On Saturday (I had my dates mixed) we drove to Sutton Coldfield (peculiar name!) through the Welsh mountains. The views were magnificent & we took a few pictures. We met some awful traffic jams – cars waiting for miles back while the crossroads in the tiny villages got stopped up. Of course it is the weekend, that probably accounts for it. We met Auntie Dottie and Tim (whom I think is a poisonous little brat, spoilt) and the cat Pooh (wild a bit, but he lay on my lap.) After tea we met Peter and his fiancée Val Hurst. She’s the one who designs rings. She is petite, a shoulder length blonde, vivacious and drinks more beer than I have ever seen Daddy. At supper we met Richard (I have his room & like his taste in books) and Uncle Ken. I like them all. Later we met Jim and his girlfriend Gill. She is dark and pretty and rather quiet and she wears contact lenses. I can’t decide who I like better – Gill or Val. Daddy obviously likes Val better, you should see him jump up to light her cigarettes. By the way, Auntie Dottie smokes cigars! Little thin ones but really!
The next day Charlie & I & Tim went for a walk in the park. One of these woody overgrown ones. We walked for miles! I got absolutely exhausted and we still hadn’t turned around. Finally we got fed up & turned around and he walked us all the way back. It rained off & on. I donot like that child!
In the evening we went to Grace & Bob Speller’s for drinks – quite nice & Daddy talked to John & his wife who are coming to Canada I think.
On Monday we went to Stratford upon Avon, stopping off at Warwick Castle on the way. It marvellous – after the ruins it was nice to see one intact & well cared for. The most marvellous things in it were the portraits. Henry the eighth & Elizabeth & Henry VIII as a boy (sweet) and Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. There were lovely tapestries of faery woods with princesses & bears and heroes in. One room had Marie Antoinette’s bed in it and my favourite thing in the castle – Marie Antoinette’s clock. The clock was flat iron – sort of like a sundial with Roman numerals traced on & lines & delicate iron hands. And on the points of the hours coming out from the middle were the Twelve Stations of the Cross in little medallions of red and white china. The whole thing was so delicate and somehow like Marie Antoinette, poor thing.
Stratford definitely disappointed me, I think the Ontario one is much nicer. Of course this one is the real thing, though. However I enjoyed seeing the relics of Shakespeare’s life, we saw all the houses of he & his children except Anne Hathaway’s cottage which was too far to walk. It was so hot that we couldn’t do much. The outside of the theatre was horrible but the inside was lovely & ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ was lovely too. Back to Dottie’s for bed.
Today (Tues.) bid a mournful goodbye to Auntie Dottie & Uncle Ken (who are very nice & he has lovely books in the attic including two Scarlet Pimpernels which he lent me and three lovely Dornford Yates which I read all but 1/2 the last and it was too precious to take away! Boo-hoo!) and a cheerful one to Tim and set off for Oxford. We stopped on the way at Jean’s and met her in person and her husband Peter & Patsy who are very nice. [Cyn’s Hazell cousins.] They have a lovely garden. I would have liked to have met Patsy’s son. I saw a picture of him.
La Soufrière, St. Vincent’s volcano, erupted April 9th 2021 as it had twice in my grandmother’s lifetime, and now twice in mine. The island suffered a devastating physical, psychological, and economic blow, because of the evacuations, the air quality, the volcanic destruction, and the blow to whatever remained of the tourist trade during the pandemic. But St. Vincent is resilient. Five years after the devastating eruption in 1902, the volcano was deemed inactive and life went on. By the 1950s, locals knew it as a green mountain with a lake in the middle, although they were aware of the tragic past. Cyn explains her interest in the volcano, and regarded the climb as the pinnacle (!) of her holiday in her birthplace. We hope for healing for all St.Vincentians and hope this glimpse of the past isn’t upsetting.
