Monday, August 31, 2015

My View #83 - Skill

What is "skill," that incredible, top drawer quality we all so admire? Skill, is it in our genes, or is it achieved by love and hard work? All this special week, when I had time, I watched the tennis matches (US Open) and although I haven't a clue about the rules, I see the skills all the players have to try to be the best and winner of the game. Skill is so elusive. A scowl or a secret smile tells me more than a written rule, in a book of rules, ever would.

Two sports I knew the rules of were hockey and baseball, all the old rules, for rules are always changing. Of course this is only one aspect of life, hundreds more exist. Every labour of life has a skill encountered, and most people are trying to meet that skill unaided.

I truly think my only real "skill" in my life was being patient and not fight life, be patient and deal with whatever comes along. You think and act in one second, if something needs to be done, regardless of potential hazard to yourself, even that is a skill some have, while others stop to think what to do, the job is done and maybe a life saved. To act so fast in that situation is a "born in you" skill. Every occupation and job has a skill.

I've looked at life for many years, and drawn my own conclusions, put some of them on paper and hope someone will read them.  I love my family, you are all so different, so wonderful and gracious and whole.

Mom xxx
1 day after I used up 94 years
(3 cheers for me!)

Letty had excellent sewing skills and was a decent home good, a good gardener, and good with young children.  It's too bad she had no opportunity for more formal education because then she would have realized that many, many skills can be learned. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My View #82 - A New Coat of Paint

Dear Readers, I apologize for the lapse in posts. My husband is recovering from triple bypass surgery plus a new pacemaker implant, and caring for him has consumed all my time. 

Regarding Letty's "My View" posts, I am skipping a few as you will see by the numbering, mostly because they are too short to be of interest to a world-wide audience. She continues to reminisce about her childhood here.

I would be about six or seven years old when I first began to wield a paint brush. My Dad wanted some old green flowerpots painted dark red (I guess I couldn't go wrong with them,) so he gave me the pots to paint. I sat on a plank, in the back yard, and did as I was told: don't let the brush touch the dirt, and don't stand the brush on its bristles, lay the brush on the lid, handle on the plank. You learn early on the right way to do things, and I did a good job, as he said I did. That's praise. I think he said, "You want to pain everything, don't you?" So far I was a menace with two tools: scissors and a paint brush. So a new coat of paint finished there, for a while, until I was about sixteen years old, then I really helped paint the whole outside of the house, with my father. It is so satisfying to me, like a new lease on life, at least sixty odd years of painting I've don, and now I only admire someone else's work. Such is life.

There are other facets to painting, as greater artists show us, much more delicate, fantastic, and beautiful works, that come from the brain and hands of a born talent. As life goes on we all appreciate anoterh person's talent. Every person has a talent, some are hidden for years, some start to show at a very young age.

This yarn is only about painting and the effect it had on my life. It is like the feeling you get after washing your face with soapy warm water, drying off with a fluffy towel and seeing the healthy shine on your skin. So clean, fresh, and beautiful. That is how a new coat of paint affects me.

Don't worry, this is the last of my brash stories...
(Of course, it isn't the last. Stay tuned...)

With much love,
Mom, Gran, Great Gran Letty
August 24, 2007

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My View #80 - The Old General Store

The name of this store was "Todd's." It was a big, square, high ceiling, bick and cement building. The front corner opening, double door and three semi-circular steps were right on one corner. Not many windows, I think, and it was open every day but Sunday. Mr. and Mrs. Todd ran the store and, after school, both of their boys, Leonard and Joe, helped.

As soon as you went in, a strange smell greeted you, a real mixture of food, leather and wool. No-one was in a rush to leave, there was so much to see, all sorts of city stuff, farm stuff, food, clothes, shoes and horseshoes, and picture frames. If you looked up, hanging from hooks on the ceiling, were many leather reins, martingales, ropes, a saddle or two and a tent and hip-waders. One corner was for grocery, a long, cluttered counter for eggs, butter - in 64 lb wooden boxes - and this would be cut to give you a piece the size you wanted, and they also gave you a toothpick to sample the butter before you took a pound or two home, to see if you liked it. Cheese was a huge round thing, say how much you wanted and they cut it with a string that was attached. Meat was in the next corner (a piano was sort of wedged in between these two counters) where we bought some meat. Mom wasn't too fussy about that meat as it wasn't real fresh, so she went elsewhere for meat, at Purny's shop. The fourth corner was shoes and men's clothes. That was a place for men and boys to gather, and that was where some learned many swear words.
Typical general store interior

We used that store for two years. Todd sold out when Taylor Brothers opened a new store. It was much nicer but wasn't as interesting as old Todd's was. We loved to go into that old store to see what was new in. In Todd's you could buy fish-hooks, books, sewing material, patterns, knitting wool and candy. A whole different kind of life. In small towns that was the main store.

