|The boarding house in 1928|
upper left row: Claude Miller, Vernon Miller, Raymond Miller
Claude and Maude Miller (no, I'm not making these names up) had 2 sons; Raymond and Vernon. Raymond, my dad, was born in 1910. I'm told that my very beautiful Grandma was only 13 or 14 years old when she married Grandpa Miller. The marriage did not last. Back in those days divorce was very rare and always caused quite a scandal. There were rumours of infidelity. Anyway she and Grandpa had a bitter dispute over custody of the boys; and they were so slanderous of one another before the judge that he took the boys away from both of them for a time; putting them into an orphanage. Eventually, the boys were given to Grandpa Claude.
Now Grandpa Claude was a salesman. He travelled up and down the countryside in a horse-drawn wagon selling coffee, tea, blankets, and such to the early settlers of this area. When he was not travelling, he lived in a boarding house out on the Kickerville Road; way out in the country, just west of Ferndale. The place was a large, white, farm-style home that was surround by rolling pastures and dairy farms. It was to this boarding house that he brought the boys to live. While I can't quite recall their exact ages; I seem to remember that my dad was under twelve; and Vernon a few years younger. The lady who ran the boarding house was to look after the boys while Claude was travelling; but I suspect that they really looked after themselves.
Well one particular winter; Grandpa Claude was away for some time. Christmas was rapidly approaching and he still had not returned. On December 24th the boys were anxiously looking for their father; but late into the evening he still had not returned. The boarding house had a beautifully trimmed tree with many presents beneath it. The proprietress had prepared a Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings, and all of the tenants were in a festive mood except young Raymond and Vernon. They were still nervously waiting for their father to arrive-but he never did show up. After dinner; the guests gathered round the tree to exchange gifts. The boys stood awkwardly by as one by one, each person received a gift. When all of the gifts had been distributed; it was evident that no one had thought to give the children a present. Claude didn't return the next day either. The boys spent Christmas alone in their room.
I do not know what detained Grandpa Claude. Perhaps it was snow or some kind of accident. He was a good man; and I cannot think that he would deliberately hurt his boys like that. And I will never understand why Maude made no effort to see her children on the holidays. She never really became a part of their lives until they were grown men.
What I do know is that a certain melancholy always surrounded my father. Perhaps in part because he never really had a childhood.