‘Witching’ or ‘Dowsing’ for Water

“The Well’s Run Dry!”

I often wonder what went through our Mother’s mind, when Dad informed her that there was no indoor plumbing in the farmhouse, on the Third Line of Bathurst, where they would be living, after the war.

They purchased the farm from Dad’s aunt and uncle, partly with the help of a Veteran’s Grant, in 1946, when Dad returned from overseas.  With two babies in diapers, I can’t imagine that my Mother was very happy at the prospect of drawing water from a well, with a hand-pump, a hundred yards from the house.  There was a big cement cistern in the basement as well, which collected rain water, but that was just for washing, not drinking.

Water was often in short supply, and almost every year by summer’s end, the well was running dry.  When Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy, in Glen Tay, he brought water home from the dairy at  night, in big metal milk cans, to hold us over, for a while.

Drilling a well was an expensive project to undertake.  People paid by the foot, and we’d all heard the horror stories about a neighbour or acquaintance, who had paid for drilling but had not ‘hit’ water in the process.

I’m not sure if it’s still done, but the practice in those days, back in the 1950s and 1960s, was to hire a ‘Switcher’, or ‘Diviner’, who would walk the property, and use a method called ‘Dowsing’. In fact, this was such a common practice at the time that I recall this technique being called by a few different names:  Witching,  Switching, and Divining, depending on who you were talking to.

Edgar Hamm witching 2017

Edgar Hamm calls it ‘Witching’, but some call it ‘Dowsing

 

In many cases, a drilling company either had someone on staff, or knew a person with this skill, and brought them along to assist in finding the best spot to drill, where the water was closest to the surface.

The Thompson brothers, Jerry and Connie drilled our well, although I don’t recall who they hired to walk the land with the willow branch to detect the water.

“I remember when a new well was drilled, and when the men came with the dowsing stick. I can’t recall when they called it – I think a divining stick or rod, but it was used to find water.  

I was there, and asked if I could try it.  The men seemed amused, but he told me what to do.  I can’t remember if I felt anything or not, but when he found the water, it seemed to pull him and the stick almost down to the ground.” 

Jackie Stafford Wharton

I recall in those days they used a willow branch, and fashioned it so that it had two short ends, and one long end.  Willow was used, because it was supposed to create the strongest ‘pull’ to the water.  I’ve also heard that peach branches, or hazel branches conduct water in the same way.

divining rod from book

The divining rod: A history of water witching, with a bibliography Water Supply Paper 416 (1917)

 

The practice of dowsing, goes back to the 15th century in Europe, where it was used not only to find water, but to detect metals as well.

Divining rod in Britain 18th century

Divining Rod, 18th century Britain

Dowsing or Witching was used extensively during the building of the railroad, to find drinking water for the crew, along the route.

 

Water witching

Water-witching, 1907

 

Farmers have used water-witching for generations, to determine the best place to dig their wells, and to find a source of drinking water for their cattle in a pasture.

 

Divining rod 1942

George Casely uses a hazel branch to find water on his farm, 1942

 

The practice continues to be used today, in some cities in Canada.  Metal rods are used instead of the old-fashioned tree branches.

City of Ottawa diviner 2017

CBC News, 

“The city (Ottawa) says it still routinely uses the age-old detection technique, also known as dowsing or water witching.

“Definitely the other technology works more consistently,” said Quentin Levesque, manager of what’s known as the city’s “locates group.”

“Should they have difficulties or troubles using the other equipment, the divining rod is there as well.”

The practice involves walking slowly over an area while holding one of the L-shaped rods in each hand. When the two rods cross, that’s supposed to signify the diviner is standing over water.”

Some Call it ‘A Gift’

Can anyone use divining rods, or a willow switch to find water?

Some say it is a gift, and only those with this natural, intuitive, sensing ability can detect water.  Some say that it doesn’t necessarily pass from father to son, or down through the family.

Some people claim that dowsing is a psychic ability, and some scoff and say that it is a learned ability, and that anyone can be trained to do it.

Whether it’s a gift, or something that can be learned, it’s still being practiced today by some, to pinpoint sources of water.

Were my parents happy when the well-witcher located the water in our yard, and the Thompson brothers drilled our well?  They sure were!

Was it mystical or magical or other-worldly, when our Mother turned on the tap in the old house, and drinking water gushed out for the first time?

I’m sure to her, it was.

