Growing Up in the 1950s

 

I’m living in my 7th decade of life: the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and now 2010s. I was born in the early 1950s and I’d like to share what it was like living in each of these decades.

 
The 1950s were an amazing time to be born – they call us ‘baby boomers’ now. Children born in the decade following World War ll were born into a world which was changing at a dizzying rate. Before this World War, my parents lived through the Great Depression which was a time of depravity and challenge. Then after WWll, life seemed less of a struggle and even richer for my parent’s generation. Many of our parents wanted to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up:  a decent home, a family car, a job, and enough food. My parents chose to move from their small home town on the east coast to the big city in Ontario after my oldest sister Faye was born. I was born in the city of Hamilton in 1953. Soon afterwards, we moved to our first home on Eaton Place where all my memories begin…. My very first memory is of someone taking a picture of me when I was two years old and the sun was shining in my face.

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First Picture Grammom 1955

 

Ahhh, the 50’s. The very thought brings a feeling of joy, simplicity, peace, and ….. ROCK ‘N ROLL! After a generation of waltzes during the 1930s and 40s, MY generation was ready to shake things up! My memories only take me back to the late 1950s – Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll; Buddy Holly’s “Great Balls of Fire”; Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” ; Chuck Berry (who performed at our high school in 1971 ~ I’ll never forget how we all roared when he sang “My Ding-a-ling”!). Back in the 50s, music was recorded on vinyl records in speeds (RPM = rotations per minute) of 45 and 33 (78s were old school from the ‘olden days’ of our parents). 45s were the small, 7″ singles with one song per side and 33s were the record albums. Cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3 hadn’t even been thought of back then! We collected LOTS of records and albums over the years.

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First house – Eaton Place 1955

 

Our parents were great! Every year we went on vacation somewhere – Timmins to see the gold mine and my Auntie Marlene and Uncle Jim; Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings and camp in Gatineau Park; local camping at Lambert Park; Santa’s Village in Bracebridge; and my favourite place of all, New Carlisle, Quebec lovingly known as down home where most of my relatives lived. It took us 3 days to drive the 1000 miles (1650 kms) on two lane highways in our ’50s Ford sedan, packed to the hilt with everything from baskets of fruit to bathroom sink/toilet and always a neighbour along for the holiday! We always stayed at my grandparents farm. We went in July, just in time for haying too. In the 1950s, my grandparents didn’t own any machinery to help with the farming, just Queen and Gyp, huge draft horses. They did the haying all by hand, pitching it up onto horse-drawn wooden wagons where us kids would ‘help’ by sitting on the top of the pile as we went around the field. Then back at the barn, the loose hay would be pitched up into the hay loft. We spent many fun days playing in that hayloft, hiding in the hay or just daydreaming. Other days were spent at the beach on Chaleur Bay on the Atlantic Ocean playing with our cousins in the freezing cold salt water.

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Uncle Lloyd farming 1950s

 

When we were at home, we’d spend the summer outdoors all the time. Our neighbourhood was void of backyard fences so we had a huge yard where we’d play baseball, football, tag, kick-the-can, or hide and seek. One street over was an undeveloped area where we’d explore and play using our imaginations (called “the Field” and “the Creek”). My favourite was to pretend I was riding a horse, either on my bike or running while slapping my leg to make the sound of galloping. I’d even tie up my pretend horse at the back porch when I came in for lunch. In the 1950s, there were no video games – heck many folks didn’t even have televisions! Us kids PLAYED! We used our IMAGINATION! TV shows I DID watch included Hockey Night in Canada (we were staunch Toronto Maple Leaf fans) on Saturday nights (I laid on my mother’s lap until I fell asleep), Roy Rogers Show and Lassie on Saturday morning. We got 6 channels, mostly from the U.S. During the summer, all the neighbours flocked to our front porch after supper. The adults would sit on the cement steps and talk while the kids played until dark.

