My Grandmother, Serena Anderson

Serena Anderson, 84

I mentioned last month that I’ve scanned in a number of pictures from my grandparents’ old photo albums. Everything I’ve put up thus far has been from my grandfather’s youth, and so I thought I’d mix things up a little bit by putting up some information on my grandmother. A great deal of the following text comes from an interview I did with my grandmother for a school English assignment. I have no idea what the project was about, but I must have put a lot of time into it based on how long the interview was. Anyway, I recently came into possession of a number of my old computer files, and I was delighted to find this conversation typed up. I’m sorry that some of my questions are a little stilted and her answers tend to ramble. I was just a kid when I did this, and I had no idea how to conduct a proper interview. I have added some recent additions and notes. You’ll find them in square brackets.

My grandmother will be 85 this August, and a lot of interesting things have happened to her: As a newborn she spent six months in a hospital, hours away from her mother, and she may have been almost adopted by her mother’s cousin. Even my grandmother is a little hazy on the details of that episode. Her father died in a logging accident before she was five years old. She spent a lot of her childhood as a pair of working eyes for a blind neighbour. She grew up very poor during the Great Depression. She gave up school at fourteen after her mother was in a car accident, and then she got a job working for seventeen cents an hour six days a week in a wool mill. Her youth was spent in a very different Canada from the one I live in today, and I think I’m rather lucky to have these stories to paint a picture of what that was like.

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Documents found in my mother’s antique desk dating to just after the end of the First World War

My mother's desk. Above it there's a picture of my grandfather, Philip Micks, along with his medals from the Second World War.
My mother collects antiques, or at least she likes them enough to keep an eye out for them when she pursues one of her true passions in life, interior decorating. Some years ago she bought a writing desk of quarter cut oak, and within one of the drawers she was told were some documents from the desk’s original owner dating to just after the end of the Great War. I have a friend who is a government archivist –and to hear that woman speak in awe about the benefits of acid free paper is to be in the presence of true devotion– but I confess I have no idea how to go about preserving these pages beyond keeping them in their drawer. We do our best not to handle them or disturb them, but now that I have an outlet to share them with a wider audience through this blog, I’ve scanned them and written them out. Hopefully I haven’t done too much lasting damage to the originals in the process.

The first is a draft of a letter to a periodical (possibly the old Leamington Post and News) protesting that no true veteran of the trenches could possibly bemoan the free issue of rum and tobacco products given to soldiers on the Front. I’ve recently read Shock Troops by Tim Cook (I’ll do a book review soon), and he made several mentions of the British tradition of issuing rum and cigarettes to infantry. When those soldiers returned to civilian life, Canada was in the grips of Prohibition, and they flexed a lot of voting power to get those laws repealed, much to the consternation of the Temperance Movement. I would hazard a guess that I know which way the author of these documents voted on that matter.
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