We Climbed the Volcano by Cynthia Costain
When I was young I remember boasting proudly to my friends “My mother has been through a hurricane, a volcanic eruption and an earthquake.” I don’t recall whether they were greatly impressed as none of these phenomena were familiar to schoolgirls in the north of England, but my mother’s recollections of these events were vivid and thrilling to me. I loved to hear of her running out of the house with the earth shaking under her feet, and of the crowds in the dark hurricane cellar of my grandfather’s big house listening to the crash as the wind blew in the shutters and windows above, but most of all I liked the story of the eruption of the Soufrière with the darkness coming over the sun and the dust sifting down over everything. Perhaps this was why when I visited St. Vincent with my husband and family last year, I was determined to climb the volcano. I had never been back to the island after leaving it at four years of age, but I had heard so many tales that it all seemed quite familiar. I knew that it was possible to climb the volcano and I had even heard of people who swam in the lake which had formed in the crater. However, it was very pleasant lazing and swimming and enjoying the lovely island, and whenever I mentioned the Soufrière no one was very enthusiastic. My mother was frankly scornful of my chances of reaching the top, as my exercise is usually limited to a stroll to the local store or getting in and out of the car. When my uncle began to talk of getting horses for the initial stages of the climb I was quite horrified as I had never been on a horse in my life. Fortunately, also vacationing in the island was a cousin of mine, Jack, and his wife, Joan and Jack having grown up on the island had climbed the volcano many times and volunteered to take my husband and me with himself and Joan. We made all our plans for an early start, and chose the day with due consideration for the banana boat. This is very necessary in island life, as the days the boats are in the harbour all private cars stay off the roads while the banana trucks pour in from the estates in a reckless stream. The boats are only in for a limited time and the more loads of bananas that can be brought in, the more money for everyone. As Mr. Harry Belafonte says “Come Mr. Tallyman, tally me bananas” while along the winding, twisting, mountainous roads the trucks run a bi-weekly Grand Prix with their carefully packed green cargoes. On the morning of our expedition we got up at 4 o’clock to drive to the other end of the island and make our ascent while it was still cool. Jack and Joan arrived from the adjoining small island where they were staying, and we set off in a canvas topped jeep, leaving my mother to look after the children. The drive in the early morning was beautiful, and we saw the sunrise over the Caribbean and make the water sparkle and gleam. Already the little villages along the way were stirring, and women were walking along the road towards town and the market with their vegetables and other produce on their heads. They bowed gravely to us, without upsetting the balance of their loads, and continued quietly along, while we followed the narrow road up the windward coast of the island. Being volcanic, the island is extremely mountainous and there are only three main roads, one which goes up the windward coast, one up the leeward coast, and a shorter one partly up a central valley – all these beginning at the main town of Kingstown, and none of them meeting. The coastline is very sharply indented, and in places the hills come down to the sea, so the roads turn and bend, climb and dip, follow ledges along the hillside and all along the way give one the most spectacular views of sugar-cane, coconut palms, arrowroot, sea- island cotton, nutmeg and mango trees all growing in small precipitous, terraced fields. After driving about an hour and a half we passed through a slightly larger village, Georgetown, and came to the Dry River. This is a ‘river’ composed entirely of rocks, stones and lava which has poured down from the volcano at various times. During the rainy season there is some water in it, but we were able to drive across with only a few bumps, and we came to the beginning of the biggest coconut estate in the island. The trees grow in the soft gray lava dust, which seems to deaden all sounds, and makes this whole part seem rather sinister and eerie. The dust sifts through the air continually, and as we drove through the rows and rows of palms along the dusty track, with no signs of people or houses, it felt as if we were far away from the rest of the world. As we drove we climbed higher, and I was relieved to hear that the jeep would take us up to the foothills and we would not have horses, as they could not take us much further. At last we came to a high field, where the track became a path along a stony ridge, so we left the jeep and set out. Almost immediately the path became very steep, as we climbed on up into the range of hills, and then we crossed a narrow ridge, just wide enough for one person to walk, and below on either side we could look down on sugar-cane growing on slopes so steep that the men would not need to bend to cut the cane but would find the roots at the level of their shoulders. I had always imagined the Soufrière as being like volcanos I had seen in pictures – Parícutin and Vesuvius – but to my surprise it was quite different. It is one of many mountains, and unless you are far away on the Leeward side of the island, it is very hard to see. The morning we set out to climb it, the whole range was covered with thick cloud, and as we climbed we were surrounded with mist, and began to think of all the pessimists who had warned us of the many people who climb the Soufriere and don’t see anything because of the cloud. All the early part of the climb was up the foothills, gradually working our way towards the main mountain itself and after about an hour we came to a river bed which marked the beginning of the real climb. The river was dry now, as the island was having a very dry season, but Jack told us tales of coming down the mountain and picnicking and swimming after the long hot climb. After a short rest, we set off again, along a small path, always mounting between walls of tropical trees and creepers. The vegetation was luxuriant, with lovely begonias growing waist high and flowered vines trailing from the trees. On the way down Joan found an orchid, which she dug up and carefully took home for my Aunt’s garden, as it was quite a rare variety. I also found some beautiful little flowers and took them home too, but my aunt kindly told me that they were a common weed which no gardener would allow in his garden. I have been writing calmly and cooly about the vegetation along the way, but believe me, there was nothing cool or calm about me at the time. Never in all my life had I been so hot. The air was humid and still, with the clinging mist all around and over us. A mixture of sweat and vapour drops continually dripped from every lank strand of hair, and I had long ago given up mopping my face. My husband and Jack were