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The Immigration and Family Story of Harold and Sue Franklin

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The Franklins of Fernwood Crescent
WWII: Harold & Sue Meet in England
When I look at this picture of Mum and Dad smiling and walking down a Vancouver street I am reminded how all of us look to the future with hopes and expectations, uncertain of what lies ahead. Two different people from different continents with different personal histories. Mum, born September 13, 1916 in Sussex, England was baptized Ethel May Refoy but was always known as Sue. Dad, Harold Roy Franklin (once known as Red because of his red hair), was born December 9, 1919 in Canora, Saskatchewan.
World events had coloured both their lives. Mum’s father, Anthony Refoy, was disabled in the First World War (1914-1918) and spent most of his remaining years in Graylingwell Hospital while Granny raised their five children, Tony, Bill, Mum, Betty and Sid on a treatment allowance. Dad had lived through the Great Depression that began with the collapse of the USA Stock Market in 1929 (Black Tuesday) and persisted through the 1930’s. Rural areas were particularly hard hit. This great economic downturn greatly affected his family and eventually led to their breakup, with Dad’s siblings Les, Doug and Joyce being parceled out to relatives. Dad, the oldest, who was a promising student, was forced to leave school and make his way as an itinerant worker.
It was World War II (1939-1945) that brought Mum and Dad together. Dad enlisted in the Canadian Army, Yorkton Regiment, and was glad to leave behind the economic hardship of the Canadian prairies. Mum, on the other hand, lived on the idyllic south coast of England with its grazing sheep and rolling landscape. However, the war years also brought great hardship for the people of Britain. They lived on food and clothing rations as well as the constant anxiety of air raid sirens and bombings. Families on both sides of the Atlantic lost loved ones. Mum, a widow with a young son, Bill (William George, born April 25, 1938) met Dad by chance on the heath near her home at Rosebay Cottage, Storrington. He was first stationed there in England to practice war manoeuvres prior to deployment for Italy. They were married December 26, 1942 and Ian Roy was born February 4, 1945 while Dad was off fighting in Italy.
When the war ended in 1945 Dad returned to Canada with the Military and Mum followed almost a year later (after a number of sailing cancellations) crossing the Atlantic on the Cunard ship Aquitania with Bill, who had his eighth birthday on the ship, and Ian, thirteen months. They arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia in May 1946 and traveled by train across Canada to Vancouver where Dad met them. They went to live at Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Caulfield, West Vancouver. Mum, coming from a different background, was ill prepared for Canadian life, especially the isolation of lighthouse living and the dangers for small children. Always smartly dressed and well read, I think her initial impression of Canada was a cultural wasteland. Although we moved to our Fernwood Crescent address in North Vancouver in 1950, Point Atkinson remained part of our lives until Grandpa (Ernie Dawe) retired as the lighthouse keeper in 1961. To me, Point Atkinson was a place of adventure; climbing rocks, checking out flotsam in the “salt chuck,” boat rides with Nanny and Grandpa and the beginning of my lifelong love of arbutus trees and the sea.
In spite of the ups and downs in the years that followed Mum’s arrival in Canada, she and Dad celebrated fifty years of marriage on December 26, 1992. There had been so much living in between. Dad, who had been struggling with cancer for three years, died the following Good Friday, April 9, 1993. Mum will be ninety eight in September and, except for a few health problems, remains very much engaged in life. I have felt some urgency in putting this family history together as I still need to consult with her on names and places. Unfortunately, this has not proved entirely successful as Mum tires easily and has moved past her interest in family history. In sorting through Mum’s collection of family pictures and memorabilia I was able to select some great Kodak moments that I hope will bring back fond family memories.
