A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Surprise! Mothers can be athletes too!

I just thought this was the craziest thing when I was a kid: my mom said she played basketball in university! It was hard for me to imagine, as I'm sure it's hard for MY kids to imagine ME playing varsity volleyball. I also thought it was funny that they wore bloomers! When my mother-in-law Dede (who was eleven years younger than my mother) played basketball at the University of New Brunswick the women's team was actually called "The Red Bloomers."

Even more amusing to me, when I was young, was the rules they had for women's basketball. Men's rules were "too strenuous" for women of course! The ladies were not allowed to run the whole length of the court. (There are more details about these "old-fashioned" rules at the end of the post.) So the sneaker dangle, that looks to me like an old-fashioned high-cut basketball shoe, seemed the right charm to represent my mother's active youth. I wear it on the bracelet I have in her memory; I call it "My Unforgettable Mom - her life in charms."

From the Dalhousie University yearbooks
I've often wondered what it would have been like for my mother during the Second World War, and of course never asked her before she passed away. So I was very happy, as I shared in the first post in this series of stories about my mom, when I found her first photo album and got a glimpse of her early life. As I mentioned previously, she also dictated a collection of stories about her childhood and I've looked back at those stories in writing this post.

My mother was twelve years old in 1939 when the war started. While she was in high school a Y opened in her hometown. At the Y she was in a Leaders Corp and they swam every day, eventually earning the Bronze Medallion life-saving medal. When my mom was fourteen (the same age as my twins are now, well almost) she was "very keen" to attend a summer camp run by the Y.W.C.A. and worked hard to persuade her parents to let her go. With a fourth child on the way, they were probably happy to have one less child to think about, although my grandfather did have to make the two-day drive there and back.

A picture of my mom's photo album where she had snapshots of her first year at Y camp
Before and after the camp Mom was at her grandfather's summer place. She tells the story that she and her grandfather played a lot of checkers that summer. He would only play checkers with her because she was the only one who could beat him on occasion. Apparently many of the books in that house were about the Civil War and Mom recalled being taken aback about the ways in which the African-Americans in the Southern U.S. were portrayed in those books. Mom says she read every book in that house that summer, and there were many! I imagine her being very much like my almost-14-year-old daughter Taylor who is now a voracious reader - and, although not a checkers player, is a bit of a card-shark.

When my mother was fourteen her sister Edna was born. Mom recalled buying books and reading to Edna when she was little. She described Edna, on one occasion, being in bed with the mumps, "sitting up in bed with her long pigtails and big fat cheeks," while Mom read her "Winnie the Pooh." Their brother Walter was in the next room making fun of them reading the book. Each time he heard "Winnie the Pooh" he would call out, "Pooh, pooh, pooh," which of course made the girls giggle!

As Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) my mother and her friends organized a bicycle day trip, 1942
This organization was run through the Y in its early years.
(Mom is the tallest girl)

It appears that that Mom went to a different Y camp, closer to home, in the summer of 1943. There were also photos from a Girl Guide camp in 1942.
(Mom is in the back row, second from the left)

One thing that occupied my mother's time when she was young, was listening to the radio. When the news was on, "everyone listened to it totally" - no music on, no conversation. It was a ritual: news on, everyone quiet, particularly from 1939-1945 when the war news was on. Although she admitted that we now know that much of what they heard was propaganda, she said the radio was very important in those days.

One of the things my mother listened to was soap operas on the radio - called "soap" operas because they were sponsored by Proctor and Gamble and other soap companies. There was one programme in particular that her father, my Poppy, "couldn't stand," so when he came into the house he would quietly switch off the main fuse box on his way in. The rest of the family just assumed that the electricity had gone off. Mom said it later amused her to think of them being censored quietly by her father. I wish it was as easy to censor MY kids on the Internet, or get them off electric devices!

Mom and her friends at Blackette's Lake on the Victoria Day long weekend May 24th, 1944. They would have been 17 and almost finished high school.
(Mom is standing in the centre of the photo between two boys)
The war was still on when Mom graduated from high school in 1944, so she worked at the bank that summer, through the winter, and then the following summer. During the war silk stocking were all the rage - the kind with the seam up the back and held up by a garter belt - and according to my mother, there was a "great scarcity of stockings during the war." When she was working at the bank, one of the messengers would report when there was a new supply at the local department store and the girls at the bank "would rush out frantically to buy," and the supply wouldn't last the day.

Mom said the pay was "phenomenal" at the bank: $600 per annum plus $60 cost-of-living bonus. After six months that was raised to $700 plus $70 cost-of-living. She was able to live at home and save money for university, as well as sew a wardrobe for going away. She started university in the fall of 1945.

The following photos are from the yearbook at Dalhousie University that my mother attended from the fall of 1945 til the Spring of 1948. She played basketball all three years - and apparently some ping pong! The next blog post in this series will be about my mother's academic life, not just as a university student, but as a life-long learner.

Inter-class Managers
Intermediate Basketball Team, 1946

Varsity Basketball Team 1947

Varsity Basketball Team 1948

The sneaker dangle on "My Unforgettable Mom" bracelet

The "old fashioned" rules for women's basketball:
When basketball was first introduced to women, only a year after it was invented by James Naismith, the court was divided into three sections with six players. It wasn't until 1938 that this changed and the court was instead divided into two sections. There were six players on the court (now there are five for both men and women). There were three forwards and three defenders, and you only played on half of the court - three defenders guarding their own net and three forwards attempting to score on the other team's net. Of course they had to pass the ball to their teammates on the other side of half. Originally there was no dribbling the ball. Later women were allowed to dribble, but just once and only if it was at least knee high. It wasn't till 1949, after my mother had graduated from university, that two bounces were allowed, and later, three. It wasn't until 1966 that continuous dribbling was allowed, and 1971 before women were allowed to play full-court and have five players on the floor.

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