Saturday, 9 June 2012


My Mom:

Both my younger sister and myself were born war babies. My Dad was in the army in Nova Scotia (he [we] lucked out when they found he could type and do short hand so ended up as a supply Sergeant).  I didn't see very much of him until mid-1947 when he came back to stay (we lived in Vancouver). So it was life with my Mother and later my sister.

I think I have memories of being a baby naked and being weighed at some health center. One time as a toddler I had a needle given to prevent something or other. I was quite shaken by that and was turning blue when we got home where my Mom put me in a tub of water on the wood stove to warm me up. I did survive that, but we never never did go back to that health center. Mom was on her own in a little house on Gravely St. in Vancouver. Considering she had a very serious bone infection for over 12 years and was always treating it. It was mostly in her knees and she was constantly draining this infection through running sores with nothing but cotton baton and I think she received sulfa drugs. It was finally whipped in 1952 when she stayed in hospital after my brother was born, and had some surgery which finally defeated this life threatening disease (or rather a life-long remission).

During the war, Mom always kept us aware of our Dad but we were raised for the most part by our virtual single parent. We did have plenty of attention from our grandparents and aunts and uncles. My Mom was the eldest of 7 and my Dad had 2 sisters so we had lots of relatives. The maternal grandparents lived down a couple of blocks and I would toddle off at the age of 3 down to see them on Charles St. My Mom came after me in hot pursuit with my baby sister under her arm!—I was pretty fast and perhaps a little too fearless but I adored both grandmothers but my Mom's mom lived right there. She was very generous and happy, smart, and formidable in her own right.

My Mom's many many stories focused around the development of a large family during the depression and we heard plenty about how they got by. Mom used to go out fishing with her dad in the Burrard Inlet with a homemade boat he had put together. They caught crabs and fish and they somehow did OK. Mom tells the story about finding a huge cabbage that had fallen of a truck into the roadside and how this was the prized vegetable which meant a lot to them. Wouldn't you know it the whole family was involved with music—singing and playing. My Granddad could really make a piano speak—he  played rag-style stompin' stuff. I've never heard anything quite like it since. I grew up on that very good quality piano which was purchased sometime in the early thirties—quite an extravagant luxury given the scarcity of work at that time.

Being the eldest of 7 meant that she got a lot of practise at being a mom. She had a special pal in my Uncle Lance but was important to all her brothers and sisters. She was born in England in 1916 and came over to Canada at about age 5 or 6. It's interesting that her mom wanted to live in Vancouver and not Toronto where my granddad had a job but, to Vancouver they went.

The world revolved around Mom in my Dad's eyes. She was not knick-named "Dolly" for nothing. As a young girl she had big blue eyes and long thick hair. I've played Hello Dolly quite a few times for her. She was always very encouraging with music and performing. My sister got to dance and I got the piano (happily) but I always like the idea of dancing and singing. Did I mention we all sang a lot. My Dad was an especially good singer and although not trained, had a deep appreciation for music — and quality music, especially singing. He was a very enthusiastic no holds barred conductor of the kiddy  choir in Sunday School—like I say, I was almost embarrassed by his involvement — he thought is was important though.

So I never had a very good hand at penmanship and when I first started school she made me print stuff for about 1/2 an hour or more, which didn't go well while everybody else was out playing baseball on the street. I think I was among the last ones in my grade four class to get to write with a pen-nib with ink. Ball point was just around the corner though. It was kind of grating on my little ego at the time.

We went to a church and both Mom and Dad were in the choir and involved. Mom sang soprano and really had a soloists voice and she played the piano and could chord along with her singing. She was also a featured vocalist in the choir services as well. The church provided a nice (even) fun sense of community in North Burnaby. Did I mention singing. I sang in a boy soprano and could sing as high as my Mom. I did enjoy singing a lot. I didn't start piano 'till I was 11 so I sang until my voice broke—brutally as it turned out: I got hit in the top of the head with a huge snow ball (ice more like) and my voice changed on the spot. I became a donkey in a matter of seconds. It was rather odd. Kids can be malicious even in those days. What did we know?

Mom occasionally got pretty upset with me when I joined a "rock" band when I was 15. It was those late nights rehearsing— but we actually got gigs and it was a real hoot except that I had no power and pounded the crap out of the pianos that were in the hall and of course being drowned out all night with guitar, bass, 2 saxes and drums. Occasionally there was a Hammond B3 at the gig (imagine !!). There were a few tense moments when the band rehearsed at my parents house when they weren't home—The neighbor complained to Dad and had apparently complained about it the week before — Dad had told the neighbor that it wouldn't happen again (he never told me !!). So— he informed me of his embarrassing position that I had put him in. What could I do? I apologized profusely to our neighbor and I think we only rehearsed in the afternoons after that.

Of course I had to have the car when I finally got a license. Mom was too kind to me there I think.

She supported all 3 of her children through our adult lives and even our children and grand kids. She was the best Mom anyone could have. I know that's a cliche and that most of us feel that way but when she's gone it's a game changer. It leaves a pretty empty spot. She would be thee person that you've known the longest and arguably, the most intense presence in one's life.

Dolly past away at 2.35 AM May 29, 2012 (the day before my Dad's birthday). She was almost 96 years old and was predeceased by my Dad by 5 years.


  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories.

  2. Hi Charlie... Love what you have written... :)
    Mom had austeomalitus... no idea of the spelling but this is how it sounds... She had deep scars in her legs from the drs way back when deciding to transplant marrow from her arms into her calfs... Not sure how that helped but it sure left her scarred and Mom was very conscious of them. Her feet also gave her lots of problems her whole life. She told me it was because her shoes were always too tight so she made sure my shoes were not... unfortunately she forgot about my socks... so my toes are a little awry as well.
    I remember when Mom was in hospital having Vic and my being so disappointed that she didn't come home when he did... :)
    Didn't Mom make life wonderful for us? The camping trips... picnics, Stanley Park, ice cream in the car... her total love for us. We were so lucky... couldn't have picked a better Mom if we'd been asked to do it ourselves.
    Love you, Bro...

    1. I do concur Anonymous, thank you for details re her infection. It was far more serious than we could have imagined because she never complained and was never down about it. It was just something she dealt with fairly cheerfully on a daily basis. I always seemed to have socks though :). Grandma Austin was fairly worn out from parenting us for the 10 days or so. So it was a win win: we got a baby brother and a well Mother back safe and sound. I was in Grade 3 ... I think I missed a whole month of school with some health problem.

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  4. So sorry for your loss Charlie, but I am so happy that you are filled with gratefulness and wonderful memories.