August 10-Part 2

The letter continues with the events of July 10-24 …

Mom and Dad went up to Lea and Wendell’s cottage on the Sunday evening (10th) and on the Mon. I baked the anniversary cake. I made it in my 3 square Christmas tins and used a very nice birthday cake recipe I had. I made the big one at the bottom white and the two smaller ones pink just for fun. On the Tues. I iced them all with a gold coloured icing and put the smaller cakes on foil covered cardboard squares, and made dozens of different sized gold coloured sugar bells, and then finally on the Wed. I put it all together and decorated it and stuck on the bells and then put the whole thing in a big plastic bag and put it in the freezer! In the meanwhile, on the Tues. evening I was in bed and just asleep when the phone rang and here it was Carman – they were at Renfrew about 50 miles away and would arrive in about 1 1/2 hours. What a to do! Of course they had a big tent and the idea was that they would sleep in it, but it was about 12:30 then and the thought of trying to put up a tent and put tired children in it at that hour of the night was a bit much, so I rushed upstairs, and woke Lindy and Charlie. We took Linda’s things into Charlie’s room and made up the sofa for her, then in her room we had two single beds, the sofa and an extra mattress on the floor for the 4 children. Then the family room with the new sofa bed was all ready there as Mom and Dad had left the day before, so I decided that Leona and Carman could just crawl in there. They finally arrived about 2:30 with all the children asleep on a mattress in the back of the station wagon and they were very good, all woke up smiling and we tucked them up in bed and they were very lively for a while. David is 8, Leslie the little girl is 6, Robin is 4 – 5 soon, and the youngest Phillip is 3. They are quite nice little children, but maybe it was because they were all together in one room, but there seemed to be an awful lot of argument and tears and telling tales! Perhaps I’ve just forgotten what little children are like. I certainly had forgotten how early they wake up, and every morning I was awakened at 7 or earlier with bangs, thumps and bumps from above while their parents slept happily through it! Leona is very calm and good tempered with them – perhaps too much so, Carman is the disciplinarian but somehow they didn’t strike me as too happy a family. Carman is very self-centred you know and not at all easy-going and nice mannered as Cec and he is quite horrid to both Leona and the children at times we think. As for being a help while a lot of people were around, he needed a full-time slave of his own all the time – I got used to finding his shoes, sandals, dirty glasses, coffee cups etc. each morning when I went into the sitting room (he never went to bed before 3) but the day I found his dirty socks in the middle of my living room carpet as well, I nearly said what I thought! However!
Mom and Dad were coming back from Lea’s on Thursday afternoon, and Linda and I were to stay home that evening and babysit while the rest of them went to the first Football Game of the season. In the afternoon Leona and I went down to Shoppers City for me to do my grocery shopping for the weekend. You can imagine – I filled cart after cart and ended up with a bill for over 100 dollars! We arrived home with all this – a roasting hot day – to be met with the news that while we were out Russell had called and they would be arriving in about 1 hour! We dashed and got all the food put away – quite a job – and then there they were. Now in this family there is Russell and Errol, and then Terry who is about 3 months younger than Linda (14) – he is a very nice boy – in fact the whole family is really nice, and Terry and Charlie (13) got on like a house on fire and were buddies straight away. Then there is Brian, Brent and Bobby- the latter about 9 and the others in between, and then a little girl Barbara, who is 7 or 8. The little girl is cute, with front teeth missing, and very sweet and affectionate, whereas Leslie is the most self-centred young lady you would ever meet! They all piled in, tired and hot, and they would have been here sooner but Errol got sunstroke in Winnipeg where they stayed a few days with one of her sisters, and had to go to hospital, and was still headachy, and not feeling too good. Just after they arrived, here drove up Wendell with Mom and Dad, so there we were, 19 for dinner! Wendell wouldn’t stay but set off to drive back to the cottage to get Lea, saying he would be back about 8, and the idea was that the Russells would go over and sleep at the Atchison’s 5th Avenue house – they have no rooms let now. I had been going to have chicken for dinner but I couldn’t manage that but fortunately I had bought dozens of frozen meat patties, so I cooked them and had corn and French bread and salad then ice cream cones and grapes, and I think everyone had enough to eat. At least everyone got one helping always as I was last in line over the weekend and I always found something to eat! We hardly got everyone fed when they had to begin going to the Football Game as they already had the tickets, and fortunately, Charlie (who is now a regular paper boy down at the NRC like he used to do for Johnny) was given a ticket by one of the papers, so they were able to take Terry with them. Errol and I cleared up and she is a marvel that girl. I liked her very much and talk about a help – all weekend if there was a job to be done – Errol did it. She didn’t wait for me to begin or to ask, she was just right there working and was the most efficient and practical helper. Leona would help but she would dash off to do something for the children in the middle, or sit talking and forget there were dishes to be done, but Errol would have them finished before anyone noticed if she could. Frankly, Leona is a nitwit, Cec and I decided, but Errol is very nice and we liked Russell too – he is much more like Cec than Carman is and he and Cec got on very well together. He would give Cec a hand with things too, whereas Carman would sit under the tree and read while Cec cut the grass around him, sort of thing. Anyway, that first evening we sat and waited for the Atchisons to come, and Linda and I put the little Carmans to bed and as time went on we decided that the Russells might as well sleep that night in Carman’s tent which he had put up under the old apple tree – where the children used to sling the hammock. Errol was keen to get her children in bed as they were all tired, so eventually they unpacked and put the children to bed in the tent, and still no Atchisons.

Nice for everyone except Russell and Terry! The Grey Cup in November had the same teams but opposite result.

Finally the others came back from the Game, and poor Errol was just about dead on her feet so off she went to bed, and of course then, at about twenty to 12 Lea and family appeared! Well, we finally got to bed about 2 or 2:30 and awake at 7 of course – the little dears! With Mom and Dad back in their own room we put Carman and Leona on the porch to sleep – and of course they heard their children even less! We had 19 sleeping that night and breakfast was from 7:30 till noon! Leona annoyed me madly by rushing to make everyone bacon and eggs as they appeared whereas I reckoned that anyone wanting breakfast after 10:30 could have coffee from the perc. and make themselves some toast and marmalade. I might say that I was having a baking morning and had cleared everyone outside as it was a lovely morning and I made pies and cookies and a cake and could really have done without the bacon and egg activities!
The Russell family were to go over to Lea’s that afternoon and take their luggage to stay, but I said for them to come back to dinner as I was sure that Lea wouldn’t have a meal ready – anyway she is still hobbling around with her back, so I had said why didn’t they all come but Lea said Oh, no, they wouldn’t, but I suggested that they come for coffee and dessert later, and she said they would do that. I had a big 7lb. roast of beef, so we were going to have that with roast potatoes and green beans, then sponge cake with raspberries and ice cream for dessert. I decided that the children could eat on the porch and as my table will hold just 8 adults, which we would be, I set the table in the dining room nicely, and was all organized when at 5 o’clock Lea phoned could they come to dinner after all as they had nothing ready and Errol had persuaded her I wouldn’t mind. Grrrr! This was 4 extra, and believe me, there was no roast beef left for sandwiches next day! Merle, Dix and Bruce were arriving that evening, but we didn’t know when – so Errol said they wouldn’t wait so that she could get the children to bed in good time, and they and the Atchisons left about 9. I had got ready Charlie’s room for Merle and Dix, and Linda and Charlie and Bruce were to sleep out in the tent – they had air mattresses and sleeping bags and it was a lovely big tent. Lindy and I had a good laugh – before they all came, I told Linda that they were probably all too old to sleep together like in the good all days, and she would have to sleep somewhere else, but when it came to the point there just didn’t seem to be any other place, and none of them seemed to think a thing about it, so in they all went together and had some very good bedtime chats! The Moors finally didn’t come till after midnight as Dix had to work that day, so we had another late night. 15 sleeping that night!

