February 19 1956

A reminder note about the family members mentioned in the letters of 1956. The previous letter referred to Lee, Wendell and Daryl Atchison. Lena was Cec’s second sister, older than he, and trained as a nurse. When Cyn first met them in 1948, they were living in a manse in small town Ontario, Wendell was the minister, and Lee worked as a nurse. Daryl is now 5, and after some family- and money- troubles, with Wendell being a salesman, he seems to have a new charge: they are now living in Carp, a village near Ottawa, and Lee is expecting a baby.
Cyn’s father had been hospitalized in Newcastle after his separation from Carol a couple of years before Cyn’s marriage, and remains in an institution. Carol and Cyn had lived in Cambridge where Cyn taught, and where Cec met her while getting his PhD. Now his youngest brother, Carman, who seems to be as brilliant as Cec, has also won a scholarship to Cambridge, (although in a slightly different field, radio astronomy) and has married Leona. The 23 year-old newly-weds are experiencing life in England, and had enjoyed a visit from Pete Forsyth, a friend of the Costains from Saskatoon, with whom Carman had worked the summer he lived with Cec and Cyn in Ottawa.

Box 330
R.R.1 Ottawa
19th Feb. 1956
Dearest Mummy,
I am sending you this funny “mixed bag” by sea. Cec promised to send you one of the re-prints of his last paper when they came out, so he brought this home a week or so ago & solemnly presented it to me to send to you! I hope that you are much, much wiser when you have read it through! I am also enclosing the letter of my Father’s which you asked me to return. I had a short note from him a little while ago saying he’d got the first Reader’s Digest & thanking for it. The other thing I’m sending is an article on the Queen’s visit to Cambridge which I found in a New Yorker. It is a very pedestrian account I think – you or I could have made it much more interesting! – but I quite enjoyed reading it & thought you might.

We heard from Peter Forsyth that he had seen Carman & Leona & then on Friday we had a letter from them. They seem to be getting on fine – Leona got her R.N. exam in Nov. & has a job 4 days a week at a Chronic Hospital not far from Chesterton Road. Carman is playing in the Ice Hockey Team & they are both enjoying life. Pete said Carman’s work was going very well & that they were pleased with him.

Note the score. Sigh.

Yesterday was snowing hard. I sat down with the Catalogues & the telephone & had a lovely morning’s shopping! Their spring sale is finished at the end of this month, so I ordered some materials which they had on sale – 2 yds. yellow broadcloth to make jackets for the sundresses I’m going to make of the white & yellow material I got last summer! 3 yds. gingham to make shorts for the children & maybe a little blouse for Linda; 3 yds. yellow orlon/nylon shantung (45 inches wide) to make a best summer dress for me! Aren’t I ambitious?! I also bought a hand embroidered pillowcase for June’s baby; a pair of frilly nylon rubber panties for Connie’s baby; & 2 prs. plastic panties with pictures on for Fanni’s baby. Also a pretty maternity smock for Ruth’s birthday! The latter is a “big” present – partly because Amy sends such generous (& expensive!) presents to the children & partly because I feel sorry for Ruth after Amy’s accounts of their poverty!! The smock is a summer one – sleeveless, of white cotton with a flower pattern, & has a nice little collar & bow & big patch pockets – I thought it might boost her morale!
I have just had a long, long chat with Lu [Forsyth] on the phone! We talked mostly about sewing & all our big plans for our future wardrobes! We were giggling wildly because Lu was talking of “sheaths” & “caftan coats” & all the latest ideas from Paris, and I was holding forth on my summer colour scheme being pale blue & yellow with black accessories & after our dearth of clothes during the last few years we had to be amused at our big ideas! But we are both enthusiastic & even if just 1/2 our plans are realized we should do pretty well!
I must stop now as I have to write to Auntie Muriel & do my accounts! Will write to you by airmail this week anyway, so you will get it long before you get this. Today Linda told me I was the prettiest of all the Sunday School teachers! Wasn’t that nice!
Hugs & kisses from the children & lots of love from us all-


October 31 1955

Box 330
Ottawa R.R.1.
Monday 31st.

