A face from the 1940s
Almost anytime I see a movie from the 1940s, I think of my cousin Kathleen Nicholson. She was young, pretty and reminded me a lot of woman I'd see up there on the big screen.

Another cousin, Loretta Kane (photo, below) also was attractive, but in a different way. I could picture them in separate films in a double feature, which was the way movies were shown in the '40s. Each film lasted about 90 minutes; in between there were previews of coming attractions and a cartoon. The film considered the main feature was presented twice each evening, the co-feature once. Strangest of all, people arrived at the theater throughout the first showing, then they'd remain until that point during the second showing that they decided, "This is where I came in!"

Anyway, Kathleen was upbeat and usually smiling, so I pictured her in romantic comedies or musicals; Loretta was more sultry, so she'd play Audrey Totter-Barbara Stanwyck parts in those murky mysteries known as film noir.

Kathleen did us all a big favor when she married Bob Mullally, a wonderful guy who was equally at home playing games with kids or baiting my father into a silly argument about sports or food. Bob worked in the meat department of a supermarket – I'll say it was Loblaw's, but I'm probably wrong – and my father gave him grief about the taste of ham.

Bob claimed ham was as good as ever, maybe better. The problem, he said, was my father's cigarette smoking. It was affecting his sense of taste. My father's response: "Ridiculous!" Until the day he stopped smoking, which is a whole other story. Then he had to admit Bob was right. That he believed food suddenly tasted better was probably the biggest reason my father succeeded in quitting cigarettes cold turkey.

Bob and Kathleen had six children. Kathleen lost her father, Ray Nicholson, when she was 12, and after that my dad became sort of a substitute father. And with Kathleen's children, my father enjoyed playing the role of grandpa.

My father had three sisters and loved them all dearly, but it was Kathleen's mother, Maggie, whom we saw most often. Christmas wasn't Christmas without Maggie, Kathleen, Bob and, later, their children ... though sometimes I got tired of Bob beating me at every game.