Tag Archives: 1950s and 1960s
When I was growing up, dinnertime for Mom, Dad and me was sitting around the table in our small kitchen. Mom and Dad would sometimes be talking about the household budget while little ears lapped it up as well as the food – often leftover roast. But Dad had one habit that drove Mom crazy.
He looked at his watch, then up at the wall clock above the table, then back to his watch, lifting up the expansion band. I expected it to go “boing, boing,” but it was silent.
“Albert, do you have to keep doing that?” she would ask.
“Have to take it in to get regulated,” Dad replied. He had good reason for this.
You see, my late father worked for the railway, CN (or CNR as it was called back in the 50s and 60s). He was a timekeeper but he worked in the head office, then in downtown Toronto. As far as I know he wasn’t out on the tracks timing the trains. But who knows. The trains came in right by his office at Toronto’s Union Station.
He carried this penchant for time when the three of us rode the rails travelling in the summer. It was a free ride, and not just for Dad. Mother had the spouse’s free pass and until I turned 19 I had the child of the CN worker’s pass. Mom got unlimited free rides; I was limited to seven a year. But we never took more than three or four trips a year – and one would be not really a holiday. There were a lot of funerals in my family and a few weddings.
But that’s for another post. Today’s post is all about Dad and time. When we rode the rails, Dad made sure we arrived at Union Station early – sometimes two hours before train time. Did Dad think we would miss the train? No. He was just doing his job outside his job. No one missed his scrutiny – from the cab driver who drove us to Union Station – via a different route than Dad had dictated to who carried our luggage (not the red cap porter) to the trainman who collected our tickets once we had boarded the train. Dad’s favourite expression was “Typical CNR” which could be taken as either a bad review or I suppose even a small compliment. At any rate Dad and his watch kept close company.
But riding the rails had its fun, interesting and now looking back – nostalgic times. Nothing like the murder and other crimes that occur on the train to Hanover in my short story “Porcelain Doll” (Beyond theTripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012).
Consider the times we were travelling in – mid to late 1950s and early 1960s. Right when train travel in Ontario was still in its heyday – although not for much longer with the almighty automobile starting to take over. (Note: my parents didn’t drive so we had no car).
Our main annual trip was to visit the farm relatives on my mother’s side of the family. That took us to Mildmay Ontario (a few miles from Walkerton, the town that had the bad water scandal in 2000), and Lucknow, Ontario. Then we had to take three trains, which meant two changes. But what rides and what differences. The trains from Toronto to Guelph had diesel engines. The one from Guelph to Palmerston still had a steam engine whose noise used to scare me and my constant travelling companion, my doll Darlene. Guelph was also an interesting ride through. As that second train started out from Guelph, looking out the windows you could see the train was running on a track right in the middle of a street. It is still that setup today (although the trains are more modern) and it still makes me hold my breath when travelling through. The third train, with its short ride from Palmeston to Mildmay, was the most interesting. The “coach” we rode in was actually a sleeper car and Daddy would go into a short talk on the closed dark wooden bins above which came down and turned the area into a bedroom. I also remember the texture of the seats – they itched the back of my bare legs.
Dad has been long gone (he died of brain cancer, at 66. I was 16). However, I have inherited his penchant for time. I must get what is on my daily to-do list done that day and God help anyone or anything who interferes (Telemareters and long-winded acquaintances on the phone pay attention). But I also go after transit that is not on time, but not the CN, or VIA rail which has taken over the railway passenger service in most of Canada. No, it’s the city public transit, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which more times than naught, messes up on its schedules. So I sometimes complain online about the incident. Couldn’t do that back in the day.
Guess I do have my father to thank for to be aware of time. And in line with that, on this upcoming Father’s Day I will honour my late father by thinking of him and toasting him – not with his favourite drink – beer, which I don’t really like – but wine. It’s the thought that counts. I’m sure Daddy would understand.Happy Father’s Day Daddy (wherever your spirit is), from your little railway brat.
How are you honouring your Dad this Father’s Day?
Only Child Writes
When I was a child I hid my anger under shyness and the belief that you don’t show your anger because others might retaliate and hurt you. Let’s face it I was a wimp when growing up. Perhaps it was due to my personal background or just the mores of the times (1950s and 1960s). More likely both.
Nowadays as a senior, I am not afraid to show my anger.
Let me clarify that. It is only verbal and written. I do not condone physical violence and I don’t condone verbal and written anger that is sexist and racist. There is never any excuse or reason for that.
But on a personal level I will tell someone off if they are blocking the subway doorway and I and others can’t get off or (and my big pet peeve), they are standing on the steps down to the subway platform and playing with their digital device. I also tell bus drivers off if they are really late arriving (although for this I am more likely to just not say “thank you” as I exit the bus). My usual exit is to thank bus drivers as I leave the bus. In the majority of cases bus drivers are just doing their job and some go out of their way to help passengers.
Not so the “clown” driving the Woodbine bus I took last evening. Not only was he late (the next bus was almost on his tail), but he sped away from the stop as soon as I used my Presto card to pay. As I struggled and lurched to get seated, I yelled, “It might be a good idea to let us sit down first.” Fortunately I landed in a seat without injury. And why was this bus driver in such a rush? He just had to make the green light half a block away down the street. He missed it and had to wait. Thank God or somebody for Karma.
On a wider scale I am also angered by government cuts in funds to libraries, education and healthcare, something we in Ontario are now experiencing that the populist you-know-what Doug Ford and his Conservative cronies who rule the roost are doing. I am also angered by the lax sentences for murderers and other perpetrators of heinous crimes under the Criminal Code in Canada and I covered that in a recent post. And if you harm a child, harm someone who is disabled, you get my wrath too.
Anger, I find can be redirected into action with the forming of community groups and the like to make changes, for example public transit riders groups (I know; I seem to be on this public transit kick). Even just writing this post is a good redirection or writing a short story.
I am not alone in being angry some of the time. See Facebook and Twitter and news clips. t seems to be a sign of the times and the number of people being angry over specific things is increasing according to a Gallop Poll from last year which went through 142 countries. See here for the poll info which also covers worry – and that does go hand in hand with anger. The age bracket for most angry was not us seniors, but it went up to age 49.
So what about us seniors?
That’s fodder for another post.
Only Child Writes
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.
S. Walter Stewart Library
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.
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.
Only Child Writes
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.
Only Child Writes