Writing this blog needs some help from Mom. While Grandpa Eastland knew and met me I was only a baby when he passed away at the very young age of 54. In fact, while I have no memory of him I find it interesting that I feel like I do know him. I grew up listening to the stories of his life told by my Mom, and hearing her say things like, “if my Dad were still alive he would….”. Sometimes it would be “my Dad really loved…the outdoors, helping others, gardening, breeding tropical fish…” or a series of other phrases which gave me small insights into his life.
I’ve also concluded I need to do this in two posts, so here’s the first one!
So here’s a bit of the story in Mom’s voice.
“Frederick William Eastland was born in Folkestone England in 1903, his dad was Arthur Henry Eastland and was a railroad engine driver. His mother was Jane (Maxted), Eastland.
Fred was also working on the railroad when at the age of 21 (1924) he had saved enough money to marry his girlfriend. However, upon his proposal, she turned him down. With that he took a coin out of his pocket and flipped it in the air, saying “Heads I go to Canada, tails I buy a motorcycle”. Well, it came up heads and since his sister Florence had already moved to Canada he too packed up and left Folkestone! When he settled in Niagara Falls he got a job driving a truck for James Hilton. It was then he started a friendship with Connie Hilton and eventually married her in January 1927. By the way, 1927 was the year that the province of Ontario decided people who drove cars would require a driver’s licence!
I don’t know a lot about my dad’s parents except that Grandpa Eastland worked on a project on the waterfront in Folkestone. (The picture above is from 1920 and is the waterfront in Folkestone where the rail pulled coal cars to and from the incoming freighters). My Grandma Eastland made a trip by ship all by herself at 83 to Canada for a visit, I was a teenager and I know she loved it when they took her to The Salvation Army and she loved Canada but her pension and family were in England
My Grandma Hilton had linked up with the Army and used to hold ‘Cottage meetings’ in her house and although my parents didn’t go to church other than to get married and have my 2 older sisters Christened in the Anglican church, my dad was really impressed with these Salvationists when he heard their singing in the Cottage meetings and he told me he thought they were such happy people they must have something special about them.
Frederick came from a big family. Here’s the list of brothers and sisters: Henry Albert Eastland, Emily Maud Eastland, Arthur Henry Eastland, Ethel Florence Eastland, Edwin Albert Eastland, Minnie Louisa Eastland, and Walter James Eastland.
When the Salvation Army officer at Niagara Falls was looking for someone with a car to take the young people to Youth Councils in Hamilton, my Grandma suggested they ask Fred Eastland since he owned a car. He was happy to do that but he knew he was too old to attend the Youth councils and decided to wander around Hamilton until it was time to go home. Instead, they invited him to come in with the young people, he told me that was the first time he really heard the Gospel and when the invitation was given he went forward and got gloriously saved, became a Soldier and learned to play an instrument so he could join the band.”
Thanks, Mom – let me pick up the story here and add some other details. Fred and Constance had eight children – my Mom being the middle child. Eileen was first and worked with her Dad in the family business. Next came Florence – obviously named after Fred’s sister who he had joined when he first came to Niagara Falls. Then a boy, named Frederick Lawrence who only lived to be 2 years of age. Then was Margaret, my Mom, born in 1934. Another boy arrived, William George, but died after 2 days. (I cannot imagine the grief of losing two children but in those days infant mortality was much higher than today). The next two were girls as well, Freda and Joyce! Then another boy, Jim who is just a bit older than me.
My Grandpa Eastland owned a business in Niagara Falls on Erie Street. I visited many times through the years even though it had not been in operation for decades.
Here’s where the trucks rolled in to be weighed. Across the street was where the coal was off-loaded from the railcars. If I understand the story right, and again I go back to the stories my Mom told me have always made me feel like I knew Grandpa Eastland, here is where men would often come to ask if they might get some help especially during the years of the depression. And as people still needed to buy coal to heat their homes and businesses even during those years he was one of the few who always had the means to help. For years and years, he helped The Salvation Army stay in a position of being able to work in the community and help others, though that remained private and unknown until after his death.
I love this photo and have always made sure I knew where the copy of this was – I am, after all, named after him!
Back to Mom as the storyteller.
“My mom was a great Sunday School teacher and also treasurer of the Home League. Often my parents would take mom’s Sunday School class (mostly boys) for an afternoon boat ride in our boat at Niagara on the Lake. (They had a cottage in Niagara-on-the-Lake) She would make sandwiches and cookies and take cold drinks for them. One who was later a soldier in St Catherines said ‘your mom was the best Sunday school teacher ever’.”
My comments: Because Grandpa Eastland died at the young age of 54 my experiences as a young boy were with my Nanny Eastland – Constance – and it involved the house on Dorchester Road – 4443 – which in my earlier memory was the last house on the road. All around it was wheat or cornfields. Just across the street were peach, pear, and apple orchards. This was the outskirts of town! Family gatherings were large! It seems to me that we were always 20, 30 or more. My cousin Connie was the oldest of the grandchildren, then came me. My uncle Jim was just 18 months older than me so we were as much like brothers as anything.
Our summers were at the cottage that Grandpa Eastland built on Lake Cecebee in Green Bay. He bought three-one acre lots right on the waterfront. He cleared the shoreline and a place for a large cabin as he had a large family! With a dock, boathouse, concrete sidewalks, a BBQ area and picnic shelter plus an outbuilding for a bathroom, laundry room, and storage for fishing and tools. I went with my uncle Jim and Nanny Eastland every summer for many years spending the entire season fishing, swimming, boating, and wandering through the woods! I had no idea how fortunate I was. What a gift Grandpa Eastland left us.
Back to Mom’s comments:
“My Grandma Hilton was a widow at 50 years of age and she would buy a house, redecorate it fix it up, and sell it to keep herself with an income. She could paint & wallpaper and I’m sure my dad would also help her as well, She did that for probably 20 years until she remarried at 70 years old and of course, lived to be nearly 100 (she died in January 1977 and would have been 100 in March).
Grandpa Hilton was in the military during WW1 and came home with many health issues, He never seemed to be well or happy and I just remember when I was 5 they took me to say ‘goodbye’ to him.”
As a bit of a bonus, I found this B&W footage of the railways at Folkestone still featuring the steam locomotive.