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!
In the Epic Cyn keeps referring to, she is replying to two months worth of letters from her mother, and since she’s writing it over a 10 day period, some of the events she mentions overlap with her other letters. Carol had left England after 30 years, having separated from her husband now hospitalized with dementia, and gone home to St. Vincent to live with her sister Muriel (Auntie Moo). She had visited other sisters and their children and grandchildren living in the West Indies first, and now is writing to Cyn and Cec, mentioning cousins in the extended Hazell family that Cyn has never heard of, and again referring to the family martial upsets and divorces with ones she is closer to. Carol’s brother Fred is the owner of the family business, Hazells, and hosts a holiday on the island of Bequia which she enjoyed immensely. His 4 daughters, Jean, Brenda, Peggy and Patsy, are frequently mentioned as well.
As their first Wedding Anniversary approached, Cyn and Cec were still getting wedding presents. Hugh Brown, who the Ewings had known during the war when the American Army was stationed in Newcastle, had been great friends with Cyn, had introduced her to his family during her exchange year in Toledo, and now sends her a belated gift they are thrilled with. Although Hugh had left the army when Cyn had last seen him in 1947, it now seems, perhaps because of the Korean War, that he is once more a high-ranking officer. The missing wedding present sent by Cyn’s cousin Brenda from Burma shows up eventually, because it is listed, last, in Cyn’s Wedding 1949 notebook!
Saturday. 22nd July.
Dearest Little Mummy,
Here I am beginning right away with my Epic! I have just been inquiring of Cec how much paper he has as I only have 3 sheets & he says how much am I going to write, but I say, oh hundreds as I have hundreds of letters to answer! I have left the dirty dinner dishes in the kitchen & abandoned my ironing & I’m just going on writing till I don’t have another thing to say!
I am beginning now with your letter written on 14th May- ‘way back! You were saying you had just been in St. V. 4 weeks – does it seem ages & ages ago now? You are writing in it of getting “I Capture the Castle” from A. Ettie & how much you enjoyed it. After your recommendation I got it out of the library & both Cec & I loved it & thought it was a gorgeous book, although I don’t think the end was as good as the beginning. It is Dodie Smith’s first book & I remember reading criticisms of it in the Eng. papers, as she is a well-known playwright – do you recall seeing “Autumn Crocus” long, long ago at the Jesmond Playhouse? That was by her & was very well known- it was about a middle-aged school teacher who went for a holiday to Austria & fell in love with the hotel keeper. He was big & handsome & jolly & friendly to everyone, & she didn’t realize that the big, fat cook was his wife, & that he was just nice to all his guests, & she had quite a heartbreak, poor girl! Before I began work, I read quite a bit & one book I meant to tell you about was called “Marmee, the Mother of Little Women”& was a biography of Louisa Alcott’s mother. I was very interested, particularly that L.A.’s father was one of the first great educationalists in this country, but was very idealistic & impractical & for years had no money, as his school in Boston was closed because he accepted a coloured girl as a pupil. It was the Mother who went out to work & kept the home together, & the 4 girls seem to have been very like Little Women except that the real Amy seemed nicer, & was really quite a famous U.S. artist eventually, married a French man (much younger than herself!) & lived in Paris! As I told you, Dottie sent us a Book Club sub. for my birthday & we have had 3 books by now, 2 of which we like immensely. The first one was called “The Kon-Tiki Expedition” & I thought it sounded awful, but it turned out to be a grand adventure story although it is all quite true. It is about 6 Norwegians & Swedes who sail across the Pacific from Peru to the S. Sea Islands on a log raft to prove that the original inhabitants of the islands came from Peru. It is most exciting & very well told. The book we didn’t like much was Rose Macauley’s “The World my Wilderness”, but this month we got “A Town like Alice” by Nevil Shute, which is lovely & if you can get it I am sure you would enjoy it. It is about Malaya a bit, but mostly Australia, & is so interesting & nice. It made us think of Frank of course – he will be in Sidney by now of course, & we mean to write & send him those snaps. I also thought of Mary & Michael Egan & I do hope they’re happy out there – I wrote to Mary & sent her a cable to the ship, & had an A.M. from her from Port Said yesterday. She said she was v. miserable about leaving England & doesn’t even know if they have a home in Perth yet, but she seems quite cheerful now.
