Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bio #4 - Our House - to 1920

Dear Melinda,

Now I am going to tell you about our house we all lived in, until I was seven years old. I loved the house because there was lots of room inside, places to play hide and seek (in one game I shut a door on my brother Charlie's finger and nearly cut it off,) a big yard with a high wooden fence all around the back, a swing (where we always had fun on May 24th with flares stuck in the posts, a chicken coop and real chickens, 2 geese, I was scared to death of when I had to feed them. And best of all a big verandah that went right across the front of the house, with chairs, stools, and a hammock. We used to swing in it until we and it turned upside down, and roared with laughter. Many's the night when it was  too hot to sleep inside, we could sit on the steps and listen to the frogs croak, and adults talk. But I always had to have a sweater on as I caught cold so easily.

Then inside it was nice. Mom had shiny floors, and in winter we used to spend lots of our energy sliding on them in our socks. There were three bedrooms on one side of the wooden, cream and white colored house, and Mary and I had the middle one, off the dining room, the boys had the back one and Dad and Mom the front one, facing the verandah. Mom had long, brown wavy hair and I was always happy to see her do it, brush and wind it up. I think she was pretty, but lots of times she spanked us, mostly me, because I was always into mischief. But more of that later, as we are still on about the house.
Ice box, similar to the one Letty describes
The parlor was used for company and we lived mostly in the dining room and kitchen. The pantry (where all the food was kept) was a tiny room off the kitchen The back porch, which was added onto the house, had brooms, mops, coat hooks on two levels, low and high, and the ice box. The ice box today is called a refrigerator.(It was not a refrigerator. The ice was the only think keeping the food cool. Modern refrigeration, using chemicals such as Freon, had not yet been invented.) It was about 4 feet high and about twenty by twenty inches. The top third, I'd say, was where every two days the ice man came, and placed a huge piece of ice, and cussed if it was too high and he couldn't slam the lid down. We liked the ice man, especially on ice cream days when we all took a turn at the hand freezer, if Mom decided we could have ice cream for dessert. Once we nearly broke our teeth, when Mom put fresh raspberries in it instead of cooked ones. Really that was real ice cream: 1 quart real cream, 6 eggs (beaten,) vanilla, salt and sugar flavouring. There were no such things as "counter tops" and "stainless steel" sinks. We had a big square table which my Father had made. He had been a coach carpenter on the CPR till now, but inside work nearly killed him so he quit and joined the post office staff, and worked outside, as a postal transfer agent at the CPR station, until he retired in November 1941. Oh! I am wandering! Besides the table we had a wicker high-chair (white,) 6 chairs, sideboard and cabinet, stove and sink, in the kitchen. My Mom was a real super cook, cake and cookie and pickle maker. We never had much money, but we had lots of fun and lots to eat.

Its hard to realize this quaint and charming scene was part of my mother's living memory until last year (2014.) How life has changed! The table her father made, remained part of our family for years. It had a drawer in the middle where we kept the silverware.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bio #3- Early Family Life 1909- 1918

Letty's mother, Annie Taylor Laws, about age 20
A year after Mom and Dad were married, they had a baby girl, and named her Edith Beatrice Georgia, after aunts and a friend. It was a big name for such a tiny baby, 3 pounds, and she had a big growth on her spine. Only the expert nursing by Grandma and the care of Dr. Boyd who delivered her, kept her alive the eleven weeks she lived. It was a blessing in a way, as she would have been a cripple. Her parents were heartbroken, as you can imagine. Edie had very dark hair, was very pretty, and I have the only picture of her dear soul in her coffin. Mr. Knott said it was the smallest coffin her had, as she only weighed 3 1/2 pounds dressed. He was the undertaker and a family friend.

