Sunday, 28 November 2021

My Intriguing Royce Relatives, Including Sarah, Marion and Jean Royce

Disclaimer:  My references to other people, including their written works, does not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

Acknowledgements: Thanks goes first to my mother Jessie (Jay) Royce (nee Fleming) Peterson (1920-1976) whose files on my Royce relatives first sparked my interest.  Then kudos to my cousin Florence (nee Wright) Metcalfe (1910-2012) who, in the early 1990s, sent me documents that further enlightened me about my Royce ancestry.  I am particularly grateful to Metcalfe for sending me a 1988 family tree prepared by Malcolm MacKinnon.  I am also indebted to Metcalfe's daughter, Jean Kirkham, who, from 2006 onwards, has provided additional information.  My brother, Donald Royce Peterson, made me aware of Jean Royce (1904-1982) and her accomplishments.  Sandy Johansen read a draft of my memoir and recommended I expand on what I had to say about my Royce relatives.  Flora Forbes's research regarding my great-great aunt "Frontier Lady" Sarah Royce (1819-1891) led to my locating sources I had not previously been aware of.


My mother Jessie (Jay) Royce (nee Fleming) Peterson (1920-1976) often spoke about how proud she was of her cousin Marion Royce (1901-1987).  However, I did not examine my mother's files on Marion and my other Royce relatives until the early 1990s.  This was when my cousin Florence (nee Wright) Metcalfe (1910-2012) sent me additional information that made me realize my Royce lineage was worth further study.

At the time I got Metcalfe's documents, I was busy with academic and work matters.  Consequently, I did not have much time to read what Metcalfe had sent.  Nevertheless, I did add some information about my Royce relatives into my memoir that I have been working on since 1997.

Fast forward to August 2021, when Sandy Johansen recommended I expand on what I had to say about my Royce relatives in my memoir draft.  Consequently, I pulled out all the files I had accumulated over the years and started to pursue this topic in more depth.

A bonus to re-examining these files is that one of the subject areas fits into a theme I want to expand on in my memoir.  This theme is the approach that family members have taken towards indigenous issues.  Since I have written accounts regarding my great-great aunt Sarah Royce (1819-1891), my mother (1920-1976) and me, these are the ones I want to focus on in terms of my research.  I know that other relatives likely had a connection with Indigenous issues as well, but I do not have their written records.

Overview of My Royce Ancestry

Below is an abbreviated version of my family tree, which I hope will make you understand better what I say below.

Royce Family Tree, by Leith Peterson, 2021

My mother's middle name was Royce, as is my brother Don Peterson's.  This name originates with my mother's mother's side of the family.  My grandmother Fleming's maiden name was Wright and her mother's maiden name was Royce.  I can understand why the latter name has been passed down because some of the Royces were noteworthy people of considerable accomplishment.

Josiah Royce I (1779-1847) and his wife Mary Curtis (1789-1868) were my maternal great-great-great grandparents.  They immigrated from Ridlington, in Rutland, the smallest of England's shires, to Dundas, Upper Canada, in 1816.

Sarah Royce (1819-1891)

In 1845, their second oldest child, Josiah Royce II (1812-1888) married Sarah Bayliss (1819-1891).  In 1849, the couple travelled by covered wagon with their young daughter Mary to California during the Gold Rush.  Sarah kept a journal of her experiences.  Her edited account was published in 1932 by Yale University Press under the title A Frontier Lady.  In 1977, it was republished under the same title by the University of Nebraska Press.

In 2009, an updated version of Sarah's journals was released and is entitled Across the Plains: Sarah Royce's Western Narrative.  It was edited by Jennifer Dawes Adkison and published by the University of Arizona Press.  Portions of Sarah's journals that were not included in the 1977 version are in this one.

Sarah's husband Josiah Royce II was a member of the Disciples of Christ, but Sarah alternated between this religion and the Congregationalist Church.  One of the two main themes of her journal narrative was the need to adhere to one's spiritual faith and values.  The second was that economic mobility was often essential for advancement.  

After completing her own formal schooling, Sarah became a teacher both in the public system and at home.

It was Sarah's son Josiah Royce III (1855-1916) who asked his mother to keep the journal.  Josiah III, who became a noted Harvard Philosophy professor, wanted his mother's account to bolster his personal views on religion and politics.  This factor has led some observers to debate whether Sarah deliberately created a mythical Western narrative or if she shared her son's perspective.  I have only skimmed her journal so have not come to my own conclusion about this debate.

What I have surmised from my reading of her journal is that she had mixed views about the Indigenous people she encountered during her trek through California.  She expressed many of the colonial assessments of her day.  But she also recognized Indigenous peoples' individual traits, e.g., they differed amongst themselves regarding how to deal with Non-Indigenous people.  Even though many of Sarah's views about the original inhabitants would not be considered acceptable today, her first-hand account of her Gold Rush journey provides insights into how pioneers like herself dealt with the many challenges they faced along the way, e.g., poor weather, lack of food and inadequate or non-existent housing.

Marion Royce (1901-1987) and Jean Royce (1904-1982)

Sarah's husband's oldest brother Robert A Royce (1808-1887) was the great-grandfather of two other noteworthy Royce ancestors.  In 1899, Robert's grandson David Stewart Royce (1856-1928) married Katherine Agnes Jeffrey (1870-1946) and they had four children.  The Royce/Jeffrey family in St. Thomas, Ontario were members of the Church of Christ (Disciples), which was an American version of the Scottish Baptist church.  The family were poor and working-class.

Marion Royce (1901-1987) was the oldest offspring in the Royce/Jeffrey household.  Her employment with the All-Canada Committee for the Disciples of Christ was her first foray at the national level.  She also worked with the Young Women's Christian Association in Geneva.  In 1954, she became the first Canadian Women's Bureau director, and remained in this position until 1967.

Catherine Briggs's 2001 PhD History thesis about the Canadian Women's Bureau included information about Marion.  Briggs said this bureau helped clarify that more equality was needed in women's employment.  This concept contributed to working women's equity legislation.  

After Marion left the bureau in 1967, she was recognized several times for her contributions to women's rights and adult education.  In 1971, she was awarded the Service Medal of the Order of Canada.

Marion's younger sister Jean Royce (1904-1982) was also instrumental in advancing the cause of women.  This was when she was the longest-serving registrar of Queen's University (1933-1968).  Jean helped make the institution far less male Protestant and English-Canadian-oriented.  Her forced retirement almost drove her to suicide.  

Her confidence was renewed, however, when she was elected president of the alumni Board of Trustees.  While in this position, she played an important role in advancing women's educational prospects.

Jean Royce Hall at Queen's University is named after her.

In 1981, my brother Donald Royce Peterson graduated from Queen's with a General B.A.  He has been aware of Jean's accomplishments for many years.

Roberta Hamilton, a Queen's University Sociology professor emerita, wrote a book about Jean, which was published in 2002.  It is entitled Setting the Agenda: Jean Royce and the Shaping of Queen's University.  I have learned more about Marion and Jean's poor working-class roots in St. Thomas from reading this biography.

