Memories

Unfortunately, it has been a long time since Arnott Day passed away, and we have almost waited too long to tap into the memories of those who knew him. Fortunately, there are still some people around who knew Arnott well, and they have provided some memories and anecdotes to share with us:

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Marian - niece Barry - nephew Dorothy - cousin
Murray - son Vivian - niece Doreen - niece
Myrtle - cousin Bill - son Margaret - cousin
Robin - a friend to Janice Janice - daughter

Marian - niece

My memories of Uncle Arnott were all such pleasant ones. He and your mother made their place my second home.

Uncle Arnott was such a gentle person. I have friends from Birtle, and they say what a special man he was as well.

I used to tell my boys how important it was to brush their teeth, and used Uncle Arnott as an example, as he always looked after his teeth so well (it is crazy what one remembers).

I remember the time he got a traffic ticket at a railway crossing. I happened to be in Winnipeg soon after, and knew he must have been upset, but again, his quiet nature prevailed. I do not remember him as being a sick man. I guess I was too busy with marriage plans! My late husband and I would have had our 50th anniversary on June 19, 2005.

All the Day men had short lives, but I believe each one influenced so many people in such a positive way.

Vivian - niece

I guess the first thing I think about your dad is that he was such a sweet man. Perhaps some people wouldn't think that to be a good description of a man, but to me it really suits the way he was. He was always fun to be around, seemed interested in me, and in how I was doing. He was also a man of integrity, as were all the Day men. I remember while I was in Grace Hospital, and you children were small, what a great father he was. He really, really enjoyed his children.

While I was a child on the family farm, Uncle Arnott lived with us, and I just thought he was another member of our family. And so, loved him dearly.

Marian told me that she remembered his exceptionally good teeth. I remember that he used baking soda for a tooth powder, and I used to think how terrible it must taste.

Another thing that made quite an impression on me, was at my dad's funeral. Uncle Arnott was there in Cartwright with your mother. I remember thinking at the time, how brave he was. He must have known that he would be following before long. He had been in and out of the hospital himself, and was in very poor health, and I didn't really expect him to be there. It was the last time I saw him alive, and I was so glad to have that chance to see him.

I don't suppose I have added much to your journal, as I'm sure that all who knew him had the same feelings as I did for your dad. He was a good man, kind, sympathetic and caring.

Doreen - niece

I will always remember my Uncle Arnott, your dad, as a very quiet, gentle man, with twinkling eyes and a wide grin or smile.

Barry - nephew

Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my recollections of Arnott Day, who was your father, and my uncle. There were three Day brothers. Cecil (the oldest), Bruce (my father) and Arnott (your dad). Their mother had died when they were all quite young, and still at home. And the three of them each developed their own way of handling the sudden independence that was theirs.

My earliest memories of Uncle Arnott seemed to begin around the time that he and Dorothy were married. I was only a little boy, but remember Uncle Arnott as a quite, but fascinating person. For example, it seemed to me that he was always so well dressed - he was the first man I ever saw who wore white shoes and white pants (at least he was the first person I noticed who dressed that way in the summer) - but I was a little boy who lived in a small Manitoba town, and he was a "big city" guy who lived in Winnipeg.

He was always very gentle and kind to me. I can remember summer visits with he and Aunt Dorothy in Birtle. And when he got home from his day on the road selling Rawleigh products, he would take me down to the river to swim.

I remember him as a very quiet man; partly because that was his nature, and partly because he was married to Aunt Dorothy. She was ready, willing and able to do all the talking for both of them… an arrangement that he happily accepted.

The other thing I remember whenever I think of him, was his beautiful smile and his distinctive laugh. In some ways, of course, they reminded me of my father. Uncle Arnott was always quick to smile, and his "chuckling" laugh seemed always to be near the surface.

If seems strange to me now that those two qualities are what came to my mind immediately, when you asked me to put something in writing: his quietness and his laugh. I would add two other memories I have of him as well: he was a good man and a kind man. And what more could be said in praise of any human being.

Dorothy - cousin

I came to know Arnott about the time of his marriage to my cousin Dorothy Cooper in 1941. About 1943 they moved into Winnipeg where I was living and had close contact with the Cooper family. He and Dorothy had three children by 1949. About 1950 I went to live with my cousin Irene (Arnott's sister-in law) and her mother, Myrtle Cooper, when Dr. Cooper died, as Aunt Myrtle was not in good health. (Irene and I were both employed with Winnipeg General Hospital and had been living together near the hospital). It was still a post war time, when money was scarce, and most people worked long hours.

