Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Almost-Forgotten Cemetery

On Route 105 in the community of White's Cove New Brunswick is a tiny cemetery, encompassing less than half an acre, that looks quite out of place in the surrounding fields.  I noticed it by accident the first time my brother was showing off his nearby cottage on Grand Lake, and decided to do some spur-of-the-moment exploration.  To my surprise I discovered the grave of a distant cousin, Isabelle June Sansom, and her husband Andrew Skead.

The cemetery itself is officially known as White's Cove United Church Cemetery in Cambridge Parish.  There was a church on the grounds once, but it was closed in 1967 along with several other area churches when the congregations were amalgamated.  The building was subsequently demolished and no trace remains.  The cemetery however has been lovingly maintained: grass mowed, flower displays on the graves, and such.

Isabelle June Sansom was the daughter of Theodore Sansom, an office worker, and his wife Dorothy Forbes.  Born in 1920 in Moncton, she with her family moved to Fredericton in about 1930, where she finished her education and became employed as a stenographer.  In 1947 she married Andrew William Skead, a game technician from Winnipeg.  This occupation had nothing to do with computers; rather, it was more like a game warden, where he saw to the health and protection of wildlife.

The two lived in Fredericton for many years and were longtime members of St. Paul's United Church in Fredericton.  They had four children.

Even after tracking down all this information I'm left wondering why they chose to be buried in such a small cemetery in cottage country.  Both her parents and her brother Reginald are buried in the larger St. John's Anglican Cemetery a few kilometers east.

However an essay in the June 17th 2013 edition of the Globe and Mail about her youngest brother Theodore mentions an "annual gathering of the clan on White's Cove" and "memories of the cottage and seafood cooking on the shore abound".  After visiting my brother's cottage and being warmly welcomed by several of his neighbours, I realized: perhaps that's why.  Families and friends in rural neighbourhoods tend to be closer and happier.

So whoever maintains that cemetery must have roots in the area and hasn't forgotten.

*This is a re-post from the blog A Writer's Workbench which has been removed by the author.

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Father's Youth

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." -- Philip Pullman

I really enjoy my father's stories.  Too many people don't think to listen to what their elders have to say until it's too late, and wonderful memories can be forgotten.

Dad grew up in Cornwall, Ontario: a small city of about 46,000 and one of the first incorporated communities in Upper Canada.  Until the late 1990s the main industries were cotton processing and paper manufacturing.  He and his parents lived on a dead-end street in the east end; their house was the only one on the street with a telephone because the previous owner of the house had been a company executive and could afford to install a phone.  The residents of the street had a mixture of French and English names: Rowe, Boisvenue, Marlowe.

One of the clearest things that Dad remembers about his early childhood was staying with his 17-year-old sister Joy.  When he was five, his elder brother Billy was dying of leukemia (there was no treatment then).  To enable his parents to better care for Billy, Dad went to stay with Joy at her house in Toronto and he attended Kindergarten there for most of the school year.  One of his favourite activities while in Toronto was buying a ticket for the streetcar and riding all around the city by himself - something unheard of today.  After his brother passed away he returned to Cornwall for the remainder of Kindergarten.

By then the Second World War had broken out and making a living became difficult for some.  Fortunately Dad's father had a good job at the Cortaulds chemical plant.  However Dad's uncle Alfred, who worked a farm in what is now Surrey, British Columbia, was having trouble getting help because all of the able young men were serving in the military.  Dad and his mother went to the farm for the summer, where they helped grow and harvest strawberries, beans, and various other crops.  One day they went to a local fair, where Alfred purchased as a present for Dad a tiny totem pole carved out of bone that was made by a Native American artisan.  That totem remains on Dad's bureau to this day.

My grandparents made a smart decision to enroll Dad in a French school for Grade One.  At the time, the laws governing education were still based upon those that had been set down in the BNA Act of 1867.  French-speaking people had been given many freedoms under the Act, but education was limited to Grades 1 to 12 only.  Plus French-speaking people were only permitted to attend French schools, and the English speakers could only attend English schools.  However, my grandmother happened to know someone high up in the French school - there was only one in Cornwall, known as College Classique and run by clergy - and arranged for him to go to the French school until Grade 8.  As a result he became perfectly bilingual.

The stories continue.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.