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 8 1949

After the wedding comes the honeymoon, where the bride and groom are off together, and life goes on for those left behind.  This letter is written by the mother of the bride to Cyn and Cec on their honeymoon, but was never sent since Carol had no address for the travelling pair.  She gives details of the aftermath of the celebration, but what she is most concerned with is packing.  Cyn and Cec are on their summer holiday and then they have one more term of school in Cambridge.  Their address will stay the same, but they are moving to the top flat in the building, and Carol is packing up and moving out of the flat downstairs that she and Cyn shared.  She will have a holiday in London with Miss Lefroy, her friend and former headmistress, and then stay in England until the new year, when changes are due for all of them.

In Cec’s letter to Cyn in March, he mentioned the dinner in honour of his professor, Dr. Gordon Sutherland, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society.  Cec’s studies in physics in Cambridge with Dr. Sutherland had led to his specializing in spectroscopy, but Dr Sutherland had accepted a professorship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  So Cec was going to continue his PhD with Dr Sutherland there, moving with Cyn to the U.S.A. in 1950, which meant Cyn would teach only until Christmas.  Carol, on the other hand, planned to go home to St Vincent, and live with her unmarried sister Muriel, so her packing involved sending the heavy remnants of her thirty years in England off by ship to the West Indies, and putting the rest of her goods into suitcases for the remaining months in England.

40 Elsworthy Rd.

Hampstead NW3, 

Monday, August 8th 49.

My darlings Cyn & Cec!

    We managed things very badly you dashed away & never gave me any address to write to- & I have your letter from London & your card & letter from Paris- & yet I can’t thank you for them, as I don’t know the name of your Cannes hotel.  I am hoping I may yet hear it, & get this to you before you leave – not that I suppose that you’ll miss a letter from me much, at this blissful time! I didn’t come to AGL’s until Friday 6th & I never intended to, as I knew I wouldn’t get through before then– but I also knew that if you thought I was staying alone there so long, you would make a fuss – so I just was vague!! It wasn’t a day too long, as I was busy up to the last. It wasn’t all work & no play though- as you will hear – Dotty was a wonderful help, & we laboured hard on the Wednesday getting all the china & glass etc. up – so much so that Dotty had to lie down & rest in the afternoon & in the evening- who should appear but Mr. Cooper and Edgar- I had completely forgotten they were coming on the Wed. so in my surprise I embraced them both warmly – much to Chris’s surprise & embarrassment I am sure!  We sat & chatted & then Bob & Lee came in to see your presents, I saw them earlier & told them to come. Dotty & I decided to leave out your presents in the sitting room for a day or 2 in case your friends came along. So I took Edgar & Chris up to see them too. Bob & Lee had just gone- when Edward appeared with the proofs of the wedding pictures – wasn’t he quick? They are all very good- some better than others– so much so I had such a job choosing one to send to your people Cec- in the end I picked one of just the two of you alone, although I thought some of you in the groups were better. Edward brought more than a dozen different proofs even one of you in the church– I think you will be pleased with them– he did a finished picture & brought it along Sat early- & I wrote a note to Mrs. Costain (senior!) & sent it off by air at once– so I do hope she got it in good time- I didn’t know what to do about ordering anymore, so I told Edward I w’d wait till you returned.

Thursday. Dotty & I worked away again, but she went to town shopping in the a.m. first, then we had lunch & lugged pots & pans etc. etc up When Joan came in she suggested the Pictures- & Dotty said yes she w’d treat us to dinner first. So we went to the Corner House & had a very good meal. I was certainly leading the High Life- as I forgot to tell you I had dinner at the University Arms with Charlie & Amy on the night of the wedding. We went to see “Passport to Pimlico” really very funny – & we enjoyed it – Then of course Dotty went next day early- & I went to town to the Bank & to pay numerous bills etc – & back home to do a bit more shifting & to begin my packing which was a big job but Connie came in so I got little done!

