Friday, November 30, 2012

Life is so Short - Sad Letters from WWI

The Devil's in the Details. In this case the date 9//11/18. A hasty note from Margaret Nicholson with a  prescription pinned to it, ordering her grown daughters to take a certain tonic. Nothing new here, the Nicholsons constantly fretted over colds. But this is the era of the Spanish Flu Epidemic and friend Agnes Rothey explains that other terrifying business in a letter below.

September 3, 1918

39 York Avenue, Westmount, PQ

Dear Mother,

Here it is Thursday and I haven't written yet, but you won't be surprised when you hear what has happened.

Well, we arrived safely, as you may know and had a fine trip.

Found everyone OK and the little sister came walking to meet us, which was a great surprise.

Tuesday I went to school and found that Mr. Harlow had been transferred to the Royal George School in Notre Dame de Grace, so you may know how upset we were.

The new principal is Mr. Rivard and of course he may be nice but I do wish they would have left Mr. Harlow with us.

Tuesday evening Edith and I went up to Andrew's and then the Stewart's. Wasn't it sad about Mrs. Stewart. Tom P came right down as soon as he heard the news.

Yesterday, after school I went up to the Tuckers and found them terribly broken up as  they had just had a telegram saying that Percy had been killed in action.

Doesn't it seem terrible that some people have to go through so much trouble?

The two oldest gone in six months.

Some way or another I always thought that Percy would come back, but it seems we can't be sure of anything in this world.

The school seems so dead without Harold. She always was so full of fun telling us all her experiences. I feel so sorry for them. I wish you would write them. I am sure they would more than appreciate it.

Of course, you didn't know Percy, but he was Haroldine's brother and that's enough.

How is your finger, hope it is on the mend.

I am enclosing a cheque for 10.00, five of which give to Father, the rest for yourself.  Don't bother paying McMorine. They can wait for their pay until I come down next time.

It was been pouring here and looks as if it might continue for the night.

Thursday Evening.

I didn't finish this at school and it is just as well for when I got home, Joe Tucker had phoned me that they had had another telegram saying that Lieutenant P. G. Tucker who had been officially reported killed was only wounded but gave no particulars whether serious or otherwise and also that Herbert T had been wounded in the right arm.

I wrote him a long letter tonight. He is in the General Hospital Rouin, France.  I do hope they will be spared as they are both fine boys.

Don't write now to Mrs. T. She is up in Morin Heights.

Biddy is coming into town on the weekend. Am anxious as she and her Father are expecting to spend the winter in California.

Haroldine Tucker on a list of Montreal Board Teachers 1916. Flora likely knew the Tuckers because   "Harold" worked with her although the Tuckers lived on the same street, Lorne, as the old family friends, the Clevelands, and Lorne is not a long street. Biddie or Gwendolyn or "TUCK" was a good  friend too.

Evansville Illinois, September 23rd 1918

My Dear Sister,

I know you are expecting  a letter from me but I could not get my  mind together enough to write since our darling boy was taken from us. Oh, I cannot be reconciled to this terrible loss. It does not seem fair after all his hard work and all our striving to prepare him for his life's work that he loved so much that just as he was ready to serve his country and fellow men that he would be laid low. He was so anxious to go overseas. He said he would do such good work for the boys and take good care of them. He was in camp since 22 of September 1917, at Louisville Camp Taylor, till June of this year. They moved all the company to Camp Sherman Ohio. He was home the last of July for a few days as the 84th division was getting ready to go overseas.

He was well and in such good spirits. He went from here to Michigan to see a young lady he was engaged to. He met her when he was in the State Hospital last year.  She is a lovely girl, a school teacher who sings.

He seemed to be in perfect health but on the fifteenth of August he was attacked with tonsilitis in a bad form. He went into the base hospital. He wrote me, said he'd be cured up quickly as the 84th Division was to leave for France in less than a week.

He wrote me Saturday following that his throat was better and his temperature was normal so he'd be discharged the next day.  But that night the other side of his throat got sore, an abscess formed on his right tonsil and caused a septic poison of his whole system and pneumonia set in.

They sent for me Friday at 11 but I could only get a train by 4.30. I got to the base hospital at 6 am the next morning. He was so glad to see us and would say "Stand up Mother so I can see you. You look good to me. I did want you to come because I love you Mother best of all." He would say "Kiss me Mother, for I love you. Don't worry for what is God's will is alright with me but I would like to get well. Look I am strong." And he would lift his arm and say "I have lots of pep. I will make a good fight."

He would say "Mother, pray, for sometimes when I pray the pain comes and I cannot pray all right. But you can Mother, you taught me how."

Oh he was so precious. It is just dreadful to think he is gone. He said, Mother it will not be long before we are together. Life is so short at the longest.

I tried to pray that God's will be done, but I found myself rebelling. When I realized he won't be coming home anymore.  I miss his letters every week.  He never missed. He was such a good son.

I wish you could have known him. People would remark, what a good, clean countenance he had.  I have had letters from his school mates and professors, saying his influence was always good. The boys called him Old Reliable Alfred. The same in the army. The 335th infantry was composed of boys from Evansville and surrounding country. They would ask for Lieutenant Gymer if they were sick, they always said he was so cheerful and his medicine always helped them. He was on every examination board in the Camp, even before he got his Commission. The head of Camp Sherman came to see me and said he was his most reliable doctor. They turned over their doubtful cases to him.

I can't see why he had to be taken. He was so useful here. But perhaps God has work for him.

I am trying to be brave and bear the loss. I had a letter from George. He is in France. He is well. He is checking freight in the harbour. He does not tell me much as they are not allowed to say.  God spare him and bring him home.

Come and visit this winter for I know it is lonely for you at home, if Norman still works in Sherbrooke.

Write me all the news,

My love to Florence and family and to your own girls. I am sure Marion's little girls are sweet. I will try  to write more often as there is always one letter less for me to write. I always wrote one and sometimes two letters to the boys who were away. I did not take the time to write to others as I was busy with war work and church work. I don't feel as if I have much heart to do anything anymore but they come to me and don't want me to give up. After a while I will take up the work again.

I am glad and better off than lots of Mothers whose sons are buried in France. I got to talk to him and buried him in a lovely spot in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Write me again,

Your Loving Sister, Christie.

Lennoxville, Quebec

October 24, 1918

Dear Mrs. Nicholson

I hope you are all keeping clear of this Spanish Flu. Hasn’t it been an awful time? Everything closed up and nothing going on here except people dying and the church bells ringing for funerals and hearses going down in processions. I heard yesterday that 500 died in Sherbrooke since it started.

The Lennoxville School reopened yesterday and Gordon started again and today Mr. Rothney started out inspecting as things seem to be coming to life again.  If this fine weather will only continue, there will soon be no more grippe.

I was just going to phone and ask you and Mr. Nicholson to come up for the anniversary services, when Gordon came in with The Record and I saw they were cancelled.

I hope you will be able to come up soon. Is Mr Nicholson still working in Sherbrooke?

I got a glimpse of him in the church the first Sunday we were home.

I was up to Richmond once since I saw you. I went up for the missionary meeting. They told me you were in Montreal but we stayed overnight and had tea at Mrs. Crombie’s the next day and she told me you were home and I ran over to get a peep at you but there was nobody at home and I left Richmond that night feeling disappointed that we did not see you.

We spent a pleasant summer in Chicago. The children both went to kindergarten and the university nursery and had much to talk about when they got home. Mr. Rothney worked hard and came back with another degree. I hope he will be satisfied but I am afraid not.

I have done a lot of serving and knitting since we came back. The knitting club here had a contest and we knit 312 pairs in the month. I knit 7 pair, some knit more.  However, we got a fine lot of stockings for the Christmas boxes.

