Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter 9: Stealing a Look

Edith and Herb. The elegant home in the background must be the Montgomery's, who were doing extensive renovations in 1911, while living in the house (both the letters and 1911 Census confirm). Dr. Skinner was a dentist. They also spent a lot of time in their new auto, with Edith. Margaret and Edith often wrote: "They are very kind to us."

Qu'appelle Sask.

July 10, 1911

Dear Father,

Sorry I have not been able to write you before.

I have tried ever day for the last three weeks but for 15 days I was managing the branch and was short a man all the time.

I had to work Saturday afternoon and Sunday as well as work on Coronation Day and Dominion Day.

The manager only got back from his holidays two or three days before the end of the month. It was the end of our half year and with so many balances and reports to send away, I only finished the last of them Thursday.

I had a visit from William Neilson about two weeks ago. He is taking a fine trip and said he is enjoying himself fine and was sorry you were not with him.

He had his whiskers cut off and when he spoke to me at first I did not know him.

Flynn who worked with you on the NTR called for a few minutes at the office to see me.

He is traveling for some wire fence company from the States.

Do not think you will have any trouble with the cement. It will surely be more pleasant where you are now than it was around la Tuque.

I do not like this place and hope they will not keep me here much longer.

I have just been stealing a look through the Manager's correspondence and in reply to a letter from head office asking if he had found things in order upon his return after spending his holidays, he replied that he had found everything in perfect order.

Now I have not any more news so will have to close. I was at church with the Masons a week ago today.

Will remember what you said about staying where I am.

Do not want you to ever think that you should not advise me what to do. Any time that you want me to do anything or suggest anything just tell me without making any bones about it.

Now you may have some trouble getting any sense of this letter as this is a new typewriter for me and I have to go so slow that before I finish a sentence I have forgotten how I started it.

Hope this will find you well as it leaves me. I am writing Mother today and hope it will find them all very well.

Your son,

On the first stint on the railway, 1907-1910, Norman Nicholson was a timber inspector. He found it very rough at 'end of steel' in LaTuque. Here he is working as a concrete inspector. He keep notebooks with a record of the amount of cement that was poured to make such and such a culvert.

It's the Wheat Boom Era, with 'a town a day' being built out in the Canadian West, if you believe an article from a 1910 Technical World Magazine. If fact the Canadian Immigration people published a very flashy Western Canada Magazine to promote life in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and to a lesser extent, British Columbia. Rural Britishers, Americans (but not Black Americans) and Northern Europeans were invited to apply, but not those swarthy southern European types.

For many years the Nicholsons had been contemplating a move out West, like so many of their friends and relatives. (In the trunk I found a brochure from 1906 promoting Saskatchewan.) This kind of thinking continued into the war years. But the West was no place for a failed businessman in middle age and Norman's friend and relations told him so bluntly.

No one offered to give him safe haven.