July 27 1952

31 Acacia Avenue 


27th July, 1952 

Dearest Mummy, 

Thank you so much for your lovely long letter and the wonderful parcel which arrived yesterday. I couldn’t think what toy would make the jangle-jangle noise when I looked on the label & when I opened it & found all the pennies & dimes rolling around I laughed like anything & wondered if the Customs had been puzzled too! The moccasins are beautiful & thank you very, very much for them. They fit nicely except for being a tiny bit narrow, but my old ones soon spread into boats, so it is a good thought! Lindy just loves her Theodore & wishbone chewer. She is such fun with parcels now & takes a great interest in them – she was right in on the opening & wanted to play with the string & then the paper & finally was just enchanted to find her bear inside. She had a wonderful time with my shoes too – she had them on the floor all day & put her crackles in one & then tipped them out & put them in the other & thoroughly enjoyed herself. We have put the money in Lindy’s piggy bank so she says thank you very much dear Grannie, for that as well as Theodore & my wishbone – it was a lovely parcel.

Monday 2 p.m.

I was so sleepy last night that I couldn’t go any further, so here I am once more while Lindy is up in her bed crowing & cooing away. She had a long sleep till after 11 this morning so doesn’t feel very weary now, but she seems quite contented up there. We have just had more people around to see the house – it has been a constant stream this past week as the houses were advertised in the paper last week & there have been 3 or 4 lots of people each day. Fortunately for me, Mrs. Graham gets most of them but I have had plenty. I think it Mrs. G. must enjoy holding forth to them – I notice the people who go around her house take ten times longer than the ones who go round ours!!

I find on re-reading your letter that I have made a mistake in when you were going to Milly’s. I was thinking that you were going for the weekend & going back to L.B. on Wed. so that this letter would arrive at the same time, but now I see that you left on Wed. & will be back today. I hope that you enjoyed your time at the camp & look forward to hearing about it & what Hugh and Monie are like now. We all enjoyed your letter so much & hearing of all your gay doings – after your quiet life here you will feel in an absolute whirl! Marga seems as full of energy & as fond of entertaining as ever – is she looking well & how are Auntie Ettie & Monie? I laughed over Monie’s cat family – she doesn’t still have a dog does she? – and Allen’s puppy must be sweet. I am glad that Alan isn’t as bad as he was painted & that you think he is a nice boy – perhaps it was just a phase he went through!

We still seem to be wildly busy all the time – although not doing much! Monday when I last wrote was a wet cold day & I had the worst time drying diapers- quite a crisis nearly arose! – but Tuesday was as hot as ever. I cleaned the house in the morning & in the afternoon June had invited Lindy & I to tea. In spite of being hot, there was a nice breeze so I thought we would walk instead of getting the car from Cec, but golly! – the last 1/2 mile seemed 100! Lindy was all dressed up in Gunborg’s yellow organdie & looked a picture, but although she enjoyed the ride we both were hot & tired when we got there. June had also invited the girl Joan from the apartment above & her boy Gordon (16 mths) whom she has talked about & poor little Lindy when we went in & I put her down, was so hot & tired that her little lip went down & a little whimper began! When I picked her up she just buried her little head in my shoulder & cried- the first time she ever did that. I noticed that since you have left & I am alone with her all day, she is much more of Mummy’s girl than she ever was before- so isn’t it a good thing you were here to prevent it happening sooner!

June gave us a very nice tea & Linda soon recovered. The boy Gordon was incredible- to begin with he is huge- big & tall & beefy & a head twice as big as Christopher’s, but blonde & better looking! He had begun walking the week before & was trotting round quite well, but the most amazing thing about him was his appetite! The moment food appeared his eyes gleamed, his mouth opened & he just tore towards it – he ate about 4 scones, 3 cream cakes & 2 iced cakes – just wolfed them down one after the other & would have gone on & on! His mother just laughed & Mrs. Broomhead kept giving him more cakes on the sly! He had Lancashire Hot Pot & Cabbage & rice pudding for dinner too! Can you imagine!

Wed. I washed and had a real hot day for it again, but however Thursday was cool & I got my ironing done, so that wasn’t bad. Lindy & I went to Joanisse one day & to Roger’s another & she got more Abdec, a new pair of plastic panties & I got my new Vitamin & calcium tablets. They are huge red things! On Friday I had my appointment with the Dr. at 1:30, so I got Cec to come home for his lunch an hour later than usual. Linda & I had our lunches & I left Cec’s all ready & he just put Lindy to bed & gave her her milk after I had left. The Dr. was very nice as usual, and what do you think? – I didn’t gain anything last month! I was so pleased with myself! He asked me all the usual questions & when I answered them he said “Well my goodness- all the right answers!” & he didn’t even bother to examine me! I have really been feeling fine this past week though- hard work must agree with me!

On Sat. Cec had his sleep in & then we went to the Dominion & Lindy rode in the cart while we shopped. Then we went down town & bought one of the rollers & just a quart of paint to try out. In the afternoon Cec took up the horrid old kitchen linoleum for me & I scrubbed the kitchen floor while he cut the piece the Douglas’es had given us to fit. Then we had quite a struggle getting it down, under the frig. & stove etc. but the change is wonderful! It is a marbly cream coloured linoleum with little black & red squares here & there, & it is so clean & light that the whole kitchen looks a different place. We still have to fit it around the radiator etc. & there is enough left to go in the back entrance & in the breakfast nook so we are thrilled. You would be too! I am now encouraged to wash the kitchen floor!!

