During the summer of 1939, my parents (John and Isabelle) were in language study at Mt. Omei, and stayed with the Hibbards. To everyone’s surprise, I was born a week earlier than expected, and my dad raced around the mountain during the night to locate Dr. Irwin Hilliard and Tallie (Miss Talman) who arrived after the fact. My parents were stationed in Tzeliutsin, working with Fred and Anne Reid until 1944. Malcolm and Elinor used to come and visit. Summers were spent in Kao Hsi Ti, in the hills outside Jungshien. The Sheridans lived next door in Tzeliutsin, and I remember sitting in my high chair, chatting with Doc’er and Aunt Pearl when they took their meals with us. The Outerbridges also came to Tzeliutsin, and Judy, Carol and I used to play together.
Our family returned to Canada on furlough in 1944 via ‘the Hump’ into India, and to Boston on the SS Mariposa. We lived on the third floor of the Walmsley house at 430 Walmer Road. My brother David arrived in the spring of 1945. Dad returned to China in 1946 by ship via the Suez canal, and was assigned to Kaiting (Loshan) where he boarded with the Hockins. Mother, David and I returned to China via the SS Marine Lynx, arriving Shanghai in January 1947, and then flew into Chengdu where we met Dad. We spent the spring in Loshan, and welcomed the Bacon family back to the city. Mother and Mildred Bacon set up school for Dorothy, Helen and me at our house, next door to a Chinese school. We learned the Chinese Nationalist anthem as the students sang it loudly at the beginning of each school day, and we used their playground when the students were busy inside. Our family was transferred to Chengdu when Dr. Gladys Cunningham diagnosed my mother to be bearing twins. We stayed with the Meusers until the house next door (#6, the ‘Johns house’) was ready.
I remember my mother taking me to the Canadian School the first day in the fall of 1947. Dr. Walmsley welcomed us to the re-opening of the school, emphasizing the importance of doing our best. Marian Donald was in charge of all the public school grades at first. Helen Bacon and Murray Webster were boarders, and I was the 3rd member of our grade 4 class. Mrs. Walmsley was a wonderful director of the school plays, and I was thrilled to be part of the play produced in the spring of 1948. We loved to go for a ride on Marion Walmsley’s horse which used to crop the grass on the campus in front of the CS. When Mary Jolliffe arrived to be Matron of the boarding school, she took grades 5-8, and Helen, Murray and I constituted grade 5. I remember learning spelling and arithmetic, the debates (e.g. make-up is good for girls; winter sports are better than summer sports) that Mary Jolliffe organized. We had a great time playing tag, hide-and-go-seek in the school grounds, and climbing the trees along the wall. One day I wore to school a new red plaid skirt mother had made for me. It was the time of year when the irrigation ditches were full of water, and one of our thrilling pastimes was to jump the ditch in front of the CS. Wouldn’t you know it; I ended up in the water to my middle, right in the middle of the stream! I was in tears, Dorothy Bacon took me home to get some dry clothes. A big event of our family was the birth of the twins in October 1947, supervised by Dr. Gladys. Life was never the same after that! David attended a nursery school on the campus. At some time, we all got whooping cough, and were quarantined within our walls until we stopped whooping.
In the spring of 1949, it became apparent that the Communist forces were driving into West China from the north, and the United Church of Canada advised families to leave West China, a difficult decision for Dad. In late spring, our family left for Hong Kong. Due to a ‘ring finger’ injury en route, Dad was admitted to hospital in Hong Kong, and mother went to the Church House with 4 children. Eventually arrangements were made to fly back to Canada, and then across the country by train to Ontario where Dad took a pastoral charge in Binbrook, near mother’s home town of Hamilton.
In November, I attended SS#3 Binbrook, the next year Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek. In 1952, we moved to Seaforth, and in January 1956, to London, Ontario to Wesley United which became Wesley-Knox during this time. I completed grade 13 at London South Collegiate, and then graduated from Medicine at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) in 1963. The family had meanwhile moved to Knox United Church, Agincourt, in 1961, where my sibs attended Agincourt Collegiate. Dad retired in 1975, but returned to be Assistant Minister at Kingsway Lambton United Church, Toronto 1978-85.
I interned at the Montreal General Hospital, and then did a pediatric residency at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (with rotations to the Royal Victoria Hospital and to Frobisher Bay/Iqaluit). I was captivated by the specialty of neonatology, and went south in 1967 (sad to leave Montreal in Expo Year!) to Pittsburgh, Pa, to Magee Womens Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for 3 years. After a further 5 years on staff, returned to Canada in 1975 to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work at the Grace Maternity Hospital and Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children at Dalhousie University as neonatologist.
I continue to work with neonates and their families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the IWK Health Centre. I have also been working in the Perinatal Follow-Up Program at the IWK, and in travelling clinics throughout NS and PEI where high risk infants are followed until the age of three years. I have not had children of my own, but have treasured the care of hundreds (thousands?) of premature and high risk infants in our NICUs (as well as my 8 nieces and nephews, and now the next generation!). It has been wonderful to return to China on several occasions with exchange groups from the IWK to Shanghai and Hangchow, and to participate in 1996 in the 100 year celebration of the Mission Hospital in Chungking with the Allen family and Dr. Ian Robb. It has also been a privilege to take part in the neonatology teaching program (a month at a time) at the Fudan University Children’s Hospital in Shanghai organized by the Canadian Neonatal Network (Can Paed Soc) in 2004 and 2006. The latter trip followed a meeting in Melbourne, and a visit with Judy Outerbridge in Melbourne, and Bill Willmott in NZ. My other job is at St. Matthew’s United Church in Halifax, being an elder on Kirk Session and the Official Board, as well as singing in the choir and ringing handbells.
During the years, many China connections have been maintained, including having Ian and Rona Robb as neighbours here in Halifax, the Bacons in Beamsville and Amherst, NS, (and trying to keep up with Helen’s travels), meeting up with Franklin Wu in Chengdu, and making new connections including meeting previous CS’er Martin Johns in Hamilton, ON (whose book Bamboo Shoots and Maple Buds tell my story too!) It has been a joy to get to the annual West China Reunion Meal at times (far fewer than I would have liked!) My roots are in both the East and the West, facilitating entry to both worlds. I give thanks for parents who gave their lives in the service of God, and for the West China Mission folk who supported us as children and continue to consider us as part of their extended family!