Monday, January 18, 2010

SHAME SHAME SHAME 24th installment


1910 Fashions from the Pictorial Review.

When Flora returned to Richmond, in mid August, Mother seemed calmer. Some kind of weight, the weight of worry, most likely, had been lifted from her strong, stoical shoulders. Flora assumed that having seen Norman’s railway digs at end of line near La Tuque, she now was convinced her husband was safe, or at least safe enough.

She spoke of her adventures on the railroad at length: I walked with Father from end of steel to the Camp, three miles. Very hilly and hot. I had dinner on the line, tomato soup, roast lamb and roast pork with potatoes and for dessert cake with preserves. So Father is getting his food all right. I stayed at the camp and Father walked five miles further down the line.

Edith, too, seemed to walk with less weary a step. She had had some weight lifted off herself, lately, the weight of guilt. She had received a letter from a fellow teacher at Radnor, Dede Miller, saying the school had closed down for lack of pupils.”The eldest boy Stuart, is going to Grande Ligne and the little boys from Douglasburg are leaving in September so that leaves only the little girl of 10, Eleanor. But I have enjoyed my stay and learned so much French that I have been offered a tutoring position in Montreal, in a family of a functionaire at City Hall. They are the Crepeaus and they have a son at school and a daughter, Alice, who is ten but speaks no English. They are related in some way to Senator Rodolphe Forget, so my parents are agreeable. Ps. The Marceau family are leaving for Ste. Agathe next week. Three of them are threatened with the tuberculosis. Is it true that Charlie went to parties last winter?

Edith had read it out to Marion and Flora then said, “So I need not feel so bad. I would not have had a job anyway this September. My French has greatly improved as well, so it was not a waste of time.”

Today, Edith was out of the house, visiting the Watters' in Melbourne. Marion was standing on a kitchen chair having the hem of the skirt of blue serge suit shortened, just a bit to the ankle, by Margaret, who had suggested in her definitive way, that Marion ought to have one new suit made and keep the blue for the spring.

The subtext was clear to all: Marion might have to lend the family some money from her giddy new salary of 600 a year. But Margaret articulated another excuse. She said, “You have not found a place yet, so you do not know how much your room and board will cost. And if you refuse to live at the Y, you may have to take your meals out, which I really do not want.”

I wouldn't worry. There are tea rooms exclusively for women in town. At least I know of one on Notre Dame.

Marion didn’t like the Y. She had boarded there in 1905 and despised the rules. Besides, some people looked down upon the YWCA on Dorchester, beside the Windsor Hotel, thinking it too grand as establishment for itinerant types. “And I want to make Flora a new pinafore for school, ”Margaret had added. As per usual she had her work cut out for her, for it was coming on September and the start of school and it didn't matter whether her daughters were students or teachers, they still needed to look smart.

“Flora, you are so spoiled, “ teased Marion. And after that new skirt for the trip to Boston where you one-upped me by visiting Norumbega Park before I could get to Dominion Park in the fall.

Flora had bragged to Marion about all her Massachusetts excursions, by boat to Norumbega Park, by the brand new subway to the theatre to see the Walls of Jericho, and by trolley car to Filene's department store where she rode the moving stair and almost caught the hem of her long skirt in its hungry silvery teeth. With her mother listening she decided she had to qualify her earlier remarks. “But Norumbega isn’t so much the modern thrill park, as it is a cross between Lafontaine Park and Dominion. It has a zoo, and an outdoor theatre and a carrousel, but no Fun House."

Then Marion stirred up the pot again by saying: "And did you tell Mother about the boy and girl in the canoe? Flora saw a couple getting ticketed by the police at Norumbega after a tour on the river. They'd been making a spectacle of themselves. Shame on them. " Margaret looked warily at Flora but said nothing, as she had some pins pressed between her lips. “That’s not all, Mother, “Marion continued, “Flora went to the beach at Nantucket with some nurses from the hospital and drank sodas at... Where did you say?”

Congdon’s Pharmacy, Flora replied, softly.

Tell Mummy about all the flavours they had, Flora.

But Flora was still thinking of the young lovers in the boat. They hadn't seemed at all ashamed. The man had removed his straw boater and bowed in a broad sweeping gesture as the policeman walked away. His girl, all in pink with sparkling sprays of butter-coloured organza on her small, angular shoulders, only smiled up at her handsome beau and then she bent over a bit and began, of all things, to shake those little shoulders and to laugh out loud luxuriously. She had hardly seemed older than Flora.