Rideau Ferry Inn – Those Hot Summer Nights!

Rideau Ferry Inn blog post image

Oh, those hot summer nights at the Rideau Ferry Inn!  The dancing, the laughter, stolen kisses, sneaking drinks in the parking lot, and the best live rock and roll around!

Its official name back then, was the Poonamalie Pavilion, but nobody called it that.  To my friends and me, it was simply the Rideau Ferry Inn; and you could find us there most weekend nights in the summer, socializing, laughing, and dancing the night away.

Situated along the clear, blue waters of the Rideau, the Rideau Ferry Inn has hosted many generations of tourists and boaters, providing sumptuous meals, comfortable accommodation, and lively entertainment.  Arguably, the highlight of the small settlement of Rideau Ferry, our former teenage haunt, wasn’t the original structure at this location.  The original building was actually a home.

The original structure was a house built in 1853 by Archibald Campbell.  Archibald married Elizabeth Buchanan, a preacher’s daughter.  Her father was the Reverend George Buchanan, and was one of the early Presbyterian ministers of Beckwith Township, serving the congregation at Franktown.

Their daughter, Helen Buchanan Campbell, married John Coutts.  As her parents were aging, and needed assistance, the couple moved in with them in 1870.  During that time, John made some additions to the home, and when he was finished, they not only had ample room for themselves, but had more than enough room to accommodate guests.  They began to rent rooms in the house to summer tourists, who were traveling by boat ,along the mighty Rideau waterways.

Coutts_House

As the years went by, their home became known as ‘Coutts House’, and eventually, had the reputation of being a very fine hotel.  In 1893 a three-storey addition was built at the back of the house.  A large dining room was added to the first floor. The second and third floors had fifteen hotel rooms each, and an indoor bathroom.

Rideau Ferry Coutts House 1889

After 1905, the building was rented to a series of business men. During the 1920s and 30s, regattas became popular, and Coutts House held canoe races, and rowboats races. The Coutts family also sponsored competitions for sailboats, and it was the site of many grand daytime celebrations, and intimate evening affairs, for the wealthy travelers, visiting in the summer.

In 1947, Doug Wallace, native of Osgoode bought Coutts House, tore it down, and built a new structure with wood framing, and grey granite blocks.  It was a two-storey building, and the second floor featured a large dance area, with seating on three sides.

By the 1960s, the building had become known as the Rideau Ferry Inn, and during this time, became licensed for liquor sales.  Up until that time people would smuggle in their own booze, particularly in the roaring twenties when rum-running along the Rideau had its hey-day.

Rideau Ferry Bridge

It was in the 1970s, that I first heard the tales about the popular night spot, and all the good times that were had at the Rideau Ferry Inn.  There were stories told up and down the halls of the Perth High School – stories of summer romances with cottagers staying at seasonal properties nearby, or the ultra-cool teens that traveled by boat along the Rideau, with their parents.  There was also talk of the teenage kids from the States, and their hip clothing and accessories; styles that would take years to reach our little communities near Perth.  There were lots of accounts at our high school of the talented rock bands that performed, and of the nights spent dancing to the top hits played by edgy disc jockeys.  I couldn’t wait to go and see it for myself.

Paul Tarle Band

photo: L.  Steve Francis, Mike McPherson, Brian Jones, and seated – Paul Tarle.

The main house-band at ‘The Inn’ in the early 1970s was the Paul Tarle Band – and we showed off our cool dance moves, as we listened to their popular rock classics.

Dance 1970s

One of the best parties of our steamy Lanark County  summers was the annual Rideau Ferry Regatta. Beautiful, sleek, boats from all over, competing for the sought-after prizes, and the prestige of being ‘Number 1’ on the big lakes.

Boat Show Rideau Ferry

Regattas were all about hot sun, cold beers, the cool, clear waters of the Rideau Lakes, and beautiful boats all around us.

Rideau Ferry Inn 1982

We’ll never forget the annual regattas, or the great music at the Rideau Ferry Inn. Bands like ‘Sammy Seaman’ and his group kept us up until the wee hours.  Some nights it was ‘Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd’, and other evenings we were entertained by the ‘Paul Chabot Band’.   Occasionally, instead of live bands at the ‘Inn’, there was a ‘Disco’ dance provided by a local disc jockey, by the name of  ‘Sounds Great’.