Dearest Mummy,
Peace – with the children asleep in bed! I washed & polished the bathroom floor & down the stairs this morning, so I was a busy woman and glad to sit down & put my feet up for lunch. The children were supposed to be playing outside but were out & in, you know! We took down bread for the birds & I cleared up the garbage that your old friend the skunk upset again! The weather is lovely just now – sunny & mild, but we’ve had quite a bit of rain & the bottom of the hill at the back is all wet & swampy. One morning last week we woke to snow & I was so disgusted! The children were thrilled of course but practically as soon as I had them all snow-suited & booted & out, it had melted!
Thank you so much for your letter all about your weekend at Marie’s. High life, indeed! I had to giggle over Marie & Bebe hunting & told Cec these were my huntin’, shootin’ & fishin’ relatives! It sounds lovely – the farmhouse & country, I mean, but somehow a bit depressing. With Marie there all by herself I suppose. The theatre must have been lots of fun – as you say, ages since you saw a stage show. Also very satisfying to the curiosity to meet Bebe & all her family etc. Is she still a glamour girl or has she let herself go like your daughter? All those martinis! – I can’t say I envy you – horrid drinks I think!
We have been very quiet & abstemious & hard-working! Yesterday we began covering the sofa – having set ourselves a deadline again by inviting some people for a buffet supper on Friday! In the morning I took Linda to S. School & also Pat Tomlinson with Joanne. On Sat. Cec went with Ken up into the Gatineau & helped him bring back lots of little fir trees. He is replacing all the ones that got killed in the drought & Cec got a few for us – he put 3 little ones by the gateway in the bed the bulbs were in & another one on the grass near the house where there used to be a clump of poppies & they look very cute. I went around to Fanny’s on Fri. evening & we sat & sewed & chatted – her baby is due any minute or overdue I think – she says Teddy doesn’t believe in it anymore! I have made the little skirt for Janita’s Christmas present & I’m making Anne one to match. The material is very gaudy – grey & green with rivers & fishermen & Mounties & moose! I have also made the youngest Ramsay daughter a frilly pillowcase which I must deliver sometime.
We got lots of news from various people last week. First of all a parcel for me from Carmen & Leona of a very pretty red handbag – with not a word enclosed, just their address outside! We were so frustrated! However 2 days later a letter came & they seem to be settling very nicely. They enjoyed the crossing & only had one rough day. They shook me to the soul by saying they took a taxi from London to Cambridge – £7!! They found when they arrived the flat wasn’t ready but Mrs. Moore had got a furnished house for them nearby for 3 weeks. The lady next door to it had them in to tea & Mrs. Moore had them to dinner, so everyone seems to have been very kind to them.
The next news we got was a “change of address” card from Hugh Brown! Just changed from one APO number to another, so we have no idea where he is, but I must write & find out – funny if he’s in England too.
On Friday morning we had a phone call from Joan & Ray wanting us to buy them an electric dryer! They had seen an ad. in an Ottawa paper, so Cec went to the shop & got it for them – we’re just sorry it wasn’t for us! They are well, but we hadn’t much time to chat.
Today is Hallowe’en & we have a pumpkin Jack o’ Lantern sitting on the windowsill. Linda is quite excited about it, but doesn’t want to go out – just stay at home & hand out apples! Dorothy Jane has been talking about it on the radio & I think Linda is a bit wary of all the witches & goblins etc.!
I thought that I might go downtown tomorrow with the children & buy a hat! Or at least look at some – how I will succeed with the children’s assistance, I don’t know! So far, the weather has been so nice I haven’t worn my coat much, but it can’t last too much longer. I think it will be very nice if you stay with the Sims. till Thanksgiving – after all, two Thanksgiving dinners won’t harm anyone! Even though it is late it will be even more excuse for not staying with A. Trix! Talking of her there is a letter from her or A. Gee which I am enclosing, also one from my Father – I hope the latter won’t be too miserable. Cec intends to get the colour pictures today I think, so I’ll enclose them too, if he does.
I think that is all the news, so I had better stop & cut out some sofa cushions. Lindy & Charlie still miss you & talk about you a lot – they are just the same – sometimes sweet & sometimes horrid!
Lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn.
P.S. Fanny had another boy this evening – a Halloween boy! No pictures yet.
Love Cyn.

Now that Carol has been to Ottawa for 4 months, Cyn has less explaining to do about her friends and her house, and Carol knows what her grandchildren are like too, but a few words of explanation seem in order.
In New York, Carol has a choice of places to stay- with the Simmons sisters and their families, and their mother, Aunt Ettie, on Long Island; the third sister upstate a bit; as well as her sister-in-law Marie, and her daughter Bebe, who seem to live the high life with martinis on occasion! Staying in New York for a month seems to make it easier to avoid a long visit in Trinidad, where her elderly sisters Trix and Gee live, on the way home to St. Vincent.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that it shook Cyn to the soul to hear of the 23 year old newly-weds spending the equivalent of her monthly rent in Cambridge 10 years before, on a taxi from London to Cambridge! When she went up to London to see a show with her friend Hugh Brown (a major in the US Army, thus the change of address) back then, there were trains for 12 shillings.
And finally, the CBC had a radio program for children called ‘Kindergarten of the Air’ where Dorothy Jane entertained Linda and Charlie in those pre-TV days.

Science in September 1955

While the Spectroscopy Section was busy at the NRC, their friends in Chalk River were gaining international recognition. Canadian atomic research was to result in the development of medical isotopes in the 50s, CANDU nuclear power reactors in the 60s, and Ray Appleyard’s continuing visits to New York, to the UN.

Meanwhile at home, Cyn got some modern technology that she’d been wishing for for years!

Out in Saskatchewan, another Costain scientist, Cec’s youngest brother, Carman, completed his Master’s and, following in his brother’s footsteps, was headed for Cambridge to work on his PhD in the field of radio astronomy. During the summer of 1953 when Carman had stayed with them in Ottawa, they had gotten to know him and Cyn’s knowledge of rooms, landladies, and houses in Cambridge was now put to use on his behalf. And he was not going alone!

Carman and Leona were visiting Ottawa before sailing to England, the family would get to meet the bride, and Carol would get to meet yet another of Cec’s family.

July 1955

In July, Carol Ewing arrived in Ottawa, three years after her last trip, to visit her daughter Cyn, Cec, Linda, and meet her grandson for the first time. But hers was not the only visit. Cec got his camera out to record the meeting of the in-laws: his Aunt Lily came up from Toronto- she hadn’t seen them since Linda was 6 weeks old- and Cec’s sister Merle and her husband Dix came from Port Arthur, and they met Carol and the children for the first time. As they were all lovely people, they got on well!

Charlie and Uncle Dix

Carol Ewing is standing, with Lily Costain seated, at the back of the house on Montreal Road.

Lea, Cec’s second sister, had been staying with Merle and Dix with her son because of her health, but has returned to her husband Wendell who was working in Ottawa. So in these family photographs the only one missing is Cec, who is behind the camera.

Adults: Wendell & Lea Atchison, Dixon & Merle Moor, Cyn, Aunt Lily, and Grannie! Children: Daryl, Charlie and Linda.

