Apology

Yet another binder!

I started this blog as a means to transfer family archives to a more permanent format and share them with family and anyone else in the world interested in the past, living through what is now history, family relationships, and tiny details such as the price of a beef heart in the butcher’s shop in the 1950s. (Spoiler alert: 25¢) At the time, I had organized my grandmother’s horde of letters written to her by her daughter Cynthia into binders chronologically by date, from her childhood up through my childhood. I also had my grandmother’s photographs, roughly organized into albums in some cases, or into manila envelopes by my mother after my grandmother’s death. Another resource was my mother’s scrapbooks, kept from the time of her marriage, which have provided a visual element to many of my posts, and gave context and helped with the chronology of events when there were gaps in time from missing letters. With the help of my cousin Raey, I started this blog with a bit of family history told through my mother’s stories, and then transcribed the letters, learning how to dictate (which is maddening and requires constant correcting but is preferable than typing every letter out laboriously), add photos, and post the result- and getting great pleasure from it. Most of the letters are Cyn’s to her mother Carol, with a few from friends and family that were also preserved added in for interest. And that worked well until I reached 1969 when I left home for university.

This fall, 2022, I was happily transcribing letters from the fall of 1969 about Linda moving to Peterborough, Ontario- strolling down memory lane discovering things I had forgotten, and remembering wonderful friends I sadly lost touch with long ago- when I went rummaging for memorabilia to add to the pictures from the scrapbook, and discovered More Boxes! It turns out that I inherited some of my grandmother’s packrat tendencies to go with my forgetfulness. That first term at Trent was preserved in letters sent to me from friends, my grandmother, my father, my brother, and almost daily, my mother. I had committed the academic sin of publishing before I had organized my primary sources. And because I have been doing this in order by date, I must stop now- having published up to mid-November 1969- and go back to August of that year for 20 or more posts, to include the material I have just found. (Maybe WordPress would have a better way of doing this, but I am reluctant to delete already-published posts for the sake of chronology.) Then, for 1970 on, I have to integrate the rest of the letters from my university years with those already in the final binders, a difficult task since, unlike my grandmother, I did not keep envelopes, and my correspondents got careless dating them, so in some cases the year will have to be worked out by context. I thought I was nearing the end of my material, but I have just added a year more to my task!

So, my apologies to those who have been following this blog- we will now go back a few months to focus even more on the upheaval that occurred when the first child was leaving the nest. Let me assure you that the letters made this very much easier on the child in question!

October 6 1969

In the August of 1969, on the trip west, Linda and Charlie had stayed with their aunt and uncle in Penticton and met their four small cousins, David, Leslie, Robin, and Philip Costain. They wrote Linda letters in case she was homesick!

Monday 6th Oct.

Darling Lindy,
These letters came for you enclosed in one from Leona, so I am sending them away at once as I know you will love them – what about being a “floter” and going to “gim”– aren’t they sweet!
I also got your 2 lovely letters mailed 2nd & 4th – I always seem to get a nice batch on Monday & I enjoy them Hugely! I don’t want to stop to answer them now as I promised Charlie I would mail his today, so I will go & do so now & then come back & wash my hair etc. How wonderful to get a good haircut & only .50¢. I got fed up with mine about 2 weeks ago so dashed into S.C. Beauty Salon & got a trim only & was scalped! It is very short as you will see but I don’t mind – it will grow. I haven’t tried another Beauty Salon but don’t want to go back to Crista.
I am enclosing the recipes the girls asked for & mail to the U.S. is .10¢ but Grannie leaves on 15th October, so try & get it off soon. I am also sending the picture of Alan & Donna & you can put it in your letter to Grannie – she wants it back for Auntie Muriel. I think Alan looks nicer than he really is in it – he’s 25 I think. Grannie says Donna is wearing a “peasant outfit” with flowered skirt & shawl to match & ruffly petticoat. She wears glasses with v. thick lenses but took them off for the pictures – got contact lenses for her wedding but finds smog in L.A. makes her eyes water. Grannie says Donna’s family are madly kiss-ey & she giggled at the thought of your & Charlie’s reaction! The picture is thick so may make your letter heavy, so you may need .20¢ stamp.
Lovely that you can come on Thursday evening – we will all be waiting at the Bus Station with Big Smiles! I am so glad you are you & not Jean Craven! Or anyone else for that matter!
The reason I must wash my hair is that Daddy & I are going to dinner at Phil & Alex’s tonight – Nancy stayed with Fanni’s sister Claire in Switzerland this summer & Claire is now here, hence the dinner party. I began to diet today so it’s sad, but I can begin again tomorrow! Must fly
Love
Mummy
P.S. We’ll talk about jumpsuit & clothes at weekend – OK?

Dear Lynda and Charlie
I am getting along fine in school. My teachers name Miss Johnson. I can write words like [printed words change to script] dog jig code add doc odd.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Is there any snow at your house. Have you had any storms at your house. Is Charlie any bigger this year.
love Robin [This may have been a later letter, given the decorative paper.]

Octber 1/69
1496 Balfour St
Dear Linda
My simming went quite well, but I have to stay another year in beginners.
I have had trouble with my tonsils lately so may have to have them out soon.
School has been going quite well lately.I spend quite a bit of time riding my bike.
I have a friend Named Michele. She is just 3 years old and spends a lot of time here.
I decided to stop going to Brownies because I didn’t like it.
I am going to figure skating this year.
I hope you have sittled in at university by now and are not too homesick.
Charlie must find it quiet at home at home without you.
Love from us all,
Leslie

Dear Linyda
I passed my swimming lesson Test. I am now in pre-juniors I learned to write [script] ccccccc
My teachers name is Miss Johnson. She is very nice to me. I passed into grade 3 I am in a choir at school. We go to gim everyday on Friday. It is very at school. We have libary everyday on Thursday. My book I got on Thursday Oct. 2 is called PROUD PUMPKIN
Love Robin

