Category Archives: 1950s

Pictures can help you write your memoir

 

For those of us writing a memoir or who want to do so, sometimes we get stymied. Where do we start? What do we focus on? What happened in our life that really affected us?

Of course, we may have a specific area of our life we want to focus on. But our memories can play tricks on us. Our memories can “hide” a wealth of information about our past, the people in it and our emotions during those times – even if we think we know how we felt.

So, use pictures to trigger your memory and its whole enchilada. I don’t mean just old family and friend photos. But buildings – your school, the house you grew up in, streets, transit (cars and public), old new-story photos, old ad, even cemeteries.

And even the above which may not be your family photo, may not be a streetscape you are familiar with. You are thinking of the time and what is actually in the picture and transferring it (in your  mind) to your story.

As some of you know, I teach various memoir writing workshops and courses at Toronto Public Library branches. And as the above hints at, the next one, on April 16, is called Using Your Pictures to Create Your Memoir. Most of my memoir writing workshops and courses have something about pictures, particularly those old family and friend photos. An interesting thing I keep discovering is that even if the picture is of my family or friends or me or the house I grew up in – it will always trigger some memory (not connected to me) in some of the participants.

“Oh, the picture of your dad reminded me of my dad.”

“The picture of your house reminded me of the house I grew up in.”

“That picture of your friends reminded me of something that happened with my sister/some of my friends.”

The pictures take on a generic form. And that can happen with transit and streetscapes. For example, a picture of a streetcar can bring up memories of you riding in a streetcar in the past,  lead to something (good or bad) that happened to you while riding a streetcar. Who were you with? What was your relationship to them? And taking it beyond the streetcar ride, what else happened to you and them, especially if a sibling, parent, or close friend? How did you feel towards them? Does it bring up emotions – sad, happy, angry, etc.? And this can lead to more stories with them and maybe with the streetcars. Maybe your dad drove a streetcar or a bus. What were his stories about that?

You can see where a simple picture can lead you in your memoir writing.

Here are the details of my workshop. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area and are interested in taking it, there is still time to register. And it is free. Yes, I get paid by the library for teaching these workshops.

Using Pictures to Create Your Memoir

Tue Apr 16, 2019
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
90 mins

Location

S. Walter Stewart Library

S. Walter Stewart

In this memoir-writing workshop, author and editor Sharon A. Crawford shows how old photos, news stories, ads, streetscapes, and pictures etched in your mind can help create your memoir. Includes how to do picture research and research kick-started by pictures. Through discussion and writing exercises with feedback, you will get a start on your memoir. To register or for more information, please call 416-396-3975.

Meantime, look, really look, at the photo at the top of the post. And see where it leads you in your life.

And the picture below my signature.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Libraries, Life, Only child memoir, Writing workshops

Only Child says Spring is springing

Only Child’s spring garden 2018

Today, spring officially arrives. Exact time depends on where you live in the northern hemisphere. Here, in Toronto it is today at 5.58 p.m. and I plan to celebrate – not with a drink, but with buying a plant, a pansy, providing the garden centres (read Home Depot here) have some in. I want to put the plant front and centre on the small red table on my front veranda. Pansies can survive temperatures down to 26 F and it it gets too cold temporarily, I can bring the plant inside for a bit.

Back when I was a child (in the grey ages of course, i.e., mid-1950s), my mom and dad were already out in the garden digging and doing other prep work to plant vegetables – well in early April, not March. But April is coming soon. I was not far behind, waiting to get into the garden and learning what to do from my mom. Guess that’s where I got my gardening bug.

But I am doing some gardening preparations. Finally got my seed order into the seed company – as usual in mid-March. But all those problems (which still keep coming) stole and steal my time from what I want to do and need to do. Often those coincide but when the latter means fixing big problems, I resent that.

So, I hope the sun, spring and warmer weather will kill all the problems and maybe “burn” the perpetrators a little. And “burn” can be taken in other ways than fire. I don’t wish the latter on anybody.

Enjoy the spring. Meantime, here are a few photos from my gardens past to enjoy.

Four-year-old Only Child ready to garden in April

 

Only Child in her backyard patio

 

Backyard Garden 2018

 

Tulips in bloom spring 2018 backyard garden

Happy Spring.