Both Merle and Dix had university degrees, but at some point decided to get teacher’s qualifications by going to Teacher’s College in the summer in Toronto for a couple of summers. I assume their three sons went to their grandparents in Saskatoon while their parents took courses. We would meet those cousins a few years later. Meanwhile, Cyn took the camera.

Costain Siblings- Cec and his sisters and us.
Family Visit!

November 13 1950

First page had typewritten second page on the back- rest hand written- hard to read!

Monday. 13th November.

Dearest Mummy,

Was so glad to get your letter last week & to know that you had got the letter with the typed forms & coloured pictures & so on- also my Air Mail letter. I saw our Mailman on Sat. (your letter came on Thurs.) & he was begging for some St Vincent stamps, so your letters keep me very popular with the postmen!

The last time I wrote I was going to go with Dawn and Edie to the pictures & it was raining – the buses here are once an hour in the evenings, so I set out to walk, all bundled up in raincoat & hood & boots, but by the time I got there I was dripping all over! However, the picture was quite good – it was called “All About Eve” & got very good criticisms & the other girls thought it was wonderful, but I didn’t rave! The dialogue was good, & Bette Davis was amusing with her wisecracks, but looked awful! I took a taxi home as it was still raining, so I told Cec I’d had a very expensive evening out of my pocket money – he usually pays for pictures out of his pocket money!

Cec’s Seminar finally came off on Thursday afternoon (after staying up till 5 a.m. on Wed. night) & he came home very pleased as it had gone so well. Dr. Sutherland was very pleased with it & some of the other Profs had too & they had all been interested & asked questions & discussed things afterwards, so after all his hard work it was nice to feel rewarded. Since then he has been relaxing a bit, but he’s starting in to toil again today he says.

On Friday evening we went & shopped for our groceries, and I made my Christmas shopping list and we planned out a great day of action for Saturday! We got the Laundry ready to take to the Laundrymat- wrote checks for the Electric Co. & Laundry that we owed- Cec took out the typewriter to take down to get it cleaned & I took my Christmas shopping list. Our first stop at the Laundrymat was a little disheartening, as it was crowded and we had to wait for half an hour or more, however, we finally got it in and walked the rest of the distance into town. There, we headed for the Bank – and what do you think? It was closed for November 11. It is a legal holiday here, and of course we didn’t know. We were so frustrated! I couldn’t buy any presents of course, and it means that I won’t be able to get any till next Saturday, so my presents will be late in getting off, but I can’t do anything else. Also to add to our troubles, the places where we were going to pay our bills were closed too, and the man who was to do the typewriter was out! Anyway, we left the typewriter, and had a cup of coffee to weep into, and then went home for lunch. I was ever so annoyed.

In the afternoon I cleaned the flat, and Dr. S. & Anne called to leave their bicycles on the way to the Football Game. Gunborg is away till tonight so we had asked Gordon if he would like to come and have a game of bridge with us on the Sat. evening, as he plays and Gunborg isn’t keen, and he said that he would like to very much. So another thing that frustrated us all day Sat. was that we spent the day ringing up Al MacNamara to ask him to come and make a fourth and we never managed to get him yet! After the football game Anne and Gordon came in and had tea and hot scones, and Gordon said that he had some shopping to do, and would call for us in the car when he’d gone home on his bicycle, as we were getting ready to go up and get our laundry, so we waited and he was quite a little while – and guess what? It was just after six when we got there, and the place was closed, and we didn’t get our laundry either! Wasn’t that a day? However, Gordon came in the evening anyway, and we played cut-throat bridge, and all had a good time, so it ended all right!

I meant to do so much over the weekend of course in the way of writing letters, but ended up by getting none done. I had the rest of the washing to do, and what with our late rising and the meals and general chores, I wasn’t finished until after dinner in the evening and then in a moment of weakness I picked up “Florence Nightingale” which was our last Book Club from Dottie, which came sometime ago. Cec had read it, and I had read a little at the beginning, so I began to look at it again and ended by reading all evening. It is a biography written by a woman Cecil Woodham-Smith, I think, and it’s very fascinating. I had no idea that Florence was such a weird person, and that she had done such a little actual nursing. In some ways I kept thinking of Miss Lefroy, but she isn’t as peculiar as Florence was. I was very sorry to hear of poor Miss Lefroy’s troubles and the bad time she has been having. I do hope that she is able to get a good couple downstairs, and that she is free of domestic worries for a while. By the way, when I sent her birthday card I had forgotten that Chris’s birthday was so close, and didn’t say anything about her except to send my love – however! I thought that for their Christmas I would send a fruitcake like Barbara Kristin used to send me – even if they don’t like it much themselves, it will do for their tea parties! The only other thing I could think of was a bottle of whiskey for Chris, and that is a bit expensive! Talking of whiskey – on Saturday, after our bank catastrophe, we suddenly thought that we had Gordon coming in the evening, and we had nothing to drink. They always give us something, so we thought we should do our best, so we went home and opened my two piggy banks, and the cigarette box where we keep the money for the newspaper boy, and scratched together enough for a little bottle of whiskey and a bottle of ginger ale! We put in We.O.U.’s and will pay them back!

It is Tuesday now, and I am writing this at lunch time again. Cec got some money yesterday, and bought our bathroom scales with our lunch money, and so I weighed myself and am 125 lbs. and Cec is 201 lbs. Yesterday was the first day of my diet, and I was very good- I am leaving out all sugar and milk out of tea and coffee, and it tastes horrid! Today I had two hard-boiled eggs and a grapefruit for my lunch, and for dinner tonight I have steak, but only a salad with it. I’m not too oppressed with hunger, but my tummy feels very surprised!