Arnott was a salesman with the Rawleigh Company, selling spices, medicated ointments, and kitchen gadgets. He went door-to-door to assigned geographical districts. He had his own car and made regular visits in town and country homes. I believe he had a good business going, and was popular with his customers. He would be friendly, reliable, polite and business-like, but not overly aggressive. He would be welcomed at the door with products the customer could not purchase in a store.

Arnott was very proud of his wife and family. He seemed to seek a comfortable and peaceful life, and took his share of responsibility in family life. He was a good friend and helper to his father-in-law and mother-in-law. He withstood the antics of his brothers-in-law who occasionally challenged his skills and rights.

Arnott had a sever heart attack about 2 years before his death in 1957. He was not able to work, and was resigned to staying in their home doing what he could of the housework and being there for his children while Dorothy (his wife) resumed teaching in Winnipeg. He was brave in the light of his own family's health record - two of his brothers had died from similar health problems. He never complained, and was always pleasant.

On one occasion I visited in their home and found Murray - about 6 or 7 years old - sitting on his Dad's lap. Arnott was reading to him. In probably a thoughtless comment, I said "Murray, you should be reading to your Dad!" Murray's quick reply was "mind your own business!" - an apt response in light of the whole situation.

Myrtle - cousin

At first acquaintance, Arnott Day was a quiet, pleasant, obliging man. He seemed somewhat hard to get to know. As time went by, I began to believe that he was a man of considerable depth, and perhaps few would ever really know him well. He plainly enjoyed people. Yet I never heard him make a personal judgment of anyone. His own standards were remarkably high - nothing prissy, just great expectations of himself. He certainly knew who he was and why. Other people, he apparently accepted as is. I began to be suspicious that he understood me uncomfortably well. He was a keen observer.

Lest you think him so serious as to be stogy, let me tell you a story which shows another side. He understood fun very well. My Aunt Myrtle Cooper (his mother-in-law) was a woman who loved to organize and manage (she did it well). She often planned events for the wide assortment of our Handford family. A common summer activity would be a summer picnic in Assinaboine Park. It would be open to all, so … families in all direction, food, talk in abundance. Inevitably, Dorothy and Arnott would be involved in the work. Arnott seemed to enjoy the activity and was always helpful to Aunt Myrtle. They seemed to have a good mutual respect and understanding.

At one of these picnics, I watched Aunt Myrtle buzz about organizing seemingly everything. Dorothy and Arnott were making tea, cold drinks and other details. She came by to check on the progress of the tea and Arnott proceeded to tease here, his eyes laughing. He assured her "everything is under control", but when she pressed for details, or explained how she did things, he smiled blandly, and told her not to worry. The process of question and non-answer was repeated at least twice more. My aunt was a little puzzled and a little frustrated. Arnott was amused, and assured her "Dorothy and I will have it all ready Mother Cooper, it will be fine." I don't think she ever saw the sparkle of fun in his eyes, but perhaps she did learn to recognize his complete trustworthiness. He was definitely a complex person and a most admirable fellow.

Murray - son

I was only 8 when my father passed away, so I can barely remember the man, but I do remember him as being caring. He seemed like a very big man to me when he was alive, but in fact, he was rather a small build. He only seemed large to a small boy who looked up to him. He was a Rawleigh salesman who drove around to his customers, taking orders and delivering goods. In those days, many women did not drive a car, and even fewer had a car left at home for them to drive. It was far more common for wives to stay at home and look after the house and family. That meant that it was difficult for them to get to the store except for family excursions on Saturday. Rawleigh provided a wide assortment of cosmetics, foods (like pudding and drink mixes), medications and toiletries. He must have been a welcome sight to a housewife who was running low on a few things around the house.

Of course, in those days, plastics were not widely available, so most of the samples he carried were in glass bottles or tin cans, which tended to make them very heavy. That meant that Dad had to carry his samples in extra strong cases, which were also very heavy. I can remember the heavy calluses on his hands from carrying these heavy cases. I can remember sitting on his lap and looking at his hands in wonderment. Looking at his hard and yellowed skin I thought he must be very strong!

