November 22, 1889 – 1978
Freda Clarke Britton (middle) with her husband Edward and daughter Margaret. c. 1970
This is my life: Nana Britton
Written in 1971 when Nana was 82, seven years before she died.
I was born at Victoria Newfoundland in 1889. My birth certificate shows that I was born on November 21. My mother said it was about a minute before midnight so she always said November 22 was my day. So I have always kept that date. So I am now 82 years old.
I had five sisters and two brothers. Two of my little sisters died before I was born with diphtheria. It was a terrible thing in those days. Sure death if you had it.
I went to school until I was in grade six. My mother kept me out of school to babysit for some of my cousins that had family and what do you know, I never even got paid for it. It was just a thank you job and sometimes not that. So the teacher came to see my mother. “Don’t keep her out of school any more to look after children.”
My three sisters were older then I was. They had grown up and had come to Saint John to live, they married. My mother’s oldest grandson Archie is ten years younger than I am. My brother Joe was older than I was and brother Jim was the youngest of the family of eight. I was the seventh child. They say that is lucky to be the seventh child. Well it must be because my life was much better and happier than any of the others. I had a good father and mother.
In Newfoundland at that time times were hard. There was not the work there then that there is now and my father had to go to work in other places. He went to sea a lot on a ship sailing vessel or even on a big boat. He used to have many a rough sea voyage. We had a Christmas but there was no shiny or glittering ornaments on it. There was no such thing in those days. We had to make our own trimmings out of coloured paper and make little balls that looked like popcorn balls and cards and string bramberry and we had maybe apples and oranges. Sucker fruit and candy were not very plentiful in those days. Those things were all imported from England and other countries. So all in all we had a nice tree and Christmas dinner which Nana still enjoys.
Note on the top of page 2: Do you see I have been with kids all my life?
We had lots of fun in the snow. We used to slide and skate. Our father made us a sled and we had a big black dog and the boys would put a harness on him and off we would go. We had lots of fun at Christmas holidays. We used to dress up like Halloween and go from house to house and would get cake and that cocoa and the people would try to guess who we were. We always kept the 12 days of Christmas. We all went to midnight service and when we came home our mother would have a little gift of some kind if she could get anything. I remember one time she had a hymn book for me. I still have it.
In summer we also had a nice time. We played ball and swam. There were lots of wild strawberries and raspberries and blackberries. We had a horse and goats and pigs and hens.
I had one nice doll. My sister sent it to me from Saint John. I had my picture taken with it and my father made me an old fashioned cradle with roses on it. One of my sisters died when she was 25 and she had a little girl 9 months old. So my mother came to Saint John and took her to MJLD? and she was just like our little sister. Her name was Florrie. She is living in Saint John. So it was her that broke my doll up.
Then in 1906 I came to Saint John to live to help Mary my sister with her children, she had four. So after a while I went to Rothsay to live with this woman. She had one little girl so I had to look after the mother who was very delicate and her husband was a traveler for a book store in Toronto. I lived with them for a year and then they moved to Toronto and I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Earle. There was only two of them. I just loved them and they were very fond of me. I was with them two years and then I went back to Newfoundland in the summer of 1908 to visit. When I came back to Saint John I met Pop and we were married on June 16th 1909 by Rev. RP McKimm.
On June 8, 1910 Margaret was born. She was six months old when she had her first Christmas tree and the shiny ornaments were just coming in for trees and they were from Germany. So we have had a Christmas tree every year since. Pop just loved Christmas. Every time he went to town he would bring home something. Ask your Mommy about Pop. He used to have to go to work early in the mornings about two weeks before Christmas. He worked long hours and worked Christmas day until 3 o’clock in the afternoon and it was midnight lots of Christmas eves when he got home. He used to say I saw Santa up Mount Pleasant.
Norman was a baby. He was 9 months old his first Christmas. So Pop would say when he was going to work he would rush home at noon and eat a lunch in a hurry. He would say keep the baby awake and I want to see him so one night he brought home a toy and it may a round wooden bowl and on the side of it was a hen or a duck and wind the thing up the hen would ?? up the arm that was in the bottom of the dish. Margaret had a horse. A lovely thing it was with a stand and wheels on it. She just loved it but when Normie got big enough to play with it and take it out doors. He broke it or he let other kids have it so that was the end of it.