My Connection to the Royce/Curtis Family Tree

My connection to the Josiah Royce I and Mary Curtis line is through my great-great grandfather George Scott Royce (1820-1900), who was their second youngest child.  In 1849, George married Mary Civilla Marlatt (1826-1884).  Rebecca Civilla Royce (1855-1934) was the fourth oldest of their 15 children, and my great-grandmother.

Below is an undated photo of Rebecca (nee Royce) Wright, which my cousin Florence Metcalfe provided me with in September 1991:

Rebecca (nee Royce) Wright 1855-1934

In 1882, Rebecca married William Wright (1836-1915).

Below is an undated photo of William Wright, which my cousin Florence Metcalfe provided me with in September 1991:

William Wright, 1836-1915

Below is the note that Metcalfe wrote on the back of one of the photos she mailed to me in September 1991:

Note from Florence Metcalfe, 1991

Rebecca and William Wright had seven children, and the second youngest was my mother's mother Catherine (Cassie) Prudence Wright (1893-1992).  In 1918, my grandmother married my grandfather John Stuart Fleming (1892-1989).  My mother Jessie (Jay) Royce Fleming was the oldest of their three daughters.  

In 1943, my mother married my father Charles T Peterson (1913-2007).  I am the oldest of their four children and my brother Donald Royce Peterson is the youngest.

Below is a photo of my mother and grandmother, taken around 1964:

Jay Peterson and her mother, Cassie Fleming, ca. 1964


As explained in Part Four of Four of my December 15, 2016 series about my mother, she was involved with Indigenous issues from 1958 until her passing in 1976.  Although I continued with her association until around the mid-2000s, I now primarily view the situation from the outside looking in.  

Since April 2011, I have explored my views on this topic on my other blog  It includes posts about Indigenous people whose work I think is noteworthy.  For instance, I have reviewed books by Indigenous authors.  Recording my views has helped me to make sense of what I experienced in this area.  

I plan to explore Sarah's, my mother's and my connection to this topic in future drafts of my memoir.  In addition, I want to write more about Marion and Jean Royce.  They were both noted community leaders in their time, and I would like to investigate further what made them so successful.

A Note About the Books I Own About Sarah and Jean Royce, and the Bibliography Below

In September 2021, I purchased A Frontier Lady (1977), Across the Plains and Setting the Agenda--all from Amazon.

If you do an online search for Sarah Royce, you will likely find there are many articles about her and/or reviews of her published journal.  What I list in the bibliography below is only a small portion of them.


Briggs, C. (2001).  Fighting for women's equality: the federal Women's Bureau, 1945-1967: an example of early "state feminism" in Canada (PhD History thesis).  Waterloo, Ontario: University of Waterloo.

Farley, E (2010, Spring).  Across the Plains: Sarah Royce's Western Narrative (review).  Retrieved from Rain Taxi:

Gillen, M. (1964, September).  Marion Royce.  Chatelaine, pp. 42-43, 89-93.

Hamilton, R. (2002).  Setting the Agenda: Jean Royce and the Shaping of Queen's University.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Hamilton, R. (2012).  Jean Royce--Queen's University Incarnate.  Retrieved from Queen's Gazette:

Korinek, V. J. (2007).  The Chatelaine Legacy.  Canadian Women Studies/Les Cahiers De La Femme, 14-21.

MacKinnon, M. (1988).  Royce Family Tree - Second Edition.  Short Hills, New Jersey: unpublished.

Queen's University.  (n.d.).  Royce, Jean Isobel (1904-1982).  Retrieved September 2021 from Queen's Encyclopedia:

Royce, S. (1977).  A frontier lady.  Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Royce, S. (2009).  Across the Plains: Sarah Royce's Western Narrative.  Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press.

Simonsen, J. (2010, Winter).  Across the Plains: Sarah Royce's Western Narrative (review).  Western American Literature, 44(4), 398-399.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Peterson Family Christmases, London, Ontario, Canada, 1952-1965

Note: Many thanks to all those who directly or indirectly contributed to the contents of this post.


My parents Charles T Peterson (1913-2007) and Jay Peterson (1920-1976) were very much into celebrating Christmas.  My brothers Stu, Chris (1954-2009) and Don, and myself, enjoyed Noel-inspired art, music and other joys of the season when we lived at 283 Dufferin Avenue in London, Ontario, Canada.  This was during the early 1950s to early 1970s.

One of the factors that contributed to our Christmas spirit was we lived very close to Victoria Park.  On December 5, 1958, the park's lights, celebrating the annual Christmas Wonderland, were lit for the first time.  I looked forward to the yearly displays in the park.

1952 - Leith Peterson's Christmas Gift Wrap Chow Down

On my first Christmas in December 1952, I did not have a fulsome grasp of the meaningfulness of the season.  I was more interested in chowing down on gift wrap.

Leith Peterson chowing down on Xmas wrap, December 1952

1954 - Jay Peterson's 1954 Christmas Card

My mother designed beautiful artwork for Christmas cards.  In recent years, I have frequently incorporated her creations into my own seasonal greetings.  You can find images of them in other posts on this blog.

But her 1954 one, which graced my 2018 card, is a new addition to this blog.

Jay Peterson's 1954 Xmas card image

1955 - Stu and Charles Peterson Enjoy a Christmas Song Book

In December 1955, my brother Stu and my father enjoyed looking at a Christmas song book.  This image appeared on my 2020 card.

Stu & Charles Peterson enjoy Christmas song book 1955

1964-1965 - Print Shop at Leith, Ontario

In 1889, my maternal great-grandfather, C A Fleming (1857-1945), spent his first summer in Leith, Ontario, in a rented log cabin.

(I am named after this village, which is located about six kilometres east of Owen Sound.)

By 1900, C A and other members of my mother's side of the family had built cottages at Leith.  My grandfather, J Stuart Fleming (1892-1989)'s summer home was part of the "Fleming compound," along with the cottage my family stayed in.

C A, his sons Howard, George and my grandfather Stuart, were all involved in the printing business.  By the age of nine, my grandfather had learned how to set type and run a printing press.

Grandfather wanted to maintain the printing tradition in the family, so he set up a "print shop" in a cottage in the Fleming Compound.  A number of my relatives, including my brothers Stu and Chris, learned the printing trade at the shop during the summers.

My brothers printed personalized stationery and Christmas cards.  Below is a scan of their business card.

Stu & Chris Peterson's Print Shop Business Card, ca. 1964-1965

The stationery and Christmas card proceeds were given to the Owen Sound Branch of the Canadian Save the Children Fund.

During the 1964 to 1965 period, a photo of my brothers working at the then 100-year-old press in Leith, was published in the Owen Sound Sun-Times and the Save the Children Fund magazine entitled The World's Children.  

On March 29, 1965, there was also a write-up about my brothers' photo in the Sun-Times.  In addition, the article mentioned how the money was distributed to charity.  Below is the headline from this article, where my brothers' work was mentioned, and the relevant excerpt from the article.

Owen Sound Sun-Times article excerpt, March 29, 1965

The above newspaper excerpts were "Originally published in The Owen Sound Sun Times, a Division of Postmedia Network Inc."  See the end note at the end of this post for further information.

1965 - Leith Peterson's "The Christmas Story"

My brothers Stu and Chris were more into doing work at the print shop than I was, but in 1965, my grandfather suggested I create a Christmas card.  He asked for not only a drawing, but also a write-up about what Christmas meant to me.

