Remembering Mothers in Peace and War

Today, as we celebrate Mothers around the world, I would like to share a story often told by our late Mother – Corporal Audry Rutherford Stafford, RCAF Women’s Division WWII.  It’s the story of one of the most exciting days of her life – when she performed at the halftime show at Grey Cup 1943.

Mother grew up in Edmonton during the Great Depression.  When she turned sixteen and decided to find a part-time job, her father Charles Rutherford warned her that in those dark days of the ‘dirty thirties’ even men couldn’t find jobs, and that she would likely ‘wear out her shoe-leather‘ long before anyone would hire her.

Audry Rutherford and her mother Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

Audry and her mother Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford in front of the family home in Edmonton 1936

Determined to find work, she took a street-car to the Eaton’s store in downtown Edmonton, walked in, boldly approached one of the clerks, and asked how she might find a position at the store.  The clerk answered – ” wear a crisp,white blouse, and a navy skirt, and come early in the morning, when the store opens, and ask to speak with the hiring manager”.  The advice worked and she got a job as a sales clerk.

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photo:  Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, 1936

 

In 1939 the Second World War broke out in Europe.  As the next few years passed there were an increasing number of recruiting posters across the country, as more soldiers were required for the war efforts overseas.  Her brother Jack went to sign up, but because of his poor eyesight was rejected.  Hearing this, she grabbed her hat, headed down to the recruiting office, and signed up that day.  “Someone needs to represent the family in the war efforts“, she said.

rcaf_wd_recruiting

 

After completing her basic training at the Rockliffe Air Base in Ottawa, and another round of training at St. Thomas, she was posted to the No.8 Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge, Alberta.  It was while she was posted there she met a dashing young soldier by the name of ‘Tib’ Stafford, a charming lad from Drummond Township, Lanark County.

 

mother-and-dad-dating-in-lethbridge

Photo: Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford and Audry Rutherford when they first began their courtship, downtown Lethbridge, Alberta 1943.

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Corporal Audry Rutherford  RCAF  WD,  on a visit home to her parent’s place, in Edmonton in 1943.

Something very exciting was ‘brewing’ on the air base……

For the first time in Canadian history, a select group of airwomen were sent from their air bases to train as Physical Education Instructors. Twenty-one women in total were selected for this prestigious program, sent for a five-week training program, and were immersed in various active sports, exercises, developing team spirit, studying general health practices, and recreation.

Classes were held at the Margaret Eaton School in Toronto, and while many of the classes were conducted in lecture form, ‘Peter’, the skeleton, was used in the study of anatomy.

Section Officer Ruth Jernholm was in charge of the group. Miss Jernholm was a graduate in physical education from the University of Denmark, Copenhagen. She had come to Canada with her sister in 1929 and began her career teaching children in the Winnipeg public school system.

Airforce Women 1942 001
First Phys Ed Instructors

 

A highlight for these girls in the program was an invitation to perform at the half-time show at the 1943 Grey Cup game held on November 27th in Toronto. It was a day not to be forgotten, and a story told and re-told by our late Mother.

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GREY-CUP

 

WWII women

photo left:  Audry Rutherford

Graduates of the first Physical Education Instructor’s Course

RCAF Women’s Division 1942:

L.A.W. Phyllis L. Reid, Toronto, Ontario
Cpl. Joy Galloway, Hamilton, Ontario
A.W.1 Naomi Carley, Consecon, Ontario
L.A.W. Margaret Chase, Aylmer, Ontario
A.W.1 Elizabeth Ann Tompkins, Port Credit, Ontario
A.W.2 Mary Crew, Barrie, Ontario
Cpl. Mary Howden, Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Helen Rocke, Vancouver, British Columbia
Cpl. Ethel M. Boyce,Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Maureen S. Martin, Vancouver, British Columbia
L.A.W. Violet Peck, Edmonton, Alberta
A.W.1 Audry Rutherford, Edmonton, Alberta
Cpl. Elizabeth Currer, Port Kells, British Columbia
A.W.1 Kathleen Mowbray, Cloverdale, British Columbia
A.W.2 Ethel McCully, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Cpl. Estelle Marcotte, Verdun, Quebec,
L.A.W. Nona Butts, Victoria British Columbia
A.W.1 Anne Turner, Victoria British Columbia
Cpl. Grace E. Nicoll, Mannville, Alberta
A.W.1 Mary Schommer, Leipzig, Saskatchewan,
Cpl. Alice Cuthill, Winnipeg, Manitoba

…….