Instead of beginning with your oldest letter and answering through till I’m up-to-date, I decided to do it the other way around this time, so I brought your last letter to answer today. It was written on October 30, and you had got my A.M. of 20th. I am so sorry that you were worried about your letters, as I haven’t mentioned them – they come very nicely & regularly & Cec & I love them. They are waiting in the evening when I get home & the first thing Cec always says is “A letter from your Mummy”, so I sit down & read it right then & there, then hand it onto him to read while I go & get dinner!

I was glad that you told me again where the colour photos were of, because I had forgotten exactly where they were taken. I knew the house and garden belonged to some friends you had visited, but didn’t know which ones. Also, I had no idea that that was the beach where you went bathing, so was pleased you told me. I think sometime when you have nothing to do, besides making the Family Tree that Cec talks about, you should make me a pictorial map of the island, & put in where people live & where are you bathe & shop & everything, so that I can follow everything that’s going on! There’s a nice job for you!! That reminds me of my scrapbook – do you know it is just about full? I had quite a session a few weeks back one Sat. evening while Cec was working, & I brought us right from our honeymoom up to living in Ann Arbor. I got as far as this summer & only have 2 pages left – can you imagine that huge book bursting full? We still love to look at it & inflict it on anyone else we can!!

First of many scrapbooks!

To return to your letter, Cec was most amused to hear about all the Hazells about the place & your “niece” in the Bank – also most curious to know the joke about Grafton! I couldn’t remember – unless he was the man who didn’t have 6 inches! Is that him?!!

I was sorry to hear that you had been having such queer weather with so much rain, & I do hope that it improves and that you have a lovely time down by the sea. It is a grand idea of Auntie Ettie’s that you should all have a holiday, and I know that you will all enjoy the bathing. Our weather has been a bit strange too. Our weekend at Til & Lois’ was heavenly & warm & for about 3 or 4 days afterwards it was like summer again, then it suddenly got cold & snowed, & has been alternately cold & wet since.

I didn’t really tell you much about our visit to Til & Lois’ so I will go into more detail now, and answer your questions too. They had a good time in Alabama this summer (the little car was fine) and while there they asked Grandma whether she would mind selling the Berwick Ave. house, as it was partly hers originally. She said no, so when Lois came back (before Til) she began looking around & an agent took her to this darling little house by the river, & she fell for it at once. She telephoned Til, & Til came home, & liked it too, so they decided to buy it & Til sold “Berwick” to her nephew Bud & his wife (one of Etta’s children- big fat Etta who used to come to Til’s when I was there & was so nice) so it is still in the family. We only heard about the new house when Til rang us up one evening, & they had only been in it about 3 weeks when we went. I told you all about it & sent a plan in a sea letter I sent, so won’t repeat it, but it is a yellow bungalow & very cosy, with the most beautiful view I’ve seen for ages (it is only one year old). Talking of bungalows, a slight digression to tell you that I had a letter from Denis this week, & he was telling me that he has at last got a job in N/C, so he is very pleased. They are going to stay with Winnie till they find a house, & are keen on a bungalow, so they were interested when the Hayning’s bungalow was for sale, a few weeks ago- price £2,400- & as Denis says only 4 small rooms & not the smallest piece of ground for a garage. We were wondering how they would like living with Winnie, but maybe they will be able to find some other place before long.

To return to our Toledo weekend, Lois met us at the Bus Station in town & drove us out to the house – it takes about 3/4 of an hour- & Til was waiting there with all the lights on & a big blazing fire & it looked lovely. We saw all over the house & had dinner & spent the evening in front of the fire – I was so enchanted to see a fire again, & be able to poke & put on logs! Does it make you nostalgic too, or are you just glad you don’t have to clean out the darn things anymore!

On Sat. morning Cec & I slept till 10, & then got up to find that Til & Lois had been up since 6 or some unearthly hour, & Til said Lois had been shouting & stamping around the place for hours trying to wake us up! After we had breakfast we went out & really saw the place by daylight, & it looked heavenly with the sun shining & all the autumn colours. We scrambled down the bank to the river & really inspected the property & picked lovely branches of queer little white berries & scarlet & yellow maple leaves & I arranged a copper jug & a grey bowl with them & everyone thought they were very artistic!! Lois showed Cec her leaf-brusher-up & her lawn-mower with a seat to sit on & Til & I inspected the plants & roped in Cec to help us transplant some little pine trees that had been just dumped in one place. Cec then helped Lois who was caulking around the side of the house & Til & I went shopping in Waterville for the groceries & began cooking dinner when we got back. Mr. & Mrs. Pasquier were coming later to see us & for a snack Til said, & we just had all the dinner ready about 2:30 to 3 o’clock, when in they came! After everything had been shown etc.Till was in a great quandary as the dinner was all cooked with only 6 little pork chops, but we dished it all up with lots of veg & applesauce etc. and ice cream & cake (stale, Til said) afterwards, & everyone had a good time!

They had to leave in the early evening as they had another engagement, but it was so nice to see them again & Ethel brought us the loveliest presents from her trip abroad. To me she gave a beautiful hankie from Paris, with a map of England woven into it, & for our wedding present she gave us a lovely little cigarette holder and ashtray made of Royal Copenhagen ware, which she got in Denmark. They are a dull turquoise blue on the outside with grey inside & a gold band around the rim. Weren’t they lovely presents?

