Transcribed by Marilyn Clay Adair, [email protected]
Letter from Gwendolyn Howatt Clay, N.S. to her mother, Grace Lydia (Reid) Clay, N.S.
The signed original of the following letter from Gwen to her mother is in the possession of John A. H. Clay of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:
November 8, 1951
Happy Birthday to you!
What a flurry there must have been in the little home of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Reid, Tryon, Prince Edward Island, 90 years ago today! New babies are always exciting, and this one with her broad intelligent forehead -- so broad as to be described by an elder sister an "the baby with her eyes in the middle of her face" -- was no exception.
You were a go-getter from the start. Went through Grade, High and Prince of Wales College like something jet-propelled; and shortly before your sixteenth birthday you took your place behind the teacher's desk, first in your local school, then in one a size larger, and finally -- because you were reported to have the "best organized schoolroom on Prince Edward Island" -- you were offered the Vice Principalship of the Summerside High.
In this motorized and air-borne age, it's interesting to note that you traveled by horseback and between your home and school, usually bareback and at the gallop. A pat on the nose and a slap on the rump would send your mount home until the time to come for you at the end of the day. It's also interesting to note that two of your pupils were to become quite famous - the late Sir John W. McLeod, at the time of his death President of the Bank of Nova Scotia; and Archbishop McNally, now of Halifax, N.S. And a few years ago, while on a trip to "the Island" you trotted around and visited several of your former pupils, all of whom remembered and welcomed you, and one of whom (a man, of course!) remarked that you "still had the neatest pair of ankles he ever saw!"
In due time you met and married Alexander Clay, and crossed to the mainland to set up housekeeping, in Trenton, N.S., where you started a family. Later you moved to New Glasgow, where you continued, and finished, the job (witness the undersigned). You had a busy time of it in New Glasgow, and your days were scheduled as had been your schoolroom hours. There you brought your family through the "childhood diseases" as they were then called; there you watched your elder son , scarcely of age, march off to World War I, while you yourself opened your dining room to the inspectors of shells manufactured at the Trenton Steel Works; and there your Sunday School Bible Class spilled 'way beyond its allotted space in the church.
In 1925, Dad -- who all these years had fought a courageous but losing battle against anemia -- died, and you moved to Truro, where you have since made a definite place for yourself in the community. This was publicly acknowledged a few years ago when you were honored by the First United Church for your Red Cross Work in World War II. It has been privately acknowledged many times by former Normal College students whom you fed, housed and tutored; by former soldiers from Debert Camp, with their wives whom you housed and tutored in the ways of housekeeping; and by countless friends who come through our front door and down the hall to the second room on the left where they will find you, smiling, on the couch.
"God gave us memories so that we might have roses inn December" -- may your memory garden be very fragrant on this December 8, 1951!
(Signed) The Very Last One