Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough

sourdough biscuits.JPG

When the cool winds signaled the beginning of a new season, Mother’s thoughts always turned to baking her mouth-watering Sourdough creations.

She had a jar of ‘starter’ that she kept in the pantry.  She’d often scoop some of the mixture out to add to her recipes, and it gave them a distinct, classic, sourdough flavour.  Every week, without fail, Mother ‘fed’ the starter, by adding more flour, milk, and sugar.

sourdough starter

Sourdough ‘Starter’

A Jar of History

Each baker’s sourdough may have years of history, as the original batch is fed and re-fed each week, to keep it active.  Sourdough creates a very individual taste, unique to each baker, depending on how often the starter is re-fed, including rest-times, air temperatures, and humidity.

Origins

Sourdough goes back many centuries, and became popular in Western Canada, back in the days of the gold rush, in the Klondike.  Conventional leavenings, like yeast and baking soda, were not very reliable in some of the harsh conditions faced by the prospectors.

prospector

Miners and pioneer settlers often carried a small pouch of starter with them, so that they could bake bread in their less than ideal camps and shelters.

Mother used sourdough in place of yeast in many of her recipes, and it gave the food a wonderful, rich, flavour.  Sometimes she shared a little container of starter, along with some of her prize-winning recipes, with the local women in DeWitt’s Corners, Glen Tay, and Christie Lake.

In addition to feeding the sourdough each week, some of the starter needed to be scooped from the jar, or the mixture would bubble up, and overflow.   This seldom happened at the old farmhouse, where Mother baked almost daily.

Sourdough bubbling

Make the sourdough starter at least two days ahead, and don’t forget to feed it once a week!

Mother’s Sourdough Starter

(feed at least once a week to keep active)

2 c all purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 c warm water

Mix in a non-metallic bowl

Cover with a tea towel and let stand at room temperature for two days

This becomes a spongy, bubbly mass, and develops a yeasty aroma

Refrigerate if desired, but not necessary, keeping the jar covered

Use starter for sourdough recipes

Once a Week: Add to the starter –

1 c flour

1 c milk

1/4 c sugar

Add to the starter, and stir well.

Be prepared to use it often, or if you want to stop using it for a while, cover, freeze, then thaw, and feed again when you want to resume.  Do not use for 24 hours after thawing.

sourdough biscuits complete

Sourdough Biscuits (Dad’s favourite!)

1 c sourdough (starter)

2 tsp baking powder

1 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c vegetable oil

1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix well (until it comes away from the bowl)

Flour the board, and knead 12 times

Roll, and cut into biscuits

Allow to stand 15-30 minutes

Bake in middle of oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

(Raisins may be added)

For more sourdough recipes:

Sourdough Pancakes, Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough Cheese Rolls, Sourdough Donuts, Sourdough Light Cake, Sourdough Coffee Cake, Sourdough Chocolate Cake, Sourdough Strudel Cake: 

 “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”   ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
(available in local book stores, and online)

recipes-recollections-cover-1

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay

 

Whenever I saw the big white and pink Chaplin’s Dairy truck pull into the yard, I had only one thing on my mind; and that was their delicious chocolate milk.  It came in small pint-sized glass bottles, and had a round, waxed cardboard cap on the top to seal it in. The cap had a little tab, so that you could pull it off of the bottle, and the pint bottle was the perfect size for small eager hands.  After the cap was off, I was just seconds away from tipping the bottle and tasting the richest, creamiest chocolate milk ever produced.

Chaplin's Dairy milk tab

 

Our Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy for decades.  He drove one of the big pink and white trucks, and had a regular ‘route’ of customers in Perth.  He used a big, black, metal carrier to transport milk from the back of the truck to the customer’s front door.  The carrier had eight slots, and each slot held a quart bottle of milk.  He also had a book of order slips. It was a small, thick pad of paper about three by six inches, stapled together at the end.  There was a top sheet that was numbered, a small sheet of carbon paper under that, and a blank sheet at the bottom.  On the top copy, Dad wrote the customer’s name, address, and what they had ordered, along with the total price and that was the customer’s copy.  Because each order was written on top of the sheet of carbon paper, the Dairy had a carbon copy underneath for their records.

Once in a while Dad would bring me to the Dairy and I was fascinated to see the many steps that the milk went through in order to end up on someone’s table.  It was fun to sit in the big truck so high up, and the ride was very different from our car at home.  The truck bounced up and down a lot more, and made a lot of noise, as we drove down the lane, and up the third line toward Perth.  It was neat to look outside, and see how much lower the other cars were on the road.  Every time we’d go over a bump or hill the truck would bounce again, and of course there were no seat belts in those days, so it was quite exciting.

We’d drive along until we could see Nick and Doreen Webber’s house at the corner, and we’d begin to slow down.  Just a bit past Webber’s house we turned right, and Chaplin’s Dairy was a small building on the right side of the road, just up from the corner at Glen Tay.

We’d park the truck, and I would follow Dad into the Dairy.  As soon as he opened the door I could see all of the steam in the air.  It was really, really, humid.  The inside of the building was grey and concrete and the floor was always wet.  Sometimes we’d see one of the Chaplin brothers Cameron or John, and they always wore big rubber boots and the steam rose up all around them.

Because the milk came in glass bottles in those days, a lot of the steam was produced from the big machine that they used to sterilize the bottles.  When the customers were finished with their milk, they would rinse their bottles (hopefully!), leave them on their doorstep for Dad, and he would bring them back to the Dairy that evening.   John or Cameron Chaplin would take the empty bottles and put them through the bottle washer.  The bottle washer washed, rinsed, sterilized, and then rinsed again, so the bottles were sparkling clean and ready for the next batch of milk.

The next machine filled the bottles, then capped them with the little waxed cardboard caps.  There was a large room toward the back of the Dairy, and that was a cold storage room, where the freshly bottled milk was kept.  Most of the time when I visited I saw them bottling homogenized, 2 per cent, skim, and chocolate milk. Sometimes, one of the Chaplins, would hand me a pint bottle of chocolate milk, right off of the filling machine.  I would gladly accept, and thought to myself that if Mother was here she would say that I was going to spoil my supper.  Dad never said anything though, because he knew how much I loved Chaplin’s chocolate milk.

