Friday, June 29, 2012

Eating Emu in Perth Under Big Ben.

A very daring camera shot in Perth..Ontario.

It's a statue of Ian Torchy Miller and his horse Big Ben.  Must be from Perth... Miller, anyway.

My husband and I ate at the Fiddleheads Bar and Grill on the park across the street from the statue. My husband asked me, Why is there a horse over there?

So I gave him a long talk about 1968 and the Olympics where Canada won only one gold medal, horse jumping the last day.  And how excited I was at 13 as I had spent two weeks in the summer watching the same team in a competition on Ste. Helene's Island.

Miller didn't have Big Ben. That horse was active in the 1980s. Was it Canadiana? Must check Wikipedia. All wrong, he didn't win the medal... Jim Day on Canadian Club, Jim Elder and Tom Gayford. Memories, but he won tonnes of competitions later on.

And Miller has a farm near Perth. He was born in Halifax.

Anyway, the statue is in a very pretty spot, which the restaurant`s terrace overlooks as I said.  Pricey place, but they had an Emu Sandwich on the menu, which I ordered, happy for a new experience, but they were all out of emu, as it were.

Eating Emu in Perth, almost.

I found this Salon on the main street. Great name. It is now my second favorite to Curl up and Dye in Old Orchard Beach.

As an English Quebecker, I crave cutesy store names. We only have extremely silly ones, like Ye Olde Curiosite Shoppe, to confuse the language police.

Well, I have been taking trips around Australia on Google Earth. The big cities anyway. Nice! And some Australians have been downloading my online stories, School Marms and Suffragettes and Milk and Water and Biology and Ambition. 

Of course, many many Australians download Looking For Mrs. Peel, which is about my grandmother`s ordeal at Changi Prison during the Second World War.

The Fiddlehead Bar and Grill is in an old mill. It`s funny how we`ve gentrified the places where our ancestors toiled. "From Factory to Fabulous!"  Nice slogan. I have one for the apartments in the Dominion Textile Building in Little Burgundy. "From Sweatshop to Sensational." (My story, School Marms and Suffragettes has a subplot involving Dominion Textile.)

An art deco mall of sorts. I asked the waitress if it had been the old movie house. She says she thought she heard that...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What exactly is Social Studies?

School Marms and Suffragettes is my ebook about 3 Canadian women in the 1910 era based on genuine era letters.

A few days ago I checked out the Ontario curriculum to see that their goals for 8th grade history align perfectly with the topics covered in my ebook.

 So, that is why Ontario schools come to my Tighsolas website!

The issues of the Laurier Era, a pivotal era in history, are focused on to a great extent.

And that's why the library at OISE at the University of Toronto was happy to add a copy of my book to their collection.

Today I checked out the Quebec social studies and history curriculum to see that it didn't seem to focus at all on the Laurier Era. Even with respect to 'women's role in society' it started after WWI.

So that's why few Quebec students come to the website. Too bad, my story takes place in Quebec, in Richmond and Montreal and elsewhere.

 But the Quebec website had a nice definition of Social Studies.

I do think reading the Nicholson Family Letters and School Marms and Suffragettes will meet the goal  in splendid fashion. My book shows how the Political influences the Personal and vice versa. And it's based on real events!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Much Ado about the Economy

Crossing the Cornwall Bridge and returning through Canadian customs 2 hours later.

Well, I've been tooting around Italy lately, a town in the Alps here,  a town on the coast, there, then maybe a Medieval city or two. Siena is real nice, although I got lost in that maze of narrow streets. Luckily, I could just air-lift myself out :)

And then I took a break and went way down to Australia, where I've noticed that Melbourne has the most spectacular contemporary style homes, my favorite style, and few and far between here in Canada.

Ah, the virtual vacation.  Inexpensive and not at all tiring on the old feet. I also took a look at Sao Paolo, not a place I would likely every go. The parts I found were very poor. 

Bored with faking it,  I got in the car with my husband and drove an hour to Cornwall, Ontario and we spent exactly two hours in New York,  Messina New York that is; about half an hour at the Mohawk Casino, which is on the American side, where I lost 40 dollars in two minutes (what a waste! but my retribution for the ugly past) and then on to beautiful downtown Messina, where I bought some cheapish cheese at a grocery store there. 

Quick trip to New York. (That sounds better than it is.) Easy in, easy out. I only wish Messina were a pretty city. It doesn't have to be the Big Apple. But, it isn't. My husband says next year when that new highway bypassing Montreal is finished we'll be able to buzz to Burlington  in an hour. Burlington Vermont is, indeed, a pretty place.

At our return, after just two measly hours, I expected  the border guard would be suspicious of such a short trip, but he wasn't. We had bought 12.00 worth of cheese and some eggs  and offered to show him the receipt. He didn't even look at our passports. I thought this strange, but apparently, Canadians don't need passports to get back into the US, just to get into the US.

Just to say, gasoline cost 3.65 a gallon in Messina today, which after much difficulty, as our baby math skills have atrophied over the years, we figured out that is the equivalent of about 1.00 a liter. Gas is about 1.20 a liter near our home, so with the 5 cent exchange that isn't much of a saving at all.

