. We had invited Angie & Paul to dinner tonight, but yesterday when Cec’s cold was so bad I phoned & postponed it to Thursday. I plan to make a chicken loaf which I saw in Mary Moores column in the paper – if it is good would you like the recipe? It sounds & should make the chicken go a long way! It’s a hot dish by the way, but she gave the recipe for a cold chicken loaf too if you want it. For dessert I’m going to have fruit cup as Paul doesn’t care for sweet things much & I’ve got a fresh pineapple, so that won’t be much trouble. Another recipe I wondered if you would like was the cheese slices I made for the Hallowe’en party- way back. They are served hot, but are easy & quite a nice change- Mrs. Herzberg loved them! Dr. H went for the chocolate mousse & orange cream!! He is a vegetarian, so I was careful to have a few non-meaty things like the cheese slices & he thoroughly enjoyed himself!!

On Sunday, by the way, our tea party went off quite well. I had egg sandwiches & cream cheese & tomato sandwiches & fruit cake & little angel cakes with whipped cream. I made Margie a fruit cake too, by the way, & then went to the pictures with her & forgot all about them & they sat on the kitchen table all night, so hers will probably be as dry as a bone! Linda was very shy of the Herzbergs – she is going through a very shy stage just now & is even a little tearful with strangers sometimes, but by the end of the visit she was all right & she behaved very nicely. They were most amused at her asking for “Tea now” after she had her juice! Charlie was awake when they came so we showed him off & he grinned & cooed & was on his best behaviour too. I had him dressed in the little white cotton rompers I got for Lindy (when I got the little navy skirt & white top- remember?) & Jean’s little green double-breasted jacket & he looked sweet & very manly! We weighed him on Saturday & he was 13 lbs. 2 oz. so he is gaining well – everyone says how big he is now & he is so friendly. He has quite a pink little fat face with his little pointy chin & his eyes are blue & his hair is a lighter brown than Lindy’s. Hers is just the colour of Cec’s now, but Charlie’s is getting fair. Lindy has been very pale during the winter, but I hope she’ll get rosy now she’s going out more. Her eyes are really lovely- long, long dark lashes & the iris of her eye is so:

& is most fascinating! She still sucks her fist when she is tired & it is making her top teeth crooked, but Dr. Billings says we can’t do anything about it at this age & when she begins playing with other children she will probably stop. Charlie, by the way, is such a little going concern & kicks so hard, that he makes holes in the toes of all his socks!! His knees got quite hard & scruffy too, but Cec & I have decided that may be a little eczema as he has a few little rough patches on his face. Everyone says he looks very like Cec, which I find difficult to see as he has such a broad little face or rather triangular where Cec’s is long, but I certainly think he has his nose- Lindy I’m not sure about- it may be like mine!!

Charlie has done very nicely for presents lately – Mrs Herzberg brought him a sweet pair of yellow cotton rompers with little white embroidered edging – wasn’t it nice of her? Margie gave him blue corduroy overalls, Lee a little brown suit, Dottie little red woollen trousers, Connie & Leonard a little hot water bottle, & Phyl Douglas rubber pants – what with all of those & Lindy’s cast offs he’s pretty well set up. 

Everyone keeps asking how Lindy gets on with the baby & really she is sweet with him & I don’t think resents or feels jealous of him at all. Of course there are times when he is fussy & she is tired & she gets a bit annoyed that we are paying too much attention to him, but she seems to mind Cec’s bothering on with Charlie more than me- I suppose she is used to seeing me feed him etc. She loves to kiss him & always asks for “Charlie – baby brother” when she wakes up. Now that he grabs & holds things she will stand by the pram & let him hold her hand & she is great at giving him his rattle- & then taking it away again! 

Once or twice she has tried pulling his hair or giving him a “bam” but it is in a purely experimental way – no malice behind it!- & she is amazed & worried when he cries! When he does cry she immediately wants to “la-la Charlie”! The routine is for me to sit with Lindy on my knee & I sing while Linda rocks the pram – we have quite a repertoire of songs “Lula-lula bye” “Charlie is my Darling” “Baa-baa black sheep” “Bobby Shafto” being the favourites! She is beginning to pretend that her dollies do the things Charlie does & when I am making the beds she puts Tommy (the sleepy boy doll Cec got her at Christmas) & Susie (the little one her Granny Costain sent her) to bed in Charlie’s little car bed which is up in our bedroom. She then announces “Tommy B.M. Mummy help change pants” & I have to pretend to change his pants etc. as I do with Charlie! Then Susie has a burp & we have to pat her back & then they’ll be sleeping & we have to ssh! & talk quietly & we have a very busy time!