To go back to your letter, I loved hearing all about the 2 church “Fairs” you went to- the first one rather low with a loud band & jigging locals, & the other very refined!! Cec wants you to make a family tree with all the relatives on! I told him it would be practically a life’s work, but we do get confused over all the cousins mostly – at least Cec is confused over everyone, & when it comes to your cousins I am confused too! I also keep forgetting the names of Jean & Bren & Peggy’s children- it’s a good thing Patsy hasn’t any to confuse me more!!
I enjoy hearing about all the servants you have to wait on you, & love hearing of having a boy to carry this & one to carry that etc. Doris & Clarice (despite varicose veins!) sound nice & I laughed over the spider in the shower, but shuddered as well! I don’t at all like the sound of the beetles & lizards – we had quite a lot of Maybugs – hard backed flying beetles – earlier & they used to bonk- bonk– against the screens at night, but thank goodness we have screens!
You asked whether we had duty to pay on bringing any of our stuff in (the 8 boxes) but we didn’t although we were doubtful as some of it wasn’t a year old which it is supposed to be. You were saying that you laughed over Mrs. A’s warty teapot – well– some weeks later I invited Mrs. Kaufman up for a glass of sherry & to see the flat as she hadn’t been in since we came. She admired everything – in fact in the bedroom she looked around & said “Well, this looks just the same” then in a depressed voice “but nicer than when we had it”!! I showed her the china & glass cupboard etc. as she kept asking about my “English china” & blow me down, but the only thing she admired was Mrs. A.’s warty teapot!!! She is a funny woman. Her 2 daughters & their husbands came up to see the flat one day & the 2 husbands were much taken with your photograph & admired it.
I was very interested to hear all the domestic details about A. Mil & U. Fred & Joan & Jack. I am sorry about the latter, & feel that A. Trix may have something to do with it as you say. Also about poor Basil Hutchinson & his matrimonial troubles – he does seem to have had a hard time.
I was awfully sorry to know that old cheque had caused so much bother. I hope Kirby finally got it straightened out. I am inclined to think that it would be a good idea to let him look after your Income Tax etc. As you say, it was bad enough before when we were both in England, but now it is so difficult that I think it would be worth letting him take most of the return, to get rid of the worry.
You ask in your letter if I have ever heard from Hugh & got the promised W.P. Well, a while ago I had a short note from him asking if this was our correct address, as he had written to the University & got the letter returned. So I wrote after a while & last week a HUGE parcel arrived, & Cec & I were so excited & rended it open & what do you think it was? A beautiful Sunbeam Mixmaster! We were absolutely & completely overwhelmed, & of course think it is wonderful. We straight away washed it & used it to make waffles & squeezed orange juice on the juicer attachment & had a lovely time. Wasn’t it sweet of him? I wrote & thanked him, but haven’t had a reply – I was wondering if by any chance he would be sent out to Korea.
If you were writing about our budget & food bills etc. – well, since the Korean War the prices have been going up & yesterday at the store steak was $1.10 a lb, & pork chops had gone from about 70¢ to 95¢. Coffee is going up to 87¢ a lb so it doesn’t look too good – I am horrified when I think of my meat bill for the week is $5.00 or more ( i.e. 25/— 30/-) & I used to think Claude & I were being devils if his bill was 7/6 a week! You will be glad to hear that our milk bill is down to $6.00 now, as we have cut out cream for the summer, as I don’t use it in my coffee, & Cec uses the top of the milk, so that I won’t get so fat!! I am trying not to eat so much!
The Sutherlands are wondering about building a house after all now, as building costs are very high. Gunborg has a legacy in Sweden which she is getting over next month & they were going to use that, I presume, but now they think if they can find a decent house they might buy & just keep the “lot” which they can always sell later if they want. The trouble is that they need a bigger house than the usual type (Dr. S. needs a study & the girls are getting big all to share 1 room) so they haven’t had much luck yet.