It really irks me. Gasoline has gone down a bit in price these past two weeks, from, say, 1.30 a liter to 1.20 a liter. Whoopee! We save a dollar each time we fill up, except that the Canadian stock exchange has tanked, as Canada's economy is so oil-based, and that means we lost THOUSANDS of our hard-earned retirement savings. Poof gone!  Some of the same money I decided to put away this year, instead of applying it to a fun fantasy weekend in New York City. Why bother, I wonder. 

As it happens, the Conservative Government is running attack ads in Quebec, this week,  claiming the NDP  and their leader Thomas Mulcair have dangerous economic ideas. (A powerful ad, but very short on the specifics to back up their claim. But the Cons aren't aiming for the intellect, they are aiming for the gut, the fear centers.)

 But gee, who needs to listen to Thomas Mulcair?  It doesn't take a genius in math (and I am not one as I mentioned) to figure out that Canada's oil-based economy isn't helping out the ordinary folks like me. The high cost of gas means everything costs more, especially food. 

 I don't think my husband and I will ever be able to retire. And just a few years ago our investment person  said we were 'right on track.' Now we're 5 years older and our savings are in the same place they were back then before that dastardly downturn. 

I had better get used to my virtual vacations using Google Earth!

OK. This is a bit of a rant. I've been to Sao Paulo and I've 'driven' through the endless slums of that huge city, that apparently is a thriving metropolis, but I only could find the slums.  So, it could be worse. And some of those towns in Italy are pretty sketchy too (except for the sun and mountains and olives and wine.)

Now, if only I could become a famous writer. (Margaret Atwood lately claimed she knows at least 5 writers in Canada who make enough to live on.) School Marms and Suffragettes was just today listed by the National Archives of Canada. "Thank you, Ms. Nixon," they said "for your important contribution to the safekeeping of Canada's heritage." 

But, I bet they say that to everyone.

The second story in my School Marms and Suffragettes 'digital trilogy', Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, is about Edith Nicholson and how she lost her great love in the Rossmore Hotel Fire in Cornwall in 1910. A true story... except I turn it into a murder mystery involving drug smuggling. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Are Women Overdoing Athletics?

A 1902 Ladies' Home Journal features a lady golfer.

Are women overdoing athletics?

I'm not asking (the answer is obviously NO. Young and old, we're all couch potatoes and research shows that younger and younger  children are getting more and more out of shape each passing year. In Toronto schools they don't get their 20 minutes a day of exercise, a recent report showed. So that CTV Olympic slogan "The movement that changed Canada" is kind of ironic, isn't it? With each passing Olympics, the kids get fatter and fatter. )

No, this is the title of an editorial in a 1906 Ladies' Home Journal I have on hand, which I purchased to research my digital trilogy School Marms and Suffragettes about 3 young women, the Nicholsons, in 1910 Canada.

I've chosen this editorial to 'deconstruct' in honor of Wimbledon, which is just getting started. As the Peter Sellers character Chance in Being There says, "I like to watch."

I've taken to watching tennis this past year only. (My friends like it, my kids like it, my brother likes it, so why not?)

 I've just discovered it is lotsa fun watching very fit youngish men and women play a very complicated game. I'm your typical  out of shape voyeur. And judging from the number of ads during major tennis tournaments for Viagara and the other one, well, I'm not alone in living vicariously through top athletes.

Anyway, my brother likes tennis a lot and he lives in Europe and last night he was telling me that European cities still have courts where ordinary people can play. Is this true?

In Montreal, this is not the case. Now, there used to be courts everywhere, in all the parks. The Nicholson women of  1910 era Richmond often played tennis (I have it in their letters.) So even small towns like Richmond had courts, or some kind of arrangement.

My mother, living in Notre Dame de Grace in the 1930's, played tennis often with her friends. And I'm pretty sure they didn't belong to a club. I may be wrong.

By the 1960's these courts were not in use. They were still there, but seldom used. Mostly were locked if I recall, and their courts all bumpy and cracked. (Aha. It costs money to maintain a court.)

  We kids did not play tennis in the city in the sixties. And our gym course consisted of 50 minutes a week of frightening games, like dodge ball.

Today, I believe, it's all about clubs, although there are a couple public courts in my community.

In the 80's I sent my kids for a summer to the local tennis club in Hudson, where they learned a bit about the game, but didn't like it much as their friends weren't there and the only time the courts were available to them was at 12 noon, when the sun was overhead and scorching.

Edie in Casual Camping gear, so I suspect this dress is what she would wear to play tennis.

Here's the Ladies' Home Journal editorial, slightly edited down for laziness. *I'm lazy about typing too.

"The very best of medical men are beginning seriously to think that young women are overdoing their athletics, and that their attention, as well as that of their parents, should be called to the attending dangers.

These physicians agree that physical exercise is as necessary for women as it is for young men, but that it must be strictly along sex lines.

Misdirected physical exercise are injurious to young girls and make for future invalidism.

Woman is physiologically different from men and no education can change her, but false education can pervert her and muscular exercise emulating male athletes can injure her beyond recovery.