I guess we will not have to knit many more socks,with the way the war is going now.

I have most of the children’s winter sewing done and have made Isabel a brown plush winter coat.  I got her a  set of white furs, so she is going to be very swell this winter.

She is always wishing she is old enough to go to school with Gordon.

Now please come up and see us soon when it suits you.

Yours sincerely,

Agnes Rothney.

Epsom, October 17, 1917

I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you.  

I feel pretty blue over Percy as he refused to go back to Canada when he was here last time. It doesn't pay to be a hero here.  He must have been killed outright as he wasn't admitted to any hospital. There are quite a few 24th boys here and they all speak very highly of him. 

I don't know how I got away with what I did. It is only a miracle that brought me here alive. If I had fallen, I would have been killed but as luck would have it, I stood up and got away with a crippled finger.  It might come back in time but I doubt it. The piece went through the back of my hand and came through the knuckle of my first finger. 

I can't use my finger at all but can get on without it. I've had a swell time since I came across. I was in hospital away down in Devonshire. I only came here on Thursday and the sooner they send me out the better. I expect to go on leave Friday. I am going to London for a while and then I am going down to Exeter in Devonshire for the rest of my leave. 

The meals here are punk and good grub is half the battle. Do you love me as much as ever, because if you don't I will get downhearted and marry my nurse and stay here after the war. Well, Flora I think I will quit for today as I have written four letters today and can't write any more. Remember me to your people and take care of yourself,

Love Herb

November 9, 1918

Dear Edith,

I think you get another bottle of the tonic. So here is the number. So just go to the phone and order it at once. I noticed that you were better when you were taking it. Buy some and get the pills for Flora and self.

I paid Miss Goyette for the hat and got a receipt.

Nice that they are allowing you to come home early. Try and keep warm. Since I have taken this cold in my head, I feel cold.

Now that Marion has the little girl to help out she might find time to write a lines to Mamie.

Have you been reading the discussion in House of Commons on the franchise. So silly, lots of it.

With Love


Read Not Bonne Over Here - the Nicholson Family letters from 1914-1919

Letter from SIS WWI Style

The YWCA had a WWI campaign, and the YMCA has a RED Triangle Campaign, helping soldiers, newly recruited and returned from War. Edith Nicholson mentions it below. She is a volunteer and she must wear a veil, for some reason. It is likely she was  a nurse or aide of some kind and the veil (a sheer see-through item probably) was likely worn for sanitary purposes. It was the era of the Spanish Flu, after all.

March 18, 1918

Evansville, Illinois, USA

Dear Sister Maggie,

After so long a time I find myself  starting to write you. I thought I would answer at once but you  know I will put off. 

And perhaps you will excuse me when I tell you all, in the first place, the 3 boys are away from home and I try to write them twice each week and when I do that I don’t feel like writing any more. 

Well, I will begin by telling you about the boys. 

Kelland is in Camp Taylor, Louisville is 1st Lieutenant with the 335 Infantry. Has a nice place, as long as he is in America.

 have been up to see him twice and the officers over him give a very glowing account of him says he is an exception for a young doctor Dr. who had never practiced and right out of school that of course was very gratifying to me for we, of course, think he is very fine. 

He likes the Camp says he would not be out of it – as a duty to his country and also for the experience he gets. He of course is anxious to go across to France. (I am not.)

 Geo enlisted in the Quartermaster Corps   and was sent to Jacksonville Florida, and left her on the 28th of December for Chicago to report was sent from there on the 29th thru to Fla. Left Saturday night. Did not get to camp till Tuesday 6:30 p.m.

They went thru by  Ohio was 36 hrs behind their schedule and their rations ran out on Monday. Had 2 meals Tuesday and then  nothing  until they got to camp. 

Said they did not mind it very much as there was so much excitement along the way they sure did justice to supper, Geo said 6 weiners and all the bread he could eat.  Geo was a great boy to eat so I am sure he was hungry. It certainly made me feel bad to think of him a whole day without anything to eat.

 However he wrote cheerful letters all the time. At first the  food was strange and he did not like it, but never complained. He was sick - 3 weeks in hospital,  very near had pneumonia. He met lots of friends  or rather made friends.

 The friend  who was in charge of hospital told the nurses to do and give him anything he wanted.  Also met several ladies from Jacksonville who visited,  one especially who took such a fancy to him and she went every other day and brought him fruit and books and games. 

She had him in to spend the weekend at her home. Geo says it sure was a swell home with servants at your elbow he said he put on all the airs of an American and did enjoy the visit – took him out in the automobile over the city. He has a standing invitation to come there when ever he is in the city.

The Camp is 18 miles out from the City. You know Jacksonville is a winter resort – there is a thru train from Chicago.  A car is put on in Evansville do not change at all, and make the trip in 27 hrs. 

I have my request in for a pass so I will go see him in about 2 weeks if he is not moved. 

He is in school.  You know they have school for every line. He is a clerk. Says they give them 6 weeks school then send them out to the different cantonments as they are needed. 

Murdoch is not in yet. Is in second class. We did not want him to enlist as the other 2 boys are in. He was home in Jan. for 2 weeks. Was looking fine but since he went back he had soar throat and also had tonsils removed. Was in hospital a week was feeling fine and back at work again but this AM I got a letter from his roommate saying he was burnt around his hands and face. He assures me he is not seriously burnt and is able to be up all the time. 

But he is always afraid to tell me and keeps the worst from me I am afraid.  He is a good boy so mindful of home. Always writes me every week. Is the best-hearted boy you ever saw. He has been in Bluefield N. Va for 4 years and has lots of friends there. 

Well, I must tell you about our new baby. Will and Indie has another boy. He is the best little fellow. Will be 8 weeks old Thursday. Edward the other boy is strong and sturdy but Isabel is not well. Theyy had to take her out of school  The Dr. said she had to stay outdoors. He was afraid of TB. 

We were very much worried about her she was so smart in school  and has just started in music. She sings well but the Dr. says treatment and she will be well in 6 months. She has to eat eggs and milk all she can eat and everything else that is good for her.

She tires of them and we  have her out here every week or two. The rest of them are well or say they are.  I think Will looks thin and bad. He works hard. The position he has is a good deal of responsibility. He  charge of a big office and is always trying for something better. 

He is certainly a wonder the way gets along.  Christina is an Old Maid school teacher. She loves her work. Has a love of children and gets along fine.

She  can walk to her school when the weather is good.  She is a fine big girl looks like Grandmother Gymer we think.

 Goldie and her husband are both well. H is on the Road and has been working hard this winter. They have no children. Wish they would as I don’t think any home is complete without them. 

Goldie has  asthma. She seems to be the one who will inherit it in our family. She lives only 8 blocks from me and comes every day,  if not we go up to see what is the matter with her . 

We like Gilbert.  He is certainly good to her and makes a good living. 

Well, I must tell you about the other one.  Ethel Currie has been here since October. Came down to spend the winter. Got a position in RR office at 65.00 per month.  She is a dandy girl so agreeable and good-natured. We all like her. She thought of going East next month but her employer has offered her $2.75 per days is she will stay so she says if she thought she could stand the heat she would stay. 

I hope she will although I do not persuade her any way. We were glad to have her with us. She and Geo sure had a time whenever he came in. 

Of course, you know what it is to have them all gone. I need not tell you anything about it, but this awful war when I think about. it and what it may mean to us, when I read the account of the way the Germans treat our men, I just get frantic and I can see my own over there and I don’t dare to think about it.

I try to keep busy, and you know I do, as I have everything to do myself.

 I do a good a great deal of war  work for every  organization that I work with does. Do Red Cross work. I knitted 6 sweaters, 3 for our own boys, 1 helmet, 1 pair of gloves, 4  pairs of socks. 