Hope you enjoyed this issue. That whole block was torn down and a new place built. That was in the 1920s It has been said, "The old General Store sold everything, from pins to pianos and thread to threshing machines." How right they were.

August 18, 2007

Research yields some confusion as to the correct name of the store: Stewart and Todd's, or Stewart and Tweed's. It was purchased by the Taylor Brothers in 1910, earlier than Letty's estimate.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My View #79 - Beauty Aids - another look at days long ago, 1925-27

When Mary and I, and hundreds of others, were young girls, we loved to read women's magazines, "Good Housekeeping," "Red Book," "Women's Home Companion," "Ladies' Home Journal," and "Chatelaine," and look for coupons in the last pages. Big cosmetic companies put in ads like this: "For 25c to cover postage, we will send you a sample of perfume/lip rouge,/cold cream/ eyebrow pencil/ skin lotion/ toothpaste/ shampoo." What young girl could resist that call, and those companies always sent the stuff. Richard Hudnut, Coty, Three Flowers, Ponds, Houbigant, Lolynos and Lux were some of the names I remember.

We just liked to collect them, never used them. It was fun to compare what you got with friends. When I think about it now, it was an advertising gimmick. We were too young at that time, 12-14 years old, to use makeup. How times have changed. No more samples, I think those companies made quite a good job of adverts, when only a few people even had a telephone. So much for a bit more history. Beauty is more in the heart and eye of the beholder. All babies and little children are born to beautiful. It is the life we live and the weather we endure that helps to change our beauty, sad to say, but true. That is why we need "beauty aids." A smile costs us nothing and is very healing. XXX Go ahead, love and smile. You are all very beautiful to me, my family.

Love, hugs and kisses,
Mom August 18, 2007

The only makeup I ever recall my mother using was lipstick. Oh, I tried hard when I was in my twenties, showing her how to use blush, foundation, eye shadow to take off a few years, but she was not interested; in fact, she sharply criticized me when I began shaving my legs at around 15.
Of course, anyone who picks up a current woman's magazine, realizes they have plenty of free samples, typically perfume, but I've seen moisturizer too. 

Do you really think she and her friends did not use any of those samples? Knowing what its like to be a teenaged girl, I suspect they used them all, but hid it from their mothers, since make-up in those days was looked down on as morally suspect. Now, it's simply good grooming.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My View #75 - It's Life's Relay

We sit there nights, when the wind is slow,
As the moon scatters its light below,
The canopy, of sky, shows a million bright stars,
And a scent of flowers fills the breeze.
Of flowers fills the breeze.

You hear a murmur soft and low,
As froggies blink in the fireflies' glow,
Of birdies tweeting in their nest,
While everything has come to rest,
Everything has come to rest.

Next morning, right before our eyes,
Bright sunshine flings in turquoise skies,
The birds awake to greet the morn,
It's one more day the world is born.
So peace is born in many hearts,
It started with a tiny spark.
As this day ends, another starts,
And this brings joy, to every heart.

August 13, 2007

Monday, August 10, 2015

My View #74 - Fences

Today we return to Letty's "My View" series, her memories and thoughts on many of the small things in life. They are not organized in any perceivable pattern; for instance, today's skips back to around 1918 in Medicine Hat, while some are merely her opinion on whatever subject captured her attention that day. All the remaining "My Views" were written while Letty was in her nineties.

I like fences, they keep some things in and they keep some things out. My parents were keen on fences, maybe that accounts for my liking them. There are hundreds of kinds of fences, all over the world. The dictionary calls a fence "a protection defense, a barrier." There, you have learned something today. We never stop learning something every day. I know I do.

When we were children, the four of us had a lot of fun in our back yard, my father did a lot to keep us happy. A chicken house and run was at the far end. We had two gees, one turkey and twelve chickens. These we had to feed every day. Our big garden was next door in another lot, so in our back yard was a see-saw (teeter-totter), a swing, lots of grass to play on, and a clothes line. This was fenced in with a five foot high fence. The garden hose was a source of good fun, and Dad made round holes here and there (in the fence) so we could look out, we made lots of noise too.

