Sentimental Saturday – The Wine And White Formal

The year was 1975.

In February of that year, at least that’s my recollection, I was privileged to be the date of a very pretty 18-year old young woman named Karen when we went to her Notre Dame High School’s annual ‘Wine and White’ formal dance in Toronto, Ontario.

Four months later, I had the honour of escorting Karen to her graduation prom.

In April of 1976, on Easter Sunday, she said ‘yes’ when I asked her to marry me and in June 1977, we became husband and wife.

Today, January 23rd is Karen’s birthday. She would have turned 59-years old but for the cruelty of life that took her from us when she was only 45 years of age. Yes, cancer sucks and it affects the whole family in devastating ways.

Happy Birthday, Karen! I know that you know you are loved and remembered.

BENEDETTO Karen Ann - high school wine and white formal 1975

Karen Ann Benedetto, 1975


Sentimental Saturday – Winter Fun

This year has been rather unusual because in my part of the world, we have little or no snow on the ground. In previous years, snow has been plentiful as a standard ingredient in the Canadian winter scene.

In the winter of 1991-92, my eldest daughter Lisa loved showing her little sister Jenna how to have fun tobogganing down the small hill in the park across the street from our house. Snow, a hill (no matter what the size) and a toboggan equaled hours of fun and laughter. And the fun was perfected by a cup of hot chocolate to warm up with after play time, made even better if it had tiny marshmallows on top.


Sentimental Saturday – Milk Delivery 1938 Style

This is one of my favourite photos.

It shows my paternal grandfather, John Gaull Hadden wearing his work uniform and standing in front of his horse-drawn Silverwood’s Dairy milk delivery wagon.

The photo is dated as being taken in 1938 and appears to have been taken on a street somewhere in the east part of Toronto, Ontario, Canada where my grandfather had his milk route.

Although motorized cars and trucks were available at the time, the dairy continued to have their delivery salesmen use the horse-drawn wagons and even maintained their own livery stables for the care of the horses.

HADDEN John Gaull Silverwoods Dairy delivery 1938

John Gaull Hadden, Silverwood’s Dairy Milk Deliveryman, 1938

Sentimental Saturday – When Santa Delivered A New Tricycle

It was Christmas 1991.

Three-year old Jenna Hadden loved that Santa Claus delivered a brand new pink and white with rainbow motif tricycle. Just for her.

No rusted parts. No hand-me-down from an older sibling.

Even riding in the family recreation room, with it’s still not replaced 1970s shag carpeting, could not wipe the smile from her face as she felt the wind in her hair (well, that part might be a bit of an exaggeration).

HADDEN Jenna at Christmas on trike 1991

Jenna Hadden, Christmas 1991


Sentimental Saturday – Visiting Santa

Each year. Every year.

It was important to visit with Santa, just to be certain that he knew what we wanted to find under our Christmas tree.

Often the meeting location was the local mall. But just as often it was the work or office Christmas party.

The location was not the important point. The essential point of the outing was ensuring Santa was aware of the expectations.

Here is the photographic record of some of those Santa encounters.


Yours Truly with my sister Lou-Anne and brother Bob (seated on Santa’s lap), probably from around 1964

My mother knit the sweater I was wearing. It was during the Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett furor.

HADDEN Ian and Karen Family with Santa 1984

Yours Truly with my late wife Karen, in 1984, with our then two children John and baby Lisa, who was more interested at the time in Santa’s beard than what was to be under the tree on Christmas morning.

HADDEN Jenna with Santa 1990

Our youngest, Jenna with Santa at an office Christmas party in 1990.

HADDEN Karen Benedetto with Santa office party 1996

My late wife Karen at an office Christmas party around 1991.




The Last Christmas Card From J. Graham O’Neill

We all have memories and stories to share about our family members and ancestors.

Some of these, over time, get embellished and grow to mythical proportion.

For me, however, I didn’t really need embellishment nor mythology to view my grandfather John Graham O’Neill as legend.

My grandfather was known throughout his life as Graham. As a child, I knew the initial of his first name was ‘J.’ It was ever present as he signed things off ‘J. Graham O’Neill.’


John Graham O’Neill a.k.a. J. Graham O’Neill

I wondered how awful a name that ‘J’ must have stood for that he would consider ‘Graham’ the better choice to be known by.

I called him ‘Granddad.’ He was my mother’s father and in my earliest years, he and my grandmother, his wife Gertrude Ellen Foley, lived just two doors away from my family home.

Granddad was born June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. He married my grandmother ‘Nanna’ in 1926. Together, they would have five children, four boys and one girl. The eldest and youngest sons, John William and Michael did not survive infancy, dying from hydrocephalus, the same condition that took the lives of my brothers a generation later. The only girl in the family was my mother.

I did a lot with Granddad. He and I shared a love of sports. So we frequently attended Toronto Maple Leaf baseball games (a ‘AAA’ International League team that operated prior to a major league franchised starting play in Toronto). I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night in Granddad’s living room because my parents were not hockey fans so not interested in having the game on the television at our house. He would shout the scores of day games in progress as I played road hockey in front of his house with my friends.

Most of the time, I just listened to Granddad and the stories he told. He was a master storyteller, though sometimes he was dismissed as having too active an imagination. My subsequent research has provided evidence that everything he told me was true.

On December 3, 1979, my late wife Karen and I found out that we were going to be parents for the first time. Our excitement at the prospect of having a baby was palpable. When should we tell our families? How should we tell them? And, what names for the baby should we be considering?

I wanted to call Granddad and let him know that he was going to be a great grandfather. I had heard the names of my great grandfathers but they had all died many years before I was born. But my child was going to know his great grandfather.

