Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Cameras, Greek Philosophy and Me

Yesterday I posted a bit on the capricious nature of fashion from the 1910 Everywoman's Encyclopaedia and illustrated it with a 1908 cover of the Delineator featuring a Grecian Style dress.

Today, I'm writing a following bit about how fashion can serve a woman and illustrating it with a 1906 cover from the Delineator that shows another sort of Grecian style dress but has as its catchphrase When a Woman is at Her Best. Very apt as that what the selection is about...making the best of your looks.


But first, a rather long digression:  Here's the new camera I got a Christmas, a Canon Sure Shot, I think it is called. I took its picture with my old Cannon, purchased (for a lot more money) in November 2006.

I know it should be the other way around: I should be taking a picture of the OLD Camera with the NEW camera, but I don't quite know how to use the new camera.

 I don't know where the memory chip is stored. And besides, my husband says this new improved Canon camera works wirelessly (or will work wirelessly as soon as he can figure out how to put it up on our network) so I don't need to keep opening the slot in the camera where the memory chip is to post a picture each day on my blog, which is good because I broke the cover on the slot on the old camera. It doesn't close properly and often slides open as you are taking a picture, causing the camera to shut down. (So it goes.)

I really do have to read the instructions on the New Canon Camera before I start using it. I bought the old Camera before a trip to Europe and never really figured out how to use it on that sojourn. That's why I have no nice videos of my aunt in England, which is very sad.

I've only started using the old camera to make videos a few months ago, which is even sadder, and soon after, I realized I needed a brand new camera because the biggest chip it holds is 2 GIG. (Is that the term?)

Now, back to the fashion business.  As I wrote at the beginning, in the post before this one, I uploaded a cover of a 1908 Delineator Magazine with a cover showing a Grecian Style Dress.

Grecian Style is no frivolous style. It's a very loaded style. I know, I've been watching I Claudius on YouTube, and listening to various lectures on Roman Culture on In Our Time on the BBC Radio Four and also downloading Livy, Pliny and Artistotle's Poetics off Gutenberg and putting these books on my Kindle.



I've had the Kindle for three years but only discovered the other day that you could download PDF's and Kindle files onto it. (The fact that Gutenberg had Kindle files should have been a dead giveaway.)

So, that being the case, last night I decided to download my work in progress School marms and Suffragettes onto my Kindle to read it more easily... as well as to LISTEN to it but that option doesn't work on a PDF, so I went to the ebook on my Kindle USING YOUR KINDLE, the one that tells you how to use your Kindle (I did this for the first time) and I learned that I can send a Word document to Amazon.com FOR FREE and they will convert my novel-in-progress to Kindle format.

Gee WHIZ.

So I did just that and I listened to my story School Marms and Suffragettes(based on 1910 letters) and found this a useful way to edit. I can HEAR how my words sound and HEAR my mistakes.

If I am going to eventually try to sell my story on Amazon, I might as well learn how it reads in a Kindle. The Medium is the Message...

I have some French poetry in the story (by Victor Hugo) and the voice reader does a very funny job of it, which is fitting as the protagonist is also English and can't pronounce the words.

Here (finally) is the bit about The Servitude of Fashion from Everywoman's Encyclopaedia, 1910-1912 era, the era of Tighsolas.


Now we come to a consideration of dress so chosen and arranged that it shall enhance the good points of the personality and minimise the inharmony of the bad points.

To do the first well is often to accomplish the second. It sometimes happens that an artist has a more difficult task than this.

Good points must be minimised so as to allow a few good points to gain some position.

The wise woman who must on a limited income be her own artist, will have to view herself in a mirror as an artist about to paint his own portrait would view himself - and she must, if she wants to make her dress an aid to whatever beauty she may possess, ruthlessly put herself in the more difficult position of the artist in dress, and from this no whim of fashion can cajole her.

She may consider and use fashion - indeed she must, or otherwise she will defeat her own object and make her dress disagreeably and inartistically conspicuous, but she must never forget to modify a fashion where it may be likely to prove cruel to her defects, and to do this she must know some of the general rules of ornament. There are five, repetition, alternation, symmetry, progression and confusion.

..To be continued.

 Now, when the author writes "personality" he clearly means "figure".

Figures come in and out of fashion too. I myself am built along Renaissance lines, but that kind of body isn't the fashion today and wasn't in the sixties either. (I remember a young man at college coming up to me and saying, "You are built just like Botticelli's models." So I smiled in agreement. He added. "I HATE Botticelli women, they are FAT."

 Oh well.

So a defect in one era is an asset in another. Although the Greeks would say that can't be the case, beauty and truth are eternal.

And this blog post would not please Cicero, it's all over the place. I bet the five rules for fashion could also go for essay writing.


Venus on a mural at Pompeii. Now in my bathroom, which I have decided to re-decorate in the Roman Style, because that would mean I can leave the OLD BROWN TILES where they are.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fashion and Class


The Delineator, a thick magazine full of fashion plates, made its money selling patterns.  The Grecian Effect: Hmm. Classical Beauty.

There was hardly any advertising in the magazine, just many heavy-duty articles about social issues. Theodore Dreiser, the author of Sister Carrie, would soon become Editor.  There are many more pretty delineator dresses and fashion drawings in my ebook School Marms and Suffragettes


"There are two kinds of beauty," wrote Madame de Giraudin, "that which is given and that which one takes."

Dress is a frame to the picture of beauty, nothing less, but nothing more, and the mistake is made when a woman forgets that her 'frame' must be subordinate all the time to her personality. Or, dress is to beauty what an accompanist should be to a singer, scenery to an actor, frames to an artist.

A true artist never frames his picture in such a way the onlooker remarks, "What a handsome frame!" And in the same breath, "It is too good for the picture."

This would be an inartistic proceeding, yet it is the kind of thing a good many women do with the framework to their personality, their dress.

The suitably dressed woman will never appear an absolutely plain woman. This does not seem at first sight to be a repetition of the dictum that the dress must be subordinate to the personality, yet it is so.

The wise woman never loses sight of the fact that dress is first meant to be useful and second to be ornamental.

When it is first ornamental, and its use is dubious or misapplied then is attention detracted from the personality to the rest is disparaging to the personality.

Always, then, must the first essential of dress be its utility and this satisfied, one can pass on to a survey of dress as a means to enhancing beauty.

To make dress a hand-maiden of beauty is no easy task, and the only means of inducing dress to serve this is by art.

Always is a becoming dress becoming, because a deft art has designed it.

