The Devil's in the Details. In this case the date 9//11/18. A hasty note from Margaret Nicholson with a prescription pinned to it, ordering her grown daughters to take a certain tonic. Nothing new here, the Nicholsons constantly fretted over colds. But this is the era of the Spanish Flu Epidemic and friend Agnes Rothey explains that other terrifying business in a letter below.
September 3, 1918
39 York Avenue, Westmount, PQ
Here it is Thursday and I haven't written yet, but you won't be surprised when you hear what has happened.
Well, we arrived safely, as you may know and had a fine trip.
Found everyone OK and the little sister came walking to meet us, which was a great surprise.
Tuesday I went to school and found that Mr. Harlow had been transferred to the Royal George School in Notre Dame de Grace, so you may know how upset we were.
The new principal is Mr. Rivard and of course he may be nice but I do wish they would have left Mr. Harlow with us.
Tuesday evening Edith and I went up to Andrew's and then the Stewart's. Wasn't it sad about Mrs. Stewart. Tom P came right down as soon as he heard the news.
Yesterday, after school I went up to the Tuckers and found them terribly broken up as they had just had a telegram saying that Percy had been killed in action.
Doesn't it seem terrible that some people have to go through so much trouble?
The two oldest gone in six months.
Some way or another I always thought that Percy would come back, but it seems we can't be sure of anything in this world.
The school seems so dead without Harold. She always was so full of fun telling us all her experiences. I feel so sorry for them. I wish you would write them. I am sure they would more than appreciate it.
Of course, you didn't know Percy, but he was Haroldine's brother and that's enough.
How is your finger, hope it is on the mend.
I am enclosing a cheque for 10.00, five of which give to Father, the rest for yourself. Don't bother paying McMorine. They can wait for their pay until I come down next time.
It was been pouring here and looks as if it might continue for the night.
I didn't finish this at school and it is just as well for when I got home, Joe Tucker had phoned me that they had had another telegram saying that Lieutenant P. G. Tucker who had been officially reported killed was only wounded but gave no particulars whether serious or otherwise and also that Herbert T had been wounded in the right arm.
I wrote him a long letter tonight. He is in the General Hospital Rouin, France. I do hope they will be spared as they are both fine boys.
Don't write now to Mrs. T. She is up in Morin Heights.
Biddy is coming into town on the weekend. Am anxious as she and her Father are expecting to spend the winter in California.
Haroldine Tucker on a list of Montreal Board Teachers 1916. Flora likely knew the Tuckers because "Harold" worked with her although the Tuckers lived on the same street, Lorne, as the old family friends, the Clevelands, and Lorne is not a long street. Biddie or Gwendolyn or "TUCK" was a good friend too.
Evansville Illinois, September 23rd 1918
My Dear Sister,
I know you are expecting a letter from me but I could not get my mind together enough to write since our darling boy was taken from us. Oh, I cannot be reconciled to this terrible loss. It does not seem fair after all his hard work and all our striving to prepare him for his life's work that he loved so much that just as he was ready to serve his country and fellow men that he would be laid low. He was so anxious to go overseas. He said he would do such good work for the boys and take good care of them. He was in camp since 22 of September 1917, at Louisville Camp Taylor, till June of this year. They moved all the company to Camp Sherman Ohio. He was home the last of July for a few days as the 84th division was getting ready to go overseas.
He was well and in such good spirits. He went from here to Michigan to see a young lady he was engaged to. He met her when he was in the State Hospital last year. She is a lovely girl, a school teacher who sings.
He seemed to be in perfect health but on the fifteenth of August he was attacked with tonsilitis in a bad form. He went into the base hospital. He wrote me, said he'd be cured up quickly as the 84th Division was to leave for France in less than a week.
He wrote me Saturday following that his throat was better and his temperature was normal so he'd be discharged the next day. But that night the other side of his throat got sore, an abscess formed on his right tonsil and caused a septic poison of his whole system and pneumonia set in.
They sent for me Friday at 11 but I could only get a train by 4.30. I got to the base hospital at 6 am the next morning. He was so glad to see us and would say "Stand up Mother so I can see you. You look good to me. I did want you to come because I love you Mother best of all." He would say "Kiss me Mother, for I love you. Don't worry for what is God's will is alright with me but I would like to get well. Look I am strong." And he would lift his arm and say "I have lots of pep. I will make a good fight."
He would say "Mother, pray, for sometimes when I pray the pain comes and I cannot pray all right. But you can Mother, you taught me how."
Oh he was so precious. It is just dreadful to think he is gone. He said, Mother it will not be long before we are together. Life is so short at the longest.
I tried to pray that God's will be done, but I found myself rebelling. When I realized he won't be coming home anymore. I miss his letters every week. He never missed. He was such a good son.
