Friday, 19 May 2017

GROWING UP IN TORONTO

Back in Toronto, Harry & Bess continued to work regularly for most of the 1930s and their children grew into adults. The Toronto City Directories show that they had six addresses during that time, perhaps due to the need for space, the ups and owns of employment and finances or proximity to work or school.

Life was interesting in Toronto and there was plenty to do. There was dancing to the Big Bands at the Palais Royale Dance Hall, the Canadian National Exhibition ran for two weeks at the end every summer and horse-racing was available at Woodbine track. Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1932 and became the home of the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Team and in 1938 Superman was created by Toronto high school student John Shuster.

For sports fans there were professional hockey and football teams. There were also the Athletic Grounds provided by the city that included bowling greens, football and baseball fields along with skating rinks, hockey rinks and toboggan hills.


Lewis Welch


In his teens, Lewis’s artistic talent was recognized and the family scrimped so he could attend the Ontario Art College. Joan felt that his need for art supplies became more important than other things the family might want to buy but she was forever proud of him and his talent.





During 1936 and 1937 some of his work was published in The Tangent, an annual OAC student publication of stories, poetry and art and in the 1937 edition he is shown as the production assistant.


The Tangent 1936
The Tangent 1937




















By 1938 Lewis was contributing to the family home, an apartment over a drugstore, on Queen St. E at Jarvis St. He was working as an artist for Stanley Manufacturing, a metal printer and fabricator established in 1917. He would go on to be a very successful commercial artist.

I am proud to own a watercolour landscape painting he gave me as a wedding present in 1961.


             
Bess


Church and music were important to the family. There were Church services twice on Sundays with choir practice, bible study and youth group events during the week. At St. Stephen's United Church on Queen Street, Bess was a soloist while Joan and Lewis sang in the choir and they all participated in church social activities.




Lewis is seen here in a Rhodes Avenue United Church Choral Society production in 1938. He played the role of Tona in the musical comedy El Bandito.


There was certainly no laundry or other housework done on Sunday. Shops were closed and in Toronto the Good, there was no fun to be had except good clean fun at the beach with free streetcar rides for children from poor neighbourhoods.

The Eaton's Department Store covered their windows, park swings were chained up and there was no toboggan riding on Sunday. Every activity was subject to the 1906 Lord’s Day Act and Sunday as a day of worship or rest was enforced. A Toronto referendum in 1950 allowed professional team sports to be played on Sunday. Theatre performances, movie screenings, and horse racing were not permitted until the 1960s.


Joan Welch
In the summer of 1932, at age 15, Joan left school to work. She got her first job because her mother knew the owners of Chapman Brothers Jewellery store at 261 Yonge Street near their home.

The Chapman family had a cottage at Lake Simcoe and they hired Joan to be a mother’s helper for the summer. It was about two hours north of Toronto in those days before today’s major highways. She lived there all summer doing any chores that needed to be done from cooking breakfast for the family and their many guests to picking up the mail.

One day she was travelling alone by canoe to pick up the mail at a small store down the lake. While in the store she became anxious because the sky was becoming dark and the winds were picking up. Lake Simcoe is still known for quickly arriving storms during which strong winds create very high waves.

On the trip back to the cottage Joan could not manage the canoe. She was being tossed about by the waves and she was frightened, thinking she was going to capsize and be lost to the angry lake. Luckily the skipper of a motor boat heard her cries and took her aboard his craft, taking her back to the cottage while towing her canoe along behind. It was an experience she never forgot.

She told the story in her late eighties after being caught out in a storm on a fishing boat with her son-in-law. The motor stalled in the pouring rain and they had to be towed to shore by a neighbour.

At the end of that summer job Joan began working at light manufacturing jobs. She worked on the assembly line of the Willard Chocolate Factory and for a company making advertising buttons. She often told of the noise of the button stamping machines and how people working every day in a candy factory soon lose their appetite for candy.
Eileen Welch

While Joan was working and living at home she lamented the fact that her younger sister Eileen who was a social butterfly who loved going out dancing, often sneaking out in Joan’s clothes; putting them back soiled.

Joan also told a story of Eileen hiding dirty dishes in the oven to avoid taking her turn washing them. Eileen was eight years younger and I am sure she had a few stories of her own to tell about her older siblings.

                                             
Harry Welch


Their father Harry also loved to dance and he won a few prizes for ballroom dancing in Toronto including a set of silver apostle spoons. Bess was a singer not a dancer but Harry had no difficulty finding partners in their social circle.