We got so late laying the linoleum that we were all behind & we were having a special dinner as it was our anniversary! An anniversary spent laying the linoleum & our anniversary present paint was quite something, but we didn’t mind! We had broiled steaks & tomatoes & chips & peaches & cherries for dessert, so our dinner was nice, & we had enough whiskey left in the bottle for one highball each, but we had to rush as we were going to Connie & Leonard’s for bridge. The babysitter came & we had quite a nice evening – lousy bridge as usual, but Connie & I had a good chat! Christopher woke up & came out to see us – apparently he’s been giving them a lot of trouble at night recently & not eating & generally acting up & on Sunday (yesterday) Connie called to tell me he had a temp of 102° & she had rung up the Dr. He came & it turns out that the poor little fellow has tonsillitis. Earlier in the week Lee called me up & told me Barry had a temp of 102° so I gave her the name & phone of a Dr. & Cec took over our fan as it was very hot in their apartment but next morning Barry was better, so they didn’t have the Dr. They think it must have been too much sun & apparently now he is very careful about going in the sun & doesn’t like it.

Our little Pooh has woken up & is helping or hindering this letter! She is as sweet as ever & says to tell you “Ga-ga-ga”! She says “car” all the time now & points at cars as they go by in the street & points at pictures of them in magazines & says “car”. Cec is very amused, as he says she says “car” with a very English accent! She looks up at airplanes in the sky now & calls them cars too! It has just begun to rain so I have had to dash & take the diapers in – & of course I’m yearning for my cup of tea but I’ll finish this first.

Yesterday Cec got up for Lindy & it was heavenly- the first thing I knew was having my breakfast arrive! I had a lovely lazy time & when I got up Cec began painting our prune room! We got cream coloured paint in the end & he began with the ceiling & did it all once & 1/2 of it a 2nd coat before the paint ran out. Cec says the roller is very good & quick (Lindy has been helping with this page!) but the wretched prune colour is still showing through a bit. Jim & Lee & Barry came to tea in the afternoon & found Cec still painting & me with no “face” on, but they didn’t mind. Both Lee & Connie, by the way, said to thank you for your letters.

I forgot to tell you that one day last week I was getting lunch & Lindy was crawling around playing. I heard coos of joy in the passage as I thought & after a little while went to see what she was playing with & found her 1/4 way up the stairs! She was thrilled with herself & all set to reach the top! I sat beside her & she climbed 3 or 4 more steps & she showed her Daddy when he came home, but we have watched her since & she hasn’t ventured any more.

She is getting quite bored with me writing, so I had better stop & have tea. Seems funny not having you here for tea too. If it stops raining we will take this letter to Mr. Dube & post it. I forgot to tell you I had a letter from Joan Cox last week with a snap of her & Don & Sue at the christening. It is very nice- Joan looks well (but plump – says she’s dieting!) & the baby a pet.

Sue Humphris’ Christening. June 1952.

Lindy sends a big, big hug & cuddle to Grannie & says she doesn’t get half so much attention now you are gone- Mummy doesn’t even put her hair in a curl most days! 

Love to all, most of all to you- Lots & lots of love 

                                                                      Cyn (plus Lindy)

Got A. Moo’s dress for Lindy last week – it is cute – white with tiny red spots & red trimming. Pants to match! 

P.S. Posty just brought your letter. Thank you so much. Will write soon again. I am tickled at the thought of seeing the Pem’s- will write to them.

July 21 1952

31 Acacia Ave. 

Monday morning. 

Dearest Mummy,

I have just put Lindy to sleep in the garage & not having a thing to do thought I would write to you! Actually, I meant to write yesterday of course, but we asked Angie & Paul Routley to tea & it was a very hot humid day & their apartment was stifling so we persuaded them to stay to dinner & they ended at leaving around 11, having washed all the dishes for me.

I have been so busy lately- no one to sit around & gossip with or have cups of tea with! – and Lindy has been wonderful about sleeping in the morning- till 11 and after each day, so I have had a nice long time without interruptions. On Wed. afternoon we went down to see Phyl Douglas as I told you & we had a nice obstetrical chat! She is full of praise for my Dr. Smith – she has her old family Dr. but says she has heard so many good reports of Dr. S. & that if ever she changed she would go to him. She has offered to give us a piece of linoleum for the kitchen floor which they had in the other house & don’t use, so I may yet keep the kitchen floor reasonably clean!!

On Thursday I did a good old clean of all the rooms, & it was another really hot stuffy day. Lindy & I sat on the grass in the afternoon & Mrs. Graham entertained us with light chatter!

On Friday we had our shopping expedition & it turned out very well. Lindy & I went with Cec in the car to work & got back here at 8:45, so I just bathed her & gave her breakfast as usual. Then she slept till 11 & I washed and tidied etc. and then off we went in the car, picked up Margie & the boys & went to the Dominion. The boys were thrilled at Linda coming shopping & behaved beautifully! Lindy sat off in the little chair in a nonchalant fashion & surveyed one & all in a lofty way, but really seem to enjoy it. She chewed a box of cereal & squeaked & everyone said “Oh look at the little baby!” We drove Margie home & then went straight to pick up Daddy & it all fitted in very well- especially as he carried all my parcels in for me!

It has been so hot & sticky ever since Thursday – no breeze or air at all, & today it is dull & cloudy & looks drizzly – just when I have diapers to dry too-  I washed them yesterday but only got about 1/4 hung out, so have the rest still sitting here. 