I do not remember many of the particulars of this print shop adventure, other than I had to carve the design into what I believe is called a linoleum block.  Below is the first page of the four-page card.

Leith Peterson's Christmas Story, 1965

Obviously, I did not inherit my mother's artistic abilities.

I also composed a three-page write-up (still have the draft I composed on a typewriter).  I had to set the type to create the words for the printing press block.  This meant pulling the individual letters out of drawers and setting them in the proper order to put in the press block.  This was no easy task for a 13-year old in Grade 8 like me.  Stu and Chris had much more experience in the printing trade than I had.

Below are pages 2 to 3 of my card.

Pages 2-3 of Leith Peterson's Christmas Story, 1965

And here is the final page 4 of my card:

Leith Peterson's Christmas Story final page 4, 1965

I realize reading this small print on my Christmas Story card might not be easy, so I have transcribed the text below.

Leith Peterson's 1965 "The Christmas Story" Text

Well it's that time of year again, when snow and song and sleighbells fill the sky; when the air is full of a strange magic and when the long packed away happiness that only comes once a year is reopened.  

If is Christmas.  Of all the wonders of life there is probably not anything as nice as, enjoyed most, and as longwished [sic] for as this time of the year.  But why do we enjoy Christmas so much? Ask anyone in this school from Grades Two to Eight and the main answer would be "presents."  Each likes presents, each wants presents, and each, more likely than not, will get presents.

But deep down inside, everyone knows that this is not the only reason why Christmas is so well liked.  If we were to study and break down the basic fundamentals of Christmas, we'd find that each feels just a little bit closer to God at Christmas than at almost any other time of the year.  This we show in more ways than one, by songs, and well, maybe even Santa.  Santa, as everyone knows, is a jolly, sweet and lovable old man who packs up each year in a big sack everything from rattles and razors to gallop off on reindeer from the frosty North Pole to give a little bit of fun to everyone.  This he lavishly displays in store windows that seem so dull until Christmas comes around.

If we were to show some non-Christian about Christmas, probably the first place we'd take him would be to the colourful store windows down town [sic].  They show so much of this time of the year with their talking dolls, their walking caterpillars and their so carefully fashioned creches.  Anyone who does not like to go Christmas shopping is someone who maybe doesn't really appreciate a few of those marvellous happy moments of Christmastime.  But then, there are other joyful moments to the Yule besides this.

In Victoria Park each year in this city is a Christmas show "of funny jack-in-the-boxes and whirling Santas" to which many schools contribute.  The P.U.C. does a fine job and strangely we never tire of it.  You can see the little children's eyes glisten as they stare up at those lovely and brilliant Christmas trees, those gigantic candy canes and those "ride 'em reindeer."  Santa? Well we always see Santa and in this joyful image we also find happiness.

But as that jolly old elf and his reindeer trot merrily back through the snow drifts to the North Pole, there is another part of Christmas that we should never forget since this is why it all came about.

At the bandshell at the back of the park the lights shine each night from a hundred stars.  But above them all is one star which the wise men and the shepherds both followed on that familiar night many, many years ago.  Whey did they follow this star?  Well under that brilliant gem is a small, quiet and dark stable from which, in the manger came the light of the world.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes; He was born in a simple inn -- and his name was -- Jesus Christ.

To every person, of every creed, of every colour, of every nationality, and of every custom, He is a symbol, maybe the future of the United Nations someday, and maybe the hope of a poor tired invalid, but He is the Christmas we know and the Christmas that will never be undone.

Leith Peterson's 1965 "The Christmas Story" - Conclusion

On page four, you will see in my grandfather's handwriting "Leith May/65" so I must have designed the card at the print shop in May of 1965.

P.U.C. stands for the Public Utilities Commission of the City of London.  The PUC was responsible for parks from 1914 until 1993.  The PUC was also disbanded in 1993 and its duties were dispersed over a number of different departments.

You will note [sic] after "longwished." This is not one word and should read "long wished."

There is also a [sic] after "down town," because it should be one word "downtown."

I do not know whether these errors were caused by my lack of ability to set type or were simply spelling errors.

If I were to compose such a Christmas story today, I would not be so Christian-centric in my presentation.  I realize there are many religions in the world, and, although I personally like to think of Jesus Christ as a universal saviour, I recognize people of other cultures may not share this view.

I do not remember what happened to my Christmas story card after that.  But I have enjoyed rediscovering it and the memories it brings back of the Victoria Park of my childhood.


During this trying pandemic period, I find it comforting to re-examine a time in my life when things were not as complicated as they are now.  I enjoyed simple pleasures like viewing Yuletide art and displays and writing about what gave me inspiration.

End Note: Sometime after the 1965 period, The Owen Sound Sun Times dropped the hyphen from its name.  It is now a Division of Postmedia Network Inc.  In March 2020, I consulted with a Postmedia rep regarding publishing older Sun Times articles.  She said if there was no author named, and it was published more than 50 years ago, I should be fine to reproduce.  This was because after 50 years, it would be in the Public Domain.  However, she said to provide the following credit: "Originally published in The Owen Sound Sun Times, a Division of Postmedia Network Inc."

The photographer, Archie MacDonald, mentioned in the March 29, 1965 article above, may still own the copyright to the photo of my brothers in the print shop.  MacDonald's copyright could be in effect until 50 years after his passing.  Canadian copyright law is complicated when it comes to photography in newspapers, so I cannot be sure.  It would depend on the arrangement MacDonald had with the Sun-Times at the time the photo was taken.  Because I am not certain, I will not publish it here.  However, I am glad I have a copy of the newsprint version of the photo in my files.


Brock, D J.  (2011).  Fragments from the Forks: London Ontario's legacy.  London, Ontario: London & Middlesex Historical Society.

Fleming, C G. (August 20, 1989).  Leith Reminiscences of 100 years.  Leith, Ontario (unpublished).

MacDonald, A. (1964, Winter).  [Photo of Christopher and Stuart Peterson using 100-year-old printing press at Leith, Ontario].  In The World's Children, p. 101.

Owen Sound Sun-Times.  (1965, March 29).  Did you know? [excerpt].  Owen Sound Sun-Times, p. 5.

Owen Sound Sun-Times.  (1964?).  [Photo of Christopher and Stuart Peterson using 100-year-old printing press at Leith, Ontario].  Owen Sound Sun-Times.

Whebell, C, & Goodden, H. (2015, July 6).  London.  Retrieved from Canadian Encyclopedia:

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Honouring My Cousin, RCAF Pilot Officer George Howard (Geordie) Fleming, Killed in Action, August 15, 1941

Note One:  Several family members gave me the go ahead to write about Geordie.  They also provided useful background information.

Note Two:  Kudos to David Alexander for his valuable insights.  And thanks to Laura Stirling, public services assistant at the Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library, for helping me find newspaper articles.

Note Three: Photo of Ray Fleming (no relation) included with permission.  Appreciated the help he gave me with this post.


When I was growing up, my mother Jay (nee Fleming) Peterson (1920-1976) frequently mentioned how sad she was that her cousin, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Pilot Officer, George Howard (Geordie) Fleming, lost his life during the Second World War.

