November 25, 2020

Just about memories and me: Part 2

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Sarah and Joan

[My eldest brother, Ladner whom had joined the British Merchant Navy, was serving when a torpedo sank the ship he was on in 1942.]

I remember when my mother and   father received the   news that evening. I was out grocery shopping for my mother. I can even remember what I had in my basket- sugar, butter and a broom. In those days we were sent to a shop, maybe Merren’s or Dr. Roy’s, with a list from our mother. The clerk would fill out the list and put the groceries in our bag that was actually a straw basket. I can recall it because someone took my picture that evening when I was resting against the fence of Elmslie Church, on my way home with the bag of groceries.

Mother was shattered by the news of “Laddie” being lost.  He was so young and her first-born.  I can hear her crying for him now. She cried for thirty years, on and off, until she died at the age of 86 in the 1970’s.

“Oh, what   a savage thing war is! I wonder what happened to my Laddie?” she wept bitterly.

Life carried on as usual, sad at that point in time, but nevertheless I had school starting very shortly. I was sent to Miss Una Bush’s School to learn my  ‘ABC’s’. Her school was just a stone’s throw away. A little path through the bush to the north of where our home was, took us to Miss Una’s.  She got me going with my spelling and reading I can tell you.  My mother used to always tell me after I’d grown up how serious I was when I would come home with my ABC book. She said I would get on the floor on my back, my feet up in the air against the doorframe where I could keep cool and I would start to read, ‘”R-A-T= RAT. M-A-T= MAT. C-A-T= CAT. This is my cat.’  Yes, and what about it?” I would say.

Mother always made me laugh when she would tell me that story.

The "Cockroach"

There were many mosquitoes to annoy us at the school, almost  ‘eating us alive.’ Miss Una hated them. She didn’t only slap and kill them; she would grind them up between her fingers and smell them!  Believe it or not, mosquitoes carry a very peculiar scent. (Kill one and check it out.) Sometimes I would find myself smelling those I’d killed   just to get a charge! (Smile.)

It was down at Miss Una’s that I met my good friend to be, Sarah Lee. She lived next door but one to the school and we became inseparable. Sarah didn’t have a father to love her like I had.  I used to feel sorry for her at times.  Never the less she had a mother, even though she was sickly, and an Aunt, who gave her love in abundance. Oh, they loved Sarah with all their heart. Sarah was a brilliant child loved by all the neighbours as well. I went down through the bush to look for Sarah whenever I got the chance.

Sarah and I were both energetic and we could do anything the boys could do. We soon got called “Tom Boys” whatever that meant!  We swam a lot, rode my father’s bicycle  (when we could  ‘borrow’ it), went fishing and   much more, but   we did everything together. Even cleaning the garden!

In the same area of Miss Una’s was the home of Sunbeam Thompson. She was a barber, or let’s says she used to cut hair.  I was sent to her when my hair needed to be cut. I was about 4 or 5 years old. In those days we sat under a tree to have our hair trimmed or cut. One day, after having my hair attended to, Mrs. Mary Jane Bush (Una’s mother) was standing by the side of the road and she stopped me as I walked past. She lovingly kissed all my neck even though it was full of Sunbeam’s after hair cut powder. Mother told me some years later that I had told her about that incident.

“I’m not going back to Sunbeam to have my hair cut off anymore,” I said,   ‘”cause cousin Mary Jane always waits to hug me and kiss all the powder off my neck.”

Well, I think from then I started to grow my hair long so it was either plaited or tied with a ribbon in some other style.

After learning to read, write and spell, I suppose pretty well from going to Miss Una’s school, I enrolled, with my sister Helen, as one of the first Students of Triple C School when it opened its doors in 1941. I remember my first day vividly. I cried and cried.  After all, this was taking me a lot further from home and among strange teachers from USA. To make things even worse, father had given me a green desk!  It was so big and tall I could hardly see over it. You see, in those days we had to find our own desks. I remember father commissioned a carpenter by the name of Kitchener Soloman to make the horrible thing and, of course, I don’t suppose he even knew what sort of desk I needed.

Anyway, the new school was  situated in the  Webster Building on the Waterfront better known as Viking Gallery and Sunflower, although now sadly demolished. Progress! But I cried even more when the boys named that horrible big, green desk ‘The Green Cockroach!’ That really upset me.

I cried   now even   more.   My older sister, Ruth, came to the school to console me. I hated school and everyone!

After a few days, as usual, I began to settle down. I made a new friend and stayed close to Grace and Beth McTaggart who were  very  good friends of mine  from  Sunday school. We nearly always walked to and from school together and we lived within a voice of each other. After School was out in the evenings we’d mostly sit on the McTaggart’s porch in their swing and sing like nightingales. There wasn’t anything else to do once we’d done our homework, and we didn’t need any light to sing, as we knew all the songs by heart. Songs like  “Harbour Lights,” and  “On Top of Old Smokie.”

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