Wednesday, 13 August 2014


At the Memoir Writing Group this past Monday, one of the cards pulled from the coffee can was the title of this blog. After writing for up to 20 minutes or so, each of us read what she/he had written to the rest of the group. When I read my submission one of the members suggested that I should post it to my blog site - so here goes!

There is one facet of life which does bug me. Some  people seem to think that they (being of a certain race or religion or whatever) have a claim upon perceived entitlements. Whoa there!

My maternal grandmother was the oldest daughter of a man who claimed to be Irish -  his surname was DeLacey/Hollis - but that sounds French to me. A while back I read an article about the reign of King Henry II of England who tried to conquer Ireland but had to settle for placing some of his knights in various parts of the country. I understand that my ancestor gained a fiefdom (probably along the West Coast somewhere) at that time.

My great-grandmother was a concert pianist who traveled around Europe giving recitals and Grandma got to travel with her some of the time. The family was wealthy - possibly of the 'landed gentry' - so Grandma grew up in the 'lap of luxury'.

However, she was very headstrong and - as she was beautiful - she did not lack for beaux. Somewhere she met a soldier who was a Cockney, married him and (when his regiment was posted to Hong Kong) she went there too. While there she became pregnant with Mom and - shortly after that - her husband was killed during a cricket match (he was hit on the head by a bat!).

Grandma had no other option but to return to London where she went to her parent's home only to have the door slammed in her face! She had met her sister-in-law before leaving London so she went there looking for assistance. The sister-in-law was a Cockney (probably Granddad was as well!) and her address ended with 'Bow E3' which indicates that neighborhood.

The nearby hospital was St Batholomew ('St. Bart's') and that was where Mom was born. As Grandma was a beautiful young woman who had to support herself and her infant, she became a dancer in a chorus line.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the man whom I knew as my 'Granddad' Ernie Brown joined the Canadian army, his unit was sent to Belgium and - while in a church - they were gassed by the Germans. Being sent back to London to recuperate, he took in a performance of the London hit 'Chou Chin Chow' and was smitten by one of the chorus girls - the woman whom I knew as 'Grandma'.

By the time that the Browns returned to Canada many of Granddad's siblings had migrated west to B.C. and were settled in North Vancouver. Grandma and her infant (Mom) sailed from England to Halifax and then rode the train to Granddad's hometown of Theodore, Saskatchewan from where Granddad took them on to B.C.

Upon arriving there, Granddad went looking for a suitable property to purchase and he settled upon the abandoned homestead which lay at the foot of Iron Mountain in Ruskin.

Thus Grandma went from a life of relative luxury to living in the forest in very rural Ruskin! Mom grew up there and attended the Ruskin Public School. As Mom was an outgoing woman, she made lifelong friends both in North Vancouver (where Granddad had a cousin) and in Ruskin.

Grandma belonged to a community women's group and she attended their meetings. When she returned home Granddad would be sitting in the living room reading. Upon entering Grandma would begin a tirade about something that one of the women may have said or how a certain woman looked and so on. Granddad would continue with his reading until he had had enough and then he would put down the reading material, look at Grandma - and exclaim, "Shut up woman!"

Except for a number of Japanese, Ruskin was largely a Caucasian community. However, this included a number of people who were NOT British and these were the folk whom Grandma took exception to when it came to social interaction.  Granddad - on the other hand - got along well with everybody and was not in the least concerned about a neighbor's ethnicity.

Granddad often regaled we children with stories of growing up in the farming village of Theodore, Saskatchewan. By that time the pogroms in rural  Russia caused many of those people to migrate and - as the Prairies are similar territories to the Russian steppes - many settled there.

Granddad was a very outgoing man so - while he and his buddies did play pranks upon these people  - he came to respect and then to like them.

Dad had traveled across Canada during the Great Depression by riding in boxcars in freight trains. His life experiences before that and the experiences then led him to be open and accepting as well.

Grandma left her family on bad terms but she still clung to the idea of 'privilege' and that led her to be suspicious of all who were not British. Of course insult was added to injury by her only child marrying a 'Damn Frenchman!' - but I did hear Grandma comment to a friend, "Gladys and Dan do have such lovely children!" 

A few blogs back I wrote about the parties held in our home and upon Grandma's request. All of those friends were Brits (some Scots and the rest English).

The head woman in the 'Chou Chin Chow' chorus also married a Canadian serviceman and he brought her to his family home in Victoria, B.C. She and Grandma stayed in touch so Grandma would go over to the Island for a visit and I remember being on one of our vacations at our grandparent's home when - just before we were to leave to catch a bus home - this friend arrived and Alda and I were introduced. That was the only time that I saw her (Daisy).

As I said earlier in this blog - Grandma did not trust anybody who was NOT British!



  1. I have reworked a part of this blog which - I felt - was rather cumbersome. If you have suggestions for further improvements, please do not hesitate to share those thoughts!

  2. Ernie - rather than Memorial Writing Group - I think of us as the Monday Memoir Writers Group. And rather than "leader", I think of myself as "timekeeper". S