Audry in front of the house

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, in front of the old house, c. 1965

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

story is an excerpt from “The Well’s Run Dry”, in ‘Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen, ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

R and R bookmark image

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

Perth Fair – Flashbacks of Fun!

Perth Fair midway 1

It wasn’t just our Mother who loved the Perth Fair.  Yes, she spent months preparing for those brief few hours each Labour Day weekend, at the fairgrounds, along Rogers Road, but the rest of the family also felt a sense of excitement, rivalled only by Christmas morning!

Perth Fair logo on blue

The day had arrived!  The day that we would drive into Perth, park at our Aunt Pat and Uncle Peter Stafford’s house on Halton Street, walk up the road, and enter the gates.  By the time we got to the entrance, and Mother showed her Exhibitor’s Pass, we were bursting with anticipation. I knew that Mother would be heading straight for the Homecraft Building to check on her entries, but instead, I chose to slow down, look around, and take it all in.

Perth Fair poster 1966

She glanced back, waved, and then rushed down the well worn path, through the midway, and up to the buildings. I stood with my back against the side of the Lion’s Hall, and glanced around. There was so much to see that I didn’t know where to look first.  Being a kid, my eyes naturally gravitated toward the rides.

Perth Fair ride 1   tilt a whirl

They were all spinning and whirring, and the bright sun was bouncing off of all of the shiny metal.  There was a Ferris wheel, a Scrambler, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Bullet.  The Swings took up a lot of room, and so they were set up to the right of the buildings.  I could see four kiddy rides: a Merry-Go-Round, Baby Airplanes going round in a circle, Ladybugs, and a Little Red Caboose making its way along a tiny round track.

Once my eyes had taken in the rides, my senses turned to all of the sweet aromas of the Fair. Right across from where I was standing was the Lion’s Club ladies’ booth, and I could smell their fresh, homemade hamburgers, and the savory scent of fried sweet onions.  Straight ahead of me, just past the entrance was a vendor swirling a paper funnel around and around, in a circle, pink cotton candy swelling out from the stick, as he twirled it inside the machine.

concession 1  cottonn candy

Next to the cotton candy stand, was a man selling corn on the cob, and several people were waiting in line.  Folks were holding their cobs by a short wooden stick that had been plunged right into the big end of the cob, and there were two or three separate unwrapped pounds of butter set on the edge of the counter of the vending cart. The butter had already taken on a curved shape as people spun their cobs, and then salted them.

corn on a stick  corn dog

Next to the corn vendor was the hot dog cart. A tall, lanky man was grilling hot dogs on one side, and the finished dogs were spinning slowly around glistening on the grill. On the other side of the wagon, a younger lad was piercing hot dogs with long slender sticks, dipping them in batter, and placing them into a big deep fryer.  The cart had a low shelf with mustard, ketchup and relish and some diced onions for people to dress their hot dogs.

candy apples   caramel apples

 

There were two more food carts, so I strolled a bit farther down the midway toward the buildings. The first cart held a popcorn machine, even bigger than the one that I’d seen at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls.  It was a large, metal machine, painted red, and the popcorn was spilling out of the top into a big glass case.  The vendor was lifting it out with a bright, silver scoop, and placing it into small white paper bags that were decorated with red stripes and a clown’s face.

popcorn

The last food vendor in front of the Commerce building, was making snow cones.  There was a square, metal and glass machine and an old man in a dirty apron was pouring ice cubes into a big funnel on the top.  There were white cone-shaped paper cups stacked in a tall dispenser attached to the side of the machine and when he cranked the handle on the opposite side snow came out of an opening at the front.  There were clear plastic squeeze bottles lined up on a shelf, at the front of the machine, and each was labeled with a different flavour: cherry, orange, lemon-lime, grape and blueberry.

snow cone

I’m not sure if I was really hungry or if it was just from seeing and smelling all of the different kinds of food, and I thought that I might buy either a small bag of popcorn, or a blueberry snow cone. I dug deep into my pocket, and pulled out my money.  I had exactly twelve dollars, and my money had to last for the whole weekend, and this was just the first day.  I needed to save some, because my friends Susan and Jane Munro, Patti Jordan, and Debbie Majaury, would be coming into town later, and I’d want to go on the rides with them. Because the rides were $1.25 each I had to be careful not to spend money on food, so I stuffed the bills and change back in my pocket, and kept walking, taking in all the sights along the way.

