happiness

Indra’s Net

I woke up at 3am today. Lately I’ve been doing lots of waking up at 3am which means I must be hella stressed. Usually though when I wake up in the middle of the night I lie there and stress about the problems of the world, while lately I just lie there and think about God and where I fit in the universe. Much lighter thinking haha.

This morning (is 3am morning? I feel like it’s still deep night time, or when I was younger it was time to come home) I woke up to a vision of Indra’s Net. Perhaps I’ve been feeling very disconnected lately. I think Covid has a lot of us feeling disconnected and confused. Alberta in particular seems to be filled with anger, confusion, and chaos as we are being divided between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. While I am one of the vaccinated, and strongly believe in it, I don’t like how we are fighting with each other when we would do better to work together.

So anyway, with that I’m feeling a bit separated and confused and waking up to the image of Indra’s Net was kind of perfect.

Indra’s Net is a spider like net that spreads infinitely in all directions. In each “eye” of the net, or where the threads join together, there is a beautiful jewel. Each brilliant jewel reflects every other jewel, which are infinite in number, and every reflected image holds the image of all the other jewels. Infinity to infinity, whatever affects one jewel affects them all. Everything contains everything else, but at the same time every individual jewel is not hindered or confused by the other jewels.

I love this idea because I often get hindered or confused by the other jewels.

In his book Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), Francis Dojun Cook wrote,

“Thus each individual is at once the cause for the whole and is caused by the whole, and what is called existence is a vast body made up of an infinity of individuals all sustaining each other and defining each other. The cosmos is, in short, a self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-defining organism.” (Source here)

Instead of thinking that everything is part of a larger, collective whole, the idea is that everyone is the larger, collective whole, but also simply themselves at the same time.

I find this idea so completely abstract that it actually makes perfect sense to me. And I love the way it allows me to see how we are all connected. What affects one of us affects all of us. We are one being working together, but we are also our individual selves with the freedom to choose who and how we are. Some people I find it easy, and a beautiful privilege to think of being connected with, and some make me want to cut their jewel out of my beautiful web. The challenging ones are probably the most important ones as they probably reflect some unhealed aspect of myself. If their behaviours didn’t trigger something in me, who they are and what they do wouldn’t bother me and so I know there is more internal work for me to do in those areas.

Hopefully the 3am wake up time comes to an end soon, but until it does I find gratitude in the comforting thoughts that are coming to me during this time.

Namaste.

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Family Sing-song (FGK 88)

At the bottom of the box of letters were two audio reels. I had no idea what would be on them, or even how to play them. Fortunately a friend of mine directed me to a place in Inglewood where I could get them moved to digital format and could listen to them. One reel was empty, but the other is a real treasure. Talk about “From Grandma’s Kitchen” – we get to hear everyone all here in Grandma’s kitchen (and later the living room where they sing). Grandpa is on here, and he plays his violin while someone else plays piano and the family sings. I LOVE that someone used the word “twitterpated”.

As someone who has had to participate in the awkward family phone calls when either I was away, or when someone else is – I appreciate how difficult it is to think of something to say and make yourself sound interesting. I also know how it feels to be the one away from family, to know they are gathered together, and how loved it made me feel when I would get the big awkward phone call. So, although people don’t maybe sound like they don’t know what to say, the love behind the effort made speaks volumes.

Instead of transcribing this one, I thought it should be played so everyone can hear it. I love it – hopefully it works!

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The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 3

I have to admit that this story didn’t end the way I imagined it would. And like many real life stories, the unexpected turn was a wonderful one. Reading this made my heart so full and so grateful that this man was my grandfather. I really wish I had been able to get to know him better, he was a man with a very kind heart.

He mentions that this story was written for Cindy to illustrate, and that she was doing it for some class assignment. He also mentions that there should be copies for us four “younger cousins” – did anyone ever see the illustrated book? I’d love to see what she did with it. It has been a real joy to get to hear Grandpa’s voice as he tells this story. If any of the Ramsay family would like a digital copy please let me know and I’ll email it to you.

