June 9, 1917 Ways of My Grandfather

June 9, 1917

I spent the day thinking about my grandfather. “Tam” was his name. That’s what we called him. I was named after him proper, his name was Thomas John Thomson. He died two years before I was born but I feel like I knew him. I heard a lot of stories about him – good, then not so good. Despite having same name as my grandfather, no one ever called me “Tam.” I wondered about that. But as I get older, I begin to understand why the name “Tam” went to the grave with him. I often wondered why my oldest brother, George, wasn’t named after Tam. My parents waited for the third eldest son – me –  before they passed down the name “Thomas John Thomson.”

Tam was a big storyteller. Always the centre of attention and the hero of every story he told. Tam was the pillar of the community in Claremont. Penniless from Scotland, he made good for himself and ended up with a house full of servants and more than enough money to make an inheritance for everyone. But later I learned Tam wasn’t such an upstanding citizen back in Scotland. Families have secrets you know and Tam had a few of them that he left behind by escaping to Canada. I learned that he left not just one but two children behind in Scotland. And from two different women at the same time. The church was forcing him to marry one of them so he came to Canada instead. His plan was to work and to send money back but he found Elizabeth Brodie from Whitby. His third, and he started over. Tam was an example that you could start a new and noble life, leaving all of the other entanglements behind. Maybe not so noble, but it was a common option.

I am writing this because I am weighing what to do with Winnie. As they say, nothing makes the mind clearer than an execution in the morning. Certainly, this isn’t as dire as an execution, but it’s making me think about my options. People think it’s simple: you marry and that’s it. You send your boy off to war and that’s it. No choices and no questions. But the heaven and hell approach to life condemns people to a miserable existence. Many think that’s the way it should be. And you can see it in the eyes of people – misery.    It may not be misery but I’m not sure. I don’t yet know what my options are. But one thing I need to do today is write a letter to Winnie.

June 9, 1917 Letter to Winnie

June 9, 1917

Mowat P.O. Algonquin Park
Winnie Trainor, Huntsville

June 9, 1917

Dear Winnie,

I received your letter from last week but I didn’t get it until yesterday. I had some guide work that kept me away for a few days. I’ve had two fellows down from Ottawa. Good gentlemen but weak in the arms. I earned my keep on the portages. I hope to get more guiding work but the guests aren’t coming like they used to. There’s odd jobs and Taylor Statten needs some help on his cottage. He’s teaching some boys and he’s going to take a YMCA course in the US later in June. He says he has big plans for the place.

I’ll be staying close to Mowat Lodge until I next see you again. I have my gear and sketches at your cottage.  As for painting I’ve done nothing for the past while. I’m done for the summer.

I’ll inquire about Billie Bear Lodge on Bella Lake. There should be room available in later July or better in August. It’s not too far from Huntsville and we can arrange for everything there first. We can make an announcement when you get here in early July. It shouldn’t look bad to anyone.  Look how many soldiers did it just before the 122nd went overseas.

The garden is good. No sun has made things slow in starting. I’ll keep an eye on it.

I better get this off to Huntsville. The Frasers give their regards.

Yours Truly,