In 1960 two twenty-something women answered the call for pen friends from the Associated Country Women of the World. Fifty years later, the women – Kathleen Daykin of Canterbury, England, and Averill Abbott of Redmond – are still writing. And they’ve become traveling companions.
Daykin is in the midst of a seven-week visit with Abbott – her fifth – and they’re planning the details of Abbot’s fifth trip to England next year.When they started writing Daykin was 25, married and living in Hereford, England. Abbott, then Averill Hyder, was 21, married, the mother of an infant and living in Culver.
Daykin was a member of her village’s Women’s Institute, and Abbott was active in the Women’s Home Extension program. Both programs provided educational and social outlets for women in rural areas, with classes on sewing, cooking, food preservation, nutrition and child development, etc. While the W.I. is experiencing a resurgence of interest in England, the Women’s Home Extension program has vanished, the women said.
At first the pair exchanged letters sporadically, but in 1979 Daykin inherited some money from her grandfather.
“I told my husband and two boys I’d like to meet that lady I’ve been writing to,” Daykin said.That visit cemented their friendship.
“When she came the first time, the visit really linked us up,” Abbott said, “We’re like sisters.”
“Fifty years is a long time,” Daykin added.
Over the years they’ve raised children, been through divorces and become grandmothers. Daykin has two sons – one retired from the Metropolitan Police and one in the Royal Air Force – and four grandchildren.Abbott has four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.Daykin was an auxiliary nurse in a hospital when she retired for the last time 14 years ago. Abbott was a printing and mail clerk at Central Oregon Community College when she retired in 2002.
During Daykin’s visit this year the two put 2,800 miles on Abbott’s car on a trip to the Grand Canyon (on Daykin’s bucket list of must-dos), Arches National Park and Death Valley. Following a few days in Ashland, the pair will head to Vancouver Island to visit Daykin’s brother.
In the past they’ve been to Las Vegas, and in 1980 they took five children to Disneyland in a motorhome.
“That was nuts,” Abbott laughed.Daykin heads back to England July 2, but plans are in the works for her return in two years, when they’re planning a trip to Yellowstone (another item on Daykin’s bucket list) and perhaps a trip across Canada.
Abbott’s trips to England have immersed her in history.
“Everything’s so old (in England); we don’t have anything to compare,” said Abbott, who has an interest in King Henry VIII and his era.“There’s so much history in every mile and not just 100 years,” she said.
Daykin and Abbott have traveled all over England, with trips to Ireland and Scotland. Next year’s itinerary includes a visit to Scotland to search out some of Abbott’s ancestors, the White Cliffs of Dover and the Lake District.
“It’s always fun to know somebody when you’re traveling,” Abbott said. “She gets the B&Bs lined up and the bus schedules.“It’s so much better than traveling on your own,” Abbott added, as the “Thelma and Louise” pair laughed over past adventures and plotted new ones.
-- story and photo by Trish Pinkerton