The next day was the Golden Wedding! Everyone was supposed to be here at 5 o’clock, so that we could take pictures while it was still nice and sunny, so I suggested that the families all go swimming in the afternoon, so that I would be left a clear field, and that is what they did. They all went to Lea’s and the youngsters went to a nearby beach on the Rideau River with some of the adults, and Merle had a chat with Lea, and Mom and Dad stayed here and had a rest and Cec and I got things ready. I set a buffet table on the dining room table with the Wedding Cake as a centerpiece, and gold candles and it really looked lovely. I had bought a huge 24 lb. turkey at Shoppers City and for an extra 15¢ a lb. they roasted it for me and had it all cooked and piping hot at 5:30. This was a great blessing as it saved having the oven on all that hot day and saved me such a lot of trouble. Besides that I had a big ready cooked ham, and I made a tomato aspic salad, a potato salad, a macaroni salad, a green salad, and a mixed bean salad which I had got Leona to make for me the previous day. Then I had hot rolls carrot sticks, celery and radishes etc. and then the cake with ice cream for dessert. Everyone was back in good time, and I was all ready and beautifully organized, and we all got dressed – Lindy in her blue linen which I had made and which looks very nice, and me in my new shaded blue dress for the first time. Leona had a white linen sheath, and then when the Russells and Atchisons came, Errol had had her hair done and had curled Barbara’s and they had on Mother and Daughter dresses of a very pretty pink and white lace which Errol had made them for her sister’s wedding. They looked so pretty and the dresses were lovely. Bruce and I rushed and got the turkey and put it in the oven while we took pictures outside, and then we went in and Russell and his family gave Mom and Dad a big bunch of carnations and the Atchisons a bottle of ‘Golden Wedding’ Canadian whisky, and Merle and Dix gave them a card with the present of the trip to Prince Edward Island. Cec and I had been shopping at Birks and we got Mom a lovely little gold brooch of a spray of tiny maple leaves made of 3 kinds of gold – yellow, white and red, and for Dad a tiny little tie pin of one small gold maple leaf with a wee diamond dewdrop on it. They seemed very pleased and we thought they would be nice mementoes for them. We then had dinner, with Russ carving the turkey, and Dix the ham, and there was plenty for everyone – we sat some in the dining room and some out under the tree and it was just lovely – the weather couldn’t have been more perfect – not even any mosquitoes! Afterwards Mom and Dad cut the cake, and then Cec produced champagne (we found we could rent glasses from the wine shop for 25¢) and we all drank their healths, the children in coke, and ate cake and ice cream. It really went beautifully, without a hitch, and everything was so pleasant and went so smoothly that I really felt much less tired than the 2 previous evenings.
The next day, Sunday, we invited everyone to come for a Wiener Roast to christen Cec’s new barbecue, so the Russells came after lunch – at least poor things, I don’t think that they got lunch at Lea’s and I rather doubt if they got any breakfast either from what I’ve heard, but anyway they brought Darryl and Patty Lu with them, and they all had a good time, playing badminton and baseball etc. We had planned supper for 6 and of course Lea and Wendell didn’t appear until 7 or after but we didn’t wait for them. We had hot dogs and salads and Potato Chips and afterwards watermelon and the 2 pecan pies I had made. Cec was very pleased because his fire worked beautifully and the hot dogs were lovely. We sat around and chatted and then bade farewell to Russell and his family as next day they went with the Atchisons up to the cottage for 1 day and then on the Tues. Merle and Dix left with Mom and Dad to drive down to Brantford and Russ and family were driving down the same day and spending a day or so with them then heading home again as Russ only had 2 weeks. He has another week’s holiday but he is a great hunter you know and some friend of his had arranged a week’s hunting in the Fall with a plane, so he was keeping time for that. He left us some moose sausage in the freezer, but we haven’t tried it yet!
This left us with just the Carman family, and it was a bit of a mistake, as we were all so tired after the weekend, that I would really have been much happier if they had all gone! However, they did go to Lea’s for 2 nights and then came back on Sat. evening and took Cec and me out to dinner and to another football game. I had actually never seen a football game in Canada, so it was quite fun as it was a lovely evening but although Ottawa won it wasn’t a very good game. I enjoyed the dinner which we had at an Italian Restaurant, and we had yummy pizzas. The Carmans left the next morning and really we all collapsed in a heap! Quite a visitation.

Grandpa and Granny Costain on their Golden Wedding Anniversary, surrounded by grandchildren.


Our next excitement was our own Anniversary, on the Tues. and Cec and I went out to dinner at a German Restaurant and had a very nice dinner and then went on to a movie “Walk Don’t Run” with Cary Grant, which was quite amusing. I forgot to tell you that before the crowd came, we all packed into the car – Mom and Dad and us 4, and went to the Drive-In to see it “Born Free” the film about Elsa. It was really marvellous and we all enjoyed it so much – if you ever get the chance, you should see it.