I never had a doll carriage. I always carried my little doll in my arms and it was mostly a rag doll. So all in all I had a very good life and God has been good to me. It was hard times but I always had a pair of shoes and plenty to eat and I had lots of good clean fun growing up. I used to have the odd boy friend but not for long. Pop was my only real boy friend. So I am still happy and I don’t want for anything. I often say I wish I’d had some of this money when I was younger. You will get tired of listening to my old voice for it sounds just terrible. I could go on and on for hours but I am happy and content. If I could only see you all a little more often and watch you all grow up. God Bless you all my children this is some of Nana’s life.
I haven’t told you how we spent Christmas when Pop was overseas for three years.
Nanny Eastham was three weeks old when my father died. My mother was here in St. John visiting me when he died so she was in Newfoundland a year or more after that. Then she came to Saint John to live. My brothers were working here. Joe’s family moved to Saint John ad when he moved we were all here as a family. My brother Jim got married and Grandma Clarke lived with him. So Margaret and me went to spend Christmas with the family. We had our own Christmas tree and presents at home.
We all had a nice time but we missed our daddy. He was in England with the troops. That was in 1916, 1917, 1918 and part of 1919. Nanny wasn’t going to school when Pop left for overseas and when he came home she was in grade three. He was glad to get home. He sailed from Halifax June 26 on the RMS Olympic 1916. She was a big ship, she carried all the troops overseas, thousands of them.
They had only left Halifax a few hours when some one reported that the Olympic had been targeted and all on board lost. Nanny Eastham was a little girl and some woman had told her the story and she ran to me telling me the story. We spent hours worrying and crying until the news came that there was no truth in the story. There was no radio or television news then. We had to wait hours and sometimes days for news.
Then in 1918 the war was over, the Armistice was signed on November 11. It was Pop’s birthday and he was always so pleased that the war stopped on his birthday. So he arrived back in Canada May 17, 1919.
In the meantime, Aunt Nell, Pop’s sister arrived from England and she was married to Ernie Chapman June 4th 1919. Pop went back to work in the post office as a letter carrier. Times seemed to be getting better. Pop always had work. Time went on. Margaret and Norman grew up and went to high school. Got through and Margaret went to work in the bank and when Norman was through he went with the telephone company for a while and then he was transferred to Moncton and that is where he joined the air force and went overseas. Your Grampie Eastham had gone overseas. Your mummy was a little girl about seven I think. He left his good job in the Bank of Montreal and joined the air force so your mummy and her mummy came home to Saint John to live with us.
I remember one Christmas they came home from Montreal to be with us and Norman had bought her a doll carriage for Christmas and when he heard them coming up the stairs he ran and got it and gave it to her. She was about 18 months then. She was thrilled and so was he. I had a big fern in the living room and she stripped every leaf off it. When I went in and saw it I said, “Who did that?” She said Nonie told me to do it. I don’t know if he did or not, tell her some time she was vey naughty.
Pop used to love to take her to Nmj square to feed the pigeons. They would go off with a bag of bread crumbs to feed them. Nanny was just a little girl when Mr. Philpots was inducted as our Rector at Saint Lukes. So Nanny was asked to present Mrs. Philpots with a nice bouquet of flowers, then your mummy was growing up and going to high school and graduating. Pop was so delighted about that and then she went to teachers college and taught school for a while and then your daddy john Farmer came along and they got married so now I have three lovely great grand children.
So last August my Grandson Douglas Britton got married to Dorothy Guliver. She is a nice little girl and she has called me Nana a few times which I think is very nice. She calls Colleen Mrs Britton, so now there are three Mrs. Brittons. They have a lovely little home and they are happy. I know she just loves Doug. They are both teaching school. This is Andrew’s last year at UNB. He has no girl. He is quite happy without one. Well my dear ones I think I will stop now. I could say a lot more but I don’t think it would be of much interest to you . I go to the senior citizens club some times. I can’t go out when it is stormy or cold and windy. My face toehrs me some so I have to take care f it. I am not as smart as I was, what can I expect at 82. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I have had many happy days and some very dad ones too. But when I look over my past life I am very thankful to God for all his blessings to me and my loved ones. Do hope you will get a kick and a laugh out of this. Nana Britton.
“Be strong and of good courage.
Be not afraid, neither be than dismayed.
For the Lord thy God is with thee.
Whereso ever thou goest.”Nana’s prayer