Sunday, September 30, 2012

All About the Laurier Era in Canada 1896-1911ish

The Laurier Era:

1900 Canada

(Laurier was in power 1896-1911)

The Laurier Era in Canadian History is also commonly referred to as The Great Transformation.  The true-life story of the Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec in Tighsolas:House of Light, revealed through  family letters, photographs, illustrations, and rare, even unique documents (over 700 pages and 600 pictures and including many hard-to-find public domain articles and postcard illustrations for background ) is a clear snapshot of Canadian life; farm, town and big city; in the era of Nickelodeons, Model T Fords, the militant brick-throwing suffragettes and corsets and BIG Hats. This website reveals how EVERY family is part of history - whether they know it or not. To fully make sense of the crazy, tumultuous times we live in, and to think critically about the changes happening around us, it is important to understand 100 years ago, an era the BBC refers to as The Birth of Now.

The Nicholson Family Saga 

Sister Salvation: A short YouTube video explaining the Canadian Suffrage Movement, with a beautiful original song.
MILK and WATER:In 1909 Montreal had a typhoid epidemic. In 1927 Montreal finally did something about it.Watch the YouTube video. 

FashionFashion is connected to women's happiness in more ways than the obvious one.

Transportationaeroplanes, automobiles; trains, and those 'hotels' on water, ocean-liners. Titanic!

Home and Hearth
the rich, the middle-class, and the very poor.

Family Life
The world was changing, big time, and everyone was sensing the possibilities.

Love, Relationships and Courtship
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The World of Work (Men's and Women's)No job was out of bounds for women, except..¦.

MedicineStill Victorian in practice, "The King of Death" was always lurking around the corner.

Pioneering on the Prairie"This is young man's country."...still all kinds of folk went out there

Film and Entertainment and Musicpeople couldn't get enough of the new 5 cent picture shows. Why?

waves of change call for big ideas, but how to keep people in their proper place?

Women's Suffrage and the fight for rights
suffragists, suffragettes, 'new women' and 

educating 'new Canadians, while still giving 'old' Canadians the advantage

Inventionswith the car, phone, and aeroplane came many other peripheral inventions

Boomer Anthems and Cheap Thrills

I've been posting some of Gary Jewell's original songs on my blog here, and on YouTube. The pic above is from a clip of him singing in Plattsburg to Berd Verdan the Atlantic weather man.

Here's the sadder and more sinister Pretty Young Woman on YouTube, my channel. I have posted his other serious songs up there, and a couple of parodies. I put Nicholson images on the back.

Probably his best parody he ever wrote and sang is Tell Suzie I'm Sorry, an original song on the lines of Tell Mary I Love Her,  but I haven't posted it. It's too politically incorrect. Well, most of his parodies are politically incorrect.

Anyway, Gary died in 2003 and I ended up with all his vinyl record albums, or LP's as they were called, to add to my own record albums and my husband's. That's three copies of Bridge over Troubled Water, and three copies of   Carly Simon's No Secrets  and Tina Turner's Private Dancer and that Carole King Album.

My husband and I had prosaic collections, one typical for a male, one for a female.

Gary's collection however was all over the map, as he was  a real musician and, on top of that, he worked at many radio stations, sometimes as a 'music programmer' so he had all kinds of complimentary albums, with holes punched out in the corner. And lots of weird novelty stuff he had picked up at Cheap Thrills, the second hand record store on Bishop or one of those downtown streets.

One day I actually went through the huge pile to see if any albums were worth money. There were only two candidates, a Chuck Berry and a  Holly's album. You see the covers were in excellent condition, and that's what counted most.

I put these two vinyl albums aside for posterity and then they soon  ended back in the pile and one day, fed up with the mess in the garage, we got  a nephew to dispose of all the albums. Alas, we could not find a replacement needle for the record player.

There was also this Rickie Nelson album, in good condition,too, but not worth a sous, which I remembered from Times of Yore, not because I owned it, because my older brother owned it. I was born in 54, a little young to catch the 60's wave. Herman's Hermits and the Monkees were more my style.

Anyway, long story long, before the needle wore out on Ye Olde Pioneer Record Player, I placed the Rickie Nelson album on the turntable and just as I was about to drop the needle onto the first song, I remembered what it was. (Can't recall now though.) That information, apparently, is ingrained on my withering brain.

Not that I need to use my Brain, those Boomer Anthems are ubiquitous even today. Especially today.

I often play the 50/60's channel on Galaxy on the Satellite TV, called Jukebox Oldies. They play a 50 song or so  rotation, changing every week or so.

Sometimes I like said songs, sometimes I don't.. Last week they had the Little Rascals, the Monkees and Herman's Hermits, tailor made for former 12 year old in the 60's tastes. I danced around the house, shaking the arthritis out of my old bones.

Lately, as I've been using the Internet to research my Yorkshire roots, I decided to listen to Radio Yorkshire on the BBC. The DJ, a Diana Luke, plays All Sixties All the Time. As I tuned in on the puter (is that still the term?) she was playing Bits and Pieces, by the Dave Clarke Five, which I use in my play Looking for Mrs. Peel to show how the media, in the 60's, was starting to turn  our experience into little Bits and Pieces of this and that, Sound Bytes as it were, through radio and TV. (Boy, we hadn't seen anything yet!)

That Diana Luke Show had no commercials, lots of sixties songs, a more interesting mix than the CBC Galaxy Channel, and a bit of talk, a la old fashioned FM Radio.  (I don't associate 60's music with FM, only AM.)

Anyway, as I was listening to the BBC DJ, I decided I liked her, because SHE SOUNDED JUST LIKE ME.

Not voice wise, but personality wise. She was talking about the full moon and such. "I AM a Yorkshire type, " I guess, I said to my husband, who was snoozing on the couch, suffering from a cold. "There's no commercials. Who pays for this? " he replied.

About an hour and a half later, as I was about to tune out (Do they still say this?) or more aptly, Close the Window on her show, she came on and said, "Ah, I can remember listening to that song in my bedroom in CANADA."

Diana Luke is Canadian!  I looked her up. She's from Toronto and moved to Britain 30 years ago.
No wonder she sounds just like me.

