By Beth Irvine
Here is a Picture
And Yet This is the Way We Shall Live in the Near Future
You will fly clear across the United States in 20 hours’
Will go skylarking just as now we go automobiling;
You will fly to your office and land on top of your office building;
Your house will have a platform roof;
We shall have traffic cops in the air;
You will tour Europe in a plane;
You will go around the world in two weeks;
There will be lightships in the air just as now there are lighthouses for the sea;
You will see all the Alps in half an afternoon;
You will live 100 miles from your office, and reach it in a few minutes. You will start for the theatre 10 minutes before the curtain rises, and get there—
Does it all seem impossible?
Keep this article, and read it in 10 years from now!
Cassie Ritchie, Morden, my husband’s maternal great-grandmother, pasted this newspaper clipping inside the back cover of her photograph album. The album is covered in dark taupe Bristol board, embossed with cherubs flying with an ornate placard reading “Snapshots”. The pages are black construction paper and the sheets and cover, bound with sturdy string. Not many of the snapshots inside are labeled and, for those that are, the significance is obscure. There were many shocking changes in her life and I wonder how often she consulted this clipping to compare her reality with what was written there. The adjustments she faced had little to do with air travel, though she lived into the 1960s.
Cassie seems from this distance to have been a talented, open-minded woman. We know her husband, Charles Hennigar Ritchie, was customs officer at Morden and she assisted him in this work. They had three children: Hazel, Lydia and Harold. Cassie was the pianist-organist for three of the churches in Morden. The churches set their worship times to allow Cassie time to navigate among them.
There is a photograph of her seated at the foot of the wooden French Cross at Morden. Written in ink across the top is “By the sad sea waves.” In a storm, her husband was on the wharf watching for a ship to come in and was struck by lightning and killed, leaving Cassie with the children. For a while, Cassie continued in her husband’s place as customs officer, but in the early 1900s there were many who took exception to the first female customs officer in the British Commonwealth. The family story is that she was “forced” to marry, there not being many options for a woman to support herself in those times. Her new husband took her to Aylesford and was so unpleasant to the children they moved to Truro, Hazel undertaking to provide for the younger siblings. Many photographs are ripped out of the album.
Remaining is the poem pasted towards the end of the album:
If we could push ajar the gates of life,
And stand within and all God’s working see,
We could interpret all this doubt and strife,
And for each mystery find a key.
By Mrs. F.H.