The Franklins of Fernwood Crescent
Harold’s Family History
When Dad knew he was dying he wrote a journal of his experiences during World War II. Like other young men of his era he saw the life of the soldier as a great adventure and an opportunity to move beyond his prairie world. This poem is his first entry:
I have seen the sun rise
In many times and places
As a young boy on the prairies
To summer’s heat
And fields of waving grain
To winter’s bitter cold
And pristine whiteness
I have seen the sunrise
As a young man
Full of fears and hopes
In a place of rural peace
Soon to be shattered
By a distant call to arms
When I read this poem I was touched by Dad’s nostalgia for his place of birth and found it interesting that he never went back to Saskatchewan, even for a visit. Apparently near the end of his life he wanted to make a trip back to Saskatchewan but died before he could fulfill his wish.
During the prairie harvest of 1939 Dad enlisted in the Canadian Army in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. I have copied his diary and included it separately. Tucked in this diary was a hand drawn family tree that has proved instrumental in piecing together his family history. Even with this for direction, fact checking has been a challenge.
 The Scharfenbergs
After considerable digging, it appears that Dad’s maternal grandparents, Julius Armus Scharfenberg (1866-1956) and Elisabeth Maren Jepson (1870-1961) immigrated to the United States where they met. They arrived with their respective families. Julius was born in Torsballig, Osterholz, Germany while Elisabeth was born in Haegerup, Braendelydinge, Denmark. Their families settled in Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin where other members of their extended families had also immigrated and became farmers. Julius and Elisabeth married and settled in Diamond Bluff. They had ten children: Christine Fredrikka (1891-1963), Anna Johanna (1893-1961), Robert Julius (1895-1961), Herman (1897-1988), Clara (1899-1981), Laura Elizabeth (1903-?), Ethel Otille (1904-1907), Marie Margrethe (1906-?), Etta Helen (1908-2000) and Julius Harvey (1910-1988). Their fifth child Clara, our grandmother, was known to us as Nanny. In 1911 her family immigrated to Canada settling on farm land in Preeceville, Saskatchewan. Here Grandma and Grandpa Scharfenberg remained for the rest of their lives.
 The Franklins
On investigation, the version of the Franklin side of his family history that Dad left with his journal was not entirely accurate. Dad recorded that his grandfather came as a young man from Ireland via Bristol, England after being orphaned. He settled in Brantford Ontario and married an Atkinson. There are many related Franklins in eastern Canada whose family trees are well documented and tell a different story. The name Lemuel, being unusual, proved helpful in tracing connections. I am using information gleaned from existing records and these family trees. Perhaps one day I will find out we have Irish roots but for now the following version seems to be accurate.
Our great grandfather, James Franklin (1852-1920), was born in Brantford, Ontario. His grandparents were born in Buckinghamshire, England and immigrated to Canada. James married twice. He and his first wife Louisa Atkinson (1855-1886) had six children Stella (1874-1894), Caroline (1876-1904), Charles Victor (1879-1950), George (1880-1941), Lemuel (1882-1948) and Frederick Lorne (1884-1968). Their fifth child, Lemuel, was our paternal grandfather. Since he died in 1948 at Cape Beale Lighthouse, British Columbia, we never knew him.
After Louisa’s death James married widow, Nancy Carrick (born Sandford). She brought three children to the marriage, Elmer Gordon, Winnie Ethel and William Laverne. Nancy and James had two children, Gladys (1894-1987) and James Albert (1896-1898).
 Lemuel Franklin and Rose Annetta Butler
Lemuel married his first wife, Rose Annetta Butler (1884-1917) in 1906 and they had three daughters Dora Kathryn (1907-1985), Elene Rhonda (1909-1993), known as Allie, and Lillian Hazel (1916-1917). I believe Rose’s death in 1917 was related to the birth of their third child, Lillian.
 Lemuel Franklin and Clara Scharfenberg
Clara Scharfenburg (Nanny) was born in 1899 in Diamond Bluff Wisconsin and died in Victoria, British Columbia in 1981. As a young woman she went to housekeep for Lemuel Franklin and his children after the death of his wife Rose. I am not sure of the date Nanny and Lemuel were married, probably 1917. He was almost 18 years older than her. They had five children, the firstborn, David, dying shortly after birth. Dad, Harold Roy aka Red (1919-1993), was the eldest. He had two younger brothers, Leslie “Les” Gordon (1921-?) and Douglas “Doug” Howard (1923-2011), and a sister Joyce, born in 1926.
