Dearest Mummy, Did your ears burn or anything this morning? I ask because we were all thinking of you in church when the Rector dedicated your “Fair Linen” which was on the altar and said it was “a gift from the mother of one of our members Mrs. C. Ewing who lives in St. Vincent West Indies”. The children were very pleased that he did it when they were in church and it looked awfully nice. Your package arrived yesterday morning just as Lindy and I were getting ready to set off to Ballet, so I opened it to take a peek and then took it straight away and left it at Mrs. Cravens’. Mrs. Pierce who is now Pres. of the Altar Guild, phoned to say how delighted they were to have a new altar cloth for Christmas & that Mr. Pulker was going to dedicate it today & she also said that the heavier linen hung beautifully, so you needn’t worry about that.
Mom and Dad Costain arrived on Friday at 5:15 and are both looking very well. We had planned to have Charlie’s birthday party that day so had to hastily change it to the Thurs. Cec took Charlie and 4 of his friends to a movie “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye & they loved it.
Then they came home to dinner – roast chicken with hot rolls, relishes, potato crisps etc. – then cake & ice cream. They were wildly excited & poor Cec was exhausted! Charlie’s real day is Tuesday of course – your parcels came & I am saving them. We have a little steam engine for him that really works!!! Also I have a new tweed jacket for him & a blue velvet dress for Lindy! Must stop & send my last Ottawa Christmas cards. Love to all from us all, Cyn.
In November 1960, Carol left New York and returned to Ottawa to spend the winter with the Costains. I suspect she had left St Vincent for almost a year because there were health concerns, and she consulted doctors in both Ottawa and New York, being diagnosed at some point with pernicious anaemia which may have responded only temporarily to treatment. This means, of course that there are no letters between Cyn and Carol, but in the collection there are 2 letters to Carol about her husband in Newcastle.
As has been covered earlier in this Project, Cyn’s mother, Carol Ewing, had left her husband, Dr. J.M.G.(Gordon) Ewing, at the end of 1947 and joined Cynthia in Cambridge. In 1948, they had met Cec who was working on his Ph.D. at Cambridge, and Cyn and Cec married in the summer of 1949, and left England at the beginning of 1950, while Carol went home to St.Vincent. Because Carol and Cyn were living together in Cambridge, there are no letters covering that period, but sometime during those 2 years, Gordon Ewing was institutionalized, diagnosed with hardening of the arteries of the brain, and remained there until his death in 1964. There were letters exchanged between Carol, Cyn, and lawyers and doctors; Cyn sent her father gifts and magazine subscriptions, with notes and photos occasionally, which he acknowledged; and from these letters, it is clear that Carol was kept informed of her husband’s condition by friends in Newcastle. The letters give us a window into elder care in the 60s with a difficult patient- and the little anyone at a distance could do. The Carnegies are quite formal in writing to Carol, so not close friends, but they are kind. The letter seems to have arrived in Ottawa after Carol had gone home to St. Vincent in March 1961 and been sent on by Cyn.
1, Victoria Square, Jesmond, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
My dear Mrs. Ewing, Our sincere apologies for the long delay in acknowledging your gift box to your husband and for the very nice box of notelets for myself. It was kind of you to do this and I have found them very useful – thank you. I went with Alec to see the doctor, he gave us quite a nice welcome, but very unfortunately he refused to accept the very nice parcel of good things you and Cynthia had so kindly sent. We are using them ourselves as you suggested, thank you very much. Now about the doctor. We were told he is most difficult and sleeps ever such a lot. Some days he won’t use his dentures or have his hair cut. He insists on seeing the C. priest every other day and has ceased to read or write. They think he will just sleep away. So you see Mrs. Ewing we are not hiding anything from you. He insists on wearing a felt hat all day. We had a very happy Christmas and new year, but since, we have been rather tired and have been resting a lot. I will be 71 this year and Alec 72. We are so glad you are having such a happy time with Cynthia, her husband and children. Wish we had known earlier about your going to Long Island because my sister Margaret & her husband are there. Alec is going to see the doctor on Friday after which he will write you. Our love, many thanks and all good wishes. Yours very sincerely Alec & Mary.