Geordie Fleming, 1940

On September 30, 1940, Geordie joined the RCAF.  He trained at various locations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.  On March 17, 1941, he received his wings and was overseas by mid-April of that same year.  Two months later, he was participating in operational flights over enemy territory with the First Canadian Bomber Squadron.  After a few weeks, he became captain of his bomber.  The crew conducted regular forays, including at least one over Berlin.

On the night of August 14-15, 1941, the bomber was returning from a raid over Germany, and was within a short distance of the Pocklington, Yorkshire base, when it was attacked by either an enemy air or naval craft.  It came down in flames over the east coast of England, killing all six men on board.  Investigators were able to confirm it was the aircraft, based on objects found in the wreckage.

Geordie's tragic passing had a negative effect on not only my mother, but also her siblings and cousins.  It particularly upset Mom that Geordie was engaged to be married to fellow Owen Sounder, Louise McCormick, yet he was shot down by enemy fire before the wedding could take place.

Jay (nee Fleming) Peterson, ca. early 1940s

On the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM) site at Veterans Affairs Canada, there is an entry for Geordie, which includes details about his commemoration at Runneymede Memorial, Surrey, United Kingdom.  This memorial includes the names of 20,000 "airmen who have no known grave."

Geordie's 275-page service file can be downloaded from the Second World War (SWW) Military Heritage section of the Library and Archives Canada site.  This is where you will find such documents as his attestation paper, correspondence and last will and testament.

Geordie's Pre-Enlistment Life, 1917-1940

Geordie was born Jun 7, 1917 in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, to Howard and Martha (nee Tipper) Fleming.  My Great-Uncle Howard's younger brother Stuart was my grandfather.

Howard and Martha (Mattie) Fleming, ca. 1945-1953

Geordie completed his schooling at the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute (OSCVI) in 1935.  In June 1937, he graduated from Pickering College in Newmarket, Ontario.  Then he found employment in the Folding Paper Box Dept. of Fleming Publishing Co. Limited in Owen Sound.  (Fleming Publishing was established by his grandfather and father in 1916.)

Much can be learned from reading Geordie's service file on the LAC site.  He was described by his superiors as "tall," "slender," "healthy," "refined," and "of high intelligence."  Sports and community work took up much of his spare time.  He was a member of the Church of Christ (a.k.a. Disciples Church), like his parents and many of his other relatives.  Found among his possessions at the time of his death was the New Testament.

Fleming Family Involvement During the War Years

It is not surprising that Geordie joined the RCAF because many of his immediate and extended family supported military intervention to protect Canadian soil.  His uncle George (1889-1971) served in the First World War, rising to the rank of colonel in the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles regiment.

In 1913, his grandfather, C.A. Fleming (1857-1945), his father Howard (1883-1956), his uncle George and his uncle (my grandfather) Stuart (1892-1989) invested in Richardson, Bond & Wright (R B & W), an Owen Sound printing firm that was originally established in 1853.

This Fleming business team helped guide the company through both the First and Second World Wars.  C.A. was president, 1917-1945, and Howard was vice-president, 1917-1947.  George held a number of different positions during the war years, including president, vice-president and general manager.  My grandfather Stuart was secretary-treasurer, 1913-1926, and general manager, 1917-1926.

The federal government authorized R B & W to publish an extensive amount of material used by the armed forces and government agencies during the Second World War (SWW).  Millions of sugar, meat and butter ration books were produced.  From 1945 to 1947, the firm also printed code books for the Allies, and received a citation for doing so from the United States and Canadian commands.

The company's SWW work is documented in a 125th anniversary (1853-1978) book that was published in 1979.  (In June 1978, the company changed its name to RBW.  RBW was acquired by TC Transcontinental Printing in 1992.  The Owen Sound branch is called TC Transcontinental RBW Graphics.)

Howard's prominent role in the Owen Sound communications field also contributed to the SWW effort.  In 1904, his father C.A. and he invested in the local newspaper business, with their efforts leading to the creation of the Owen Sound Sun-Times in 1918.  The Sun-Times provided extensive coverage of the SWW, including local casualties.  In fact, Howard was the Sun-Times publisher at the time of his son's tragic death.

Because of the difficulties involved with delivering newspapers during the war, Howard realized that providing SWW coverage over the airways was also important.  Consequently, he helped establish the local radio station, CFOS, in 1940.

Geordie Among OSCVI Former Students Who Died During the SWW

Detailed information about former Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute (OSCVI) students who lost their lives during the Second World War can be found in David Alexander's 2017 Master thesis.  It can be downloaded from the University of Waterloo website (see the bibliography for further details).  Alexander is eminently qualified to write about this topic because he is a former student who spent his entire teaching career at OSCVI.

Alexander contends the OSCVI's SWW dead had different experiences from their First World War (FWW) counterparts, but their legacy has been overshadowed by the FWW "traditional methods of remembrance."  He points out that former students like Geordie came of age during the 1920s and Great Depression, at a time of increased technological advancement and globalization.  Consequently, they need to be viewed through this unique lens.

Geordie Fleming with hockey stick, ca. 1930

In terms of the OSCVI war dead, Geordie was the "first recorded fatal combat casualty as a result of direct enemy action."  Royal Air Force (RAF) or RCAF airmen accounted for 37 of the 60 who lost their lives.

I agree with Alexander that FWW flying ace Billy Bishop (1892-1956) may have had an influence on former students like Geordie joining the RCAF.  Bishop attended the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute (which became OSCVI when the vocational wing was added in 1924).  In addition, he was appointed Director of Recruiting for the RCAF in January 1941.  Most people associate this flying ace with the FWW, but he also played a major role in the SWW.

Bishop had a cameo role in a 1942 picture (by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz) that was filmed mostly in Ottawa, Ontario.  It was a joint production of Hollywood, the Government of Canada and the RCAF.  Captains of the Clouds--a phrase Bishop had used in a speech--was the title.  Production started in July 1941, so shortly before Geordie was killed.  It is very possible that Geordie would have been aware of not only Bishop's role in recruiting, but also his cameo in the film, particularly since the RCAF was involved with the film production.

Billy Bishop "Borrowing" My Grandfather's Suit, ca. 1912-1913

Geordie may also have been privy to an unverified piece of family lore.  My Grandfather, Stuart Fleming, attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (graduated in 1913).  At the same time, Bishop was at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) which is also located in Kingston.

Bishop entered the RMCC in 1911, but failed his first year.  The second year he did much better, but during the third he was caught cheating.  He was not known for his academic abilities, so it is not surprising that, in 1914, he left the RMCC to join the Mississauga Horse cavalry regiment.

Prior to 2017, RMCC cadets were required to wear their uniforms when off-campus.  Bishop would reportedly feign a family crisis, and go out on the town for several days.  But in order to avoid detection as an RMCC student, he would, as my family understands it, sneak into my Grandfather's boarding house room and "borrow" Grandfather's suit without him knowing it.

Retired RCAF Captain Ray Fleming and Heritage Fair, February 15, 2020, London, Ontario

On February 15, 2020, I attended a Heritage Fair hosted by the London Heritage Council.  The theme of the fair was "Remembering Their Sacrifice: 75 Years After the Second World War & Battle of the Atlantic."  Retired RCAF Captain Ray Fleming (no relation) was an appraiser at this fair.  I showed him a 11" x 17" binder of material I have collected on Geordie, which includes many of the photos that appear in this blog post.