A car was obviously an important tool for Dad, so he took great care in making sure he had a reliable car, and making sure he looked after it carefully. To us, a new car never meant a brand new one, it only meant a newer car than the last one. I'm sure my mother must have had some idea when he was ready for a newer car, but she always seemed as surprised and excited as the rest of us when he showed up with one. I suspect that rather than actually shopping for a new car, that he was always on the lookout for good bargain, and was prepared to act fast when one came along. My mother's brother (Uncle Bill) was a mechanic, and probably helped him in this regard. Cars did not have very good heaters in those days, so frost shields were a necessity. For those too young to know what a frost shield is, they were clear plastic panels that were stuck onto the windows of the car with a rubber seal. This trapped air between the window and the frost shield, and helped prevent the windows underneath from fogging up. I remember that each spring, Dad would scrape the frost shields off, and each fall he would glue them back on. He had a special frost shield for the front windshield that had an electric element running through it, very similar to some rear window defrosters today. He stuck it on the driver's side windshield, and wired it back into the car battery. I remember thinking at the time that this was a pretty impressive technology! Perhaps that memory played some part in me choosing technology as a career!

I remember that most summers we tried to spend some time camping at the beach. We had a big old canvas tent with heavy wooden poles and pegs. The center beam was actually about a 3" x 3" timber that came apart in the middle. The pegs were all wooden, and most of them had been split or broken, and then had been hastily patched. I could not even lift the canvas part of the tent to take it out of the trunk or to pack it away, and could only barely lift the bag of tent poles and pegs. Bill was strong enough to manhandle the tent, and Janice and I were give the task of pounding in the pegs and attaching the guy wires. Putting two pre-teens in charge of tent pegs may partly explain why most of them were split of broken, when my Dad usually took great care of his things!

I remember that one time when we were camping that we had a heavy rain and the campground flooded. By this time we had a homemade trailer that Mom and Dad slept in, while Bill, Janice and I slept in the tent. The trailer and car had high enough wheels that they were dry, but the bottom of the tent was covered in about 6-8 inches of water. I remember my Dad taking great care to get me dried off and into the car while the rest of them tried to salvage what belongings they could. To a six year old, it looked like a lot more fun to be wading around in the water than sitting in a car, so I had soon gotten out of the car to join in the "fun". My Dad was quite startled to see me out of the car and wanted to know why I hadn't stayed there. My Dad was usually able to understand me, but that was one time he was not willing to negotiate!

Of course I missed my Dad growing up, and wished I could have had him longer. But now, even more, I wish that he could have known my own family, and that they could have known him. I am sorry that I only have a few memories that involved my Dad, and very few memories of the type of man he was.  Still, I hope that these few memories that I have shared will help my children and my father's other grandchildren and relatives to know him a little better.

Bill - son

It was over sixty years ago that I met my Dad. Add to that the fact that my memory is not what it used to be and we get..
"My Dad - As I Remember Him."
A lot of my memories of Dad involve the car. He arrived home every day in the car. He unloaded some of his Raleigh products, more so in the winter. He was a morning person so I was left to assume that he loaded these products before he came to say good by to us. The family holidays always involved the car. All family visits, even to Grandma and Grandpa's involved the car. This made me feel we were special as most of my friends and school mates did not have a car... and did not get to go on holidays as we did.

The first car I remember well had a fabric roof that had to be painted from time to time. Years later when we were cleaning out our family home at 196 Evanson Street, I took the small can of fabric paint as a memento. It was only after it got water damaged at the lake that I let it go. An endearing feature of that "square" shaped car was that if you were big enough and strong enough you could sit on the floor under the steering wheel and push hard on one of the peddles and the starter would engage causing the car to jump forward. After my father learned of our discovery he kept a block under the wheel (and I now assume left the the car in neutral) because all we could get the car to do was go grrr. I do remember cars that used a crank to start but they were not near as memorable.

The ownership of the next car was very special to me because it was not square shaped, and my friends with or without cars had pointed out that square cars were old. It was a bit of a disappointment to my Dad and I for very different reasons. No matter which peddle I pushed, and I could push really hard now, it would not even grr. Dad said he did not trust the car because he thought it had been in accident.

I knew we were really rich because one day when I came home from school we had a new car and we had not even talked about getting it, and it was not square, and it was very shiny. Years later my dad taught me to drive on the road from Cartwright to the Customs house in that 1949 Plymouth Deluxe.

My Dad liked to drive. He liked to sing or whistle while driving. "You Take The High Road" .....

