A Eulogy for Belle Bulloch
By John F Bulloch
We are gathered together to say goodbye to our mother and our grandmother. Although we all have a sense of sorrow at mother’s passing, we can all rejoice that she died on her own terms: in good health, with all her faculties and completely independent. We can also rejoice that she enjoyed a long and eventful life, one dedicated to her family and community service.
Mother was a very strong person, strong physically, strong emotionally, strong mentally and strong morally. She was one of the most unselfish persons I have ever known. Those of us who have her genes should consider ourselves blessed.
On this family occasion, I want to put on the record some of the history of the Jewish side of our family, and provide as many of the cherished memories that I have that mother would want her children and grandchildren to enjoy and to pass on to their children.
Mother’s mother was born Mille Littman, and was brought to England from Romania in a boat by her mother with her seven older brothers and sisters. Their father followed later. Her mother’s family were originally from Austria. The oldest brother started an upholstery business in London in which all the family worked and supplied upholstered furniture to the Royal family. She married and had a child in England, but her husband died of appendicitis and her child died of diphtheria all within two years of being married at age 17. She immigrated to Canada, where she worked as a seamstress with the T. Eaton company.
Mother’s father, Nathan Halter, came from England where his father had moved after the death of his wife in Warsaw, Poland. He was the rabbi of his own Orthodox synagogue in London. He remarried and had a large second family. Grandfather and his younger brother immigrated to Canada as teenagers and worked at the Albany Club in Toronto. Over one hundred members of grandfather Halter’s family on his mother’s side where killed in Poland during the Holocaust of World War ll.
Grandmother and Grandfather Halter had three girls, mother whose real name was Bella after her father’s mother, a sister Ray, who married her first cousin, Uncle Jack, and who was killed in an automobile accident on New Years eve in 1942; and after the First World War a third sister, our Aunty Anna, living now in Phoenix, Arizona who is so sorry she was unable to be here today.
Mother met dad working at Eaton’s. Father was employed in the exclusive men's’ shop at the College Street Store, and mother worked in the linen department. Mother said that she could often spot our father watching her from behind a pillar, but pretended he wasn’t there. They were in the Santa Claus parade together, with father as a tin soldier walking five miles with his legs and arms stiff; and mother as one of a dozen princesses, who danced and twirled their skirts. A romance developed.
First it was dad’s boss, John David Eaton, who told dad that “If he married mother, he would not get a promotion at Eaton’s”. Then it was grandpa Halter, who refused to bless the marriage unless father converted to Judaism. He refused, and mother and dad married secretly. Mother did not announce her marriage at work and wore her wedding ring on a string around her neck. They were happily married for 48 years.
I was born about a year later. Mother and dad were as poor as “church mice”, as they say, and for a crib I was placed in a drawer of their dresser.
So many of my earliest memories of our mother were associated with looking after my younger brothers. John, she would say, “Go and play with Ian”. John, “Find Robert and bring him to the table. Dinner is ready.” John, “Put Peter in his carriage and take him for a walk”.
Both Ian and Peter were fairly quiet and good natured as children. Robert, on the other hand, was wired. When Robert awoke in the morning, it was like someone shot him out of a canon. Watching Robert was the job of two people. I was the second person. My early memories of mother were always associated with her giving one of us a hug.
Mother was always encouraging and supporting whatever we did. It gave us all a feeling of self confidence. Once when we lived on Owen Blvd., and Peter and Robert where still in public school, mother asked how things went at the school track and field meet. Peter said that he had won three first place red ribbons. She said, “Well done, Peter.” And Robert, she said, “Did you participate in any events and Robert said that he had won a second place blue ribbon. “Well done Robert,” mother said, and Peter jumped in to explain that Robert had run in a race for people who had not participated in any other events. “That doesn’t matter”, mother said, “He still got a second place ribbon.” Then Peter, being helpful as always said, “But there were only two people in the race.”
I can’t remember a time when mother just sat still. She was always on the move. When the children were older she would be out and about doing some kind of community service.