Then, on December 10th, 1979, just a week later and 36 years ago today, I got a call from my mother. Granddad had died that morning. He died suddenly. The people my grandfather lived with heard his alarm clock come on, they heard the alarm clock being turned off, and then … silence.

I’m not ashamed to recount that I shed many tears that cold December day.

In the days that followed, we gathered for Granddad’s funeral; we laughed at how somehow appropriate it was that the hearse bearing his body got lost and left the funeral procession enroute from the church to the cemetery. Another great story he would love to tell.

HADDEN Ian last Christmas card from grandfath J Graham O'Neill

When I returned home from the funeral and checked the mail, there was his last message to me. “Best wishes for a Joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year.”

Granddad’s Christmas card had arrived (a card I have kept safely stored ever since it’s arrival).

The following summer, Karen and I welcomed our son into our family, the great grandson that Granddad would never meet. His great grandson John Graham Hadden.


Sentimental Saturday – Life As A ‘Roadie’

In 2005, Ellen and I learned that our good friend Johnny Burke was going to be inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony was to take place in Moncton, New Brunswick and we certainly didn’t want to miss the opportunity of sharing such a prestigious honour being bestowed a good friend. So, we decided to drive down to Moncton to be part of the festivities.

In the few days immediately following the induction ceremony, Johnny, a native of New Brunswick, was headlining a few concerts so we tagged along. In the course of the tour, I jumped in to help with the packing and unpacking of Johnny’s equipment. Thus began and ended my very short life as a roadie! (But I was the roadie for a Hall of Fame inductee, not just some run-of-mill megastar).

HADDEN Ian as Johnny Burke NB hall of fame roadie 2005

Yours Truly working (?) as a roadie, New Brunswick, Canada, 2005

Seven years later in 2012, Johnny became just the 51st artist to be inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Well, we couldn’t miss out on being present to see our friend achieve the ultimate national honour in Canadian country music. So another trip was planned but with a slight twist.

We had already committed to being in Halifax, Nova Scotia the week before the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Not to be deterred, we drove the 3,000 miles or 4,900 kilometers from Halifax to Saskatoon, stopping at our home in southern Ontario along the way to do laundry.

BURKE Johnny at CCMA HOF 2012

Johnny Burke, Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012

Not only was it a great adventure and an honour to celebrate our friend’s achievement but it was a great way to see the country: the ruggedness of New Brunswick, the breathtaking views of the Lake Superior north shore and flat terrain of the prairie provinces. Memories that will last a lifetime!


Sentimental Saturday – Honouring My Brothers

Around this time every year, I pause to think of my brothers who left our family far too soon.

At this time of year, we would have been right in middle of celebrating their birthdays.

Brian Joseph Hadden was born November 25, 1956, and died February 3, 1957. Stephen Gerard Hadden was born December 2, 1957, and died February 16, 1959.

Brian spent his short life in Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, never having the chance to join us at home. As a result, I sadly have no real memories of Brian.

Stephen, on the other hand, did come home from the hospital and I have many vivid memories associated with his short life. Some of my reflections about Brian and Stephen can be read in I Remember Stephen (from 2009) and Paying Respects to Brian and Stephen Hadden (from 2014).

This then is my most precious photo. It is not the oldest or most artistic. But, it is the only known photo to exist of my brother Stephen.

HADDEN Ian-Mom-Stephen 1957

I am almost certain that the photo was taken by my father. My mother was holding Stephen as she sat on the couch in the living room of our home at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto while I stood beside them.

The photo was given to me by my father at mother’s funeral in 1994. He told me that it was something she wanted me to have. So, from that perspective, the photo is special on many levels.

Sentimental Saturday – Dancing With Lisa, The Flower Girl

Twenty-five years ago, my daughter Lisa was a flower girl at the wedding of my late wife’s brother.

Wow, hard to believe it was that long ago. I must have blinked.

Lisa was (and is) beautiful in her white dress and with her hair coiffed for the occasion. How could parents resist having a dance with their little princess, the flower girl!

Lisa (Hadden) Donovan, the flower girl, dancing with Yours Truly, September 1990

Lisa (Hadden) Donovan, the flower girl, dancing with Yours Truly, September 1990

Lisa (Hadden) Donovan, the flower girl, dancing with her mom Karen (Benedetto) Hadden

Lisa (Hadden) Donovan, the flower girl, dancing with her mom Karen (Benedetto) Hadden

Sentimental Saturday – My Sister’s Christening

I am posting photos each week from my collection and offering an explanation of what I know about the picture.

Well, my sister is having a birthday in the upcoming week so I thought I would share a photo from a (much) earlier time in her life.

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O'Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne's christening

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne’s christening

This photo is from the day of my sister Lou-Anne’s christening but I don’t know if it was taken before or after the trip to the church. The gown she was wearing gives away the occasion and it was the christening gown we all wore.

In the photo, Yours Truly is seated, and smiling, beside my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden. My mother is holding my sister Lou-Anne, who doesn’t seem to be having a good time. The photo was taken by an unknown person in the living room of our family home at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto, Ontario.

It was a happy occasion for my parents who had experienced the death of a son, my brother Brian, the year before Lou-Anne was born. My brother Stephen died when Lou-Anne was just three months old and he is not in the family photo. I suspect that Stephen may have been too ill to be included. Based on those observations, I think this photo was taken in late November or early December 1958.

In the large mirror behind us, on the right, you can see image of a guest smiling. The person’s face is partially blocked by a decidedly 1950s lampshade but I think it is my aunt Mary (Raponi) O’Neill who was married to my mother’s brother.

I like this photo as it shows just how 1950s our house decor was and because I can’t stop thinking about how valuable some of the furnishing might be today, cherished by decorators looking for that retro look.