Despite the "How much farther" and occasional "Border Disputes" in the back seat my Dad was always taking us on Holidays. Winnipeg Beach at Boundary Park with the beach and the Boardwalk with Amusement Park was always good for a week each summer. The River Park in Beausejour was a regular for long week-ends and sometimes just a day trip. Lockport was close enough for an after church trip on a Sunday. The longest drive, but the best times, were the trips to Killarney Lake and the Melita area. Dad liked to visit family. His brother Uncle Bruce and Aunt Greeta in Morden and Uncle Cecil and Aunt Elsey in Cartwright. Then there was aunt Bell and uncle Rob and all the Browns and Frasers.

Whenever family from out of town was in Winnipeg they stayed with us. Our home was a two story two bedroom house on a 30 foot lot across the street from the Grace Hospital. And we had one room rented. We were far from well off but it never felt that way.

The car must have been a utility for my Dad. Other dads that had cars spent a lot of time polishing their cars. The only times I can remember him washing the car was when he could get it near a creek or river when we were on holidays...then again I don't remember it being dirty. I do remember him loading it for a camping trip. He filled the trunk and then took the back yard gate and put it on the roof rack and put the rest of the things on that. He then put the large "house tent" upside down on top of all that and tied it all down and away we went.

At the point where the load was threatening to be bigger than the car my Mom and Dad built the neatest trailer. He bought a trailer frame that was nothing but wheels and some metal. He built a bedroom and cloths cupboard and kitchen ice box on the metal. There were two wooden windows that slid open and had screens. At the front of the trailer a door opened and there was the Ice box. The back door opened and there was the bed. At the head of the bed was the back of the ice box and beside that was the cloths closet with a rod to hang the clothes. Mom had to make the mattress fit the trailer as well as all the curtains. The back door could be fastened open and a screen door fastened in. The whole trailer was four feet high with rounded roof. This trailer now held all our camping gear. The large tent was now the kids.

We took our parents skills and abilities for granted. My dad could fix just about anything and made a lot of changes to the house. He removed our old front porch and built a new one with windows, not just screen. He made a new kitchen out of the dining room and made the old kitchen into a bedroom. We had Mrs. Morton rooming in our living room for years. She moved upstairs to the front bedroom, the largest, and Dad made a bedroom for Janice at the front end of the living room.

Dad always had a large garden. He rented space on a vacant lot for many years. He moved to the banks of the Red River when Grandma and Grandpa bought a small acreage and built a cabin in Ft Garry. He had come from a rural setting and kept his ties to the land. His Rewleigh route was in the country surrounding Winnipeg as he liked to visit and deal with rural folk.

My father was not a man of violence so I was surprised when he came to the vacant lot at Preston and Evanson and found me on the loosing end of a long and hard fought wrestling match. I was hoping he would take sides or at least stop it but he just watched until I had to "give up." On the walk home he asked why we were fighting. When I said there was no reason he said "OK then" and then added "We better hurry, supper's ready"

He did not approve of hitting or violence. I was surprised to learn he had tried to enlist in the war but was rejected because of varicose veins. I had several friends whose fathers were killed in the war...I could not imagine anything worse.

Margaret - cousin (as told to Janice)

Arnott was a terrific salesman.  He would show the new products, and he knew the regulars that you liked.  There was no pressure - yet he always left with an order.  Sometimes we had a visit, but I seemed to do most of the talking. 

At family gatherings, if children were doing something that could lead to trouble, he would suggest something else to them, and they would willingly change course.  He always seemed to have the right suggestions for children of various ages.

Robin - friend of Janice as edited by Janice

Robin didn't have a stable home, partly because each parent, although born in Canada, had been sent to China to be looked after by relatives (total stranger to them) due to lack of daycare.  After several years they were sent back to their Canadian families (who by that time were almost strangers as well).  This is their family background before they were married, so they didn't have a good concept of family life, and frequently separated.

After a period of separation, Robin, her mother and sister moved back with the father, living above their family grocery store on Sherbrook Street.  Someone suggested to her parents, that as a way to integrate into a new neighborhood, she should go to Sunday school.  In typical fashion, nobody took her, she was simply sent to Young Church.  Someone found her wandering around and turned her over to Arnott, as he was the Superintendent of the Sunday school.  He pried out of her her name and her age, and assigned her to a class.  Checking back on her after a couple of weeks, he discovered she had not yet uttered a syllable - he brought her into Janice's class, rearranged some chairs, and sat her down beside Janice, saying "Robin, this is your new friend Janice" and vice versa.  Over 50 years later this is still true.

