W4963 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
May 23 1903 Saturday
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
My dear dear boy,
Your final telegram has just come. It is too disappointing for any thing, and I am fine. You must be sick to death of these wretched strikes. For no matter what extra work you do, it is never recognized. I do think the reporters should combine, you have no more right to do work after hours than workmen do without extra pay. No wonder, men have to strike. Employers will take all they can out of their men, without any conscience. We were all looking forward to this holiday so much and had worked hard to get through house cleaning. So that I have my old friend a stiff-neck1. Poor Edna has had neuralgia in her ear but is better to-day. Mrs. Whittemore and Reggie went off yesterday, we had a great time getting them off, Mrs. W. such a helpless person2.
Cannot tell particulars in a letter.
Hedley came up last Monday and took measure of book case and was to bring up crate and pack it, strange to say he has never come back, but I have sent Hilda to see him. Mrs. Mullin was wanting to see you, she wants to take Nellie and go up Saguenay sometime in August and would love to have you go at same time3. I cannot say whether you have other plans or the exact time but think it is two last weeks of August.
Well my dear dear boy, I was quite heart-broken when your message came. I had been so longing to see you and have you rest and feed you, but we must believe it is for the best and trust you will get off very soon as you can have certainly a right to do. In some ways it is nicer to come on a day not a holiday.
We got our coal in on Tuesday had to pay 6.50 and 25cts more for rack ton carried in, but they say coal will advance 10 cts each month--it is a terrible price. Then we got all the downstairs whitewashed and wanted you to see how spic and span we are. Good-bye, poor dear boy.
Your loving mother
[P.S.] Great excitement last night about 10 o'clock. Fire at the Manse, neighbours opposite saw fire up in Mrs. F.'s [Fletcher's] bed-room, ran over where Mrs. F. was sitting with Mr. Colin [Fletcher] and others in the library. They ran up and the bed was on fire, they managed to smother it, but Capt Fairgrieve had sent in alarm and of course the reels tore up past us and we rushed up too. Mrs. F. thinks when she lit the gas, and put match in the little basket for burnt matches it was on fire and the basket fell on to the bed. It might have been far worse, insurance will make it all right. Did I tell you Tom works from six to six, sleeps 10 hours & thinks he must have gained 10 lbs4.
1 Montreal suffered general labour unrest from February to May 1903, and Calvin's workload increased. The Street Railway men were demanding a raise to 17 cents an hour, no more than a ten hour day, promotions from the ranks and a formal grievance procedure. Electricians were also caught up in the "Strike Fever." After an agreement was settled the company engaged in union-breaking practices and the men went out on strike. The Montreal Herald, May 23, carried the headline: "Montreal is Once More Without a Street Railway Service, and Perhaps Light and Power. . . .less than thirty men reported for work." Threats of violence broke out, the militia was put on guard and policemen began to accompany some of the cars on their routes. The paper also carried reports of labour unrest in Toronto and in New York, where "American Manufacturers [were] Preparing to Fight Labor Union to Bitter End" and 200,000 men were idle. On May 28, the paper reported the strike was over and the union had split and reformed.
2 For Whittemore family, see W4815.
3 For Mullin family, see W4521.
4 Tom was working at a lumber camp on the Ottawa River, see W4977.