I wish you could have known him. People would remark, what a good, clean countenance he had. I have had letters from his school mates and professors, saying his influence was always good. The boys called him Old Reliable Alfred. The same in the army. The 335th infantry was composed of boys from Evansville and surrounding country. They would ask for Lieutenant Gymer if they were sick, they always said he was so cheerful and his medicine always helped them. He was on every examination board in the Camp, even before he got his Commission. The head of Camp Sherman came to see me and said he was his most reliable doctor. They turned over their doubtful cases to him.
I can't see why he had to be taken. He was so useful here. But perhaps God has work for him.
I am trying to be brave and bear the loss. I had a letter from George. He is in France. He is well. He is checking freight in the harbour. He does not tell me much as they are not allowed to say. God spare him and bring him home.
Come and visit this winter for I know it is lonely for you at home, if Norman still works in Sherbrooke.
Write me all the news,
My love to Florence and family and to your own girls. I am sure Marion's little girls are sweet. I will try to write more often as there is always one letter less for me to write. I always wrote one and sometimes two letters to the boys who were away. I did not take the time to write to others as I was busy with war work and church work. I don't feel as if I have much heart to do anything anymore but they come to me and don't want me to give up. After a while I will take up the work again.
I am glad and better off than lots of Mothers whose sons are buried in France. I got to talk to him and buried him in a lovely spot in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Write me again,
Your Loving Sister, Christie.
October 24, 1918
Dear Mrs. Nicholson
I hope you are all keeping clear of this Spanish Flu. Hasn’t it been an awful time? Everything closed up and nothing going on here except people dying and the church bells ringing for funerals and hearses going down in processions. I heard yesterday that 500 died in Sherbrooke since it started.
The Lennoxville School reopened yesterday and Gordon started again and today Mr. Rothney started out inspecting as things seem to be coming to life again. If this fine weather will only continue, there will soon be no more grippe.
I was just going to phone and ask you and Mr. Nicholson to come up for the anniversary services, when Gordon came in with The Record and I saw they were cancelled.
I hope you will be able to come up soon. Is Mr Nicholson still working in Sherbrooke?
I got a glimpse of him in the church the first Sunday we were home.
I was up to Richmond once since I saw you. I went up for the missionary meeting. They told me you were in Montreal but we stayed overnight and had tea at Mrs. Crombie’s the next day and she told me you were home and I ran over to get a peep at you but there was nobody at home and I left Richmond that night feeling disappointed that we did not see you.
We spent a pleasant summer in Chicago. The children both went to kindergarten and the university nursery and had much to talk about when they got home. Mr. Rothney worked hard and came back with another degree. I hope he will be satisfied but I am afraid not.
I have done a lot of serving and knitting since we came back. The knitting club here had a contest and we knit 312 pairs in the month. I knit 7 pair, some knit more. However, we got a fine lot of stockings for the Christmas boxes.
I guess we will not have to knit many more socks,with the way the war is going now.
I have most of the children’s winter sewing done and have made Isabel a brown plush winter coat. I got her a set of white furs, so she is going to be very swell this winter.
She is always wishing she is old enough to go to school with Gordon.
Now please come up and see us soon when it suits you.
Epsom, October 17, 1917
I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you.
I feel pretty blue over Percy as he refused to go back to Canada when he was here last time. It doesn't pay to be a hero here. He must have been killed outright as he wasn't admitted to any hospital. There are quite a few 24th boys here and they all speak very highly of him.
I don't know how I got away with what I did. It is only a miracle that brought me here alive. If I had fallen, I would have been killed but as luck would have it, I stood up and got away with a crippled finger. It might come back in time but I doubt it. The piece went through the back of my hand and came through the knuckle of my first finger.
I can't use my finger at all but can get on without it. I've had a swell time since I came across. I was in hospital away down in Devonshire. I only came here on Thursday and the sooner they send me out the better. I expect to go on leave Friday. I am going to London for a while and then I am going down to Exeter in Devonshire for the rest of my leave.
The meals here are punk and good grub is half the battle. Do you love me as much as ever, because if you don't I will get downhearted and marry my nurse and stay here after the war. Well, Flora I think I will quit for today as I have written four letters today and can't write any more. Remember me to your people and take care of yourself,
November 9, 1918
I think you get another bottle of the tonic. So here is the number. So just go to the phone and order it at once. I noticed that you were better when you were taking it. Buy some and get the pills for Flora and self.
I paid Miss Goyette for the hat and got a receipt.
Nice that they are allowing you to come home early. Try and keep warm. Since I have taken this cold in my head, I feel cold.
Now that Marion has the little girl to help out she might find time to write a lines to Mamie.
Have you been reading the discussion in House of Commons on the franchise. So silly, lots of it.
Read Not Bonne Over Here - the Nicholson Family letters from 1914-1919