Lanark County Classics – Book Launch

A sunny, warm, late September day brought record crowds to the official book launch for “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.

The Book Nook, a popular store on the main street of historic Perth, Ontario, was the setting for a steady stream of book lovers eager to read the latest collection of stories set in Lanark County, the picturesque maple syrup capital of Ontario.

The newly released stories in this series are set in Perth, Lanark, DeWitt’s Corners, Pakenham, Clyde’s Forks, Middleville, and the former North Burgess Township, taking the reader along on a journey back to the 1960s and 1970s in rural Eastern Ontario.

An early visitor to the store on Saturday, was Tara Gesner, from Metroland Media, a reporter covering the book launch for the local newspaper.

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There were many new faces stopping by, after reading the glowing reviews appearing in several publications   Review of Lanark County Classics

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A reader from Port Elmsley stopped by, interested in local history, and had certainly come to the right book launch for stories set around the region.

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Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss, former classmate of the author has purchased the entire collection for her mother, who has been a fan of the series since the beginning.

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Nancy Townend, Pakenham resident, came to the launch after hearing that one of the stories ‘Perils in Pakenham’, was set in her lovely,scenic, village.

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Carol-Ann McDougall,  resident of the Big Rideau Lake, featured in the story “Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story” Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story  brought a lovely, bright yellow chrysanthemum to grace the table of the book launch.  Carol-Ann has read all of the books in the Lanark County series, and has been looking forward to reading the newest collection of stories.

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Carla Brown stopped by, as she often does, to purchase the latest Lanark County book for her grandmother Shirley Myers.

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Avid reader of local history, Tom Ayres was eager to get the latest book in the series.  Tom has read all five in the collection, and is the reader who requested the story on Antler Lodge, featured in the last book – Lanark County Connections. Antler Lodge

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One of the stories in the new book, Lanark County Classics is ‘Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners. The story takes the reader back to the earliest days of the hamlet, recounts the history of this proud settlement, and the DeWitt family, whose name still graces the community today.   It was a special treat to have members of this founding family attend the book launch.

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Jane DeWitt Brady O’Grady – descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, founding family of DeWitt’s Corners.

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Also, a direct descendant of Zephaniah DeWitt, and native of DeWitt’s Corners – William ‘Bill’ Cavanagh,  son of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh, and his wife Brenda.

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Another native of DeWitt’s Corners, and descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, sister of Bill, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, daughter of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh:

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It was a real treat to share some memories of DeWitt’s Corners with Jane, JoAnne and Bill!

Along with the DeWitt descendants, long-time residents of DeWitt’s Corners, Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by the book launch.  Both Dave and Elaine contributed their memories and stories of DeWitt’s Corners for the book.  Owner of The Book Nook, Leslie Wallack, is standing to the right of Elaine. Leslie and her staff were busy the entire day assisting visitors to this popular store.

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Beverly Miller Ferlatte also stopped by the book launch.  Beverly shared her memories of S.S. # 4 , Bathurst, School for the story based in DeWitt’s Corners.  Beverly’s grandmother Mary Jordan was a well-loved and respected teacher at the school for many years.  The school house has been converted into a residence and Beverly’s brother Brian is the current owner of this historic building.

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Janice Jordan Gordon was another contributer to the DeWitt’s Corners story in the book. Janice was very helpful in identifying the children in several class photos from S.S. # 4 Bathurst School.

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A book launch would not be complete without a visit from former neighbours from the Third Line of Bathurst, Margery Conboy and her daughter Diana. Margery and her husband Wayne Conboy also shared their memories of DeWitt’s Corners, and the historic cheese factory that remained at ‘The Corners’ until 1979.

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Another former neighbour, Dave Mitchell,stopped by the book launch.  Dave was also interested in reading the story on DeWitt’s Corners, and finding out more about the history of the area where he was raised.

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The Book Launch at The Book Nook was a great success!  Many thanks to host Leslie Wallack and her staff, for keeping up with the steady crowds, and for providing the delicious refreshments.

A special thanks to all who came, from near and far, to stop by and chat, to share some memories, and to be a part of the busy day!