By the time he was 10 years of age, Ralph had become a bookworm. His Grandpa Taylor had a huge library, and Ralph would spend much time in there lying on his stomach on the carpet pouring over the beautiful books. Some of these books were the great big family bible, and copies of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in large books with lovely illustrations. And there were the noble stories of the round table, and the knights of King Arthur.

These books planted many new ideas in Ralph’s mind. By this time also, Ralph knew a lot about halloween and it is about this particular halloween that this story is told – from his grandfather he knew how little boys and sometimes older boys too, played many naughty tricks on their neighbors. Some of these tricks cause trouble for the persons on whom they were played.

As the time drew closer, Ralph came up with a Halloween idea all his own. He gathered together a group of 4 or 5 other small friends around him and suggested a different kind of trick for them to play. It happened that a few days before Halloween, Mr Scott had received four chords of firewood dumped behind his house for burning on his stoves. At this time, wood cut from trees on the nearby farms was the cheapest means of heating a house during the colder months of the year. Mr. Scott had arranged with a farmer to bring in a wagonload of wood. A chord of wood usually measures 128 cubic feet. And while this doesn’t mean much to you, it might mean something to your mother and father. And for stove firewood the sticks would be about 14 inches long and a chord of wood when piled would be about 4 feet high and 8 feet long. The wood was neatly split and ready for the stoves but was thrown in a heap on the ground and had to be first piled to keep it dry and protected from the rain and the snow.

Ralph knew how difficult it was going to be for Mr. Scott to pile all that wood with all his aches and pains. The weather was turning colder and there was more rain. Ralph could tell from Mr Scott’s face at times how much he was hurting. Ralph’s suggestion to his friends on that halloween was that they sneak over behind Mr Scott’s house after dark and pile all his wood for him in neat piles. That way it would be much easier for him to get to it when winter snow came, and it would be all piled and ready.

His friends agreed to his plan. After it was dark, and they were sure Mr Scott had gone to bed, Ralph and his followers made their way as quietly as they could around to the back of Mr Scott’s house. They worked and worked in the night until they had piles of wood all ready to surprise Mr Scott when he woke up the next morning. Naturally all the boys were curious to know what Mr Scott might say the next time he came over to work in Grandpa Taylor’s garden. And of course Ralph was more interested than anyone else. When Mr Scott did come over to Grandpa Taylor’s to work he looked curiously at Ralph as if he suspected that Ralph might have had a hand in what had happened. But he didn’t say anything, nor did he ever mention his woodpile to Ralph. Yet Ralph noticed that from time to time there was a difference in Mr Scott’s attitude towards him. He ceased to be so cross, and was much friendlier than ever before.

Ralph would often look up to catch Mr Scott looking at him as if to say ‘did you have a part in piling my wood for me?’ Ralph would look him right in the eyes and smile. He experienced a very nice feeling about doing something for someone else, without being asked and without expecting anything in return. His reward was a warm feeling inside himself, and the hope that God might have approved of what he had done. This was the beginning and the first time perhaps, that Ralph and his friends consciously gave away something of themselves – a gift of their work to someone else. For Ralph this was the beginning of a practice which later on became a habit. He called it “Investing in People” and it brought him a lot of happiness.

The end

So you can see who it is I’m writing about, I’ve included a photo of Grandpa that was sent earlier this year though our “cousin chat”.

Grandpa in New Liskeard or Twin Lakes circa 1925
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The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 2

I meant to add to yesterday’s story, that when Grandpa mentioned that he and his mom (Claire) travelled back home to Ontario after his dad left, that the home that they travelled from was in North Battleford SK- not a short distance.

I turned over the framed photo of Braeside and found Grandpa had written a little blurb about it. I am so grateful for those people who know enough to write the significance of an item for those of us who won’t remember all the details. Reading “lawyer scrawl” is a challenge. Often as a child when my parents would send in notes to the teacher I would be called up to the front to read them the note because they “couldn’t quite make out the handwriting”. So, if anyone sees where I’ve misread something in Grandpa’s note please tell me!