They say time heals, and it does, and the following year, on May 20th my sister Norma Mary Lillian was born. She was a beautiful child, fair curly hair and brown eyes. She was a very happy child, but sorry to say Grandma spoiled her and it wasn't until I was four years old that this showed up so bad. I don't remember Grandma, but she died of a heart attack at my Mom's feet one morning at 6 a.m., when I was four. Mary was hard to manage for a long time and many a weep Mom had, over her lovely child. Dr. Boyd even spoiled her and called her "little Queen Mary." Of course I wasn't aware of this at the age of four. Good job, or I should have been jealous.
Mary (left) and Letty aged 2 and about 4 months
Two years after my sister Mary was born, Dad and Mom had a brand new house built. They had been living in a congested part of town and wanted to get on higher ground, and where there was lots of room for kids. So this house was built and finished just in time for me to be born in, on August 27th, 1913. Mom said it was the hottest day of the year, and again I was a girl, Florence Letitia. Grandma was mad as a hornet at a third girl, I guess she wanted a grandson so bad. She paid no attention to me till I was three weeks old. Also I was dark haired and not a "good looker," and I was what they called "delicate," and always sick. Dad was the best nurse I ever remember. I remember when I was about four of five, how often he stayed up all night with me, with a warm blanket around me, trying to get me to have hot lemonade, or hot milk. Poor Mom, I guess four kids tired her out, because two boys were born later. Gran, bless her, lived to see one grandson born before she died, and was very, very proud of this. And he was as healthy and handsome as a young Morgan colt. His name was Charles Vincent, and I adored him. We were the best of friends and I guess I was like a little mother to him. Even when he burned his little bum so bad (we had a training potty behind the big black kitchen stove,) it was me who told Mom to put a bandage on it. It was as big as a fifty-cent piece and he never even cried or said a word. He always was the silent type, even through his years in the (silent service) Royal Navy (6 years) and Royal Canadian Navy (24 years.) He married, retired on Vancouver Island, and raised Morgan horses, cats and two pigs.
The new house. The man is Letty's father, Walter. The child must be Mary.
Our last brother was born two months after Gran died, and he was the only one born in the hospital. He was named Edwin Oliver, after our old Doctor Boyd. He was a small boy with lovely fiar, curly hair and brown eyes, but a tiny little tyke. He was full of mischief and took the gold fish out of the bowl to talk to them. Of course they died.

This is the story of our family only. There is lots more to say about lots of other things. Some are funny and some are very sorrowful, but Mindy love, I hope you enjoy the reading just the same. If you have any sisters or brothers, let them read this too, dear. But the book belongs to you. Love, Grandma.
The Laws family, L to R, Annie, Letty, Charles, Mary, Edwin, and Walter, circa 1929
Mom's rejection by her Grandmother stung her whole life, as did her jealousy of her sister, although when Mary returned to Canada after her husband died, they made up and were good friends until her death. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bio #2 - Letty's Mother's Story 1877 to 1909

My sweet Mother had rather better luck (than my father) with her life. She was born in London, England, in 1877, a daughter between two sons, Will and Fred Taylor. Granddad Taylor, a French Polisher, died of typhoid fever when the family was young. Grandma Taylor was an obstetrical nurse and supported them as best she could. My Mother trained as a tailoress, and a jolly good one too. She could make a man's suit from cutting out to wearing it, and that takes skill.
Ann Elizabeth Taylor, age 12 in England. 
My Uncle Will went to San Francisco, and was killed in the 1906 earthquake. Not being married, he left no kin. My Uncle Fred lived in Winnipeg, working for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) until 1930, when he died of diabetes. Uncle Fred married a girl called Florence, who I was named for. They had two children, Dorothy and Eddie, but Florence died when the children were very young. The death of their Mother was a great shock and so the two children came to live with us for one year. Eddie, who was a nice little boy, died of diphtheria in my Dad's arms, when he was 6 years old (no vaccines in those days.) After that Uncle Fred married again and Dorothy had a new Mom, my Aunt Edie. I always liked her and over the years she and Uncle Fred had three girls, Vera, Grace, and Joyce Taylor.

Now, to go back a few years, in January 1900 Grandma Taylor and family, having sold their home, came to Canada to make a new life. I guess they thought they had come to "no man's land." When they docked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, after six weeks on the sea, the ship was like a big diamond with frozen ice. A week's ride in a train to Winnipeg, the windows of which were covered in frost, was enough to scare the toughest. But Gran was made of tough stuff, so they settled there for one year. Then they moved south to Carman, and finally to Manitou, where Gran nursed, my mother sewed and tailored, until 1906, when they moved west to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Here, besides nursing some for Dr. Oliver Boyd, Gran and my Mother ran a boarding house for CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) men.

At eighteen, my Father left the hated Orangeville, Ontario, farm where he had no childhood, and joined the CPR on the Bridge and Building gang, and headed West to Medicine Hat. Here he found the boarding house, run by Mrs. E.E. Taylor and her daughter, Ann Elizabeth. He worked out of here, to Saskatoon, (where he had the first wooden rim wheel bike,) Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Lake of the Woods. This is where he met my mother. My Dad played the violin which he had brought from the east, one man was a good piano player, and Mom could sing. So they had some lively times. By the way, Mom was 4'9" tall, a real shorty. Later we kids used to call her "sawed off and hammered down," she just laughed. She was a good dancer and loved dancing. Dad fell in love with her and they were married May 19th, 1909, in St. Barnabus Church, Medicine Hat.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


I decided to discontinue the "my view" series for the time being, and launch instead into my mother's autobiography. She began it in 1975, when she was hospitalized. It was the beginning of her writing, and the most evocative for me. I hope you enjoy it.