I knitted some for KG and he said they were fine and he did not feel the cold this winter although it was the coldest and most snow we ever had. It was 4 feet deep in our yard. One day Ethel could not go to Office and when William shoveled the snow it looked like a tunnel. Only lasted about 4 weeks and I was all gone and is now nice. 

We are making garden. Our lettuce and radishes are up 1 inch. We are getting all kinds of stuff, green onions, radishes and  greens. You spoke of everything being so dear. It certainly is for a while we only could get 10c worth of sugar as it now is 25 cents. Lard is 35c per lb.  

Potatoes, until last month, have been 75 cents per peck. Butter is 55 cents per pound. Now we can only get 5 lbs of wheat flour and then a lb of flour substitute but it is puzzling to use the substitute but we all do it, grin and bear it – cheerfully. Anyone who finds any fault is considered a slacker and I certainly had some arguments at first, when they growled I told them what it would mean if Germany won this war. Some people cannot see further than today. 

I am glad our President sees into the future. As no one else has. Fred Gymer thinks Wilson is slow and should be in the war long ago but he don’t know all our country was living up to the Hague Peace conference of previous years and was not prepared for war and it would have been cold blooded murder to declare war without the means of implements of war and US has made a record getting prepared for war and  is now taking her place in the Western Front of France. 

And we will win this war even with the loss of American blood.

 I don’t think the Canadians appreciate us. Do you realize how much we have loaned to the British and French, billions of money that alone should bind the countries together .

I am first a little Proud to be the Mother of American boys, now that does not mean I don’t love our brave Canadians who sacrificed their lives. They surely made a name for themselves that will live in History. 

I am sure you  miss the young men for we already are missing them.  How about Herbert? Does the Draft take him in or has he enlisted?

 I know you don't want him to go but there is nothing more honorable and we must bear it – if they come back they and you will be proud of them. If not his memory will be sacred as one who gave his life to protect right, truth and morality. 

I get awfully blue.  I miss Geo so much,  for he was home all he time, clerked in General Goods office. Was promoted 4 times in 4 years and doing well.- it was hard to let him go but he fled. Said it was his duty to go. He was 22 in November last. He was the life of the house,  a general favorite.Was secretary of the Sunday School  for 9 years. He was always called on to do the Church Work,  so of course he is missed. The last thing he did was to arrange a basketball team in Sunday School. 

They play in GMLA.

 Kelland and Murdoch have been away so much that I do not miss them as I do Geo but do not love them any less. 

Well I have written all this about. my own now I want to know about yours and yourself  and know you are just awfully lonely.

 I think I would shut up the house go into Montreal with the girls. Is Edith doing Office work? Does she like it better than teaching?

It was so nice for  her to be at home.  I was sorry when she gave up her school yet she must do whatever is best for her.

 Flora, I suppose, is still teaching and Marion has 2 girls. Well it is nice,  even if they are not as good as yours were. You know even the children need more than they used to.

I would love to see them give them all.

The PS has always had the best part  of a woman’s letter.

Well, while I appreciated your recent letter,  the PS was the best of yours and now hope you put it into effect. We are all looking forward for your visit. Do come and I think Sara will come down when she goes East this Spring. Let us know when you think you can come. 

The girls don’t believe you will come but I know you intend to come or you would not say so. 

Flora has been sick. She lives in hospital. I’m glad she gets good care there. She said in her last letter that she expects you to come see her this Spring. Are you going to see Herbert. I wish Norman could come too. I’m glad he is nearer home. I am sure you see many changes in Richmond tell me about.

 Clayton, Stanley and Isabel. I should write them, I will soon.

 Oh, you certainly must miss Mother, Dan and Bill. Also Mary Jane. You know I want to see you awfully bad but cannot make up my mind to go back since they are all gone but is the way of all and we too will be numbered with the departed! 

For life is sweeping past.  I had a birthday on the 14th. Just I think I used to think it was such a long way up to 50 and now 59, and I am still young. 

William says I am the youngest old person he ever saw. 

I am when I feel well. But every little while our old enemy rheumatism grips me somewhere.  I don’t mind: I tell them just so it keeps out of my feet so I can go well. 

Last night I did not get to finish so will not write any more. Hope you will let us know when to look for you. Goldie has just come in and it is near Dinner Time. William works 8 hours, gets to work at 730 and back at 330. He is fat and well. He and Ethel have a good time. She plays, he sings so we have a nice time, so write soon and say when you will come. 

I will only stay a week  when I go to see Geo. We are planning on having a good time when you come and for  not less than a month. At the least. Now Dear, hoping you will excuse my delay in writing and I think often of you and wish I could have a good talk as of old.

Give my best to Norman and the girls keep the Lion’s share for yourself. I’m always your loving sister, Christie.

Editor: Christie would lose Kelland to pneumonia before he was sent overseas. She lived to 98.

Read Not Bonne Over Here. For all the 1914-1919 letters belonging to the Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec.

Slaughter and Redemption

"A brilliant speaker" writes Flora in pencil on this clipping from January 14, 1918 from the Montreal Gazette. So no doubt she attended the Rev. Dr. Dawson's speech at St. James Methodist (where I have her hear Miss Barbara Wylie Suffragette in 1912 in School Marms and Suffragettes. In 1916 Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst (no slouch as an orator herself and also a social reformer, or social conservative, one and the same thing back then) spoke in the same church, no doubt in support of the war effort.

Here's the article slightly abridged

In St. James Methodist Church last night Dr. W.J. Dawson, formerly of London England and for eleven years of Newark New Jersey preached the doctrine, at once terrifying and comforting, that the nations are being redeemed and regenerated through war.

If one looked up from the details of the surgery of war to the higher synthesis of these details he would see the cosmic processes which work towards regeneration and redemption.

The noted preacher and author spoke in a high, easy, calm and deliberate voice, now and then dropping hoarse and sombre, wonderfully arresting just at those passages which the speaker desired mainly to impress on his hearers.

Major the Reverand  C.A. Williams, pastor, conducted the service and the Rev. Principal Major Smyth introduced Dr. Dawson.

The Reverend Dr. Dawson's sermon was taken from St. Luke XXI, 2 and 36, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh... Watch ye, therefore and pray always  that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man." Jesus in trying to prepare his disciples to meet without dismay and despair  the impending world catastrophe of that time which was to shake the world empire of the Romans and bring about the ruin of Jerusalem, taught two things: that the redemption of the world and souls of men might come through war, and second, that the one supreme aim of prayer of men who walk through these dark vales of catastrophe should be so to act that they would be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man.

The preacher admitted that while men looked down at the mutilated men lying on the fields of France and Flanders, the doctrine, that war is working for redemption and regeneration seemed a terrible one.  one had to look up to see the loom of God weaving with many a blood-stained thread a new liberation of man in order fully to grasp it.

One should not look at the cemeteries of the slain to realize this idea but at this new strength of spiritual idealism and passionate patriotism animating the Allied countries.


Peace was the mother of prosperity, and best for the individual development, but what only a very few men had been able to see was that civilized nations were apt to become over-ripe with a prolonged peace, and at last, rotten, making civilization a putrifying carcass and where the carcass is, there the avenging eagles go as ministers of purification.

One could mean to arrest decay by other means,such as education and pacific ideals of humanitarianism. It was hard to convince pacifists that these were only emollients applied to a cancer which had to be cut away by a surgeon's knife - God's awful surgery of war.

As signs of the coming redemption the Reverend mentioned the fall of czarism in Russia. Other signs, the death of the party spirit, a unity of sentiment and purpose through the British Empire, prohibition, arriving or coming everywhere and countless other reforms that without war could not have been achieved for 100 years.

