Godfrey Rodgers and Adaline McClung

When my father emigrated to Canada in 1928, the passenger list showed his occupation as "wholesale drapery" (in the sense of clothing), but that he intended to take up farming in Canada. Now if you knew my father that is almost laughable. At that time immigration from the UK was pretty easy, but a sure fire way of being accepted was to say you were going to farm. He hadn't always been a draper though. In fact at one point he tried to follow in his father's and elder brother Jack's footsteps and went to sea as a deck boy.


That didn't last long one voyage I believe on which he was apparently injured. He must have then decided to stay on dry land

When he arrived in Canada he settled in the well-known farming community of Toronto :). His first job was with The T. Eaton Company, Canada's iconic department store, selling shoes. Timothy Eaton, the founder, was from Portglenone or Clougher or Ballymena - (more here). The story goes that if you were from Ireland you could always get a job at Eaton's. I'm not sure how true that was but my father swore it was. He was still working there when my mother came out to marry him in 1930.

My mother began working as a milliner when she was 11 or 12. She was through school having gone as far as she could unless she was going on to further education. She finished early because she started early. When her older sister Winifred started school my mother cried when she went so my grandmother sent her along. She would have been 4 I believe and apparently that wasn't a problem. But working at the age of 12 was because she was too young. So when there was an inspection the other women would hide her until it was over. Now this, like some of the stories here, is anecdotal, but I have no reason to believe they aren't true.

When she arrived in Canada in 1930 she brought her 12-year-old sister Peg with her. My grandfather had remarried and, from what I gathered, there was some friction between his new wife and the existing family. So Peg came with my mother and my father ended up with a family of sorts when he married my mother on April 18, 1930.

Somewhere along the way after they were married my father lost his job at Eaton's when he took off for Detroit for a weekend and didn't return for over a week. I'm not sure if he quit his job before hand, but since it was the Depression it would seem unlikely. During the Depression he had at least one job that I know of and that was delivering bread for Brown's Bakery by horse and cart. He earned 25 cents an hour. The horse was well trained because it knew its way back to the stables when my father had had a bit too much to drink, "to keep the cold away." During the Depression, my parents lost the home they had in Mimico because they couldn't afford the payments. My mother also miscarried twins in 1932.

My mother continued to work as a milliner in the 1930's with a company called Palter Cap Company or Palter and Sons at 126 Wellington Street in Toronto. I don't know when she started or how long she worked there, but one of the sons, Frank Palter, kept in touch with us afterwards, visiting on occasion right through the 1950's.

With the outbreak of WWII the economy picked up and in 1942 my parents left Toronto for Brantford where my father had got a job with Cockshutt Plow (later Cockshutt Farm Equipment. Cockshutt's had converted to manufacturing for the war effort. My father worked in the "wings" of Cockshutt Aviation which made wings for the Avro Anson training aircraft and for Britain's de Havilland Mosquito bomber. Meanwhile my mother opened her own millinery shop, Addie Hats on Colborne Street. They lived behind the shop in a small one bedroom apartment. When I came along unexpectedly in 1945, my bedroom was an alcove off my parents'.

My mother's shop was successful. All those years of working in millinery meant she knew what she was doing. She would make hats of her own design or, if a customer brought a picture from a magazine, would make a copy. Women came from as far away as Toronto to buy from her. My mother closed her shop in 1952 (or 1951, I'm not sure) and "retired". We moved from downtown Brantford to the outskirts, essentially the country in an area surrounded by market gardens.

After the war there were a series of recessions and my father lost his job (he had become a foreman) at Cockshutt's in the early 50's. He went on to sell televisions and appliances at Clayt Anguish until he too closed. A year or so after that in 1958 he found work with Muttart Builders' Supplies where he stayed until he retired in the early 70's.

Since my father's earnings were hit and miss in the 50's my mother went back to work, but not in millinery since women had pretty well given up wearing hats regularly. She found employment with an interior design store where, working from home, she made draperies for them. Eventually she moved to a new store that opened around 1959, Old Country Furniture. Still working from home, she continued to make draperies and accessories, bedspreads, even did custom slipcovering and upholstery. She retired in the early 70's but continued to work occasionally for family and friends as well as making clothing for all of us.

My mother, who was born April 9, 1907, died October 24, 1984 at age 77. My father, who was born August 13, 1905, died January 29, 1988 at age 82.


As an aside. While my mother had quite a few relatives in Canada (seven aunts - although two moved to Detroit - and two sisters in addition to Peg), my father had no family here. However as I dug into the Hagan family (his mother's side) someone sent me an extensive Hagan family tree that had been put together in the 1950's by a woman living in Norwich, Ontario (which is only about 25 miles from Brantford). It definitely had inaccuracies, but it included my father and his brother Jack (but not the other siblings). She never contacted us, but obviously she knew he was here because it listed his residence as Toronto, then Brantford.
Brian Rodgers - March 27, 2015
Return to main page