After all my own excitement, I had to gird my loins and get down to work again, as there was a wedding in our Church on the Sat. afternoon, and the WA were catering to the reception, and I was in charge. It was a young man who lives here in Rothwell Heights and comes to our church, although his parents go to the United, and his bride comes from a small town not far from Ottawa, but apparently her parents didn’t approve of the wedding as they didn’t even come to it, and the young couple paid for everything themselves. We felt so sorry for them as they are very nice -not young and silly and dashing off to get married in haste, but had gone together since High School and she is a teacher and he has just got his BA and is specializing for a year and then going to teach Gym etc. Anyway, it ended in being a very pretty wedding, and we served them a nice cold buffet and it all went very well. The only bridesmaid was a disappointment though – her dress was rather an ugly shade of dark gold – more like a Fall wedding.
All this time Linda and Charlie were toiling away at typing – we did let them have 2 days off while all the family were here, but otherwise they went every morning and seem to have done very well. They are not madly fast yet but seem quite accurate – more than me! – they finished on 4th of this month and apart from having a Czech. Dr Poldus from work to dinner one evening, and Mr. Graham and the wife of a new Fellow of Cec’s who hasn’t come yet another evening, life has been placid and I have been slowly getting the washing and ironing done and tidying and cleaning gradually. Linda and Charlie’s rooms were just shambles after the little Costains left – no other words describe it. They had every toy in every cupboard all over the place, although we told them certain things weren’t to be touched, and some of Charlie’s things will never be the same again! Lindy thinks we were very silly to have the whole house so clean and beautiful before they came, but at least I can remember that I had it looking nice once this summer!
I forgot to tell you a very important piece of Costain news! Charlie has just reminded me that on our wedding anniversary I was standing next to him and suddenly said “You are taller than me!” We immediately dashed and measured, and sure enough he is about half an inch or more taller, so here I am the smallest member of the family! Linda is about half a head taller than I am now and whereas last year she was about the same height as Janet and Joanne was much taller, I now notice that she is as tall as Joanne and that Janet is left behind.
Now to get back to some of your letters. You were talking about the Test Matches in one of them and asking if we were interested, but really we never even hear of them hardly. Last week I heard a BBC news broadcast and they said that the WI were beating England hollow and since then Cec has been talking to a Fellow at the Lab. who is going down to the University in Jamaica or Trinidad – I forget which – to teach for a year, and he has been getting the local papers and is very interested and told Cec how well the WI team are doing. This man, Barry Morrow got his PhD in Cambridge and has a nice English wife, and they have just got a little baby. I expect everyone is now very interested in the Empire Games, about which we do hear something, but mainly how Canada is doing so it is very hard to get a good overall picture. Cec probably knows more as he hears the late night sports review on TV but I don’t watch. We have just been watching the TV news now at 7 o’clock, as a big new bridge being built over the Rideau River partially collapsed this afternoon, killing about 6 men and more than 50 more seriously injured. It seems fantastic that in this day and age such things could happen but earlier this year a new building under construction did the same thing, although fortunately not so serious. You feel that something must be very wrong.
You mentioned earlier that you had heard that Vivian Leigh and Sir John Geilgud were at Young’s Island, and we were interested because Cec met them when he was down in Washington at Easter. He stayed with a scientist friend and his wife and while he was with them they took him to the first night of Sir J.G. and V.L.’s new play, as the young brother of Cec’s friend was in the cast. At the moment, I can’t remember the man’s name or the name of the play, but it was going on to New York after Washington, and it must have been after the New York run that they came to St. V. After the play Cec was taken backstage to meet the cast and was introduced to V.L. and warned that she didn’t enjoy being told that she was remembered in ‘Gone with the Wind’. Cec said that she looked beautiful on the stage, but older and very tired near by – she hadn’t been well during the run, and they were quite anxious about her, because of course she had TB once and so I don’t suppose is very strong. [See post January to May 1966]
You were answering my letter and in it talking about Harry Kroto and his wife up at the cottage, and getting him all confused with one or two others who were there! Harry is a very dark vivacious young man and he is from England and his wife is English too – he has a strange name because his parents were refugees from Germany before the war but he was born and brought up in England. They are leaving NRC at the end of this month after their 2 years and he is going down to the US for a year. We will have a farewell party for them when we come back from Brantford. You were asking about Linda and Charlie’s reports – they arrived about a month ago and were both good without being wildly outstanding, but that is fine with us! We hear that Darryl failed Grade 9 again, which means that he, at 16 is behind Charlie who is 13. He is certainly one mixed up boy, but you couldn’t find a nicer, more polite boy during the time he spent here with all the visitors. Lea is dreadful with him I think, but she always has been and this is the trouble we gather – he is resentful and uses school to get his own back.
While we had our guests we were so pleased because our garden looked very nice. It has been so hot that everything has bloomed and finished in no time at all, but just then we had masses of delphiniums in flower and lots of yellow and gold and orange day lilies and it really looked lovely. Even our centennial rose was blooming madly, but we were disappointed because it turns out to be a multi-flora so the flowers are small, and although they bloom in clusters and make a nice show we prefer the bigger blossoms. It is a lovely orangey-red colour though, so we are glad it is doing well, and even Charlie’s poor little dug-up rose put forth one flower!
Our little Saki is growing into a lovely little cat and is lots prettier now and just as playful and sweet. Linda throws her around like a little bag and the children play with her by the hour and she is so good tempered and will jump at your feet as you go by or pretend to pounce on you, but never a scratch or bite, and always little soft paws without a claw showing. We got some pictures yesterday of her when she was tiny and we all had to laugh as she was so funny and tiny and wispy with a little straggly tail! Now she is really pretty and so white and clean, but still a little cat – an appetite like a baby horse though. The hamster is as fat and cuddly as ever, and his appetite is pretty good too – a bathtub full of pablum twice a day – a doll’s bathtub that is! Also sunflower seeds and peanuts and some lettuce or celery or apple. Ruth Lockwood is going to look after them for us when we are away.
My sewing came to a halt when our visitors came, but as I told you I did finish the pale blue linen for Lindy and she looks very pretty in it as it is just the colour of her eyes. She thinks it is too plain, but I think it is very nice. She finished her yellow shift too and then I made the material you sent me for my birthday with the big navy blue flowers on it into a very nice dress for me with a front opening, which is a nice change from struggling with a back zipper. And I like the pattern and think that I will make another like it but I find the material very crumply – you know, you wear it once and then it has to be ironed again, even if I have starched it. You say that you don’t think I like the materials which you sent me much, actually I do like them, except for the fact that they both have the kind of mauvy-pink colour which I don’t care for too much. I was going to make the pique into a sundress, but I have no time now, and think I’ll keep it till next year. I have worn the dress you brought me from New York last year all summer long. I don’t know what made you think I didn’t like it – I do, but if you remember last year we didn’t have much weather for sundresses, whereas this year I have worn hardly anything else. The one you gave me is lovely as it doesn’t show the dirt much, and when I do wash it it opens out and is so easy to iron!
Thank you so much for the cheque for $18. I told Linda that you had sent her $10 and she is very thrilled. She has been so good this summer, with only 3 dresses really, as nothing from last year would fit her, so her pale blue dress, the yellow dress, a grey and white dress we bought and a couple of summer skirts is all she has had apart from a pair of jeans and a couple of pairs of shorts! Anyway, with her birthday coming and going away too, I thought she could do with something else, and we went shopping and got her a very pretty two-piece. The skirt is a nice soft sage green and the top, which comes over the skirt at the waist is a cream colour with a little half belt in front of the green. It has a plain round neck and is sleeveless and she looks very nice in it. It is made of a laminated jersey – like the mauve coat, you know, but a finer thinner material, so should look nice, both for best and then when she begins school next month. I suggested to Linda that she use your money to get two nice blouses and she is very pleased with the idea. The linen one you saw sounds lovely, but perhaps it is just as well that you didn’t get it as she is so tall and long waisted that we have to be careful that blouses which are slim enough for her are also long enough. The ones she wears for school are the shirt type with good tails that tuck in well, and she thought she would get one with a green print (which she has already seen and had her eye on) and a nice white one. She can wear them with the green skirt. [Note: in 1966, girls were not allowed to wear trousers to school. We didn’t wear uniform, but there were rules!] And I will send you some green string and fertilizer for your violets when I get home from the cheque too, and you didn’t say if you wanted batteries now or not. Let me know.


I must stop, as I have been typing all day off and on, and my fingers are sore! At the moment I can’t think of another thing to tell you but probably I will sooner no sooner seal the letter that I will think of all sorts of interesting things. Anyway, much love from us all and say hello to Doris and Luenda and Mr. Cox and Dowers from us. One evening when everyone was here we had a film show and Merle asked to see our West Indian pictures, and it took us back quite a while! [Since the trip had been a decade earlier!]
Love to Auntie Muriel and Peggy and much love to you from
Cyn.

August 10 1966- Part 1

Box 330, R.R.1,
Ottawa, Ontario

10th Aug.

Dearest Mummy,
It is so long since I wrote you a proper letter that I hardly know where to begin. I am so sorry, but after our visitors left, we all were just exhausted, and seemed to spend the first week either sleeping or sitting, and it was only last week that I finally got the last of the 16 sheets washed and ironed, not to mention the other odds and ends! In addition to that all the garden things are flourishing and I have been picking and freezing – raspberries, green beans, wax beans and peas. The small carrots are ready and the beetroots, so I should get on with those sometime today. The raspberries haven’t been as good as last year as it was very dry for a while when they first began and the berries were just little wizened up things, but then we did get some rain and they improved. Mom Costain when she was here just loved a jar of blackcurrant jam which I had made 2 or 3 years ago, but I am the only one who likes it here so I hadn’t bothered since. However, when I have the currants it seemed a shame not to make some jam for her to take home so Cec picked me the currants on Sunday (sitting peacefully on a garden chair!) and I spent one entire evening topping and tailing the miserable things and then making the jam. I don’t think there is more than 2 lbs. of it – I put it in small plastic jars with lids – but it was more than 2 lbs. amount of work. My fingernails are still stained black. We still have lots of currants on the bushes, but I don’t think I will deprive the birds of them! Leona was crazy about gooseberry jam, and again no one here eats it except me, so we picked a big plastic bag full for her to take with her, and they were still very firm, so she hoped that she would get them home and be able to make some jam. I still have the bag of gooseberries in the freezer from last year!
We have had a simply incredible summer – beautiful sunny weather day after day for 3 months or so. Ever since the children finished school at the beginning of June it has been lovely nearly all the time – we have had occasional thunder showers and one or two cool days, but always the next day has been warm and nice again, and we have even had more pleasant hot days than miserable humid ones. We have had it very hot – over 90 quite a bit, but the nights have been quite pleasant and usually the humid horrid weather just was a day or so, and then nice again. Yesterday turned very hot and humid and was over 90, but there was a thunderstorm about midnight and today is lovely and cool and sunny in the high 70ies. It has been perfect for all those people who have cottages, and would have been so nice for us last year! However, we certainly couldn’t have managed our visitors nearly so well without the gorgeous weather, so I can be thankful. Actually, the hot weather doesn’t make me any more energetic of course, but there haven’t been all that many days when it was an effort to move, although I am beginning to get fed up with trying to think of meals without putting the oven on! I must be needing a holiday to be getting fed up with cooking, and ours begins on Tuesday!
We drive down to Stratford on Tuesday, and stay in a Guest House. That evening we go to see ‘Henry V’ and then next day Cec and I hope to go over to London for a quick visit with Pete and Lu Forsyth while Linda and Charlie stay in Stratford and go to the matinee of the opera ‘Don Giovanni’. This seemed the simplest thing, as really our children and the Forsyth children don’t know each other now and have very little in common, and Charlie was quite heartbroken at the thought of not seeing the opera, which is his favourite. Personally, Mozart’s operas don’t thrill me that much, but he loves them. Then when we come back we go to see ‘Twelfth Night’ that evening and afterwards drive to Brantford. That makes an awfully long day, but we arranged it that way as Merle and Dix thought that they might bring Mom and Dad over to see ‘Twelfth Night’ too, and we would all be going back to Brantford together. While we are in Brantford John and Sharon and their new baby Steven will be there too as they are home for a month, and while they are there there will be a double christening on the Sunday with Lorne and Liz’s new little baby Cynthia. I had thought I might be godmother to my namesake but they are both going to be a little members of the United Church so I don’t suppose they will have godparents.