As you can imagine, the “busy time” is right! Like to know what we do? 6 a.m. Feed Charlie- 15mins. – 30 mins. 7:15 Up & get Lindy up. 7:30 Get Dan up. Make breakfast for the men. Make sandwiches for Cec’s lunch. 8:15 Make Lindy’s & my breakfast. I have her little table beside the nook in the kitchen & she & I eat there – Cec & Dan & I never managed to eat at the same time anyway & I find it nicer to get theirs over with first & eat mine in peace. Lindy has 2 little glasses of milk, an egg, 1/4 slice bread & butter & sometimes fruit. Once in a while she has bacon & cornflakes & the egg for lunch. When we first come down she has a glass of juice- orange or apple or tomato. 8:30 Bye-bye Daddy- bye-bye Dan. 8:45 Stack dishes in the sink & go upstairs. Make all the beds, clean the wash basin etc. 10 o’clock Feed Charlie. Dress him & put him in the pram at the front door if it’s a nice day. He doesn’t like being outside much! However, he usually sleeps for an hour or so. I tried putting Linda out on a rope, but she gets so bored alone & fusses & cries for me & keeps Charlie awake, so I’ve more or less abandoned it & take her out in the afternoon instead. If I do put her out I get no work done with trotting to see how they’re getting on! If it isn’t nice weather, Charlie sleeps in the dining room with the windows open & the door shut. Cec has opened that other door into the kitchen from the passage, so we keep Charlie in the dining room & can shut him off entirely which is nice. 10:30 Juice for Lindy – coffee for Mummy! 10:45 Washing every other day- cleaning bedrooms & sitting rooms every other day. 12:0 Lunch for Linda. I wash the dishes as she eats. 12:30 Lindy to bed. 12:45 My lunch. 1:0 Formula to make & bottles to sterilize. 1:30 Charlie’s bath. 2:0 Charlie’s Feed. 2:30 Usually washing to hang out or cleaning to finish or baking to do. 3:0 Lindy wakes up. Dress her & give her juice & I have tea. Then all put coats on & take Charlie out. We sometimes go to the store or just a walk up the hill or out at the back & swing Lindy or play with the ball. 4:30 – 5 Back home. Cook the dinner. 5:30 Daddy comes home. 6.0 Charlie fed. Lindy’s bath. 6:30 – 7:0 Dinner. Then Lindy to bed. Clean up- wash dishes – collapse! That’s not taking into account the times Charlie cries & has to be “la-la”-ed; or when Linda only sleeps 1/2 hour instead of 2 1/2; or when the kitchen floor has to be scrubbed; or someone is coming to dinner & I have to get it all ready beforehand- busy, did I say?!! There’s ironing too of course, but I usually do that in the evening, as my time during the day is so interrupted. I am doing Cec’s shirts again now as the laundry was just ruining them, but I have been having diaper service all this time – however I think I will stop at the end of this week- the $2.00 a week is beginning to mount up & now Linda uses none, there aren’t terribly many. Claire, the cleaning woman, has been ill off & on,- has been here about 4 or 5 times altogether I think. At the moment she’s in hospital, but she is good when she comes & is getting the floors to look very nice. Phyl Douglas now tells me that she won’t be back till the end of May- woe is me!

Friday 24th April.

Well, this is a long time later, isn’t it? But as I told you in my A.M. since I began this we have all had colds & felt pretty lousy. They are the most virulent type- Cec was saying yesterday that he had felt well for the first time since he got his & although it is a week since poor little Lindy got hers she is still eating hardly anything & has a cold & cough. Mine is all in my head & makes me feel very heavy & listless & headachy, but thank goodness today my nose has stopped dripping! Yesterday I felt pretty miserable so I went to bed about 9 o’clock. Cec had met Les Haywood at NRC (remember he lives at Chalk River & his wife Joyce was at Margie’s when I got German measles?) & and he was in Ottawa for the day on business. Cec said if he was staying the night we could give him a bed & he was very grateful, so Cec & I got the one in the little room ready & I retired to bed & I didn’t meet Les until he appeared for breakfast this morning! He didn’t look at all as I expected him to, of course.

Angie & Paul came to dinner last Thurs. as I told you & we had a very pleasant evening. The chicken loaf was quite nice, but I wasn’t very thrilled! They said it was nice though. On Sat. evening we had Jim & Lee over with Lee’s sister Johnny & her friend Cass. Johnny & Cass are both nurses & work in Los Angeles. They have left their jobs – drove over here to Ottawa – are leaving their car with Jim & Lee & sail for Liverpool this week. They have ordered an English car which is waiting for them at L’pool & they drive to London – then take it to Rotterdam – drive through Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France & then back to tour England – about 3 months in all! Then sell the car – fly back here – drive back to California & get new jobs!! Isn’t that all exciting?! They miss the Coronation in England, but will see the decorations etc. so will see something. I was so interested in meeting Lee’s sister & was quite surprised- she is a little older than Lee I think & is a much quieter, gentler person than I expected. Her friend, Cass, is the talkative, vivacious one & Johnny kind of sits back. I was so disappointed as I had invited Rudolph (Swiss) & Chris (Danish) to come for the evening & meet the girls, so that they could talk about their trip a bit, but Rudolph’s landlady gave a bachelor party that evening & so they couldn’t come. Jim & Lee are very thrilled to have the car to use while the girls are away, as their old one is just on its last legs.

And now what do you think! We are going to have a visitor for the summer! Carman has got a job for the summer months at D.R.B. (where Pete Forsyth works) so is coming to stay with us. We are so pleased & I think it will be such fun having him – he is very like Cec in many ways & I think we will all have a good time together. He is 21 this month & is taking his final exams for his degree at the moment, then in Sept. he will go back to University to begin studying for his M.A.- he seems to be just about following in Cec’s footsteps- interested in the same work & so on. The place he will be working here is way out the other side of town, so he will have quite a trip each day, but Cec thinks he may be able to get a lift, so it may not be so bad. He’s probably coming early next month, but we don’t know the exact date yet – in his letter he made us laugh – he was telling us he’d given up smoking & then said “so I now have only one vice left & she is much too nice to give up”!! 

We will put him in the little room that was yours. Les slept on the “couch-bed” last night & said it was very comfy, so I hope Carman will survive! Unopened out it is quite narrow for a single bed, but it will open into about a 3/4 size double bed, so if he finds it too small we can open it – although it then nearly fills the room! We had planned to get a little chest of drawers for Charlie so will get it now & put it in there for Carman to use in the meanwhile. How we wish we could turn out our dear friend Dan & let Carman have his room!! However, we decided that we really do need his money at the moment as we don’t want Carman to give us anything, but to save his money for his next year’s fees. Cec feels that he would like to do at least that to help Carman as he himself got such a lot of help with his Veteran’s money & scholarships etc. & it is such a long, hard grind to get a Ph.D. & I think that it would be nice for us to do what we can too.