Chaplin’s Dairy was a family business.  The dairy was started by Delbert Chaplin in the early 1900s, and his brother Edgar Chaplin also worked in the business. The Chaplin family owned a large 300 acre farm at R.R 4 Perth and Delbert demonstrated his ingenuity by setting up a method to process their milk from their Holstein herd.  At first he operated the business from their farm, but later in 1935 he built the Dairy building at Glen Tay corners.

Delbert Chaplin

1920  – Edgar Chaplin, (Uncle of John and Cameron Chaplin)

When Chaplin’s Dairy began to deliver milk from the new location at Glen Tay, the quarts of milk were just 5 cents each, and it was delivered by horse and wagon. The milk was not bottled at that time but was distributed to the customers from a large tank at the back of the wagon.  The customer would leave a container on their front step or front porch, and Delbert or Edgar would ladle the milk out of the larger can with a pint or quart measure.

The Chaplin farm was producing an average of 3,000 quarts of milk per day and John, Cameron and their brother Don processed the milk and delivered it in the Perth area.

Chaplin's early milk bottles

The demand for their milk increased, and they expanded, and made arrangements to have five neighbouring farms supply their business with additional milk.  They were also producing chocolate milk and buttermilk at that time.  They made butter as well, but only to supply their own families and it wasn’t for sale to the public.

Chaplin's truck

L to R: Gordon Chaplin, (Royce Frith seated in truck), Donald ‘Don’ Chaplin

By 1945 the sons had taken over the dairy farm and Don took on the responsibility of managing the farm, but their father continued to be active at the Dairy.   They continued to expand their business and operated for many decades.  They expanded their product line to include grape juice and orange juice.They were successful and respected in the community and were known for their high quality products throughout the Perth area.

Tim Stafford: ” When I turned nine, Mom told Dad that she could no longer put up with  me on Saturdays because of my bad behavior.  That’s the ‘how and why’ of me working with Dad, on the milk truck for Chaplin’s Dairy.

I wasn’t much help at first, but he gave me fifty cents and a chocolate bar purchased at McGlade’s service station, on Gore Street.

Later, when I got my driver’s license, John Chaplin hired me and another high school student, Don Lindsay, to do his milk route, and the Christie Lake cottage route, while he covered the other routes and the ‘inside’ workers for summer vacations.

We were making $25.00 a week, plus we were expected to eat at the restaurants we delivered to on a rotating basis.  The daily meal was paid for by Chaplin’s Dairy.  John Chaplin’s favourite restaurant was Wong’s Chinese, but Don and I preferred ‘The Bright Spot’, where Muz MacLean, Hillis Conroy’s son-in-law worked.  We usually ordered grilled cheese, french fries, and cokes.”

Chaplin's quart milk bottles

Quart milk bottles –  1960s

 

Roger Stafford“I am not positive, but I believe I was about 12 when I started working Saturdays and summers with Dad on the milk truck. The first Summer I worked with Dad, our brother, Tim, was working with Grant or Gary Chaplin.

They were delivering to the stores and restaurants in Perth, and to summer camps and cottages. They drove to Christie Lake to deliver to Cavanagh’s (general store) and the Lodges (Norvic Lodge and Arliedale Lodge) . I believe Tim had been Dad’s helper on the milk truck, prior to me starting to work with Dad.  

We used to be at the dairy by 7:00 a.m., and usually got home between 17:30 and 18:00 in the evenings. When I first started with Dad, we delivered milk out of the back of a pickup with a tarp over the glass bottles to protect them from the sun and cold.  Milk was 23 cents a quart bottle, and 25 cents for chocolate milk. We also had pints and half pints in glass bottles. Whipped cream and buttermilk were also carried on the truck. It was not long after I started that we used an enclosed truck to deliver out of. It was much easier, but it had no air conditioning, and a piss-poor heater. When I worked six days a week in the summer, I earned $6. for the week.”

In 1970 Don decided to sell the farm and a few years later in 1974 John and Cameron made the decision to stop processing the milk themselves and just be distributors.  In total, John worked for 42 years in the business and Cameron for 30. At that time Chaplins were one of the last small dairies that still processed their own milk.  They began to sell milk for Clark’s Dairies in Ottawa.  John felt that there were too many changes taking place at that time and that the cost would be too prohibitive to continue processing their own milk.

The milk industry in the 1970s was changing from glass bottles to paper cartons,although most customers preferred the taste of milk in glass bottles. The process of returning and washing the bottles was becoming too time consuming, and too expensive. The federal government was also insisting that businesses use the metric system.  This conversion would have meant purchasing new equipment because their milk was sold in pints and quarts, and they would have to begin selling in litres.

At the point in time when John and Cameron decided to sell the business, they had 1,000 customers, and a modern fleet of trucks, doing 12 runs per day, with four salesmen.  They also offered a complete line of dairy products which included cottage cheese, eggs and also several types of juice. Their last delivery was made by Cameron, on Sept. 17, 1977 and their milk at that time, was 65 cents a quart.

Chaplin’s Dairy was sold that year to Bill McConachie.  Bill was formerly a driver for many years who brought the milk from Ottawa.  His plan was to begin delivering milk to Smiths Falls, to increase his market.

It’s likely difficult for the younger generation to believe that milk was delivered door to door each day, or that it had no expiry date stamped on the bottle.  The milk was fresh from the cow either that day, or the day before, processed at Chaplin’s Dairy, and delivered right to your door step.  There was no need for an expiry date.  It’s also interesting that they managed to have a pretty successful recycling process of sterilizing the bottles and getting them back on the trucks by the next morning.  That was all accomplished without ‘blue bins’ and recycling plants.

