Jean Wilhemine Hastings Inglis Kaine, my grandmother, never tired of exploring the world around her. Her eyes sparkled enthusiastically when talking about the new places she had been and where she would be going next. After venturing from her northern Ontario town of Engelhart to New York City and Bermuda in 1920, she broadened her horizons and set off for the Canadian West where one of her sisters was living. Jean had a special fondness for her sister Delta and nurtured their relationship throughout her life.
Delta married Fabian Hugh, a young man from Winnipeg, who had been in the Royal Canadian Flying Corps during World War 1. They moved to the booming town of Cloverdale, British Columbia where Fabe, as he was called, joined an insurance and real estate firm in 1917. He did very well in his endeavours and eventually became a Provincial Magistrate. Jean visited her sister regularly from the early 1920’s until Delta passed away in 1978.
Delta’s granddaughter recently shared these comments with me, “… there were many more facets to this amazing little powerhouse of a woman that I had no idea about! I always looked forward to her visits and can still remember how she couldn’t talk fast enough because she just had so much to share! There seemed never to be enough room when she wrote those interesting letters to us. The pages would be turned sideways and upside down and her script would become almost impossible to decipher as it got smaller and smaller; again she was just always exploding with exciting events and thoughts to share. She was such an inspiration and her spirit lives on; my daughters and I also share a love of learning/teaching and exploring the world.”
How exciting it must have been for Jean to travel across Canada by train for the first time in those early days. One of her adventures while out west was to look for Uncle Abe who was supposedly heading off to Alaska. I never questioned what possessed her to undertake such a task. With her as my role model, it did not seem unusual to me that a young woman in the 1920s would go by herself to the somewhat rough port of Seattle to search for an uncle. I can picture tiny Jean at 4 feet 10 inches wearing the latest fashions available, picking her way through the docks asking sailors on different boats if they had seen Uncle Abe. She did tell me that she discovered that he had sailed the day before she got there. The rather cryptic note on the back of his photograph says, “Uncle Abraham who went to Alaska and never returned from the Gold Rush. Wife and child burned to death. Left when he was 21.” A story left unknown that will take some detective work to uncover.
Maybe Jean needed the funds to continue her travels or loved the job of teaching which she had practiced in North Bay for a couple of years, but whatever the reason, her adventures carried on when she took a contract to teach in the small community of Salmon Arm, BC on Shuswap Lake. Now a thriving summer recreation area, in the early twenties, Salmon Arm with a population of 921 in 1921 was known for the forestry and fruit growing industries. Jean told me that she taught in a one roomed school house and was intimidated by some of the students, young Finnish men who towered over her. They had not attended school before and listened intently to her from the back of the class. She also described fearfully walking back to her boarding house along a dark country road during the winter, whistling loudly to keep the bears at bay. Maybe that started her lifelong habit of whistling Christmas carols under her breath at times of stress!
Jean did not stay long in Salmon Arm and took a teaching post in Cloverdale, B. C. to be close to Delta and Fabe. The only information I have from then is a letter of recommendation from the school board in Surrey, BC describing her teaching methods. . I see that performance reviews have always been with us! Some comments made about Jean really resonated with me as I read them, “Her teaching qualities are of a very high order. Her methods are bright, lucid, and forceful, her manner winsome and her pupils readily respond to her teaching.”
Merriam-Webster defines winsome as “generally pleasing and engaging because of a childlike charm and innocence”. A characteristic that is a perfect description of Jean as she maintained and shared a positive spirit and enthusiasm throughout her life. The next episode of this story will bring us back to Ontario where she meets and marries the Reverend Irving Brigham Pentland Kaine.