just the same, but Joan, born and raised in Trinidad, wandered happily along with no obvious discomfort, and looked as if the temperature was as pleasant as one could wish. I was quite pleased with my progress though, and found after the first 20 minutes, during which I thought I would either die quietly by the path or have apoplexy, that I could keep up with the others with very little trouble, and although I was always glad for the few minutes rest we took every now and then, I didn’t have to call a halt at any time. The climb is actually not hard, and anyone normally active can climb it if they persevere. As we got higher the trees, which had been tall and completely hiding all the light so that we were climbing through a green dim tunnel, gradually became shorter, and slowly we found that all the vegetation was getting less and less tropical and becoming more of the hardy brush type. Even this, as we got higher, thinned out, so that there were only low shrubs growing knee-high along the path. As we got out onto the shale and cinders it was more troublesome, as one tended to slide back at every step, but it was never dangerous. We were thankful to have Jack as guide because the path which was at first clearly marked, gradually grew fainter, and in places disappeared. Even Jack found it difficult to trace at times, particularly as it was 25 years since he had last climbed the volcano, and during that time, he found the whole appearance of parts of the mountain had changed as the vegetation had grown. The volcano last erupted in 1902 and even in the 1930s when Jack was last climbing it, the whole area was arid with very few signs of growth, but by now this has completely changed on the lower slopes, and even halfway up there is a low shrub like growth. We climbed on slowly through these low bushes, but still because of the cloud we could not see the summit, and it was not until we came to the dry cinders and sliding gritty dust that we knew we were beginning to get close to the top. The ground in places was deeply eroded, with great fissures, and the ascent was very steep. The cinders were of a dark red colour in places with a kind of lichen growing on the rocks, so that the whole visible landscape was dreary and depressing with the shreds of clouds drifting by, a very slight acrid sulphur smell in the air, and a dank chill wind blowing through our damp clothes. Suddenly walking along a ledge of cinders we topped a rise, and in front of us was no more path to climb but deep down below us – the crater! We had reached the top.
It was an incredible sight to stand in that burnt up wasteland, and look down – down into that still green lake with low bushes growing around with everything so quiet and peaceful and try to imagine what it had been like to cause the destruction around. The crater is a mile across and the lake 1500 feet down, the water in the lake having gradually seeped in during the years. There is a path down inside the crater on the opposite side, but the slope is very sheer, and when one gets down the water is said to be very cold. As we could still see little because of the mist, we decided to rest and have our second breakfast, with the hope that the sun would break through, and we huddled down behind some rocks, thankful for the sweaters which had seem so superfluous earlier. By this time it was after 10 o’clock and we had been climbing since seven, so the hard boiled eggs and rum punch had an added flavour at that altitude. Just as we finished it began to get brighter and as we dashed quickly to try to take some pictures, the sun broke through the clouds and in a few minutes the whole landscape was clear and we were standing in brilliant tropical sunshine.
It was a beautiful sight with the crater below us, and all around the mountains and valleys of the island with far on either side the glorious blue sea. The Soufrière is only 4100 feet high, but because it rises so steeply from the sea coast the elevation seems more, and the view of the surrounding country is spectacular. Beyond the crater on the far side is the ‘old crater’, which is even higher still, but it is difficult to reach, and during the last eruption it was entirely filled in with the debris from the first immense explosion. This eruption in 1902 was unusual in that the volcano literally ‘blew its top’, and the whole top was hurled off in a terrific explosion of rocks and cinders. It was accompanied by the deadly gas, which crept for miles around, and was the cause of the high number of deaths. The Soufrière is in a sparsely populated part of the island, but standing there I could see down to the small coves and bays on the leeward coast, and it was in one of these that the entire population of a small Carib village was wiped out, killing nearly all the last remaining Caribs in the island. Over on the windward side we could just see some of the estates, and it was on one of these that my grandfather’s friend, Mr. Fraser and his wife, were found sitting quietly on the verandah when rescuers came from Kingstown, killed by the gas from the volcano.
We wanted to get down the mountain before the sun became too hot, so at 11 o’clock we began the downward trek which seem to go so much more quickly than the upward climb. We were back to the jeep by 1 o’clock, finding a patient donkey beside it being loaded with sugar cane from the fields nearby. His master gave us each a piece of cane which I had always imagined quite soft and succulent, but I could not find much refreshment in the hard pithy dryness. We drove back through the coconut groves, and hot, damp and dirty as we were, we became even dirtier as the lava dust blew through the open jeep and settled blackly into every crease. The owner of the estate and his wife had very kindly invited us to have lunch at their estate house, although they were away, and we were very glad of this before setting out on our drive home. After an excited welcome by 13 dogs headed by 2 enormous Great Danes we were ushered into beautiful modern bathrooms with showers, and afterwards on the tiled verandah had the most delicious meal. It was a tired, but satisfied, and – yes – rather smug group which returned home that afternoon, and proudly told our children and friends ‘Well, we did climb the volcano!’ For those of you who are interested in exotic and out-of-the-way places, and would like to visit St. Vincent, it is one of the Windward Islands in the West Indies. It can be reached by air from either Barbados or Trinidad – when we went there was no airfield on the island as the island is so mountainous, so we flew in an amphibian ‘Goose’ which lands on the sea. The Goose only takes 6 passengers, so the island never had many visitors, but since then an airfield has been made on one of the level valleys, and a regular air service is being started with a larger plane which will carry 25 passengers. There is a good hotel in Kingstown, and two delightful guest houses or inns in the country near the sea and the airport. The people are courteous and friendly, the prices are low and all authorities agree that St. Vincent is one of the loveliest islands in the Caribbean.