Did the milk taste better in a glass bottle?  Yes, it did; and anyone who has drank it from a bottle will tell you the same thing.  We certainly drank enough of the stuff at our house to offer an opinion on that.  One of the benefits of having your father work as a milk man is that he brought home enough milk for the family, each night, in his milk carrier.  When you are raising five children, that’s a lot of milk.  We were fortunate to have had such fresh milk each and every day and we never ran out.

Chaplin's pint milk bottle

One Pint, glass milk bottle, 1960s

Although the work wasn’t easy, I believe that Dad enjoyed his customers in Perth, and the quick chats had each day.  Whenever Mother and Dad shopped at the IGA on Wilson Street, customers from his milk route would often come up to say ‘Hello’, and exchange a few words.  Dad was well liked, and at Christmas his customers showered him with gifts.  He received many, many boxes of chocolates, packs of cigarettes and one and two dollar bills in lovely Christmas cards.  He was always late getting home Christmas Eve, and part of the reason was that his customers took a few extra minutes to wish him a Merry Christmas, and give him their gifts.

We were fortunate to have grown up at a time when there were family businesses, producing high quality products, and selling them door to door.  At one time we had a milk man, an egg man- (Mr. Greer), and a bread man, delivering right to our door.

As the years passed by, many of the small family businesses have closed down, one by one, and in many cases our products are produced far away by people we don’t know. There are dates stamped on the products now telling us when they are destined to ‘expire’.  We often have no idea what processes are used to make some of the things that we eat, and so we purchase them on faith alone.  Gone are the days when we always knew what we were eating, and even knew the people that made the goods.

Now, we are left with the memories of Chaplin’s, our small, local dairy in Glen Tay. It was a place where we could stop by for a visit and be greeted by John, Don, or Cameron in their big rubber boots, clouds of steam rising all around them. With a big smile they’d pluck a pint of chocolate milk off of the line, and hand it to a little girl from down the road. Their products were made with pride and care, and they were confident that their customers would be satisfied.  For years, Chaplin’s Dairy was a well known business in our community, and their products were enjoyed in Perth and area homes for many, many decades.

 

 

 

(excerpts from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line’) 

LC Kid

Memories of working at Chaplin’s Dairy – my brothers Tim Stafford and Roger Stafford, excerpts from the book ‘Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen’

R and R bookmark image

photos:  Stafford family collection,  Perth Remembered

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

5 Lessons from Our Country Garden

cucumbers and onions in vinegar

 

Lessons from the Country Garden

Looking back, our humble garden on the Third Line, taught us some important life lessons.

1. Patience

We learned patience, in the long, slow, process, of waiting months, for the vegetables to grow.

2. Responsibility

We learned the value of careful watchfulness, making sure that the weeds were pulled, and the ground was kept moist.

3. Enjoying the Fruits of our Labour

We also learned the rewards of hard work, as we carried the ripened vegetables into the house, anticipating the flavours of summer.

4. A Penny Saved, is a Penny Earned

Another lesson was ‘thrift’, and the money that could be saved, in times when there wasn’t much money, in growing our food from seed.

5. A Quiet Mind

Most of all, we learned that working in the garden provided tranquility. It was an inner peace that comes from our hands working in the warm earth, and feeling the welcome heat of the sun soothing our faces and backs.  Our country garden not only fed our bodies, but also nurtured our souls.

cucumbers

Mother’s Cucumber Salad

Mother made a special treat from our garden with cucumbers and onions, still warm from the earth.  With a few simple ingredients, anyone can enjoy this gift from the ground, a Stafford family favourite.  Prepared early on summer mornings, the mixture sat in a glass jar, on the old kitchen table, all day. As each of us passed by, our mouths watered, knowing those sweet, sharp, flavours would be the highlight of the evening meal…

INGREDIENTS

2 cups water

1/3 cup vinegar (apple cider, white, and rice wine – your favourite)

2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

1 to 2 tsp salt

2-3 sliced garden cucumbers

sliced onion or green onion 5 – 10 whole green onions – trimmed, or ½ c – 1 c sliced onion

Additional vegetables may be added  (sliced sweet bell peppers, whole cherry tomatoes)

Method:

In a bowl, or large glass jar, add the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Add the onions and cucumbers.

Let stand for at least four hours, until you are ready to eat.

(you can refrigerate if you like, but our Mother let the mixture sit in a glass jar, on the kitchen table, from early morning, until supper time)

Enjoy!

girl in garden  cucumber pai;

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

For more farm-fresh summer recipes: ‘Recipes & Recollections – Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen’ – 

R and R bookmark image

 

 

Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd

Whenever a kid in Lanark County heard the word ‘Balderson’ spoken at their home, most of the time their thoughts turned to cheese.  The Balderson Cheese Factory was a short drive up the Lanark Road from our place, and they made the best cheese in the world.  People came from miles around to buy Balderson Cheese, curds, and butter, and our family was no different. Usually a visit to the cheese factory took place as part of a Sunday drive.

Balderson was a small hamlet situated about halfway between Perth and Lanark and was one of the earliest communities settled along with Perth.  Balderson, a suburb was also settled partly by soldiers, and partly by Scottish immigrants from Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands.  It was founded by Sergeant Balderson in June 1816.

When we spent time in Balderson during the 1960s and 1970s some of the family names were: Bell, Burns, Davidson, Devlin, Haley, Jones, Kennedy, King, McGregor, McIntyre, McTavish, Myers and Newman.

 

Balderson Cheese factory 1954

The ‘new’  factory, built after the 1929 fire

cheese curds

cheese curds

The Balderson Cheese Factory had already been operating for many decades by the time I first remember it.  The factory was established 1881.  It was formed by a group of dairy farmers of Lanark County.  They were known as the Farmer’s Cheese and Butter Association of Balderson. They decided to use the excess milk that they were each producing on their farms, build a factory, produce Cheddar cheese and sell it locally. They built a small, plain-looking, wood-frame building near the Balderson Corners crossroads.

Balderson Cheese factory

 

Loading dock Balderson Cheese factory

Balderson Cheese Factory – Loading Dock

In the early days, each dairy farmer would bring their milk by horse and wagon and drop it off at the factory.  Later, to become more efficient, special milk wagons were built and routes were established and workers from the factory would go from farm to farm picking up the milk.