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Eaton Place families on our front porch

 

In the winter, my Dad made us a skating rink beside the house and a sliding hill out back on our slightly inclining backyard hill. The whole neighbourhood came over to skate and slide after school and on weekends! It was the best childhood a kid could dream of.

Winter Fun

Winter fun

 

We didn’t use plastics for everything like today. I recall that our first refrigerator was an ice box – the ice man came around the neighbourhood with blocks of ice to sell to people. The ‘bread man’ came around weekdays to deliver bread and other goods right to your door – all our mother had to do was pick out what she wanted. And the milkman came daily with glass quart jars of milk – mothers simply left the washed empties out on the porch and the milkman would exchange them for full bottles of milk, leaving them outside, unrefrigerated. Nobody ever got sick either. All these businessmen (yes it was always men) were paid by their customers once a week – the honour system was alive and well in the 1950s.

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Grammom 4 yrs old with friend Ricky, 1957

 

In the 1950s, 99.9% of Mothers stayed home to raise the children and the Dads worked outside the home, sometimes two or three jobs like my Dad. That’s just the way it was. Many women were expected to quit their jobs when they married, anticipating a family would soon follow. When I was around ten years old, my mother got a job with some other neighbourhood ladies, cleaning offices for Ernie. My oldest sister Faye, babysat us for the few hours in the evening. I will always cherish my mother’s presence during the day in the summertime, during lunchtime, and before/after school. Moms back then cooked all the meals and did all the laundry. There were no ‘fast food’ places in the 1950s that I can recall ~ we did go to Stoney Creek Dairy for ice cream cones a couple of times in the summer. But I don’t EVER remember going out to eat hamburgers at a restaurant.

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Santa’s Village 1959

 

My first school was Parkdale Public School where I went from Kindergarten to grade 5. We walked to school with all the neighbourhood kids in those days, skipping, talking, and singing along the way. At lunchtime, we walked back home where our mothers had lunch waiting for us. Then back to school. I vividly recall kindergarten – fingerpainting, playing instruments, and afternoon napping. We went to Kindergarten either in the morning OR the afternoon. Not all day like today. There was no Junior Kindergarten either. When we turned 5 years old, we were eligible for kindergarten.

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Grammom 5 years old 1958

 

When I was very young, I remember hearing that our Prime Minister was John Diefenbaker and I couldn’t help but wonder why a baker would be a Prime Minister…… ? I pictured this person all dressed in white wearing a baker’s hat! Oh the innocence of youth!

I have to say, life was simpler back in the 1950s – at least to a young kid like me.

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Long Distance Grammom

I just returned from British Columbia where I took my daughter Nellie and two teenage granddaughters, 14.5 year old Kalia and 12.5 year old Livi. We spent time on my son’s farm on the Sunshine Coast getting to know my two baby granddaughters, 2 month old Clare and almost 2 year old Elsie.

 

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Clare and Elsie

Nellie, Kalia, and Livi had never met Clare and Elsie before but I had spent time with them recently when Clare was only a few weeks old. We had a grand time playing with Elsie and holding Clare.

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Kalia, Livi, & Clare

 

Kalia, Livi, and Nellie also helped with some farm chores like feeding the goats, chickens, and rabbits as well as helping Rob install some gate posts. We picked cherries at a neighbour’s farm too and enjoyed them fresh and in a homemade pie. And of course we went to the beach every day looking for driftwood and beach glass!

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Elsie, Kalia, Livi, & Nellie on the beach

It wasn’t easy saying good-bye.

Kalia and Livi (and my other 4 grandchildren) live near me so I’ve seen them often for their entire lives. We’ve spent birthdays, Thanksgivings, and Christmases together and sleepovers in between. It’s taking some getting used to being a long-distance Grammom.

Email, Facebook, and Skype have all helped me feel like I’m participating in Elsie and Clare’s lives. Pictures are a big help too. But nothing is better than holding your grandchild in your arms and watching them sleep or smelling their sweet new-baby smell or reading the same stories 10 times in a row. I feel like their Gramma when I’m with them.

