Thursday, February 3, 2011

Old Letters

As I was growing up, my favourite Hadden relatives, hands down, were my Granduncle and aunt Alexander (Uncle Alec) Gaull Hadden and Hilda (Aunt Hilda) Edith Smith. In the city of Toronto phone book at the time, there were probably only 5 or 6 Hadden families and we were related to all of them. We naively believed the rest of the Hadden clan to be in Scotland.

Uncle Alec (pictured on the far right in 1937, alongside his brother and my grandfather John Gaull Hadden) and Aunt Hilda (pictured below left holding my father in 1930) were incredibly kind and generous. Uncle Alec told me that his mother, Jessie McKenzie (nee Gaull) Hadden, was not happy that he was dating Hilda as she was not at all Scottish enough for Jessie's oldest son. Uncle Alec stood his ground with his mother and in 1929, they married.

Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda were also my early sources for Hadden family history information when I heeded the advice to interview your eldest relatives. They were able to identify people in photographs that no one else knew and share information and anecdotes of the family time in Saskatchewan and depression era Toronto that otherwise would have been lost.

I recently found three Christmas letters that I received from Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda. The letters were of course tucked away in a place so safe and secure that I had forgotten about it. Aunt Hilda actually was the one who did the writing, just as she was the one you spoke to on the phone - Uncle Alec might have answered the phone on occasion but he was quick to pass it to Aunt Hilda. I don't think he was ever comfortable with the invention.

1980 (from their winter home in Sarasota, Florida): "Alex got permission from the heart specialist to drive down, if we took it easy. I am feeling much better and we sure took our time and enjoyed the trip. It was good weather all the way and the colors [she was writing from the USA so didn't use the Canadian spelling] in the mountains were really lovely. We were lucky to find good places to stay too."

1986 (from their winter home in Sarasota, Florida): "Sorry I could not reply before, but I had so much Christmas mail and cards to send to my cousins and my sight is going and I have very painful hands with arthritis. It's no fun getting old. We enjoy being here away from the cold and snow. But how much longer we will be able will depend on our health. Although we both keep pretty good and can both look after ourselves, we are both over 80 and I think we do very well."

1990 (from Bancroft, Ontario): "We will not be going to Florida any more. We have our place up for sale. We have been going down 12 years - 6 months there and 6 up here. Alex driving all the time. We are not young anymore and 1990 has not been a very good year for our health."

Aunt Hilda passed away in 1994 at the age of 88. Uncle Alec passed away in 1997, a week shy of his 93rd birthday. Neither forgotten, both forever in my heart!

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