“This is a coloured photograph of the George Taylor family residence, built about 1903-04 by John Clarke and probably Len Hill. I have a picture of it under construction. It was named “Braeside” after Grandpa’s beloved Scotland (“hillside”). Grandpa had his own letterhead = Braeside, New Liskeard, Ontario on the best linen paper. I was here with my mother until I was 18 and left for college and again until I married. Grandpa Taylor died on the 19 August 1919. Grandma was the life tenant and mother the housekeeper. This picture was owned by mum.”

As soon as little Ralph was old enough, about 4 or 5 years of age, his grandparents would take him with them when they worked in their garden. They showed him how they planted the vegetables and the many beautiful flowers that were throughout the garden. So Ralph spent much time in the garden and became interested in all the life he found there. Birds were always to be found in the garden. There were many English Sparrows, Robins, Chickadees, Wrens and Blue Jays in the summer. Grossbeaks came in the winter to eat the cranberries. When Ralph was about 7 years of age, he was given a little plot of land all his own and he was shown how to get it ready for planting in the spring. He learned to spade it and rake it to get the ground all even. He learned the various ways of planting seeds like carrots, beets, and pumpkin. Potatoes were cut up and planted with their eyes still on. He also planted flowers in his garden. Snapdragons, pansies, asters, daisies, lupen and dalphiniums.

Ralph worked in his garden with his own little rake and his own little hoe. His grandparents showed him how to stretch a string across the length of his little garden and attach it to two cedar sticks, one on each end. Ralph took a third stick to draw a straight line in the soil, the depth required for the seeds. Usually about an inch or so deep. The seeds would all be dropped in at the right distances apart so they would grow up without being too crowded together. Many such lines were drawn for the different kinds of seeds to be planted.

Later he was taught how to remove all the weeds from around his plants and to water them very carefully. He diligently watched the potato plants. When potato bugs were spotted eating the new green leaves, he was taught to pick the bugs off the leaves and dispose of them in a can.

Ralph’s mother, Claire was out of the hospital and completely well by now. She worked as a housekeeper at Braeside for her father and her mother. Working in the garden was one of her favioute pass times. It was also under her supervision that the many beautiful flowers were planted around Braeside. At one time there would be as many as 500 gladioli blooming on the front lawn in every shade of red, peach, choral, yellow, and white. Cars would line up in front of the house to see the sight. The work of the large garden was getting to much for Grandpa Taylor and Claire to handle all by themselves. Grandpa Taylor was getting old and was often sick, and there was so much work to do. So he hired a man named Mr. Scott who lived just across the street from him. Mr. Scott was an Englishman who was about 60 years of age, and his job was to come and act as gardener. Mr. Scott would come over regularly to do work in the big garden and Ralph was frequently with him.

Mr. Scott had difficulty walking because his joints were very stiff. His work was very hard, digging up the soil in the spring, getting it ready for planting, and then helping with the harvest in the fall. So there were times when Mr. Scott was not smiling. He was very grouchy and not very pleasant to a little boy who was full of questions. Mr. Scott was probably suffering from a lot of pain, and it was only in much later years that Ralph understood the stiffness in his knees and hands as being what older people called arthritis, or rheumatism. Arthritis could be very painful at times, particularly when the weather was cold and damp.

But Ralph got used to Mr Scott and followed him around, and particularly watched when he was digging up the garden soil. The robins would be busy coming around looking for earthworms exposed by the digging. Ralph would often laugh when the worms resisted very hard at being pulled out of the ground. The robin with one end of the worm tight between its beak would start to pull the worm out of its hole and would have to lean way back. The worm in turn pulled back the other way to try and return to the safety of the ground. The result was a tug of war with the robin and the earthworm teetering back and forth in the struggle. Sometimes the robin would fall over backwards, almost backwards, after winning it’s prized catch. And sometimes the earthworm would escape right back into its hole again. The robin would cock it’s head and look at Ralph as if to say “the rascal got away on me”.

There were many birds nests around the garden and Ralph was interested to watch the robins gather up the worms to take to their babies in the nest. He would watch the little baby robins stretch their necks and open up their beaks as they were being fed. And Mr Scott would often stop a moment or two to watch the robins too. And occasionally he would laugh at the robins as they were fooled by the earthworms.