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Grammom and Elsie on the beach

 

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to travel across the country to spend time with them even though it’s only been a couple of times a year.

As my wee granddaughters grow, I hope to be able to visit them as often as possible and stay in touch through the latest technology.

……. because I love them as only a Grammom can.

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Rob and his girls

 

The Channel

It was the geese that I heard first. A few days ago, I could hear the Canada geese after dark ……. somewhere close. Lots of them, probably hundreds of them. And I knew that the middle channel of the river would soon be open!

It always starts upstream when small creeks and tributary rivers melt and the water current flows wildly towards the larger Rideau River. About a month ago or so, I noticed the Kemptville Creek, a.k.a. the South Branch of the Rideau River, completely melted and rushing through town towards the Rideau River. The temperatures spiked slightly above normal ~ around 5 degrees celsius (41F) ~ about three weeks ago and that started the big melt. Then it got colder, much colder, below normal colder and stayed that way for a couple of weeks – actually until now – slowing down the melt quite a bit.

When I drove to town, I noticed that the middle of the river ~ the Channel ~ was open at the bridge at Beckett’s Landing!  Hurray!!  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw that little sliver of water at my place. Each time that I went into town, the channel was open further and further towards my place. A few days ago, I noticed that it was within eyesight of my house! Yeah!  The anticipation of this ‘right of spring’ was so exciting!

Channel

 

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of Geese and other spring birds, I was delighted to see the open water, even through the fog and rain! Canada Geese rested along the edges of the ice after their long journey from the south. Some of them were swimming delightfully in the water.

The Channel being open is THE sign that spring has REALLY arrived! It’s the promise that winter is behind us even if we do get more snow. It means that the ice at the edges of the river are melting and letting go and embracing spring. Buds on the trees are waiting to burst; spring tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are poking their leaves out from under the slushy snow. Red-winged Blackbirds are arriving back to their homeland and Bluejays are coming out of the forests.  Yesterday, Nellie thought she heard a bullfrog.

Today, it’s only a sliver of water that’s open. But within a few days, the rest of the ice will let go and my Lake of Shining Waters (read about it here) will be exposed until the end of the year!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Ahhhh, spring!

 

Ten Years Later ….

Yes it’s been 10 years since Chris died at home on March 2, 2008 around 5:30 p.m. as the setting sun streamed through the window onto his face, surrounded by the loving embrace of our family. At times, it feels raw just like yesterday and other times it seems like a lifetime ago.

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Chris, Nellie, & Melvin 1999

 

We’re okay. We’re just fine. It’s hard to comprehend all the life that has occurred in these last ten years – life that Chris has missed. Life that we’ve been blessed with.

Ten years ago, the five oldest children were grown up and off on their own. Only 13 year old Melvin and 16 year old Nellie still lived at home. Our darling grandchildren, Kalia and Olivia, were SO small ~ now they are teenagers AND have been joined by SIX MORE cousins! My life has been enriched with joy and pride beyond measure.

I’ve learned, painfully at the beginning, to be me. Not part of a couple any more. Finding ‘me’ has been an amazing journey that is still evolving.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve watched 3 Olympic Winter games, jumping for joy over Canada’s gold medals in hockey. Chris would have loved that. Ten springs, summers, falls, and winters.

Not too much has changed around the house. A few years ago, my grown kids fixed the mudroom door and built a new deck out back. I still have my pond that Chris built for me – and I look after it faithfully, bringing in the goldfish every fall with the help of Kalia.