………………………………………………

Stories in “Lanark County Classics”:

  1. Baffling Banshees in Burgess
  2. Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners
  3. Mystery in Clyde Forks
  4. Multitudes in Middleville
  5. A Grand Era in Lanark
  6. Perils in Pakenham
  7. Perplexed in Perth

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners

‘The Corners’ was a phrase heard often in our small community.  The Corners referred to DeWitt’s Corners, a mile or so west of our farm, and was located at the crossroads of the Third Line, Munro’s Side road and Cameron’s Side road.

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.  John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

St. Vincent de Paul Church

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

A bike ride down the Third Line often meant that my friends and I would gather around the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store.  It was a central meeting place where we could sit and talk.  Between us, we could usually scrounge together enough pocket change to buy some penny-candy at the store.

Shep with the Millstone

DeWitt’s Corners was a busy place in the 1960s and 1970s, with cars stopping at Cavanagh’s store for gas and groceries, or zooming up the Third Line toward Christie Lake.  Christie Lake was a tourist destination with accommodations of all kinds for seasonal visitors.  Norvic Lodge, Arliedale Lodge, and Jordan’s Cottages, were some of the busiest places in the summer months.

Cavanagh's store black and white

 

Across the Third Line from Cavanagh’s store was the old Bathurst cheese factory.  The factory produced cheese until about 1954 and then ceased operations as other larger factories began to edge out the smaller producers.

DeWitt Cheese factory

Photo: old Bathurst cheese factory in the background with Helen and Jim Cavanagh and Shep.

Not far from the ‘Corners’, just up Cameron’s Side Road was the little white school house – S.S. # 4 Bathurst, where many of the members of our family attended school.  Mary Jordan taught all eight grades, keeping order in a compact classroom, heated with a wood stove, and bursting with energetic farm kids.

S S # 4 class in 1968

Front row – Brent Scott, Carl Gamble,John Conboy,John Cameron, Peter Kerr, Bev Miller
2nd row – Standing Kim Kyle,Betty Conboy, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan , Nancy Radford, Beverly White, sitting in front of Nancy Radford is Bobby-Jean Gamble and beside her is Mary White
Beside Kim Kyle is Brent Cameron, Bryan Tysick, Maxine Closs with her arms around Judy Radford, behind her is Kenny Perkins, Brad Kyle, Susan Turnbull, Darlene Charby,
Back row Randy Sargeant, Kent Shanks, Mrs Carrie Barr, Doug Jordan, Brian Miller and Mark Greenley

S S # 4 School for book

S S # 4 school from Janice # 2

Back row: Mrs Carrie Barr, Mary White(in front) Beverly White, Anne Marie Kyle, Nancy Radford, Bobby-Jean Gamble, Maxine Closs, Darlene Charby, Doug Jordan, Brent Scott, Carl Gamble, JoAnne Cavanagh, Bev Miller, Judy Radford, Betty Conboy, Kim Kyle, Janice Jordan, Susan Turnbull
Front row: Brent Cameron , Peter Kerr, Mark Greenley, Raymond Shanks, Randy Sargeant, Brad Kyle, Brian Miller, Ken Perkins, Kent Shanks, Brian Tysick, Dan Charby, John Conboy, John Camerom

 

When Mary Jordan wasn’t busy teaching eight different grades, she coached the DeWitt’s Corners softball team.  Both of my sisters Judy and, Jackie, played on the championship team in 1959. My brother Roger was on the team in 1964.

DeWitt's softball champs 1959

 

DeWitt's Softball Champs 1964

 

FRONT ROW David Scott and Bill Cavanagh
MIDDLE ROW Earl Conboy and Ronnie Brown
BACK ROW; Arthur Perkins, Roger Stafford Norman Kerr Arnold Perkins Connie Conboy and Mrs Mary Jordan

S S 4 School colour

Interior photo of S.S. # 4 Bathurst School

Front row Earl Conboy, David Scott, Arthur Perkins, Ron Brown, John Conboy, Bill Kyle

2nd row Arnold Perkins,Joe Mitchell, Roger Stafford, Norm Kerr, Bob Perkins,Paul Cavanagh

3 rd row Peter Kerr, Betty Conboy, Anne Kerr, Bill Cavanagh, Carl Gamble, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan, Doug Jordan Back row Mary Jordan, Kim Kyle, Connie Conboy, John Scott, Richard Cooke, Sharon Doyle

—–

There always seemed to be a sense of history in DeWitt’s Corners, and intriguing tales of the early settlers were told and re-told around that small hamlet. Most of us in the community were aware that Helen Cavanagh was a member of the DeWitt family, but many may not have realized how far back her roots stretched to the earliest settlers.