At least Mom knew where we were most of the time. We loved to swing high so we could see over that fence. Our front yard was never fenced, all grass, trees and flowers. We loved our back yard, neighbors' kids did too and came to play on our swing and see-saw.

I guess fences can be important or people would not build them. This is it for today.

July 31, 2007
just before her 94th birthday

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bio #45 - Getting Established in Calgary/Bowness

I had written to Margret for years, but never met her till now, or little Charles, 2 years. Marg was so nice and made us so welcome; she is still a dear and we all love her, 23 years after. After a peek at Charles we all went to bed. We had reached Calgary in one piece. I remember seeing my cousin, Charles, that first night. 

Next day, both Ron and Ed were off to work, so Marg and I and the children got acquainted. Charles was so fair of hair and ours were so dark. They got along fine, Bob and Charles age 2 and Linda age 4. The change of altitude affected us all, in tiredness, and Bob was the hardest to settle down.

During the two weeks we stayed at Ed and Marg's I went out to Bowness to clean up the little three roomed house we were lucky enough to rent due to a severe housing shortage. It was an awful place, and as there was no sewer or water service in the town at that time, we had a well and a chemical toilet, and all used water had to be carried out. What a job and hard work. The well wasn't covered, and to keep the kids from falling in, Ron built a house over it, so it was safe.

Linda and Bob outside the Bowness house, circa 1954

Ron preparing to lower a liner into our well, 1955. He had built the pump house the year before, designed with a lid he could raise so the liner could be added easily. In the background is the home of our neighbors, the Kerrys.

There was a decent basement and the kids played there a lot in winter, even if it was cold. When I washed the clothes and hung them in the basement they would freeze solid. Just shows how cold it was.

We had a big yard and Ron put up a fence so the two little ones couldn't get into the road. We had lots of room for them in the back, and over the years we seeded most of it to grass and planted trees. After that first winter, Ron piped water into the house, and we only used the well for the garden. Ron dug a ditch, two feet deep to be below the frost line, from the well to the house. He added a pump, and suddenly we had a single cold water tap, in the basement. Despite the inconvenience, it was a huge improvement on the first years when Ron had to use an old-fashioned handle pump at the well, for all our water. In the winter, he took a kettle of boiling water outside to prime the pump, before we could get any water. A few years later, he extended the water pipe from the basement to the kitchen. Letty was ecstatic. We still had a chemical toilet, and had to haul out all waste water, however, until Bowness joined the City of Calgary.

We rented this place for two years, then bought it for $4000, paid as rent. It took us seven years to pay it off, but in that time Ron and I remade the house and put in a good furnace and a bathroom, and a few thousand dollars soon were spent.

In August 1964, Calgary took over Bowness as part of the city, and about the first thing they did was put in the sewer system and hook us up to Calgary. This was very welcome, as there were hundreds upon hundreds of out-houses and it wasn't very good. Calgary was bursting at the seams and houses were at a real premium, or else we wouldn't have taken this tiny house. However, with a little ingenuity and love it was a real home. It's not the house that counts, its the people in it. But the hard work that was required just about proved fatal to Ron years later.

Poor Ron, his first year here was hard on him, and had we the cash we would have returned to England at the earliest date. My heart ached for him. Linda didn't help much, poor little girl was homesick and cried every day for two months to go back. Bob was too young to are, and was sick, so I had my hands full. Then a lady who lived behind us said there was a kindergarten near, and after enrolling Linda for three days a week, she didn't cry anymore. We are still friends with Betty Miller, and I'm still grateful to her for that period in life, when she solved one problem for the Evanses.

Linda went to Mrs. Miller's for one year and when she started school went into Grade 2 because she could read so well. Mrs. Gray was her teacher.

Dear Mindy, this is the last page in Book 1, so I will have to start on Book 2. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, love.