I am now on to your letter of 23rd May telling about the new Air Service etc. By the way, the accountant at work, called Arnold, (or Arn usually!) is a keen stamp collector, so your St. V. stamps are going to him at present & he is very pleased. He buys all the new US issues too & has sheets of them. It is such a funny office – everyone calls everyone by their Christian names – the office manager is Don, & Miriam’s boss is Dick & so on. I said it was very “matey” & they all laughed like anything as it was a new expression for them. But I like it & am pleased that I am still there. Don asked me a week ago whether I would be in A. A. long, & when I told him he was quite pleased that I’d be here so long. Then on Monday he told me I was to work in the Field Office for a while (Boss is called Charlie) & the job will probably last 6 months, so if they are willing to let me have my holiday it looks as if I may stay. We plan to go to Sask. on 15th Aug. & fly from Windsor, Canada (just across the river from Detroit) as we can pay our fares in Canadian dollars then. Flying isn’t much more than train, especially as we would have food, berths etc. on train, & as we won’t have so very long, it will save us nearly 6 days travelling. We will stay at Cec’s home, then go to Regina to stay with his older sister Merle, & then fly to Ottawa & Montreal where Cec has business before coming back to A.A. In Montreal we will see his younger sister Lee & Wendy & their new little son. We will probably be away about three weeks, but I thought I would stop work on the 12th & take a month so I’d have a few days either end to wash clothes & clean etc.
The new office I’m in, the Field Office, is the one that looks after all the interviewers all over the U.S. who do the “Gallup Poll” type of interviewing for the Surveys the Institute do. The interviews are more thorough & scientific than the Gallup ones, but the idea is the same, & this week we have been getting ready to send out a huge no. of questionnaires (2000) to the interviewers for an interview on Atomic Energy. It is quite intriguing, but my part has been very minor – I spent 2 or 3 days stamping each questionnaire & numbering them etc.! The Office Messenger called Tim & the Stockroom man called John, helped me – the former has his B.A. & the latter his M.A.- Tim and I have long discussions on modern literature!
I am now onto your letter of May 30 and it is Sunday. This morning we slept & slept & slept until 12 o’clock- it was lovely! Cec’s pills of course, make him sleep, & I have felt tired this week, so we both enjoyed the long lie in! We got up & showered & washed our hairs, then had a breakfast – fresh orange juice, bacon & eggs (two eggs for Cec) toast & coffee! We get such fun out of the juicer on Hugh’s mixer – usually we use the frozen orange juice, which is just as cheap if not more so than having fresh oranges. The frozen is in little tins about 4” x 1 1/2” & you keep it in the freezing part of the fridge till you need it- then you put it in a jug & add three little cans full of water (makes over a pint) and it is just like fresh orange – not a bit like that baby’s stuff in England. Since breakfast (!) I washed up all the dishes, made the bed & changed the sheets & did the laundry up ready to go on Tues. In the meanwhile Cec had a baseball game on the radio- Detroit v. the New York Yankees & it has been very exciting! Cec loves listening & I am beginning to know what is going on, & to know the players’ names. We support Detroit who are top of the whole League at the moment, with Yankees only 1/2 a game behind. They just won this afternoon so are now 1 1/2 games ahead!! We have it all arranged with the S’s to go into Detroit for the day on 1st Aug. We have to go to the Airline Office & get our cards fixed for going into Canada, & then in the evening we are going to the big stadium to see Detroit play against the Yankees again. They don’t play just one match against each other, but lots during the season, but because they are so close to each other in the League it is very exciting! Is everyone in the West Indies very interested in the WI test matches? I know they are being played & that is about all. Do you remember last year how excited Cec & I were at the May Week Boat Races, because St. John’s boats were doing so well,? I wrote & asked Connie & Len to let us know about them this year & they sent us papers etc. & Lady Margaret (St. John’s) was head of the river this year! They made a bump every single day & The Times said they were the best crew on the river for years & everyone was expecting them to do great things at Henley. All the other Lady Margaret boats did wonderfully too, so it must have been fun. Remember you & Jessie F. watching!!
I am so glad the parcel of the dress arrived safely eventually, & that you liked it although you had to alter it. I knew it would be too long, but I couldn’t quite remember what size I used to get you & thought too big was better than too small. Cec & I were quite sorry you were going to rip up the apron as we thought it was so cute!! You ask whether I can still get into my going away dress, & that is O.K., but I think I’ll have to let out the waist of my yellow & grey taffeta – remember my white jersey “bitchy” dress with bright colours in? I had it cleaned, so what with that & my avoirdupois I bulge back & forth & can’t wear it!! Lots of girls at work, however, tell me they gained weight during their first year of marriage, then lost it, so I hope I’ll do the same! And not go on & on like Nan!
I was interested to hear of Pat Galloway’s baby being 3 weeks premature- h’m! Also of Margs & Monie trying & not succeeding! They must take after the Simmons & not the Hazells – remember Jean saying that the Hazells were so prolific- a man just had to look at them & they were pregnant!!! As you say about Bill & Owen, it must depend on the man & the way they look!!!!!