Many years after our frequent teenage visits to the Rideau Ferry Inn, the building was purchased by Elmer and Eva Purdon.  It was still ‘the’ place at that time to host fancy wedding receptions, or 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Because we’d had so many good times at the Rideau Ferry Inn, it was a terrible shock for my friends and I when we heard about the fire in February of 1986, that destroyed our former dance hall.  The fire started on the top floor, where the dances had been held for so many years.  The ground floor was also destroyed in the fire, and that is where the kitchen, the large dining room, and bar were located.

My friends and I drove down to Rideau Ferry a few days after the fire.  I don’t think it was so much out of curiosity, but more out of disbelief.  Could it be true, that the place where we’d passed so many of our happy youthful hours was really gone? There were so many memories of friendships, dancing, and all of the special evenings we spent at the Rideau Ferry Inn.

We drove up to where the Inn had stood, and looked around. No one said a word.  I think that as we stared at the charred foundation of the building, each of us was recalling our own versions of the times spent there, in our youth.  They were such innocent, awkward, magical, teenage times. We sat there for a few more moments, still silent, and then drove away, back up the Ferry Road toward Perth.

The building may be gone, but our fond memories of the Rideau Ferry Inn will remain with us forever.  We will always remember the music, the friends, and the good times. Those long summer nights, when the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, the sunsets glowed a little softer.  The peaceful, pristine, waters of the Rideau Lakes made a perfect backdrop for those innocent days of our youth, when life stretched out ahead of us…..so full of promise, and our dreams for the future.

Lake Life sunset

………………..

 

An excerpt from – ‘Revelry and Rogues on the Rideau’  – ‘Lanark County Chronicle’ available in local book stores, or online. ISBN 978-0-9877026-23

……..

 

Local Names:

Although there were lots of tourists and visitors in the summer, they were only there for a few short weeks at most. We became acquainted with many of the folks who lived year-round at Rideau Ferry, and some of the local names at that time were: McLean, Donaldson, Buchanan, Gemmill, Frost, Sewell, Coutts, Gallagher, Beveridge, McKay, Wills, McVeety, Millar, Tully, Oliver, Dettrick, Bethune, Purdon, Hitchcock, Fitzgerald, Hall, Gould, Irving, Joynt, King, McCue, Wallace, McKay and Campbell.

…………

 

photos:  Perth Historical Society, Carol-Ann McDougall, Perth Remembered, Vintage Smiths Falls and Perth, The Perth Courier, Georgia McNally, Vintage Race Boat Shop, and from private collections.

For more information on the history of Rideau Ferry  Rideau Lakes Township

For boating on the big lakes  – Rideau Ferry Marina

To travel the Rideau Heritage Route – Rideau by Canoe

Rideau Ferry Regatta

For genealogy and family history of Rideau Ferry Lanark County Genealogical Society

……….

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

UFO Sightings Over Perth

Since the infamous sightings in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, people across North America have become more aware of strange lights, and unusual objects, in the night skies.

By the late 1960s in Perth Ontario, details of sightings were published in the local papers, and many credible witnesses reported their accounts of these strange events.

Flying Saucers With Red Lights

Over Port Elmsley

Confirmed by Perth OPP

UFO OPP sightings

Ivan Vandusen, R.R. 2 Smiths Falls,

– one of the first to report the UFOs

 

Ivan Van Dusen UFO reportIvan Van Dusen # 2

Flying in Formation, Ten Feet Apart…..

Moving toward Carleton Place

Everet Lavender

 

Mrs. Essex Clement in Port Elmsley:

“They just disappeared.”

 

Mrs. Essex Clement UFO

 

Two Perth OPPs see UFOs on HWY 43

Hovering Over the Army Tower

in Drummond Township

R.C.A.F. Asks for a Full Report

 

OPP Sighting UFO

UFOs Seen Over Mississippi Lake

 

UFOs over Mississippi Lake

 

It was called the

“Autumn of Aliens”

 

The night skies in Eastern Ontario became very active in the summer and fall of 1973, and some organizations reported that it was one of the largest number of U.F.O. sightings over North America, calling it the ‘Autumn of Aliens’.

Huge Chunks of Ice Fell from the Sky

In Lanark County, it all seemed to begin with a sudden hailstorm, on the Friday the 13th of July.  The hailstorm came out of nowhere, and huge chunks of ice fell, many almost three inches in diameter.  Hundreds of windows and car windshields were smashed by jagged pieces of ice.  A Smiths Falls resident was cut on the head by a chunk of falling ice, and required seven stitches. No one was seriously injured, although there were a few farmers that got caught outside, working in the fields, and had to seek shelter from the large chunks of ice falling from the sky.

lights in the sky

Barely 48 hours after the hailstorm, police departments in Perth and Smiths Falls received a number of calls from residents, claiming to have seen flying objects in the sky.