And a final note from Linda in the 21st century. I am so grateful to my brother for having unearthed the slides my father took of our holiday. Of course I remembered that they took slides in our childhood- and showed them boringly in the dark- but I had forgotten the mechanics of it. Obviously for the St. Vincent visit, they started off with a black-and-white film in the camera, and then switched to a film for slides. That is why the scrapbook has clear pictures without colour, but the slides were used for their adventure and the colour, though perhaps faded a bit, is better preserved than colour snaps are. However moments immortalized in slides tended to disappear into the dark that one needed to see them by. Anyone can look at photos again and again, although sticking them in an album does make it easier. Slides needed a projector, a screen, an audience, preparation- and Cec loved technology and so enjoyed this- but how much better is it now, when phones give us instant access and gorgeous colour? (And witness testimony when operated by an intelligent woman?)
My brother remembers different things about our trip, of course, including the fact that we had not been warned of our parents’ defection and were baffled by their disappearance when we got up that morning. We were placated by new toys: a plastic sink with a pump that pumped real water into the sink- Charlie liked technology too- and Linda got red plastic beads that popped together to make crowns, necklaces, or bracelets. Cyn’s speech is a period piece, showing an agricultural St. Vincent so soon to be changed by the economic forces of the second half of the 20th century, the tourist trade, and the political drive for independence in colonial states around the world. It was her birthplace too, and she and Cec loved visiting it and my grandmother, once we were off their hands. She wrote a sadder piece in her old age, about the changes she had noticed over the years, which I will publish once the letters are finished. Meanwhile, back to 1958…
In the spring of 1957 Cyn had told her mother about their finances and a plan they had for saving- but by Christmas, Cyn and Cec decided obviously decided to spurge and to fulfill a long-time promise to her mother Carol by visiting St Vincent for 7 weeks over Easter! I am so sad I have no letters that explain their decision, but some of it must have been based on the children’s schooling and age. I also miss details about the preparation, because I have memories of the clothes my mother made for me for Easter! But there is a copy of a speech my mother must have made to a women’s group after their trip- a thing she was good at after her experiences with American clubs during her exchange year teaching after the war- so I will be able to post Cyn’s St. Vincent experience.
Travelling with children involves a lot of preparation. After the explanations about visiting Grannie in St. Vincent where it would be warm- snowsuit weather in Ottawa of course- Charlie and I asked our teachers for school work for March. I distinctly remember us driving across Ottawa to buy my school books! By the time we got through the traffic home, Linda in the back seat had finally been able to read to the end of her ‘Dick and Jane’ reader- a thing we were not allowed to do in class! (There wasn’t much plot development.) My mother took the other reader and saved it for the actual trip…
Charlie’s teacher answered with a note to Cyn explaining that when Charlie came back, she would have moved and there would be a new teacher, which might be upsetting. As it turned out, however, his second Kindergarten teacher was a lovely woman, Mrs. Verna Steele, who lived in our neighbourhood and was always fond of Charlie. The New York cousins, who had visited Moo and Carol for a winter holiday in previous years, sent Bon Voyage cards; the itinerary had to be arranged so that as many West Indian Hazells as possible could be visited, the tickets bought, hotels booked, and cat boarded.
What do I remember of the trip? Charlie and I were flying in airplanes for the first time, and we landed in Trinidad for a few days first, staying at the hotel owned by a Hazell cousin, but the only thing I remember is the final leg to St. Vincent in a Grummond Goose which landed on the sea with a splash that sparkled through the windows of the little plane as it motored up to the landing ramp!
We stayed with Grannie and Auntie Moo in their house in Kingstown and then in a rented bungalow out by the sea, close to where the seaplane landed so we could watch it. As children do, we accepted their servants Doris and Luenda, Hilda and Amelia, but now can’t think they had 4, so maybe one pair worked in the bungalow. Mr. Cox drove us around, and local relatives connected with Cyn, some of whom she hadn’t seen since before the war. We visited, Cyn met their spouses and showed off her husband and children.
When we napped or went to bed in the evening, white mosquito netting was draped over the bed and tucked in, so that we had to be extracted on waking, and sometimes a little lizard would be sitting on the netting a foot above my eyes when I woke up. (They were very fast though, so I never got to pet one.) There were beautiful flowers in Grannie’s garden, and chickens running around, and one day I decided I wanted to see the cook make dinner- from the beheading of the chicken to the final product. Apparently I did witness the execution and then, having put two and two together, was not willing to eat her, but what my brother remembers is that the chicken was tough and didn’t taste nice!