In 1934 Toronto celebrated its 100th birthday with centennial activities and parades. On the eve of the centennial, services were held on the grounds of the CNE with 11,000 people attending. Bess was part of a 2500 person choir from various churches and they were all given a certificate to mark the occasion. That very large crowd singing God Save the King along with the 2500 voice choir must have been quite the sight and sound.


It was about 1934 when Joan met the man she would marry.




Saturday, 29 April 2017

An Immigrant's Child Asks "What if?" - a poem by Patricia (Blaney) Koretchuk

Patricia with her parents
Stan and Margaret Blaney
abt. 1945

While watching the news after lunch, on a cold grey March Friday afternoon in Toronto my telephone sounded those three distinct rings that indicate a long distance call. It is usually a call-centre marketing call but I was delighted to find that it was my cousin Patricia calling from Vancouver.

We have developed a wonderful caring and sharing relationship over the past couple of decades even though we are thousands of miles apart. We love to capture and share our family history stories with each other and pass them along to other family members.

Pat is an accomplished published writer and I am her biggest fan, finding her an inspiration as I struggle to write. She has written and published many short stories about our ancestors including one she shared as a guest writer on my blog post Harry Blaney Part I and II http://birminghamtocanada.blogspot.ca/2013/03/harry-blaney.html and http://birminghamtocanada.blogspot.ca/2013/03/harry-blaney-part-ii.html



Her most ambitious published work to date is “Chasing the Comet, A Scottish-Canadian Life” which was published in 2002 and can be found and purchased online at Wilfrid Laurier University Press www.wlupress.wlu.ca

It is a biography of a family friend’s father, David Caldow. In the preface Pat says “I fell in love with the story realizing it was not just David’s story but a distinctly Canadian experience, a humorous adventure and a love story – not only of a man and a woman but also a story of love for life itself.”



It was a cold and dreary day in Vancouver that day too. Pat had been tidying up her home office and came across a poem she had written long ago. She asked if I would like to hear it. Of course I did.

In a quiet voice she began to read her poem. It was wonderful, I was moved to tears listening to her and speechless when she finished. I have read it many times since and I love the sound and feel of it as well as the stories found therein.

With Pat’s permission I am pleased to share it here for our extended families.



An Immigrant’s Child Asks “What if?”

What if my mother had stayed with the Scotsman who beat her,
the husband and father of her first babies,
both of them “lost” before I came along, she’d told me years later.
But, what if she’d had two who’d lived, instead of those two who died?
Would I even be here, in my own home, sitting and wondering?

But she had waited for me, she said,
This Belfast-born, linen-factory maid-cum-Vancouver waitress, who’d conceived me,
perhaps on a ground sheet wide-spread on a Canadian prairie field,
with only one shared blanket for cover. Or ... I wonder...
perhaps I really began in a freight car she’d hopped, when dressed as a man,
helped and loved by my English logger-cum-father, during the Depression.

They shared no honeymoon riding those tracks, rocking and roaming
the myriad rivers, the towering mountains, those towns and those cities,
along miles that spanned Canada. No small feat, that.
Searching for safety, scrabbling for work, those two were,
barely surviving the dust storms and grasshopper plague.
Freely-given, as a gift, the corn bread became their long-savoured story -
also freely given – to me, as their proof of their belief in the kindness of strangers.

In my first bed, a rented bureau drawer in a rented Toronto room,
I was “wrapped in the warmth of a blanket and loved” they said,
though they’d starved.

I remember twelve of the times they moved, but there’d been many,
many times, before my memory came to me.
From “pogey”-funded room to room, they’d moved once every month,
with meager belongings carefully packed, all tight in my wicker pram.
“You see, the “pogey” paid for just a month,” she’d say as she told the tale,
“but with neither a job nor money to stay, we’d move. We had to”
She’s sigh then and say, “But it isn’t the house that makes the home.
Its’s the people within it. I’ve always believed that”
So what if my bed had been in a mansion? Would I ever have heard this simple truth?

And what if Dad’s mouth organ hadn’t played “Turkey in the Straw”
Or Mother’s Charleston had never been danced in our rented kitchens?
What if we’d never sung beside the radio, or if I’d never been urged to sing in a choir?
Would all the sweet music still resound within my bones?
What if the dictum, day after day, hadn’t been “Go outside and play?”
Would the woods and the mosses, the natural world, still so sustain me?