I did a little more on Sat a.m., but not much as Chris was calling for me at 12 to go to the ‘Garden House’ for lunch with him & onto the Senate House to see Edgar receive his doctorate-more High Life! It was a lovely day – so Chris & I sat in the Garden & chatted (poor fellow he has had a sad & trying time with Katie) had lunch, & then walked up to the Senate House– & I found the whole ceremony most interesting. Chris wanted me to come & have tea, but I had to get back- as I had Mrs. T. coming to clean the downstairs flat that afternoon. Sunday I packed & packed & on Tuesday I had to go out & buy a large suitcase & even so I couldn’t get everything in – & I expect you will curse & swear when you find a few odd things of mine lying about! By this time I was sleeping up in your flat, yes I went up there while Dotty was still there. Joan expected the couple in on Monday but they didn’t come until Tuesday, & then only left a few things & went off for a weeks hols- Joan gave me a hand on the Monday, & we shifted the old washstand, & I got up to the loft & packed away numerous pictures & books etc. that couldn’t be used. All your groceries etc. I just had to pack in a big box- Gwen & Jerome came before I left, & I showed them how there was just no where to put groceries – & Gwen is going to see what she can get. I think she will still be there on your return so that’s a good job. To return to my doings Chris & Edgar came in on the Monday evening & I gave them tea etc. – They left Camb: on Tuesday. That evening Pam phoned up that they w’d come thro’ Wednesday p.m. to see me, & later Joan A. came & asked me to supper on Wed.  I said I would if Pam & George weren’t too late. I did a big wash one of those days, & was busy ironing up to the last! It was lovely seeing Pam again, just the same dear old Pam, & what do you think? When George saw you had gotten new fuel for the gas fires, he insisted that they should pay the bill which had just come in for 11/6- as a matter of fact in the end it was Pam who really paid it!! They were charmed with the flat & all your lovely presents – and so was Gwen who came on the Thurs. The two were most awfully decent to me, had me into lunch on the Friday before I left & we had goose! Then they drove me down to the station & Jerome came too, & they gave me quite a send off! I hated leaving Cambridge, I have grown so fond of the place – however that’s life – I sent my trunk in advance but I still had 4 suitcases, a hat box & a poke, but Jerome was most good-natured over them- & then I got a taxi this end. As usual I got a nice warm welcome from AGL & Chris-  and on Sat. Bebe phoned me up & Miss Lefroy said to ask her to tea on Sunday & I invited her friend too- who turned out to be a very nice little person. Bebe has improved in looks and has a fine figure. AGL said we were to have tea alone in the dr-room– but later I took her in to meet them– & they were charmed with her & seemed to enjoy their afternoon. Then I went to tea with them this afternoon at The Piccadilly Hotel where they’re staying. Then tomorrow I am meeting them at 10:30 a.m. and taking them a trip up the river. They have seen a great deal in the short time they have been here– Poor dears– they crossed the Channel on 2 August: & they had the most terrible crossing. The papers next day said it was the roughest crossing of the year– & they had to cut it out & send it home– as they knew no one in the U.S.A. would believe them when they told them how bad it was. I hope you to have better luck. Unfortunately you & Bebe are following one another round- & will just miss seeing one another by a week or so– they were in Paris & Cannes & now this week they go for a day to Cambridge- then on Sat: they leave for Scotland, return down the West Coast, & sail from S’hampton on 24th Aug-

Wed. Here I am again- No further word from you from the South of France so it looks as if this letter will never be posted. I had hoped you would send me a card from there with the name of your hotel – but no such luck. I wonder when you’ll be arriving back, I would love to be at Victoria to meet you- but there again I am all in the dark.

I went up the River with the girls yesterday, a trip I have often longed to take, it was a glorious day- & we went as far as Richmond- it was beautiful out there, & we had lunch at The Castle Restaurant right overlooking the river- & then we went up the hill & had a grand view– both of the river & park. We all enjoyed it & got back at about 7 p.m.