On Sat. Cec had his morning sleep & I got up & then I did a big old cooking. It was so hot that I didn’t know how well the meat would keep, so I made a meatloaf; cooked two little tongues; made a chicken casserole (saved some for fried chicken that night or Cec would have been so sad!); baked a cake (mix!); and made some little tart cases. I felt it was a noble effort! Cec finished weeding the front path & it looks very nice & neat & on Sat. afternoon he went & helped Cy paint the outside woodwork of his house. Cy can’t go up ladders or stand heights at all, so Cec is going to help him & Cy will help us paint our rooms. I forgot to tell you that we put an ad in the paper for our rangette & sold it to a young French couple for $35.00 – we asked $40.00 but they were humming & hawing & we wanted to get rid of it, so when they offered $35 we accepted. Now the prune room is doomed! Lindy & I walked over to Cy & Margie’s on Sat. about 5 & saw the painting & had a little gossip. Margie has just had the most wonderful present from her Father – a lovely big new refrigerator with a big freezer compartment. They just had an ice box before so she is thrilled to bits & it really is lovely. A few weeks ago Cec told me that they had bought a vacuum cleaner & it turns out to be a Kirby, one of the super jobs the man demonstrated to me, so they are well set up!

On the Sat. evening at about 9:30 Phyl arrived with the raspberries I told you she was getting for me & they were really gorgeous. In the whole 6 qts. there weren’t more than 3 squashed berries & not one bad or horrid at all. Cec & I set to then & there & a bottled 9 jars full while they were fresh. We thought at first we’d just pack them in the jars, but with two of us working it didn’t take long & we found that they fitted beautifully in the big roaster to boil, so we did them straight away & they look very nice.

Sunday was my turn to sleep in, so Cec looked after Lindy & bathed her & I just lay back & didn’t get up till 10:45! Lovely! I just got through my chores before Angie & Paul came at 3 (made sandwiches, iced cake & made raspberry tarts) & then we had such a nice chatty time that we were both glad they stayed to supper. They were both delighted with Lindy & you would have been so pleased with Paul after George, Mummy- he just loved her & played with her & made such a fuss over her. He kept saying “She’s a lovely little girl – let’s have a baby right away, Angie!” We had chicken casserole, beans & corn, salad, hot rolls, raspberry & coffee for supper & they both thought everything was wonderful – such nice guests!

It is 10:30 now & not a dish washed, so I think I had better get cracking. Thank you so much for your note – we were so glad that you arrived all right despite a bumpy storm & that the girls & A. Ettie were waiting for you. Just what I thought- gossiping & drinking tea till all hours! Give them all my love & a hug from Lindy- tell me all about them & particularly what you think of Alan & Milly’s family! I hope it is still nice & cool with you & that you have fun shopping – don’t forget to buy some nice dresses. Did the girls think you looked purty when you arrived?

Must stop- hugs & love from us or & a big, big wet kiss from Lindy- With lots of love from Cyn. 

(P. T.O.)

P. S. Just had a call from your bank & you have been giving your friend Mr. Pridham of the Hearing Aid people heart failure! Apparently the last cheque you wrote him for the extra cord etc. ($13.30) wasn’t presented before you closed your account & it bounced!! He, apparently, didn’t know where you were, & didn’t remember my name, so looked up the City Directory for the address & found it listed for Lt. Cdr. Roberts & on making inquiries about him found he had gone to Florida, so the poor man was in a tizzy!! However, he embraced me verbally when I phoned him & told him we would send him a cheque & you could pay us, so everything is under control. We will send it off today & you can send us a Money Order or something. It is now 1:30 & it is still raining & has done so ever since I hung the diapers out! I shall now proceed to take some in and drape them around the place as we are reduced to 5! 

                                 Lots of love


This letter is going to take a while, because one niece has re-directed it to her sister up-state!

A few notes of explanation to add: both Carol Ewing and the sister she lived with in St Vincent, Auntie Moo, were hard of hearing, and had little access to technology or specialist medical care on the island.  When they visited relatives in New York or, now, Ottawa, they could get help, and the relatives would keep the help coming.  Both wore Hearing Aids a bit smaller than a pack of cards tucked in their décolletage, with a cord running up to the earpiece.  Cyn sent Carol her special batteries (which she had to cross Ottawa to get from Mr. Pridham, presumably) for decades!

Now that Cyn’s live-in baby-sitter has gone off to New York, she is adjusting to life without her: to get the car for errands, she and the baby have to drive Cec in to the NRC building on Sussex Drive and pick him up later at the end of the work day. Then she was free, within the confines of the baby’s schedule, to organize her grocery shopping at the Dominion and give another NRC wife and her boys a ride too. Clearly, Margie and Cy Garret and their 2 boys were within walking distance of Acacia Ave., and Alec and Phyl Douglas, who had 2 children a bit older, lived close by too. Cyn and Cec found good friends among the NRC community, as the letters will show.

July 16 1952

Linda and Grannie back in February.

This first letter after a year’s gap is written the day after Carol left Ottawa, travelling to a series of visits on her way home.  After almost a year of living with Cec and Cyn and helping look after her beloved grandchild, it must have been a wrench leaving, even if she was going to other loving relatives.  

And note about air travel 70 years ago: security wasn’t much of an issue then, although safety kept onlookers away from the planes. Ottawa had two small airports, one military, Rockcliff, and one civil, Uplands, and anyone could come in, mingle with the departing passengers, hug them, and watch them trail out to the plane, and wave goodbye. They could watch the planes take off from inside or outside, although Cec, Cyn and Linda seem to have missed this. The NRC had research facilities out at the airport, which would grow even as the airport did over the decades.

The letter is only dated Wednesday, but was postmarked July 16. Canadian air letter forms cost her 10¢, and I like the design better although there is less space than the American 10¢ forms.


Dearest Mummy,

I thought I would send your A.M. letter back to you & now having begun it I realize I could have sent you an ordinary A.M. letter for 7¢, but after all what is 3¢ to rich people like ourselves!