And what if Dad hadn’t honed my awareness, revealing the flowers of meadow grasses,
The free-to-sniff scents of wild honeysuckle and the strawberries we picked?
Or, if we’d never marveled at patterns hiding in the colours on a Painted Turtle’s back?
Would I have found these worldly wonders on my own?
What if I’d slept in a sweet, pink cradle, softly rocked in an heirloom nursery?
Or if my longed-for grandparents had cooed in flesh-and-blood beside my parents,
as together they lulled me fast asleep within that warm Toronto drawer?

What if just one of these truthful answers could flap like the weatherman’s butterfly wings?
Would the “I” that I now know be lost – blown away in a resulting hurricane of truth?
Then why/what/where and who would I be?  Would I still be me?

                                                                       By Patricia Koretchuk 07.02.14






Sunday, 19 March 2017

The BLANEY BROTHERS in the THIRTIES

While the Great Depression began with the Stock Market crash in the United States October 1929 it quickly spread throughout the world.

In the United Kingdom, it was referred to as the Great Slump. Since the UK had not fully recovered from WWI, it seemed less severe than that experienced in North America, which had seen boom times during the 1920s. Hardest hit was the industrial northern area of the UK. World trade declined and the demand for product exports decreased significantly. Mining and ship building industries suffered and mass unemployment caused severe poverty.

The area around London and the Midlands were less affected. While unemployment was initially high, by the mid to late 1930s the area was quite prosperous. Home building around London was helped along by a growing population in the area and low interest rates. Birmingham was prospering because of their booming automotive industry and the number of cars on the road doubled in the decade.

When Bess' parents, Harry & Jane Blaney returned to Birmingham with their children, Louise and Alfie in October 1930. they were taken in by their son Edwin (Ted) Harold Blaney at 12 Heathfield Road, in the King's Heath area.

Ted was born in Birmingham 17 August 1900. He served in the Royal Navy for two years from 15 June 1921, until 14 June 1923 and married Florence Sophia Whitehouse that year.

By 1930 they had two daughters, Florence (b. 1924) and Margaret (b. 1928) so an additional family of four made it a little crowded. Ted was a leather worker and likely had work during this time. It also came in handy fixing the family's shoes.

Their son John was born in March of 1932 and the 1939 Register shows Ted employed as a boiler attendant and Florence working part time as a shop assistant.


                                                                        ********


Bess' youngest brothers Albert (b. 4 September 1904) and Stanley (b. 16 January 1906) were both living in British Columbia, Canada. 

Albert Blaney lived an interesting life. He came alone to Canada at the age of 17 in 1922 landing in Halifax, travelling by rail to Montreal, then on to British Columbia. He had a job offer from the logging railroad that his uncle Michael Murphy (husband of his mother’s sister, Clara Elcocks) worked for in Rock Bay, B.C. It turned out that working “in the bush” as he called it was filled with much hard work and danger, but he loved it.

From 1925-1927 he and his brother Stanley served in the Militia with the 42nd Black Watch Highlanders in Montreal. They also worked in Montreal General Hospital along with their sister Bess before returning to British Columbia.

By 1929 Albert had a floor laying business and he met Helen (Nellie) Atkinson in the Vancouver boarding house where they both lived. She was also new to Canada, arriving in June 1920, age 24, travelling alone to her brother in Winnipeg. She worked there for a short time and then moved on to Vancouver where the weather was not so severe.

They became close as he taught her about photography including developing film. They were married January 12, 1929 and stayed happily together until her death at age 90.

Albert owned some property in Capilano area of North Vancouver gifted to him by his Aunt Clara and Uncle Michael Murphy for his 21st birthday so they were able to live reasonably well during the Depression. The land provided plenty of food and there were lots of salmon in the Capilano River. Albert said “it looked as if you could walk across the water on the salmon. One salmon could last us a week”.

He had numerous ways of creating work for himself and others as well as sharing his land.  He cleared land, built houses and sold honey from his ten bee hives.

From 1934 until 1938 Albert belonged to the Legion of Frontiersmen a version of Special Constables that was for a time affiliated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

                         
                                 *********
               
In 1930 Stanley Blaney, was living in North Vancouver with Margaret Kelly Thompson born 1902 in Belfast Ireland. Albert had sent passage for Stan to emigrate to Canada in June of 1923 and the brothers worked and lived close to each other for many years. 

Margaret left a troubled life in turbulent Northern Ireland in 1920. She travelled across Canada alone to stay with an uncle in Vancouver where life was not much happier.

A few years later, Margaret was working as a waitress when Stan rescued her from an abusive relationship. He was just 5ft 8in in height but he was tough, strong and hardworking. Since he had no money, car or house, their first home was a converted chicken coop at the back of Albert’s property. Like many other couples in those times they could not afford to marry.

