Thursday, December 31, 2009

NO AUTOS IN NANTUCKET 21st installment

Ladies of the ET having fun camping.1908 era.

You can tell Herb he is wrong about oil, Flora wrote to her Mother, from Henry's comfortable house on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton Center, Massachusetts. "I have seen the future and it is steam automobiles!"

Then it occurred to her that bringing up her brother, Herb, right at the beginning of a letter to her mother, might not be the right thing to do.

She was writing to tell her mother she arrived in Boston safely. Henry had met them at the station and they had taken a carriage with a driver home.

The carriage belonged to Henry's partner, Dr. May, for Henry had no carriage, just an auto, a Stanley Steamer.

Almost as soon as they arrived, Henry ushered them all to the garage to see his new automobile, a local product and THE FUTURE.

The fastest auto in the world, Henry had described it. And clean and safe.

He would take everyone for a drive, many drives, weather permitting.

"He wants to take Mae and me for a drive, and we will take turns riding in the bumper seat. We can't go to Nantucket, as it is far and they do not allow automobiles on the island, apparently. And we won't be taking it to Norumbega Park either, as we are going there by boat, on the Charles River."

On the way home, Henry had outlined his many plans for his cousins. He would take two days off, perhaps three, and if possible, he would take them down in the steamer to see the beautiful Wellesley campus. When he had rounds at the Newton Hospital, he would take Mae and Flora, and introduce them to some nurses there. And there was Jettie Beach in Nantucket, a favorite recreation spot for the nurses, and lunch at the Pavilion Restaurant at Norumbega Park.

Flora and Mae were dizzy with anticipation and tired too. The trip had been long, first to Montreal, 2.75 for the ticket, and then to Boston, 3.75 for that ticket, and 60 cents for a meal. Flora had only paid for the meal. Mae's mother, Annie, paid the train far. This trip to visit the Yankee side of the family was to thank Margaret for letting Mae board at Tighsolas during the school year.

Flora put down her pen and looked around her room. Although the house was old, a spacious Colonial style clapboard,situated on a wide street with many guargantuan elms, everything in it was most up to date, from what she could see. She went over to the switch on the wall and flipped it up and down. Electric lighting. The stove was a combination gas, coal, and wood, she had been told, by Mae many times, and they had many electric applicances, including an iron. Henry's sister, Christina, kept house for him, but her work was not hard, from what Flora could see. She sent her washing out (for a doctor's pristine appearance was of utmost importance) and she hired a cook for large parties. Henry had very particular tastes in food, so Christina made the everyday meals herself.
Yes, the American side of the family was doing very well. It was like living in a magazine.

Sherbrooke Teachers 1907

Sherbrooke High School teachers. Marion Nicholson in front. September 1907.


A studio photo of Margaret, my husband's great grandmother taken around 1910.

"Well, she may be French, but she does not read Salon de la Mode, that's for certain."

Flora, seated on a sturdy pine kitchen chair, was reading out a letter from Mother  written the Saturday morning. The tea was steeping on the kitchen table in the family pot bundled in a dark brown crocheted cozy. Margaret was being uncharacteristically catty about Madame Laurier, at Quebec, where she was participating in the Tercentenary Celebrations. "Her dress was a crumpled balloon-shaped mess."Of course, we all looked dowdy compared to the Heralds walking the streets in their purple capes and green bloomers and big broad hats with enormous feathers.Sir Wilfrid has all the style in that couple. . Yes, I saw the great man, but only from afar. I do have a lot to tell you but I will wait until I get home. I will probably write more in this letter when I get to La Tuque and mail it from there. We are leaving soon."

Marion and Edith and Flo all chuckled.

Salon de la Mode was a high fashion magazine, one that the Nicholsons didn't read either. When Ethel C,'s aunt went to Europe she brought back a copy of the magazine from Paris; it was a flimsy publication compared to the Delineator or even the Ladies' Home Journal, but it contained a two page spread of an elegant wedding party with a simply delicious bridal gown, a voluptuous cascade of silk, crepe, and organdy, all beaded in mother of pearl. Ethel sighed and swore, in far-too-sincere fashion, that she was going to wear a dress just like that - and within two years. And ever since then the Nicholsons had used Salon de la Mode as a private code for high fashion.

Edith poured some green tea and Flora continued. Sunday afternoon:We arrived here at half past eleven, had a hot, dirty trip. Had to drive a mile to the hotel where we are boarding and the worst hills you ever saw. Where we boarded in Quebec was very nice,by the way. I thought I liked the cooking. This is not very nice and I don't think I will stay here very long and the flies just terrible and today has been very hot. Father is going down to Grand Ligne tomorrow, so I will go with him. I hope you are getting along all right. Father says to get Stanley to cut the grass. The scenery is just beautiful here. I may go fishing or picking berries tomorrow, at the camp. It will be lovely, the peace and quiet after Quebec. I've had my fill of hearing bands playing O Canada, I tell you." Love Mother. Remember to eat!

"I guess," said Marion "we will have to wait to hear all about the celebrations." She was disappointed.

But Flora suspected, as did Marion, that Mother was being tactful. She did not want to rub it in, especially to Edith, about how grand everything was. It was no secret: The newspapers had been full of stories about the pageant performances, with photographs of the many members of Quebec high society dressed up in powdered wigs and purple hose to entertain - and educate- the 10's of thousands visitors to their city with some leading citizens dressed as Henry IV and his entourage, Jacques Cartier and Dollard, even as some bronzed Indians, in their war feathers and stripped to the waist. The concerts, the sports for the soldiers, the tattoos and military parades in the crowded and festooned streets of the old city, where every window was draped in bunting, and the spectacular military review on the Plains of Abraham, it had all been described in detail. The French Bluejackets swarming all over town, on friendly terms with all their British, Canadian and American counterparts. Lord Roberts, the greatest living soldier walking in the steps of General Wolfe and mourning at the grave of Montcalm. The New Hampshire, the last of the great white ships, been blown into Harbour. The Prince of Wales arriving on a great modern battleship, the Indomitable, and being met by the Governor General and then spirited to the Citadel in a fine carriage pulled by eight glistening black horses and feted at a great ball at Parliament.

No, Margaret was holding back this time, for she normally wrote about her adventures in detail while away. Even if she was just around the corner in Kingsbury or Coaticook, she described a good (or bad meal) or even the scenery. That's what letters were for. In 1902, on a trip to New York to see her friend Mrs. Pray, she wrote enthusiastically in letters home about all the tall tall buildings, busy department stores, the chaotic city streets, teeming with pedestrians and trams and wagons, and her eventful trip across the Brooklyn Bridge where she was caught in an open carriage in a squall with hail the size of peas and cherries, raining down on her. No, clearly something was on her mind. Something was keeping her pen unusually still.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Richmond, Quebec, 1930

Richmond, Quebec as seen from Melbourne, from family photo. It's the 30's. You can tell by two cars on the road. The church at right is Chalmer's, right down the street from Tighsolas. It's easy to see from this picture, how close the river is to the main drag. No wonder there was often flooding in the spring.

OK. It's Tuesday January 5th, (I posted a number of pictures on their own blogs earlier and now I am catching up.)

Christmas is OVER and I am getting ready to post my next installment of Flo in the City, a novel for middle-schoolers based on the story of

I am bogged-down with back-reading, because of the INFORMATION EXPLOSION that is the 2010 era. I still have to read (and not scan) the book on the Quebec Tercentenary, so that I can have Margaret talk about her trip. And I've downloaded many other articles of interest. Just today I found a book on millinery, written 1914 but adapted from a 1905 book.

This is a key find as I am going to have Flora explore some career choices, as Edith has just suggested to her what so many are saying, that the young women of that era have thousands of career choices. (Not exactly true.)

With this information, I can have Flora, who is artistic, visit Eugenie Hudon's on Main Street, (just a little to the left in the above picture) to see if she can get into the 'posh' millinery profession.

(That will be interesting, I already know because, like everyone, I have had experience having my bubble burst by someone in a position to hire me (or at least give me support) when I was a young person looking for a job).

I remember one particular person in an advertising agency on Peel Street. She just savaged me when I said I wanted to write ads. "First you have to start as a receptionist, then, maybe after two years you can work as a secretary, then maybe years later you can write copy." What did they tell males who came for jobs? I had a degree. Awful experience. You know, it doesn't hurt to be positive when giving an interview to a young person. A little encouragement goes a long way. I remember the nice interviews I had too. A nice exec at CTV said to me "You know, you have to lie on your resume." Gee, how did I get onto that?

But first Flora has to go to Boston, so I have to re-read her 1912 letters to her sisters who are visiting Boston. In these letters Flora writes about what she did on her visit 4 years before! She'll see nurses working in a hospital and decide that isn't for her.

Women's Magazines

Here is a page from a 1937 Marie-Claire I have on hand. (It shows the many layers of clothing a woman wore 1900. In this case it is a wedding kit and weighs 4 kilos.) In the letters, the Nicholson women sometimes mention now much they weigh. It always seems a little heavy, because they are weighing themselves out in public somewhere and are fully clothed. As 70 years have passed, this magazine is in the public domain.

Marie-Claire, a French magazine founded in 1937 by Jean Prouvost and Marcelle Auclair, could be called the first modern women's magazine. I wrote about it here

For my tighsolas website I purchased a few era fashion magazines on eBay. Very expensive so I only got a few. One Delineator, from 1909, a Pictorial Review from 1910 and a few Ladies' Home Journals, oh and a Harper's Bazar, too.