William DeWitt, and his wife Margaret Noonan DeWitt had a large family of eight daughters:  Helen Mae DeWitt who married Jim Cavanagh, Margaret Gertrude DeWitt, Vera DeWitt who married Ed Brady, Carmel DeWitt Matthews who settled in San Francisco, California, Jean DeWitt Garry, Mary DeWitt O’Hara, Josephine DeWitt who settled in Toronto, and Sophia DeWitt.

Cavanagh’s Store

The store opened on June 3, 1947 – carrying a full line of groceries, confectionaries, and tobacco products. Along with groceries and everyday sundries, Cavanagh’s store also sold gas supplied by Esso, a branch of Imperial Oil. Locals and cottagers, along with campers at nearby Christie Lake, were all pleased to hear that there would be a general store in the area, and they would no longer have to drive to Perth to pick up daily necessities.

Jim and Helen Cavanagh operated the popular neighbourhood store for nearly four decades until they retired in 1985.

Cavanaghs store for book

Many members of this proud community played a part, and their descendants carry with them the legacy of this historical settlement in Lanark County:

Adams, Allan, Blackburn, Blair, Brady, Cameron, Carberry, Cavanagh, Chaplin, Closs, Conboy, DeWitt, Dixon, Doyle, Fife, Foster, Gamble, Heney, Hogan, Johnston, Jordan, Keays, Kerr, Kirkham, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Menzies, Miller, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Noonan, Palmer, Perkins, Popplewell, Radford, Ritchie, Somerville, Scott, Siebel, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, and Tysick.


 

Thanks to JoAnne Cavanagh Butler for contributing the photos, and thanks to Janice Gordon, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, Roger Stafford and Beverly Miller Ferlatte for all of their help identifying our neighbours and classmates in the photos!


 

For more information about the history of DeWitt’s Corners and the people who settled in the community, you can read the full version of the story in “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

 

 

The Stafford House

 Stafford House

When the book “Recipes and Recollections” was first published in 2011, most people could only dream of visiting its magical setting. As the book gained popularity beyond the local region, it’s likely that many readers had no idea where such places as Glen Tay or DeWitt’s Corners were located. They may have even wondered, “Is it a real place?”

Perched on a gentle hill, a short drive west of Perth, Ontario, the ‘Stafford House’ has become known as one of the area’s most celebrated fictional houses. It is one of the best examples of a building associated with a Canadian author, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, who used the farmhouse as both the inspiration, and the setting, for her popular books.

Built in 1906, the two-storey house, a warm and welcoming residence, was home to the Stafford family for almost 50 years.

Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, and his wife Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, met during WWII, at the Number 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, in Lethbridge, Alberta.  They married in 1943, shortly before Tib was shipped overseas, to serve in Bournemouth, England.  Their first child, Timothy, was born in Lethbridge in 1944, and their second, Judy, in 1945.

When the war ended, Tib brought his young family back to his native Eastern Ontario. Born and raised on the 11th concession of Drummond Township, he spent his youth on the homestead of his namesake, native of southern Ireland, and an early pioneer settler to the region.

With the help of a Veteran’s grant, Tib and Audry purchased the ‘Stafford House’, from Tib’s aunt and uncle, Thomas Carberry, and Clara (Richards) Carberry.

George Watson started out in Perth after WW2 ended by working as an electrician’s helper at McVeety’s Electrical.  He then hired on to Ontario Hydro as a lineman when the company was first established in town.

Susan Watson:

“Dad recognized your Dad out in the county coming along the road with a big wagon.  He was pleased to see him, having known him in the Air Force in Lethbridge, where my Dad was a pilot for the Ferry Squadron and your Dad was a frame mechanic and your Mum was a fitness instructor.  My Dad and your Mum were both Westerners so they were a threesome of friends.

The hookup for electricity in the 1940’s was a mere 35 amps.  People needing more had 50 amps but that was rare.  Your house had the 35.  Wiring the house was fairly straightforward except for all those bats in your attic and their guano everywhere up there.