Stratford was great. We had a wonderful holiday.

Lindy’s birthday is on the next day and we will spend most of the day in Brantford and then go back to Stratford to see the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and spend the night before we drive home the next day. We will be away just 8 days, but it will be a nice break, and Cec took quite a lot of time off when we had the visitors etc. so he doesn’t have much time to spare if we plan to take a month in England next year. You will be glad to know that we have saved airfare to England and back, so now all we have to do is save the money we will spend when we are there, and we won’t have to “Go Now – Pay Later”!
I have at least 3 very nice letters of yours to answer, and all sorts of things to thank you for, like the cheque and anniversary card etc. but I think that I will begin by trying to get you up to date with our doings, and then I may find that I have answered some of your questions while doing so.
I think that the last time I wrote you a decent letter was at the end of June just before Mom and Dad came. We had the Sunday School Prizegiving on the 26th and in the afternoon the S.S. races etc. and then the Chicken Barbeque – do you remember last year? It was a very hot day again and the chicken got a bit burned but everything else was fine! The next day Mom and Dad arrived by train during the afternoon both looking very well and exactly the same as they have looked for the last 10 years.

The next evening Lindy and I were invited to a shower for Alayne Staniforth by Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Craven. Alayne is the eldest daughter of Phyllis Staniforth, who you will probably remember is a very close friend of Margaret Savic’s. She and Margaret have always been pillars of the Altar Guild, so this is why the Shower and all of us Church ladies were there. Alayne is the oldest girl – there are 2 others, one training as a nurse, and one, Pamela who is Linda’s age. Alayne is a Hospital Librarian, and her fiancé is a Medical Student and they have been going steady since High School, although Robert moved with his family to Vancouver about 4 years ago. They are to be married on August 20th in our church, and then will live in Vancouver. The Shower was great fun, and Lindy and I made up a Kitchen Basket, with all sorts of little presents in it for our gift and she really got a wonderful lot of useful things and no duplicates. I even managed to make her an apron, and Linda wants one the same, so I will have to hustle on with it! Alayne’s was blue and white stripes but Linda is going in for green this Fall, so I have got a white material with green and gold spots, and a gay green trim, so I hope it will look nice and that she will be pleased.
We had quite a nice visit with Mom and Dad – not doing much, and of course Linda and Charlie began their Typing Lessons on 4th July, and had to be there from 8:30 to 11:30, so this meant an early rising. They left here at 7:45 and got the bus downtown, and it put them off right outside the door of the Business School (next door to the Zenith Shop.)

It introduced us both to typing, and we would bring our (mis)typed efforts home each day for Cyn to giggle over the peculiar sentences that resulted. We may not have enjoyed it but it was useful.

We had Carman’s friends Joy and Jack Locke over one evening to meet Mom and Dad as they knew them from when the Lockes lived in Penticton, and late one night the phone rang and here it was Carman, saying that they had decided after all to make the trip East, and could we cope with them. Of course Cec said yes, and they were to arrive on 13th, driving and camping on the way. In the meanwhile, Mom and Dad had told us that Russ and Errol’s little girl had scarlet fever when they saw them in Saskatoon and didn’t know if she would be well enough or the boys catch it, so we had no idea if they were coming or not.

That week Cec took some days off work and he and Dad began building a big barbeque fireplace in the back garden. Dad had built a big retaining wall at the back of the garden of his new house in B.C. so Cec thought he would have expert advice, but of course the job turned out to be an enormous one and took much longer than they thought as always happens! It is at the back corner of the patio, and if you remember Cec had piled there some cut limestone blocks which Ken had used for a fireplace in the other house and which had been torn out when they remodeled. Cec always said that he would use them to build a fireplace, but of course he had to build it out of concrete blocks first and pour cement for a platform, and then face the whole thing and chimney with the limestone, so it was a very big job, but it really looks beautiful now. It is sort of 3-cornered, with the firebox and chimney in the middle and two wings on either side, which Cec has covered with slate tiles, so that there is a working space on either side. Cec of course wanted to get it done before all our visitors came, as we didn’t think our little hibachi would be much use for all that crowd, but Grandpa went away in the middle of it, so he had a hard time getting it done in time. However, he managed, and we christened it while they were here and Cec was very pleased that he could cook 36 hotdogs at once!


The Letter Continues…

June 13 1966- Part 2

Seated in front: Leslie and David Costain; in chairs L-R, Patty Lu Atchison holding Phillip Costain & Barbara Costain with cousin Robin Costain; in a clump standing L, Terry, Brian, Brent and Bobby Costain, then Leona Costain, Lea Atchison, Merle Moor, Cyn Costain, Linda and Charlie Costain; back row, cut off, Daryl Atchison, Russell Costain, Carman Costain, Errol Costain, Wendell Atchison, Cec Costain, Bruce Moor, Dixon Moor.

Just a note of review of the Costain Family: Mom and Dad Costain had 5 children: Merle, Lea, Cec, Russell and Carman, all married, with a total of 16 grandchildren. Merle, Lea, and Cec live in Ontario- Lea and Cec in Ottawa, and this is where the family plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their parents’ marriage. Mom and Dad, and Carman’s family live in British Columbia so have the farthest to travel, Russell and family live in Saskatchewan (although Cyn says Alberta, which surprised me) and in the end all (except the 2 oldest grandchildren, Merle’s sons John and Lorne and their very young families) managed to make it to Ottawa in July to celebrate.

[Continued from Monday’s letter…]