Dear Linyda [I think his older brother Robin helped him write this, with the words in capitals done by Philip.]
I passed my swimming lessons test. I am in floters now. I am in grade 1. I can print words like
LOOK up down LUCKY JANET JOHN. Those are some of the words I can spell.
WITH LOVE from Philip

My intentions may have been good, but I’m afraid looming essay deadlines prevented a reply from being sent…

September 22 1969

49 Cedar Road,
Ottawa. 9.

22nd Sept 1969

Darling Lindy,
Such a foggy morning, but supposed to be sunny later so I hope it won’t do anything to delay Daddy’s flight from Vancouver. It will seem very queer to be meeting him this afternoon at the airport without you. I am picking up Charlie from school at 3:45 & we are going out to meet the plane.
Daddy phoned from Vancouver last night about 10 (Charlie was out at a hockey game with Alan) and was fine but sleepy. It was about 7 pm in Vancouver on 21st & he had left Tokyo at 6 pm on 21st & had already been 6 hours in Vancouver, so the 21st had gone on an awful long time.
As you can imagine Charlie & I had a busy time getting everything ready. Charlie cut the grass & finished painting our bedroom, so I washed & waxed the floor & we have everything looking elegant. I don’t know if you keep up with the football games now that you are away from your brother, but maybe some of the other students are fans – if so you will have heard all about Ottawa’s big victory over Toronto on Sat. evening. You can imagine the rejoicing in this house!
I am looking forward so much to hearing how your first week of lectures went & how you are getting on. I hope there will be a letter in the mail today and anyway we will be talking to you on the phone tonight which will be nice. I am listening to Max Ferguson & feeling quite luxurious as this is the first weekday morning I haven’t had to dash out to Nursery School. I shall miss the poppets, but it’s lovely to stay home. One thing I meant to tell you is about funny little fat Douglas MacMartin painting a picture. To begin with, he is so little that the paint pots are about at chest level on him, so the wooden handles make a kind of fence which he peers through. He took a big brush full of orange paint & began painting, around & around on one place (head level) – he didn’t take more paint, just scrubbing around & around, so I said “Douglas, wouldn’t you like to try another colour?” & he very carefully put the orange brush back & took up the blue & proceeded to scrubble on top of the orange & then the red on top of the blue! The resultant picture was like this: top out of reach, bottom very thin and wet!

This makes him sound rather unintelligent but he is the whiz kid with the jigsaws & has the same static penguin charm as Robbie!
Laura asked for your address yesterday, but I really didn’t see anyone else to talk to as I didn’t get a helper for S.S. after all & by the time I had cleared away nearly everyone had left.

Later.
My pen has passed out – hence this. What do you think? 3 letters came from you in the mail! Isn’t that lovely? I hope mine to you aren’t doing the same. I will answer all the questions when I write tomorrow. Thank you so much darling – we follow your doings with enormous interest & it was fun getting the picture of Cathy & Terry so that we see what some of your friends look like. We’ll get busy with cookies later this week.
Lots of love
Mummy
P.S. Will remember the bra. Very funny!
P.P.S. Thank you for the Youth Allowance card- have sent it off.

Traill

September 18 1969

Just a little note.

Wednesday [Although I believe this was actually written on Thursday the 18th of September, a week since Cyn and Charlie had taken Linda to university.]

Darling Lindy,

Thank you so much for both your nice letters – Charlie and I really enjoyed them. I will write properly when I get back from N.S. this afternoon, but I went down town yesterday afternoon & got your panty-hose changed at Morgan’s so thought I would post them straight away in case you need them. Also went to the Market & bought pickle-y things & made chutney last night – dill pickles today.

Today is horrid & rainy – better take popcorn for the little kiddos.

Lots of love –
Mummy

P.S. Re: washing – it’s OK to wash white & colours together except for dark things like jeans etc.

P.P.S. How about phoning home on Monday evening to say hello to Daddy? Phone collect after 10 like you did last time & then you can ask him about phoning perhaps once a week or every other week or something.
Love
M.

September 5 1969

These letters on the occasion of the first Costain bird leaving the nest were already complicated by the fact that one parent was travelling and the other parent was handling the departure and all the attendant details. These included almost daily letters not always dated properly! This note from Cyn to her daughter should have been the first posted- it was written the day after Cyn and Charlie drove Linda to her university and installed her, Friday September 5. The errands Cyn plans to run that day are reported on in the subsequent letters. My apologies for the mis-filing that messed up the chronology.

49 Cedar Road
Ottawa 9
Friday

Darling Lindy,
Here I am back from Nursery School and writing a note with the extra cheque for $40 which I promised you. See how things go and if you find you have enough to cover the initial expenses, we’ll wait and send the next $40 in October, but if you are running short, let us know.
It was lovely to have your phone call last night and to know all was going well. I hope that you got to sleep all right as you must have been really tired. Charlie and I haven’t been in bed so early for months, but it was quite a long drive back and so we toddled off to bed. We stopped once on the way home & I had tea & a piece of lemon pie while Charlie had a hamburger, and my pie was homemade & delicious so Charlie had apple pie which was just as good. It was only a small place & seem to be run by a family & the lady did the baking. We felt very lucky. We had tea when we got home & I had bacon & eggs & Charlie had bacon & toast. I guess you weren’t able to make a cup of tea last night, but maybe you will find a kettle etc. nearer your room. If you have to get your own kettle, you could either see if you can get one in Peterborough or wait & get one here at Thanksgiving. Which reminds me, I re-addressed the Traill Booklet & mailed it by the 9:15 post this morning so you will get it on Monday when you get this I expect.
The phone keeps ringing – Mrs Martin for me to pick her up at the Hospital this afternoon & a Sunday School mother registering her children over the phone! Nursery School was quite quiet this morning except for Lynn McSherry who has no inhibitions & made the place her own! One very clinging mother who appeared each time we got Mark interested in something, & so brought on new tears & prolonged the agony!
I am going down town to the Bank now & will take back Library Books. Then at 4 I pick up Charlie for a haircut at St Laurent. We’ll have an ice cream cone & think of you. Saki is sleeping soundly on her chair but would send a little nibble for you.
Much love Mummy.