They make for an interesting study. I tried to read the Delineator a few nights ago. The fashion pages were so technical, I hardly understood what I was reading. But the other articles, I easily understood. They were well-written social commentary. One article was on the American Impressionist Mary Cassat. I had no idea that Americans knew about French Impressionism in 1910. Here's an article by author Gertrude Atherton called The Present Unrest Among Women, which I have reprinted on my website
that is typical of the political tone the fashion magazine took.

To my eyes, the Delineator seems aimed at richer women. The dresses inside are fairly fancy and the articles are mostly about women's issues and the many social problems out there - which were considered a woman's issue. But a scholarly citation I found online about the magazine says it had a circulation of 480,000 in 1900, to over a million in 1920, and double that again in the 30's. Then it went out of business and fell into total obscurity. Hmm. I guess that's why feminism had to be 're-invented' for us Boomers in the 60's. Tsk.

The Ladies' Home Journal was clearly for the middle-class. The Nicholsons subscribed in the early 1900's and Edith referred to it in letters. "The Ladies' Home Journal says curls are in this season." This magazine was not devoted social issues. In fact, it is very conservative in its editorial views. But it does have lots and lots of advertisements. This magazine is devoted to consumerism - and it survived and thrived in the 20th century, with its symbiotic relationship with J. Walter Thompson advertising.

And then there's Marie-Claire, a magazine still around today. Now, in 1937, Auclair visited the US to check out their magazines. She wanted to publish a magazine that combined American style features with French fashion sense. The issues I have from 1937 to 40, when Paris was invaded and occupied, have a very familiar feel. How to shape your lips. Exercises that seem a lot like Pilates. Gossipy articles about movie stars. Fashion tips for ordinary women, high fashion fantasy features and an advice column. Also some stories by very famous French authors. Auclair was an intellectual, married to an intellectual. They hobknobbed with the likes of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Yet she wrote these frothy beauty columns. Hmmm.

Making Marriage Less Easy...

Margaret and Flo. 1910 era.

Here's an editorial from the 1909 Ladies' Home Journal, I referred to in another blog. Now, as I've written, the LJH was not one of the many magazines out there in 1910 crying for women's equality and social reform. I find this article interesting for the beginning, which is on the lines of La Plus ca Change.. but the second part is really quite weird, for a socially conservative magazine.

"Every once in a while the American Family is predicted as on the verge of dissolution, and lugubrious articles will appear in the public prints. Thirty years ago alcoholism was going to disrupt the American home: then drinking was found to be on the decrease and the American fireside thrived. Then the marriage rate was found to be on the decrease, and again the American family was on the brink. Now, it appears that the marriage rate for the last twenty years has actually increased. Again came the decreased birthrate to rock the foundations of the American hearthstone, and well, we found things were not so bad as had been printed. The national hearthstone is still firm. Now come the Government's figures showing the increase in divorces, and this time the American family is going all to pieces, headed straight for the proverbial bow-wows. Of course, no one will say that these divorce figures make pleasant reading; that they represent a deplorable state is conceded.....

The question in connection with this divorce evil is not whether the American Public will act, for that it can be depended on to do, but how will it act? Will it adjust the divorce laws and begin at the wrong end, or will it tighten the marriage laws and begin at the right end? This is not a time for wailing, but for good straight-forward thinking along right lines. And the more we think along the line of making marriage less easy, the nearer we will become to the real solution of the divorce law.


The push-pull of biology and ambition -2

Notman was the most famous photographer of wealthy Montreal. Clearly in 1900, his business also had middle-class clients. Marion being one of them.

No woman anywhere, in my opinion, suffered more from the push-pull of biology and ambition than Marion Annie Nicholson. And, she got all she wanted, at a price. Here's an excerpt (final paragraphs) from a 1909 article, from that Delineator I have on hand, written by Gertrude Atherton, a writer who hung around, I believe, with Oscar Wilde and his cronies in France, which accounts for its haughty tone.

The article is called The President Unrest Among Women and it is remarkable for both its style and substance but it also reflects a common belief of the day, that women 'have made it.' I have posted the entire article on my website at . I think I will use that line "today the most limited abilities can find renumeration in any of a thousand fields of industry" in Flo in the City, my novel about a woman coming of age in 1908-1913. This line proves that even brilliant people can spout nonsense -or be taken in by modern mythologies.

(And I have an answer to her main question: Why is love still the main theme of the novel for women? Because it is the main theme for men as well. Once we've acknowledged that then we can see that men can marry biology and ambition (in order to mate well) indeed, they must, and women have to make a choice, or compromise, between the two even today, even 100 years later. Sermon over.)

"It is now many a long day since women began to support herself in one way or another, but at first it was either a question of a talent or of limited demand regulating supply. Before this extraordinary and widespread impulse which is coincident with the opportunities of modern life, women forced to earn their bread took to school teaching, the stage, cooked or made beds according to their tastes and powers. Today, the most limited abilities can find renumeration in one of a thousand fields of industry. Personally, the hate the sight and the sound of a suffragete, but I would remind myself and others that such great women as Susan B. Anthony were thought quite as pestiferous in their day; and yet it is such women who with courage and an intelligence far in advance of their time, forged the priceless tools of liberty which have freed women from the shackles of he centuries. They were held up to ridicule, reviled, persecuted, but so have been the martyrs of every revolution since the world began. Who shall say that the day will not come when the suffragette, inflicted with a very rabies of reform as she is, and as ridiculous as extremists usually are, will have her turn at canonization? Who shalls say what new era she is preparing?

It may be asked why woman, having so pointedly emancipated herself, does love continue to be the main theme of the novel? The time is not yet for the elimination of sex, and love still feeds the soul of every man and woman under the sun. And no matter how violently a pendulum swings, it always regains its equilibrium in time; in life the new is constantly adjusting itself to the old. People that oppose so violently this whole modern movement of women should stop and reflect that progress was not invented by the twentieth century, but it as old as the world and no doubt has a planetary history which even our imaginations do not compass. Personally, I have no reason to care whether women get the vote or not, but I have no more doubt that they will win this particular battle than that we are on the eve of many other changes, including religion that will keep pace with the advance of intellect. It is also likely that man himself, in a generation hence, will demand in woman all that he now fears and resents."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crayon Portraiture

Margaret McLennan, I think, born 1780 circa as this pic is taken in around 1850. She's from Harris, originally. Her husband, Murchoch McLeod is from Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Mother of John McLeod, grandmother of Margaret McLeod Nicholson, of Flo in the City, my novel about a girl coming of age in the 1908-1913 era, based on the letters of This is a detail of a crayon portrait I have. I couldn't fit it all in the scanner. This woman lived to 99, or something.

Crayon portraits are blown up tintypes, embellished with charcoal artistry. I found a book on the art on Crayon Portraiture by J. A. Barhydt. The book from the 1880's gives detailed instruction on making crayon portraits. Some days this seems easier than getting my printer and scanner to work properly :)


There are three kinds of photographic enlargements used as a basis for
crayon portraits, and, with a little experience, the student can
determine for himself which kind will prove the most satisfactory.

Free-hand crayons are made on Steinbach and other crayon papers,
without any photograph as a basis. Silver enlargements are made on
paper coated with a solution of chloride of silver, which the action of
the light reduces to salts of silver. This is the oldest form of
photography, and has been used since its introduction by Scheele in
1778. Silver enlargements are made by the aid of the sun (and are then
called solar enlargements) or they can be made with the electric light.

Platinum enlargements are a recent advance in photographic printing
with iron salts, the process which has been worked out and patented by
W. Willis, Jr., being a development of such printing. Its principle is
that a solution of ferrous oxalate in neutral potassium oxalate is
effective as a developer. A paper is coated with a solution of ferric
oxalate and platinum salts and then exposed behind a negative. It is
then floated in a hot solution of neutral potassium oxalate, when the
image is formed.

This process was first introduced by Mr. Willis in 1874, and he has
since made improvements. He claims that the platinotype paper does not
contain any animal sizing. The early experiments convinced him that the
paper upon which the image was to be printed would prove an important
factor, as all photographic paper contained animal sizing, which was
found to be antagonistic to platinum salts. The action of platinum
salts upon a paper containing animal sizing gave it a tint which no
amount of acid washing could remove. For the past nine years Mr. Willis
has had manufactured for his special use a Steinbach paper, free from
the animal sizing, and he also uses a cold developer, thereby causing
the paper to retain its original elasticity.

The chief points of difference between bromide enlargements and silver
or platinum enlargements are that, in the former, we have the sensitive
compound of silver suspended in a vehicle of gelatin, and, in the
latter, a thin coating of an aqueous solution of the sensitive salts.
In the former process, the image is not shown until the paper has been
developed in the bath, while in the latter, the image is shown upon the
paper when it is exposed to the light; so that, in the latter, the
image or picture has only to be fixed or made permanent, while in the
former, it is developed, then fixed. The gelatin bromide paper is
coated with a solution of gelatin, bromide of potassium and nitrate of
silver, developed with a solution of oxalate of potash, protosulphate
of iron, sulphuric acid and bromide of potassium and water, and fixed
with hyposulphate of soda. It is manufactured in America by E. and H.
T. Anthony & Co. and by the Eastman Dry Plate Company.