Always and with love and xxxxxx's
Grandma Evans

Dear Blog Readers: I began this blog with some of Letty's later writings, called "My View." Tomorrow, I will return to that series. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bio #44 - Our Trip to Western Canada

The next morning when we got up, we were a long way along the St. Lawrence River. There was still a lot of snow down east. The second day (not sure this is correct; likely the third day) we got to Winnipeg, where my Aunt Edie and my cousins and their kids met us. As we had a seven hour wait in the city, we were able to have a good bath and clean up. It was a welcome break and we really did enjoy seeing my relatives.
A CPR passenger train from about 1953; likely taken in Toronto
Later that night, we got on the train again. Bob was sick again on this leg of the trip and a kind doctor who was also travelling west examined him. He said he was suffering from bronchitis and travel fatigue, and wouldn't be better until he had settled down for about ten days. Bob wouldn't eat, or go to the toilet, when the train was moving. The trip was a nightmare as far as Bob went, but Linda had a great time with a little girl her age called Jane. She was on her way to Edmonton with her family. She was nice. (I remember marching up and down the train corridor with Jane, she and I singing at the top of our lungs, "We're Canadian girls!" to the amusement of the other passengers. It was all the funnier because of our strong Yorkshire accents. I recall feeling quite superior to Jane because I could dress myself, and she couldn't.)

We finally got to Medicine Hat, where the kids and I got off, and stayed with a friend of mine for a week. Ron went on to Calgary to look for a job and a house, and he stayed with my brother Ed and his wife Margret and son Charles. Charles is five weeks younger than Bob. It took Ron a week to find a job and a house.
Downtown Medicine Hat in the 1950s
After an absence of nine years, Medicine Hat was not the same. Time changes everybody and most things. Dorothy Crane, my friend, lived in the same place, but there were no vacant lots where we used to take short-cuts from our house. Now we had to go the long way round. The city had spread out in all directions, and for a day or two I didn't feel at home. Dorothy and her two boys (in high school now) and we had a really good visit. But Bob and Linda were both sick, so we had to stay three days longer so they could travel. Ice cream upset them, too rich I guess; Linda had tonsillitis too. So after ten days we got on the train for our final destination, Calgary.

As it was 10:30 at night when we reached Calgary, both children were asleep. Mr. Scarlet, a trainman and old family friend, was on the train and said he would help me off with the little ones. We visited all the way up and it was so nice to talk to him. Ed and Ron and Della Miller were at the station to meet us, and it was such a relief to get off the train. Linda woke but not Bob, and I held him while Ron and Ed put our luggage in Ed's car. Then after goodbyes to Della and Mr. Scarlet, we drove to Ed's house, where we lived for two weeks.

 I remember little of our time in Medicine Hat, other than the smell of an old wooden house, so different from the old stone houses in England. The arrival in Calgary, though, I remember my uncle's Pontiac, to me a huge car with an exterior visor (later I learned it was quite a new car, a '52) and wide seats. It is the first car ride I remembered. Level crossings, common in Canada, are unheard of in England, so seeing a car cross the railroad tracks was a novelty too. No doubt my mother was exhausted from the grueling trip with one or two sick children.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bio #43- To Canada on the M.V. Georgic

Getting ready to leave Canada was a big job. We decided in January of 1953, made all arrangements, papers, etc., and then the real work started. But before anything else was done, I had to go into Huddersfield Infirmary for a prolapse operation, as the doctor said I couldn't travel in my present condition. So I got over this operation in early February.

For five weeks, I packed a trunk a week. Ron had tools to pack. This was a heck of a job, knowing what to take and what to sell. The last week we sold the things off, and Bob slept in a bottom dresser drawer and Linda with us. Ron sold his Norton and when it and the baby pram were sold I cried. They meant a lot to us. It was easy to sell the other household things, but not the pram and bike. As it was, we had half a ton of luggage, and off it went one day on a big van. We were sorry to say goodbye to all our friends in Huddersfield, Ron's cousins, and my sister and family who came down from Stanley to see us off. We left 26 Cross Lane on March 28, 1953. We had one week in Ilford with Ron's Gran, Auntie Blanche and Uncle Jack.

Bob, Me and my Great-Auntie Blanche in Ilford, Essex.
Then we set sail on April 11th. We left Southampton on the Motor Vessel Georgic, a big ship that had been a troop ship in the war. History has it that she laid on the floor of the Mediterranean, near Alexandria, Egypt, for three years, after a hit down one of her two funnels. She was raised up, cleaned, and used as a troop ship again.

The MV Georgic as it originally was before being bombed.

The Georgic after bombing. Later refurbished.
What Letty heard about the Georgic was true, although before it was a troop ship, it had been a classy passenger liner. You can read more about it here. It was scrapped in 1956.