Fashion, on the other hand, often defies art. She is never subtle, never diplomatic, or failing the living model, she draws figure to fancy with a face made up of perfect and humanly impossible curves and this she dresses according to caprice - or perhaps, according to the wishes of the crowd of artificers waiting to spin, to dye, to cut and to sew.

The average woman very seldom fully realizes that in her striving to be fashionable she is merely striving to be that never-allowed-to-rest  'good for trade' peg which is all she appears in those who make a business of dress.

The artist first regards the picture as a harmonious whole, and then gives the personality the foreground."
.....
This is from Everywoman's Encyclopaedia 1910-1912 and it makes a good point, once you de-code the stilted  language. I'm sure Coco Chanel, who was just starting out as a hat-maker in Paris would have agreed with this. Hence her little black dress, suitable for almost any woman for almost any occasion with the right jewellry.

Still, by claiming that a dress must be useful first, then ornamental, the author is making it next to impossible for poor and middle class women to rival upper class women without looking tacky.

 After all, rich women didn't  have ANYTHING to do, like lower and middle class women, so it is a given that their dress style could be more ornamental and prettier.

Any working girl dressing too pretty would be seen as dressing 'above her station'. Female clothing workers in the US it is written often dressed above their lowly station, because they could sew their own clothes and because they had access to cheap remnants of material.


Many middle class women still made their own clothes in 1910. The Nicholsons of Richmond sure did. And rich women had their dresses 'tailor- made' for them by couturiers.  But by 1907 the Eaton's catalogue was beginning to fill with women's ready-made clothing.  The catalogue doubled in size from 1908-1913.

Funny, in School Marms and Suffragettes I have Edith Nicholson spout this same philosophy but with respect to hats - and I just made it up... Educated guess, I guess. I also have Miss Gouin the pretty milliner's apprentice, run around in an expensive hat which makes Margaret Nicholson remark that she is wearing a hat far above her station in life.




The 1907 Eaton's Catalogue had some women's fashions, but the 1913 edition had far more.

 IN 1912, the Eaton's workers in Toronto and Montreal went on strike. As they were all Jewish workers, only the Jewish Community supported their cause.

Today, A New York Times Article, today suggests (despite what their spokespersons claim) Walmart is not that concerned with conditions in its factories.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Domesticating Your Husband

My future daughter-in-law was experimenting with some Nicholson family lace to make centerpieces for her wedding next July.

She doesn't have to teach my son how to cook beefsteak, he's a line chef in a fine restaurant, and as for making coffee, well, they prefer going to Timmies rather than make their own. Indeed, my son is in  charge of the menu for the wedding.  The crystal carafe was my grandmother's wedding gift.

The following 'clip' is from Everywoman's Encyclopaedia, 1910-1912.  It is written by a male. The article discusses 'domesticating a husband'. Easier said than done, in Edwardian Times the house was the woman's domain. They even created "The New Profession of Homemaking" in that era.



"Man is a much more easily domesticated animal than the majority of wives suppose. In almost every member of the masculine sex there dwells, sometimes carefully hidden away, an innate capacity for the practical domestic values, in fact a love of housewifery. Men are usually unconscious of this until circumstances bring it out.

Things in which a man especially excels when he delivers himself over  to the fascination of housewifery are salad dressings, black coffee (which, however, often requires a rather expensive cafetiere) toast, potato salad and beefsteak.

Another excellent achievement is the gravy made by these amateur cooks, guiltless of a single atom of grease, but sparkling with goodness.  Any woman who has not tried to initiate her husband into the finer arts of the cuisine is hereby advised to try him with a simple meal, and above all things, to leave him to himself in the kitchen while he works out his own plans."

I also own another magazine from that era Food and Cookery 1910, that contains many recipes and interesting articles.







.A recipe for Raspberry Rice Pudding..

.
One of the articles in the magazine is designed to be controversial, I imagine,  Men Make the Best Cooks. 

"Cooking is undoubtedly a fine art, and an accomplished chef is as much of an artist in his particular branch of work as a painter and a sculptor. (Actually, I just learned that painters and sculptors, up until the Renaissance, were considered mere craftsman and were pretty low on the social scale.)

There is as much difference between good cooking and bad as between  a symphony performed by a great master on a first-class instrument and a so-called melody played by some out-of-tune barrel organ.

There is absolutely no question as to who makes a better cook: a man or a woman. If man did not excel why should all the chief hotels and restaurants the world over  place a man at the head of the culinary department."

And the article goes on.... Don't tell that to Louisa Trotter of the Duchess of Duke Street or Mrs. Bridges of the Bellamy Household in Upstairs Downstairs. If you watch either of those  iconic series about the Edwardian Era on DVD you will see that the  fine elaborate meals and  the table settings are a 'star' of the shows. Trotter is based on a real character, Mrs. Bridges is fictional.


Anyway, the Tighsolas letters include a great deal about food, but no particulars. Margaret Nicholson kept her famous recipes hidden away in her head, like so many of the culinary geniuses of their time (most of whom were women) unheralded and their gifts taken for granted by their family.


Read School Marms and Suffragettes

Louisa arranges a dessert on Duchess of Duke Street. Soon Gemma Jones would only be good with pickles on toothpicks.

In 1918, plunk in the middle of WWI, Marion Nicholson's husband was left alone with his sisters in law, while his wife 'rested' at her mother's in Richmond, Quebec. He is acting more like the typical Edwardian husband, I imagine.


July 26, 1918

Hugh to Marion

My dearest sweetheart,

I cannot express in writing how pleased I was to hear your voice over the telephone a little while ago and was very sorry when I learned that due to the circumstances, you were not able to come home…Dearest, I have never written you on this strain since I have known you and before I say what I have in mind, I beg of you to please try and understand it in the light that I mean it. For Marion, dear, I love you with all my heart and it is because of my affection for you that I try to pave the way a little. I honestly, would not intentionally hurt you Marion. Now sweetest, here it is: You know, Dear, that you have left me alone at different times for indefinite periods, but may I say that I have never yet found one month to be as long as this one. Really, it has seemed to me almost like years. I would a thousand times rather be left entirely alone than to be left again with the girls, as I cannot get them to  do anything which appears to me to be reasonable. I have come home on several occasions and the front and back doors were not locked. They will not close the windows and the house is almost like an oven. They forget to order food. The refrigerator is left open; the ice is melting as fast as you can put it in. Cawlice. Water is running all over the floor and things are lying about. I am sick and tired of the whole place.  Take pity on me Darling before I go crazy and come home to me to look after and love me. *but under no circumstances take chances (with mother's health).  Take it from me, God help the poor man that gets either one of them, if they don't change. You can do more in five minutes than they can do together in a day.  You have forgotten more than they'll ever know. God bless you Marion and may it be God's will that he can spare you to me for many long happy years.