11:30 pm

January 17, 1917

Edmonton, Alberta

My dear Flora,

The hour may look late but I'm getting desperate about not having written you and Edith to thank you for your very kind Christmas remembrances.  We have really been busy the last two months so that my correspondence has dwindled down to my weekly letter home. My intentions were good but there are only six hours in the day so you see I must plead guilty for not finding time.

Your little book "Hello" was very much appreciated and touched the spot.

I could almost here you say it and believe me I would have liked very much to hear you say it around Christmas Day.

It was one of the quietest holidays for me in some years.  "Nuff said."

Then again Flora, any girl that can write a SECOND long letter without reminding the recipient that that the first is still unanswered - well, she's a trump and both you and Edith proved that.

Our Victory Loan certainly made some work for me. I took practically all the handling of that work in our office so as to not disturb the ordinary routine and it kept me on the job many nights.

Then around the end of the year was savings interest and a number of special statements so that matters are just getting normal again.

As I said before, Christmas was a quiet day. Our manager from Camrose (who was an accountant in Vancouver when I was there) came in Christmas eve, so he and Cronyn (our acting manager) and I took in a show.

After that we sat in front of the grate well into the morning, talking over any old thing.

Your know how easy it is to stay up and keep the conversation and the fire going. Christmas was darn cold, about 35 below, so we only stirred out from the bank rooms to get meals and into a movie.

But the New Years' Eve was the gay party. Seven of us had a table at the Macdonald and while the meal was nothing extra, the dance and general doings were very enjoyable.

They had about 350 there and one of the best dressed parties I had seen for years.

Talk about a riot, the scene in the rotunda around midnight was something to remember. They let down balloons and streamers from the mezzanine floor and the crowd struggled to capture the balloons or else knock them up again.

The dance lasted until 3.30 and I stayed till the finish and I paid up for it. Can't stand the racket like I used to or else I've been out of practice for too long.

Perhaps I'm getting back to it again though.

For instance, last night, it was 11.30 when Cronyn and I quite going over a lot of inspection reports on customers.

On going upstairs, I sat in front of the grate with two other chaps and we talked until 1 am. We then retired but had only been in bed a few minutes when the Fire Reels came along.

The fire was a real one, JUST across the street, so we got up and trotted out to see it. (Please note we dressed properly as the weather was 14 below.)

Well that little excitement kept us up to 2.30 so you see there is always something that takes up our time.

You may have wondered why I never sent the picture or enlargements. Well, I asked my brother for them last fall and again at New Years, but so far haven't heard anything of them.

So that really was no my fault. I know Art has been busy too. He was relieved of military duties for six weeks to help in the Victory Loan organization and he said that soldiering was a peaceful sleep compared with the rush and work that the loan business caused his office.

I have since met the Nicholson family that I told you about. I hardly think there are close relations as they are PE Islanders originally but very Scotch.

Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson indulge in the Gaelic when the occasion warrants it. There are two girls (both teachers) and one boy now in France.

I tell you there are few families from the Presbyterian not represented overseas.

Over 350 went from our congregation and the young people's society sent about 200 Xmas boxes overseas.

Well, Flora, it is after 12 but I must still write Edith so will close for now.

Many thanks indeed for the Christmas greetings and New Years wishes.

I sincerely hope you have a happy New Year.

Sorry I cannot greet you in the orthodox manner but that is the penalty of becoming a Westerner once more.

Hope this finds you well,

Your sincerely,


France, February 14, 1918

Dear Flora

Just a few hasty lines to let you know that I am still alive and that I haven't forgotten you yet.

I have just written home, so don't expect an exciting letter as I am over-working my poor knowledge box by writing two letters in one night.

I wrote you a letter the same night as I received your parcel. I got a letter from Biddie last night and she says you wouldn't go to church and pray for me.

Mr. Craig wrote me a very interesting letter telling me about the fine work done by the Aid Society and all the other branches of relief societies in which I am very interested.

How is the world using you?

I went to the picture show tonight and had a very exciting time. There isn't much to do now, so there is nothing much to write about.

I got a letter from Percy at last.

He is now an officer and is expecting to come back again soon.

I started to write this letter last night and had to stop. I got another letter from Percy tonight.  He is in Bramshott.

Well, Flora, I guess I will quit. Remember me to Marion and the rest of the family.

Take care of yourself and drop me a line any time you can.


A Letter from the FRONT

August 17, 1917

39 York Avenue, Westmount

Dear Edith and Flora

Your letter and card to Margaret came in the a.m. mail. Glad to hear you are having such a good time in Toronto.  I waited to get an address. Marion thought Weston,Ontario would find you.

Jennie sent in Father's letter and also his cheque, as as father spoke of sending cheques, I thought I would go home  and attend to it so I went out Friday the 13th and paid my telephone bill and McRae's of 11.06, fixed up a few things in the house, picked a few gooseberries and came back Wednesday, arrived here at 7:30.

Florence and Christina came in with me, stayed here all night and then went out to Aunt Rosie's. Florence got Marion to phone Mrs. Ellis to make arrangements for Edith to stay there so that is settled. She is going home this afternoon.

Jennie F slept in the spare room the two nights I was there just because Marion said I must have her. I left the key with her again and she will forward my mail.

I wrote Father telling him I supposed he would think I am quite ungrateful, but I would much prefer to have stayed at home but as Marion is not well, I would only worry and I would be afraid to get away from the phone.

I went to the Red Cross Tuesday, gave the Campbells their pictures but they did not pay for them.

Mrs. B came for hers. They are leaving for Megantic. There are still 3 left. One for Mrs. Mellie. Don`t know who the others are for.

Henry and Annie came up and took Christina back to Boston. I was sorry to have been away. Annie stayed with Mama and then paid Mintry to take her to Scotstown. Christina stood the trip fairly well.

Ethel is still at the Cadieux, her mother told me.

Mr. Crombie drove me to the train station Wednesday. When I came out Monday Fred Moshian made a drive for my suitcase, so I went up as far as the hotel for him, told him I will call for suitcase later, went over to Florence's for tea, then we called for it. Monshian said, Are you going to carry that? I said Yes. So he called the boy and said take the car and take Mrs. Nicholson home. So kind of him. Oh, Richmond is the place to live after all.

Mrs. Dresser died Monday. A large funeral Tuesday afternoon. I hear Leslie Ross has given up the school at LaTuque. Going to stay at home.

I hope you will have time to do some fancy work for the fairs. I will get your membership tickets.

Now, you may get a TELEGRAM from me any day, with GOOD NEWS from 39.


October 2, 1917

39 York Avenue

Dear Father,

Your letter received so I am going to be very prompt and answer it.

Everything is as usual about here. The little baby is growing fine and is just as good as ever. Takes after her Aunt, as far as sleeping is concerned.

Had a letter from Mother written from Kingsbury as she is out there at last.

Edith seems to like her new work fine. Did she tell you that the manager of the department lives next door to us. McLaughlin is her name.

We have been having very miserable rainy weather but no snow as you have had.  Saw in the papers a week ago that W. Sandercock was killed in action. Wonder if it was the boy you knew. Did he go to the Front?

Did Mother tell you Howard Stockwell was killed? Doesn't it seem too bad?

So Ethel C. and Laurie are being married today.

Edith had a card from Herb. He is OK. had a letter from Ross not long ago. He seems to like Edmonton fine.

Now good night Father for this time. All send their love

Your Loving Daughter,

Edith and Flora at Sister Marion's wedding 1913

Sun Life Insurance of Canada
142 Notre Dame, Montreal

October 4th 1917

Dear Father,

Your letter came Monday.We were glad to hear from you.  Had a letter from Mother. She is well.

Flora and I are both going home for Thanksgiving. Flora is going in the Saturday morning. I will take the afternoon train as we have every Saturday afternoon off.