Everywhere that Ralph went, his dog “Doc” would follow him. Doc was a water spaniel with long, floppy ears, and he was the same age as Ralph. Sometimes Doc would get in Mr. Scott’s way, and Mr. Scott would be cross at him. But both Ralph and Doc accepted Mr. Scott and were anxious to be friends with him. They would follow him about when he was hauling different things in his wheelbarrow, and they would run little errands for him when he asked them to.

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The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 1

I am taking a break from Copithorne history to share a story told by my Grandpa Ramsay about his childhood in New Liskeard, Ontario. My aunt sent me a cassette recording he made years ago (over 30 years) of a story he wrote about the gardens at Braeside.

The story my dad told me (and any Ramsay relatives who know the story better please correct me or add what I’ve missed) was that my Grandpa Ramsay was raised as an only child by a single mom in a big house called Braeside in New Liskeard, along with his grandparents who owned the house. So, Grandpa grew up as an only child surrounded by adults, and without a father (my understanding is that the father opted out of family life, not that he died). Dad used to say that Grandpa had told him that as a child he decided that what he wanted more than anything was to have a family of his own, and I have to say he more than accomplished his goal. Although we grew up on the other side of the country in a time when distance meant more than it does now, I have always felt loved by my “eastern family”. The few times we went out there when I was a kid, I remember Grandpa being very engaged with everyone. Us Ramsay cousins even have a “cousin chat” on messenger where we share information and have little catch-up visits.

My Grandpa’s mom (my great grandmother) was named Claire Taylor before she was married. The aunt who sent me Grandpa’s story of the gardens at Braeside has the middle name Claire, as do I. My niece is a Clare (or a Clair I can’t remember) which is close enough to make her part of this “Claire club” as well. My dad’s middle name was Taylor, as is the middle name of my son. We have a photo of Braeside hanging in our kitchen here at the ranch, and I’ve often looked at it and thought of Grandpa and his childhood.

Once upon a time, many many years ago, there was a little boy named Ralph and at the time this story took place he was about 10 years of age. when Ralph was three years old, he lost his father and so his mother Claire left the town where she and his father had been living and returned with Ralph with the home of her father George Taylor and his wife Mary Taylor. Claire’s parents lived in the small town of New Liskeard in Northern Ontario. It was in New Liskeard that Claire lived with her parents before she was married and where she taught school in a little wooden schoolhouse. The little town of New Liskeard lay in a huge wilderness area, only several years before this time had a certain group of people called pioneers com to settle in this new land. They built sawmills and cut down trees to clear off the land for farms. They also came later on to search for minerals because they had heard this land was rich in silver and gold.

New Liskeard was built on the shore of a large lake called Lake Temiskaming. Temiskaming is an Indian word meaning deep waters. Not only was it a deep lake, but also a very long lake, being 90 miles long from end to end. The area around New Liskeard had excellent soil for farming. George Taylor had left his home in Western Canada where he had been given a grant of land as a soldier who had gone to fight some Indians and half Indians and half whites called Metis in the NW territories years and years before. There he married a lady named Mary McGuire who was a daughter of a British soldier. He had to leave the area where he had lived and had his farm, which was near Fort Gary. A Fort which was established in the city which is now Winnipeg. So he returned to London, Ontario to live in order to educate his children. He was able to sell his farm for a good price and he was able to buy a nice home in London, Ontario and to open some businesses there. After he had been in London for quite a number of years and his children were growing up, particularly his boys, he had five boys and five girls, he had decided that he would have to find a place where his boys would have a chance to make a success in a business way. So he left his home in London, Ontario and journeyed up to the area which was later to be called New Liskeard, for he had a grant from the government in an area which was later to be called Ardour Lake. And he wanted to check it out to see if it would be good enough for farming.

After he had been there a short time, he bought a hardware store in the town of New Liskeard, and there he opened up what was called the George Taylor Hardware which was used to supply farmers and pioneers and woodsmen with the materials they needed to carry on their work. George Taylor was a very big, tall man with a black and white beard. He had big shoulders and was very handsome. His parents were born in Scotland and his ancestors had lived there for many, many years. He loved the Scottish words, and so he named the new home which he built in New Liskeard “Braeside” which means “hillside” in Scottish.