Lovingly,
Hughie,
PS. Don't fail to burn this when finished reading.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Record snowfall in Montreal, 1971 and 2012


Here's a picture of me in 1971, the day after the infamous snowstorm. It was March and the next day was warm. See my bell bottom jeans.

I was 5 foot 10 inches or so, so the pile of snow was high.

I didn't shovel today, my husband did and I didn't shovel back then, my father did.


Now, it seems to me it was more windy in 1971 so the snow piled high in front of the house, covering the door.

My husband has a snow picture taken on that day too... somewhere in an old family album.

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You Are What You Eat 1900 Era!

Marion Nicholson's 1912 Fanny Farmer Cookbook. The book was very popular in the era of the NEW WOMAN, who wasn't trained to cook at her mother's elbow. It included a chapter on Sick Room Cookery. Lots of broths!


"Food holds so important a place in the human economy that it is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of knowing how to prepare it properly.

In his book entitled "The Intellectual Life," Philip Gilbert Hanierton says: Cookery in its perfection - the great science of preparing the food in the way best suited to our uses, is the most important of all sciences, and the mother of the arts."

And each year's added observations confirms me in the belief that bad cookery is one of the worst foes with which civilization and Christianity has to contend.

Flowers and vegetables partake of the character of the soil in which they grow, and animals of the character of grass, grains, etc upon which they feed. This physiological law holds good, and applies forcibly in the case of human beings; for the relations between the stomach and the senses are so very intimate that the things we eat and drink materially affect our opinions, beliefs and prejudices. Does not the character of our diet impress itself upon the sights we see, the sounds we hear, the thoughts we think?

Does it not give tone and colour to our reflections? 

Organic forms are the expression of our surroundings, and individuals are a reflex of the food they feed on and the homes they live in.

Most of the dishes comprising the daily far of a large proportion of all our classes of people are so inharmoniously compounded, or so improperly cooked (generally both) that they are indigestible, innutritious and unsatisfying, and it is not a matter of surprise that  many resort to stimulants for temporary relief from the discomforts and ailments engendered by their diet. The whole territory of the drink question lies contiguous to that of the food question. It overlaps in many places.


This tidbit comes from Woman: Her Character, Culture and Calling from 1890 and is written by an Emma Ewing of Purdue University.

This book is a Canadian compilation of the contemporary wisdom (edited by an Ontario clergyman) and I have little doubt that Margaret Nicholson of School Marms and Suffragettes would have agreed wholeheartedly with this  writer's statements.

This kind of thinking was pervasive in Protestant circles (and articles like this later influenced Public Education Policy in Canada as well as the United States) but seems to me more a condemnation of the poor and the rich, elevating the prestige of the middle class home-maker.

Rich people had maids for cooking and although they paid their cooks better than their other domestics, they likely didn't believe their minions were doing anything special.

The middle class however, was finding it harder and harder to get a maid-of-all-work and homemakers increasingly were having to cook the family meals, like Margaret Nicholson, who prided herself on her cooking and baking  and her ability to manage the woodstove.

 When someone asked for one of her recipes she always left out an ingredient so that they couldn't equal her success.

You can sense a bit of Epicurean philosophy here, everything in moderation, but I imagine the French or Italians would not have agreed with this educator's belief that bad food caused people to drink.

Of course Protestants were mostly for Temperance.

None the less, the "You are what you eat" adage has remained and many today still believe it,perhaps more than ever in today's industrial economy, as our hopes and fears about foods and health help the mega-corporations improve their profits selling us new 'improved' products lines of edible fare with quasi-magical properties!

Decades from now, I suspect readers will howl reading all the nonsense (backed by 'scientific' proof, of course) about food and the mystical Power of Food found on the Internet today.  Pass the Sea Vegetables please.

In my play Milk and Water about Montreal in 1927, I show a how my French Canadian grandmother did all her cooking, and made the best tourtiere and baked beans without using recipes despite being upper middle class and how my husband's English Grandmother, (from the American South) didn't touch a utensil because where she came from THE HELP did all the cooking.

See how this Mrs. Ewing takes a rather indisputable and neutral quote from another writer (a Man!) and twists it to her needs. Rhetoric!

Well, because Margaret Nicholson, born 1853, took such pride in her cooking and because she didn't write down her recipes she took them to her grave. Her daughters did not learn how to cook. And they didn't need to. They lived through the age of industrialized food production.

Marion Nicholson, born 1885 (who purchased a copy of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook in 1912 when she moved into her own flat with three other teachers) wasn't half the cook her mother  was and her own daughter, born 1917,  was even worse. She served only canned veggies at home in the 1950's and 60's.



A stove range. Managing this monster was difficult. A homemaker (or domestic) had to be a kind of engineer. Margaret worried constantly about finding wood to feed her stove. The stove had to be polished too every day to keep it from rusting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Money-Earning Wife 1910



I found this article The Money-earning Wife in a book called Every Woman's Encyclopedia from the 1910/1912 period, the time of the Tighsolas letters.

The Nicholson women of  the series School Marms and Suffragettes that includes Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Furies Cross the Mersey, were all money-earners, but only one of them, Flora, was a money-earning wife.



Marion worked as a teacher from 1906-1913 and then married, returning to her teaching job after her husband died and left her penniless with four children.

 Edith Nicholson never married so had to support herself and Flora married late in life and continued to work as a teacher while married.

Some young female relations of theirs  had no 'profession.' These women married so as not to be 'a burden on their parents'.  But their friends were all like them, workers and wage-earners at least until they married. Teachers mostly.

The  Nicholson women were not raised to be a burden on their parents; indeed, they helped their parents out financially as soon as they started working for money.

Here's the excerpt...

"She is a very useful person - this wife who can add a few pounds to the family income. In most cases she has known the glory of being wholly or largely independent before her marriage and after that event she likes to know her struggles against Fate and often bitter experience are not to be lost, and that she will still have the joy of receiving cheques in her own name for her own unaided efforts.

But, oddly enough, most husbands object to the money-earning wife.

Some of them are glad that no longer will their particular 'frail woman' have to fight the world for the world's gold. They know how hard and cruel is the task of him or her who has work to sell, and willingly they insist on undertaking all that side of the marriage partnership. They realize it is hardly fair that a woman shall be homemaker and home-keeper as well.

It is hardly fair that she should both bake the bread and earn the money for the flour. But the number of these charitable thinking husbands is few.

