I wrote in this blog post how I wanted to participate in #52Ancestors for 52 weeks but didn’t feel I’d have time. In that post, I also challenged myself to write about 12 ancestors in 12 months. I’m sure I’ll write about more as the mood strikes, but for this year, let’s write about 12.
Tomorrow being January 24th just happens to be the birth date of my first ancestor, my mother: Elizabeth Marlene Hyde.
My mother was born on January 24, 1950 in Galt, Ontario. She was named after her mother Betty Mae Lovejoy and went by her middle name, Marlene, but her father Henry Harold (Harry) Hyde called her Jo. With bright blue eyes, a smile to light up a room and an infectious laugh, she was popular in and out of school and had many friends.
Her elementary school years were spent at the recently closed Lincoln Public School, which was conveniently located across the street from the house she grew up in with her sisters Sharon and Terry. Although she always counted her two sisters as being her best friends, she was happy to be reunited with several of her Lincoln school friends about 10 years ago and loved that friendships forged long ago could still be relevant nearly 50 years later. She adored her friendships and always had many stories to tell and memories to share.
From stories told to me by my grandmother, she wasn’t always the easiest child. She hated having her hair brushed. I couldn’t helping giggling when my grandma recalled chasing after her with a hair brush down the street, my mother knowing she could never get caught and my grandmother eventually giving in and throwing the hair brush at her. I know the feeling well as I’m sure I nearly did the same to my mother when I was a little girl and she attempted to brush through my curls.
My mother loved to roller skate. Nearly all the stories I heard from her teenage years involved going roller skating, sometimes after school, and sometimes during. It was always a little scandalous to hear that my mother dropped out of school because she would rather roller skate than learn at Galt Collegiate Institute and Vocational School (GCI). It was very different when I went to GCI. I loved school and tried to soak up as many subjects as I could. Although like my mother, I never did figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
At 18 my mother had her first marriage and moved to Kitchener. Lonely and missing her family, the marriage ended disastrously within a few years but she made out of it with two gorgeous children, my sister Lisa and my brother Joe.
A few years later, she met my father and it was love at first sight. Per my mother, she was helping a friend do an oil change on his car at the Tyrods Car Club (in the building that is now the Galt Brewing Company). She was under the car when oil came out and got in her eye. My fast thinking father helped her get the oil out and she was so impressed that she begged and pleaded with her friends to set up a double date with him. Per my father, he wasn’t wearing a shirt and my mother was drawn in by his young muscle-bound body when he saved the “damsel in distress”. A few nights later my mother had her friends and my father over to play cards. Things went really well and when her friends left, my father stayed. According to both of them, they talked all night long about everything under the sun. My father went home the next day to grab a toothbrush and pretty much moved in and never left again. It was an instant connection and the love they had for each other was shown every single day. They married in 1975, had my sister Heather and then me and moved to their “starter” home on Norfolk Avenue, a starter that they stayed in for 23 years before finally moving to their dream home in 2003.
In her early working years, my mother worked at two of Cambridge (Galt)’s longest running and well known business – Gore Mutual Insurance and Babcock & Wilcox. I believe she worked in the offices of both, but I can’t seem to recall what she did there. For some reason, the mail room comes to mind, but I could be mixing up my stories as my grandmother, aunts, cousins and my sister-in-law have all worked there over the years, and three of them still do.
When I was 4 and started going to school, my mother decided it was time to go back to work. She had enough fun staying home with me and needed to find a way to support all 4 of her kids and our ever growing interests in sports and activities. She ended up getting two jobs, both working in the service industry. My favourite of her jobs was at the bowling alley where she worked a couple nights a week in the snack bar. I’m sure she worked there to allow us a chance to bowl in a league for a discount, but I loved going there as she would make me foot long hot dogs. My mom made the best hot dogs.
She also took a job working at McDonald’s on Hespeler Road, which at that time was still pretty new and exciting. She was quickly promoted to manager and loved working with people and seeing them smile. She stayed at McDonald’s for 15 years before moving on to work with my father. However in that time she had the whole family working there or doing work there. My dad made the coat racks in the change rooms, and my sisters and I, brother and sister-in-law worked there as crew and my sisters both ended up as management. My brother’s oldest daughter even gave it a shot when she turned 16. We all have a soft spot for McDonald’s and having mom teach us about QSC (Quality, Service, Cleanliness) and tell us “a time to lean is a time to clean.” I think it is why we are all such hard workers today.
For a long stretch she worked the office for my dad’s business and then for a local trucking company until she realized she hated working in an office. Marlene missed working with the public. I believe she was 58 when she made her final career change to go back to the service industry. She wanted to work for Tim Horton’s. She didn’t care if it was a pay cut, or if she was management or not. She wanted to serve people. She had done her time doing the office work, she wanted to get back to making people smile. The first two Tim Horton’s she applied to didn’t hire her. They told her they thought she was over qualified. It wasn’t until she applied to the Tim Horton’s in Aberfoyle that they took a chance. She loved the early morning shift, working most days from 7-3 which at the busiest location in Canada meant she got to make a lot of people smile. She made friends with her co-workers and enjoyed the camaraderie of doing a job well done. My dad had a job in Puslinch and would often go to visit just to see her smile.
Marlene was a fantastic mom, the world’s best. She was fun but tough. She had a way of making you want to be a better person. She didn’t care if you became a doctor or a lawyer, she just wanted you to be happy and to work hard at whatever you were doing. She loved each of her children equally, even if she did tell each of us at some point in our lives that we were her favourite. She welcomed her family and extended family in with open arms and would always be there for anyone who really needed her. She was beloved by all of her grandchildren and adopted grandchildren who always seemed to want to be around her. She loved taking us shopping, or going out for a hike or a bike ride on her Florida 3 wheelers. She enjoyed living her life, and more than once it was noted that my mom always seemed to be on vacation. She hated to sit still and liked to keep her house and her hair, looking it’s best. She loved listening to music and dancing and spending time playing games – with scrabble being her absolute #1 choice.
In 2011 my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She fought a hard battle but the cancer was too strong and it was moving too fast. In the end it had moved from her lungs to her bones to her breast and even her brain. After a short 5 month battle it all ended on September 16, 2011. At 61 years old, my mother passed peacefully from this world and now lives in the memories of those who knew her. I, for one, was blessed to have her in my life.