Out at Villa the fresh fish was wonderful and appreciated by the whole family, and we loved the tiny bananas. The coconuts were an entertainment although I didn’t like eating them- a man climbed up the tree with his cutlass and knocked them down to the ground, then cut them open expertly so we could drink the coconut water and scoop out the soft jelly-like coconut. The sea was warm and I loved swimming- although there was a feeling of betrayal at my only swimming lesson when my father took his hands away from supporting my tummy and I sank instead of floating, coming up with burning eyes, tears and salty coughing- and Charlie became more used to the water and no longer played by himself in the sand while others paddled.
One beach we visited had black sand from the lava which looked wonderfully muddy when plastered on, and I remember intriguing rock pools with tiny fish and plants trapped in them by the receding tide. One day our parents got up very early in the morning and went to climb the volcano, La Soufrière, with Hazell cousins, and once we went out in a glass-bottomed boat so we could see the coral and the fish our father had been telling us about when snorkelling. We collected tiny shells and I acquired three dolls for my collection- Hilda and Amelia in brightly coloured prints, head-ties, and earrings, and Mr. Cox with overalls and his cutlass in hand.
Easter was a festival in St. Vincent. Of course all the ladies, Black and white, wore beautiful hats (and still did in the 90s), and I had new Best Clothes for the occasion. My mother had made me a white dress with frills for sleeves out of a stiffish material, and it had a turquoise pinafore of the same kind of material over it, that could be a sundress on its own. I had a choice of two hats- crescent moon-shaped hat forms covered to match my dress- one white, one turquoise. And no one took a picture! Cyn’s work was appreciated at the time, but not immortalized- we ate the beautifully decorated cakes, wore and then outgrew the clothes- without her art being recorded- such a pity, I now feel. We ended our visit in St. Vincent and said good-bye, knowing that Grannie would come and stay with us in a few years, and took the Goose to Barbados where we stayed before climbing on a Trans Canada plane home, arriving back to a chilly Ottawa spring. There were apparently no repercussions from missing so much school, and ordinary life resumed.
Cyn’s New York cousins, known as ‘the Simmons girls’ though their married names were all different and they were a bit older than Cyn, had Auntie Muriel visiting them that summer, when their mother had another stroke and died. A month later, Millie and Mona drove their aunt to Canada to visit relatives- Cyn in Ottawa especially, since she hadn’t seen them since her exchange year in Toledo teaching, and had since acquired a husband and children!
20th Sept 1956
Dearest Mummy, What do you think I have just been doing? Sewing on Cash’s name tapes! Memories of York College! I ordered them for Linda ages ago but had to go to town & pick them up & what with one or other sick & not having the car, I didn’t get them till today. In the meanwhile I’d had to sew tapes on & write the names on that, so I’ve had a double job! Well, Auntie Moo & Millie & Monie have been & gone! You will know about their visit I know as A. Moo was writing while they were here, & I told you in my last that I was expecting them. It was funny as A. Moo said in her letter that they would probably arrive on Sat. but she thought that they should phone before they arrived. So on Sat. a.m. we were all up bright & early & I dashed to Steinbergs & shopped & we kept waiting for a phone call. Nothing happened, so I got lunch ready & Cec finished first & suddenly looked out of the window he said “Is this them?”! I could hardly believe they’d got here without instructions but they did & so of course they came in for lunch & we talked & then Cec took them down to a Motel by Steinbergs which was A.A.A. recommended & they got settled there & liked it v. much. A. Moo brought Lindy some sweet jigsaws which she loves & Charlie a little horse & cart & me 2 prs panties & the girls gave me dusting powder. Wasn’t that nice? They came back for dinner & we talked again- & they all seem just the same as when I saw them last! A. Moo is very sweet & the girls are so nice- we all enjoyed having them very much & both Lindy & Charlie took quite a shine to them all although I don’t think they ever sorted out who was which – all M’s! We were sorry they couldn’t stay longer.