Cec just interrupted me there by saying he was hungry in a plaintive voice, so I stopped & made him a huge peanut butter, sausage & lettuce sandwich & a glass of milk so that should hold him for a while. I had a little snack too!! I must go & get dinner soon – we are having fried chicken, peas, potatoes, sliced tomatoes, then cantaloup melon. Come and have dinner with us?
I have been meaning to ask you whether Arthur got the job in Trinidad or what he is going to do? Just about the time Bren was coming to St. V. we heard on the Canadian radio that a Lady boat had gone aground somewhere, & we wondered if Bren was on it, but you didn’t say anything I don’t suppose she was, or perhaps she flew as you said she may do.
In this letter you say something about us coming to the pictures again, & I’d written it was a long time since we’ve been & you were amazed as you thought we’d just been to see “Cinderella”. We laughed, as it was 6 weeks previously that we saw “Cinderella”, so we weren’t being such constant picture-goers after all! Have you been to the St. V. picture house yet? I bet it will be an experience! Your cocktail party sounds as if it were a great success, & I was tickled at everyone’s interest in the 2 new married couples – did you pin Romeo & Juliet on their backs or were you tactful?!
I am now onto your letter of June 6, so I am progressing! We have had dinner, & I have washed up & ironed a dress for tomorrow! I intended to do all the ironing today, but it is so hot that when I do anything at all I get hot & sweaty all over, so I have left it! That is one disadvantage of having an upstairs flat – although ours isn’t so bad as some– but it gets hot during the day & then when it is lovely & cool outside in the evening it is hotter than ever in our flat & doesn’t cool off ‘till nearly morning. The fan is a great help, but when we have it on in the sitting room & I am working in the kitchen it is a bit of a nuisance to move around.
I was glad to hear that you got £6.10 for the stamp album & are giving it to the Church Fund. Rosemary’s father offered quite a fair price after all then, didn’t he? You also are writing about sending Joan Cox a cable in this letter, & it reminds me that I have never written to her since she was married. I sent her nylons by A.M. for the wedding & she replied a day or so before, but as I haven’t yet sent her anything else yet, I have been delaying writing till I did. Money is such a problem!! I had just packed Dottie’s & Sandy’s birthday presents – Dottie a waist petticoat- white silk (rayon) with a frill round the bottom & Sandy a little pair of blue cotton pants with straps & a little red, white & blue cotton shirt – what is the date of his birthday anyway? And while we are on the subject of birthdays, what is the date of my little godson’s birthday? Have you heard anything from Jane & Bill from England? I expect they will be coming home soon now. Anyway, to go back to Joan’s wedding, I asked Anne & Connie if they had seen it or heard about it to let me know, but I haven’t heard from them yet.
Did I tell you that Connie & Len are probably coming to Ottawa in October for a year? Lennard hopes to finish his Ph.D. then & thought of going to Ottawa or the U.S. but Dr. S. advised Ottawa- we heard this from Dr. S. & haven’t heard definitely from them. Poor Cec is still struggling along with no equipment yet, but it is beginning to trickle in. However he has been working on another thing this past month or so which he says will be of use to him, so he is doing something, but it is terribly annoying for him.
I was interested to hear of Ian Hazell’s wedding, & what had happened to him. Which reminds me, that all these months I have meant to write to Rangin in Canada & have never done it, & now I wonder if she is still there or has gone back to Norway. I was also interested to hear about Alastair Fraser in Jamaica & this new thing he has discovered there- it all sounds very clever.
I loved hearing about my “Mrs. Costain” rosebush, & hope that you are taking good care of her! I am now onto your June 13th letter, & you were saying how much it was raining, but by your last letter that seems to be over & you seem to be having lovely weather. I was glad that during the rainy days you had fun doing your snapshot albums & wish I could see your “bridal book”. The two days Cec was away I did a little more on our Scrapbook but I am way behind now, & will have to try and get a good “do” at it someday. I had thought of taking it to Canada for Cec’s Mummy to see, but if we are flying it will probably weigh a ton!
You remember the pictures of Bremas you sent me? Well Gunborg goes to a class in Sculpture, & they have just got a new teacher who sculpts animals beautifully, so Gunborg is going to do Bremas & his mother! She has done a sweet little clay model of the mother lying on her back & little baby bear climbing over her tummy, & will do a bigger one next! I think it will be cute. A week or so ago, Gunborg gave me a present of a lovely Swedish cookery book. She has one, & when I was helping her with that tea long ago, I admired it, & she wrote to Sweden & got her sister to send one for me. It is all in English & has the most beautiful coloured illustrations – I am so thrilled with it.