In 1933 they heard there were jobs in Toronto and set off on their greatest adventure. Stories written by their daughter Patricia (Blaney) Koretchuk tell us “Margaret disguised herself in men’s clothes and together they hiked and hopped freight trains 3000 miles across Canada”. She cut her hair very short, wore a vest and long pants, heavy work boots and a peaked hat down over her eyebrows.” Many men travelled this way at the time but it was unusual for a woman to do so. It was a difficult and dangerous journey with many hardships along the way including hunger and evading the railway police.

In Toronto, they lived with Bess and Harry and their three young children for a short time but when it became clear that Margaret was pregnant and unmarried, Bess asked them to leave. She could not afford to compromise her reputation in the church.

Things were actually worse in the city where they experienced hunger as well as unemployment. Stan worked at every odd job that came along, they took in boarders and over time he found steady employment as a leather worker.

Their daughter Patricia was born in Toronto April 23, 1934, they were married and the family stayed there for the next eleven years. They mended their relationship with Bess but their love for the west prevailed and they returned to British Columbia on V.J. Day in 1945.

Thanks to Patricia (Blaney) Koretchuk for sharing her memories of Albert & Stan.


                                                                       ********

Bess's "big brother" was William ( Bill) Blaney born January 9, 1896 in Birmingham. Bill joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 1/2 entering as a Boy II on a training ship in 1911 and didn't return to Birmingham to live.

In 1919 Bill married Rosetta (Rose) Amy (Wallis) Huxley whose first husband Henry John Huxley had died in France during WWI. Bill remained in the navy until the end of WWII and they lived many years in Feltham in Middlesex, about 150 miles from Birmingham.

In 1920 Bill received a medal for his part in the rescue of a fellow seaman who could not swim. 

In September 1931 near the beginning of the Depression The Invergordon Mutiny occurred. It was a strike by thousands of sailors from about a dozen Royal Navy Warships docked in Cromarty Firth Northern Scotland while participating in a naval exercise.

Rumours were swirling that wage cuts of up to 25% were coming in order to reduce government spending. News of the strike spread upsetting the stock market and undermining the British Pound. It was settled by allowing those on lower rates of pay to remain on the old rate, effectively cancelling the 25% pay cut in favour of a universal 10% cut.

Depending on where they were living and their occupations, the Blaneys suffered to different degrees during this difficult time. Their courage and tenacity served them well.

Next: Growing Up in Toronto
 


Saturday, 11 February 2017

BOOM to BUST - They Called Them the Dirty Thirties



The silver age of the twenties was almost over when Harry, Bess and their three children moved from Brantford to the big city. Toronto had been booming for almost a decade, even the tourists were coming.

Known as a city of churches it was also a financial, manufacturing and retailing centre. There was a building boom with fourteen skyscrapers built between 1922 and 1928 and in June 1929 the sixteen million dollar Royal York Hotel was opened.

Traffic on Bay Street

Industry was growing, inflation and wages were up, the good times had returned. There were jobs in the banks and insurance companies. Women were now accepted as part of the workforce and 25% of them had work. Many people had a job and a car, so road congestion became a problem in the bustling city and Driver Licenses were necessary.

41 Delaney Cr. Parkdale

The 1920s were also a time of “buy now, pay later” for cars, appliances and homes which caused over expansion and over production subsequently resulting in layoffs. Construction was slowing down too.

When he was not ailing, Harry was employed as a brass worker, Lewis age 13 and Joan age 12 attended local public schools. After school Joan prepared dinner and helped care for her four year old sister Eileen while Bess worked a split shift cleaning early morning and late afternoon at one of the large downtown banks. They were renting a small house in the working class Parkdale area of Toronto.

The bubble burst when the Wall Street Stock Market crashed in October 1929. It was the beginning of the dirty thirties. It was the Depression and it was hard times for most.

The Prairies suffered from extreme cold and blizzards, followed by drought and grasshopper plagues resulting in dust storms and crop failure. 100,000 people left to look for work in the cities.Unskilled single men suffered the most hardship during this time.

In Toronto Since 1918: An Illustrated History, James Lemon provides some gruelling statistics. In 1931, 17% of Toronto’s population was out of work and two years later, 30% were unemployed. There was no unemployment insurance, no family allowance and no medicare.

Those working, saw wages drop by 60%, and no overtime.  The federal government set up work camps for single men doing construction work in the bush. Municipal jobs building sewers, water mains and roads by hand, known as “moving dirt”, were created.  Many men criss-crossed the country by hopping on trains and sleeping outdoors while searching for work. Hobos lived in the Don Valley in Toronto.