Re: Dan- he is still an absolute pain in the neck!! We would love to get rid of him, but with his working practically in Cec’s lap all day it would cause a lot of unpleasantness if we did & certainly we couldn’t take anyone else. He pays his rent regularly anyway, & it does help a bit- I was very amused at you & Nellie B. calculating whether I would make a profit on his breakfasts or not – you used W.I. prices as far as I could make out – anyway you figured eggs & bacon much dearer than they are here & it did make it look as if I was going to lose on the deal, but I don’t think I do – in fact, I know I don’t! You’ll be glad to hear that Cec & he only get one egg each day except on Sundays!! However Linda now has one of course, but I still just get $25.00 a week housekeeping & that includes Charlie’s milk & he has cereal, veg & fruit too now & Lindy still has baby tinned fruits although otherwise she has the same as us. I also paid the $2 a week for diaper service out of that & any cleaning, but when Claire came & I paid her $5.00 at a time I had to get extra for that. Of course now & then when we entertain a lot or I get behind I have to have extra you know, but on the whole I still manage on what I got when you were here. Dan’s $10.00 a month for breakfasts is my pocket money & I also get $5.00 for Charlie (Family Allowance from the Gov’t – so far they haven’t given us Lindy’s- still fussing about her being a U.S. citizen!) So I buy oddments for the children & birthday presents etc. out of that. Our finances on the whole are doing pretty well considering the expenses we have paid lately. During the last 4 months we have paid about $300.00 in doctor, dentist & hospital bills – & of course Cec’s insurance paid practically all Charlie’s hospital & most of his operation expenses as well as the major part of the maternity bill, so you can imagine what a fix we would have been in if we hadn’t had the insurance. We still owe some money to Cec’s Life Insurance Co.- we borrowed from them in the Fall & paid off all we owed on the washing machine, furniture etc. as the rates on those were so high 15% or more- whereas the insurance company only charges us about 2% on the loan & we can pay it back when we like. Our other big expense this winter has been coke of course- a bit over $200.00, but we soon won’t need the furnace anymore. Cec’s Dad sold the ring for us in Saskatoon, so our bank balance is quite nice & healthy, but with Charlie’s other operation hanging over us we want to keep it like that, so that we can meet the expenses when they come.  We had thought too, that it might be nice if we could get away to a lake for perhaps a week this summer for a little holiday. It would be fun to get Lindy used to the water & would be a nice change for us all, but again we don’t want to decide until Charlie has got his op. over. We mentioned a holiday to Lee & Jim & we all thought it might be nice to go together & Lindy would love to be with Barry I know. She talks all the time about him & Lee & Jim – she is always telling about her & Barry having dinner together at Barry’s little table & having a joke! This was the the last time we went over there to dinner & she & Barry giggled all through dinner together! Then she says “Lindy wee-weed Barry’s potty” very proudly, because we were so pleased that she did wee-wee in a strange potty!

To return to Dan after this big digression, he continues to be just as tactless and dumb as ever. For instance, on Sunday we all had breakfast late & Lindy was pretty sick in bed with her cold. Well, he went into the sitting room to drink his coffee & stayed there till after 3 in the afternoon. He lay back on the sofa with his feet up on the cushions & read & slept & smoked & just took possession of the place. I can go in there & begin cleaning the room & sweeping & mopping & he’ll just lift his feet so I can mop underneath! It never seems to dawn on him that we’d like the place to ourselves & it’s always when one or other of us is ill & we are worried or busy that he comes & plants himself down for the longest time. It can’t be that he wants company as we just clear out & leave him alone! I wish so much that I were like some people- Winnie for instance! – who could just bustle in & say brightly “Come on Dan, if you want to sleep, go & sleep in your own room!” or something like that, but both Cec & I get so wild at him now that we just say nothing for fear our dislike will show in our voices! He is better in the evening now which is one thing & hardly ever strolls in on us as he used to do.

The birthday party was The End! He asked Cec & me one day whether he could have a small party the next week- it was his birthday. So, with slight misgivings we said all right, although I knew it would mean a bit extra work for me, but we felt we’d either have to say “no” which would be bit mean, or if we said “yes” we’d have to co-operate & help. So we told him he could have it in our sitting room (less noisy for the children than people going upstairs, anyway!) & I suggested that he should have snacks like cheese crisps, potato chips etc. & that I’d make coffee later on, but that I didn’t really have time to make sandwiches etc. So he said oh no, & was very grateful & said he do all the washing up. I shopped & got all the snacks for him (he paid me) & made cream cheese dip for the chips & put them all out- got out glasses etc. & made him a birthday cake as our “present”. I made a big white cake & iced it in pale blue with 26 white candles & silver balls spelling “Dan” in the middle. We had given him birthday cards at breakfast, & when he came in after work I showed him the cake & he was quite taken a back & so grateful it was embarrassing – “hadn’t had a birthday cake since he was about 3” etc.! I set the coffee & cake in the dining room for later & then Cec & I retired upstairs & left him to receive his guests & what do you think? He’d told them all that it was his birthday, so everyone felt they had to bring him something! Did you ever hear of anything so childish?! He had Alec & Phyl, & Boris, Rudolph & Chris from the Lab. & then a girl he dates sometimes & another couple he knew in Oxford (a French-Canadian who married an English girl there) were coming later. With us that made 11. Well – everything went smoothly – he’d bought whisky & we all drank highballs & chatted & were having quite a pleasant time. No one was drinking much you know-the drinks were long & anyway none of the fellows are hard drinkers – when suddenly (I was sitting by the fireplace) I noticed Dan ambling down the passage & up to the bathroom. He came back after while, & then off he went again. I had been waiting for this other couple to appear before making coffee, but when he came down again he came & said would I make it, so I went to the kitchen & put it on & then I took a good look at him & he was as drunk as a coot! Well! In the time it took for the coffee to perk he was up & down to the bathroom being sick & hanging over the kitchen sink with his girlfriend in attendance until everyone knew what was going on. The other couple arrived & he managed to bring them in & introduce them, then we went into the dining room for coffee. Cec lit the cake candles & Alec blew them out! We then sang “Happy Birthday” with the birthday boy being sick in the kitchen sink. He ambled in & managed to cut the cake & I served it & gave out coffee while he retired once more, so he never even had a bite of the beautiful cake. Afterwards we all went back to the sitting room & in a little while the girlfriend came for Cec & he took him upstairs & put him to bed. The guests then began to leave & we showed them out & everyone thanked us for a lovely evening! Cec had had enough to drink that he thought it was rather funny, but I was just mad at him. First of all, to do that when he was the host, then to do it in our house & last of all that an Englishman in front of Canadian, Swiss, Danes etc. had to make such a fool of himself! Then of course Cec & I had all the clearing up to do. Cec fed Charlie & I stacked dishes & glasses etc. & we finally got to bed about 2:30.