The medical men fully realize that girls and boys have characteristic differences. These differences are mental as well as physical. This fact is too frequently ignored, they maintain in girls' preparatory schools with coeducational affiliations and in the high schools.  It is among these institutions, according to physicians that the abuse of athletics is mainly seen.

It is just now a nice question in the minds of these men whether the pendulum has not swung too far in this craze for unnatural physical exertion. A woman being different from a man, no girl can, without injury to herself, essay pole vaulting, high jumping for broad jumping. Every mother should understand that such forms of jarring, unnatural exercises are dangerous and injurious to young women, and especially to young girls.

Many girls who think they have only temporarily strained their physical endurance have in reality injured their nervous systems.

Girls between fourteen and sixteen years of age should do no physical work except walking and swimming and such household labour as does not involve straining or lifting.

Any form of exercise that causes undue excitement, such as basketball games between rival schools or classes, is too great strain on the developing nervous system. "

These forms of exercise take life from the growing girl, and she can never bloom with all her rightful strength  if deprived of one minute's grown of nerve power.


Hmm. My first thought. Have them take off their corsets maybe!

 I wish I had this article in 1968, when I was forced to play field hockey in my bloomers and teddy blouse in front of the boys at high school, where there were about 10 gym teachers in 1967. (The teddy blouse tucked and snapped closed between the legs  so that there would be no wardrobe malfunctions. It was made of cotton so did not stretch.) I think I would have liked tennis, since I had excellent eye hand coordination, if they had allowed me to dress with some dignity.

Aleksandra Wozniak is from Ste. Therese, which was in my high school's catchment area. There's some kind of tennis program there, must be anyway.

Funny, children  in 1910 worked in factories, or as domestics,  long long hours, too, but THAT WAS OK. (My story School Marms and Suffragettes has a sub theme about child labour at the Textile Factory in Magog) But then this magazine was aimed at the "nervous" middle class.

Hey, Look. Another 1902 Ladies Home Journal, one I don't own, features a lady tennis player. Clearly the same artist.  Sharapova doesn't need a corset, I've noticed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tighsolas: House of Light

School Marms and Suffragettes is the story of three Canadian women in 1910, based on real letters.

Between 1908 and 1913, Henry Ford perfected the manufacturing of his Model T, revolutionizing the way ‘things’ were made and sold and ushering in the age of mass production.

Between 1908-1913, D. W. Griffith produced hundreds of his Biograph silent film shorts, effectively giving birth to the American Film Industry.

Between 1908-1913, Coco Chanel launched her fashion career in Paris, just as the fight for women’s suffrage reached its apex. She eventually redefined  women’s clothing, liberating female limbs and lungs with soft fabrics and shorter hemlines, but too late to soften the image of the militant suffragettes. (Actually the suffragettes were very fashion conscious.)

And between 1908-1913, bark salesman turned railroader Norman Nicholson  of Richmond, Quebec,  his feisty wife  Margaret, their spirited daughters, Edith, Marion and Flora  and lost soul of a son, Herb, were a proud family in crisis, teetering on the brink of financial ruin.

The family left behind a vivid written record of their day-to-day trials, thoughts and feelings, in letter-form.  Fittingly, talk of fashion, entertainment and long dusty trips in automobiles pervades these letters.

For those of you who thought feminism was invented in the  1960’s, these letters will be a real eye-opener. 

For those of you who love Canadian history and  marvel at the way technology changes us, these letters, penned at such a pivotal time in history,  will be something of  a revelation.

The Ontario Curriculum Revised and My Free Ebook

The Ontario Curriculum Social Studies (Revised) for grades 1-6 and History and Geography for grades 7 and 8 is online, so I read it to see if my ebook School Marms and Suffragettes could be a practical resource for use in that province's schools.

It seems I should be writing at a grade 8 level, because in Ontario that's the year they cover the turn of the last century, the 1900's. 

My FREE ebook School Marms and Suffragettes is based on real letters. I've embellished these letters a bit, to add drama, but I still aimed for historical accuracy.  (Successful historical writers will tell you to go for the story over historical accuracy.)

I don't see anything in the revised Ontario curriculum about era 'fashion.'  Fashion is very often the topic of most interest to the girls. Boys seem to like transportation. Students get to study the CPR in the Ontario Course.

School Marms and Suffragettes covers both fashion and transportation as well as the Wheat Boom, Education and Women and Work, etc, etc,  all the topics relevant to the Laurier Era. 

And the ebook showcases an exciting new angle on the suffrage movement in Canada.  

(I see that the Ontario students are encouraged to learn about  Nellie McClung and Emily Carr (a nod to women of the era). The Canadian suffrage  movement as taught in schools (if taught in schools) has been packaged and sanitized for politically correct consumption. I think anyway.  

(Of course, that's way better than in the 1970's. Canada Then and Now, our 8th grade  history book discussed no females at all.)

Sir Wilfrid drawing in Canada Then and Now

School Marms and Suffragettes contains a bit about another Female Canadian painter, Mary Riter Hamilton.  In fact, two of her paintings, Maternity and the Gift are key to one of the three stories.

