Saturday, 11 November 2017

Getting to Know Dorrie - Dorothy Bushby Pickett (1892-1967)

I recently spent a snowy morning getting to know Dorothy Bushby  through her letters to her sister, Elsie Boulton written from 1914 to 1957. 
Dorothy or  “Dorrie” as she was called, was born on September 25,1892, making her 8 years younger than Elsie.  Her mother Patience  died when Dorrie was 16 and on the 1911 English census she is found living with her sister Lena and her husband Jim Carpenter and their 2 daughters.  Her father James along with Elsie and another sister Gertie left for Canada in September of 1913.  On October of 1915, Dorothy married Frederick “ Ewart “ Pickett who was one year older than her in St John, Northfield,Hampshire, England. Dorothy died in December of 1967, a year after her husband. These are the basic facts I knew through family and online records.  The letters filled in the gaps and brought Dorrie to life for me. (I would love a picture of Dorothy for this post, if any of the cousins have one in their possession.)
July 1916 Ewart has been under the doctor for about six weeks, if he is well enough when he gets back, he is going to enlist.  People here are beginning to look on young men now if they don’t enlist with contempt & think they are cowards.  I certainly hope he will go, for one thing it will do him a world of good.  His mother coddles him up too much.
December 1916 I went up to Waterloo to see him off am glad to say that all the boys were very cheerful. Shall be very glad when I get a letter from him now to know within a little where he is.  They had three days leave so of course we went down to see if Mrs. Pickett & of course to tell her we are married to our surprise when we told her she said that she had known for some long time & everything went off O.K. They are all very nice to me. I am very glad that they know. 
In July of 1917 Dorrie writes that Ewart’s wounds are healing well in hospital at Swansea.  At this time Dorrie works at buying for the glove department of a local store. The letter below from February 1918 when Elsie would have been 7 months pregnant with her fourth daughter, Violet.  Dorrie's life in England was quite different.

April 1920 Yes, old dear. It would be nice to see each other again, one gets a bit lonely at times.  I am wondering if by this time you have got your baby? I do hope for your sakes it will be a boy this time you have quite enough girls now. (Indeed it was a boy - Randy's Dad Edwin was born that month!) My dear, it is quite hopeless about we, we cannot indulge in those sort of things we have not yet got a home. A house is quite out of the question it’s impossible to get one, rooms are just as scarce and one is just not wanted if you have children.
Letters from 1922 tell that they moved to a two room place 78 Melbourne Road in Leicester.  They rent a  sitting room and bedroom for 18 shillings a week but the bedroom is up 32 stairs!  They have a piano in their sitting room as Ewart is organist at Belvoir Street Baptist Church which pays 40 pounds/year. Ewart earns his living as an insurance claims inspector - a job he was very lucky to get according to Dorrie, after leaving the army. She often writes about their holidays like a travel diary - boat trips through the Orkney Islands and a driving trip to see old castles and tourist stops to include their old hometown of Milton on the south coast.  She encourages Elsie's children to get a map and follow their route. In 1926 they moved to the house next door at 80 MelbourneRoad , now a schoolyard. 

She tells Elsie their father is ailing and asks her to send money as her sisters are doing for his care.  James Bushby lives with her throughout the next few years and although his eyesight had failed, he enjoys listening to the wireless with Dorrie‘ cat Billie on his knee by the fire.  He died in her home on August 8, 1931. 

Her love of all things green shows through in her letters and I think she knows Elsie would be most interested in these descriptions.
June 1931 Ewart's sister took me for a little ride in her car last Friday and the hedgerows were a mass of cow parsley and pink campion and they did look lovely. The May is now out in full bloom and the woods are a sheet of blue with bluebells in fact everywhere is looking beautiful with all the different shades of green especially as we have had lots of rain.  I love Springtime.  My garden is beginning  to look nice and soon I shall have some roses. Do you remember that pink shrub we had a Priory Cottage? Well I have a tree of it in my garden and it’s been a mass of blooms.
In the thirties, Dorrie sent clothes to the Boulton house that were well received due to the lack of crops and money on the prairies and the favours go back in the war years.  Dorrie also says to pass along their address to any Canadian friends who are on their way overseas in the forces.   
Dorrie writes that she fears for her sister Lena and her family during the raids:
They are right in the front line of fire. I wrote to them and asked if they would like to come and share out home but they say they are going to try to stick it out. It seems to me that the noise  of the gunfire worried them more than the actual bombs.  It seems that Lena and Jim have gone to live with Kit and Henry and they have an Anderson shelter but Barbara said that her children sleep under the stairs and they have a bed downstairs. It seems to me that one has to take once’s chance....