Ray was impressed with what I have collected on Geordie, and let me take a photo of him standing beside the type of uniform Geordie would have worn when he was a "RCAF Leading Aircraftsman undergoing" flight training.

Ray Fleming with RCAF uniform, Heritage Fair, February 15, 2020


If it was not for the Heritage Fair, I probably would have put off doing anything to honour Geordie for a few more years.  My assembling of the information in the binder and my review of the images and text has made me acutely aware of why my mother was so saddened by Geordie's passing.  Now I profoundly share her grief, and hope my retelling his story here will remind people we must never forget the "ultimate sacrifice" of more than 45,000 Canadians during the Second World War.


Alexander, D.R. (2017, December 12).  Dum Vivimus Vivamus: The Lost Identity of the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute Second World War Dead (Master thesis}.  Retrieved from the University of Waterloo:

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (2019, November 7).  Pilot Officer George Howard Fleming.  Retrieved from Canadian Virtual War Memorial:

CBC News (2018, December 3).  Ottawa stars in little-known wartime film by Casablanca director.  Retrieved from CBC News:

Fleming, C.G. (December 1994).  C.A. Fleming: Educator, Entrepreneur, Businessman. . .Owen Sound: unpublished.

Library and Archives Canada (2020, February 20).  George Howard Fleming.  Retrieved from Second World War Service Records:

Library and Archives Canada (2020, February 15).  Second World War Service Records.  Retrieved from Second World War Service Records:

London Heritage Council (2020, February 15).  8th Annual Heritage Fair.  Remembering Their Sacrifice: 75 Years After the Second World War & Battle of the Atlantic (brochure).  London, Ontario.

Morrison, K. (July 1991).  J. Stuart Fleming (1892-1989).  Wiarton, Ontario: unpublished.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1941, August 20).  9 Canadian Airmen Lost Raiding Reich.  Owen Sound Sun-Times, p. 12.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1941, March 6 or 7).  Arrived in England.  Owen Sound Sun-Times.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1941, March 18).  Geo. H. Fleming receives wings: Member of Graduating Class of Flying School of Saskatoon.  Owen Sound Sun-Times, p. 5.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1941, August 16).  Pilot Officer Geo. Fleming is Missing.  Owen Sound Sun-Times, p. 1.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1942, April 1).  Now Listed as Presumed Dead.  Owen Sound Sun-Times, p. 1.

Owen Sound Sun-Times (1941, November 8).  Hope is abandoned for Pilot Officer G. Fleming Missing Since August 15.  Owen Sound Sun-Times.

Owen Sound Sun-Times? (1956, January 21-30?).  Hundreds pay tribute to Howard Fleming.  Owen Sound Sun-Times?

Powell, J. (2018, July 18).  Remember this? Captains of the Clouds.  Retrieved from OttawaMatters:

RBW Inc. (1979).  1853-1978: 125 years of providing opportunity for people of purpose and skill.  Owen Sound: RBW Inc.

TC Transcontinental (2020, May 8).  Acquisitions and Expansions, 1986-1995.  Retrieved from TC Transcontinental:

Toronto Daily Star (1956, January 20).  Owen Sound Publisher, Howard Fleming, 73, Dies.  Toronto Daily Star.

Wikipedia contributors (2020, March 14).  Billy Bishop.  Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia contributors (2020, April 8).  Captains of the Clouds.  Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia contributors (2020, April 18).  Royal Military College of Canada.  Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Peterson Family Home at 283 Dufferin Avenue, London, Ontario, Canada, Early 1950s to Early 1970s

Note One: My brother Don Peterson's poem is included with permission.  Patrick Donoahue gave me the go-ahead to give credit to his image restoration services.  In addition, the executors of the James Reaney/Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney estate said it was fine for me to mention that the Reaneys liked Don's poem.  I also got the green light from Jean McKay and Louise Fagan.

Note Two: Around 2014, I instituted a policy regarding both my blogs that I do not include links to other people's websites or blogs on mine.  Consequently, you find information on how to locate the links, but not hyperlinks.  Further clarification can usually be found in the bibliography.

Images Included With This Post

In the mid-2000s, a relative mailed me some family slides that had been in the possession of someone he knew for many years.  The majority of the images cover activity in the Peterson family household from the early 1950s to the early 1970s.  They had not been stored properly and are consequently in poor condition.  Fortunately, Patrick Donoahue of London Image Editing and Photo Scanning ( was able to restore the images included here, to some of their original quality.

283 (left) and 281 (right) Dufferin Avenue, 1966

Introductory Comments Regarding Excerpts from "Jingles About Our House" Poem

This post contain excerpts from my brother, Don Peterson's, poem "Jingles About Our House," which he wrote 1971-1972 while in Grade 8 at Lorne Avenue Public School in London, Ontario, Canada.  These introductory comments are meant to help you better understand the poem.

From the early 1950s to the early 1970s, my family lived at 283 Dufferin Avenue in London.  Don's poem explores, often humorously, what life was like in our unusual household.  My father, Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007) was a periodontist (gum specialist).  My mother Jay Peterson (1920-1976) was an artist and cultural activist involved with many London community groups.  For further information about my parents, click on the "Charles T. Peterson" and "Jay Peterson" labels in the right sidebar.

I was/am the oldest child, followed by Stu, Chris (1954-2009) and Don.  For more information about my brothers, you can click on the "Stu Peterson," "Chris Peterson," and "Don Peterson" labels in the right sidebar.

My father's periodontal office was next door at 281 Dufferin.  To the west of his office was/is Metropolitan United Church.  And further west on Dufferin, across the Wellington Street intersection, was/is the London Life Insurance Company.  The cenotaph mentioned in Don's poem is located in Victoria Park, which is across the street from London Life.

Chris, Charles T., Leith, Jay and Stu Peterson, ca. 1956

The "catwoman" lived on Picton Street, the first parallel street running east of our former Dufferin home.

On September 22, 1971, the "new" city hall officially opened at 300 Dufferin, across the street from our home.  The reference to the "city pile" in the first stanza probably refers to the debris from the city hall's construction.

My brothers Stu and Chris Peterson played in rock bands, so there were constant jam sessions in the "back room" of 283.  The music frequently bothered the Metropolitan United Church sexton's spouse, whose home was not far from the back room.

Don's reference to my father sometimes being a problem to the mayor will be discussed in the "Tin God Versus Maple" section below.

Leith, Stu, Chris, Don and Jay Peterson 1961

Excerpts from Don Peterson's "Jingles About Our House," 1971-1972

Our house in Tuscan Bracket style,
Now stands before the city pile,
The cenotaph is across the way,
Where parades seem to pass every day.

Victoria Park, early and late
Where people walk and soon will skate.

Our bushes turn brown,
When dogs come around,
And people walk them up and down.

When London Life gets out at 4,
Traffic is blocked outside our door.

Metropolitan means many things to me
With all sorts of personalities.

. . .

Rock music coming from our house
Gives a headache to the sexton's spouse.

. . .

