Had she lived, my mother would have been 110 years old today (she died in 1989). When you stop and think about it, so much happened during her lifetime – and so much more in just the 30 years since she died.
She was born in the hinterlands of British Columbia in New Denver. That’s where she had her first piano lessons. After high school in Nelson, she went to the “Normal School” in Victoria to become a school teacher.
Then she, accompanied by her mother, headed to London, England, where she spent three years studying piano, violin and other instruments at the Royal Academy of Music. She was talented and went on to become a concert pianist and later a music teacher. She was in England at the start of WWII and endured the air raids, rationing and general terror of bomb shelters. In the fall of 1940, she and her mother set sail for Canada – their ship escorted by the royal navy.
By the age of 30 she had already seen so many technological advances – from electricity in homes to telegraph and telephones, radios and automobiles. Imagine!
The ladies ended their journey in New Brunswick, joined by her father, to live in Saint John. She was teaching music lessons to children in the south end neighbourhood where they lived and performing in the studios of CBC radio as well as local concerts. She also joined the NB Symphony orchestra, touring the province with that group for several years.
My Dad was a piano tuner – care to guess how they met? They married in 1944.
In 1950 they adopted me and we became a family of three!
By then Mum had seen more advances – more cars, air travel and (black and white) television!
Since Dad was blind, it fell to her to learn to drive. They bought their first car in 1958 – the year we took a two-month cross Canada trip to visit the places where she grew up and went to school. I can’t imagine learning to drive for the first time in my mid-40s and then setting off on such a journey. She was an independent woman well ahead of her times!
All the time I was growing up she was busy – teaching school, teaching music lessons, working with the music festival, the burgeoning NB Youth Orchestra and more. She also wasn’t averse to road trips. Aside from local jaunts to Albert County to visit my Dad’s family, Westfield to visit her mother’s family, Fredericton to visit friends and occasionally Fundy National Park for a picnic outing, she often took off on solo journeys – usually for my benefit. We spent a few summers in Wolfville, NS, so I could study violin with Prof. Kalejs at Acadia University. In 1966 I won a scholarship to spend the summer at an orchestral music school in Lansing, Michigan. Half way through the event, she drove down to visit me.
I don’t think they ever had a colour television – it wasn’t a big attraction for her. Although cell phones had been invented before she died, they weren’t common and certainly not the ‘smart’ phones we take for granted today. No computers were ever in their home.
Now we’re in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. She was a child during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic. I wonder what she would think of our current approach to the situation? After living through that and the war and then having a child afflicted with polio, I wonder what she would say to those who rebel at simple precautions like physical distancing and wearing masks to slow the spread of disease? Knowing her acerbic tongue, I suspect her words would be brief, but very pointed.
Happy Birthday Mum!