You made me laugh in one of your letters because you said Gunborg always seem to be tired according to me. Well very often she is, as she can’t stand the hot, clammy weather any more than I can, & keeping the whole house & cooking, ironing etc. for 5 people is no joke, but she has just got a coloured girl who comes in twice a week, so she has a bit more leisure. However, meeting her she isn’t a bit a tired dreary person – she is vivacious & talkative & a lot of fun. Dr. S is Scottish & therefore more reserved, but has a great sense of humour – we are always tickled because Gunborg will sometimes make teasing remarks to him & (when we are alone) put her head on his shoulder etc. & he laughs & looks embarrassed! She told me that she knew him for a year & saw him nearly every day (she was living with a married cousin in Cambridge) & he took her out & to shows in London etc. & never even held her hand all that time! She says she was terribly in love with him & she thought it was dreadful! They are both darlings, but Cec and I think Dr. S. would be most shattered sometimes if he knew the things Gunborg told me!!
I haven’t heard anything from Til & Lois since they went down south, but think they may be home before we leave. Last time we were there Til gave me 2 plants- an ivy & another traily plant a bit like a Virginia creeper leaf. They are on my kitchen windowsill & I am so pleased as they have some nice new leaves since they have lived with me. I also have an apple seed, & an orange seed, & a maple seed in 3 tiny pots but they don’t seem to be doing very well! Also a sweet potato in water & it is sprouting lots of green leaves!
I am onto your 21st June letter now, written with your pretty pink & silver pen! Isn’t that lovely? You certainly do well with pens from gentlemen as you say & it was nice of P.W.V. to give you such a pretty one. How is his “liaison” going or don’t you hear of such indiscretions in polite society?! Perhaps now that you were there to show him a good example he will return to the straight & narrow path! I liked hearing about Peggy and Jean’s houses & also Peter’s “farm” with all the little piglets! You don’t mention Peter much– how do you think he is getting on here – does he like it & is he looking any better? I do hope Jeanie produces a boy this time – give her my love & tell her I’m crossing my fingers for her! I think your little chickies & kitten sound sweet. I was tickled to bits about the little wee thing flying to his Auntie Cyn – which reminds me that Lee’s cat had kittens too, & one of them was Cec’s birthday present, so we have 2 kitties “in absentia”!
I wonder if Doris has got her clock back from the burglar- poor Doris, what a fright she must have had.
Bren’s little Tessa sounds sweet, & the sunshades she brought you from Burma very glamourous. Do you remember she wrote me from Burma that she was sending us a W. present & it never came- – I wonder whatever happened about that. I would like to have Chris’ letter about Bidsy’s wedding – it must’ve been some splash. I had a letter from Amy last week with a card for our Anniversary & she told a little about June Kirk’s wedding but not much. Amy’s letter was very nice, but not much news. I also had a nice letter & very pretty card from Auntie Moo, & she is saying how glad she is that you are having such a lovely time at Bequia as you have such a dull life with her!! Dull – it sounds uproarious to Cec & me!!
You were saying about whether I ever hear from my father now – I haven’t heard a word since I came over here, but I write nearly every week, & have just sent off another parcel of sugar lumps & mints etc.
I liked hearing about your new dress – it sounds nice, & with such a good, cheap dressmaker it is hardly worth while your bothering to make things yourself. Over here the dresses are so cheap ready-made that it isn’t worthwhile having them made. The girls at the office are all very smartly turned out with pretty clean cotton dresses every day, so I am kept busy washing & ironing the few I have! I got another one last week for 3 dollars- it is very thin muslin-y cotton – grey with a white pattern & tiny red spots & red buttons down the front, & has a square neck. It is getting to the end of the summer season now, & I am thinking I might try to get a summer suit in the sales as I will need something for travelling & I only have four cotton dresses & the blue cotton skirt & blouses. So far I have had 2 cheques, & get another tomorrow, but as Cec isn’t teaching during the summer term he doesn’t get paid of course, so besides my pay we only have the regular allowance from Canada, & as we will pay our rent while we are away & want to leave some money in the bank, we still aren’t rolling in dollars! With me at work, we spend a bit more too- prices going up as well – & also bus fares & sometimes lunches when we don’t take sandwiches. Ordinarily, we take sandwiches, & have such fun – we eat them on the Campus, i.e. trees & grass around which the College buildings are built – & we have made friends with the sweet little squirrels! One particularly, with a lovely bushy tail, we call Blossom, & although he is shy, he will now take things from our hands. We have discovered they all love cherries! They hold them in both hands & gobble away till the fruit is all eaten & then crack the kernel & eat the nut! For fun one day, we gave Blossom a plum, & he could hardly carry it, but he staggered away with it & sat at the bottom of the tree & ate it & then asked for more!
