These are the stories of Charlotte Mae Annable (Sobye). Born September 20, 1927 as told to her daughter, Marilyn. Recorded January 28th, 2022
1.The first story that I remember is actually the story of my birth, and I have heard it many, many times. In October 1952, Mae had gone to the doctor, who told her that she had a uterine cyst that needed to be removed. My mother was a very busy person, working in the family dairy business, and the doctor said it could wait, so she continued on. In the meantime, my father who was a carpenter, had fallen off the roof of a building that he was working on, had fractured his hip and jaw , and was in a body cast in the hospital. My mother was visiting him daily, driving back and forth from their home in Beamsville to the hospital in Hamilton. On New Year’s Eve going into 1953, she was in a car accident where she was rear-ended by a drunk driver. She was unharmed but she had to go to court to testify. On January 7th, she had gone to testify in court and then to visit my father in the hospital. On the way home, that evening, she started feeling a little pain, and she went back to my grandparents place, where they were living at the time but by this time, her water had broken. My grandmother was a nurse, and they called the ambulance and the family doctor. They came to the house and insisted that she go to the hospital. She didn’t want to go, but they carried her downstairs in a chair, put her in the ambulance and took her to St. Joe’s Hospital in Hamilton — which is actually where my father was recovering from his construction accident! About ten minutes in the door, she delivered me, just before midnight. The interesting thing was, of course, that my father didn’t know he was going to have a baby. The next day, my uncle, Mae’s brother, came to visit him and he asked, “Have you thought about having children and what you might name the baby?”, but my father didn’t have a clue why this conversation was happening. They told my father what was going on, and then brought my father on his hospital bed to the maternity ward, where he and my mother were able to see each other (and me) in a sort of conference room. The following week, Mom and I came home to my grandparents’ home and Dad came by ambulance the following week as he was confined to bedrest.
2. The family owned a farm and dairy business. They would produce milk from their own herd of cows and also buy milk from other farmers, pasteurize it, bottle it, distribute and sell it. The stories involving the dairy always focus on hard work and a lot of sacrifice. You couldn’t go on vacation because you needed to be at home to feed and milk the cows. Mae did the bookkeeping for the dairy business and managed the payroll. It wasn’t a huge operation — probably a half a dozen people/employees, but there was never enough money to meet all of the financial obligations. I recall one time she was laying on the sofa crying and when I asked what was wrong she said there wasn’t enough money to pay the employees. She often expressed concern about money and cash flow and how she felt responsible for ensuring the employees were paid. This was a family business, however she felt that this was her responsibility alone. If this meant that our family would do without then this was just the way it was. This story was repeated several times during the years the dairy business existed. Once the business was sold, these stories subsided however her fear about running out of money and her care with spending continued into her senior years and to the current time.
3. The next story I recall is something from her childhood. I think she was 8 or 9 years old when her Auntie Mary — her father’s sister — and Uncle Ervine, who had a bit more money and owned a big green car, took Mae and her brother Bill and their cousin Lloyd to the circus in St. Catharine’s. She spoke about being under the big top, and seeing the elephants walking with one elephant’s trunk holding onto the tail of the one in front. Auntie Mary also took them to the movies from time to time, Pennies from Heaven 1936, is one she recalls, so she was known as the playful Aunt, and the one that could afford to do these little niceties for the kids. Mae and her parents lived close to Auntie Mary so there were many opportunities to spend time together.
4. I have a Christmas story and this is the one that resonated with me when I saw the article in the paper about your research study. We hear this story pretty much every year at Christmas. When Mae was a young girl, again probably 9 or 10, Christmas morning, her father would get up and milk the cows, and when the chores were done, they would all get in the car along with the Auntie Mary and Uncle Ervine and cousin Lloyd, and they would drive to Guelph where her father’s parents William John Keast Sobye and Elizabeth May Jackson lived. This particular Christmas day, there was a terrible storm. “The ice was six inches thick on the road” driving up Highway 6, and the car flipped over onto its roof in the ditch. The kids got out, and Auntie Mary and my grandmother Stella Sobye got out, and then a farmer came out and helped them put the car back on its wheels. The windshield was broken as well as one of the side windows, but they continued on their drive to Guelph. I’m not sure what time they got there — probably early afternoon — but it was too late for my grandfather Joseph Jackson Sobye to stay for dinner. He wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and caught the bus back to Beamsville, so he could do the evening milking and chores. At Christmas time, if anyone in the family complains about the weather, or how challenging or inconvenient it is to travel to see loved ones, this story comes out about the importance of being together as a as a family for Christmas and the extent her family went to so that they could all be together.
5. Mom told another winter story, about her father delivering the milk. Mae’s father would deliver the milk in winter by horse and sleigh, wrapped up in blankets and wearing gloves, regardless of what the weather was like. Sometimes he would be gone for hours. Mae’s mother did the bottling of the milk, and sometimes it was so cold that the cardboard caps on the bottles of milk he was delivering would be pushed off up out of the glass bottle because the milk would freeze and expand. Mae struggled to understand how her father dealt with that harsh cold weather. But there was no phone, so you couldn’t call and say “We’re not coming”. You had to keep the milk moving because tomorrow was going to be the same, and people expected you to be there with the milk. Times have changed!