This story is dedicated to
Melinda Joy Deines,
My Beloved, First, Grandchild

Dear Melinda, I am not much of an author, but you inspired me to write this sort of "diary" so you would have some idea of what life and living was like when I was little, like you. Also as a young girl, and an adult. When you read it, I will likely be old, and I hope you will get some pleasure and laughs out of it. How many more years I have left before me, I don't know, but I hope to see you a young lady.  Gran xxx

Our Family and My Birth

Some families have very impressive ancestors, but mine were very much the other way. The only claim to fame is that I am a direct descendant of William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, USA, on my Mother's side. (later research indicated this cannot possibly be true, since William Penn died with no direct descendants. Perhaps we are related to him through his siblings and their children. No-one knows.)

My dear Father, Walter Laws, was born in a very poor family who lived in Birmingham, England, in 1874. When he was six years old, he and his sister Emily, next to him, were taken from their home and sent out to part of the British Empire (Canada) as immigrants, to work for a certain family until they were eighteen years old. Such was the custom in those days, with poor families. He never again did see his parents, or other five sisters and brothers.
This is the only photo I have of my Grandfather as a child. It was his passport photo.

My grandfather was a victim of the Home Children program which took children from poor families and settled them in workhouses in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. He was placed on a farm in Ontario where he was treated like a slave; which, in fact, he was, since he was not free to leave until he was eighteen years old. His sister, Emily, fared somewhat better in the house where she worked. What is considered shocking and reprehensible now, was considered a brilliant piece of social engineering at the time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Me and my Mother, England, 1949
Dear Mom,

It seems strange, this year, not to order the flowers that I ordered every year for you on Mother's Day; not to have sent you a card; not to phone you. I miss you in ways you can't imagine. I miss getting your funny writings every month or so. I miss the love and caring you gave me for many years, even though it was missing the last two years of your life. I miss visiting you at your cozy home, the familiar furnishings, the predictably awful food, the endless cups of tea, and the hugs we shared.

Be at peace.

Your Daughter

Friday, May 8, 2015

MY VIEW #72 - Skin

Skin, my skin, yes and your skin, is interesting stuff. Did you ever think of it that way No, I think not. It covers our body completely and we don't realize how well this is done. It keeps all our organs safely hidden, and keeps the weather out, except in cold climates. Sad to say, we keep it hidden away with clothes. Only in hot summers do we shed these and appear as "nymphs in paradise."

Children seem to be the only ones who do not seem to be afraid to run around bare. No, I am not advocating a nudist camp (that has its attraction.) Adults have to have good decorum, in speech and dress, and set a good example. But some bodies see little sunshine, a needed vitamin. Some people will go to the grave with white bodies that have never seen much sun at all, coloured people will not, they beat us all hollow for tans, but they need the sunshine too.

Skin can stretch, contract, get sunburned and frozen, and again the repair goes on We perspire on the skin, which cools us, stings and bites can puncture the skin, and again it recovers. To me the skin is an amazing organ, tough, resilient, soft, pretty, everlasting, and necessary. Do I make my point? Look after your skin.
Photo from best of both worlds AZ
Love, and happy sun-bathing all.

July 2007

Mom seems unaware of the contradiction between taking care of your skin, and sun-bathing. When I was growing up, we assumed we would always get a small sunburn and then a tan. I can remember a few very painful sunburns, before there was sunscreen. No more. I see daily, the damage the sun does to my skin, and I put on sunscreen every day now that I live in the desert.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MY VIEW #71 - Our Feet

Every person has feet, anchored on a pedestal, our earth. We come into this world "head first" and go out of it "feet first." Did you ever think about this? I never did till now and it makes me think.
Old, flat feet. Photo by WiseGeek.
Most humans in ancient times went barefoot. Later, sandals came in view, people sought to protect their feet but left the toes free. Then some "idiot," many, many years later, decided, why not cover the whole foot, to protect it and hide the ugly feet, so they did, with cloth, paper, leather, beads, and rope. As styles and methods changed, so did our feet - pinched toes, blisters, bunions - caused by poor fitting shoes. Interesting.

Now, in our own lives, going barefoot is a luxury. Many of us have forgotten the feel of it and therefore don't enjoy this luxury. I sure do. Shoes can be a pain in the butt sometimes, first thing I do when home from shopping is kick my shoes off, my toes enjoy this freedom. "Oo la la!" We connect with our pedestal and enjoy.