The following materials will be found necessary for crayon work:

A good photographic enlargement,
Mahl stick,
Three inch magnifying glass,
Square black Conte crayon, Nos. 1, 2 and 3,
Charcoal holder for the same,
Hardmuth's black chalk points, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5,
Holder for the same,
Box Faber's crayon points, Nos. 1, 2 and 3,
Holder for the above crayons,
Conte crayon, in wood, Nos. 0 and 1,
6 B. Faber's holder for Siberian lead pencil points,
4 H. Faber's holder with Siberian lead pencil point,
Velour crayon,
Peerless crayon sauce,
Black Conte crayon sauce, in foil,
White crayon, in wood,
Bunch of tortillon stumps,
Large grey paper stumps,
Small grey paper stumps,
The Peerless stump,
Large rubber eraser, 4 inches by 3-4 inches square, bevelled end,
Two small nigrivorine erasers,
Holder for nigrivorine erasers,
Piece of chamois skin,
Cotton batting of the best quality,
A sheet of fine emery paper,
A sharp pen knife,
One pound of pulverized pumice stone,
Mortar and pestle,
A large black apron,
Paste-board box about ten inches square and two inches deep,
Back-boards for mounting crayon paper and photographic enlargements,
Paste brush, three inches wide, to be used for starch paste or for

Saturday, December 26, 2009

crayon portrait of a Highlander

John McLeod, farmer in Lingwick, Quebec, married 1849. This is a scan of a crayon portrait which is a tintype, blown up and then embellished with charcoal artistry. I have the tintype from which this portrait (30 inches by 18 inches) is made. In the tintype he is seated with his pregnant wife, Sarah McLean, standing and he is rather dishevelled.So original photo taken in 1850's. The artist cleaned him up for posterity. (Looks like my husband, his great great grandchild. Even the slight palsy.)
I have the crayon of his mother and a man and a woman who are probably his brother and sisters. Hoot Man.

Hmm. Bizarre coincidence. I am surfing the web, trying to find a programme of the Quebec tercentenary. There are a couple online, for sale, but no contents visible. Anyway, I found this picture of a programme on The Virtual Museum of Canada. Just a picture of the cover, so I closed it and then said.. Hey, Wait a minute!I went back to the page. It had 'an ad' on the bottom of the cover, "We recommend Boswell and Bros. ales and porter." There's a connection here to Tighsolas... The man in the picture above had a number of daughters, among them Margaret of the story Flo in the City (my husband's great grandmother)and Sarah, who lived in Sarnia, Ontario. (Sarah had a tough life, with a sick husband and her letters to Margaret are full of complaints. Another sister, Christie, claims Sarah's daughters are all selfish....a counter-point to the Nicholsons and their devoted daughters.)

One of Sarah's daughters had a daughter, who married a military man, a Boswell, of the Boswell and Bros clan! The woman was very pretty, indeed, she was a Ford model. But she died in Kuala Lumpur in a car accident (where my own grandmother lived, incidentally) leaving behind a son, Desmond. Boswell remarried and the wife did not want Desmond around..

He was left to be raised by the grandmother in Westmount. The son went to fine schools and raced cars for fun, banged his head uup badly in a racing accident and became a hermit of a kind. He inherited his grandmother's country home in the quiet little suburb and became a 'local character' and thorn in the side of local council because he let his house fall down around him until he was living in a tent. Sad story. My husband's 4th cousin. He recently died at about 65.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Helpless Vines

Everyone`s on the hammock this time.

So, in my last installment of Flo in the City (about a Canadian girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era based on the letter of )I had Edith say to Flora that there was no reason for any woman to be a burden on her parents. I did a little MORE research. (Is this procrastination or due diligence?)

I wanted to find some book that someone (perhaps Edith) could give to Flora to help her out in her confusion about her future path.

I found this on Woman: her character, culture and calling. Published in Ontario. Fraces W. Willard, President of the Christian Temperance Union.

Now, people are products of their time (even iconoclasts) and Margaret and her three daughters lived in an interesting time, when women were told they could (finally!) have it all. (How did the 50's ever happen?) Religious forces were at the fore-front of this movement. Read this bit from the book, written in 1890,if you don't believe me!

"Hitherto, the education of boys and that of girls have proceeded upon an altogether different basis. Young women have been allowed to grow up without any practical education which they could turn to account in self-support, and sent out into life helpless dependents on the labour of others.

It seems to have been generally assumed that all young women would marry on the first favorable opportunity and that any kind of superficial training was good enough for those who were only charged with the work of home-building and housekeeping. Today, we have come to a profound conviction that thorough and practical education is important and necessary to makers and keepers of the home as it is to the professional, and with this in view, as well as for the purpose of self-support, every young woman should have the best, most practical culture and training.

The education of young women has been mainly literary in character, and in most cases, neither broad enough or deep enough to qualify them for teaching, while, within the last century, very few desired or received any practical training either for business or for an employment requiring trained or skilful service. Like plants, which cling for support to the strong oak, women, in vast numbers, have been taught to depend on characters stronger and better fitted to life's stern battle.

It is hardly to be wondered at then, that when death or disaster removes the trusted support, women are thrown to the earth, like helpless trailing vines."

Hmm. Margaret, born in 1854 was a brilliant homemaker, but she didn't value her many useful skills. She wanted her children to have an education. She complained in 1912, when things were going terribly wrong, that "she couldn't earn her own living." Well, with many women thinking like this, the more conservative forces found a way to preserve the sanctity of the male workplace while giving women 'what they wanted.' They created the 'new profession of home-making' to enhance the status and perceived ability of homemakers(and to train servants). The only problem, in the case of homemakers, it was a profession with no pay, which is a contradition in terms.

The Train Montreal-Richmond-Quebec.

That tea party again, entire picture. 1910 era.

I happen to have a train ticket from Montreal to Richmond, Grand Trunk Railway. More interesting, it is from March 1912, when Norman came to Margaret's brother's Dan's funeral. (I just noticed! Marion and Flo would have passed through St. Henri and Pt. St. Charles so they would have rubbed shoulders with the parents and kids they taught in school... Many of these places don't exist anymore. We tried to find Kingsbury and had no luck asking locals.

Grand Trunk Railway System, Conductor's Ticket. Good for one first class ticket. Signed Charles M. Hays, President.

A few days later, Mr. Hays would become the most prominent Montrealer to go down with the Titanic.

Now, the stops are listed on the ticket. Interesting. Montreal, St. Henri, Pt. St. Charles, St. Lambert, St. Hubert, St. Bruno, East St. Bruno, East St. Bruno, St. Bazile, Beloeil, Otterburn Park, St. Hilaire, St. Hilaire East, Ste. Madeleine, St. Hyacinthe, Ste. Rosalie, Britannia Mills, St. Liboire, Upton, Actonvale, Danby, South Durham, Liscar, Gore, RICHMOND, Corris, Windsor Mills, Coney Island, Titus, Bromptonville, Sherbrooke, Lennoxville, Waterville, Compton, Hillhurst, Coaticook, Dixville, Norton Mills, Lake, Summit, Island Pond, Walker's Ctc., Black River, Bulstrode, Ste. Eulalie, Aston Jct, Aston, Breault's, St. Celestin, St. Gregoire, Doucet's Lake, THREE RIVERS, St. Cyr, Danville, Kingsey, Warwick, Victoriaville, Stanfold, Plessisville, Ste Julie, Lyster, Method's Mills, St. Acapit, Craig's Road, Chaudiere, Chaudiere Jct, Chaudiere CVE, St. Romuald, Point Levi, Levis.

Elections in Canada -back then.

Flo, about 15. The age she was when Flo in the City opens in 1908. It appears that the little boy on the right is wearing a dress. This was still the fashion in parts.

1908 was an election year. Norman will come home for the election in October. Then there is another pivotal one in 1911, which will figure largely in Flo in the City, my novel about a young girl coming of age in the 1908-1913 era based on, my social studies website.

Here is a clipping from the Nicholson collection. SOME PAST PERFORMANCES. Parliament of 1908: Ontario: Liberals 36 seats, Conservatives 50; Quebec 54, Conservatives 11. New Brunswick 11 to 2, Nova Scotia 12 to 6, PEI 3 to 1, Manitoba, 2 to 8, British Columbia 2 to 5, Sask 9 to 1, Alberta 4 to 3, Yukon 1 Liberal.

Parliament of 1904: Ontario 39 Liberals, 47 Conservatives; Quebec 54 Liberals 11 Conservative...
Parliament of 1900:Ontario 37 Liberabls, 55 Conservative; Quebec 58 Liberals, 7 Conservative.

Parliament of 1896 (When Laurier first got in) Ontario 48 Liberals to 43 Conservatives; Quebec 49 Liberals to 16 Conservative.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Quebec Presbytery

Tighsolas camping photo. Maybe these are Sherbrooke teachers. Hmmn. they appear to be passing around a cigarette. I believe smoking was an ourtrageous act in those days for women.

Today, I looked for information on how woodstoves work and found an entire blog right here that answered my questions. This allows me to add details of interest to my story, Threshold Girl.

my story about Flora Nicholsons eventful year at Macdonald College in 1911/12 based on real life letters.
Then I decided to look for recipes Marg may have cooked and I found, on Gutenberg a recipe book from 1900, compiled by the church ladies of St. Andrew's, Quebec.