Balderson 1905

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 20, 1962

 

Just twelve years after opening, the Balderson Cheese Factory was one of the twelve factories that contributed cheese to create the ‘Mammoth’ cheese for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The old timers said that it was six feet high and weighed over 20,000 lbs.

 

Mammoth cheese

In 1929, a fire burned the original factory and all that was left was the concrete floor.

Balderson rebuilt

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 13, 1929

 

Although Dad was familiar with the original factory, we had only seen the one that was rebuilt in 1930.  It was a plain-looking building and was built in a similar style to many of the other local cheese factories, in and around Perth.  There was a small sign outside and the inside they had a very small counter and sold three products: cheese –  yellow or coloured orange, cheese curds, and butter. You could buy mild cheese or old cheese, and Dad preferred the older ‘sharp’ cheese and liked to enjoy it with a slice of Mother’s homemade apple pie. The cheese was cut from rounds, wrapped in waxed paper and sealed with a piece of scotch tape.  There was one person working behind the counter that would get your cheese and ring it up on the cash register. Everyone else worked in the back.

Balderson Cheese factory cheese-maker

Cheese-Maker,  Balderson Cheese Factory

Dad would often know the person working behind the counter, and he’d ask if we could go back and watch them make the cheese.  Now, that was really interesting!  There was always a distinct smell in the factory, even at the front counter.  It smelled kind of like buttermilk, and the air always seemed very warm and humid.  It was behind the counter where all the magic took place.

Balderson 1962

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 20, 1962

 

There were huge metal vats, filled with heated milk.  I don’t know what they use now, but in those days, they added rennet to the milk to make it curdle.  Rennet was an acid which could be found in the fourth stomach of calves and was used for digestion.  When the rennet was added to the milk it curdled and formed into clumps.  The workers in the factory would walk around with long wooden paddles and stir the vats.  Some were newly curdling and were very easy to stir, others in later stages required quite a bit of muscle to stir because the curds were forming in large, heavy clumps.  In the last vat the salt was added and some of the curds were strained out and sold, but the remainder would be pressed into huge round wooden molds.  The molds were lined with cheesecloth so that the cheese wouldn’t stick when it was time to remove it.

At the rear of the old factory, double walls were built two feet thick, with sawdust packed inside as insulation to keep the cheese cool as it cured.  After the cheese was strained and pressed into molds it was stored in the curing room. The whey, the liquid that was strained from the cheese, was stored in big tanks.  In the old days the whey was returned to the farmers to use as feed, but later when tighter government regulations were introduced the whey was dumped.  Each cheese was waxed, boxed, weighed, molded, inspected, cooled, turned and shipped. The cheese was regularly inspected by Government inspectors and the stock turns over every ten days. The cheese remained in the curing room until it was shipped.

Balderson cheese vat of curd and whey

Vat of Curd and Whey

 

Cheese making was an art form in Balderson and their Master Cheese Maker when I was a kid, was Omar Matte. Mr. Matte had begun making cheese when he was fifteen working for his father in St. Albert.  By the 1960s he had been making cheese for 27 years. In those days, Mr. Matte would mold 120 tons of cheese per year and most was shipped to the Sanderson Grading Station in Oxford where it went on to foreign markets. Ten tons of cheese on average was sold locally in the Balderson area. Over 100 tons of cheese and 9,000 pounds of butter produced yearly by the mid 1960s and sold all over North America.

There were many Master Cheese Makers before him – Chris J. Bell of Perth, James Somerville of Boyd’s, Walter Partridge of the Scotch Line, James Prentice of Perth, Charles Gallery of Perth, Robert Lucas of Jasper and Percy George of Christie Lake.

 

Balderson Cheesemakers

1881-1887  W. Brown

1888-1891  J. Milton 1888-1891

1892-1901  W.D. Simes

1902-1904  E.E. Haley

1905-1911  J.M. Scott

1912-1917  T.K. Whyte

1918-1921  M. Haley

1922-1929  A. Quinn

1930  G. Spencer

1931-1937  P. Kirkham

1937-1939  J.L. Prentice

1939-1941  C.J. Bell

1941-1942  J. Somerville

1943  W. Partridge

1944-1955  C. Gallery

1956-1958  R. Lucas

1959-1960  P. George

1961-1966  O. Matte

1966-1974  Y. Leroux

1975-1980  L. Lalonde

1980  N. Matte

As the years passed by, the cheese gained tremendous popularity, news of the product spread, and the little business was bought by a large company.  After many decades the Balderson Cheese business has changed hands many times.

You can still find Balderson cheese today, and many types and grades of cheese available in all of the major supermarkets.

I smile whenever I see the Balderson name and think of the little hamlet outside of Perth. I remember our Sunday drives to the old cheese factory, and how they made the best curd in the world!

 

cheese curd 2kid eating cheese curd

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

(story is an excerpt from  ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line’ ISBN: 978-0-9877026-16)

LC Kid

available in local book stores: The Book Nook & Other Treasures, and  ‘Bookworm’ in Perth, Mill Street Books in Almonte
Vintage Photos: ‘Perth Remembered’
Newsclippings: ‘The Perth Courier’

Meteor Shower in Jordan’s Front Field

meteor shower

 

It was one of those sweltering hot summer days in August when most people preferred to stay inside and try to get a ‘cross-breeze’ flowing through their house, for a little relief.  Even my friends Debbie and Jane, who loved to lie outside and work on their tans; decided it was even too hot for that.  Debbie lived down the road at DeWitt’s Corners, and we were visiting our friend Jane, as we often did, relaxing in their living room, and fanning ourselves with some magazines to keep cool.

 

We had a stack of ‘Tiger Beat’ teen magazines, and were going through them page by page, picking out the cute guys.  Donny Osmond was often one of the stars splashed across the front cover in those days.  Donny and his brothers might as well have been from Mars – five brothers with enormous, perfect teeth, wearing white fringed jumpsuits, and white leather boots.  It definitely wasn’t a sight you would have seen on the Third Line – not even up at Christie Lake. Sometimes at the lake we saw tourists from Pennsylvania or New York, who were dressed a little fancier than the locals, but that was about the extent of it.  No, we never saw any lads in white jumpsuits around Perth.

