Some of this was originally posted in 2010 after being encouraged by my friend Diana.
I see an old yellowed hand written note from October,1915, crudely pasted in a photo book. It is a British armed forces permission slip belonging to my grandfather Frederick J. Knight to go see his young girlfriend Mary Louise Deller in Devon, England for the weekend. During the hours he will travel by bus to court her, she will be working at a sea side cafe. The ocean breeze will gently blow the hem of her long skirt and she will be greeting people that enter the cafe with her huge smile. It is the very same smile her future granddaughter Linda will wear some day. The heavy white ironstone dishes that the staff line the counter with will be checked carefully by Mary. They will be full of ripe fresh strawberries and thick Devonshire cream with scones on the side. Years later she will tell me every few days about the wonders of Devonshire cream.
Mary's favourite song "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows " will be playing on the radio in the background. She loves Fred but there will be family problems that he will have to contend to first before they even think about marriage. His father will run away from the family to go to New York to become a song writer. No one will hear from him and Fred’s mother will assume he has died on Ellis Island. Later that year they will find out that his demise was exactly as they thought, and his dreams of writing music will be over.
Fred will arrive about noon and since Mary’s shift will not be over for two hours she will serve him some hot soup of the day. She will personally make him a cucumber sandwich and touch his hand ever so slightly when she serves it. They will gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes and smile and he will tell her she is as beautiful as the falling snowflakes he is about to see when he immigrates to Canada to work for Bell Telephone.
The weekend will pass too quickly and Fred will have to go back to fighting the war. They will exchange love letters here and there and Fred will ask Mary Louise to marry him. He will eventually go to the front lines and be poisoned with mustard gas in the trenches. Later his superiors will ask him if he was gassed, and he will reply no, because the soldiers did not know what it was. Fred will be one of the lucky ones to survive. Fred will eventually marry Mary Louise on July 1st. and they will move to Canada. They will live a happy life with their two sons until their oldest son Frederick Jr. dies after having a vaccination at age 19 leaving them with an only child Arthur.
Every Saturday night without fail Fred will carefully go down the wooden cellar steps and pour them each a small glass of sherry from a bottle kept in the basement. After carefully putting the small juice glasses on the side board he will walk across the street to the drugstore once a month and buy a box of Laura Secord Chocolates for them to share. Every Christmas he will buy her an Evening in Paris perfume set and she will cry. Their always darkened bedroom with the twin beds will smell of Evening of Paris for the next twenty years. In the years that she spends with her grandparents Linda will never see them fight once.
Later in his life the effects of mustard gas will haunt him and affect his respiratory system. One Thursday afternoon he will fall and her grandmother in total shock will hold him and cry. Linda, his granddaughter, will try and save him with mouth to mouth resuscitation. Failing in her attempt he will die under her. Later that day she and her grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight will look through the photo book and her grandmother will stop at the page with the old permission sheet and rub her hands over it and cry.
As Canada Day approaches, I am reminded by this story and what July 1st meant to the both of them. Each year, the day before Canada's national day, Fred would go to the same drugstore across the street and buy Mary a box of Laura Secord Summer Candy. While they watched the people celebrate Canada Day from the confines of their veranda he would loving offer her one of the jelly candies and wish her a Happy Anniversary.
Once upon a time Laura Secord only made these candies in the summer, so it was a special treat for the both of them, and today when I saw a box in the store it reminded me of the two of them. I never saw them argue and even though they had been married for years each day was like the first. Their love began in a moment, grew over time, and lasted for eternity. We should all be so lucky!
Happy Canada Day!
Pictures of my Grandfather Sgt. Fred Knight & friends in his army camp during the first World War.The "leave" permission note was signed October 15, 1915 by Capt. Jenkins of the British Army.
Newspaper clipping of those that helped create Cowansville, Quebec. He is the middle one in the suit and Lodge regalia.