In May of 1941 Dorrie writes that it is their night to be on fire duty and she has just got up at 2 am to let Ewart get some rest.  Pulling the blackout curtains at night, the rationing and growing food in her garden for the first time are news she shares.  March 1943:

In April 15, 1956 a letter arrives from Zachary Morton Recovery Home and she tells Elsie that she had a lump in her left breast and had it removed.  Ever the cheery letter writer, she talks about the wonderful care and the birds. The ward she is in is on the top floor and they feed birds crumbs on the windowsill-chaffinch, blue tits, blackbirds, thrushes .  She says she is there under the National Health Scheme so it will not cost her a penny and later that year she writes to say she has had daily radiological treatments for a month.
The last of her letters in 1957 tells she is doing all her own work now and talks about the roses in her garden.
The letters made for fascinating reading and I was sorry to come to the end of them.  The pile from their sister Lena waiting for me next!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Zilliax Story

Today's blog post is not the story of a Boulton relative but of a young teenager who left his hometown in the 1920's and obviously kept a piece of Reston in his heart. He and his wife willed $3000 to the Reston Public School District upon their deaths and what follows is as much as I know of the Zilliax story.  Any further information is most welcome to me at  

John Theodore "Ted" Clayton Zilliax was born in Reston, Manitoba on April 1st, 1907 to parents Charles and Edith. Charles had been born in Listowel, Ontario in 1863.  In 1889 he made his way to Chicago where he married Edith Bowman eight years later.  The couple had three daughters and tragically lost at least two more children in infancy.  According to the census, Charles made a living as a sewing machine dealer in Chicago in 1900.  At some point after this, the family made the move northwest to the Canadian prairie town of Reston, where Charles became a pump man for the C.P.R.  I assume it was his job to keep the water tank along the railway track filled and ready for use by the steam engines of the day.  

Five short days before Christmas 1909, Charles Zilliax died of heart failure at age 47.  His widow Edith would have been heartbroken, but needed to carry on for her children. Seven years later in the 1916 Canadian census, she can be found making a living as a washerwoman, living with daughters Ester (19) and Helen (12) along with 9 year old Ted.  Seventeen year Eva (their third daughter) was likely working as hired help for another family.  Ted would have attended Reston Public School in these years and one can only assume it must have been a positive experience for him. Perhaps a special connection was formed with a teacher or his classmates or he enjoyed his studies.   He is likely somewhere in the group pictured below.  

The Zilliax Family lived in “New England”, the part of Reston south of the railway tracks, on Lauderdale Street.  Check Google maps - it’s there!  The community was given this name as the first inhabitants by name of Haines and Hollowell were recent emigrants from England. The Zilliax property was later bought by Rollie and Harriet Ludlum where they operated a dairy to supply milk to the town from 1927-1960.  I believe this home is the red one still standing about a mile south of Reston in the picture below.


Online records indicate that in January of 1922, Ted left Canada with his family.  The yearbook photo below found online is from the Englewood Evening High School in Chicago, Illinois where he was a student in June of 1931. 

The 1930 US census has 23 year old Ted as a meter tester for the Electric Power Company in Chicago and living with mother and 2 sisters.  By the 1940 US census Ted is a service man for Gas & Light Company, living with his sister Ester, who was a clerk in a drugstore along with their mother.  In 1951, Edith Zilliax was returned to Reston to be buried in the local cemetery alongside her husband, 41 years after his death. 