I am returning Tuesday as I want to stay over for the Eastern Star Lodge.

I started to work down her the 17th. I like it very well for the time being but I don't think I should care to stay here altogether.

There are over 200 on the staff. I am in the accounting department. My chief lives next door to Hugh and Marion, Mr. McLaughlin. He has been very nice. There are 14 in our office.

This is the Head Office. They are hoping to move into their new building on Dominion Square opposite the Windsor Hotel the first of March.

This building seems to be very old and we are very much crowded for room. I am very glad to have the position until I get my shorthand and typing up. Then I hope I shall get something better.

Monday was Margaret's birthday and she got a great many nice presents. The little baby is just as good as ever and growing so fast. We see quite a change in her the last two weeks.

Isabel has gotten into McGill and is staying with Mrs. Miller. We see them quite often.
Saw Dr. and Mrs. Cleveland. They were asking for you.

This is convention week so I hope to see a good many of the teachers in town. I think I shall go up to the lecture with Flora tonight.

Will close for now. Good Night

Your Loving Edith.

Passed by Censor Number 1703

October 20, 1917

I have at last made up my mind to answer your letter which indeed came as a great but pleasant surprise.

I'm glad you got the pin or badge I sent myself.  I have to smile every time I think of them. I often kick myself for ever sending them home. That time I paid something for nothing.

I had some pictures taken with Percy in London and they said they turned out good, but we never got to see them because we had to come over here before  they were ready so if you can get there before they are gone, steal one.

That is not a nice way for me to give you one, but since I am not there to distribute them, you have to look out for yourself.

I guess you are quite proud of your new niece. I can see a vision of you walking the floor half the night. You seem to glory in its not being a squaller, but you seem to forget that the more a kid screams the better looking he becomes. Take me for example. They say I was quiet and see what the consequence is.

I have received more letters from home since I came to this country than I received all the time I was in England.

You say you would like to come over here as a nurse but take it from me and stay as far away from this country as you can. It's no bonne over here.

If you want to drop me a letter again, send them to #349412 4th CDAE France.

Well, Flora. I guess I will quit for now as my hand is starting to grow tired as you can well see. Remember me to your people and don't rub it in to your poor kids too much.

Will drop you a line soon. Yours as ever, Herb (Tucker)

The Northern Crown Bank

November 7, 1917

Pierson Manitoba

Dear Mother,

Just a line to let you know where to find me. You will see where I am and where I am afraid I will be for some time.

I am the Manager here as the clipping from our local paper tells you.

You need not say anything about it as may not stay here. Will not write any more.

Hope you are getting better. The Bank has applied for military exemption for me and I expect they will be successful.

Your loving son


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Canadian Ladies from Hell

Canadian Highlanders getting inspected. New York City.  Art, the brother of the Ross who writes a letter to Flora (below) is in this picture, somewhere. According to another era article, these colourful soldiers were nicknamed the Ladies From Hell by the Germans.

Connaught Chapter No 4 OES

Richmond, Quebec July 6 1917

Dear Mother,

Don't tell  anyone I took some paper that didn't belong to me but I couldn't find any other.

Intended to wrote you last night buy some way or another didn't get around to it.

Did Ethel C call you this evening? She is on her way to Sixteen Island Lake.

Everything is OK around here. Coupland had the wood sawed. So we are all right.

Wednesday afternoon, Ethel and I made three calls. Mrs. Baileys, Fraser's and Miss Gouin's, not too bad, eh?

Yesterday, having YOUR day at home, we only had two callers. Mrs. Fraser. (Said it was so long since she had seen up. Stayed pretty well all afternoon and we certainly gave the town a good raking. Mrs. Adams came over about 6 o'clock and entertained us about "Mamma" as usual.

Today we have stuck right by the ship. G.R.W. is coming up tonight. Am doing my best to get on the inside track, but I am afraid I am rather late in starting.

Edith Dunbar died yesterday morning and was buried this afternoon at 2 o'clock.

Now my dear Matel, what you do mean by not spending the money? Hurry up and get busy.  Remember, if you are going to hoard it you won't get any more. How do you like that?

How is Margie these day? Having a good time, I expect. Tell Mrs. Blair I started knitting MY NEW NEPHEW a sweater. If you could buy a little dress, all stamped out, or material, I would be charmed to embroider it.

Did you get the card I wrote. Could you read it? Wrote it in the Post Office and you know how nice their pens are.

I am looking after your companion Right Smart and am getting fat on it myself, so don't worry about us.

Love to Marion, Hugh, Margaret and yourself.
With heaps of love, Flora.

Dear Mother,

I see Flora has given you all the news, but she was afraid you might think I was ill if you didn't see my handwriting.

These are beautiful days. I hope they last.

Darsy said to tell you that your have been put on the cutting committee with Mrs. Campbell for the Red Cross. They have taken Mrs. Bedard to maternity hospital. She is about the same, but they thought it would be safer there.


Sunday Evening

July 29th, 17

My dear Flora,

Even as you headed up your letter Sunday Eve so I will start this answer to your delightful epistle.

It was a very pleasant surprise to get your letter the day after I arrived and I certainly appreciated it. Seeing that your re-opened an old argument about my views on letters (which argument I had considered closed) I will make the statement that I, Woot Hite, wanderer, do hereby declare that I am glad to have been so bold as to object to cards being sufficient answers to letters I thereby found out what charming newsy letters Hwa Kwah could write."

I think the "ODE" will be another addition to my scrapbook.  The White family is enjoying more than its share of prominence these days when the departure of the member from Richmond moves people to poetry  when another member is having his picture in all the New York Pictorials.

Edith sent me a copy of the New York Times with a snapshot of the Kilties being addressed by Mayor Mitchel, which showed Art in the front of the squad while I saw a copy of the Tribune, which showed the Mayor and Art was apparently yelling his head off.

While all the papers speak of the great success of the trip, no mention is made of the number of recruits.

I wrote Art today and asked him to tell me all about the trip and its results.

Say Flora, why don't you go in for this War Correspondent Stuff. Your use of military terms in describing the endeavors of 'the quizzing natives' to  get information from you certainly shows your ability to report modern warfare.

No doubt you know of my trip to Montreal from Edith, also the run up to Toronto was quite uneventful as I slept very soundly all the way.

I had two pleasant days at home and then came into town Saturday morning with Mother.  We made it a Roman Holiday for after lunch we went to see a double header ball game over at the Island.

Mother picked up the rules of the game very quickly and was just as excited as any fan when one hitter knocked out a home run with two on bases. After supper we took in a movie at the Regent which boasts a symphony orchestra as well as feature films.

The Sunday was get away day for my brother, with the Highlanders, so Mother and I and an old friend of Mother's went for a spin around Rosedale, one of the pretty residential sections of Toronto.

We got down to the Queen's Hotel in time to see the Highlanders march by on their way to the train.

Highlanders from Quebec, Isle of Lewis Nicholsons or McLeods (likely)from Quebec

I tell you what, Flora, there is just enough scotch in me that the skirl of the pipes sets me going and I would have given anything this afternoon to have gone marching away beside my brother.

I left Toronto that afternoon and was on the Huronic that afternoon about 4:30.

We had a small dance on board that night, but as there wasn't that many on board, there were only a few couples.

Also the next night we had amateur theatricals (very amateur) but those of us that took part had the most fun.

The run on Tuesday morning was interesting, especially going through the locks at the SOO. But when we got out in to Superior, the breeze was pretty chilly, so I had a sleep.

We got in Port Arthur early Wednesday so I had a look around the town and also saw Arnold Johnson.

The train journey was hot and dusty and crossing Saskatchewan was monotonous.  We had twenty minutes at Saskatoon, but I saw no one around the station that looked like your brother.

