30 July 2011

Margaret Reynolds reminisces

Sorting through a few boxes of books, I came upon a "grandparent's book" wherein my mother, Margaret (Peg) Reynolds, had recorded some of her life moments for the benefit of her grand-daughter in 1985. Here are some lightly edited excerpts that help flesh out some of the Barter family history explored in Stories from Sam.

Born 1914, I was brought up by my grandparents from the age of two. Betty brought me to Avondale on the train from Fredericton after my parents separated. The children of my grandfather's second marriage were like brothers and sisters to me -- Sue, Betty, Charlie, Trecia.

We moved back to Fredericton in 1923 when Charlie was going to Normal School. After grade school, my mother insisted that I was to go to Netherwood School for Girls in Saint John but I was equally insistent that I didn't want to go! So my grandfather intervened for me and it was agreed that I could go to live with Sue and [her husband] Herman in New Glasgow NS for high school from 1928 to 1931.

Betty and Trecia went down as well and got jobs. In the summer, I worked part-time in Eaton's Groceteria for $3 or $4 per week. Betty worked there too as a catalogue order clerk. Charlie was out west working for Metropolitan Stores.

Peggy's parents
Peggy in 1921, age 7
I don't remember much about my mother. She worked in Toronto and then in New England and only came home on holidays. There was a big excitement before her arrival -- everything had to be "just so" and we all had to behave ourselves. Actually, I think we were all relieved when Jane left, then we could relax! She brought us all presents and in her way she was good to us.

I didn't know my father, William Lewis Allen, until I was at Dalhousie University (1931-1935). He had had a stroke and was in a nursing home in Moncton. I used to take the train from Halifax to see him. One Christmas I gave him a bottle of Scotch and he was very happy about it -- but amazed too! His drinking was one of the main causes of my parents' marriage breakup. He kept saying to me, "I never thought I'd see the day when Norene [as I was called when younger] would give me a bottle of Scotch!"

My father had a daughter, Thelma, by a previous marriage; Jane was his third wife. She was about 6 when my father and mother married so I didn't know her at all, really. Thelma died of tuberculosis at about age 18 while attending Acadia University.

Time to move on
I really didn't know what I wanted to do after high school but I did know that my mother was adamant about sending me to university. (B.A. with Economics major from Dalhousie, 1935, B.L.S. from McGill, 1938.)

I was a fair to poor student, unable to get my B.A. in May of 1935 because I had failed math four years in a row! My mother had come to Halifax for my graduation and I was very embarrassed and upset -- but she was even more upset. Finally, the Dean gave me a pass in the fall of 1935.

I left Halifax in late 1935 and went to Montreal looking for work. I entered McGill Library School for a graduate course (one year at that time) after my father died (1936) and left me a $500 bond. My friend Kay Fogo (Cook) had taken the course two years before. At the time I was working as a clerk in the Bank of Montreal head office. One day I said to her -- partly joking -- that I thought I'd take the library course at McGill as I knew I had to have a "specialized field" if I wanted to get ahead. Kay laughed and said "You wouldn't get through it!" That did it and I enrolled soon after.

I married Ted Reynolds in 1941 and when we both returned to Canada after the war, he was posted to Halifax, still an army man. I joined him in October 1946 and [our son] Charles was born in 1948. I left Ted about a year later and in 1950 moved to Ottawa. In 1956 I bought a 3-bedroom house in Glenwood Domaine, Aylmer, Quebec [near Ottawa] for $12,500.

Charles was named after Charlie Barter, his godfather, and was inclined to be sickly for the first few years. Slow to learn to talk, he was a very good child: quiet, friendly, smiled a lot. Easy-going but stubborn. He was very blonde with curly hair and dimples. People used to stop me on the street and admire him when I had him out for a walk.