On August 9, 1958 Ted married Mary Beatrice Blasi.  She was born in Chicago in 1916 youngest of 6 children of a mason.  That is the last available information of Ted and Mary's story until the end.  Just 6 days after turning 97 years old, Ted died on April 7, 2004 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His wife Mary died in the same city on January 27, 2006.  The Zilliax Family Trust had been established and their wishes were carried out.  

The Reston School students of today are the recipients of their generosity with the money they left being used to improve the outdoor play and learning space. We hope Ted and Mary Zilliax approve. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Letters from "Your Affectionate Dad"

Over 30 letters between J.W. Bushby and his daughter Elsie has proven to be some wonderful reading material for me this fall.  He wrote newsy letters about the times he was living in and always signed them "Your Affectionate Dad, J.W. Bushby".  A previous blog post about this man here highlighted his talented drawings as a young man. The letters are in a crisp cursive script written with a sharp fountain pen although he didn't use any punctuation, they are easily read.  I'd gladly pass them on to anyone interested but here is a sampling...

James William Bushby left his home in Milton, England on September 11, 1913 with two of his daughters, Elsie (Randy's Grandma Boulton) and Gertrude.  They arrived at the port of Quebec City aboard the Ausonia on September 21.  Letters from his son Walter seem to indicate he left his home in New Jersey to see them at Quebec after almost 10 years apart but after that brief reunion, the three travelers pushed on to the prairie town of Reston, Manitoba where their other son/brother Arthur was living with his wife and family and working as a carpenter.  J.W. was also a carpenter so no doubt worked alongside his son for some time as they were settling into life in the farming community.

The first letter to Elsie was dated November 3, 1914 and was written from her brother Walter's home in Westfield, New Jersey.  He says it has been one month since he arrived there and the pavement gave his feet "what for" for a while but that he is alright now.  It was Election Day there and all the shops were closed for the day.  He tells Elsie that there are two Picture Palaces where one can amuse themselves for an hour or two and the charge is 10 cents.  

A letter from the summer of 1915 indicates James, Walter and his wife Martha along with their 2 girls Dorothy and Edna are moving to a larger and better nearby house at the same rent - $20/month.  He is planning to join the Carpenters Union and by the next year is making $50-$60 a month.  In January of 1918, he tells Elsie that he has had a good month of work on fixing sleigh cutters and bobsleighs as there has been heavy snow there that winter.  He has had to wear the felt boots he had at Reston for the first time since moving to New Jersey.  

  September 1918 brings some bad news:
I had a bit of bad luck about 3 weeks ago  Martha & kiddies went down town between 10 & 12 am when she came back some sneak had opened the cellar opened my tool chest and took $70.00 out they evidently was going to take tools but as soon as they found the money that was good enough the only other thing I missed (?) was a circular flap (?) cutter and they took the padlock as nothing was broken they had keys to fit and old hands at the game.  The day before I expect the same gang broke into another house and departed with about $300.00 worth jewelry, clothes...
 His love for his grandchildren comes through in his letters and he always asks after his Boulton grandchildren as well.  In fact in one he includes a P.S. - The kiddies are as lively as crickets and as noisy! 

A letter from later in 1918 tells of the terrible Spanish influenza going around with many deaths of mostly young strong people from 20 to 35 years old.  He tells of six and eight funerals a day but at least peace is to be celebrated from the Great War.  James worries about continuing to have work with so many soldiers coming home looking for jobs.  In June of 1919 he tells Elsie he is now making $116/month but six months later he has received a letter from a Mr. Moody back home in Milton, England offering him work there on building an "Airdrome".  

Yours to hand  Well I have my passport at last but cannot get passage before the 19th June on the SS Imperator.  Passages are booked up 3 months ahead but it will not matter much I must work on and get more dollars together that's all.  The day after I paid my deposit I had a letter from Myra she wanted me to go to Vancouver and make a home there and if I had not paid the deposit and knew I had so long to stop here I think I should have done it and then I could have seen you all but Travelling is an expensive job the passage from New York to Southampton is about 12 pounds (?) - over double we had to pay from Southampton to Winnipeg. 