Well if the evening was embarrassing the next morning was worse! He was so ashamed & abased & looked so repulsive I couldn’t bear to look at him- he kept making inane remarks like “It was a bad show” etc. & Cec & I just didn’t reply. He offered to stay home from work & do the dishes but I wanted him out of the house, so I spent the day doing them & clearing up & boiling with rage! Can you credit anyone so stupid? Cec says that he just mustn’t be able to drink, but I think he probably took a swig of neat whisky each time he mixed drinks for people- it’s just the kind of fool thing he would do. Of course I phoned Phyl & we had a good gab about it, but Cec says no one at work has ever mentioned it!

Now to more pleasant subjects! Your last long letter was so nice – I enjoyed hearing about the garden – the fernery & the grapefruit trees etc. You & A. Moo certainly work hard in the garden, but it must be so nice for you to get such rewards for your labours after toiling for so long in poor soil & cold climates. That reminds me (gardens!) we have just heard that the Grahams have bought a house right over the other side of town off Carling Ave. (near Jim & Lee’s). They move at the end of this month & we can hear them cleaning & moving stuff around – wonder if we will be doing the same this time next year? Cec thinks so – Mr. L. mentioned relatives.

You mention in your letter about Tessa still not talking properly – well Lindy is correcting all those round-the-wrong-way words I told you about & really speaks very well now. Her word “Bagoo” for pillow which she always insisted on is even forgotten sometimes now & she says “pillow” very carefully! She can add the last word on each line of lots of nursery rhymes now, but she has to be in the mood for it or she won’t play! She loves to be read to- Dottie sent her “Peter Rabbit” & “Benjamin Bunny” by Beatrix Potter & she likes those best, but Cec got her “The Three Bears” the other day & she loves that too. It has “The Three Little Kittens who lost their Mittens” also & Lindy says “Ki’ns – lost their Mi’ns”! & shakes her head sadly! She has about a dozen books now & takes great care of them- I mend them as pages drop out with wear, but she hardly ever tears them & if she does it is an accident. We have a big illustrated book of birds from the Book Club & this is a big favourite- she can point out: flamingo, swan, cardinal, owl, crane, puffin, robin & lots of others & tell you their names. Clever, isn’t she?!! The little baskets are still great favourites, but rather battered! They are very brittle & she has accidentally squashed a few & they have broken. She dropped the “tiny wan’s” lid in her potty one day by accident & although Cec grabbed it out & washed it at once, the poor little thing just about disintegrated- powerful fluid! You were writing about Charlie and Linda’s comparative heights & weights – I don’t think those last measurements at the clinic were very accurate. I have to take him soon again & will let you know, but certainly now he looks a big boy. He arches his back & heaves himself up on his head & his heels & can travel quite a distance!

I am so glad that the little kitty is so sweet & that the old cat is fond of it. We would love to have one but are waiting till the children are older. Do you remember that cat the Earls had nearby? (It is in one of Lindy’s colour pictures.) Well, recently it has appeared- in the winter I hardly saw it – and it is just terrible! Emaciated, gaunt, mangy, limping- pathetic, but just horrid & I hate for it to get anywhere near Linda. I keep trying to chase it away when we are outside & wish to goodness they would do something about it.

You are asked in your letter whether I hear from my Father still. I think I have just had one letter this year – he didn’t mention anything about Charlie’s name. His letters are all about religion now mostly & I think he finds it tiresome to write. I’m afraid I haven’t written much but I haven’t written to anyone really. I have 2 little parcels packed to send to him now but haven’t been able to get out of the house for 2 weeks now, but will mail them at the weekend. I also have parcels already to mail to Anne & Ruth- late birthday! I sent Ruth a “Dr. Spock” & card at her birthday & told her I would send a present when I could get out shopping. I got both her & Anne waist petticoats – in crinkle cotton with a lacy frill round the bottom & thought as they were cotton they wouldn’t have to pay duty. Both Anne & Ruth sent me b. cards – no presents! – but I don’t mind. Did I tell you Dottie sent me a pair of panties & Nan a pretty black and gold necklace & a hankie? About Ruth’s baby, I wrote to Harrods Baby Dept. & asked them if they had play tables like Lindy’s. They wrote back “no” but I’ll ask Ruth what she’d like I think & send it from there.

I am most amused at you & Jean having apparently made up your mind that I am becoming Household Drudge No. 1. & beseeching me to a) buy new clothes b) take care of my skin & c) not let myself go! I can’t imagine why you should think I would suddenly fall into a middle-age slump & as to a) I am buying one or two things, but we are still hard up & paying bills seems pretty important too. b) I never did even when I had lots of time so, believe me, I’m not finding time now & c) I can still get into my trousseau dresses, so after nearly 4 years & 2 babies I don’t think that’s bad.

All my shopping lately has been done from Eaton’s immense Catalogue & I have been having quite a lot of fun. My trips to town are so infrequent & I’m usually in a hurry & it’s crowded on a Sat. & I get things without being really satisfied with them. With Eaton’s, I pour over the catalogue & can decide exactly how much money I’ll spend & can make my mind up at leisure, then I just phone for the things & so far I’ve been very satisfied. I got Lindy a darling tiny pair of blue jeans! She looks so sweet in them – they have to have the legs folded up at the bottom, but they are so useful & handy for pulling up & down quickly – not like overalls. I also got her little white cotton panties, socks, a blue cotton T-shirt, a dear little green gabardine jacket with elastic around the waist & a zip front to wear outside to play in this kind of weather. It has a warm plaid lining & to wear with it I’m getting her another pair of little plaid trousers & white wool beret with a pom-pom! 

