Sharing My World 81

filename-1

Baby sister and me at picnic grounds, random uncle in background, and some very cool cars.

Share Your World – May 28, 2018

If you were to pack a basket for a picnic lunch, what would be in your basket?

I have the fondest memories of our Sunday family picnics in a little park beside the beach in Port Elgin.  There were always various aunts and uncles and cousins from my dad’s side of the family, the heady scent of cedar in the hot sun, and picnic tables that the men would round up until there were enough to seat everyone.  There were paper table cloths and paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery, wasps, ants, screeching sea gulls, and so much food we always ended up having to decide who would take what home with them.  Because how boring to take what you brought and how fun to exchange things.  And fight over Aunt Marie’s brownies topped with melted marshmallows and chocolate icing.  Well, maybe that never happened because I can’t imagine there being any of those left.

Something that did happen every picnic day without fail was having the adults warn their children that swimming was absolutely forbidden until two hours after eating. Because to do so meant you would probably get cramps and die.  And the adults would have their after meal chat time seriously reduced too. That bit would be equally tragic.

I do not remember ever having much to do with the picnic food prep, which likely explains my picnic nostalgia.  White bread sandwiches cut in little triangles and jello salads and potato salads and desserts all just magically appeared.  And there was always Freshie.  That’s a Canadian thing from the 1950’s and beyond, an add-your-own-sugar drink mix, in kid flavours called orange, yellow, purple and red.  Purple was the best.

IMG_3303

At this point in my life I have a hard time figuring out what the point of a picnic is when it’s just so much easier to stay home where there is less pollen and fewer bugs.  But if I was forced at gun point to pack for one, I’d fill the basket with potato salad and plastic forks.  And hope somebody else remembers to bring the Freshie.

On a vacation what do you require in any place that you sleep?

A decent mattress, clean sheets, air conditioning, a great shower, towels larger than postage stamps and internet access.  As far as I know there are none of these things in a tent.  Oh, and lots of body lotion.  Some places are very chintzy with the body lotion.  I bring my own, but still, you know, free stuff.

If you were to buy a new house/apartment what are the top three items on your wish list?

Funny you should ask because I have been watching design challenges and home purchasing shows and small home documentaries.  It is completely bizarre to me how much space some people think they need.  One woman wanted an extra room just to store her shoes.  Think about why you need such a ridiculous amount of storage space and then get rid of half your crap.  Plus, seriously, if you are one person with four bathrooms, what is going on in that little head of yours?  And more importantly, who is keeping them all clean while you’re out working your ass off to pay your mortgage?

Top three items on my list:  two bedrooms, big shower, no stairs.  The rest of the list?   Kitchen with stools and a counter you can eat at, open to living area, a little patio or balcony, no grass to cut.  A den or office area would be a nice bonus for books and art paraphernalia but if that stuff can fit in the bedrooms, even better.  Something small and easy to keep clean.  If I want to entertain I will rent a hall.  Or take you out to a restaurant.  If you get really drunk and can’t drive home, you can sleep on my floor.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?

Last summer it would often take me a couple of days to cut the grass, doing the back one day and the front the next.  I’ve done it twice now, front and back easily in a morning, no problem. So I guess those 15 minute senior workouts are doing their magic.  I also found a video that takes you on a mile long walk (1.609 km in Canada) without leaving your home.  So, great for rainy, heavy pollen, or crazy hot days. The ‘walk’ incorporates side to side and back and forth steps, arm and knee raises, kicks, twists, and generally a lot of antics that if you did them out and about in your neighbourhood would draw a lot of attention to yourself.

After all these hot days, last night we had our first real thunder-storm of the season. It was short but lovely.  There’s something about the delightful smell of a rain storm that always makes me smile.   That, plus the fact that if you had a picnic planned you’d have to call it off and eat at your kitchen counter instead.

share-your-world2

Advertisements

Places I’ve Called Home

img_2922

Way back in the day before color when farms were in black and white and sepia.

I almost called this list ‘Places I’ve Slept’ but thankfully saw the problems with that almost immediately.  Titles are hard.  Unless you don’t give a hoot about accuracy.  Anyway, here we go, a list of the various locations I’ve been referring to whenever I’ve said “let’s go home”.