The Great Depression had a huge impact on Dad’s family. They lived in Canora, Saskatchewan where his dad operated a lumber yard and was the Shell Oil representative. Apparently his businesses were prosperous and they had a nice home and good lifestyle. With the Depression, Lemuel lost his business operations. He found itinerant work as a contractor but gradually stopped sending money and eventually the family lost their home and possessions. With Lemuel away, the only family income was from Nanny’s sewing. Dad’s parents separated and Nanny moved to Vancouver, later sending for their youngest child, Joyce. Les and Doug were parceled out to relatives but Dad was on his own. He was a promising student but had to leave school before graduation to find work. He found employment as a laborer and a farmhand. During this time he worked for the Reese family in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba. They treated him well and he stayed in touch with them for years.
I think Dad saw the war as an opportunity to escape the harsh reality of the Depression. Although it was wartime, he traveled to England, Scotland, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland, something a prairie boy would not normally do. It was in England that he met our mother, Sue, and began a new chapter of his life. In his journal he writes, “The beginning of my life with my ‘Pink Lady.’ Someone to talk to and dream with. No more alone” and “Lonely – togetherness – companionship – friendship. The beginnings of the family circle.”
 Clara Scharfenberg and Ernest Charles Dawe (Ernie)
Nanny got remarried to Ernie Dawe (1896-1965), Grandpa, after WWII. He was born in Penryn, Cornwall, England and sailed to Canada on the Corinthian, arriving May 1913 in Quebec. In 1920 he married Gladys Maude Fish (1900-1941) from Lancashire, England. They had two children, Norman George (1925-2010) and Marjorie Louise (1922-1997). Gladys and Nanny knew each other and sometime later, after Gladys died in 1941, Nanny and Grandpa married. They are the only grandparents I really knew as our English relatives were far away.
An interesting twist is that Norman Dawe married Joyce Franklin and they are parents of our cousins, Larry and Robin. They later divorced and married other partners.
For me exploring Dad’s past has given me a better sense of the man. While Mum often talked of her family and England, Dad said very little. Now that it is too late I wish I could have my many questions answered.
In order to give some context for Dad’s family history I have included pictures from the area where Dad grew up. His home was in Canora, Saskatchewan and his grandparents’ farm in Preeceville was about 50 km away. Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. Aggressive advertising and the offer of free land led to an influx of settlers to Saskatchewan between 1896 and 1914, ending with the beginning of WWI. The Scharfenberg family arrived from Wisconsin in 1911. Immigrants were mainly American, German and Scandinavian and they tended to settle with like-minded people. Up until post-WWII, Saskatchewan was a rural province dotted with small service villages and towns. Dad was truly a small town boy. The first time he ever saw a ship was on his arrival in Halifax as he headed off to war.
The Franklins of Fernwood Crescent
Sue’s Family History
Mum is still with us at age 97 and remains an intelligent and refined woman. Although Dad started his journal with a poem it is Mum who I associate with poetry. Mum has always been an avid reader and appreciator of literature. Unfortunately, her eyesight has recently deteriorated and she can no longer spend long hours reading. Otherwise, she remains in good health for a woman of her age. She has longevity on her side as her mother, Granny, lived to age 104.
 The Ollivers
Granny’s maiden name, Olliver, has historical significance. Her eccentric ancestor, John Olliver (1709-1793), known as the “Miller of Highdown,” is a Sussex folk legend. His elaborate tomb, inscribed with his own poetry, is a well-known Sussex landmark. Apart from being a miller he was believed to have been involved with smuggling and pirates. There is a lot of information about him on the Internet if you want to learn more. Our direct ancestor, Edward Olliver (1721-?), was his brother. Their parents were Clement and Margaret Olliver. I have been able to trace the Ollivers back to 1663 with the assistance of information passed to Mum by Uncle Bill before his death. Finding English records has been fairly straight forward, while there are many more gaps in Canadian records.
