Autumn Passages

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

Humbert Wolfe

Harry Stafford cover

 

October began with a kaleidoscope of colour stretching from ground to sky, as far as you could see, and it ended with grey horizons, bare trees and cold winds, sometimes even snow.

Although some of our trees seemed to turn just one shade of orange or yellow, many of them were ablaze with every hue from the palest yellow, the brightest orange, three or four different shades of green, to the bright, clear reds all competing for attention as they fluttered in the cool winds of autumn. The colours were so beautiful that often we would try to preserve them by waxing the leaves and putting them between the pages of a book.

Walking through our yard I’d pick out the biggest and brightest leaves I could find. I’d seek out the perfect ones that hadn’t been torn by the winds or chewed by insects. I’d try to get a nice variety of bright green, lemony yellow and of course the stars of the show were the brilliant oranges and rich, shiny reds. I’d bring them into the house and Mother would get out her tube of waxed paper, the iron and the ancient, battered, ironing board. That old thing had seen better days! We’d place each leaf between folded sheets of waxed paper and sometimes cover them with a tea towel and press down with the hot iron. When we finished, I’d take my treasures and store them carefully between the pages of a thick book and place them on a shelf of the bookcase in the living room.

Pressing the brightest leaves and saving them in a book was my way of trying to hold onto the season and make it last. It was the brightest, most beautiful time of the year and I wanted it to stay with us as long as possible. Of course like most things in life, it didn’t last, and bit by bit the north winds came, and the nights grew colder and one by one the leaves blew off of the trees, and the cruel frost stole their colours away.

Overnight, it seemed that our yard changed from a bright, happy carnival of colour into a stark, eerie, cold and barren place, gloomy and silent, waiting for the onset of winter. It was during those last weeks of October that I’m sure we could have rented out our yard to a production company to film a spooky horror movie. The tall, imposing maple trees stood bare and dark against the evening skies. Most of the birds had gone south for the winter and so the yard was quiet; too quiet.

The sun slipped down behind Mitchell’s barn earlier each night and sometimes I’d be nervous walking up the laneway or back the side road. I rode my bike a little quicker back from Cavanagh’s store; not just because the air was cooler, but because it was deathly quiet and the leafless trees cast long, ominous shadows across the Third Line as I made my way back home. Why did the places and things that seemed so natural and so comfortable a few short weeks ago suddenly seem dark and ominous?

I think it all boiled down to three things: heat, light and colour. Over the course of the eight weeks beginning in early September to the last few days of October, we lost all three. It happened gradually of course; not all at once. The heat left first and although the first part of September was almost like summer, it was as if someone was turning down a giant thermostat a couple of degrees each day. The light left slowly as well, a minute at a time, over the days and weeks, then came the end of daylight savings time and the light was reduced to a brief eight hours or so each day. The colour was the last to go and hung on bravely until the frost came and the leaves turned a murky shade of lifeless orange and were so brittle that they could be crushed like egg shells.

The transition from summer to fall that we witnessed each year might have seemed daunting, even depressing to someone new to the area. Being Lanark County kids we just took it in our stride, knowing that this, like our other three seasons, was only temporary. Dealing with the changing seasons whether the change seemed like a positive or negative thing was a good lesson to carry with us in life. We learned to make the best of whatever was thrown at us.

So every fall as the winds grew cooler and the dusk came earlier, our thoughts would turn to Hallowe’en. Our stark, colourless yards looked spooky anyway, so we made the best of it! We didn’t fret because summer was gone; we made the most of the gloomy new season by making plans for the scariest night of the year! It was time to scrounge around, put together our best costumes and get our candy sacks ready for that annual trek up and down the Third Line!

 

(excerpt from:  “Lanark County Calendar – Four Seasons on the Third Line” )

ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark Museum – Genealogy Tips & Tricks Sunday, September 21st 2:00 p.m.

Join us on Sunday, September 21st at 2:00 p.m. for some Tips and Tricks on researching your Family History!