Also from Eaton’s I got a very nice pair of sheets & some small terry hand towels for the kitchen & for me a pair of “farmerette overalls”! They are navy blue – rather like dungarees & Cec laughs at me in them & asks when I’m going to milk the cows, but they are very handy! I also got a little fine blue & white checked suit (in rayon). Do you remember one Lee had last summer? Well this is the same type- has a pressed-in-pleated skirt & a short bolero jacket with 3/4 sleeves & white collar & cuffs (piqué- detachable). I got the white nylon blouse for my birthday from Cec to wear with it. I’m going to get a nice cotton dress & maybe one or two house dresses later, but will wait till the weather is warmer & more inviting. All this month has been cold & wet – even snow- so miserable. It is the 30th today & I’m just finishing this off & we will take it to the post. Cec & I were just saying that this time last year we were busy moving in- now the Graham’s are moving out. Remember how the lily-of-the-valley was just coming out? Well this year, April has been so cold & dull, there are only a few little green spears sticking up & they are not nearly out. Lindy is just about better now- just a little cough & my cold is quite gone, so we are going to go to Mr. Dube’s P.O.- our first outing for ages! The sun is out but it is still quite chilly. Charlie & Lindy send great big hugs & XXXs with lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn

36th side!

P.S. Your letter to Lindy with the ribbon & pussy bib came yesterday & Lindy sends lots of thank yous to Grannie. I must admit that she has commandeered the bib at the moment but Charlie doesn’t mind & usually just wears a Kleenex under his chin! I will wean Lindy away from it by the time he’s ready to wear it. Thank you so much – it is so cute. XXX from Cyn.

It cost 60¢ to mail!

March 4 1953

Wed. 4th March

Dearest Mummy,

Last weekend was the weekend I had intended to write you a long letter- instead I got nothing done & ended up feeling exhausted! The reason being Lea & Darryl coming to stay! We had heard from Cec’s mother around Christmas that Wendell had gone to Europe & Lea & Darryl were staying with his people in Cornwall (between here & Montreal). Then at Christmas we had just a short note from Lea with a book for Lindy, so we knew very little until last month we got another note from Lea saying she might come up with Darryl on the weekend of the 28th. We rang up the previous Sunday & in the meanwhile Lea had heard from her mother of little Charlie’s troubles & Darryl had had ‘flu so she had told them at the hospital that she wouldn’t take the time off, but when we told her it would be o.k. she said that she would see about it & let us know.

In the meanwhile Margie had been offering to baby sit for us & give us a chance to go to a film or something as of course we haven’t been out at all for so long, so before it got too close to her “date” we arranged for her to come on Friday [which was the 27th Feb.] & we were going to see a British film “Breaking the Sound Barrier”. I was quite excited about it as I hadn’t seen a film since about October I think- and then! We had just finished dinner & in walked Lea & Darryl! I could literally have howled & wept! Apart from not letting us know she’d said the 28th in the first place & as well as being so disappointed I had an absolutely bare cupboard! I was going to do a big shopping on Sat. & had only about four eggs & no bacon even, let alone anything else. Cec went down to the corner store & got bacon & I phoned Margie to cancel the arrangements & of course we got organized gradually, but it was a shock to my system! We opened out the day bed (which we bought when we bought the desk etc. after you left & I re-covered) in “your” little room, which I had fortunately cleaned & tidied last week (it has been a junk room since we fixed up Dan’s) & they slept there. I felt very sorry for Lea – she is in a very bad state of nerves with continual headaches etc. & is working full-time at the Hospital. Wendell is in Italy, leaving her with debts to pay off & money to send to him, while she lives with his people. Since he left, his father has had a stroke & although not paralyzed has trouble with words etc. so has to retire with a v. small pension. Apparently the mother is a possessive type- Wendell can do no wrong, business – & is the same with Darryl, & Lea longs to go home to Sask. but she opposes it- wasting money which sh’ld go to Wendell! Altogether it is a very miserable state of affairs & poor Lea is all tensed up – she nags at Darryl all the time & as he doesn’t go to bed till 10 or after they were long days & Cec & I were fair wore out. I am very sorry for the little boy, but he is dreadful- is kept shut in one small room all the time apparently, so was into everything here & is so used to being nagged at took absolutely no notice of whatever his Mother said. He took every toy Lindy touched away from her & made no attempt to play with her. Now Lindy has adopted the possessive attitude herself & everything is “Dindy’s”! Dindy’s bow-wow – Dindy’s car – Dindy’s bed etc.! By the way, she is trained. She has been wearing little panties for over a week now & tells me when she wants to “wee-wee on the potty”! Her conversation is full of it- embarrassing at times! Cec puts her on the potty when he goes to bed & she is dry through the night too. I did just as Dr. Spock says on p. 137 (192)- he does not say you sh’d start at 7- 9 months, & I think this way was fine. Must stop xxx from Lindy & Charlie & lots of love from us all- Cyn.

Just a note about Lea, Cec’s second sister, and  her husband Wendell.  He was an ordained minister and so when he had a job, the family lived in the manse in the town wherever his charge was.  He had a very fine voice, and from what I can remember, he had a chance to get training in Italy which he had always wanted, so this explains why he has given up his job and is in Europe and why Lea and Darryl (who must have been just 3) had to move in with her in-laws. Lea, as a trained nurse, was able to get a position wherever they lived, but these circumstances were hardly ideal. 

Crisis

As I said at the beginning of this project, when writing to one’s beloved mother, the writer wants her mother to be happy, so all troubles (colds, $$$, lodgers, broken-down cars) are lightly passed over and intimate problems (loneliness, depression) not shared- although Cyn did describe her aggravations and adventures and made them amusing.  It follows, then, that when actual crises occur, Cyn is telling Carol after the event when the crisis has passed, and of course the letter takes at least a week to get to her.  Only a happy event like a birth gets a telegram sent to the West Indies!