When we got on her, she was turned into a passenger ship, for immigration purposes. We stood in line to get our papers checked, a nurse saw me holding Bob, came over and took Bob and Linda on board to the nursery. This was a relief to us all, and when we finally got to our cabin we went down to get the kids. What a sight met our eyes. There were about thirty babies and small children there, and a half dozen nurses. Cribs lined one wall and Bob was one of the kids sleeping there. All the cribs were full, and Linda was playing in the sandbox with others, having the time of her life. Every day she was down there for an hour or two.
Nursery of the M.V. Georgic
Bob got sick the first day at sea and had to have the ship's doctor and nurse to him a few times. He spent the whole trip in bed, and Ron and I had to take Linda in to meals alternately. Linda thought it was fun and enjoyed the trip. She was so "Yorkshire," we had to laugh. meaning my accent

After eight days on board ship, we docked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on April 18th at 8 pm. There was a special reception center there (and a "welcome home" cable from Ed and Margret,) run by the Red Cross. It was very cozy, so we left Linda in a big easy chair near our suitcases, and told her we had to see to our other luggage and we would be back very soon. There were nurses and other staff there, and lots of people. But Linda wouldn't move, or eat cookies, or drink juice. Poor little girl, she was so scared. We took Bob with us as he wasn't well. Oh, what a trip! Two hours later we got back, poor Linda thought we had left her for good. She was starting to cry when we came back, so I took her on my knee and loved her, and I cried too. For two things, her feelings, and because I was glad to be back in Canada. Bob was with Ron, so then we got on the train, put the children to bed and went there ourselves. We were all tired out, but I couldn't sleep for hours. I was in the top berth with Bob, and Ron below with Linda. Poor little lassie, she was worn out, and scared we would leave her again. At 11 pm the boat and train exchanged whistles, and we were headed west for Calgary. It was sort of a sad sound.

My four year old's memories of the trip include a visit to Regent Park Zoo in London, where the huge snakes terrified me, a visit to a playground with my father and Uncle Jack, during which Bob got filthy, to the disgust of the two women, standing in line to board the ship, and watching the flying fish during the voyage. It was near the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, so the ship's tuck shop sold all kinds of souvenirs. My mother had a toffee tin from that era until her house was sold. Pier 21, the immigration center in Halifax, is now a National Historical Site.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bio #42 - Leaving England 1953

After nearly nine years living in England we decided to return to Canada. Ron was rather fed up with working conditions at the time, the weather had been so bad, and we had a sick boy to cope with. Bob had spasmodic bronchitis and spent more time in bed than out. Our doctor recommended we move to a drier climate, and thought western Canada ideal. After the first seven years we knew Bob was finally on the road to recovery. You should see him now. (1976) The damp and fog in England nearly killed him.

Although I was only four when we left Huddersfield, I still remember things like black fog, which today we would call smog. There were over fifty industrial chimneys belching black smoke into the Yorkshire air, and clothes left outdoors to dry frequently came indoors with tiny black spots all over them. I believe poor air quality affected my brother's health as much as damp.

To me, Letty described bits of our life in England. Many of my memories, now, are from photographs, showing trips to the seaside, donkey rides in Liverpool, visits with friends, a talent show, and picnics on a blanket in a grassy field. Financially they struggled with Ron's low wages and continued rationing.
Letty with Bobby and me at the seaside, about 1952.

Holidays at Home Talent Contest winners including Linda, age 3, 3rd from right. Summer, 1952

Post-war England was in rough shape: so much damage to repair, thousands of demobilized soldiers home from the war looking for work, and an economic recession. It's no wonder my parents along with thousands of others, decided that Canada and America looked much more promising as places to raise their children.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bio #41 - Ron Comes Home; The Norton motorbike

One November day (1945) I got a cable to say Ron would arrive in Huddersfield, November 20th at 12:30 a.m. I was very glad and got the house nice and tidy, laid out dishes for tea and got myself ready to catch the last bus into town, from Stile Common to the station. As the buses stopped running after 10:30 pm, I had quite a long wait at the station. As you may have guessed, that train was an hour late. There were several people about so I wasn't scared. Finally it came and Ron got off, we were both so happy and kissed and hugged each other. We hadn't seen each other for over six months.

Then we took a taxi home, Ron insisting on carrying me over the threshold. You can imagine how surprised he was to see and be in our own little place. He made one remark I never forgot: "This is the first home I've had since my Mother died." (in 1921) I love him.

That Christmas was special. He had brought me gifts from Paris, and told me what they had been doing all that six months. I had been so lonesome I cried; now, because I was happy. I seems to me he had about three months' leave, then he went back to his old job, as an electrician in Honley.