1 Victoria Sq. Newcastle upon Tyne England
13 Mch 1961
Dear Mrs. Ewing, Once again I spent half an hour with Dr. Ewing today, and in spite of the fact that the Male Nurse said he would not talk to me, as soon as I entered the Ward, he got up and came to meet me, and we had half an hour of talk on both sides. He said he could not talk very well now, so I told him that if he would only wear his dentures he could talk quite well, you see Mrs. Ewing he will not wear his dentures; – he said he could not be bothered, just in the same way, he, some days refuses to shave. He will also now only wear Hospital woollen sports shirts – he says it is too warm to put on a collar and tie. I am afraid he is often very awkward and stubborn with the staff. He did today however have on one of his own suits. In spite of all this however he does look well, and says he does feel well. With me today he was quite chirpy, and took a keen interest in all the people I spoke about, you see it is only the past you can discuss with him, as he does not read the papers nor will he watch the Television. They have just got a lovely new 21” set in the Day Room, but he will not look at it, and grumbles because it is on all day & evening. The Nurse told me he just sits, and whether he thinks whilst he is sitting one cannot tell. Certainly his memory of the past is still good, and he keeps referring to people, I must confess I had forgotten. By the way he is still wearing the booties we got for him a year past Xmas, so he must like having & wearing them. I hope you are well, and derived much benefit from your holiday. Give Cynthia our good wishes and for you our kindest thoughts. Yours Aye, Alec Carnegie.
The New Year of 1960 started with the children back to school with no effects from their German Measles bout. Besides school and Sunday School, we were involved in other activities: Charlie was a Cub and Linda a Brownie, and Linda took beginner ballet lessons. As for Cyn and Cec, when entertainers such as Tom Lehrer or Joyce Grenfell toured through Ottawa, they went with enthusiasm but Ottawa had no theatre before the National Arts Centre was built, so shows were held in the auditorium of one of the older high schools.
Easter came along, and Cyn’s birthday, as well as the news that our second cousin, Little Monie who had married the year before and was now Mona Beatty, had had twin girls, Stephanie and Suzanne. As a trip to the States was being contemplated for the summer, I’m sure this was an added inducement.
In May, there was Mother’s Day to celebrate, and both children involved in music- Charlie’s class performing a small operetta “Peter Rabbit” and Linda in the Music Festival choir competition for Grade 4 Chorus. But the great excitement was the arrival of Carol Ewing from St. Vincent- Grannie came to stay! By this time, Cec had ‘finished’ the basement, dividing the cavernous concrete-floored space that we had once driven our tricycles and wagons around in circles into two, creating a recreation room that could double as a spare bedroom now the children had a room each.
Grannie was always interested in the children’s activities and fitted happily into family life. Cec had work travel- the usual Spectroscopy Conference in Columbus, and then a longer trip that started with a conference where his brother Carman Costain’s work, the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, was opened and continued on to Seattle and San Fransisco, where work mingled with tourism!
As the school year ended, plans were made for the summer. Because we were spending most of the summer in Ottawa but had Grannie as a tourist, Cyn made a Chore Chart, where she and the children could check off duties when completed, and each week as a reward, do a tourist activity in the nation’s capital- a cruise on the Rideau Canal, a visit to the Royal Mint, or see the film of ‘Pollyanna’ with Hayley Mills. (Linda had the book of course.)
And as Carol was always involved with the Church, it must have been a satisfaction to witness the service with the Bishop ‘Breaking the Ground’ to start the building of a Church Hall and Chapel on a lot north of the school playground.
We got a new car in July 1960, which was So Modern compared to the 1946 Chrysler that it remained in my mind that way, and it was quite a shock to see the pictures of it now!
This meant that when Grannie’s visit was over in August, we could take our summer trip, and all drive her to New York to visit her nieces, and admire the next generation. Milly and Ford, the Pembletons, who had visited us in Ottawa a few years earlier, had a summer ‘camp’ that the family was used to visiting so we took Grannie there and met the other sisters and their grown-up children, our second cousins- and maybe even the 2nd cousins once removed, the twins. We went to New York City and were tourists! Then we said goodbye to Grannie and the New York families and drove north.
Back in Canada, we headed for Brantford, where the Moors had gone to teach that school year. We arrived just as they moved from a furnished rental into their house on Lorne Crescent, and had a lovely time with our favourite cousins. Linda had her birthday there and Merle got us tickets for the new Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, for Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which was fabulous. Bruno Gerussi was Oberon, we all enjoyed it, and returned to Stratford often as a summer treat. (Linda got to teach Shakespeare in Nigeria, the Northwest Territories, andBritish Columbia over 30 years, and took her own next generation to Stratford in the summer when possible.)