    1. From birth to about age six I lived on a little farm in Ontario down the hill from my maternal grandparents farm, close to Lake Huron, beside a stone and cement bridge which spanned a raging creek.  I was little.  It looked raging to me.
    2. More permanent farm number two, about 8 miles from Port Elgin, the town I decided to call my hometown because I went to high school there.  This is the home I kept coming back to for most of my adult life, the place where my parents lived most of theirs.
    3. The Orchards house in Stratford where I boarded (a shared bedroom with a tiny little balcony) while attending Teachers College.
    4. A two bedroom apartment in St. Catharines shared with 3 other working girls.  I was a substitute teacher, on call to fill in anywhere in the city.  (This is when I met W at a residence party at the university) (it wasn’t all about work)
    5. The Wilkes house in St. Catharines where I boarded in a little smoke-filled bedroom while attending Brock University.  I was the one supplying the smoke,  convinced it helped me concentrate while writing boring English and Philosophy papers.
    6. A tiny little garage sized house in a backyard in Kenora, our first home as a married couple, close to one of W’s aunts who liked to feed us.
    7. Basement apartment in Dryden on Charles Street,  close to one of MY aunts who also liked to feed us.
    8. High rise apartment in Guelph where W went back to University and I worked at the campus bookstore, all in the interests of one day being able to feed ourselves.
    9. Basement apartment in Guelph for married University students.  Our daughters first home.
    10. Government house in Cambridge Bay, N.W.T.  Our sons first home.
    11. Row housing in Inuvik, N.W.T. The old ones close to the hospital, not the new ones on the other side of town.  We had utilidors and board walks.  And dust and mud and the scrawniest Christmas trees in the history of the world.
    12. Government house in Pond Inlet, N.W.T., right beside the Arctic Ocean.  The view from our front window was of the mountains on Bylot Island and random icebergs floating by or trapped in the ocean ice.
    13. Government house in Yellowknife on Bromley Drive, a paved street!  We were on our way back to civilization.
    14. And here we are, (and have been since the late 1980’s) in our very own mortgage free abode in sunny Alberta, the province my kids call home.

I’m glad we stopped our wandering ways.  I always worried that our kids would turn into little nomads with no roots.  Both of us had parents who stayed put even after we moved away and I wanted that stability for our kids too.

After all these years and all these places I still consider Ontario home and have vague dreams about one day going back there to end up somewhere close to the place I started.  I don’t know if it will ever happen, and really it doesn’t matter.  Home is just a thing you take with you wherever you go, leaving little pieces of your heart behind in every place you’ve ever been settled and happy. Nothing is forever, and we got good at packing up our memories and moving on.  I expect that skill will come in handy again one fine day.

 

Farming for a Living

There’s no such thing as a slow news day in a small town.  Not when you have long-term residents willing to tell you their story and dig up a couple of old photos to go with it.

This “news” article was published in the People section of the Port Elgin Beacon Times on July 28, 1999 when my dad was 85.  There are a few mistakes in it, the funniest one being where they say our youngest sister is “Barbara” which isn’t even close to her real name.  That’s okay, she likes to remain anonymous.

Dad was the 8th of 10 children, not 9, but his youngest brother died in a bicycle accident when he was just a boy.  Maybe dad chose to skip over that part.

Hope you enjoy this little slice of history.
image
image
image
image
image
I lived here until I was 5 or 6 so my memories of it are vague. There was a hand pump in the kitchen for water, and we had baths in a big wash tub on the kitchen floor. The next farm-house we lived in had hot and cold running water and a bath tub upstairs. Now if people have fewer than four bathrooms in a house they are likely to complain. How times change.

Letter to Newton

Between my dad and his older brother Newton there was a gap of six years.  Dad wrote this letter in 1937 when he was twenty-three and needed some advice from someone older and wiser, with more life experience.


Port Elgin Ont

Dec. 5, 1937

Dear Newton –

I was informed that you wished I’d write once in a while.  I know for myself that I should but as usual am not prompt at anything.

I was informed also some time ago that Carl Gingrich is figuring on buying lot 8 and I’m keeping clear of it.

While cutting wood we came upon a nice little patch of birch.  What would you charge a cord for it.  It isn’t a very big strip, maybe twenty cords.  There has been several asking me if you would sell poplar by the acre and of course I didn’t know. 

I suppose you heard my old flame Alaine got the knot tied.  It makes me feel old all these kids getting married.

I am sort of contemplating the subject but it sort of frightens me.  What if I get the wrong woman or something?  Of course there have been several applicants but the job has not yet been let.  I’d like to get the advice of someone who has tried it.  There has been a lot of people heard I was getting married.  In fact one man wanted to make a deal with me to take over his farm in the spring.

