Ilva Marjorie John's parents had 10 children. Her father worked at the Bonanza store, time keeping and taking messages at Ross drugs. But his skill was as a blacksmith; he made coal pots, irons, baking stoves and grid irons. "I would carry food for him in the evening 'cause he worked through the night…people would rent coal pots from him."
Ilva was an obedient child who liked to mimic her parents' movements, "I always behind my mother helping her in the kitchen and helping my father plant in the yard". In the plots in Belmont her family would plant corn, green peas, bodi, melongene and ground nuts (peanuts). Ilva attended The Methodist School in Belmont until the St Margaret's School for Girls was completed. The former school had become over crowded, "the boys were in a tent in the back."
At St Margaret's, discipline was the modus operandum: "the bell rang for silence, then you would march with your arms stretched out and to the sound of a piano...you couldn't enter the classroom without saying good morning." In the classroom, you were arranged by height. After school Ilva would assist her grandmother with cooking on Bedford lane. Paying a penny for Jellit, snow-cone and popsicle, they would run through the lanes of Belmont to the homes of relatives. On Sundays after Sunday school, she and her siblings would ride the tram around the Savannah for a penny. "They put a bench right at the top of Frederick Street for the children to wait for the tram."
Her sewing lessons began at her godmother's house at age 12. "I pick up scrap (cloth) to make clothes for my dolly." Her godmother was a seamstress and employed eight girls around a table on evenings. After helping her grandmother, she would go there to sew. She was a certified seamstress by age 16, making dresses for clients and costumes for her brothers' band, The Mc Cleans. The band was well known playing all over including on the backs of trucks for Carnival. Ilva still sews, making infant clothes and her famous pillows in her Belmont home.