On Sunday we slept late (Cec & me!! ) then Cec & Lois did more chores & I began cutting suckers off the apple tree with a lovely long handled sort of guillotine! In the afternoon two old aunties of Lois’ arrived (just as we were finishing dinner!) with 2 other ladies & a gentleman & they stayed for ages! Cec & Lois sneaked away & began a great project to enable them to tow the leaf-sweeper-up behind the motor mower & toiled away at it until dark & just got it done, much to their delight!! When the Aunties etc. finally left, Ruth & Ernie & the children & Lois’s other sister, Mary, came as we were just beginning to think of going for our 6:15 bus, so Til called up & found there was another bus at 10:15, so we were persuaded into staying. After a while Ernie took the children home & Ruth & Mary drove us in for the bus, & it was very foggy a lot of the way. The bus was late & we didn’t get home till 1 a.m. feeling fair wore out, but we had a lovely time, & think their house is sweet & just suits them. They are both thrilled with it – particularly Lois, who is as tickled as if she had hatched it!! Til has a grand-daughter – baby born in Panama!

I was most interested to hear about Monie’s impressions of Wales & sympathise with her over the cold feet and nose – particularly as I have a cold sore on my lip at the moment! Pah! -never had them before I got engaged!! I told Cec you were making cracks about his Mama writing letters & he laughed! You won’t be hearing from her for a long time now anyway, as we had a letter last week full of news – they have sold their house & land in Sutherland & have bought a smaller house with a smaller garden actually in Saskatoon. It will be less work & more convenient & they seem very pleased. Also, Russell, the 2nd boy (21) is engaged & getting married at Christmas! He is the one who works on the Govt. Telephones you know & is away from home, but when he was home for the weekend when we were there, there was a little talk of his girl, but not much & we are so sorry we didn’t meet her.

It is now Wednesday, so I have decided to finish & post this letter tomorrow, as I think it is just about the proper weight. I will continue with the rest of the gossip & post the next installment later! Cec is busy marking tests – he is taking 2 classes  (6 hours) a week- the same as he did before, but on Tues. & Thurs. his classes begin at 8 o’clock so that is a change for him!! He is sitting there, muttering “Silly buggers” as he marks things wrong!

My love to Auntie Muriel & Auntie Ettie – I hope that you are all having the loveliest time by the sea.  

        With lots & lots of love for you

          from Cynnie & Cec XXXX

P.S. Cec has given me full marks!

Costain Genealogy #2

Elida Eakin Costain, 1st left.

It is the premise of this blog that in the twentieth century LETTERS kept a wide-flung family together.  Cynthia and the women of the family on the Hazell side did write letters and keep in touch with the day-to-day events of their lives, probably because they had done this in previous generations- the colonial outposts of the empire looked to England and the family was wealthy enough to have the leisure to write at length, and visit, even in different countries.  I’m not sure that this was true for farmer families in North America, who moved across the continent in the hopes of a better life for their children, and who lived in a different economic bracket. Elida Eakin was born in Nebraska but must have moved in the 1890s or 1900s, because she and her immediate family lived in Ponoka, Alberta, in Canada, where her first 3 children were born.  Her husband, Henry Costain, moved from Prince Edward Island where he had grown up, to the West before World War 1, and married and lived in Ponoka before moving his family to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 1920s.  Elida kept in touch with her immediate family in Ponoka, Henry with his, but the familiarity with the more extended members of his Costain family in P.E.I. was lost- something that wouldn’t have happened if he had continued living there and had bumped into distant cousins as one does in a small community.

I’m sure Elida wrote to and occasionally visited her sisters; my Auntie Merle did the same with her cousins but they were not as close as the Hazells were. The Costain children knew their aunts and uncles who visited occasionally, but not the P.E.I Costains.  The families were as large, but it was a different culture; a busier, more hard-working lifestyle; and letters were probably infrequent and concerned with the major events of life, rather than minutia.  Also keeping in touch seems to have been the business of the women of the family rather than the men- certainly Cec’s letters indicate this- I doubt he ever wrote much to his aunt or cousins.  Both Cyn’s parents were the youngest of 12 children, but on her father’s Ewing side, she seems to have been in touch with only 3 or 4, and a couple of cousins.  (There’s a distant Ewing cousin in Australia who visited Cyn and went to Ireland, and sorted out that genealogy- I assume some of Gordon’s generation, or earlier ones, moved to America and Australia- and she gave him the ‘Antique cup and saucer’ listed in her Wedding Present List as coming from Uncle Jim.) When you look at the wedding presents on Cyn’s list, there were gifts from aunts, uncles, and cousins- 9 Hazells, 6 Ewings, 2 Costains, and the 1 Eakin aunt.                                                                                                                                                    

So I know very little about the Eakin side of my father’s family, having only met one of his cousins, Evelyn Abbott.  This rough sketch is all I know of my grandmother’s family- any corrections welcome!  

September 7 1950

Thursday 7th Sept. 

Dearest Little Momma,

Here we are in Ottawa, and staying in an elegant hotel, the Lord Elgin, for a few days. Cec is fixing money with the Bank, & is seeing all the people he knows at the National Research Council. It is practically certain he will work for them when he finishes in Ann Arbor, & they have given him a $1500 scholarship for this year – isn’t that nice of them? Dr. Herzberg is the head of the Physics Dept & Cec used to work under him when they were both at Saskatchewan, & they seem to have a mutual esteem for each other!

I like Ottawa very much from what I’ve seen- it is a bit like an English city, but not so big & not dirty & smoky! The Parliament Buildings are lovely – all granite with green copper roofs & in a lovely position in parks on a hill overlooking the river. You can see the Laurentian Mountains in the distance, & the countryside looks pretty & wooded. I am quite excited at the thought of coming here to live next year & think it will be very nice. It is much more like home than Ann Arbor & Cec has quite a lot of young friends here already. Did I tell you Connie & Leonard were coming here next month? So they’ll still be here when we arrive to live! We have been looking at the House for Sale Ads in the paper, & they seem to be more reasonable than Ann Arbor & sounded nice! We got quite thrilled over picking out the ones we liked!