 

Another head poked into the room – it was Patti, from next door.  Patti announced breathlessly, that she’d heard there was going to be a meteor shower that evening, and she thought we should all stay up to watch it.   Hmm, I thought to myself, – it wasn’t like I had anything better planned.   I could stay at home tonight with Mother and Dad, and watch ‘The Tommy Hunter Show’, or see a meteor shower with my friends.  That was an easy decision.

 

So, where were we going to watch the meteor shower, and by the way – what exactly was a ‘meteor shower’?  Patti explained that it was thousands and thousands of shooting stars falling all at once, and that it would go on for the entire night.  She said we could set up an area in her front field, bring some snacks, and make an evening of it.

 

We began to make plans for what sort of supplies we’d need to stay up all night in Jordan’s field.  Debbie suggested that we should have some music.  She had just bought a new album by Deep Purple called ‘Machine Head’, and we all loved their song ‘Smoke on the Water’, so she volunteered to tape some songs from that album, and also some songs from a couple of albums I had at home.  I said I’d ride my bike home and bring back Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, and my Eagles album.  Everyone liked Elton’s ‘Honky Cat’ and ‘Rocket Man’ and the Eagles ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Take it Easy’. They’d be perfect for our night of stargazing.

 

I was home in no time, grabbed my albums, threw them in a bag, and off I went on my bike, back down the Third Line to DeWitt’s Corners.  I had some money left over from my birthday, so I stopped at Cavanagh’s store, and went inside to pick up a few treats for us.  I didn’t have that much money, so my choices were a bit limited.  Helen Cavanagh was working behind the counter as usual, and was asking how the family was.  She always made a point of asking about Roger in particular – likely because he had been such good friends with their son Bill.  We were talking about how hot it was outside, and it was nice to be inside the store because it was a lot cooler in there.  I picked up a bag of black liquorice twizzlers; I didn’t see any of the strawberry kind; and then I grabbed a bottle of Pure Spring Cream Soda, and a bottle of Tab.  After paying, I still had a bit of change left, so I spent the rest on Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum, stuffed it into my pocket, thanked Helen, and headed out of the store.

 

We all met at Patti’s- Jane, Debbie and I, and gathered up our stuff – our snacks, the tape recorder to provide the music, and we also had a pair of binoculars, although I don’t remember where they came from, and we headed out to the middle of Jordan’s front field.

 

It was a beautiful night.  There weren’t too many nights of the year in Bathurst Township that were warm enough to stay outside all night, but this was definitely one of them.  It was one of those perfect August evenings – it had been a little too hot during the day, but now that the sun was sliding down below the horizon, it was likely still around 75 or 80 degrees.

 

We grabbed a quilt from Patti’s house, carried it outside, and spread it in the field.  We were about halfway between the house and the Third Line.  We wanted to be far enough away that our music wouldn’t bother anyone in the house.   Patti went into the house and brought out four bowls of spaghetti.  That was one of her favourite dishes to cook for guests, and she had definitely perfected her sauce.

 

Debbie had been fiddling around with the cassette player and had got the music going.  By then, it was really dark, and it seemed like all at once, we started staring up at the sky looking for meteors.  We were asking Patti what time the meteor shower was supposed to begin.  She said she wasn’t sure – which didn’t get a very positive reaction from any of us, but she never claimed to be an astronomer, so we’d just have to wait and let nature take its course.  It wasn’t too long after that we began to notice falling stars, one after another, sometimes in clusters; they almost looked like they were raining down.

 

We stared at the sky for hours.  We talked about school for a while.  Debbie and I were graduating from Glen Tay Public School that year – Patti and Jane had one year left to go.  We all wondered what it was going to be like to be at the Perth High School.  Patti’s older sister Janice, was already there, and so Patti knew a bit about what it was like.  It was going to be very different for all of us to be in such a large school, and also to be in Perth all day, instead of out in the country.

 

It was getting late. The stars were still falling, streaking through the sky – it was really something, and I for one, had never seen anything like it.

 

Patti went up to the house, and when she came back, she said it was three in the morning.  We were all getting tired.  Jane and Debbie decided to pack it in and go home, so they grabbed their stuff, and headed up toward the house to retrieve their bikes.  Patti and I watched from the field as they rode down the lane, and turned up the Third Line, giving us a wave as they headed home.   Well, we might as well go inside too.  We picked up the corners of the quilt, carried our stuff in, and headed up to Patti’s room.  I don’t think it was very long before we fell asleep.

 

The next morning, I got up, picked up my bike out front and headed home.   It was Sunday morning so I would be expected to get ready for church.  I got home, walked into the kitchen, and Mother asked if I’d had a nice time at Patti’s and I said that I had.  I went upstairs, had a bath, and put on a dress for church.

 

In the car on the way up the Third Line, heading for Calvin church that morning, Mother had the radio on, and was listening to the news.  The weatherman in Kingston was talking about the meteor shower the night before, and what a ‘spectacular’ sight it had been.  I didn’t want to say that we had sat out in Jordan’s field all night watching it, because I didn’t think Mother would be very impressed, so I said nothing.

….

 

Many decades have passed since our ‘meteor shower’ get-together, but I’ve since discovered that meteor showers occur regularly, are visible in most parts of Eastern Ontario during the summer, and they almost always are at their peak during August.   In fact, on the local news this past summer, the weather forecaster, spoke about the ‘Perseids’ meteor shower.

 

Naturally, when I heard the words ‘meteor shower’ my ears perked up. I hadn’t thought about the meteor shower for years.   They went on to say that the Perseids meteor shower had been observed for almost 2,000 years.  They said that the meteor shower is visible from the middle of July and the peak is usually between August 9th and the 14th each year.  It was their next statement however, that almost made me fall off of my chair.  They stated, “August 12th, 1972 is reported to have been the most active shower in recorded history.”

