Monday, October 4, 2010

And You Think You Have Problems Now?

Eaton's coats. 1913 catalogue. In the Nicholson girls' price range..

Hmm. I decided to post a letter from the collection and annotate it. Look at the date. November 11, 1912. Armistice Day before there was a need for such a day. As I've explained in earlier installments, in 1912-13 Flora and Marion and cousin Marion Watters did a very bold thing: they moved into their own flat (with one other teacher, the daughter of an MNA.) It was hard to find a landlord who would rent to a group of girls, however respectable the would be tenants, however pristine their references, because of that 'keeping a bawdy house' business, an issue that is more than ever in the news today. Still controversial. But Marion Nicolson was one determined woman.

2401 Hutchison

November 11, 1912

Dear Norman,

You see by the heading that I am still in the city. Your letter did not reach me until Friday pm, as Edith sent it--so I felt a little worried as I always got them Thursday. I am so sorry about your coat. I gave the right add (address)to Lann McMorine. You better make some enquiries there about it. Might be at Cochran.(Margaret is worried for her husband out on the railroad, as usual. He moved from Cochrane to Hearst in Northern Ontario.) Edith said she told them it had not reached you. I am sure you will feel the cold without it and your flannels too. Marion and Flora won't hear to me going home and E writes for me to stay as she is getting on all right - has one of the Pepplers (cousins living across the street) when she stays in the house. I will not stay more than another week. (It was impossible in those days for a group of working girls to run a home. You needed someone to cook at least and to wash up.) I do wish Edith was here and that we could be together for the winter as they ought to have someone here. Edith writes that Mr. Dyson said he bought thirty cords of wood and would supply our winter's wood and would bring a cord any time and to let him know so don't worry any more about wood. (Norman worried about his family keeping warm in Richmond.)She also sent me notice that taxes were due. (Hmm. Yesterday, I was in Richmond and saw that the car dealership was Dyson-Armstrong. A Peppler girl would marry an Armstrong.)

Now I am very sorry that Herb seems to be so careless, debt seems to be no worry to him. (Son Herbert was causing the family all kinds of problems in 1912. He was out West.) I hope you have just let him know how hard it is for you to be away from your family and that he might try and do better. He has not written me for several weeks . I really cannot understand how he can do it. Well, the weeks are going by and Xmas will soon be here I don't know what the girls can do with the flat; or if they will be able to get someone to keep fires if they want to go home. They will have two weeks holidays. They were talking it over but said they would decide when you came. The weather has been quite nice since I came in here. I have not bought a coat. Takes more than I had. Marion got a long navy blue one that will be very comfortable this winter. Paid 16.50 and Flora got a brown the same price. They really needed them. (The pics above are from the Eaton's catalogue for the next year. The first pages of the fall/winter catalogue feature Persian lamb coats, costing over 300. dollars! Marion makes a good salary of 600 a year.)I have not gone anywhere not been up to Cleveland's yet. I have been having trouble with my teeth and as Marion was having work done at Cleveland's Friday, I had him look at mine. (Dr. Cleveland is a Montreal dentist and likely related to the Nicholsons by marriage. The Clevelands are a founding family in Shipton County Quebec. Yesterday, I noticed a Cleveland is still a notary in Richmond, as is a Rowatt. Herb was in debt to to a notary named Rowatt back in 1910.) He said he would do an hours work for me Monday so I am to go at three o'clock, Too bad yours are giving you trouble. I think it is caused from cold, my front teeth at least one of them felt loose, but he said he did not think it was but found cavities in others. M. had five filled. Did I tell you that the Adams are moving in across where Dr. Astna was. This week E said the Haggarts were having a sale on the 16. Aunt Han has rented her house to a GTR man.

Marion said she was going to write you and tell you about Mr. Hugh Blair. (My husband's grandfather.)He seems very nice. Went home Saturday to Three Rivers. (The CBC had a documentary about The Blairs of Quebec, anglos in the city. Hugh's mom was French Canadian. His grandmother was Cree.)There are a good many things that he can do such as fixing window blinds, but Marion won't let me ask him much. (Marion was fiercely independent, but she would be married to Blair in twelve month's time.)We are trying to put the double windows on here. I want to see them on before I go, although so far they are not needed. I don't think there is any danger of them getting behind: the four girls pay 25 dollars each. (That's per month.)They would rather do it than board. They say it amounted to about that at Mrs. Ellis's. (Where the girls sometimes boarded. Marion hated the way Mrs. Ellis "lorded it over her." Again, its all abour preserving young women's virtue.)Now don't worry about Herb. We cannot help it now. If the work stops there you must just take a trip out west. See why he does not at least keep himself. He must know that Marion paid Aunt Han's note. (Marion helped her family out financially in a big way.)He never wrote her or mentioned it to me. (Herb took no responsiblity for his actions.) Write when you get this and add to Richmond. They say I will be here two weeks more but I don't like to leave Edith alone. (Edith has quit her Montreal teaching job in the spring. She would be in Montreal in May and attend the Canadian Council of Women's Suffrage Night and hear Mrs. Snowdon, of England, speak. ) She said she would go to Kingsbury for a visit but she thought it was too cold and just stayed at home.

Your loving Wife

Flora is always saying she is going to write but there is so much going on they don't have time and when I write often they think I tell all. M>