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Claude à Mme Ryder, 23 novembre 1947.
Claude à Mme Ryder, 23 novembre 1947.
Yukon Archives: 91/112 f. 8 MSS 365
Farewell to the Yukon mailbox
  • Claude à Mme Ryder (23 nov. 1947)



King's Lynn


Sunday, November 23, 1947

My Very Dear Ruth, Rus, Mark, Erin [?], Frank, Anne, Jake, Louis, Alice , Dick, Myrtle, Leonard, Johnnie, June, Mary, Welinery[?]-Betty, Bob, Ross, Elmer, Annie Lou, Patsy, Ruth, Uncle Ross, Aunt Betty, Esther (last but not least!)

Cheerio! Thanks!

This hasn't been written before – you will wonder why – but the arrival of your announcement, Ruth – and the food packages – and our arrival here at “Allswell” followed each other in such quick succession that I haven't quite recovered from it all, and even now that I have pulled myself together enough to get this far – all I can see is about thirty pairs of black Bare eyes on me, and I feel just about as much at a loss to know how to say what I feel – as I did that time at Paul Eshelmans, when I had such “Mike fright” on trying to make a record. The record wasn't so good!

Never the less, it is a pleasure and an extremely affectionate and grateful and appreciative one, to be acknowledging the wonderful thing you have done for us, and (Incidentally) as you suggested, Ruth, to be killing so may birds with one stone!

I am using the Thanksgiving turkey on the letterhead to symbolize all you “birds” because I feel so truly thankful, and I hope that this will reach you by that dear holiday, which holds so many tender memories for us all.

I still can't fully realize the magnitude of your gift – and all that it involved. It was so complete, in every detail, and I bow in speechless admiration before such generous, thoughtful, organized effort. As a family, I always felt you were a power, but such power is almost beyond the imagination!

Although I am starting this as a Thanksgiving letter, I'm sure I could easily write on until Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël and then not get it half said, but you may be sure that we shall have a great deal of Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël enjoyment from these gifts, and even though you will never fully know the extent of your good deed, yet, somehow, I can't help feeling that it must come back to you in Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël love and happiness, from the appreciative thoughtfulness of all the folks here who will share in what you sent. It is magnificent, and I can't say more than that.

We have been going early and late, trying to get enough things together and to fix things up in our new home, so that we can be comfortable, but it is slow and difficult, and although we feel very fortunate to have secured a house at all, and when we consider that to get one so near “Grindelbald” is just fantastic good luck, yet, the season of the year is bad, and the unbelievable shortages and phenomenal prices (when they can be secured at all), make us wonder sometimes if we can ever “make the grade”.

I do not yet have a single bit of Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël mail ready, and my lagging correspondence worries me to pieces, but I can only do my poor best, and I hope that my delays may be understood and forgiven.

It takes so much time just to cook and do the housework, without any convenience, and without so many things.

Claude does more than he should, I fear, bless him, he tries so hard, but it worries me to see him force himself, and yet, there are so many ‘musts', for just us two. Dad and Auntie are so dear, and we love their sympathetic interest, and the convenience of being so near, but of course it is out of the question for them to help us here. In fact, I wish we could do more for them, than is possible now, but I am thankful they re keeping well, and we hope to make amends for it when we are settled.

But now for the story of the food boxes.

We had heard rumour, sometime before, that the “Bares” were going to pack us a box, but the thought seemed too dazzling, too wonderful, even to plan with, because, well because it seemed too much to really happen, and so, Ruth, when your exciting letter arrived, it had all the force of a dream come true, though even then (with all due respect to you) there was sort of a “seeing is believing” feeling about it, because it just seemed too good to really happen. I just felt as tho something might happen to prevent, and when you said you forgot to insure it, I think that streak of gray hair I have in front fairly sparkled with concern!

I'm glad you didn't write when you sent the box, it was grueling enough to wait the shorter time, I was so worried!

Actually, it wasn't so long though, and if anything in this world could have added to the wonder of the box which arrived on November 3, was the fact that it came to us in our own home, after we'd only been here about a day!

If that wasn't beautifully timed for a “welcome home”, I don't know what could have been! It was glorious! I felt like a bride, almost! We shall never forget the “opening”. It took place in our tiny kitchen, and although there was nothing much in the room at the start, to make it look like a kitchen, I can assure you that by this time the things were all spread out, it was a handmade kitchen indeed! Claude and I sat there (me on an old backless chair, and Claude on a box) and simply reveled in all those un-heard-of treasures! You seemed so near, and we felt we just must, somehow, reach you right away, to thank you. It seems as though you must have felt it.

The parcel was quite open at the top, the top layer of packing had been removed at the Customs, but it was re-tied quite firmly, never-the-less to see all those tempting items peeking through at us made me feel as though something must be missing, but I was mistaken! On checking them with your declaration, every single one was there!

