August 1949: Meanwhile, back at the the ranch..

While the newlyweds had their honeymoon, life went on among their friends and relations. Carol, the mother of the bride, had sent her choice of wedding photos to the groom’s family in Canada the week after the wedding. The Costains in Saskatoon made sure the news was spread, with quite a lot of biographical detail!

The Anglican Church at Chesterton, England, was the scene of a pretty wedding July 26 when Cynthia Hazell Ewing, daughter of Mrs. J. M. Ewing of Cambridge, England, became the bride of Lt.-Cmdr. Cecil Clifford Costain of Sutherland, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Costain. A reception was held in the Dorothy Cafe at Cambridge, the young couple leaving later for a honeymoon in Paris and Cannes. They will reside at 37 Freville Avenue, Cambridge.

The groom is a distinguished graduate in physics from the University of Saskatchewan, winner of an Empire scholarship and is now attending the University of Cambridge, England. For three and a half years during the war he served in the British Navy with the rank of lieutenant-commander and was in command of the radar squad on The Indomitable, winning the Distinguished Service Cross.

The bride was born in the West Indies, of English parents, and spent most of her life in England, with a year in Toledo, Ohio, as an exchange teacher.

They will return to Canada early in 1950, afterwards going to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for further graduate studies.

Cyn’s close childhood friend Denis was preoccupied with his own wedding two weeks after hers, and none of those invited above were able to attend, Cec and Cyn being in France and Carol packing up for London. But wedding presents and photographs were exchanged.

Denis and Dorothy Sheedy

And a week after that, in Newcastle, Cyn’s other childhood friend, Nan, had her baby and sent an announcement.

Nan and Dick Heslop’s son was called Sandy.

August 12 1949

Le Grand Hotel


le 12th Aug. 1949.

Dearest Mummy,

Since we got down here we have been as lazy as can be & have done nothing except sleep, eat, drink & totter down to the beach to bathe!  We have a ground-floor room in an annex of the hotel, which is quite comfortable, but it is warmer than the weather we’re used to!

It is gloriously sunny, but we burn so easily that we are trying to keep out of it as much as possible & sit under umbrellas on the beach etc. The sea is lovely & we bathe twice usually & Cec ducks me regularly & says that as we sweat so much, swallowing salt water is good for me! We bought me a snappy white satin bathing suit with a strapless top. After various adventures in the water with the top practically around my waist, I have decided that it must be for glamorous sunbathing only!

The journey from Paris to Avignon took 10 hours & was very hot & dirty, so we were very glad to stay there for 2 nights & recover. Then we travelled down here on Sunday, which took 5 hours & was nice as we arrived about 4 o’clock & felt fine. We don’t eat in the hotel, except breakfast, so have fun choosing a different place each day – Cec laughs because whatever I order turns out to be the hugest helping of anyone in the restaurant & I have a struggle to eat it – but usually manage!

We leave here on 16th & travel overnight & have decided to stay a day or so in Paris. We expect to be in London on the night of the 19th & will ring you, but know no times yet. I wonder if you would write Mrs. Thompson, Mummy & ask her to get milk & bread for us on Saturday 20th- we hope to get back in time for me to go shopping otherwise. 

[In Cec’s handwriting:] The suit is actually transparent when wet, I’m surprised at her – but not much. 


        Cyn & Cec

August 1 1949

As Carol said, Cec and Cyn rushed off on their honeymoon, presumably because they didn’t want to miss their train, but didn’t get farther than London for a few days. They went to a Skating Show, perhaps the first of many they would see throughout the years! 

Cyn says in her letter that crossing the Channel was fine and they enjoy Paris.  They plan to go south, Avignon, Le Corniche D’Or, Cannes- some of the same places that Cec had been the summer before on his bicycling trip, but with a lot more luxury.  But nowhere does Cyn give her mother an address, although Cec had carefully booked in advance.

Hotel Messina 

Rue Trouchet 



Dearest Mummy,

We sent you a P. C. from the top of the Eiffel Tower today, but I am drying my hair while to Cec snoozes so I thought I’d tell you our doings. I hope that you haven’t had the horridest time getting everything fixed & that you are all packed up & ready to go to Miss Lefroy’s now. We can hardly believe that it is Bank Holiday today & that we haven’t been married a week yet. Tomorrow, for our anniversary, we are going to a night club!