This is certainly true of January 1953. When the baby Charlie was a month old, he became quite ill and required emergency surgery, was hospitalized for a while, and Cyn had to stop breastfeeding him, which made her suffer severely too. While the Costain household must have been upset, starting with the doctor’s visit to the house (!!) and a drive to the hospital at once (Ottawa winter, snow, hospital across town, reluctant MacTavish- the doctor drove Cyn and the baby, and Cec followed once the car started), with emergency baby-sitting by the lodger, and a midnight operation; all followed by a special nurse for the first night, daily hospital visits, worries, money concerns, etc., letters went off to St. Vincent without a word about what they were going through- instead, the Christmas present list, and then a local clipping, and Linda’s vocabulary!- until two weeks later when Cyn sits down and explains what happened in an Air Mail in such frank detail that I am not including the letter! After that, there are only Air Letter forms for months, as Charlie came home from the hospital with flu caught from another sick baby and kindly shared it with the household, and required constant sterilized bottles and the making up of formula- such a curse, Cyn told her mother. Crisis over, daily life resumed, mother reassured as the letters continued through the winter describing the children and their behaviour, and how the curtains are finally being put up. 

And Carol notes on the next letter about vomiting children “Things to tell Cyn- about Peter, about Margs, about African violets” so it is clear that she isn’t very worried and normal communication has resumed!

Christmas 1952

There were two events to be celebrated. The first was the birth of the baby, and a son at that, so that now they had one of each. Congratulations-such as ‘Clever girl’ on the telegram from her 5 Newcastle friends; best wishes; plants; and chocolates arrived at the hospital for Cyn.

When she and Charlie came home from hospital, and Cec and Linda returned from their stay at the Ganders, the Costains celebrated Christmas a bit late, and Cyn later sent her mother the usual list of the loot!

Cec, Cyn, & Lindy’s Christmas Presents 1952

From:

Grannie.    You know!

Gunborg.   Blanket holders– they are green plastic ducks & their beaks open on a spring & hold the blanket & then there are ribbons attached to tie it to the top of the crib. (We don’t need these now- she keeps under the covers nicely)

                   Coloured wooden toy shaped like this [see above] There are coloured wooden rings to fit over the post & she loves putting them on and off.

Dan.           “Stripey to the Rescue”-a nice little book but a bit old for her, so I have put it away.

                   Wooden Build – a -Train – this is a dear little train which takes apart & puts together very simply & with big pieces. Linda quite can’t quite manage the building yet, so she can “unbuild” it very successfully! She pushes it along and says “Woo-hoo” like trains here do!

Amy etc.    3 woolie jackets for Charlie- all the same pattern as the ones she sent before – two little blue ones & one bigger white one with a blue edging. A white lamb for Lindy. She is quite fond of it but prefers her old pink bunny & the Teddy Dottie sent her – but on the whole she doesn’t bother with that kind of toy much.

Connie & LeonardA scarf for Lindy – very nice & soft & warm – camel hair coloured.                      Illustrated for us – a year’s subscription I presume & am I embarrassed as we only sent a card!

Mrs. AllanHankies for Lindy- they are done up so cutely to look like a little folded umbrella.

Jessie & NormanPanties for me – very pretty white ones with frills! 

                    Diary for Cec. 

                    Dress, cardigan & toys for Linda! The dress is a sweet little white silk one & fits her nicely now. It is quite plain except for a little embroidery on the skirt & has a little round colour & buttons down the front. The cardigan is just lovely – the prettiest one I’ve seen.

It is white with pale pastel pink, blue & green knitted in every few rows like those jumpers Anne made for me ages ago. It is a bit big which is nice too. The toys are really a little young for her but will come in nicely for Charlie- a rattle like a bird in a cage & a pink plastic phone which is a rattle two & a comb & ring in pink to match.

Miss Lefroy – “Animal ABC” for Lindy & a little book for me.

Irene – Diary for me.

            Tie for Cec– dark red & gold – a bit startling I think but not too bad & Cec is wearing it!               

Bib for Charlie. 

            Blue sandals for Lindy. These are rather sweet little things made of kind of plastic material but unfortunately are too small for her. She got so mad when we couldn’t get them on & tried to take them away – she howled & demanded them back & kept trying to put them on, so we had to make them disappear! Hope she will have forgotten them by the time Charlie gets them!

Nan.      Play Balls– this is a clever toy to0- a stick on a stand & hollow coloured plastic balls which thread on it. This is a bit like Gunborg’s but more difficult so I put it away for a rainy day! Nan said in the letter that my present was coming with a little one for Charlie, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Granny & Grandpa Costain – Socks for Cec- nylon. 

              Gloves for me – very pretty white wool ones with a tiny bit of red embroidery with pearls! Writing paper for me too. 

              Panties for Linda – very sweet little pink ones with embroidery! Did I tell you Granny C. had also sent her a pair of white overalls to match her white corduroy coat & a sweet little lace trimmed bonnet? Two little bonnets really-  a tiny one for the baby.

Margie, Cy etc.Cigarettes for Cec. 

             Chocolates for me (in hospital)

             Blocks for Linda – these are hollow square ones with pictures on, that fit inside each other.   

Rattle for Charlie.

Mrs. BurroughPlant for me (in hospital)-pretty African violet.

DottieMagazines for me- Vogue- Ladies Home Journal etc. 

              “One Upmanship” for Cec- a funny book 

               “Peter Rabbit” Hankie, Toothbrush Apron for Linda. Lindy just loves “Peter Rabbit”- she calls him “Petey” & he & “Baa-Baa” are her two favourites & I’m afraid are getting a little worn looking!! The apron is a little big, but sweet.

After 68 years, it is a little worn!

 Auntie Muriel–  Calendar for us all.

Bar–     Brooch for me- pretty & small

            Golliwog for Lindy- just tiny (about 4”) and made of pipe cleaners- has a red & yellow coat.

Til & LoisPetticoat for Linda – so sweet & grown-up – white silk with lace edge & shoulder straps!!    