As it happens, 30 years ago, I was working in Radio. Gary Jewell helped me get the job, as a copywriter. Our Am station was talk and sports radio and the FM was Paul Mauriat Elevator Musak For Old Farts. (Who's the Old Fart now?)

I recall a fellow employee was moving to England. "They like Canadian radio people, over there,"he said. (Roger Scott, a popular British Montreal DJ moved back to Britain to work for the BBC.)

It never occurred to me to play the Grandfather Clause card and move there. I might have become the Diana Luke of writing commercials, except the BBC has no commercials.

Well, there you go.

True story. The Only Album I owned with a hole punched in the corner was a Hall and Oates album. Some radio station reps were driving around the streets Montreal giving their first album away and a pretty young girl came up to me, I was even younger, about 12, and handed me the album and said "Play it. They are really good."

No, just checked, I don't remember that right. Hall and Oates first album came out in 1972, so I was in Jr. College and the 'young girl' was probably around my age or a little older. I probably felt jealous that she had such a cool job. And then I got to work in radio, and it was very hard work for hardly any money.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Totalitarian Denmark Sense of Style?

A futuristic living room.

My husband and I were discussing the BBC Radio 4 Great Lives episode on Philip K. Dick, which we both recently listened to.

I've read some of Philip K. Dick, years ago. My husband is familiar with the movies made of his work.

"He lived in Marin County," I told my husband. "You know, the place over the Golden Gate, where we drove through going to Napa in February."

Then I explained how Dick once said, (I seem to remember) that no science fiction scenario he could cook up was weirder than that California community in the 60's.

Now, a few weeks ago my husband and I purchased The Hunger Games off the TV because there was nothing better to watch.

We were surprised. We liked it. It had a Philip K. Dick feel.

I was most impressed with a tiny detail. A character goes home and flips through street scenes to project onto her apartment wall.

"Hey, I thought of that, " I told my husband. "That's what I'd like to do with my collection of Sotheby's images, or those YouTube videos of Sunday Evening in St Germain des Pres, project them on a wall. I have to settle for the big screen TV.... I could wake up in Big Sur and go to bed in Sienna."

I collect images of beautiful homes and beautiful rooms off Sotheby's and play them in a slideshow once in a while.  To make myself happy. To steal beauty.

The Sci Fi writers were pretty prescient when it came to things like the nightmare vision of future Politics and our obsession with sitting in front of Big Screen TVs, but I can tell you, when it comes to Home Decor, the Sci Fi writers got it wrong.

No, we don't all live in small rooms decorated in aluminum and glass. We live in a hodgepodge of styles - and for the most part, sensuality and warmth is what people are going for.

And we aren't all super slim either, wearing tin foil slacks, but that's another thing altogether.

When it came to the future decorating the sci fi writers (mostly men) were clueless.. They thought we'd all be Danish in lifestyle, but with totalitarian values!

Even back then, in 60's and 70's,  I knew better. I recall telling someone, "I think in the future, if life is so cold and impersonal, we are going to go for the Caribbean Look in our living rooms. Maybe we'll bring the garden inside, grass and all."

In an earlier post, I discussed how my brother (who lives in Denmark, but is part French Canadian like me) thinks there are two kinds of decorating, Catholic and Protestant. I think that is true, from what I see on Sotheby's.

In Barcelona and Paris the rooms are boldly baroque. In London, sparely furnished.. (Well, there's less space..and the rooms have been 'staged' maybe, as in cleared out.

Then there's San Francisco. All the homes are too tasteful by half. Full of beautiful baubles on elegant display. A mix of textures and colours on the walls and furniture to make Monet swoon. The Golden Gate bridge always visible through some picture window or porthole.

I can't show you, of course, but all these images are available on Sotheby's. Who needs architectural Digest or Philp K. Dick for Fantasy?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ancient Roots and North Yorkshire Ruins

Here's an overhead view of a French-sounding place

that really is in North Yorkshire, Rievaulx.  Above is a snip of a street

and here's the remnants of  its famous Abbey. I got this off a YouTube video.  Surreal to see the abbey with grass on the floor and no ceiling. It almost makes its point better than the original construction. I wonder if any movies were shot there?

Up until a while ago, I'd never heard of this place. I still don't know how it is pronounced. (I checked. It is pronounced the French way.) REEVO.

I only learned about it after looking up my grandfather's census listing, to see he was born in Helmsley, in Yorkshire (nice 'market' town) and his mom Mary Ellen was born in Rievaulx.

I assumed she was Mary Ellen Nesfield, as my father's middle name was Nesfield. But no, I just found out she's a Richardson.

Mary-Ellen Richardson, born 1864 into a tailor's family in Rievaulx. They lived at a place called Abbot's Well. Maybe it's in this picture.

No I found it! Right nearby. Abbotts Well cottage now hosts a Sport Vacation Company.

Someone has posted a complete history of the town on the web, without any credit. Just posted it there, no links to nothing.

Anyway, my great-grandmother, Mary Ellen, was not listed in the 1881 Rievaulx population census, so she must have been married by then, to delver Robert Nixon.


I've spent 6 years researching the story of my husband's ancestors, the Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec, because they left behind family letters, about a thousand of them.  300 alone from the 1908-1913 period. I posted them on Tighsolas. And then using the letters I wrote School Marms and Suffragettes.

I also have a slew of photos, snaps and formal portraits and also many documents from the era and a complete history of their expenses, 1883-1921.  I know their hearts and minds, their dreams and secrets and problems.

I know these people like the back of my hand. I even know where their ancestors lived. In Uig Carnish in the Hebrides.

And about my own relations, these North Yorkshire ones, I know nothing. Zero. (Well, next to nothing...) That's because my father was a child of the Raj, as they say. I wrote about that in Looking For Mrs. Peel That's about Mary-Ellen's daughter in law, my grandmother, Dorothy Forster Nixon, who lived most of her life in Malaya. She was born in Middleton on Teesdale.

Rievault and Helmsley are near Duncombe Park. My grandfather probably worked as a footman there  before taking off to Malaya.

The article I have says that when Charles Duncombe moved into the area, rents went up dramatically.


