Grandmother Remembers (Part Three)


I offer you my memories

So that you will know

Your Grandmother was a little girl

Not so long ago

This is the third and final part of a transcription of the memories set down by Freda ‘Tottie’ Phyllis May McGrath (neé Turner) in a sheaf of papers called “Grandmother Remembers”. An Ontarian Canadian all her life, her recollections, memories, anecdotes, and musings are for all her descendants, of which The Diplomat is one. Born in 1906, this written legacy, which she commenced in May 1986, stretches from the mid-nineteenth century as far as December 30, 1995. It is a lifetime that covers a busy period in Mankind’s development: two World Wars, the advent of flying, T.V, computers, the Internet…and much, much more. Yet, this is a narrative that is fascinating in its remembrance of daily life, in how it speaks casually of events that were the norm for the social ethics, the mores and the education of the time. Part One of this can be seen here and Part Two of this can be seen here.

I have reproduced this exactly as the author penned it with the kind permission of her sons, Michael and David. I hope you will find Tottie’s voice as fascinating as I have. For clarity I have, on occasion, entered a [textual note] where the narrative assumes a common Canadian knowledge that readers may not possess.

When I came home Brendan informed me “he was going to be a big brother” so we are looking forward to a baby in June [1989]. This beautiful 9lb 7oz baby boy arrived at 11:45 [Eastern Standard Time] Saturday June 17, 1989 and I was there in time to see him have his first bath. His name is Evan Murray and made his first trip to Kingston when he was three weeks old. We all love him and Brendan kissed him all the time. Our Christmas’s are at Mike and Judi’s and Judy’s family. Sometimes I go to Ottawa when David and Maureen have Christmas and their house.

When you were young we had a black and white fox terrier who liked to run away. After having gone for some days the time he came home tired and dirty and curled on his mat and David and Jinx bathed him from head to foot. Pal died at 13 and Jinx at 14.

And now here it is October 1990 and David and Maureen have sold their Ottawa home and bought a ‘townhouse’ in Grenville Village and David is studying at Queens for his M.B.A and Brendan has started Junior Kindergarten at Woodside school which is situated on the site of a little Irish school my father attended when came to  Canada in 1891. The school is on Highway #2 east of Kingston. Evan is a happy little boy and has dark hair.

I was nine years old in 1918 when the first War ended and my father came and woke us to tell us and church bells all over the city were ringing.

David graduated M.B.A  May 22 1992 with all “A’s and B’s” – on the Hons List and we are so proud of him. They have moved back to Ottawa and it’s lonely.

Erin graduated an “Ontario Scholar” and left to work in Whistler B.C and is missed but they must live their own lives. Mark goes to High School this year and I attended his graduation when he won the Science Prize. Jodie is very bright and hopes to graduate next year. Michael and Judi are good parents as are David and Maureen.

Michael and Judi separated in Dec. 1994. Sad. Michael lives on William St and Judi on Ellesbeck. Erin is at McGill [University] Jodie to University this fall (June 1995) and Mark doing well at K.C. Brendan and Evan are all at school and doing well. They have a home in Kanata.

Dec 30 1995 – here I am alone but expecting Michael, Erin, and Mark for New Year’s dinner. Jodie is in England. Had Xmas with Dave and family Ottawa. Love to be with the kids….[here the narrative ends]

Here are some Q&A that ‘Tottie’ penned:

Q: What was your first year of marriage like? [1940]

A: We lived in Ottawa in a very small apartment for nine months before moving to our own bungalow which we lived in for the next 20 years.

Q: What was your first home like?

A: It was brick, had an electric fireplace and a breakfast nook, a lovely garden with lots of flowers, bushes and lilacs

Q: What was it like working during the War?

A: I worked for the Wartime Prices and Trade Board with staff under me.

Q: What makes a good wife?

A: I tried to be thrifty, a good mother and a good housekeeper.

Q: Tell us about your children

A: Michael Murray John was born Nov 17 1945, David Turner August 5, 1950. We chose Murray for his father, John for his grandfather, Turner for my father. Michael’s favourite toy was a doll named Susie, David’s a panda named Georgie. Michael wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, David a garbage man and ride on the big truck.

And lastly…

Q: How has the world changed since you were a little girl?

A: They have invented automobiles, radios, television, zippers, escalators, microwave ovens. They have discovered insulin, antibiotics, vaccines, space. They’ve succeeded in preventing Polio, measles, mumps, chicken-pox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever. I watched a man land on the moon and I’ve been able to use a clothes dryer, a washing machine, a dishwasher. My mother cooked with a wood and coal stove and a I used a gas range and now [1989] a microwave.

Women are now independent, movies are full of violence and sex. Dating is different today because girls can ask boys for dates. Girls drive cars and have alcohol and drugs.

Q: What is your wish for the future?

A: I wish to see my children and their families happy and to enjoy my grandchildren and hope they grow up to be good people and successful in their chosen profession.

Freda passed away peacefully on October 21, 1997. This is a small written legacy for her descendants….but nevertheless an important one from someone who lived nearly the whole of the twentieth century.


Is this what diplomacy is all about?



Categories: Canada, Kingston

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 replies


  1. Grandmother Remembers (Part Two) | travelswithadiplomat
  2. Grandmother Remembers | travelswithadiplomat

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: