Monday, March 21, 2011

Shell Shock 1921

Pretty unknown girl found in among Nicholson pictures. Might be Sophia Nicholson, but more likely May Watters or perhaps a Peppler.

I'm watching Jules et Jim on Turner Classic Movies and I'm up the the war part. I have always considered this movie one of my favorites, but I saw it only in art cinemas in my twenties.

It seldom comes on TV. And here it is.

It's a bit ironic that I'm watching this movie that begins in the Tigholas era, 1912, and has the Jeanne Moreau in the fashions of the day.

I've just read a letter from 1923, from Sophie Nicholson Bell, Margaret's niece (well, Norman's niece as she is the daughter of his brother, Gilbert.)

In 1911, she is off to Edmonton to join her father and drops in to see Margaret and Margaret is miffed as she doesn't even 'take off her hat.' Margaret suggests she is a snob of sorts.

Anyway, in this letter, Sophie is answering for her father, who no longer writes letters. (Not a surprise, his earlier letters are almost illegible.)

Flora has written him. Norman died the year before.

"Dear Flora,

Your letter came to father at Christmas, and he was very pleased to get it as Uncle Norman always wrote at this time of year.

I am penning you a few lines tonight. I have just put the girls to bed and the baby doesn't get fed until 11.00 so I have a whole hour at last.

I have a maid, but she used to make ammunition in England and should be somewhere doing that now instead of posing as a domestic.

It has been almost a year since the unexpected wire: we would be glad to hear just what happened and what the operation was for.

All we heard is the paper report which was mostly about the funeral. It was very real. I could see it all: going up over the hill to the old cemetery and I felt very badly as it recalled the others that rest there. (St. Andrew's in Melbourne.)

(Norman's death certificate says Pulmonary embolism and cardiac failure.)

Father is getting quite old in many ways. He does not try to do anything but a little work in the garden and take care of his hens. He is troubled with indigestion and stays indoors too much.

It's much nicer for Aunt Margaret to be with you all in Montreal. How is Marion and the children? Some one said she has four and a boy among them. Well, I guess I'll just put an ad in the paper for someone to leave one at my doorstep as it's no use depending on the stork.

Kileen? says she won't have a boy in the house, they screech and fight and you just can't train them.

John is not well. Sick most of the time since coming out of the army. He has a nervous trouble, also a poisoned system so he is in soldier's hospital.
The Drs. don't seem to be able to do much for him. But now a new treatment has come out of California and seems to be helping some of the cases....

Hmm. An interesting lady, this Sophia. The only Internet mention of her is on a Wikipedia page about the Edmonton 1927 civic elections where she is elected as a school trustee, so also a politician like Marion. She seems to have Marion's sense of humour, too.
Funny, the Nicholsons were so close to the Watters, the cousins related to one of Norman's sisters, but his brother Gilbert's kids were almost strangers to them. Gilbert inherited the family farm, which meant he was the one who didn't get any schooling. His letters suggested as much.

I have her wedding invitation somewhere. I know she married a Bell. Well, that's obvious, but is JOHN her husband? Is he the one with shell shock? Not likely as she is still getting pregnant. She mentions no husband, does she? Gordon is a brother. John may be another.

Shell shock! I recently wrote about Chester Coy's madness and I have read other letters from the 1920's discussing it. (One of these letters is from 1921 from a Reid in Carlisle England; the Reids are also relations of the Nicholsons and the Clevelands and Coys, but I don't quite understand the connection. (My mother in law used to mentioned a Helen Reid who was related in some way to the skier Ken Reid.) I feel odd reading this particular letter, as Carlisle was where my father was lodged as a child when he was sent away from Malaya to school in England. An aunt lived there. This was from 1927 to the thirties, so maybe they passed in the streets)

Perhaps Chester Coy left his sanity at the Front. I hadn't thought of that. And I just posted a bit about Herbert Tucker, Flora's boyfriend. She never married him, but seemed to go out with him for many years... so maybe he too was ruined by the war. His letters show that he feels terrible that he survived and his brother, Percy, didn't.

WWI destroyed many men, by death, by disfigurement and by insanity.

I just saw Colin Firth's A Month in the Country, posed on YouTube. It's about that very thing.