Tuesday.
Linda and Charlie are off to school for their exams and Cec is away to work, so here I am to finish my letter. I am meeting the children at 12:15 and we are going downtown to get Daddy’s birthday present and Father’s Day present! This year the Columbus Meeting isn’t until Sept. so for once Cec has his birthday at home – we are going to celebrate by having Mr. Graham and the Grahams over for bridge. We thought that we would get him a new card table for Father’s Day as the old one is not very presentable now, but as F’s Day isn’t until Sunday he won’t have it for this occasion.
Saki is rushing madly around at the moment trying to run off some of her high spirits! She just loves going outside now and climbs all the trees and the other day we couldn’t find her anywhere and then looking up the old apple tree we saw her fast asleep up in the branches. She still uses her sandbox inside, and doesn’t seem to think the garden soil is the same thing at all. While Cec was away last week we took her down to the Vet. Dr. Cherry for her distemper shot, and poor little thing she had a horrid time. She was just terrified and gave a great squall when he gave her the injection and then bit the assistant who was holding her and rushed off. Her ears have always been very dirty inside and I had cleaned them a bit with the cotton covered sticks and warm water, but I told the vet and he gave them a great cleaning with cotton wool and got out gobs of black stuff and of course she hated this. He then looked at some of this stuff under his microscope and found she had ear mites and showed me the little things wiggling (Charlie wouldn’t look – Lindy wouldn’t even come into the Vets.) and so he put some stuff in her ears and frightened her some more – so much so, poor little thing that as she was climbing up Charlie and me she had a B.M. and didn’t do our coats any good! However, she soon recovered when we got her back in the car – which she quite likes, and I have been putting in the ear stuff and she doesn’t mind me doing it. She also has some vitamin drops and she loves them and licks them off the dropper with great gusto! Noli is doing fine and is just as fat and gentle as ever. Saki loves to watch him in his cage and if we go out quite often will go and sit up beside the cage for company. Of course if Noli is out on the floor Saki thinks he is a plaything, particularly if he runs, so we keep them apart!
Our plans for the summer are slightly more organized – Mom and Dad are arriving on the 27th of this month, in 2 weeks time. We have got a beautiful new sofa bed for the family room, as we felt they had slept on that old one for so many visits that they deserved a new one for their Golden Wedding! It is a brown sofa when closed, about the same length as the old one, but it opens out so that the head of the bed is the back of the sofa, and so makes a big Queen-size bed. It has a foam mattress and is very comfortable – the children keep begging to open it out so they can lie in luxury and watch television! Just after we had ordered this what should happen but the washing machine should break down! Of course when it broke down last time over 2 years ago the man told us this was giving out and that was breaking down etc. and it had been leaking, so it was expected but of course it would happen just then. Cec said it wasn’t even worth getting a repair man out to look at it and that we should look at new ones, so 2 weeks ago we went out to Simpson-Sears and got a beautiful new one. It is pretty much like the old one but just a few more adjustments – in the old one I could either have the machine full of water or if I wanted a smaller wash I had to stay there and push the button when it was full enough, and then come back and do the same thing for the rinse, but this one has three amounts of water and I can set at any one and it does either a small, medium or large wash. While we were waiting to get it I went back to my old friend the Coinwash, and of course got all behind and in my washing and ironing and seemed to spend all last week catching up. I was in the middle of washing all the curtains etc. too and had got Lindy’s curtains and bedspreads done but now will have to attack the rest. We have got the Indian rug in the family room and it looks very nice and fits the colour scheme beautifully and makes it much cosier I think.
To go back to our visitors this summer – Merle phoned up when Cec was away, and apparently she had got fed up with waiting to hear what Russell and his family were going to do this summer and had phoned them. You know the rumour has been going around that they would come and visit us for Mom and Dad’s Golden Wedding celebration, so at Christmas I wrote and said how pleased we would be to see them etc. – not a word. So we asked Mom when we wrote if she had heard if they were coming, and she had heard they might, and so it went on, and the same with a brother of Dad’s called Uncle Harry, and it was so annoying because none of us here knew what was happening. Well, finally poor Merle couldn’t stand it and phoned them (Russell is with Bell Telephone and we think can probably phone free) and after talking they said yes that they would come leaving Alberta around the 8 or 9 July and camping on the way – they have 4 boys and 1 girl. Then Merle said would they write and let us know but they said they didn’t know where our address was would Merle let us know, so poor Merle had to make another long distance call to us! If I were her I would have been mad! As it is I don’t much appreciate being a hotel where reservations needn’t be made! Merle and Dix and Bruce will arrive on 15 July and the celebration will be on 16th – Uncle Harry isn’t coming we just heard from Mom on Sat. so at last we are beginning to know what is happening! I called Lea to tell her the developments, but she’s is still in as bad a way as ever with her back and expects she will have to have it operated on – she doesn’t know when – so she is out of it as far as any entertaining goes. However she does have plenty of room so I think that Russell and his family can stay with us for a few days and then when Merle etc. come they can go over to stay at Lea’s and come to us to eat – as far as I can see this makes it 14 for meals and nine to stay part of the time and 11 the rest of the time! Linda thinks it would be lovely if all 14 were here and we could put them all up except as far as I can see the sitting room sofa would be the only place for her! I feel with this crowd I just can’t do much preparing – I’ll just have to wait and cope when it comes – I just hope it isn’t one of those Ottawa heat waves! Merle and Dix are taking Mom and Dad a trip to Prince Edward Island so will be only here a weekend I think, and I don’t suppose that Russell and Errol will be here very long as driving to and fro will take 4 days or so each way, so it will be a wild few days! I plan to do one thing beforehand and that is make a 3 tier wedding cake for Mom and Dad. I won’t make a fruit cake, just a white one, but I will make it in 3 square tins and ice it in gold and decorate it and I think it will look nice and be fun. I will freeze the cakes iced, I think and then just decorate it at the end, so it won’t take too long.
Lindy and Charlie think they are having a very Organized summer – at the end of this month they are having tennis lessons for 10 days down at the tennis courts on the Lower Level of Rothwell Heights, then in July they are going for typing lessons at one of the High Schools in town, and Charlie now has a Paper Route – it is not really a route as it is the one he used to help Johnny Lockwood with at the NRC buildings on Montreal Rd. and all he hast to do is go and sit beside a pile of papers in the beautiful new air-conditioned hall! Johnny used to do 2 buildings but found his money was disappearing from the building where he just left the papers alone, so Charlie now does this one and he’s very proud of himself as he makes about 2 dollars a week. Lindy is panting for some babysitting jobs so that she can make money too, but so far she hasn’t done too well. In August we are going down to Brantford and Stratford for a week. We have booked a room in Stratford and will see Twelfth Night, Henry 5, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Lindy and Charlie are going to a matinee of an opera Don Giovanni while Cec and I go to London to see Pete and Lu. Charlie was most distressed at not seeing the opera which he said he wanted to see more than anything, so this was the solution, as really the children don’t have much in common with Pete and Lu’s 2 now, and hardly know them. We will then go to Brantford for a few days, and John and Sharon will be there and their baby christened. Lorne and Liz are expecting another baby this week – Debbie will be 2 1/2 now I think, and poor Liz had taken 2 night classes all winter and was sitting the exams last week!
Now at last having caught up on all my news I will try and answer your letters. I got one last night – thank you so much for it – written on 6th. I am glad that you got my letter with the recipes, I don’t know if they will be much use to you, but I know you and Auntie Moo like to see them anyway. If you can get the chocolate chips I think you would like the Pot au Creme dessert of mine – it is very rich and creamy tasting and very nice for a party – if you put it in small dishes you don’t need much in each one as it is so rich. I hope that you enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday Parade – it is nice that the Admin and his wife have been inviting you to some of the things as I know how much you enjoy them. Lindy was quite disappointed this year as I didn’t bother to sign the book to go to the Governor General’s Garden Party and she had made up her mind that she was old enough to go this year! But I think it is fun once in a while, but not every year. I am glad that you enjoyed the visit of the nice blind men and had a drive out to see Lily Purnett with one of them. I was amused about Mrs. Manton and her son who is going to McGill. As you know the distance between Montreal and Ottawa is counted as nothing here, but I am quite sure that when he is in Montreal at University he will have no desire to come visiting some unknown family in Ottawa. He will have all his own friends and activities and would think it an awful bore.
I am so sorry that I forgot all about the cheque book. I will get one this afternoon and send it to you. I also have a box (small!) all ready to send with the stockings for Auntie Moo and I must get it wrapped and mailed. Your Bank Account number is 8900 I think but I will check and let you know for sure when I send the cheque book. The children say thank you for the letters – perhaps when they are taking their typing lessons you will get some epistles from them. I am so glad that you met Mrs. Bedell – I haven’t heard anymore on the radio lately as I just have it on you know and it depends what I am doing as to whether I hear the talking bits or not, and in the summer I am out and about more. You mentioned in one of your letters having heard from Brenda and I have often wondered what happened about the scare that Arthur might have a spot which was cancerous. I imagine that they found it was all right or you would have said, but I hope everything is OK. I am sorry for them – they seem to have had a pretty hard time, travelling around and never settling for too long in one place, and some of the places pretty dreadful climates too. I am sure she must be longing to get back to England and have a proper home, but of course they must go where Arthur has a job. How is Richard doing in Australia? What part of Australia is Hazell Ann living in, and is Richard anywhere near? I am glad she is going to have a baby and I hope all goes well. I am glad that Jane and Bill are having a nice leave, but sorry that they didn’t come via Canada this time – next time, I hope. It was a big disappointment for John and a blow for all of them after all his hard work. What do they think he will go in for now? You ask about Charlie and his music lessons – well Ken and Dot only came back from Florida last month and are going away at the end of this one so poor Charlie doesn’t get much encouragement! I think I may have told you that the Scotts bought a small house trailer down in Florida and so when they go back in the Fall will have it to live in. It is in a trailer-park and they pay $25 a month and the park people look after it and the garden and keep it all in good shape whether they are there or not. Ken got it for 500 dollars from a man whose wife had left him and was on a drinking binge – trust Ken to get a good bargain! All the others were well over 1000 dollars. Dot is having a little music recital out at Cumberland next week, so Charlie is having to practice and refurbish some of his pieces, but anyway as long as he keeps it up a bit I don’t mind. The clarinet playing at school fell through – it was in the lunchtime you know, and someone didn’t come and then came back and they never seem to get any further than the ones who went regularly got very bored. By the way, you also ask about Lindy in one of your letters, and you will be interested to know that she is now a young woman! No trouble, but it seems very odd to me to have to remember such things at the supermarket again! She still complains over her small bosom but she actually has a little bit of a figure now.
I am horror-stricken – I found an Airmail letter amongst yours, and thought oh, an old one from Jean, and ripped it in two, and then suddenly realized it is from Peter and that you had said something about wanting to keep it, so I will have to return it to you in 2 parts! I think you will still be able to decipher the name of your shares. You really shouldn’t send me letters you want to keep, you know.
Well, it is 10:30 and not a dish washed, as Dottie used to say! I must stop and get something done and I think that I have really caught up with all the news.
Our love to Auntie Muriel and hello to Peggy and her family when you see them. Hello to Doris and to Luenda and Mr. Cox!
Much love from us all – so glad that your blood is behaving itself,

Cyn.