The greatest objection to the independent wife by a number of husbands is the fear their wives will continue to be independent so long as they have the power to buy their own hats and silk stockings. The heaviest claim a husband has over a wife is an economic one. If she is dependent on him because he earns the money, she is much more humble and amenable. The aged joke "that a man can bring his wife to a state of entire subjection by holding over her head the threat of no more silk dresses or new hats" is a very real weapon to some husbands.

And yet these husbands are not tyrants, probably very good husbands from many points of view, but because they are men they have an inborn notion that if they earn all the money they have the sole right of saying how it shall be spent."

Another horribly powerful reason why man wives do not attempt to earn money is jealous. Some wives, literary or artistic, can earn more money than their husbands and these same women also earn fame and the world's honour, while the husband is known only as "Mrs. Author's Wife."

"Mrs. A is a clever woman but Mr. A is a very ordinary man" is the dread sentence every husband begins to fear as soon as he realizes his wife's ability.  Quarrels, separation and even divorce have been the direct results of a wife's capability to earn as much money and win as much fame as her husband.

....
Of course this is all from a middle class point of view. Rich women brought considerable dowries into their marriages, which were often seen as alliances between families.

Middle class women too often brought dowries into their marriage. Without a dowry it was hard to find a husband, who needed this injection of money to kick start his career.

Poor women, well they often worked as domestics for the upper middle class and wealthy.

Or they did whatever had to be done. Piecework, farmwork.. and I recall reading about coal miners' wives, who often never slept (only taking cat-naps on a chair) for they had to be there as each of their men (husband and sons) returned from their various shifts down the shaft......to wash and feed them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Conservative Feminism circa 1890


A sort of Pre-Raphaelite drawing in the book in Woman: her character, her culture, her calling 1890. (I'm not sure if the original was in colour.)

This is a  Canadian book (With Ontario and American authors, the Ontarians obscure the Americans prominent like Anna Howard Shaw) preserved by CIHM or Canadiana.org. It's a compilation of essays on the issues of the day regarding women. The New Woman and, from what I see, many (most) of the ideas in this book because mainstream by 1900, 1910.

Of course they were Protestant ideas and Canadian Protestants were Evangelical. They wanted to spread their ideas to everyone (the Purity Movement) and they did so due to their control of the Public education system - and their connections to men in Government and Industry.


I downloaded the book onto my Kindle, making the document easier to read and realized, for the first time, how well written it is.

I'm not sure if this book was influential, say, like Light in Dark Corners, the Hygiene Book from 1912 that cited 'self-control' as the ultimate virtue. But if a book is to be influential, it sure helps if it is well-written.

I just listened to a BBC Four lecture on the Lives of the Artists, an influential art history book from the Renaissance, well, a book that created the discipline of Art History and when the host asked Why is the book so Influential, the expert replied, "Well, first, it is very well written."

I have written about the wide-spread belief in 1910 that WOMEN HAD MADE IT, that any woman could go into any profession. Such nonsense! And yet almost everyone believed it.

The new 'improved'  1911 Encyclopedia Britannica claimed as much in the entry under WOMAN.

Carrie Derick of the Montreal Council of Woman, who herself had to fight hard to become the first female first professor in Canada (at McGill) also said as much in her 1912 report on Women and Work  to the Royal Commission on Industrial Education and Technical Education.

I wonder if the opening essay in this book,  titled OPEN DOORS By Principal Austin, A.M., B.D., of Alma College, St. Thomas, Ontario influenced Derick. It breezily cites all kinds of rosy statistics to show that all professions were now open to women. "Out of 338 professions in the US, 262 have been successfully opened to women," says Austin.

The introduction to the book (with a similar rosy outlook) is by the American President of the World's Women's Temperance Union proving, once again, that the people who pushed most for woman suffrage and for women's education (and for women to work in traditionally masculine fields while maintaining their delicate femininity somehow) were, ironically, religious conservatives.

  Education, and 'occupation', you see,  would keep women from falling into 'promiscuity'. In her opening, this woman  praises Christianity's progressive stance on women.


Read School Marms and Suffragettes my story about three young women in 1910  based on real letters to see first hand how ideas like this informed the lives of certain middle class Protestant women who came of age in the Edwardian Period.







Sunday, December 23, 2012

Food as a Moral Issue



A picture from Woman: her character, culture from Archive.org 1890. The caption says The Open Door. Women in those days were beginning to have some choices in their lives and this book was to guide them.

I've just downloaded it onto my Kindle. Edith Nicholson of Diary of a Spinster was 6 years old in 1890. This is the kind of book her mother Margaret might have had in her house and explains why she was all for women getting the vote.

Here are summaries to two chapters.  Food was a moral issue back then, in relation to the home, not in relation to feeding the poor. Today food is a moral issue, but in relation to a person's weight - and sometimes in issue to the environment.

This book and books like it are not mere curiosities: the ideas the books contain, these Protestant ideas, were what shaped economic and education policy in Canada at the turn of the 20th century. They are the reasons I had to take a Home Ec class in 1970, why I had to sew an apron (I chose pink calico and never finished it) and learn to cook chocolate pudding. (My own mother was a terrific cook what I learned at school was a waste of time... Well except for the theory about protein, fats, carbs, etc... And as we all are well aware, new theories about protein, fats and carbs are being invented every day.

Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl attended Macdonald Teachers College in 1910/11, but that school was founded to teach domestic sciences to women, so that middle class women could be better housewives and lower class women could be trained as domestics for the wealthy.






Friday, December 21, 2012

Rhetorical Ornamentation and Family Letters


A scene from I Claudius.. Livia and Claudius

I loved the BBC mini series I Claudius when it first came out, although I'm guessing I watched it because my Mother watched it - at least at first.

Soap Opera History. Top of the Line Soap Opera History.

I've just listened to a BBC Radio four talk on Tacitus (who I read in school a few years later) where it was mentioned that Robert Graves was very Taciturnian (is that the term?).

(I read somewhere once that he was really writing about British Society, not Roman Society, but then again that's the truth with all entertainment histories, they are more about the time of the writing than about the period they are describing,  as they wouldn't resonate otherwise.)

Tacitus, although highly influential, wouldn't be considered a good historian today (said an expert) in that his sources weren't clear (gossip, hearsay) and he used rhetorical ornamentation and dramatic devices to draw people in.

Gee, I guess that's why History Theses are so impossible to read, most of the time as the scholars shun pretty words and stylistic flourishes.

The expert also said that Tacitus believed that history had a didactic purpose and that there was something to be learned from it.

Anyway, I'm supposed to be editing School Marms and Suffragettes my history, my personal family history based on letters about 1910 Canada. I guess I feel I am missing a piece of information, or I wouldn't be listening to these lectures.