Speaking of libraries, this is Trent Library in pre-computer days.

It is hard to look back and remember how money worked in pre-plastic times. I opened a bank account in Peterborough, but I hadn’t really had a summer job that year after high school, so had no earnings of my own to fall back on. I gather from this note that the initial expenses settling me in that Thursday had been a bit more than expected, and Cyn was making sure that I would have enough cash for anything else that might turn up. (Such as a tea kettle. I expect I ventured down town in Peterborough, cashed the $40 cheque and immediately bought an electric kettle. My grandmother had sent me an early morning tea set all the way from St Vincent and fortunately the teapot, milk, and hot water jug, and a plate had survived the journey, and were carefully included in my moving-to-Trent box of essentials. Because tea is essential.)

A decade later when I was teaching high school, there were scams focusing on getting new college students to take out credit cards and go into debt without realizing it, and teachers were asked to enlighten future victims- but in the year 69/70, no one wasted time targeting students like me!

September 17 1969: Linda’s Letter

The Library.

49 Cedar Road,
Ottawa 9, Ont.
17th Sept.

Darling Lindy,
I have just finished writing to Grannie as I haven’t written for weeks and got a letter today asking all about you and when you went to College. I gave her your address and told her about us driving you down and what we did that day, but she would love to hear from you if you have time. Her address at the moment is: – c/o Mrs. W. Jaeger, 22 Curley St.. Long Beach, New York, N.Y. U.S.A. but I don’t know how long she will be there as she doesn’t say when she is leaving. I also had 2 (continuous) letters from Daddy today, written from Japan, and he asks about you and says he will write to you so perhaps you have got a letter too, by now. It will be lovely to see him on Monday and I’m only sorry that you won’t be here too, but you must telephone anyway. Today has been a very newsy day, as I also had a phone call from Maureen asking for your address and saying she had written you a long letter – she sounded as if she had a cold, but we didn’t talk long. Then Mrs. Craven called and asked me to tea next week to meet Jean’s Grandmother, so we had a nice gossip about our Girls and Trent etc. Oh, while I am on the subject of your friends and acquaintances, Mrs Haynes phoned on Monday (about the computer course Charlie was interested in) and I asked how Janet was, but apparently being her first real day, she still didn’t know what was really going on. She had gone to one or two discussion groups last week, but found them not very entertaining, I gathered. I was in the Rideau Library yesterday and Mrs. McNeely was there so I asked her how Tom was getting on and he likes Carleton so far and says there are lots of kids he knows. Who else? Oh, yes – I was telling Fanni about your room to yourself, and she was telling me that Janek had to share a room and the Univ. wrote and asked him if he had any preferences about a room-mate, so Janek, thinking of his French said, oh, he would quite like someone from overseas, so what has he got but an Egyptian!
A break for tea and blueberry pie! I went to the Market yesterday afternoon and bought all sorts of fruit and vegetables. Last night I made Peach Chutney (had a long chat with Mrs. Pierce on the phone and the chutney caught on the bottom, so it is a bit Strong, but otherwise OK) and tomorrow I will make the Famous Dill Pickles. Today I made Charlie a blueberry pie, so I had to taste a piece to see if it was all right.

My window is hidden by the car.

Charlie and I really enjoyed hearing all about all your doings in your letters. I hope that you got the handbook I sent back to you but I don’t know if you would find it much use by the time it arrived. I’m glad that even if you miss breakfast you can make out on apples and toast and tea and don’t starve! I do feel very pleased that the brownies were so much appreciated- did you want me to send you more cookies? I don’t know how fresh they would be by the time you got them but we can always try. Let me know. And by the way, about typing your essays – Charlie came up with the idea, that if you got them done in time you could always send them home and I could do that! Actually, if you wanted them typed somewhere in town you would have to get them done in good time and it would be quite expensive I imagine, so it’s a thought. I wouldn’t mind it if you gave me time to get them done! [As it turned out, the idea of me ever getting an essay done before the due date was laughable and my professors had to make do with my handwriting.]
Can you believe that tomorrow will be one week since you’ve left home? As you say, it seems months already and this week with me at the Nursery School each morning seems to have gone on for ages. Nothing very exciting has happened there – yesterday it rained and we couldn’t take the children out to play which was rather trying, but everything is going quite well and all the children have now begun. The mother who kept coming back to wave to dear little Mark, brought him the next day and then halfway through the morning phoned to see if he was all right and of course he hadn’t turned a hair and this morning he dressed up in all the dress up clothes and roared through the rooms like a tornado! We now have a mother even worse than that though. She belongs to a little girl called Margie and apparently took her to Betty Hyde’s N. S. last year and sat with her every day for 3 months and then took her out. Well, Tues. she came with her and the 2 of them sat together all morning – Margie dragging her mother from paint to dough to jigsaws and mother tagging along. Then came circle time, and when I gave Mother a chair Margie wanted to stay with Mummy, so Mummy sat on the floor in the circle with Margie on her knee, so you can imagine how delighted I was! Today Mother and Margie arrived late with Margie dressed in old corduroy jeans and an old flannelette pyjama top fastened with 1 button! Nothing underneath – Margie hadn’t wanted to get dressed. GRR-r-r! This time Mother had been invited out to coffee so come circle time she told Margie she was going and you should have heard the screams and heard the tantrums! All the kids stood around and watched as she rolled and kicked on the floor and Mary Anne said to me “Why is the little girl doing that?” She didn’t go into circle, but in the end took a cookie and eventually went out to play and was perfectly all right. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow! The Saga of Margie.
I hope that you have got your gown by now – you really seemed to have trouble finding out about it and finding the place open. How does it feel wearing it? I am so glad that everyone is kind and helpful and that you have got to know so many of the girls and are feeling more at home. The picnic sounded fun, even if the dance was a bit of a bore, but after all the first one everyone must have been feeling strange, and they will be more fun as you get to know more people. Saki and I are very sorry that Gary has put you off Puss in Boots Cat Food, because it is the only one she will eat. In fact they have just brought out a new KIDNEY cat food which is deeelicious! I can’t imagine anything less appetizing than a cat food factory – how can he bear to eat anything now? How nice of Cathy to promise to lend you her hairdryer – you’ll have to see what Santa can do about it I guess. From that Traill booklet I gather that record players are quite acceptable, so have you had yours on much? Also don’t forget that pink card to be signed for your 20 dollar Youth Allowance – it would go nicely towards a hairdryer! I am enclosing your Library Card which came today – I thought you might as well keep it in your wallet as it might get mislaid if it just lay around at home.
I had a good little chuckle over the dry sherry and Andrew Aitkins bottle of sauterne. Did Andrew know you or say hello or anything or are you too low and meek for him to notice? I’ll be interested to hear if you see anyone else you know when the other students return.
This afternoon I had a Mrs. Johnson to tea– the person who is taking over my job in Scientist’s Wives, poor dear! She’s very nice and I like her – apparently she worked at NRC for 18 years and has only been married for 4– knows people like Kim and Beulah. I must ask people about her and find out what her romance was like! The first Scientist Wives notice came today and the Sept. meeting is up at Kingsmere and the Oct. meeting is a lunch out at the Seignory Club at Montebello – I’m not very interested in either and it is lovely to think that I needn’t go if I don’t want to.
I must stop now as I have to draft a letter to the N. S. parents from the committee – gently reminding them to pay their fees among other words of wisdom!
Saki sends lots of purrs and bites and scratches! She really misses you because she is demanding lots of attention from Charlie and me and at the weekend she was wandering around looking for something or someone to play with.
Hug from Charlie and lots of love from
Mummy