I guess one day I'll visit Rievaulx and then perhaps head off to UIG. But that is so far away. It's like going to Newfoundland from Montreal.

(Some people when going to the Maritime provinces, a 16 hour drive from Montreal, think they can 'hop' over to Newfoundland, not realizing it is very far away.)

Hmm. I see they are having a Michaelmas celebration at the Abbey this weekend. Too bad I just can't pop by. But I'd like too. I'd finally figure out what Michaelmas is... They mention it in Pride and Prejudice. Is it a fall solstice thingy? Yes, it is (I just checked) and a religious holiday.

Here's a list of the families living in Riavaulx in 1881: Heaton, Almond (nice name!) Allison, Richardson, Holiday (nice name!)Bowes, Dale, Robinson, Lawn (unusual name) Johnson, Hawkins, Ashpole, Frank, Goldrick, Hunton, Windross, Sherwood.

So, if you are looking up your own genealogy in North Yorkshire, Rievaulx, or Nixon in Helmsley, give me a shout.

How far is Rievaulx from Stoke on Trent? I must check.  I have some Thomas Forester Rembrandt vase pottery from that place...and I'm keen on researching the potter and the young women on the vases.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peeling away the layers of a Banana Story

(My spur of the moment Still Life With Lettuce Leaves and Plastic Wrap. The lettuce, in this case, is organic from the local farmer's market (going brown after 5 days)  the plastic wrap is from Costco. And see that slice of processed cheese? Individually wrapped it is,  Also from Costco. I don't normally buy it but my hubby had a hankering for an Old Fashioned 60's style grilled cheese sandwich. I don't like ingesting plastic, but I couldn't find a processed cheese product that wasn't individually wrapped. )

Oh Joy! My husband just pointed out a story on the CBC that makes me MAD, SAD, thrilled and amused all at the same time.

A store in Austria is selling pre-peeled bananas!

People are outraged. Such a waste. So decadent. Terrible for the environment.  So many people are upset the company was forced to de-activate its Facebook Page! (They are environmentally conscious in Europe.)

(Did this happen when they came out with pre-packaged lettuce, I wonder? I remember people thought that was a ridiculous product, but now they all buy it.)

Now, it's very true, bananas are FUNNIER than lettuce. They are a funny funny fruit. For Heaven's Sake, they are at the very core (to mix metaphors) of slapstick humour.

Ahem, they look funny in a phallic way.....Monkeys like them. And I guess that's the point: Even a monkey can peel one, EASILY. Probably even while playing with himself.

Ergo, the humorous side of this Outrageous Decadent Banana Story.

There's a not so humorous subtext, too. A profound irony, I guess it could be called.

As it happens, my son, who has a Physics degree, was in Australia (not Austria) on a one year work permit and the only work he could get was hard labour on farms. Native Australians don't want these jobs. As it happens he worked on a banana farm in the jungle in 100 degree heat carrying bunches of bananas from the tree to the truck all day long. He says the bunches weighed more than he did.

Indeed, there are so many layers to this banana story, it's almost an onion story.

I've been touring the Tate Modern on YouTube for fun and edification. If an artist took a bunch of bananas, peeled them and covered them in wrap and placed them on a counter and displayed the fruit in a room at the local Museum of Modern Art,  patrons of the place would studiously stand around said 'artwork' with puzzled expressions, pondering what the artist meant, exactly.

(Snipped from CBC Story: CBC Story

"He clearly meant that modern society is decadent and phallus-phobic."

"She meant the bananas are about to go brown and that our society is in decay save for the thinnest veneer of civilization.."

"The artist was hungry. Never plan a work of art on an empty stomach."

(A Tate Exhibit. I see this interesting work as a comment on the modern textile industry. So if we put Venus in front of a display of pre-peeled bananas it would be a comment on the modern food industry - and a comment on modern masculinity to boot.)

I have a special feeling for this story. As previous posts here reveal, I am simply LIVID about the fact that modern grocery stores charge 5 cents for plastic bags, when all they sell is over-packaged over-processed over priced crap to us, because that's where the money lies.

You can buy all kinds of vegetables in my local grocery story, pre-cut, pre-washed wrapped in a tonne of plastic and styrofoam and all for about 10 times what the original item costs.

Why pick on bananas? (To make a better pun.)

I personally don't think they'll take off. From the CBC graphic, these time-saving bananas are not aPEELing to look at. (But then neither is butchered mammal or fowl, but people don't seem to mind that.)

This Flo in the City blog is about my research into the 1910 era for a book. I have Ladies' Home Journals from the 1900 period that show the first time-saving consumer food products. BEANS is one.. It takes a long time to make baked beans, so Mr. Heinz figured out that housewives (however proud of their culinary skills) wouldn't mind being freed from this hard labour. He also got into the Fruit Preserve business:

Jello,too. It was advertised back then as the easy dessert for new brides and hapless help. (They were big on aspics in those days.) 

I'm hoping maybe we have reached a tipping point with these pre-peeled bananas and we'll think about the hypocrisy inherent in paying a 5 cent penalty for a plastic bag which you are going to fill with individually wrapped cheese slices  and individually wrapped pita bread slices, individually wrapped bandaids  and 10 peas on a styrofoam plate and 8 oz quiches in an aluminum pan, wrapped in thick plastic and boxed in cardboard, etc. etc.  Or maybe this  banana scandal is just the logical (and ridiculous) culmination of  100 years of laziness and deskilling in the kitchen.

Theme Parks and Shamans.

This work created in 1913 by Kandinsky caught my eye yesterday. I listened to a deconstruction at SmartHistory on YouTube.

The Nicholson letters are based on letters from 1908-1913,which I happen to have on hand. I wroteSchool Marms and Suffragettes, about the 1910 era lives of three teachers Flora, Edith and Marion Nicholson, in Richmond Quebec and Montreal.

1913 was the year before the WWI started -so the painting has been discussed in relation to this.

Apocalypse Then.Artist as Shaman.

Middle class women like the Nicholsons were encouraged to be art lovers, to go to the art gallery, as I wrote in a previous post.  In this way they could elevate the race.

But avant-garde art would have been out of the question.

