Jean Wilhelmine Hastings Inglis, my maternal grandmother, had a lifelong passion for travelling to see new places. In the seven years between graduation from teachers college in North Bay and her marriage to the Reverend Irving Brigham Pentland Kaine in 1924 (when at the age of 27 she was almost an old maid for that era), she cruised the Thousand Islands, went to New York City and Bermuda, searched for long lost Uncle Abe on the docks of Seattle, Washington and taught in the wilds of Salmon Arm, British Columbia. I never learned what inspired this passion but it has lived on in her daughters and granddaughters. For example, I have always considered travel a basic necessity, furniture a luxury! It must have taken courage for Jean to venture out on her own as a young woman in the 1920’s but she never commented about anything but how wonderful it was. Her sense of adventure and confidence was admirable.
When I look at her collection of photographs, I get the impression that life for Jean and her friends in the Ontario north, wasn’t all work and no play! Maybe everyone in this frontier land full of promise had a sense of fun, at least those were the scenes in the pictures they took. The folks from the Engelhart area would travel by train to nearby campgrounds at Lake Sesekinika in the summer months. In true Canadian spirit, they stayed in tents and paddled in canoes though always properly attired in black suits and skirts and white shirts.
Jean made lifelong friends during her year at teacher’s college. She proudly stated on numerous occasions, that women from the north were strong and could accomplish anything. That pioneering spirit served her well in her journey through life. She had met a young man at college, Roy McVittie, a dashing, vibrant fellow with a moustache who seemed to be on all the various teams and interest groups. She said little about him to me except that he was her boyfriend for a few years but they could not make their life together because he had to look after his mother. I’m sure that there was a bigger story there however it is not something that you ask your grandmother! Maybe romantic memories are to be savoured not shared.
Jean did not languish dreaming of her lost love but set out to discover the world. How amazing it must have been for Jean who grew up in a northern Ontario town barely connected to the railway, to see the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of New York City on her trip in 1920. It was the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age”and the flapper style was becoming popular and women began cutting their hair and wearing shorter skirts. In the April 16th, 1922 issue of the New York Times it was written, a flapper “dresses simply and sensibly, and looks life right straight in the eye; she knows just what she wants and goes after it, whether it is a man, a career, a job, or a new hat.” Describes Jean to a “T”! Pictures of her at Coney Island with a cousin, show her long curls and wool swimming costume. Soon after that trip, pictures show her with a stylish bob. Always the fashion plate!