 

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Until recently, nothing much changed inside the house. I wanted things to stay just as they were: the paint that Chris put on the walls has been comforting. Recently though, with Nellie’s encouragement and support, I’m ready for change. I’m ready for fresh paint now! And Nellie’s started painting – her Daddy would be proud of her because she’s pretty darn good at it! We started with my bedroom because I had mold growing in the corners – Nellie and Taylor ripped out the drywall right down to the studs and replaced the insulation and drywall. Then Nellie and I taped and mudded it. Now Nellie is painting the entire room, door, and trim. Thanks Nellie! And for the first time in my entire life, I have my very own new bedroom furniture! I don’t have to share it with my sister (love you Bet even though you used to kick me out of our bed for breathing too loud when we were growing up, hehe) or husband or wee ones or anyone ~ just for me! It only took 65 years. It’s beautiful!

Next is the livingroom painting and finishing up a few jobs (like the floor) that Chris was too sick to do – Nellie is on a roll.

Every day we think of Chris and miss him.

Moving forward, crawling at times, but definitely moving forward.

 

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Homemade Turkey Dressing Recipe

 

I’ve always made my own turkey dressing (or stuffing as some folks say).  I believe my mother made it this way and so did her mother.  With Christmas just around the corner, I think it’s fitting to post this recipe.  There’s no rocket science to this and the amounts of ingredients vary so don’t worry about being exact.

 

IngredientsWM

 

Turkey Dressing/Stuffing

 
1 loaf Bread (stale is best. I use Whole Wheat and it’s usually fresh) – break or cut into small pieces.

 
1 small Onion diced very small

 
several white Potatoes, diced and boiled.

 
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Salt

 
little Pepper

 
Ground Sage – about a teaspoon, more or less to taste

 
Dried Summer Savory – to taste (I never measure but I must add several tablespoons).  I usually grow or buy a bunch of local Summer Savory.

 

Dressing is the kind of food that I taste-test as I’m adding the Sage and Savory spices. I just keep adding them, a little at a time, until I achieve the taste I’m looking for.

mixedWM

 
Mix everything together and add it by the handful to the inside of the turkey before you put it in the oven. Pack it in well to make it all fit. You can even stuff both ‘ends’.   The juices of the turkey mingle with the dressing as it’s cooking and make it nice and moist with a hint of turkey flavour.

When the turkey is done, remove the dressing right away – don’t leave it inside the turkey.

 

Serve with homemade Mashed Potatoes, homemade Gravy, baked Carrots, and boiled, mashed Turnip.  And don’t forget to follow with Christmas treats (recipes here)!
Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Grammom!

Outdoor Cat Shelters

It’s beginning to get cold around here – temperatures are now below 0 degrees celsius most days and even colder at night. Almost two years ago, a family of feral cats ~ mother cat and her three kittens ~ showed up around here. You can read more about the “Kittens” here.
Now we’ve adopted two of the feral ‘outside’ cats: brother Mandu and his sister Mochi (mother of our kittens). We managed to capture Mochi and get her spayed along with all her kittens last year. Even though the kittens have become inside cats, Mochi and Mandu remain our ‘outside’ cats. It was clear that they needed a better shelter arrangement so Nellie and I created two shelters for them last fall.
We chose plastic Rubbermaid containers to keep them dry and warm: 2 large and 2 smaller ones which fit inside the bigger ones.

First, we laid a piece of leftover hard styrofoam insulation on the bottom to add increased thermal factor on cold winter days.

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Then we lined the inside with environmentally friendly Roxul insulation.

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We carefully slipped the small Rubbermaid container inside the larger insulated one trying to keep the insulation along the inside intact.

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Then we placed the lids on both inner and outer containers. Nellie drew a circle on one end, big enough for our outside cats to fit through without letting in any unnecessary cold. Then she cut out the hole of the outside container with a box cutter, removed the circle of insulation, then cut the same size hole on the inside container.

 

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We used Tuck Tape to seal up the entrance hole area between the two buckets to keep the insulation intact and dry.   It may not be pretty but it’s effective!

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We removed the lids and proceeded to use old polyester pillow stuffing to line the insides and bottom. In one, we used some old foam insulation we had lying around.