Here's a link to a YouTube video I made about Edith's Story.Diary of a Spinster

I am writing another book about Edith in 1928, when as an employee of McGill University, she visited Paris and the Louvre many times.  I am reading the autobiographical Paris 1928 by Henry Miller for background.

When Miller first arrives in Paris with his wife he is very excited - but soon he gets tired of the company: the spinsters from the Midwest always trying to get him and his wife to go to tea; the people whose interest in art is '50 years behind the times'.

I must make Edith meet up with the Millers in Paris.

Well, also yesterday,  I listened to Great Lives on the BBC Radio 4. They are discussing Edith Wharton this week. Naomi Wolfe, the writer, who has a new book out titled Vagina, nominated her.

The account of Edith Wharton on this BBC Four program conflicted, a bit,  with the account on In Our Times, I think, especially where concerns her marriage.

Then I went back and listened to two other episodes of Great Lives, Vera Brittain and Philip K. Dick.

My older brother introduced me to Philip K. Dick in the 70's, when the man was still alive. My brother was always in the avant-garde with respect to literature and music.

He read the Village Voice you see. This past February when my husband and I drove through Marin County on our trip to wine country,  I thought of Philip K. Dick..

Michael Sheen, the Midnight in Paris actor, nominated Philip K.Dick, the social science fiction writer whose work has spawned so many great movies. And something Michael Sheen said on this Great Lives program was most interesting to me. He said our modern lives are like theme parks.

Yesterday, earlier in the day, I did something else. I took my friend Gary Jewell's song Smoke and Diamonds and put it behind images of Dominion Park (the old Montreal Theme Park) and posted it on YouTube.

The slideshow is random,  but I want to do another version that is edited.  You see, my point is similar to Sheen's.

The song is menacing, but it works in a contradictory way with the images of the happy hoards of nicely dressed people from the 1910 era, all in either straw boaters or flowery bonnets, all looking for a good time, to be amused. The rides, the freak shows, the novelty acts, the endless new attractions.  The Neil Postman phrase, "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" comes to mind.

Here's the linkDiamond City Dominion Park video

An ad from the thirties. I discovered that in 1927 in honor of the Jubillee, they held a fancy costume ball at Dominion Park, where Mederic Martin was a judge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Soap and Shakespeare and YouTube Videos

I took the plunge and put a few videos on YouTube, which isn't hard if registered here on Blogger.

I wanted to post the songs of Gary Jewell.

You know, years ago, when the kids were tiny, and we were exhausted all the time,  if I wanted to get my husband to start a job, like peeling ugly old paper off the kitchen wall, I'd start it myself. Then he'd do it. He couldn't bear to see me do it in my half-assed way. Hmmm.

Well, I've been asking my husband, a video editor, to help me make videos for my School Marms and Suffragettes ebook,  but he's been too tired or busy, but now he's suddenly getting down to it. Hmm.

These videos are very experimental, some rather random. Slideshows.

But yesterday, when I was posting the song Hey Madge, by Gary, a spoof of Neil Young's Old Man, I noticed something.

I noticed that the placement of the hands in the 70's Palmolive magazine ad was similar to the placement of the hands in another more famous image.

Anyway, am I imagining things? In the 70's there was published a book called Subliminal Seduction, showing 'secret messages' in advertisements, especially in the ice cubes.

Well, as I was taking a break from this very important exercise, I went to wash the dishes and noticed we were using Polmolive, so I took my bottle and took some pictures around the house. I wanted to take one with my two hands in this position, but I needed one hand to take the picture!

Anyway, the logo of Polmolive says it all, doesn't it?

Now, I'm a student of Art History and lately I've been taking some mini-courses recently on YouTube with SmartHistory. Brilliant Stuff.  I don't think I am imagining anything, really.

A story on the CBC Internet news today caught my eye. It claimed that Canadians make impulse purchases to the tune of many thousands a year per person 'just to make themselves happy." Even though they don't need the product. Even though they can't afford the product.  Blow me over with a gilded Oriental feather-duster I bought for a song on eBay! Ah, consumer culture.

CBC report of BMO survey

The banks apparently are upset, too many Canadian families are getting in debt buying what they don't need. Tsk. Tsk. What a joke!  Methinks they doth protest too much, as Shakespeare sort of said.

All the banks worry about is people not being able to pay back their debts. They love the debtors. They make their billion dollar profits off the backs of middle class debtors. They create more and more debtors each year by giving credit cards to university students, who, in this horrible economy, will not get good jobs after graduation and be saddled with debt the rest of their lives.

A pensioner I know with no assets at all was somehow allowed to rack up tens of thousands in credit card debt while in her dotage. How? By just upping her limit on a credit card with 14 or more percent interest.  There's a word for that... let me pick my brain...what is it again?? Where's Polonius when you need him.

Here's the link to my video on You Tube, the Madge One. My other videos feature some other songs.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Four Theses and an Assistant Warden

My 'promo' for Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. Using a tender and melancholy original song by the late Gary Jewell, my friend.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster tells the 1910 story of Edith Nicholson, my husband's great Aunt Edie, who lost her great love in a Cornwall hotel fire.

I play with history. And probably I'm a bit harsh on  Edith, although the story is based on her letters. I make her an opium addict. (She took a lot of 'heart medicine' in the period, her letters reveal.)

But I'm catching her at a low and pivotal point in her life. The fact is, before the fire she was a typical twenty something obsessed with men and courtship, and after the fire not one boyfriend is ever mentioned in her letters.  So there you go. Confirmed Spinster.

Edith in 1893. The tall girl.

Now I am working on a sequel, a story about Edith's 1928 trip to Paris with a McGill Group. I have yet to decide on the plot, there's so much research to do.

In 1928, Edith was Tutor-in_Residence of The Hostel, the residence for female Phys Ed students. So I have to research Women at McGill more thoroughly.

Yesterday, I downloaded 4 McGill theses for background. All interesting.   The Big Ladies' Hotel (gender residence and the middle class of Montreal) by Deborah L. Miller (which I have already read);The Woman's College, with special reference to McGill University in Montreal, by Zina Dudkiewicz;  Criminality and Bad Girls (regulation and punishment in Montreal 1890-1930)by Tamara Myers, and a brand new thesis by Elizabeth Kirkland, Mothering Citizens, about the Elite Society Women of Montreal, including Julia Parker Drummond.