All during the war, Ron's motorbike sat in Livingstone's garage, so now was a good time to check it over and see what kind of shape it was in. I was introduced to motorbiles in a big way as Ron, Bill, Don, David and George Livingstone, as well as half a dozen pals, all had bikes. Some of them had been dispatch riders during the war and their bikes were in use. So my Ron got his in shape as soon as he could, and I had my first ride. I was absolutely terrified, we only went 30 mph, and I hung on for dear life. Ron laughed at me, but before long we were going as fast as could be, and it was super. I loved riding pillion (back) seat. After that we were off most weekends and Ron showed me a lot of England, places I never would have seen otherwise. I really loved it, and England. It's a very lovely, beautiful country. There was only one drawback, and that was fog, and some days too much rain. I know that keeps England so green.
Letty on the Norton motorbike. She never rode it herself.

Ron, left, with friends Bill, Don, and David and one other.

After we had Linda, Ron put a side-car on the bike and this stayed on until the bike was sold and we returned to Canada. By this time Linda was four years old, and Bob was two. We had lots of fun with the bike and two kids. They were just as keen as we were to set off at weekends.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bio #40 - An injured brother; London on VE Day (eyewitness account)

In May of 1945 my brother Eddie was very badly wounded in Holland, and Dad sent me a wire. I also had a phone call from London to say Ed was ill and could I come down to Watford, to the Canadian Hospital. I got ready that night, sent a wire to Ron to meet me at Euston Station and one to his Aunty Blanche, whom I had never met. Next morning Ron came up to Huddersfield on compassionate leave and we took the train to London.

London was a strange city in 1945. I had never been there before, so consequently saw it at its worst. (or best, maybe.) When we arrived at Euston Station, I saw 3 tiered bunk beds all along the station walls, and at night every bed was full, and people slept on the platform to within 3 feet of the edge. The people were quite safe here from the air raids that had been going on every night for five years. I guess they didn't even hear the dozens of trains that were part of their nights. Everyone looked so tired.

Above ground, the damage to the city in certain areas was indescribable and I can still see in my mind, street after street, mile after mile, short broken walls and rubble. Fireweed was growing everywhere a building had burned down, and among all the devastation, pretty pink flowers looked cheerful, almost as if God were saying, "Everything will turn out alright, just be patient."

Ron's Aunty met us. Where his aunt and uncle lived, in a pretty little village, they took an awful beating. The house had suffered a lot, and Blanche, Jack and Gran spent weeks in their air-raid shelter, at the bottom of the garden and underground. I was never in it, but it was fitted out quite for comfort. Beds, table, radio, water, primus stove and a store of food, flashlight, blankets. The top of the shelter was covered with dirt and lots of flowers. Since the war they have moved to Leigh-on-Sea. Now the war seems such a long time ago.

The first day Ron and his aunty took me to see Ed and showed me the way to Watford. The second day Ron took me from his aunt and uncle's home in Ilford (East London,) to Watford (West London,) a distance of 43 miles, to the hospital to see Eddie. He was dangerously wounded and it was a very bad time for us all. Watford hospital was located in a park setting. There were 2000 mental patients and 2000 surgical cases, and the staff was all Canadian. I knew two nurses from Medicine Hat days, and they were so good to me, giving me tea and toast while Eddie was sleeping or having dressings changed. He had lost his right arm at the shoulder, and also had severe head, back and leg injuries. He was delirious most of the first week, and fighting the war over again. It was awful. But after a few days he was much better and knew who I was all the time. So he got wheeled outside on fine days and then was well enough for me to leave, so I returned to Huddersfield, very thin, very tired, but happy Ed would live and soon be sent back to Canada and my Dad.
Patients in Canadian Hospital 23 - Watford

The second day I was there was V.E. Day, and London went mad with joy. VE meant Victory in Europe, and the end of the war in Europe. The next day at 4 am my dear Ronnie sailed to France, for a six month duty. I never saw him until November, 1945, when he returned for good. So we parted on May 9th and I stayed on in Ilford for two more weeks, to be with Ed as much as I could. I travelled 86 miles a day, leaving Ilford at 9 am and after riding on electric trains, subways and buses, finally got to Watford for 2 o'clock, just at visiting time. I stayed till 5 pm, then set off to Ilford again. It was tiring, but enlightening, and I shall never forget what I saw.

