When my mother died in November 1961, my father hired various nannies to run the household and look after his four children. The revolving nanny door made it difficult and stressful for everyone and finding a new wife and mother quickly became Dad’s priority.
A friend suggested he compile a checklist of his seven most important criteria, which were “all essential and the absence of any one eliminates the prospect”. Several names were scrawled on his list but there was nobody named Elizabeth. Our future stepmother must have been completely off the grid!
Elizabeth Fulcher arrived in Montreal from England in 1961 to teach at a girls’ private school. Once she had settled into her new life in Montreal, she joined a social club in the spring of 1962, and she met my Dad, Tom Anglin, there. After a few games of tennis, they began to date regularly. Thinking back to that time, she recalls: “I thought he was a nice, honest person”.
This wasn’t going to be your typical whirlwind romance.
Elizabeth took the opportunity to get to know the four of us children, as well as Dad, while they were dating. It seemed to be a mutually advantageous relationship for us all as Elizabeth had always wanted a family and now a family wanted her. However, the decision required rational thought as well as emotional feeling. Years later, she admitted her love for us equalled her love for our father.
Tom proposed nine months later, in February 1963, choosing the woman who would love his children just like Captain Von Trapp chose Maria in “The Sound of Music” — our favourite family movie. Elizabeth recalled, “He proposed after we went to a dinner dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I had an idea that he was going to, it was in February and could have been a Valentine’s Day Dance. He could charm and was a good dancer so I always felt good about dancing with him.”
My father arrived in England, only two days before the wedding in July 1963, after organizing summer camps for the children and a leave of absence from his company. Fortunately, he had already passed muster when Elizabeth’s twin, Diana, spent the previous Christmas with us all.
They married in the local church in Iken, steps away from where Elizabeth grew up. Her stepmother, Eileen, decorated the church with masses of flowers, Diana was her bridesmaid and the children of the local farm hands made up the choir. Family and friends watched eagerly as Elizabeth walked down the aisle to the organist’s rendition of…what else but “Oh Canada”!
The newlyweds briefly honeymooned around Western Europe skipping the last stop as Elizabeth just wanted to go “home” and start her new life as wife and stepmother. “We had four days in England to pack up and leave,” she says. “Then we picked up the kids from camp the next day. We all drove out to the summer cottage in Knowlton (Eastern Townships, Quebec) and Tom went back into Montreal to work during the weeks”.
I had just turned six years old when I stepped off the camp bus. I remember looking down at the clogs on my stepmother’s feet and thinking “those are funny shoes” and at the same time realizing “this is my new mother”.
The whole family moved back to Montreal at the end of the summer. The children (aged six to 14) started back to their schools and Tom returned to work. Elizabeth launched into her new life with an impressive and loving energy. Fully committed to her new role, she oversaw the needs of the children, carefully managed a monthly budget, and prepared dinner for six every night… never failing to greet Tom at the door with a kiss and asking about his day.
There wasn’t a hint of wickedness in our new stepmother.
Five more summers in Knowlton flew by with just the four of us children before the family grew to include my three half-sisters born between 1966 and 1971.
Ultimately, her physical education training continued to prove useful as she juggled a houseful of babies and teenagers!