We had a nice time in London, & a very pleasant crossing. The French train was hot, but as we crossed Newhaven– Dieppe it was a longer sea & shorter rail journey. Our Paris hotel is cute. We have a nice room & bathroom & the chambermaid looks on us as being a great joke & speaks very simple French at us! The weather has been wonderful, but rather too hot at times for sightseeing. We seem to have walked miles, but we are getting a bit better on the Metro, so have saved our feet a bit today.

The hotel is just by the Madeleine, so we have seen that & have walked down the Rue de la Paix & the Champs Élysées. We went & saw Notre Dame & the Louvre & the Jardin des Tuileries & the Arc de Triomphe & today went up the Tower & then to Les Invalides. Our first morning we window shopped & went through the Galleries Lafayette & gazed at all the lovely things. My husband bought me a darling little evening bag & I was pleased!

We are having a wonderful time eating & drinking! We have breakfast brought to our room in the hotel- tea & rolls. Then we have a huge lunch about 12, then we either have tea or lemonade in a café, or we buy gorgeous cakes & eat them in our room & finally have a huge dinner with wine in the evening. It’s wonderful! We have weighed ourselves & are going to do it again on the way home!

I will stop now as I want to try & get some more of my thank-yous written – still trying!

Cec and I think married life is nice– we like it!

With lots & lots of love 





P.S. Love to Miss Lefroy & Miss Hall.

P.P.S. You have a wonderful daughter, Mum.


Cyn’s menus!

Halfway through Carol’s unsent letter, she started responding to this letter from Cyn, which was posted the day after the British Bank Holiday, on Tuesday August 2, 1949. There were machines at railway stations, and perhaps on the Metro, where you could put in a coin, stand on the machine, and get a printout of your weight.  Cyn and Cec did this, at the beginning and end of their honeymoon, and Cyn carefully saved the evidence and pasted it into her scrapbook.  Both of them definitely gained weight!  

River Cruise.

I remember meeting my father in Paris at Eastertime when I was 22: he had a conference there, and I was spending a year at a university in England. I agreed with my mother, the hotel was cute- open elevators with doors you had to shut, such as I had seen in movies- I did some sight seeing and went to the Paris Opera, but what I most clearly remember and enjoyed, was the food!  I ate Sole Meuniere in every restaurant, and his French colleagues were happy I appreciated it, even though I preferred tea to coffee.  I did not, however, get to any night clubs with bare-breasted ladies or can-can dancers- Cec had done that with better company…

Love Letters

When I began this blog posting the letters of a daughter to a mother, I suggested that nothing very harrowing or emotional would be revealed in them, because no daughter wants to upset her mother living far away in time and distance, unable to console, comfort or rejoice in the moment.  An event may be described, it is certainly personal, but it is in the past, and has been survived, and the telling of it is reassuring in to both writer and reader.  When I got t0 Cec’s war letters home, I realized this was true of sons as well, especially of events the Admiralty frowned upon sharing. I discovered, however, that other letters crept in, and occasionally were of the moment and emotional.  Carol’s letter to her husband as she was on the point of leaving him, was harrowing.  And love letters are intensely personal and emotional.  They are intended to be read by only one person and I feel a little guilty about sharing them with the world, but they are part of the story. These two notes, treasured by her, were found in one of the slots of Cyn’s writing case.

Cyn and Cec got engaged at the beginning of March 1949, and planned and booked their wedding for July 26th, 1949, at 2:30.  The March letter suggests the wedding invitations had already been sent out, and Cec’s friends in England were responding to them.

11 Park St.


March 23, 1949

My Darling, 

Here I am back home, with no chance to see you. I got a telegram yesterday to tell me to come back for a dinner in honour of Dr. Sutherland on his F.R.S. So I came back, went to the dinner at K.P at 7:30 & then onto Sutherlands till 12:30. It was great fun at times, but my cold had just reached its climax (I hope) & I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I was hoping I would be able to slip away early & come & see you, sweetheart, but I didn’t get the opportunity.