In 1948, when we moved to a new wartime house on South Street, your Dad was our milkman!”

 

Stafford House in 1947

Stafford House – c. 1947

 

Early History of Stafford House

The Land

The southwest half of Lot 14, Concession 3, of Bathurst Township, was a Crown Grant, deeded to John Wilson. These ‘crown grants’ were given to loyal soldiers, who served in the British Army. John Wilson, a gunner, with the Royal Artillery, served for 11 years, and 107 days.  Wilson, his wife, and two children were ‘located’ on the property, on September 20th, 1816. The land was officially deeded to John Wilson, on June 20th, 1820.

The Original Owners of Stafford House

– Isabella Thompson Miller & Andrew Burns Miller

Isabella Thompson Miller (1850-1928) born in North Gower, Ontario, was the daughter of Gilbert Thompson and Agnes Callandar.   She was the fifth child of seven, and remained on the family farm in North Gower, until the age of 28, when she married Andrew Miller.

Andrew Miller (1850-1909), was born in Bathurst Township, the son of William Miller and Margaret Burns.  He was the youngest of nine children, and laboured on his parents farm until the age of 28, when he married Isabella Thompson.

Late in the fall of 1896, Andrew and Isabella Miller both age 46, purchased the land where Stafford House stands today, and they moved into a house, built by one of the previous owners.  It is not known at this time, if this was the original dwelling built by the Wilson family.

Unless a settler was of independent means, the early homes built in Eastern Ontario, in the early nineteenth century, were almost always built with logs, cut while clearing the property, due to cost and convenience.  It is quite likely that the existing house, when the Miller family purchased the farm,was constructed of logs:

“Few habitations can be more rude than those of the first settlers, which are built of logs, and covered with bark or boards…. The most that an emigrant can do the first year, is to
erect his habitation, and cut down the trees on as much ground as will be sufficient to plant ten or twelve bushels of potatoes, and to sow three or four bushels of grain.”

MacGregor, J. – 1832,  British America. 2 vols. Blackwood,  Edinburgh

As settlement progressed in Eastern Ontario, and more land was cleared and put into agricultural production, owners often replaced existing log homes with improved structures of frame, brick, or stone.

The Red Brick House

The Miller family, built the existing red brick home, in 1906, ten years after purchasing the property.

When the house was completed, after much excitement and anticipation, Andrew Miller, his wife, Isabella, their three children moved in: Andrew and Isabella were both 56 years old, and their children John, age 25, Ernest, 20, and Nina, 17 years old.

A Wedding!

The house was just 2 years old, when Isabelle and Andrew Miller’s son Sterling, married his sweetheart Jessie, on 8 Sep 1908.  Jessie Graham, was the daughter of John Graham and Jean Hastie.  They were married in Calvin United Church, a short drive from home, on Cameron Sideroad.  Calvin United Church, a fairly new building at that time, was built in 1896, 10 years before the Miller’s completed construction on the house. 

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Calvin United Church, built in 1896, Bathurst Township (Tay Valley Township)

Sudden Death of Andrew Miller

Sadly, Andrew Miller lived less than three years in their brand new home.

It was said that Andrew, age 59, showed no signs of illness, and had worked, as usual, in the barn all day, with no complaints, according to his obituary, published in ‘The Perth Courier’:

“After partaking of tea in the evening, he read for a while and then lay down on the lounge, and slept for about an hour.  Awakening from this sleep, he went out to the stable to see to the horses, which is a usual thing for some of the men in the family to do.  Returning, he again read until about 11:30, when he retired.  Mrs. Miller, being partly asleep, did not notice anything until his deep breathing caused her to call to him.  Receiving no answer, she gave him a slight shake, and finding him not moving she proceeded to light the lamp, and gave the alarm to her daughter (Nina), who proceeded to her parent’s bedroom and received the terrible shock that the vital spark had fled.”

(an excerpt from the obituary of Andrew Burns Miller, ‘The Perth Courier’, February 26, 1909 p. 1.)

The medical examiner determined that on Feb 21, 1909, Andrew died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

At the time that Andrew Miller passed away, his son, Sterling, and his wife, lived two miles from the homestead, also on the 3rd concession of Bathurst Township, and his son, Ernest, and daughter, Nina, were still living at home.

