It’s taken me many years to sit down and write this post about Gramma. It was very traumatic the day that my father made the phone call from North Bay to Lethbridge to tell me that my grandmother had died. I was living with Larry and Nina at the time, so they were very supportive, but the truth is, this was the very first time I had confronted the idea that good things end. I still hold on to letters that Gramma wrote to me when I was a child. I still remember her sitting at the kitchen table. She was such a strong character in my life and had impacted me in many ways along the path of my journey. I was very very sad.
As I walked the summer streets of Magrath this past long weekend, the Mourning Doves looked down upon me from their perches on power poles. The light to the west was that morning-soft light that every road tripper enjoys as they set out to begin the day. The Apple trees were blooming, along with the Mayday trees, Lilac bushes and ornamental Cherries. There was a thick aroma on the air. There were a myriad of colours bathed in soft light. I circled the familiar buildings, their facades all very different, but as I passed by, the memory of the warm wood and brick and the signage all returned to me via heart stories. I stood still in front of the mill and imagined the glass in the window…the dusty Christmas cactus…the big wooden desk in the front office.
When I think of Gramma, her head is tilted back and she is laughing. I can bring the sound of her laughter to the surface if I keep looking at that image in my head. I remember her floral yellow apron…her soft cotton dresses. I remember the touch of her skin.
A long time ago I tried sending prompts to my relations so that they might share their memories of Gramma. I collected just a few. Now, they are lost somewhere in my archives labelled with long-forgotten titles.
Bits from Grampa’s recollections with Darcy Rollingson are in Blue.
” Back to hockey, I played for the Jolliet Motor Car Company for one year. Following that I was scouted and taken up to the Hamilton Tiger Senior OHA team, a semi-professional club. I played a benefit exhibition game in Lindsay, Ontario once for a fellow who had lost his eye. During the warm-up period, I came out on the ice and skated around. Naturally of course, I was looking in amongst the spectators and I saw this little dark-eyed chick sitting there. I winked at her. And by golly if she didn’t wink right back.
After the hockey game was over, I skated right over and said, “See you after I change?” She was with her father and turned to ask him something. He must have given his approval because she was there at the door when I finished changing. A few of us went up to a place called, “The Greeks” on Kent Street in Lindsay, Ontario where we had ice cream. The restaurant had a player piano and of course we were all yowling around there.
That was my first date with Florence Urith Elliott.”
When I visited Lindsay, I made certain that I stopped at this very restaurant. I had contacted the current owners ahead of time to make certain of the history. Very magical, indeed!
“I mentioned before that I was making $11 a week and $1 of that which was mine for spending. When I met Florence at age seventeen, it wasn’t quite enough. She came up to Hamilton and I used to work all day long. Then when spring and summer came and the ice came off the Hamilton Bay, I would go down and unload ocean-going boats until about 10:00 at night for 40 cents an hour. That would mean Florence and I could go out.
I used to save my money and be very careful with it. I had a quart seal that I used to put my quarters and so on in. When Florence and I would go skating at the Abso Rink, it cost 25 cents for each of us. Sometimes I wouldn’t get quite enough money out of the seal. So, after our skating I’d take Florence down to her home on Barton and Wentworth Streets in the street car. I’d wish her goodnight and turn around and walk back home, about two miles, then be ready to go to work again at 7 in the morning. I was wiry and tough, I’ll tell you. I had to be. No fooling about it.”
“We dated for about four years. I was 20 1/2 and she was very close to 21 when we married. Florence was three months older than myself, which I kidded her about on occasion. We were married on December 10 1925. (sic) She was a wonderful woman, we had such a happy life together. We were married in St. Matthew’s Cathedral, on the corner of Barton Street and Eucalypt Avenue in Hamilton, Ontario. We had a lovely wedding. I had to go up to the altar there and stand like a new-caged crow with my best man. Florence came up on the arm of her Dad and we were married. We signed the marriage book and the whole works with a pen that the Prince of Wales had presented to the priest in 1904.
About 8:00 after the wedding supper, we got on the train and went to Toronto. We got out of Union Station and what a blizzard! We were on our way to Florence’s Aunt Sophia’s so we hailed a taxi. We got into the taxi, started going down the street at about 25 miles per hour and some clown came flying out of the alley. He hit us and sent us careening up onto the sidewalk almost into the lobby of a hotel. I thought for sure we were goneers. After we checked that we were alright, we got into another taxi and continued on our way.”
We didn’t have a lot of money when we were first married. In fact, after I paid the first month’s rent for our home on Polett Street ($25.00 a month) and paid for our wedding and honeymoon expenses and all the trimmings, we had $34.00 left. We took that $34.00 to the grocery store and that is what we started our married life on. They were happy days though. During the Depression though is when Mom really shone.
