Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Small Picture, Big Picture,

This is an artifact I have on hand that shows the connection between mundane family affairs and historical events. This train ticket was used in early April, 1912. Norman used it to go home to Richmond for brother in law's funeral. It is signed by a Mr. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk. Mr. Hays, an American, was the most prominent Montrealer to go down with the Titanic days later. Edith attends his funeral at the American Presbyterian Church.

As I edit my first rough draft of the first year, 1908, of Flo in the City, based on the letters of, I thought I would enter here a synopsis of the entire book. This is the outline for the story, which comes from real life.

Norm goes away to work on the railway in La Tuque Quebec; Edith gets a job in tiny Radnor Forges, teaching 10 kids; Marion gets a job teaching in the Montreal in impoverished St. Henri teaching 50 kids; Edith returns to the city and gets a job at a private school, French Methodist, in elegant Westmount; Marion and Edith shop for hats at Ogilvy. Herb is caught stealing at the bank where he works; Edith loses her fiance in a fire; Norman goes awol from work and is fired; Norman pays Herb's way out West, staking him to -yikes- 500 dollars, half a year's salary, were he working; Norman asks local MP Tobin to get his job with the railway back; Tobin obliges. Norman goes to Ontario. Herb drifts from job to job out West, eventually working for Massey Harris in collection. Flora is accepted at Macdonald College, 'new teachers with new methods'; the family 'sews her up' for school; Flora boards in beautiful Ste Anne de Bellevue, attends classes, masquerades and gets 'fat' on soda and cake. Marion gets a raise and reaches for the top. Edith has a falling out with the Methodist principal at her school perhaps over Church Union debate. Margaret worries about getting enough wood to warm the house and to cook with; she attends political rallies and is all for free trade. Laurier loses the free trade election, the family is devastated. (Will Norman lose his job again?) Margaret worries about the bugs eating her potatoes; she tends a relative with typhoid, another with consumption; she feuds with her rich brother-in-law. Her brother dies, her mom dies (so many people dying). After the funerals, she takes a few trips around the Eastern Townships, sometimes by automobile, and joins the Order of the Eastern Star. "Nothing frivolous about it," she writes. Marion is introduced to a nice man, Mr. Blair. Edith and Marion visit a rich doctor relative, Henry Watters, in Boston in the summer. He must be doing well for he has a Stanley Steamer ! Henry is everything Herb isn't, successful and devoted to kin.Mr. Blair blows off his old girlfriend "We were never engaged and as for me there was no understanding either" and takes Marion to see Harry Lauder, the Scottish comedian.. Norman is transferred from Cochrane to Hearst and is impressed by the Indian Squaws he sees near his camp, how they can paddle a canoe and wield an axe with a baby on their back. The Titanic sinks. Herb's debts build, he ignores all responsibility for them. The family almost loses the house. Marion saves the day with the extra money from her raise. (She doesn't need it, she writes, ironically, because she isn't going to get married 'and that's what girls save for, isn't it, a trousseau?')Marion is promised the 7th grade to teach and is sickened when a mere boy out of school is promoted over her and given a much higher salary. Laurier visits the Roundhouse at Cochrane to give a speech, Norm remarks upon it in his diary. Flora gets a class in school in the city (Griffintown) "not a good area of town" says Margaret, and is paid a much lower salary than the male graduate of Macdonald. Edith quits her Academy and goes to live in Richmond with her mom. She attends a local wedding and describes the fashions there. Marion looks - and looks and looks - for an apartment of her own to share with friends, for she hates the way the landlady in her rooming house lords it over her. She lands one on Hutchison with the daughter of an MNA (promising the landlady that her mother is coming to live with her) but she won't let her obliging beau, Mr. Blair, or "Romeo" help her stoke the furnace. Marion loses the apartment (or choooses to give it up as it is impossible for the four tenants (all teachers) to work AND keep the home running well; she gets engaged to Mr. Blair, despite the fact his parents won't have any part of it. She writes her dad asking if he can pay for a wedding or dowry. Her dad doesn't know what to say, he is dead broke. For the first and only time, he questions son Herb's integrity in a letter. "I hope he hasn't got any bad habits." BURN THIS LETTER he writes at the end. Marion and Hugh Blair marry in October, 1913. Hugh's well off parents do not attend the wedding. Norman spends 30.00 on wedding clothes. 6.65 on a cake