Our rock band used to cause noise pollution,
But egg crate cartons have been the solution.

. . .

The catwoman lives around on Picton,
And rattles her dish to bring the cats in.

At 12 o'clock every night,
The city trash truck
Appears on site,
It gobbles up garbage at city hall
And the noise it makes wakes one and all.

Inside our house, from end to end,
Primitive, oriental and modern blend.

Our towering ceilings, ten feet high,
Makes life easier, with space to fly.

There's beautiful sculpture on our living room ceiling,
With pears and grapes and banana peelings,
When I lie on the living room floor
I can see this sculpture more and more,
Some artisan of 100 years past
Must have made this out of plaster cast.

We don't have the cleanest floors
Because too many people walk through our doors,
From the boys in the back,
To our friends in the front,
Privacy is almost completely out.

Our long, slim windows let in lots of sun
Unless we keep our curtains drawn.

Pottery, masks, fossils and shells,
Brasses, wrought iron, shivas and bells,
Batiks, tapestries, quilts and flags,
Horse hair, crushed velvet and itchy straw shag.

A Scottish friend says:
The English Ivy brings bad luck,
So with philodendrons we are stuck.

Our kitchen is a vertical pen,
Meant for two, but usually has ten.

There are pockets of people everywhere,
Playing rock, Chopin or solitaire.

Folding origami or knotting macrame,
Hooking rugs and oil painting,
Typing, sleeping and contemplating.

Sprouting mung, alfalfa and wheat,
Provides food more nutritious than meat.

Banjos and lutes,
Autoharps and flutes,
Tubas and basses fill all the spaces.

The smells of our house,
Are really something else,
From Arrid Extra Dry
To Chanel No. 5
And fresh baked bread,
To the fragrant Lemon Pledge.

Down the drain the water runs,
It goes down until there's none,
Where it goes you cannot tell,
But you would think it was jet-propelled.

. . .

With father's office right next door,
Our life at home is never a bore,
He's either jolly or like a bear,
And sometimes a problem to the mayor.

Across the street, thirteen stories high,
There the big new city hall lies,
Behind a square of engraved initials,
Of all the city's big officials.

Our house is a home as you can see,
Our family members are different as can be,
We fight a bit,
But we've learned to give,
Our place is home where we all live.

Copyright © 1971-2019, by Don Peterson

Don, Stu and Chris Peterson, 1961

Further Information About Don's Poem

Family friends and poets, James Reaney (1926-2008) and Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney (1925-2012), liked this poem so much they asked me to ask Don if they could have a copy.  Don agreed, so I gave it to the Reaneys around 1991.

On May 27, 2007, London writer, Jean McKay, who was a friend of my late mother's, read Don's poem.  This was at a celebration of my parents' lives in Proudfoot Hall at First-St. Andrew's United Church in London.  The event also included binders of archival material and display boards full of photos.  Family, friends and associates joined McKay in providing additional readings.  The approximately 53 people who attended gave me lots of positive feedback on what transpired.

Chris, Don, Jay, Stu (hidden) and Leith Peterson, 1961

"Tin God Versus Maple" Reading, May 30, 2007

Three days after the celebration of my parents' lives, I was pleased to be among five women writers/storytellers who read for a literary evening fundraiser.  This London event, hosted by producer Louise Fagan, was part of the In Good Company festival.  This inaugural festival showcased works by women in the arts.

My contribution was "Tin God Versus Maple," which discussed events before, during and after my father's 1970 tree-cutting protest.  Fortunately, the Ivey Family London Room at the London Public Library had a news clipping file which included the London Free Press coverage of this dustup.  Citations for many of the articles I found in the London Room can be found in the bibliography.

Leith using her mother's lipstick as face paint does not go over well, ca. 1955

Below is a synopsis of the "Tin God Versus Maple" story.

In the spring of 1970, the City of London decided to cut down the trees in front of our former home and my father's office, because they wanted to widen the street.  This was because the "new" city hall was in the process of being built.  But my father told the media and the mayor he would stand his four children in front of the trees rather than have them cut down.  He did not tell me about this ahead of time, but I will leave that saga for another day.

The furor all started when the Public Utilities Commission (P.U.C.) put red X's on all the trees on both the city hall side, and the south side of the street, where we lived.

Then, in the wee hours of the morning, a "mystery painter" covered up the red X's on the trees with black paint.  A London Free Press reporter spotted this individual and asked him if he worked for the city.  The painter said he did not.  As the reporter went to his car to get his camera, the painter left the scene.

Editorials and letters to the editor were almost all sympathetic towards the plight of the trees.  Edith M. Atkins complained that too much emphasis was being placed on catering to "that almighty tin god, the automobile."

But the protests failed to dissuade the majority of city council.  In fact, it seemed to make them all the more determined.  Council agreed to a week's reprieve, but when the week was up, 14 P.U.C. workmen and a foreman showed up at 6:00 a.m., with five vehicles and their saws at the ready.  Sixteen protesters were waiting for them.

The P.U.C. crew got to work, despite the dissenters' objections.  But the foreman told the workmen to stop after numerous residents phoned in noise complaints.  When Mayor McClure and Alderman Fred Underhill arrived, shortly after 7:30 a.m., they found my father serving coffee and doughnuts to those present.

More altercations and sawing ensued, with the final score being four trees cut down, one severely damaged, and one with a few limbs cut off.  In the end, the rest of the trees were cut down because they were showing signs of decay and would die in a few years anyway.

By 1974, members of the Peterson family had relocated either to other parts of the city or to other parts of the country.  However, my father rented out 283 and ran his practice until about 1977.

Then, around 1978, both our former family home and my father's office were torn down.  Where they once stood is now the Metropolitan United Church parking lot.  Just in front of the parking lot is a semicircle of grass on which two linden trees stand, side by side.  Rumour has it that they were planted by the city around the time the buildings were torn down, as a sort of compromise.  They are certainly not as tall as the great maples that shaded the south side of the street for many years.  But when a family friend jogs by, he gives a boy scout salute to what he considers to be living memorials to Jay and Charles Peterson.

Leith, Don, Chris and Stu Peterson, 1962


Kudos to my brother Don for giving me permission to include excerpts from his poem.  It documents 20 years of extraordinary activity in front of London's city hall.  Yes, many neighbours were glad when we left, and peace was restored to the area.  But numerous family friends and associates enjoy relating humorous anecdotes about the "fun times" at 283.

In her October 18, 2018 post, entitled "In Good Company," Louise Fagan said that conversations from In Good Company were "still part of the public conscience."  I consider my retelling of my 2007 "Tin God Versus Maple" saga part of this ongoing conversation.  Kudos to Louise for providing a forum for my unconventional London story.

283 (left) and 281 (right) Dufferin Avenue, 1966


Atkins, E. M. (1970, April 28).  Departed trees [letter to editor].  London Free Press.

Atkins, E. M. (1970, April 29).  Let's save the maples around city hall [letter to editor].  London Free Press.

Etherington, J.  (1970, April 30).  Tree-cutting ends in saw-off, mayor yields in face of protest.  London Free Press.