January to May 1966

The winter continued with family, work, school, and church activities in Ottawa. After their confirmations, the children took different roles at church. Cyn taught the youngest Sunday School class, 3 and 4 year-olds, and Linda took the next class up. The rector was now the Reverend Llewellyn Graham, a widower with a scholarly attitude, a love of England where he had studied, and a wicked sense of humour when among friends. The whole family enjoyed his visits and Charlie became an altar boy and helped during services.

In February, there was excitement in St. Vincent when the Queen and Prince Philip visited. Cec travelled too, to a conference in Texas. From Saskatchewan came the news from John and Sharon of the latest arrival to the family- Steven Moor- who was the first boy of the next generation, and everyone was sorry they lived so far away and couldn’t show off their baby. From B.C. there was a photo of Carman and Leona’s family, David, Robin, Philip, and Leslie. The Costain grandparents (who lived in Penticton near the Carmans) were coming to Ontario in the summer to visit and celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, and we all hoped to meet the cousins if the western families came too.

Around Easter, Cec went to a meeting in Washington, staying with a scientist friend. Because the friend’s young brother had a part in the play, Cec saw Gielgud’s newest production Ivanov on its pre-Broadway tour when he went with them to see it, and actually met John Gielgud and Vivian Leigh backstage after the performance. Cyn pasted the Playbill into the scrapbook with the young man’s name highlighted: Miller Lide. Later, her mother would write about Gielgud and Leigh holidaying on Young’s Island in St. Vincent after the Broadway run had finished.


April was Cyn’s birthday, celebrated with a card from one of her New York cousins down visiting her mother in the West Indies, and, as the summer approached, it was the season for weddings. The scrapbook celebrates three: children of old friends of Cyn’s in England, and invitations from the young men in the Lab- Klaus Huber and Phil Bunker.
And at the end of May, the letters resume, and although not regularly preserved by Carol in St. Vincent, there are enough to give a more intimate look at the mid 60s, for which I am very grateful! The antics of the Golden Wedding that summer deserve a blow-by-blow description…

January to August 1965

A note about the new high school. I went into Grade 9 at Gloucester High School, along with students from the entire township, some living as far as 40 miles from the school. Some came from the French village of Orleans, other from farm communities with one-room schools, and they had a long commute on school buses. It was quite a culture shock even for us living locally- the high school had a cafeteria where one could buy lunch, an auditorium with a stage, and a library. There were 5 grades in High School, 9 to 13, and 5 different programs offered- 2 year Hairdressing for girls, and Auto Mechanics for boys, with a certificate after completing Grade 10; 4 year Business and Commerce for girls and Technology for boys, with Junior Matriculation and Graduation after Grade 12; and an Academic stream that continued into Grade 13 for those aiming for university with Senior Matriculation at graduation. There was a Francophone stream for the French-speaking students, and French or Français classes for the academic students, depending on their mother tongue. There were 10 Grade 9 classes when I began, so over 200 students in that grade alone, and the school grew every year I was there- a second floor added on above the original level; a new wing with more technical and shop classes; a tower with pie-shaped classrooms replaced the teacher’s parking lot; and after 5 years, a community swimming pool being built beside the school, so gym classes could take advantage of the facility. Meanwhile, the developments around the school continue to expand. In Grade 9, cows in the field separating the school from the new highway used to come and look in the windows. In subsequent years, there were townhouses, apartment buildings, and new roads covering the fields beside the school and between the Montreal Road that we had lived on and the Queensway a mile south. The village of Orleans was growing, new developments went up in the fields beside the Ottawa river, and were spreading to join up. It was the baby boom generation being educated and 10 years later, in my student teaching year and times of unemployment that followed in my 20s, I had 3 more English-speaking high schools to choose from in the area, with French high schools operating separately. Ottawa had grown.

The scrapbook page for 1965 shows invitations and Valentines, showing that the adult Costains were involved with friends both local and abroad. The computer card is an invitation from Cec’s new Post-Doctorate Fellow, Harry Kroto, and his wife Margaret. They were a marvellous young couple from England, interesting, enthusiastic and full of fun. I remember one party with people from Cec’s Lab. where Harry and Margaret played a magic game with their audience, using a blindfold and the poker from the fireplace as props. The blindfolded one of the pair knelt on the hearthrug, and was able to identify which person the other was pointing at- I presume by verbal cues- and the children thought they were the coolest couple ever.
Harry was always quite clear about his interest in the visual arts, and how he was torn between science and art as a career. The Krotos were in Canada in 1967 which was the Centennial Year, and visited Expo 67, with the geodesic dome as the USA Pavilion. His later work on Carbon 60, buckminsterfullerene, was linked to this, as he explains:

Cec did not live to see Harry get the the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 but he was sure it would happen when he heard about Harry’s work with buckyballs. When Harry learned Cec was ill in 1991, he sent him a book- A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations by Alan L. MacKay, into which he had inserted a quotation from his time at the N.R.C. : Cec Costain- “If it doesn’t work, just kick it here.” to HWK in 1965 when the power supply did not work.
On the cover page he wrote, ‘To Cec and Cin, Two of our very best friends with love Harry and Margaret. Thanks for engineering my move to microwave spectroscopy- By far the nicest group of scientists due in no small measure to you and E.B.W. The quote on page 62 is one of my favourites. P.S. The rotational spectrum of C60 is too weak even for Jim W. to detect.’ The admiration and affection were mutual.
Other friendships are illustrated on this page- the third Sutherland daughter, Mary’s, wedding invitation, and a cryptic thank you card from a visiting Australian, Frank (Mercer?) whom they hadn’t seen since their Cambridge days.
The year continued with family birthdays, Spring Break and Easter, with school and work, but the big excitement of the spring was Carol visiting from the West Indies.

She was there for all the activities in June, the summer, and on into the fall- her usual long stay, having not seen the Costains since 1960, she would have needed to adjust to the changes in the children!
Charlie’s Graduation from Grade 8 was the final event of June, but there were other activities first. Grannie would have been very happy to be there for Charlie’s Confirmation in early June at church, and her best hat would have come out for the Governor General’s Garden Party.

Cec’s birthday and Father’s Day were celebrated, they enjoyed snaps from the Costains out west, and the whole family was pleased by the new porch at the back of the house- the open deck from the garage to the back door was now screened in with comfy chairs and tables, nice for eating in during the hot summer days when the mosquitos were bad under the trees!

The annual photo of the Lab on the steps of the N.R.C. shows Dr. Herzberg and Alec Douglas centre front, greying, Cec smiling in the second row end right, and Harry Kroto third row far left also with a big grin.

As the school year ended, the children wrote their exams- an intimidating exercise in high school for Linda, with the gym lined with rows of desks, fluorescent lights buzzing, invigilators prowling around, and hundreds of students writing earnestly in the hushed atmosphere. Both got their reports and were promoted, but Charlie’s graduation was a special ceremony because he not only got his diploma and the Citizenship Award, he also was the Valedictorian, speaking on behalf of all his fellow graduates.


After that, the family once more rented a cottage for three weeks in July at Lake Bernard.

There were beds, but not enough bedrooms, so the children slept on the open, but sheltered, porch. The renting family had asked the Costains to look after the raccoons, and Linda and Charlie found that this meant a whiskered face and a very hand-like paw, peering at them in bed.

The kits were adorable, and the children fed the family who went down to the lake to wash their spoils, which was a relief to all concerned- both animals and humans just as happy to keep a certain distance from each other.