Sunday was the first day of Sunday school so the children & I set out for 10 o’clock & I registered 12 small boys & girls of 2 & 3! And more to come! I have told Capt. Clark I definitely need an assistant! When we got home Cec & I discussed plans & when Mill phoned we suggested going to Rockcliffe Park as the sun was shining & it was quite a nice Fall day. We had hot dogs & ice cream cones from the little stall (the girls would pay) & fed a little tame black squirrel! Then Cec & the children stayed there to play & I took the others to sightsee. We went to the Parliament Buildings & ran into lots of Mounties in scarlet & a RCAF parade with bands & saluting base etc. for Battle of Britain Sunday. Very exciting but we didn’t get into the P. Buildings! It had turned grey & cool so we just drove out to the Champlain Island & round the Driveways & then home for tea. Afterwards Cec took them down to see Ken’s garden & I got dinner ready. Poor old Charlie began to droop but ate some dinner & then retired to bed with a temp. – sure enough, Lindy’s complaint & was in bed Mon. & Tues. & today has developed a cold – she did too a bit over the weekend but is fine & peppy now. I couldn’t leave Charlie so she & Joanne have been walking to & from school by themselves & I have just seen them across the highway & they are very pleased with themselves! Lindy really seems to love school & Cec & I were saying it seems to stimulate her – she is full of fun & high spirits! Poor little Charlie has wanted petting this week with not being well, but I hope he’ll feel a bit better tomorrow – you know him & a runny nose! I hope by now that you have got lots of my letters & thank you for your A.M. of the 10th. I wrote a long letter to Nan last night & answered all the questions – I am so excited about our sweaters – thank you! Tell Uncle Fred Cec & I would love to see him & that he really should see Canada’s Capital as well as us!! xxx from Lindy & Charlie- Lots of love from us all, Cyn.
This letter reminds me of the changes that have taken place in Ottawa- and in cities in the rest of the world too, I expect, as the population grew- in the last 65 years. In 1956 the Costains were living on the Montreal Road which was the two-lane highway roughly parallel to the Ottawa River connecting the cities of Ottawa and Montreal. The house was set back with a garden in front, but we lived on the upper floor which had a big picture window over the drive so there was a good view of the road not obscured by the lilac hedge. The speed limit was still low because it was a built up area- but if there was an accident or some other traffic hold-up, it became glacially slow and the cars inched along. Much was the amusement on holiday weekends in good weather when cars streamed out of Ottawa on Friday night (going to the cottage) and rushed back in going the opposite way on Sunday (or, long weekends, Monday) and there was an incident- occasionally a pile-up elsewhere caused fender-benders all along the road, so the cars in front of our house would be literally touching and motionless as far as we could see. Then emergency vehicles would come with sirens, driving on the wrong side… we children found it very exciting. By the time Charlie and I were driving a dozen years later, there was a 4- 6 lane highway crossing Ottawa, with a bypass connection to all the major roads, and Montreal Road had become much less important. Another thing I should point out is that when the Hazell sisters visited family, because of the distances, they stayed for months! This has already been clear from the 4 to 6 month stays Carol made when visiting Cyn and Cec, but in 1956, Carol in St. Vincent is hosting her sister Trix (who lives in Trinidad) for the whole spring and summer it seems (Trix’s son and family- Bill and Janie- have moved to New Zealand which may explain this) while Muriel, who shares her house with Carol, is paying a visit to their sister Ettie in New York, and taking the opportunity to see her 3 nieces there, also planning to come see the Costains in the fall. However, Cyn keeps referring to Aunt Ettie’s health because apparently she has had a stroke although neither Carol nor Cyn know how serious it is.
Did you know Ruth had another boy? 15th July 1956
Dearest Mummy, I am ashamed of myself for not having written long ago. This week I was determined to write a long letter after having taken such an age over it, and then believe me something happened each night. One night a girl & her husband from the Lab. dropped in to show off a new car; another night Miss Derouchie (from the apt. under Mrs. R.) came in for a chat [Mrs Myrtle Rothwell lived in the other half of the duplex, which had a basement suite] – what do you think? – Myrtle is selling the house!; another night a car fell on its’ side into the ditch across the road just by Mrs. Cardinal’s & of course such excitement. The three boys in it weren’t hurt but of course there was a terrific traffic jam & police & tow truck to pull it out etc. & we were kept busy watching!! Tonight Phyl Douglas & I went down to the General Hospital (French) to see Mrs. Velasco – the Spanish Fellow’s wife who has just had a baby boy. She already has one little boy of about 14 mths so she will be busy. The N.Z. girl, Mrs. Moore, also had a boy so I wonder if Joan & Boris will get one too – theirs isn’t due till next month.
We are all fine – I don’t know how the time goes but it just flies! The children play all the time with Jimmy next door & think he is wonderful! He is so good with them & of course I am thrilled! I have been violently attacking the bulbs bed by the driveway all weekend – pulling out the weeds & cutting down the bulbs & trying to make it 1/2 decent. It has been so wet & not very warm, so nothing but the weeds seem to be growing quickly, but everything looks nice & green. Thank you so much for all your letters – I really will write a proper letter this week & answer them. I was so sorry to hear about A. Ettie in your last – they didn’t plan on coming up till the Fall (Sept.) so I do hope that maybe they still will be able to come & that she will soon get better. So glad you are happy to be back at Noyack again – what did D. [Dorée Edmunds- see Spring letters] say about her absent chef?! The children send a big hugs & kisses – they both look so well & are growing as quickly as the weeds! Lots & lots of love from us all – from Cyn. Love to A. Trix.