When I first found the Nicholson letters, I contacted a very successful author of historical stories for Young Adults and she advised me to 'forget the history and go for the story." Hmmm.

But I don't want to do that, I want to be more like Tacitus, I guess ;)


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Galle and Aristotle


I'm not sure what this picture is.. I just chose one randomly from my blog. I think it might be a galle vase I took a picture of in a museum somewhere. Galle Marketry vase. Worth a lot of money. I wish I owned one. I own a Vase Francais Amourettes and a couple of Thomas Forester Rembrandt vases. Not worth much money. Even if I think they are prettier than the Galle.


Well, I'm in an intellectual mood and I just listened to a talk about Aristotle's Poetics, which I no doubt studied in school while staring at the handsome boy in front of me in class.

So forgive me if I didn't quite get it back then.

I'm doing this probably as a way to avoid the real work I have, to edit my story School Marms and Suffragettes. Editing is hard, especially when it's your own work that you have been working on for years.



I am wondering about plot. Story Arcs, etc.

My story is based on real letters and it follows a real life story arc.  Consequently, I don't think Aristotle would consider my work 'poetry' any more than he'd consider a video game poetry.


It can't possibly elicit pity and fear and then give us catharsis and then re-balance our emotions (in relation to our  reason) and elevate us - as human beings, as citizens.

Or can it?

When I first found the Tighsolas Letters letters, I asked an agent about getting them published and he said "No one wants letters."

But I like these letters, because I thought they did 'tell a story worth telling' and a very popular one, a la Little Women or Pride and Prejudice.

If only I could package them properly. I'll never get Artistotle's approval.

Then Aristotle preferred Sophocles and I always liked Euripides.

Edith Nicholson, in 1928, visits Paris for the summer, and writes in a letter that she spends most of her time at the Louvre, looking at beautiful pictures,  some of which that started out as Porn for Princes. As an Edwardian woman she was encouraged to do so, despite the fact she was a Presbyterian. The art would elevate her and then she, in turn, would elevate the race through her family.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Evelina, Austen and Me

A bouquet, a Matisse and a Verre Francais vase, amourettes pattern.

Just a week before Christmas and some snow. Yes, it snowed yesterday, in our corner of the woods (literally speaking) and the snow was wet and heavy and we had a 5 hour power failure which meant my husband I had to go out to lunch, which was OK as it was our wedding anniversary.

And per usual he bought me a bouquet of flowers and as per usual I only remembered the anniversary  upon seeing the bouquet arrive at the gate.

I never remember it and that's because it is so close to Christmas, I guess.



The camera may be colour, but the world yesterday was in Black and White.

My husband left for work at 2 o'clock only to see that the city got much less snow than we did. It turned to rain for them.

And I was left to admire the flowers and one bluish pink rose in particular.




I couldn't do much without power. NOTHING actually. I couldn't even edit my story Diary of a Spinster, because the battery on my laptop is kaput.

I guess  I could have read my Kindle, until it ran out of oomph, or a REAL book, but hey. This is 2012. Christmas 2012, where the advertisements are showing Dad and Mom reading to son or daughter using an ebook of some sort. Cosy, eh?

But the electricity came back - and before that early early winter solsticy dusk (we have a generator for such problems, if they last long term.) This was no ICE STORM although my little Burmese Cat, Sookie, was upset when her heated bed turned cold and she kept wanting to be on my lap.

I wanted to turn on the TV to listen to the Big Band Channel and do some dancerize, but the satellite was down. Transponder issues. Sticky snow on the dish!

So I had to exercise my patience instead and jerk around to a very poor version of IN THE MOOD inside my head.

Eventually the transponder thingy came back and I danced a bit (no arthritis and it's damp outside!) and then I got to work editing Diary of a Spinster.

How did I miss all those mistakes? Not typos so much as temporal issues? I have Marion starting at her school in Montreal in 08 and not 07!

I had to fix up a part near Christmas 07, so I went to the Nicholson Account Books to see what was purchased to eat. A 7 pound turkey and a leg of lamb! Turkeys were small back then.

Hair brushes and gloves for gifts for the girls.

They paid 2.00 to have the piano tuned.  (I believe we had that same piano for a short time decades ago and sold it to a friend.)

Anyway, later in the evening I listened to a random episode of In our Time on Radio Four, the one on TASTE. Amanda Vickery was a guest and I like her.

One of the resources was a book called Evelina, by Frances Burney, the History of a Young Girl's Entrance into the World.

I had never heard of that book. I downloaded it from Gutenberg onto my Kindle.

The book is in Epistolary form like Diary of a Spinster, although it's pure fiction.  I read a bit. Evelina is very funny.

Apparently, this book is a precursor to Jane Austen. (BBC Radio Four serialized in in 2002. I hope they redo it some day on Radio Four Extra.)

So there you go. Just when I thought I KNEW EVERYTHING, I am forced to realize there are GREAT GAPS in my education.

I assume I can learn a lot from this book for my editing of Diary... Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is  on the same theme really. My epistolary novel  tells the true story of a Canadian woman entering society in the 1910 era. Middle Class Society, as it were.

And one thing I can see right off. The fake letters avoid the long preambles that people put in letters and the Nicholsons were no exception.  "I guess you were waiting for a letter from me..blah blah." I might have to cut most of these out. Maybe I'll keep a selection. These pre-ambles are always excuses for not having had written earlier.

Oh, my other cat is throwing up! I wonder what flower he ate.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cinematic Paradigm Shift

The Vimy Ridge Memorial in France. I got this off the Veterans.gc.ca website.


I go my hands on a few brand new Canadian 20 dollar bills last week and noticed that the picture on the back was of the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France.

This told me that our government places WWI at the top of the historical significance pile. I'm guessing that the 20 is the most circulated bill. At least most banking machines dispense them.

This got me wondering if my 1914-1918 letters, the war time letters belonging to the Nicholsons of Quebec, the ones I am editing with my daughter-in-law, will capture their interest.

I have had no luck getting anyone at the government interested in my 1908-1913 Tighsolas letters, about the pre-war years, the PIVOTAL pre-war years. Well, that's not entirely true, the War Museum Website has linked to them.

As Pierre Berton writes in his 2001 book Marching as to War, those pre-war years were all about the NEW WOMAN and the Opening of the Canadian West.  Temperance and the Vote. The Protestants who wanted to push their values on everyone.

Well, my Tighsolas letters show all that, and so much more. Take entertainment.

Something happened in 1914- and it wasn't just the start of WWI. 