6. Mae tells the story When I was about 4 years old during harvest season, there were a number of hired workers filling the silo with corn silage to feed the cows through the winter. As everybody was sitting down having lunch one day, I wandered out to the barn and decided I would climb the silo and take a look at what was happening. From the kitchen table, where they would have been sitting eating their lunch, my mother noticed me at the top of the silo and went into panic mode. Uncle Ervine, who was there helping with the harvest, said “Don’t worry, I’ll get her”. He went out to the to the barn and started calling my name and climbing up the silo behind me, talking to me and asking questions about what I was seeing and whether I could see the cows in the field — trying to keep me occupied I guess. He got to the top and said, “Okay, now we’re going to go back down”, and the two of us went down together and that was that! Needless to say everyone was relieved.
7. This story is about a relative referred to as Auntie Lynn. Throughout my life, I had heard my mother and my grandmother talk about her, but I could never really understand how we were related to Auntie Lynn. We had a lot of her possessions — my mother would say, “Oh, that picture came from Auntie Lynn”, or “That desk came from Auntie Lynn”. A few years ago said to my mother, “All right, who the heck was Auntie Lynn?”. It turns out she was an aunt of my grandmother. She had no surviving children, so when she passed away, the nieces – my grandmother and her siblings — were able to choose things from her home that they would like to have. My grandmother inherited various items from her and then passed them to my mother, Mae, and now half of my house is full of things from Auntie Lynn. Last year in 2021, my mother and I put together a booklet about Auntie Lynn, including pictures of all of the items we now own that belonged to Auntie Lynn. I was surprised to learn that Lynn was actually her last name, not her first name. Clearly this family member left a lasting impression and our family still talks about her.
8. The next story I would call “Grandma’s sacrifice”. My grandmother, Ina Estella Sobye (Bowman)Mae’s mother, was trained as a nurse. She trained in 1918 at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. My grandmother’s family educated all of their children. In those days, they didn’t have any Canadian places to train, so she had to travel to New York City. The family lived in West Montrose, near Kitchener-Waterloo, and she would take the train from there to New York City, even though she suffered terribly from motion sickness. She graduated in 1921 — during the last pandemic! After she graduated, and before she was married, she looked after various family members, because that’s what you did in those days. She travelled to Kansas to care for her sister after the birth of her child and later cared for an aging relative. Then she and my grandfather got married, and wanted to buy a farm in Beamsville, so she asked her father and her brother for a loan. They agreed to give them a loan, on the condition that my grandmother would never work in nursing. None of us will ever know why, but that was the condition. She and my grandfather promised that she would never work as a nurse, and instead she spent her whole life working on the farm. It is interesting to note that I never heard this story of sacrifice from my grandmother, only from my mother and the story was not typically shared with other members of grandma’s family.
9. This is a story Mae tells about my father James Kenneth Annable. My father was a carpenter, and just like my grandfather, her father, he would have to work sometimes outside in very cold weather. He would be building a house, and would be out doing framing when it was freezing cold and the wind was blowing. Or he would have to shingle a roof during the heat of the summer. When anyone complains about having to stop work these days because it’s too hot or too cold, this is a story that she often tells. In his later years, Dad built wooden toys and donated them to charities or gave them away as gifts.
10. This story was not on my mind until I was finished with the interview. It struck me like a ton of bricks by the time I was finished. On Sept 25, 1958 my mother delivered a baby girl named Marsha Mae. I was only 5 years old at the time however I recall that the baby was ill and subsequently on October 28 of 1958, Marsha died at just over a month old. I can remember how sad everyone was and I clearly was too young to understand much. I remember my mother telling me that she had “gone to heaven to be with God”. There were several references to being “up in heaven”. As a five year old I wasn’t sure what this meant but I recall feeling that she was somewhere in the attic of the house. I recall Mom telling me about Marsha being “all alone”. I guess I found this troubling because I was no longer able to sleep by myself in the upstairs bedroom as outside the door of my room was the opening to the attic. I slept downstairs for some time. In June 1961, Uncle Ervine died at age 68. I was 8 at the time, but my mother told me that “he died and went to heaven to care for Marsha so she wouldn’t be alone”. This seemed to relieve my anxiety about this matter, however over the years Mom has often spoken about Marsha, how she worried about her being alone particularly as she was just an infant and how she had “flaming red hair. As though by a miracle, in June 1965, my mother delivered a healthy baby boy, William Kenneth (Bill) Annable who has grown up to be a fine, educated and kind man. Clearly Mom wants to be sure that we don’t forget the sister who didn’t survive. She asks us to take her to the cemetery to visit the grave whenever there is an opportunity. It also hasn’t escaped me what an integral part of both my mother’s and my life Auntie Mary and Uncle Ervine were.