Scott Mission - soup kitchen
More than 100,000 people were "on the dole". Public relief agencies provided some vouchers for food and rent (no cash), and soup kitchens provided help. Evictions were common and people moved frequently as there was only help for the first month's rent. To qualify, applicants must have no relatives to help them, be supporting a family, use no liquor, and have no telephone or car.

People coped as best they could. They helped each other, remade clothing, repaired what they had, fed vagrants, took in boarders or shared houses with family members. Large houses were broken up into rental units as 60% were tenants. Young people remained at home longer and the number of marriages fell along with the birthrate. Some lived well as goods were cheap; the value of some products falling by up to 50%.

At one point Harry suffered a heart attack and could not work, causing Bess to sell her engagement ring to raise funds.

However for a number of years Harry was well and he was a skilled and experienced brass worker. He made fittings for Standard Bronze Company, a large manufacturer of lighting fixtures and Bess was working as a cleaner. Some of Harry's brass and copper works remain in the family.


The family were thrifty, for example Harry mended their shoes - they were making ends meet.

Generations who lived through those times carried the lessons throughout their life. Bess and Joan practiced “waste not want not” and "try to keep a little money for a rainy day”. They took care of their belongings, repairing them rather than replacing them and they used electricity and heat judiciously for the rest of their lives.

****************

Shortly after Bess and Harry moved to Toronto, Bess’s family joined them, coming from Birmingham England. Bess's mother Martha Jane (Elcocks) Blaney was age 52, her father Harry Blaney age 53, her sister Louise age 14 and brother Alfred (Alfie) was age 9. They boarded the S.S. Athena on November 2, 1929 and arrived in Quebec nine days later.

Harry Blaney
Harry Blaney was a leather worker and the passenger list notes that the family’s destination was their daughter’s home in Toronto.
Martha Jane Blaney

It also shows that their fares were paid by the British Salvation Army. The charity made passage available to many poor residents of England to give them a fresh start in the colonies.

Taking the train from Quebec to Toronto, they were met at Union Station by Bess and Harry.

Bess’ sister Louise was just a year older than her son Lewis. They were all living together so Louise, Lewis and Joan quickly became good friends and they enjoyed their time together.

Lewis, Louise, Joan & Eileen
Lewis Joan & Louise
It was the Golden Age of Hollywood and you could forget your troubles with a 25 cent ticket to the movies. Radio was entertaining and widely available. There were sporting events, roller skating and swimming.

The family loved the beach, often taking the ferry to Hanlon’s Point on Toronto Island or the streetcar to the eastern beaches, with family and friends.  

Life was not so easy for the parents. Bess and her mother had never been close and everyone living in the same house was likely challenging for all of them. 

Unfortunately within a year of their arrival the Blaneys were forced to return to England.

Family lore has it that Jane, while working in a ladies wear shop, had taken something that did not belong to her. Regardless, the passenger list of the Andania shows Harry, Jane, Louise & Alfie listed under the category Deported. Their destination was shown as 12 Heathfield Road, Birmingham, the home of their son Ted Blaney and they arrived in Liverpool, England on October 19, 1930.

Bess was appalled and embarrassed to say the least and it was not spoken about even within the family. However Joan did tell me the story late in her life. Other than the passenger list, I have not yet been able to find an official record of the event.

As written in Whence They Came, Deportation from Canada 1900-1935 by Barbara Roberts, in Canada during the depression, any “new” immigrants (less than 5 years in Canada) not working or being supported by someone else, as well as troublemakers, were deported, often without trials. Between 1930 and 1935, thirty thousand people were deported from Canada. An article on the Libraries and Archives Canada website mentions that never before or since have deportations reached the same magnitude as in those years. Some Canadians, desperate themselves, blamed foreigners for taking away their jobs and using relief agency funds.

Harry and Jane returned to Birmingham penniless and moved in with their son Ted and his family where they stayed for a number of years.   Recently a daughter of Ted’s told me that things did not go very well there either due to many conflicts over her Grandmother Jane’s behaviour. 


Friday, 6 January 2017

A CORRECTION and an ADDENDUM

Photo Correction:

With many thanks to a member of the Cheffins family I am able to correct a photo that I included in my post "On to Ontario", posted August 2015.


Sylvia Dyer had read the post and realized that the photo shown was not Bess's cousin Abbe Cheffins and his family. She sent me one of her family photos that helped me identify them correctly.

