Monday, March 23, 2015

An Albert Massey find.

Nothing so exciting happened to us this weekend. It was quiet around here. Our kitten Cashew treed himself and we had to talk him down....took about an hour. Things are blooming - sweet peas and roses, grevallias - avocado trees by the hundreds. 

I'm still scanning family pictures and enjoyed looking at this one of my Dad's 61st birthday in 1960. Behind my sister's head and behind the gooseneck lamp was a composition I made at CGIT camp: shells glued onto black velvet in a floral spray. My mother thought I was Leonardo, framed it and hung it on the dining room wall. 
My composition was sort of like this one. But not as good. 

Everyone in our neighborhood had a gooseneck lamp. Now they're called 'mid-century' goosenecks and are revered. Eventually my mother replaced it with an equally unattractive pole lamp. The pole lamp stand was in sections that screwed together into three lengths. My mother packed the pole with cash. During her cash hiding period she had stashes all over the house. One particularly odd hiding place was on the window ledge where she stacked up money, covered it with foil paper and taped it all down with masking tape. 

A mid-century gooseneck like ours. 
The large picture on the right wall was of Jesus, strawberry blond with blue eyes of those paintings with the eyes that follow you wherever you go. We knew it was a trick, but still when you were guilty of some transgression and you had to walk past the staring Jesus all day, it made my sister and I give pause, which is I'm sure is the effect my parents wanted. Our painting looked like this one below by Ron Keass except Jesus had a blue shawl over his shoulder. The painting hung there until my father retired and then someone gave him a gift of a Margaret Keane print. Jesus came down and the "big eyed boy" went up. The big eyes didn't follow you around the room. 

Painting by Ron Keass, 2012
Margaret Keane

Research has shown that any picture in which the subject is looking directly ahead will have eyes that appear to look at you no matter the angle from which it is viewed. This is because pictures are 2D representations of a 3D world. As such, our brains ignore the clues that remind it that we are looking at a flat object and focus instead on the dimensional illusion created by the representation of light in the picture. No matter the angle from which we see it, even if it is a very skewed view from the side, we'll perceive it as a cohesive picture oriented toward us.

The box on the table with the white scrolls was an Eaton's gift box. Whatever was in the box was wrapped inside with tissue paper which was the height of chic. That red box was too precious to throw out; instead it became "the photo box" and remained as part of the family until my mother died in 2002 and we brought her pictures back to California. 

My mother was serving tea as she had the good silver teapot on the table. The silver tea service was a must-have item, very sought-after and a set perched on the dining room sideboard of most homes. I have no idea who would be drinking tea at a party for my father, but perhaps mother hoped somebody would stay sober and desire something non-alcoholic. I still have a couple of pieces of my husband's mother's tea service in our attic. Do you think they'll come around in popularity again, like gooseneck lamps, formica and all that? 

It's worth noting that my mother made Eilleen's dress. You can tell by the way it fit her around the waist with no bagging at the top. The polka dots were red. 

Following is my father's provisional baptism record from Canada. July 29th, 1899 which I came across when confirming his birthday. I just noticed that on the same page, entry above my Dad's, is noted the first communion of Albert Massey, aged 12. Oddly enough about 10 years later, Albert married my Dad's mother, Lucy and Albert became my father's step-father. What a coincidence to find these records on the same page. This also confirms that Albert was probably one of the "home children." (see below). I have his birth certificate so I know he was born in England, then he shows up as a servant on the farm next to my grandparents. 
Albert Massey 12, eventually married Lucy Armstrong, my grandmother. 



100,000 British Home Children (alleged orphans) were sent to Canada by over 50 British Child Care organizations.  These 4-15 year old children worked as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants until they were 18 years old.  The organizations professed a dominant motive of providing these children with a better life than they would have had in Britain, but they had other ignoble and pecuniary motives.

The organizations rid themselves of an unwanted segment of their society and profited when they sold these children to Canadian farmers.  Siblings in care in Britain were separated from their families and each other.  Siblings were separated from each other when they were sent to Canada.  Most never saw each other again.  Many spent their lives trying to identify their parents and find their siblings and most were unsuccessful.  The 5 million British Home Children descendants have 20 million British relatives.  How could this many people not know they are related to one another?  Their mutual searches have been hampered by the unwillingness of the childcare organizations to readily release vital personal information.


  1. THE LAMP LOOKS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE AN ARREDELUCE,(oops, sorry, caps.) Some of their lamps can be quite valuable, I got 9k for one at auction, the so called cobra lamp.

  2. I read a book about those orphan children. I thought it was in the book club but Nancy doesn't think so. Maybe it was "Orphan Train". Of course, it would be. If you haven't read it you'd better. You'll really be able to identify now that you've found this information. Love your sister's dress (what I can see of it). We had a goose neck lamp in one of our "investment condos" and threw it away. Boy were we dumb! Barbara

  3. Anonymous11:13 AM

    Love the photo and the review of your family art gallery. That's so interesting about the British Home Children. So sad. But interesting that you had a sort of family member from that exodus. Will people ever stop being brutal to children? The British and Irish were sure good at it. Now it's the African terrorists. Hate to even turn on the news anymore.