Monday, August 11, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Story, part 1: first memories

1952 at 18 years old
Mom, I got with Mary Kay and asked her if she wouldn't want to conduct a series of interviews with you as I did with Dad back in 2000 so that we can put together a family lore for the Haley side of our family the way I already did with Dad’s family memories. She says she isn't up to the task of all that and considering that you aren't getting any younger, and since none of us is really very aware of ALL of “your story,” I thought that if you are up to it that I’d like to capture your memories to cover the period from your childhood up through nursing school and beyond, as well as any other stories and tales from your side of the family...  So, what do you think?  We can just do a little at a time and I will compile it as we go, asking lots of questions and cross examining based on your responses...     Want to try? 

Sure, a little at a time; but give me some time to think about it though? 

Okay, so, think about this....   What are your very FIRST memories?  How old were you; where were you; what was happening at the time?  Don’t worry about grammar; just let it fly as memories occur.

c 1935
My first memories are sitting in my grandparents house in Toronto in what I now know is called Cabbage Town, the home of many Irish people. It was a three story line house on Welsh Boulevard.  I drove by it about fifteen or so years ago (in the mid 90s).   It still looked the same.   Seems like I spent a lot of time there. I was born at Saint Michael's Hospital in Toronto and went by it during the same visit. 

I remember sitting in the living room with my Aunt Helen and her cousins and we all would sing. They taught me to sing "The White Cliffs of Dover." Canada was in the 2nd World War then and that was their patriotic song. I remember standing by myself singing that song for them all.
At 2 years old

WWII? Let’s see, Canada still sees itself as British, so the war started for them in 1939.
How old do you think you were when you sang for them all?  Do you still know the words to the song; could you sing it today? 

I was probably about 4 or 5 years old when I learned and sang "The White Cliffs of Dover."  Yes I can still sing it today. Canada was already involved in the war as they were still subjects of Britain then.  They got their Independence later.  

Yeah, Canadians were considered “subjects” of the crown until 1947. Now they are called “commonwealth citizens.” It’s why a lot of Canadians still consider themselves British, SO misguided!
Mary Haley 1937
3 years old
From Wikipedia:  "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" is a popular Second World War song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version – one of her best-known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton, the song was also among the most popular Second World War tunes. It was written before America had joined, to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when the Germans had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. The song was written about a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain: the song's lyrics looked towards a time when the war would be over and peace would rule over the iconic white cliffs of Dover.”

Hey Mom, I did a little research on the song "The White Cliffs of Dover" and I think you might be remembering it wrong. The song wasn't written until '41 and didn't become popular until Vera Lynn sang it in '42. So that would have made you 7 or 8 when it first hit the air waves and you guys were already back in Michigan by that time. Maybe it was a different song that you sang for them when you were 4 or 5?  I can definitely hear you singing THAT song though; it is for sure in your singing "wheel house!" Vera Lynn even SOUNDS like YOU!  

Thanks!!!  I just listened to the Vera Lynn YouTube of White Cliffs of Dover you sent me and I remember it so well, one of my favorites of all time. Oh, I guess I did remember it wrong. It probably WAS “Over the Rainbow” as that was a very popular song of that era when I was a child. I am learning to play it on the guitar. That is going pretty well.    Kevin comes over on and gives me lessons. I'm not very good but it is fun.

Ladle House in Burlinton Canada 1940s
Ahhhh, the Judy Garland song, which came out in 1939, THAT actually seems more like what a 5 year old would sing. When I was listening to Vera Lynn sing I was thinking what a remarkable song for such a tiny sprite to sing. Over The Rainbow makes a LOT more sense. But you MUST have sung White Cliffs though, because you still know it. Did you guys ever make any family trips to Toronto during the war? The song is all about a longing for the end of the war, after being won by the good guys of course!  Didn't you guys have a piano in the house?  I seem to remember one in the 12th Street house. I can imagine all you guys getting together around the piano with you singing White Cliffs. I can see it now.