And when they got home in Ottawa, Cyn had a belated birthday party to organize and a letter to write to Carol in New York- which she kept! All the details to follow…
Cyn’s letter opens with her guilty confession that she has anticipated her April birthday and opened the small parcel her mother sent with the West Indian delicacies she’d asked for! The Burney Sugar Cake she refers to (may have just been the family name for it) is a street sweet, ginger (hence ‘burney’) in crystalized sugar, which I love too, but I think her eating it on arrival was a wise move on Cyn’s part, since the last time I brought some back from a St.Vincent visit, the ginger shreds got mouldy before I could finish it! Cyn is obviously still recovering from her miscarriage, tired and resting when she can, and the explanations about the cost of the blood transfusions are a reminder that Canada did not have a medicare system at this point although the federal government passed a bill that year that started the discussion with the provincial governments. It would be another decade before that was settled. A reminder about Cyn’s Father, Dr. Ewing: He, a Protestant from Northern Ireland, had been institutionalized before Cyn had married and she & Cec and Carol had left England, and had since converted to Catholicism. He had been considering being buried back in Ireland, which would have been a problem since his immediate family lived overseas, so hearing that he had changed his mind would have been a relief, and the Newcastle cemetery where his neighbour Mr. Sheedy lay more familiar to them.
Box 330 R.R.1 Ottawa 16th March 1957
Dearest Mummy, What do you think I am doing? Lying in bed eating Burney Sugar Cake & making a PIG of myself! I know I should have kept it for more than 2 weeks yet, but when it arrived yesterday I put it away & then today I took it out again & opened it! Actually I didn’t think you would scold me for opening this one as the other has also arrived, but the mailman put a card in our box to say it was too big to go in & I must collect it from the P.O. I will really keep the next for my birthday – I don’t think Linda would let me open it – she was quite worried about my opening this one, but was resigned when I told her you sent another – she said “My, what a kind Mummy you have!” Haven’t I, though?!! Cec & I had some stewed guavas for dessert tonight & oh – they were yummy! I don’t mind them being stiff or anything – I just love them anyway & I did enjoy them so much. Please tell Doris & her sister (wasn’t it her sister who sent you the guavas?) that they were the nicest thing I’d tasted for a long time – most delicious & delectable! As for the B. S. Cake I can see I’m going to put on pounds – I just can’t resist it & am nibbling away all the time! Thank you very much Mummy for two of my Favourite Foods – I can’t tell you how much I am appreciating them. I am looking forward to my other parcel, but in the meanwhile this is lovely! It’s funny, when I wrote and asked you for the things to eat I thought that the cashew nuts would be the easiest to get & maybe you wouldn’t be able to manage the other 2 & here it was the other way around! I also have to thank you for your nice letter written just last Sunday which arrived this evening. Cec got it from the mail box after Lindy was in bed so I will give her your letter in the morning & she will be thrilled! She has been asking me ever since she wrote if you will have got her letter yet & she will be so pleased to have a reply. Her tooth is still wobbling away! She has had 2 weeks at school without being absent so things are looking up, but don’t imagine for a minute that we’ve all been well for 2 weeks – oh no! Ha! Ha! Cec has had another cold & last weekend he was feeling better so we planned to all go out on the Sunday & have dinner in a restaurant. On the Sat. evening Cec made a pan of popcorn as a treat & Jimmy came in for it & Cec shared it with them so none of them had very much (the children love it now). Then at about 1 a.m. Linda felt sick & from then until about 4 a.m. we were busy! She sicked up a bit & retched etc. but I thought it was just too much popcorn. Sunday she was better, but wan & not eating, so it was just pointless going out to eat & we just stayed at home. However on Thurs. I suddenly got the trots very badly but it only lasted the day & then I heard from Phyl that she had Andy & then Nancy with the same type of thing – just lasting about a day – then Margie had Danny with the same – then last night Charlie got it! He sicked up & had quite a few spells from about 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. & today has slept mostly but been drinking juice & ate a little supper & is all right now I think. Of course, we’d again planned to go out for dinner tomorrow so whether we’ll get or not I don’t know!!