One day after church, Arnott went into Robin's family store to ask if she could come home with us for lunch and to play with Janice for the afternoon.  She told me that was the first time she had been in anyone's home, other than a relative.  She assumes that Arnott knew enough about Chinese culture to realize that he should go in himself rather than send Janice's mother, and that he should ask her father for permission.

A few years later Arnott went into the store again to ask if Robin could stay over night with Janice (another first for her).  She remembers he set the camp cot up, and Janice's mother came in to make it up.  She had never slept in a bed all by herself before, and the flannelette sheets made her sure she must have died and gone to heaven.

In those days, there were no male teachers in elementary schools, and her father was the type who ignored children until they were old enough to make themselves useful around the store.  She now admits that Janice was "just another kid" but by hanging around with Janice she got to see Mr Day who she idolized.  She liked his story time at Sunday school. but individual attention was even better.

Janice - daughter

The last time I saw my Uncle Bill before he died, he made a point of telling me that although he had been forced to get along with his sister, he had no obligation to like Dad, and was on the defensive until he was sure his sister was well treated.  He says he did like dad very much, and found him a helpful family man and an honest business man.

A cousin remembers that he had a particularly quiet and reassuring way of speaking to children, including his own.  The only time I can remember him speaking harshly to me was for "mouthing off" at mom.  He reminded me of how much she did for all of us.

I remember his attempts to take over some homemaking chores when he was unable to work and mom had to go back to work.  For cooking he loved "mixes", which were just coming into their own including puddings, jellies, etc.  One triumph was a cake made in the electric frying pan with icing (also from a mix) which he had whipped with the electric beaters.  I remember him asking me, or phoning Grandma for cooking advice.  

He was very fond of Grandma Cooper, always calling her "Mother".  Many a Sunday afternoon was spent going to the cemetery or visiting her relatives.  Because he was sociable, he didn't seem to regard it as a chore.  We got a kick out of watching his Aunt Belle fuss over him..  He had lost his own mother at quite a young age, and not only tolerated Aunt Belle's attention but enjoyed it.

He seemed to be as keen to go camping as we were.  It always surprised me how quickly the tent went up.  He was also as keen to be in the lake as we were.  I remember a foam hat he soaked in the water and wore to keep him cool.  He designed and built a travel trailer onto a trailer chassis that he bought, putting in an ice box, storage for stove, food and dishes, all accessible from a door he put at the hitch end.  The door on the other end opened to a double sized mattress, which fit perfectly.  Over one end of the trailer was a rod for hanging clothes, and space for other storage.  There was a window and screen at each side that was fastened from within.  He soaked plywood to bend it into a curved roof.  The tent, sleeping bags, etc. were transported on top of the bed.  He obviously put a lot of thought into the best use of every square inch.

He was also very handy around the house, and was undaunted by plumbing electricity or building.  He built a new well designed kitchen in our house.  It included a lazy susan, a large but shallow cupboard for canned goods (so you could read all the labels).  He re-roofed the house, ripped off and replaced the front porch, and put on new siding.  

I read Anne of Green Gables and loved it.  When I discovered it was part of a series, I wanted to read the rest.  The children's library had only the first volume, and the adult department would not loan to children.  I moaned at home about the unfairness of the world in general, and this in particular.  Dad simply said to bring home an application for an adult form which he would fill out, telling them he was not able to go in person, and his daughter would go for him.  This enabled me to finish that series and many others.  He would tell me what subjects he wanted to explore, and I would ask the librarian.  I couldn't believe he was voluntarily reading history!.

When I was sick with polio, my Sunday school teacher staggered over to our house carrying a huge basket of fruit and goodies.  Mom knew she couldn't afford it, and wanted to return it.  Dad said that that would break her heart as she considered us her children.  One little boy in the class had already died, and Dad thought it was her way of doing what she could for the living, despite the financial burden, and the physical burden of carrying it to our house.

On my ninth or tenth birthday, Dad brought home a used girls bike for me.  At first I was terrified, and training wheels were unknown, but he ran up and down the back lane, holding on until I got the hang of it.  I rode that same bike many places for many years.

He had interesting ways of making us think, and trying to figure out why certain expressions were true or not.  Such as "I'm as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth" or "all Indians walk in single file, at least the only one I ever met did".