When I was seven and mother about 28, and living in a small bungalow on Bowie Avenue, near Eglinton and Dufferin, mother led a gym class in the evenings at the Vaughn Rd. Collegiate Institute. Most of the grandchildren remember mother when she was heavier. But at age 28, mother had a 38-26-38 figure and was very strong physically--like her father, who was a sergeant in the first World War, and also a physical education instructor. There is a photo of Grandfather Halter leading a gym class of over 1000 soldiers on a parade ground.
Mother also worked as a volunteer at the Christie Hospital, the old veteran’s hospital, where grandfather Halter spent so much of his time. His lungs were damaged from mustard gas and his circulatory system equally damaged from living in the trenches in France. There was a period of three months down in the trenches when he never took off his shoes and socks. Mother worked as well for the Scot Mission, the Lambert Lodge Nursing Home, the Children’s Aid Society and taught English to new Canadians, for which she received a special commendation from the Government of Ontario.
One of mother’s ‘claim to fame’ was introducing the story Ann of Green Gables to the Japanese. She taught a group of Japanese wives for six years who were in Canada with their husbands and used the Ann of Green Gables story as a teaching tool. One of these wives, who was a prominent personality in Japan, took this story back to Japan and popularized it. Ann of Green Gable’s home is now a prized P.E.I. destination for Japanese tourists.
Of course mother also worked part time for 30 years at her husband’s side at the family tailoring store, John Bulloch Ltd.
Mother’s form of relaxation was always her crossword puzzles. She was passionate about mastering the English language. I hated playing scrabble with her because she always seemed to come up with words that normal humans never used. Then to rub it in, she would always proudly bring out her dictionary to prove that her word was a real word. Mother has left a legacy of short stories of her family and her life which I hope to publish for the grandchildren.
As children we were fortunate to be able to enjoy cottage life beginning on Glen Haven Beach at Lake Simcoe. Dad became successful making officer’s uniforms during World War 11, and was given a special license to travel to the army camps. This gave him access to unlimited quantities of gasoline, which was rationed for everyone else; and that made it possible for him to drive up to Lake Simcoe on weekends during the War. The cottage did not have electricity or any conveniences but Ian and I thought it was magical.
Mother baked every day and watching her make Chula, a form of Jewish egg bread, which she braded and coated with egg yolk, is a vivid memory. I can still smell the fresh bread as it baked in the wood stove. Ian and I could finish off a loaf of bread by ourselves.
I remember the summer of 1945 vividly. I was turning 12 and wee Robert was just turning three. Robert loved to run around nude. Mother would call out, “John, get Robert, he has taken his clothes off again.” My job was to wash the kitchen and bathroom floor every week. All of us did chores to help out. Father bought us a five horsepower outboard motor and it was the biggest thing on the Lake at the time. We loved it when dad arrived at the Lake on Friday nights. Mother got us a pet goat for the summer, which ate all the grass around the cottage, and loved to sleep on mother’s lap.
In 1947, dad took the family to Ireland and it was an experience of a lifetime. We were all deathly sea sick on the crossing on the famous ship the Queen Elizabeth. Dad tried to carry mother up on deck to give her some fresh air, but she was sick on the way up. What a mess.
In London, Robert, when our back was turned, stepped up onto a train at Euston Station that whisked him away before anyone was aware he was missing. Mother was almost hysterical because she was convinced Robert had fallen onto the tracks and been killed.
An announcement was made over the loud speaker that a boy had been found on a troop train to Coventry, and that the train would make a special stop at Rugby so we could pick him up. Our train going from London to Liverpool also made a special stop at Rugby. Mother made all of us get down on our knees and to give thanks to God for Robert’s safety.
He was more than safe. When we arrived in Rugby at the station, Robert was drinking hot chocolate in the arms of this huge woman attendant, with his pockets stuffed with chocolate bars from the soldiers. These were treasures at the time and one of the things that were rationed. The story of Robert and the Bulloch family hit
the wire services and showed up in newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. It was a story on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, the day we arrived.
During our visit to Ireland, mother became pregnant with Peter. On the trip back to Canada mother told us she was going to have another child. She said, “Your grandfather would put your father and me in a double bed.” When Peter was born, father had returned from the hospital and was waiting in our home on Richview Avenue to hear from mother.