 I've had The Nicholson Family Letters posted on my website TIGHSOLAS for 7 years (with background information). It is popular with the Ontario Catholic School Sector and some teachers in British Columbia.

The Gift by artist Mary Riter Hamilton. I visited the Van Gogh Exhibit at the National Gallery the day before yesterday and while waiting my start time, I tried to find a picture by Riter Hamilton. They don't have any. She is not considered an important artist. And yet she exhibited at the Paris Salons of the time.

1900 Letters from the around the US

School Marms and Suffragettes is a free ebook based on  three hundred 1910 era letters belonging to a respectable middle class family from Richmond Quebec. The one-of-a-kind ebook describes the tail-end of the Laurier Era through the eyes of three vivacious middle class women, life, love, work and especially FASHION.

There are other letters that exist in the same stash, about 1000. Here are a sample from friends and relations to the Nicholsons.

Marion Nicholson circa 1910

PICTURES OF THE MIND. Martine's Sensible Letter Writer from 1860, claims that a person's letters are 'pictures of the mind.' (Margaret actually writes that herself in a 1910 letter, running down a relative who has sent her a angry letter demanding repayment of a debt.) The letters below are from Margaret's relations and friends, from 1884 to 1907 or so, all over the US, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, new York and New Jersey  as well as from the Big City of Montreal.  (the Isle of Lewis diaspora was wide-ranging, all the way to Australia!) They are little snippets of the past, but also Pictures of the Mind of the writers, lonely working women in the city to  preachers with colourful pens, etc.

Dear Mrs. Nicholson,

This is the country Mr. Nicholson ought to be in. He could get bark delivered at the depot in Airlie for 1.25 per cord. We got some to burn. I like it for baking or ironing. It keeps such a steady fire. The bark here is so thick on the trees and they are so big, there are plenty of them 300 feet high. They are from five to nine feet through. They call them fir but I cannot tell them from the hemlock at home. There is a great deal of oak.It is so cheap, but it don't make much difference for we don't need much of it. Ain't cold. There are miles of land covered with oak. This is a great place to raise hogs. The hills are full of wild ones. Archie has been at one boar hunt. They ride after them on horseback. They are very fine meat. It is great sport.

E. M Kirkland to Marg Nicholson 1889…Airlie, Oregon.

Dear Sister Maggie,

Well, Maggie, I imagine I see you going into the church just now for it is just seven o'clock on Sunday evening and I wish I could go to church. To think what a fellow has to do to make a living. It has snowed all day and is still snowing. It is snowing and blowing something fearful here today. The worse I saw this time of the year. Our car is rocking with the winds that I can hardly write. I don't think we can work tomorrow but I don't care very much for my pay. But I am getting on alright. I have nine men now plenty to eat and to wear. The master carpenter wrote to me to put on more men but men are hard to get here. So long as a man has his health, no reason to complain. You should see the fine cattle that is shipped here every day. I am thinking of going into raising cattle next spring. I think it is the best thing a man can do out here. No risk to run
Your loving brother, Dan.

Williston, North Dakota, October 1898.

Dear Cousin,

We had a delightful winter, all our snow came in March and now just a little to be seen. Little Evelyn has been quite sick. She had inflammation of the lungs and pneumonia. She was pretty bad for a while.Now she is better. Going around again, although not strong yet. Lizzie is always busy with housework, sewing for herself and the children, helping the neighbours, taking painting lessons, painting pictures, doing church work and a little of everything. I have not seen Mr. Watters since he moved to Newton. Annie called one day. How are all the girls? I think you might let Edith come to see us in the spring. Lizzie met John D. McNaughton in the car last week in Boston. He is well and boasting of a little girl in the house.

Yours truly
A J McLeod
Somerville Mass. March 30, 1906

Well, I am coming along about as usual, gradually increasing in my business. Of course, I am doing some poor families, from which the profits will be small, if any, but in time I think I can get into a good paying practice with comparatively easy work. We have had very pleasant weather about two weeks ago, since then very changeable and cold. Politics is now taking a back seat to business in this commonwealth and business is again coming forward. The shoe business has made qutie a start of late and will do more and more in January and February.
Regards to your family,

Henry Watters, Newton Massachusetts 1905 (Henry figures largely in School Marms and Suffragettes

Flora, Edith, And Norman Nicholson with Floss and Hugh Blair who marries Marion. His desperate letter from home in 1917 starts off Marion's Story Biology and Ambition

Dear Mrs. Nicholson,

Montreal 1900 era

                                                             Edith Nicholson 1910 era. 