On reviewing Bess's photo album I was able to find the attached photo which Sylvia confirmed is Abbe (Albert Robert), Bunnie (Mona Beatrice Denovan) Cheffins and their son Ronald.

Unfortunately I have not been able to correctly identify the photo I used but hopefully in time I will.

Corrections and or additional family history information are always welcome and one of the purposes of creating this blog. Thanks again Sylvia.


Addendum:

I recently found a transcription of a letter my grandmother wrote to her niece Margaret Everett, a daughter of her brother Ted Blaney in England. She was aged 91 at the time and in it she describes in detail, her move from Montreal to Toronto. My mother Joan, confirmed the story a few years ago. 

Happily Margaret's son Jon sent it on to me and I can include her words here.

“Then I got a day job with a well to do family who came from England same time as we did & she could understand what we were up against here.

Anyway after a short time she told me she had wished she could go back to England but he would not go. She said her brother was in Toronto with his wife & family and they would pay our way if I would work for them in Toronto. She too was very good to work for.

So we went in a covered lorry. Harry sat with the driver and the chicks and I sat across the back on a couch and it poured cold rain. We had the water curtain across us. We tried to sing but it was too much.

[daughter] Joan was here for 2 weeks one time & she said Mom, ‘remember we sat in back of the lorry and sang in the wind & the rain.’ My, I was surprised she had remembered it so plainly, she has always been a marvellous girl & a little mother to them [Lewis & Eileen] while I worked.”


Perhaps this explains the fact I could not find the family in 1927 but I found them in Montreal in 1926, then in Brantford in 1928.

I think things may not have worked out in Toronto at first and so they went to Brantford where they knew the Cheffins cousins. The 1929 city directory shows them in Toronto at 14 Delany Crescent, Parkdale. They remained in Toronto until 1945.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

FIVE FERRIES and SIX COUSINS in SEVEN DAYS Part II



So, on to Surrey via highway, our fifth ferry and highway again: another very scenic trip. We were early enough to get on the ferry but it was very crowded, likely with people taking a Sunday day trip to the Vancouver area. There were many cars left behind when the ship left the dock but not us. By the time we had lunch in the on-board White Spot Restaurant we were almost at Deep Cove.

We took the Trans Canada Highway and on arrival in Burnaby, we called our second-cousin Patricia. We were happy to learn she had arranged a family get-together for dinner at her home. Since they lived only about five minutes from the motel, Gayle and I decided to have a look at touristy White Rock before joining them.

White Rock is on the south shore of British Columbia very near the Canadian/US border. It was very busy but interesting to drive through the town and see some of the residences built up on the hills overlooking the ocean as well as the pier and promenade area.


Monkey tree at Pat's
We stopped to get a couple of bottles of wine to take to Pat`s and when coming out of the shop ran into another cousin, Amie. It was the first time I had met her but unfortunately we didn`t have time to visit. She is the grand-daughter of my mother`s sister and lives in the White Rock area.

After a wonderful day of meeting new family members, good food and many many shared stories we left with plans to leave early the next morning for our old homesteads in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver. Tom and Pat would drive us and it would take about 45 minutes to get there.



House that Dad built





It was another wonderful day. First we visited the childhood homes of each of us and I was delighted to see that the house my mother and dad had built in 1947-1952 was still standing though enlarged and updated over time. I could tell because of the ancient chimneys on the roof and the location of the front door. Unfortunately the home next door built by my grandparents had been replaced by a very modern building some years ago. There were still very, very, tall evergreen trees everywhere as I remembered, although the hill in the road always seems smaller when you are no longer twelve years old. I also loved the smell of the cedar.

Our next stop was Lynn Valley Park and Canyon. The park consists of 617 acres of forest and most trees are 80-100 years old. We had all played there as children, walking from home, building bonfires, bouncing on the suspension bridge or even jumping into parts of the canyon. Happily we are all still here to tell the stories.


The first thing I had to do at the park was to walk across the suspension bridge and take some photos looking over the sides. The bridge is 60 metres above the creek. Gayle was the most adventurous of us when we were kids, running across and rocking it, to the dismay of her mother but we all loved it then. Since she did not want to go across today, we took a different path, down into the canyon.


Pat was keen to show where our Uncle Albert`s ashes were scattered in the creek. He had many times panned for gold in the creek in the old days although he was chased out a couple of times by the warden in later years. She also told us the story of how the water turned gold when his ashes were placed there.




