Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter 4: A census, a funeral, a graduation and a Coronation


June 15, 1911,


Dear Norman,


Right now, Edith is at the Skinner’s playing cards. Flora is looking over her lessons, so I thought I would write to my best fellow.

Edith and the Skinners had a delightful return trip from the city, no breaks or stops and arrived home at 7 o’clock safe and very hungry. We had every one come in for a cup of tea and I had just baked bread so they thought that was fine.

Flora will finish her exams tomorrow. She has kept well. The weather has been cool, so that made it pleasant.


Well, the Census man was around. I gave him your age as 60. Was I right? You know I always save a few years for myself. He did not take Herb’s or Marion’s names. So that is over.

Edith had Lulu Stevens sewing for a few days, so I got her to do same for me. I had my muslin dress made also one from the print you bought me. And my white skirt. So we won’t be sewing all summer as we used to do.


Kenneth got your letters. Big Kenneth said he thought you were taking Laurier’s place while he was away at the Coronation.

He told me to tell you he said so.


Happy to hear McKechnie the Scotchman Supervisor is all right. He will be because he is Canadian. If he is a Liberal and a Mason he will be better! Is the handcar safe? It will be easier than the walking.

Uncle Dan says you are all right on the railroad. He was often out in the woods, he says. Still I think 63 miles a long distance. Is it all woods from Cochran? Will the work last long there?

I am sorry you are having such a hard time with flies. Well, their season soon will be past.


Old Mr. Hill died yesterday at 5.pm, the 14th. Funeral Saturday, the 17th. Masonic. I went up for a while this evening.


Dr. Moffat’s loss is the talk of the town. Dr. Skinner said he has heard they will not be able to pay him for than 15 cents on the dollar.

I hope you have already received my letter with Herb’s enclosed.

As you can see by Herb’s letter, he feels lonesome to think of you being so far away, but if we all keep well, we will all be together for the summer months.

We will manage everything here all right until then. Only it does seem ages since you left. We have not got used to staying alone.


Christina Watters went into Montreal to May’s (daughter's) graduation from Macdonald Teacher's College, which is today. Dr. Henry is coming up from Boston if he can get away.


I have mailed you your check book. Take good care of yourself. I will write again soon.

With much Love,
Margaret.

Ps.Charlie Moore came up and told me he could not do the lawn, so I will have to look for someone else tomorrow.

Marion Nicholson never did get enumerated for this 1911 Census. How do I know? Grace Cross lives in Montreal at 5 Tower, with her mom. They are former Richmondites. A Mrs. Ellis owns the house next door and takes in boarders because that's where Marion lives during the school year. Only 2 boarders are listed at that address, a nurse-in-training and a stenographer.

Census Page for Nicholsons. The Skinners are Frank and Ruby, son Floyd.


May Watters, Norman and Margaret's niece, is graduating from Macdonald Teachers College.

According to the Census Records, her family lived in Kingsbury in 1911. (The Census has them as Waters!) May stayed with the Margaret and Flora 1908-1910, likely to attend St. Francis.

She is the same age as Flora but one year ahead at school. Henry is her older brother (born 1880) and, from all accounts an exemplary young man, indeed, everything Herbert Nicholson is not. Henry is hard-working, kind, generous and devoted to kin. In the summer of 1909, he takes his dad on a visit to the homeland. Norman remarked on it in a letter. "Dr. Henry and his father are sailing by this time. When they get back you will get a whole new set of stories when he calls. It's nice of Henry to take his father on that trip. Every boy is not so thoughtful. Some if they have the means would prefer to go alone or with friends "

May and Flora visit him in 1908 (and ride in his Stanley Steamer to the Wellesley Campus)and Edith and Marion visit him in 1912 and are taken to Norumbega Park. Henry is unmarried and lives with his sister Christina, who is a few years older than May. But his clapboard Colonial house on Commonwealth Avenue is equipped with all the latest gadgets, Flora says.

"Big Kenneth"... These Scots tended to rotate but a few names, Malcolm, Norman, Kenneth, John.. so they needed ways to distinguish one from the other.

Isabel McCoy is the daughter of family friends in Montreal. They live on Hutchison and in the 1911 Census Isabel is listed as 'professeur' earning 700. a year. Marion earns 650. in 1912. May, if she gets a job on the Montreal Board, can expect to earn 550. to start. Were she a male graduate, she would earn 800. to start.

The pencil has faded on the 1911 Census form, but Norman puts his salary at 1,200. That's 100 a month. Unfortunately, it gets halved in 1912.

Margaret is worried for Norman. She senses railroad work is dangerous, and it is. A highly publicized book has just come out to that effect. And then there's the mud and the blackflies and extreme heat and the extreme cold. But it's the loneliness and boredom that gets to Norman the most. At 60, he is too old to play on the Residency hockey team. As a Presbyterian who has signed a temperance pledge he does not drink or gamble.

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