But say, if this Western trip of yours materializes, remember that Edmonton is only 14 hours further on and the trip would be incomplete without seeing this city.

While in Toronto you  should certainly take in the boat trip over to Niagara and I think my sister could get the day off and take the trip with you. You will find the Whites make good guides.

Well Flora this is a long spiel. Please write soon and tell me all the excitement in the burg.

Yours Sincerely,


The Conscription Election makes the News in the US. This is a Berkeley newspaper.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letters and Phone Calls on a Wet Cold Wartime Spring

Westmount Park today (or  two summers ago)

I have these Nicholson letters from 1914-1919 Canada because long distance telephone was used sparingly in the Wartime Era. The phone was hardly used at all in the 1910 era. (Margaret N. phones her daughter Edith at her school in Westmount in May 1910, to console her over the loss of her fiance in a Cornwal Fire. Flora Nicholson phones Richmond from Ste. Anne de Bellevue in 1911 to tell her parents she has passed her teaching course. That's about it.)  Read School Marms and Suffragettes. Here in 1917, because Marion Nicholson Blair lives in Westmount and her family visits her often a few more phone calls are made, at about 30 cents a pop, complementing the letters.

La Loutre,

June 25, 1917

Dear Edith,

 I have been writing all the family but you and Herbert since i came here and would have written you long ago but I know you would get my news from Mother's letters so I kept putting it off until now.

I received some papers yesterday from home and in them I saw that your concert was a great success. How much money did you make? I supposed Flora will be home at this time.

It's just three months since I left home and it seems six to me and I am thinking so much of home. We have had a cold spring here. Seems as if it's fall weather. I have my winter clothes on yet and they do not feel too warm most of the time.

Well, Edith, what have you decided on for this fall and winter? Have you anything in view? Edith, I want you to do me a small favour. I received a bill from the Herald a few days ago for 2.00 subscription for the last year. Will you send them the 2.00. by Post Office order for me as I cannot from here and when I send Mother cheque she will pay you back. I will enclose the bill in this letter to let you read it. Ask for their signature and have them send it to Richmond and see that it is saved. I had a letter from Mr. Beiber in yesterday's mail with cheque for me to sign in the Wales estate . He wants all the funds transferred to his account. I am enclosing it back to him today.

How did your school come out this year? How are you and your Mother getting along with the Lawn and the Garden? See that Mother does not work too hard in the garden and do not have her in the wash tub too often washing white clothes.

I wish I could hear from Herbert. this conscription bothers me in his case, if he would only write home often there would be more satisfaction to us all.

The Conscription is shaking up the Frenchmen in great shape. It looks as if it would pass. Now, as I have no news from here, I will close. Will write Mother and send in your letter with much love your affectionate father,
N. Nicholson.

Richmond Quebec June 29th 1917

Dear Mother,

Just a short note tonight to tide you over the Sabbath. Flora and I are getting along famously and having a free rest.

Many thanks for the kimono. It is pretty and just what I wanted. I was up and dressed before 8 this morning. I looked at the clock, thought it was 1/2 8 but it was /12 8 so this has been quite a long day.

The warmest day we've had yet.

Flora is trying her hands at the weeds.


Richmond, Quebec

July 2nd

Dear Mother,

We are glad to get our long letter Tuesday Eve. It was a wet dreary day. Also had a long letter from Father. He wanted me to renew his Herald which did.

I got him a Bible and am sending it tomorrow.

Yesterday evening Mr. Mingie preached as Mr. MacMillan left on Thursday for his holidays.  At night I went with Mrs. Fraser to the memorial for Fred Hastings.  The other church was closed.

Saturday night, Flora, Gertie Mckee and I went to the 'movies'.  Yesterday Millie and Gertie took us for a ride. It was beautiful when we left, but it rained when we got home.

We went above Windsor then down round the 5 miles square.

I don't when I have enjoyed a ride like it. Along the river is so pretty and just now the water is so high.

Dr. Ronald Brown came for tea. He has an appointment in the one of the hospitals. He wanted to be remembered to you and Marion.

Coupland invoice 1917

Now for business.

Coupland cut the lawn yesterday and trimmed up the best yet. I asked him when he was going to cut the trees. He said he would when he did the Crombie's.  He brought up the sawing machine and expected to spend Saturday working here, weeding the garden and fixing up.

Thursday we were at afternoon tea at Reggie Penfold's.  Ross has been very busy. This is interest time. We have not seen much of him. I think they are all away at Beiber picnic. Mr. Adams is painting his veranda.

See by the paper that Jack McMorine is being proposed as Senator. Am sending the Times up to Father. We got the laundry.

Love to Marion and Hugh and Margaret and your dear self,


39 York Avenue


July 3rd 1917

Dear Norman,

Your letter of June 25th reached me this morning. Contents noted.  You see I am still here. Hard getting away from Marion.

Edith and Flora say everything is all right there. Well, I go Saturday the 7th if possible.

I went into town yesterday. Met Mrs. Cleveland at her office and I did shopping for M.

Mrs. C wants me to go in some day and have lunch with them. Sunday, I went to the McCoy's.  Mrs. McCoy has been quite ill. Only able to sit up in her room. Has had sore throat.

In regards to Mr. Wales' note, I would write that you will not write a charge. Leave that with himself if he likes to pay anything or not. Your trouble did not cost you anything.  I was in hopes he would send you a cheque.

I am sorry the time seems so long there. It goes by pretty fast here and at home. I notice that the bills come in and just get them paid and it's time for the next month's again.

Your cheque will soon be here. Let me know what you will pay this month.

I was in hopes you would pay some of those notes that are running in at 7 percent.  I don't know what Coupland's bill is. He said he would make it out for the first of the month.

Edith tells me she is sending you a  Bible so that you can look up the passages Mr. Wales spoke of.

We have not had any hot weather so far. I have been watching the gardens in the city, not any further advanced than mine.

Margaret has a nice yard to play in. Still she has to have some one to watch her all the time.
She likes to say "Bobby is in La Loutre."

Had a letter from Flora and Edith. They are having a fine rest and they were out with the McKees on a car ride on Sunday.

I have not been going out very much here. Only to bring Margaret to Westmount Park.  It is a beautiful place. Had her down this afternoon, she made pies in the sand and had a swing, but had a fight to get her back home for supper.

They are quite near the park.

Write to Richmond. Can you not get anything to keep the mosquitoes away. They are quite annoying.

With much love,

Margaret Nicholson.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tomatoes, Cukes and Vimy Ridge

Eastern Townships Casualties at Vimy Ridge clipped by Nicholsons. Ovide Vincent of Coaticook, killed at Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917. Several Richmond Men, including a Maxwell Pope, wounded.

Richmond, Quebec

June 2nd, 1917

Sunday Morning

Dear Mother,

Your letter arrived last night. You need not worry, I am managing splendidly and have been so busy hoping to settle my business affairs that the time has not been long.

I gave Mrs. McMorine the money and told her to tell Mrs. Bucher.

Coupland put in the lettuce and cucumbers. Mr.Tayor brought the tomatoes. It was too late for him to put them in, Coupland, I mean, so I have them in crates until Wednesday.

So I don't think there is any need for you to worry.

Yesterday Mrs. Frances asked me to go to tea and yesterday the Harkins had a tennis party. We had a great time at it. It happened to be Dr. Johnston's birthday. Mr. Beiber happened to mention it so the girls went in and fixed up a cake with one big candle in the center.  Inside were  the usual button and money. It was quite a good deal of fun as the cake was very sweet. He insisted on everyone having a piece.

The Beibers had Avril, Artie and Jean Ellen with them. Dr. McCabe Ross and Mrs. G in a runabout. Mrs. Glasse, Mrs. Bailey and that made up the party.

Enjoyed it very much. It was such a pretty day and that is such a pretty lie by the tennis court.