midway 2

Photo: 1967 Old Home week,  David Bromley (clown on the left) Fred Mather (clown on the right)

I heard a man’s voice yelling at me, and it startled me so much that I jumped.  I looked toward the man timidly, and he was in a game booth, right behind a food cart, and he had a table set up with some wooden milk bottles, stacked in a pyramid.  He had a baseball in his hand, and called to me to come and knock over the milk bottles. It scared me so much that I just walked away.  I wasn’t used to strangers.  We knew everyone out on the Third Line, and lots of the folks in Perth as well.  None of the people we knew ever yelled at us like that, right out of the blue, and certainly not a stranger.  I walked quickly away, not looking back.

ring toss

The people that operated the games made me nervous.  They had a lot of tattoos, which was something we never saw in those days.  Many of them were a bit too aggressive. I’d played some of those games before, and although I won, I didn’t get the big stuffed bears and dogs that were hanging along the top and sides of their booth.

carnie

I’ll never forget the first time I played a game.  The back wall of the booth had four or five rows of balloons blown up, and they were stuck to the wall.  I thought I’d have no problem hitting one of the balloons, so when the man yelled at me to come and play, I thought it would be a sure thing.

prize every time

He said it was $1.00 for three darts so I handed him my money, and he handed me three darts.  Sure enough, the balloons weren’t that far away, and I hit and burst all three of them.

3 darts for a dollar

 

He reached down under the table, into a big cardboard box, and handed me a mangy looking stuffed snake.  It was about six inches long, and had an orange felt tongue, badly stitched onto its mouth, and two black felt eyes, that weren’t even lined up.

I looked up at the big stuffed bears and asked him why I hadn’t won one of those.  He said that my prize was a ‘small’ and if I wanted a ‘large’ prize I’d have to play and win, trading up to a ‘medium’ then win a certain number of ‘mediums’ and then I’d finally get one of the big bears. Holy cow!  Talk about disappointed!  What kind of scam was that?  Folks from Bathurst Township were used to other people dealing with them fairly. This game seemed like out and out trickery, and I wasn’t very impressed.  Still, I didn’t want to tell Mother that I’d just wasted my money, so I kept it to myself.  I didn’t even want to tell my friends that I’d been fooled like that.  I just felt stupid.

I walked by all of the other game booths, and watched people play.  Some folks walking around the fairgrounds were actually carrying one of the great big stuffed animals.  I wondered to myself how many of those mangy stuffed snakes they’d had to trade up in order to finally claim the big prize.

Perth Fair 1956

Photo: Perth Fair 1956 – L to R –  Wanda Mahon, Bette Duncan, Mary Douglas, Marsha Ann Nichols, Heather Murphy, Bill Redman (Bill operated the concession stands for the March Midway)

I walked past the last game in the midway, and there was a rough-looking older woman, holding a bunch of short, wooden fishing rods, with small black metal squares on the ends.  There was a round aluminum tub of water on the ground, and floating along the surface of the water were dozens of little yellow plastic ducks, and they each had ‘S’, ‘M’ or ‘L’, marked on their heads in black marker – small, medium and large I guessed.  I must have been staring too long at the tub of ducks because she called out at me to come and play.  She said everyone is a winner.  Not to be tricked again, I asked her what the prizes were, and she showed me.  She didn’t have huge stuffed animals, but it was only fifty cents to play, and you could fish in the tub until you caught a duck.

fishing game

I dug into my pocket, and pulled out two quarters, gave them to her, and she handed me a fishing rod.  By this time, after watching other folks play for a few minutes, I had figured out that the heavy black square on the end of the rod was a magnet, and that each of the yellow plastic ducks must have a magnet inside so they would stick to the line.  I looked down into the tub, and I could see that there were about forty or fifty ducks marked with an ‘S’, maybe ten marked with a ‘M’ and there were only three that I could see marked with an ‘L’.   I took my time, and positioned my rod right over one of the ‘L’ ducks and plunged it into the water.  Wouldn’t you know it, just my luck, the magnet had stuck to a duck with an ‘S’, the lady pulled it out of the tub, and handed me a prize.  It was a 45 rpm record in a paper sleeve.  I thanked her, and looked at the label.  It was the Shirelles’ song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”  Hmmm.  Well, the record was a few years old, but we had a record player at home, and some plastic adapters to play 45s, so this didn’t seem like such a bad prize after all.  Not bad for fifty cents!