How on earth you ever got so much into such a carton, is more than I can figure. I don't know which was the most perfect job, the box around the contents, or the contents within the box! At any rate, it was a work of art. I understand that you helped to engineer the boxes, Uncle Ross, well, it certainly was well done. Everything was in perfect condition. I even saved some of that nice fluffy packing for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël decorations.

The first item was the cheese. Yum! Yum! I think Aunt Betty had something to do with that! She gave me some when I came over, and it tasted so good. The English are so fond of cheese, and our ration per week, for the two of us, is a chunk not more than two inches square.

The citron seemed like a gift of the Gods, for it is the one thing Britishers love, for their boiled puddings and fruit cider, which are so essentially English. They haven't been able to get it for years, that, and all you sent has been promised in half ounce lots, for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël puddings, so even just that one item, will reach far in giving Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël pleasure! And so on down the list.

I have been parceling out the rice, as that is another “off the record” item here.

A neighbor said she hadn't had a grain of it since before the war! Seven years! And rice pudding, too, used to be almost an English staple, so you can guess how much that meant!

Speaking of rice, reminds me of something I wanted to tell you. The whole thing was so delightfully packed, it was a joy to open. It was easy to check up on everything, and I thought the saccharines were missing as I couldn't find them anywhere, tho I looked carefully, all through the packing. This was regretful too, for they are so helpful, and often unprocurable. We thought you were so very considerate to think of them. Indeed, I was sure they had been slipped through the opening in the box by some “sweet tooth”. On the following evening, I told Claude I was going to give him a real health drink, from your box, so I got the tin of Hemo, read the directions carefully, heated some milk in a sauce pan (made from your grand milk powder), and then opened the Hemo tin, to discover that it contained rice! We had a good laugh over it, and Claude enjoyed the hot milk, just the same. A day or so later, I opened the Hemo tin again, to get a few grains of rice to put into a salt shaker, as our salt is so damp. While doing so, I noticed something buried in the rice, and lo and behold, upon further investigation, I discovered the “lost” saccharines! I can just imagine you packing it, and wondering how and when it would be discovered! It was a real surprise package, and a delightful one.

Sugar is another rare and wonderful thing here, and I can never tell you how especially wonderful it was to get yours when we did. You see, our allowance always went in with Dad and Auntie's, and they just simply can't save sugar, even tho we had “extra” through the summer, for jam and jelly making. We only get a pound a week for the two of us, and I didn't have a grain in reserve, when we came here to our new home. I had no chance to save for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël, and so just the granulated alone, was overwhelming, and when I saw the powdered, and brown sugar as well (haven't had a grain of that for years) – well Auntie Hat, she kept saying, “Oh, I say!”. We always know when she uses that expression that her feelings are beyond words! She is a darling, you would love her.

Meat here, is our worst problem of all, I think. They bring us our small rations once a week, we have no choice, either as to cut or variety. It is enough for a tiny “Sunday roast”, and that is all we get.

If it is a tender cut, the ration is almost microscopic! – and if it is especially large, we eye it suspiciously, and decide that it must be whale or horse, or something. So your tasty tins made our mouths water, just to look at them!

The Almond bars, Hersheys, made me so homesick, I didn't know what to do! They were the luxury of luxuries! – and so many of them! Goodness! I hope the children didn't see you pack all them up for us! I'm sure they'd have it “in” for us, to think that such a gain might have been an equally devastating loss to them!

But you should see how wonderfully they have been enjoyed here! Or at least, those that have been eaten so far. Hershey are the best candy in the world, I think, and every one here who has sampled them seems to be of the same opinion! Children look positively dumbfounded to have a whole one to themselves! I don't suppose that has ever happened to most of the little folks here in their whole lives! I hope to save a few for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël, and give them out with a red ribbon tied around the middle!

The macaroni we get here is not nice at all. It cooks up into a gooey mass, like oatmeal, so yours was especially welcome, as Claude loves macaroni.

The George Washington coffee, I must confess I was selfish enough to keep as my special appropriation, and I hope you will forgive me! I love it so! – and nearly every night since, I've had a cup while Claude had a chocolate milk made with that ground Hershey syrup. We certainly have been living high, since November 3 rd !

Of course we are saving the specialties, the boned chicken and such thrillers, for the holidays, but even right now, it seems like the holidays, to be having such food.

I wish I could be less “wordy” about all this, but I just can't seem to help it, though it is very late, and I must be getting off to bed. The days are so full, and it scares me to think of Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël so near, with nothing done in preparations.

It will be a lonely Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël, though, I know, and we shall gaze into our own hearth fire, and think of you, and remember last year, and enjoy the good things you have sent, and my heart will be bursting with love and good wishes to you all.

When I heard you were ill, Uncle Ross, I wanted to send you a little note of good wishes, but it never happened, so now I shall take this opportunity to say how glad I am to know you are so much better.