When I last wrote to you we were on our way to Regina to visit Merle. We arrived there on the Wed. evening, & found her with the 2 boys, John (10) & Lorne (7) & the baby Bruce (3 1/2 mths) all waiting for us. Dixon was away at the time & didn’t come back till the evening we were leaving which was a pity, but we enjoyed visiting with Merle. The 2 boys were full of fun & out playing most of the time, & the baby was a pet. He is chubby & full of smiles & Cec & I had a lot of fun with him. We left Regina at 2 a.m. & arrived in Montreal at 2 p.m. & went out to Lee & Wendy’s where Lee was very proudly waiting to show us her son. He was a pet too, but only two months old, so of course seemed small after Bruce, but I got quite hot at changing nappies, & feeding bottles & burping! Lee also has a cat & 2 kittens, so we were always nursing a baby or a kitten & had a lovely time. We stayed in Montreal from Sat. till Tues. a.m. then flew here – only 50 mins. but it was bumpy & I was sick! We leave tomorrow & stay in Toronto with Cec’s Aunt & Uncle & then home on Sunday – it will be quite nice to be home again. Some of your letters should be waiting for me as we didn’t get letters forwarded after we left Saskatoon. Have just written Aunt Ettie, to wish her a happy trip on Sat. 

My love to Auntie Moo, with 

    lots and lots for you from


Cec’s aunt and uncle, Lillie and Milton Costain, lived in the same bachelor apartment in Toronto all their married life. Milton was a partner in a business that made custom cabinetry for commercial enterprises.

August 30 1950

The Costain Brothers: Cec, Russell, and Carman.

30th Aug. 1950. 

Dearest Little Mommy,

Thank you so much for your last letter, posted August 25, which Gunborg forwarded to me. I was so glad to learn that Jean had a son – I had been telling Mom Costain about it just that morning, & was so tickled to open your letter & see the news first thing! I was most amused at serious Peter rushing around blowing his horn after the birth of his son! Give Jeanie my love when you see her again.

I was sorry to hear that it was so hot & humid in St. V. now – it must be very uncomfy. Since we got here the weather has improved, & although it was so cold at first, it is lovely now, because the sun is warm yet there is a cool breeze & it gets quite cold at night. Just after we arrived we heard on the radio about a big hurricane heading for the W.I’s & we at once thought of you but it seemed to head further north & we didn’t hear of it doing any great damage. I hope that St. V. will escape & that you won’t have any bad storms.

Since I last wrote we seem to have been busy dashing around & today is our last day here. At 7 o’clock this evening we fly to Regina and stay with Merle & Dixon until Saturday, then we fly overnight to Montreal. I wrote last Wed. then on Thurs. Cec & I went into town again & I bought a pretty skirt – it is in pastel colours – sort of plaid in yellow, grey & pale blue. We also had tea in town & had cream puffs made in the shape of swans!! On Friday, Mrs. Costain had invited Mr. & Mrs. Moor & Pete & Lu to dinner, so she had a busy day. Cec & I went out & picked strawberries- yummy! – & I shelled peas & scraped potatoes & set the table etc. We had fried chicken which was lovely & for dessert we had Saskatoon pie! Saskatoon’s are kind of berry like blueberries a bit, & it was a lovely pie! Afterwards Pete & Lu had to leave early & Cec went with Pete to the University to see the work he is doing on the Aurora – he does things with it and radar & spends all his nights there & Lu is disgusted! He is trying to get Cec interested too & Lu keeps warning me, but I don’t think Cec is very keen! We saw the Northern Lights one night, very bright & lovely, but the night Cec was with Pete, they only got echos from 500 miles away & he came home about 3 a.m. That night Russell (the 2nd youngest brother) came home for the weekend, but he was late, so I didn’t meet him till Sat. He is big too, & tough as he works on the Govt telephones, but he doesn’t look like Cec & Carmen & Lee – he is brown haired & brown eyed & has a shorter, squarer face with a ruddy complexion!

Carman and Russell in formal dress!

Mrs. Costain & I washed that day & in the afternoon we were all so upset because Laddie, the lovely collie dog got knocked over by a car. He came home feeling very sick with a great scar in his head, his ear bleeding, his nose and mouth bleeding too & looking so badly. Cec washed his cuts & we tried to do what we could but his nose after we’d cleaned the cuts on his nose and ear so Cec called the Vet. (a lady) & she came & examined him, & put some sulpha ointment on, & gave him 2 great aspirins, so he finally laid down & went to sleep. He seemed to feel a bit better the next day, & by now is practically himself again. He is such a sweet dog – very affectionate & gentle & friendly & lovely looking – just like Lassie Come Home.

Elida, Henry, Russell, Cec, Carman, and Laddie.

That evening Cec & I went down to the Officers Mess at the Naval Barracks & had quite a nice little party & singsong & spent the night at Pete & Lu’s. We came home for lunch & to see Russell, & then in the evening Cec had work to do with Pete, so I went & sat with Lu. The next evening one of the Profs at the Univ. Dr. Petrie, & his wife (a young couple) invited Cec & I & Pete & Lu over for drinks & yesterday we went to lunch with an older prof Dr. Mackay & his wife, & Cec gave a talk to the Physics Dept on his work & I did the ironing! So we have been busy! Yesterday evening we spent at home & all had a jolly time playing Chinese Chequers!

We have had a very happy time here, & I have enjoyed it all so much. At first I was a little shy, but the longer we stay the more at home I get, & I feel quite sorry that we are leaving now. After we go to Montreal, we spend about 3 days with Lee, then go to Ottawa for about 3 days, then to Toronto & home about the 12th. The railway strike is still on, so we are very lucky to have our air tickets.

