A Port Hope group c1901
cursor over a face to see the name

Kathleen 'Kitty' Eaton, her sister Sue and younger brother James lived in Port Hope with their mother, 'May' (Wilson) Eaton, from about 1898 to 1908, principally at number 1 Barrett's Terrace, the row house nearest the Midland railroad track. May was born in Picton, Ontario and is buried there with her parents and her son James. Kathleen's absentee father, Frederick Eaton, was born in West Wingfield, NY. He died in New York City.

Kitty became acquainted with Ernest Hemingway who didn't like her. She was equally fond of him. In 1945, as Kathleen Cannell, she published a book called 'Jam Yesterday', perhaps imagining herself the heroine in 'Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There', in which she shat upon Port Hope and some of its 'batty' inhabitants. It's amusing to read, but would have been more interesting if she'd got her facts straight. Though there's too much gratuitous invention for what I assume was meant to be seen as a memoir, she managed to libel several townspeople, who are easily identified despite the fictitious names. Like Hemingway, she based her characters on real people, then made them talk and act in ways that suited the story she'd concocted. Condescension is a trait she and Hemingway shared. Port Hope itself is introduced in chapter 12, on the 138th of 238 pages.

from Jam Yesterday
by Kathleen Cannell
OPEN AIR ASYLUM
The little town had been settled by a few ancient English families, rather decayed scions of the nobility, second sons or heirs, whose morals had gone awry. They had intermarried until most of the inhabitants were peculiar, to say the least. "Batty" was the word Port Hopers used to describe their neighbors. It was the old story of "everyone is queer save thee and me ..." I have no idea of the origin of this adjective. It had the sense of "bats in the belfry," but that slang phrase had not yet come into vogue. "Big-feeling" was another expression heard several times a day. It meant feeling oneself better than others, which was definitely the attitude of the town's aristocracy.

As in a real asylum, the local inhabitants didn't seem odd to each other, nor to us after we had lived there a while, but the first impact on Muds [as they called their mother], fresh from New York, must have been terrific. The only extenuating circumstances were that almost everyone had a sense of humor and that Muds had been prepared for oddities by frequenting the home of the Eatons. For some time after we were settled in Brindley's Terrace no one came to call. Then one day wild Irish Maggie Bell, whom Muds was trying to transform from a hired girl into a parlor maid, rushed upstairs tying a frilly white apron over a filthy once-blue one, her face as scarlet as her hair, to announce, giggling furiously: "Mrs. De Lancey Featherstonehaugh (pronounced Fustonhuff). Sure she's batty as a coot."

from Wikipedia
Kathleen Eaton Cannell (usually known as Kitty Cannell) (1891–1974) was a Paris-based American dance and fashion correspondent for major U.S. papers and periodicals. Before moving to Paris she was the dance critic for The Christian Science Monitor. During the years of World War I she was a dancer and performed under the stage name of 'Rihani', inventing a dance style called 'static dances'.

She was a well-known figure in the American community of artists in Paris in the 1920s. She was briefly married to the poet Skipwith Cannell but divorced him in the spring of 1921. William Carlos Williams describes her thus: "Kitty Cannell in her squirrel coat and yellow skull cap, which made the French, man and woman, turn in the street and stare seeing a woman, approaching six feet, so accoutered". She had an affair with Harold Loeb and they socialized with Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley. In A Farewell to Arms Hemingway based the character Helen Ferguson on Kitty, and also the character Frances Clyne in The Sun Also Rises, although she denied this, but a reading of her letters to Loeb indicates strong parallels with the story.

She became the Paris fashion correspondent for The New Yorker, and, during the German occupation, reported on occupying forces' press conferences for the New York Times.


I read 'Jam Yesterday' after seeing it referred to in a book called 'Eldorado, Canada's National Uranium Company' (1984) where the author, Robert Bothwell, quoted from Cannell's fictional nonsense, and added some patronising comment of his own in an apparent attempt to preemptively dismiss local yokels who might get the silly idea that the presence of such a dangerous industry in the heart of a small town could be a deadly threat to its health, rather than a blessing:

Port Hope, Ontario, when Eldorado entered its life, was a pretty little town better known for its past than for its present. It was once, a former inhabitant wrote, known throughout the Dominion of Canada as 'The Open Air Asylum', a title it received from the large number of decayed gentry who paraded its streets or played on its golf course. Decades of intermarriage, according to this jaundiced observer, had produced a generation best described, in a local term, as 'batty.'

The citizens of Port Hope naturally did not subscribe to this view, though many of them, if pressed, would have conceded that their 'picturesque and progressive town' had seen better days. Picturesque it certainly was, a little city on seven hills, with an exclusive boys' academy, Trinity College School, squatting on the eighth. No one could deny that Port Hope had progressed, too, from the days when it was merely Smith's Creek, named after its founder, the hunter and trader Peter Smith, who set up a trading post where the waters of the Ganaraska River flowed into Lake Ontario in 1778. Even then, Smith was not the first inhabitant; an Indian village called Cochingomink was there before he was, but the Indians gradually withdrew as white settlement along the Lake Ontario 'front' grew in the decades that followed.





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