The house was very large to accommodate his family of 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. it was built of red brick with a slate tile roof and contained many bedrooms on the second and third floors. The site of his home was chosen for the rich soil in that area, which would be perfect for gardening.

In front of his home, Braeside, there was a beautiful terraced lawn. Birch trees and Manitoba Maples were planted all around the boundaries of the land. On the south side of the house was a large area for the garden. That’s where the soil was the very best, consisting of sandy loam. His soil was perfect for growing apple trees, cranberry trees, and flowers and vegetables of many kinds. It was in this garden that one would find gooseberries, red currants, black currants, white currants, raspberries, and strawberries, potatoes, and rhubarb, peas, squash, carrots, onions, beets, cabbages, tomatoes, and pumpkins, and swiss chard also grew there.

Not long after Ralph was born, his mother Claire took ill and when she returned to her parent’s home in New Liskeard, she had to go into the hospital for a stay of about 2 years. Ralph was cared for by his Grandpa and Grandma Taylor who were quite old even then.

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A Brief History of the Ranch part II (FGK 87)

I quite like the name Upside Down Teepee Creek. It’s a bit long, but I could get used to it. I do have to add that the only part of my recording that was quite difficult to hear was the part where my uncle announced he was retired – and that was due to all the snickering and comments from the peanut gallery. My uncle maybe retired, but he still is busy working and I would bet knows just about everything that goes on at the ranch.

Much of my childhood was spent on horseback winding around the cliffs at the buffalo jump, or skating and swimming in the creek below it. I remember finding arrowheads and other artifacts – no idea what happened to them, we probably left them there. One of the more powerful lessons I had in leaving things untouched was as a small child when the university came out to examine the teepee circles that were in the field next to us. I remember having been taken out to see them – and from my memory they looked similar to the photo below (which was taken from This website and is from Saskatchewan). Anyway, the university’s way of “studying” the formation was to gather up all the rocks and take them away with them. My feeling was once they removed the rocks and destroyed the formation, the rocks were just rocks and all they managed to do was permanently remove some pretty cool history.

But in those days, he really built the foundation of this ranch on work horses, draft horses, Clydesdale horses. They had Durham cattle and our beef herd expanded slowly, but not as Clydesdale horses, and of course that ran through till First World War. And a good number of those horses were broke and trained here on the ranch in the haying season and whatnot and sold to farmers for the harvest. But our best customer was the Canadian army, they went overseas and there are some sad stories about what happened to those horses.

But that’s how we arrived here, and my grandfather had 4 brothers and by the time the 20s came along they had a couple of townships of land each.

So going back to the history of why we call this Jumping Pound. If you look in the history books and the written history of the Stoney Indians you’ll find out that the Stoney Indians were for the most part, pretty much back in the mountains. And you go back to when Anthony Henday from the Hudson’s Bay Company was starting out this way, he came from Fort Edmonton in 1750. The Indians that were scouting ahead, they wouldn’t come any further south than Innisfail. And you’ll see a sign on the highway “Behold the Shining Mountains” and it’s a story about Henday. And the reason was Blackfoot to the South, and the Bloods and those folks, they got horses, and horses were like tanks in those days. The rest of them were still running around on foot. That kept things kinds of off balance here. The Stoney were on the edge of the mountains, they’d creep out once in a while and the Blackfoot would move away and then they’d run back into the mountains when they weren’t. But at any rate, that’s sort of the history, and this creek over here which is Jumping Pound Creek, in those days was called Upside Down Teepee Creek and that’s a Stoney Indian term. The Blackfoot have probably forgotten all about that. But the Stoney found an upside down teepee, which is a place where they bury a chief, a famous chief of the Blackfoot. I don’t know who he was, but that was the name of the creek until the white guys got here.

Now we’re going to go back a thousand years, and this Jumping Pound creek, if you’re ever driving up the highway and you look to the north, you’ll see those high cliffs on the creek bank? For a thousand years, five thousand years – I don’t know – these Indians on foot, long before they had horses worked their way out behind the buffalo herd and manoeuvred them, maneuvered them, maneuvered them to a point where they must have given a big whoohaa and these buffalo stampeded and went over the cliff and that’s how they got their winter meat supply. So that’s why the white people when they got here called it Jumping Pound.