I'm taking about "the movies." Not the motion pictures, or moving pictures, but 'the movies.'

My 1908-1913 letters hardly mention the motion pictures, just once. Marion goes to see Man in the Box at the Nichol (sic.) There's a lot of mention of going to The Princess Theatre to see plays and to His Majesty's Theatre and even the Orpheum Vaudeville House though.

But the 1914-1919 letters mention 'the movies' all the time, the Strand, The Grand, etc. 

That's because the Nicholsons were Middle Class and  middle class started going to the movies!!!

cinemamuet.qc.ca   (that site has a lot of government funding!) 

And very likely the war had something to do with it: the rising cost of living, the rising horror and rising need for pleasant diversion.

For about 10 years the working class had been attending the movies. The French and English working class in Montreal. The had tough lives, no money: they needed the pleasant diversion even before 1914. 



I have a 1910 New York Dramatic Mirror where the traditional theatre owners are complaining that the movies and the automobile are cutting away at their attendance, especially in the cheap seats.

But the morality types (mostly Protestant, mostly Presbyterian)  were not impressed with the motion pictures.. Bad things happened in movie theatres,  they said, to our children, bad things up on the screen and bad things in the dim back rows. 

Well, the morality types lost that war, that's for sure... except in Quebec, except in 1927. 

That's when  the Laurier Palace Fire changed everything in Quebec for 4 long decades. See my story Milk and Water about 1927 Montreal.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Philosophers, Pride and Prejudice and Squirrel Poop

A Darcy worth his britches.

Yesterday, I went to see the National Arts Center play Pride and Prejudice with my husband. My son and daughter in law got me tickets for my birthday.

It was a charming production, beautifully staged. The actors well cast. During the show, I enjoyed contemplating how the 1995 mini series, more than the actual book, informed this play. Things were jumbled up, famous lines moved. The only problem, I think was the accents. Oh well. I had just spent a couple of hours the other day listening to BBC Radio Four's Educating Rita with Bill Nighy. Too brilliant by half. My standards are so so high.

My husband turned to me and said "I thought this was going to be a musical." 
You see, the last play I had dragged him to was Schwartz the Musical at the Centaur. 

 I wonder how Pride and Prejudice, the Musical hasn't happened yet.  Mamma Mia, they would just have to steal a few songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.. "Mr. Darcy, Superstar, who in the Hell do you think you are." And "I don't know how to love him."


 A lovely Elizabeth.

Anyway. I had to race to finish a commissioned assignment so I could go to Ottawa for the day and I emailed the short essay in a day early and got an email answer back almost immediately but didn't open it, as I was afraid it was a critique, or that it meant more work, and I didn't want to have that on my mind at the theatre.

It was a difficult assignment on short notice (they always are) and I thought I did a good job, but still was afraid to open the email and read "This is CRAP. Not what I meant at all.." Or worse, "Not a bad FIRST  effort."

So I know it feels like for actors. You put so much work into something and you never know the response.



I got home at about 9 pm (it was matinee performance) very tired, for I had to drive (Oh, the horror!)  as my husband got a bit of a migraine from someone's perfume. I told him it's lucky I didn't drink any wine as is usual. 

I still didn't want to open that email. but I knew I had to. Deadline, you see. So I did and as it turns out the essay  was accepted no changes. Phew!

And then, oddly enough, yesterday I got a mystery email from a prominent philosopher asking me about the progress of another of my projects, a play actually about 1927 Montreal Milk and Water  

I had no idea why he was writing me, or if I had ever emailed him and WHY I would reach out to such a person, so I just emailed him back, blase-like,  my reply, as if it was only natural that a top scholar would be writing me. Who next, Barbra Streisand?

Well, then I got to thinking this morning about my most popular essay, On Genius, which I wrote off the top of my head one day, just for fun, but which seems to have impressed. 

Some brainiacs in the evolutionary biology arena once cited the essay on their (what did they used to be called?) Usenets, Usergroups?  And the same essay has been re-published in various edited forms in many English textbooks.

But, way too late,  I thought of a new paragraph, (SHOW DON'T TELL) to make my point.

The acorn has the genius to be a mighty oak tree, home to a thousand beautiful birds, inspiration to poets, writers, artists, etc. and eventually, possibly, the material for a pair of exquisite engraved doors or a gleaming monumental desk belonging to a President.

But if that acorn doesn't find fertile ground, its will end up nothing more than poop out of the back end of a squirrel.

Ok. enough. Below is a 1917 pamphlet from the Order of the Eastern Star, which figures in the WWI Nicholson letters, the ones I am editing with my daughter-in-law, a sociologist.

So got to get to work on that. Of course I have no deadline, so I am coasting most of the time. Ah, a writer's life.



Monday, December 10, 2012

Lewisman and Liquor and Such


Some"Ruthenians" in an unidentified family pic.  Ruthenians were the word for Eastern Europeans.

At first I assumed this was from OUT WEST and Herb Nicholson had sent it to his family, but the woman on the right is in twenties garb and she appears to be blessing the woman, in a way.

So she appears posh, and the picture a Photo Op.
I know the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Canadian GG, visited Richmond in 1921, I have it in a letter.

(I wonder if Norman Nicholson took this, since he was the only one home at Tighsolas in 1921 and if he thought back to his Isle of Lewis relations, landing in Quebec in 1861, speaking only Gaelic and looking as out of place, no doubt.


I pulled out Pierre Berton's book Marching as to War, which I had on hand and consulted back in 2005 when I first uncovered the stash of Nicholson letters.

I wasn't interested in the WWI part the, just the pre-WWI part.

Re-reading the preamble to WWI I can see that Pierre Berton has succinctly summed up what my Nicholson letters of 1908-1913 show, that that era was the era of two forces, one feminine, the NEW WOMAN and one masculine, the Westward Ho.

My series School Marms and Suffragettes , Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey, is about 3 boffo NEW WOMAN sisters and a brother who moved out West.

And his summary of post WWI in Canada (outside the stuff about Billy Bishop being the REAL Fighting ACE of WWI) was that War brought suffrage and temperance, my point exactly as I write about the 1914-1919 letters which I am turning into book.

He also mentions how the Protestants were determined to impose their values on everyone. So right. The Nicholson letters show that too.

Norman Nicholson, who works for the City of Richmond Quebec in 1921 is horrified that so many people under him are asking him to help them apply for jobs on the newly minted Liquor Control Board.


My story Milk and Water is about Montreal in 1927, the era of American Prohibition.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Old Lady Pictures and Prohibition


Edie, Edie, Edie! I'm guessing that is not cranberry juice in your wine glass.  No matter how much of a dignified life a person has led, they will always end up looking less than dignified in a picture somewhere, in out of date clothing and too bright lipstick. Edith, born in 1884,  would live until January 1977.