Sharon

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Filed under 1950s, Gardens, Mom and Dad, Only child, Spring

Only Child on Losing a Parent to Cancer

Sharon at 13 with Mom and Dad

When your mother or father is terminally ill and dies when you are still a child, you lose a part of your life, but more importantly you lose a part of yourself. Your mother or your father is no longer there and the hole that was once him or her follows you around like a bad omen.

Especially if you are an only child like me. Yes, I know, I’m a senior now, but that happened to me when I was growing up. Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 58 and I wasn’t quite 10. That was back in the late 1950s when the treatment options for cancer were limited to cut and burn. The link between smoking and cancer was known then, but a lot of it was hidden from public view. Tobacco companies were keeping their mouths shut about it. Here is a much later than 1950s study that covers that issue.

Dad had half a lung removed for the cancer. But that wasn’t the end of it. Two years later cancer spread to his brain and he had to cope with that for four more years. So did Mom and me. I inadvertently found a unique way for Mom and me to do so. But it wasn’t until later years when I was around Dad’s age of death , that I realized what Mom and I were doing back then. What had been foremost in my mind after Dad’s cancer returned was me pulling away from him emotionally because I was afraid he would die. Deep down that was probably something I knew. It scared me and as a pre-teen and teenager that was how I coped. I am not proud of this.

I wrote a personal essay about Dad’s cancer and something Mom and I were doing at the same time after he returned home from his second stay in hospital. The memoir piece was just published in the online magazine The Smart Set which is a publication of Drexel University in Philadelphia. Perhaps what Mom and I were doing did help, maybe even my Dad. We don’t always know or realize these things at the time.

Here is the link to “Don’t Look Down” in The Smart Set Magazine.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child’s Dad when younger

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Filed under 1950s, Albert Langevin, cancer, Death and Dying, Health, Mom and Dad, Piano

Danforth massacre turns Toronto around

Only Child and Mom

When I was a child, my mom and I used to head for Danforth Avenue or The Danforth as it is called in Toronto to shop. Usually on a Saturday. This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s -before the subway ran under the Danforth. We would take the Broadview bus from around the corner where we lived and transfer to another bus a few stops afterwards. This bus took us to one short block north of the Danforth. Mom and I stopped at the butcher’s, several green grocers and the now defunct Kresge’s, Woolworth’s and The Met. Sometimes we even bellied up to the lunch counter in The Met for a hot dog. Every Easter season we were in and out of hat shops trying on hats until we each  found our perfect hat for Easter Sunday. And when my feet grew a little more we visited a particular shoe store where I stood on a machine and stuck my feet underneath the “camera” part to get  my feet measured for new shoes.

Then, the only scary thing, the only blood was at the butcher’s – mainly on his white apron from splashes when he cut the meat. The floor was covered in sawdust, not blood.

Fast forward to this century and now I am back living in Toronto – back almost 20 years. Mom passed away years ago, but I still shopped on the Danforth – at green grocers and now health food stores. I often would stop to rest at the small parkette at Logan and Danforth Avenues. Sometimes I ate at local restaurant with family and friends. I always felt safe – even in the crowds for the annual Taste of the Danforth in August.

That all changed with the massacre on Danforth from Logan westward a few blocks. When the area was turned into a massacre site. When a young man named Faisal Hussain became a murderer,  firing his gun at people. When our world in Toronto just nose-dived to a low in safety. This is a peaceful family area – not late-open nightclubs, not a gang war area But all that changed at 10 p.m., Sunday, July 22, 2018. So far the murder count is two, with the injured at 13, and the killer dead from a gunshot wound. My son referred to it as something unimaginable, akin to a US style gun attack.

I’m not going to post graphic photos of the massacre. I wasn’t there to take them, although I was there a few hours before it happened to shop. But I am providing a few links to stories about this massacre which you can view or not as you wish.

News update to now

More news

A community restaurant owner speaks

Teen killed in  mass shooting identified

Yesterday I posted the following on my Facebook page.

Horrific what happened on the Danforth last night. It is a place where I shop regularly and also eat out there sometimes. Was there near Logan (Carlaw and Danforth) earlier last evening at Healthy Planet. I feel for those who were killed, injured and anyone there and their families. As for the murderer, he got what he deserved.