Tile & ashtray for us a greeny-yellow pottery. Cec & I think they are rather horrid, but apparently C’Zelma does them & sells them.

Lu, Pete,etc. Panties for Lindy – just like Granny C’s but white! 

                     Notepaper for me. 

                     Crackles for Charlie.

Phyl DouglasNotes for me (in hospital)

A Trix–       White baby jacket for Charlie – very nice – a bit big & in fact Linda has been wearing it although the sleeves are short!

Lea, Wendy etc.- “Mother Goose”– a nice little nursery rhyme book with pretty pictures.

Mary & Bill StuartDress & panties for Linda. These are really lovely- handmade by Mary of pale blue, white-dotted Dayella with white smocking – just right in size- maybe a little big.

Daddy & Lindy to Mummy.

                 Sweater – long sleeved, buttoned down the front- dark red with tiny white pearl buttons & very nice. 

                 Nylons– goody-goody! 

                 Slippers– I got these early to go into hospital. They are black quilted satin & are both elegant & lovely & comfy. 

                Cutting out scissors– a lovely pair from Singer’s.

                Pulley Cec made for me in the basement. Did I tell you about it? He made it & fixed it up all as a surprise for me while I was in the hospital – wasn’t it perfectly sweet of him?

Mummy & Linda to Daddy

                Cigarettes box of 50 

                “Murder Must Advertise” 

                 Wool scarf (grey)               These were surprises!

                 2 Shirts- u.shorts & 3 prs socks he had to have & we got together!

Daddy &  Mummy to Lindy – 

                Cleaning Set – Cec got this while I was in H. It is just cute- a little mop, carpet sweeper, broom, dustpan, hand mop & duster – also a tiny apron – so that she can help me clean! She loves them & carpet sweeps with great energy!

                 Rubber car with Donald Duck in.   

                 Blocks made of wood with alphabet & pictures on. 

                 Doggie playing a little xylophone which pulls along on a string and goes “plink-plonk”! She gets a lot of fun out of this & is just beginning to get the idea of pulling – she much preferred to push things at first but will do both now. 

                 Dolly – a cloth doll with a rubber head about 1 1/2 feet long – it is a boy doll in blue pyjamas & she has him in bed with her. Before Christmas she seemed crazy for “babies” but now she seems to like her wooden toys more. [I always thought, after I started reading Dr. Spock at the age of 8 or so, that this doll, Tommy, was psychological genius on my parents’ part. Tommy was about the size of my brother, so not only did I now have cleaning tools to help my mother, I also had a baby to dress and cuddle and put to bed.]

                 Musical book – this is a musical box in the form of a book with the story & pictures in the front. We chose “Mary had a little lamb” & think it is lovely- Lindy is a bit doubtful! she can’t quite turn the handle yet.

Lee, Jim, & BarryWooden toy to pull – it has a little bell & tinkles as she pulls it.

I think that is all! Aren’t we all lucky? Particularly our little daughter! Poor little Charlie didn’t get anything from Mummy and Daddy you’ll notice, but we’ll make up for it later!

October 3 1952

3rd Oct. 1952

Dearest Mummy,

Thank you so much for 2 letters- postmarked 24th & 30th- the latter just came today. I’m afraid my last letter must’ve missed you at A. Trixie’s – I was all confused with the days & dates & thought it might catch you, but I was wrong. By the time you get this you’ll be all settled at Noyack again & I am sure that it will feel good to get unpacked and out of suitcases again. I hope that all the new dresses are a success & A. Moo likes them- I am sure that she will be so glad to have you back. Cec & I were most intrigued to know all the details on Jack & Jean from your letter & glad that the mystery is cleared up! I am very happy that they will be getting married at Christmas & hope all will go well. Cec nearly died laughing at your remarks re. Owen being paralyzed “somewhere else”&  we hope that Jacko will eventually prove that he’s not and produce a couple of grand-daughters for A. Trix! I was glad to hear that Marion is recovering, despite the terrible time she has had- how thankful they must be to the Polish Dr. after the callousness & carelessness of the other.

Before I go on to our doings, I have a confession to make- your box of clothes hasn’t gone yet, & that isn’t all – I have also lost or thrown away the list of things you wanted me to get & include in the parcel, so will you send me another list quickly & I will get the things & send it as soon as I can. Now that Lindy is all over & into things my corner of recipe books & writing things in the nook is great fun for her & I’m always finding them strewn around, so my letters get somewhat mixed up!

I don’t think I had room to tell you in my last letter that Pete & Lu Forsyth & little Leslie had arrived in Ottawa. They were staying in a hotel until their apt. was ready on Oct. 1 & Lou was thoroughly enjoying the rest. The polio had been very bad in Saskatoon, so Lu decided to keep Leslie away from children for a week to make sure she wasn’t carrying infection, so Cec & I went down on the Wed. evening & had a drink with them in the hotel. Then last Sunday, when the week was up, they came to tea & brought Leslie. I had invited Jim & Lee & Barry as they are going to be close neighbours in the same apts. but Jim was ill (tummy flu) & they couldn’t come. However Pete & Lu asked if they could bring an old Sask. friend & her son-in-law who was staying in the hotel so we had quite a lot anyway. Leslie was very shy & didn’t play with Linda much but as usual Lindy was full of fun & mischief!

On the Sat. morning I went to town (1st shopping trip since you left!) & bought a lamp & rug for the bed-sit. room & some material. The lamp is cream, the rug a delphinium blue twisted loop (cotton) & the material is a sort of Indian pattern – a tan background with blue on it. Bill’s blanket doesn’t cover the whole bed to the floor, so I have made a pleated frill to cover the box spring part in the coloured material, then put the navy cover over the mattress. I have made a cover for the pillow of the material too, & it looks very nice I think.