I hope that you had a nice flight to New York with no bumps & a prompt arrival. I am sure that Auntie Ettie & the girls would be waiting for you & although I expect you would be fair wore out, I imagined you all sitting drinking cups of tea & gossiping for hours! Cec got quite worried because he didn’t see your plane go up, & we drove around the airfield to see if you were still sitting in some corner of it, but no signs, so we decided you must have sneaked off into the clouds when our backs were turned! Jim & Lee were off to see a house, so they dashed away but Connie & Len were in no hurry. Christopher had cried at the big noise the plane made but Linda didn’t although we thought she might & Cec carried her away from the doorway when it roared. Connie & Len asked us back for a cold drink with them, which was nice of them, but Lindy was so sleepy we said no. Connie was really very sweet & seemed most upset at your going- it was nice of them all to come, wasn’t it? On the way home Lindy sat on my knee & we sang (!) to her & before we were 1/2 way back she was fast asleep. She roused when we got home & Cec put her to bed & I warmed her milk & she drank it & fell straight to sleep again, the little pet. We were all pretty tired, so Cec helped me wash up & we had a glass of ginger ale & then I had a bath & went to bed & I don’t think Cec was much later.

It is lovely & sunny but cool today & so much nicer than that awful close heat. I hope it is the same with you & that you & Auntie E. are having a “dunk” in the canal! Lindy woke at 7, but was sleepy, so had a sleep in the garage this morning & is asleep again now (2.0 p.m.).  I did a big wash (always is!) & you will be amazed to hear that I was shamed into bleaching your sheets, pillowcases & the kitchen towels etc.! Linda was so good & played in her pen at the back after she woke up this morning & never murmured until she heard me talking to Mrs. Hughes & then she began yelling “Ma-Ma-Ma” at the top of her voice! Phil Douglas rang up to ask if I would like some cheap raspberries at the weekend (I said “oh yes” & “yummy”) & I am to go down with Linda for a chat later this afternoon. Already today seems a week long, so it’s a good job I’m busy. I thought of you this morning over my cuppa – I have decided to have tomato juice instead in future- better for Algy & less trouble!! Linda sends a big, big hug & says “I miss you Granny.” We all do. Lots & lots of love- Cyn.

Getting Started in Ottawa

The Costains arrived in Ottawa at the end of September 1951 and found a temporary home in an apartment in Eastview (now Vanier), a working class neighbourhood with a mix of Francophones and Anglophones.  And, to the excitement of Cynthia and Carol, almost immediately Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip came to Ottawa at the start of their Royal Visit and were photographed waving (as they had on their wedding day) to Cyn in the crowd.

And the baby was fine.  Arrayed in the lace trimmed nighties and the double breasted cardigan her loving relatives had made her, Linda continued to flourish. ( And I remember that chair, red and white.)

Other babies were arriving, both in Ottawa and Ann Arbor…

Christopher Bovey arrived 5 days after I did, and Mary Jo & Pete and Lee & Bob Mills had boys too.

Cec and Cyn also met the people who worked in the NRC with Dr. Herzberg in the Pure Physics Division, people who were to become close friends: Luise Herzberg, Alec Douglas, Jack Shoosmith are the first 3 in the top photo, Cyn on the sofa in the second, and Dr  Herzberg in the third.

As with the Sutherlands in Ann Arbor, efforts were made to be friendly and helpful to newcomers. With the system of post-doctorate fellows coming to the NRC for two year stints, young couples were always coming and going, and the Costains were made to feel welcome.  Later, Cyn and Cec, as permanent residents, would entertain new arrivals and help integrate them into their Ottawa life. (I started my baby-sitting career with a post-doc couple’s baby!)

The baby kept growing.

Money had been tight for the beginning months, but the December accounts show a luxury they had not had in Michigan- a telephone. 

At Christmas, the gifts sent to England were mostly candy, as described in Cyn’s present list, but the loot that arrived for Linda was amazing. Among the cards which arrived were pictures showing the growth of their friend’s children: they did call us the Baby Boomer Generation.

In January, photos show Linda alert and happy, and she had a new cousin: Terry, another Costain boy, born to Cec’s brother Russel and wife Errol in Saskatoon.

Although I don’t think Cec ordered them, the Tailors and Robemakers’ price for a PhD. Gown and Hood from Cambridge confirms that Cec’s degree had been granted. Dr. C.C.Costain certainly looks delighted, holding his daughter. The February accounts show that Cyn’s money from England finally had been transferred, and they were able to get ‘Cec’s Insurance’ $95.35 (Canada did not have medical care then), splurge on Cec’s clothes, make several withdrawals of ‘Cash’ and pay Carol back $200 for loans made in Ann Arbor and during the move.

In March a Get Well card in the scrapbook suggests that Cyn had German measles, fortunately a month before she became pregnant again. Her birthday in April was celebrated and then they MOVED- two sets of rent in the accounts, and the mover’s fee- to Acacia Avenue, still in the same area of Ottawa, but closer to the wealthy houses in Rockcliff, with a conclave of NRC families close by. It was half a duplex, and the photos show the baby, now crawling, with grass with trees and swings available, something I’m sure Cec and Cyn had been looking for.

Now that they were settled in a more satisfactory home, preparations were made for Carol to return to the West Indies after the summer.  First she would visit her sister and nieces in New York State- they had visited her in St.Vincent during the past couple of years, but she had not seen their homes or their families.  Then she would visit other family members in Trinidad before returning home.

Three generations.

Unfortunately as summer approached, the Costains indulged in a colour film, so the photographs in the scrapbook are not as clear.  Linda at 10 1/2 months says goodbye to Grannie standing rather precariously,  and I’m sure Carol was very sad to leave.  But the letters to her resume, so we get a clearer picture of life in a growing family in the 1950s.

