Thursday, February 2, 2012

Aunt Charlotte

© MMXII V.1.0.5
by Morley Evans

Aunt Charlotte was born in Wales and raised in Bangor, Saskatchewan, a little town north of the Qu'Appelle River, not far from Melville. She subscribed to the Melville Advance weekly newspaper all her life. Aunt Charlotte continued to read the news from Melville even after she moved in the forties with her family to Calgary. Charlotte was a small town girl at heart.

Charlotte married Fred Evans who moved to Calgary after he was discharged from the Canadian Army in 1945. Uncle Fred was born and raised in Glenavon, Saskatchewan, a little town south of the Qu'Appelle River about 60 miles east of Regina. Charlotte and Fred met in Calgary. Charlotte was Fred's second wife which gave her parents some reservations at the time. Yet their marriage would last half a century.

My sister and I met Charlotte in the early fifties when we were five or six. We had driven to Calgary with our parents for a summer holiday. We would see the mountains for the first time! Fred and Charlotte's house was a three bedroom bungalow on 25A Street, similar to our house on McCallum Avenue in Regina. Their house was nicer than ours, I thought. The wood shingle siding was chocolate brown on top with a band of yellow around the bottom. The house was at the top of a steep hill from the street. There was a long steep driveway on the north side of the house that led to the garage at the back of the lot. The house changed hardly at all through the years. It always looked as nice as I remembered it when I first saw it.

Aunt Charlotte was beautiful. She was an excellent cook who always kept the house in immaculate condition. She was an accomplished gardener who grew championship gladiolus on the south side of the house and the garage. Uncle Fred told me in his later years that when someone bought their house someday, "They will just move in. They won't have to do a thing." It was a perfect house for them all those years: kept perfect by Fred and Charlotte.

My father, Eric, learned something about her one day when, as a Ford rep, he was visiting the Ford dealer in Bangor, Charlotte told me a few years ago. Eric mentioned that his brother, Fred, had married a girl from Bangor. "What's her name," the Ford dealer asked? "Charlotte," farther answered. "There never was anyone in Bangor named Charlotte," the Ford dealer replied. After telling him more about Charlotte, the dealer exclaimed, "Oh, you mean Lottie! She was such a sweet little girl!"

So my father greeted Charlotte with, "Hello, Lottie!" on that first visit to their new house in the early fifties. Charlotte was very surprised. She hadn't been called Lottie by anyone outside her immediate family for years. My father called Charlotte "Lottie" from then on.

In 1960, Charlotte had a son. They named him Arthur after his paternal grandfather, AW Evans, the Ford dealer. Arthur grew up to be a fine young man. He was a geologist with his own successful oil exploration company. Arthur tragically died of a heart attack in 2010 — yet part of Arthur lives on at the house on 25A Street: When Arthur was in Grade One, they gave all the children a sapling at school to take home. Uncle Fred thought the worthless twig should be thrown away because it was too small and sickly to live. Arthur had a fit, so they planted it in the backyard. Aunt Charlotte always told visitors that the 40-foot blue spruce beside the deck is Arthur's tree. It will live on there for years to come.

Lively political arguments would erupt at breakfast, lunch and dinner since Fred was a conservative and Charlotte was a Liberal Party supporter who actually liked Trudeau, if you can imagine. My sister thought they were always fighting, but I thought they got along very well. I think I was right.

In the living room, Charlotte had a wonderful Danish modern coffee table of sculpted teak with a heavy kidney-shaped plate glass top supported at three points. Under the glass was a bright green ivy plant sprawling out onto the carpet. That plant was growing there on my first visit in the early 1950s and the same plant was still growing there on my last visit to the house in 2004 at the reception following Uncle Fred's funeral. Charlotte kept things growing.

Charlotte welcomed family and provided a home when they came to visit. My sister, Merna, had a home away from home when she lived in Calgary. Uncle Fred's daughter from his first marriage, Marian, became a regular visitor with her husband, Don. Their daughter, Catherine, who lives in Calgary often visited her grandfather Fred and grandmother Charlotte for whom she felt fiercely protective. Loraine, in Saskatoon, and Dorothy, in Swift Current, came to Calgary to look after Charlotte in her twilight years. Aunt Charlotte was 90 years old when she died in February 2012.

Aunt Charlotte, with her bright wit and sharp tongue, will live on in my mind and in my heart. She always had time for me.

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