12 yr old mom piano recital picture
6th grade 1946
I believe it was after the war that my Dad, Bill and I went back to visit Grandma and Aunt Helen when they were living in their apartment, before they moved back to Burlington.   Yes originally the piano belonged to my Mom’s parents.   It was in Aunt Mary's and Uncle Bob's house until they began having problems with the weakening of their floor.   My cousin, Mary Lou, told me that just last year (2013). So Grandpa Kehoe had it moved to our house and that's how Winnie and I got to take piano lessons. Grandpa and Grandma Kehoe paid for the lessons. I had six years of lessons and got a diploma in music when I graduated, as did Winnie. When Aunt Mary came to visit she was really good at playing and we all gathered around and sang our hearts out—no TV in those days.

Why do you say you know "now" that it was called Cabbage Town?  You didn't know it then?  Did you even know back then of your Irish heritage?  I suppose you were too young to think about stuff like that? 

When we went back to Toronto for the ceremonies honoring Gene's Great Grandfather Samuel Lount I learned that the Irish neighborhood was called Cabbage Town because the Irish who lived there grew cabbages in their yards instead of grass. That was pretty much a food staple for them then.  I often wondered why my dad didn't like cooked cabbage; now I understand. He must have felt it was an insult to the Irish. We were looked down on, just like the blacks were.  But we rose above it.  I did know about my heritage and was and am proud of it.   Your dad was part Irish too; I learned from his mom that his grandmother was an Irish Catholic, Collins.
Mary Haley, First Communion 1942

Which of Dad's grandmothers was the Collins?  That's the first I've heard that. 

Gene was always teasing me about being Irish, like he was putting them down.  His mother said, “I don't know why he is putting down the Irish, his grandmother's name was Collins. So I assumed that it was her mother.   There was another aunt on the Spear side that used to come visit and stay a while, long enough that she had a bedroom upstairs. In the closet up there was a picture of Jesus and the Apostles and the Holy Family.  I believe I remember that they called her Aunt Mamie. So I think there were those of the Catholic Faith in the Spear family also.

Why were you guys in Canada then?  Grandpa had a job up there?  What year did your parents go up there, and then when did they move back to Michigan?

40, 41, and 42 were kind of wandering years for our family.  We lived in Flint and Midland for one year or so each.   I had first grade in Canada and Flint, and then second grade in Midland, then 3rd grade on through the rest of my life in Saginaw, right up until I married actually. Each move was job related.   Dad kept finding a better one and moved.   I made my first Communion in Midland and Winnie was born on June 14, 1942.  
from left: Helen, Bill, Mike, Mary
Okay, we moved to the states in late 1940, Midland in 1941, Saginaw in 1942. We lived on Merrill Street until 1958. When your Dad and I returned from Japan in 1959 the family had moved to 12th Street.  It was the first home they had ever owned; Grandpa Kehoe had passed away and left them enough money to put a down payment on it.   

I always thought they were from Cork in Ireland but the Haley's and the Kehoe's (Grandma’s family) were from Limerick.  The Ladles were from Scotland. My father's mom, a Ladle, was Scottish.  Let's see, it was Michael Kehoe, Patrick Albert Haley, and father John Haley. I don't know my Grandma Haley's father's first name, but it might have been Archibald because that was the name of his only son—Uncle Archie.   I'm not sure of the year (that they immigrated across the Atlantic), but I think it was early to mid 1800's for all of them.

 9th grade 1948
 I was in 3rd grade at Saint Mary's in 1943 to 1952, the year I graduated from high school after which I went to Saint Mary's Hospital School of Nursing which was just three blocks from the high school, graduating as an RN in 1955.

Grandpa Haley's family in Canada was very conservative dating back to their years in New York State. As far as Roosevelt and Truman, I just remember that when people said my Dad looked like Harry S.  Truman (an uncanny resemblance!) he would get quite angry. I heard him say more than once that he didn't like people to say that, stating firmly “He sold us down the River!" (He was talking about the deals FDR and Truman made at Yalta and Potsdam that gave Stalin control of Eastern Europe, forming infamously “The Iron Curtain.”That is just a memory I have as a young teenager. You know, I really AM enjoying this.

Mom says that this photo was taken officially for their move back to the United States from Canada