I was interested in the tone of this letter – Cyn has written the same news on the same day [Carol’s letter already posted] to her mother and her daughter, but this letter is more intimate somehow, with small details included that add to the sense of home. The comments from the parents of other people going to Trent are amusing- I can’t remember ever interacting with Linda Dowell or Andrew Aitkin who lived in our Ottawa neighbourhood but were a bit older, and although Jean Craven had been in the same classes as I for 13 years, I really never saw her until our 4th year when we rented rooms in the same house. The college system and the different disciplines really separated students so the friends I made at Trent were the ones with whom I lived.

September 14 1969

49 Cedar Road
Ottawa 9, Ont.

Sunday 14th Sept. 1969

Darling Lindy,
Charlie is down at Gloucester with the football game, hoping that his little boys will win today and get encouraged! (They didn’t!) I wonder if you managed to find a church this morning – ours was full with loads of kidlums for the S.S. registration – I had 12 and Debbie Christie had something like 15. She & Sue are going to change rooms & Sue will go into the little h’keeping room & Debbie into the big one. Alan & Mrs. Smart’s class are going down to the school. I liked being in the Block room, but it was chaotic – Bradfield & Lynn McSherry very much at home & being very vociferous & the others overawed. Little Stevie Graham began to cry which made a few others tearful, so I got Dick [Stevie’s grandfather] from the choir & as he refused to be comforted, Dick took him out & I suggested Jocelyn [his mother] stay with him next week. All went well for a while & then in the middle of the story, little Karen Reynolds dissolved & wanted Mummy. So I sat her on my knee & read above the sobs! I have demanded an assistant by next week!
The choir looked very lonely with 4 girls & 2 men – the 2 extra girls were the ones from that family that had the cottage – remember? Maureen & Sue asked about you & I gave Sue back her Hair Style Booklet. Have you met Linda Dowell yet? I was talking to Mr. Dowell & he was very impressed with Lady Eaton, but they were apparently not so well organized as C.P.T. because they told Linda (who arrived early. No Lamb?) to go & unpack & when she came down there were mile-long queues for Registration etc. She is sharing a room with another girl, but it is partitioned.
On Friday after I wrote to you I was very efficient. I went to down town to the Bank (met Jim Gander for a minute) & took back the Library books, then popped into Mr. Olmstead. He gave me the enclosed case for your glasses & wouldn’t let me pay. It’s not like your old one but I hope it will be O.K. just to keep them from getting scratched. Then I went to the Post Office (mailed the film) & the St. Laurent Library with our renewal cards – the girl says it’s OK about yours. I got out “On Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home” & I am reading it now & wish you were here to read it too. It takes place at Passover & it’s not nearly so much fun not having you to discuss it with.
Yesterday Charlie & I decided that if he was to get our bedroom painted this was the time, so I moved into the bed in the family room & we chased around & got everything organized & Charlie got most of it done. There is some of the woodwork still to finish but it looks very nice. I bought some new curtains at S. City as I thought lighter coloured ones might make the room look bigger – they are thin sort of sheer material, but with a lining in shades of blue & green. Pretty, I think. I am toying with the idea of trying to recover the lampshades – they are such a dreary yellow-y colour now.
I spent all Friday evening doing N.S. accounts & must still have another session with them, but think I will leave it till tomorrow. I am so infuriated – the 2 things I wanted to watch on TV – the Royal Family. & the Disaster of the Riol, instead of being on tonight and tomorrow evening are BOTH on tonight at 9 PM- Grrrr!
It is a lovely sunny day, so I think I had better go out & do some gardening – maybe if I tidy up the front, Daddy won’t get too big a shock!

Lots of love from
Charlie and Saki and
Mummy

P.S. Joey had on her new skirt & coat today. It looked very nice but she must have been hot.

P.PS. Monday Noon – Just got your letter written on Sat. Hope classes went well today. Going to S.C. for a big envelope for this & will mail.

There really was 2=way communication!

September 1969

Now I have to go back a bit chronologically, and interrupt the flow of Cyn’s letters to her mother, because I discovered that, like my grandmother Carol, I am a packrat. I may not have kept ALL of the letters Cyn wrote me, but I discovered, while looking for pictures of my university buildings, a stash of letters from that first month of Trent, when I had begged for lots of letters from home. Both Cec, while travelling, and Cyn had responded and so I have nine loving communications sent to 18-year-old Linda to add before Carol gets an overview of the Costains’ life in October ’69.

