In April 1914, my great-grandparents William and Polly Monks said goodbye to their son Harold as he left Earlestown, Lancashire for a new life in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. In this pre-telephone, pre-internet era, they stayed in contact with their son by mail. Harold kept many of the birthday cards and postcards sent in the 1920s and 1930s by his “Dad and Ma” from Earlestown to the “West Coast BC”. These cards make a nice memento of a close family relationship and showcase many inter-war English seaside resorts.
Business and Pleasure
The postcards were sent to what would have seemed “exotic” addresses — “The Cannery” or “Tofino, West Coast Vancouver Island, Canada.” During the 1920s, Harold was fishing for the Clayoquot Sound Canning Company at Kenn Falls, up the Tofino Inlet.
Back in Earlestown, William Monks was nearing retirement from the London and North Western Railway’s “Wagon Works”) where he built railway wagons, like this one preserved at the Railway Museum in York.
Mr. Monks was involved in union business. Here is a postcard he sent while at an annual meeting in Birkenhead (across the Mersey from Liverpool).
Another time, business and pleasure (“which he enjoyed immense”) took him to Exeter. He noted “some people from Ontario have been staying at this place” — presumably he thought Ontario and Tofino were a few short hours away!
Most often Harold’s Dad and Ma went to nearby Southport, Lancashire. Messages on the postcards included: “Just here for the day. Bad morning but at 5 o’clock beautiful sunshine. Received your welcome letter just when leaving Earlestown.” (July 15 1933) and “Here with the old folks from Newton and Earlestown. Having a rare good time” (July 20 1933)
Mr. and Mrs. Monks went on several holidays in the 1920s and 1930s to North Wales seaside resorts, easily accessible at that time by an extensive rail network. In July 1921 at Pwllheli, North Wales with Alice, Harold’s sister-in-law, up from North London.
In August 1932, Mr. and Mrs. Monks were to spend a day in Llandudno with Alice and the children (“Stella and Harold are becoming very brown”) Here’s a postcard from Alice to Harold. Notice all the “bathing machines” at the water’s edge!
In May 1933 Mr. and Mrs. Monks were on a picnic with the L.M.S.C. Society in Colwyn Bay. (Unknown what L.M.S.C. Society is but perhaps a choral society or a co-operative society, both popular groups in early 1900s England).
Isle of Man
In 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Monks sent a post card from the Isle of Man that asked “Perhaps you will recognize this place?” since Harold had spent his childhood holidays on the island.
The Monks family always had professional portraits taken in Douglas Isle of Man. Here is one from circa 1902. Contrast Mrs. Monks’ fashion with the portrait from 1927!
Now for a trip down South to “The Grange”, the home of Harold’s brother, who worked as an engineer at McVities Biscuit factory. “Dear Son Harold, came down to Willie’s yesterday, had a very pleasant journey down. Willie, Alice and the children are well. Mother and myself are O.K. Been out this morning, when we got back to The Grange rain came along. Fond love, Dad”
In 1936, Mr and Mrs Monks made their most exotic trip yet — all the way to “Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada”!
William and Polly Monks sailed from Liverpool on April 17 1936 and by May 3 1936, they were in Tofino, where they spent the next several months. Their grandson Harold Frank Monks was born on January 31 1937.
At the end of April 1937, Mr. and Mrs. Monks left Tofino. A few days later, they sailed from New Westminster on SS Pacific Pioneer, a small cargo steamer with first class accommodation, games and sunbathing in deck chairs, “a limited party of like-minded people.” (Harold had previously travelled on the “Pioneer” in 1929 and kept all the brochures, so we can get an idea of what it was like) Shipping records show that Mr. and Mrs. Monks had shore leave in San Francisco (but no postcards sent!) then travelled through the Panama Canal. They arrived in Manchester in July 1937.
Back in Lancashire, William and Polly Monks celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on April 18 1939. “Ma” died a few months later. “Dad” died in 1952.