Grandpa&GrannyWard 1250

  • I never met my grandfather, Walter Ward of Portsmouth, UK but I know he doodled and had twinkling eyes. His obituary said he was “a Peter Pan of a man who never grew old,” “a genius of friendship,” and “one who walked with both princes and paupers.”
  • My grandmother, Elizabeth, on my fourth birthday in 1937, sat beside me on the back stoop to do a jigsaw puzzle and shell peas. Then she served a princess-pink dessert called ‘blamonge’ (blanc mange ) for dinner, since I said I didn’t like cake.
  • My father Jack Kell of Cookstown, ON joined the Royal Navy Canadian Volunteer Reserve with two high school buddies in 1917, arrived at Portsmouth barracks and saw a sign on a telephone pole. It invited colonial servicemen to come to the Methodist Chapel Young Men’s Sunday Morning Bible Class.
  • When the buddies went the next Sunday the teacher, Mr. Ward, invited them also for Sunday tea at his home with his family. That consisted of his wife, his eldest daughter Kathleen (my mother) and the twins Enid and Eric.
  • The ‘Chapel’ was four stories high, had four indoor bathrooms and was on land where John Wesley had preached two centuries before. The Ward tea party also attended the Sunday evening service.
  • The J.B. (‘Jolly Baker’) Ward & Sons Bakery stood on a busy corner. My great grandfather, Jabez Burt Ward, had founded the business on the miracle of baking powder and taken his four sons into it. Walter was the accountant.
  • J. B.’s office was linked by a secret door and passageway to his bedroom in the first in a row of three brick houses. He was a widower who lived with his four unmarried children, Frank, Clara, John and Alice. The second house was for Walter and his family and the third house was occupied by J.B.’s son, James, and his wife Lottie.
  • As a councillor for the City of Portsmouth, Walter sat on committees to provide better housing for the poor and combat the spread of venereal disease.
  • He became founding President of the Portsmouth Brotherhood in 1919, an organization to help returning servicemen adapt to civilian life. He was a sought-after guest speaker across the country.
  • In early  December, 1925 Aunt Enid married an Australian sailor, Joseph Burnett. He had come for tea during the war and now his ship was being refitted in the Portsmouth dockyards.
  • When they got back from their honeymoon in Switzerland Joe found out he would be in command of the crew of 25 who were on duty on Christmas day. The question was, how would he round the sailors up and get them back on board after spending their leave wallowing in the debauchery of the harbor? They would all be drunk.
  • Elizabeth and Walter promptly invited the whole crew to come and eat, drink and be merry on Christmas at their place. They got all the food ready in J.B.’s house, while a raucous party complete with J.B.’s stories of South Africa, Eric’s conjuring tricks, ukuleles, cocked hats, raunchy Australian songs and recitations rocked Walter’s house next door.
  • If we must have wars, thank goodness we also have kind human beings on the home front who don’t let us lose. Elizabeth and Walter knew how to live. They found husbands for their two daughters even though 50,000 Englishmen were killed in the war. They provided lonely sailors in a far-off port with a temporary home. They paid half fare so that their children and grandchildren in Australia, Canada and England could meet at a family reunion and bond for life.

Without a war I would never have been born.  My solemn efforts to remember turn up moments of love and joy.