Sentimental Saturday – Happy Halloween!

I am posting old photos from my collection with a brief explanation of what I know of the photo each week.

Well, today is Halloween. It is a day that evokes memories from our childhood, of costumes we wore, of friends we went out to ‘trick or treat’ with, and, of course, of candy.

For some of us lucky enough to be parents, it also brings back memories of our kids as they excitedly dressed up in costumes and beckoned for Mom or Dad to take them out. After all, candy was at stake!

Last year, I shared the first Halloween that my family had with all three kids. The year was 1988 and our youngest Jenna, eight months old at the time, joined her big sister Lisa and big brother John for the compulsory costume photo.

Jenna, Lisa and John Hadden on Halloween 1988

Jenna, Lisa and John Hadden on Halloween 1988

Flash forward three years to 1991 and Lisa and Jenna were ready for all things spooky on their Halloween outing.

Lisa and Jenna Hadden all set for Halloween in 1991

Lisa and Jenna Hadden all set for Halloween in 1991

My late wife Karen usually made the costumes that our kids wore. In 1988, John was an ewok and in the photo was not wearing the head piece that Karen worked so hard on. In 1991, Lisa was, of course, a princess while Jenna wore a bunny costume made with love by Mom.

Sentimental Saturday – John and Agnes Hadden’s 25th Anniversary

I know … I know … this posting is a day late. My only excuse – stuff happens.

Today, I am sharing a glimpse back in time to October 1954 and the 25th Wedding Anniversary of my paternal grandparents.

On October 10, 1929, John Gaull Hadden married Agnes Little in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Both John and Agnes were born in Scotland (John in Woodside, now part of Aberdeen and Agnes in Greenock). John immigrated to Canada with his parental family in 1923 while Agnes immigrated to Canada in 1928 on her own. They met in Toronto.

In October 1954, my parents hosted a 25th wedding anniversary party. I know that my parent’s house was not large so I suspect that it was a fairly small party.

In the photo below, likely taken by my father, my grandparents can be seen cutting the anniversary cake. Standing behind them was the party hostess, my mother Anne (O’Neill) Hadden who at the time was pregnant with her first child and first grandchild for her in-laws. I suppose that in a sense that technically means this is also the first photo of Yours Truly.

Agnes and John Hadden cutting their 25th wedding anniversary cake

Agnes and John Hadden cutting their 25th wedding anniversary cake

The Service File Of Peter Gammie

Each month I would check and find nothing but the attestation (enlistment) form for my great granduncle Peter Gammie.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) had a much publicized project underway to digitize and post the full service files for the Canadian Soldiers of the First World War (according to the website, they are about one-third of the way through the digitization project). As batches of these digitized files were completed, they were posted on the LAC website. Available for free for all who were interested.

Long ago, I had paid LAC to photocopy and send me the service file of James Gammie, Peter’s brother. I had great interest in James’, or ‘Jimmie’s, file because his death in the 1918 from injuries sustained in France during combat had triggered the events that lead to my great grandfather, and Jimmie’s half brother, to move the Hadden family to Canada. The move had been at the invitation of my great grandfather and the Gammie brother’s mother Helen.

A distant cousin had once informed me in an email that while James had died in combat, Peter had not seen action in the war. But there was no explanation.

Peter Gammie

Peter Gammie

What was known was that Peter, aged 23, and his younger brother James, aged 21, had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force together on May 17, 1916 in the village of Aneroid, Saskatchewan. Together, they completed the enlistment form giving their names, dates and places of birth, as well as listing their next of kin. Both brothers listed their mother Mrs. Helen (Shand) Gammie (my 2X great grandmother) as next of kin.

The brothers stated they were farmers willing to serve overseas. They swore oaths to King and Country. They were assigned consecutive regimental service numbers; the younger Jimmie becoming #1010103 and Peter becoming #1010104. Both were found to be medically fit to serve. Both were sent off for training.

For Jimmie, time would see him sent to the front lines in France where he was injured by shrapnel. He spent time in a hospital, recovered from his injuries and was sent back to the front lines. He wasn’t so lucky the next time. On September 28, 1918, Jimmie was killed in action. He was buried in France where an iconic maple leaf adorned gravestone marks his final resting place.

James Gammie gravestone, Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Arras, France

James Gammie gravestone, Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Arras, France

The mystery that surrounded Peter’s military career has now been cleared up.

His service file has now been posted and reiterates what was known. He enlisted with his younger brother and assigned to artillery training with the 229th Battalion. As all soldiers were required to do, on October 20th, 1916 he completed his pro-forma last will and testament, leaving all his possessions to his mother, “Mrs. A. Gammie.”

