1. Sending children away from home for school.
a. In rural eastern Ontario during the Depression, both my parents were sent to another town for school
i. My mother (a farm girl) attended a one room elementary school about 2.25 km (1 1/3 mi) from their home. In order to even out grade sizes, she was advanced a couple of times and finished at the age of 11
She was shipped off to town at the age of 12 to attend highschool where she boarded by the week. One of her stories was when she went to a butcher to buy bacon, she was asked “what kind, back or side?”. Her answer was “I want if for my breakfast”.
ii. My father (from a merchant background) attended elementary school in a neighbouring (they’re now incorporated together) hamlet about 1.5 km (1 mi) from his home.
He too was shipped off to the next town for highschool. One of his friends said they used to head off on Sunday evening (by sleigh in the winter) with their week’s supply of food to last until Friday noon.
b. Again in rural eastern Ontario, I worked with an up-through-the-ranks patrol supervisor. He’d started work right out of elementary school. His family didn’t have the money to allow him to board in the “high school” town. School bussing was started the year after but he was working. 1949 was a year too late.
c. Sir John A MacDonald’s father wasn’t the most successful in business. The family ended up in Hay Bay south of the town of Napanee. When John was 10 they had scraped up enough money to send him (aged 10) off to school.
Sending children away for schooling was not a foreign concept when Canada was being envisioned as a country from Atlantic to Pacific.
2. Unmarked graves of children
a. My Father was born during the first world war. He was the third child of my grandparents.
i. The first two lived long enough to be named. One was Barbara and I’ve seen a picture of her being held by her grandfather. The other was Ida. My father remembers his dad in tears thinking about them.
I know the cemetery and the general area where they’re buried but the graves are unmarked.
I had living 5 uncles and aunts. The infant mortality rate in my father’s generation was 25%
ii. My grandfather’s family (again in eastern Ontario) suffered child deaths. There were 5 (infant to 5 years old) who died between 1861 and 1876,
Their names are inscribed on a 3 generation family monument; no individually marked graves.
I had 4 great aunts and uncles. The child mortality rate in my grandfather’s generation was 50%.
Infant and child mortality is sad, even gut wrenching. Unfortunately it was not uncommon. I was born at the end of the second world war and remember the fear of measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio and TB. It is during my lifetime that vaccination for these disabling and killer diseases became common. As a society, we’ve forgotten that life has perils.