 Edith was Assistant Warden at RVC in the 30's and 40's and possibly 50's and also worked in the Registrar's Office at McGill since 1920.

It seems Edith's life was not so tragic. Indeed, it was an extraordinary one! But she was also typical of  her era, family background and social class.

To be one of the 'professional' women in charge of RVC was very prestigious.  I'm learning this from the two theses.
Edith in 1910 at Westmount Methodist. She was a teacher.

And I have a mystery to solve.

According to the McGill archives website, there was no Warden at RVC during the early and mid 30's, but I know for a fact Edith was Assistant Warden.

Could it be that during the Depression, they could only afford to hire Edith, and since she had no degree of her own, maybe she could not fill the position of Warden.

I wonder if she got to live in the Warden's special apartment, with its own entrance.

The Dudkiewicz thesis says that a Mrs. Hurlbatt was Warden of RVC in the 1920's. Edith mentions her in the 1928 letters! She says Hurlbatt is sick and she is taking over for her. So that's how she moved from the Hostel to RVC.

Edith in the 1920's and 30's..

Anyway, during the War Edith rose to be Commandant of the Quebec Red Cross. SOMEWHERE I have a picture of her in full uniform. A portrait really. I must get it out!

 And somewhere else, I have a nice snapshot of her as an older woman dressed in a satin off the shoulder gown and long gloves posing with two youths, a man and a woman.

Edith Old with my husband. 1959 or 60 or so. On the right, she's the one in the Chanel style suit.

I learned something new from the 2011 Kirkland thesis.

The author says Julia Parker Drummond and all the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women could speak French.

 I guess it makes sense, as they were elite and educated.  They didn't speak French at their meetings however.

Kind of odd, ironic, even weird, if you think about it.

These women were the wives of the Square Mile guys, who are considered oppressors of the French Canadians who were working class (just visit the Eco Museum de fier monde in the Old Bathhouse on Amherst for proof) Yet their wives spoke French - in the way the Queen can speak French.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Smoke, Diamonds and Self Control

This is Gary Jewell's song Smoke and Mirrors. It has a menacing tone, so I put 'the story' of Herb Nicholson behind it.

A very first draft.

Herbert, the only male child of Margaret and Norman Nicholson, stole 60 dollars from the bank where he worked in 1910 and was forced to move out West.

It almost ruined the family.

Yet the parents never blamed Herb, even though he continued to be irresponsible for years and years and even though his letters home proved he wasn't above being dishonest or unethical in business dealings.

In the video I put clips from the 1910 era Hygiene Manual Light in Dark Corners. I think this book explains the issue, Presbyterians believed in Good and Bad and the Power of Good Parenting.. so if their son was "bad" it meant they were 'bad' parents.

I also included an 'immigration' theme here.

Being good was all about 'self-control' and immigrants, it was widely believed, had no self-control. They were often darker-skinned after all.

Herb is good-looking, I think. My husband, his great great nephew looks a lot like him.

Public Space, Private Space, Women's Space

Edith Nicholson 1883-1977. In 1910.

In my ebook Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, based on the letters of Edith Nicholson and situated in 1910, I have Edie visit the Montreal Art Association Building in early May and faint when she sees the painting Maternity by Mary Riter Hamilton.

You see, Edith has just lost her great love in a Cornwall Tragedy, the Rossmore Hotel Fire.

True Story.

I made up the visit for narrative purposes, but Edith did go to art exhibitions. In a 1909 letter, she writes about seeing a Turner Exhibit at the Windsor Hotel. Very fancy!

Recently, I dug up a McGill thesis on pdf by Deborah L. Miller, titled the Great Big Women's Hotel, about Royal Victoria College.

I am researching the next episode in Edith's life for another book. Edith was the Assistant Warden at McGill's RVC  in the 30's.

I will "re-imagine"  a trip Edith made to Paris in 1928 with a McGill tour, where she spent a lot of time in the Louvre. I'm trying to figure out what Edith might have felt in that building with all the sensuous Renaissance paintings.

 Deborah Miller's thesis covers a great deal of the same territory as Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster because it's about gender, space and all the rest.

And Miller describes the Montreal Art Association building in detail:  its provenance, history and architecture. So I guess I have to go back and add a few lines to the scene in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster where Edith first enters the building.

The gallery, Miller says, was on the third floor, up an oak stairway and was vaulted and open to the sky light. The space wasn't a typical exhibition space, like the Redpath Museum, but resembled more of the era's salons.

She says the entrance resembled a 'square mile' home more than an Italian Palazzo, suggested by the outside architecture.

Why? Because it was meant to be a woman's space.

The Gift, another painting by Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton. It shows a woman receiving a gift of flowers from her fiance, apparently. 

In her thesis, Miller further explains that middle class women were encouraged to go to art exhibitions in the 1900's on. The fine arts, as opposed to the sciences, were seen as respectable and instructive.

 "Women, who were seen as  the more refined, moral sex, became the designated bearers of culture within the middle class home."

As a tweenager, I often visited the Redpath Museum, which was open to the public, although it wasn't in such great shape. It was so obviously an 'old museum'.. we kids sensed it.

It contained stuffed owls and other mangy animals, dark oak cabinets and the big draw, two shrunken heads, one a white man who looked like a typical explorer, white mustache, and one a black native.

Oh, and a large fossil dinosaur of some sort.

I don't remember going to any art museums. My mother was not into art, although she liked the exhibit at Expo 67, but didn't take me to it. (I don't recall anyway.)

Miller's is an excellent thesis, which can be found on the McGill Library for anyone to read, but  it especially suits my purposes.

The document explains how this  Art Association Building was constructed with women like Edith in mind -  the knowledge-hungry  'new women'  of the middle classes.

And if you didn't want to see pictures, you could visit Morgan's Department Store, or Birks' Jewelers or one of the two nearby churches, one Methodist, one Anglican. Or you could take a stroll in Phillip's Square, where there were no benches, so no danger of you sitting down and attracting unwanted male attention.