Flying Object Seen Near Balderson

A local man reported that he and five others were on the Eighth Line near Balderson at 9:30 p.m., when a flying object appeared to be travelling south to north, then returned to the south.   He observed that it was quite large, shaped like a tart.  Another report came in from a resident of Sherbrooke Street in Perth, who saw the same object overhead.  He said that his dog had howled constantly while the object appeared in the sky.

CJET Radio Holds Call-In Show

Due to large number of UFO Sightings!

So many people had observed the same object that CJET radio station in Smiths Falls held a call-in show the following Monday, so that people could phone the show, and share reports of what they had seen.

Sparkling Yellow-Orange Light

Over Perth

UFO 1

“The Perth Courier”, Thursday, April 19, 1973

 

Julian Kustra reports flying object

over Sherbrooke Street in Perth

UFO 2

“The Perth Courier” , Thursday, July 19, 1973, page 1.

flying saucer 3

UFO Reported in Beckwith Township

on Tennyson Road

The next UFO sighting to be reported in the fall of 1973 took place in Beckwith Township.  A young man was returning to Perth from Ottawa, driving along Highway 7 near Carleton Place, when his headlights suddenly went out.  Concerned that he might be pulled over by the police with his headlights out he decided to take the back way, and turned onto Tennyson Road.  The section of the road closest to Perth has swamp on both sides, and the lad noticed two large lights in the sky, hovering over the swamp.  The object was in the sky just above the tree line.  He pulled the car over to the side of the road, and as he stopped the car he noticed that the object stopped as well, and hovered over the swamp.  He remained parked for a few minutes, and then started to drive again.  When he began to move, so did the object, and it travelled parallel to him for a few more minutes, then disappeared.  Early the next morning, when he pulled out of his driveway in Perth, his headlights were working again.

flying saucer 4

Small Sphere Hovers in Sky

Over Smiths Falls

Another sighting in the late summer of 1973 was first reported by a young lad working at a gas station in Smiths Falls. He spotted a small sphere in the sky that appeared to be hovering in one fixed location.  He reported seeing silver flames coming from both the top and the bottom of the craft.  The lad was quick to call CJET radio station, and ask if anyone else had seen the odd sphere in the sky.  The radio station confirmed that yes, indeed; they could see it as well.  In the days that followed, at least 40 people in the Smiths Falls area came forward, stating that they had seen the object as well.

Cigar-Shaped Object in Sky

Over Horseshoe Bay, Rideau Lakes

In the summer of 1974 people were once again talking about another strange object in the sky.  It was a typical warm summer evening on the Rideau Lakes, and there were cottagers and residents alike, who saw more than they bargained for, on the night of August 12th.   At around 10 p.m., many were sitting outside, enjoying the call of the loons, and listening to the water lapping on the shore.  Suddenly, high in the night sky, a cigar-shaped object appeared.  Some described it as a long, flat shape, orange in colour. Many said that it was more red than orange, and was shaped like a sphere. Everyone that saw it agreed that it was silent, and it hovered over the Big Rideau Lake, on the south side of Horseshoe Bay, for several minutes, and then vanished.

flying saucer 5

It wasn’t just in the Perth area that strange objects and lights appeared in the sky.  Several residents of the town of Brockville, including some local police officers, confirmed the sightings of some odd lights moving in the night skies.

Brockville UFO

From “The Perth Courier”,  January 3, 1979,  front page, a sighting reported by George Shanks of Lanark, Ontario:

 

White Blinking Light in Sky

Over Ferguson Falls

flies from Almonte

to McDonald’s Corners

 

ufo-jan-1979

Cartoon printed in “The Perth Courier”, January 10, 1979, page 2

Flying objects in the sky became the talk of the town!

 

ufo-jan-10-1979

Strange sightings of unidentified flying objects were recorded in the Perth area as early as the late 1950s.  Fiery balls of light, objects moving up and down, back and forth, quickly, in ways that airplanes were not able to maneuver.