Gayle & Pat
We took the steps, down to the south of the suspension bridge,which I had forgotten about. They were much sturdier than we remembered them but still were many hundreds of steps with only some flights having handrails. It was tough on the knees and hips. After the climb down to the Twin Falls Bridge we enjoyed the view of the twin falls and Pat took us up along the edge to show us the location where Albert is now resting. We did not climb down to the bottom of the canyon although many people do, as we still had to climb back up the hundreds of steps to get to the parking lot.

After lunch we headed for Highlands United Church in Capilano. This is where our grandmother’s ashes were scattered, in the Memory Garden behind the church. We were able to find her plaque inside the church which told of her being there and I was able to point out her spot in the garden as I had been there a couple of times before.

We paid our respects and then Tom and Pat suggested taking us to visit another one of their children and their grandchildren who lived near Lynn Valley Park. We were delighted to meet and visit with them and see their home and property. I was kindly given a book which included photos of Lynn Valley past and present, which I enjoyed sharing with my family.


Albert's painting
After dinner we had another great evening of sharing memories,
photos and family art. In the morning I went back to get a copy of our Uncle Albert`s painting that Pat had on her wall and a copy of a portrait she had drawn of her father. When Tom took Albert’s art of the frame to copy it for me, he discovered another of Albert’s paintings on the reverse side.


A little serendipity occurred when we found that a photo that I couldn’t identify for years was one of Pat and her foster sister.

When her family moved from Toronto to B.C. she had to say goodbye to her foster sister and she never had a photo of her. What a moment for both of us!



Pat, Tom & Gayle
After our last cup of tea Gayle drove me to the Airport for the flight home.During the flight I recollected all the wonderful people, sights, and art I had experienced during my 7 days trip.

While there were lots more photos, I had to limit the number that would fit into this blog and sadly there were also the ones I neglected to take. 

Thanks to all the cousins who welcomed us into their homes, entertained us, toured us around and shared their family memories with us.


I loved every minute of it!

My next cousin finding trip will be to England and Scotland to meet those whose families didn't emigrate to Canada.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

FIVE FERRIES and SIX COUSINS in SEVEN DAYS Part I





I found some on Facebook.  Some of them Googled their surname and found me through this family history blog. I found out more about them in my Grandmother's photos, diaries and poems. I knew some of them as children but we lost touch for decades.  I thought of them as my “lost cousins”.

Unfortunately my grandmother and her siblings sometimes held grudges and played their family members against each other.  These rifts rippled across the family, up and down the generations.

When I started connecting with my family members online, I had a strong desire to see them again and after a cousin from British Columbia visited me in Toronto, we started planning an old fashioned road trip to see our West Coast cousins.

I found so much more than I had lost, and am so happy that they agreed to meet me and share their stories, art and photos!

We were able to put aside the battles of our parents and grandparents – it felt like our family feuds could finally be put to rest.  I am sad for those who went before us but hopefully we will change the future of our families.


I have been fortunate and happy to have re-connected with my Canadian West Coast cousins.

It began with a visit to my Aunt Eileen with my mother and sister Betty about six years ago. During those few days we were able to spend time with her as well as her husband Ernie and two of her children, Gayle and Colin. We also had a brief visit with my mother`s cousin Patricia and some of her family. I had previously connected with my cousin Roger and his wife Mavis over the internet while working on a family history project.

While Gayle was visiting me in 2014, we had some time to talk about all the lost connections in our family stories. When I told her I was interested in visiting her and others, she suggested she would lead a road trip that would include visits to Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Powell River, Sechelt and Surrey. My sister Betty planned to join us and after contacting all the cousins we planned a very ambitious itinerary. We could not be away too long as our mother was 98 years of age and in declining health.

Unfortunately just two days before we were scheduled to leave for Victoria, our mother had a medical issue that would likely require a hospital stay. We could not be sure until after our scheduled flight because we could not get test results back in time being as it was a three day holiday weekend. Generously Betty decided to stay back and be with Mom while I went ahead with our plans.

Gayle met me at the Victoria BC airport then we drove to the first ferry to travel to Salt Spring Island. After we docked it was a lovely scenic drive to her home in Ganges with Gayle telling me about the size and culture of the Island.

On arriving at Gayle`s I was impressed with the amount of her needlework she had decorating her home. It is beautiful with very intricate and detailed designs. At first glance from the doorway I thought they were paintings. It was my first look at the large amount of family art I would see throughout my visit.

I soon noticed the large numbers of deer everywhere on the Island – from roadside to backyards. Also for the first time, I saw a family of Quail walking down the road in front of Gayle`s kitchen window as we had breakfast.

