~ St. Catharines' Wartime Neighbourhoods

The Faulds – 21 Doncaster St.

Searching for Family ~ Diane (Faulds) Sutherland

The year is 1946 and the place is the front porch of a wartime house in St.Catharines, Ontario.  Two little sisters are playing with baby dolls while listening to their parents’ voices coming through the open window.  Daddy is talking about his job at McKinnons and Mommy is telling him about taking the girls to the merry-go-round at Port Dalhousie and how much fun they had.

The year is 1947 and the place is the front porch of a wartime house in St. Catharines, Ontario.  Two little sisters are playing with baby dolls while listening to their parents’ voices coming through the open window.  Mommy is telling Daddy she wants a separation and she will be taking the girls to her parents’ home to live. No more summer afternoons on the front porch watching the ice truck making its way down the dusty street.

The year is 2007 and I am one of the sisters.  I have a journey to make that will hopefully take me back to that childhood front porch.  My Mom has passed away and I never saw my father again after we left him in 1947.  My heart yearns to know more about him in order to know more about myself.  How can I open that ‘window of time’ and find someone who remembers us when we were a family on Doncaster Street.

I decide to put an ad in the St. Catharines Standard newspaper.  I place a telephone call from my home in Forest, Ontario.  The ad reads: “Searching for family: would you or someone you know remember my parents William Wesley Faulds and Georgena Joy Bowles when they lived at 21 Doncaster Street in St. Catharines from 1942 to 1947? I am searching for family history and would appreciate any information concerning my parents.”

Someone reads my ad who remembers my father as a friend, neighbour, co-worker and fellow fisherman and calls me on the telephone.  My husband and I meet with Angus Verge and his wife Connie, over a lovely lunch at their home.  We were greeted with generosity and a sensitivity for my journey as Angus shared stories of his friendship with my father.

Again the telephone rings and the caller is Darlene Erskine from St. Catharines.  She reads my ad and perhaps, just perhaps her memories of growing up on the street next to mine, might help me in my search.  Darlene lived on Sandown Street and although she is three years younger than I am, we shared the same neighbourhood as children.  We had never met before as far as we knew but Darlene’s sensitivity to her memories of growing up in St. Catharines have her the desire to help me in my search.  My husband and I meet Darlene on a warm evening in June 2007, in front of my childhood home. I can never put into words how I felt emotionally and physically while in her company.  With Darlene’s help I cross that fine line between imagination and reality: between memory and the right here and now.

My childhood home had seen many changes and I see little resemblance to what I thought I remembered.  The front porch had been removed to create a very different style of a front entrance.  I am so disappointed to see this change.  I show Darlene the few faded photographs of the remembered porch given to me by my Mom.  Darlene recognizes the two neighbour boys in one of my photographs.  They are Johnny Keenan and his young brother Tommy who lived next door to me.  We are dressed in our Sunday-best as we pose for the camera. I have a flower in my hair.

With Darlene leading the way, we walk through the side-yard to the green space that now covers the creek that had flowed past my backyard.  The beautiful trees have matured and stretch their branches as though welcoming me home.  I feel such peace in this place.  Darlene, we find, has a delightful sense of humour and demonstrates with stories of growing up in the era we did.

One of the important things Angus Verge gave my journey was his friendship with my father.  Through Angus, I learned so much about him.  Another part of my journey Angus helped with was the knowledge of my father’s other family.  He had eventually moved on with his life and had a beautiful family of four children.  The journey would now take me somewhere I never imagined to go: into the arms and hearts of my father’s other family.  My sister and I were welcomed into their lives with stories of our father.  We learned so much about him which helped put together a picture of the person he had been and had become before he passed away.  I learned I had inherited a few of his interests such as writing and music.

There have been so many blessings realized on this journey.  The friendship created and lovingly maintained with Darlene and Angus.  The discovery of my father’s children is the next best thing to having him in my life.  I developed a strong sense of family and recording it’s connections that hold us together.

My journey began in a wartime house on Doncaster Street in St. Catharines.  No matter where else I travel in this life, I will always go back there in memory and dreams.  I will always be one of the little sisters playing with baby dolls on the front porch of our wartime house.  If I listen, perhaps I can hear my parents’ voices: Mommy telling Daddy about taking their girls to ride on the merry-go-round at Port Dalhousie and how much fun the had.