Two More Weddings

In the years that followed, two more weddings were celebrated in the Miller family.  First, Ernest, then Nina’s weddings:

Ernest Miller’s Wedding – 6 years after the house was built

On Sept 4, 1912, Ernest Miller age 26, married May White, of Almonte, daughter of George White and Elizabeth Hossie.  They had two sons, Andrew ‘Gordon’ Miller, born 1913, and John ‘Jack’ Miller, born 1920.

Nina Miller’s Wedding – 13 years after the house was built

Oct. 22nd 1919, Nina, age 30,  married Bill Stewart, age 29, son of  Nicholas Stewart and Mary Ann Robertson, of Bathurst.  Nina and Bill had two sons – Andrew ‘Andy, in 1920, and Kenneth ‘Ken’, in 1922.

Death of Isabella Miller – 22 years after the house was built

Isabella ‘Bella’ Miller passed away, at home, on October 5th, 1928, at age 78.  The funeral was held at home, officiated by D.B. Gordon, of Calvin United Church, then to Elmwood Cemetery in Perth.  Pallbearers were Norman and John Wallace, Edwin and Harvey Miller, her nephews, George Korry, and James Scott.

After his mother, ‘Bella’, passed away in 1928, Ernest, age 42, was head of the household, and continued to farm the land.  His sons Andrew ‘Gordon’ Miller moved to Sudbury, and worked as a smelter, and younger son, John ‘Jack’ Miller moved to Toronto.

Ernest Miller Drowns

“I recall at a very young age, my mother and I were in the basement of the old house, and I was asking questions about who lived there before us.  She said that she believed it was a Miller family, and that one of their children had drowned.  

Mother and Dad didn’t live in the house until 1946, and so it was likely either one of the neighbours who told her this, or perhaps Dad’s aunt and uncle, who owned the home after the Miller family.” 

                                                    Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

Tragedy for the Miller Family: Nov 9th, 1931, Ernest Miller, age 45, Accidental Drowning in Green Lake

Ernest Miller drowns 1931

 

 

Nina Miller Stewart

– Just three years after the accidental drowning of her brother, Ernest, on April 6 1934 – Nina died suddenly, of cardiac failure, , at the age of 45.

Of the original Miller family – only the eldest brother, Sterling, survived.  Sterling lived to age 82, and passed away in 1962.  Sterling spent his life farming on the 3rd concession of Bathurst, 2 miles from the family home.  His wife Jessie predeceased him in 1950.  At the time of his death, Sterling was survived by his late sister Nina’s sons, Andrew and Ken Stewart, of the Perth area, and his late brother Ernest’s two son’s, Andrew ‘Gordon’, of Sudbury, and John ‘Jack’ Miller of Toronto.

After so much tragedy in the Miller family, the house was sold, and ownership changed from the ‘Estate of Ernest Miller’ to Thomas Carberry.

1936 New Owners of the house – Thomas and Clara Carberry

Tom Carberry, and Clara Richards Carberry, grew up in the Ferguson Falls area, attended the same schools, and also were members of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic church.

Tom was the son of Michael Carberry and Bridget Lynch Carberry.  Tom’s grandfather, James Carberry, was a member of the group that came to be known as ‘The Seven Irish Bachelors’.  The seven young men came from Ireland together in 1820, and made a pact that they would work together, and each would help the other become successful. They also agreed that if they failed, they would return to southern Ireland.  They were: John Quinn, Patrick Quinn, Terrence Doyle, James Power, John Cullen, William Scanlon, and James Carberry.

Thomas Carberry was born at Ferguson Falls, and farmed on the family homestead in his early years.  In 1931, he sold the farm, and he moved to California. Tom had two sisters living in California, Esther ‘Essie’ Carberry Diericx in San Francisco, and Bridget Carberry Zanetti, living in Mountain View, California.

During his years in Mountain View, Tom purchased a fruit farm and operated the business for several years before returning to Canada.

When he returned to Lanark County, in 1936, he purchased the farm on the third concession of Bathurst Township, from the estate of the late Ernest Miller.

Clara Richards, Tom’s wife, was the daughter of Thomas Richards, and Catherine McKittrick. Thomas Richards, farmer, was also a superintendent of schools for the Township of Drummond.  Catherine McKittrick, wife and mother, was said to have skin so fair that she resembled a porcelain doll.