It is just two months tomorrow since we came here. Mother is going to remain until September. I am leaving tonight at 7.35 for Chicago and then Minerville. I have had a delightful visit. I spent 2 weeks at Uncle John's and after, went to Duluth, called on some acquaintances, also on Neil Stalker, Ada Rose. Went up to Virginia, about 85 miles up the Iron Range of Mountains where are some of my people from Minerville. I have been in Minneapolis about two weeks. Last Sunday I preached in a church here as a candidate, but hardly think of coming out here. I like it here, but still there is an unsettled feeling among the people. Very few seem content. Everyone seems to be on the lookout, how or where to move to do better. And in church work, there is difficulty in keeping the people interested. There is so much to attract them from church and so little fixed purposes among the people to be faithful attenders at church…My brothers David and Peter are both well. David and wife have two children. Hazel is three and Murdoch is a year and three weeks, a nice bright boy with beautiful bright black eyes. I think he is the chief in the McLeod clan. He has a good sensible mother and she is proud of her little family and has a very pleasant home. David is away from here a lot. Wish he could be at home with his family. I have seen George and Emma Darby. They live in St Paul. Sunday was quite warm and about 4.30 a heavy hailstorm came. Hail the size of peas and cherries fell and was followed by rain. Everybody here fears cyclones ever since the fateful one at New Richmond, Wisconsin where thirteen people were killed and a town utterly destroyed. Oh such a wreck. Lord deliver us from such a catastrophe! Your cousin, N M McLeod. 1899

My dear Mrs. Nicholson,

I know you will be glad to hear how we are getting on. We had a very pleasant stay at the Haverstraw from Sunday until Saturday. When we came here to our new home and it was raining very hard -however we managed to get things settled so as to remain here. We had about six men helping us. They do things here in great haste. I like our flat very much.We see so much out of any windows. From the dining room and kitchen windows we see the electric cars, crowds on them all the time.We can buy anything we want, the stores are so near us. We can walk from our town to the other, we are only three miles from Jersey City and lots of other large towns all around. We already had a long walk. I cannot begin to tell you what we already have seen. I went to a Harvest Home supper at the Presbyterian Church with Fred's wife Minnie. Also a prayer meeting. Haverstraw is 35 miles from here. You should have seen the mess getting our piano up through the third story window with ropes this morning. Strange, we forgot the bird. You can keep it. It is a good singer. The weather is just lovely here. I had my windows open the whole day. I have on my white shirtwaist. We are all fine. Hope you are the same,
Your friend,
Sarah Pray, Union City N.J. 1900

Thank you sincerely for your invitation but I am afraid I shall have to decline. What an inconvenience it is to be so impecunious one has to deprive themselves of so many pleasures. The C E convention has been underway a few days and has created quite a little excitement. There are so many strangers in the city. The meetings have been very good. I have gone to quite a number of then. Saturday night went to the denominational rally in Orskine Presbyterian Church and the atmosphere was redolent with the 'shorter catechism' and scotch stories, but I enjoyed it all the same. The city is quite gay now, the shops with fall goods and the places of amusement all open. I have made myself a red velvet turban and you can imagine whether it was loud or not. The millinery is very gay this season. Most of the straw hats have been culled in. The roughrider hats have been popular but are on the wane.

Jessie Beacon. Montreal, 1899

Dear Sister,

I am glad to hear you had such a nice visit to Boston. I'm sure it was a treat to see Norman and Alice. How is Aunt Margaret and has she fully recovered from her broken limb. So Henry Watters has graduated as a doctor. Glad to hear. I thought we were going to have a doctor in the Nicholson family. You may plan, but it does not always go as we would like. I saw an item in the paper saying Herb is going into the bank. He will get along. Some day be President. Has Edith finished her business course. Will she go away to get a position? Well, I suppose you have heard about Sarah and all the business - back to Sarnia in July. Currie would not be satisfied here or anywhere. He went all the way out to Colorada, stayed only 10 days, spent 100 dollars. He thought no place like Sarnia. What a dreadful man. Sarah has a miserable life to live. He groans and grumbles. Says he will not live long. He weighs 189 and eats and sleeps well and I don't think there is much the matter with him. Sarah is very slim and in poor health. I don't think another spell of the asthma will go well with her. The girls are really no help. They are nice children but I cannot like them for they do not seem to care too much for their mother. I do miss them for they were here all the time. I guess I am to spend my days here by myself. I did hate to part with Sarah. She did not want to go back. Too much pleasure here. Someone to tell her troubles to. I hope you will write to her often. I hope you can come visit this fall. I cannot see why you cannot. You can go to Boston and New York..Give my love to all the children. Tell Edith is she will get married, I will come to the wedding.

Your sister Christina
Howell Indiana, 1905

Dear Cousin Norman

I now take my pen in hand to write to you. I didn't write you before now because I wanted to get settled. That place they sent me to the day that you left, I only stayed one week. I didn't want to kill myself just yet and the work was too hard so I didn't stay and I came here one week ago. The work is hard but I will try and stay. Don't like to be changing. I am on Beacon Street near Jordon House if you remember the day we went to Corey Hill. All your cousins are here. Christy MacDonald came to Boston. She and cousin Effie Nicholson are near here. I hope you got home all right and that you found all there well. Cousin Effie Nicholson was here, Murdo's daughter, but she did not like it and went back to Lowell. She said that Kenneth got home safe. When are you coming to Boston the next time?

Your cousin
Christy Breaky
Brookline Mass 1892

My dear Mrs. Nicholson,

I arrived safely in New York on Wednesday. My son John met me so I was all right. I had a nice visit in Sherbrooke . I took dinner with Mrs. Streeter and spent all day and all night with Mrs. Davidson. Yesterday John took his wife and me out for my first automobile ride. I was nervous at first but soon got to enjoy the ride. Today my niece and I were out shopping. What a great city this is. I heard from my friend Mrs. Morrison. I expect to go to Scotland with her. John got my ticket today.

