County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections
Interview with Kay Riddolls
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An interview conducted in June 1979 by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Kay Riddolls about her life in Paris. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.
Contributed by Paris Museum and Historical Society. This article originally appeared on the County of Brant wiki at It has been included in this collection for ease of research.
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.2 Longitude: -80.38333
Paris Museum and Historical Society
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County of Brant Public Library (Paris Branch)
12 William Street
Paris, ON
N3L 1K7 | @brantlibrary
Full Text


Q. The first question I would like to ask is where you were born and where your husband was born and some of the general family background on both sides.

A. I was born on the farm, about 2 miles from the village of Burtch. My father was born at Onadaga, so it was sort of a short run for him to move. I had 2 1/2 miles to walk to school at that time. The school was in the village as well. I was born at home, as all our children were. The doctor came and stayed until the delivery was made. When I was about ten, we moved to my grandfather's farm at Boston. That's where my mother had been born and my grandfather had been born. It's Loyalist background on both sides. I went to highschool in Waterford. I went into training at age 18 and graduated from Brantford General Hospital, the class of 1935, a class of eighteen.

During my training I hadn't yet my large bib which meant that you were past probation and going into your first year. My husband came to intern end that's how I met him. I just worked for a year because I was engaged to be married when I wrote my graduate nurse's exams.

We started on a corner of Market and Chatam. In those days, a doctor didn't have a secretary-he used his wife. I helped him with the accounts end everything. Life was quite complicated then. There was a welfare list- it was in the 1930's- we were married in 1936. Things were tough-a lot of Brantford people were on welfare. Every month you had to make out your welfare sheets end send them into the government and they paid you a portion. Nothing like it is today. If we make $2,000.00 a year we could save a little. Not much, but some. My husband had borrowed from his grandmother and bought a car. We borrowed a little more money from a doctor- a dear friend of ours, $800.00 and we bought our furniture.

In about two- years I had Joanne, my first child. In those days one had a maid, so I had a maid. She had a morning uniform-a blue uniform end in the afternoon she changed and had a black uniform with a white cap end apron. This was the norm. Instead of having a secretary and a cleaning lady, you had a maid. This was the way you managed it. You had a maid. My first maid cost me $6.00 a week. She was eventually raised to $8.OO. She got married one weekend after some time end then I had a Hungarian girl. She was a darling and she was with me until my husband went into the army.

In 1939, World War II broke out and I well recall hearing Hitler's speech on the radio. One investment we made was a small radio and I can remember that yet. The chills just ran down my spine when I heard him harangueing and the interpretation. It was a weird feeling. There was my husband, just quite young. I was 22 when I was married and he was 29. So he would be just in his early 30's. He belonged to the Dufferin Haldimand Rifles. They wanted him to go with that unit. By this time I had a second new baby, Johnny, who was just a few months old. This was 1939. So My husband stayed around, he didn't want me to be alone until he was older. However, I guess he would be ten months to a year when he went in the army. It was a sad time, as you can imagine. Here was a wife with two small children, had to give up a practice we had just nicely started. We had been married five years, had just really got the thing rolling and beginning to get somewhere when this came along. At that time we thought: Oh, it will be over in a year, in two years. It was five years before he came tome: a year in Halifax, a year in Sydney and three years overseas. However, I was pregnant when he went overseas and my son was three years old before he saw his father.

Q. Were you in Brantford at this time?

A. Yes, I was in the same place that we started. The offices were made into an apartment. This was an apartment building on the corner. The apartment was large and was made more or less to our specifications. So, I stayed there in the apartment, so when he came home- meantime we lost Johnny while my husband was in Sydney. He was electrocuted within inches of my feet and that's why I was pregnant with Michael when my husband went to war. My husband couldn't get home-he couldn't get a plane and it takes two days by train from Sydney. However, that's beside the point. He came home eventually and there we were. He hated the thought of starting into general practice and starting all over again so he was offered a position in the Department of Veterans Affairs in Hamilton. So he commuted and tried to study for his certification in general medicine and before he knew it he was in charge of the Department and didn't see any patients and hated it. So he decided to go back into general practice. Which we did. We nicely got started and we knew we were going to have a house. And so we drew up plans with Mr. P.J. Harvey, the reel estate men in Brantford, and we bought a lot. And then real estate building prices went all to heck end we we couldn't get bricks and then you couldn't get something else and so on and so on. And so these dear elderly friends of ours, the English ladies you hear me talk about, were going to England for six months and so we moved into their home. They wanted somebody to live in it and so we moved in, out of the apartment. We decided if we couldn't build, we would buy. We were going to buy a place on chestnut Avenue. We were to be out the first of November, they would be home the first of November from England. Two elderly English ladies who had come here as girls. So here we were in this nice little house on Maple Avenue which we would have bought in a minute, but they wouldn't sell it at that particular time. Just a block away was a nice little house which we liked and we made plans to buy that house. The lady fell end broke her leg and whet was she going to do? So we got our down payment back. Here we were, the first of October, disaster. Here we were to be out the first of November, a child to start off to school and Jo was at Victoria at that time getting special education. Michael was at Dufferin and here we were- no place to go and two babies.