Mum’s maternal grandparents Charles Olliver (1862-?) and Elizabeth Tullett (1861-1894) were both born in Sussex. They were married in 1888 and had three children Alice (1889-1893), Granny, Ethel Gladys (1890-1994) and Charles, (1892-?). Both Elizabeth’s and Alice’s early deaths have been attributed to a typhoid epidemic that swept the area. After her mother’s death Granny was initially cared for by a woman known as Granny Salkins. However, when her father got remarried to Louisa Manville the new family arrangement did not work. Granny went to live permanently with her Aunt Sally who had two step-daughters, Florence and Mabel. Granny was happy living with them in the country and Aunt Sally was known to Mum and her siblings as Gran.
Charles and Louisa had two daughters, Dorothy May and Florence Margaret. Mum did not know them.
 The Refoys
Mum’s paternal grandparents were Anthony James Refoy (1857-1937) and Margaret Mary Banks (1858- 1920) of Slindon. They were married in 1877. The Refoy family were known as craftsmen who worked with architects to erect landmark stone/brick structures in Sussex. This was considered a prestigious role. I think with the distinct social class system in England people were very aware of their position in the community.
Local legend has it that a French refugee in England at the end of the Napoleonic War was asked by Anne, Countess of Newburgh, to build a replica of an arch she had seen in Italy. This individual, a Refoy, completed the arch (maintained today by the National Trust) and settled in the area constructing other buildings and establishing the family’s brickwork reputation. The last of the Refoy bricklayers was Norman Phillip (1906-1982).
Mary and Anthony had a large family, one daughter Margaret (1892-1975) and eight sons Phillip James (1880-1941), Anthony Sidney (1881-1963), Bernard (1884-?), Dennis (1885-1951), Allen Joseph (1886-1967), Leo Victor (1888-1958), Francis (1890-1964), Charles Peter (1895-1904) and William Albert (1896-1968). The Refoys were staunch Roman Catholics.
 Anthony Sidney Refoy & Ethyl Gladys Olliver
Granny married Anthony Sidney Refoy in 1913 and they had five children, Anthony “Tony” Sidney (1914-1996), Ethel May “Sue,” born September 13, 1916, William “Bill” Horace (1919-2009), Margaret Elizabeth “Betty” (1924-2002) and Sidney “Sid” Charles, born January 5, 1927. Mum’s dad was in the Royal Field Infantry and the first three children were born during World War I. Anthony was disabled in the war and later hospitalized at Graylingwell Hospital. He was able to return home for a period and during this time Betty and Sid were born. Before the birth of Sid, Anthony returned to Graylingwell where he remained until his death in 1963. Sid was a very frail child and needed almost constant attention. Granny raised the children on a treatment allowance. Mum describes her as a loving mother who provided a good home. The Refoy family were longstanding Catholics and well known in the community. Because of these connections, Mum and her siblings were able to benefit through educational and other opportunities they might not have ordinarily had.
Mum (Ethel May Refoy) attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School with her brother Tony and later St. Elizabeth’s at the Convent of Notre Dame de Scion. After a career in fashion she married George Sidney Thomas Powell in 1936. They had one son, William George Powell, born April 25, 1938. George died in 1940 from tuberculosis at the age of 31. As a young widow Mum met Dad, who was a Canadian soldier stationed on the heath near her home in Storrington. They later married on December 26, 1942 and had a son, Ian Roy, born February 4, 1945. Following World War II, Dad returned to Canada with the Military in 1945. Almost a year later (after cancellations), Mum, Bill and Ian arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax in May of 1946 on the Aquitania. They traveled by train across Canada to Vancouver to their final destination, Point Atkinson Lighthouse in West Vancouver.