Floppy slippers are a comfort too, not a lot of restricting action there, but I do love the comfort. Feet need exercise and care and pampering, you only get one pair, so look after them and appreciate that one big toe and four smaller ones who have been there all your long years, to take you wherever you wished to go. Happy landings!

(My toenails need trimming.)

July 16, 2007

There are so many more comfortable options in footwear now than ever before. I prefer something on my feet because I live in the desert, and just five minutes ago, my husband showed me a cluster of thorns he picked off our kitchen floor. My Clark's flip-flops are cushioned; the best flip flops I've ever owned. I wonder if Mom ever spent enough money to get shoes that fit her properly? And she has forgotten the protection our feet need in extreme climates and on rocky, rough ground. 

Still, going barefoot on a nice lawn is undoubtedly a pleasure. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MY VIEW #70 - Outhouses

Photo by Michelle Radcliff
Oh boy! This subject will be fun to write about. "A small building, used as a toilet, near but not connected to a house, with a seat with a hole, over a deep pit, where you sit to relieve yourself." Wow! The dictionary, yes. (Dictionary quote.)

Outhouses were in use, as is, for many years before I was born. They had many names, here are some for you to laugh about: the back-house, the pit, the bog, the biffy, the shitty, Houses of Parliament, Seats of the Mighty, the Opera House, Eaton's reading room, to name a few. Some had flowers planted around them, some had cutouts on the door, crescent moon, a rose, a star, or initials, these let some light in. The only paper available, in most, was an old out-dated edition of Eaton's catalogue, and a string on a nail which held papers that once covered apples or oranges. Real gentle toilet roll paper? No, no! Whoever heard of white toilet paper? That was a luxury country folk didn't need, so why buy it?

Nearly everybody on farms on the Prairie had a wire or rope connecting both houses. In the winter it could be the only lifeline to safety, for one going to the outhouse or the main house. Outhouses were moved around every few years and a new pit dug. The old outhouse was lifted up and placed over the new pit. Then the old pit was filled in, and in another year, lo and behold, beautiful flowers!

Halloween night was a time for pranks, so, doors got removed and put up in trees, outhouses got knocked over quite often; a bicycle or a goat tethered to the roof, or newspaper taped over the two holes. yes, some toilets were "one holers" others were "two holers," in case of emergency.

Today we live in a different style, so our homes are different. The bathroom is the most expensive room in the house to build. Some are beautiful, with the most elaborate asses allowed and available. People go nuts over their bathrooms. I don't get it. A clean, plain, nice small, pretty toilet is lovely. We all need one to have comfortable lives. Not a show-case one. Some say style is very important. So long as we can do what we need to do in a toilet, any toilet, it will keep us happy and healthy. Hee, hee! I'm just trying to make you laugh.

Did this liven up your day? I love you all so very much.

July 2007

P.S. years ago, at a big open air gathering, we had to make do with one or two outhouses. Now we find "porta-potties," plenty of them, cleaner things and acceptable. Time does march on. "Whoopee for us!"

At Heritage Park, in Calgary, Canada, there is a two-storey outhouse outside the old Wainwright Hotel. I can't imagine using that one! 

When I was a child, apples and oranges came in wooden boxes, and each fruit was individually wrapped in paper. These are the papers Mom refers to; thankfully I never had to use them for the purpose she describes.

I recall visiting relatives in Peace River, Alberta, in the dark of winter when the temperature was around forty below zero. We had to use an outhouse, so when I had a need in the middle of the night, I crept outdoors in my pajamas, bathrobe, parka and boots. The snow was so cold it squeaked under my feet. Baring my behind was extremely uncomfortable, but my thoughtful in-laws had created a toilet seat made of styrofoam, and as soon as I sat down, the insulating stuff was warm to the touch. And the stars were breathtaking.

Monday, May 4, 2015

MY VIEW #69 - Speed

What is "speed?" Who judges and who performs? Who knows? Now, we live in a world of speed, why? "Speed," the dictionary says, is "the act of moving rapidly." Certain things and times require speed, others do not. The thing is to know when and why. I've an idea.

In education the time is a slow twelve years, to learn the basics, the beginning years of life, in order to earn a living. (We never stop being educated) Higher education shocks us into a "big speed-up" on all sides, viz. moving, doing, learning and living this period of life. Some don't or can't keep up and drop out, it is too much speed for them. Sad it is.

In a hospital emergency centre, "speed" is very important. Cars, trains, planes, space travel, have all answered to "speed." Who says "speed" is best and safe? Scientists? When accidents happen, people are hurt, the hospital is where they go, to cure the results of "speed."

Now even talking is at "full speed," no matter where you are, the faster the better? Not in my view. What is driving the human race to such furious lengths, they can't relax? It is "speed."