Must stop now & get the packing done. Love to A. Moo – Cec would send love, but is downtown just now. Lots & lots of 

               love from


August 23 1950

Russell, Cyn, Carman, Elida, and Henry Costain. All smiling at Cec taking the picture!

Wed. 23rd Aug. 1950

Dearest Mummy,

Here we are in Saskatoon at last! We’ve been here nearly a week now, & the time has flown although we haven’t really been doing very much, except having a wonderful rest & being very lazy!

I wrote from Windsor, so you should have our news up till then – at least I hope you got the letter all right, as I hadn’t any idea of its weight or the cost, & just stuck on a whole lot of stamps & hoped for the best!

We got up early next morning & got the bus to the airport at 7:30. We were quite annoyed, because we went into the Hotel dining room at 7:15 for a cup of coffee, & they were so slow that it arrived just as we had to leave, but when we were on the plane, we got a cup of coffee & some biscuits, so we didn’t starve! We got to Toronto about 9, & had about an hour to wait there, so we had breakfast in the Airport Cafeteria & it filled in the time nicely. The next plane we got was the big trans-continental four-engine liner, & it was very comfortable, but very noisy. There was only one stop at Winnipeg, & when we came down there, my ears popped so, that I was as deaf as a post, but when we went up again I was O.K, so when we got to Saskatoon I chewed gum furiously & it was much better! We had lunch on the plane which was fun, & arrived in Saskatoon at 3:25 – it was really 5:25 by the time we left Windsor, as we lost 2 hours on the way! Understand?

Mr. & Mrs. Costain & Carman were all waiting for us with a taxi, so we were home quite quickly & I soon got over the qualms at meeting my in-laws, & we get on fine! Gunborg had made us laugh before we left by telling us how nervous she was when Gordon took her to meet her future in-laws, that she had diarrhoea all the time! But you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t follow her example! Mr. & Mrs. Costain are both easy & jolly & very homey, so I don’t have any trouble feeling shy with them, & Carmen is just a slighter, younger edition of Cec, so he is fun, & Cec & he have a good time kidding each other. The other brother, Russell is coming home this weekend, so we will meet him then. Everyone of course is exclaiming about Cec’s size, & I feel quite proud of my accomplishment! Cec gets a great kick out of meeting people & watching recognition slowly dawning on them, & they all say it suits him to be fat!! Of course no one knew me in my slim days, so they just think I’m a natural podge!!

Sutherland is about 3 miles out of Saskatoon & is really in the country. There seems to be a great deal of sky to me, & it is most unusual for me to be able to look & see such a huge lot of land around, as of course it is flat prairie. The city is nice, built along the banks of the river, & I keep feeling surprised that everything is so new, but Cec says the whole province was only opened in 1905, so the city is younger than that. I’ve never been in such a young city before!

When we arrived it was bright & sunny but quite a breeze blowing, which was a nice change from the heat of A. A., but Mrs. Costain was saying that it was the coolest summer she ever remembered, & the previous night they had quite a frost which had nipped quite a lot of her garden. Since then it has been cold & windy, & yesterday the wind got icy & last night there was another bad frost, so Mrs. Costain is very sad about her garden produce. She says it has finished all the corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans & squash, which is such a shame as they have a great big plot, with all the things just ready to ripen. We have already had lovely strawberries, raspberries, peas & green beans from the garden, & Mrs. Costain has been canning peas & beans & rasps & peaches, but she says it is just nothing compared to what they usually have.

The very first night we had gorgeous fried chicken & fresh eggs every day, so we are living in luxury! You will probably have heard that there is a big railway strike on here which began this week, & everyone is very worried because there will be no coal, so that will curtail electricity, & eventually food shortages & so on, but with all the chickens & eggs here, we don’t have to worry! We are very lucky to be travelling by plane & to have all our reservations as we would be stuck otherwise. We went down to the Air Office yesterday to check our reservations & the man there told us they were worth their weight in gold, because of course everyone is rushing to try & get air passages now & they are booked solid for a month ahead.

The first few days we were here we didn’t do much, except sit about & talk, but on Sat. afternoon Cec took me to town & I was tickled to bits because I went shopping at the Hudson Bay Company! It made me feel as if I were in the outposts of the Frozen North, but they have a nice modern shop here, & I bought a yellow cardigan made of nylon! Also a new suspender belt & brassiere!! We went to the pictures to see “Twelve O’clock High” with Gregory Peck, & then had ham & eggs & chips in a restaurant & went home!

On Monday we all went to dinner with Mr. & Mrs. Moor- they are Merle’s husband’s parents & a very nice old couple. We had a lovely dinner, & then Mrs. Moor showed us her garden which was very pretty, but I got eaten by mosquitos! I simply love the gardens here, as they are so lovely & well-kept, with a beautiful show of flowers, whereas in A.A. now there’s not a flower to be seen. In that way it is very like England here, & I enjoy it so much.

Yesterday morning Cec took me up to the university to meet some of his old professors. He, of course, had been up before but he introduced me to Dr. Harrington, the head of the Physics Dept. & two other Profs & I met Pete there & some other fellows. I also saw the Betatron which is a great big thing they have there & with which they are experimenting with in the treatment of cancer & meeting with some success.

In the afternoon we went downtown again, & Cec went to the Bank etc. & then we shopped for him & got 6 shirts, 6 prs. pants, 8 prs. socks & 2 ties! We were to go to Pete & Lu’s for dinner, but we were so exhausted soon after 4 by all our shopping, that we phoned Lu & went out there early! Their little girl, Leslie, is 10 months now, & is the sweetest little thing – red-gold hair, lovely pink cheeks, & big, slightly slanting blue eyes like her Daddy! She can stand & walk holding onto things, & has 2 teeth & says Dada, & Mama & Baby! We loved her & she was cute, but a little doubtful of Cec!