Cec mailed these in August from Hawaii on the 18th, and then from Australia and marked them HOLD so they waited for Linda in her mail slot at Traill for her to arrive on September 11th.

When Linda was 6!

Dear Linda.,
This reminds me of your picture in St Vincent. I didn’t see much but flowers here, at four in the morning 1/2 hr stop.
Love Daddy

Dear Linda,
They are just as cute as the picture. It’s too bad they can’t live on Puss n’ Boots [cat food], I’d bring one home. Hope these find you in college.
Lots of luck,
Love Daddy

And a month or so later there arrived a large box in the Porter’s Lodge from Australia containing a surprise present sent by Cec who had arrived home weeks before.
It was a lovely soft huggable stuffie of a koala bear just like the postcard! An instant hit in residence.

September 17 1969

The fall of 1969 was a very exciting- not to say nerve-wracking- time for me: I was leaving home to live in residence at Trent University and most of my friends were staying in Ottawa and either going to Carleton University or the University of Ottawa and living at home, although some were working or going to other big universities. Trent was a new university, modelled on the Oxbridge system, with 4 colleges- 2 within the small city of Peterborough, and 2 on the campus several miles away, where the Library, lecture halls, science labs, and athletic buildings were built on both sides of the Otonabee River. (Rowing was a featured sport, in spite of the Canadian winter and the school calendar. Linda was not interested.) It had a smaller student population than the high school I had just left, and Catherine Parr Traill College was in town, a hybrid of original buildings with a long three-story addition containing 2 floors of single rooms for students, with a Porter’s Lodge with student mailboxes, offices, several apartments for professors, and a student lounge on the bottom floor. The dining hall was in a remodelled house opposite, and gowns were expected to be worn for formal dinner. (And classes. This lasted until the first snow.) Buses ran on a schedule and most classes- lectures, seminars, and tutorials- were held out at the main campus. My parents had insisted that we should both go away to university, and the previous spring I had gone with my father to Queen’s in Kingston, a large university where Cec had a meeting, and Peterborough to look at Trent, an undergraduate university, still growing- and we had decided on it. My Uncle Carman had assured me that I would enjoy university, but I was not that convinced. I am happy to report, however, that they were right. Within a week I had acquaintances, within a month I had close friends, I loved my courses, and was able to develop my own interests. As a contrast, I felt my friends who went to Carleton scuttled around in the tunnels among hordes of other students, attending large lectures in huge auditoriums, and greeting only the few people they knew (but hadn’t particular liked) from high school.
I know, I’m biased. And I was very fortunate. But this is about Cyn’s perspective.

49 Cedar Road,
Ottawa 9, Ont.

17th Sept.

