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June Callwood’s unhappy childhood

The Story

Growing up in the small French community of Belle River, Ont., June Callwood's childhood was marked by poverty and instability. Her mother -- the daughter of a Métis bootlegger -- was aloof and her father -- the son of an Anglo judge -- was a womanizer. When he abandoned his family during the Depression, Callwood's mother pressured her daughter to get a job, as told in this CBC Television excerpt. At 16, Callwood reluctantly quit high school to work as a reporter for the Brantford Expositor. In 1942, she moved to Toronto and began working at the Globe and Mail. Being the only female general reporter meant she had many pursuers, including George McCullagh, the paper's publisher. But Callwood had eyes for only one man -- Trent Frayne, the paper's handsome sportswriter. The couple married in 1944. 

Medium: Television
Program: Man Alive
Broadcast Date: Nov. 15, 1988
Guest: June Callwood
Host: Roy Bonisteel
Duration: 0:52

Did You know?

• June Callwood was born on June 2, 1924, in Chatham, Ont., but grew up in nearby Belle River. She was the older of two daughters.
• Her father's lack of steady employment meant the family struggled to make ends meet. Callwood recalls having nothing to eat but potatoes and water for four days straight.
• At age 12, Callwood entered a convent thinking she wanted to become a nun. She left after a year.

• Callwood said her younger, more manageable sister, Jane, was the favourite child. Callwood described herself as a hyper, rebellious kid who always felt like an outsider.
• Callwood said her grandfathers gave her the love and support she lacked from her parents. They doted on her. Grandfather Callwood, a magistrate of Essex and Kent counties, even encouraged young Callwood to pursue a career in law, something unheard of for a girl at the time.

• CBC producer Ross McLean, who was Callwood's high school colleague, described her as a beautiful, bare-footed maiden who dazzled everyone in sight.
• Callwood said that she was attracted to Trent Frayne even before she met him. She had seen a picture of him in the newspaper. Callwood later said she fell in love with Frayne because he seemed dependable, the opposite of her father.


June Callwood: Canada's Conscience more