I hope you didn’t have the same germs as I did, Cyn, the little —— were at work inside my nose with pickaxes.  Also, I missed the licensing hours & couldn’t get any medicine. However, I am on the mend now & should be OK by Friday.

I’ll miss most of today – Wed. in Baldock, but it’s not much loss since they are having a big official “visitors day” & will be overrun by boffins.

I had a letter from Cliff asking us to stay with them for a day or so.  He says “It will mean of course, your sleeping on the floor (unless it is two single beds in the back bedroom!) but I know you won’t mind this, will you?” I’m not sure which it is he thinks I won’t mind!!

I miss you, Cyn darling.  It’s awful spending a week away from you. But it’s only 17 weeks yesterday! Then I won’t have to leave you again.

I also heard from Al Bryce. He said when he saw the writing on the envelope he said to himself “There goes Cec!”.  He said I seemed to have that “subdued self satisfied look” about me a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t think my self-satisfied look was quite so obvious, darling. Al is sailing on July 26, darling mine, so I think it would be nice for us to get over for a visit at Easter.

Must catch my train to Baldock, lover, so I’ll say goodbye till Friday. 

    I love you,


This crumpled note with mystery columns of addition on it was obviously written by Cec on the morning of his wedding day, and refers to the tradition that the groom mustn’t see the bride until they meet at the altar.

My Darling, 

I’m not allowed to see you until 2:30 today, but I don’t think there is any custom which stops me from writing you a letter to tell you how much I love you.

What a sweetie.

July 1949: Preparation

The months and weeks before a wedding are filled with preparations.  Cyn, Cec, and Carol sent invitations to friends and family in England, Canada, the States, and the West Indies, knowing that only local friends and family would be able to come.

Three pages, finishing with handwritten additions, from presents they received once they got to America.
Cards that accompanied the wedding presents.

As responses came in, Cyn kept organized lists of the wedding presents that accompanied them and Cec booked travel tickets and hotels for an August honeymoon in France. Outfits were planned: the groom and best man would wear their naval uniform; the bride, bridesmaid, and flower girl would wear white.  Auntie Moo had sent the silver Hazell bouquet holder that other family brides had used, and the florist was entrusted with it.

Silver bouquet holder: pin through leaves to hold the posy in even if upside down- you put your finger through the ring and let it dangle when dancing!

The week before a wedding is filled with crises!  Ours involved a frantic outfitting of my three small future stepsons with navy blazers and grey trousers on Boxing Day, the day before the ceremony.  Cynthia’s involved The Wedding Cake.  After years of organizing Christmas cakes in her Cookery classes, supervising the making and decorating of ‘hundreds’ of them, Cyn wanted to decorate her own wedding cake. 

Cyn’s sketches of design ideas for the wedding cake.

With rationing still in existence in England, the difficulty of obtaining suitable ingredients for the traditional fruit cake was overcome by asking her Auntie Muriel in St Vincent, who had sent them a Christmas cake in December, to send the cake made already, for her to decorate.  It arrived from St Vincent, soldered into tin containers, and Cec was called upon to open the tins.  The three tiers emerged, solid with fruit and preserved with lots of good West Indian rum!  A fruit cake is traditionally topped with a layer of marzipan paste and then iced with white royal icing that hardens, then is decorated.  Cyn covered the three tiers with the marzipan and smooth icing and allowed it to harden overnight before starting on the decorations.  But in the morning she discovered that the rum-soaked cake was bleeding through and discolouring the white surface.  A thicker layer, preferably done at the last minute, was required.  This worked, and the intricate lattice work, flowers, and appliqués of lucky silver horseshoes was completed.  Assembly had to follow, before the final piping of rosettes around the pillars for a finished look.  But when the pillars were set upon the cake, and the heavy next layer balanced on them, they began to sink!  Cyn and Cec hastened to disassemble before irreparable damage was done, and Cec was forced to sacrifice candles the size of the pillars, carefully core out the cake, and insert the candles as firm supports for each of the upper tiers.  Then Cyn could finish her piping and on the morning of the wedding day, add the silver vase on the top, filled with fresh flowers.  Cec, who had sampled the cores he’d removed from the cake, suggested the guests would get tiddily from merely consuming a slice…

June 1949

A flower in Cyn’s hair, and in Cec’s buttonhole!