Dearest Mummy,

I am ashamed to have been so long in writing but what with one thing AND another the time has been flying by. I am doubly ashamed as I must apologize for opening Patsy’s letter to you and also reading it! I have been getting air letters from Cec and when it arrived I just opened it without thinking and then when I looked inside and saw that it was for you and not me I wondered if she had got the exercise book we sent, so I read it to see! One good thing came of it as I see they are interested in Canadian Universities for Paul, and I have a book of Linda’s telling all about all the Universities in Ontario – their size, cost, courses etc. so I will send it to Patsy so she can get some idea of what it involves and if it would be what he wants.
Thank you so much for now 3 letters – the first one crossed with mine and the last one arrived today. By now you will have received the pictures I sent, so at least you knew that we were thinking of you. I might as well begin and answer all the questions in your last letter, as I was going to tell you all about Lindy and her College anyway. As you would gather from the note with the pictures Lindy went last Thursday and until Sunday only 1st Year Students were there with the Profs. etc. and they had Seminars and arranged their Courses and had things like picnics and dances and hootenanys to get to know each other. On Sunday the other students arrived and term actually began on Monday. Charlie and I drove her down – he has been back at school since 2nd Sept. but it is a long way to Peterborough (180 miles) and I didn’t fancy the long lonely drive back alone, so he skipped school for one day and came with us. Mme Gemuse was here that day, so we left her to clean the house and set out around 9 o’clock – Linda drove for the first part to take her mind off leaving Ottawa (!) and then we stopped for coffee and I drove the rest of the way. We arrived in Peterborough just before 1 o’clock and had lunch (Lindy wasn’t very hungry!) and then we drove to her College. They had it all very well arranged – a 2nd year student met her and took her to her room, and then took her over to the place to register and then showed her where to go to meet her tutor and arrange her courses. Then she popped back to us with a paper with about 6 or 8 places she had to go to do various things – each place she got the paper initialed. So I said we had better go and open her bank account first and she could get some money, which we did, as she had to buy a gown (16 dollars) and put a deposit on her room key (7 dollars). On the way back to her College she suddenly said, “Oh, the Health Service is on this Street” and this was one of the places on her paper, so we found it and she dashed in and in a little while came out with a shot in each arm! We then went and got her key and then she took us up to her room. The college is not one of the university buildings and is in the older part of Peterborough but Wallis Hall is a new part and Lindy has a lovely room to herself. It has a divan bed and built in wardrobe, chest of drawers, bookshelves and desk, in a pretty walnut. It has a wall to wall carpet and lights that go on as you open closet doors and her own telephone! We carried up all her bags – not too bad, her suitcase, a flight bag, two cardboard boxes with books and dishes etc. and two coats on hangers. She took A. Muriel’s little bookshelf with her and her favourite books to keep her company. She didn’t stay to unpack as she was worried about all the places she had to go to still, so 2 of these were out at the new campus on the river, so we decided that we would drive her out there, and Charlie and I would get a look at it and then we would leave her to get the university bus back as we wanted to leave around four. I’m glad we saw it as the new part is quite fantastic very elegant built along the river with crosswalks and a bridge over the river from one building to another – tell Monie it reminded us of Expo! We left Linda there, and I must say that I was very pleased with her. From the moment she actually arrived she seemed to get over her stage fright and was very capable and efficient – as Charlie and I sat and waited for her at the various places, there were hundreds of students, male and female milling around, of course, and all of the girls there were some who were pretty and slim and nicely dressed, and others who just didn’t have it! Fat or dowdy or plain or something, poor things, and Charlie and I agreed that Lindy was very much one of the first group! She didn’t seem a bit shy – all keyed up I expect – and talked to girls she met and seemed very self-possessed, so long may it continue. One thing that we all giggled about – Lindy took some things from home to decorate her room, all the gold and orange colours she has here, and what colour should her college room be but reds and purples!
Charlie and I set out and stopped once for a hamburger and a piece of pie on the way home. It poured with rain part of the way to Peterborough but cleared up at lunchtime and was lovely the rest of the day which was nice. We were very fortunate in our eating places too and had nice meals – even the little place that Charlie and I stopped at on the way home was run by a family and the lady cooked very good hamburgers and had made the delicious pie. We got home soon after 8 o’clock and I felt pretty tired as I always have to kind of stretch my neck to see when I’m driving and on a long trip it is wearisome, but it made all the difference having Charlie with me. He is going to go down to the Licensing Bureau on Friday and get his 120 day Learner’s License and then he will take the driving course at the high school this fall.
After we got home we had a cup of tea and toast and as we were both tired we went to bed at 10 o’clock! I don’t think we had been in bed so early for months! Then at 10:45 the phone rang and here was Lindy to see if we got home safely! One of the other girls had said she was phoning home after 10 (cheap rates) so Linda phoned too which was nice and she had got all her paper signed and taken it back to the Registrar who was amazed that she had got it done so soon, so she was very contented. She’d had dinner with some girls and met her neighbours and in her letter since, she says she has got to know nearly all the girls on her floor and that everyone is very kind and helpful. She says she is feeling more at home but is looking forward to classes beginning so that she knows what she is doing. Her address is: – Wallis Hall, Catherine Parr Traill College, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario. Isn’t that ‘Catherine Parr Traill’ a mouthful? [She was an early settler in the area (1830s) and an author and naturalistone of Canada’s first women writers.] I have been writing just Traill College on the small envelopes as I noticed that some of the university letters abbreviated it.
It has been very strange with just Charlie and me at home, but we have both been so busy that we haven’t had time to mope. I have been teaching Nursery School every morning since 8th. (I got someone to take my place the Thurs. I was away) and of course Charlie has been at school. In the evenings he goes and coaches a football team of younger boys from 6:30 till 8:00 and on Sat. mornings. Last weekend I moved into the family room and Charlie began painting our bedroom, and got most of it finished but some of the woodwork is still to do so it is still in a mess. Little Mrs. Martin’s husband has at last got so helpless that he has been taken to the Civic Hospital, and she was telling me how long it took her to go there- 1 1/2-2 hrs each way- and back on the bus to see him, so I have been driving her 2 or 3 times a week. Sometimes I just go and pick her up and bring her home as she finds the buses going are more convenient and she doesn’t have to wait so long. She herself has to have an operation this fall, and she can’t turn him or lift him so it looks as if he will be in hospital for good now.
Before Linda went away we had a lot to do of course. As you can imagine she nearly drove me crazy as there was nothing organized about her and while I would want her to make lists of things to buy and clothes she needed and things to do and sort out her old clothes and tidy her drawers etc. she would be off visiting her friends or reading or something. Finally I realized that the more I fussed the less she did and the more agitated I became, so I just relaxed and decided if things didn’t get bought or done this was her lookout, and after that it was better. All the essentials got done – check up with Dr. Kastner (who said that she was as healthy as a pony!) – visit to the dentist – check with her Eye Dr etc. – haircut and so on. She only bought one new outfit – or at least I bought it for her – green slacks with a green and white tweed tunic to go over them, which could be worn alone as a jumper, and a white turtleneck sweater to go with it. She is the funniest girl – she spent all her money when she was away on books and presents for her friends, so she had very little dress allowance left, but she got her August money and sold some of her last year’s textbooks and so had $20 or so but instead of going out and buying a dress or a blouse she bought stamps and writing paper and all sorts of little odds and ends and the money just vanished! However she’s on her own now. She was highly delighted with the suede jacket we gave her for her birthday, so I was much relieved!
By the way, she was very pleased because when she looked in her mail slot in college here were 2 postcards from her Daddy waiting for her, so that was a nice surprise. I got a letter from Cec today after a long silence and he will be back on Monday we hope. He was writing from Japan and said what wonderful hosts his 2 Japanese friends were – wouldn’t let him pay for anything and went out of their way to show him everything and take him everywhere. He was on one of the southern islands – Fukuoka, and just leaving for Tokyo where his last meeting was. While he was there he was going with another NRC man who was to be in Japan with his wife, on an expedition up Mount Fuji, so I hope the weather was good and he enjoyed it. He was a bit disappointed with his holiday trip up to the Great Barrier Reef I think. The weather wasn’t all that good and the sea very rough, which he didn’t mind, but the water was too high to actually go on the reef, so they went in glass bottomed boats a bit. Also he got a throat infections and had quite a temp. one night so he probably was not feeling too well, but he went to a Dr. when he returned and says he is OK now. Saw the Egans in Sydney. I forgot to tell you when I was telling you about the week before Lindy went away but we did quite a bit of painting at the N.S. Marjorie and I and 2 others painted a lot of the furniture inside, and then Charlie and a friend put up a new fence around the playground and we painted some of the outdoor things. You remember Mr. Hutchinson was making us a big storage cupboard and slide – well he just finished it and Charlie went the next day to begin painting it and found some boys or someone had come and pulled the doors right off the hinges. Well, that was bad enough, but he fixed it again and began and undercoated the whole thing. The next afternoon Mr. Graham phoned to tell me that he’d just had a call that there was a fire at the Church, and it was the big old storage box with all the children’s toys set on fire and burned to the ground. I was so thankful it wasn’t Mr. Hutchinson’s new one but when we went down we found the smouldering remains of the old one – all the sleds toboggans, wagons, a little car, wheelbarrow and all sorts of smaller trucks and cars all gone. The new box had the doors pulled off again and they had thrown sand all over Charlie’s wet paint. It just made us sick to think of kids doing such malicious damage. Of course we had the police and we have let the insurance people know and given them a list of the toys we lost but so far we haven’t heard anything. This made quite a bit of extra work too, but we got it tidied up before the school opened and Charlie got one coat on the new slide anyway after he sanded it off.
I was delighted to hear of the parcel you were sending me – it sounds very nice and I am looking forward to having some new pretty mats and cloths for the table. I must see if I can get the table refinished and then they will look their best. I bought some new curtains at Shoppers City for our bedroom as the old ones had got wet and shrunk – the walls are a very pale blue, so the curtains are a sheer material and shades of pale blues and greens with a pale blue lining, and I think they are very pretty. I thought that in the small room light curtains might be better and make the room look bigger. Otherwise I haven’t made any purchases lately. I am so glad that you like Donna’s parents and how nice that you will meet her after all. It is lovely that Alan and she are getting home just when you are there and I hope you will all have a lovely time. I expect Margs is excited and I do hope that she and Bill are feeling better and that they will keep well now. We have been having some very hot miserable weather since we got back from our holidays but now it has become quite changeable – very cold one day, then rain and hot and now tonight it is to go down to 40. Poor Cec is going to have a FIT when he sees his garden! I began to weed it a few times, but in an hour I have just managed to clear about 1 square foot, so I haven’t got very far! You asked about how we fitted in Granny and Grandpa Costain’s house in Penticton – well, it has 2 bedrooms, and Grandpa had just finished a room in their basement, all panelled walls and tiled floor, which was ready for Cec and me. It was very comfortable and cool and Lindy had a bed in the spare room cum sewing room, and Charlie slept on a sofa bed in the living room, so we managed fine. I quite liked Carman and Leona’s house, but it is a bungalow and of course I like ours best! It is on a corner and has a very small garden – just as well as Carman hates gardening! I have been wearing the long-sleeved greyish dress quite a lot and have found it very useful. It is cosy without being too hot and a couple of days on holiday it was just what I needed.
I must stop now as I should write to Lindy tonight. Yesterday I went to the market and bought fruit and vegetables and last night I made peach chutney, then this afternoon I had a lady to tea who is taking over my job as Social Convener for the Scientists Wives, so I gave her all my notes on last year and told her what I could, so I haven’t written to her since the weekend and she begged for lots of letters to begin with anyway! Our love to Marga and Bill and Monie and Owen.
A purr from Saki and love from Charlie and
Cyn.