Think like a gardener. He knows "speed" is not important, in his own garden, time and "speed" are all there, but all are regulated. What do you think? I wonder what children born this year will say and see in fifty years from today, July 13th, 2007. I do wonder.

With love to all my family and friends - slow down.


Mom has a point, doesn't she? Scientists who measure these things tell us that simple labour-saving devices, for example, vacuum cleaners, really didn't save work if you're counting the number of hours of work. They merely raised expectations as to the level of cleanliness our floors should have.

As the elderly slow down, they have the luxury of time with which to observe their world. But I remember my mother working very, very hard, constantly, always in a hurry, to the point where her doctor ordered her to quit a couple of her activities. So she didn't always practice in her forties, what she is preaching in her nineties.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MY VIEW #68 - "I Won!!" Wow! - So What?

If there were no "losers" there would be no winners. The losers are also "winners," they try their very best and succeed, by coming in 1/1000 of a second after the others. 1/100 or 1/1000 of a second, what does that say? It takes longer than that to blink. They are all winners in my book and should be told so.

It is very nice, and a great pleasure to win a prize. Not earth-shaking or bulletin material, and we soon forget. We have all won small prizes at some time in our lives, a colouring prize, a school prize, a short trip or a bigger trip, but it doesn't change our lives. What really changes many lives is the "really big winner," the 10, 20 or 30 million dollar winner, who only bought a ticket. What a dreadful thing it must be to be on the receiving end of one of those tickets. I have bought the odd ticket years ago won $5, and now I don't. I appreciate the money I have and take care of it, it is too hard to earn, to throw it away.

So I donate to church and charities, as I can, and feel happy doing so. Too much money spoils a life, when money is more important and destructive. Money gives power, power causes trouble, I try to stay away from it. So I feel like I am the winner, I'm old, have a small income, small home, beautiful family and good friends, and a "winner" by 20 years. So slow as I am, I've done my very best and "I am a winner."

This is the last of my ramblings, have a happy life, my darlings.

Your loving mother

Mom had very mixed views on money. She loved to give it away, despite her claims that too much money is a bad thing, and was cautioned by a number of people who knew, that she was not aware of how little she had left. She was always generous, but I recall a time my father told me that he had to keep control over the finances, because Mom simply spent it all. Curious how that conflicts with what she says here.

There are several places in her writings where she announces it is her last writing. But she always kept it up, until a couple of years before she died. She had more in her than she knew.

Friday, May 1, 2015

MY VIEW #67 - My New Friends

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" - Who said that?

It is amazing how a phone call can bring new friends into your life, especially when that call is a wrong number. Through this happening I am now corresponding with Murray and Anita C, my new friends. They live in a small farming area called Binsgarth, near Dauphin, Manitoba. Enough background for now.

Near Christmas time 2006, Sears in Duncan phoned me to say a parcel was there, would I pick it up. As the weather was bad I put it off and forgot it. The sender, Anita H, I didn't know but she had my phone number, I thought maybe she is related to me somehow.

In January (23rd) Sears again phoned me, so I got a ride with Colleen, and got the package, still a puzzle to me. In the car I opened this 8 x 10 brown envelope and inside was $25, no card, note or paper, just two $10 bills and a $5 bill. I was stunned and said to Colleen, "this is not meant for me."

Now I was home and very uncomfortable. I didn't sleep that night and in the morning played detective via Telus (phone company). Anita's name and adddress was on the envelope so I asked Telus if there was a phone listing for this name. They found it and gave it to me, and I phoned her. She was as surprised as I when she learned I had her "Christmas gift" she had sent via the Duncan Sears outlet to Father Frank, the priest at St. Edward's Church in Duncan. I told her what had happened, and she said there had been a card and $50 sent for him. It looks like some hanky panky at Sears. Anyway, she took down my phone number and address. Maybe the phone numbers got mixed as mine and Father Frank's are very similar.

Anita got her $25 back from me, she then sent me pictures of her family, and now we are friends. I wonder if we will ever hug and shake hands? She is so young and I am so old. I wonder what God has in store for us. Anita and Murray have three sons, a big farm, and lots of luck. May they have many happy years ahead.

What a story. I am relieved!

Letty Evans
June 11, 2007

Mom was always an honest person, and a lot of credit goes to her for making the effort to find out where the money truly belonged. Many people would not have bothered.

She and my father quite often received phone calls intended for the local Catholic Church, St Edward's, and I believe her assumption of mixed phone numbers is the correct one. As to where the missing money and card went, it will remain an mystery.

The quote at the top of the page is from Andrew Carnegie.

Letty never met the people mentioned in this post.