Is this Presbyterian, I wondered. Then I found, in the photo album I mentioned last time, "The Statistical and Financial Report" for the Presbytery of Quebec 1895 and 6.
St. Andrew's Quebec is one of their churches. Chalmer's is the Richmond 'branch'.
In 1896 that Dr. Kelloch was minister. In 1897 Norman was treasurer, I know from another document.(He is trying to pay off church debt.)

In 1908, when my Flo in the City story begins, the Kellochs are shunning Margaret at meetings of the missionary society, as are others. Margaret does not write why. I will make it because of her vocal support of suffrage. (Not that the Presbyterians were against women's suffrage, they were not.)But Kelloch is no longer Minister. A Carmichael is (and later he leaves for another congregation in Ontario and they 'try out' Minsters... Indeed, in early 1909, there is a meeting of the Presbytery because one of their ministers is 'called to Ottawa.' Flora is a delegate. "He will go but they must go through the form, "writes Margaret. Also in 1912 there is a vote for church union with the Methodistes. (all in the story!). The Nicholsons are against it. (It eventually goes through in 1927)
In 1896, there were eighteen churches in the Presbytery. (Montreal must have had a different one.) Two at Quebec, one at Levis, St. Sylvestre and Leeds Village, Inverness, Leeds, Three Rivers (J. R. McLeod brother to Margaret?)Danville, Richmond,Melbourne, Kingsbury and Flodden,Upper and Lower Windsor, Sherbrooke, Sawyerville,Scotstown, Hampden,Lingwick, Marsboro, Winslow. Leeds had the most families (huh?) then Sherbrooke, the two in Quebec, then Richmond at 100 families. The average for family for stipend for all congregations was 9.68. The Nicholson accounts include Minster's stipend.

There were 88 families in Kingsbury-Flodden parish (where the McLeods and Nicholsons came from) but you know, in 2005 my husband and I went down there looking for Kingsbury and couldn't find it. No one we talked to knew where it had been.

Terrible Teens 1900 style

Unknown girl: Tighsolas photo album. Edith is in this picture with a man. I assume they are teachers at Ecole Methodiste Westmount and that this is Westmount in the background.

I found this letter going through the Nicholson stash, hand-written in 1902 by Norman. It's pretty self-explanatory. Bear in mind that the children in 1902 would be 10 (Flora) 16 (Marion) 18 (Herb) 19 Edith. Herb and Edith appear to have finished school. I suspect the Nicholsons were quite 'modern' in their discipline...what do you think?

Richmond, November 14, 1902

Future Regulations

All must be up and downstairs by 7:30 o'clock in the morning, Sunday included. Breakfast at 7:30, then all have to work one hour before going to school. At noon, children to come straight from school. Dinner at 12.:15. Children to work 40 minutes before going back to school.

All to come directly home at 4 o'clock, and to help work to supper time. Supper between five and six. After tea, dishes washed immediately after. Then school lessons to be studied for two hours by Marion and Flora. Then they go to bed. Rest at about 10 o'clock. In case of any change, must come through Mother. In case of any disobedience to the rules the punishment will be decided by the boss who will award the punishment at the time. In case that the parties are late for meals without cause, they will have to get their own meals in kitchen. There is also a prize for these who live up to this document, first, second, third, and fourth, which will be given at New Year's and May 1903. Prizes will be awarded by Mother but given by Santa Clause. Be aware that these prizes can be withdrawn if not found worthy. To take effect today, Norman Nicholson.

I have a letter from Herb to his mother in 1902. He says he has a new girl. He visited 'the old one' the night before and is going to visit the new one, down in the valley that night. She is French, he says, but she doesn't mind that he is Protestant. He signs the letter Rev. H. J Nicholson. The year before he apprenticed or something with a doctor. He also says he just got over 'the small pox' , Must have been the chicken pox.

The Rich in Montreal 1910

Horse and buggy in front of Tighsolas. Circa 1910

About six years ago, when I first found the stash of Nicholson letters and papers, I went through it and filed documents I felt were significant in a photo album.

Today, I went through the album. I was looking for a wedding invitation for Mae (Marion) Watters, the cousin who figures in the story. I believe I 'found her' at Riverview Cemetery in Compton. It says she was born 1892 (same age as Flo) and died 1977 same year as Edith. Flo died in January 1978.

Mae married a Samuel Scott.

There was lots of Mason documents in the stash. I filed a receipt for Norman's initiation dues in 1880, $25.! I also filed a program for 1910 in Richmond. Clayton Hill, Norman's brother-in-law and nemesis had a high rank.

I had filed a printed 1908 invitation...(in pencil) To Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson and Family
"The pleasure of your company is requested at an


in the Town Hall, Richmond, Friday Evening, April twenty-fourth , nineteen hundred and eight.

Patronesses: Mrs. Lance, Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Ross... Palmer's Orchestra. RSVP ( and written in pencil) Gentlemen $1.50.

I'll use this I guess. Funny wording.. to an AT HOME

I filed a newspaper clipping of a list of millionaires in Montreal

"Montreal is one of the richest cities in the world"
The year 1910 has increased the number of Montreal millionaires very considerably...
Sir W. Macdonald
Sir M. Allan
Hon. L.J. Forget (a relation of mine through my mother's family)
James Ross
C.R. Hosmer
Jeffrey Burland
J.R. Wilson
H.S. Holt
R. Reford (Mrs. Reford was a famous society woman social activist.. Edith sees her at an event in 1909 and describes her..
Shirley Ogilivy
A. Haig Sims
Hugh Paton
C.B. Gordon
A. Baumgarten
A.E. Ogilvie
R. Forget M.P.
Henry Birks
James Morgan
Mark Workman
N. Curry
G.E. Drummond
Wm. Yuile
H. Timmims
Col. Carson
H. Drummond
T. Trenholm
Hon F Beique
C.F. Smith
Sir. W. Van Horne
Sir T Shaughnessy
Hon. R. Mackay
R. B. Angus
Sir E. Clouston
D. Morrice
F.W. Thompson
R. Meighen
D.L. McGibbon
G.A Grier
H.V. Meredith
A. R. McDonald
J.T. Davis
G. Caverhill
J. P. Black
E. B Greenshields
Milton Hersey
W. M Aitken. MP
G W Stephens
T. J. Drummond
Peter Lyall
J.K.L Ross
J.N Greenshields
D. McMartin
E.T. Galt
J E Aldred
H. H. Lyman
Mrs. Hector Mackenzie
Mrs. Duncan McIntyre, Lady Drummond (social activist and suffragist), Mrs. F.Orr Lewis, and some ESTATES.
Hmm. The fact that 1910 increased the number of Montreal millionaires considerably just goes to prove the central point of Flo in the City, based on my social studies website. Ogilvie had a famous store. Edith and Marion buy hats there in 1910. Morgan too had a department store too. Henry Birks is the owner of a famous jewellry store across from Morgan's on Saint Catherine. (Is it still there?)
I also filed a piece of onion skin paper with Morse code on it. Margaret had worked in a telegraph office. I see that Edith was accepted at Simmons College in Boston in 1917. I also have a most important document, a long letter describing an insurance debt Herb has. From the letters I can see it is a real problem, that almost sinks the Nicholsons, that Herb shrugs off, and that Marion ends up paying for. But now I can see Exactly what the debt was and can now write about it in detail.

And there was something else, a list..from 1882 belonging to Norman. I suspect this is a list of his setting up house as a bachelor. He marries the next year.
1 broom
1 lamp
1/2 yard of wick
1 tea set
2 bedroom set
1 doz dinner plates
1 wash tub
1 vegetable dish
2 pails
2 platters
1 washboard
1 coal oil lamp
1 gal coal oil
1 box matches
1 tea kettle
1 mop handle
1 dust pan
1 felts paper
1 boot black
1 stove black
1 brush
2 mirrors
1 doz knives and forks
1/2 doz spoons
3 panes of glass
1 package tacks
10 yards window curtains
1 cord wood
1 shirt
total 14.28
I have the cost of setting up house with a wife in it is considerably more

Monday, December 21, 2009

Double Standards

Flora and unknown woman Richmond 1908. Detail of a larger picture on this blog.

Hmm. The 1910 era was pivotal in so many ways, it's mindboggling.

So, the piano fad peaked in 1910. Why? Well, from what I see, automobiles became the next costly fad, and middle-class families had just so much money to spend.

An expert in the Canadian family told me that the Nicholson Letters were rare in that information like this about the middle class is hard to come by.

The Nicholsons were middle class but called themselves working class. This to me just means they were realists. What is the middle-class? A group of people who work for a living, but who have pretentions to be upper class. Hence the piano craze.

Flora played piano. But she also washed and ironed her own dresses and stoked the fire. (She was proud to do it too.) Marion played piano and she mowed the lawn.

In 1910 the automobile became something middle class men wanted (because rich men had them). Pianos lost their lustre as a status symbol. But gee, there were victrolas bringing music into the home and nickelodeons to visit and car rides were excellent entertainment. So who needed pianos?