My First Journey

From Ann Arbor to Ottawa.

My first journey

On Thursday Daddy & Mummy & Grannie & I drove from Ann Arbor to Ottawa in MacTavish. We left late on Thursday evening & arrived there on Sunday morning. I was 5 weeks old & slept in my little car bed most of the way or on Grannie’s knee, & at night we lived in cabins. We stopped in Toronto to see Auntie Lily & Uncle Milton. It was 600 miles altogether and Mummy & Daddy said I was very good all the way.

Except for when I woke them all up pulling my hair.

It is funny to read about car travel almost 70 years ago- seat belts unknown, so the baby travels unrestrained in her car bed or on her grandmother’s knee. And I’m sure Cec was smoking throughout, totally discouraged around babies today- I can remember as a little girl MacTavish’s cigarette lighter which popped out when glowing, and the lovely smell of the newly lit tobacco, before the less pleasant smell of actual smoking took over.

They drove on Highway 2 all the way to Prescott, and Cyn’s markings show them stopping at Chatham, Hamilton, Toronto, Belleville, and Kingston before turning north to Ottawa at Prescott. In those pre-Hwy. 401 days it took much longer than it would now- the road goes through the towns rather than bypassing them- and there were no fast food rest stops then, so trips were more leisurely, with stops in towns for food and fuel. And the proud parents wanted to show off the first girl in the new Costain generation to Cec’s aunt and uncle so there was a social visit too.

The September account book shows details of the tidying up needed before leaving the States- the mundane housekeeping bills to Dairy, Detroit Edison, and the Trojan Laundry mingling with one-of-a-kind expenses such as a sum to the Michigan Department of Revenue, and the rather expensive cost of binding and mailing the thesis. However, there is no October entry dealing with the cost of the journey. Normal life resumes in November when they are settled enough to be getting a salary and paying rent in Ottawa.

My First Letter

In her teens, my grandmother Carol was sent from St Vincent in the West Indies to boarding school in England. As earlier posts have shown, her headmistress, Miss Lefroy, not only ran the school, but found families for Carol to stay with during holidays, met Carol’s brother and brother-in-law, and gradually became her friend. When Carol returned to England as a young mother, she and her 4-year-old daughter Cynthia stayed with Miss Lefroy in London before going north to live in Newcastle. When Cynthia went to boarding school in York as a teen, Miss Lefroy, visiting her headmistress, took the girl out to lunch, and remained involved in her life. Carol and Cynthia stayed with Miss Lefroy in London- on holidays, during the war, in times of crisis. Even though both left England, the exchange of letters continued, and at the beginning of September 1951, the third generation gets her first letter.

September 1951.

Dear little Linda Carol.

We are very glad to hear that you have arrived safely & we hope that you are well & happy & will like being here, & have a very happy useful life, making your Mummy & Daddy & Grannie very happy & proud of you.

Chris & I both send love to your Mummy & Daddy & Grannie- and we hope soon to hear that you are all safely now in Canada – in a very nice comfy home for you all, with flowers & pet animals near to amuse you.

We are not having a bit nice weather here – it is cold & wet, raining & blowing like winter not summer – & we see in the papers that USA has a heatwave, so we hope that you all will like it  we would not.

Very much love to you all four from two loving friends, 

                              Amy Lefroy & Chris Hall

Cynthia dear,

Very hearty congratulations on managing it all so well & happily, & I hope that having your mother with you will make things easier for you especially facing a move soon. 

I wonder if Linda will be tall like her Daddy or petite like her dear little Mama – or midway!!

Love & congratulations from Chris & me & greetings to Cecil. I expect he is a very proud papa! 

                  Yours always 


I’m pretty sure my parents were happy and proud of me at that stage of my life, and I’m sure Miss Lefroy would have been pleased that I followed her example and became a teacher. (Although not a headmistress!)

Leaving Ann Arbor

It is rather nauseating, but “The Book of Baby Mine” entitled all the events as ‘My First _______’ so Cyn wrote all the entries in the voice of baby Linda. These vignettes are interspersed with Family Tree charts; space for lists of Visitors, Gifts, Photos; a Horoscope chart (!); Average Weight Chart; Teeth diagram: Immunization Record; and a Checklist for baby development. At the end are helpful instructions on holding, bathing, feeding the baby and, of course, ads- baby food, furniture, photographers, drugs, shoes, and a Beauty Shop for mom, all specific to Ann Arbor.

My First Home. 

1022 Forest Ave. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Mummy & Daddy haven’t got a picture of my first home. It was just a small apartment & we only lived there 3 weeks after Mummy & I came home from hospital. This little squirrel used to visit us there & her name was Mrs. Molly Coddle. She used to eat peanuts & ginger cookies & took them from Mummy’s & Daddy’s hands. She climbed on Daddy’s knee & sat & ate peanuts there.

This is the charge for Cyn’s 9 day stay in hospital.

The Business of Leaving Ann Arbor.

Along with coping with a new baby, Cec and Cyn had to deal with the difficulties of moving- first to their temporary apartment, then with the trip to Ottawa.  The congratulatory telegrams and baby presents went to the old address-

the hospital bills had to be paid,

Costain account book for August, note largest expense- U. Hospital.

and goodbyes had to be made to friends.  

My First Outing

Went to see the Peters family. I was 2 1/2 weeks old, & Daddy & Mummy took me in the car to see Helen & Jody. They were having their afternoon nap & we waited for them to wake up until it was past my feeding time, but I was a good girl.