Mom went into more detail about VE Day when talking to us. She described pianos brought out on the streets, tables and chairs forming rows blocks long where people served food they had saved for such a celebration. Children were finally able to play on the streets without fear of bombs, and the air raid shelters fell into a welcome disuse.
This is typical of what Letty saw on VE Day, along with endless crowds of ecstatic people.

Bio #39 - Living in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England

This was a town of some 280,000 people, in the Pennine range, in the industrial north of England, in Yorkshire county, which has three ridings: North, East and West. Most homes here are made of stone, the natural building material for the area. Some of the houses are one hundred and two hundred years old, not centrally heated, just fireplaces using coal. Most had hot water heated by a box at the back of the fire, and a tank upstairs in a closet, and a water tank in the attic. This is how ours was, anyway, and it was very good.

Ron had been in Huddersfield a week before I arrived, but had left for his embarkation station in the south of England, so I missed him and felt so sorry.

I lived with Mrs. Livingstone, Jean and Bill (her two unmarried adult children) for ten months. We got along fine and I helped all I could, and sewed a lot, but I missed Ron and was often homesick. All this time I was house hunting. 324 Newsome Road was a lovely modern house and I had a room to myself, but Ron and I had to have a place of our own when he got out of the RAF.

Finding a house in Huddersfield in 1945 was like looking for one in 1976 in Calgary. But after living with Jean and her mom I was finally lucky. Jean's sister-in-law, Blanche, saw her neighbour move out, and went to see the landlady. Because I was from Canada she let me have it for about 4s. 6d. a week. Boy, was I ever lucky, so I got busy with paint, paper etc., and had it all fixed up as best I could for Ron to come home to. Mrs. Thewlis (Blanche's mother) was alive then, and sometimes came round with a hot baked potato rolled up in her apron. She was a nice old soul and was always ready to help out. She died when we had been there three years. I still have a vase she gave me. This house was 26 Cross Lane, Primrose Hill, where we lived for over eight years.

Thanks to the magic of Google, you can see the actual house if you click the link above. It looked different then; there were no hedges or high wooden fences, and I believe the homes to the left in a different type of stone are newer. The house to the right was Blanche's home.
Letty and me, about four months old, 1949, outside our front door.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bio #38 - A New Home in England

Next morning we were called at seven, and taken after breakfast to the railway station. I got into the wrong queue and was rescued just in time to catch my right train, at 9 a.m., to Huddersfield, Yorkshire. These trains were so tiny compared to the Canadian trains, little compartments with seats facing each other. In this compartment was an old couple who were very nice, and we had an interesting visit. They got off before me. When I got to Huddersfield, Bill Livingstone was there to meet me. After seeing to my luggage, Bill drove us up to 324 Newsome Road, to his sister and mother's home. This was to be my home for the next ten months, and all three made me very welcome.

The grass was so beautifully green, this first day of November, such a surprise after all the snow I'd left behind; the St. Lawrence (river) was frozen when we left Canada. But the green grass was so unexpected, and it was a sunny day, so my first impressions of England were favorable. I just loved it.

Bill, who brought me from the station, was Ron's best friend, and at the time was off work with sciatica. However, he helped with my stuff and was a good friend. Mrs. Livingstone was a lovely person, and a real mother, who raised a daughter, Jean, and four sons, David, George, Don, and Bill, after her husband died suddenly.
Ron (left) and Bill beside him, 1940s.

When I got to 324, Jean was away on holiday at Whitby and I didn't meet her for a few days, but when we did get acquainted we enjoyed each other's company. Jean was headmistress of an infant's school (nursery school) while Bill was a machinist.

While I am writing this part in 1976, Jean is here, on her third holiday with us and we are all having a good time. She is a very interesting person and has travelled around the world a lot. It's good to see her again, and she is on her way to New Zealand and Australia, then home to England via Africa. Some trip, eh?
Letty and Jean in 1976, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
My father, Letty's husband Ron, had a difficult childhood. His mother died when he was only eight, of tuberculosis, and his father remarried a woman who became the stereotypical evil step-mother. She evicted my father from the family home when he was only fourteen, and from there on he had to survive on his own. His father died when Ron was eighteen. Travelling north in search of work, he encountered the Livingstone family who took him in and became his surrogate family. All the generation Letty knew are gone, but I am still in touch with Bill's son-in-law and grandsons, who are grown men, still living in Huddersfield. I consider them family.