His medical record indicates that he received his required inoculations and all five feet, nine inches and one hundred and fifty-two pounds of him seemed well and fit. At least until February 1, 1917 when he was diagnosed and hospitalized for 29 days with a severe case of the mumps.

Two months later, on April 24th, 1917 he was again medically examined and was found to have “defective vision and varicose veins,” dating back, although never previously noted, to his pre-enlistment days.

To quote the examining doctor, Peter was “practically blind in right eye – left eye subnormal – varicose veins in right leg below knee.” The vision of the left eye was tested at 20/80 vision.

It is puzzling how a young man, an eager soldier recruit, could be medically examined numerous times by various medical personnel, spend a month in hospital and then, after six months of military service, be found to have pre-existing condition of near blindness in one eye and very poor sight with the other. But, apparently that was the case for Peter Gammie.

The doctor recommended a medical discharge. The medical board agreed and so, on June 7, 1917 Peter Gammie was medically discharged from the army and sent back home to the family farm. Never to see action in the war. Never to see his younger brother again.

Sentimental Saturday – The Family South-Paw

I am posting photos from my collection each week along with a brief explanation of what I know about the photos.

I am right-handed. My late wife, Karen was right-handed.

When we were raising our first child, our son John, we just assumed that he too was right-handed. That he could be left-hand predominant never entered our collective minds.

I taught John how to play all sports right-handed, just like ‘dear ol’ Dad.’

He throws right-handed, bats right-handed, catches right-handed, bowls right-handed, shoots in hockey, you guessed it, right-handed.

What a shock then to recognize much later that he is left-handed!

I have been spending a fair amount of time recently ensuring that all of my old family photos are scanned and filed electronically. This is a time consuming endeavour that almost all genealogists endure to make certain that precious family photo records are preserved in an organized fashion. The electronic copies are also a great way to ensure these records are able to be stored, ideally in multiple locations, should something bad happen to the originals. I have even made sure that my old home movies and videotapes are similarly digitized, organized and stored.

While going through a box of ‘old’ photos, I came across the photo below, taken by Yours Truly in the kitchen of the first house that Karen and I had when we were starting our family. There is John, in late 1981 or early 1982, seated in his high-chair finishing up his breakfast that seems to have included bacon and sausages.

John Hadden, the south-paw

John Hadden, the south-paw

Looking at the photo which I had not seen in many years, it hit me. John is using his left hand! I guess the signs were there.

At least he survived his rearing with the unique talent as a ‘leftie’ of being able to do most things right-handed!

Sentimental Saturday – Celebrating The Anniversary Of My Death!?

Celebrating the day I died? A bit melodramatic? Probably. Real? Certainly.

On October 10, 2010, at 5:00 a.m., my wife received a phone call from the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. “Mrs. Hadden, we think you should get here as soon as possible. We don’t know if he is going to make it.”

With a scream and a scurry, my wife, along with oldest son Chris who was staying with his Mom that night, raced to the hospital, arriving just as the ‘Code Blue’ was called.

The nurse attending to me that night later told me that my heart rate and breathing began to decline in the early morning hours of that day five years ago. To quote the nurse, “Then you were gone, you went cold. That’s when I called the code.”

I had been struck down by a cold. Well, actually it started with a cold but I had been struck down by a somewhat rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS. It was something I knew nothing about and could not even pronounce when I was diagnosed.

Even after my resuscitation, I was left in a quadriplegic state. I could move nothing from my neck down. Doctors told me that I would recover and estimated the recovery time to be two years. The recovery was frustrating and too slow for me. Things I did all my life like getting out of bed, feeding myself, going to the bathroom were gone, taken from me. All sense of independence was stripped away.

Yours Truly being taught how to walk again in the halls of the hospital with my physiotherapist Dawn in November 2010

Yours Truly being taught how to walk again in the halls of the hospital with my physiotherapist Dawn in November 2010 (photo by Ellen Hadden)

I was fortunate. As swiftly as the disease had caused my ‘decline’, my recovery, fortified by a lot of work and effort, not just by me, restored my mobility. The two year recovery timeframe that was estimated became four months.

I don’t usually share much personal information but today is special. It represents for me five years of bonus time during which I have been able to walk a daughter down the aisle, see grandchildren born and grow, travel with my wife, hang out with my kids. That’s what makes family history!

Sentimental Saturday – Happy Birthday, Mom!

