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POSTCARD MEMORIES: Getting to know the Bateman family

Do you have one of Vira's wall hangings?

The first recollections I have about the Bateman home was one New Year's Eve when I was probably four or five years old.

We were bundled up in our winter wear over our pyjamas.

As young farm families with children, the only way to go out for a party was to bring your children with you. After being introduced to the different families and other kids we were ushered upstairs to crawl in to a bed until the party was over.

I was a little inquisitive and at one point I quietly came down the front stairway and was able to look into the west room at the front of the house. There were the grown ups waltzing around the room. It was one of the highlights of the year – waiting to usher in the new year.

Back then there were no big band dances because money was tight for the group of farmers so they went from house to house when a party was given.

James Burleigh Bateman was born (1915) on lot 17 Concession 12 West Gwillimbury Township. Jim was the second son of Adrian Bateman and Ethel Irene Ralston. Adrian was a brother of my great grandmother Alice Jane (Bateman) Bell, born 1858. Jim's siblings were Gordon (Skippy), Tom, Connie and Margaret.

When the baby was born, Ethel's brother James and friend Burleigh Douse had called at the farm to see the little one before heading to war overseas. They decided to call him James Burleigh Bateman, after the two boys. James was killed overseas during the First World War.

In 1923, Adrian bought property on Concession 6 in West Gwillimbury. The house on the property was built by John Ferguson circa 1835 and boasted three fireplaces. The house was a mud brick home, with a centre hall plan and the bricks were made on site. In 1930, Adrian put in electricity and a bathroom installed in 1943. In later years, the bricks were covered over with stucco, hoping to help keep the house warm in winter.

In 1938, Jim married Vira Louisa Sutherland (daughter of Ferg Sutherland and Rae Stone). They had two children. William James was born March 8, 1941; he married Katherine Fanjoy and they had three children, Tom, Allison and Sandra. David Sutherland was born July 11, 1944; he married Vivian (Kuzma). 

Whenever you were at a party and Bill and David were there you knew there would be music! Bill sure could tickle the ivories, as the saying goes. As the evening progressed and the drinks flowed the music would keep everyone enjoying themselves.

I can still see David and Bill singing:
Oh dear what can the matter be three old ladies stuck in the lavat'ry
They were there from Sunday 'til Saturday

Nobody knew they were there.

The first old lady was Elizabeth Humphry

She shifted and jiggled to get herself compy
Then to her dismay, she could not get her bum free

And nobody knew she was there!
And on they went!

In 1948 Jim and Vira purchased the farm from Adrian and Ethel and the elder Batemans moved to Bradford.

Now, living on a farm there were many families that did not have freezers to keep frozen food, so you would have to go to Bradford to get frozen food. The means of communication back then was the 'party line'. Not like today there could be five to 10 families on one phone line which was maintained by 'central' or 'operator'. If you wanted to call someone you would crank the handle on the old wooden phone and a voice would say, “number, please?” You would tell her who you were wanting to call and the operator would pull up a communications wire and plug it in and the phone would ring at your house. Our number was one long and two short so the bell on the phone would ring out one long ring and two short and you would lift up the receiver and say "hello!" At the same time you might have had a nosy neighbour or two to hear what was happening.

It was David’s birthday and Vira headed to town to get ice cream for the cake. While at Mac Tavish's store the fire trucks headed out to the west of Bradford. Being a concerned Mother Vira asked to use the phone.

“Number, please?" said Brooky Sutherland, the operator.
Vira: “Get me Armstrong’s please, Brooky.”
Brooky: “Its not your place, Vira.”
Vira: “Oh, thanks,” and she hung up and went back to shopping.

You see the operator knew everything that went on in town and the Armstrongs were the farm across from the Bateman farm and Vira wanted to make sure her place was not on fire.

From what I understand from my Grandfather Bell, he lived on land that was once Adrian Bateman's, mom and dad bought and moved to the 5th Concession where Vira and Jim had been renting and I bought my first home from David. Three Bateman property owners passed down to 3 Bell/Culbert owners.

In the 1960s, Jim became the weed inspector for South Simcoe. Vira and Jim were members of Bond Head United Church. Jim was a trustee and elder at Bond Head United Church. Vira, at one time, was president of the Woman's Institute and U.C.W. She was also a member of the IODE (Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire) and the beloved bridge club.

Vira was a cracker and had a heavy foot while driving so she had a personalize license plate “GO VIRA”.

In 1972, Vira and Jim decided to retire to their cottage at Ballydown Beach on Lake Simcoe. David and his wife Vivian (Kuzma) who lived in the Whiteside home (highways 88 and 400) moved across the 400 and took over the home farm. I bought the Whiteside home from David and Vivian.

In 1977, I had a kidney removed and Jim was a patient on the same floor so we would see each other and share guests. Vira always made sure she would drop in to see me.

With failing health Jim passed away on June 14, 1978.

Vira kept up her two hobbies from farm days. She made afghans and decorative candles. One afghan she donated to the kidney foundation at the Alliston hospital and they realized over $2,000 in ticket sales.

Vira took great joy in making wall hangings. She had a book that showed what wall hanging she gave a person, what it said and for what occasion.

On my 40th birthday, she gave me one that said “Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they actually look forward to the trip.”

Many of you reading this will remember or have one you or your parents received from Vira.

Anyone who knew Vira remembers her with the styles of the day and the many fancy hats. Vira loved her hats – short brim, large brim, floppy brim whatever was the style of the day.

Vira, unable to keep up her home, sold it and moved to a care facility in Barrie and eventually enjoyed her last days at Simcoe Manor in Beeton.

Vira passed away on March 25, 2003.

They both are buried at Bond Head United Church Cemetery.