And so, today, as each of us remembers our own Mothers, let us also take a moment to remember the women who have served, and continue to serve their countries proudly, in times of peace and war.

Cpl Audry Rutherford

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

“At the going down of the sun……and in the morning
We will remember them.”                  

Lawrence Binyon

 

Women salute

…..

 

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Until we meet again…

…..

 

 

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Grey November Skies

It was one of those mornings in the late fall, when the sky was so grey that you couldn’t tell whether it was daylight, or still dark outside. Halloween was over for another year, and the snow hadn’t begun for the season, to remind us that Christmas was coming. It was just one of those four or five dark, grey, lifeless weeks in between the colourful fall, and the bright snowy winter, when Mother Nature didn’t seem to know what to do.

bare trees 2

I headed downstairs that Saturday morning, and took a quick look at the clock on the kitchen wall. With the sky so overcast, I couldn’t even guess what time it was, and I didn’t have a clock in my bedroom upstairs. All I knew was the weekend was here, so I didn’t have to go back to Glen Tay School for another two days.

The whole house seemed gloomy. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, and opened the door, the living room was empty. Where was everybody?

old fashioned living room

The only room that seemed to be lit up in the old house was the kitchen, and as I walked through the living room, and got close enough to see, Mother was in full production, as usual.

Mother in the kitchen

She had the old aluminum meat grinder attached to the kitchen table, and had bags of flour and sugar, and boxes of baking soda and baking powder lined up along the edge.

Christmas cake ingredients

There were packages of raisins and candied pineapple, and currants and cherries, all over the top of the freezer, as though they were waiting their turn to go into the huge white ceramic mixing bowl. It looked as though some kind of dried fruit was making its way through the meat grinder, and dropping into one of the melamine bowls waiting below.

grinding fruit

“Can you run down to Cavanagh’s, and pick up some molasses for me?”, she said without looking up from the meat grinder. “I forgot to pick some up at the IGA last night, and I’ll need some for the Christmas cake.”

“Sure.”, I said, and picked up the three quarters that were already sitting there waiting for me, at the end of the table.

three quarters

I grabbed my blue corduroy jacket off of the hook, and headed outside. As soon as I opened the door the cold air hit me, and I remembered how the weather had been getting cooler and cooler these past weeks. It felt cold enough to snow, I thought to myself, and I picked up my old, red, battered bike, still lying on the same spot where I’d left it in the yard, the night before.

old red bike 2

Brrr. It felt even colder once I was on the bike and moving. The lane was downhill, and I coasted all the way onto the Third Line. I had a quick check for cars, and turned right, still coasting for a bit, then I began to pedal. Ugh, Heney’s dogs!, I thought. I needed a newer, faster bike, or a car, or a spaceship; something to get me past Heney’s faster.

As soon as I saw Conboy’s house, I pedaled like mad. I should have eaten breakfast first, I thought. I could use some energy.

I made it past Heney’s unscathed. They didn’t even come out barking that day. They must have been feeding them or something, I thought. Whew! That was easy.

I was moving pretty fast, and made it to Cavanagh’s in no time. Helen was working, and she pointed out the molasses, and asked how everyone was doing, just like she always did.

molasses

I paid for the molasses, and picked up my bike where I’d left it; propped up against the front entrance of the store.

cavanaghs-store-black-and-white-without-garage

Since it was Saturday, I decided that I’d take the long way home. I just didn’t feel like riding past Heney’s again and was sure those dogs would be back out on the road, full of food now, and ready to chase me up the Third Line.

I crossed the road and headed up Cameron’s side road. I passed S.S.# 4 school, and was heading up toward Calvin Church.

S S # 4 School for book

This part of the trip was a bit harder, as it was uphill all the way.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

I passed the church, then up the road a bit more, and turned right onto the Fourth Line. It wasn’t long until I was down near Calvin and Marion Jordan’s place, and I slowed down a bit, as I rounded the corner, and headed toward the railroad tracks.