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We tacked the lids back on with caulking (which we scraped off later because it was ineffective) and placed them where Mochi and Mandu liked to sit on the deck and look inside through the sliding glass door (and we could watch them 😉 ). Within hours, both cats tried out their new abode! Later, after the snow fell, I ‘wrapped’ the back and sides of both shelters with an old shower curtain to add to their warmth and dryness.

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Both Mochi and Mandu used their outside shelters all last winter, keeping safe and warm and often sleeping together in one bed on the coldest nights. We continue to feed them and even warm them up some homemade chicken broth every morning to help take the chill off and get something warm inside them.
Late this summer, we took off the lids and replaced the inside lining with fresh pillow stuffing.
Nellie and I feel comforted knowing that we are doing the best we can to take care of these two innocent creatures who have become our outside pets. Mandu has always remained quite feral and untouchable while Mochi has ‘allowed’ us to get close and even touch her. This fall, Nellie patiently kept feeding both of them yummy wet cat food and leftover chicken inside the mudroom every day (while the door was propped open for them to leave if they felt uncomfortable). Finally after almost two months, she was able to pet (briefly) BOTH Mochi and Mandu! And I eventually had the privilege of stroking them too.
Some day, we hope that they will feel comfortable spending the night inside the mudroom with the door closed but it’s too much for them now. We tried it one night and Mandu quickly panicked so we had to let them outside again. WE will just have to be patient……

 

If you’re interested in donating to a Kitten Rescue Fund please click on this link.

Best Week!

Recently, I had the BEST week this summer. First of all, it had been 3 or 4 days since it rained!! Yeah! It has rained nearly EVERY SINGLE DAY this summer. And torrential downpours too; not sissy little sprinkling of rain “showers”. Since spring, my yard has suffered major floods three times when the river overflowed it’s banks plus spotty minor floods where the yard sprouts large “puddles” filled with rain water. So needless to say, several days of NO rain and sunshine is extremely welcomed around here! And to make matters even more delicious, the temperatures had been just warm enough (20-25 Celsius) to keep my toes from getting cold and NO humidity. What more could I ask for?

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Rain!  Rain!  Rain!

So I asked my granddaughters Kalia and Olivia if they wanted to come to Gramma’s for a sleepover. And a Harry Potter movie marathon! We planned to watch ALL 8 HP movies IN A ROW. That’s about 16+ hours of movie watching! I was quite surprised when my almost 12 & 14 year old granddaughters enthusiastically wanted to come spend time with their ol’ granny.

When they arrived at 10 a.m., we drove into town for ‘snacks’. You HAVE to have snacks and junk food for movie marathons don’t ya know. We shopped at several stores for an hour an a half then we were ready (and armed) to come home and start the marathon! Chips, juice, chocolate bars, gummy worms, popcorn. A feast fit for a queen.

Wmmmm

Homemade Lasagna

I planned to make homemade lasagna for dinner (recipe here) because I wanted us to have a nutritious meal amidst all the other food-like items they were snacking on. I know both girls love my lasagna and everyone ate heartily. After dinner, we went for a bike ride to “shake the sillies out” and get ready for an evening of MORE movies. We saw one of our ‘resident’ White Tail Deer and the flock of wild Turkeys in the field.

Bike ride

Bike ride in the neighbourhood

Back to the movie-watching. We made it until 10 p.m. then started to get tired. Everyone went into Nellie’s room to do a couple of word search puzzles before snuggling down to sleep. The girls shared the bed in the spare room – Livi tucked around Kalia to keep warm.

The next morning, we started watching more Harry Potter movies. We made it through 6 movies before it was time for the girls to go home. We only have the last two movies from the last book to watch. Maybe the first PDDay during school?

I’ve watched all these HP movies many times and I still love them. It’s great to share something with my grandchildren and grown daughter Nellie that we ALL love. And who doesn’t love Harry Potter!!

Having my granddaughters here for a sleepover was the BEST part of the week for me!

And likely even the whole summer……

Harry Potter Books

Harry Potter books

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