 Cec has fixed the desk beautifully & has the ch. of. dr. all sanded down to bare wood & the old nursery chair all taken apart & partly scraped. We have put one one of our ch. of. drs. in, in the meanwhile & the room looks really lovely – fresh & bright & cozy. An English fellow from Oxford at the Lab. for a year came to see it tonight & is coming in sometime- has to give notice at his present digs. He seems quite nice & harmless – just wants breakfasts.

I went to the Dr. on Monday & everything is fine – must watch my weight though – woe is me! Phyl Douglas had a boy (8 1/2 lbs) on 1st Oct. so maybe we will follow suit!! Lindy is sweet & good as ever – the hour (summertime) came on last Sun. so she is waking earlier this week, but is good & plays till I get up. Will tell you more of her in my next. She is wearing Winnie & Denis’ white boots now!! They fit nicely, & looked so huge before! 

                          xxx from Lindy & lots of love from us all- Cyn

As I said in my very first post, it was wondering about the polio scares of the 1950s that started me reading my mother’s letters to my grandmother. This letter contains the first mention of polio that I’ve come across, and it is posted while we are quarantining in the year 2020, hoping for a vaccine…

August 28 1952

28th Aug. 1952.

Dearest Mummy,

I have been meaning to write all week but as usual we have been in a tizzy, & last night which was to be devoted to letter writing I only managed to write to Ruth & Amy I thought I had better get that done as the wedding is a week today – isn’t it incredible? Did you hear that the parcels had arrived safely except for one “porridge plate”? So I can replace that easily & Ruth seems delighted with them.

Ruth Stainthorpe had been Cyn’s bridesmaid, and her father, Dr. Stainthorpe, had given her away.

Thank you so much for your letter & also Lindy’s present, cards & cable. She had a lovely birthday – actually spread out onto Sat. too, as we hadn’t time to shop on the weekend Mill & Ford were here, so we decided to just give her a card & book on the day & take her shopping on Sat. a.m. We gave her all her cards at breakfast time & she thoroughly enjoyed looking at them all & so did we & laughed & laughed over the “potty” one, as that was to be one of our presents to her. We had talked about a “party” & decided against it, as we hadn’t seen Karen & Jennifer for ages & anyway thought Lindy would be really happier & less confused just alone with her presents. I made her a cake with pink icing, but I’m damned if I could find Amy’s candle & holder! I searched high & low & turned out all the drawers, but in the end I stuck some toothpicks in the middle & hope they look like a candle in the snap! We didn’t either eat the cake or take pictures till Sunday as the end of last week was so cold & we couldn’t sit outside. I got quite worried as Lindy had no winter clothes yet, but this week it is broiling- over 90° today & the mosquitoes are worse or as bad as they ever were. We can’t go on the grass at all & Lindy is smeared with 6.12 & still gets bitten. To return to her birthday – Cec came home early & we had great fun & opened all her presents. She loves her red shoes and after a struggle to get them on she was most intrigued! Of course she likes to play with them & chew them more than wear them, but on those cold days I was very glad to have them for her to wear as the floor was cold. She didn’t walk or do anything extraordinary on her birthday, but was a sweet happy baby all the time. As far as I can tell she seems just about the same as when you left & does nothing new, but probably you would see a change.

On Sat. after her nap we took her downtown & went to Frieman’s toy department. We got her some “Building Beakers” made by the same people who made the “Crackles”. They are bright plastic cups (12) which fit into each other & then turned upside down have a rim & can build on each other too. We went & looked at feeding dishes & they were $8- we nearly collapsed! So we went to that Baby Shop on Dalhousie St. where we got her harness & got a wooden toidy seat, a blue pot, a pr. of plastic pants, & a lovely little dish there. The dish is china with three compartments & in each compartment are pictures of pretty little coloured dogs, cats, bunnies etc.! The outside is chromium & holds the hot water & it is very nice we think. Linda likes it too & has been eating well. I am just thrilled with my daughter because on Mon. I cut out her early bottle (she never wakes till after 7 now & never seems to really need it) & after breakfast took her to the bathroom & put her on her little seat. She was slightly alarmed but very amused at my grunts & then amazed at the results when she grunted too!! She has performed each morning since, so see! – no trouble if you leave it long enough!!

On Sat p.m. we began to shop around for furniture for a spare room & went to a few places with ads. in the paper. We ended at a bachelor’s flat- he was selling everything & going into a furnished place & also worked at the Council & – hold your breath- we bought a desk, armchair, chesterfield, chest of drawers & daybed!! He is in no hurry for the money so we are paying him on time! The desk (oak – old, but nice), ch. of dr. (old & we will refinish) are for the front room – the daybed is just a small metal frame with thin cotton mattress & cover, will go in “your” room, & sleeps 2 people in an emergency- the ch’field & chair (about 1 yr. old- dark red-) are for the sitting room & the other chair will go upstairs. It all came this morning & we feel very pleased with ourselves & just full of furniture!! We hope to let the room early next month, so will get it fixed this weekend – it should look very nice, I think. Have all sorts of other things to tell you- Lindy’s other presents & cards- what we’ve been doing & answering your letter, but have no room & it is time for lunch anyway, so will write later in the week. My love to everyone & a hug from Lindy- please thank Auntie Trix for her share of the cable. 

                          Lots & lots of love from

                                                      Cyn.

The spate of weddings that suddenly appeared in the Costains’ lives in the summer of 1952 is a subtle reminder that now they are part of the older generation- been there, done that, have a baby with another on the way.  Cyn had worked as a teacher for ten years, throughout the war and after, and although Cec had just finished with university, he had been an older student at Cambridge and Michigan, with his war years as a naval officer behind him.  Now they are established with a permanent job, and the younger ones are getting married- Cyn’s bridesmaid, Ruth Stainthorpe, Keith Innes from the NRC, and then Al McNamara, Cec’s friend from university at home. Cec and Cyn are becoming part of the stable community at the NRC, staying there, looking for a permanent house, nurturing their growing families, entertaining and helping each other, as the younger post-doctorate fellows come- for 2 years- and go.  So this summer, as well as preparing for weddings, they are getting ready for a lodger to help with expenses from among the new arrivals.