My name is Sonia Brock and I was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.
My father was British and my mother an American. We often teased her
about being a Yankee and she would, indignantly, rise to the bait every
In truth our borders were more fluid in those days. Her father worked
in Port Dover, Ontario and also in Michigan, although he was Canadian.
Grandad had been an 'efficiency expert' in factories. The 'girls' there
were paid for piecework, that is to say by completed pieces of sewing,
so they were grateful to be shown how to produce more items, faster.
Chatham was a farming town trying to be a city. The number 30,000 was
very important since it defined Chatham as a real city and not just
a town. In good times they deluded themselves into thinking that they
were independent of the surrounding farmlands. If crops were bad, however,
the city merchants were none too prosperous and I can remember, during
times of drought, being in church while folks were praying for rain.
My father was a heavy appliance and piano salesman and he had a genius
for recognizing a scruffy looking gent as a farmer with cash in his
jeans. It used to make the other salesmen really mad, especially when
he came back to work, part-time, after he retired and still outsold
the younger fellows.
My mother was a talented artist and musician. She had studied opera
singing and played both the piano and the organ. She also painted in
oils, and was a potter and a skilled weaver. Mother was a capable seamstress
and made her own clothes from Vogue patterns. I still have a photo of
myself in a lovely smocked dress she sewed for me.
My 'other' mother was an English Bulldog called Googie. We adored each
other and she wouldn't let anyone come near me when I was small. The
mailman and milkman were terrified of her.
I have 2 sisters and a brother. I am the eldest. We all left Chatham
as soon as we could, each a little earlier than the last. My siblings
all moved to Toronto. I married and moved to Atikameg, Alberta with
my American husband whom I had met in the Chatham Little Theatre group.
He had a job teaching on a Cree Indian reservation.
Chatham in the 50's and 60's was not a great place to be if, like all
in our family, you read books and asked questions. Things are different
there now. It has become a college town with real theatres and a sophisticated
main street area but back then in the 50s it was not entirely favourable