EILEEN WALKEM-HALL: QUEEN OF HEARTS
Was Eileen’s childhood yearning for an Easy-Bake oven simply typical of the dreams of every little girl who grew up in the forties and fifties, or was it a song that had been humming through her veins since birth, a harbinger of her destiny?
Eileen Walkem-Hall, who has been a student of Jungian thought for much of her life, believes, as did Carl Jung, that we are all “born with everything within us, hardwired and ready” for our unique gifts and talents “to be recognized in the outer world.”
“The queen of hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day.”
Eileen’s dream of owning the Easy-Bake oven in avocado green, a thing of beauty that was displayed in the glossy pages of the magazines of the day, was the first of many stepping stones to her ultimately realized dream of becoming a woman who despite defeats and losses, learned to follow her soul’s blueprint to the person she believed she was meant to be.
Perhaps her future was already foretold when she journeyed with her mother on the Union Steamships boats to her beloved Savary Island
.. where she remembers her mother running up the road from the post office on August 14th, 1945, swinging the two-year-old Eileen up in her arms and shouting, “The war is over.” What she couldn’t have known was that the battles and struggles of her own life were just beginning.
For Eileen, the Easy-Bake oven represented something significantly greater than her being able to bake; it represented independence. She alone could create delights from the oven in the privacy of her playroom. And the oven – clearly an instrument for learning –was also to teach her about disappointment and loss. The oven did not live up to the glory of what it promised on the pages of those glossy magazines. She felt utterly betrayed.
In 1987, Eileen, sun-browned and barefoot, exchanged her gardening skills and the Capability Brown moniker that was emblazoned on the side of her old Bowen Island truck, to follow the first urgings of her ‘inner baker’. Quoting Plato, Eileen said:
“Necessity…is the mother of invention”
and it was sheer necessity that sent her knocking on doors and looking for work. She was hired at the island’s one local bakery, baking pies all night for $4/hour; that barely paid the rent on her small Union Steamship cottage in the nearby Orchard community. She earned only a pittance more when she moved on to work for Bowen’s only restaurant and baked pies for $4 each, eventually adding muffins to her repertoire.
Necessity once again dictated that she move on. She was close to penniless; her three teenaged children lived with their father in West Vancouver. Winters were brutal in the un-insulated wood cabins in the Orchard; they were heated only with cheap wood stoves called ‘Tin Lizzies.’ Under the cover of pre-dawn darkness Eileen slipped into the nearby woods with an old bed sheet that she filled with windfalls to feed her fire and keep her warm. She would emerge sometime later, determined and unbowed in the face of such poverty, dragging the bed sheet over frozen puddles and along the frost-heaved road to her little cottage.