Your loving friend,
John McKay
East Brooklyn NY 1906

My dear Maggie

I am glad to hear you are both spared. I do wish I could see you and your dear little baby. I know it is just as sweet as ever it can be. I do love her dearly for her mother's sake. Now Maggie, I do think you are rich. I don't think there is anything more you can wish for. How you must love your dear little baby. It is an angel spirit sent to you to train up. I would have written sooner but I feared all was not well, I had not heard from you.I got so anxious. Now dear, you must tell me what the little pet is called. I am sure Nicholson is very proud of her. I can draw a home picture of you nursing your little treasure and your husband sitting by you. I hope you are going to get nice and strong soon.

E McCullough
1884 St Andrews

My dear Mrs. Nicholson

Like yourself I have been very busy lately, but it is a busy season and everyone seems to be hustling just now and complaining that the days and nights are too short. As usual I have done a lot of shopping, not so much for myself, but commissions for friends. And there are such crowds and so many temptations to linger in the shops. Life at 96 goes on in the same monotonous way. The same kind of work day after day, home at six, dress and go out with only a little variety in the ways the evenings are spent. With the same hash served up every day, the only variety being that sometimes it is worse. (I got a fly in my porridge yesterday.) However, there is always some consolation to be got out of grumbling. I have such a nice girlfriend in 96, I have not had one since Ada, but the problem is she is going out to Vancouver to keep house for a bachelor brother in about a month and I shall be by my lonesome. We both go to St Martin's and appreciate the superiority of our doctrinal views. So Mr. Troop has been approved by a Presbyterian. I would not be surprised that a higher authority, even than that, was pleased with the life he leads. But it takes some people a long time to know that they have a good thing, the same kind of prudence that makes them wait until they hear a joke fired from a cannon before they laugh. And now Mrs. Nicholson I must close and to work, for we are busy at the office.

Yours Jessie Beacon.96 Union Ave Montreal 1899

Dear Cousin Maggie,

Well, I left Montreal at 7 o'clock and reached Plattsburg. Remained over night and went on the 11 train. Got to Port Henry at 12 42 and remained there until 2.30 as the train to Minerville was delayed. There I learned that a terrible accident had happened at the mines. One man had been killed and two others badly injured by a blast exploding at the wrong time. It seems that a number of blasts were fired at the same time as is usually done. One did not go off and the men came to it and having by some way not definitely known, set it off while attempting to remove the charge. At any rate, it went off, blew the head off one man, James Tait and injured George Baker and Thom McClellen. Baker has one hand partly cut off, his right arm broken, shoulder bruised, right eye destroyed and may lose the left. His face is so burnt with powder and filled with gravel that he is beyond recognition. I went to see Baker and Mrs. Tait as soon as I got home.

The funeral of Tait was held Saturday at his home and such a funeral will long be remembered. Tait was a Protestant, a Scotchman. I knew him and had visited with him when he had got hurt while at work. His wife is RC but doesn't go to church. They said they must get McLeod. I had buried a man, a friend of his, and no one would satisfy her but me. Well, I conducted the funeral services. Such a funeral. The Laborer's Union turned out to a man.There must have been 150 teams. I know not how many, from Minerville and Millbrook, over a mile. Tait was so badly mangled that Mrs. Tait and the five children were not allowed to see him. This was terrible for Mrs. Tait. She became hysterical and required four strong men to hold her back from the coffin at the house and again at the grave. She would scream out, Poor Jim Poor Jim and they won't let me see him. I wish I was dead. I wish I was with Jim… I called on her today. She is calmer, but seems dazed and wrings her hands in grief. I am so tired today, having had to write so much in such a hurry.

Norman McLeod 1901
Minerville New York

Friday, June 22, 2012

Protect Yourself!!

In 1910 the time of School Marms and Suffragettes there were a lot of things for parents to worry about, the white peril, (tainted milk), the menace of the motion picture, the King of Death (pneumonia) and disease carrying housefly, and the Social Evil as in prostitution (more precisely the danger of your daughters being lured into it my those immigrant types.)

A terrible war was coming up, many magazine article were already warning about it, but only a few worried  about that possibility.

I actually found this two sided flyer, How to Protect Yourself against Atomic Attack in my father-in law's bookshelf a few years ago as we were packing up the house.  The other side was in French so it was distributed in Quebec.

Keep this Handy, the flyer says and my in-laws obeyed, tucking it away in a book probably back in the 1950's.

I scanned it and then sold it on eBay for a song. I thought we'd only lose it so a collector should have it.

"If you are outdoors when the bomb explodes, seek shelter beside a building."

"If a bomb explodes in the air, wait a few minutes and then go out to help citizens fight fires."

Of the Powers that BE knew this was nonsense.  So why the BS? And a more relevant question, what kind of BS are we being fed today, with regards to real or imagined dangers.

Eye in the Sky and Researching The Roaring Twenties

I just sent my eplay, or ebook, Milk and Water out to an expert in Montreal History and especially the history of the municipal waterworks.