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I glanced down into the ditches and spots where I could usually find some flowers to bring home for Mother, but there was no colour in the ditches that day, and even the cattails had gone to seed in the swamp and looked dirty,white and furry. I didn’t see anything worth bringing home for a bouquet.

cattails autumn

When I finally arrived back in the yard, I threw down my bike, and walked into the kitchen.  I could smell the cake batter as soon as I opened the door. The batter for the Christmas Cake was pinkish. I’m not sure why it was that colour; maybe it was juice from the cherries. Mother had saved the bowl for me to clean, and it was sitting on the edge of the table. Mother said she would add the molasses in with the ground fruit, and that sure worked for me. I loved cleaning out the cake batter bowls. This was my kind of breakfast!

cake batter bowl

I’m not sure why the Christmas Cake had to be made so early. Mother said it had to ‘ripen’ and I was never really sure what she meant by that. It wasn’t like a green banana, or one of the green apples from back in the orchard. Still, it was part of the process of making the cake each year, and there was no point in arguing.

dark fruit cake

No matter what the reason for making the Christmas Cake in what seemed like the drabbest, dreariest part of the year, I liked to think of it as kind of a light at the end of a tunnel. It was so grey and colourless outside. The bright leaves were lying, lifeless on the ground. The birds had left the yard. I couldn’t find one bright, pretty flower to bring Mother for a bouquet; not even a cattail. Nature seemed to be in limbo; not sure what to do next.

Creek behind the house0001

Making the Christmas cake was the first sign that the brightest season of the year was on its way. In just a matter of weeks we’d be celebrating Christmas. Bit by bit, in the days ahead, we’d be making progress on our preparations. The Christmas cards would be signed and addressed. Betty Miller and Frances Dixon would begin organizing the Christmas concert at Calvin Church, and we’d all have our parts to study, and new songs to learn.

Dad would be stringing the Christmas lights on the big spruce tree near the house, any day now. Soon, we would be strolling back into the bush to size up the possible candidates for the Christmas tree, that would grace the corner of our living room.

Before too long, pans of fudge would be prepared, and all sorts of cookies and squares would be baked and stored. Crepe paper streamers would be brought out of storage, and old decorations glued and repaired.

So the grey days, I concluded to myself, were days of preparation. These were the days when we would have time to spend getting ready for Christmas. They were the days when we wouldn’t be distracted by the bright sun, and green grass, to go outside and play, but would stay indoors, and stroke things off of our to-do lists.

In its wisdom, Nature had given us quiet, thoughtful days like these,to focus on the things to come, because Christmas would be upon us in no time at all.

……………………………………………

Granny Rutherford’s Dark Fruit Cake

(should be baked a few weeks ahead, and allowed to ripen before Christmas)

2 cups raisins

1 1/2 cups of cherries

1 cup currants

1 cup dates

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cups seeded raisins

1 cup pecans

1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit

1/2 cup candied pineapple

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1 cup butter

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp cloves

6 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

1/3 cup cold coffee

Mix fruit and nuts (may grind coarse or fine, as desired)

sift flour and spices and mix well

cream butter, and add sugar and eggs

Add dry ingredients

Bake at 300 degrees for 3 – 3 1/2 hours

………..

Allow to cool on baking racks

(double-wrap in plastic, then double-wrap in foil, and store in a cool dry place to ripen)

…………

Who was Granny Rutherford?

Dorothy Woolsey, born in Lincolnshire, England, was just sixteen years old when her mother Mary-Jane Foster Woolsey, passed away.  She often told the story of how they dyed her favourite red coat – black for her mother’s funeral.  In 1909 her father, William Woolsey, brought Dorothy and her siblings over to Canada, because his eldest daughter, Edith, had weak lungs, and the doctor advised him the air in Canada would be better for her.

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

Dorothy Woolsey at age 20, in 1914

They settled first in Winnipeg, and Dorothy’s older sister Florence, married, and moved to Saskatoon.  Dorothy went to visit, and she met a handsome young man named Charles Rutherford, a Mechanical Engineer, who came to Canada from St. Lawrence County, New York, to seek his fortune.  Dorothy and Charles fell in love, married, and settled in Edmonton, where their children Dorothea ‘Dolly’, Mildred ‘Mill’, Audry, Muriel, and Jack were born.

Mother and Granny Rutherford

Mother, (Audry Rutherford Stafford) age 18, with her mother, Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford, in front of their home in Edmonton in 1936.

Arlene Granny Mother

Arlene Stafford (Wilson), Granny Rutherford, and Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, 1967

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Christmas Cake recipe – in “Recipes and Recollections –  Treats and Tales From Our Mother’s Kitchen, available in local stores or online.  ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

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