And when my grandfather first arrived, that was one of the big industries of the country was digging buffalo bones out of the bottom of the creek. They must have been piled 20 feet deep because they had – there was a hill over there they called “Pile of Bones Hill”, they picked these bones out of the creek bottom there and hauled them over to this Pile of Bones Hill. and then they had great freight wagons that would come over from a little town called Midford, which was before Cochrane, which was on the railway tracks on the South side of the river. And they’d haul these bones over and they’d send them over to Europe or China for fertilizer or whatever else they used them for. But that was the first industry in the country.

My grandfather got married in 1895 and he got married in Midford in a little Anglican Church in Midford, which they later picked up and moved across the river and set it up in Cochrane, in the old Anglican Church in Cochrane, if you have ever seen it or are familiar with it that’s where it came from Midford and was my grandfather’s marriage place.

Anyway, what else can I tell you?

Tell us about the pastor who got lost in the snowstorm out here – do you know that story?

George McDougall? I do

I found that sad. they had no direction

And he was travelling with the Indians too

It was just one of those things that happened, and like I told you before, there were no trees out here. Believe it or not, there were no trees out here. These hills to the west of us, it’s hard to explain that to the government, there were no trees out here. The reason there were no trees is that there were fires, and they would start with lightening and everything else. And the Blackfoot – you know how they got their name? They wanted to burn the grass, so that in the spring the fresh grass would grow up and the buffalo would come up to the new grass rather than the old grass. And they were called Blackfoot Indians because they were always walking around on burnt ground. But those hills had no trees on them. I’m sure there were some on the creek bottoms on the north side of the hills here and there but not like there are now. Like Aspen poplars, forgive me for saying this, are primary and not just weeds in my language, they’re an encroachment and have come in in the last 150 years for sure with fire control. But anyway our ranch has been divided up, and now we’re running the home ranch unit – my family are – I’m retired and I’m very proud of my family.

What more can I tell you about my community. This hall, it was built in 1927 by the locals. And was all done by my old uncle Harry who was a character in his own right. You’ll see some of his pictures on the wall, one I saw where he was making hay. That guy playing violin in the corner is my father, they had their own little orchestra here. But it was, the whole neighbourhood came together on it, and in order to fund it they formed a company and it was called Jumping Pound Hall Ltd. And we still have ownership shares.

And I think that’s about the end of my story.

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Snow, rain, hail, and sunshine (FGK-84)

This letter from Aunt Ruth has no year on it, and was sitting without an envelope so I am not sure when she sent it. Apparently my grandparents were headed off on a trip of some sort. It’s clearly fall time, but not so dry that they can’t have a big bonfire (gosh it’s dry here now).

Sat Morning

Dear Margie

Well I guess your Mom and Dad will be on their way by this time. I do hope they are having better weather there than us. We had snow, rain and hail and sunshine yesterday – talk about variety. We sure get it, no fooling. It all ended up being a lovely evening and the scouts went up to the very top of the big hill and had a bonfire and wiener roast, it sure looked pretty from down here. I bet you could have seen it too from your windows Margie if they had been facing this way.

Gord is in the scouts now and went proudly off with all with Marshall’s scout suit on, it just fits him perfectly, he is very lucky to get it as they are quite expensive to buy new.

Your Aunt Lottie, Olive and Aileen and myself, Lloyd and Pat of course all went up to Banff to Johnson’s Canyon on Tuesday of this week. The trees are lovely up there now all in their autumn colours but it was rather a chilly day. I seem to be putting so many “sures” in the note this morning, have a one track mind I guess.

How is Janet getting along? Fine I hope, remember me to her Margie.

The school bus does not come in from the north now as well the kids go that school out there, but the Kerfoots and the Curtins still come in from Grand Valley. We have six teachers here, so there are still plenty of teachers and pupils for the size of the school. There was talk of bringing in a class or two of the Indians but it didn’t come to pass so far.