Norman and Jessie Lyster are staying at Lena Hall's. They came by motor Thursday evening.

Mrs. Farquarson's friends have arrived. She called me over to meet Mrs. Hopkins last night as she was leaving for home. She only spent the day.

Jennie has decided to remain in the bank.

Glad to hear Marion has a little girl to help her.

Love to Marion and Hugh and Margaret, Flo and yourself.

Your loving Edith.

June 8 1917
Markham Ontario

My dear Edith,

How I would like to start in and tell you about basking in the sun and becoming well tanned already, but I must be truthful even if it does cause you to laugh. Most of the basking so far has been in front of a grate fire and it feels quite comfortable too.

So far the weather has been cloudy and inclined to rain ever so often that although outside the temperature is not to cool, one finds it damp and chilly in the house.

Hence the grate fire.

Matters around the house are quite unsettled for we have had the painters and paper hangers, also some men putting in a new hardwood floor upstairs.

In fact I was wakened this morning at 7 by the men who were putting in the last few strips of wood along the hall. It seemed rather early to be wakened up but since I had gone to bed at 10 pm I had a good sleep. Also, I managed to get down for breakfast by 9, the usual time for bankers and teachers.

I had a very pleasant trip and everything went according to schedule. Going into Montreal there was an old white haired gentleman in the smoker. He is in the employ of the British Government (presumably in the secret service) for he had been all over the world . He told us stories and facts of China, Russia, South America, in fact, any place that was mentioned and he was very interesting.

I waited over for the 11 pm train for Toronto, so called up the Blairs. Flora was over at Mrs.Ellis's but had no special engagement, so she met me downtown about 8 and we went to the Strand. (Willie Eckstein at the piano.)

The pictures were good and the music also. So a good time was had. I expect to go into "Trontah" tomorrow with my brother and Marion. Art is coming for us in his Ford Runabout. I guess it will hold the three of us all right.

That's about all the news for now.

As always, yours very sincerely, Ross.

Richmond, Quebec
June 11, 1917 (unmailed as too messy)

My dear Ross,

Just in from the Home Nursing exams. I took mine tonight. You know I can't stand suspense. Ethel has been in Kingsbury for the weekend. It rained all Saturday and a steady downpour for today so they were afraid to travel due to the roads, so I gladly took her place. It goes alphabetically. I am glad to have it in the background. Dr. Johnson said I was not to study for it and as it happened, I did not have time to do any study. Dr. Hayes did not have a very brilliant student, but if I get through I will be well pleased.

I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing weather like we are having in Quebec. I heard Mrs. Sauve explaining the cause tonight. It is due to icebergs along the Maritime Coast. Do you think that could affect such an interior province as Ontario.

Ethel and I had an early tea  the other day and went up to Corris. It was beautiful along the river at sunset.

I really don't blame you for spending so much time at the camp. We were both wishing we could see them paddling around in boats, but nothing was in sight. It was so quiet and peaceful. Camp life has always appealed so much to both of us.

I wonder if the Seely's would loan us their cottage and old row boat.

The clock is striking 12 and I am opening the college at 8.40 (Doesn't that sound early?) I shall be wending my way up the hill at half past 8.

Do you think I would allow anyone but an accountant to help me add up my concert report sheets?

The very idea of suggesting anybody else. If the accountant is not here, Edith shall have to do her own work, poor dear.

Give my regards to your sister and tell her I am looking forward to seeing her. I meant telling you that before you left. Some other things also. But as you know, I am troubled with afterthought. It is one of the drawbacks of being of Scotch descent.


The dangerous dam at La Loutre Norman's pic

La Loutre, June 11th, 1917

Dear Margaret,

Your letter of the 8th reached me last evening and I was pleased to hear from you and to learn you were well after your visit to Sherbrooke.

I am also pleased that you enjoyed your trip and to hear of  the concert's success. I was patronized well.

I note what you said about bills and am enclosing my checque for 25 dollars and hope we will soon catch up with those bills.

You will have the telephone bill this month.

Did you receive my letter with the one dollar enclosed? What did you have to pay for your bag of flour? I see by the papers it's got to a terrible price.

Had a letter from Brother Gilbert last week saying they were well. I wrote him shortly after I came here saying I couldn't look after his farm and I just received his answer.

He said Mrs. Bill had another daughter about 3 weeks old and that Gordon was working in a munitions factory in Edmonton. Did not say anything about John.

(Let's jump ahead:  1921 letter to Margaret from Sophia Nicholson, Gilbert's daughter: "John is not well. Sick most of the time since coming out of the army. He has a nervous trouble, also a poisoned system so he is in soldier's hospital.
The Drs. don't seem to be able to do much for him. But now a new treatment has come out of California and seems to be helping some of the cases..")

I have written a letter to Marion at her new address. Hadn't written her since I am here.

Now about coming home to vote if there is an election. I cannot say if they will pay my way. I would be pleased to come home and vote and see you. It seems at times as if I have been away 6 months.

Flora will soon be with you for the summer.

I note what you said about Crombie and Minister MacMillan at the Assembly. If I was at home I would like to attend. I hope they will still have a Presbyterian church. I think some of the Ministers are too fresh in trying to have their own way. Presbyterianism has stood the test of time for a very long time now. To be put aside to suit some of the influential ministers. They should stop and think without the people they would have to take up another vocation to earn a living. If they had the choice they would be as bad as the Church of Rome.

You spoke of having it cold at home.  If it`s anything like here it`s pretty cool. You might send me some darning yarn. Black and grey for my stockings, black and grey for my underwear. I think we will have to wear woolies all summer.

We are very busy at present, pushing the work for all it`s worth. We work Sunday most of the time, which I do not care for.

We had two bad accidents last week. One drowning body in a river. Another got crushed under a piece of rock, still living but very low.

Will be pleased to hear from you on receipt of this letter.  With love to Edith and very much to yourself.

I am as ever your affectionate husband, N. Nicholson.

Marion as a younger woman of 20 or so, Norman's Conscription Registration. He was almost 70 but had to sign up.

39 York Avenue, 
June 17th, 1917

Dear Father,

Your letter came last Friday and I was glad to hear from you, for though my letters are very few I think very often of you and would be glad if you were not quite so far away. However, we can't always choose just where we would like to be, can we? 

And so, I suppose, must make the best of it.

I hope that you will keep well and not meet with any accident. These big undertakings are usually so dangerous.

As you know, I sent Margaret (3 year old daughter) home (to Richmond) for a while during our moving and then went after her and had a little visit there myself. 

Everything is so very late this season that everything did not look as nice as they ordinarily do, but it was nice to be out of the city.

About a week after I got back, Margaret took a bad cold which developed into bronchitis and for a while was very sick but is better now only I have to be careful of her in case she takes cold again and the weather is so very miserable that the poor child seldom gets out. She is as lively as a cricket and says that her "Bobby has gone to La Loutre on a very big boat in the big river.)

We have a very nice yard at the back of our "new house" as Margaret says, which is all fenced in so that when we get good weather, if we ever do, I will be able to let her out there to play. We took one corner of it for a small bit of farming, and put in beets, onions, carrots, lettuce and radishes.  I do not know that they will be a great success, at any rate we made the trial.

Every vacant lot around the city has been utilized for gardens and I think it is more common to see people out digging and planting in these gardens than in a small town like Richmond.

Surely all these gardens producing it ought to makes some difference in the cost of certain products that is, if they all amount to anything. Some I think are making their first attempt.

You were asking where York Avenue is? Well, it is a short street that runs West of Victoria Avenue and is just below Western ave. In fact you could almost say it is a continuation of St. Catherine as St. Catherine ends at Victoria Ave and York starts just a little bit north of it in the same direction.

