My mother died two months before my eighth birthday [June 30, 1930 to be precise]. Ted was six, Helen was three, Violet was two and Margaret was just ten months old.
By my recollection my mother was only twenty-eight when she died [30 years 11 months according to funeral records] and her mother died before she was thirty leaving my mother when she was only ten months old. This information left me with the fear that I would never reach my thirtieth birthday.
Whenever one of my boys, and I had five of them, reached their tenth month I spent that whole month in constant fear. I survived and I've more than doubled my thirty years, alleluia.
My stepfather had got his mother to look after us when our mother died but after three months she gave up and he was forced to put us in an orphanage. Helen, Ted and myself went to the Toronto Children's Aid Society while Violet and Margaret went to the Infant's Home from where they were adopted, at least that's what I was told.
Needless to say I never saw or heard from them again.
Later my stepfather came and got Helen, who really was his, and that was the last I saw or heard from either of them.
When I became a ward of the Children's Aid they took many of my personal items away from me. I had a bunch of pictures, which they took. One of them I remember was of myself in an awful pink coat and hat that neighbour had loaned it to my father or maybe it was his mother, anyway it looked terrible on me. At that time I was dark with olive skin and pink was the worse colour on me. Funny, how that picture is so clear in my mind.
They took the pictures away from me. They took a nickel my step dad had given me and they also took a tin box, one that cigarettes used to come in, a "flat 50" I think they were called, that my mother had given me filled with beads that I used to string into beads to wear. They were taken away and I was told they would give them back to me when I grew up but I never saw them again. Years later when I was on my own in the working world I asked for them but they told me everything had been destroyed in a fire.
Ted and I went to the same foster home together where they had a boy and a girl and wanted us for company for them.
Not long after I was back at the shelter. They kept Ted because he was about the same age as their boy but they sent me back to the shelter because I was so much older than their girl who was only around three.
Now the shelter was like what you see in the movies about orphanages. It has since been demolished and I can't really say whether that is good or bad for at least at the shelter you got to meet other kids like yourself.
They had a schoolroom where they attempted to keep you up in your schoolwork. There was a big dining room and a dormitory for the boys and one for the girls with rows of beds. There was always a matron on duty all night.
We would be herded into the large bathrooms. I never saw the boy's bathroom, which has left me feeling, deprived and to this day I've been curious of what the men's bathrooms are like. I can't for the life of me figure out why there is never a line-up at the men's room where the line for the women's is sometimes stretched a city block long or so it sometimes seems.
Anyway, back to the shelter and bedtime. After we had been inspected and declared ready for bed it was lights out. If you got caught talking after that you were sent to the attic to spend the rest of the night with only the mice and boxes of things that belonged to the kids who were at the shelter.
As I was then, and still am now, one who loves to talk I spent many a night in the attic. Of course I had fun rummaging through the boxes that belonged to the kids who were staying there.
I was at the shelter in between foster homes, I actually only stayed there twice, the first time was when my real mother had died and the second time was when one of my foster mothers had become sick and they had to take me away.
The family that gave me my vacation through the Star Fresh Air Fund was to be my second foster home. When they found out that my mother had died they made arrangements to try to adopt me. Now I had been a good girl when I was there for my holiday but this was just six months after my real mother had died and I was one big bundle of resentment and I did everything I could to turn them against adopting me.
I can't remember whether it was when I was on holiday with them or if it was after my mother died, when they took me with the intention of adopting me, but I remember them handing me a catalogue and telling me I could have whatever I wanted for Xmas and I picked out a dress that I liked.
They had a large german shepherd dog and I used to climb onto his back and ride him all over the farm. They owned this huge farm in Simcoe Ontario and they spent their winters there.
They must have had someone take care of it during the summer because they owned a hotel in Jackson's Point. They had built rooms for the help over the barn and they had made a room for me. I thought it was something special that I had my ninth birthday at the hotel and once again they gave me a chance to decide what I wanted for my birthday.
It was a stupid thing and even they were unable to understand why I asked for it but what I really wanted to do was run the machine that ground up the horseradish. I had watched them do it and I was fascinated. They let me only because they had promised. Of course I cried like a baby because the juice is just like the juice of an onion. You try putting a few onions through a meat grinder and you'll get some idea of what it was like grinding horseradish.
And this was not a small machine that you could put on a kitchen counter, no sirree, it was a huge machine that stood on the floor and took up about a 4x6 foot space.
I don't remember much about my days at the hotel except that I was always getting sties in my eyes. One time I had five in the one eye at the same time. If I remember correctly it was my right eye, I was playing on the swings and they started to hurt real bad. I stopped and put my head in my hands and when I lifted my head my hands were covered in blood. One of the sties had broken which accounted for the extreme pain all through my youth and well into my early adult years. I kept getting them but they finally cleared up and I never get them anymore thank goodness.
I was told about different remedies, such as spit on a plain wedding band and rub the sty. A railway engineer told that to me. He also said that if I didn't have a wedding ring to spit on my finger.
My girlfriend of that time and I used to go down to the railway tracks and wave at the conductor driving the train, he remembered me from when I had come to stay there on that holiday paid for by the Star Fresh-Air Fund. I had travelled by train and as I was a chatterbox even then, he knew my story and all about how I was going to stay there on my vacation.
That was where I started school and as that was the only time in my school years that I lived in the country. I remember sitting in twin school seats and having to walk a long way to school, I remember one time staying and playing after school and by the time I got home I was late for supper.
The first time it was an accident, I didn't mean to be late but when my foster mother told me that supper was all gone and that I would have to settle for bread and milk. What she didn't know was that I loved bread and milk, sometimes I would put jam on the bread or else I'd put lots of brown sugar on it, well anyway, she realised that I was coming home late on purpose. Whenever I'd get playing I wouldn't worry about being late and sometimes when I'd want break and milk I would plan to deliberately be late.
As I said she caught on and one day she gave me a shock and said no bread and milk, I was to go straight to bed without supper. Well that shook me, now I was hungry and feeling I wasn't cared for much and I had a terrible time getting to sleep but she did get to me and I didn't plan anymore late days because I wasn't too fond of going to bed without supper.
Too bad I didn't remember that when my kids were young but by that time it was considered cruel to deprive your child of the necessities of life. Although as I've just discovered I went to bed without supper and it did happen more than once as there were times when I forgot to watch the time. Kids in those days didn't sport such things as watches and as I can realise today it didn't do me any harm, it was only a short lived pain and I can now see the value of the lesson.
There is one more memory that sticks out in my mind and that is of a yellow roadster with a rumble seat. As you might know a rumble seat doesn't have cover so if it rains you are at the mercy of the weather rain or shine anyway. There was a country road and the driver of the roadster and some of his friends would get out there and play what they called chicken and I think it still is called chicken.
I sat in the rumble seat with this chum of mind and the young fellow, I don't even remember his name but he was related to my foster mother, would driver straight towards this other car coming in the opposite direction, who was coming straight at us. Whoever swerved first was chicken.
Well we sat and screamed in a mixture of fright and excitement and because this was one memory that stayed in my mind with a few other hair-brained schemes.
I've often wondered what my life would have been like if I had been nicer and they had kept me. They owned a farm in Simcoe and a hotel in Jackson's Point, anyway I wasn't very good and they didn't keep me so I'll let that thought.