So, in my definition, the middle class is the working class with a bit more money and leisure time, but still cogs in the wheel of the economy, subject to its whims. The middle-class aspires to be upper class, not so much with servants and other employees (although some middle class had servants) but with possessions. The middle-class is a consumer class, which is why middle class families seldom rise up into the upper classes, because, whatever their income they spend it. (And these days build debt - a sure way to NEVER become rich.) The Nicholsons (despite being frugal) were greatly in debt. (OK. That's oversimplifying as there are many barriers between the classes. Old money is better than new money, etc.)

Whatelse characterizes the middle class? A sense of moral superiority. (Hence our love of soap operas and tabloid trash about celebrities with 200 million in the bank, oh my, cheating on their wives.)

In the 1908 letters it is mentioned that a local man is cheating on his wife. Margaret says, "He might as well go and throw himself in the river.' It is also mentioned, by Norman, that a man they know is petitioning Parliament for a divorce. And, as I wrote in my last blog, a local couple has separated and is 'breaking up housekeeping'.

In those days, under British law, a man could divorce his wife for infidelity. On the other hand, a woman could not divorce her husband for infidelity, only cruelty. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, women and men at that time 'had achieved equality', except in two areas: divorce laws and voting laws.

Many middle class women, like the Nicholsons, Margaret and Norman and daughters, wanted votes for women. Few women were agitating for equal divorce laws. Why this acceptance of one double standard over another? Well, I suspect if you could answer that, mystery of marriages' true purpose would be uncovered.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pianos and Fashion

Unknown woman in a sailor suit. 1910 era.
In an earlier blog, I have Flora playing piano in the living room as Edith and her mother talk.

Flora played piano. So did Marion. (Marion talks about 'practicing' without mentioning the word 'piano' in her 1907 diary. )

I left a blank in my blog, to fill in later: I wanted to find a typical song she might be practicing.

In my research today, I dug out my copies of the World's Work magazine and the Ladies' Home Journal for 1909.

This particular issue has editorials trashing the women's suffrage movement as well as the editorial trashing nickelodeons. (I put these editorials up on my website which I am using to write this novel Flo in the City.

Well, as I wrote on the Tighsolas website, piano playing was very popular in 1909. The 'fad' may have been at its apex. The middle class splurged on pianos... they cost a lot. 1,000 or so. That's why ads for pianos seldom showed prices. (In a 1902 letter, Margaret is asking Norman to buy a piano second hand and see if they can get one for 100. dollars.)

So it's no surprise that in this February 1909 issue of LHJ there is a full page column "A Department devoted to the Questions of Piano Students" by Josef Hofman, with the adjoining page having a song In the Twilight Garden, which I just decided I will have Flora playing (even if it is published a few months after)for it has a love and marriage theme.

Beside that song, in the magazine is, surprise, an advert for Ivers and Pond Pianos. Five models, no prices, but promise of deferred payment plan.

Good stuff for my story.

Oh, and on the Editorial Page, among the articles I mentioned is yet another one of interest, which I will write about in a future blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PERFECT MEN 19th installment

Edith posing with men. I have no idea who the men are. If this picture is taken in Richmond, then it is possibly men from St. Francis College. (Their body language suggests they are important.) Edith taught at the college in 1914, after leaving Ecole Methodiste Westmount. Now, if this is Westmont, and that school, this would be Villard. To me, the building in the back suggest Richmond and not Westmount. How can I tell. Just a hunch from the style, which look Richmond-like.

..The next day the three sisters visited A.J. Hudon's general store to see if he had any serge, in dark blue. If not, tennis flannel would do. But they had the blue serge in plenty.

As his man measured out 2 1/4 yards from the giant spool, at 35 cents a yard, he asked about Mrs. Nicholson, one of his best and most knowledgeable customers, he claimed. It seems he had sold her the cream crepe de chine material for the dress she had sewed up for her trip.

She talked me down 5 cents a yard, he joked. She claimed it was a bit frayed at the borders. I had just received it from the factory.

It seems half of Richmond is visiting Quebec City this week. His sales have slowed to almost nothing.

Marion took off for home with the material pressed under her arm to get started on Flora's bathing suit, the difficult bloomers (her wrinkled brow revealed she was already working out the problem in her head) and Edith and Flora strolled in lazy zigzags to the post office.

Edith confided in Flora, much to her surprise. "I'm not begrudging Mother her trip. I know she loves to travel. But I would have loved to go to Quebec City, for the pageantry. The show.The dignitaries' wives in their best outfits. History was my best subject at school. They have local people dressed as King Henry IV and his queen and all the courtiers and ladies in waiting.

Flora winced at the talk of 'best subject' for she didn't have any. Well, art perhaps.

I fear I won't even get to Kingsbury this summer, I am so poor.

But Boston I could do without, Edith added tactfully. Except for dear Henry, that side of the family annoys me. The woman are such incorrigible flirts.

The postmaster passed them their letters, just one. From a cousin they hardly new, Esther Briggs.

To the Nicholsons. So they could open it.

Would they wait? Why bother. It was sunny -with a welcome breeze , and the bench in front of the Post Office empty for a change. Flora tore a corner of the envelope
and carefully pried it open. Dear Aunt Margaret, It has been along time since you heard from me. B and pulled out the letter. I am writing you with some good news. I am getting married. His name is R.L Whitman, he is from Shawville and he is a fine young man, clever, good position, I think good looking, a perfect gentleman, and so kind."
I am so relieved. I always feared that I would be left on Father's hands.

As these last words were spilling from her mouth, Flora wished she could snatch them up like so many peppermint candies and stuff them back in.

Sister Edith, to her relief, was unperturbed. Shawville, she snickered. So that's where all the ideal husbands are located. Who could have guessed? It amazes me that some of my peers are so unresourceful, she continued. There are so many ways, today, for women to earn their own living. There's no excuse for anyone to be a burden on their parents.
There's more said Flora. He has yet to meet Mrs. Briggs. She writes "We are going to meet mother in Ottawa as the curious eyes of the Shawvilleites will not be on him to see how he likes his mother in law.

I wonder if they are truly engaged or they have an understanding, Edith says.

If Edith's funk seemed to have elapsed - and she was now her old even-tempered self, Flora's heart was beating a mile a minute.
What did Edith mean by so many ways to earn a living? Teaching was all Flora could see and you couldn't get into teaching school if you failed Academy.
But Edith had more to say on the subject of their cousin's engagement: "Another happy couple. Oh, Flora, did you hear? Ben Gross, who married the Stillwell girl have separated. Broken up housekeeping and sold everything off. He went back to his Mother's and she to her Father's. She blames his family for interfering."
Yes, Edith was back to her old self all right.
"I'm sure she thought he was perfect at one time."

Filling in the Blanks

Kids on the grass at Tighsolas. The older girl looks like Edith, but since they are posing at Tighsolas, with (it looks like) Floss, then it must be around 1900 or later. Tighsolas was built in 1896.

Hmm. So I've reached the end of July 1908, with Margaret and Norman particpating in the Tercentary Celebrations at Quebec; Flora on her way to visit Henry and the Beach at Hyannis, even though she did fail some courses at school; Edith at home at a loss for what to do; Marion about to take a giant leap forward in her career and her life, move to Montreal.

There are not many 1908 letters in the Nicholson collection, but what I do have sets the stage for the Nicholson Family Saga of 1908-1913, which I am turning into Flo in the City, a story about a young girl coming of age in that exciting era.

I printed out the remaining 1908 letters and read them over. Not only is 1908 Tercentenary year, it is an election year. Norman goes home to Richmond for the election. (He has worked on elections for Liberals in the past.)

Marion leaves for Montreal in early September and has trouble finding a room. Mother Margaret does not want her to 'eat out'.

Herb does not call on Marion, Margaret asks if they are fighting... Hmm. I can turn that into something.

Edith, it is clear, is in Montreal from October on. (She tears her blue dress at the cattle fair on Richmond in September.)But I have no letters from her and have no idea what she is doing. She does not start work at Ecole Methodiste for another year... So I will have her be a governess or English tutor in a French Canadian home... I'll make that home my grandfather's... It will fit in, as Ecole Methodiste is a school that hoped to convert Roman Catholics to Protestantism.. Edith was a convincing teacher, according to one of her pupils, whose diary is on another blog.

And of course, living and working in a RC home is an embarrassment for the Nicholsons and won't be written about much.

In September, Margaret says she will go into Montreal to buy a suit for her and Edith. I have an invoice for a suite. 12.00. A nice Montreal hat costs about 7.00. Imagine!

Norman is in Richmond for the elections but he misses out on the St. Andrew's Day celebrations next month. Flora and Margaret eat haggis. Norman, as a former President of the Saint Andrews Society, sends his regrets by telegram ( I have a copy of the actually telegram)and is angry when they are not read out at the Concert Intermission when the largest number of people are present.

Herb is transferred to Ormstown in February 1909. He claims he has no time to visit his mom. (I will suggest that he is transferred because the Nicholsons were worried about his behavior in Montreal, which is why he doesn't visit Marion in September in Montreal and why the Nicholsons reluctantly agree for Edith to go live in Montreal, to keep Marion company.)

The fact is letters were important to the Nicholsons. Many letters ended with WRITE ME A HUGE LETTER. They were another form of entertainment, I guess. But people left very controversial things out of letters or they burned them. I'm just filling in the blanks here.

Now, as I may have mentioned, the Nicholsons seldom talked on the phone from what I can see, but it is twice mentioned to use the phone in the 1908 letters, for local calls.

