Baby, it’s cold outside!
Well, after an unseasonably warm few months, we finally got hit with winter. Loads of snow yesterday and now this from the national weather service:
TodayMostly cloudy and cold, with a temperature falling to around -20 by noon. Wind chill values as low as -44. West wind 11 to 14 mph.TonightMostly cloudy, with a low around -23. Wind chill values as low as -40. Northwest wind 7 to 13 mph.
It’s a good day to stay home and cuddle up with a good romance — or, if you are like me, transcribe family letters. Yesterday, I typed up some of my great grandmother, Susie Louise Blais Cameron’s letters. Her handwriting is very difficult to read and you will notice that there are a couple of places where I just could not decipher it. Still, the letters are very sweet and tell a bit of my grandparents’ love story, which is appropriate for Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the letter in which my great grandmother invited my grandmother for a visit — the fateful visit during which she and my grandfather would slip off to Montpelier and get married in secret.
Dear Catherine Aug. 10, 1921
Bunker says you are coming to North Charlestown the latter part of August and I wonder if you would come to spend part of your time with us in Burlington. We would be very glad to have you if you would care to do so, and I know Bunker is counting on your coming. I would have written you sooner but only returned from my vacation a few days ago. Hoping this will reach you before you leave Chicago.
Susie L. Cameron
When my Scottish great grandfather discovered what happened, he sent my grandfather to his bride, who had returned to Chicago. Bunker’s parents continued to encourage him, partly because they liked my grandmother, who was a suitable match. Here’s a letter that must have been written in June, 1922 when he and Catherine were living in Chicago:
I am writing this short note so you will get it on your birthday. Catherine said you were going to have a few days’ vacation, and the 17th was one of them so I hope you will have a happy time. Please use this (check) to help out – I wish it was more.
I am sure you will like your watch for it is a very nice one and will last you all your life if you take care of it. Any time you handle it, I hope you will think of father and mother and of how we want you to be a man in the true sense of the word. The chain I know you will like as it was made from a part of one Aunty (?) wore round her neck so many years. She left her watch and chain for me after she died and as it was such a long one, I knew it wouldn’t spoil it to take part of it, and I thought it would be very appropriate as your birthday and hers were both the 17th of June and she always called you her boy.
I won’t write any more now. With loads and loads of love and many, many happy birthdays, Mother
I’ll have to find out which of Susie’s relatives had a June 17th birthday. Next we have another encouraging letter. Times must have been tough for Bunker and Catherine.
Dear Bunker, Dec. 27, 1922
I was so glad to get your letter yesterday telling us about your X-mas and also the one Saturday telling us about your advancement and raise. I think that is fine. Not only the raise in pay but the fact that you are going ahead and “making good” – a thing we had always wished and prayed for. That news coming first at Christmas time was the most wonderful Christmas present of all. I am so glad not only for your sake but for Catherine’s too. I am sure it will help her for I know she has had to plan pretty closely to make ends meet, but one doesn’t’ mind that so much if they can save a little as they go along. I was so pleased to hear you say you were going to still keep up the old budget plan – that is the only way to get along; and now for your Xmas presents. The little apron (?) is lovely and I am certainly going to wear it when I am dressed up and can be very proud of it, too. It is such a pretty color. I am glad you had a Christmas tree for it makes it seem so much more like Christmas and it was lovely to have it in your own little home, so I know just how you must have enjoyed it. I was so afraid our parcels would not reach you in time.
I don’t think the C C Candy is nearly as good as usual. We had a base first like yours and the chocolate tasted very bitter. The things you sent us were all very much appreciated. I will write Catherine tomorrow and I think Hazel will write very soon. She was delighted with her present and I know Papa and Erskine were too. We had a Christmas tree too. We put it in the window in the front room and it looked very nice. Hazel always wants a tree. I had it all ready when she got home Sunday morning. Poor girl, she had so little time to stay – had to get back Monday night – and be at work Tuesday morning. Erskine is here yet. He intends going over to Montreal before he goes back and he got word yesterday that his Mr. Campbell is out of town until after New Year, so he will have to stay longer than he intended but he hasn’t had any holidays since he left home, so I guess it won’t hurt him to take a few days. Erskine met Dan Beckworth on the street yesterday and he said you were looking fine and he said a good many nice things about Catherine too. I haven’t seen him since he came back. You will miss him won’t you?
I had a very nice Christmas but we missed you and thought of you often and wished you could have been here, if only for the day, but every time I thought of you it was with pride and thankfulness and I only hope the clouds are lifted and everything will be brighter from here on. Of course there will always be troubles and trials and things we don’t like, but it seems good to learn that we are appreciated a little when we do work hard. You said Mr. Willis the Vice President had left. What is the trouble?
I will have to stop now so I can give this to the mail man. I will write Catherine tomorrow. Lots of love and hoping you will both have a happy New Year.
And not so long after that, my great grandmother wrote to my grandparents just after their first child, Susanne Elaine Cameron, was born:
Dear Bunker and Catherine, Dec. 24, 1923 You don’t know how surprised and pleased I was to hear Bunker’s voice over the telephone yesterday morning and to hear the glad news. I am so happy to learn your little daughter is here and everything satisfactory so far. I suppose Catherine and you feel very proud and happy and I sincerely hope that she will be a great comfort to you both. I know your Catherine will enjoy her company as she grows older. Personally, I like baby girls best – not that I wouldn’t have welcomed a grandson but I think whatever is sent us is all for the best. My first baby was a little two (??) and a half pound daughter and I thought she was the dearest little baby I ever saw. I would love to see your little girl. I am sorry you are so far away but never mind, it won’t take long for the time to go by and spring will be here before we know where we are. I called Mrs. Bell up this morning and told her the news. She was so surprised and said to tell you her birthday was the twenty-first, Connie’s the twenty-seventh and your baby’s the twenty-third – isn’t that rather funny?
I am glad you were able to open your Christmas presents and glad we sent them off early. Your parcel came Saturday all right. We are going to decorate our tree this afternoon. I truly wish you could all be here. But never mind, we will be thinking of you and I hope we can all be together next year. Erskine and Clara didn’t get here until nearly nine o’clock. Their train was three hours late. Father got up before five o’clock and went down to the station to meet them and had to wait there all that time. I got up a little after five and was getting dressed when Bunker called up. I was glad that I was the one to answer the telephone for Father would likely have gotten the message twisted and probably not remembered whether you had a son or daughter.
We had quite a fall of snow last night and I hope we are going to have a white Christmas after all. Be sure and write me often Bunker – even if only a few lines. I will be very curious to hear how Catherine and the baby are. Tell me all about your little daughter, what she is like and everything. I think she is going to be a real good baby and I hope she will for Catherine’s sake, as one always finds their first baby quite a problem. I will have to stop now for I hear the fellows moving upstairs and I will have to get their breakfast.
Good bye, papa and mama. Lots of love to both of you,
Mother and Grandmother
p.s. Father and Erskine and Clara were very much surprised when they got here and I told them the news. Clara feels [curious if you are] fully decided on the name yet and if we knew. I said not quite sure.
p.s. again. Mrs. Bell asked me what the baby’s name was and I told her I wasn’t sure yet.
That’s all I’ve gotten done so far and while readers unrelated to us may not find these particular letters edifying, they do remind us that it is important to SAVE such things. I wish that we had more such letters, for through them I could know those people a little bit better. Remember, even if you don’t have a Valentine of your own, you still have the memory of all those wonderful people who made it possible to be alive at all!
Happy Valentine’s Day!