The Letters (updated 5/5/16)

Miss Sadie Stewart, Vancouver, BC

21 August, 1939

Dear cousin Sadie,

Today is my 16th birthday and Meely, my big sister, said I should tell you a little bit about myself since it has been forever since our families have been in the same province. (Meely, well really Amelia, is n't here right now, but she should be home soon, she 's travelling. She is a big bossy-boots even when she 's not here.)
I have the best chickens in 4H and I like to sew. I love music and going to the movie theatre- I saw Bringing up Baby - it was so funny and K. Hepburn was great! And C. Grant is so smooth, even though he is a bit old. I wonder how they trained that leopard - I'd be scared witless to work with a leopard!
I live in Guelph, right in town, with Amelia. She is a widow (Mr. Wilcombe was killed in a tragic farming accident and after she moved here I came to keep company and eventually go to Macdonald.
It is really quiet here without Meely but I have found some friends at the school and Mrs. Gordon next door looks after me. I miss the lake in the summer but town is nice, and I like staying with my sister.
Well, that's all I can think of to say right now.

Yours sincerely,
Regina M. Montgomery (but everybody calls me Queenie)
87 James St., Guelph, Ontario 

August 1939
Mrs. Hamish Gordon, 34 Mary St., Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  Dear Joan,
I've been travelling for quite a while, so I'm a bit disoriented (that's some small humour, since I recently left the East). I will be home soon, sooner would have been better, what with the Sino-Japan war and the unrest in the Continent. I also, of course, miss my family, even the irrepressible Queenie, who has gotten up to who-knows-what in my absence. I hope she is not too much trouble.
It will come as no surprise to you who know me well, that I have decided teaching is not for me, however, I expect to find employment as a typist in Guelph, so that should keep us fed and clothed.
I hope Queenie is keeping up with her studies, and I'm quite sure she is taking good care of her chickens, she never fails her chickens. She is a bright girl and my light in the darkness.

Mrs. Amelia J. Wilcombe
Somewhere At Sea

24 August 1939

Dear Sadie, 

School starts soon and I did not look at my Latin as much as I should have! Uncle struggled with his Latin (of course, he was studying medicine) also so I do n't feel so alone.
It is still warm and I've planned out a swimsuit for next summer. I'm already taller than Meely and I don't know if I'll keep growing, but I suppose I ought to make a two piece to be safe: daring! I wonder if Meely wants one?
George (my little brother who lives with our parents up on the Sound) says the fields are all plowed and ready for the winter wheat. Mother (or maybe Eva - I have a lot of siblings) made him write a letter to me, for practice. He does n't like writing, I can tell. He's not much good, really.
Some animal, a fox? got half of my chickens, including my best layer, but I still have more eggs than I can use. I take them to the market in the mornings. Mr. Gordon is helping me strengthen the coop so hopefully there will be no more depredations. (There, I hope that is a long enough word - Meely says my writing is too babyish sometimes).
Meely decided she does n't like to teach! I can't imagine that. Even though the Gordon children are sometimes difficult, I've had fun this summer catching them up on their maths. Oooh! There's my excuse for Latin.
I must close now



January, 1940
Mrs. John Robins, Owen Sound, Ontario

Dear Eva,
Are you well? Meeley and I are. We are planning a garden with the Gordons in the vacant lot down the street past their place. The ground is ready for the thaw and we are planning what to put in in the spring.
Have you heard from James or Robert? I'll bet George is hopping mad he is too young, but I suppose Mother is pleased enough.
So many have enlisted, I'm wondering if I'll ever find a date. But I've heard that the University will become a training centre so maybe that will mean an infusion of possibilities. I wouldn't want to be an old maid of 17 next year.

With affection, 
your sister Regina


12 February, 1940
Mr. and Mrs. James Montgomery, Owen Sound, Ontario

Dear Mama and Papa,
Regina and I are doing well here. The weather has been quite mild and the chickens are thriving since the modifications to their quarters. If the weather were as severe as last year's, I fear Regina and her dog might explode. As it is, she can talk of nothing but John Salton.
I'm getting ahead of myself. She and Oberon had gone for a walk (I banished them from the house for a while yesterday). Oberon escaped, as usual; leash attached, unusual - and this time managed to knock a complete stranger flat on his back. I suppose Regina, with her usual tomboy habits, might never have met anyone, so hurrah for Oberon. No harm done and maybe some good for our Queenie.
Mr. Salton is a guest of the Gordons for a few days, home on leave with their oldest, Alex. His people are over near Halifax, farmers, I think. Is n't everyone these days? I can't tell you much more about him until I've had a chance to meet him and talk to Mrs. Gordon, and Queenie's obsession with eyes and the moustache is hardly useful in any context but preventing sleep.

Give my love to everyone there,

5 August, 1940
Mr. and Mrs. James Montgomery, Owen Sound, Ontario

Dear Mama and Papa,
Regina and I are well, our youthful training of many mouths to feed and not much harvest has served us well in the current rationing.
I finally met Mr. Salton, and I approve. It looks as though he may never get sent over - to his dismay and my delight. If anything were to happen to him, Regina would be devastated. It looks as though he and the Gordon boy will be stuck training other pilots.
I've written Aunt Sarah, confirming that we would be delighted to have Sadie stay with us for a time. I hope Sadie does not chafe at the restrictions of town life, used as she is to the outdoors. I've reassured her mama that there is plenty of ice skating and snowshoeing in the winter. I hope Aunt Sarah has managed to deter Sadie from bringing all her camping equipment. We do not have mountains here as she knows them.
I'm sure she and Regina will try to out-tomboy each other.