The Montreal Art Association Gallery was the first public art gallery in Canada!

Public Space: above. 

In 1913 a new art museum would be constructed, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Sherbrooke.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chutney and Bicycle Accidents

My husband has the day off so we drove into town on a mercy mission, to bring some food to a relation who lives on his own in a rooming house.

We first drove to Costco in Point Claire and we bought some bbq chicken (Costco has the best and cheapest bbq chicken in town) and some apples and a pasta salad and for us some chicken thighs and yogourt and this time,for the first time, some dried mangos and cherries.

There are no mangos in the grocery stores for some reason, probably weather related.  So I'm going to make a chutney. I looked up a recipe and chutney has everything I thought it would have, ginger, cloves, mustard, onion, vinegar and sugar.

As we drove into Montreal, I recorded the drive along the ugly Decarie Expressway and uglier Ville Marie (I defy any city in the world to have an uglier set of overpasses). And oddly, just as we turned off the highway, we came across a bicycle accident that had just happened. The victim was bloody but seemed Ok.

I came home and put Gary Jewell's Diamond City behind the video, which oddly, just ended at the accident.

It's an ironic juxtaposition, and Gary would have appreciated it. This video is not Montreal at its best. I wrote earlier about Montage Theory, well it seems that any music goes well with driving footage. I don't know why. It's apt too as one Saturday in July I spent 3 hours on the Ville Marie with Gary and a friend stuck in a traffic jam. It took us three hours to go from the Atwater exit to the next Guy exit, as it was the first day of construction holiday and they had closed the bridge to one lane. (We later learned.)

I bought some dried shitake mushrooms too to make a seaweed soup. Just for me. We live decadent lives. We can eat all we want (as long as we don't mind sulfites) and others can eat only crap.

Gary lived most of his youth and adulthood in the area around where I filmed the video. So that's apt too. He died down and out, from drugs, alcohol, mental illness and bad luck. Such a talented man too. And a nice man. Upon his death someone who knew him as I did said of him "Gary never hurt anyone but himself."

Gary loved Indian food. He would have liked my mango and cherry chutney.

Emily Howard Stowe and Women Doctors 1900

Going through my files, I discovered I had captured an article (from Maclean's 1910) about THE WOMAN DOCTOR.

The concept of the 1900's woman doctor is where my stories Threshold Girl  and Looking for Mrs. Peel come together.

As I've written over and over, in the 1910 period there was a myth circulating, that woman "had finally made it" and that any woman could enter any profession, although most sensible women wanted to be homemakers if they could find a husband..

It was not true, statistics prove it, but even  feminist voices like Carrie Derick voiced this opinion, as if having ONE female lawyer meant that ANY woman could become a female lawyer.

The article above and below, should be seen in this light.

 So Emily Howard Stowe had been a school principal," an unusual position for a woman."

As Marion Nicholson's letters home to Mom reveal, women teachers weren't allowed to be principals.In 1912, a 'mere boy out of school' is given the sixth form (next to the Principal) in Marion's school, over her head and she has 6 years' experience.

That's why she quits to get married which,  of course, supports the belief that women teachers are not reliable as they quite to get married. Catch-22.

Actually, Marion is offered a principalship right out of school herself, in 1906,  at a country school where the boys are very rough and rowdy.

She turns the position down to teach elementary at Sherbrooke Academy. She had witnessed a fist fight between a student and the principal at the summer school where she taught her first class ever. It was not pretty.

Looking for Mrs. Peel is about my grandmother's trials in Changi Prisoner of War Camp in 1943-46.

Things would have been much worse in the women's camp but for the fact there were 6 women doctors there. Why so many? Women doctors in England couldn't practice at home after the Great War, so they went to the Colonies.

The doctors at Changi, women's section, were considered 'leaders' which irked my grandmother, a mere housewife who also took a turn as leader.

The Japanese respected these professional women and let them move about outside the camp. My grandmother didn't think much of Miss Cecily Williams, a doctor and one of the camp leaders.

In her diary she calls her 'a dear' and describes her a scatterbrained. Perhaps Cecily was a bit eccentric. She liked to keep copious statistics. But not one infant died at Changi. Amazing!

My grandmother could feel superior in her mind because she was a married woman. Married women in the camp looked down upon spinsters, however well-educated.

In a letter I have from the Nicholson collection at the turn of the century, a woman is being treated for some condition or other by, oh my,  a woman doctor! She is treated with wine and spirits. Fun treatment!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rorschach Montage and Marms and Suffragettes

This video features Sister Salvation, a song written and performed by my late friend Gary Jewell.

You know the theory, that if you give 1000 monkeys with typewriters enough time they will write War and Peace.

Well, I thought of this theory just now.

If you make enough videos of 'random' slideshows, will one come out that makes good sense, or is it all a Rorschach test anyway?

Sergei Eisenstein, back in 1917, a few years after the events of my video invented Montage. Cinema wasn't merely smoke and mirrors, or theatre plays on film. It had a new language. He had this picture of a neutral face... placed an knife beside it.. and then a flower beside it.

You know what happened. With the knife the man seemed 'angry' to people; with the flower "happy."

I think that was it.

Here I just placed about 100 little clips into a folder... Clips I collected while researching School Marms and Suffragettes my ebook based on real family letters from the 1910 era. So it is not entirely random. I was thinking of the Sister Salvation theme - and about things that happen in the ebook.

And then I played the slideshow on my computer simultaneously with a file of the song.

Does the ensuing video make sense? I wonder. Is it worth my while to spend hours agonizing over the order of the pictures and then to get my professional editor of a husband to put it together? He says that at work there's seldom time to really pick and choose the best shots, you just make sure you don't do anything wrong or bad (like showing a politician with his arm up in the air pointing out at 2 oclock. It's not about making art or manipulation, it's about making the 6 pm deadline.

This is a very lazy first draft (an experiment if you wish) and a way to get Gary's song up here, since this Blogger place doesn't take sound files. Silly.

Rorschach-Montage is an oxymoron,a contradiction in terms, that's for sure. I bet I didn't even invent it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Boardwalk Empire Montreal Song and Dance


I married the English and French online versions of Hello Montreal for this 3rd attempt at a promo video for my e-book Milk and Water.