As we toured the Island I was surprised by the amount of mountainous terrain as well as the narrow and winding roads. Many of the homes were difficult to reach which I suppose is what their owners like about them. I was a somewhat disappointed by the lack of sea views due to the very tall tree growth as well as the tall fences and hedges, however we did get a close up view at the north end of the island.

In the evening we walked to town and had a lovely dinner outside the Treehouse. As shown in the photo it is quite small with a tree growing up through the middle. It was a warm night with a great meal of Pacific Salmon and live entertainment. We also enjoyed watching the people wandering through the town. It was so relaxing and I enjoyed seeing ``hippies`` of all ages.


On our return we found a telephone message from another cousin Jennifer who lived along our route up the coast to suggest that we meet her in Ladywood for a coffee on Friday morning. Jenny was not sure just how we were related to her but she had heard about our trip, from her brother Roger. 

After enjoying blueberry muffins kindly sent over by Gayle`s neighbour we were soon on the second ferry ride, leaving Salt Spring Island for Vancouver Island.

With Jennifer and Gayle in Ladywood
We had a very enjoyable coffee break in Ladywood sharing some family history and our regrets that we hadn`t known each other before. We took a couple of photos and traded phone numbers and the family blog site information before driving on to Nanaimo where we had lunch with a childhood friend of mine. 

Later in the day we took our third ferry -  to Powell River and found the beautiful resort where we spent two nights.

The next day we were warmly greeted by Roger & Mavis at their beautiful glass and wood home in the forest. They explained they had built it themselves over the preceding five years reminding me that our grandparents and my parents did the same in the 1940s. The house is surrounded by many trees which Roger uses in his building and wood carvings. 

Mavis is also a wood carver and both paint. I knew Roger`s mother painted but did not know that his father had as well. There is a long list of artists in our families past and present. We were excited to see some of Roger and Mavis`s work. As well as the work displayed in their home, Mavis showed us her large beautiful carved boxes and Roger took us down to his workshop to see a magnificent, very large door he has carved. It is wonderful work.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their garden. They explained the fence surrounding the living area of their property was to keep out the bears, deer and cougars that had previously destroyed their plants and trees.

We shared our family history research and talked about the numerous artists in our families. Roger had not seen many of the photos in my Grandmother’s album and I agreed to send him a scanned version along with the details of a couple of books written about our artist ancestor, Walter Langley. We shared warm goodbye hugs and agreed to keep in touch. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and hope to see them again.

After a very comfortable sleep and a good breakfast we set off down the Sunshine Coast to our fourth ferry. This one would take us to Sechelt and the next cousin, Gayle`s brother Colin and his family.

After lunch in town we visited Colin`s home, yet another house high up above the water. It was down a steep driveway to the house and the house overlooked a very deep-down backyard and a great water view. I was happy to meet Colin`s wife Melanie, their son Sebastian and daughter Amelie.

Exciting ride with Colin and Gayle
In the afternoon Colin and Melanie took us on a cruise along the shore and many inlets of their neighbourhood. We were able to see their house and some others high up and almost hidden by the high trees.  We also saw an abandoned oyster farm and cabin built by a friend of theirs. We stopped there for a cold drink, a tour of the cabin and great conversation.


On the way back we stopped to check Colin`s lobster trap and later we had a great meal of lobster claws, lobster cakes, all the trimmings and dessert, which we enjoyed along with the kids.

We spent some time looking at all our old photos, sharing stories and promising to share copies. I had made a small family history book for Colin`s family which I left for them. They live a very interesting, close to nature, lifestyle and it suits them. After dark we sat out on the deck talking and star gazing. I was delighted to see the Milky Way as well as many other stars. In the absence of city light, they seemed almost within reach.

We enjoyed breakfast together before Melanie left for work. We talked a little more with Colin while he showed us some of his photos of camping with his children on one of their many adventures. Another artist in the family, Colin is a professional photographer. He then advised us what time to leave in order to catch our fifth ferry suggesting we allow enough time to visit a small park on the way to see the salmon run. Sometimes the bears come to feed as well. We had a wonderful visit.

Salmon fishing 
We did stop at the park and as we started down the trail we met a man returning with his small child who was crying because he was afraid of the bear. Well, I could not resist going on, so very slowly, quietly and carefully I walked down the winding trail watching around each curve. I was rewarded with a close encounter with a bear eating salmon, albeit a small bear. It was exciting as I snapped my photo and returned quietly to Gayle who was beginning to worry about where I was. 

That photo topped off my list of wildlife I had seen on the trip, deer, quail, rabbits, seals, salmon spawning, and a glimpse of a whale from a ferry then finally a bear.

To be continued.................