UFO Tracking Station

Established near Ottawa

UFO tracking stations were established just outside of Ottawa, and rumours of government radio towers and underground facilities were heard up and down the concessions in Lanark County.  Excavations were reported near Almonte, and government agents were testing the soil on several farms in Ramsay Township.

When reporters attempted to investigate, the government representatives denied all, despite the fact that local men were working as labourers on many of the projects and could confirm what they had seen.

……………………..

 

For more information on strange sightings in the night skies over Lanark County, and some of the government’s secret projects in the 1960s and 1970s, read the full story ‘Perplexed in Perth’, from the new book “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics – Sneak Preview

Sneak peek banner

 

Table of Contents for blog

“In this collection of short stories the author invites the reader to journey back to a small farm in Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s.  Discover Irish legends, and learn about the troublesome banshees of North Burgess Township. Visit Clyde Forks, and share in an unsolved mystery that continues to baffle police today.  Join the celebration of a milestone, in the picturesque village of Middleville, and watch as a tragedy unfolds along the shores of the Mississippi, in Pakenham.  Chat with the neighbours at a popular general store in DeWitt’s Corners, and witness something unusual in the night skies over Perth. Join the author as she travels back to a simpler way of life, in this treasury of tales from another time.”

Book Review jpg

“Once again, Arlene Stafford-Wilson triumphantly transports the reader into the heart of rural Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. The stories selected for Lanark County Classics, are a fine and timely follow-up to her 2015 release Lanark County Connections.

Stafford-Wilson’s stories are composed with an intense clarity of phrase and image. As in her previous books, her fascination with the human and natural history of her native ground — the rural farmlands, villages and small towns in Lanark County is inexhaustible.

In her latest renderings, even seemingly uneventful lives in sparsely peopled Eastern Ontario hamlets like DeWitt’s Corners, Clyde Forks, Lanark, Middleville and Pakenham — farmers, shopkeepers and townsfolk — are brought back to life for closer examination. Her stories come alive with local names and family connections.  In the simplest of words, and with the richest descriptions, she makes us see and hear an ‘unremarkable’ scene that we will never forget.

No one, having read this latest book, would ever again question, “What is so interesting about small-town rural Canada?” Her thorough and dedicated study of historical ingredients, always come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and draw the reader into that place and time.

What makes Stafford-Wilson’s growth as an author so crisply and clearly visible throughout Lanark County Classics is the familiarity of her materials. With her vivid reminiscences set in rural towns and villages; the more she returns to it, the more she finds.

This latest work, once again confirms that the short story is alive and well in Canada where these heart-warming tales originate, like cool fresh breezes straight off the Rideau Lakes.”

………………………………………………………….

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Dance Halls 1950s, 60s & 70s

Antler Lodge Opening Dance

Antler Lodge image for book 3

First kiss, first drink, maybe even a first love, were some of the memories made at the old style country dance halls in Lanark County in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Close to home, these community halls opened their doors on the May long weekend, and became the backdrop for cottage crushes and summer romances. With wooden floors polished to a high shine, and the snack-bars stocked with crowd-pleasing favourites, local bands entertained the crowds into the wee hours.

Some were neighbourhood musicians, and many were bands from out of town, but most used a single microphone and one or two small amplifiers.   Parking lots became passion pits, and offered privacy for underage drinking, and occasional brawls.

Music echoed across the big lakes and rivers, keeping cottagers awake, and causing parents to wonder what was going on down at the dance hall. Whether you preferred country, big-band or rock and roll there were venues to suit every taste and style.

antler-lodge-exterior-jpg

See if you can remember these local favourites:

Bill Hannah and the Nightingales

Bill Munro and his Country Rockets

CFRA Happy Wanderers: Ken Reynolds, Ward Allen, Bob King, Vince Lebeau, Lynn Strauff, Marie King

Country Harmony Boys

Country Hoppers: Garry ‘Gizz’ Watt, Fred ‘Pappy’ Ryan, Paul ‘Hiker’ Gurry, Larry ‘Dooley’ Protheroe

Country Rhythm Kings

Don Gilchrist and his Dancers

Family Brown: Tracey, Lawanda, Joe & Barry Brown, Dave Dennison, Ron Sparling

Fred Paquin’s Orchestra (featuring Don Cochrane)

Jerry Badour and His Westernaires

Kenny Jackson’s Valley Cruisers: Harry Adrain, Raymond Donaldson, Gary Barr

Lee Miller’s Orchestra

Lockwood’s Orchestra

Mac Beattie and the Melodiers: Reg Hill, Garnet Scheel, Gaetan Fairfield, Bob Whitney