Yesterday, I surfed Google Books entering "Jules Crepeau" to see if anything new has popped up. Not much. I can see he wrote a lot for magazines like "City Engineer" etc.

One entry, shows that in 1922, my grandfather was on a committee with Dr. Atherton, the man who gave the 1923 speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal, describing drug addled prostitutes, that helped set off the Coderre Inquiry.  My grandfather's name came up in that inquiry, but not associated with prostitutes. It was claimed he pressured Policeman into allowing movie theatres to break the rules. It's all very interesting.

In found my grandfather's and mothers marriage certificate on My grandfather's mother was a Forget, and that's key to his story.  Jules' brother Isadore was a witness at the marriage.. He was the man who fell out of his office window in 1932. He was the Vice President of a Motion Picture Company, the United Amusement Corporation. Of course, my grandfather ended up getting hit by a car in 1937, by an off duty police officer. He died the next year from complications. At the time of the accident, my father was getting a huge pension from the City, which made him the second highest paid person at City Hall, even though he wasn't working.

Here's an odd thing, if anything is odd about today's EYE IN THE SKY or Eye in the Cloud times.

When I entered Jules Crepeau, about 8 pages of entries came up. On page 4, four entries that didn't have Jules Crepeau in them. Not that the entries were of little interest to me: of course they were of interest. They were right out of my blog. Dangerous Old Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an ebook I bought off Sounds True. Gigi, A Month in the Country, which I watched last year and really liked. It's an early Colin Firth movie. And the City Below the Hill, By Herbert Brown Ames. I found a copy on and used it to research my book about 1910 Montreal School Marms and Suffragettes. I have Jules mention Mr. Ames in Milk and Water.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Abuse of Solitary Confinement, 1944 and 2012

An editorial  in the New York Times today, struck home for me.

The Abuse of Solitary Confinement
80,000 Americans being kept in solitary reads the subheading.

80.000, the size of  large town! Imagine.

Prisoners being held in tiny windowless cells for up to 23 hours.

That's exactly what happened to my grandmother in WWII.  I have her diary and I wrote a play about it: Looking for Mrs. Peel.

My grandmother was a prisoner of the Japanese in WWII, in Singapore's infamous Changi Prisoner of War Internment Camp. (Changi wasn't all that bad a place actually, relatively speaking, during the good times when the Japanese were doing well in the war.)

However, my grandmother was one of three women caught up in a torture 'incident' called the Double Tenth.

In 1943, some Japanese boats were sunk in Singapore Harbour and the Japanese suspected that some internees were involved.

Up until then, the Commandants at Changi had been pretty slack, allowing the internees to go about their lives as long as they followed a few rules.

(My grandmother in her cell at Changi. It was the Holiday Inn compared to what she would soon experience first in a torture chamber in the old Singapore YMCA building and then in solitary confinement. She barely survived.)

But in 1943, the BBC began broadcasting to the Far East and some Changi Internees set up secret radios.

Anyway, my grandmother  was, for a time, Women's Camp Leader and she got involved with the Men's radio business and then she was arrested and  brought to a 'real' prison in the Singapore YMCA building and put  in a small almost windowless room with 17 men and 1 Chinese woman, all of whom were taken out at night at tortured. The men anyway. Burned, electrified, water tortured.

My grandmother wasn't taken out and tortured, she just had to witness all this and endure the starvation and humiliation.  For a month. Then she was taken for 5 months of solitary confinement.

My play Looking for Mrs. Peel explains it all for her first hand perspective.

During the war crimes trial over the Double Tenth Incident, in 1946, my grandmother's experience in solitary were not considered torture by the British Prosecutors.

But as the New York Times article reveals: being alone in misery is a lot worse than being amongst others in misery.

My grandmother longed to be back in the horrible torture cell with 'all her friends."

Shoe-business and what's in a name?

Shoes from Eaton's Catalogue, circa 1910

As it’s summer reading time, I’ve been amusing myself lately perusing the Eaton’s Catalogues of the 1900 era on the Internet. 300 pages of shirtwaists and sarsaparilla tonics and feathers and flowers and wings to adorn your Easter bonnet. It’s a history lesson, I tell you. Just take the footwear section.

Now, we've all heard of Cinderella's glass slipper. Which was really a shoe. Well, it appears that in 1900, a slipper was a shoe, a shoe was a boot of sorts and a boot was well, also a boot, but not a moccasin.

Although, some slippers looked like real slippers.

What am I talking about? Well, there's a labelling discrepancy between then and now with respect to footwear.

Shoes, I am guessing here, were footwear for outdoor wear, mostly lace-up boot-like things. (Which I notice are all the rage today, except in a much much more sleek and sexy version).

Slippers, were footwear you could 'slip on' so they were sturdy things you wore, indoors. Or like Marion Nicholson, of Biology and Ambition out on the lawn of Tighsolas in summer in 1910.

Boots, I am again guessing, were very sturdy items, designed to protect against the elements and rough roads. And to be worn outdoors.

Yes, people walked a lot in those days! And they had to mend their boots a lot! These days, try to find a shoemaker.