 Ethel Gladys Olliver & Thomas Charles Frederick Smith (TCF)
In 1948 Granny married widower Thomas Charles Frederick Smith (TCF), 1874-1957, a retired London bank manager. They traveled extensively and enjoyed a nice home, Highcroft, and a comfortable lifestyle. After years of dedication to her family she found well deserved happiness. She died in 1994 at the age of 104, still independently mobile and cognitively intact.
The Franklins of Fernwood Crescent
Harold and Sue at Point Atkinson Lighthouse
Mum, Bill and Ian arrived at Point Atkinson Lighthouse in May of 1946 having crossed the Atlantic by boat and Canada by rail. My grandfather, Ernie Dawe, was the head light keeper. This beautiful spot in West Vancouver was very much off the beaten path at the end of old forest growth. Although there was a generator to operate machines, there was no electricity for the houses until the mid-1950’s. Kerosene lanterns were used after dark and Mum had a coal oil stove which apparently burst into flames at regular intervals. The washing machine operated with a motor and perishables were kept in the cellar. I think Mum felt she had stepped back in time.
Before WWII, everything was brought to the Lighthouse by boat. In 1942 a road from Marine Drive was made by the Military stationed at Point Atkinson. The bunkhouses and dining hall for the eighty men were known as the Forestry Camp. These buildings are still used today. With the goal of protecting Vancouver Harbour from possible attack, search lights and gun emplacements were installed during WWII.
The main house was very large with living quarters on two sides. A large porch ran across the front. Part of it was enclosed for a solarium where Nanny grew amazing Christmas cacti, among other plants. Initially the family stayed here, with Nanny and Grandpa living on one side and them on the other. We later moved into a newer, separate house on the property that had been built by the Navy during WWII. We lived there until our move to Fernwood Crescent, Norgate Park, in the spring of 1950. Although the Point Atkinson terrain was rocky, in places there were nicely terraced flagstone footpaths and perennial plantings leading from the house to the dock. I remember the beautiful roses and lupines most clearly. We all loved to climb on the rocks above the sea. Arbutus trees were plentiful and there were places to pick huge loganberries and huckleberries, which Nanny would make into pies. She loved to bake and was skilled at crocheting and tatting lace. Once while picking huckleberries we encountered a bear and quickly hot footed it back to the house. Cougars were in the area as well and were occasionally spotted on the long trail from Marine Drive down to the Lighthouse.
While living at the Lighthouse, Bill attended school in West Vancouver at Pauline Johnson Elementary. He has many fond memories of living there, exploring the forest and climbing on the rocks with his friends who lived at the other end of the trail. Ian was as a toddler and I (Karen Sue) was born April 21, 1947, the year after Mum arrived in Canada. Diana Lynn was born September 22, 1949. Mum constantly worried for our safety, concerned that we might wander off and drown, which was a realistic fear. Dad worked for Safeway in West Vancouver and remained with the company until his retirement in 1984.
Grandpa had come to Point Atkinson as the head light keeper in 1935 with his family. His first wife’s (Gladys) father, Tom Fish, was also a BC light keeper. They had two children, Norman and Marjory. After Gladys died he married Nanny. He is the only grandfather I have ever known, as Dad’s father died the year after my birth. Grandpa Dawe was a kind, gentle man. He retired in 1961 when I was in grade 8. They bought a house in Parksville, but Grandpa did not get to enjoy retirement for long, as he died unexpectedly of a heart attack in January 1965.
When I was researching lighthouses in BC I was surprised to see how most of them were remote and desolate. Point Atkinson, being so close to civilization, was definitely the “jewel in the crown,” but even it was isolated. The lives of the light keeper and his family could be very lonely. The job was seven days a week with an annual vacation. Their children often did not have the advantages of attending regular schools and socializing with children other than their siblings. Grandpa’s responsibilities were around the clock, and included maintaining the site and buildings and rewinding the prism light every two to three hours from dusk until dawn. While we lived at the Lighthouse Dad assisted with these duties. Daily logs were kept to track weather and foghorn use. Radio communication with vessels and rescuing boaters in trouble were part of their everyday duties. Radio phones were introduced during WWII. The air foghorn was replaced in 1976 with air chimes. Now living in Vancouver, I still love waking to the sound the foghorn. Point Atkinson Lighthouse was automated in 1996 and has been designated as a national historic landmark.