This letter was sent to New York, where Carol was visiting her nieces on Long Island. She sent Cyn a cutting from the church bulletin there, which featured a welcome to her:

‘BILL and MARGUERITE JAEGER spending their vacation in Maine. Welcome to MRS. CAROL EWING, the aunt of MONA B. and MARGUERITE J. She is on the Altar Guild of ST. GEORGE’S CATHEDRAL in Saint Vincent, a beautiful and tropical island in the West Indies, a strong hold of our Anglican faith. FATHER MARLIN will take the two Sunday services this week at the J.F.K. Airport Protestant Chapel at 12:15 and 4 pm.’

April 27 1969

As I read these letters from 1969, I am surprised at the amount of work that Cyn does, with her children 16 and 17 and perfectly capable of doing much more for themselves. In the last letter, she told Carol she was exhausted after a full day of activities, and had to make dinner for the children before going out to a banquet with Cec. Why not tell the kids to feed themselves? But then I remember that Cyn’s kitchen was HER kitchen- I did learn from her, but more by osmosis rather than direct instruction, and not by working with her collaboratively. Certainly I had friends who got the family dinner on for their working mothers, a thing I would not have been able to do then. After this last year at home, I went away to university and lived in residence being fed in my college- it wasn’t until my fourth year at Trent that I moved out and had to cook for myself, and then my mother gave me a collection of recipes scaled down for one person so that I could make stock, soup, meatloaf, hamburgers, and gingerbread!
However, in this letter we learn that Cyn accompanied Cec to his meeting at Penn State, leaving the kids to manage for themselves for a few days, so obviously she didn’t mind them cooking for themselves if she wasn’t around! A word about amenities- the area outside the Ottawa city limits where the Costains lived was growing amazingly during the years the children went to high school, with new housing developments, apartment buildings, schools, and 6 lane highways connecting them all, being built on the fields that Cyn had driven past in the 50s to buy her meat in the village of Orleans- where there were now shopping centres, and more housing developments- and their high school also grew every year- a second floor, a new wing, a tower, and more and more students until other high schools went up in the new communities. However, it would be years before the Costains’ suburb was offered the sewer and water services that a city enjoys. Each house had a well for water, and relied on a septic tank- which had to be unearthed every few years and pumped out, thus destroying lawns or gardens. Cec had designed the patio in the back yard with removable concrete tiles to mitigate the destruction, but I’m sure Cyn was sorry that this would be happening the spring her mother was visiting.
And as the letter shows, plans for Carol’s visit to Canada and then New York were being made, in spite of airline strikes…

49 Cedar Road,
Ottawa 9, Ont.

27th April, 1969

Dearest Mummy,
I am so sorry that I was late for your birthday. I had the card and little necklace all ready, but it was too early to send, then last week I made a great long list of all the things I wanted to do before you came (I know I won’t get half of them done!) and I got so busy that I forgot all about the date and was horrified to discover that it was actually the DAY! I hope that you had a nice time, and from what you said in your letter to Linda and Charlie it sounded as if you would. They both say thank you for the letter and I say thank you for two to me also. I haven’t really written since we got home from Penn State, but we had a nice trip home all in one day, and were back in time for dinner. Linda and Charlie had everything spic and span and they had managed beautifully – haven’t even had one fight they told me!