My best to you all,

11 August, 1940
Miss Sadie Stewart, Vancouver, BC

Dear Sadie,
I'm so excited you are coming to live with us! We'll have bunk beds in my room, and I've already cleared half the wardrobe for you, even though you won't be here for a month yet.

Jack (Michael John Salton) won't have leave until you've been here a month, but I can't wait for you to meet him. Meely seems to think he's alright. 
We can go to a dance! I'll make one of the Gordon boys take you.  You can borrow a dress from me or Meely if all you are bringing is expedition clothes (ha ha).
I caught up lots on my Latin last year so I don't have nearly the worries I did.  



20 September, 1940
Miss Edwina Montgomery, Owen Sound, Ontario

Dear Edie,
Sadie has arrived safely and we 're already having lots of adventures! I can't wait for it to snow since Sadie brought her snow shoes. They are funny! I want her to try some with proper tails - she believes I can't manage tailed shoes in the woods. I'll show her. She wanted to bring her skis but her mama would not let her. I'm glad, since I'm not good on downhills.

We had a great time at the dance, I went with Jack ('natch) and she went with some fellow named Joe that Alex found for her. They didn't hit it off at all, I think Sadie intimidated him a bit! Oh well, the band was great and the refreshments were pretty good, all things considered. Sadie just squeezed into one of Meely's dresses. I know! Her shoulders intimidated Joe!

I'm glad Mama and Papa heard from both James and Robert. I can only imagine how eager James is to stop doing whatever he's doing up at McGill and get into the fight for real.

Regina (I think it's time I drop the Queenie)

16 February 1941

Mr. and Mrs. James Montgomery, Owen Sound, Ontario

Dear Mother and Father,
As I'm sure you have heard, our little community of females will soon grow by one, when Maggie arrives. I'm glad that we have a spare room for her, and it was fortunate that Aunt Sara's cousin Iodhnait contacted you.
The girls are over the moon, as Regina would say, for a new cousin. Especially an exotic Irish one. I hope they don't pester her too much or expect her to wear green all the time.
There is a small RC community here, and the Gordons next door will take Maggie under their wing for church matters. The Orange Parades are a thing of the past, thankfully.
Sadie is settling in well. She is quite an active girl and has served to keep Regina somewhat distracted from pining over Jack's absence.
The girls are volunteering with the Red Cross. Sadie wants desperately to go overseas, to help at a Maple Leaf Club, but her mother is firmly against that. Regina has a talent for nursing. Once she has more training, and another year, I doubt I can stop her from leaving. I hope the war is done by then.
The chickens and garden are thriving, and rationing is not too bad, even here in town.
My work, about which I may say nothing much, is keeping me well occupied.

Yours with affection

March 194187 James St., Guelph, Ontario 
Dear Mrs. Wilcombe,
I am inexpressibly grateful that you can take me in for a little while. I should be arriving in Halifax in early spring, U-boats and storms permitting.
I'm looking forward to meeting my distant Canadian cousins and hope I can contribute to the war effort there. As you may know, Dónall, Moira and Colm have enlisted, and Fergus will as soon as he is old enough.
Mother and Father, and my other siblings, are well. Younger sister Ioline sends 'cousinly greetings' whatever that may mean. She assures me you will remember. Elder sister Eíbhlin (avid photographer) has made sure I have a good assortment of family photos to put in my trunk.
Please do not worry about my young cousins pestering me. I managed to survive the twins, and I doubt Regina and Sadie could top any of the Terrible Twosome's antics.

Maggie Rowan
Lylehill Farm, Ballycraigy
PS. Isn't that better than "Maighréad Ní Ruadháin"?


May 1941
Miss Ioline Ní Ruadháin Ballymena Infant School

Dear Linny,
I'm settling in here among the cousins. Despite what I claimed earlier, I do believe Sadie and Regina could give the Terrible Twosome a run for their money. Thank the stars the Atlantic stands between the Two Terrible Twosomes!
Thank you for so promptly writing with the good news about Kitty's recovery. I thought Kitty would be the safest of our sibs, working in Belfast. Your letter arrived on the heels of Mama's. I hate the idea of bombing cities, but now I can only hope our boys deliver lots of spring surprises to Hitler.
I have to wait for clearance to join cousin Amelia at work, so I am keeping busy with the Sally Ann. The Red Cross has plenty of help already, and I'm not sure I could stand extra exposure to the TT West (my personal designation for S and R). The SA is rather full of Methodists, but nice women for all that. 

Yours with greatest affection,
87 James St., Guelph, Ontario 

Mr. R. MacNeill
7 Queen Street

Sep 14

Mrs. Wilcombe
87 James Street
Sep 15


17 Sep 1941
Mr. and Mrs. James Montgomery, Owen Sound

Dear Mother and Father,
We are all well here, although I really think we have finally run out of room for wayward cousins.
Inez arrived with an amazing amount of paints and pencils and a positive paucity of clothing. I do not include a seemingly endless variety of large diaphanous shawls in 'clothing.'
She is quite cheerful, and the girls adore her. Maggie is not quite sure. I suppose the difference in their heights does not help. Honestly, it is all I can do to laugh when I see Inez dragging Maggie off to see her latest painting like a tug with a steamer in tow.
I will confess I inquired with the solicitors regarding Inez. It seemed more expeditious then asking you about a long-lost and very distant cousin you have not seen for decades.


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