Today marks one year since my mother passed away and at the end of the month she would have been 85, I thought I would write a little post about stories she told me about her life.
The first one is a story that really someone would have had to tell her. My mother was born on Prince Edward Island and the weather at that time of year can be very cold and snowy. Well as luck would have it there was a snow storm on the day of her birth. My mother was born with the umbilical cord around her neck so the midwife sent her father to get the doctor. He had to go with the horse and cutter to get the doctor. And since I'm telling this story, you know it all went well. It was 1934, every time Mum told us this story we always said it sounded like "Little House on the Prairie". It was a leap year that year and Mum also told us she wished she had been born the next day on Feb 29th.
My mother had tuberculosis of the spine and had to have surgery when she was quite young. Se had a scar running all the way up her back. She had to stay home from school for a year, much of it spent in bed in a body cast. She said it was while she was home that her mother taught her to knit and sew. Once she was able to get up, she also started piano lessons which she loved all of her life. Even before that she said that she and two of her brothers had spinal meningitis but most doctors told her that was very unlikely it was spinal meningitis. But she remembered that the house was quarantined and people would bring them baskets of food since they couldn't leave the house. She and her brother Terence thought it was great fun since they weren't very ill and also got to stay home from school. Her younger brother Phil was very ill though so ill that they had the parish priest come to give him Last Rites. They all survived.
My mother and her family moved to Halifax during WWII. She said it was the first house she lived in that had an indoor toilet and running water. My grandfather was a pattern-maker in the Halifax Shipyards and the house was war time housing in the North End. My mother told me a story about asking to go with some relatives back to PEI for Christmas one year. Her mother told her that they couldn't afford it but later told her if she went, the train ticket would be her Christmas present. My mother agreed, she always loved the Island. On the day she was to leave, her mother gave her a small wrapped gift and told her it was so there would be something under the tree. My mother was disappointed, at the time, to find that it was only a bottle of hand lotion. But her memory of that Christmas was a very happy memory so for her presents did not make Christmas but rather time spent with family and making Christmas a happy memory for her family.
Her mother, Louise Arsenault had been a school teacher before she married. She taught in a one room school house, teaching children, some of whom likely were near as old as she was and I'm sure some of the boys were bigger than her. She also taught for a few years after she was married as the school records show her both as Louise Arsenault and Louise Pineau. My mother also was a teacher. She went to the Nova Scotia Normal College in Truro, Nova Scotia, I guess that's what they called Teacher's College back then. The first school she taught at was the Alexander MacKay School for boys. I don't think she taught there very long before she married my father. After she married my father she didn't teach again until we were posted to Alsask, Saskatchewan. There she taught Kindergarten at the base school - John A Silver. She actually had my brother in her class one year. She told the story that one day when he tried to get her attention, he called Mrs Stewart, Mrs Stewart, Mommy. She also told us that she was counselled for teaching too much of the Grade 1 curriculum. During our posting to the States, her teaching credentials lapsed and she never taught again afterwards. She did continue in the education field as a teacher's aide and with adult education teaching art. She also was a piano teacher, a catechism teacher and a brownie leader.
This next story is really about my brother, one of my sisters and me. We were living in Foymount, a small radar station near Pembroke Ontario. I would have been about 5 going on 6, my brother only 4 and my sister only 3. In those days, churches weren't locked especially on radar stations. We decided to go and visit with God and took two of our little friends with us. Well, we had good intentions but once we got there inquisitiveness took over. We got into the Christmas decorations and broke some ornaments, sprayed water on the floor from the pump fire extinguishers and dumped some books on the floor. I guess some people found us there and took us home. Dad and the other father went and cleaned everything up but they were still charged and fined $15, probably a lot of money in the early 60's. It was the only time I remember getting a spanking. But Mum certainly remembered it when on another radar station some teenage boys broke in the church and drank all of the Communion wine. Their father's weren't charged or fined as times had changed in the military but Mum always said it was because one of the boys was an officer's son.
My mother was also a bootlegger. When we lived in Gander, Nfld, my father made home made beer. He also made it when I got older as I remember he would also make root beer for us kids. But anyway back to Gander, one night when my Dad was working, some of his buddies went over to the house. They knew Dad made beer and asked Mum if they could buy some from her. She sold them a few bottles and was happy to tell Dad when he came home that she had made a little extra money. Dad wasn't mad but he told her she couldn't sell beer as she would get him in a lot of trouble as it was illegal for them to sell alcohol. That one sale was it for her career as a bootlegger.