In the meantime, while we had been at the cottage, a next door neighbour, Dr. Hiddell, came down end said Dr. Patterson had died; he died in .August. And we hadn't thought of it and a friend said, "Oh Kay, why don't you come to Paris- you'd love it in Paris.

I said, "That's ridiculous, why would we move to Paris, our practice is here. We would have to buy a practice"...and so on. However, here it was, Thanksgiving weekend- we had been invited to a friend's cottage at Long Point . They were two spinsters and they had two single bedrooms with two single beds. I had one room and he had the other. I'll never forget, he came in on Sunday evening, we were to go away the next weekend, and sat on my bed and said "I've been thinking- what about me going to see about the Patterson place in Paris. I said, "Well, I think it's ridiculous" but we had to do something. So he phoned Eleanor and she said she would see him on Tuesday, In the meantime that would give Mrs. Patterson time to "Peel the situation out, to see if we were reliable souls. He went on Tuesday end I was to come over on Wednesday. On Thursday, he made the offer on the house and got over as far as the bridge and realized that he had forgot something and came beck to the lawyer's office downtown and they had already accepted the offer. So, bang,bang. He came immediately, you see there were patients waiting-Dr. Patterson's patients were already waiting.

Q. Dr. Patterson had the practice out there? (addition on the north end of the building)

A. Yes, in that office. He practiced there. In fact, his nameplate is still on the office. We didn't ever take it down. We thought for the family's sake it was better we should leave it end we've never changed it. So anyway, this was Thanksgiving weekend, bat I didn't know that we had got it. Wilf had signed the papers and I went off with these friends to the lake for the weekend. Wilf was to follow when he was free. Of course I was on pins and needles whether we were going to go or stay. He came immediately to the office and began to close his office in Brantford. I came up and began to measure the stair carpet. We moved the first of November. So it was just bang, bang, bang. It was a beautiful day, just like this, sunny and warm. We moved into this great big house from a five room apartment. These two rooms, there were sliding doors in here and Mrs. Patterson's house wasn't quite ready and she needed space to store a lot of her furnishings. she had a lot of furnishings. as you know, you've been there. And he was a collector an auction sale hunter and every time he bought a lot. The place was full, just full. And full of moths-I found out when we got in-just loaded with moths. So we put our furnishings in there and closed these doors (the double living room) and this place was stuffed full of furniture. We made an arrangement that this was to be here for six months. It was here longer than that. Things didn't progress as fast as it should have. Wilf's mother died the following October. We had no place to put the people that were coming from the States and all over, so we moved the furniture into one room, jammed it in and closed the sliding doors.

Q. What year did you move here?

A. 1950. November 1, 1950. So it was 29 years on the first of November this year. And when we came there was a call system so if you were out, the Bell offices which are right down here where Tarrisons offices are now, and if you were going away you just celled end said you were going away and they took your calls or said where you were. Mrs. Sharpe was on the switchboard and so on and it was very intimate. Dr. Button was practising down here, Dr. Jeffreys was almost ready to retire. Dr. Gregory had taken these offices. He practised out of here while Dr. Patterson was in the army, at the same time as my husband was. Dr. Gregory rented these offices. Meantime he was building a house and came down to measure this office space because that's whet he wanted. Dr. Foote, lived up where the sheriff lives, just this side of the bridge. Dr. Foote was elderly. Dr. Jarrott down here.(Broadway)