In August, Cec went on a trip to Denmark and stayed with their friend Chris Müeller. Linda turned 13, finally a teenager, and she and Charlie got ready for high school- Linda assuring him it would be much better than elementary!

September to December 1964

The fall of 1964 was fun for Linda- she enjoyed high school: the increased independence, the variety of interesting classes and teachers, the library and cafeteria, and new friends- although the number of students took a while to get used to. Her marks remained good although she attempted without much success to follow her mother’s profession by taking Home Economics as an elective- making a blue flannel shift to wear in Sewing, and producing a sad liquid soup that should have been a chocolate pudding in Foods, which seemed to be more about the costing of the dishes than actually making them. She found learning Latin was more interesting.

In Grade 8, Charlie was once more in the Speech Contest, with his account of the eclipse that the family had witnessed the year before, and this time he was runner-up to the winner.
The Eclipse
Charles Costain
In ancient times, people were terrified when the sun was gradually blotted out and day turned into night. We know now that it is just an eclipse but people used to be frightened when this happened, because they thought that the world was coming to an end. Nowadays instead of being terrified, people are fascinated to watch such an interesting event. We are not taken by surprise because scientists can tell just where and when it is going to happen.
The last total eclipse predicted was on July 20, 1963. We were driving back from Quebec City and went off the main road to a farmhouse, and asked the farmer if we could set up our telescope. He said that we could, and we were soon ready for it. In a while, we could see a small black bite out of the sun, and it began getting a bit darker. Slowly the sun was covered and I realized that the birds had all gone back to their nests, and there was a hush that made me shiver. The eclipse was nearly total when suddenly a cloud drifted over the sun, and no matter how hard we looked, we could not see the total eclipse. The farmer and his wife who were inside watching television probably got a better view than we did because there were no clouds at Grandmère where the television cameras were but at least we made an effort to see the real thing. We soon were packing the telescope and getting ready to leave content, but rather disappointed at not seeing it all.

The speech went on to a more scientific discussion, and ended with the news of Prime Minister Pearson’s funding of a second telescope to be built in British Columbia in honour of the Queen’s visit, to be the second largest in the world. Since this was where our uncle, Carman Costain, worked, I’m sure it was good news in Penticton.

In December, the Christmas routine began again, with the card list now about 150 strong because of Cec’s travels and scientific contacts, and Cyn’s scrapbook reflects this, with cards from all over- India, Spain, Poland, as well as England. Of course news from friends came too, and a card from the Sutherlands- Dr Sutherland had been knighted in 1960, and this year, 1964, had become the Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge- included Kerstin’s wedding announcement with the news that they would be moving to San Diego. (Cyn and Cec realized the days when they babysat the Sutherland girls in Ann Arbor were long ago.) The parcels to friends and relatives were sent off but this year, there is no mention of J.M.G.E. in the list, so Cyn’s father must have died in Newcastle earlier in 1964.


Charlie’s 12th birthday was followed by Christmas, with Auntie Dottie sending the English Annuals we loved, Linda getting clothes and books, Charlie a tabletop hockey game, the cat giving us vinyl, and the adults getting more practical things. The Costains looked forward to 1965 with anticipation.

Summer 1964

The summer of 1964 was packed with activities and events. The major event was the wedding at the beginning of August, and everything else had to be fitted in around it. The first activity for the children was camp. Now I know that countless North Americans look upon their time at camp as idyllic childhood summer fun that they joyfully repeated year after year- but such was not the Costain experience. Going to camp was sold to us by our parents as a thing we ought to try- it would only be two weeks out of the summer, we would be able to have swimming lessons and canoe, we would have fun with friends. My friend Janet’s mother was working and her English parents probably thought this would be a chance to have a holiday instead of being home alone all day. But because of the time crunch, Linda and Janet were sent to the Anglican Church youth camp with girls 2-4 years younger than they were, with a couple of the mothers from the Women’s Auxiliary of our church working there too, for reassurance. We were miserable, two teens (but not teens old enough to be counsellors) in a sea of 9 year-olds, divided into wooden cabins full of bunkbeds, herded from dining hall to fireside singsong in a cloud of gloom. The activities were unexciting, the cultural appropriation of ‘Camp Pontiac’ was painful, the religion classes boring, the swimming a disaster of shrieking splashing little girls, there was not enough free time for reading! (and there was an enticing library) and the food- not what we were used to, somehow, coming from English backgrounds. Charlie’s Boy Scout Cub Camp seemed less well organized- when he returned home with a pack of wet, muddy, and mouldy clothes, it appeared from his account that he and other inexperienced tent mates were abandoned to set up their equipment themselves, and had been flooded out at the beginning, spending the rest of the fortnight in soggy surroundings. (Strangely, this was not enough to turn Charlie off camping- he’s just returned from a Labour Day weekend camping trip in Algonquin Park. It didn’t rain till Monday.)

When we returned from camp we were upset to find that we had missed the beginning of visits from relatives gearing up for the pre-wedding excitement. It was always fun having people to stay and we were glad to be home. John had completed his theology degree and was ordained, Sharon had trained as a teacher, Lorne had already been teaching that year, as were his parents, and he and Liz had baby Debbie who was adorable. Charlie and I had swimming lessons again and then in August, we were off to Brantford for the wedding, to be combined with a trip to Stratford to see King Lear, The Marriage of Figaro, and Yeoman of the Guard.

For the wedding, Cyn had made herself a dress out of a beautiful sari that the Kalras had been commissioned to buy years before in India. It was shot silk, a rich green in one light, brown in the other, with the ends embroidered with gold thread. Cyn took those ends for a wrap, and the dress from the middle yardage with the gold embroidery at the hem, and with it she wore a wonderful hat of long narrow iridescent blue and green feathers, close to the head. Merle, the mother of the groom, had a more commanding hat, pink petals outstanding, and Auntie Lily from Toronto represented the older generation. (John’s charge as a minister was ‘out West’ so the Costain grandparents, and uncles and families, could see the newlyweds once they had moved closer.) There were lots of Lees from the bride’s side, two red-headed younger brothers being groomsmen along with John’s two brothers, to escort the bride’s attendants. I was moderately pleased with my green dress, had white gloves and shoes (and nylon stockings) and a floaty headdress that blew about in the breeze. The bouquet was a surprise, being white carnations- with half of them dyed green- as if nature did not produce enough greenery for a bouquet! But I was thrilled wth a bridesmaids’ gift of a string of pearls to wear, and kept my opinion of the flowers to myself. The weather was lovely, the service went beautifully with all of us doing our parts properly, the pictures in one of Brantford’s riverside parks looked good afterwards and were relatively painless to take, and the reception was full of family and we all had fun. Then the Costains went off to Stratford and had a marvellous time.

We had been going to Stratford since I was 8, and Cec and Cyn had always bought tickets off to the side of the thrust stage down in the first couple of rows, thinking that the children would be fascinated by the actors brushing by them to enter and exit even if the plot was beyond them. (It never was, what with the summary in the programme and the play in front of us.) So on this occasion, Gloucester’s eyes were gouged out realistically above and in front of us, and I bet I was not the only one hiding my eyes! The Gilbert and Sullivan productions were always marvellous, and The Marriage of Figaro has, from that summer on, always been my favourite opera. It was a happy time and a lovely holiday.

When we returned to Ottawa, Merle and Dix joined us for a visit, and brought Liz and Debbie to stay with her family in Ottawa. I had a birthday, became a teenager, and then a new adventure would begin- Gloucester High School.

December 1963 to June 1964

The school year continued , and Christmas approached with the usual concerns of overseas parcels, cards, baking, and Charlie’s birthday. The plan to spend Christmas in Brantford was scotched, along with Charlie’s birthday festivities, when he came down with shingles- a connection from our earlier bout of chicken pox in 1957. However, he recovered in time for us to visit the Moors for New Year which was fun for the children staying up late watching old movies with their cousin Bruce, and necessary for the adults to discuss plans for the summer wedding of the oldest cousin John with Sharon- who had asked Linda to be a bridesmaid!