This letter to Carol is from her friend Dorée Edmunds, who is lending her St. Vincent cottage on the beach to Carol and her sister so they can get out of town and have a relaxing time, swim, and dog-sit!
The Crane Hotel Barbados
My dear Carol, I was so sorry we didn’t meet again before I left & I tried to phone you on Sunday but just couldn’t get through. Well, here we are on the first stage of our journey & so far, so good. The Hotel is most comfortable & the food is excellent. I simply hated leaving Prince on Monday & have been wondering so much how he is getting on. Oscar promised to sleep in the house which I hope he did, & both he & Christine promised faithfully to give Prince as much attention & petting as possible. I shall be so glad when you reach the house & I know Prince will be delighted to see you. Do please write soon to The Windsor Arms Hotel Thomas Street, off Bloor Street Toronto. Canada. and give me just all the news! I’m thinking so much about you & hoping you will spend a happy time at Villa & have no regrets. I do hope your little doggie will be with you too – I’m sure Prince will welcome her & be sweet to her. I tried to remember everything before I left, but if there is anything I failed to do or tell you please don’t hesitate to ask me will you? Don’t forget to use the tomatoes grapes & cabbages, also paw-paws, & the carrots need thinning out too, and do cut the flowers won’t you? How sad for Mrs. Hetherington – I do hope she will get on as well as possible & not get too despondent, but it’s a long weary business, & there’s so little anyone can do to help. Lewis is looking fairly well & I hope will not find the long flight too trying tomorrow, the plane leaves at 10 a.m. I shall be so thankful when we reach our destination – I’ll write you again from Toronto. With my love to you & kindest regards to Mrs. Otway [Auntie Trix] & I do hope you both enjoy Villa. A big hug for Prince for me please & regards to the staff. Yours affectionately Dorée.
Cyn keeps mentioning the Hazell relatives- so a brief review. Carol (Dearest Mummy) was the youngest of 12 Hazell children in St. Vincent, and at this point she is 62, so her surviving siblings are getting older and some are not in good health. Fred, who lives in St.Vincent, seems to be in hospital. Muriel (Auntie Moo) who is 10 years older than Carol and shares the house with her in St. Vincent, is visiting their sister Ettie in New York. Auntie Trix, who lives in Trinidad, is visiting Carol in St. Vincent as this letter was written, and they are preparing to take a vacation locally. One of Cyn’s stories about her mother’s childhood, with which I started this blog, described how the Hazell family took a holiday and went out to Villa for a picnic- Carol and the younger children sent early in a wagon, the ladies following in a carriage, and the men riding- and prevailed upon the local fishermen to take them over to the fort, and the little boys to climb up and get them coconuts. They bathed, ate their lunch, and returned home tired but happy. [After the Hurricane 1898] Sixty years later, the journey of five miles does not take as long, and cottages have been built along the water facing Young Island. A Mrs. Edmunds seems to have loaned her cottage to Carol and Trix so they can swim and relax and remember old times, while she accompanies her husband (?) for medical treatment in Canada. [Cyn referred to this plan in her April 20th letter.] There are three letters from her which Carol kept and I will post them next, as an example of the vast web of friendships and letter writing that was so much a part of her life!
17th May 1956.
Dearest Mummy, Thank you so much for your letters. I got an Air Letter Form & an A.M. letter at the same time just after my last letter & then a very quick letter mailed a week ago & got here Monday. I was most interested to hear all about your M.F. Dinner [May Fair Dinner, probably another Church fundraiser that Carol had told Cyn about earlier, because Cyn mentioned it April 20th] and was glad to hear what a success it was, but you really sounded tired out & it is a good thing it is all over. Cec & I were tickled at your scotch & soda but you certainly deserved it & I’m glad it pepped you up. The whole thing was a big undertaking without much help – you must now sit back on your laurels & have a rest – if A. Trix will let you! I’m glad that Uncle Fred is improving & hope that he will soon be quite well again. He has had a bad time lately & I hope he’ll take a good rest & get quite better before he begins work again. Poor A. Moo getting a chill as soon as she arrived in N.Y. I will write to her tomorrow. I don’t wonder that she got it though – we are having the most disgusting spring possible. Do you know, there are no leaves on the trees yet. We at long last have some daffodils, but yesterday we had snow & the temp. went down to 26° last night. Isn’t it horrid? I have had a cotton dress on once & just can’t get our winter things put away. I can’t plan what we will take on our trip as I have been making the children shorts & thinking in terms of cool clothes, but if this goes on we will have to take winter woolies. The children’s colds are better although Charlie’s nose still runs, but poor Cec has had a dose this week & every person you meet is the same.
We haven’t done much lately but last week Cec & I went to one evening to see “Richard III” with Lawrence Olivier you know. It was very good as all of his productions are, but Cec & I both agreed that it was spoiled for us, because not long ago we read a book which proved that Richard really was not a villain at all, but a good honest man who didn’t do any of the awful things attributed to him, so of course when L.O. & Shakespeare made him as bad as could be we couldn’t believe it!