Mallen’s Melodiers

Mississippi Ramblers

Mississippi River Boys

Riders of the Southern Trails

Ron McMunn and his Country Cousins

Symington’s Orchestra

Tex Montana’s Cowboy Band

Top Hats

Travelons

Valley Ramblers

Wilson Sisters

…and the dance halls where they entertained us:

Antler Lodge

Balderson Hall

Bolingbroke ABC Hall

Carleton Place Town Hall

Fallbrook Orange Hall

Maberly Agricultural Hall

McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall

Perth Town Hall

Rideau Ferry Inn

Lanark Stanley Lodge

Wemyss Hall

Westport Scott’s Ballroom

Take a trip down memory lane, back to the old style country dance halls, and the folks who kept us dancing until the wee hours, in the story called  “Antler Lodge:  Dosey-Doe Along the Rideau”   from the book  “Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples”

http://www.staffordwilson.com

photos of Antler Lodge, used with permission – Graeme Hoatson Beattie

Winter Warriors

winter fence
Eastern Ontario winters are not for the faint of heart. They are bitterly cold. They are relentless…and, they are long. They are not for the casual skier wanting a fashionable romp down a pretty hill only to return to the safety and warmth of their faraway homes. They are not for the frivolous winter vacationer staying at a rustic lodge to photograph a deer or a moose, from the comforts of their cozy cabin windows.

These winter days are for hardy souls only; all others need not apply. These are for people prepared to use a heavy shovel and an ever-present snow brush on a daily basis. These are for people possessing the knowledge and necessary techniques for walking on different types of ice…without falling. Some ice is flat and smooth like a hockey arena. Some ice is snow-covered, just enough to make the hidden surface even more perilous. Some days the ice is black, unseen, undetectable, rendering the walker completely unaware of their vulnerability.

black ice

This is where you’ll find the stalwart souls who soldier on, through ice and snow, from October through April each year, month after long winter month. These are the people who listen to reports of schools closing, and distant cities shut down because of the ‘bad’ winter weather, as they trudge through the snow on their way to work because it’s ‘just another day’. These are the people, young and old who wade through snow, stroll on the ice, and drive on slick roads in freezing rain, for months each year. Before their school day or work day has even begun, they have shoveled their sidewalks, brushed off their cars, stepped gingerly on ice, trudged through resistant snow drifts, all of this while bitter cold winds sting any skin unprotected by cumbersome layers of clothing and boots.

thermometer

These are the enduring rank and file, possessing rare perseverance, stamina and patience. They are dreamers and unflinching optimists. In the final unbending weeks of the coldest season they will study seed catalogues, plan gardens, visit boat shows, and envision themselves under clear, blue skies on calm, warm, July afternoons. They conjure endless images of cottages, muskoka chairs, hammocks, beer and barbecues. They dream of tulips and trilliums, green grass, and sunny days.

As the late winter unwinds its final few weeks in Eastern Ontario, perhaps the most anticipated signal to herald the new season for these enduring folks, will be the time-honoured, and always sublime, first taste of their beloved maple syrup. It spells the defeat, the finish, the finale, the wind-up, and the end-of-the-line for winter. It marks the beginning of spring, of brighter longer days, and the sweet, golden taste of victory for the hardy souls who have survived yet another long, cold Canadian winter.

 

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

 

Discover the history of maple syrup production in Lanark County, Eastern Ontario in ‘Taffy on the Tay’, an excerpt from Lanark County Chronicle – ISBN978-0-9877026-23

History of Maple Syrup in Lanark County

 

 

 

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 turned 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.

red leaves  maple multi leaves

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.

girl collecting leaves

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!

ironing leaves

We’d place each leaf between folded sheets of waxed paper, cover them with a tea towel, and press down with the hot iron.

ironing board

 

When we’d 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.

leaves in a book

 

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 most colourful 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, the nights grew colder, and one by one the leaves blew off the trees, and the cruel frost stole their colours away.

bare trees

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 final 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.

spooky trees

The sun slipped down behind Mitchell’s barn earlier each night, and sometimes I’d be nervous walking up the lane-way, or back the side road.

bare trees sunset

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.

Cavanagh's at night

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 though 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.

dried leaves

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.

jumping in the leaves    hiding in the leaves

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 new season, by making plans for the scariest night of the year!

It was time to scrounge around in the attic, 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

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