Thomas Carberry and his wife, Clara Richards Carberry lived in the red brick home, and took great care of the surrounding property.  It was during the time they  lived there that Tom’s knowledge of cultivating fruit trees led to the planting and tending of an apple orchard behind the house.  Although the climate was not as favourable as in California, Tom and Clara tended their trees with care, and each fall had a nice crop of McIntosh apples, perfect for pies, applesauce, and snacks.

Tom and Clara remained in the house for ten years.

When their nephew, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, returned from the war, with his wife, Audry, and two young children, Tim, and Judy, Tom offered to sell them the home and land.

 

 

This traditional, rural home would become the backdrop for many well-loved books: “Lanark County Kid”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Calendar” and “Recipes and Recollections” “Lanark County Classics” “Lanark County Connections”, and “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home.

Judy Tim Jackie Roger at the fence

Along the fence, at the west side of the property, 1958 – l to r – Judy Stafford, Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford, and Roger Stafford

 

Jackie Ronnie Judy Arlene

l to rt. at the bottom – Arlene Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Ronnie Waterhouse (our cousin) Judy Stafford – this shows the location of the old barn. When the barn was torn down in 1961 it was replaced with the white wooden garage, built by Tib and his sons. Still standing today.

Audry in front of the house

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, standing on the sidewalk, facing west

Judy and Arlene at the front steps

This view shows Judy (Stafford) Ryan (left) and Arlene Stafford-Wilson (rt), along the sidewalk. This was the entrance used the most by the Stafford family.  The area between the sidewalk and the brick wall was used as a flower bed; with brightly coloured tulips in the spring, and then with bright annuals in the summer, like marigolds and petunias.

 

Staffords Jackie Tim Roger Judy Arlene

The Stafford children standing on the sidewalk, facing west, in 1962: l to r – Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, Judy Stafford, Arlene Stafford, front: Roger Stafford

Judy near the spruce tree

Judy (Stafford) Ryan, 1964, standing near the steps, on the west side of the house. The spruce tree to her right is mentioned often in the stories leading up to Christmastime. As this tree grew larger over the years, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford strung brightly coloured lights on the branches. He used small aluminum pie plates behind each light, to act as reflectors, and the modest display could be seen from the Third Line.

The Stafford House, is valued both for its good aesthetic, and functional architecture. Its farmhouse design, places it firmly in Canadian vernacular building traditions of the earliest part of the 20th century. It is of an appealing, sturdy type, very common to many areas of eastern Canada. The interior of the house boasts a classic, traditional design, featuring good craftsmanship, and durable materials.

old back porch

Arlene Stafford, and Roger Stafford, washing his beloved dog, Mike
(the original back porch, accessed through the kitchen on the inside)

new back porch

Arlene Stafford with Jackie Stafford – Building materials can be seen on the lawn as the new back porch had just been completed.   Inside access was through the kitchen.  There were outside steps up to the landing. The clothesline, where Mother stood to hang clothing and bedding, attached to the new back porch, can also be seen in the photo.

Judy at the front door

This photo of Judy (Stafford) Ryan, and the Stafford family pet, Mike,  shows how the entrance appeared in the early 1960s. This was the door commonly used by the family, not the more formal entrance at the center of the front of the house.  The outer door was replaced in the early 1970s with an aluminum-framed screen door.

new garage

 

Many aspects of the interior plan, finishes, and details, have been lovingly preserved, and its overall scale and materials, are enhanced by its setting in park-like grounds, surrounded by stately maple trees.

The author described the family home: “a big beautiful red brick house, smothered in tall maples in the front, and apple orchards at the back, was the magical home of my childhood”

Judy Jackie and Arlene apple orchards

1964 – Judy Stafford, Jackie Stafford, front – Arlene Stafford – to the rear Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, in front of the apple orchard- the orchard was located behind the house.

Judy in the apple orchard

Judy Stafford in the apple orchard

 

Arlene in the apple orchard

Arlene Stafford gathers apple blossoms, in the easterly section of the apple orchard, behind the Stafford House – 1964

Judy and Arlene in the orchard

Arlene Stafford-Wilson (l) and Judy (Stafford) Ryan, in the west section of the apple orchard, behind the Stafford house, 1964.