We lived two blocks from the railroad tracks going to Montreal. Trains used to stop there for coal and water during the Depression. There were men they called ‘bums’ but they weren’t bums…they were men out of work. They were stuck….hundreds of them. Things were so horribly bad that men were just desperate. They would come to our home in the whole seven years, my wife was never molested. That girl never had the porridge pot off the stove. We would milk the cow in the morning and bring in milk, so she gave them each a bowl of porridge with some milk and sugar. She never had a finger laid on her. I used to be scared skinny when I looked at some of those big apes. What could I ever do if they ever touched her? I’d be into them like a ton of bricks of course, but they could have wrung me out like a jack rabbit. These men always used to ask if there was anything that needed to be done around the house. I would come home and all my kindling would be cut, all the wood would be cut and everything. I never saw such hard times as those people had. I hope that never comes to pass again. I had been working at Scoffield Woollens where I was paid 60 cents an hour. The men who were working under me were getting 18 cents an hour.
We came through the Depression though. Towards the end of it, we moved to Penman’s in Paris, Ontario. It was a much better job. I became a Consultant for seven different mills. Consequently, I was away from home quite a bit.
Ruth was born in 1926. Mable Eleanor was next, named after both her grandmothers, Mable and Mary Eleanor. She was born at 30 Kinraid Avenue, Hamilton in Mary Eleanor’s home.
This is how that place would look today.
Margaret was born in Hamilton, also, in John’s mother’s home. He wondered if he would have anything but girls.
With the move to Paris, Ontario, my father John Moors was born in East Whitby, Ontario. Grampa describes that owning a cow, some pigs and some chickens held down their expenses and got them through the Depression. Mary-Jane was also born in Paris, Ontario when Grampa accepted the job with the Penman Company.
My Uncle Bob, Robert Elliott, was born in Magrath, up in Bradshaw’s place, used for a hospital and was given his mother’s maiden name. The photo below appears to be the house where my Auntie Ruth still lives in Raymond, Alberta.
Grampa describes Gramma Moors as being an industrious young lady. She sewed, baked and did everything for their home. Florence and John moved west, for the most part, because of Ruth’s struggle with asthma. Quite by luck, after the Paris doctor’s recommendation to move, Grampa saw a Wanted Ad in The Star.
“Wanted: A man to write a brief on a woollen mill in Western Canada.”
The family arrived in Magrath and the brief was written. With some management and a lot of work, Grampa was convinced that the mill could be made a success. Next, wool took the family to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where Grampa worked for Saskatchewan Wool Products. In Moose Jaw, the family had a beautiful home.
“It had seven rooms and was full of kids and kinfolk.” While in Moose Jaw, on one of my cross country road trips, I stopped and visited this house, my father’s high school and places where he had formally sung in choirs and on the radio.
When I got fed up with Saskatchewan Wool Products and all the labour disputes and what not we invested in a summer resort. It was located 15 miles north of the end of the CPR railroad line and on Greg Lake. When I bought it, there was only a fire trail into it. We owned it for three years and ran it quite successfully. We had a store that sold all description of groceries and notions to the tourists and five boats and outboard motors for rental purposes. Then I started guiding.
Many stories and such are shared about this….but, as it relates to Florence…
Then at the end of the season, I would leave Florence in charge at the resort and search out the Indian chiefs with who I had dealings.
Really great stories as they related to those relationships!
I sold the resort because Earl Tanner came to me and asked if I would go back to the woollen mill in Magrath, Alberta.
This past long weekend, I visited the Magrath Museum where I purchased a book about the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill for $5. If anyone in the family wishes to know more about the history of our family and wool, please contact me. You can also type in WOOLEN MILL into the search function on this blog. I’ve written a good part of the history there. A point of information…I have typed the word Woolen as Woollen, as a matter of being true to the transcriptions.
Dear family, if you have any other photographs of Gramma Moors, please send them along. It’s really wonderful to see them all in one place. I think, at a point, Gramma was dyeing her hair and so through those times, I’m not very certain of the order of these things. I’ll change the order of things as I go. Also, if you have memories to share about Gramma, I’d love to post them here, so please send to my e mail firstname.lastname@example.org With gratitude!
Gramma suffered a mastectomy to her right breast, was challenged by arthritis and had heart problems. Despite all of that, her strength and ability to adapt to all sorts of different moves and lifestyles was amazing. She was so supportive and so willing to adapt. As I track the family history and look at the changes in her life, I’m truly amazed. I’m grateful for her niece, Marilyn Moffat and the recent narratives that have spurred me on to get more writing done and archives compiled.
Now that I have placed the images, I will be going back and inserting bits of Grampa John Moors’s written history to make connections between various relocations in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This inserted text will be published in blue font. That way we can build upon a history.