Later on, long distance phone calls are made, but for important events. Edith's loss (her boyfriend is killed) and Flora's graduation from McGill Normal School.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blow up of Big Hat

Here's Marion, I guess, in a close up of earlier boat picture. It's not flattering, but, boy, you can see the flowers on the hat. A thing like that could make a boat capsize and my husband wouldn't be here today or my sons. (The only time I wore something like that was when I went to a costume party as Carmen Miranda. I had a parrot on top of it all. )It was not an era of high style. For instance, I have pictures of her daughters, who came of age in the 30s. In these pictures, the girls, who all inherited the good looks of their progenitors, all look wonderful and quite grown up, even as teens. Movie star ish. There was no 'teenage' in those days. A female went right from looking girlish to looking womanish. Of course in 1912, there weren't movie stars to emulate. The industry was just taking off and, oddly, the stars of those early motion pictures, the Gishes and Mary Pickford, didn't wear the ostentatious big hats. Only the stuffy older women in the silent short films of the era wore big, often ridiculous looking hats. Smaller hats were already coming into style in 1912, worn by trend setters like Colette. Coca Chanel was famously making her smaller more tasteful hats in that period.

THE BATHING SUIT 18th installment

This is a photo from album belonging to my husband's other side... But it is in Canada, somewhere. Hunting scene.

Margaret left as planned on the 10.15 to Quebec, her 100 dollars sewn into her corset. The cars were overflowing with travellers from all parts, who were off to a once in a lifetime show and somewhat giddy with anticipation. Pickpockets were bound to be drawn to such a good natured crowd.

With Margaret gone, Marion was in charge at Tighsolas, not officially, but in charge all the same.

"The only thing I worry about, " said Margaret to Marion, just before she left, "is that you don't get your meals properly. You can't be well unless you eat. Order meat from Pope's."

And she snatched her hat from the table. It was newly trimmed for the trip with violets and baby's breath and a fat purple ribbon of satin. A horn sounded.Mr. Wales and his chauffeur had come to take her to the train in his motorcar. Margaret lifted the hat to her head and, then, as quickly let it drop. She'd carry it on her lap in the automobile.

"Get Flora to help. She turned to her youngest and smiled. She is only watching the Hill children half the day.
And see to it that she has what she needs for her trip. I may have forgotten things."

And then she walked off but turned around remembering one more thing. "Oh and be sure to keep the cellar screens shut or the rats and mice will get in. " Yes, we know. Bye mother. Give my love to Father,- Marion called out after her. "And the Prince" Flora added. She knew her mother was anxious to see these larger than life persons in the flesh. She thought the Prince of Wales a steady serious man and Sir Wilfrid was well known to be an honourary Scotsman.

Marion shut the door quickly.

In such heat, they hardly needed to eat hearty meals, Marion thought. But Mother worried so much about her children's health, especially Flora, who was so thin and frail looking. And prone to colds. Well, weren't they all.

But it was summer and already 70 degrees at 9 am. Soon, it would be too hot even for the filthy flies. Marion had her work cut out for her; she had to make Flora a bathing suit for her trip. (They hadn't told Mother about Henry's offer to drive her to the beach. Why worry her?)

For a bathing suit, Marion had already decided to adapt a pattern she had on hand for a tennis outfit, but use dark blue serge which was all the rage.(They would have to make a shopping excursion to Hudon's in the morning). Bloomers, vest, an overskirt and blouse collar with 3 rows of white piping, sailor style. Modest while fashionable and flattering to young Flora who was very thin, still with a girl's figure. Matching scarf for headwear.

Yes, she had her work cut out for her. She would likely miss the next evening's dance at the Oddfellow's Hall, in honour of the Prince's Quebec visit (and as a consolation prize for those who couldn't attend the celebrations in person.)

Marion smiled tightlipped as she contemplated the next two days. She was not upset. If there was anything Marion loved more than a dance, it was a challenging project with a tight deadline.

OFF TO QUEBEC 1908 17th installment

Marion Nicholson, about, what, 6 years old. So 1890. I used my website picture, but I have the original studio photo somewhere.

While Edith baked, that hot July in 1908, Margaret sewed. She loved her sewing machine and seldom let anyone use it, other than Edith or Marion.

It was purchased in 1897, and it was the popular Singer model 15, but she loved it better than the newer models in the Eaton's catalogue. Or so she told Norman.

A sewing machine is a simple machine, she said, and there was no need for all the new mechanicals they were putting on the new models. Just more things to break.

That was good as a new Singer Sewing Machine cost $....Her sister Isabella had just purchased the new Model 66 Singer. She raved about its enclosed needle bar, and she didn't even sew that much, having the money to have her apparel made by others.

Margaret, on the other hand, sewed, everything except suits.She sewed in a room off the kitchen, where there was good morning light. She made shirtwaists from scratch, stamping out the new pattern or using an old one. She lengthened and let out skirts and dresses. She repaired most of everything. She was proud of the fact she had never had to purchase a Montreal dress for her daughters in all their years. Suits, for men and women, were purchased, but they were laborious to make and the styles changed with the wind direction.

As Marion was getting her work warddrobe, two new shirtwaist suits, made by a professional seamstress, Miss Biron of Kingsbury. the French lady, who charged 8 dollars a piece, Margaret's time was freed up to sew up a new 'silk' herself for her trip to Quebec on July 22 and, time allowing, a skirt to Flora's trip to Boston in August.

She sewed from daylight to nightfall and took breaks with Edith on the porch. She stopped only to make the scones for lunch. A busy person doesn't have time to worry.

Father has written that I am to leave on the 10:15 on July 21st, she told Edith. He sent me 100 dollars.

It's too bad you will miss the re-enactment of Champlain's discovery of

Quebec on the Plains of Abraham, Edith said. It is to feature 0ver 500 actors in period costume, and some real Indians from Caugnawauga. The Witness has the complete program. It's amazing, just a few months ago there was talk of postponing or cancelling everything.

Yes, it appears it has come together at the last minute, Margaret replied, pressing down the creases in her apron with her palms. Those poor Indians, they are still grieving I imagine for all their casualties on the bridge.

Margaret was referring to the collapse of the Quebec Bridge a year before. The Bridge had been in construction and was to be the longest cantilevered in the world, but something went terribly wrong, and over 100 workers, most Mohawk were killed.

A short time later Norman got his job as Inspector on the Transcontintal Railway, in La Tuque. Margaret suspected it was no coincidence. The bridge had been a component of the railway.

Margaret was missing the beginning of the fete, including, much to her relief, the open air Roman Catholic masses. On the 21st, Margaret would take the train to Levis, across the water from Quebec City and meet her husband at the Kennebec Hotel. They would spend the next two days in Quebec and then they would both return to LaTuque, where Margaret would get to see where Norman worked. She had been anxious to see his place of work, for it was well known railway jobs were dangerous.

Edith: Well, you will be arriving in Quebec with the Prince of Wales It says here is is coming by water, on the Indomitable battleship on the 22nd. And you will see the military pageant, the 5th Highlanders will be there from Montreal.

Yes, Tobin has not been able to get us tickets for the grandstand so we will have to watch from the sidelines.
But you will have a front row seat for the pyrotechnics, which are fireworks for dignitaries, I guess. They are being held the night of the 23rd, in Levis.
And so the two parted company and returned to their respective chores.
The real reason Margaret was going, wasn't to see the Prince of Wales. Although she was loyal to the monarchy, as a good Canadian. The personage she most wanted to see was Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister,and if possible, she hoped, although it was a slim hope, that Norm was hoping to meet up with E.W. Tobin, the Member of Parliament for Richmond-Wolfe. It was an election year and he was not in any position to help out the Liberal Party, out at end of steel. She hoped he could get leave to return to Richmond for a few weeks.

So her dress and hat had to be stylish, just in case. Over 100,000 visitors were expected for the event, Canadians, Englishmen, French and even the American Vice-President.

Flora had listened in to the conversation f from the living room, where she practiced a slight little piece on piano listlessly. She felt sorry for Edith who loved history and would have loved to visit Quebec, too. It didn't help that Flora was playing a wedding song in the Ladies Home Journal. In the Twilight Garden. Poor Edith. dolce and cantabile. "Flowers of high Heavn that glow and bloom for aye, by these my constant heart I plight, Not for life's swift years, but sweet forever, While heaven's above and stars give faithful light, stars that with glory crown our bridal night." Her last recital had been in March, she had sent Henry Watters the programme and now Henry expected her to play for him in August.

He must have a piano. A piano and an fancy automobile. Wouldn't it be fun, she thought, to be married to a doctor.

And It Gets Complicated...

Edie and her hat 1910, again. I like this picture so much.

Oy. Researching the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary, for my book in progress Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era based on the letters of, I found a summary document posted on It was written in 1911. So even though no Nicholson letter exists describing the pagent, I can describe it in detail... Margaret was there for two of the most eventful days! Better, I can put it all in perspective....

Now, the 1908 Tercentary, I just found out, was a huge pagent and military show and PR exercise in Canadian unity. Ironically, it was the St Jean Baptiste Society that first suggested that the 300 anniversary of Quebec's founding should be commemorated. And, then it appears the idea got hijacked by everyone else and the Prince of Wales' appearance (he only decided to go in March of 1908) ended up being the central event. Hmmm. British military might was on display bigtime. (Did they know a war was coming? They knew the Germans were building a huge army..)