 

1967 Christmas

 

the old house

The Stafford House, as it appeared from 1946-1992, while the Stafford family lived there.

Many are charmed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and the large and romantic woodland which drifts gently down the hillside, towards the railroad tracks, and the beloved duck pond, mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books.

tracks back the side road

Nearby, visitors can take a short walk, or a drive down the side road, and see the little creek where the Stafford children caught tadpoles in the spring.

creek-behind-the-house0001

In the cooler weather, visitors may walk along the fields, where the young Staffords carefully chose their Christmas tree each year in December.

Stafford Christmas tree

A Stafford family Christmas tree – fresh-cut from the woods behind the house. Standing at the rear – Judy Stafford, center, mother – Audry Stafford, l to r Jackie Stafford, Roger Stafford and Tim Stafford.   The television was placed along the front wall of the house. To the left of where the television was location, there was a ‘hall’ door, leading to the central outside door of the house, and to the vestibule and central staircase.  The chesterfield, which was a deep burgundy colour, was along the western wall.  The western wall ran parallel to the sidewalk.

View the rolling farmlands, stunning landscapes, and nearby tiny villages of Glen Tay, and DeWitts Corners. Take a short drive up Cameron Side Road, and you will see the charming red brick Calvin Church where the Stafford family attended, another landmark which is mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books.

Calvin United Church brightened

In 2014, for the first time, the Stafford House was open to the public, as part of the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour. Special exhibits included photos from the private collections of the Stafford family showing the exterior and interior of the house as it was, when they lived there from 1946 – 1992. Included in the displays were some of the author’s Mother’s original hand-written recipes preserved, previously published in ‘Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”.

Organized by the Perth and District Canadian Federation of University Women, the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour, featured 8 local homes including the Stafford House, transformed for the holiday season by gifted local decorators.

Christmas House Tour

As the Stafford House changed ownership over the years, sold to the Brady family, then sold by the Brady family to the Parker family, renovations have taken place, including the addition of a front porch, and many modifications to the interior, to modernize the home.

Details of John Wilson’s Crown Grant – “Transactions of Land Grants Made at the Military Depot, Perth, Lanark County 1816 – 1819″, taken from National Archives of Canada, MG9, D8-27, Vol. 1, Microfilm Reel #C 4651

http://www.staffordwilson.com

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 placing 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 bring 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, in the bookcase in our 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

LC Calendar

…………………….

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Groundhog Blues in Lanark County

mr-groundhog

January always seemed like the longest month on the calendar. It was still cold and dark when February arrived, and there were so many months ahead before we could ride our bikes to DeWitt’s Corners, or Christie Lake.

Each year, we  waited patiently for Groundhog Day.  Would he see his shadow? Would there be an early spring, or would there be another two months at least of these cold, grey days?

Punxsutawney Phil had predicted the onset of spring since 1890 in Pennsylvania, and his Canadian counterpart Wiarton Willie began his annual forecast in the 1950s. At our house we listened closely to both forecasts, hoping that at least one of these rodents would offer some hope of an early spring.

So, we had two possible groundhog predictions, and two different radio stations. There was CJET in Smiths Falls, and Mother would often tune in and listen to Hal Botham after we’d left for school, while she did her ironing. CFRA was her usual early morning station and we’d often hear Ken ‘General’ Grant shouting, “Forward Ho!” as we ate our puffed wheat, before walking down the lane to wait for the school bus.

I could tell that Mother was also growing weary of the long, cold days of winter and if the ‘General’ didn’t report the prediction she wanted to hear then she’d likely turn the dial to CJET hoping that Hal Botham would have another version of the groundhog’s forecast. If it was cloudy, and the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we’d have an early spring – just six more weeks of winter. By the first week of February we didn’t want to hear any other forecast. Six more weeks of winter would be enough to bear, without the possibility of the season being any longer!

When I came downstairs for breakfast that Groundhog Day morning so long ago, Mother had already set up the old ironing board and was busy ironing a linen tea-towel. I asked her if she’d heard the groundhog’s prediction yet, and she didn’t look up, but continued to iron. “It’s just a myth, just folklore”, she said, and she folded the tea towel neatly, and started on the next one.

ironing

“So, he saw his shadow?” I asked. “Yes they both did.” she responded somberly, still not looking up from her work, and folded the next tea-towel.