The Baby Arrives

When I first read the letters from spring 1951 a decade ago, containing the Costains’ plans to move to Ottawa in the summer, find a house, meet Carol off the plane August 6th, show off Cyn’s size, then find a doctor and hospital to have the baby in, I wondered whether I would ever know what had happened- because I knew that the baby beat the thesis and that I had been born in Ann Arbor!  But the last airform explains: Cec’s experiments were not complete, his professor Gordon advised he stay at the Ann Arbor lab until the end of September, and so Cyn and Cec decided to put off the Ottawa move for two months, finish the thesis, and have the baby in the University of Michigan hospital.  Relieved, they sent a telegram to Carol telling her not to book an air ticket to Ottawa, and followed up with the airmail letter explaining their decision.  And presumably she came to Michigan at the beginning of August, because there are no more letters.  

They had to find a temporary furnished apartment big enough to accommodate Carol and baby (Forest Ave.), and get their goods packed and shipped to Ottawa, while Cec continued working in his lab and writing his thesis until 4 in the morning, and Cyn typed his latest pages during the day.  But it all worked out- the baby was born and called Linda Carol; the thesis was finished, typed, and sent off to Cambridge; and at the age of six weeks, I accompanied my parents and grandmother in MacTavish over the border to Canada on the way to Ottawa.

The story that I was told suggests the journey was not all joy. They stayed overnight in a motel on the way, and in the middle of the night were awakened by SCREAMING from the baby.  Fumbling round in the dark to find out why, they discovered that she had wound her fingers in her shock of dark hair, yelled in pain, pulled harder, and screamed louder for rescue!  Untwining the fingers and settling the baby ensured that all were wide awake- possibly the schedule of 4-hourly feedings was disturbed.  

Eventually they arrived in Ottawa, Cec started his job in Dr. Herzberg’s Pure Physics Division of the National Research Council, the paychecks started, and they eventually settled in a duplex on Acacia Avenue in Ottawa.  Grannie stayed for months and we were all very happy.

The first baby gets the gorgeous baby clothes from friends and relatives; lots of snaps in the scrapbook of baby staring, yawning and sleeping; and a detailed account of their progress in a baby book!  There may not be letters to Carol (known mostly as Mummy, but now entitled Grannie as well) but there is documentation: bills from the hospital, telegrams from England, and stories in Cyn’s handwriting of the baby’s ‘First’s’- My First Outing, Christmas, and lists of presents, shots, teeth, and so on. I’ll include some of these thrilling vignettes from my first year.  However, since the second baby arrived 16 months later, only the first third of the baby book is filled in! Carol returned to the West Indies  before my first birthday, and the letters to Dearest Mummy started up after a year’s gap, in the 2nd trimester of Cyn’s second pregnancy. She might have been too busy for baby books, but not for the letters, so our story continues.

Cec’s Thesis: or, as Harry Kroto, the future Nobel Laureate, once called it- the bible.

July 8 1951

Cec and Cyn’s American work life achievements: a thesis and the baby present..

Sunday. 8th July. 1951

Dearest Mummy,

I know that you will have been having kittens ever since you got our cable, but I do hope that it won’t have upset you and your plans too much, and that you won’t be too worried. We are so sorry to be so upsetting at the last moment, but as I told you in my last letter, Cec has been having a wretched time with his work, and although he has been working so desperately these last months, things were just not coming right. His thesis does not actually have to be in Cambridge until the 30th September, but the writing was the least part of it as he could do that in Ottawa if necessary, – the results from his work were the really worrying part, as those he has to get down here where all his equipment is. So, on Thursday Cec saw Dr. S & had a long talk with him, & Gordon said that he thought Cec would have to take me up to Ottawa & get me settled there with you, & then come back here & finish his experimental work in A.A. Well- we talked about it, & instead I suggested that we stay here until the end of September & ask you to come here instead of Ottawa. In this way, Cec will waste no time, but can carry right on with his work; it will be less expensive; I will have no last minute rushing & travelling; and I will have the baby at the Hospital here, which I would like.

Once we made the decision, we both felt the most terrific sense of relief, because both of us have been worrying & wondering what we could do. Of course, there are snags- Cec will have to ask the National Research Council in Ottawa for leave for 2 months, & as he won’t be getting paid, we will be hard up- also we will have to find another flat here as this one is let, but the advantages are so enormous in our staying that we are both quite light-hearted! I am very happy about having the baby here, & Cec is relieved that I won’t have the long, tiring journey & all the big upheaval. Finding an apt. here on the spot will be less of a job than finding something in Ottawa, & altho’ it is a pity we have to leave 803 Granger, it would have been a squash & a bigger apt will be better. Gunborg dashed down straight away to say we could all come & live with them, but I don’t think we’ll do that!

Cec & I both got your letters yesterday, thank you very much. I’ll answer mine later in the week, & Cec says to tell you that he will see the Bank Manager tomorrow & send you the required letter- it is necessary for U.S. as well as Canada we think. If you concentrate on getting U.S. formalities ready we can complete Canadian ones here before Sept.- hope you don’t have too wild a rush with the change of plan & that you can change the flight O.K. Will send Bank letter tomorrow & write more details later. Don’t worry– we feel fine!! Lots & lots of love- Cyn.

July 4 1951

4th July, 1951

Dearest Mummy,

It is the 4th of July holiday today, but as I finished work on Friday it hasn’t meant a thing to me – sad! Cec has been up at the Lab. as usual all day, & I did the chores & this afternoon wrote letters – six of them! – so feel very virtuous! Then after dinner we went up to the Drug Store & had an ice cream cone & that was our celebration! Now Cec has gone back to the Lab. again & I’ve washed the dishes & made myself a “cuppa” & am writing to my Momee!

