Marian MacFarlane — Silver Threads Among the Gold



If some of us haven’t had our coffee in the mornings we feel like we are 107. Marian MacFarlane is 97, but it seems like she’s really 45. When I came to interview her I had no idea what kind of stories she would have, and imagine my surprise when she had all her thoughts written down by hand on paper.

This woman with 10 Grandchildren and 9 Great-Grandchildren has had quite a life. Her story as a young MacDowall began in the rural area of Pakenham, Ontario. The vivid memories of a childhood friend that came to visit the neighbour every summer on the train made me long for my youth once again. Like a lot of us they would spend hot days swimming in the creek, and making mud cakes for tea parties.

When she was born, her father liked the named Marianne, but her Mother like Marion, so some how Marian with an “a” got the best of both names. Her father was a farmer, and her Mother was a housewife. Marian learned at a young age how to churn butter and make bread. Stories of making rhubarb sauce and muffins reminded me of living with my Grandmother. There’s a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left. She told me an amusing story of how she once made bread and had issues with the yeast. Unfortunately that day the bread that never rose and got fed to the dog.

Marian first came to Carleton Place with her 1 ½ year old son Douglas in November of 1944 as a RN. In 1941 she met a lovely man named Lloyd Henry Cameron. They married and she lived with her parents in Packenham while Lloyd Cameron went off to war. However Squadron Leader Cameron, a bomber pilot for the RCAF, was killed in the war. He had been on a night mission over Germany when they were shot down on February 20, 1944.

Her sister Muriel was already working as an assistant with one of the doctors in Carleton Place, so it seemed very practical they should board together. It was the days of stove pipes heating the bedrooms and rationing was nation wide. Butter and nylons were in short supply, and corn was selling for 35 cents a dozen. Milk was delivered every day, and sometimes if the ice box wasn’t emptied at night there was an over flow. But her son Douglas was everything to her, and they waited for the end of the war to bring about better things.

On May the 8th 1945, the war ended. That same day would have been Lloyd Cameron’s 25th birthday. Although Marian was pleased the war was over she decided she didn’t feel like celebrating with the rest of Carleton Place. So instead, she gave her kitchen a fresh coat of paint.

Marian spoke often about the love for her cocker spaniel Jeff which Lloyd Cameron gave her. The constant ladies dog as she called him, was not always with Marian throughout her travels in life. However, they always remembered each other fondly no matter where he or she lived.

In 1946 the widow was paid a visit by John Gilman, the navigator, who had bailed out of that Halifax bomber the night Lloyd Cameron was killed. Her late husband had asked his friend to visit his wife if something should happen to him. And that he did, that May, telling her details of that horrible night. He also gave her Lloyd’s boots that they had pried off him after the crash. The four surviving Canadian airmen were captured that same night and spent the next 14 months of WWII as prisoners of war.

Personally I cannot imagine how Marian dealt with reliving the tragedy twice, yet she spoke with pride about her husband and the effort he had made in WWII. Lloyd was buried in the Commonwealth Cemetery in Berlin. but she never had the chance to visit. Her niece did, however, and took pictures to show Marian.

In April of 1946 she bought a house on Frank Street in Carleton Place complete with hardwood floors. They really enjoyed the new space after dealing with three people in one bedroom for a few years. Marian and I both smiled as we talked about the first electric (mechanical) washing machine she bought. I remember my Grandmother telling me the same story about hers and how it made life easier for a lot of women. Her sister babysat and lived with Marian until Muriel married in June of 1947. When her sister minded her son, Marian played cards, bowled, and enjoyed fellowship with women her own age at our local Zion Memorial Church.

In 1947 Marian met the cousin of a next door neighbour named Lloyd MacFarlane. The former Carleton Place resident lived in the city and worked for Foreign Affairs. But, LLoyd would come up weekends to visit and took a fancy to Marian. She talked of renting a boat and picnics on the Mississippi River with Lloyd and her son Douglas. He also loved to write and wrote several pieces of fiction. June the 4th 1949, was the day Marian said yes  and married Lloyd MacFarlane at the old United Church Manse.

Lloyd was transferred to Boston in 1948, so Marian sold her Carleton Place home and they moved to the south side of Boston. It was in Boston that their second child, a daughter, Norma Jean was born in 1951. When Norma was 8 months old the MacFarlane family got orders to return to Ottawa. That is when they journeyed back to Carleton Place and bought a house on Queen Street. As Douglas spent summers with his Grandparents in Perth, it was decided he should go to Cedar Hill to Marian’s sister while the family made arrangements to come home.  Marian and baby Norma Jean journeyed back on the train where her sister and brother-in-law met them in Ottawa. Her mother pitched in and helped everyone get settled so Douglas could get started at the Carleton Place Centre School.

Before the move was final Lloyd made a few journeys to be with his family from Boston until they finally settled down in Carleton Place. But that wasn’t the end of the placements. The family took a Greek ship to London for a few years, and then they were off to Seattle, San Francisco, and Atlanta. During that time they had two other children: Marlene who was born in 1952 and David in 1958.

After a busy life, Lloyd finally retired at age 62 in 1975.  Sadly, he passed away, and Marian now lives in one of our local Senior residences. She is quick, funny, and a lot smarter than me at age 97. She  mentioned she had donated one of her hats to the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, and I remembered it exactly when we did the Bertha Schwerdtfeger’s Hat Show.

I asked her if she had any last words, and she told me she hoped she would go peacefully. These days we watch so many old movies our memories come in monochrome. I am proud to say Marian’s memories are still going full strength in technicolour. And that’s a good thing! After talking with Marian for a few hours I think I understand there is no such thing as aging. It’s all about maturing and knowledge. I call those thoughts nothing but beautiful, and so is Marian MacFarlane


Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, eyeglasses and indoorDoug Cameron- Marian’s son-

Ray Paquette Doug was a close friend of my brother Tedd. Lloyd moved to CP in the early 1950’s after completing a foreign service posting and bought the large brick house at Queen and Munroe. Marian’s first husband, Doug’s father, was lost in WW2 while serving in the RCAF. Doug was one of the earliest employees of Leigh Instruments.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

4 responses »

  1. What an awesome story! I facepainted one time at the seniors home in town and got stories of how they used to use paint to paint the lines on the back of their calves to look like they had nylons on during USO shows. It’s amazing to hear the lives these ladies have lived.


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