 The Lighthouse Connection
When I began to research Grandpa Dawe’s family history, I remembered that the lighthouse connection was also part of the Franklin history. I was able to access BC lighthouse records and piece together the employment histories of Ernest Charles Dawe (Ernie) and Douglas Howard Franklin (Doug), the latter being one of Dad’s two younger brothers. I was surprised to see how so many lighthouses were remote and barren. It must have been a worry raising children in such potentially hazardous and lonely environments.
In the following you will find their lighthouse assignments during their careers. All of these lighthouses are described in detail on-line at
 Grandpa Dawe
1930 – 1935, Ballenas Islands: Of note is that one other record shows his presence in 1927. This is probably because at the time he was an assistant and only senior keepers were documented.
June 6, 1935 – June 3, 1961, Point Atkinson
I also remember Grandpa speaking of Cape Mudge (Quadra Island). As this was not recorded, he may have been an assistant at the time.

 Uncle Doug
1945 – 1946, Point Atkinson: (Assistant)
October 6, 1946 – September 1951, Cape Beale
October, 1951 – May 1957, Lennard Island

May 5, 1957 – January 8, 1962, Trial Island: This is the only one of Doug’s lighthouses that my family visited. It was near the coast of Vancouver Island, close to Victoria. We loved it. One side of the island was grassy and there was a large vegetable garden. Previous keepers kept animals on site and there was a small barn. Water was collected in cisterns. Marge home schooled the girls for years because they did not have access to schools. The other side of the island was a large nesting area for sea gulls and we were able to watch chicks pecking out of their shells. The family collected data on cormorant and seagull nests for the Zoology Department at UBC. The old Trial Island light is on display in Bastion Square, Victoria.
1962 – 1978, Triple Islands: One of the most isolated lighthouses in BC, Doug was here until retirement. He was head of a four man crew that alternated 28 day assignments. They were transported by helicopter from Prince Rupert. Uncle Doug and Auntie Marge (Marjory) had four daughters, June, Rae, Irene and Betty. When the girls moved to Prince Rupert they were able to attend regular schools, but I understand it was quite an adjustment as the eldest was already in high school.
Today, many West Coast lighthouses are no longer manned. Seen as a cost savings by some, others feel the loss of so many front line resources is a poor economy.
The Franklins of Fernwood Crescent
Norgate Park and Beyond
We moved from the Lighthouse to Norgate Park in the spring of 1950. The family included Mum, Dad, Bill, Ian, Karen and Diana, who had been born in September 1949. Two more children were born later; Paul Anthony, August 29, 1951, and Thomas Charles, August 2, 1958. Apparently Mum and Dad had bought the house the previous fall but were unable to move in earlier because the bridge over the Capilano River had washed out and then they were snowed in at the Lighthouse. Mum and Dad now owned their own home and they, like their neighbours, had to landscape their property in the new subdivision. I remember a man with a team of work horses coming down the road to plough a yard and ready it for grass seeding. North Vancouver was still quite wild with lots of bushes for us to play in. Until the Lions Gate bridge opened in 1938 there was not much development on the North Shore. The bridge that had been financed by the Guinness (stout) family provided construction jobs during the Depression. It was a toll bridge and it cost 25 cents to cross. In 1955, the province bought the bridge and the toll was dropped.
