My favourite photo of my mother, Elisabeth, was taken in 1954, in Ceylon, just before she was to be presented to Elizabeth, the newly crowned Queen of England. My mother looks so happy and, as I have always remembered, beautiful. It was the most special event of her life. Born to Herbert and Ethel Jarvis in 1916 in South Croydon near London, Elisabeth was the eldest child, followed by her sister Mervyn and brother Geoffrey. Her father was a public servant for the local council, and her mother had trained as a violinist and, before she was married, even joined the London Symphony Orchestra. However, when Ethel’s mother died in childbirth, Ethel had to leave her career to look after her seven siblings.
World War II Tag
The Macedonian village, Zeleniche, under Greek rule, welcomed the birth of Vassilka Shikleff around 1915. She was the third of four children born to Magda and Ristos Shikleff. Their eldest child, Alexandra, would thirty years later bring Vassilka to Canada. Their second eldest, brother, Turpche, would be cut out of her life when she learned how he had neglected and abused their mother. Her youngest brother Yanni . . . yeah, well, Yanni . . .
My mom was born Allison Jean Swift in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, on November 28, 1914. Her father, Arthur Swift, worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and mother Ethel worked in the home. They lived not too far from the station, in a small house with a porch and yard. Mom was an only child. Just before it was torn down, Mom and her dad went to the old railway station and liberated a beautiful carved table that was going to go for scrap. It was her pride and joy, with a hand carved pedestal and four large curved and carved feet on wheels. I have it in my dining room today, and it always evokes memories in me of her clandestine adventure. Arthur Swift died on November 27, 1930, and Ethel died on May 17, 1937.
That I’m even here to tell this story is a fluke, since both my mother and my grandmother before her never really intended to be mothers at all. And I’m here to challenge the well accepted belief that all women are wired genetically to want to be mothers, since the history of the women in my family seems to ascribe more credit to the environment – read “dashing young men”. In the early 1900's, my maternal grandmother was one of three spinster sisters who lived in Berlin, Germany, at the time of Kaiser Wilhelm. They all eschewed being married, and therefore of wanting to be mothers, in favour of becoming successful businesswomen. They were the women’s libbers of their time, running a lucrative haberdashery, fashioning military uniforms complete with gold filigree epaulets and all manner of gold braid trimmings.
16 Apr Kathy Hill’s story of OliveMy 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.
The town of Elie, Manitoba was populated by French speaking people. A convent attached to a church was the focal point of all activity in Elie. In 1917 the gossips speculated about the arrival of its newest citizen. This was the day Rose and Omar Brabant became the new parents of a baby girl.
26 Mar Ray Baldwin’s story of MaryMy mother was named Mary. She was born in 1919 in Mossimin, Saskatchewan, to a young couple Willem and Alexandra Benwick. Willem was barely 20 and had emigrated from the Ukraine in 1915 and immediately entered the employ of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). By 1917 he was able to help his even younger wife immigrate. At that time the CPR had stationed him in Mossimin. And that is where Willem and Alexandra established the first of many homes over their 60 year marriage. Mossimin is also where they began a family. By the end of their lives in 1998 the Benwick family numbered eleven children.
Nancy Daley was born in Magnetawan, Ontario on July 30, 1924. Although the population of Magnetawan briefly ballooned above 300 with the birth of her five siblings, it has remained solidly a “village”, relegated to a humble, yet proud small town status in rural Ontario about an hour south of North Bay. Her father, Tom Daley met his future wife one summer while delivering vegetables by canoe on Ahmic Lake. Nancy’s mother Lydia had ventured to Canada’s lake country from Pittsburg to take a summer job as help. At 16, she fell in love with both Tom and Canada. Together they built a family, a sawmill and hydroelectric business, and nurtured family connections that have remained strong to this day.