Her name was Karolina, but her close friends, those who knew her in “the old country” called her Lola. She was the second youngest of five children born to Anton and Mary (Baker) Schnurer on November 26th, 1903, in a small Polish town called Rownia. Part of the house that Lola grew up in was leased to the local police. Her father, a carpenter, died of pneumonia when Lola was only three years old. Her mother was a nurse and midwife. Sadly, when Lola was about fourteen, her beloved mother died of typhoid fever, which she contracted while nursing the sick during an epidemic. I have a picture of Lola with her mother and sisters, but she didn’t speak of them, so I don’t know what my mother did at this time. A family friend told me my mother delivered him, so maybe she took on her mother’s job as midwife.
My mother, Olive May Smallwood, was born in Nottingham, England, on May 10, 1903. She was the youngest of seven daughters and one of twelve children born to John and Mary Smallwood. She began school at age four at what was called the Infant’s School. She stayed in school until she was fourteen, since to advance would have meant travelling to another village, which she could not have done. So she repeated her last grade, rather than leave school altogether, and became the most literate of her family.
With few facts and fewer memories, it is not easy to paint a comprehensive picture of the totality, the gestalt of a person. Be that as it may, the following is an attempt to present, as clearly as is possible, a straightforward, honest depiction of my mother, unclouded by sentimentality and bias. These are the facts, as I know them, as pertain to my mother’s life. Let the facts, few though they may be, speak for themselves.
Note: as this is not my story, but my mother’s, I use the pseudonyms Dor for my mother, and Demo to denote my father out of respect for their anonymity. As far as I know, they are both still alive and would prefer this. That my father is being as forthcoming as he now is about mother and the details of our lives together is a truly wonderful thing, and I thank him for that. After a life of denial, it can't be easy, and is testament to his good character.
Dorothy Merritt was born on the 16th of May, 1904 in a suburb of Southampton, in Hampshire, England. Her birth record in the English web site, Free BMD, and RBS Worldpay provides the information that her birth was at South Stonegate, Hampshire. This may have been a little village in 1904 that is now a part of Southampton. She was named after one of her father’s old girlfriends in Market Lavington, Wiltshire.
Mother was born in Hampshire, England May 16, 1904. Her name was Dorothy May Merritt, the only daughter of Bob and Ada Merritt. Bob and Ada brought Percy, Dorothy’s brother and Dorothy, a baby just a few months old, across the Atlantic by ship in the fall of 1904. Percy sat on the trunk and Dorothy was held in her parents’ arms.
My mother, Channa Veller Milner, died of a heart attack in 1981. She was in her 70s. It wasn’t until after her death that I learned she was more than what I had experienced with her. My father had shared stories about his family with me but my mother never spoke of her childhood or family experiences.
My mother, Margaret Maureen McIntosh, began her life in a small town in Lancashire, England on 29 July, 1930. She was born to Mary (May) Elizabeth and Thomas Hope. In 1933, a year after her brother Arthur John (AJ) was born, May took the children and left Tom. This began a life of constant moving. Maureen never did find out what it was that Tom did to warrant May leaving, but it must have been an intolerable situation. Society dictated separation and divorce to be a disgrace, so May told her children and anyone else who asked that Tom was dead. Maureen knew he was not, yet she followed her mother’s wishes and never spoke of her father.
My mother, Patricia Primrose Lazell, was born in Grays, Essex, England, on January 16, 1924. She was the daughter of Harry and Ethel, and the youngest of three children. Harry was a longshoreman at the Tilbury docks, and was a handsome 6’1” to Ethel’s 4’11”. Ethel had had polio as a child and wore a special boot. I remember my mother saying something about how her mother was bitterly self-conscious about her pronounced limp.
Elizabeth Howison – “Betty”, was born in Deadwater, England on October 17, 1927. Born a twin, she had a brother, Donald George, who died at the age of six weeks. On his death certificate it claimed “failure to thrive”. I think my mother always felt guilty for being the strong one.
Ada Stoute (nee Moore) was born August 14, 1935 on the tiny island of Barbados in the West Indies. She was raised with her 2 brothers (O’Neil and Cameron) and 2 sisters (Ina and Etheline) in the county of St. John’s. Her mother died from cancer when she was around 11 years old, I think. Her name was Winnifred. Her father lived to a very old age. Despite being the youngest in her family, she left Barbados when she was about 18 years old for England, determined to work and bring her brothers and sisters to live with her. She left her first born daughter, Julie, with my father’s mother. In those days, this was common practice. There were no paternity tests; the child was given the once over by the family and if the child resembled the father, that was that. First she sent for my father, Randall Stoute, and they were married in London. Then, one by one, she brought her brothers and sisters and daughter to England. Her second daughter, Angela (me), was born in England, June 19, 1963. Her youngest daughter, Susan, was born August 10, 1966 in Toronto.