Today I did some washing & then AGL took me to the Horticultural Show– the most gorgeous show of Gladiolas & dear little Rockeries- & rock plants – I got AGL a sweet wee rock garden in a plant pot – & we had tea at the Army and Navy Stores. When we got home we did quite a bit of gardening, so my dogs are killing me & I am glad to be in bed! I wonder is it very hot with you & are you getting lots of sea-bathing? When I was recounting my doings while still at Cambridge– I forgot to tell you Joan & Ray had me to supper, and gave me the most luscious meal of real ham and green peas and new pots: & Peaches and cream- finishing off with large beakers of coffee. I really did well with meals after you left didn’t I? And now I am doing very well here too – so I’ll soon have to be getting weighed too! I wonder will you to really put on any weight on your honeymoon!? I doubt it – too much sightseeing & love-making does not tend to fatten one!! in spite of the extra food eaten!!

I also forgot to tell you how, after the wedding & you 2 had rushed off in a huge hurry– we all got back to the house– but very soon after AGL & Chris had to leave, then Mary & Dorothy & Jessie and Zinnia, but Stainthorpes & Bella & les girls (Dotty, Mary, Joan & Ruth) were still there– then les boys arrived full of champagne & apologies that there was no champagne left! but they got the cake there intact- They were naturally all very happy- & Charlie Barnes made love to me in the most blatant way!! but of course I liked it!! We then left les boys & girls to amuse themselves – & from all I gathered Al spent most of the evening in the bath-room recovering from the champagne-! Serves him right not even leaving a bottle for you – what?

Carol’s letter ends there at the very bottom of the 4th page with no room for a signature, which doesn’t matter since she had resigned herself, not without protests, to the fact that she was not going to be able to post it.  I’m sure Cyn enjoyed it when she read it, even if it was forty years later.  

Explanations of people in the letter:  AGL is Miss Lefroy, who had attended the wedding with her partner Miss Hull, and then returned to Hampstead, where Carol would go for a visit after clearing up and packing.  Dotty, one of Cyn’s closest friends, was helping Carol, as were other friends (les girls) clear up; Cec’s friends (les boys) were available for the heavy lifting; and Carol’s friends from Newcastle were popping in as well, looking at the wedding presents, and taking her out for meals!  Once Carol gets to London, her niece Bebe from New York (in her mid 20s I think) calls her up and Carol contributes to Bebe’s whirlwind tour of Europe with a river tour up the Thames.

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.

Cambridge.

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,

            Cec.

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

November 24 1948

11 Park Street

Cambridge 

Nov 24, 1948

Dear Folks, 

it’s past time I got busy with a pen, I’ve been busy trying to get some definite progress to report to my supervisor when he returns from the States at the end of the month. As a matter fact, with the shipping strike I don’t know when he will be back.

Your parcel arrived in good shape, Mom, & the honey, which is all I’ve sampled yet, is really good. Is it your own? As for sending parcels from S’toon or Toronto, it doesn’t matter to me. Simpson’s will let Auntie make her own selections which means I don’t get a lot of the stuff in the “standard” parcel which is no use to me. If Eatons will do the same or have more suitable selections OK. You will have to decide.  I’m in a slightly better position this year since my landlady can prepare things.

Cliff Smart & his wife are both fine these days. Cliff seems to be quite recovered. They are expecting a baby about Christmas, so I wonder if you could send me something nice in the baby present line.

We’ve just had two days of foul pea soup fog, but it’s clear today. You couldn’t see a hundred yards night or day and times it was down to 10 yards. It’s nice to see the sun again.

My research is going ahead slow but steady. The tubes I’m making look like a cross between some plumbing & radio tubes. They are something new & are working better than expected. Apart from my research Admiralty has several uses, I believe. I started the work while on reserve training & I am still going to Baldock three – four times a week. Have you heard from Pete & Lu lately – I haven’t for ages. Al Hagan said they had stopped some of the work at the Univ.

I don’t know yet where I’ll be spending Christmas, I’ve been invited to take the Chapman’s in Oxford, and also by Cyn & her mother in Cambridge. I may do both. 

The Canada Club is doing fairly well, but it’s still too much work to suit me. I’ve got an open meeting arranged for next Friday, I’ve got to go to London this Friday to meet our guest speaker.

My Christmas cards may be a bit late this year. I’m having another snap of John’s made up & they are slow. 

I’ll close now & write again when I send the card in a day or so 

Love 

Cec

P.S. Hope Carman has recovered