(photo of Stafford House: “Perth: Spirit of Place”, John McQuarrie, p.143)
The first snowflakes of the season fluttered down softly, carried gently by the light breezes, back and forth across my path, until they finally touched the earth, and vanished. The very first snowfall of the year seemed magical, and we gazed up in wonder as if we’d never seen the fragile white crystals before.
It had been many, many months since the last few signs of snow had disappeared late in the spring, and I wondered to myself if these first light flakes of the new season would stay on the ground. Almost in unison with the first snow, the merchants of Perth began to decorate their windows for Christmas, and up and down Gore Street there were signs that Christmas was coming.
James Brothers, Stedman’s, and Beamish had bright lights and shiny garlands in their windows, and Shaw’s always had a festive window display.
James Brothers Hardware store, at the corner of Gore and Foster St., Perth, Ontario
(photos of James Brothers Hardware and Shaws of Perth courtesy of ‘Perth Remembered’)
Shaws, on Gore Street, in Perth, ON
A walk down to Haggis’ candy store was not to be missed, as Mrs. Nee’s colourful candy canes, creamy Christmas fudge, and salty nuts were temptingly displayed.
(photo of Sophia Haggis Nee in front of her shop at 60 Gore StreetE., Perth, Ontario)
The Perth Apothecary always had a beautiful Christmas window with all of their lotions and potions packaged so beautifully, ready to place under the tree.
Something for the girls and guys, from the Perth Apothecary, Gore St., Perth
“The Perth Courier”, Dec. 9, 1976. p.11
First Snowfall of the year, at the Stafford House
The Stafford House – 1973 (photo: Stafford family collection)
The signs of the season weren’t visible only in the town of Perth. The first snowfall in the country meant bringing out our sleds, our flying saucers, and our winter toys!
Judy Stafford (with Mike, the family dog),and Arlene Stafford, at the Stafford House, 1963
Out in the country, we turned on our outdoor lights on December 1st, and even though the lane was long, we could see Dad’s handiwork as we drove up the Third Line, coloured lights draped round and round the spruce tree.
Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, attaching Christmas lights onto our spruce tree, at the Stafford house, Third Line, Bathurst Twp. , Lanark County – c. 1970s
Dad took great pride in his annual Christmas display, though it was a far cry from the elaborate decorations on the more stately homes in Perth. It’s strange how, as a child, the lights on your own home, no matter how modest; seem brighter, and more magical than all the rest.
That first, delicate snowfall of the year falls so silently, whispers so softly, and serves to remind us that Christmas is on its way. It’s time to gather the boxes of decorations from the attic, and time to test our outdoor displays. There are Christmas cards to prepare for mailing, and special foods and drinks to assemble for the big day.
Whenever I see that first snowfall, and the lights and displays all around, I am reminded of our own humble spruce tree on the Third Line, and the weeks of preparation that followed, leading up to the most glorious time of the year.
Arlene Stafford-Wilson at the creek, where we skated as children, in the lowlands behind the Stafford house.
“First Snowfall of the Year”, an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line” ISBN 978-0-9877026-30
At the Book Launch for “Lanark County Calendar”
Arlene Stafford-Wilson and Leslie Wallack, owner of The Book Nook and Other Treasures, at the book launch for “Lanark County Calendar”
Carol Bennett McCuaig reviews “Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line:
Lanark County Calendar
“This memoir by Arlene Stafford-Wilson is, to paraphrase the poet Keats, ‘a thing of beauty and a joy forever.’ This is my favourite among the books by this author. Her latest memories of a happy childhood spent on the Third Line of Lanark County’s Bathurst Township are sure to please her host of fans.
The book has its appeal on several levels. Schoolchildren will enjoy Arlene’s accounts of what it was like to be a child in the in the not-so- olden days, especially if the book is read to them by a teacher or grandparent. How will today’s youngsters view a little girl who played with a skipping rope, enjoyed board games with the family, and waxed autumn leaves to preserve their colour, with never a computer in sight? And how many may have heard the lonesome sound of a train whistle. or have woken up on a winter morning to find their drinking water turned to ice beside the bed?
Any child will surely understand the author’s dismay at being scammed by a carnie at the fair, after investing a whole two dollars in a game of skill designed to cheat the customer. Some things never change.
Present and former residents of Bathurst who find themselves mentioned in the book will no doubt set off on their personal trip down memory lane as a result. Who knows? The thrill of discovery may encourage them to record their own memories for posterity and we shall all be the richer for it.
As for me, I found myself identifying with Arlene’s Mother, who occupies a special place in the author’s heart. I was a country wife and mother in Lanark County in that same era and Mrs. Stafford’s daily round was familiar to me. Cooking, cleaning, baking, washing, ironing, gardening, making jam, maple syrup, pickles and preserves. Sewing, knitting, mending. Entering home craft articles in the fall fair. Working to make Christmas a magical time for the family and filling in for the Easter Bunny. Most of all, trying to make a quarter do the work of a dollar.
The author gives us a glimpse into a vanished era. When did you last attend church on Easter Sunday complete with white gloves and, if you were lucky, a new hat? Your mouth will water when you read about the wonderful homemade treats produced by Bathurst Township housewives for the delight of small ghosts and goblins at Hallowe’en. Nobody worried back then that the offerings might be tampered with, and what fun the youngsters had while contriving costumes from whatever materials that came to hand. No child in those days dreamed of wearing expensive store-bought outfits that would be abandoned after one evening’s wear. Modern-day parents could learn a thing or two from reading this book.
And who can forget the delight of cleaning the batter from the baking bowl when something delectable was being prepared for the oven, as the author did? Back then nobody worried about getting salmonella poisoning from raw eggs and somehow we all survived the experience.
Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line is definitely a book for everyone. When you reach page 136 you will find yourself looking forward with pleasurable anticipation to the next book in the series.
In the meantime, as Arlene says, ‘We need only to close our eyes and we are back on the Third Line, walking up the lane, through the yard and entering the bright, warm kitchen. We are home again.”
Book review written by Carol McCuaig November 11, 2013
Carol Bennett-McCuaig (1938-2018) was a former weekly newspaper editor who became a prolific and respected author. She earned two degrees from the University of Waterloo, one in History and the other in Religious Studies. She wrote sixty three books, including regional histories, commissioned works and books geared to helping people who are researching their Lanark and Renfrew County (Ontario) roots, and a long list of historical novels. One of her histories, In Search of the Red Dragon: The Welsh in Canada, received the Ninnau award for its contribution to North American Welsh culture. In 1997 she received an Achievement Award from the Ontario Heritage Foundation, for her body of work in recording regional history. She was a life member of Heritage Renfrew, and a past president of the North Lanark.