The late August sun was working its way up into the sky, and I thought it must be close to noon.  I was starting to feel hot, and decided to head up to the buildings, and cool off inside.  The exhibit halls at the Perth Fair were grey metal arched buildings, with straight walls, and rounded roofs.  One of the buildings was known as the Commerce building, and it had lots of different vendors selling their products and services.  The other building was the Homemaking building, and this is where you could find exhibits of sewing and fancy work, vegetables, flowers, canned goods, maple products, and of course home baking.  It’s also where you could find our Mother!

Home Baking

As I walked closer to the building, there were two tables set up, right outside of the entrance.  One person was raffling off a quilt made by Mrs. Bert Frizzell, and the other was selling tickets for the annual draw to win a baby beef. Sure enough, as I approached the main door, I spotted Mother, standing along one of the baking counters, talking to Evelyn Bothwell, and Margaret Campbell.  Mrs. Willard Shaw and Mrs. Archie Ferguson were working at the next counter, arranging some of the craft displays.  The ladies all nodded and smiled at me, knowing that I was one of Mother’s ‘helpers’, responsible for carrying her baking in to the building each year, the evening before the judging took place.  I usually had a meringue pie on my lap, in the car, on the way into Perth, and there were countless trays of muffins, loaves, cakes, pies, cookies, bread, rolls and biscuits to carry, carefully, into the building each year.  Along with all of those tasty treats, she would also enter photography, flowers, vegetables and sewing, but it was the home baking competition where her talents shone.

maple syrup and honey display

Mother spotted me, smiled excitedly, and waved me over to the counter.  “Your Mother won the most points in the baking category again!” Mrs. Bothwell exclaimed, and the ladies pointed out all of the red ribbons and tags, behind the glass counter.  Mother beamed, and said that Mrs. Bell from Balderson had come very close to beating her, and that she’d have to stay sharp for next year!

prize ribbons     most points in baking 1965

There were also many other folks who won prizes at the Fair that year as well.  There was a gate prize each year, and the ticket number would be drawn, called out, and the winner received ten pounds of Balderson Cheese.  Now who wouldn’t want that!  They estimated that the crowd that year was around 15,000 and I’m not sure who won the gate prize, but someone went home that night with a big slab of the best cheese in the county.

mammoth cheese

One of the most popular events was the harness racing, and the winner was Eddie Norris of Perth. There was also a Tractor Rodeo – contestants had to drive tractors through an obstacle course pulling wagons and manure spreaders.  In the 14-18 yrs. division some of our local lads had a good showing.  Bill Poole came 1st, Allan Lowry was 2nd, and Brian Miller of Drummond Centre came 3rd.  In the 19 yrs. and over division Mervin Conboy of Maberly took first place, with Jack James from Middleville taking 2nd, and our neighbour from the Third Line, Wayne Conboy taking 3rd.

Donald Hossie, another neighbour, was the top winner in the seed and grain competition, and Mrs. Robert Moodie won the Sewing and Fancy work class with no less than 23 firsts! Mrs. John Auchterlonie, also from the Third Line, took top honours for her vegetables and fruits, and Mrs. Isobel Kent came first in the Flower competition.

flowers Perth Fair

giant pumpkin

Ray Poole was the winner of the best bale of first cut hay, and our neighbour, John Miller of Glen Tay, won for the best dairy cattle.  John’s sister Ruth Miller, won for the best senior calf.  Other winners from the Third Line included Paul, Dale and Jane Brady, winners for their 4H dairy cattle entries. In some of the other 4H competitions local lads Alfred Bowes and Brian Miller, John Miller, and Linda Bell of Balderson were winners.

showing calf      4H logo

Everyone enjoyed the light and heavy Horse Shows and the livestock competitions.  That was the first year that Charolais cattle were introduced into the mix, and so it was quite special to see them in the arena.