Monday. Well, we did go out for dinner & although Charlie still looked a bit peaky he was full of enthusiasm and had turkey for dinner! He & Lindy had a lovely time – so do I! – and Lindy was most intrigued because it was St. Patrick’s Day & all the restaurant was decorated in green & the waitresses had green hats on – the hostess even had green fingernails! Unfortunately poor Cec has the bug today & is feeling quite miserable this evening, but one good thing is that it doesn’t seem to last long so I hope he will feel better in the morning. I went to S. School yesterday morning for the first time & the poor lady, Mrs. Kuhn, who took my place must have been more than delighted to see me. She has had such a time as not only have I been absent, but Pat Tomlinson also & even Mrs. Dunn who helps Pat, so poor Mrs. Kuhn for 2 Sundays had both classes to cope with! Pat is resigning as she is finding it too hard with trying to cope at home as well as go out to work & the children haven’t been well & she has been quite worn out. I am sorry as she is such a nice girl & I shall miss seeing her, but I certainly think she has been trying to do too much. Yesterday we had 5 teachers there, just for a change, & of course not many of the children showed up! You were asking about Mrs. Martin, my babysitter – yes, I still have her & find her just as good & dependable as ever. She is a staunch Anglican & also teaches at our Sunday school but has the 8 & 9 yr. olds I think. At the moment she is having a worrying time as her husband is in the hospital for a strangulated hernia operation & they also took out his appendix, & she is kept quite tied with her old mother-in-law, so she can’t get out till her husband is home again. He was getting on well though the last I heard. The Dutch woman, Ann, whom I used to have, is also sitting again & was here on Friday evening when Charlie was sick. The children are so different now about sitters- they like to see them & say hello & even had a strange babysitter, a teenager, a week or so ago & never minded. Charlie didn’t make a bit of fuss about Ann staying even when he was sick & as Ann has a little girl, Deenie, in Linda’s class at school (in the afternoon though) she & Lindy had quite a chat. We were out on Friday to have a buffet supper at Willa & Stewart Woods’. They had invited Lu & Pete & Margie & Cy & ourselves, but when we got there we found the Garrets hadn’t come as Margie had this bug too & the 2 little children had had croup & she was pretty worn out. We had a nice evening with a very enjoyable supper & wine, but before the end of the evening what with being tired & the wine I was yawning away! I’d had a busy day as I’d been to Dr Kastner in the afternoon & I’d been finishing a dress to wear & then Charlie throwing up his supper! After we left he sicked up again & then when we were home a few more times. Dr. K. examined me & says I’m to go on with the iron & to come back in 2 months. Apparently he may then have to cauterize me which sounds horrid, but Lu assures me it’s just a little “zing”!! The dress I made I am very pleased with – I like it better than anything I’ve made for myself. It is made of the jersey I bought at the Mill last Fall & I worked hard at it all last week to get it done for Friday evening – & just managed it! I covered buttons & belt buckle & even made bound buttonholes, so I am improving & I was pleased with the fit. Lu was very complimentary & said it looked most professional which pleased me as that is what I always think about her things. Re. the doctor, I told Cec that you thought he should have a check up to & he agreed but said his blood was O.K. anyway as he went to the Hospital a couple of weeks ago & gave a pint of blood to replace one of those I had & of course they tested him then. He will give another later on – Cy offered to, as he is a regular donor, but Cec thought that as it was just 2 he could return them himself. It was $60.00 for blood, but when the blood is returned you only pay for the use of the service etc. about $10 or so. Imagine – no one who has had jaundice can be used as a donor, so I would never be any good! Apparently the bugs still float around in the blood. Cec & I have been giggling over you & the modern artists! I am quite sure we would both agree with your comments. Lindy, by the way, was delighted with her letter, but amused that you thought it was a duck on the pond – she says it’s a fish! Despite your compliments about her picture, she is no artist – she is like her Mama & sticks firmly to houses & trees & nice simple objects! Charlie even more so – he doesn’t try to colour much & isn’t nearly so interested in crayons & cutting & doing things like that as Lindy was. He has enjoyed the cut-out-&-stick books you sent him, but he wants me to help when he does it although he is getting a bit better at it now. You were asking about our dinner at Dr. and Mrs. Narasimham’s – well, it was very nice & not nearly as highly spiced & seasoned as I feared! (The pork chops were were for our lunch by the way)! We began with glasses of juice, then for dinner (buffet style) there was rice (cooked with bay leaves & cloves) a curry of vegetables (potato, cauliflower etc. but not too hot), eggplant fried in batter & another dish I’ve forgotten – also a salad. Afterwards, there was a most interesting dessert – it looked like nice white snow balls floating in syrup! The snowballs were made of the white part of junket sort of, sieved & formed into balls around lumps of sugar, then simmered in a sugar syrup, & then the sugar lumps melt & the balls are hollow. They were very sweet but nice. Phil & Alex’s party some weeks ago was great fun & I enjoyed it. I had a nice sleep in the afternoon & went to it feeling quite rested – most unusual for a Mama! We played one or two games & had a good supper – it was a potluck did I tell you? Everyone took something & I took boned stuffed chickens – 2 small ones – & they were much enjoyed. In talking about the Christmas present list you asked about my Father & I have been meaning to tell