Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Devil is in the Details

Above: Sailing in 1910 era, likely in Eastern Townships. There's a chance this is in Hudson area, where Marion went visiting and boating in 1911.

Well, since detail is everything, I pulled out this CD of the 1906 Sears catalogue I bought a while back to get a feel for how people lived in those days. Lots of stuff in that catalogue, mostly for middle class consumption. It's slow to download, so I'm actually going to print out the entire thing, all 430 pages, and flip through it.

I have pretty well plotted out my next bit. It'll provide background, or back story. 1908 was a crisis year for the Nicholsons. Well, it all started in 1907, when a rich spinster aunt rewrote her will, in January, disinheriting them.

This woman, Marion McLean, died in March. As Norman took care of her finances, she was illiterate, I know she left a lot of money for those days, $2,500 in cash, stocks and equities and a house. I'm guessing around 6,000 or more.

In two different letters, relatives advise the Nicholsons to sue. (Marion McLean spoke only Gaelic so some suggest she was tricked into changing her will.) Upon hearing this information, son Herb writes, typically, that his hopes and dreams are dashed.

Marion is working at Sherbrooke Academy but will soon take a higher paying job in Montreal and start helping out her family financially. Marion is made of sterner stuff than Herb.

Edith, bites the bullet, for she had hoped to go to Boston, to a Symons Business College to take a secretarial course, for stenographers make a small fortune in salary, and she goes to work in tiny Radnor Falls, near Three Rivers, Quebec as a low-paid country teacher.

Ao Flo, our heroine, is left to flounder a bit. No protective older sisters or father home to guide her through hard times.

In my story, she escapes a bit into fantasy. She dreams she becomes a great public speaker, a suffragette.

So in June of 1907, with 33 dollars in his bank account and a massive mortgage on his only asset, Tighsolas, "house of light" in Gaelic, Norman petitions his friend, M.P. E.W. Tobin for a job on the railroad as a timber inspector.

A letter from that place showed that Tobin made numerous personal calls at the railway office, but there were no jobs open. But in the spring of the next year, after the collapse of the Quebec Bridge, Norman is offered a job as inspector.

As I open the next scene, Margaret is going to see daughter Edith at Radnor Falls. She will meet up with Norman there and will convince Edith to quit her job. (I will find a reason. Maybe they are afraid for her, of a certain persistent suitor who isn't in her league, so to speak.)

Edith will go home to Richmond, only to get offered a job in Montreal for September 1908. So she will join her sister Marion in the big city. They will live and work in the same general area, except Edith will be in a toney four storey greystone on Sherbrooke, right at the crossroads of East and West (French and English) at St. Laurent and Marion in Little Burgundy, a nearby slum.