Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Past is Not such a Foreign Country

Details of a blurry picture, but it is likely 1909 when Flo got her glasses and Marg got her big hat from Eugenie Hudon's, left.

I'm sorry to have to post such a Monty Pythoneque picture of Marg, who was a very good looking woman and proud of it. (I'm sure my great grandchildren willl do something as scandalous with my image, likely creating a hologram of me in some middle-aged woman gone wild pose.) But this picture explains why Marg was a bit put off by the size of the hat that she was coerced into buying by savvy shopkeeper Hudon.

But that is for later on in my story Flo in the City based on the experiences of Flora Nicholson in the 1908-1913, a pivotal era in history all taken from my website.

I'm about to start on the second chapter of the first part, that I have titled A Modern Conundrum.

And I've decided to re-read all the Nicholson letters prior to 1908 for backstory and background.

And I will take note of all the interesting turns of phrase.

This morning I read a few letters, ranging from 1890s to 1900.

Now, as I said, I have over 1,000 Nicholson letters, 300 or so of which are posted on Tighsolas, recounting the Nicholson Family Saga from 1908-1913. The story arc is outlined here at My novel will tell all this from Flora, the youngest's, point of view.

The Nicholson letters all tend to be from extended family of some sort, mostly of Isle of Lewis Scots origin.

Many correspondents were quasi-literate.

The best writers of the lot are the Ministers of the Cloth, who are posted all over Canada and the US. I suspect that if a young man had a gift of writing he could go into the Ministry. It also helped if he had the gift of oratory.

One letter I read today talked about a new Minister in a church in NY State who was so good, the correspondent 'did not get sleepy'. Style was as important as substance when it came to sermons. And like actors, Ministers had to audition for parts -that is posts.

And I'm not only re-reading these letters to steal the good parts, I am re-reading them to get a feel for the time and how people thought.

For instance, I have some fun letters from Montreal in 1902 and 1904, which talk about what it is like for single women to live in that city. One letter is written on December 22, just before Christmas, and this writer says she is busy doing commissions for people back home (in Richmond) and that the shops are very busy.

She describes her life, in general, as monotonous otherwise. She works in an office, gets home at six every day, eats a crappy hash made by the rooming house matron, and then dresses for an evening out that is predictable and boring.

Another letter I have from 1896 discusses temptations for young women in the city, if they are not properly looked after.

So, in 1909, when Marion goes to live in the city, Margaret is likely conflicted, happy her daughter has a good paying job and worried about her life there.

Important to know.

Of course, by 1908 a great deal had changed in the city and by 1913 even more. This was an era of gallopping advances in technology.

One of the Tighsolas themes is how much Marion disliked her rooming houses. But she also had a lot more fun than women in 1904. There was more to do, Dominion Park, a theme park opened in 1906. And Nickelodeons spread out far and wide in that era. Fun Fun Fun.

So, I'm off to read more letters from the past.

Now, to keep track off all the verbal treasures contained within, do I go the Post-Its and paper clip route, keeping it all in a journal or do I take advantage of all these new organizer gadgets on this laptop? My son showed me the automatic footnote system in the word processor. (Gee, I lost half my marks at university for poor footnoting. Doesn't seem fair.

But I'm having enough trouble working this new puter as it is, I've jumped two operating systems with Ubuntu in between.

And the desktop won't go off 'stretch' so Colin Firth looks like a fat man!