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All Grown Up (sort of…)

Arowhon Pines August 1991

Arowhon Pines – August 1991

I have now sorted through Alec’s box of papers and photos, and posted the highlights.  Of course there are alot of gaps, but it gives a pretty good record up until the mid ’70s.  I will now take a break from posting, although I’m more than happy to add anything you send me – particularly about our early days and our forebears.

Be sure to check out these links on the Albums page – lots of “new” photos:

5 Boys – Misc.

Group Portraits

Family of Origin – And All That Jazz

 

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Sifting through all the old photos and letters, I am reminded again and again of the strong influence of elders and forebears in our development.   Sure, we can each be proud of what we have achieved through our own efforts, but let’s always keep in mind the rich environment – the developmental context – that was provided for us.

In this post, I have selected a letter (see below) and three photos from Kenny’s formative years.  Although he has emerged as a strong and influential leader, he continues to probe into the miraculous conjunction of events that occurred 68 years ago.  Happy Birthday Kenneth!

Friday July 17, 1964

Dear Dad,

I haven’t written you sooner because it took me a little while to dig anything up.  Now hear [sic] it is.  First of all, there isn’t much discussion about the convention in everyday talk except “isn’t there anything else on TV?”  I think that the people who back Goldwater do so because they want United States to take a firmer stand against Communism.  All the kids around here seem to think that United States is doing a favor for Canada by protecting it with nuclear weapons.  It also seems to me that the people here will agree with almost any ideas as long as their party suggested it.

There isn’t [sic] any segregationist feelings around here.  This is the typical response when I ask,

“Are you for segregation?” – “I don’t know.”  “Then your [sic] for it.” “No, Negroes are nice guys but some of them…”  – Enough of the “survey.”

The weather down here [not sure where he is] is the same as in Toronto, HOT!!! The swimming pool is really great with 3 diving boards.

Every morning at 9 we have a baseball game.  Then after lunch we go swimming.  The evenings are spent swimming, watching TV and playing hearts.  I am having alot of fun here.  You can expect more letters next week because I think I will have more time,

ken4

Baseball, Bikes, and the Bivouac

 

These photos are reminders of the active childhood that we were blessed with.  (The baseball photo was taken in June 1957, around the time when Steve turned 11. )  In today’s world, baseball, bikes and the bivouac are often seen as frills – distractions from the real work of preparing for a career and making money.  But I am convinced that the somatic routines, character traits and mental acuity that took shape during such activities were very important for us.

Maybe this explains why Steve turned out to be a success in business, a good father, and a brilliant inventor.  Happy birthday Steve!

Sick, Greasy, Fighting, Bored…

img_20170305_122442I remember standing at the top of the steep stairs at Timbercove and asking, Mom, which one of us do you love the most?  She didn’t miss a beat, and answered, I love you all the same.  Reading through some letters to Alec from Timbercove in the late 50s. I realize how hard this must have been.  Here are some excerpts:

I have had enough of summer in Bayfield – after a week. The N.T.D. club is closing in daily. I don’t know why they can’t sprout a little initiative, for this short period at least…S&D laid out some lines on the badminton court so perhaps that will fill in few moments – between fights that is.

I am thinking of having a heart-to-heart confidential talk with Ruth about the future of Bayfield as far as we are concerned. I find the life of a hypocrite to be very wearing…Some of us went to Goderich this a.m. to the Presby church Philip J?? designed. – Ruth, the girls, Dan, Ken and I. The other 3 flatly refused to go – Steve on the grounds that he was “forced” to go last Sunday (by lots). and so Mark should be forced to go today etc. I was interested in seeing the inside of the church but it didn’t impress me particularly. The service was even more oppressive than the one in Bayfield, and I don’t think I will ask the boys to go again as it was all I could do to sit through it.

Had a catastrophe here this a.m. Steve mashed 2 right-hand fingers in a folding camp stool. One just has a gash but the other an unknown quantity of stitches put in by Dr. Oakes at Clinton Hospital between operations. Ruth and I rushed him over as his hand was dripping blood and I could see stitches were necessary. Steve was getting out to watch some men from Tavistock clean out the septic tank, so we had all kinds of excitement…Steve may go into London with your father and sit in court since he can’t swim.

Tues “rest” hour. Dan departed happily with the Fallisses yesterday, and Johnny seems to be fitting in well here. He and Andrew slept in the tent last night. They were spinning great yarns this morning about how they were awake until 3:30 etc., but when I checked them at 10:30 both were asleep.

We had a birthday cake for Kenny last night and he was surprised with $10 from his grandparents, $1 from Peter, and a tie from Liza and Kate.

Tuesday a.m. [Picked up Andrew at the hospital.] He was not as delighted as I expected because when I told him that Dr. O said he couldn’t go in the water for a week, he burst out crying. He said he didn’t have to be in bed but should get out in the sunshine – but no romping…The first thing he wanted to do when he got home was to play Monopoly, so Steve and Dan complied and he was soon blowing up like his old self. We have him in the Scotch Pine room.

