I want to introduce my grandfather, Charles Robert Stone. I actually never met him, but I know a little about him, with the help of my aunt, his daughter Roselyn. Everyone — friends, family and associates called him Chick. My grandmother’s family called him Charlie, though no one else did. We actually did not know much about him, since he died before I was born. However, anyone who spoke of him spoke with affection, which says a lot about the kind of person he was.
Chick’s father William came with his two brothers from Guernsey in the Channel Islands around 1875 when he was 17 years old. Eventually he became a school teacher in Acton, a small town (still) in Ontario. There he met Elizabeth Cameron, who had been born in Canada, but whose father, a physician, was Scottish. She also was a school teacher. William and Elizabeth got married and had five children. Unfortunately, the two girls died of typhoid fever when they were in their early teens. That left three brothers, William, John (Jack), and Charles (Chick). Chick was born on Ellsworth Avenue, which is near the Vaughn Loop (for the Bathurst street car) in Toronto. This was a middle class area. He was born on March 31, 1897. His family always teased him about just missing being an April Fool. He took it good-naturedly.
Chick was flat footed and somewhat ungainly for his 6 foot 1 frame, but he loved football and became a known kicker and thrower for the Ontario Rugby and Football Union. We always heard that he had played for the Toronto Argonauts.
Chick graduated from Parkdale Collegiate in Toronto. He and Marjorie Meadows, my grandmother, met at the Moss Park playground where they were supervisors, part of the newly established City of Toronto Playground programme. Engaged in 1918, they married in 1925. The Meadows lived in the tonier University of Toronto district. That difference as well as George B. Meadows being a manufacturer and an “employer of men” as contrasted with a “lowly” school-teacher made the marriage of his daughter to Charlie very problematic for Marjorie’s father. His other daughters married an accountant, a farmer and an engineer. After Chick and Marjorie finally got married, they had two daughters, Dorothy Joyce (1927) and Roselyn Elizabeth (1931).
Chick was known for his dry sense of humour and would write Ogden Nash type verses. Besides the dry humour, he was much appreciated for his great ability to listen. The only time my mother and my aunt ever knew their father and mother to quarrel at the dinner table was over his failure to contribute to the conversation (“last evening at the Strattans”). “Couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” he retorted. Joyce and Roselyn were wide-eyed at this uncharacteristic spat.
He worked at the Heinz Co. for about 26 years. The company decided to groom him for a supervisor’s position, so they moved the family around the province: North Bay, Toronto, St, Thomas, Timmins, Peterborough, and Windsor. When war broke out, all moves were cancelled by the company. In the meantime, Chick had developed gout. It stems from kidney malfunction: a failure to remove uric acid efficiently from the blood, which gets deposited as crystals in the joints. It is very painful. By the time they were ready to promote him, the gout had become more serious. Heinz sent him to the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to go through its program for prospective executives, which is when nephrosis was diagnosed. Nephrosis, a breakdown of the kidney tubules, literally poisoned him. The doctors gave him five years to live and they pretty much hit it on the head. Out of interest, the diagnosis and prognosis were sent to his G.P. who passed the information first to Marjorie. She asked him not to tell Chick because she didn’t want him to have to live with that information. That was not so unusual in those days. He would certainly have guessed. Chick died in 1948. We have often wondered how our lives would have been different if he had lived to spend time with us.