Horse and Charlolais at the Fair

showing calf # 2

showing at the Fair # 3

My good friends came to the fairgrounds that Saturday afternoon, and we had a wonderful time, riding the Scrambler, and the Tilt-a-Whirl, screaming, laughing, and then feeling dizzy on our walk back down the ramp, at the end of the ride.  We were all a little nervous about riding The Bullet, because while one of the two cars was right side-up, the opposite car was up-side-down.  We stood there quite a while watching other people riding, and screaming, and laughing, before we got up enough nerve to try it out ourselves.  I didn’t really like being upside-down, and some of my change fell out of my pocket, onto the ground below.  Luckily, one of our neighbours Linda Brady saw it fall, and she stood there and waited, until the ride was finished, and hung onto my change for me.

bullet ride

As always, the Grandstand shows at the Perth Fair were great entertainment for people of all ages!  Beautiful late summer evenings, clear skies, all the rides lit up, the scents of delicious food in the air, and wonderful live music, made those nights magical!

grandstand 2

grandstand

bandstand 3 edit

Everyone always came out to see the famous Trans Canada Hell Drivers!

Hell Drivers 1969Hell Driver clown

Hell Drivers at the Fair

Along with the Grandstand entertainment, one of the highlights of the Fair that year, was the Old Time Fiddlers competition on Sunday, and the musically-gifted Dawson Girdwood walked away with the top prize. Barb Closs from Lanark came second in the step-dancing competition, although we thought she should have come first, she was such a talented performer.  Watching the fiddling and step-dancing was a memorable finish to the Labour Day weekend.

Dawson Girdwood

Dawson Girdwood

The last night of the Fair, as always, was bittersweet.  We knew that it was almost over for another year.  I walked through the midway one more time, all the way to the Lion’s Hall.  The ladies in the Lioness Booth were packing up their big jars of mustard and relish, and some of the nearby vendors were starting to clean their food carts, and take them apart.

midway 4

Some diehard fans of the Fair were still playing games; taking a last spin at the Crown and Anchor wheel, or throwing one last pitch at Skeet ball, not wanting the fun to end.  Although it was getting late, there were still a handful of people on the rides laughing and screaming. The good-natured folks running the rides didn’t seem to mind and they gave these last few stragglers extra long rides.

As I walked back up through the midway, I took one last look behind me, as if I wanted to freeze the moment in my memory, then I reluctantly climbed into the car.  Dad started up the engine, and drove through the side entrance, onto Cockburn Street.

It was a wonderful fair!  I sat in the back seat of the car, tired from the busy weekend, as Mother chatted excitedly to Dad, already planning her exhibits for next year’s fair.

kids driving away

School would be starting soon, and the days would grow cooler, and the sun wouldn’t feel quite as strong as it did for the Fair.  In the weeks to come we’d bring our jackets down from the attic, and spend our evenings doing homework, instead of riding our bikes up and down the Third Line. As the daylight hours dwindled down we’d begin to see the onset of nature’s paintbrush, and its random strokes of yellow and orange, dotted across the maple trees in our yard. This would be our last taste of summer for a long while, and what could possibly be a more fitting way to finish off the season, than a glorious sunny weekend spent at the Perth Fair!

…………

Perth Fair 1963

…………

 

This story is an excerpt from:

Memories of Home Drummond North Elmsley

The story ‘A Day at the Fair’, original publication in:
“Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”   ISBN 978-0-9877026-30
some photos from: ‘Perth Remembered’, and from ‘Perth Fair’
L C Calendar book cover

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

The Legend Behind the Recipes

The bright-eyed twenty-something grabbed her hat, and headed straight for the recruiting station, after hearing that her only brother was rejected from the military because of his poor eyesight.  “Someone has to represent our family in the war efforts!” her voice fading as she ran down the sidewalk, vanishing out of sight.

rcaf_wd_recruiting

WWII Recruiting poster, 1942, RCAF, Womens’ Division

 

Jack Rutherford

Audry’s brother, Jack Rutherford, (photo above) – wanted very much to serve in WWII, but was not accepted as a recruit, due to his eyesight.

 

The No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge, Alberta, would become Audry’s new home, where she would meet the dashing young Lanark County farm boy Tib Stafford.

audry-in-uniform

Audry in uniform, on a visit with her parents in Edmonton, Alberta

 

mother-and-dad-dating-in-lethbridge

Audry Rutherford and Tib Stafford, on a date in the city of Lethbridge, Alberta in 1943

 

After a whirlwind of dating, he asked for her hand, and they married on July 12, 1943.