On Sat. we drove over to see Lee & Jim in their new house. It is very nice & we liked it very much & they seem happy & comfortable. I’ll tell you more about it in another letter. On Sunday we went to S. School as usual & in the afternoon we had a Danish Prof. who is at the Council for a few months to dinner. He is at the Univ. of Copenhagen like Chris Möller & Dr. and Mrs. Langsett who were here a while ago & is v. nice. He has 4 children, 2 about L’s & C’s age, & as he is here alone he enjoyed being with children again. Must stop, but will write a longer letter next week. Lindy & Charlie send hugs & kisses – I cut & washed Lindy’s hair today & she looks cute! Lots of love from us all – Cyn.
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!
This is basically a collection of pictures and notes, illustrating the back-and-forth between Cyn and her mother, Carol.
Pictures from Carol: These are very sturdy, matt, and have her comments on the back. The big one was posted earlier, when the pictures were mentioned in a letter. (Nov 1 1950) It is stuck in the scrapbook, so anything written on the back is unavailable.
Then there is the collection of oddments Cyn mentioned in her letter of November 7th, on three different types and sizes of paper, that she sent by sea, but referring to events she had already mentioned to her mother. (Just in case anyone else needs educating, Cyn was used to having fun from childhood on November 5th, when the English celebrate the failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, with fireworks and bonfires that burn a stuffed effigy, ‘the Guy’.) She never mentions Hallowe’en on Oct. 31, which I would have thought would have been an equivalent event in Ann Arbor.
This isn’t a letter- it is just a collection of funny things to amoose you!
I thought that you would like to know a bit how Til & Lois’s & the Sutherland’s houses look, and you know what fun I get out of drawing plans! They are both lovely houses in their own ways, but Til and Lois’ is in such a beautiful place it is hard to describe it. The prices – wow!- S’s is $25,000 & T & L $23,000 – millionaires needed!
The other funny little things are the place cards & menu I am going to make for dinner on Sat. night! We are having my pal Edie from work & Cec’s Canadian pal Al MacNamara from the Physics Dept. (he is from Sask – very shy – he came to dinner once before) to dinner & to play bridge. I have decided to make it a Guy Fawkes dinner, & altho’ Cec says they won’t know who he is, I’ll educate them! The place card is supposed to be a rocket exploding, & the menu is a gibbet done on my typewriter! I’m going to try and make a tiny “guy” for a centrepiece – wish you were here to help me!
Dinner will be a bit fattening I fear, but we have been wanting an excuse to get a duck!!
Lots & lots of love from
This is to give you some idea of what Til & Lois’ house (1 year old) looks like. It is only one story- no attics or cellar – & is made of wood & painted pale yellow outside. The living room is lovely with two huge windows- the front & back- it is panelled in pine & has a natural carpet & oyster-y curtains. The bookshelves are built in & have a green patterned paper at the back & the new furniture is to be in greens & reds. The kitchen is lovely too with the same reddish pine used for counters & cupboards above & the walls are a beige glass tile & so are the bathroom walls. The kitchen curtains are blue check, the bathroom curtains, mat, shower curtain etc. are grey & yellow, & the linoleum yellow. The bedrooms are nice too, but I’m blessed if I can remember the colours! The little study is sweet, with a green carpet, & they are going to get new curtains. The outside is beautiful of course – all the orchard in front, & at the back the most wonderful view of the river– wooded banks- & it forks just opposite them & goes around a big island. Their bank is still full of bushes and scrub, & has to be all cleared, but afterwards I have persuaded Lois to plant daffodils there, & I think it will be heavenly.
This now, is a plan of the Sutherland’s new house. As you can see, it is much bigger, older & more formal. It is white painted wood outside with green tiles, has big basement, & attics. The sitting room is a lovely big room which they need as they entertain so much – the study is the Doc’s & is painted grey (Gunborg did it). The whole kitchen has been remodelled & is elegant! The walls are a pretty soft yellow-the cupboards around the walls are natural wood, well the tops of the counters are a soft pinky red formica (hard linoleum-y stuff) & inside the cupboards are red painted to match. It sounds a bit odd, but it looks very nice indeed. Upstairs there are 4 bedrooms – the girls have one each- & a bathroom- then the main bedroom (over the front 1/2 of the sitting room) has a little bathroom with shower only, of its own. All the bedrooms have little balconies (on study roof, porch etc.) – very romantic! Apart from the kitchen which they had done, Gunborg is doing all decorating herself – study, downstairs cloakroom, 2 bathrooms etc. & some is old & needs plastering cracks etc.- a big job.
P.S. Little Mary was writing a letter to her Auntie in England the other day & told her they had a chipmunk in the garden – then wrote “He is a doorable”!! Sweet.
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!