That last line sums up how I feel about the murderer. So what if he had mental issues. His parents posted that he had mental health problems and all the drugs that didn’t work. What about therapy? Maybe a good therapist would have spotted this possibility. Maybe… Well, that’s after the fact and too late for his victims, for their families, and for all of us in Toronto. I still stand by my beliefs –  except for police officers in the line of duty where necessary and anyone who kills in self-defence and in wars, killing someone else is wrong and the guilty should get the death penalty or at the very least, a life sentence with no parole, no day passes – ever. Canada hasn’t had the death penalty for years but a life sentence isn’t life. And never mind the “not guilty by reason of insanity” – it should be “guilty by reason of insanity”.

Don’t get me going on that.

One thing is for sure. I will not stay away from the Danforth – or anywhere else in Toronto I choose to go because someone might start shooting in the area when I am there. That would be losing my city. That would be giving up. That would be giving in to violence.

Now, I hope the city’s mayor, police chief and the provincial and federal leaders do something about all this. Toronto’s mayor had just started to do something. We need to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of people like  Faisal Hussain. How this can be done I don’t know. If anyone has any ideas, please comment.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s

Only Child on Christmases past

When I was a child (back in the grey ages, of course) there was no Facebook, no Smart phones and no Internet. We had phones – even party lines – at least in the country. We certainly didn’t walk aimlessly on streets or block subway stairs while texting. Things were somewhat simpler then, and although not perfect, perhaps we can learn from looking back into our childhood or for those who are under 45, we can talk to those whose childhood was in the 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s.

Here are a few of my remembrances to share for Christmas.

Before Christmas, my Mom and I would share our Christmas wrapping in a unique way. She would be wrapping mine and some of Dad’s presents in the kitchen and I would be in the dining room right next door wrapping hers and some of Dad’s. Mom had put away her sewing machine which usually sat on the dining room table to make room for wrapping,paper, scotch tape, presents, etc. A closed door hid what we were each doing. Paramount was keeping the gifts secret until Christmas morning. When either of us needed more wrapping paper from the other room, we would loudly give warning so the other person could quickly cover up the unwrapped presents. When wrapped they were all placed under the 6 foot tree in one corner of our tiny living room.

The tree was where Dad came  After it was brought home (and it was a real tree), he would work his magic fitting the tree into the stand – often a long tricky process that left me sitting in the kitchen (no presents around then) staring up at the clock and listening to Jingle Bells on the radio and waiting impatiently to help decorate the tree with the boxes of decorations and lights Mom had brought up from the basement. But when the tree was up, I had to wait even longer until Mom and Dad strung up the lights. Then the moment arrived when Dad plugged them in.

Nothing. No lights. Back then the only way to find out the dead light bulb, was to try each socket  individually with a bulb we knew worked until we found the culprit. But it was worth the wait, especially when we could add the ornaments, the tinsel and the angel on top (Mom or Dad did the latter. I was too short).

Sometimes just before Christmas Day, my godmother, my mother’s younger sister would make a “flying” visit (by car) from the farm for a quick visit. Then Mom would cook a bird. And she didn’t just stick to turkey – it was sometimes a duck, chicken or goose.

When Christmas morning arrived, I was allowed to check my stocking. Nothing else. That had to wait until breakfast and then Mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church. We had no car, so either walked there and back or got a ride from one of Mom and Dad’s friends who lived nearby. At church, the pastor who was long-winded, did shorten his talk after the gospel reading but it was still too long for a kid impatient to open her presents and more important to see her parents open what she had given them.

Back at the house we unwrapped the presents. Yes, I got dolls from “Santa” but clothes and games, too. Dad got the usual dad presents of socks and ties. One year Dad and I went into a jewellery store to get Mom’s gift. But it wasn’t jewellery we were after. I wanted to get Mom a china decoration of fruit to hang on the kitchen wall. Dad, of course, had to pay for it.

If my aunt hadn’t dropped in, Mom cooked the turkey (or goose, etc.) for dinner and we stuffed ourselves. Or we took the bus and streetcar to Dad’s younger sister’s place in what is now Toronto’s Annex area. We shared Christmas dinner with my aunt and uncle, my grandmother, and their three daughters. One Christmas, the youngest one, my age, and I pretended we were private eyes, sure the grownups couldn’t see us through the banister, sitting on the stairs in the hallway My cousin and I peeked into the dining room and listened to the grownups talk and scribbled down notes. What we planned to do with them, we didn’t know.

Sometime our grandmother, who lived there, took us upstairs to her tiny attic apartment on the third floor for a private visit and chat. Always, there were three presents still under the tree and my aunt made it known that they were for her eldest daughter whose birthday was on Boxing Day and she couldn’t open her presents until the next day.