 

Mother and Dad's wedding announcement

Audry and Tib’s wedding announcement, Edmonton Journal, July 13, 1943, page 8

 

mother-and-dads-wedding

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford & Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford – on their wedding day July 12, 1943

 

Audry took great pride in her military contributions, and was honoured to be in the very first graduating class of Physical Education Instructors, for the RCAF Womens’ Division.

airforce-women-1942-001

In the months that followed, she began to feel a bit queasy, and discovered that they were going to have a baby.  The rule in those days was to discharge female soldiers who were expecting, and sadly, she gave up her position as Corporal, and returned  home.

On a warm spring day, in May of 1944, she gave birth to a strapping baby boy, Timothy Stafford.

 

Tim and Judy 1946

Tim Stafford and Judy Stafford, 1947, Third Line of Bathurst Twp., Lanark County

 

When the war ended, they settled on a farm, on the Third Line of Bathurst Township, Lanark County, just west of Perth, Ontario, and the family continued to grow.  Now there was big brother Tim, and his two little sisters Judy, and Jackie.

Stafford-House-in-1947

Stafford House – 1947, 3rd line of Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township

 

Mother Tim Judy Jackie.jpg

l to rt.- Judy Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tim Stafford (front – Jackie Stafford)

 

Judy Tim Jackie Roger at the fence

Judy Stafford , Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford and Roger Stafford, 1958

 

Stafford Christmas long ago

l to rt – Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford on Judy Stafford’s lap, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford, 1964.

 

Always busy in the kitchen, an excellent baker, Audry began to enter the home-craft competitions in Perth Fair.  Her baking was a big  hit, and she won blue ribbons, red ribbons, silver cups, silver trays, and filled her china cabinet with the spoils from her winnings.   She won so many prizes over the years that her reputation for award-winning baking was the talk of Lanark County, and the Agricultural Society asked her to be a Fair Judge.

Perth Fair results 1965

perth-fairfirst-place-ribbons

 

For decades, Audry was a Fair Judge, throughout the County of Lanark – at the Perth Fair, the Maberly Fair, the Lombardy Fair, even more distant fairs in Madoc and Tweed.  She became a well-known Fair Judge throughout Eastern Ontario.

 

audry-stafford-judging-a-quilt

Judge Audry Stafford, performing her duties, at the Lombardy Agricultural Fair

Audry lived a long life, and when she passed away, her children assembled all of her prize-winning recipes, and included stories of growing up on the little farm, on the Third Line of Bathurst.  The book was called “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”  

(Audry’s first-born Tim, and second-born Judy are featured on the cover)

recipes-recollections-cover-1

 

This popular book has become the ‘go-to’ guide for anyone who loves the traditional, the classic, the old-time, farm-style recipes.  No less than 93 prize-winning recipes are featured in the book, and it has become a best-seller, ideal for anyone considering competing in the baking categories at the local fairs who’s looking for an ‘edge’.

 

apple sauce loaf

Audry’s Apple Sauce Bread – won first prize ribbons, year after year at local fairs

 

“Recipes and Recollections” will warm your heart, and fill your stomach, with homemade comfort foods guaranteed to please the crowd!

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm &  Mill St. Books  in Almonte, or online at http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

A Flag on Her Coffin

Cpl Audry Rutherford

Corporal Audry Rutherford (Stafford) 1943 in Edmonton

She told us many times over the years, that when she died, she wanted a Canadian flag draped on her coffin. She was proud to have served her country, and so, when our Mother passed away, in 2007, we contacted the Legion in Perth, and they were quick to deliver a flag to the visitation room, and place it solemnly over her casket, at the funeral home.

Flag on her coffin

Audry’s casket, Blair and Son Funeral Home, Perth, Ontario, April 2007

When a dozen Legion members arrived at the funeral home, before the visitation began, they handed each of us a poppy, and requested that we lay them on top of the flag, at the close of their ceremony.

They marched into the room, to the melancholy strains of the bagpipes, fittingly, as our Mother’s ancestors hailed from Roxburghshire, Scotland. The Legion members, all in uniform, proudly wearing their medals, filed by, and paused to greet each one of our family. These were not young soldiers, but many were in the later stages of their lives, and most were veterans of WWII, like our Mother. They were the survivors, who had witnessed many fallen comrades, but through the grace of God had been spared, and had lived, some burdened with dark memories of the war.

Often, at this time of year, I recall Mother’s quiet patriotism. She was, after all, a first generation Canadian. Her father, an American, born along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, in New York State, and her mother hailed from Huddersfield, England, but Mother, born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, was all Canadian.