Norgate Park, a post WWII housing development, was full of returning servicemen and their families. It was a community unto itself with its own elementary school, Norgate Elementary, a ball park and “park strips.” In a recent drive through Norgate I was pleased to see that these “strips” have grown into attractive green spaces with mature trees and the community has been well maintained, obviously full of young families. Until Mum and Dad left in 1989 and moved to Roche Point on Seymour Parkway, Norgate was our home. During these years, North and West Vancouver grew and changed. As the population grew, more schools were built. Ian graduated from Delbrook, Karen from North Van High, Diana, Paul and Tom from Carson Graham. After high school Ian studied metallurgy and Diana nursing at BCIT. Karen took nursing at RCH and later completed degrees at UBC and SFU. Paul attended VVI to become an electrician and Bill, who moved to England at age 20, pursued art. Tom, whose priority was hockey, skiing and the outdoors, went to work with Safeway.
We participated in the usual activities for kids at the time. In retrospect, outside of school the boys had a lot more options, playing baseball, soccer and football, as well as participating in Cubs and Scouts. Diana and I took dancing lessons and belonged to Brownies and Girl Guides. Diana later was a Sea Ranger. There weren’t organized community sports for girls. When we were older and had money from babysitting or paper routes, some of us tried skiing on the North Shore Mountains. Tom became a good skier.
We lived a short distance from school and went home for lunch where Mum always had a warm welcome. It was many years later that I realized that her whole life revolved around taking care of our family. Mum was always an avid reader and I think this provided needed escape from her reality.
Mum belonged to a British War Wives group and in later years got a part time job at Woodward’s, Park Royal, and did some volunteer work.
Dad, on the other hand, pursued various interests outside of work with Canada Safeway, including boating and fishing and serving in the West Vancouver Police Auxiliary. For as long as I can remember, Dad has owned a boat and loved to be out on the water. Ian, Paul and Tom have inherited this affinity for the sea and they are the ones who spread his ashes at Cowan’s Point (near Bowen Island) after he died in 1993. Recently, I came across this draft on the left when looking through some old poems. I decided to include it “as is.” I think it gives a realistic reflection of our home life in Norgate.
A Mother’s Touch
Little munchkins zipped into snow suits
now want to pee
Jam from breakfast sticks to the table
Unaware elbows lean on this goop
A woman at the sink
With little hands tugging at her hem
Snotty noses wiped like stripes
Along unsuspecting jacket sleeves
Endless washing and folding
Without the help of a clothes dryer
In her day she ironed pillow cases
And mending, yes mending
Patches on my brothers’ knees
Packing school lunches at twilight
Laying leaves of lettuce
On top of egg salad sandwiches
Counting out change for milk money
Late to bed and early to rise.
Washing glass jars and rings
Ready for canning; jams, jellies, salmon
Showing me how to make cookies and pies
Passing on tips for flaky pastry
Sewing doll’s clothes and kilts
Hand washing our sweaters
Lovingly knitted by Granny in England
A woman far from her home and kin
Having survived the brunt of World War II
By boat reaches the shores of Halifax
Trains it across Canada
With two small children in tow
To begin her Canadian life on a lighthouse
An intelligent woman relegated to the routine of domesticity
Turning to books for a breath of fresh air
A growing brood, now six
Encircles her with demands
She knows no escape from the business of motherhood
She does her duty well
Sunday mornings lined up in our finery
Stretching across the pew
And later, watching the Ed Sullivan show
With the Italian mouse Topo Gigio
And Kate Smith singing God Bless America
For years after we grew up and left home, we returned with spouses and children to attend many family functions. I have fond memories of these occasions. Mum and Dad, probably from their wealth of experience, were like horse whisperers, they could calm a fretful infant when others had failed. They were always ready to help when we needed a hand. I realize we took this for granted and it is only now on reflection that I fully appreciate the love and support they provided.
Mum was a great cook but in recent years she has turned in her oven mitts and leaves it to the kitchen staff at Hallmark. I had planned to include a few favorite family recipes that ought not to be lost, but that will have to wait. I have done some kitchen testing but have not yet mastered the “Curranty Duff” to my satisfaction.