After I wrote to you last week nothing very exciting happened. Cec worked at the Lab. every evening & I didn’t do much, and at work was kept busy in finishing jobs and leaving everything ship shape! Charlie & Shirley & Lyons were all the way & things had been very quiet, then in the middle of the week the news came that the Center had got a new $100,000 contract, so that there would be lots of work & the whole place buzzing! Bob Peebles was cursing the fact that they hadn’t hired anyone in my place, because when they thought there wasn’t going to be much doing they’d said he could do my work, & now of course he was busy & there was no one trained to do my job! However, all I had to do was sit back! 

On Friday I felt quite sad at the thought of leaving everyone, & everyone was very nice & sad about my going! We had our last coffee together in the afternoon, & then when I got back to my office afterwards here was a lovely little parcel all prettily done up & a big envelope marked “Cynthia”. I was most taken aback as I really hadn’t expected anything as so many people have left the centre recently that everyone must be fed up with collections. Anyway, I trotted round to Jeanie’s office to have company over the opening & opened my parcel- and what do you think it was?

13 names on the card!

A perfectly darling little solid silver spoon & fork for the baby! I was so surprised & amazed I just squeaked & squealed because when you wrote to me about cleaning up my spoon. & fork & not letting anyone give me another, I thought to myself “Well, my goodness – who on earth would give me a silver spoon & fork!” & I just couldn’t think of anyone wealthy enough, & here the girls had collected together & done it! We’ll just have to save mine for the next baby, that’s all- this one obviously is going to be born with a silver spoon all ready to pop in its mouth! You will just love the sweet little things when you see them though – they are such a pretty shape & they are a “pattern” as you see in the ads. called Damask Rose” & have a little rose on the handle. The girls were very interested to know if it was my “silver pattern”, so I said we didn’t have such things in England! The other letter, I opened it afterwards, & got another huge surprise! It was from Bob Peebles telling me all sorts of nice things about what a good girl I’d been & telling me he had given me a subscription to a magazine “The Saturday Review of Literature” as a parting present. Wasn’t that nice of him?

How he came to choose that mag. was that he gets it himself, & whenever I could get a look at his weekly copy as it arrived, I did! He asked me one day if I liked it & I said “oh yes “because it is full of book reviews & about films & the theatre & so on- rather like the Sunday Times used to be – & I told him how we got nothing like that now as we thought we would wait until we got settled in Ottawa first. So he had remembered & got it for us – I thought it was so sweet of him & to write me such a nice letter too- particularly as Jeanie & I used to make fun of him about being such an old woman!! I spent the rest of the afternoon going around showing off my baby spoon & fork & everybody thought it was lovely! Cec was pleased too when he saw them!

That evening Jeanie & Al were having a little party and had invited us to come. Jeanie had her mother & younger sister staying with her all last week & the party was really for them – their home is in Connecticut & Jeanie’s mother is one of our interviewers there, so of course was interested in the Center & everyone there. They had been up & seen around earlier in the week, so I had met them before, & of course Jeanie had told me all about them beforehand too. We couldn’t stay very long at the party as Cec was going on to the Lab. to work, but we stayed a while & chatted, & then when we left Cec took me to the Sutherland’s & I stayed & had a gossip with Gunborg as Gordon was away- took my spoon & fork to show off too! Gunborg brought me home later, & we have arranged a shopping spree in Detroit to get nappies etc.!

On Sat. I had 2 more lovely surprises – or at least, not exactly surprises, but lovely all the same- your nice letter, and the second of the baby parcels- no nothing to pay! Thank you lots & lots for both of them – we enjoyed the letter immensely, & of course I loved the parcel. The little nighties are just so cute & Jeanie’s 2 little jackets are such tiny sweet little pets that I just fell for them at once. Now I am not working I hope to really get my letters off my conscience, but please tell her they arrived safely & that I will be writing. You said you knew I’d love them & I do – they are so cute & fat & little & quite different than any I’ve seen here – the double breasted one is my honey! The flannel square is a beauty & I never imagined anything so wonderfully made & embroidered when you told me about it- I just thought it would be a plain square piece of flannel. It is so elegant I can’t really think what we’ll use it for- to put over the cot do you think? Or to wrap the baby, or what? I have such a nice lot of things now – I’m going to pack them all in a case together & gloat!

Card accompanied a present of a Dry Duck bag!

I went downtown with my week’s pocket money on Sat. & bought myself a cotton petticoat! I have been wearing my 2 nylon ones, but in hot weather they stick & feel very hot – particularly over my fat tum! – so I now have a white cotton waist petticoat – I got a big size as I put it around my “waist” which is just below my bust & it is just right! I also got some stockings as I think they are dearer in Canada, & in a fit of madness also got a blouse made of sort of black cotton fish net! It is very alluring etc. but of course not with my present figure, but I thought I could always send it as a present if I decided it was too ultra for a mama!! 

On Monday I felt quite lonesome & lost all day with not going to work! I kept busy & did the chores & got the laundry ready & took it to the laundromat, & cleaned the kitchen windows & in the afternoon cleaned the tiles in the bathroom, but I still missed the girlish gossip at work! I had quite a sleep after lunch though, & again yesterday, so I am quickly falling into preggy ma habits! Today I sternly had a cup of tea to keep me awake & wrote letters! On Monday evening at about 11 o’clock I was just having my milk & about to go to bed when Cec arrived home. This was terribly early for him as recently it is more like 3 or 4 a.m., so I was expecting a scolding for still being up, but instead we had a little outing! Cec & Jean Levy (the Frenchman we once had to dinner) had both been working at the Lab. & were going out for a cup of coffee when they noticed there was quite a display of Northern Lights. That is quite unusual down here, & Jean had never seen them before so they hopped in the car & collected me & we drove about 2 miles out into the country away from the city lights & got a wonderful view. They were quite greenish coloured & very fascinating to watch. Afterwards we came back here & the boys had sandwiches & milk & then went back to the Lab. again.