What are some common mistakes to avoid?  What is the best way to find that elusive ancestor?  Find out the easiest way to organize your genealogy.  Learn about some of the best records to aid in your search.  What are some common errors found in family bibles?   How to verify a family legend or family lore.  Tips on interviewing older relatives.  Why is it important to research collateral lines in a family?   How can we use historic maps to support our research?  Tips on the best ways to use census records.  How do we find our ancestor on a passenger list?  ……and much, much, more!

Light refreshments will be served.

Lanark Museum guest speaker Sept 2014

http://www.staffordwilson.com

The Written Word Comes to Life

Writer's Festival 5 banner0001Writer's Festival 6 Lee Ann & Leslie0001Writer's Festival 10001Writer's Festival 7 with Steve Scott0001Writer's Festival 4 with Carol-Ann0001Writer's Festival 20001_1

Writer's Festival 20001Writer's Festival 8 with Irene Spence0001Writer's Festival 9 Authors0001

The written word came to life at the International Writer’s Festival in Perth on Saturday. Under sunny skies, perched along the historic Tay Basin, the Crystal Palace was home to nearly a dozen authors showcasing their work and chatting with locals and visitors alike. The event was part of a weekend of activities which included a writing contest and some notable guest speakers from the writing community.

Many thanks to the Chamber of Commerce along with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Farmer’s Market, the Town of Perth, the Perth & District Union Public Library, the BIA , Heritage Perth, The Book Nook and many local businesses who organized and sponsored this first-time event in the newly formed Perth Chapter of the well-known International Writers Festival.

We were pleased to be situated with author Gene Bassett to our right and with Irene Spence and Ron Shaw to our left. Irene was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee award for her many years of service in promoting history and heritage and is active at Archives Lanark as well as the Lanark County Genealogical Society.

It was a pleasure meeting author and instructor Lee Ann Eckhardt Smith, member of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Lee Ann, along with Leslie Wallack of The Book Nook presented each author with a smart black carry-all featuring the Writer’s Festival logo, a writing journal, pen and decorative ceramic keepsake.

One of the highlights of the day were visits from Carol-Ann McDougall and husband Ken who are building their dream home along the picturesque shores of Rideau Ferry. Another delightful visitor was an old friend and neighbour from the third line – Dr. Steve Scott. It was a wonderful surprise to connect once again and have a quick chat.

The day was a great success and we look forward to future events with the International Writer’s Festival!

International Writer’s Festival August 23rd, 2014 – Participating Authors:

Gene Bassett, author of: ‘Tall Tales’, and ‘Stolen Moments’

Allison Graham & Cathy Rivoire, author/illustrator of ‘Caterpillar Soup’

Joelle Hubner-Mclean, author of ‘Corvus and Me’

Shirley Mackenzie, ‘Orphan Sage’

John McKenty, ‘Square Deal Garage’, ‘Follow the Crowd’ and ‘Arden Blackburn’s Mail Route’

Anne Raina, author of: ‘Clara’s Rib’

Ron Shaw author of: ‘Tales of the Hare’, ‘Black Light’ and ‘Forgotten Hero’ (Co-authored with M.E. Irene Spence)

Claudia Smith, author of ‘By Word of Mouth’

M.E. Irene Spence, co-author of ‘Forgotten Hero, the biography of Alexander Fraser’

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of: ‘Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen’ and ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line’ and ‘Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line’ and ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line’

Mick Wicklum ‘Grand Popo and Kanaga’ and ‘Wicklum’s Law and Other Tips on How to Survive in Africa’

http://www.staffordwilson.com

International Writer’s Festival Comes to Perth!

Writer's Festival Aug 2014

Perth Crystal Palace

Join us Saturday, August 23rd from 9 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Crystal Palace in Perth, Ontario.

In its first year ever, the Perth Chapter of the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival will be showcasing local authors at a Book Fair at the Perth Farmer’s Market set against the backdrop of the picturesque Tay River.

Whether you come by car and park along the historic streets of Perth, or sail up by boat and take in the breathtaking views along the Tay Basin, there will be something for all ages to enjoy.