At least two Canadian Highlander Regiments took part.. I'm sure the Nicholsons were interested in that fact.

Here's a VERY INTERESTING quote from the document: "It is of profound importance to national life that the truth of history should be discovered and revealed. For the truth, once made manifest, is bound sooner or later, to affect the public's point of view, even that of the masses that hardly reads anything except for daily newspapers...Many problems of today would be simplified, some might even be removed, by a true appreciation of the crises in our history."... the general effect of the Tercentary was to show the French and British regimes as two haves of one whole."

The writer then says that Canadian history was misunderstood up until then, because the naval records only became extant in 1903 and that students of history only were able to study 'what really happened' through the logs of these men of war, with respect to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1909.


Well, I couldn't agree more. I'm an amateur historian, but the reason I have posted the Tighsolas letters and have started on a book for middle-schoolers is because I want 'the truth of history' to be revealed, with respect to women and their lives and feminism. It irks me that so many people have such a distorted view of feminism, the family, women's lives past and present. Especially right wing evangelical types.

I was born in 1954, and most people in my generation think that the feminist movement began in the 60's.

It was an eye-opener to me, to see how women in the 1910 era were every bit as 'liberated' in spirit as women in the 60's...with some differences of course. It was an eye-opener to me that feminism was invented by religious types, the Quakers, Methodists, mostly and that women got the vote in Canada thanks to evangelicals, in large part, who wanted the fix all the social probems of industrialization. (My British grandmother was a daughter of a Methodist Minister, educated at a co-educational Quaker school.)

I still have a fair bit of research to do (and it's Christmas!) before I can write the scenes about Margaret's trip. I figure it will be a pivotal scene, not with respect to the Nicholson Family Saga, or Flora's development, but with respect to the Context....where this family fits in Canadian History...

Funny, I found another article on the Net about the 1908 celebrations, written last year, on the occasion of the 2008 Quebec celebrations.

It was ironic, considering the quote above. The author, a professor of history at McMaster, claimed that the truth of history was inconsequential for these recent celebrations which were more about celebrity. The truth of history doesn't serve politicians in Canada anymore, was what he suggested. No kidding! That's another reason I am writing Flo in the City...English Quebec has a rich history and it is being erased.

PS. Another irony, my late mother was French Canadian and a descendant on her father's side of the Forget...One cousin was the leading French Canadian Industrialist in 1910, Sir Rodolfe, and there was a Bishop etc. From what she told me, they are all descended from one Abraham Martin, L'Ecossais, the guy who owned the Plains of Abraham.

Now the Tercentenary Celebrations were being joined with efforts to make the Plains an historical site or to "preserve Quebec battlefields'.. apparently, New Zealand school children got together and raised money to help the cause.

In true Canadian fashion, the celebration almost didn't happen, with the collapse of the Quebec Bridge (which played a part in the Nicholson Saga) and all the political in-fighting.

It all sounds very familiar to me, a Montreal native who counts Expo67 as one of the best times of her life. Actor Dan Ackroyd's father was the brains behind the amazing Centennial Year Celebration. Expo almost didn't happen. I think Toronto turned it down and Jean Drapeau, our mayor, had a dream which was realized.

So It all works out well

Edith and handsome guy. On that trip to Potton Springs. 1910 era

Ok. I am reading up on the Tercentenary in Quebec and it was a huge event, a huge military event, and, as always, there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the event, as well..

We just had the quadracentenary and the same thing happened with Paul McCartney being chosen as the headliner.

Now, until I started writing Flo in the City (about a girl coming of age in 1908-1913, based on the real letters of Tighsolas at I never realized that the 1908 trip Margaret took to LaTuque and Quebec was to see the Prince.

I don't have any letters describing what happened in Quebec, just what happened in La Tuque. But I do know that she left Richmond for Levis on the 21, and that she stayed at the Kennebec Hotel and that she was there for the 22nd and 23rd, and that is when the Prince of Wales, the future George V arrived and the day all kinds of ceremonies, with Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Earl Grey the Governor General were held. There were pyrotechnics, too

I also learned that this event was a massive military exercise. It was a HUGE show, according to a military writer whose essay I've dug up. Of course, with WWI this show was overshadowed by the real thing.

PS. I have no way to stick this in the story (as the Nicholsons would not have known about it, but on June 31st a giant meteor fell on Siberia, wasting miles and miles and knocking people miles away out of their beds. It was another HUGE event.

What this means is that I have to read some commentary on the event, from English and French sides and figure out how to sum it all up. Margaret's visit is a great opportunity for me to get some Canadian History into the story. This event was initially about celebrating the 300 anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's founding of Quebec. They re-enacted the Battle at the Plains of Abraham, among other historical scenarios. It morphed into a vanity exercise more about British military might, from what I can read.

A Picture is worth 1000 words?

Flo and friends, circa 1910

I just saw the movie, Up in the Air, with George Clooney, directed by Jason Reitman, a Canadian. It is an extremely well crafted movie, and very enjoyable, with some very clever and funny lines. My only problem with it, was a sign of its flawless execution, for it was a cold movie, with a bit of a documentary feel - as befits its story-line and main character.

I suspect that it won't be a movie (like Michael Clayton) that I will watch over and over... I think MC has one of the best screenplays ever. I love Tom Wilkinson's 'bread' speech.

Yet, I also suspect that Reitman's Up in the Air will go down in cinematic history as a classic because it captures the moment perfectly, and that it not easy to do in a time of rapid change.

Due to the new technologies we live very different lives from people 100, 50, even 20 years ago.

People in The Tighsolas Era (1908-1913)were also experiencing a paradigm shift, as they say.

Flo and Edie, who loved to watch the TV show Gunsmoke in their later years, saw more change in their lifetime than any who came before.

In 1908, when our Tighsolas story unfolds, airplanes, or aeroplanes were just getting off the ground and the auto was becoming a desired item among average middle class men.

Motion pictures were just becoming popular and the theatre industry was worrried about its survival. The 'cheap' seats were going unfilled.

Talking Machines (victrolas) were bringing music into the home (which worried some mothers).

Home movies, in the form of various machines that projected images, were being pushed big time. But they never really took off, did they? At least until VCR's were invented.

Marconi was just experimenting with his wireless signals. He felt that his invention would change the world order by empowering 'the little guy', just like what people hope for with the Internet.

But technology changes us in ways we can't predict.

For some interesting articles on entertainment in 1910 go to

As my Tighsolas story reveals, in 1910 people were still very social. Your connections in 1910 were your lifeline: family, friends, camarades at the Masons, at church, were everything to you. A person without family and connections was a lost soul, unable to marry or find any work (hence, the 'social evil' of prostitution). As the family became more and more privatized over the decades, a person became less reliant on family and friends. Jobs and networking became what's important.

The social safety net and good union contracts took up the slack.

But what happens in a 'super-privatized' environment like today, when jobs become scarce and work-security non-existant?

After all, we've given up, over the century, what we all used as back-up in time of trouble. Connections. We are, indeed, all up in the air....We do, in fact, rely on ONE PERSON, our mate, for security, support and help. Wow, scary. And if you don't have a mate, what do you have?

As I was discussing Up in the Air with my 23 year old son, who 'wants to be free' as they say, to do what he wants and go where he wants... I was reminded of something I heard on BBC Radio Four.

An interviewee was defending those obscenely overpaid Wall Street and Bond Street brokers (during 'the downturn') saying that 'they give up everything to do their job. They never see their wives or their children.' I found this line of thought rather lame: so being a lousy husband and father, a robot of a kind, is justification for making huge amounts of money -even when you've failed miserably at this job.

Up in the Air is about just this kind of person, I think, except Clooney's character is One Up on the Wall Street types, for whom money is the be all and end all. He actually has some human contact, although only with human beings he is firing, people he never sees or hears about again. I guess that is the central irony of the cautionary tale.

I should think about this and write a better essay.

Medicine Women

Flo, Marion, Edith, circa 1910. On the grass at Tighsolas

Nursing in 1910. In a few scenes of my novel Flo in the City, based on the letters of my social studies website, Flora will visit a doctor cousin in Boston.

She will write home about meeting nurses at Newton Hospital, some of whom are Canadian.

In the 20th century, nursing was a classic female profession. But I don't think it got rolling as such until after WWI. Statistics Canada historical charts indicate that in 1911 there are 20,000 women working in the health services sector, compared to 13,00 men. This is one of the few areas where women workers outnumber men. Education is another and textile is another. Most women in Canada (one third of total workforce) in 1910 work in the personal or recreational services. I'm guessing this category is mostly made up of domestics. Domestics and dancers?

Nowhere in the Tighsolas letters is it indicated that any woman of their acquaintance was a nurse or was thinking of going into nursing except in Flora's letter about Newton.

When the grandmother is dying in 1912, Margaret says that Clayton Hill can afford a nurse for her. She is exhausted staying up nights with her mom.

I think nurses came into the home, but only rarely, as most people relied on relatives to take care of them when ailing. Nurses, however, seemed to be routinely hired to care for newborns.

I have recently read a book by Vera Brittain, a classic called Testament of Youth. (It is being made into a movie in 2010.) Brittain worked as a volunteer nurse (VAD) during the war. Now, a bloody battlefield isn't a hospital, but this book does give an idea of what nurses did back then. As my story will show, medecine was quite primitive.

