Thursday, June 3, 2010

story: Daphne's kids

Daphne Holmes moved here from England in the 1940's and raised a family...
She was a longtime resident of Riley Park,
a true community player,
a mover and a shaker and
a generous spirit with a very forward thinking attitude toward children and their education.

Daphne with her great-grandchild Abigail Lim in her side garden in the summer of 2008.

One rainy morning I sat with her and her son
Greg to learn more about her.

"It is important to get kids to like to come to school. It was Greg who couldn't stand the grade one teacher and I had an awful time with him! He would get to the end of the street and then that was it…
I would get a phone call, 'Is Greg sick?'
And I would say 'No, I sent him to school.'
And he would be hiding and I would have to go find him, but he just couldn't stand that teacher. So I said to the principal at the time, 'Can we change him over?'
And the principal said 'No, he'll have to get used to all these different teachers.'
So I called the school board and said 'He is only 5 years old, and it is an experience for him and he can't stand it! Every child is an individual and you never know what is going to happen, and this one just can't take it!'
I thought this is one time I've got to stand up for him and protect him."

The PTA at General Wolfe School. Daphne is sitting down second from the left.
Circa 1962 or 1964...

"And so I joined the PTA and told them that we have got to do something, so kids are not scared to come into school!
A lot of the kids couldn't care less but then you get these ones that are a little bit shy and people would call them slow, but they are not slow!
A lot of parents would say 'Oh well, they will get through'…but I think you have to stand behind these kids."
(Daphne got Greg successfully transferred from the class but then he got that same teacher again in grade 3!)
"I warned the principal that I would be watching out for him!"

"Because I had 3 boys I was very interested in what was happening in the schools, and I have always gone up different times to meet the new principals to see what was going on, you see, eventually I had my grandchildren going to the same school. It is still a very good school!" (General Wolfe Elementary.)

"I think all my kids' friends knew exactly where the cookie pot was. It was a good thing my husband was on shift work, because after school they all came swooping in! Some mothers were working but of course I wasn't, so I had babysitting at my house. I did eventually go to work, but not until after the boys had grown up."

This picture is from a camping trip in and around the time of cookie thievery, 1962.
Greg (top left), Carl (top right), Marc (bottom left) and Steven (bottom right).
Carl wasn't Daphne's son but a neighbour kid who hung around with them A LOT. Kind of an honourary member of the family.
Also notice Daphne's husband George chopping wood!

"I volunteered every Thursday afternoon, for many years and weighed all the new babies in the neighbourhood at the Health Clinic on Main street at 24th. In fact I might be right to say 27 years! They gave me a little tea and presented me with a little gift saying I had weighed the babies for 25 years... and then one of my neighbours got up and said 'She has been doing that for more than 25 years!'

I knew every kid and watched them grow up! What a happier life than that? And some of their parents I knew when they were kids! Everybody knew where I was on Thursday afternoons."

Here is the health centre June 3, 2010, still there after all these years...

"I met someone I had weighed just the other day at the Centennial Anniversary of General Wolfe School. I attended with my two sons but as we got out of the car into the beautiful blue sky day...there came this incredible storm! So Greg got me settled in the basement so he could go and help outside to bring in chairs and hold the tents down. Rocks were flying off the playground into their faces! I sat with one of the present day General Wolfe students -- because he also didn't want to go out into the storm! As we were chatting, I realized he was a little scared. I told him that one of his parents would soon come and he would be ok. When his mother showed up, I recognized her and then realized I had weighed this little guy I was talking to! He was much bigger of course, so I joked: 'I don't think I could lift you now!'"

"I always liked kids. I took a few years of training [in England] - how to look after kids and that...then, much later, I went back to night school here in Vancouver -- at Langara -- to get my Pre-School Education. I should have done this before my kids were born!
[Historically speaking this program wasn't offered back then!]
I learned an awful lot! I went for 3-4 years, and I was the oldest student. I was in my 50's, I was a grandmother! And I was with all these young people and I had never been to college in my life! But I was the top of the class, probably because I had so much experience being with children already."

Greg: "You got the job right across the street from our house, at Little Mountain Daycare!"

Daphne: "Yes that's right, and I would open up the daycare, then go back and help at lunchtime, and then go back and close. I did that 5 days a week. I was so happy to get so far and in my 50's! And pre-school in those days, was not so well looked after, but now they go to UBC to get their degree. It was a new thing back then. I worked at Little Mountain Daycare until it closed, probably about 20 years or so. I thoroughly enjoyed that."

Daphne and her Little Mountain Daycare kids in and around 1974.

"My husband wasn't too keen on his wife working, but I enjoyed it, and when he saw I was enjoying it, he quit yakking about it and if he got home before me he learned to put the supper on!"

Greg: "Which he never did before…"

Daphne: "And then I would come home from the daycare and supper would be ready for me! I mean, I would make it ready but he would cook it. He would look outside the front window for the last car to leave picking up kids and he would turn the oven on!"

Daphne's husband outside General Wolfe's birthplace in Westerham, Kent... England.

Greg: "It was handy for the daycare too, having my Mom live across the street, when parents couldn't make it to pick their kids up on time, she would just bring them home and then the parents would pick them up here at our house! Convenient for people…especially single moms."

Daphne: "Some kids would even come to my house at 7:30 in the morning... since the daycare didn't open until 8am! And you know, no one ever took advantage of this. Which I was very proud of. Also every year the city would come and check things out at my house to make sure it was all safe. I was licensed to have the kids there. I had a good relationship with the health department! The neighbours wouldn't complain either. The kids would of course play outside too!"

Greg: "My mom, my father and my aunt Pearl started the Seniors Group at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House as well."

Daphne: "It is still going on I think."

The Riley Park Seniors Group. A bunch of big kids! Daphne sits second from the right.

"I think getting my preschool certificate was one of my biggest achievements since I didn't have that much education, there was no such thing as education when I went to school. You went to school, you turned 14 and then you were out. And I was a woman, so there were only so many things you could do. You could be a teacher if you were smart, or a nurse, but that took years."

"The most amazing thing [in regards to living 93 years and seeing so many things change], was the change in children…in that they now ask questions. I don't think at my age we would have ever dared to have done it! I think they aren't closing kids down now, they are opening them up more. That is what I noticed and that is what I tried to do to bring kids out."

"I still get Christmas cards from some of the kids I looked after!"

transcription by lisag
"I feel honoured to meet Daphne."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a little note to say "Daphne is the best mother-in-law in the world. I have learned so much from her, especially on how a Grandmother should be". When I married one of her sons, I did not know how to even boil water! When our kids were small she would phone and say "I haven't seen the kids for a week, would you please bring them over to stay the weekend. Nobody I knew had parents that would do that, and they would always envy us. I can't say enough about Daphne, as she has always had time for all of us and all of you.

We all love you.