Fagan, L.  (2018, October 18).  In Good Company.  Retrieved from Louise Fagan: the Principal Collective:

Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library (2019).  City Hall at Dundas and Wellington. . .  Retrieved July 12, 2019 from

London Free Press.  (1970, May 1).  'Life people' to study tree-cutting policy.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 1).  More trees doomed [editorial].  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, April 27).  Must the trees always fall? [editorial].  London Free Press.

London Free Press.   (1970, April 27?).  Mystery painter out to save trees.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, April 2).  Picketing threat by periodontist gains week's reprieve for trees.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 9).  Preserving the forest city [editorial].  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 2).  Save-trees forces lose city hall fight.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, April 22).  Says public supporting tree fight.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 5).  Tree replacement policy proposed.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 1?).  Trees bring mayor, kin threats.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, June 25).  Youth's protest costs city $343.  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, April 30?).  [Looking east on Dufferin Avenue] [photo with caption].  London Free Press.

London Free Press.  (1970, May 4).  McClure's career said hurt by trees.  London Free Press.

London Image Editing and Photo Scanning.  (2019).  Images, the Internet & Search Engine Optimization.  Retrieved July 15, 2019 from

Peterson, C. T.  (1970, April 25).  Must plan to protect quality of the environment [letter to editor].  London Free Press.

Peterson, D.  (1971-1972).  Jingles About Our House [unpublished].

Peterson, L. (2007, May 30.  Tin God Versus Maple [unpublished].

Wikipedia.  (2019, June 7).  Louise Fagan.  Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Met Up With My Late Mother's "Moo Cow" Marionette at Museum London, November 3, 2018

Updated:  Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 6:30 PM, EST

Note 1: Around 2014, I instituted a policy regarding both my blogs that I do not include links to other people's websites or blogs on mine.  Consequently, you will only find information on how to locate the links (I often include screenshots of the webpages in question).  Further clarification can be found in the bibliography.

Note 2:  The two photos taken at Museum London are included with permission.  I obtained an additional permission from the Canadian Museum of History for the one of Moo Cow and me.

Playwright James Reaney and My Mother, Jay Peterson - Creative Sharing

James Reaney (1926-2008) and my mother Jay (nee Fleming) Peterson (1920-1976), were both highly creative London, Ontario, Canada cultural activists.  They were adept at not only getting projects off the ground, but also seeing them through to fruition.

One of these projects was marionette plays for children.  My mother convinced her fellow Western Fair board members to commission James to produce three shows for the September 1965 fair.  Mom took a hands-on approach with one of the three.  She invited James (or as I knew him, Jamie), his wife Colleen Thibaudeau, and their three children, James Stewart, John and Susan, to the Peterson family cottage at Leith, Ontario, in August 1965.  The Apple Butter marionettes were brought to life in my late maternal grandfather, Stuart Fleming's, old print shop.

In his 1990 Theatrum article, entitled "Stories on a String," Jamie described Apple Butter as a "new venture.  What I wanted to do in this fairy tale--where an orphan boy triumphs over the cruelties of his guardians--was to create a puppet hero for Southwestern Ontario. . ."  The tale was based on a story Jamie's mother told him about 1890s Perth County.

My mother designed "Moo Cow," an impressive-looking bovine, with the map of Canada built into the Holstein's black-and-white markings.  Moo Cow helps Apple Butter get the better of "thick skulled" Victor Nipchopper, by hooking Victor with her horn, and then flying away with him to the moon.

You can read Moo Cow's and Victor's exchange in Susan Reaney's September 1, 2018 post, entitled "James Reaney's marionette play Apple Butter" at

Screenshot from James Reaney, September 1, 2018

And you can read more about the Leith, Ontario adventure in my presentation at Jamie's memorial at London's Aeolian Hall, on July 7, 2008.  It can be found under the tag "Marionette Plays" by Susan Reaney, November 29, 2010 at

Screenshot from James Reaney, November 29, 2010

Canadian Museum of History Acquires Apple Butter Marionettes

Around January 2009, what was then the Canadian Museum of Civilization (renamed the Canadian Museum of History in 2013) acquired some of the Apple Butter marionettes from the James Reaney estate.  James Stewart Reaney, Jamie's son, explained this acquisition at the end of the November 29, 2010 post cited above.

James Stewart Reaney's Presentation, November 3, 2018

On November 3, 2018, I enjoyed attending James Stewart's lecture in the Museum London auditorium.  It was entitled "I Was So Much Older Then: A reconsideration of Jamie Reaney's Plays for Children. . ."  The London Public Library, Wordsfest and Museum London all played a role in bringing this talk to fruition.

In addition, the Canadian Museum of History loaned Moo Cow and another Apple Butter marionette, Tree Wuzzle, to Museum London, to be housed temporarily in the Museum London lobby.

Below is James Stewart giving his lecture.  The photo of the Reaneys and Apple Butter was taken by my mother in August 1965 at Leith, Ontario.  I am grateful to Susan Reaney, Jamie's daughter, and James Stewart's sister, who agreed to let me use her photo on my blog.

James Stewart Reaney, November 3, 2018

For an in-depth look at James Stewart's November 3, 2018 presentation, you can check out "Wordsfest 2018: James Stewart Reaney on James Reaney's children's plays," November 16, 2018, at

Screenshot from James Reaney, November 16, 2018

Leith Peterson Meets Up With Moo Cow

After James Stewart's lecture, I had the pleasure of getting reacquainted with Mom's "Moo Cow" in the Museum London lobby.  Susan Reaney kindly recorded this meet up and agreed to let me publish it on my blog.

Moo Cow and Leith Peterson, November 3, 2018

As I admired dear old Moo, I reflected on how enduring my mother's legacy has been, despite the fact that she passed away more than 41 years ago.

Colleen Thibaudeau - Jay "reaching out to us all"

Jamie's wife, Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012), correctly pointed out that my mother reached "out to us all" and "painted us all into it."  For further information about Colleen's observations about my mother, you can read the "Life Celebrated by Poem" section of my May 4, 2012 post, entitled "Jay Peterson (1920-1976)":

My Mother Teaching a Clay Modeling Course in 1956

An example of my mother reaching out can be found in this January 1956 London Free Press photo.  (Her married name was Mrs. Charles Peterson.)

London Free Press, January 1956

Since you will probably have difficulty reading the cutline, I have transcribed it below:

The first lesson in clay modeling for the Modeling and Sculpture Group sponsored by the Western Art League was taught last night at the Western Fair Arts building.  Here, instructor Mrs. Charles Peterson, left, coaches two students modeling faces.  The model, centre, Phyllis Eaton, poses for Dr. W.A. Andreae, Byron, and Mrs. Mary Jones, London, right.  It was the first of six weekly lessons.

I purchased a scan of the negative for the above photo from the London Free Press Collection of Photographic Negatives, Archives and Special Collections, Western Libraries, Western University.  This is one of my favourite photos of my mother.

London Free Press, negative date, January 23, 1956

Jay and Leith Peterson, December 1956

Here is another example of my mother reaching out, this time to four-year old me, in December 1956.

Leith and Jay Peterson, December 1956

I am guessing that she was helping me design a Christmas ornament.

From the late-1950s to the mid-1960s, my mother tried to get me engaged with the visual arts, e.g., enrolling me in arts courses.  But I realized I did not have her skills in this area, and lost interest.