In the world of 2020, Cambridge’s May Balls were cancelled this June because of the Covid 19 pandemic. But in 1949, Cyn and Cec went to the May Ball at St. John’s College, and although I can’t help wondering how much dancing Cyn got to do because I never knew Cec to dance, I am sure they had a wonderful night: a party of 10, white tie, ball gowns, dance cards, a menu that assumed it was an all-night affair (and which of course Cyn saved), and an atmosphere of general rejoicing at the end of the academic year.

Party of 10: Cec took the picture, and as the dance card shows, they could dance from 9:30 p.m. until the ‘Last Waltz into Gallop’ at 5:33 a.m. There were 5 different Supper times to choose from (11:30-3:30) and a Buffet to sustain them until then.

Not to mention a ‘Consommé au Départ’ to warm them up before going home! And of course Cyn and Cec had a more personal celebration coming up the month following…

April 1949

Cyn and Cec had met each other’s friends in Cambridge in the year since they had met, but the Easter holidays gave them a chance to branch out, meet friends outside of Cambridge, and enjoy the theatre, one of Cyn’s favourite things. The picture in the scrapbook for Easter 1949 above features baby Nigel, 4 months. In London, they would have spent time with Jessie and Norman Aldridge and their little girls, where Cyn had an important question to ask- would Jessie’s 6-year-old daughter Zinnia be her flower girl in July? With clothes coupons still needed, this was quite a demand but Jessie and Zinnia agreed!

Easter at Oxford.

For the actual Easter weekend, they collected Carol from Cambridge and went to Oxford, to visit Cec’s friends at the other university. I imagine Cyn is on the bank taking pictures of her mother enjoying the experience of punting in Oxford-something she probably never had time for in Cambridge!

On the anniversary of the house-warming party where they had first met, April 26th, Cec gave Cyn a memento, and she pasted the card into their scrapbook.

It was a happy holiday.

March 6 1949: Engagement

Cyn and Cec announced their engagement on March 6th, as recorded in their first scrapbook. There are cards of congratulations from their friends, including an original poem, and telegrams from Cyn and Carol’s friends further away in England: Anne and Tadek, Nancy and Dick, Pam, Maud Allan, Irene and Bill, and Mrs Sheedy and Denis.

One of the Boveys was a poet!
The 1949 equivalent of Facebook?

The following Friday, they celebrated their engagement with friends at the Felt-Turner’s Ball. The couple sitting beside Cec are Canadian, Lee and Jim Gander, and would be close friends in Ottawa in the future.

Unknown, Cyn, Cec, Lee, Jim, Unknown.

Word from Canada was slower, and I assume Cec didn’t keep his family’s congratulations for posterity in the scrapbook, but they began planning a wedding in July. And since Easter was late that year, they also planned fun for Cyn’s holiday break!

Christmas 1948

In his letter of November 24th, Cec was thinking a month ahead, worrying that his Christmas cards, which he’d ordered made up with a photo of his Cambridge College, St. John’s, were going to be late for mailing overseas to friends and family in Canada. At that time he was not sure where he was going to spend Christmas- with friends in Oxford, or with Cyn and her mother in Cambridge. Perhaps he visited Oxford later that season, but in the end he spent Christmas with Cyn and Carol.

Presents Cyn gave for Christmas 1948.

Now present-giving was important to Cynthia, as her organized record of those given and received shows. What she remembered of that first Christmas with Cec was the pile of presents under the Christmas tree for the three of them, Cyn, Carol, and Cec: handing them round, opening the latest Agatha Christie hardback from Cec with great appreciation, and- not finding any more from him! (Families have different traditions, and the Costain family- a prairie farmer’s family with five children- obviously gave fewer Christmas presents per child than Cyn, an only child, was used to.) Her main present to Cec was a wooden shield in relief of the Coat of Arms of St. John’s College, which I remember hanging on the wall of our home with the framed antique maps they had bought themselves in Cambridge.

Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie, 1948

Cyn’s writing, not Cec’s!

This Christmas there were not as many food parcels from America as there had been the year before, but Auntie Moo had sent a Christmas cake from the West Indies, and Cec was getting food parcels from his family, so we can assume they had treats!

Presents Received 1948