Q. Dr. Dunton was on Grand River St. wasn't he?

A. Yes, Dr. Dunton. Dr. Jeffreys was really semi-retired. Dr. Foote eventually died. They had a wonderful relationship with one another- the ethics were perfect. It was an entirely different way of practise then it is today. They make lots of house calls, saw a lot of people, took a lot of time with them. The Willett Hospital was a beautiful place- it was run by Miss Arthur, who felt it was her own private domain. She saw every patient every day, she helped with the freezing of the strawberries, the preserving of the peaches. She saw practically every tray that went out- it was a personal, intimate care. The food was beautiful. For miles around Paris Wiliest WES known for its personal care. Everybody in this area wanted to be in the Willett, because they got such good care. The nursing was fine and it was just a beautiful arrangement. There was someone on call as there is now, but it seemed to be a much more personal responsibility. If you weren't able to go, you called someone else end they went. The ethics were extremely good. We have had doctors come from time to time, they have come and gone. It has never been on a permanent basis from that time on. They brought in a number, quite a lot of them were very good men and they came in end picked up the slack when things were short. Of course when OHIP came, insurance came in and everybody went to the doctor. In the earlier days people went when they were sick.

Q. What were costs like before OHIP?

A. You got $35.00 for a maternity and you looked after the mother for 9 months. I think later it increased to $60.00. I forget how much an appendix was. I can't remember. An office call was $2.00. Your medicine was .50- the doctors did a lot of their own dispensing. There have been three doctors in this house after it was the congregational manse- then Dr. Logey, who was the father of Mrs. Dempster of Dempster Furs. She was born not in this house but next door in a smell cottage. The school was beck here, towards Grand River and the church was next to it.

Q. This house was built expressly for the congregational church?

A. Yes. Down where the school is now was the armories. This side of it there were three houses and that's where Mrs. Dempster was born. The Congregational Church disbanded and joined with the United Church.

Q. What happened to the Congregational Church?

A. They tore it down. When the house was available he moved from there to here. And the house is as near to the original as we believe. Mrs. Dempster end her sister have both been in here end have gone all through it. What is now the bathroom was once along pantry end whet is now the den was the dining room, what's the study now was the waiting room- the patients came in the side, what is dining room now was the office and the dispensery was built in the corner of the kitchen.

Dr. Patterson followed Dr. Logey. He was a remarkable man and was very well liked. He was a real haram scarem too I believe. It was nothing -for him to work like a dog and then go tearing off to Buffalo to a party all night or go off to Timbucktoo to an auction and come home with things. And after the war he fixed up the rec. room, you've been in that(in the basement). It has a bar in it and he used to play down there. They had a regular card group. They used to come in through the outside basement door; we have always used this one(inside door). He liked nice cars. He was a Paris boy-he was born down on Grand River South I believe in the old Patterson house- the one with the big pillars. Somebody else lives in it now. His father was mayor. The sister lived there when we came here. He was a quite a character and very well liked. He always had en eye on the Wickson place and when it came up for sale he bought it. But they often said he killed himself working-he lifted rocks end everything. One day in August he had a heart attack end died just like that. And they had lived here 19 years. The children were in their early teens. Two children. Dr. Patterson had wanted that house and that's why she moved. He planned on putting his offices in the annex where the other Mrs. Patterson lives. They sold that.

Q. Do you remember any of the Hamiltons or Wicksons?

A. I knew Mrs. Wickson. I guess she would be Paul Wickson's aunt? She was a lovely lady-she was in I.O.D.E. when I was.

Q. That would probably be Mrs. Norman Wickson.

A. Yes, I think it was. And they had two children.

Q. Do you know who built this house?

A. No, don't know a thing about it. We have never found a date on it. We can only tell that it must be 120 years old. Don Smith estimates it might be this old. But we have never found a date-there might be on a beam somewhere.

Q. It would be dated approximately around the date of the building of the Congregational church. It would be after it.

A. I wouldn't be surprised if it was built about the same time as the church because in the pictures this house is there. There are various views that have a part of the house in it. It is an old house-that's about all you can say.

Q. So you joined the United Church when you came to Paris?

A. Yes. When we married we were married by the minister in the United Church at Wilsonville. We were equidistant between the United and Baptist Churches. My mother had been a Baptist and my father was not a good church attender because he was old Methodist. My mother was a Baptist, from a long line of Baptists- all Havilands were Baptist. And we have a preacher in there someplace-Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was married by the minister at the Wilsonville church; my brother still goes there. The minister who married us knew the minister at Wellington St. in Brantford and he rather wanted us to go there- we were going to live four or five blocks from there. We transferred there and when we moved here we immediately transferred again.