Leith Peterson's Calligraphy, circa 1965

Nevertheless, I think this calligraphy I did around 1965 (below) signals my move into writing as one of my primary interests.

The "Calligraphy Leith" is in my mother's handwriting.

The author of the quotation is English critic, essayist and poet, Leigh Hunt (1784-1859).  Excerpt from The Farmer's Wife, Vol. 36 (1933), p 72.

Leith Peterson, ca. 1965 - Calligraphy of Leigh Hunt (1789-1859) quote

I like to think of this calligraphy as my "line and rule" nature constructively joining forces with my mother's imaginative heart.


There is a lot that can be learned from examining the creative energies of my mother and James (Jamie) Reaney.  It is fantastic that Susan Reaney, James Stewart and his wife Susan Wallace have done so much to document this verve through presentations and website posts.  And I have been happy to chime in from time to time on my blog.


Canadian Museum of History (n.d.).  About.  Retrieved November 2018, from Canadian Museum of History:

Canadian Museum of History (n.d.).  Marionette, Moo Cow.  Retrieved November 2018, from Canadian Museum of History:

London Free Press (1956, January).  First Lesson in Clay Modeling.  London Free Press.

Peterson, L. (2008, July 6).  Jamie and Jay Peterson's 1965 Apple Butter Collaboration.  Retrieved from James Reaney:

Peterson, L. (2003, May 10).  Remembering Mom.  London Free Press, p. F3.

Reaney, J. (1973).  Apple Butter and Other Plays for Children.  Vancouver: Talonbooks.

Reaney, J. (1990, April/May).  Stories on a String.  Theatrum, pp. 7-8.

Reaney, J.S. (2010, November 29).  Apple Butter and Friends are on their way to the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  Retrieved from James Reaney:

Reaney, S. (2010, November 29).  Marionette Plays.  Retrieved from James Reaney:

Reaney, S. (2018, November 16).  Wordsfest 2018: James Stewart Reaney on James Reaney's children's plays.  Retrieved from James Reaney:

Wikiquote (2018, June 15).  Leigh Hunt.  Retrieved December 2018, from Leigh Hunt - Wikiquote:

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Ken Whiteley's "That Other Shore" Inspires Pride in Michael Sullivan's Michigan Descendants

Note: Photos of Allison Bosshart and family, Ken Whiteley and Reggie Harris, included with permission.


On July 25, 2016, I published a post about Ken Whiteley and my great-great grandfather, Michael Sullivan (1813-1886).  Below is a link to this post.

I explained that Ken is a "multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter [and] record producer" whose "musical journey has taken him from jug band, folk and swing to blues, gospel and children's music."  He has won a Canadian Folk Music Award and a Genie Award for best original song, among many other accolades.

Like me, Ken grew up hearing the story of how Michael Sullivan changed his surname from O'Sullivan to Sullivan, after he got on the wrong side of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.  Michael ended up moving to Cambourne, in the Cornwall area of England.  He courted a widow named Jane Trevillion (1816-1895).  Her husband had been killed in the mines, and she was raising four children on her own.

Jane told Michael that if he wanted to marry her, he would have to become a Methodist, and he complied with her wishes.  Around the 1840 to 1845 period, they wed in Cambourne, and subsequently had two children: Ellen Sullivan (1846-1922) and Thomas Sullivan (1849-1920).  Thomas is Ken Whiteley and my great-grandfather.

Michael was employed in the tin and/or copper mines.  Around the late 1840s, copper was discovered near Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Canada.  The centre of the find turned out to be Bruce Mines.  This led to a call for experienced miners, including those in the Cornwall area of England.  Michael, Jane and their six children crossed the Atlantic, ca. 1851, to seek a better life.

Ken Whitely's "That Other Shore" About Michael Sullivan

In my July 2016 post, I explained that Ken wrote a song, entitled "That Other Shore," about our great-great grandfather, Michael Sullivan.  The song is on his Freedom Blues (2016) CD.  This CD can be purchased from or via

On July 16, 2016, I enjoyed hearing Ken sing "That Other Shore" at the Home County Music & Art Festival Main Stage in London, Ontario.  A couple of photos of Ken and my meet-up can be found in my July 25, 2016 post (link below).

Allison Bosshart, the Great-Great-Great Granddaughter of Michael and Jane Sullivan

In July 2017, Allison Bosshart, who is the great-great-great granddaughter of Michael and Jane Sullivan, contacted me via my blog.  Allison is descended from Ellen Sullivan (1846-1922) who was the oldest daughter of Michael and Jane.

Below is a chart that explains the connection between Allison, Ken and me.

Connection Between Allison Bosshart, Ken Whiteley and Leith Peterson

Ken Whiteley Performs at Michigan Concerts, May 4-5, 2018

I helped Allison connect up with Ken.  She was thrilled when he informed her he was playing twice in Michigan in May 2018.

The first Michigan gig was on May 4, 2018 evening, and was entitled "Reggie Harris and Ken Whiteley - in Celebration of Pete Seeger!"  It was part of the Ten Pound Fiddle Concert ( at MSU Community Music School in East Lansing.

(For further information about Reggie Harris, visit

Below is a photo of Ken and Reggie at this event.

Ken Whitley and Reggie Harris at Ten Pound Fiddle Concert, May 4, 2018

In attendance were:

- Allison Bosshart and her husband
- Allison and her husband's children: Max and Ava (twins), 8, Ella Ruth, 10
- Allison's mother, Carole Bosshart, who is the great-great granddaughter of Michael and Jane
- Allison's cousin, Jan Yeaman, who is the great-great-great granddaughter of Michael and Jane

L-R: Jan Yeaman, Max, Ken, Ava, Allison, Carole, Ella Ruth, May 2018

In a May 8, 2018 email to me, Allison described it as a "magical performance. . .We sang with a whole group of people about my great-great-great grandparents AND my children's great-great-great-great grandparents!!  Wow!!

Then on Saturday, May 5, morning, Ken performed at the "Fiddle Scouts Concert," which was the children's segment of the Ten Pound Fiddle event.

Allison said she was "beside [herself] with joy and fellowship of music" when Ken invited her children up on the stage with him.  She "kept wondering what would Michael and Jane Sullivan think?"

Ken Sings "That Other Shore" at Smales Pace/Change of Pace Reunion, London, Ontario, May 5, 2018

On Saturday, May 5, evening, I was happy to be entertained by the music and camaraderie of Ken, Brent Titcomb, Liam Russel Titcomb, Fraser & Girard, New Cumberland with John P. Allen, and Nora Galloway.  This was at the 8th Annual Smales Pace/Change of Pace Reunion at Aeolian Hall in London, Ontario.  As Ken sang "That Other Shore," and dedicated it to me, I felt gratitude that my July 25, 2016 post had widened the circle of Michael and Jane's living descendants.

Below is a photo of Ken and me after the Smales Pace/Change of Pace Reunion Concert, at the Aeolian Hall.

Ken Whiteley and Leith Peterson, London, Ontario, May 5, 2018


Belanger, J. (2018, May 2).  "Reunion concert pays tribute to London's legendary folk "'hotbed.'"  London Free Press

Bowman, D. (2013, December 16).  Ken Whiteley.