And still I love this picture and so does my husband, Edie's great nephew. This was taken June 27, 1970 at my husband's sister's wedding. In Richmond, so this is inside Tighsolas, the Nicholson's home.

Edith Nicholson, as my story School Marms and Suffragettes shows, came of age in the era of BIG HATS, 1910.

She went on to become a secretary in the Registrar's Office at McGill and a Tutor in Residence at McGill and then Assistant Warden at the Royal Victoria Women's College at McGill.

A very dignified career. And she was Commandant of the Quebec Red Cross in WWI.

Some WWI letters, which I am turning into a book, reveal that she worked for the Red Cross in WWI.

But that glass of wine, well, it shows an evolution in her character, for post WWI she was very much into Temperance, like all her family. (Although she liked her opiates in her cough medicines and tonics, at least before they were banned.)


There was a  push for Prohibition in Canada after WWI but unlike  in the US it didn't get too far. That was because Quebec refused to join the chorus. That province created a Liquor Control Board instead.

This irked the Presbyterians  in Quebec no question. Norman Nicholson, Edith's father, writes about it in a March 1921 letter from Richmond, Quebec.


"I went to church this morning. After service there was a petition there was a petition there to sign against having any liquor sold in Richmond. Mr. McMillan said there were 15 applications for such. The council could veto it, but they wouldn't, so they are having a petition in all the churches to show how much opposition there is in the town against it. Nearly everyone in our church signed against it but C. Campbell, he got up and walked out when the rest went to the front. Ladies as well as men."


Hmm. It takes courage to be a C. Campbell - in any situation. Bravo!

My story Milk and Water is about Montreal in the era of American Prohibition, 1927 and features my grandfather, Director of City Services and my husband's grandfather, (from another branch) who was President of a Bottled Water Company.

The Council in Richmond was likely led by or at least made up  of French Canadians, who had no interest in Prohibition, in general.

But then neither did the Westmount Elite. In 1903 that Montreal burb was dry, but the St. George's Club (lawn bowling, curling) had liquor. They said it was nobody's business as they were a private club.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Suffragette Utopia


What d'ya know. There's a rue Carrie Derick in Montreal. Nearish the Lachine Canal, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

My husband landed there yesterday, taking a detour to his work in the Gay Village, under the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

He phoned me to tell me. He knows I have written a book based on real letters that has Carrie as a character. School Marms and Suffragettes

Carrie Derick, the botanist, Canada's first female full professor (at McGill) and the one time President of the Montreal Council of Women and President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, that weird, short lived organization that got embroiled in the WWI conscription controversy.

Carrie Derick, eugenicist!

Now, yesterday I was listening to the BBC Four In Our Time about Utopias, and Melvyn Bragg brought up the very strong connection between Utopias and eugenics.

And not only in connection with Naziism, for which the issue is most remembered.

Lots of very well-intentioned people, Bragg reminds his listeners,  believed in eugenics, the radical end of the social engineering spectrum.

And some well-respected and famous authors,too. Like H.G. Welles, who, not so famously, wanted to wipe out all the darker races, apparently.

So goes Miss Derick. She has a road named after her in Montreal, but her beliefs weren't always palatable to French Canadians or immigrants or the poor. Etc.

Can't blame them either.

She was a suffragist, if not a suffragette, but many famous feminists, in the US, Britain and Canada were also eugenicists.

Eugenics is a dirty word today, mostly thanks to Hitler, but it the concept still thrives. How many articles in the news  today about Designer Babies or Gene manipulation, or eradicating certain inherited diseases. etc? Plenty.

We're more into eugenics than ever, aren't we?

By the way, the word Utopia, coined by author Sir Thomas More, means NOWHERE.

Anyway, it seems we're well on our way to creating a two-tiered Utopia, where a new race will be created out of those who can afford gene therapy in pregnancy and those who can't. Of course, these designer babies will be beautiful, because that appears what we are most concerned about as a race.


(Digression:) It's already started. Look at all those 50 plus actresses on TV. They look 20 years old, don't they? (A rather intense 20, but still.) Plastic surgery has come a long way, apparently, although there's an occasional surgery gone wrong horror story in the tabloid press.

They've created a new Super Race of Women. The hottie. The cougar. And all because middle aged actresses in the US can't get work. Because middle aged women are invisible to men, the men who run Hollywood.
And by doing this they've created two classes of older female, those who can afford plastic surgery and those who can't.

This is not what 1910 era women like Carrie Derick had in mind when the lectured on the benefits of 'choosing your own parents.'  They were extremely socially conservative. They believed in chastity for women, (and men) and  in home and hearth and MOTHERHOOD.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Booze and Banks and Lifting Logs


Here's a "Nicholson" Pic taken around the time of the Second World War. Before 1942, for certain because the Old Woman in the picture is "BANDY" or Mrs. Margaret Nicholson, my husband's great grandmother. And she died in 1942 at the ripe old age of 91.

This looks like the wedding of her niece Stella Blair to Jack Charters.

Only one person in this picture is still with us, Stella, born January 1920, just a month or two after the final letter of the War Time Letters of the Nicholsons - which I am compiling into a book which I haven't yet named. Woolen Socks and Violins is a working title.

Stella is in her Mother's tummy. Oddly, pregnancies weren't talked about back then, and not written about in letters. But Marion is getting a new maid... and her Mother, Bandy above, is worried about her health.

I found this picture yesterday as I was going through my stash of Nicholson memorabilia, hoping against hope to find the ODE described in one of the wartime letters.. an ode to a Richmond man going off to war, a WHITE.

No. But I found this picture (I of course had seen it many times) and something else. A cheque from the Molson's bank.

As it happens, the person who writes about the ode, a Ross White, is working at the Molson's bank in 1917. His brother is with the Highlanders.

My husband was intrigued when he read this part of the letters. "Molson's had a bank?" he asked. (He works next door to the Molson plant in Downtown Montreal. (Sometimes the fumes give him a headache.)Then he looked it  up and on the Internet and saw that this Molson's bank was absorbed by the Bank of Montreal.

Hmm. It just occurred to me right now as I type this post: What did Edith Nicholson think about her friend Ross working for the Molson's Bank? The Nicholsons all believed in the Temperance Movement. Molson's was a beer company.

In a 1919 letter Edith writes about an article in Saturday night where a woman author is rebutting Stephen Leacock's Anti-Prohibition arguments. Edith is impressed. She writes, "It takes a woman to see through things."