The event features a number of local writers including Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of:

• Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen
• Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line
• Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line
• Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third

Pick up a copy and have it signed by the author.
Mark this special event on your calendar.
For more information contact:

The Perth and District Chamber of Commerce (613) 267-3200 / 1-888-319-3204
or Leslie Wallack at The Book Nook thebooknook@bellnet.ca

http://www.staffordwilson.com

A Beautiful Day, So It Is

fred and ethel0001

 

 

“It’s a beautiful day outside, so it is.”

“So it is.”   –     It was an expression we heard often, spoken in our father’s even, melodic tones, with a hint of an accent, faded over the past three generations, since his great-grandfather left southern Ireland.

There were many lively expressions, and old customs, that surfaced from time to time, reminding us that our father had grown up in an isolated area, populated mostly by Irish and Scottish immigrants . It was a close community, where the Roman Catholics married other Roman Catholics, whose families had also come from the old country. The traditions of story-telling and singing, fiddle-playing, and hard-drinking were tempered with an absolute and unwavering devotion to family, and to the church.

He grew up in a rural area where the dead were waked in the home. He recalled one particular wake where the deceased, an uncle, was laid out on the dining room table, as was the custom. The drinking had commenced long before the funeral took place in the tiny, packed, St. Patrick’s Church in Ferguson’s Falls. Some would claim that they drank to help deal with their grief, at the loss of their dearly departed. Dad said that some used any excuse to drink. Before the wake was over that night, Dad, a young boy, would see two men pour whiskey down the dead man’s throat.

In the years that followed, he continued to witness the destructive powers of alcohol abuse, as it fueled conflicts, tearing families apart, and caused children to abandon their education in order to support themselves. Determined not to repeat the past, he would not tolerate the presence of alcohol in his own home. This remained unchanged from the early days of dating my mother, through the five decades that would follow, until his death.

A mild natured man, reflective at times, he was hard-working, and steadfast. A farmer’s son, he loved nature, and frequently called us to come and admire the bright night sky, or a hovering hummingbird in the yard. He loved his family, and smiled proudly as we left the nest one by one, to try our luck in the world. When one of us drove away, down the lane, after a visit home, he would stand out in the yard, and wave at the car until it eventually went out of sight. In keeping with his personality, he was not a demonstrative man, and expressed his love for us in a quiet, reserved way.

An avid reader, he cherished the written word, and regularly devoured the epic novels of James Michener, with some westerns by Zane Grey thrown in for good measure. He would be pleased that all five of his children became insatiable readers, and his grandchildren as well, as the passion for prose continues down through the generations.

As the hot, sultry, days of July are upon us once again, I remember this man, who was our father. He worked tirelessly to provide for us and put food on our table. He shared his wisdom with us, and cautioned us, “everything in moderation” and “always think for yourself, or someone else will do it for you”. He was the role model who gave us a strong work ethic, and reminded us to “always keep your word.”

Today, on his birthday, I recall many July 15ths when we celebrated together. I remember the jokes and the laughter, familiar faces gathered around the weathered old picnic table, and our mother beaming, making her way across the lawn, carrying his chocolate layer cake, candles lit….

It’s a beautiful day to remember our Dad,……so it is.


 

 

This post in memory of Tobias ‘Tib’, ’Tim’ Stafford
July 15, 1918 – July 18, 1992

(photo:  l to r:   Tobias  “Tib” Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tim Stafford (standing), seated – Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, Fred Rutherford (Mother’s aunt and uncle from Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, New York.)

http://www.staffordwilson.com

July Thunders Through Our Yard

thunder storm

“Louder and louder the deep thunder rolled,
as through the myriad halls of some vast temple in the sky;
fiercer and brighter came the lightning;
more and more heavily the rain poured down.”

Charles Dickens

 

 

Thunderstorms in the country followed days of still air that was heavy, and thick with humidity. The leaves on the poplar trees outside my bedroom window fluttered, and eventually turned their backs toward us, as though they were bracing for what was to come. The birds scurried back to their nests to take shelter, and the squirrels and chipmunks sped quickly toward their homes without looking back.

The sky changed from a playful, summer blue as the heavy, dark, grey clouds rolled in over the old house. The largest, darkest clouds appeared menacing and powerful as they hung low over the yard, turning midday into night.