That was then. Now things are so different and not so nice in some ways in the world and that and personal experiences over the years have changed my view of Christmas  and how I spend it. And maybe some of what is important and what is not.

Stay tuned for next week’s post with a bit of what Christmas and New Year’s mean to me today.

How do  you spend Christmas? Is it different from your childhood Christmases? If so, how? And why?

Hope all of you have a good and healthy Christmas or whatever holiday you are celebrating and however you are spending it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Christmas carolers showing the Christmas spirit in song

Only Child with her late Mom and Dad obviously not at Christmas

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas, Christmas tree, Dad, Family

Only Child says snow snow – yech!

Last evening and overnight, Toronto, Ontario got blasted with the first snowfall of the year. At 14 cm it is certainly not the biggest snowstorm, but being the first one of this season, it seemed like way too much. Especially if like me you had to shovel all the white stuff. Especially when the two guys you used to hire to shovel your snow the past six to eight years seem to have disappeared.

As a senior, I shouldn’t be shovelling the results of big and/or heavy snowstorms. Especially as I am just now getting over a 48-hour virus – which was probably caused by an allergic reaction to too much dust. I don’t have time to dust my place very often and I certainly don’t have time to shovel snow – repeatedly during the winter season. Cutting the little lawn I have repeatedly in the summer is a different story. Especially using a hand mower as my late dad did.

Dad also shovelled the snow when I was growing up – until he got cancer.

But storms weren’t as bad as now back then (1950s and 1960s) – at least on a regular basis. Yes, we had some doozy winter snowstorms. I remember walking home from school at lunch time (yes, we didn’t stay at school for lunch unless we lived too far away) and the snow was up to my thighs. But I was so much shorter then and not so wise, not so knowledgeable, and well, a kid. Now, I’d just like to skip winter – not just for the snow but we get too much of this mixed precipitation and then there are the ice storms.

Actually shovelling the snow was very invigorating. Lucky my virus seems to have either disappeared or got buried for now. But I would still rather go for a walk…in the freezing cold? Temperatures nose-diving later today and will stay that way for the next couple of days. Brr!

Below my signature are a few more photos  of the snow on my property  before I dug in and shovelled.

Do you shovel your own snow or does somebody else? Or do you live in a rental apartment or a condo?

Do you consider snow shovelling a winter sport?

You can probably guess what my answer is as I don’t take part in real winter sports. But I like to watch figure skating – probably because I used o skate as a child and young adult – nothing fancy, just enough to keep from falling as I glided around the rink – outdoors or indoors.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Recycling bins snowed in back of driveway

 

Backyard patio snowed in

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Life demands, Only child, snow shovelling, Winter Weather

Only Child on writing a memoir using the senses of smell and taste

Mom and Only Child in Backyard

The senses of smell and taste often go together – at least where food is concerned. There are, of course, some smells you definitely don’t want to associate with any taste – like a skunk’s smell.  But maybe that will bring in some taste in your memory. It does for me.

A friend of mine always had at least one dog. And one of these dogs was forever colliding with a skunk. You can imagine the stinky and messy results. My friend used to try to remove the smell by bathing her dog in tomato juice.

Tomato juice is a taste I like and it brings back some memories – my mother growing tomatoes. My mother making some God-awful relish from green tomatoes. My mother calling me to the side door of our house where she stood on the other side with a large tin can in her hand and showing me what was inside the can. Not tomatoes she had picked, but horrible green tomato worms. I remember her laugh here.

So you can see how taste and smell can work together to trigger something from your past. That something might just be a story you want to include in your memoir.

For those writing a memoir, using the six senses to kick start your memoir is one way to get your mind, feelings and emotions (latter two very important) back in your past.

When you walk into a Tim Hortons and smell the coffee, what does that remind you of? And when you taste the coffee? Does that enhance your memory?

This Tuesday, November 21 I’m teaching another workshop on Kick starting your memoir using the six senses. This time I’m at the Forest Hill Library Branch in Toronto. There is still room in the workshop for participants for anyone living in the Toronto Ontario Canada area who is reading this before the workshop time  (2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.) and day. You can either phone the library at or just show up. More details here.

I’m posting this a day early because the workshop is Tuesday, when I usually post to Only Child Writes.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s backyard garden. No green hornworms on my tomato plants.

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Filed under 1950s, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Writing