Steve and Dan went to Geo. Findlay’s uncle’s this a.m. for two large buggy wheels which they brought back on their bikes (!) and attached to the buggy. This process involved many tools, oilcans for propping, etc., and they called me out proudly to view the result, which I could hardly enjoy as both had used the grease gun liberally, oblivious to themselves and their clothes. However, they were so exultant about it all you will be happy to know I did not squelch them.

Off to see The King and I at Pioneer Park tonight with all the kids.

While managing the dynamics of five boys, numerous in-laws, and various local characters, she somehow managed to write supportive letters to Alec, who apparently was spending alot of time in the back yard with his typewriter.  For example:

Did you work over Moon Attack?

It is interesting to note that she very much included herself in the emerging writing projects.  She refers to her ongoing correspondence with CBC, and proposes a new feature for Weekend magazine:

What do you think of writing Weekend immediately to see if they would like an article on camping. We could easily get a series of color camping techniques then and we could certainly write a story using Bonnie’s list of required equipment etc. I think it would be easy, especially now that you have had more experience with color film.

At this point, her letters are still sprinkled with cheerful emoticons.  Two examples (happy, sad):

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Bonnie Meanwell – #1 Friend of the Family

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Rustling up the grub with Harry

…She kept me up to date with you and yours., I will miss that.  Carol was so happy that all of you are wonderful fathers, and she attributed it to your role model, Alec.  As you will learn, old friends even when not seen as often, need no explanations, nor excuses, they just are, and I was very fortunate…

This is an excerpt from a letter to us by Bonnie Meanwell in February 1994.  (See full letter here.)  It’s so helpful to find this letter again after all these years.  I realize how much I took my parents and their friends for granted, and never really looked at things from their points of view.

The nurse Alice had a nervous breakdown after helping to look after you for a month …Who knew?  Steve coming home disgusted with having to play a piece by Scubert (your musical mother realized it was Schubert…Well, that one’s not so surprising.  Your father holding the fort on Saturdays so Carol could sell blouses in Hudson’s, Detroit – and keep her sanity…

As well as helping me to appreciate the enormous contribution that Bonnie and others made towards my upbringing, her letter has also helped me to recognize how many people have played a helpful role in raising my own children.  So much love and generosity.

Full-Contact Motherhood

carol-rowingIn earlier posts, I wrote about some of the correspondence between Carol and Alec in the early stages of their relationship.  Once they had settled in Windsor, there was no need to write letters, so it’s hard for us to know just what was going on in their minds during their primary parenting years.  However, there were some short periods when they were separated.  We do have some letters from Carol to Alec during these these periods, and they reveal how events appeared from her perspective.

I have always known that Carol was a hands-on Mom, but I don’t know if she actually enjoyed rowing boats.  In any event, she did it for US, and I am very grateful.  She was always ready to take hold of difficult situations – maybe some of you remember cowering in our tents while she banged on pots and pans and chased away the marauding bears.

In June 1963, Alec was away for three weeks, taking a course in Princeton NJ.  (I do not know what the subject was.)  Steve and Dan were already off for the summer, Andrew was receiving the distinguished Kiwanis Citizenship Award at the Grade 8 grad, and Mark was reading comic books in the tree house.  And Kenny, of course, was the “model child.”  Here are some excerpts:

From Letters to Alec, June-July 1963

Liberal Intellectuals

study-club

The Study Club

From the beginning of their relationship, Alec and Carol shared a deep interest in literature and culture.  In a letter to Carol in 1947, Alec writes,

We should try to plan intellectual and creative pastime activities in order to lead a more satisfying life – after arrival of Twinkletoes II, [Danny] that is.

Later, he writes,

I finished “Essay on Morals.” Philip Wiley seems to be propounding a satisfactory philosophy based on known facts and scientific reason. He gives no quarter to religion (Christianity included) and is particularly barbed when discussing Catholics. He attributes the madness of the world to religion which has caused blindness in humans – placing faith and seeking guidance in an external force rather than realizing that we are animals (evolution) with Instinct. He thinks reason is an instinct and believes mankind would now be much further advanced (in pure science and in the ability to get along with each other) had man recognize that he was a creature of instinct and it was, therefore, up to him, and to him alone, to utilize some instincts and master others. (Wiley believes each force in a human being has a counter force which may be hidden in the subconscious.) By realizing that he was captain of his own ship and independent a man advances and leads a more satisfying existence. Devotion to the Christian legend (the same to Communism) is false and evil, he says.

This dialogue continued and flourished as they both became actively involved in the School of Religion, regularly invited interesting guests to the dinner table, and of course, took a deep and abiding interest in our own intellectual development.  (Happy Word Game was a well-intentioned but somewhat counter-productive example.)  You no doubt also remember the Study Club which provided regular opportunities for extending the dialogue in fellowship with others.

At a certain point, their interests began to diverge – perhaps it was when Carol began to study The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, and similar books.  She did not seem to be particularly interested in Alec’s explorations  of paranormal phenomena and psychic development.  I should mention, however, that Carol once spoke to me about this after Alec died, and expressed some regrets, and wished she had paid a little more attention to what he was learning.

I will conclude this post with a photo that strikes a lighter note:

ouija-board

Alec demonstrates his command of the Ouija Board