The sound well, it started out tinny and then I played it over a small tv and recorded it on my sound recorder on my laptop and then played it back on the TV and taped this video.

The French version is slower and therefore goes better with the rhythm of the Windows slide show.

Here are the English Words: The French Words are in the post previous to this one.

sh) Speak easy, (sh) Speak easy,
Said Johnny Brown; I’m gonna leave this town, Ev’rything is closing down.
(sh) Speak easy, (sh) Speak easy,
And tell the bunch: I won’t go East, won’t go West, Got a diff’rent hunch:
I’ll be leaving in the summer, And I won’t come back till fall,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
With a stein upon the table, I’ll be laughing at you all,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal. I’m on my way, I’m on my way,
And I’ll make whoop-whoop whoopee night and day.
Anytime my wifey wants me,
You can tell her where to call,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
Yamo, yamo, I think I want a drink; Yamo, yamo, there’s water in the sink.
The sink, the sink, the sink, the sink, the sink;
The good old rusty sink;
But who the heck wants water when you’re dying for a drink?
Oh, “We Won’t Get Home Till Morning” Is the best song after all,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
There’ll be no more Orange Phosphates,
You can bet your Ingersoll,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
That old tin pail, that old tin pail,
Was never meant to carry ginger ale.
There’ll be photographs of brew’ries
All around my bedroom wall,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
(sh) Speak easy, (sh) Speak easy,
Asked Tommy Gray; I must know right away,
Are the gals up there okay?
(sh) Speak easy, (sh) Speak easy,
Said Johnny Brown;
You ain’t been hugged, ain’t been kissed,
Till you’ve hit that town

I got this from the Art Deco Montreal website.

Boardwalk Empire starts its third season, maybe I'll start watching.

I wonder if they ever mention Montreal.

I included the picture of my grandparents, aunts and mom on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1927 or 8. I decorated it with Adobe Illustrator and my mother didn't like it... Oh well.

Funny, the refrain from this song sounded very familiar, the Yamo Yamo Yamo one, but all I could think of that Allan Sherman song, Marvin, Marvin you are a stupid kid, done to the tune of... So I checked out the Net and discovered the tune was Funiculi, Funiculi. |Pavarotti sings it on YouTube.

Amazing what sticks in you head. Well, that's the nature of 'catchy tunes'.. We had that Hello Mudda Hello Faddah album.

Patrick Stewart and Roy Dupuis??

Well, here is another version of my promo for Milk and Water.

It's got a French Version of Hello Montreal in the background!

Thanks to musicologist Sandria P. Bouliane, I learned that it exists and that the banq website has a scratchy copy. So I fixed up my slideshow a bit (second edit) and took out the old Canon and made this draft 2.

So the titles are in English and the background is in French. I will soon meld the two versions, when I figure out how to. (You wouldn't believe the condition of my memory card. Half the plastic has peeled off and it bends when I insert it in the computer. But it works!)

Now, Sandria also set me straight on another point.  Hello Montreal was written by Mort Dixon and Billy Rose and composed by Harry Warren. Willy Eckstein, the legendary Montreal musician, performed it. The song was adapted into french by Roméo Beaudry. 

So don't believe everything you see on the Internet :)  But my Milk and Water story is pretty good history, unlike say ARGO, which I've heard is pretty good story telling. 

(I mentioned this before, but it's worth restating. When I first found the stash of 1910 Nicholson Letters, I contacted the TOP writer of YA Historical fiction and she advised me to GO FOR THE STORY. and forget the history. Ben Affleck must have contacted her too :)

I sent my play to THE expert in Montreal in the era and she said it was 'very good historical reconstruction' which probably means it is lousy art. (Of gosh.) I'm sure Patrick Stewart and Gerard Depardieu could make a good job of it. Or Colm Feore and Roy Dupuis. Or Patrick Stewart and Roy Dupuis. (Digression: Captain Picard came to Montreal for Comic husband informs me. Last weekend!!! As Bridget Jones writes on her computer: FFFFF UUUUDDDDGGGEE.)

Now, the original version of Hello Montreal was a sly satire about Prohibition... The French version was a tourist promotion song, from what I can hear. (Tourism was an issue in 1928, I say so in my play. The Typhoid was scaring tourists away but the booze was drawing them in. The New York Times used Montreal's tourist statistics to boost the anti-prohibition argument. Some American press coverage claimed TOO many tourists visit Montreal, so many that some people have to sleep in their cars. (NOT True.)

Anyway, here are the words, roughly translated by Sandria P. Bouliane (doctoral student and expert in the era's music) of Bonjour Montreal. It's SOOOO ironic that I put this song in my play and didn't know about the French version that was all about the Royals visiting Montreal in 1927 (also 24). The plot of Milk and Water hinges on the visit of David, the Prince of Wales in 1927. 

1.            Vous voyez en été

2.            À Montréal

3.            Une foule d'étrangers

4.            Qui viennent nous visiter

5.            En auto, en moto

6.            Et même à ch'val

7.            Des gros messieurs, des quêteux,

8.            Ça nous est égal

9.            Il en en vient d'France et d'Belgique,

10.            d'Espagne et de Portugal

11.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

12.            De tous les coins d'l'Amérique

13.            et même du Transvaal

14.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

15.            Y'en vient de partout, y croiriez-vous

16.            Il en vient même de la Rivière du Loup

17.            Il en vient par Pacifique

18.            Du Canadian National

19.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

(Interlude piano sur l’air de « Yamo, yamo, I think I want a drink »)

20.            Il en vient en manche chemise

21.            Et d'autres en costume de bal

22.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

23.            Y'en a qui s'font des bêtises,

24.            Nous autres on s'en fiche pas mal

25.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

26.            Y'en vient d'partout, prendre un p'tit coup

27.            Y'en a qui viennent ici pour faire le fou

28.            Et puis ceux qui prennent des frises

29.            On les flanque à l'hôpital

30.            Tout le monde aujourd'hui veut voir Montréal

(Interlude piano) [sur l'air de Yamo, yamo, I think I want a drink]

31.            L'ancien maire qui n'était pas bête

32.            Trimbalait le sang royal

33.            Qui v'nait visiter notre grand Montréal

34.            Ces jours-là c’était une fête

35.            On hurlait comme des chacals

36.            Pour les saluer dans ce Montréal

37.            Mais Camilien, y'est pas vilain

38.            Les aspergea lui aussi c'est certain

39.            Et je ne crois pas qu'y s'embêtent

40.            Les filles de familles royales

41.            Qui viennent visiter notre grand Montréal!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hello Montreal, Goodbye Milos

Promo for Milk and Water, the play, draft one.