Anyway, this "bank note" has a great deal of significance to my WarTime Letters.

In a 1919 letter Flora Nicholson laments, "When will our ship ever come in?" She is upset  that her 69 year old father still has to work, still has to go away from home to work, leaving her elderly mother to stoke the furnace herself. "I can't imagine you having to lift those logs," she writes.

This bank note explains why: Norman took out a loan, co-signed by brother in law CJ Hill in 1915 and took until 1920 to pay it off! Of course, the cost of living went up in the war. The letters explain in detail.




Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prohibition, The Presbyterians and WWI


My Edwardian Living room. The chair in front, a classic Edwardian design, belonged to Marion Nicholson Blair.  It weighs a tonne! It was recovered in the 80's by her daughter.

 I say classic because Mr. Bellamy in Upstairs Downstairs has a chair just like it in his den.

Well, I have almost finished transcribing the letters of 1919, just four left and the last one from October is  a doozie! Edith Nicholson takes little Margaret to see the Prince of Wales and she is impressed by him, no question. As a Naval League Volunteer she gets to stand on the steps of McGill's Royal Victoria college, where she will work for most of her life, but she doesn't know it then.

One of the last little bits of info she passes on is that the Blairs are reupholstering  their living room furniture (perhaps that very chair). Mundane, yes, but a great way to end. After all the horror and death of WWI and the Spanish Flu epidemic, life goes on. Furniture gets refurbished.

The 1919 letters are full of war information; it's the aftermath after all.

 I also happened to read quickly through the letters of 1920 and 1921 and nothing about the war. Fini! Over with!

But I did find something in a March 1921 letter from Norman to Margaret that was very interesting! He writes about the New Liquor Board. (So here's where my School Marms and Suffragettes (about my husband's Richmond Quebec family)overlaps Milk and Water, about my French Canadian grandfather and his Westmount grandfather.

July 1918

In 1921 Norman is away, working on a Quebec Pubic Works project.  I guess he is a supervisor because people under him are asking him to help them get jobs with the New Liquor Board.

He is disgusted! He sends a request letter to Margaret (for her to see)  but tells her NOT to show it to Hugh or the girls and to send it right back. Worse than pornography to a Temperance Type.



Now, from the wartime letters I just transcribed, it is clear many Scotch Presbyterian congregations sacrificed scads of  young men to the war effort.

 In return, they wanted Prohibition established in Canada. The subject was brought up in the Canadian House of Commons shortly after the end of the war.

Indeed, even before the end of the war, the Presbyterians knew that the anti-German sentiment would help with their Prohibition agenda. An American preacher Flora goes to see in January 1918 states it outright: War is Hell but some good things will come of it.. and one of these good things is Prohibition.

Of course, as my play 1927 era Milk and Water  play reveals, Prohibition didn't ever happen in Quebec. A new Liquor Control Board was established in 1921 and probably served as the weak link that collapsed Prohibition across Canada and helped with eventually abolishing it in the US.

(And, now, as a tribute, 100 years later we Quebeckers pay more for wine than any jurisdiction in the World I think, well, except for Ontario. It's practically free in the US compared to here and you can buy it anywhere in California, even pharmacies.)

Hmm. Norman refers to it as a Liquor Commission, which is what my mother called it in the 1960's. La Commission du Liqueur.  If I recall all the booze back then was kept behind a counter and a clerk brought it out for you. (My parents didn't drink much. The bottles of rye my father got from clients at Christmas stayed in the liquor cabinet for years one end. They had no money for booze anyway.)

Today it is the SAQ.




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Family Shattered by War


Yesterday I combed through all the Nicholson letters, about 1000 of them to see if I could find the first page of a certain interesting 1919 letter from Biddie McCarty to Edith Nicholson.

I'm transcribing the Post War 1919 Nicholson letters now.

The WWI  'storyline' reached its climax in 1918 with the death of friend Percy Tucker at the Front and the survival of his younger brother Herb Tucker, Flora's war time boyfriend in another late war battle. He only gets shot in the finger and feels quite embarrassed about it.

Biddy McCarty is a family friend and appears to have been attached to Percy. Hers is the first letter I have from 1919 and she says she can hardly believe she won't be hearing from him.

 Biddie and her father took off on the trip  in early 1919. She writes that she got a nice letter from Mrs. Tucker and she sends all her love to 36, which is the address of the Tuckers.

The Tuckers appear to be a family truly shattered by war (and the Spanish Flu.) Haroldine, a teacher at William Lunn School like Flora (and perhaps the reason by the Nicholsons know the Tuckers) died in 1918, 6 months before her brother Percy, I'm guessing from the flu.


The Tuckers on the 1901 Census. Herbert is 2, so that he is 7 years younger than Flora. This was never a match to be. Perhaps they kept their wartime love affair secret. They aren't on the 1911 census. In that census daughter Gwendolin is attached to another family in Chambly, Henri and Francis and Arnoline. All very strange. But the Censuses are all full of mistakes.

In another 1919 letter Flora writes her Mom that she has visited the Tuckers and they 'that family is not the same anymore."

In a 1920 letter she writes "Gwendolyn is getting married today." It doesn't appear that she is going or she would have written so. And she was invited, I have the invitation. It's in the picture at top.

And going through the 1921 letters, I found one from from January  Herb Tucker to Flora. He is at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Vancouver.  He says there's no girl in sight for him. (He's only 22!). He says he has been a long time in replying to her letter - that he started to write her many times but got cold feet. He signs off "Your old Sidekick."

He's wondering about Biddy, where she is.

A family shattered by war!

Here are a few travel details from Biddie's California Letter. I have only page 2 of the letter.  Another page either was lost by me or tossed out a long time ago. Perhaps Edith destroyed it.

Flora Nicholson second from right with her friends.  From the dresses, it's the 20's. 

  We got to Frisco Monday morning. Got "John" and motored all through Golden Gate park - went down the coast to San Jose, one day nice trip, stayed around "Frisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda, a week going around seeing people Dad knew.

This PM we went up the coast to Santa Barbara on see the largest grape vine in the world. They have taken 10 tonnes of grapes from it this season. It sure is huge.

We expect to leave here about the first of March thru Texas and the Southern States to Florida and then up to New York and Home. Some trip, eh?

PS. Forgot to tell you Dad and I were up in an aeroplane last week. 5000 feet from the earth. Went over the city of Venice and the Pacific. It was great!

Well, it seems they were not far from Santa Barbara, close enough to go up the coast in a car in 1920. 30 miles an hour the most? 2 hours the most. Under 70 miles away anyway. Oxnard??