Ruth’s Stories

These are the stories of Ruth, as told to her daughter, Gail.  Ruth is the 4th generation to grow up in Canada, and her ancestors came from Cornwall, England.  She grew up on a small farm in Shiloh, in Northumberland County with parents who worked hard for their three children – two boys and Ruth.

1. Ruth went to the local rural school, where her Aunt Nellie was her teacher from grade 1 – grade 8, but she was not given preference because she was related!  Aunt Nellie was very Important to her.  She lived down the hill and around the corner, and the school was between their two houses. Aunt Nellie had no children of her own, and spent many hours mentoring Ruth — teaching her to cook and play croquet – a favourite of both of them.  Aunt Nellie taught her many of the things that her mother would normally teach her, but her mother was busy putting meals on the table for the hired hands, and she wasn’t nurturing the way her aunt was, so most of the nurturing came from this aunt.  Memories of her mother were of someone who worked hard but didn’t have much time for her young daughter.

2. Ruth’s dad was also very important in her life.  He had arthritis from birth, and had a very hard time getting around, but he was the driving force in her life.  He was the only one in his family to have graduated from high school. Most young men then didn’t because they either had to work or got called to the war, but Ruth’s dad couldn’t do either because of his illness. He never had a harsh word, and was a very religious man who played an important role in the church.  He helped her a lot with her math, and whenever we talk about education, it always comes up how her dad was so helpful — he was her knight in shining armor.

3. At the age of 12 – in the summer of 1940 — Ruth went to work in a metal factory in Brighton that was building bombs for the war.  She boarded with a family as it was too far to travel from her home. She recalls that on the days that it was too hot to work in the afternoon, they were sent home and asked to return after supper to finish their shift. (Fast forward to 1973, and I worked in the same factory building folding tables and chairs!!!)

4. In the summer of 1942, Ruth would have been about 15, and she boarded in Cobourg with her cousin, and worked at a local ice cream shop.  At this time, there was a ferry from Rochester, NY that docked at the Cobourg harbour.  Ruth recalls the long lineups at the shop for banana splits!  (I always thought my mom finished high school, but when I put things together in time frames, I think she only went to grade ten and then she started work).

5. Ruth’s relatives on her mother’s side lived out west in Seattle, WA.  Her grandmother sent her a train ticket to come out to visit.  So Ruth arranged to leave her job in Cobourg at the matting factory, and went with her mother by bus to Union Station in Toronto, where she boarded the train for Seattle.  At this point she was 15 years old. When she arrived in Windsor to change trains, she was pulled aside by border control and interrogated about where she was going.  They thought she was a runaway, and didn’t believe she was going to visit her grandmother.  She had to give the officer the name of someone who could vouch for her.  Her cousin Lulu, in no uncertain terms, told them to get her back on the train!

6. By this time, however, she had missed her connecting train. It was very close to Christmas, so the station master, who was a very nice man, said that if she wanted to spend the time with his wife and him, he would see that she got on the next train. She took him up on the offer and was treated so well – they even had a Christmas gift for her.  Ruth never forgot their generosity and kept in touch with the family over the next 20-30 years with Christmas cards and letters.  He ended up even coming to see her years later.  She made those connections with people and really kept them kept going.

7. Ruth finally arrived in Seattle and spent time getting to know her grandmother, who lived in an apartment with her Aunt Flossie and Uncle Jake.  Ruth decided she should contribute financially to her grandmother’s household, and so she started a job.  It wasn’t long before the authorities were there asking her questions.  They discovered she was working without a work visa, and said, “You can’t be working here.  You have a week to get to get your affairs in order and get back to Canada”.  So she was deported back to Canada within the week.

8. The next story is about when she and my Dad met.  Once she was back home in Ontario, she went with her brother to a dance at Little Lake Pavilion, and it was there that she met my Dad.  They danced the night away and he drove her home and the rest is history – they married in August 1950 and were together until the day he passed away on April 18, 2007.

9. They got married in 1950, and the reception was at Ruth’s parents’ house.  As they were leaving for their honeymoon, my Dad’s brother cut them off before they got to leave.  He was married to my Mum’s cousin, and he said to my father, “I just wanted to let you know that these cousins have cold feet!”

10. The last story has to do with Ruth accompanying her Uncle to the Cenotaph one very cold November 11th.  She was complaining about how cold it was, and he said to her, “Don’t you complain about the cold.  Those boys spent many days and nights in the cold and this is the least we can do for them”.

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