Leslie Forsyth.

We had a grand evening with them, with lots of reminiscing & with drinks before dinner we got quite hilarious & thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We are all going in a party to the Naval Barracks on Sat. evening, & expect to have fun – Cec was always telling me about the parties they used to have there! I have to let out my grey & yellow taffeta!!

Do you remember Cec talking about his lovely collie dog, Laddie? Well, he is just beautiful – so big yet as gentle & playful as anything, and of course just loves Carman, although he is devoted to the whole family. Carman has joined the Air Force Reserve this summer, so is away for classes etc. at the Airport each day except Sat & Sun. Mr. Costain is home though, as he is taking his holiday from the Hatchery which he manages, & is working amongst his chickens & garden all day.

Now for your letters – the first one was your last from Bequia & you were telling us about the hilarious party on your last evening & we thoroughly enjoyed it! Especially the bit about Uncle Fred emptying the flower vase of Bren etc. to get you a quiet audience for your song! I’m glad you kept up your reputation as a great singer – you’d probably have done even better though if you’d had 4 sherries! We were so glad that you had such fun though, & thoroughly enjoyed hearing all about your adventures, & the crazy ongoings!

We were pleased that you had a nice time on our wedding anniversary too, & had a nice sea bathe & drank our health! It seems an age ago now, as so much has happened lately. I was interested to hear about Alec going to N. Zealand & feel sorry for Peg that she can’t go too- I would be mad if I were her! But it’s a grand thing for him to be able to go. I’ll be interested to hear how Arthur’s job hunting goes & if they are going to stay out there. I wonder if Bren would really like to settle in England after such a luxurious life in St.V. – it sounds so wonderful, especially when you have children, but of course there are drawbacks.

I was amused to hear about Patsy’s diet sheet, & glad that it is having some effect- I’ll have to follow her example when I get back, but I don’t think my consumption of alcohohol can affect my weight much! I am sorry I didn’t get the typed copies of the paper you sent, done before I left home, but we had such a scramble, & I didn’t think you would want them in a hurry, so I will do them & send them off when I get home. I took the colour films to be printed, but they take quite a while, so I will have to send them when we get back as well – I look forward to seeing them. I had a letter from Dottie after her op. & she seems very cheerful & was going home next day, so I hope she will be all right. Poor Dottie – it sounded horrid & such a surprise too to find she had something like that. She said Pete had been better lately so that’s one good thing.

Was so glad to hear Auntie Mil’s house is so nice – I am longing to know if Jean has a son! I expect you will have written to tell me, but although Gunborg is forwarding letters, none have come yet. My love to Auntie Moo & the girls – with lots & lots for you 



[Cec’s hadwriting] 

Dear Mom,

Sorry to report Cyn went out like a light last night, tut-tut, I had to wake her to bring her home Lu was out as well & Pete & I had to do the dishes. Too much I guess, 

Love Cec.                        [Cyn:] Gross exaggeration! [Cec:]  oh yeah!

Costain Genealogy #1

The Costains emigrated to Canada from the Isle of Man sometime in the first two decades of the nineteenth century and settled in Prince Edward Island. My cousin Sharon Moor did a thoroughly researched family tree that runs to 248 pages in a PDF file that I find hard to navigate- if you know the name of the Costain you are looking for, no problem, but finding his father- I couldn’t. 

However: Thomas Costain married Jane Brydson in 1793 in the Isle of Man and they died in P.E.I.  John, Paul, Thomas, and Richard Costain were born in the Isle of Man but died in P.E.I. after marrying and having lots of children, so I assume they emigrated as a family, leaving a married sister behind and bringing the unmarried ones with them.  John married Isabel Leard, a P.E.I. girl, in 1823, the rest followed suit, and they all proceeded to populate the island.

A generation later, Job Costain married his first cousin Mary Costain in 1877 and they had 7 children, one of whom was my grandfather.  So that is where my amateur tree will start.

There was one other son, Stephen Darrell, born to Henry and Elida in 1937 with Down Syndrome, who died in infancy.

Henry Hudson Costain had grown up on a farm in Prince Edward Island, had gone to university but not taken his degree, and went west as a teacher. He married Elida Eakin, a teacher, and they started their family during the First World War. Henry’s brother Harry joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought overseas, being seriously wounded in 1918 and not returning to Canada until 1919. Henry and Elida moved from Ponoka, Alberta to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 1920s and farmed there- perhaps because that was where the provincial university was. Harry moved west also, and lived in Calgary.

Although the Depression was hard even on poultry farmers, Henry’s children were able to go to university- Merle got her B.A. before she married and later became a teacher. Lena became a nurse, and kept working during her marriage. Cecil got his B.Sc. and became involved with the new invention, radar, during the war, and served with the British Navy as a radar officer. His wartime letters home have been posted. He emerged as Lieutenant Commander and went back to the University of Saskatchewan for his M.Sc. and then got a Commonwealth Scholarship that sent him to Cambridge in England for his Ph.D. where he met and married Cynthia.

In 1950, he is still working on his Ph.D but at the University of Michigan, where his professor, Dr. Sutherland, has moved. Once he has his degree, he expects to be working in Ottawa at the National Research Council, and this holiday trip includes some ‘business’ he has to see to in Ottawa. His brother Russell is working in Saskatchewan, and expecting to get married soon, and the youngest Costain, Carman, is still at school-or university- and has classes during the summer with the Air Force Reserve.

Cyn and Cec will meet the first members of the next generation on this 1950 holiday- Merle’s 3 sons and Lee’s baby- and I will attempt the next part of this genealogy once I’ve been born, the brothers are married and all my cousins safely arrived in the 60s!