She never missed an opportunity to vote in an election, and would remind us that battles were fought and lives were lost, so that we could have this privilege. She embraced freedom of speech, and the freedom to choose one’s religion.

After her funeral, the five of us children, went through her things, and picked a few precious items to bring home as keepsakes. I spotted her journal sitting on top of a pile of books, picked it up, and began to flip through the pages. A small tattered piece of paper fell onto the floor. It was an old news clipping, brown and brittle with age, that she had cut out and saved, many years ago. As I began to read it, I realized how much the words summed up our Mother’s beliefs:

IT IS THE SOLDIER

– by – Charles M. Province

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

……………………………………….

This story in memory of Cpl. Audry Rutherford (Stafford) R.C.A.F., W.D.

………………………………………..

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Silver Lake Sundays

picnic table

It always seemed as though Highway 7 was busy, cars and trucks rushing along, especially on the weekends, and even more so during the summer months. According to Dad, it wasn’t just the local people travelling between Perth and Sharbot Lake, but all the tourists that rambled along the Trans-Canada Highway, doing a little sight-seeing, and exploring the countryside. Whatever the reason, Highway 7 was busy as usual that Sunday afternoon so long ago, as we made our way to Silver Lake.

Although it was just a twenty minute drive from the old house, the ride seemed to take forever, our legs sticking to the hot vinyl seats in the back of the Buick, long before the days of air conditioning. It wasn’t until I saw the signs for the village of Maberly that I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we’d be there in just a few more minutes. Dad flicked on his signal, I felt the car slow down, and we turned, and drove up the hill to the entry booth at Silver Lake Provincial Park. The park worker came over to the window, Dad showed his seasons pass, and he waved us through.

silver lake sign

Dad found a spot close to the picnic area, and we drove in and parked the car. That was the easy part. The tricky part was finding just the right picnic table. Dad liked a table to be in the shade. Mother preferred a place with a little sun. Dad said he needed to be out of the wind so he could light his little green Coleman stove. Mother liked a breeze to keep the bugs away. So the hunt for the best table usually took a little longer, sometimes a lot longer, than it should have. After all, we just wanted to cool off in the water, and that beautiful lake stretching out ahead of us, sparkling in the sun, was all we could think about. Who cared where we ate supper?

The hunt for the perfect table continued. Should we use one of the tables under the shelter in case it rained, or maybe one of the ones farther up the hill, off by itself? There was a good table close to the main beach, but there were a bunch of rowdy people sitting at the table right next to it, and Mother wondered aloud if that’s why no one else was using it.

They finally spotted a table halfway up the hill, toward the lower beach, and sent one of us up the ridge to ‘save’ it. Dad opened the trunk, and we each grabbed something, and made our way up to the table. The table cloth, Coleman stove, cooler, plastic cups and plates, paper napkins, transistor radio, saucepans, and cooking utensils, were all brought to the site. We hauled the picnic gear up the slope, and set it all down on the seats, while Mother spread out the red plastic table cloth. It wasn’t until we placed the big cooler on the table that we noticed that the table rocked back and forth. Good grief! I hoped to myself that we wouldn’t have to pick another table! Dad got the boys to lift one end, while he lifted the other, and re-positioned it until it was stable. What a relief!

While Mother took everything out of the cooler, Dad turned on his portable radio, extended the antenna, and went about setting up his little green metal stove.

transistor radio

 

I grabbed a towel from the top of the cooler, and headed down to the beach, finally free to jump in the lake and get cooled off. As I got closer to the beach, the noise and laughter from all of the kids grew louder, and I could see people jumping off of rubber rafts, and throwing beach balls around, and some little kids were filling up sand pails, and making sand castles along the shore.

I stepped cautiously into the shallow water along the sandy shore and it felt cool. Because I was right in the center of the main beach, I got splashed again and again by the other kids running in and out and jumping nearby. I walked out slowly, up to my knees, and then finally plunged in all the way, and the water didn’t seem cool anymore; it was just perfect. There was a kid close by with a diving mask on, and another kid with a fancy inflatable raft, and he was gliding along the surface using his hands to propel himself. I wondered what it would be like to have these expensive gadgets to play with in the water. We had an old beach ball that kept shrinking because it leaked air, and that was about it. Oh well, it was fun to splash around and cool off just the same.

