Besides his fabulous nose, a tribute to genetics and to a lifetime of rugby, I see in Joel's face a mix of intelligence and physicality that has played out across many generations in our past -- while we are solidly middle class right now, life was often challenging for our grandparents and for earlier generations, marked by hard physical labour. Joel, who retired just the day before the reunion after more than 35 years with the same company, honoured this background by his commitment to his union and to the men on the floor. Rather than advancing into management, he chose to put his energy into union service. His always-Labour-voting English working-class predecessors would have been proud.
Here he is, cuddling a very tired toddler me, on his first visit back home to Middlesbrough, Yorkshire -- he would have been just 28 then, and although he might not have known it in the photo, he would not get back home again until the late 60s. This trip required a drive across Canada (Vancouver to Montreal) and passage on a passenger/cargo ship; with two youngsters, my brother still a baby, this must have been a challenging few weeks for my parents, especially since my mother was seasick for most of the crossing. All worthwhile, this photo says, capturing his contentment singing along with the welcoming crowd at home in England, old family and new one integrated for a short while.Several years after this, my English grandma and grandpa came to visit us in New Westminster, BC -- they crossed the country by train, so that again, between boat and train, they would have been many weeks in transit. I have a few faint, impressionistic memories of my grandfather. I know he walked, for example, with his hands clasped behind his back -- my neighbour, Carol, sometimes adopts a similar position and reminds me of that, although I've never mentioned this to her. We walked together, my grandfather and I, at least once (in my memory, we did this all the time, but it was perhaps only once) to "the old library" -- the one way down the hill -- he was so impressed that I could remember the way, at four or five, but it was a well-worn route in our family, even then. Here he sits at either Crescent Beach or White Rock beach, reading, reading -- he may have worked 47 years at the Iron Foundry, but he was a reader nonetheless. Family legend tells that in their cramped council home (almost identical, except that my grandmother kept it so well, to the one Billy Elliott's family lived in), the front sitting-room was sacrosanct when my grandpa was in there reading -- not to be disturbed! and his ten children would never dare bother him if he was sitting with a book or newspaper.I never saw my maternal grandfather, pictured above, read a book, although occasionally I'd see him with the paper. I remember him writing, though, but on wood with his thick carpenter's pencil. My grandfather, born in Bay City Michigan in the 1890s, was placed in an orphanage along with three siblings when his widowed mother remarried. He was three or four at the time, and as soon as he was old enough to do various chores, he was "placed" in various "homes" where he worked for a place in the barn and food that was primarily bowls of porridge. Physical abuse, at least, was part of the package. I'm not sure how much education he had a chance to pick up along the way, but he ended up putting his natural intelligence to becoming a jack of all trades. His engineer's mind manifest itself in the way he helped my dad lift my parents' first house to put a full basement in it.