We all like the house and location very much, it seems to be so much nearer the city perhaps because of better car service, for the St. Catherine cars and the Windsor Cars go past our corner.

Flora's school closes Thursday and she will be going home then. I am trying to persuade Mother to come in for a visit then and leave Edith and Flora to look after things at home.  I don't know that she will for she seems to think that when you are away that she must be right there or things would not get properly looked after.

Last Sunday, Benny Woodburn and his wife and little boy came in to call. I am quite near to the Mead's and Irene Field and Hugh's Aunts live on this street only a few doors away, so I have quite a little company.

There is a lot of talk here about conscription and the French are more than excited about it. I am not well enough versed in the political affairs right now to form an opinion but it seems to me that it is only a scheme of Borden's part to keep the party in power, for a great many will be afraid to oppose it.

Whether it is for the best or not, I do not know, but personally, I hope it will not go through. It seems so different when you know that it will take some of your own people.

Now I have written quite a long letter for me and I do not think there is much news in it  but I send it with my love and I hope it will find you feeling well and not having to work so hard.

Edie and little Margaret and unknown woman in Richmond in probably 1917. Margaret grew up to be active in the war effort in WWII, in Yugoslavia. Edie was Red Cross Commandant for Quebec.

Dear Richmond,

June 22, 17

Dear Mother,

Arrived safely, bag and baggage. Dr. McCabe, Ross and Edith met me at the train and brought me up to the house.

Some style, don`t you think to come sailing home in an auto.

So you phoned Edith, thanks very much for all your trouble. You know there is one thing I am sure of and that is my ``Ma``. Am enclosing a cheque for 10.00. Have a good time out of it and buy yourself something.

Edith has gone to the Order of the Eastern Star and GRW is calling for me and we are going down in time for the "Hun Fight".

I nearly lost half a year`s growth. I heard the kitchen door mysteriously open and close, but it was only Coupland. He is poking around in the barn. I believe he looks as if he is thinking about doing a few strokes of work.

I FORGOT THE GLOVES. They haven`t been asked for yet and take it from me, I won`t be the first to mention the question.

Don't forget my candlesticks etc. I will 'sue' you if you don't bring them.

What about the loaf of bread, or half a loaf to speak correctly, that I was promised.  Never mind, I am going to make some today, myself.

Will send the ticket as soon as I get my suitcase.

Love to Marion, Hugh, Margaret and my own dear Matel Vic.

Lovingly Flora

Edith was Secretary of the Richmond Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in 1917

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Sings, Spittoons and Conscription Anger

The Blair brothers and sister. Hugh at top and in individual portrait. The Brother at the right betrays their Cree ancestry.

The Nicholson women, although 'middle class', were born to economy. And Marion Nicholson Blair was the most capable of them all, but even she struggles during the war. Even tony Westmount is low on some essentials.  Her family, the Richmond one and the in-laws are a help to her.

Marion would eventually be widowed, abandoned by the Blairs (only one brother stayed in contact, apparently)  and go back to work as an award-winning teacher at Herbert Symonds School  and eventually rise to be head of the PAPT Montreal Protestant Teachers' union during WWII.

It appears that baby Margaret almost died here although Marion, in typical form, remains unemotional in her letter.

30 York Avenue, Westmount

Dear Mother,

39 York Avenue, Westmount

May 25, 1917

Dear Mother,

Your letter came this morning and I was glad to get it. I feel a little lost without Flora a comin' and a goin'.

 I intended writing you sooner but you will have to take the mentions since you did not get any letter.

Margaret was quite good coming in. Of course she did not sleep and wanted to make 'bad bad' every few minutes in the spittoon.

Flora met us and saw us safely home and she will tell you all the news so you will not have to hear it twice.

Friday, one week later.

I started this letter when Flora was away so you would have it last Saturday and now I doubt you will get it this week.

No doubt Flora has told you all the news.  The baby has been so sick all this week I have not done anything but sit with her for the Dr. does not allow her out of bed.  Perhaps you can imagine better than most people what that means.

However, today, she seems better and had a sleep this afternoon and is asleep now. I hope for the night.

Hugh and Willie Ledden are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the 'beds' are straight and square. I would prefer to have more in them, myself.

Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription. All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep.

I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.

I think myself that is a political move on Borden's part 'to hold his job' as the saying goes, but that does not alter the fact that the bill will doubtless go through.

Flora tells me that this is the day or rather night of the "big sing' as father says. I hope it will be a success. Then tomorrow night you go to Sherbrooke, what gay times you are having. Do you intend visiting Montreal?

Margaret. Did she almost die in 1917?

The two Mead girls called Thursday evening but did not stay long when they found Margaret sick.

Today Hope brought Margaret a doll's carriage. I don't know what I will do tomorrow to keep her in bed with that in sight.

I have half a promise, if I may use the term, of getting a little girl of about 13 years old to come in daily when school stops, so I am living in hopes.

Now I must thank you for the towels. They are all fine and I will 'settle up' for them when I see you.

Now I must close for this time,

Sunday Morning,

Your letter has just come in and been duly read.

If there are any eggs out there that I could get I would be glad. You could send me a crate (and I would be glad of a few) with Florence.

I manage fairly well, although the work is not always very thoroughly done. If Margaret would only keep well.

My sewing is my most troublesome thing at present. I  have so very little for the newcomers' arrival. But as you say, a roll of wadding will do. I suppose I need not worry.

Auntie Kate gets my meat etc at the market which is a great help and also cheaper.

Margaret is writing something to 'dear Bandy'. I hope you will understand it.

PS. I made all the buttonholes in Margaret's pants and put lace on them and they are fine and fit so well. The buttonholes will not stand too close an inspection. MNB

June 2,

39 York Avenue

Dear Mother,

So this is the night of the Grand Concert by the Glee club. I expect it will be a howling success.  Let me know how it turns out.

I intended to write before this but I have been on the jump with school work, etc.

Monday night Harold, Amy Baker and Florence Pride and myself went to the Orpheum to see "Potash and Prulmutter". It was very good.  Tues. Wed. Thursday and Friday as you see, I have resided quietly at 39 Yorke with my family but tomorrow I am breaking out again.

How is your garden? Is it planted yet? Hugh and his cousin Willie are are working away at theirs.

Margaret has been quite sick this last few days with bronchitis but is on the mend now. I don't know how she gets such bad colds. It might be far worse, so we can all be thankful.

My, but I am thankful this if Friday and now is a holiday.

How about that money business? Have you decided anything yet.  I am writing a little note to Edith, so Good Night Matel Vick.

With Love,


PS. Send the diameter of the sitting room lamp shade. I am going to try and get a higher one. I'm sure you will be able to see better with it.

I am going to bed early these nights, so don't begrudge me those few pleasant late hours at 37.

Friday evening

Dear Edith

Well, how is the chorus girl? I expect you will be putting it on at the Princess to celebrate its opening.

Now Edith, I have been THINKING, which is indeed a rather rare luxury form me, about Symons. Dr. Manson etc. and here it is: if you are REALLY REALLY going to Symons I wouldn't take Dr. Manson's offer because if you go and work all summer you won't be really fit to start and attend college and you surely don't want to be sick during the session.

When does Symons open? If it doesn't until October and you want some extra money you could do supply work  for the Montreal Board by sending in your application now, only DON'T SAY IT IS ONLY FOR A MONTH.

Talk it over with Mother and see what she says.

Did RGW tell you I wrote him a letter? Let me know what he says about it.

How are your many activities? Mother and you are sure "nee hussy ones.'

Gave my kiddies a party this morning.  They had a good time. Gave them cakes, fancy biscuits, candies etc and they made short work of them. Poor little tots. I do feel sorry for some of them. Their lives are not very pleasant.

Your devoted sister,