 

August 12, 1972?  I was speechless.  According to the weather forecaster we had witnessed the most ‘spectacular’ meteor shower!  Well, it certainly was a night to remember – the pitch-black sky out in the country, some great friends, some good music, and the most active meteor shower in recorded history, long ago, in Jordan’s front field.

 

This story is dedicated to the girls who sat with me, on a quilt, in Jordan’s front field, on August 12, 1972, :  Patti Jordan, Debbie Majaury, and Jane Munro. 

Thanks for the memories my friends!

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line’)

LC Kid

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Life Lessons at Carl Adams’ on the Tay

Carl Adams

If I hadn’t been completely convinced that our Mother loved us, I might have questioned why she would have chosen Carl Adams’ swimming hole as a good place to teach us all to swim.   Mother would drive us back there, two or three times a week, during the summer; usually after supper, and always at least an hour after we’d eaten – that was the rule.  She said that it was dangerous to swim right after you’d eaten, and that you could get cramps, and possibly even drown.  Of course, I’ve learned since then, that you can swim right after you eat, without either suffering cramps or drowning, for that matter, however, that was Mother’s rule and there was no point in arguing.  So, whether we were at Silver Lake, for a picnic, Christie Lake for a quick dip, or Carl Adams’, for a swimming lesson – Mother always wore her watch, and no one could even so much as wade around in the shallow water, near the shore, until the full sixty minutes had passed.

 

It was always exciting to hear that we’d be going to Carl Adams’; especially on one of those hot summer days, when the upstairs of the house was stifling hot.  Mother would announce that we were going to have a swimming lesson, and she’d grab her purse, and head for the garage.  That was my cue to run upstairs, and change into my bathing suit, and get a towel.  I’d also bring an extra one for Mother to sit on, because she liked to spread a towel out, on the flat rocks near the water, so she could offer some suggestions on improving our swimming technique.

 

I’d be changed in seconds, towels in hand and taking the stairs down, two at a time, and by that time Mother would have backed the car out of the garage, and be waiting, parked under the tall maple trees, that shaded our lawn.  We’d drive out of the yard, and down the lane, turned right, headed toward DeWitt’s Corners, windows rolled down, taking full advantage of the warm summer breeze, blowing into the car.

 

Usually at that time of year we’d see at least one hay wagon on the road, as we drove up the Third Line.  The hot, dry weather was ideal for cutting and baling the hay, and our neighbourhood farmers would be taking full advantage.   It wasn’t unusual to get stuck behind a tractor, which was bad for two reasons – one, now we had to slow down and weren’t getting much of a breeze blowing through the hot car, and two – I couldn’t wait to get to the swimming hole, and this would be greatly impeding our progress.   Sometimes, they’d pull off to the side so we could get by, but usually we’d just have to follow along behind, at a snail’s pace, until they’d turned off the road, and into a field.

 

If the road was clear, we’d be at DeWitt’s Corners in no time, and then we’d turn left up the dirt side road, past Clifford and Florence Munro’s. After a couple more turns on the dusty backroads, we’d arrive, and pull over by the flat rocks, under the trees.

 

It was a pretty spot, that’s for sure, with tall, graceful trees along each side of the rocks, framing that popular little section of the Tay River.  People in Bathurst Township had been using that little swimming hole for years, and it showed.  The broad, low rocks near the shore provided a natural seating area, the maple and willow trees offered welcome shade for spectators, and the cedar bushes all around gave off a fresh woodsy scent.  This time of year, we’d hear the heat bugs in full force, and see the shiny dragonflies, swooping effortlessly above the water.

 

Sometimes we’d see a couple of empty beer bottles, or empty chip bags, or cigarette packs, piled on the rocks – souvenirs left behind by teenagers, parked there the night before.   Occasionally we’d see the charred evidence that someone had built a little campfire; likely to cook a hot dog or two, or maybe toast some marshmallows.  Once in a while, there might even be a toy, or a towel abandoned on the shore, forgotten by one of the neighbourhood kids.

 

After we’d parked, Mother would grab the towels, and spread one out on the rocks and settle down.  Sometimes she’d bring a book or a magazine, or some crocheting to work on, but most of the time she’d just sit back, and watch us swim. Occasionally, Dickie Patterson, a local bachelor, would be riding by on his bicycle, and he’d stop, and sit, and chat, with Mother for a while, catching up on the local news. He lived up at Christie Lake, but we’d often see him riding, either on the Third Line, or on one of the backroads, such as these.

 

By the time Mother had settled down on her towel, I was already getting my feet wet, and assessing the temperature of the Tay River.  Most of the time, it felt pretty warm near the shore, because the water was so shallow, and I’d gradually wade into the first few feet of the river, and then I’d begin to feel the power of the current pulling at my legs.

 

Now, back to my original question, of why Mother would have brought us here, to learn how to swim.  Yes, it was in close proximity to our house; closer than Christie Lake, but here’s where the other questions arise.  There is, as I mentioned, a fairly strong current, in this part of the Tay River.  By the time I was in up to my knees I could feel it tugging at me.  Now, in order to remain in roughly the same section of the river, you had to start moving against the current, otherwise it would pull you down.  Once you were in all the way up to your neck, you had to start kicking or paddling at a pretty good pace, against the current, because the minute you stopped, you would be swept down the river.   Oh, and let’s throw one more wrench into this picture, for good measure –   remember the nice flat rocks up on the shore?  Well those nice flat rocks – Canadian Shield, I suppose, well, they extend right out into the water – except that the ones in the water were coated, in slippery, green moss.

 

Just so you’ve got the whole picture – we’re here with Mother, because we don’t have our swimming abilities perfected yet – not even close.  She’s brought us to a section of the Tay where there’s a fairly strong current, that keeps trying to sweep us off our feet, and when we do manage to try and get our footing, the surface below is slippery, wet, moss, that offers no traction whatsoever.  Many times, I’d slip on the moss, and the river would start to pull me along, and I’d have to paddle and splash like a maniac, so I could get back to the place where I’d started.  I often wondered if I didn’t fight my way back to the clearing, against the current, if I’d keep being swept along down the river, and end up somewhere in Perth!