I could see the first streak of lightning as it lit up the sky around Mitchell’s barn. Seconds later, the thunder crash was so loud that I instinctively ran downstairs, hoping to find some comfort in the grownups who had gathered in the living room.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”, Mother would say, matter-of-factly, as Great Aunt Clara sprinkled holy water over the lamps and the around the doorways. “Let’s play a game and count the seconds after the lightning flashes to see how close the thunder follows.” Mother said. I wasn’t in much of a state to play a game and wondered if this was her way to take my mind off of the dangers of the storm.

The rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was pounding it against the kitchen windows so hard that I thought that any minute the glass would break. Another bolt of lightning lit up the house, followed by an ominous crash, and I wondered if it had hit one of the big maple trees outside. Great Aunt Clara scurried into the living room without glancing my way, as though she knew that I’d see the sheer terror in her eyes.

This went on for several minutes, that seemed like hours, until the flashes became less frequent and the thunder moved off into the distance, and the whole house and all of its occupants seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

I went back upstairs and watched from the window until the dark clouds moved along in the sky, back toward the railroad tracks. It was as though someone had turned the lights back on and patches of blue dotted the sky again and the sun burst out from behind the big grey mass overhead.

There would be many storms in the heat of July, and they all began and ended the same. It would commence with menacing skies, deafening thunderclaps and a shared fear of the unknown. It would end with calm skies, nervous laughter and gratitude for the abundance of rain that had quenched the thirsty farmlands around us.

 

Excerpt from “Lanark County Calendar”

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Remembering Mothers in Peace and War

Airforce Women 1942 001
First Phys Ed Instructors
Today, as we celebrate Mothers around the world, I would like to share a story often told by our late Mother – Corporal Audry Rutherford Stafford, RCAF Women’s Division WWII.

It was 1942, and for the first time in Canadian history, a select group of airwomen were sent from their air bases to train as Physical Education Instructors. Twenty-one women in total were selected for this prestigious program and sent from their respective air bases for a five-week training program, and were immersed in various active sports, exercises, developing team spirit, studying general health practices, and recreation.

Classes were held at the Margaret Eaton School in Toronto, and while many of the classes were conducted in lecture form, ‘Peter’, the skeleton, was used in the study of anatomy.

Section Officer Ruth Jernholm was in charge of the group. Miss Jernholm was a graduate in physical education from the University of Denmark, Copenhagen. She had come to Canada with her sister in 1929 and began her career teaching children in the Winnipeg public school system.

A highlight for these girls in the program was an invitation to perform at the half-time show at the 1943 Grey Cup game held on November 27th in Toronto. It was a day not to be forgotten and a story told and re-told by our late Mother.

And so, today, as each of us remembers our own Mothers, let us also take a moment to remember the women who have served and continue to serve their countries proudly, in times of peace and war.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Graduates of the first Physical Education Instructor’s Course
RCAF Women’s Division 1942:

L.A.W. Phyllis L. Reid, Toronto, Ontario
Cpl. Joy Galloway, Hamilton, Ontario
A.W.1 Naomi Carley, Consecon, Ontario
L.A.W. Margaret Chase, Aylmer, Ontario
A.W.1 Elizabeth Ann Tompkins, Port Credit, Ontario
A.W.2 Mary Crew, Barrie, Ontario
Cpl. Mary Howden, Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Helen Rocke, Vancouver, British Columbia
Cpl. Ethel M. Boyce,Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Maureen S. Martin, Vancouver, British Columbia
L.A.W. Violet Peck, Edmonton, Alberta
A.W.1 Audry Rutherford, Edmonton, Alberta
Cpl. Elizabeth Currer, Port Kells, British Columbia
A.W.1 Kathleen Mowbray, Cloverdale, British Columbia
A.W.2 Ethel McCully, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Cpl. Estelle Marcotte, Verdun, Quebec,
L.A.W. Nona Butts, Victoria British Columbia
A.W.1 Anne Turner, Victoria British Columbia
Cpl. Grace E. Nicoll, Mannville, Alberta
A.W.1 Mary Schommer, Leipzig, Saskatchewan,
Cpl. Alice Cuthill, Winnipeg, Manitoba