[Written at top]: Please tell me whether to address you as "Principal" or "Dean" or what have you?Box 04-113 TO PROFESSOR ARTHUR from Rev. Calvin McQuesten
Nov 7 1958
To: Dr. Arthurs
From: 'Whitehern,' Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Dear Dr. Arthurs [sic],
Thank you for your kind letter of Friday which is the only one to which I can reply as others are snowed under by layers of other papers as my two sisters lose no opportunity of making things difficult for me. But like you, I am deeply delighted that the transfer of "Whitehern" has been effected.1 And I enclose a copy of my reply to the Parks Board at which my offer was accepted, also the terms.
My second sister, Hilda, a year younger than I am (I am 82) has been a millstone about my neck. She has two habits of mind, which make her extraordinarily difficult to cope with. The first is that from her earliest years she has taken great satisfaction in showing how much more she knows about everything than I do. The second is that once she has registered objection to anything, she never changes, but sticks to it like a pup at a root, and in a move or two gets stuck with it. There was an extreme example of this a couple of years ago, which, though the occasion was trivial, brought out strongly and clearly her type of mind. (May say that neither of these sisters ever passed an examination after they entered the College Institute. How they got through the entrance to the Collegiate I do not know; but perhaps the fact that our Father was chairman of the Board of Education helped).
But to return to the case in point, a couple of years ago I lost a button off my navy blue jacket with the Thistle Club crest. It was an uncommon smoky pearl button. So I told Hilda that I did not think she could match it in her starch-box with about a thousand buttons; but she might find some other kind of button that would suit. She produced a button with a raised centre covered with bright blue cloth off a woman's coat. I protested that that couldn't possibly be used, as it was a kind never seen on men's clothes. Then I said, "I know what I'll do! I'll have gilt buttons." "That would be too flashy." "But," I said, other chaps wear them. "You never go to summer resorts or golf clubs to see what they wear." "Gilt buttons," she said "might do for a young man, but remember you're an old man." (She dearly loves to rub that in).
Then I thought of a clincher, as I thought. One of Tom's two most intimate friends was Charles Bull, a man a couple of years older than himself, and three or four years younger than I am. So I said, "Charley Bull wears gilt buttons on his coat and he's not much younger than I am." "Oh, yes he is," she said. Then I said "Give me the coat and let me take it to McDonald the tailor." She snatched the coat from me and said, "You make me sick."
So you see, when about two or three years ago, I broached the subject of giving "Whitehern" to the City, and Hilda raised one objection after another, I dropped it like a hot potato, and decided to use intermediaries. I kept dogging Welby and Judge Schwenger, month after month. And last spring drew the draft of terms I sent you. I understood Welby to say he would approach my sisters. And then in June, he said that he was not "sold on" the idea, so how could he sell it to others. A client was waiting for him, so there was no time for expansions. Knowing that my sisters suffered severely from hot weather, I did not broach the subject again till September when he told me he had already had a talk with them but nothing was settled, and he would see them again within a few days.
On Hilda's birthday, October 15, I came home just before the evening meal to find her putting long stemmed roses in water. "Yes, Welby," they said, had called. And when he heard it was Hilda's birthday had sent the roses. They said, had called. And when he heard it was Hilda's birthday had sent the roses. They said nothing of the nature of their conversion. But when I called up Welby later from a pay phone, he said they were a hundred per cent for our scheme.
That was on Wednesday, October 15. I waited; but they told me nothing. And on Saturday you called, and I answered from the morning room where the two of them were sitting. I deliberately made no attempt to make my part in the conversation cryptic.
Rebuilding afterward, I recalled that Hilda had looked pretty thunderous, previous to her outburst on Friday, 24th, when she "blew her top" with unprecedented violence. "How could you be so sneaky as to let us hear about...... from a stranger." Then I told her that our first talk [on] the subject of transferring the house to the Park's Board was so negative of favourable closure that I did not dare to continue it for fear she should come out definitely against the idea and so wreck the whole business. Then the tirade broke out, and besides calling me a "crook" and no Christian, she threw in an assortment of unfavourable comment that made me realize she did not approve of me.
I think she hoped that I would find the whole scheme "un fait accompli" without ever having been consulted.
However, the whole thing is settled now. The enclosed letter from Welby will give you the terms. They did not approve of your idea of a committee of architects to supervise.
I will look up your other letters soon.
God bless you and keep you.
Yours cordially and gratefully,
1 Calvin had enlisted the help of Professor Eric Arthur from the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto in order to help convince Mary and Hilda to give the house to the city after their deaths (W8967, W8701). At the time this particular letter was written, Mary's, Calvin's and Hilda's ages were (respectively) 84, 82 and 81. Neither they nor any of their siblings had any descendants to whom the property could be bequeathed.
See also Box 04-012, Box 04-111, Box 05-002, Box 08-140, Box 09-233.