I put my face in the water and opened my eyes. The bottom was sandy, with some smooth pebbles, and a couple of snail shells. There were some tiny minnows darting around, and lots of arms and legs of kids playing nearby. I pulled my face back out of the water, took a deep breath, and propelled myself down to the bottom, pushing the water back with my arms, moving farther from the beach. When I felt myself running out of air I resurfaced, rubbed my eyes, and looked back at the beach. There were lots of parents relaxing in lawn chairs, watching their kids swim. Little kids were playing close to the shore, and bigger kids were splashing around, squealing, laughing, and the bright July sun gleamed and glistened on the surface of the water.

I played in the water for hours, bobbing at the surface, swimming along the bottom, jumping into the gentle waves, and floating on my back and kicking my feet, then gliding backwards, staring up at the bright sun and the blue sky. I watched as new kids came into the water, and other kids left the beach, heading over to the playground, past the parking lot. By the time Mother came down to the beach to call me for supper I’d had plenty of time to swim, my fingertips were wrinkly, and I was ready to come out of the water.

silver lake swimmers

As we walked up the path to the picnic table I began to smell the gas from the Coleman stove, and the savoury scent of the hot dogs, and I began to realize how hungry I was. The fresh corn was already boiled and stacked on a tray. There was a bowl of baked beans, a homemade potato salad, some deviled eggs, homemade rolls, pickles, and a jellied salad. Everything tasted good, partly because I was hungry from swimming, but mostly because we were outside. Things always seemed to taste better outdoors in the fresh air for some reason. Dessert was Mother’s lemon squares. There was also a cookie tin of brownies, and some butter tarts. No one went hungry at our picnics; that was for sure.

Coleman stove  deviled eggs  corn butter tarts

After we’d finished and cleaned up, we decided to walk across the road to Barbary’s store. The traffic was very busy on Highway 7, so we had to wait quite a while until both lanes were clear, and then walked quickly across. The store was huge, and they had everything – groceries, camping gear, water toys, even life jackets; anything that you might need if you were camping, or visiting the lake. They had lots of souvenirs, postcards, and knick-knacks for tourists. Dad asked me if I’d like a chocolate bar, but I’d spotted something even better. The store carried Partridge Family bubblegum cards, and I was collecting them, so I asked if I could have those instead. Dad agreed and bought me those, and bought chocolate bars for everyone else, and he also picked up a fly swatter that he’d spotted hanging up by the cash register.

Parkside Service Centre May 15 1975

 

Parkside Service June 5 1975

We left the store, and once again waited a while until the road was clear, and walked quickly across. We strolled up the hill to the park entrance, through the gates, past the washrooms and change rooms, down the hill through the parking lot, and back up to the picnic table. We each picked up something, and headed down the hill to the car, and packed everything back into the trunk.

Once the car was packed, we went for a walk along the smaller, quieter beach on the other side of the picnic area. It was more peaceful at that beach, and there were only one or two kids with their parents down near the water. As we walked along I picked up some smooth stones, and a couple of snail shells, to bring back home. The early evening sun was lower in the sky, but still bright, and it bounced and played off of the water, and shimmered through the trees along the shore. The air was fresh and clean, and carried with it the soft scents of the lake and the nearby trees.

walk silver lake

Many Sunday afternoons were spent at Silver Lake. There were no splash pads, or giant water slides. We swam without water wings. Our only concern was how fast we could get into the lake to swim, and not how we looked in our bathing suits. The old car had no air conditioning, and our entertainment at supper consisted of a small transistor radio. If we wanted to call a friend we had to wait ‘til we got home and hope that none of the neighbours was using the party line. We filled our dinner plates time and again, stuffed ourselves with desserts, and never counted a single calorie. We didn’t send text messages; instead we talked to each other, and shared a few laughs.

family picnic

Although there have been many useful advances in technology since those days, I will always treasure our simple summer picnics. I yearn for the clear water, the beach-scented air, and quiet walks along the sandy shores. I miss the shrieks of genuine laughter, and carefree splashing in the warm waves. I dream of the distinctive smell of the Coleman stove, and the unmistakable flavours of the homemade comfort foods. Most of all, I long for the effortless, unguarded conversations that we shared between bites. Surely in today’s hectic, stressful world, constantly connected to the internet, we could all find some welcome relief in the peace, tranquility and simplicity of an old fashioned picnic at the lake.

 

 

 

 

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