Today, October 26th is my mom’s birthday and she sits in an Ottawa hospital awaiting placement in a nursing home. She’s recovered well from her stroke but remains disoriented and confused. As time goes on, she will become more confused and remember even less. She has already forgotten much of her past and I know that one day she will even forget who I am.
So while I still can, I believe it’s important that I remember for her. I know that everyone says this about their moms but my mom was an incredible woman. No, she didn’t discover a cure for cancer or solve world hunger or peace but she was incredible because she swam against the current of her time and tried to live her life differently. Her life may not have turned out as she would have liked and she did suffer greatly but along the way she had some pretty cool adventures.
I’d like to share one period of her life with you that had a tremendous influence on me throughout the years.
My mom was a from a Francophone community in Northern Ontario. Her father didn’t believe in educating girls beyond grade six – why does a girl need an education when all she’s going to do is change diapers? My mom argued with my grandfather and managed to stay in school until grade eight. After that, she would sneak out of the house to attend high school. I’m not sure if she managed to finish high school but when she was nineteen she started taking courses in typing and shorthand. By then World War Two had ended and she left home to find work.
One of her sisters had found a job in Ottawa working as a chambermaid at the historic Chateau Laurier hotel and mom left home to join her. Soon, her typing and shorthand skills landed her a job with Blue Cross in Toronto so she moved to Hogtown and lived there for four years until she accepted a transfer to a Blue Cross office in New York City.
I’m not exactly sure how long she worked for Blue Cross but her next job was to work for a man named Archie Bleyer. Mr. Bleyer had once been the band leader for Arthur Godfrey and in 1952 had started his own recording company he called Cadence Records.
Mom always fondly remembered Andy Williams, Phil and Don Everly (she said they were always polite, sweet boys), and Dorothy, Carol, Janet and Jinny of The Chordettes. Mom had friends in the secretarial pools of other record labels like RCA and Capitol and the gals used to swap disc jockey pressings of the 45s and albums of the day.
When my mom was pregnant with me, the gang at Cadence had a baby shower for her and all the label’s stars were there to congratulate her. She left Cadence Records to stay home and be wife and mother but I always got the feeling that she missed the music business. But she hung on to all the records she collected while working for Cadence and these were the records I listened to growing up.
In our house we listened to all kinds of music from rock ‘n roll to country, to pop, to big band, to classical. I grew up appreciating all kinds of music and it’s small wonder that today I find myself married to a musician.
So to celebrate my mom’s birthday here’s a little video of a song she used to sing to me. Happy Birthday Mom!