I never knew my maternal grandfather since he died when I was only a baby. He was born Robert Henry Stroud on June 17, 1915 in Toronto, Ontario. He attended Scarborough Collegiate and graduated from Grade 13, hoping to go on to college where he would study law. However, he had many siblings and his father could not afford to send them all to school so he went to work.
In 1938 he married Eileen Fenn in a ceremony at the bride's parents house in Bracebridge. The couple settled in a home on Kingston Road in Dunbarton and proceeded to start a family, having three girls in a row, Marlene, Bette (my Mom) and Sandra. In 1947, my Grandad Stroud opened a grocery store in Oshawa called "Stroud's Fruit Ltd" (later Stroud's Food Market). By 1949, having added a boy to their brood named Robert Jr., the growing family moved to a much larger home on Simcoe Street North in Oshawa. What a step up! Now they enjoyed the luxury of indoor plumbing rather than an outhouse. In fact, like the Jefferson's on TV, the Stroud's went from one washroom to four. My Grandad was also closer to his store where he spent much of his time. Trips to Toronto were taken to watch a Maple Leafs' game, sit on Santa's knee at Eaton's or buy fruit at the market. My Mom remembers him taking her along on a hunting trips. If one of the hunting dogs did not return when he called it, he would lay his coat down in a clearing in the woods and return the next day where he would find the lost dog.
As the three Stroud girls became teenagers, they were expected to start working at their father's store. When school ended each day, they would board the bus for downtown. Arriving at the fruit market they would man the cash register and bag groceries until closing time. By 1950, my Grandma gave birth to another boy named Bruce. Stroud's Fruit Ltd continued to prosper and the Stroud's were one of the first families in Oshawa to buy a television. What a treat! Although Grandad worked hard at the store, he was still able to pursue hobbies, including breeding beagles and duck hunting. In 1955, baby Jill joined the family and the oldest three girls were expected to help, taking her for walks in her pram.
As Grandad's daughters became adults, they married one by one. His first grandchild, a baby girl, was the subject of his newest hobby, photography. When my sister Lisa was born, Grandad had another subject for his camera; he took one shot of her which he entered in a photography contest and won first prize. He also received recognition for a close up of a blue jay that he took. Grandad had many talents that were put to good use. He also took fishing trips to French River and returned with a prize catch for his little girls. In the meantime, his business prospered. After several years in the grocery business, Grandad tried his hand at selling insurance for which he was also successful. In 1965, Grandma gave birth to yet another baby named Heather, at 46 years old, completing the brood at seven. Grandma and Grandad already had four grandchildren at this point.
Grandad's health had been waning in recent years, likely in part due to his heavy smoking. He decided to join one of the first fitness clubs, Victanny's, to get back in shape. One night after a workout, he paid a visit to the sauna, went home, had a heart attack and died. Grandma was left a widow at a mere 49 years of age; she had to raise her youngest child, only 3, on her own as well as two teenagers. Although his life was cut short, Grandad left a legacy in his seven children. Robert Stroud, whose father could not afford to send him to university, ended up running two successful businesses. He truly was a self-made man. Happy Birthday, Grandad!
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