Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter 8: Heatwaves and Buggy Dreams

Bills bills bills. The Nicholsons left behind household accounts from 1883 to 1921 and well as a number of invoices from the turn of the last century and the First World War.

July 9 1911

Dear Norman,

Your letter dated July 2nd with cheque for $20.00 received. I will attend to the bills. Thanks for the same.

I just got a bag of flour (2.90) and I am owing my grocery bill at Mc Rae's.

I have been having Stanley Hill (teenage nephew)cutting the lawn. He does it very well. I pay him 50 cts a week. I notice the weeds in the gravel are showing up. The garden looks very good everything doing well.

Peas are ready to use, are having some for dinner today. I put the paris green on the potatoes twice.

Flora and I. Mrs. Montgomery came over to tell me that the bugs were eating up my potatoes.

I was waiting to get someone to do it for me, as that was one thing I never attempted and thought I could not do it.

But when she interfered thought we would try if. (Mrs. M was possible worried her potatoes would become infested.)

So one dark night, Flora got the lantern and we went out when the bugs were asleep and gave them their dose. We dressed ourselves in the shed. You ought to have seen us. When we got through left our clothes there. Went to bed and dreamed all night that the bugs were crawling over us.

Uncle Dan was up yesterday (brother?). He's only been up once before since you left. He has so much to do with his own garden he thought everything was looking well.

He rides around with Clayton in the auto. But for over a week the auto is being painted. They are getting it fixed up to go down to Lindonville to his Aunt's Golden wedding this month.

Grandma is up at Bella's (sister, wife of Clayton, mother of Stanley)for a few days.

We have had dreadful hot weather. Just fancy, one night we slept out on the veranda. Took our mattresses down. The Skinners were sleeping in theirs so that we were not afraid and we had Flossie (Dalmation)with us but yesterday afternoon it rained so last night was cool.

We all had a good sleep and today is fine. We feel like working. I hope you did not have this extreme heat. We had quite a cold wave about the 24th but no frost.

I hear the presentation to Sutherland is Saturday. Smoking concert in the town office. Mrs. Beiber is improving but not able to be dressed yet. Majory Sutherland keeps about the same.

Mr. Montgomery seems to be getting on well with the house, working at the wood part now. The barn is finished. Had one coat of paint. Will be light, as ours.

The wood (for cooking) seems to be holding out well. I have not heard about Flora's exams yet.

Aunt Christie Watters has gone down to Boston a week ago. They did not come to tell us when she was going and we have seen not May since she came home.

I mailed you papers Gilbert (Norman's brother in Alberta) sent you. I wonder why he sent them? Is it that you might see Borden's speech? (Head of Federal Conservatives.)

I have not heard from Herb since the one I mailed you. Hope he will write soon. I was in hopes he had written you. Will write you soon again. Trusting you will keep well. We are all very well.

Miss Villard stayed from Monday until Friday.

Yours with much love

I think you better save the little personal. They are apt to get into other people's hands. M

...The postscript to this letter says it all: Be careful what you write, you never know who will read the letter. This is something to remember as you read the Nicholson letters. They were edited as they poured out of the pen. At the same time, these letters are much like phone calls (they were substitutes for phone calls as Long Distance was far too costly to use, despite A T and T's efforts in their advertising to get era mothers to use the phone to keep in contact with wayward children.

$2.90 for a barrel of flour. Nicholson 'store accounts' reveal that figure to be a bargain. The usual cost of wheat flour was around $4.50 to 5.00 a barrel and stayed stable throughout the Wheat Boom Era. However, Margaret writes bag, so perhaps it was half a barrel.

There was a heatwave in Montreal in the summer of 1911. There was a heatwave in the UK as well, which precipitated a mass exodus (of rich and poor) out of London as well as a number of labour strikes. According to the Gazette, for those Montrealers who want to escape the heat, the Princess Theatre was hosting a travel show, "ideal location as the theatre is always cool" with 'scenes' of the South Pole with penguins and ice floes and polar bears(sic).

J.C Sutherland was the town druggest and also a former Secretary of St. Francis College at the turn of the century, when it had been affiliated with McGill University. In 1911 he was appointed Superintendant of Protestant Schools, a position second only to the Minister of Education.

The Nicholson's home town was a seat of Protestant education in Quebec; the first protestant school in Quebec was established in Richmond in the 1700's.

Clayton Hill, Margaret's brother in law, is in the tombstone business. He is,not surprisingly, very well off, as that business in 1912 didn't want for customers. There were many deaths in Richmond that year and it was remarked upon in the letters. Hill also votes Conservative, which irks the Nicholsons no end. So does brother Gilbert out in Alberta, evidently.