you I had a letter thanking me for the children’s photo. I sent him the laughing one & I was so surprised because he really seemed proud of it & taken with them & before he’d shown no interest at all. I shall send you the letter to see what he says, & then last week I got another letter – not so clear as the first, but still talking about the children’s picture. In it he says he has decided not to be buried in Ireland but in the cemetery where Martin Sheedy is as it would cost so much etc. & talking about the children says something about “they could use the money in 20 years time” so I don’t know what he means, but I knew you’d be glad to hear the end of the Irish idea. I will send both letters when I answer them. I also had a short letter from Mrs. Scott thanking for Stephen’s present – they are still in Killingworth & Mrs. S. seems to be getting on all right. I send him something at Christmas as I feel I would certainly do it if Irene were there & now she and Bill are not the poor little fellow needs remembering even more. [Mrs. Scott is Stephen’s grandmother, both his parents having died before he was 3 (he’s 5 at this point).] Lindy’s dress from England was the pink & blue checked smocked one I got Nan to send when she got your jerseys – I think I must’ve told you about it – anyway I saved it for Christmas. Cec smokes a pipe a bit now, but still cigarettes too most of the time. Charlie’s razor isn’t really electric you know! It is just a little plastic thing that goes b-r-r-r as you press it on you & it cost about 35¢! He loves it & always shaves when Daddy does! My pale blue dressing gown was a big surprise – at least I’d asked for a dressing gown, but Cec chose it. I took it to Hospital in a case with me & then they sent the case home with Cec the next day, so on the last day when I was tripping around for routine x-rays etc. (everyone is done) here I was in a little Hospital shift! I was in the Civic [Hospital] by the way – Cec asked Dr. K. about the St. Louis de Montfort & he said “My God no – they’d just let her bleed to death there!”! It seemed very nice to me & people who have been in seem to like it, but they are apparently short of nurses & the doctors all seem to be a bit wary – also it is very French of course. We still hear from Gunborg & Gordon – she wrote me a very sweet letter about the mis. – & they really seem to love being in England again. Their house sounds most palatial & upper crust! I will be very pleased to send you the Memo slate things & the Pancake in your B’thday parcel & also the Scotch tape – I’m glad you told me & don’t forget if there’s anything else just say the word. I must stop now as it’s late & poor Cec has gone to bed – hope his tummy is better in the morning. Forgot to tell you Claire is coming every other Wed. again & I do enjoy having my floors done for me! Cec says I should keep her & I will for a while anyway. Must away – love to Auntie Muriel – hugs from the children & lots of love from us all – Cyn.
The National Research Council where Cec worked had permanent staff members: Dr Herzberg, the head of the Physics Division, with Alec Douglas, Boris Stoicheff, Don Ramsay, Cec and others; and also Fellows who came from all over the world for 2 years and then usually returned to jobs at home. This meant that an unspoken part of the staffers job was being helpful to the newcomers and making sure their families were getting on well.
For Cyn and Cec, that meant entertaining, and once the summer holidays were over, they held an evening for their friends (possibly wanting Carol to enjoy the people she’d been reading about in Cyn’s letters for the past 4 years, as well as the outfit- Cyn’s skirt was her gift!)
Cec’s camera came out, showing drinks and hors d’oeuvres,
friends and Carol dressed up,
ladies smoking elegantly,
physicists chatting happily,
and the children in pyjamas insisting on saying goodnight as part of the entertainment.
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!
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.
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.
The big event in my grandmother Carol’s life in February 1955 was the Royal Visit. Princess Margaret, sister of the young queen, was to make an official visit to St. Vincent, and the public would be allowed to ‘meet’ her at a Garden Party. Carol and her sister received invitations to this, and instructions on how to dress and behave (!), attended, I hope enjoyed themselves, and sent the ephemera to Cyn (probably because there was a 3 year old Linda interested in princesses.)
Princess Margaret must have liked St Vincent, because later she made a home on the island of Mustique, the Hazell’s holiday island that Carol’s brother Fred would sell in 1958!
Dearest Mummy, I have been trying to settle down to write you a long letter for simply ages, but somehow I always seem to be on the hop. These evenings when Cec goes back to work I never seem to get anything done- by the time the children are in bed & dishes washed etc. it is about 8, then Cec goes into work anytime from 8:30 – 9:30 so I feel I can’t settle down to anything till then, & afterwards the evening seems just about done & I might as well crawl into bed & read a little & go to sleep! Lindy & I want to thank you so much for her perfectly beautiful pyjamas! They arrived yesterday & we are all so thrilled with them – they fit her very nicely indeed – not too big & floppy, but nice & loose & plenty of room for her to grow. She is so tickled with them & had a great time choosing which pair to wear first – the ones with the little animals won & she is wearing those now – I am so delighted to have them at it as it is cold, miserable, wet weather & she just had cotton ones. I had no idea you had got all 3 different materials – they are so sweet that I really can’t tell which I like the best – thank you very, very much for making them & sending them, Mummy dear – they are a real boon. By the way I mailed the batteries & cord last week – hope they don’t take too long – I still think I got the best of the bargain!!