Q. Who was the minister when you came?

A. Mr. Hisslop was the minister at that time. The first few months I was busy and tired end getting started. But very soon I started going. I remember taking Michael as a little boy and Jo was a heller in Sunday School, of course-nobody could handle her. How big was the congregation at that time? It wouldn't be that much smeller- I don't really know. I suppose it has grown. I haven't any idea about the size of it. The choir was always excellent- Miss Buckley was the organist at that time; a fantastic leader. We always said the United Church had the best choirs, the Presbyterians had the best ministers and the Baptists had the best of everything. We often counted the number of churches in the town: it's terrible. It is an awful lot for 6,000 people.

It's a well built house, its been well cared for end we have done no structural changes whatsoever. The kitchen was built before we came here and modernized. Outside of paper end paint we have done nothing. Just kept it the way it was. We like traditional things. So your husband was born in Brantford? He was born in Brantford, yes. He went to Mayor Ballachey Public School and Brantford Collegiate. Then, he went to Western. He did just about everything to get into college because there was no money. He was just like me-I worked two summers picking strawberries. He worked as a plumber, in construction. When you go through Woodstock-he helped build the hospital there and various things down through the country in the summer. He worked as a bellhop in Barrie-night clerk and general things. He worked at just about everything to get himself through college. He went to Western end graduated in 1933 " Graduated as a gold medalist in his year which I did not know-he is not a man to tell you much. It was a number of years-when I said "That man was a gold medalist, why didn't he stay in practice? He went into the airforce." And somebody said "Well, so was your husband." It was something I didn't know. He was in general practice in Brantford. He went into the army for five years and was in some very picky pieces. He was a casuality clearing officer in charge of the unit in Nymengenin Holland and they were completely cut off for five days from the British, Canadians end Americans. Every kind of conceivable kind of wound-chest wounds were just awful, he says, and the Germans who came in as patients were just terrified. They had heard such terrible stories themselves of the experiments that they were terrified. They didn't want to have medication of any kind, they didn't want to have hypos because they thought the Canadian doctors would be experimenting on them. Hundreds of them would come into these casualty clearing stations. He said a normal hospital would just throw up their hands and say "Disaster! " It was a very emotional end nerve wraking thing to be in charge of those stations. Especially being surrounded for those five days. A man ahead of him, an awfully nice men, he and Wilf were friends end he eventually committed suicide. My husband rarely speaks of it-we can't get him to talk about it. It was a bad time. So if I thought I had a bad time here with two children, he had a bad time too.

Q. Well, how did you make a living-just off the rent of the one part? Did that come to you?

A. No, you were on wife's allowance. That's all you got. We were still collecting small bits and pieces. We put the collection in the hands of our lawyer, Mr. Hagey. Any payments were through Mr. Hagey and I kept the books open for so long. I just picked up the cheque. We weren't very well to do, We had just been getting started. I got wife's and mother's allowance from the army. That's all-that's what I lived on. He signed over so much pay of his own to myself and the two children. We had one car all during the war and retreaded tires and gasoline tickets. You didn't drive unless you absolutely had to. But I had to learn to drive because I was left with the car and two babes and I either learned to drive or I stayed home. My parents lived twelve miles out.

Q. What was your training like?

A. Oh yes, training was something else. You had to buy your uniform, your shoes, your alarm clock and your blankets and everything before you went in training. You paid for that. From that time on if you were past probation, which was six months, then they would resupply you. You had to buy your own shoes, stockings and underwear. But your uniforms were then replaced. Mind you, it was inspected to see that it was sufficiently worn, that you could have a replacement. And we had patches and patches. The first year we got $3.00 a month and we worked 7 to 7 days, 7 to 7 nights. We had a nurses' residence which was just an old house. We were supposed to have two hours off a day but if you were busy and didn't get finished, you didn't have it.

Q. Did you start work right away or did you have classes?

A. Yes, you started on the wards. You did all the menial chores, the bedpans, the dusting, cleaned the beds, dusted the windowsills-you did the cleaning. You did everything but the floors. You did the light fixtures. You were taught how to clean the fixtures. That's how I knew you didn't ever use a damp cloth on e light. Very soon we were doing bed baths, we were getting patients. We had thirty patients on an open ward. Medical, we all started on medical because that was the worst. Surgical is clean and neat and they're there and they're gone. In medical you've got the elderly- you see, there weren't nursing homes in those days.

