Being able to attend the Canadian School for Missionary Children in Chengdu, West China was probably the most unique privilege I could have had. I first arrived there in February 1948. Since our family was stationed in Chongqing, I and my sister, Gwyneth, had to board in the school itself. My roommates were Dorothy Bacon and Margaret Smith. We three got along well, and occasionally banded together, as when we had to chase enormous rats that set up housekeeping in one of the drawers! In 1949, as we all know, the school building was closed as most of the missionary families were returning to Canada in advance of the Communist takeover in Sichuan.
A few of us remained in China however, and I was one of them. I began Grade 9 in the fall of 1949, attending school in the former Stinson house, and boarding with Bill Willmott’s parents, Auntie Kay and Uncle Earl. I helped them with the preparations everyone was making – just in case…!
Essentially, I was tutored by Mr. Newcombe, Aunt Gladys Cunningham, Mme. And Mr. Yuan, Uncle Dryden Phelps and Auntie Kay Willmott. I took piano lessons from Aunt Peggy Phelps.
The imminent arrival of the new government was heralded with a hail of bullets in the middle of the night. We huddled in the upstairs hall. When daylight came, there was a huge parade through the streets of Chengdu and much excitement and cheering.
Life settled down quickly, though we all had to attend at the Foreign Office to be registered and give our life story. My Chinese was so weak I needed an interpreter to answer all the questions. I was asked why I wasn’t studying Russian. My reply was that I was taking a Canadian curriculum and Russian was not part of that program!
When it came time to leave Chengdu in May (I spent Christmas with the Willmott’s and we all had Christmas dinner with the Outerbridges), I had to advertise in the local newspaper my intention to leave the city. The ad ran for three days. Unfortunately, my Chinese name was incorrect, so the ad had to be placed again. The purpose of these ads was to allow anyone to whom I was indebted to come forward. Thankfully, nobody had any complaints. I travelled by chauffeured car to Chongqing with Mr. and Mrs. Stockwell, taking the usual two days. We were stopped and examined at every village enroute, and the key question was always “What is your nationality?” Very embarrassing!
Within a few weeks of returning to Chongqing, my mother, sister Marion and I set out for Canada. It involved a trip by a small ship, built in Canada and never paid for, to Hangkow; on to Canton and Hongkong by train. In a few weeks, we were on the way home, via Japan, Hawaii, San Francisco and Vancouver. We had to fly to Montreal as the railways were on strike. It was late August and close to school opening there.
I completed high school in Westmount, where we lived from 1950-1952. I had always wanted to be a dietitian, so I attended Macdonald College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue in the Home Economics Department of the Faculty of Agriculture. Again I was boarding. Just as in Chengdu, it was a great way to get to know your classmates, as well as participate in all the activities you were interested in. I graduated in May 1958 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Home Economics. Ten days later, I was married to Jack Donaghy, whom I had been dating since I was 15.
While I was in university, I served in the URTP of the RCAF. This provided summer employment for me as well as experience in food service and additional courses that helped me a great deal during my school term. Upon completion of the three year program, I received my commission, with a promotion on graduating from university. I could have had a career in the service, but that meant remaining single. I was not prepared for that.
To become a qualified professional dietitian, it is compulsory to take a one year internship in a hospital. I began my internship at the Royal Victoria Hall in August 1958, but took maternity leave from January to September 1959. I finally completed my program in March 1960. Though I was offered a job at the RVH teaching nutrition to student nurses, I chose instead to become a full time mother, a decision I never regretted.
Over the next 10 years, Jack and I would have three more children. We bought our first home in Dollard des Ormeaux in the West Island of Montreal in 1961. We were active in our church in many ways. In 1971, Jack was transferred to Toronto by his company. We bought a house in Scarborough, in a new development. Once again we became active in our church activities, but I began to be involved in politics, as a volunteer. As the children grew up, I was able to take up golf at a nearby golf club, ultimately becoming the golf captain. I was always involved with parent activities when the kids were in school. By the time our youngest daughter was 16, we began to travel more extensively. We had a cottage in the Laurentians, north of Montreal from the early 60s, and spent all our weekends and holidays there for many years.
We took our first major trip to the British Isles in 1984, playing a lot of golf and sightseeing. Jack’s family roots were in Blair Atholl in the Scottish Highlands. We made two trips to China; one with a group of 32 where we spent a month travelling all over China, spending 12 days in Sichuan, visiting Chengdu, Leshan, Mt. Omei, Tseliutsing (now Zigong) and Chongqing. The second trip to China in 1996 was for the Centenary celebration of medical work in Chongqing. We were given the royal treatment. We made a quick trip to Chengdu, too. The new expressway from Chongqing to Chengdu reduces the two day trip to 4-1/2 17 hours. We have also made two trips to Bermuda, taking one daughter with us for a week, and two trips to New Zealand. I have cousins there and we spent some wonderful time with Bill Willmott and his wife, Diane.
Jack retired in 1991 and we moved to Bath, ON, where we live behind the 15th green of a lovely golf course. Here we are active in church and sing in two choirs. Golf takes up a large chunk of time, which we enjoy. We celebrated our 50th Anniversary in June.
Life has been good to us, though it has not all been heaven. My parents, Stewart and Winnifred Allen died in the 1990s, my sister, Margaret, succumbed to liver and colon cancer in 2002 and we lost our eldest son Mike to leukemia in 2003. We are fortunate to have had pretty good health to now. We try to live up to the philosophy that life is not a spectator sport.