Thank you so much too for your A.M. of the 4th Oct. which came on Sat. – so quick it seems. You were writing about being threatened with a hurricane, which fortunately had passed by, but I wondered if it was the same big one which came up through the U.S. & hit Ontario on Fri. We had terrific winds on Fri. night – trees & high tension wires blown down etc. but Toronto had a terrible time with the rains & floods – nearly 100 people dead. [Hurricane Hazel, October 15th 1954.] Our only damage was in the garden – in the spring Cec transplanted a lot of chrysanthemum cuttings along one side of the lawn & they have grown big & bushy & are just in flower – not particularly pretty (Cec is disgusted in fact!) – pucy-pink single daisy type – but they are so thick & covered with flowers they look very nice. Anyway the wind snapped whole bushes off by the root & we found them rolling around the garden, so the chrysanthemum border looks very moth-eaten now! You must be having such a busy time over the Bazaar – I have forgotten when it is, but you certainly deserve to have a big success after all your hard work. I sent some “Iron-on” Transfer Patterns by sea last week – I don’t know whether they will get to you in time to be of use or not. Did A. Ettie sent you some nice things for the Bazaar? The parcel postage is awfully high, but how nice that you have 2 new dresses!! What are they like? Talking of dresses makes me think of the “Print Bundle” I sent – I thought you might give a piece to Doris to help compensate for her burgled material, but maybe if A. Moo is buying a piece for her Christmas you think that will be enough. Charlie, the little pig, is howling his head off. They are having their afternoon nap & he woke & cried & I went & potted him & put cream on his eczema, but he will not shut up! He is really tired too as this morning I took him to get his haircut & he howled all the time of course & exhausted himself! His ex. has been so raw & irritable lately & someone told me a Dr. they knew advised taking children off homogenized milk & putting them on dried skim milk & 4 babies she knew had tried it & it cured the ex. so today I got some dried milk & a big shaker & have begun to give it to him. He gets plenty of fat now in the rest of his food so I don’t think it can hurt him & it is worth trying anything. I have cut out tomatoes & citrus fruits as they made his face blotchy, but it doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference to his legs. I am glad you wrote to the C. of Justice about the Memorial & said I would agree. As you say it seems a pointless thing to spend so much money on, but there is no point in opposing him & giving him something else to get agitated about. I wondered if A. Annie would write to him about Uncle Field. I had a letter from her about 2 weeks ago – I must reply sometime. I am glad that he left the farm etc. to Arthur’s boy even if he won’t ever farm it himself – much better than to the Australian family & also to Leta & children as after all he knows the rest of his nephews & nieces very little on the whole. I never thought of him leaving me anything till you said he hadn’t & then of course I thought, “Well it would have been useful!” But poor old fellow, he certainly didn’t know me very well. You were asking about Lindy & Sunday school – well, I have attempted it, but when it came to the point she wouldn’t go! This girl down the road, Pat Tomlinson, is taking her little girl Joanne, & I thought “Oh goody” & was all enthusiasm – & so is Lindy if it is in the dim distant future!! But when it is “today” she gets all scared &, so I haven’t forced the issue. Actually she & Joanne don’t seem to cotton to each other at all, I don’t know why, but anyway I thought I would leave it for a little while & then try again as goodness knows she is shy enough without it getting any worse & I hope she will grow out of it naturally – & SOON! She still howls when even the shoe man comes with new shoes for her & I have to put them on etc. but one victory we’ve had is that she now doesn’t mind getting her hair washed & doesn’t cry over it! Since I last wrote not much has been going on. Cec of course is still going back most evenings & this past week was the first in ages that he hadn’t gone back some of the time. I don’t know if I told you in my last letter that we were having Chris, our Danish friend, to spend a last weekend with us. He is so nice that we were very sorry to see him go – particularly as he just loved being here & would really have liked to stay. We were sorry he didn’t find a nice girl as he is so easy & good in a house & sweet with children, but he didn’t have any dates, & no girl in Denmark as far as we know. He will be in England now I think – he is spending about 4 days there. The weekend here was kind of queer! To begin with it poured with rain & was wet & cold & miserable. Then on the Sunday just after we finished a late breakfast the entire electric power went off, which is just disastrous for us – no furnace, no oven, no fridge, no water (electric pump)! You can imagine! I couldn’t even wash the dishes & I wanted to make a cake, & I had a duck to roast & stuff for dinner & an apple pie to make! Well, by 1 p.m. it still wasn’t on, so Cec trotted out in the rain in the back & built up stones & made a little fire! We heated soup & milk for the children & I got them fed & to bed, then soup & coffee for our lunch & I made sandwiches, so at least we didn’t start! The wretched power didn’t come on till 3:30 & of course then I had to 1/2 kill