Last night Cec took a few hours off & took me to the movies – the first time for over a month that we’ve been out! We went to see an Alford Hitchcock thriller called “Strangers on a Train” & it was very good & exciting although we missed a little bit at the beginning so were a little bit fogged for a while! We were greatly tickled because Alfred Hitchcock himself always appears somewhere in each of his films, and we spotted him in this one- a funny fat man struggling to get a great bass fiddle onto the train!

Now that seems to be just about all my news, so I’ll get back to your nice letter. It is so nice & cool tonight- last night was hot & close & all this morning seemed stifling, but now it has got very breezy & quite chilly, so I am delighted! I feel a hundred times more energetic when it is cooler, & I want to begin getting things cleaned up so that I can leave the apartment nice. Oh, I forgot to tell you- we have an unexpected guest for the weekend! Cec got a phone call from Washington last week & who should it be but Phil Hawkins from Baldock where Cec used to work. Do you remember Cec talking about him, & one Sunday he & his wife & little boy came to Cambridge & went on the river & then came home & had tea with us? Anyway, Phil is over here on Admiralty work & has to go to Chicago, so is flying here on Friday evening & spending the weekend with us. A good job it isn’t later when all our things are packed & sent away!

I was so glad that you had got my letter with the cheque in, & that it was O.K. about taking your money into Canada. I’m looking forward to hearing that you have got your passage all fixed & hope that the man has come back from his holiday by now! I was telling Cec that you were probably having collywobbles in your tummy already, although by now you should be a seasoned traveler! I was amused at your saying that your previous week’s letter had been quite an effort to write – you were very noble to write it then I think – I usually put it off if I feel like that! I did think it wasn’t quite up to your usual high standard, but we enjoyed it just same!

You were very optimistic over your good wishes that the thesis is all done & sent off. As you’ll gather from all my references to Cec working night and day, things haven’t been going very smoothly & the poor lad is having an awful time. He is working desperately against time at the Lab. to get results he wants before he leaves, so the writing is left for the moment, as he can do that afterwards if necessary, whereas he has to get results now. He has had all sorts of trouble & is so worried about it, but despite all that & hardly any sleep, he is so good to me, & keeps cheerful and is really wonderful. I am just hoping & hoping that he will have a run of good luck & get something good any day now.

I was glad that you spent a nice day with Bren out at Peggy’s & bet you had a whale of a gossip. I was delighted to hear Bren’s news about Arthur, & do hope that everything works out O.K. for them – it sounds just ideal really if it does come through, as Bren will be near enough to come home for visits & they will get their leaves in England too. I was most amused you & she coming to the conclusion that there must be something in the air at the Institute because of all the preggies! We are used to say that it was catching & the unmarried girls would get quite alarmed! I haven’t seen anything more of Milly or the baby lately, but will call around before we leave. Dawn saw her one day & said that she was fine & all over the fever, so that is a good thing. I don’t know whether she will ever dress Eric in that little dress or not- I should think the white & red would suit him, but it looked a bit “girly”! I wouldn’t be too worried about making her rompers if you are very busy – I think we are just about quits now really!! I was so glad to hear that my cute little patchwork is finished & look forward immensely to seeing it – hope the baby has as much fun over it as I’m going to!

Bren’s little blue knitted set must be sweet – this is going to be a lucky baby isn’t it?

I was glad to hear that you had been to see Mr. Verrall, & that he was up & about though not well yet. Hope he will soon be better.

I laughed when I read your apologies to Cec for forgetting his birthday! I thought you probably would as it never seems to really have registered with you, but I think he will forgive you! I was amused that our anniversary was to be a cotton one this year – we’ll have to get each other some curtains or something! Probably lots of cotton things we’ll be needing anyway- nappies for one!!

Re. the singing cake – before I forget! It is supposed to have stopped singing when you take it out, but I think for a sandwich-type-cake this makes it a bit dry. It is O.K. for a rich fruit cake but for any other I think you can take it out while it is still singing a little, & it is a moister cake – as long as it isn’t soft & bubbly in the middle still!!

I laughed about you laughing at me when we meet in Ottawa! I bet you do giggle too- Cec & I do on occasion when it suddenly hits us in the eye as it were! I have decided that my tummy is just about the size & shape of a good sized watermelon at the moment! My waist measurement (where it used to be!) is 36” & I weigh 131 lbs. so you can try to imagine me!!

Cec & I were most amused that you & Bren were pining to know our girl’s name! We just didn’t tell you at first because you were being coy over the names you thought of, & now Cec says you may as well wait another month!! We still have no boy’s name, but I tell Cec we can haggle over that all the time we’re driving to Ottawa!

Well, that seems to be about all now, so I’d better finish now & go to bed. Did I tell you we had given Len some money & asked him to have the Ottawa paper sent to us? Well, it is coming now & we are reading the ads. with great interest. There are quite a lot of furnished houses & apartments for the summer months, so we are thinking of writing to some of these & seeing what we can get, as it would be fine just to go to a furnished place & have a couple of months to look for somewhere permanent. There are masses of houses for sale quite reasonably, so we are quite hopeful.

Must stop- Cec has just come home for a sandwich as nowhere is open tonight – he sends his love and the baby sends a great kick which he just delivered on his Mama’s ribs!! 

Lots of love from