Next year you got $5.00 a month. Oh yes, we were to be in every night by 10 o'clock except Sunday night. We were allowed to be out until 10:30. On Sunday we had 10 to 3 off or 3 plus - that allows you to go to church, but if you were catholic, you always got 7-11. That meant that the Catholics got the gravy. They were able to go home and stay over night and be out until 11:00. I was protestant and so I had to take my chance in the 10 to 3 or 3plus. You went to church in the evening or you went in the morning. There was a little church down on Brant Avenue and we walked down there. There were three of us in a room. We had to take turns getting everybody up. You had a bell and you went up and down the hall ringing it. You had to be at prayers at 6:50 a.m. That meant you had had your breakfast, were dressed end were over in the lounge ready to have prayers and sing a hymn and then march to work. That went on for three years. In second year we got our baps after probation but we still just had a little bib. Each nursing school has an individual pin end cap. They have gone back to the original cap now which is the little round organdy one that sits on the top. Ours were the traditional ones which I still like. Second year we got $8.00, last year we got $10.00. We were rich. I bought my mother a chair for Christmas that year. Used my whole $10.00. Things were not expensive and they often said, "Did you smoke, did you have hamburgers?" We hadn't had a hamburger. You can imagine on what we were making a month, how many hamburgers we had. Of course they were.10 but we couldn't spare the .10. We had a great time in training. Really enjoyed living together with those girls after I got over being homesick. I was only twelve miles from home and I nearly died of homesickness. Crazy about my family end could hardly wait to get home. Wasn't always convenient for my father to come and pick me up. He would be busy on the farm or my brothers would be busy. Sometimes I would walk to the L & M Station which was running at that time, and get the trolley and then walk another 1 1/2 miles until I got home. Oh it was Heaven, good weather end bad.

Q. Were all your family at home while you were in training?

A. I was the oldest you see. Next was my brother John, another brother three years later and then my sister, the youngest. There is ten years between us. During the war when my husband was in the army, I was 29 and she had her first job. She came to Brantford as a secretary and moved in with me. She was with me for three or four years when Wilf was away which was nice. We were always close anyway.

Q. What was your husbands' father's occupation?

A. He was a carpenter and a very fine carpenter. That little table down at the cottage in the corner, a little cherry one, needs to be refinished- he made that, Wilf's mother taught music, piano. Wilf was the oldest in his family, too.

Q. What was his name?

A. Wilfred- you mean George? The father's name was George Wesley John.

Q. Did he live in Brantford all his life?

A. Yes, he was born in Brantford. In fact there is Riddolls Avenue. Now it's just a little short street, Wilf's grandfather was a builder, so there is a Riddolls Ave. and he built all the houses on it. And there is another one. Another family name he used for a street. Now how can I (describe it. It is down behind Park Avenue. In fact, one of the family homes, Wilf's father's sister, his aunt, lived in it. She married a Farley- There are two doctor Farleys now.

Q. Your maiden name was Poss. What nationality is that?

A. We are Pennsylvania Dutch. Loyalist. I don't know how my father and mother ever met-I guess I do remember. In those days distances were greater- they were within ten miles of each other. I adored my father. He was a tell rangy, big man, rather quiet. Gentle and went off like a rocket when he was mad and over it just as fast. He was delightful.

Q. A dairy farm.

A. Yes, a dairy farm on which my brother and nephews still live. And my grandfather was on that farm.

Q. It was your grandfather that bought the farm?

A. No. That was all land, deeded to the Loyalists. My great great grandfather was in Butler's Rangers in the early days of the racket at the border. The Havilands' were given a huge square of land-it ran a full concession deep and 1/2 a concession west. There were four big blocks and it was all Haviland. Havilands are still there- in two areas yet. My brother John is a direct descendent. Two of the quarters have been sold. In the middle of it was the Haviland family burial ground. The Havilands kept it up- all the four families. In the last number of years it has been in poor repair, the graves were sinking and some were breaking. So my brother and some of the other families were very instrumental in removing all those stones and some are in the Waterford cemetry. All those stones were transported. My family was quite active in the movement. The graves weren't moved, just the stones. Some of my ancestors were buried there, still are and it will be seeded over. We used to go back to the cemetry as kids end my mother was always afraid for us to go, it was off limits. But you know kids. She was afraid we would fall in a hole.

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Interview with Kay Riddolls

An interview conducted in June 1979 by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Kay Riddolls about her life in Paris. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.