And when the phone rang, the three boys ran into the bedroom to get the news. Mother said, “It is another boy John, and I know you wanted a girl. But it has red hair.” The red hair which our grandfather Bulloch had, did not show up in any of his seven children, so Peter was the only descendant to pick up the Scottish red hair which he passed on to Michael and Verity.
Several years ago, I asked mother to put into writing, some of her memories that I could include in her eulogy. Here are some of her words:
“During World War I, my mother moved from place to place in the downtown sections of the city. One of our first homes was rooms in a mansion originally owned by the Baldwin Family. That area is now the Kensington market. Mother bought a home on 37 Manning Avenue near Queen St. In those days bread was delivered to the home and out baker’s name was Eckler. We were the first to have a telephone and the first to have electricity connected to our house.
Just around the corner was a little picture show. It had only a cement floor and hard wooden chairs, but for six cents for adults and children free, my mother took my sister and I faithfully to see the ‘silents’, with Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Ruth Roland and others. The films were usually continued and would usually end with the heroine tied to the railway tracks, to be freed by the hero in the next episode.
For one street car ticket of 3 cents, my mother would take my sister and I on the street car for an outing on the old Belt line, that circled the heart of the city, with the windows open in the heat, we would enjoy the ride through the woods, and back to the city. I believe the old Belt line tracks are still in existence east of Yonge Street.
While my father was serving his country as a soldier in France, my mother as a tailoress employed at Eaton’s and with 2 children to raise alone, was privileged to bring work home. This she did sewing suits while keeping an eye on her two little girls. She told me that before I was born before the War, the staff at Eaton’s had a baby shower for my coming.
I have been in choirs since my public school days, continuing on until I was about 80 years of age. I decided to update my education and at age 60 years, with little high school training and after taking an IQ test, entered York University as a mature student for three years, taking English, Social Studies and Humanities, one study each year.
Loving children as I do, I can remember as a youngster, taking all the young children near my home on walks and picnics on Bathurst St.
How I met your dad and about our romance is another story. When my father refused to give consent to the marriage, we married secretly, and contrary to all who were sure our marriage was doomed to a dismal future lived happily married until your father died of heart failure in 1980.
Although I worked in the store part time for about 30 years after the children were at school, I never missed getting home in time to cook a hot meal for the family. My favorite activity outside the home was the teaching of English to New Canadians for the North York Board of Education.
I also taught physical education to the Land Army women who were to take the place of men who left the farms to enlist during WW ll.
One of my most memorable activities was working with the Children’s Aid Society. I’ll never forget the feelings I had when I took little babies in my car from the hospitals to be looked after by foster parents. Dear little infants without mothers or fathers of their own.
I have been crocheting blankets as a hobby for years, and was able to raise $400 for the church enlargement fund, selling my crocheted baby blankets. Many letters have been received from people thanking me for the baby blankets I have donated to their family and to babies I probably never will see.
Like most people, I have had my share of sorrow. I lost a dear beloved sister Ray, when I was thirty years of age, and her daughter Linda just a few years ago. And only recently, I lost a loving grandson, Peter. Only our faith gives us the strength we need.”
These short messages from mother give you all a sense of the love and unselfishness that characterized her life.
Her message to her grandchildren would be simply this: Make your life count for something. Put your family first but never forget to give something back to your community and your country. Great grandfather and grandmother Halter and grandpa Bulloch and myself all wanted to make a better life for our children. It would be my hope that you would all continue to use all your energy and abilities to ensure you provide opportunities for a better life to your own children.
And now we all say goodbye to our mother and our grandmother. And with a special good-bye from her two great grandchildren in California. Paul, age 9, writes, “Dear Great Grandma, I think of you when I hold my teddy bear. I love you.” Katie, Age 7 writes, “Dear Great Grandma, I love you. Have a good time in heaven. I love you when you make me smile. I love you so, so, so much.
We all love you mother and we will never forget you. We will all try to make our lives a tribute to you and dad.
John F Bulloch
December 10, 2007