The winter of 1964 involved fundraising events for the church- Cyn’s Cookery Demonstration for adults, and for the young people a Sleigh Ride. This was not a happy, cozy, ‘jingle bells’ experience in my opinion. There was no ‘one-horse open sleigh’, instead a pair of horses dragged a flatbed strewn with straw on runners slowly though fields covered with knee-deep snow. The jolly companions on the wagon competed in shoving their weaker ’friends’ off the wagon into the snow, forcing them to run to the point of exhaustion to try to scramble on to the conveyance, sometimes aided by compassionate friends, or repelled by nastier bullies. The bridge of Linda’s nose received a lifelong bump when she was helpfully pulled on – along with several more victims who ended up on top of her and her glasses. The hot chocolate served at the end of the ride was poor compensation for the experience.

At school there were preparations for the musical play to be performed in the spring, and at home more personal excitement. It had been arranged that Linda would meet Sharon in Toronto during Spring Break to join the other bridal attendants for dress shopping. An air ticket was bought for Linda’s first flight alone- and I can clearly remember how I was dressed for that trip. I had a grey suit with a jacket and pleated skirt. With it I wore a white pillbox hat, white gloves (both nylon with stretchy elastic) and white socks with black shoes. John and Sharon met me at the airport and we joined the other junior bridesmaid and Sharon’s two adult friends at a bridal shop and proceeded to try on dresses. I was shy- I only knew Sharon of the party, and uttered no opinions on the outfits, but it was finally agreed that we would be wearing pretty green full- skirted dresses with white accessories. I went to Brantford with the party for the weekend, and presumably they put me back on the plane in Toronto, and I returned home with great relief. I wish there existed a letter giving Cyn’s take on the excursion (I expect I had plenty of opinions to express about it once I was home) but I remember nothing more. Probably Cyn had agreed to make sure my dress was fitted properly when it arrived, and now we just had to wait for the summer.

Easter was at the end of March, and Cyn’s birthday followed, with celebratory cards from her closest friend in England, Nancy Heslop.

The school play that year “Asses’ Ears” was a musical telling the story of the Greek King Midas, not involving his golden touch, but his later offence to the god Apollo’s music, punished with donkey’s ears. He hid these under turbans but his barber knew the secret, and whispered the news to the corn- and the growing corn rustled the news to the reapers. Grade 7s and 8s were involved in the singing chorus- and Linda and her friends were also the secondary singing-and-dancing barbers, with a jolly song “Midas has got asses’ ears” to perform. It was presented in the auditorium of the new high school that had just been built, and the Grade 8 students were very interested to see the school they would be going to after their graduation in June.

In June, there were exams, we passed, got our report cards, and Linda would be going into Grade 9 in the high school built beside the new bypass, the Queensway, a four-lane highway designed to relieve Ottawa’s traffic congestion, and link the growing suburbs being built east and west of the city.

Graduation from Grade 8 was a rite of passage that involved one of Cyn’s most successful dresses for Linda- a white sleeveless dress with a panel down the front, embroidered with pink rosebuds. This was the first time I wore nylon stockings- with garter belt and suspenders attached (pantyhose had not been invented then)- to be followed by the second time later that summer, as bridesmaid. I felt almost adult- I would be going to high school, and when I started there I would be a teenager.

November 1963

It seems somehow significant that I am writing this post on the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001. Because in November 1963, an earlier shattering tragedy struck America and stunned the whole world.

In the Costain household, world events were discussed with references to the daily newspaper and the CBC radio, especially as they impacted friends and family. It is a pity that there are no letters from Cyn to her mother in St Vincent from October 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis had the world in suspense, because one would think the islands of the West Indies would have been affected. Sometime in the early 60s, the Costains got a television- not new, but a second-hand black-and-white set which required the insertion of a knitting needle to change to the other channel, that Cec had acquired from a colleague. I believe the upcoming Olympics were mentioned as a reason why the parents finally got what All Our Friends had had for years- and it became part of our daily lives quickly. Cec and Charlie watched sports, the adults watched the news, we all saw Ed Sullivan together on Sunday nights, and the Kennedys were part of the news the children might have stayed for, with Mrs Kennedy’s style and children, and the Presidents’ successful handling of Cold War crises.

On November 22nd in the afternoon, the principal, Mrs Tufts, came into our Grade 8 class and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. Charlie remembers his Grade 7 teacher telling his class. When we were sent out for recess, I remember walking with friends on the playing field as we discussed whether it was a Soviet plot and if nuclear war was likely to follow. (My husband, who grew up in Windsor Ontario across the river from Detroit, had practiced ‘nuclear bomb’ drills in the 50s in elementary school, where the children sheltered under their desks in preparation for a strike made at- the US car industry? We never experienced this sort of fear-mongering in Ottawa, but we were certainly conscious of living in Canada’s capital city, a possible target of war.) When the school day ended, Charlie and I were surprised to find our mother waiting with the car to pick us up, and we went home and watched, with the rest of the world, endless repetitions of the motorcade, and the announcement that the President had died, Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as 36th President, the plane returning to Washington, with all the gruesome details the news could include. Over the weekend, our fears were relieved by the arrest of the shooter, then there was his subsequent murder on live tv in Dallas while the body of JFK lay in state in Washington. The President’s funeral was on Monday. There was a lot of television watching.

In her scrapbook, Cyn kept a column of Art Buchwald’s from the newspaper and a cover of the memorial stamp issued the next spring. The assassination was an introduction to the troubling issues of the 60s to come: the Civil Rights struggles, the Vietnam War, the continuing Cold War, worldwide student protests, and more assassinations in the States.

Summer 1963

The Costain’s summer holiday was a road trip to Quebec City as tourists, followed by the exciting scientific event of a solar eclipse on July 20th.

We explored the old city of Quebec, stared at the Plains of Abraham where the British took over Canada- big, flat, and boring except for drilling soldiers- (by Grades 7 and 8 we had studied Canadian history covering the 18th century over and over again, while the 20th was never mentioned), took a river cruise on the St Lawrence by the Isle d’Orleans, ate yummy food, and enjoyed staying in hotels.

On the 20th of July we were on our way home, and left the highway for the back roads to find a spot that Cec had determined would be ideal for viewing the eclipse. Charlie’s telescope had been packed in the car of course, and we stopped at a farm outside Montreal and asked permission to set it up. There were no crowds, no one at the farm seemed interested, so in the laneway we had a solitary viewing of the phenomenon with the special lens, with time for each of us to see the sun disappearing as our surroundings became darker and darker, then reappeared. [I recommend the NFB film ‘Eclipse at Grand’Mère’ on YouTube which shows the interest the public had in this solar eclipse- and the boxy cars, and be-gloved ladies using their telescopes.]

Plus, at the farm, there was a puppy!

The rest of the summer was more local, with Cyn and Cec’s wedding anniversary at the end of July and Granny and Grandpa Costain staying with us for the rest of the summer.

In August, Linda’s birthday was celebrated with a family excursion to Upper Canada Village. I can’t help thinking that much of the ‘old- time’ pioneer atmosphere that the village attempted to re-create, such as the horse and buggy, must have seemed quite familiar to my grandparents, but there was a picnic table and birthday cake and Linda was 12!


A few weeks later, school started in September, with Linda in Grade 8, the top grade in elementary school, and Charlie in Grade 7. To get to school, they walked out the back door, through their garden past the old apple tree and Cec’s vegetable garden and compost pile, and crossed a fallow field to the highway. On the other side of the highway, there was a path down the edge of another field, then their church hall, and the school playgrounds. It took them 10 minutes, rather than the 30 or 40 minutes on the school bus which took them on a tour down to the river and back picking up students- and occasionally longer on icy winter days when it could not climb up the steep hill on the return journey!

A bit later in the fall, the family took the grandparents to Kingsmere, one of our favourite places to take tourists. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, was an eccentric man, whose personal beliefs in the occult only became known after his death, but one thing well known was his estate in Quebec, 24 km north of Ottawa in the Gatineau Hills. He bought this acreage in the 1920s and over the next 30 years, developed and landscaped it into a showplace modelled on English country estates, with lawns, hedges, trees, fake ruins, picturesque buildings, attractive vistas, stone statues… After his death, the Mackenzie King Estate became a lovely park with buildings and tearoom managed by the National Capital Commission, open year-round, and the Costain children always enjoyed exploring and having tea there. If you leave the pathways to walk on the lawns you realize that you are walking on thyme, not grass, and the scent is wonderful.