Did I tell you that Mrs. Pasquier was going to Europe this summer? Mr. P. wasn’t going, but she was going with a v. rich friend who was paying for the whole trip – they were going to England- Denmark- Paris & I don’t know where else. I didn’t see her before she left, but had a long letter from the Q. Mary, & then last week a card (Bridge of Sighs) from her in Cambridge! She had gone for a day & met Anne & were sitting together on the Backs writing to me – wasn’t that lovely? I am so glad she went there even for so short a time- she thought it was beautiful.
This is your 4th July letter, so I am really getting up to date now. I was amused that your writing about how “the old order changeth” & how everyone in St.V. black & white have cars now, while you & Aunt Moo walk – it’s the same here too. As I told you there are quite a few coloured girls at work – & I get on quite all right with them. Lois is one who is working half time & getting her degree as well – she is middling colour & says her mother was from Bombay so must be 1/2 Indian. Eva is another & she is quite black, but very thin & sharpfeatured – she is picked up in a huge new shiny black Buick every day but I stand & wait for the bus!
Thank you for the offer to make me thing is, Mummy, but at the moment I am O.K. I am growing out of cami-knick’s etc., but panties are so cheap here (50¢) that in a way it doesn’t seem worthwhile making them, & as you say my fat podge size makes it difficult to know the right size!
I laughed at your letter when you are remarking at the snaps I sent- the oil cloth on the kitchen table is a necessity as it is painted a dark ugly brown & we got the oil cloth at once to disguise it – sometimes I put a tablecloth on! The high heels I’m wearing that you remark on, are my wedding white shoes & I put them on specially for the photo! Usually I wear my old “sloppy Joe’s”! You ask about my size in getting dresses now, & I get a 10 or 11 instead of 9, so it isn’t too bad- 9 is too tight over my boosum! The 10 & 11 I shorten but that is all. The grey one with lace that you asked about- the lace is kind of imitation crocheted lace, if you know what I mean!
I heard from Dottie about poor Pete’s glands, but hope they are o.k. now. I was interested to hear about Joan in Aberdeen – I must try to find out from Dottie what the trouble is. Amy & Ruth & Charlie seem to be doing themselves proud over holidays this year don’t they? I hope Dottie & Bar have a good time together, & that Bar is feeling better.
Your next letter of 9th July, was posted from Bequia, & Cec and I have both enjoyed your letters about your holiday there so much. It all sounded such fun – a beautiful lazy free life with all luxuries, mod. cons. servants etc.! – just suit us – no pioneering – just the lap of luxury!! Next best thing to being there with you was reading about all the good times you had, and we truly did enjoy hearing all about your doings. Your island outfit – i.e. sand shoes, gay skirt & big hat sound very sensible & I hope that there is a snap of you in your get up, so that we can see! The bathing must be heavenly, and I love to hear about you getting really sunburnt – one thing in your letter really did make us laugh though, & that was when you were describing the black sand, but clear sea, & ended up “Get me?”!! Tuts! We chuckled over Patsy’s flirtation & your threatening to spank her, then ending up by being sympathetic to her! Sounds as if she should be sent back to hubby, leaky house or not! How did the crocheting get on? Not very fast I’m sure, with all the fun & writing great nice long letters to your children! But never mind, I’d much rather have letters about lots of fun than a luncheon set! There were 3 different sized mats- 1.) 9 3/4 ins. across 2.) 6 1/2 ins 3.) 5 1/4 ins.- that of course, is after they were pressed out, & the measurements are a bit approx. as the edge has points!
I was most tickled at Bren & Patsy deciding they came from humble origins, after all this time! I am glad Tessa got better & so Bren was able to come after all, and that you all were such a jolly party. It is a pity that Uncle Fred isn’t carefree & jolly all the time, but he seem to have been a wonderful host, & Cec & I loved hearing about all the food & picnics & everything! We were sorry about your sore behind, but couldn’t help laughing too! The plan of the house & the bay gave us a good idea of the place, & I am always interested in what the houses are like.