myself to get everything done – at least, I never did get that cake made!! We were at Lee & Jim’s for bridge the Friday before & they are both looking very well now. Lee’s baby is due the end of Jan. or beginning of Feb. so she is showing now but she’s feeling fine – the first 3 – 4 mths she was miserably sick & nauseated & lost weight etc. but now she is all right. You know they are a funny couple!! For the past 2 years they have been talking of buying a house & they have money borrowed from relatives for a down payment. They have looked at houses uphill & downdale – one week they decide to build & look at lots & house plans & talk to builders etc. – then next week they decide to buy an older house & answer ads & go to estate agents & put names down on lists etc. Long before Pete & Lu began house hunting they were at it, & very busy too- going to see houses on weekends & in evenings, but always some little thing was wrong, till we all got just sick of hearing about it! The last thing was they thought they’d get the builder of Pete & Lu’s to build them one the same & they were looking at lots etc. & now it has all fallen through & they have signed a lease on the apt. for another year! It will be crowded with the baby I’m sure, & although it is not too much housework for Lee it is a 3rd-floor apartment which means stairs up and down & baby carriages to get up & down etc. I don’t know – people are queer, aren’t they?!! Lu was out here one evening with another Sask. girl called Willa Woods. They were on their way to a butcher in a little village called Orleans. (Remember my letter with the postmark? It is the place where we nearly bought that house in March) about 3 miles past us, so I invited them to come & have coffee afterwards. (Incidentally, I go to this butcher too– they are good & v. reasonable!) We had a good chat & I think Willa is going to buy my silk dress from England – she looks very nice in it & took it home for her husband to see! Al & Betty McNamara were here to dinner a week ago on Friday. Al has his PhD. from Sask. now & is finished there, but instead of working for Pete as expected has taken a job at N.R.C. which annoyed Pete as it was through him & for him that Al got a job at Sask. & could go there. However it doesn’t concern Cec & me so we keep out of it! The Dept. Al is in is at the N.R.C. on Montreal Rd. so it’s very close to us & they have been lucky enough to get an N.R.C. house close by at $40 a month- just for one year & a few disadvantages like no heat except for an oil stove in the living room, but for a young couple with no children it gives them a nice start. They will be quite close to us & were moving in last week so I expect we will see a bit of them. Al isn’t so shy & I like Betty so they will be a pleasant acquisition to our social life!! Last Monday was Thanksgiving here & we had a roast chicken & a delicious lemon chiffon pie. We had no guests which seemed seemed strange, as we usually have someone in to share the celebration, but it was quite fun to be just by ourselves & Charlie sat up at the table too & thoroughly enjoyed himself. Now he goes to each chair at the table & says “My place? My place?” & is quite crestfallen when we say “Your place” & lead him to his little table!
On Friday Cec & I got Anne our Dutch woman to babysit for us & went to see James Stewart in a thriller called “Rear Window”. It was very good & we enjoyed it & enjoyed having a little outing. In addition, on Sat afternoon Margie & I took off & went downtown for tea & a spree so I have really been stepping out!! We went just to look, but Margie saw a very nice dress & little jacket reduced from $15 to $10 & it was just what she wanted so she tried it on & it fitted her beautifully so she bought it & I had to lend her $5.00! If Willa buys my dress, I too will go shopping!!! On Sun. Lea Atchison phoned to see if we were doing anything & she & Darryl came over for dinner & Wendell came later. Lee seems a bit better but the situation is very difficult. Mrs. A. has always been a very possessive domineering mother & now her husband is gone she can hardly bear Wendell out of her sight. She has a very bad heart condition which she holds over him & I really feel sorry for the poor fellow. Lea is agitating of course for them to get a place of their own & the mother begins having heart attacks at the mention of it, so what’s to do? He has a job as salesman for some book company but it is on commission so that isn’t very steady, but he works very hard at it. Lea thinks she will nurse again & really I think it will be best as she sits there, doing nothing, bored stiff & she and Mrs. A. getting more & more on each other’s nerves. It is getting near midnight so I had better go to bed – Cec is at work & I don’t know when he’ll be in. I still have some letters of yours to answer so will try & write a long sea letter soon. Hugs & kisses from Lindy & Charlie (took him to get his haircut today – howled of course but looks very sweet). Lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn
P.T.O. A Charlie story- One day Bunny, our (big) pussy, was feeling playful & jumped at Charlie’s arm & nipped it- Charlie didn’t mind & just pushed her away, but Cec scolded Bunny who went & lay down on the floor. So over trots Charlie, lies down beside her & says to Bunny “Say ‘Sowwy!’ Say ‘Sowwy!’”!! A Linda story- yesterday morning I was getting Linda up & hugged her & said “Oh you’re sweet” so Lindy gives a big grin & says “I’m sweet as sour medicine!” We have such beautiful, clever, children!!!