 

So, what was the point of learning to swim at Carl Adams’ swimming hole?  Did Mother bring us there because it was convenient, and a quick ride from our house?  Or, looking back now, was there a bigger lesson involved?  Sure, once we learned how to swim there, against the strong current of the Tay – everywhere else we swam after that, seemed easy.  No current?  No slippery rocks to contend with?  Swimming anywhere else after that, was a cinch.

 

Maybe learning to swim at Carl Adams’ was a metaphor for the struggles that we would face later in life.  We’ve all had days where we feel like we’re fighting against a strong current, and moments in our lives that seem to have us perching precariously, on a slippery rock.  At times we’re certain that if we gave up the fight for even a minute, we’d be swept away down the river.

 

Looking back now, we learned so much more than how to swim at that quiet, unassuming little spot along the Tay River.  Many, many years ago, at Carl Adams’, we discovered that if we kept chugging along, persevering, and made it past the rough spots, that eventually we’d end up  back at the little clearing, warmed by the sun, leaves fluttering softly overhead, Mother smiling from the shore, and us, feeling all the stronger for the struggle.

 

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line’, ISBN: 978-0-987-7026-16)

 

LC Kid

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Fly Me To the Moon…The Story of Our Cousin Don

“For the first time we were united,

people around the world,

sharing a home,

on a small blue planet,

in a vast dark universe.”

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

 

 

“What do you want with that old stuff?”, Don’s eyes crinkled up, and he grinned.

“I’m going to do a little write-up”, I answered, with the certainty of an overconfident teenager. “I think it will make an interesting story.”

“If you think so.”, he smiled again, and assured me he’d ask his sister Ruth to forward some papers to me, in the mail.

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford

 

That was July 1974, a few years after the moon landing, and I was knee-deep in a conversation about space, with my mother’s first cousin, Donald Rutherford. He and his wife, Rosemary, had driven from their home in Melbourne, Florida, and were spending time in Ogdensburg, with his sister Ruth, and their Aunt Nellie.  My Dad, Mother, my brother Roger, and his wife Ruth, and I, had come to Ogdensburg for the day, as we did several times each year, to visit with our American cousins.

It seems fitting, this week, on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, to do that ‘little write-up’, as I’d promised Don, so many years ago. True to his word, he sent those ‘papers’ about his work, to his sister Ruth, who passed them along to me.  Don’s career spanned the era of the formative years of the U.S. space agency, early missile testing, and beyond the Apollo missions at the Kennedy Space Center.

From me, his inquisitive younger cousin, who always enjoyed our discussions about space-ships, flying saucers, and Star Trek, the story that follows is a tribute to Donald Burlingame Rutherford, an engineer, working in the earliest days of the space program. Although, he’s no longer with us, passing from this life in 1994, at the age of 86, I hope he would approve, and that I’ve put all his ‘papers’ to good use.

 

 

 

From Lisbon to Ogdensburg

Donald Rutherford, and his sister, Ruth, grew up in the family home at 320 Jersey Avenue, on a quiet residential street, in Ogdensburg, New York. Both born on the family farm in Lisbon, not far from the mighty St. Lawrence River, they spent their early childhood riding horses, playing in the sprawling yard of their country home, until their father, Fred Rutherford, accepted a position with International Harvester, when the family moved to Ogdensburg.

Ruth Rutherford with her brother Donald Rutherford, on the farm in Lisbon, in 1913

 

Donald and his sister Ruth, on the farm in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, NY, with their horses

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at school – center of photo, (with a center-part in his hair) – 1920s

 

 

 

320 Jersey Ave Ogdensburg

320 Jersey Avenue, Ogdensburg, N.Y. – home to Fred and Ethel Rutherford and their children Donald and Ruth

 

“He’s a real whiz at math, and likes to solve problems. 

He’d be a shoe-in as an engineer!”

 

Don Rutherford at Clarkson U

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York

“Don is noted for three things:  being late to classes, loafing in the radio shack,

and week-end trips to Prescott…”

 

 

Don's grad announcement 1930‘The Republican Journal’,  June 2, 1930 p. 10

“He was a member of the American Society of Electrical Engineers.”

 

Clarkson programme 1

Clarkson University, Programme, Class of 1930

 

 

(from the Clarkson University programme, 1930)

 

 

 

Clarkson news clipping

 

A few years after he finished his studies at Clarkson U., the twenty-six year-old Donald

asked his sweetheart, Ida, to marry him. 

She was a high-school teacher, and a graduate of St. Lawrence University.

 

Don and Ida's wedding announcement

‘The Advance News’,  July 1, 1934 p. 9

“Both are well known and highly esteemed…”

 

Ida Charter marriedThe Hammond Advertiser July 5, 1934 p. 1

Tragedy in Dayton, Ohio

It was in the warm spring days of May, when Don Rutherford, and his young wife Ida, arrived in Dayton, Ohio.  Don had accepted a position as one of the engineers, hired to enhance the flight capabilities of U.S. aircraft, at Wright Field.   They had barely settled in their new home when tragedy struck the young couple.  Driving near the Englewood Dam, on route 48, a truck collided with their car.  Ida was rushed to the Good Samaritan hospital, and sadly, Ida passed away on June 5th.  She was 37.

Donald later filed a lawsuit, seeking damages from the driver of the truck, Clara Strickle, owner of a local restaurant in Xenia, near Dayton.

The Journal Herald, Dayton, Ohio, June 6, p. 2

 

‘The Ogdensburg Journal’, June 9, 1942, p. 5

 

‘The Dayton Herald’, June 20, 1942 p. 14

 

 

 

In 1947, the U.S. government created the United States Air Force, and that same year, combined Wright Field with nearby Patterson Field, creating Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

 

Don Rutherford

Donald Burlingame Rutherford during his days at Wright-Patterson Air Base

 

Seven years after Ida’s death,

Donald found love again,

and married Rosemary Schumacker Gillen,

a colleague from the Wright-Patterson Air Base.