I am sharing photos from my collection along with a brief explanation about when and where the photos were taken, if known.

Tomorrow, October 4th would have been my mother’s 85th birthday had not cancer interfered and cut her life off at the much younger age of 63.

Anna (Anne) Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was on October 4, 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, United States. My mother’s parents, J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley with their first child Ed, had moved to Detroit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1929 as there was work available and waiting for my grandfather. My mother and her younger brother Bill as a result were both born in Detroit. The family moved back to Toronto in 1937 when my grandfather’s mother Margaret (Graham) O’Neill passed away.

My mother never did completely lose her ‘Michigan accent.’

Anne (O'Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

The photo above was taken by Yours Truly following my daughter’s first communion. The photo was taken inside Holy Redeemer Church in Pickering, Ontario.

My mother never missed a milestone event in the lives of her grandchildren for whom, she once explained to me, she had the “God given right to spoil.”

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sentimental Saturday – A Wedding Anniversary

I am sharing photos from my collection and offering a brief explanation about what I know about the photos.

Today, September 26th would have been my parents 62nd wedding anniversary. On Saturday, September 26, 1953, Anna (‘Anne’) O’Neill married Lewis Hadden in St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The photo below of my parents on their wedding day was taken at the wedding reception, which was held at the Guild Inn in Scarborough, Ontario. Strangely enough, The Guild Inn was the former estate home of my wife’s second cousin, twice removed Rosa (Breithaupt) Spencer. My parents were married for 40 years prior to my mother’s death in 1994.

Anna and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Anna (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Back To School

Around these parts, it’s the first day of school.

And it’s back to school for me as well. I am making a concerted push towards finally completing my program with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. It has taken me longer than I had planned but I expect to have the last of the forty courses completed by the early Spring of 2016.

But ‘back to school’ day also brings back a lot of memories. My own first days back to school were many years ago but who can forget having some new clothes and school supplies.

My most vivid memories of first days of school though are related to my children, especially my first born, my son John.

Shortly before his fifth birthday, we registered John to begin school. We celebrated his achievement of being of school age. We bought him new school clothes and a new backpack in which he could carry his daily snack to school for his half-day kindergarten class.

But, and this was a big but for me, I still thought he was too young and little to go to school on his own.

Yours Truly with my son and first daughter about a  year before my son started school

Yours Truly with my son John and eldest daughter Lisa out for a walk at the Scarborough Bluffs, about a year before my son started school

Not wanting to erode his self-confidence, at least not anymore than normal parenting might, I came up with a solution. Each morning, when I was working a later shift, I helped John get ready for school. His Mom and I made sure he had a good snack for is busy day, well, half-day. I then escorted John to the school bus pick-up spot, conveniently located on the street at the end of our property. I would wish my son well as he boarded the bus and I would watch as he made his way down the bus aisle and found a seat. I waved as the bus pulled away and John would wave back.

I then would quickly run to our car and would follow the bus to the school where I would park some distance away from the bus drop-off area so as to remain out of my son’s sight. And I would watch to make sure he got into the school yard safely. And, I would wait for the school bell to watch John line up with his classmates and enter the school under the watchful eye of their teacher.

My late wife thought I was nuts. I thought I was just being a Dad.

Sentimental Saturday – Becoming A Big Sister

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

When my daughter Lisa became a big sister in 1988, she took on her new role with gusto. In the photo below, Lisa intently observes and no doubt was supervising her new little sister Jenna learning to hold and drink from a ‘sippy’ cup.

Yours truly took the photo in the kitchen area of the Pickering home that we owned at the time. The sister bond that is evident in this photo continues to be even stronger today.

Jenna and Lisa Hadden, 1988 (photo by Ian Hadden)

Jenna and Lisa Hadden, 1988 (photo by Ian Hadden)

Sentimental Saturday – A Young Mountie

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

My father had a knack, or maybe it was a real talent, for finding unique gifts.

I didn’t have a small wooden rocking horse. No, I had a rocking horse with a full cast metal body and rubber mane and tail. The horse was larger than I was and remained with our family for many, many years.

Years later, when my father was a grandfather, he found a large stuffed rocking Husky dog, completed with saddle and snap-down street worthy wheel assembly as a Christmas gift for my son, his first grandchild.

I suspect that this photo was taken by my father probably around 1957 or 1958. I also suspect that the little Royal Canadian Mounted Police or ‘Mountie’ uniform was something that my mother purchased.

Ian Hadden, probably around 1958

Ian Hadden, probably around 1958