Just a note about the Ewing family that Cyn mentions in this letter: Her father, Gordon Ewing, or J.M.G.E. as she sometimes refers to him, was institutionalized with dementia after her mother had left him and come to live with Cyn in Cambridge, and although both Cyn and Carol had since left England, they remain connected through lawyers and money matters. Apparently he wants to spend money on some sort of Memorial and they agree not to oppose it. A more serious matter is that one of Gordon’s older brothers, Field Ewing, who had run the family farm in Ireland, had died. Cyn had had a letter from her Aunt Annie, but is not sure her father will have been told about it. Cyn is happy that the farm will go to ‘Arthur’s boy’, a cousin who seems to live locally, rather than her cousin Leta who also lived in Northern Ireland but had married and had her own life, or the Australian cousins that they had lost touch with. And she acknowledges that she has had very little connexion with her Uncle Field since visits in her childhood, and letters! However, in the 1980s, the Australian cousins got in touch! A Mr. Ewing started exploring his family’s roots, and through the Irish descendants, got Cyn’s name and actually came and visited her and Cec in Ottawa, and, I think, Leta in Ireland. Cyn gave him her Ewing heirloom tea cup and saucer- the one I thought ugliest in her collection as a child, and was cavalier about breaking while dusting until I learned its Victorian history- she had it mended- and he gave her the Ewing genealogy he had worked out after he added her children to it. When Cec and Cyn visited Australia in 1990 or 91, they visited his family and enjoyed the connection to her distant cousins, but I was in Vancouver, Charlie in Ottawa, both of us working, and we did not keep up the connection, and sadly, I can’t find the Ewing genealogy either.
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!
As the Ewings were preparing for the summer trip to New York, Cynthia got a letter from Bobby Sheedy, the younger of the brothers next door she’d grown up with, so different in tone from his letter of 3 years before, that it is hard to believe it is from the same person. Now in the British forces, Bobby’s letter suggests that there was discussion amongst the family and friends in Newcastle (and probably New York and St Vincent too) about Carol and Cynthia staying in America because of the approaching war.
Sign J.R S.
4th A.A. Brig. H.Q. Signals,
No. 5 Company,
3rd Holding Batt.,
As you know you hinted about leaving England when I was home on leave, but somehow I didn’t take it in. I hear from Mother that there is a possibility of your leaving in the near future.
You know what I think about that: it’s unnecessary for me to say it in words. However, the decision rests with you. I should hate to advise you to take any course of action which afterwards you might regret.
The main purpose of this letter is to find out if you’re going, and if so when.
If you have decided to go I must see you before you leave. Once you get out there, it’s unlikely that you will ever return. Somehow I didn’t think of it seriously when you told me in the car on my last night’s leave. I suppose I was too busy thinking of myself.
Please let me know the position as soon as poss,
Yours in haste
P. S. In the event of your not going I shall wait until my next leave.
P. P. S. I’m still at Staithes, the one-eyed fishing joint 15 miles S of Saltram. People hospitable, place dead and alive.
Only the second postscript, added on the top of the first page, sounds like Bobby! I don’t know what Cyn replied to Bobby, but I do know that her father had booked a return trip for the three women going, and that nowhere in the entire Travel Diary is there a hint that it is anything but a fun and exciting holiday to her. Nor is there, however, much introspection or mention of feelings- much more a daily record of events, with evenings of ‘talk’ mentioned but not described. I’m sure the relatives in New York tried to persuade them to stay where it was safe, and indeed, the younger cousin Peggy did, leaving her berth back on the Queen Mary empty. Her home was in St Vincent, and I assume she returned to her father in the West Indies with the aunts who had come from there for the New York reunion. But Cynthia and Carol returned to England to do their bit, and Bobby would see Cyn again when he was on leave.