As an article in Technical World Magazine in 1910 revealed, they were just beginning to see microbes under the microscope.

In 1910, Margaret tends her niece, Florance Peppler, who has typhoid. Norman had typhoid in 1896 (he lived on the same street, makes you wonder about the water supply). Anyway, he is worried for his wife and tells her to keep the windows open for fresh air and not to come into contact with any bodily fluids. Good advice, I imagine.

In 1912 in Richmond there are more untimely deaths than usual, it seems. They remark upon it in the letters. Perhaps a flu went around that wasn't labeled as such.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Introducing my new blog about the Nicholsons

Margaret and Norman. Studio photo taken on Bleury, in Montreal. Now, on the website, I call this their wedding photo. I didn't notice, however, that she was pregnant here.

I've decided to start yet another blog based on Tighsolas.

It's here on and is called The C-Files 1910: One Family's Carbon Footprint.

Now, the Nicholsons didn't only leave behind letters. They left behind complete household accounts for the years 1883-1921.

I only figured out yesterday, what to do with this useful information. I will investigate the family's carbon footprint - and compare it to the carbon footprint of today's average Canadian family.

For perspective!

Some of the most popular pages on my website is 'Cost of Living 1900, or 1910."

And this blog won't be 'stream-of-consciousness'. (That process is good for creative thinking.)

It will be well thought out, a series of vignettes with a purpose, and I will call on expert analysis.

Stay tuned.

Woman in Black? Maybe not!

Arless Montreal Studio Photo, unknown woman. Tighsolas collection. If you click on this photo you will get a larger photo, that reveals the woman to be quite good looking. Remember, they wore no make-up. This hairdo, in fashion, I guess, does not do her justice. And I'm guessing she had some money as that dress is very complicated. I wonder what colour the dress is. Red?? Sea green?

This has nothing to do with Tighsolas, well, I am sure I can figure a way to fit it in.

Well, here. It's easy to fit it in. In my last 'episode' a neighbour's cows got into the Tighsolas garden. This was a big event, because like their neighbours, in 1910, the Nicholsons counted on their garden to provide veggies for the rest of the year, although they could also buy vegetables in season.

It was an extensive garden. Tighsolas had a lot of land. And, for the most part, Margaret tended it.

As it happens, I have the COMPLETE household accounts of the Nicholsons, from 1883 to 1921, just before Norman died.

I know what the Nicholsons ate, or at least, the components of what they ate. Margaret left behind no recipes so I only have a general idea of the dishes she cooked. Haddie? Oatmeal? They ate mostly beef and pork. Chicken was very expensive and available only half the year.

I also some invoices from the local merchants.

In many ways, the traditional meat and potatoes 'anglo' diet of today, the staples, are what the Nicholsons chowed down on. Curry was about the only exotic dish anglo Canadians ate in 1910, a by- product of British Imperialism.

There is, however, a world of difference with respect to the path the food takes to our plates. The food supply is now totally industrialized, less healthy for us and much less tasty too.

Here`s where my rant comes in. Today, I went to the grocery store, and as usual the cashier asked me if I had my own bag. They charge 5 cents per plastic bag, a widespread practice today. This always enrages me - because it is so patronizing.

I don't believe for a minute that plastic grocery bags are worse for the environment than the other thousands of over-packaged items in the modern grocery store. Bagged lettuce, for Heaven`s sake! One piece of nan bread in its own wrapper.

Show me the raw data. (I assume the price of the bags was incorporated into the grocery bill: did grocery stores lower their prices after the ban to make it fair?)

I know the argument: That these plastic bags end up out in the environment and do damage, damage that is visible to the naked eye, which is the kind we humans can get our brains around.

But, frankly, it all seems a bit childish and symbolic to me. Indeed, from my research I learned it was a group of school children who initially lobbied for the plastic bag ban in San Francisco.

Do you think they did the complex mathematical computations to figure out if banning the bags and substituting them with pseudo-canvas bags would help or hinder the environment? In the long run, after all is said and done. No. (Every day a new study comes out debunking some of our environmental sacred cows: that local salmon I eat. Gee, it's farmed and the fish are carnivorous and its carbon footprint is way larger than if I ate imported Pacific salmon. And, I am guessing, this farmed fish is less healthy for me, and perhaps even bad for me.)

And then the political establishment picked up on it. Do you think that if this measure in any way compromised corporate profits that it would have been adopted. No way, San Jose!

That's my point.

I used these plastic grocery bags for garbage and picking up dog pooh. (Now, isn't that counter-intuitive, ecologically-speaking. Encasing each and every dog turd in the world in its own piece of plastic.) Now I have to buy more garbage bags from the grocer and I have to use other plastic bags to pick up pooh. (Has anyone checked if the profits of the garbage bag manufacturers has increased since plastic grocery bags were banned? Who is the parent company of the company that makes garbage bags? Sheinart Wigs?

Now, for those re-usable 'canvas' bags (that you see tucked under the arm of so many smug food shoppers as they climb out of their SUVs).. If you buy meat (which tends to be over-wrapped these days in styrofoam (horrible for environment) and some kind of absorbant napkin and plastic wrap.. it still leaks so you have to cover the piece of meat in one or two other plastic bags to keep your reusable bag free from salmonella. (Salmonella in the meat is caused by industrial processing methods, I believe.) Oh, and for health reasons, you are supposed to wash your 'canvas; bags after every use. (How does that help the environment?)

It all makes no sense. We're all damaging the environment every day with our sloth, and lack of time and our lack of cooking skills. Today, I bought a quiche. It came in an aluminum plate, wrapped in a surfeit of heavy duty plastic material, in a box. I could have found some free range eggs (well, hard to do at 0 degrees F) and made a quiche in that pie plate that once belonged to my grandmother. But I am lazy and de-skilled and you know, all this overpackaging is actually good for the economy, and whatever is good for business is 'good'. I want to do my part.

From what I can see, the more packaging on any given product, the more the grocery store can charge for it. That's why the marketing wizards and product managers are coming up with more and more over-packaged convenience products daily, instead of cutting down on them. That thin crust pizza I bought for 5.00... on sale. It's just a bunch of flour...It's worth about 3 cents! (Hey, I just noticed a new product in the grocery store, a giant plastic liner for your recyle bin. Marketers have figured out how to exploit the recycling craze to manufacture MORE plastic products.)

The grocery store hardly makes any money on meat or produce (and it overcharges for the fruits veggies, which taste like nothing. Sometimes I'd like to go back to 1910 just to see what a green bean really tastes like.)

So, if I wanted to help the environment, I wouldn't shop at the grocery store at all. I would, like the Nicholsons, shop at a butcher and a green grocer and cook everything from scratch. I would only eat organic meat, from small farms and I would grow my own veggies and pickle them and eat the rest in season. I would join the SLOW FOOD movement and move to Italy. Molto bene.

And I would walk to the grocery store, or take my horse and carriage or velocipede with the basket in front. (And I could do all that and take one overseas plane trip and lose all my eco-points in one shot.)

Studying the 1910 era, (when planes just got off the ground and cars were just becoming a thing of interest to average middle class men) using Tighsolas, is a great way to get perspective on our mad consumer age. After all, 1910 was the Birth of Now as the BBC put it. The industrial age, the consumer age was just getting under way.

The processed products that became household names in the 20th century, were just being introduced. Heinz Ketchup, Quaker Oats. Etc. Why did some products take off and others languish? From what I see, mostly because of ADVERTISING. Spin. Convenience, too, maybe.

In 1967, Canadian historian Pierre Berton filmed his own rant on CBC, complaining about the now steam-rolling 'ersatz food movement.' "Who says instant coffee is better than the real thing? he raged on camera. The marketers said, that's who, and we believed them. My parents did anyway. (My mother, a brilliant cook, drank instant til the end, turning her nose up in her eighties at my freshly brewed organic fair trade java.)

Today I am asking.... Who says banning plastic bags is better, in the long run, for the environment? And is this ban just a 'diversionary tactic', smoke and mirrors to keep us, the bloated middle class, from making real DIFFICULT choices about our lifestyles to protect the environment? (Are we ready to defer instant gratificiation and YIKES 'do without', on occasion? Maybe even suffer.) And if too many of us do that, will a Great Depression follow? And what difference can we individuals really make in a world where a few corporations basically control everything and where profits, short term profits, are all that matter. (And where billions of Third World Citizens are itching to jump on the consumer age gravy train.)

(Another case in point. Every year my husband covers our big picture windows and back doors with a protective plastic in winter. He bought a re-usable brand a few years ago. It tore last year. This year he found they stopped manufacturing the re-usable kind. (Doesn't make money.)..I bought a high priced coffee maker two years ago. I broke the carafe and found that they are no longer making that carafe. I have to buy A NEW coffee maker. Where once appliances lasted say, 40 years, now they last 3 and they are not worth repairing. Built in obsolescence gone berzerk: But I'm the eco-villain because I question having to pay for plastic grocery bags. IT ALL MAKES NO SENSE.)

Maybe there's nothing we can do. Maybe it isn't in our control at all. Maybe we are as helpless as children,when it comes to environmental degradation, and we need to be treated as such. Hence that canvas grocery bag, as comforting as a child's security blanket and about as effective.