Irony of ironies, a Montreal musicologist contacted me to tell me that Hello Montreal was translated into French in 1928 and she sent me the lyrics.

The lyrics were all about the the Mayor and his feting of the Royal Princes! About liquor tourism too.

I didn't know that, of course. I put Hello Montreal in my play..

My Milk and Water play intertwines the story of the Royal Prince's visit in 1927  with the various scandals at Montreal City Hall- for which my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, will eventually become a scapegoat and be forced into a retirement, a lucrative retirement, until he's run over in 1937 by a city constable.

I have used Hello Montreal (YouTube) as the backdrop to this promo for Milk and Water. First draft. It's gonna take some work, the tempo is so quick. Fox trot they say.

But I had nothing to do today. I was kinda mad I didn't get  tickets for the Davis Cup to watch Milos Raonic, but I didn't know about it. I want to go see some tennis - in person. And when's the next chance I can see Raonic. Next year?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spinsters and Bachelorettes

Here's another stab at a promo for my ebook Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

This time I am holding the camera.

SPINSTER... an ugly word. An unfair word. At least it seems that way today.

It really is just the word for female bachelor. But bachelor sounds so much better, doesn't it?

Bachelors have 'pads like Rock Hudson, where you can push a button and the lights go dim and a romantic record is dropped onto the turntable and the couch opens and turns into a bed.

Spinsters are Miss Brodies. Spinster rhymes (sort of) with pinched. And that's what spinsters are.. all pinched up. Their mouths, their bums. Holding in all of their life force, or something. They are most certainly unfulfilled women. They are always Old Maids (which is an oxymoron since a maid is a young woman.)

There are NO spinsters today, thank goodness, although there still are the classic Princely Haymaker (I mean oat sower) Harry Windsor.

There are only bachelorettes.

Well... I use that ugly word SPINSTER in the title of my book, but I hope that it is an ironic use of the word.

I've been reading another ebook on my Kindle, The Thirties: An Intimate Portrait... by (I dunno, I can't see it on the Kindle)..

I'm on a chapter on Spinsters... There were many unmarried women in the UK  in the 30's... most working at poverty level jobs... considered to be neurotic (because, unlike married women, they weren't getting any. Tsk. Tsk.)

According to this book, there were many spinsters before the war too, as so many eligible men had taken off to the Colonies. (That's why I am here...My grandmother followed my grandfather to Malaya. I wrote about it in Looking For Mrs. Peel.)

Anyway, in the 30's all the  women's magazines were aimed at Homemakers. Not at unmarried working women, or spinsters (those who had given up hope) or the working poor.  (This has more to do with the fact all these women, including spinsters had no spare cash, I imagine.)

To be a spinster was to be something of a societal outcast.  Bachelors, even Old Bachelors (tsk tsk)  had more respect back then. And we all know about Merry Widows.

Of course it is debatable who had a better life,  spinsters or wives. It depends on the context, I guess. Edith Nicholson of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster worked for McGill all her life. She never made a lot of money but she hobnobbed with the elite.  She thought of her sister's family as 'my family.'

Once, while on a visit to the home of  her married niece, Marion, in Hudson Quebec, in the 60's, Marion's young son, Blair, then about 6, asked of  her, "Why is that person always hanging around?"

Somehow he had tuned into the Zeitgeist.. realizing that Edie, with no obvious manly presence around her, was an outcast.

On her deathbed, a decade or so later, she reminded Blair, now a teen, "to savor every moment in life." Perhaps, she had indeed led a full and fulfilling life.

I am writing another book about Edith, about her trip to Paris in 1928, the Paris of Hemingway, Henry Miller and the Down and Out George Orwell.

She is chaperoning a group of McGill students, Phys Ed Students. True story, sort of.

From the Lachine Canal to Karachi....Sweatshops and us

I've written a fair bit about Venuses on this blog, modern and antique. But this artwork at the Tate in London caught my eye.

Venus deciding what to wear in a day and age where clothes are cheap. There's no basket, so she's not doing laundry.

Who does laundry anymore, clothes are so cheap. You just wear a top once and throw it away. (I must admit, I had piles like that in my bedroom, when clothes were not cheap.)

Last week a fire in a Karachi Pakistan sweatshop killed 264 people making our clothes (probably). La Plus ca Change.

The rumour is the doors were locked and that there was no fire escape.

In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed many women and provoked the American union movement. I write about it in Threshold Girl. The doors were locked there too. Victims, some under age,  jumped from windows, as did the Pakistanis in this latest tragedy. (I do not think child labour figured in this Modern Asian story, though.)

I doubt this fire will provoke a Union Movement: news stories, these days, are as throw-away as clothing.

Threshold Girl is based on the real letters of real Canadian women but I invent a character who works in Magog at the Dominion Textile Plant, a Miss Gouin.

In those days, Canada had its own cotton manufacturing plants. The old Dominion Textile Plant in Montreal, along the Lachine Canal, is now condos. Girls as young as 12 worked there, I can see from the 1911 census. 60 hours a week was the legal limit for workhours, and according to that same census, EVERYONE worked that amount of time. (Amazing!)

The Magog Plant lasted until just recently, under another name.

Our clothes come from places like Pakistan now.

According to the BBC
The garments industry is critical to Pakistan's frail economy. According to central bank data, it provided 7.4% of Pakistan's GDP in 2011 and employed 38% of the manufacturing sector workforce, accounting for 55.6% of total exports.BBC Karachi Fire

So, the question is, Should we feel guilty about that pile of crap clothing in our bedroom, or not?