Verne Skilling, the ninth and last surviving child of Agnes Ruxton and John Skilling, was born on August 8, 1900 in Teeswater, Ontario about four years after Norma.Unable to complete her memoir before she died, Norma wrote very little about Verne. Some details survive in records and letters especially from John to his son living in Toronto in c. 1920s. Photographs of Verne also survive. I will piece together what I can.
Like his siblings before him, Verne was probably born at home with assistance of a midwife. By this time the older children had left home or were in and out. Floss, 22 years older than Verne, had been away working as a milliner in Aurora, ON when Norma was born 4 years earlier.She was married in March 1902. Maude, 19 years older, taught music and often away from home though she didn’t marry until 1915. Orville 17 years older, left for Toronto the following year and was married in 1907. Gert was 13 and still at home for a few more years as was Bill who was 11. Harold, born after the loss of a son in 1891, was 7 and Norma was 4. Norma talks about herself, Harold and Verne being considered the younger group of Skilling kids.
Verne Skilling Age 9
By the time Verne was born, Agnes had had 10 pregnancies (that we know of) and was 40 years old. John was 47 years old. Their house was small and John earned a tiny sum as a choir leader, salesman of musical instruments and sewing machines, and painter. They were poor by any economic measure. But they were bright, musically gifted and enterprising. A daunting challenge for the younger Skillings.
Verne would have attended primary school and Continuation School in Teeswater as his older siblings had done. Following in their footsteps with probably many of the same teachers, he would have been expected to perform well. No record of his scholastic achievement survives.
We do have some record of his musical achievement. He was considered to be a gifted violinist and by the age of nine, was performing in the Teeswater Methodist Sunday School Orchestra directed by his father John Skilling.
Verne would have taken music lessons at an early age and learned at least two instruments like his older siblings. He seems to have settled on the violin and was said by family stories to have been very talented. By the time he moved to Toronto to work, he was still taking lessons as per his father’s letters chastising him to practice or it wouldn’t be worth paying the $1.00 per lesson.
Verne left home at about age 16 in May 1916 and moved to Toronto where he boarded first with sister Mae at 83 Ellsworth Avenue. He got a job about a month later with the Royal Bank as an administrative clerk; he says in a letter to his mother dated January 8, 1917:
“I have a lot of work to do since the stationary order came in. I have to stamp up all the statementsand there certainly are a bunch. All the statements need to be stamped ‘Gerrard & Jones’ (the bank branch?) and a lot of work like that. We get our stationary twice a year and get enough at a time to last, so it has to be quite a lot.”
In another letter dated March 18, 1917 Verne says he has been in Toronto almost 7 months and will have been at the bank for 6 months on the 25th of March. He mentions going to Timothy Eaton’s Memorial Church and enjoying Reverend Henderson. He attends a violin concert with brotherWill and sister Mae who seems to have procured the tickets through her contacts. He mentions expecting to be called up for military duty, like his older brothers, as soon as he is of age, in about a year and a half (by then the war was over). He apologizes several times for his bad writing and says he is practicing his penmanship every night along with practicing his violin. By 1921 Vern was living with his sister Maude at 151 Glenholme Ave. His older brothers Bill and Harold were also boarding with Maude and her husband Lambert Stinson.
He met and married Annabelle McMullin in Toronto on April 10, 1922. They were both 21, she, a stenographer, and he, a merchant. (Was he working for Orville?) It may have been a quiet civil ceremony as both witnesses appear to have not been family members and the marriage license shows his religion as Methodist and hers as Roman Catholic.
Verne and Annabelle Skilling 1923
On February 6, 1930 a daughter, Mary Virginia was born to Verne and Annabelle.