By Susan Weisenburger
I first met Nadine and Brian in the foyer at St. Michael’s Grove Manor retirement home. They were lugging in bags of potting soil and finding wheels to get their supplies to the garden. I soon found out that Nadine is the master gardener having won four Floral Display Awards in the McDougall area of Edmonton. Brian is at her side helping with the details. They told me they’ve put in a lot of steps since that first romantic dance back in Birmingham, England where they met. Nadine had no idea at the time that when she asked that young fellow to dance it would be for the rest of her life.
It is important to note that Brian was born by the sea in Portsmouth, England by the Main Royal Navy Base. From there, as a young man, he joined the army (all British men had to go into national service for 2 years). Brian was stationed at the Suez Canal in Egypt at the same time that King George VI died. After returning to England he joined a 2 year apprenticeship with the Central Electricity Board in Birmingham to work in the industrial sector with power stations and transmission lines. The transfer from Portsmouth to Birmingham set the stage for this young man to attend a romantic dance the evening a local beauty was dodging prospective suitors. While hiding from one particular fellow Nadine turned and asked the tall man she hid behind, “May I have this dance?” Brian said yes. They married in December 1956 and headed to Scotland for their honeymoon.
After a freezing cold train ride to Edinburgh the young married couple made their way to their hotel. So very cold and happy for shelter they walked into the lobby which was full of “the most gorgeous men – the South African Rugby Team – all staying in our hotel!” In those days some hotels provided but one washroom per floor. Nadine was in her bathrobe waiting her turn when one player joined her in the line and said, “Rather than wait here, why don’t we go down stairs and have a drink?” The young bride blushed and returned to her room with the two single beds.
The following day was Christmas and it was time for the Queen to deliver her annual speech. All hotel guests gathered in the dining room. The couple fondly remember that amongst the crowd a 90 year old woman stood at attention. Following her example the whole room stood for the entirety of the speech.
Before she was married Nadine tried her hand at nursing at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Nurses were not treated or paid well back in that day. She says it was like being in boarding school. The Matrons and/or Sisters were very strict. Once married she decided to stay at home to raise her family.
Brian and Nadine started their family in England but soon after were offered a position with the Atomic Energy of Canada Research Laboratory in Pinawa, MB (110 km northeast of Winnipeg) near White Shell National Park. Brian would be working with a new atomic reactor. They made their first Canadian home in that company town. Nadine noticed that there were just a few people in MB and so she thought she’d do her bit and have another baby! They received their third son in Canada.
After 3 years Brian moved his family to the Maritimes to work at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography as the assistant to the Director General. Brian was hired to run the Information Section but his boss often approached him to write special reports. He found the work interesting and enjoyed the special perk of “going to sea” several times. One especially fond memory was his month long voyage to the Arctic. Nadine smiles as Brian recalls the different spots the crew landed while on that trip. She says she will always remember that when he finally returned home he said, “Oh, how lovely, the bed doesn’t move!”
Stay tuned (not necessarily at attention!) for Part II.
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