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Gillen, when she and Donald Rutherford were dating, 1948

 

It was also Rosemary’s second chance at love.  In 1927, when Rosemary was 21, she married Charles Gillen, and they later divorced.  They had one son, Charles Raymond Gillen, born 1933.  Charles Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-1970.  He married a young lady from Paris, Solange Riffet, at Fort Monroe, in Virginia, in 1962.  Sadly, Rosemary’s son, Charles, became very ill, and passed away in 1987, at the age of 54.

Rosemary rarely spoke about her career, although it is known that she held positions at Wright Field, later Wright-Patterson Air Base, Patrick Air Force Base, as well as Cape Canaveral.

 

‘The Dayton Daily News’, June 6, 1949, p. 26

 

Don at awards dinner

Don and his second wife, Rosemary, on their wedding day, with friends, in 1949

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, with Don’s mother Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, and Donald B. Rutherford, with Don’s 1949 Chrysler Windsor

In 1956, Donald was sent to Kessler Air Force Base, in Mississippi, for specialized training in Electronic Countermeasures.  He, along with his colleagues, were focusing on the production of missiles specifically designed to deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems.  Keesler opened a ground support training program for the Atlas Missile, and Donald was among the first sent for their training program.

 

 

Test launch of the Atlas

 

 

In the summer of 1956, Donald was sent for additional training at M.I.T., in missile guidance, dynamic measurements, and control.

 

 

 

 

In the spring of 1959, Donald trained with Martin on the MGM-13 TM-76B tactical surface-launched missile.

 

 

MGM-13 – test launch

 

 

Don Rutherford Patrick Air Force Base 1956

Don Rutherford, standing,  (dark shirt), at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida,  June 7, 1956.

 

“An Act to provide for research

into the problems of flight

within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere,

and for other purposes.” 

The National Aeronautics

and Space Administration (NASA)

was established on October 1, 1958,

 

Don Rutherford Nike Rocket 1963

Preparation of NIKE Rocket to  be fired, simultaneously with the MINUTEMAN, March 18, 1963, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center – Don Rutherford (standing-rt.)

Minuteman missle test launch

‘Minuteman’  test launch

 

Don Rutherford Air Force Missile Test Center 6-5-63

Don Rutherford (left) with colleagues, at a Pre-Launch Test, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center June 5, 1963

 

Don Rutherford Missile test center

Pre-Launch Test 3267, June 5, 1963, Air Force Rocket Test Center in Blockhouse – Don Rutherford standing – rear

Don and Fred Rutherford

Donald B. Rutherford with his father Fred Allan Rutherford

Don Rutherford service award

Donald B. Rutherford receives Certificate of Service, from the U.S. Air Force

 

 

Donald worked at Patrick Air Force Base, where he took part in a variety of missile, and manned and unmanned space programs in the 1960s.

Both Don and Rosemary were offered positions at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and they worked there for many years.

On February 6, 1959, the first successful test firing of a Titan Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was achieved.

NASA’s ‘Mercury’ and ‘Gemini’ space flights were launched from Cape Canaveral, as well as the ‘Apollo’ flights.

 

 

rocket 1

Donald Burlingame Rutherford  – rt.

50th anniversary of Donald Rutherford’s graduation – 1930-1980

Donald and Rosemary’s home in Melbourne, Florida.
Lt to rt:  Ruth Rutherford, Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, Fred Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, Nellie Rutherford

When Don and Rosemary retired, they purchased two blocks of properties near their home in Melbourne, Florida, renting them out.  In their spare time, they spent many happy days on their sailboat, along the sunny Florida coast. Both were dog lovers, and always had two or three well-loved, and well-spoiled pets in their home.

Don and Rosemary in their retirement years

 

One of their favourite television shows was ‘Jeopardy’.  As they became older, they even planned their day so they could be home in time to watch the show.  One night after ‘Jeopardy’ was over, Rosemary could not wake Don.  He had passed away during the show.  He was 86 years old.

 

Brookeside Cemetery, Waddington, NY

 

 

 

letter of condolences from Clarkson University to Rosemary Rutherford, 1994

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, passed away on Valentine’s Day, 1996, age 90, at the Meridian Nursing Home, Melbourne, Florida.  Her son predeceased her in 1987, and he and his wife, Solange, had no children.  There were no known survivors.

Rutherford siblings – 1889

Don Burlingame Rutherford’s father (left)

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford’s father (center)

L – Fred Rutherford, middle – Charles Rutherford, rt – May Rutherford, photo: 1889, other siblings: Nellie Rutherford, born 1897, Robbie, died in infancy

Fred and Charles were brothers.  Fred Allan Rutherford and his wife Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, had two children:  Donald Burlingame Rutherford, and Ruth Rutherford.  Charles Herbert Rutherford and his wife Dorothy (Woolsey) Rutherford, had four daughters and one son:  Dorothea ‘Dolly’ Rutherford (Glover),  Mildred ‘Mill’ Rutherford (Waterhouse) , Audry Rutherford (Stafford), Muriel Rutherford, and Jack Rutherford.

family in OgdensburgStanding l.to rt. Ruth (Parks) Stafford, Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Rosemary Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, – seated – Ruth Rutherford (Don’s sister) and her little dog Rastus.   photo: 1976, Stafford family collection.

 

 

NASA began with a group of engineers working with the NACA, (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics ), along with engineers transferred from the Vanguard program and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.  Toward the end of the 1960s, there were over 14,000 engineers working on design and testing, of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rocket-propulsion systems, many of these equipped to operate beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

These engineers, men and women, worked in anonymity. Many worked at test facilities, and most weren’t able to discuss their work with friends, or even family. Some worked on projects for years, and faced failure after failure, before achieving any success. They were the unsung heroes of the space program, and this story is dedicated to the many thousands, who worked behind the scenes, in the shadow of heroes.

 

“For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon, and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace,”  John F. Kennedy, 1961.

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

(all documents and photos received from Donald B. Rutherford, were stamped ‘Declassified’, by the U.S. Air Force)