You asked me in that letter (15th July) to send Irene’s snaps for you to see, but although she told me she was sending them too, they haven’t arrived yet.
And now for your very last letter of 23rd July- I am actually catching up!! In it you were writing of our 1st year of marriage & saying it was the most difficult, but if so, we’re not a bit worried! We’re not anyway, but we’re still the same as in our “courtin’ days”, & we haven’t been cross with each other or had a squabble yet! The only thing we moan about is our rolls of fat, & as we both have them we don’t mind so much! It’s a good job we weren’t with you in Bequia or we’d have put on lbs. more with all the gorgeous lobsters & things! One of my jobs at the moment at the office, is to make out file cards, forms etc. for new interviewers who are being hired for us all over the States for the Surveys which are beginning now. I feel most interested in them, because amongst other information they have to tell me their age, height, weight, colour of hair, eyes & complexion, & I typed out an identity card for them & send it back with a nice letter of welcome from the chief! It makes it so much more interesting to know that Miss Lavinia Derryberry has brown eyes & blonde hair & is 27, & Mr. John Miles Jr. is 34, married & has green eyes, fair hair & a ruddy complexion!! Anyway I was telling Cec that lots of the men were 6 feet. & over, but none of them weighed as much as him! (206 pounds now!) But I had to add that all the women were taller than me, and lots of them weighed much less!! He was very gallant and snorted “Bean poles!”
You were asking about Mary Jo & Pete & their new house – it is on Granger Ave. too, but higher up as it is quite a long Ave. They moved in last week- we haven’t been since, but while they were still in the throes of cleaning etc. we took them ice cream cones one afternoon! They are both v. nice – they both come from Baltimore & speak in a v. strange way. Mary Jo still comes for me on Fri. night to shop, so I am all set.
You were also asking about the S’s house & since I began this letter they have bought one. It isn’t very far from here, but we haven’t seen it yet, and they don’t get possession till Sept. It is 20 years old, has 4 good size bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sitting room & big porch, dining room, study & kitchen & downstairs lav. so it has everything they need, so they felt they should take it although it needs re-decorating inside & out & gutters mended etc. It cost $25,000 which seems a lot, but a lot of the houses they looked at were over $30,000 & to build would be even more. The Petersons house was about 1/2 that I think but they did a tremendous a lot of work on it themselves. Before I forget, Gunborg is pronounced Goon-bore!! (Approx!)
I was interested to hear that Margs & Bill may yet come out in the Autumn, but hope A. Ettie gets there safely anyway. I too, hope Monie & Owen have a wonderful time in Eng. & that Monie isn’t disappointed.
My “little blonde”, Miriam, is getting married on 27th Aug. Her parents have come around & everything is fixed for the wedding & she is so excited now & counting the days!
I was interested to hear that you thought my letters were being opened – not that I think anyone but you would get much fun out of them. I’ll be more careful, but the thought of ME sending DOLLAR BILLS!!! I laughed & laughed- dollar bills – as if I could. The Sutherlands thought it was ever so funny too!!
Any news of Jean’s babe yet? Our two new nephews are called Bruce Costain (Merle’s baby) and Stewart Daryl (Lee’s.) The latter is to be known as Daryl which we don’t much like, & Lee made us laugh by saying in her letter “I don’t think Wendell (her husband) cares for the name”!
I laughed over you were telling Bren & Patsy about my “hungrey boy” & that reminds me that one night it was very very hot & Cec & I were lying on the bed sweltering, and Cec felt & said “Have you got the sheet over you? “& I said “Yes, I’m keeping my bloody liver warm” & we both shrieked & roared with laughter! Did you ever tell A. Moo about that? I tried to tell Gunborg one evening & laughed so much I don’t think she really knows what it’s all about!
I hope A. Moo’s hearing aids are back & that she is well – my love to her & to the girl. I am enclosing the rubber bands, but can’t get greaseproof paper- it’s all waxed here. The nearest thing is a little sandwich bags or there is some marvellous aluminum foil paper which is lovely – shall I send you some of that?
It is now 2nd Aug. & and I have at last finished this effort. We went to Detroit yesterday & had a lovely time, but I’ll tell you all about that in my next A.M.