We had a good Easter weekend, with some good sunny days and we had the Ganders all to dinner on Easter Sunday. The weather was lovely for a day or so and I got quite enthusiastic about the garden and did some clearing up, but since then it has been a bit chilly and I don’t like to go out in it! It is quite early yet for us, but we have some tulips and daffodils in bud. Unfortunately we are going to have to have a new septic tank and drainage tile, so this will make a mess in the back garden, so there is not too much point in being ambitious until it is over. We had hoped that this would be over before you came, but at the rate it is taking the men to get started, you might be here for all the excitement and get to CHRISTEN the new septic tank! Cec is very busy taking out the the old hedge between us and the Cyr’s – it grew a mile a minute and he got fed up with cutting it so he is taking it out and we are going to get some pretty flowering shrubs in its place. I have ordered some seeds for the garden and you can help me start them in the porch and we will see if we can have a Blaze of Glory. I am most anxious to hear how A. Moo’s geraniums and fairy rose seeds get on but I don’t suppose there has been time for much to happen yet. Mr. Graham brought me a purple gloxinia which he had grown from a leaf last week, and it is looking very exotic and colourful at the moment and I only hope that I can keep it like that till you come.


You were asking in your letter what you could bring us from St. Vincent and we are delighted at the prospect! I know that Cec would love some rum – he likes the nice dark W.I. rum and always remembers your ‘refined cane juice’ parcel with great pleasure! Linda and I would very much appreciate some Liberty material and as for table mats, the ones you brought me last time are still as good as ever. I use them every single day, so if they have some in new bright colours I wouldn’t say no to a change, but I still like the plain ones very much and wouldn’t like embroidery or anything of that type. For Charlie I had the idea that you might bring him some swimming trunks if you were stuck for an idea. I am enclosing a picture of the kind he wears and he takes a MENS with a 30 inch waist – you can probably get Jantzen or some make like that but remember Charlie is quite conservative and wouldn’t like anything too gay!

I was most interested to hear about your expensive two piece and hope that you are happy with it when the dressmaker is finished, also that ‘my’ long sleeved dress will be useful. Remember Monie’s comments and don’t go filling up your suitcase with TOWELS or your hostesses will be insulted! Also I was going to say, things like hairspray and shampoo etc. are so cheap here there is no point in you’re bringing them, so don’t forget – look at everything and think “Will I really need it? “!! We will be able to get you some more shoes from Eaton’s catalogue while you are here and I wouldn’t worry about much in the hat line as you will want to get a new one, and apart from Church no one wears them and not even in Church half the time.

You were all excited about Cec’s book as you called it – well, if you recall, I said a chapter in a book – it is a sort of science reference book, and each chapter is on a different field, so Cec wrote the one on Microwave Spectroscopy, but as for A. Muriel’s suggestion about him making his fortune, just think how many people are eagerly awaiting for a book on such a thrilling topic! We were laughing about the royalties which he would get – as much as 5¢ perhaps!

Last week Marjorie Graham and I had a day out. The IODE (a female organization) was having a Historical Trip to Kingston and Jo Cardinal phoned me up and asked if I would like to buy a ticket and go. It was 12.50 for the bus, lunch and tea, so I asked Marjorie and we thought it would be quite fun and a nice days outing. Cec drove us down town on Wednesday morning to get the bus at 8:45, and unfortunately it was the wettest morning you ever saw! However, the forecast said ‘clearing’ so we set out – three buses full of women – and arrived in Kingston about 11am. The Kingston Historical Society provided guides to take us around and our guide took us first (in the bus of course, as it was still raining) to the Royal Military College, and after showing us around the grounds we all got out and saw their Museum. The College is on a peninsula right out into the St. Lawrence, so would have been a glorious sight on a fine day, but it was very interesting anyway. We then went to a new hotel and had a very nice lunch, with a talk on Kingston afterwards and some coloured slides of some of the old houses, etc. We then went in the bus to one of these old houses which has been restored and refurnished in the right period and Sir John A. Macdonald once lived there and it was very nice and most interesting although the poor man had a most unhappy time there, as his baby son died and his wife was in the last stages of consumption and died not long after they left. Fortunately there was a happy ending as he married again some years later and was very happy!

After that we went a tour of the city in the bus and the guide pointed out various sights and took us to another small museum, and then we went a drive right along the river to Gananoque – pouring all the time of course, but still! We went to an Inn there and had a most delicious tea, and then left and were back home in Ottawa at 8:30, where Dick met us and drove us home. Of course Marjorie and I talked all day long and caught up on all sorts of gossip!

Mr. Graham (Rector) is off on his holidays today – a month in England, the Channel Islands and France. He hasn’t been looking too well lately, so I hope that he will have a good time and return rested and refreshed. It is the 30th anniversary of his ordination this summer, so instead of waiting and giving him a present on the actual day, they made a collection and decided to give him a cheque to help towards his holiday. Last Sunday they had a surprise Coffee Party after Church and the wardens presented him with a cheque for 300 dollars and the ACW gave him a small light weekend case (he wanted one he could carry himself) and a cheque for 50 dollars to buy himself a memento of the occasion when he was in Europe. He was very surprised and delighted and on the actual day, when you are here they plan to have a cake and a sort of party.

As you know I am sure, we are having an Air Canada strike, but Mr. G. is going on a charter flight, and I hope that it is all over and finished long before you come.

I nearly forgot to tell you about the Miles for Millions Walk last week – it already seems a long time ago. Of course your noble grandson walked to the 40 miles again – in fact they said that it was actually 43 this year but they counted it as 40. They began at the Parliament Buildings at 8am and Charlie and his friends were finished at 7:30pm. They only stopped twice the whole time, and otherwise tramped along steadily. They finished in the first 400, but a Mr. Frank Cook (husband of plump blonde girl in our WA) ran all the way and finished at about 1:30pm! He is a long distance skier and quite an athlete, but he is 47, so it was considered quite something. Altogether there were about 50,000 started the walk and about 4000 finished I think, so that was very good, but people weren’t so generous at giving money to the walkers this year. Charlie was very happy with his Generous Family and delighted that you supported him, so I will give him the 6 dollars to send in for you.

I must stop now as it is time for a cup of tea. It is raining again and I must say it eases my conscience that I can’t go out and garden. Will write again with Final Arrangements!
Much love from us all
Cyn

Love to A. Muriel. Thank her for her letter.