Claude and I both realize, more fully, since Claude's illness, how upsetting such a factor can be, but we try to think of them as signals to “go slow”, and that by so doing, perhaps it is possible to enjoy even better general health, after a time. At any rate, our very best wishes are yours, Uncle Ross, and we are delighted to know that you are so much better.

But to finish of about your gifts, the second box, which came next day, was a complete surprise, and although I've mentioned the combined contents, through this letter, we certainly never dreamed, at that first opening, that any more would follow!

I wish I knew how to thank you! And even more, I wish we could do something in return! It seems so shabby, just to say “Thank You” – but that is just the trouble! We are shabby in so many ways, just now. Not in spirit, though, I hope – and maybe some day, our time will come to do our share. I hope so, for I realize only too well what a work and expense it has meant, and it isn't right that you should go unrewarded. Why – I haven't half got over all the things you did last year, your wonderful hospitality, and so much more.

I do so wish I could have seen Mary and her family! But having that wonderful opportunity to be with the rest of you, makes her seem nearer, too – for she is a Bare – and every last one of you is just as dear as can be! It was so lovely of them to take part in your gift boxes, too – and I send them my special thanks and love and greeting. Every one says they re such an interesting family, and I like to think that we are fellow Canadians!

You asked about Claude, Ruth. He sends you all his warmest greetings and heartfelt thanks for everything.

He is doing quite well, I think – but conditions here in England now, are not so favorable, and sometimes I wish his progress would be swifter.

He is happy, though, as I am to have secured this little haven of our own, and we both hope that after we are settled, it will prove beneficial to his health as well

You asked about wood and coal. Yes, it is very definitely rationed, but our home is quite small, and warmer than “Grindel Wald” so we have to make do with our allowance. It may not be so cold as last year – and we have a small oil stove which helps a lot.

Dad and Auntie are quite well just now. It is so wonderful to be right with them, and yet, to have a home of our own. We can now feel that we are not imposing on them, in any way and the whole arrangement is just about perfect. We are so thankful, all four of us, for the sheer luck which made it possible. They both send their earnest thanks for their share in your wonderful boxes, but I fear they never will get you all straightened out! They are so deaf, it would wear me out to describe each one of you!

I think Jerry is wonderful! Bless him! And how is my little Susan? It was so good of her to write me, that time.

I can't start on politics now, Ruthie, but even if there were time, I couldn't tell you much. It is too complicated!

The Royal Wedding was grand. I am sending some pictures and news items home, concerning it. Maybe you will see them, but then I guess your papers were full of them too. They are a popular couple indeed, and Princess Elizabeth is loved by all. The dresses haven't gone “down” much here, yet, but since the new clothes are simply unavailable, the change in the styles does not affect us much. Maybe we shall get around to it, after a time!

Three day interruption here!

Oh my dears!

I'm glad I don't have to actually face all those black Bare eyes after such a lapse!

It has been quite a lapse, I can tell you! Meanwhile the weather has turned bitterly cold, and I've been chasing around to sales alone, trying to get us a bed on which to sleep!

Claude isn't quite equal to it, and we find it so awkward and uncomfortable half living in the two places. Beds are at a premium (like every thing else) but I managed to get a whole suite, more by dumb luck than good management.

There was a “control” price and about eight of us bid for it at once. We “drew lots”, and I got the lucky one!

But I must finish this off very shortly, or I shall fold up, I'm afraid after these three long strenuous days.

I must say a special word to you, Esther darling. Your birthday card to me was the very loveliest thing I ever saw, and I've enjoyed it over and over again. You said you had it waiting especially for me, for almost two months. Oh Esther! And I've had this acknowledgement waiting for nearly four months! It seems incredible, for I've wanted to tell you how much I loved and appreciated it, literally dozens of times since, but it never quite happened. You know Esther, that card “had” something more moving than I can ever tell you. It was so sweet, and so appropriate that it was almost uncanny. To think that that little winged message actually came sailing in to me on August 18, before I was out of bed, in that lonely [or lovely] holiday room of ours at Milebim[?]! It seemed like a fairy tale, and I was nearly heartsick to think that you didn't know how I felt, or how much I thank you in all this while!

And then to think that just about when any ordinary person would wash their hands of me in disgust, you turn around and with you, Ruth darling, engineer these wonderful boxes.

It was the final touch to something too royally splendid to ever fully acknowledge, so please, just try to put as much imagination into my thank you, as you did into the gift you sent, and then I shall know that you know a little of how we all feel about it.

I know now, that this will be late for Thanksgiving, and if I don't soon get it off, it may be late even for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël, so I shall stick a seal on it and send it on its way with our united love and good wishes and heartfelt thanks. I think our cards will all be late, but when this reaches you, you will know that it is coming, and we hope you'll call it better late than never!

Warmest love and greetings to each and every one, and all good wishes for Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël and New Year and always from your same old loving cousin, Mary

Happy Ça commence drôlement à ressembler à Noël To You!
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