Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Uncle Bert, The Black Sheep?

I never met my Uncle Bert.  He died four years before I was born in a horrible train/car accident.

Born Bertrum Joseph Edgar Patterson, on June 06, 1912, he was Mom's second oldest brother.  She didn't come along for another 10 years.  In all there were eleven children in the family, ten made it to adulthood.

The reason I chose to write about Bert, is that he seems to be a bit of a shadowy figure in the Patterson lineage.  Mom never spoke much about him, and from what she did, I never gathered he was a family favourite.

I think he saw active duty in the second World War.  At least I have several army pictures of him, one on a tank, I believe overseas, although that is something that needs confirmation.  There are a couple of photos of him with my father, which would have been taken several years before Mom and Dad every started to court.  For this reason, I'm kind of wondering if they might have both started out in basic training together.  They may have been two of the local boys that signed up together.

I also have an interesting photo of him in full Scottish regalia.  I'm not sure I understand this one at all.  His great grandmother, may have come from Scotland, but I think everyone else in the immediate genealogical vicinity were either English or Irish.  So I'm not sure if he was following some primeval urge, or if it was a photo like we now get done at historical parks, where the family dresses up at pioneers, or saloon dwellers etc.

Who's clan tartan is he wearing?

I know from pictures that Bert was a bit of a woodsman.  One story I recall Mom telling was of him bringing his crosscut saw into Grandmother's kitchen and sharpening it on the table.  I recall Mom thinking that a very thoughtless action on his part.  My feeling was that if it upset Grandma enough, she probably should have told him so.

Bert and Grandpa Patterson (note cross-cut saw).

Bert to left with beard.  Note size of pine log.

Mom's family was just a bit odd, a bubble or so off center.  Mom was fairly tight lipped about her siblings and parents and you had to ask the right questions to get any answers at all.  I'm not sure if she was actually hiding things from us, or if they were just basically a backwoodsy little family who not much happened too.

I've often said that of the siblings I met, Mom was by far the most normal of the lot.  Ten survived to adulthood, but only five ever married.  Of the five marriages, only ten grandchildren were born, four to my mother, four to the oldest sister, one to each of two brothers.  I guess they just weren't the marrying kind -- odd though in a generation where most everyone married and had a big family.  Perhaps they had all suffered through the Depression, didn't meet the right party, or just chose to stay single.

Uncle Bert appears to be a handsome enough fellow.  Maybe he was a ladies man, who didn't want to settle down.  I've often wondered if maybe he may have been somewhat rebellious.  Maybe he even was a drinker - don't know, just surmising.  But for whatever reason I gather he was a bit of a black sheep and a concern to his parents and siblings.

Police and spectators examine the pulverized wreckage of car shortly after it was cut in two by a CNR passenger train in Brampton this morning.  Driver of the car, Bert Patterson, of Brampton, died one hour later in the hospital. 
Perhaps it may also stem from his tragic death at the age of 44.  I have two faded newspaper clippings of the account, which Mom kept with the photo albums.  Again I never questioned her about it - I think I was too concerned the pain might still be raw, fifty years after the fact.  So I guess I'll never really know a lot more about my uncle, as most of his peers are long gone, and Mom's entire family has passed on.

Almost Cut In Two when crushed against a wig-wag standard by a CNR train is this car in which Bert Patterson (inset) of Parry Sound, was killed in a snowstorm last night at Brampton.  Patterson may have been blinded by snow as he approached the crossing.  The wig-wag was operating.  Patterson died in hospital an hour after the crash.  He was partially trapped in the crushed car and had to be cut free.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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