It’s great weather for cutting wood now if it only lasts another couple of weeks we will have a nice little pile put up.

I suppose you have lots of snow up there.  Do you ever go over to visit Santa Claus?  I’ll bet he’s busy right now.  How’s Marie?  or I mean Mrs. McArthur because I shouldn’t get so familiar with one I haven’t even met.  Anyway, give her a kiss for me, unless it keeps you busy doing yourself justice.

Well I don’t know what else to say so I guess I’d better get ready and go to McConkey’s.  Write soon with information.

Hank

The letter was sent to Northern Ontario where Newton was newly married and teaching school.  McConkey’s refers to his oldest sister May and her husband for whom my dad was working at the time.

Perhaps on one of their family visits during the summer to our farm Aunt Marie or Uncle Newton brought this letter back to my dad.  It was mom who kept it in amongst her precious papers all those years.  I wonder what advice Newton gave my dad so long ago?  It was five years after writing it that he finally decided he was making the right choice and married my mother.

All his life my dad respected and admired and loved his siblings.  They were spread out all over the province, but it never stopped them from being close.

These little snippets of history, showing us who they were, help to keep the memories alive.

Compositions Circa 1928 (Part Two)

"Horse & Buggy"

“Horse & Buggy” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The School Fair

Many preparations were being made for the school fair which was to be held at Port Elgin on the 20th of September, 1928.  The morning dawned at last but to the great disappointment of all it was raining.  But it did not rain all morning.  After getting our vegetables, sewing and baking ready we had no way of getting it to the hall by 11 o’clock.  But we got a chance of sending it in with a neighbour.  Then the suits were to be pressed and packed and this did not take long.  Then we were all ready to go.

So we piled into the buggy and away we went as happy as larks.  Then we got to the Park.  And discovered it was to be at the rink.  When we got to the rink, it was to be at the Park.  When we returned to the park we were very busy dressing in our sailor costumes.  We had blue collars with two borders of white around them and an anchor in the corners.  The girls had white middies and skirts while the boys had white middies and trousers.  Some of the boys had to dress as girls while some of the girls had to dress as boys.  This was done in order to make the lines even.

Then we started to march.  After marching, we lined up to be judged.  Then we sang our song.  It was a sailor one.  Then the judge called out the results.  We got 1st prize for the parade.  After this was Physical Culture which we did not take part in.  Jean Nelson did very well and got 4th prize.  I also gave a speech.  After this was the judging of horses, cattle, sheep, and other farm animals.  One boy from our school took first for colt.

M.E. Scott, 1928

(I love the fact that over half of this story involves preparation and anticipation.  The fair itself, and the speech, and the winning of prizes are all jammed into the final paragraph and a a bit of an antic climax after the thrill of getting ready for this special day.  Did she run out of time, or space, or energy? Perhaps it was all three.)

My Hometown

I grew up on a farm near what is now called Saugeen Shores, (Port Elgin, Southampton and Saugeen Township amalgamated.) My highschool was in Port Elgin, so I suppose I can claim that town as my own, even though it doesn’t exist exactly as that anymore – the town or the building. It’s weird to see the shopping centre where I used to go to school.

The sunsets are still incredible, and the beaches along the shores of Lake Huron are still gorgeous, no matter how built up and touristy they try to make them. There are maple trees and cottages everywhere and the population more or less doubles every summer. It’s sort of famous now for its Pumpkin-Fest weekend in October as well.

I’ve still got lots of family there, and that’s why I go back. It’s hard to get all nostalgic about things when they’re forever changing and I don’t recognize them anymore. When I was quite small one of my aunts took me inside the car of a passenger train because I was dying of curiosity to know what it looked like in there. Now the train station is gone, the trains and the tracks are gone, and I’ve walked along the ‘rail trail’ like a tourist trying to remember how it used to be.

When mom and dad left the farm they lived in a little white house right beside the rail trail and the changes just kept happening. A little grocery store where they liked to shop closed down, forced to do so by the opening of a giant chain. They lived on Victoria street, but when the two towns joined the street name was changed to Arlington because there was already a Victoria street in the adjoining town. Mom was quite put out. To her ” the Arlington” was the name of a not so classy hotel on main street known for carousing and drunken revelry. Plus she had to send out change of address notices when she hadn’t even moved anywhere.

Every visit there’s something new, the old things disappear, people change, things get better, or things get turned upside down – its hard to keep up. Nothing ever stays the same, but then why would you want it to? It’s a great way to annoy the next generation, remeniscing about how things used to be.

Powered by Plinky