Tomorrow we start Sunday School again, last Sunday was rally day. Mr Thompson spoke very nicely, we do enjoy his sermons so much. Have you got your Sunday school papers from Central Church Margie? It will be nice for you to have them to read every week. We are going to miss Marilyn as she played the piano in Sunday School all the time. Maybe Donna Desjardins will play for us now.

We were in the drug store last night and I picked up these little toys as I thought you might have a little fun fooling the folks with the kitty’s meow, they would not know where it comes from. And the other thing reminded me of someone getting their exercises, it wouldn’t be you would it?

So bye for now Margie and when you get time and feel like it drop me a line. I do enjoy hearing from you but feel you have so many to write to that I don’t mind if you miss me.

Love Aunt Ruth

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It’s Fascinating to Hear an American Accent (FGK-83)

I have no idea how this letter ended up in mom’s letter stash. I wonder if it was a pen pal of my aunt’s? I found it interesting to hear her perspective on King George dying. I was a bit surprised to see her questioning the American eating marmalade on toast. My limited knowledge about marmalade comes from Paddington Bear, and since he was from England I assumed that would be a thing there. And it’s good to know that no matter where the live, when parents plan a road trip it ends up being forced family fun time with bored to tears teens.

40 Alwoodley Lane

Alwoodley, Leeds, Yorks

England

10.3.52

Dear Sheila

Thanks a lot for your letter. I had a leaf floating in my teacup this morning and when I banged it between the backs of my hands it came unstuck first bang proving that I’d get a letter today (don’t think I’m mad but Nancy and I do this when we remember and it generally works).

We finished exams about three weeks ago. I did fairly well, I only failed History and that was on purpose as it was my ninth subject (we are only supposed to take 8 or less subjects in the General Cert. and these prelims were to decide which subjects to we take, so I decided for myself). As these exams were the first this school year and fairly important they’ve saved us the agony of reports till now. I opened mine the minute I got on the bus (strictly forbidden). It wasn’t too bad but to my utter disgust they called me Sara (Sara’s my proper name – I’m Sally-for-short).

It was dreadful when the King died. I think I shall always remember that day. There was the Entrance Exam for the 11 year olds on so there were just the 5th and 6th forms at school. We heard the rumour at break. After break it was French; the French mistress is a very religious Catholic and is very nice. When the news came through she had us all stand to say the Lord’s Prayer and everyone cried. The rest of the day was really miserable.

Our radio closed down that day apart from news bulletins. Until after the funeral we had just mournful music and improving talks. The very day after the funeral they returned to the usual light-hearted music – I thought it was pretty bad to have solemn music but that was for respect, but to just switch back straight afterwards was dreadful.

Wednesday

Sorry for dragging this letter out so.

It’s Pa’s so-called half day today so both parents have buzzed off to some symphony concert or other. They’ve been up to School this afternoon for an At Home 8th forum (sounds daft!). First they had a little talk about courses in the Sixth Form and careers. Then they had a cup of tea and a biscuit. After that enter all the mistresses to undergo severe interrogation. (Actually they said some quite nice things about me and not at all what I expected.) When they’d finished planning our lives they dispersed. Ma and Pa came home having learning all my guilty secrets but some hope someone had connived them their daughter was a credit to them so they were quite bucked.

The weekend before last we went down to Cromer in Norfolk. We intend (or rather Ma intends) to stay there for our summer holidays. We started off at the Saliuday at midday and arrived there at 8 o’clock (evening). After supper we went to bed. We got up at about 9 o’clock and had breakfast. There were several American soldiers there. It’s fascinating to hear an American accent. I suppose it’s as fascinating for you to hear an English accent but I can’t believe we have an accent. One of the soldiers was eating marmalade on toast with his bacon and eggs. Is this usual?

After breakfast Nance and I went onto the beach and then went to buy a paper. We left at about half-past-ten and took the coast road (along the shores of The Wash) back to King’s Lynn. We were looking for a suitable place for holidays. On the way we came through Sandringham – the big country estate where the king died. We didn’t have time to go to see the house or even go to Sandringham village. The road as it went through the estate was unfenced and on either side there was gorgeous woodland simply alive with pheasants and other game.