Anyway, in the 60's if I recall, right when mini skirts and bright vinyl go go boots were in style with the young, another fashion fad came and went, the Granny fad. There were granny boots and granny glasses and granny skirts. No corsets, though.

This fad didn't last long (well, fads never do) because, franky, the fashion was uncomfortably Edwardian and once you are free you can't go back!!

Basically anything goes with female footwear these days. You can wear flip flops at your high school graduation with some traditional Cinderella style gown (or with some skimpy designer undress that is essentially a corset worn on the outside. I have witnessed this first hand) and you can wear bright pink spike-heeled leather boots under your hijab. (I've seen this too!)

And the market for orthopaedic shoes, I know from personal experience, is booming because the Boomers all have bad backs from wearing unhealthy footwear all their lives, and from living in our cars as adults. We're all out of shape.

A slipper to me has always been a very soft thing you wear with pyjamas. Hence its name, bedroom slipper. A classic bedroom slipper is made of soft leather and has a fringe of soft poodle-fur like material or  shaped whimsically like a Gund kitty cat or Alligator or Garfield.

I don't own slippers, I use socks to keep my feet warm. Some of them have whimsical little adornments, bead eyes and felt ears and such. My dogs will chew to smitherines any rogue sock lying around, ones with or without eyes.  A moccasin is a shoe made out of leather or animal skin. I had sealskin moccasins as a young child when I lived in Labrador in 1959. I used them as bedroom slippers until the back part was squished flat like a mule. (Remember that sexy scene from Rear Window, where Grace Kelly gives Jimmy Stuart a sneak preview of her boudoir wear, including high heeled mules.(It's my favorite scene in the whole movie.)

Sexy mules, not to be confused with mules having sex, which apparently,  doesn't work anyway.

From perusing the 1899 Eaton's catalogue, I can see a moccasin is a leather or animal skin boot. (My husband has a pair, from the old days.) Canadians in 1900 bought moccasins. These were serious winter boots worn, I assume, mostly by men. I bet they were much warmer than the other boots they wore. I wonder if the 'the rubbers' people purchased were winter boots, which were worn over shoes –before they were called overshoes.

Even in my day, as children, in the 60's, we wore these rubber boots over our shoes (or overshoes) and our FEET FROZE. They only came in dark brown. (We called them boots. 'Rubbers' were the thin pads my father, an accountant, wore under his shoes proving that professionals in winter walked only in well-groomed areas.)I can unhappily still recall the awful ache I endured as I waited for my toes to defrost after each winter outing. And when I was real young, three or four, I'd always get my dark brown rubber boot stuck in the deep snow and have to unbuckle it and pull my shod foot out and leave the thing there, out in the backyard, for my hapless Mom to go dig out.

My own kids seldom experienced that: they had those modern multi-coloured insulated boots, more like moccasins, but made of some magical cold-repellent (or is it heat-retaining) space-age material, in the 80's. And they rolled their eyes when I told them 'how lucky they were' because in my day...blah... blah...blah. And then when they became teens, they dropped wearing winter boots all together because it wasn't cool and the thick running shoe sole insulated them from the freezing ground and they didn't spend much time outdoors anyway because video games were around by that time.

Mayans and Mexican Mysteries and Holbox

Cute, creepy crawlers.

My son visited a place called Holbox in Mexico and sent me some pictures. It's near Cancun.

Of course, I worried about him going to Mexico - and he tends to like to roam off the beaten path - but Mexico is a big place he told me.

And then he went to Cancun - which he hated as too Las Vegas. Someone suggested Holbox.

Trubu Hostel, Holbox

Anyway, the worst thing that happened to him, he got a mega sun burn the first day, which they now tell you is almost certain skin cancer.  I hope his Cree genes help him out here.

I've just finished writing a book Diary of a Confirmed Spinster where Mexico figures prominently. 1910 Mexico (and not about Zapata and the Revolution, this time.)

My book is based on the real letters of one Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt. In 1910 she lost her fiance in a hotel fire under what I think are suspicious circumstances. Her fiance had just returned from a mysterious trip to Mexico. And then moved to Cornwall Ontario.

As it happens the 1910 era was the beginning of the US war or drugs. As usual, it was really a war on the underclass, the Chinese. Opium was the drug in question. In 1909 it had been outlawed in the US. In Canada in 1910 opium was outlawed in Canada, but only for the Chinese. Women could still guzzle opiates in their medicines. (Edith did!)  In Mexico opium was still legal.

In my story Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, I have Edith's fiance killed over drugs. I'm not sure why he went to Mexico, there is no explanation in letters, but there was a typhoon in Monterrey in August 1909, and the water works there were owned by important Canadian concerns.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is part of my School Marms and Suffragettes digital trilogy about 3 Canadian women in 1910.

Here's more pictures near Holbox and Cancun. Mayan ruins and Nature Conservancy. That's where the crabs on top are from. I think he went to Chitzen Itza and Coba.

More Holbox below

And some fishermen took him out on a boat and left him to scuba dive off shore on a reef. (What was he thinking?) He said it really was an other worldly experience.

Below: Edith Nicholson, my son's great great aunt, with her fiance, Charlie in 1909.