 James' letter from England in June of 1920 says he has done nothing but shake hands with one and the other since arriving home.  He tells Elsie she would hardly know Milton and he has reopened his old carpentry shop.  He encloses a spring of heather for her with his letter and continues to write but his handwriting becomes more difficult to read.  In October of 1924 he tells his daughter about his cataract operation and his Christmas greetings for 1925 are written by a friend on his behalf.  Letters to Elsie from her sister Dorrie explain their father has moved in with her for his care and he remains there in Leicester until he passes away on August 8, 1931. 

Reading the letters gives a real sense of the man he was and how the miles never stopped him from expressing his love and interest in his family.  

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

R.M. of Pipestone Municipal Office - 100 Years Old

Above the door on the right, the year "1917" is carved in the R.M. office in Reston. Over the years, I recall being told the contractor for the building was Randy's Great Uncle Arthur Henry Bushby.  
Finding out its story and our connection seemed like a great summer project! The Reston Recorder and Pipestone CAO Michelle Halls were generous in their help on my quest. As detailed at this link, the grand old building was granted Provincial Heritage Site #106 on January 25, 1999. 

The first mention of a new building is in the archives of the Recorder's April 25, 1917 edition. Reeve A. E. Smith and Secretary-Treasurer Arthur Perry Power were appointed to a committee to report back to council on the cost of a lot, and brick building, or otherwise, the availability of a suitable building to rent.  The municipal business had so far been done upstairs in the drugstore on the southwest corner of Main and 2nd. 

Reston was a booming prairie town and the main street fires of 1915 and 1916 had also made for plenty of construction work in town. Arthur Bushby, his wife Lou and their 7 children lived in the Harcourt Berry home that was once Jackson Boarding house and is now home to Rick and Lorelei Bloomer.  Lou was musical and was often a soloist in the Anglican Church and a local drama director.  Arthur lived in Reston from 1906-1928 or so, and he is credited with construction of many of Reston's fine homes and businesses including the bank, the Masonic Hall and McMurchy Garage.  In 1926, he was awarded a tender to build a two room high school at a cost of $1145.   Arthur's sister Elsie had married Thomas Boulton in 1915 and lived south of town and another sister Gertie worked at the Recorder.

In the spring of 1917, bylaw 597 was passed for the purchase of Lot 20 Block 28 in Reston for the site of a Municipal Building for $100.  It was to be situated immediately north of the Church of England (Anglican Church). The plan was to use it for a municipal office, council room, and telephone central.  To quote the Recorder:
" The building to be erected will be a handsome brick structure and will doubtless be a credit alike to the town and the municipality ". It was indicated a building of their own would amply justify the savings in rent.

  The  architect hired to design the building was William A. Elliott (1866-1957) of Brandon.  It has been said that many schools and other large buildings share his design vision, and this particular one has been described as an informal Italianate villa style with a broad roof overhang and a corner tower.  The foundation was made ready with a team belonging to J. I. Bulloch and construction began in the fall. 
From Reston Recorder issue September 6, 1917 
October 25, 1917

January 24, 1918

On Monday February 25,1918 Secretary-Treasurer Power moved his office belongings from over the drugstore into the new building. The Recorder reports that the Interior's finishings of clear spruce were varnished to show off their grain.  Some current day pictures below show some of the handiwork upstairs and what is presumed to be original furniture. Renovations were later completed on the council chambers to meet modern needs and accessibility concerns. 

" The clerk's office is directly at the front of the building, well lighted and airy. The door opens in a small hallway where the counter is stationed over which ratepayers can do business with the Clerk. 
The upstairs is divided off into the telephone room, and a room for the night operator, while at the rear of the upstairs of the building can be petitioned off as offices or rooms. "
" The whole structure, both inside and out, presents an imposing appearance and is well worth a visit by each and every ratepayer.  It stands out as a credit to the architect, the contractor, and to the decorator and can be pointed to with pride by every ratepayer."

The 1981 RM history book states the total cost of the building came in at $6713.60 and the first meeting was held in it on March 6, 1918.

I wonder what changes another 100 years will bring to Reston and the R.M. of Pipestone.  I hope this building is still here to see them!