We got into Leeds at about a quarter to seven and after a bit of a mixup I met Meg and we went to hear Eileen Joyce at the Town hall. It was a marvellous concert but I got awfully stiff. Afterwards we managed to get her autograph. When we were walking down the Headrow to the Bus Station and awful little man tried to pick us up. It was rather pathetic but gosh we both got scared.

Sunday 16

Three weeks today I shall be starting out for Paris. I can hardly believe it. There’s a party of us going from school. Did I tell you about it? If everything turns out all right I shall be going to France again this year but then I shall stay near Lille.

This weekend is our weekend off again. Today we went up to Pateley Bridge. All we did when we got there was sit in the car and watch some stupid boys playing football or read. Then we had tea and came home. Really our trips are getting more and more pointless.

I haven’t been hunting for ages – or at least three weeks. The other two, on the spur of the moment, took a day off college last Tuesday and buzzed off to the meet at Almholem (where our precious Massarellas(?) have a couple of farms). They came back full of it. Apparently that was last meet as there’s been none activated since.

On Friday we went to see “Where No Vultures Fly”. It’s terribly good, have you seen it? It’s about a man who tries to set up a National Park in Africa. It’s filled in colour and there are lots of pictures of animals and things. Anthony Steel plays the part of the man, Bob Payton, and oh boy! Is he smashing!

Has Marshall got his skunk? I couldn’t see Ma letting us have a skunk around.

I’ve been looking for that Picture Post. We don’t get it at home, but they get it at school. Of course there’s not one December issue there. It’s funny to think you’ve seen Elizabeth and Philip once and you live in Canada and I who live in England have only seen them once too I can’t remember her much except that she’s small and has a lovely complexion. I can’t imagine Margaret being only about five-feet.

Well I must close. Write soon

Love Sally

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happiness

Gee I’m mad! I’m boiling! (FGK 82)

Auntie Sheila’s letters are some of my favourite – she is so open and honest in them. I really appreciate how vulnerable and real she is when she writes. Because of that I’ve chosen not to post some of them, they are clearly private conversations happening between sisters but it has given me a lot of insight into who she was and what a really loving and remarkable lady she was.

Based on this letter I’m also understanding how it is that she received that award that Grandma spoke of in her autobiography. You can tell she takes her schooling seriously, it seems all she does is study – well and perhaps buy shoes. I can relate to the shoe purchases much more than the studying although I’ve spent the last couple of years studying more than I ever have before.

Nurse’s Residence

CGH Calgary

21 Aug 1956

Dear Marg

Well I bet you thought I’d forgotten you, hey! I’ve been meaning to get up every night this week but never quite made it.

Gee I’m mad!! I’m boiling!! We have to stay in here and study all day from 8am to 3:30pm! On a beautiful day like this! We’re supposed to be supervised but nobody is supervising us and everybody’s talking like mad. It’s just a waste of time.

Oh by the way I hear you went on a big date last night or rather you were supposed to go. Was the show – good?

Marg and I went to see the “High and Mighty” last night, sure was good. There was a big banquet and dance at Penley’s thurs night that all the kids went to except me. Maurice “had to study” so-o-o Kathy said I could go with a friend of one of her boyfriends but I didn’t like her boyfriend so-o-o. I stayed home and studied. Guess it was pretty good. I phoned home Wednesday. Well they didn’t have any news so I stayed in and studied some more, about a quarter to ten Maurice phoned and we went out until ten thirty. He was up to the library at tech all night.

Went over to the Macmillan’s for supper on Tuesday night. Uncle Frank and Aunt Georgie picked me up half way there- I was walking. Apparently ______ and Ken are staying in town for a few days. Marilyn and I drove all over town looking for _____ for canning. She’s buying them second hand. I guess she’s getting married at the end of October this time. Honestly that girl. She’s got more ______(I really wish I could make out this word lol).

Went to a baseball game between the Holy and us on Monday. We lost 18-11 but later we won two games so now we’ve got the cup.

Well I must start studying. I think I’ll get a pair of shoes before I go home. Am going on the bus.

See ya next week maybe

Love

Sheila

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