I sat quietly at the old kitchen table, ate my bowl of puffed wheat, drank my orange juice, and took my cod liver oil capsule without even being asked. Six more weeks would have spring starting sometime in the middle of March, but now it would be even longer.

I finished my breakfast, put my dishes in the old porcelain sink, pulled on my boots and coat, grabbed my wool hat, mitts and lunch pail, and headed out the door.

little-girl

As I trudged down the long, snowy lane-way to the Third Line, I felt defeated. It was sad how a couple of groundhogs that we didn’t even know could make Mother and I feel so depressed. I didn’t even understand how they could have seen their shadows that morning, because it wasn’t sunny outside at all. I couldn’t see my own shadow, and that meant that our local groundhogs wouldn’t be able to see theirs either.

school-bus

I didn’t really know where Wiarton was located in Ontario, and didn’t have a clue about Pennsylvania, but I was sure that none of the groundhogs in Lanark County saw their shadows on that cloudy, grey morning in February. Maybe the other groundhogs were wrong! Maybe there would be an early spring after all! Maybe the snow would be gone soon, and I could ride my bike up to Christie Lake again. I had to stay positive. I had to keep hoping. I had to………………

 

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

 

 

 

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line
ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0)

l-c-calendar

http://www.staffordwilson.com

An Easter Tale from the Third Line

Easter Bunny 2

I’d heard some pretty far-fetched claims from my brother Roger before, but this one had to top them all. One spring morning long, long ago, he tried to tell me that our Mother was the Easter Bunny.

“He’d better be careful saying things about the Easter Bunny, I thought to myself, or he won’t be getting anything at all in his Easter basket.”

It was a typical, cool, Lanark County spring, and I could feel the wind from the north make its way into my coat, as I jumped rope on the sidewalk in front of our house. There really weren’t many flat surfaces good for skipping, in our yard.

girl jumping rope

 

The brownish spring grass was still wet and mushy, and the driveway was nothing but puddles all the way down the lane – soggy remnants of the melting snow. The old concrete sidewalk was definitely my best bet that day, for skipping, so that’s where I was. Jump, jump and swing the rope around; jump, jump and swing the rope around. Skipping was a pleasant activity to do when I was deep in thought, and my mind was racing a million miles a minute, on that day so long ago.

It was right after Mother left the room, as we finished breakfast on Saturday morning, when Roger had leaned over, and said in a hushed voice,  “She is the Easter Bunny!” Roger was older, and he knew a lot more, about a lot of things, than I did, so I tended to believe him most of the time; but this seemed pretty crazy. He had told me the summer before that I wasn’t born in the Perth Hospital like him, and that the family had found me in a cardboard box, near the railroad tracks, back the side road.

tracks back the side road

I was very upset when I heard that because I’d always believed that I was the same as everyone else.  Feeling ashamed, I ran outside, sat on the rope swing, and started to cry. I was still crying when Dad got home that night, so I didn’t wave at him when he drove up the lane. I was angry because he hadn’t told me the truth.

rope swing

Dad was smiling as he walked over to the swing, and asked why I was crying. When I told him what Roger had said, his whole face turned red, and he walked straight into the house. A few minutes later he returned with Roger, and made him apologize for lying to me. What a relief to find out that I hadn’t been found in a cardboard box, and was born in the Perth hospital, and that I was related to everyone else. Maybe this latest story about Mother being the Easter Bunny wasn’t true either?

I continued to skip, and once in a while the water on the sidewalk was swept up with the rope, and splashed on me. We’d had piles and piles of snow in the yard that year, and there was water everywhere, including the sidewalk, even though I’d done my best to sweep it off. I kept hoping that the story was just made up, and I tried to think of how it couldn’t be possible for our Mother to be the Easter Bunny.

There was no way that she could travel all over the world in one night, delivering chocolate. After all, it took twenty minutes just to get to Perth. It took ten minutes to get to Cavanagh’s store, in DeWitt’s Corners.

Cavanagh's store

It took at least ten or fifteen minutes for her to drive to Glen Tay School, and drop me off, whenever I missed the bus.

Glen Tay School

There’s no way that she could cover that much territory in one night. Maybe I should just ask her, I thought to myself, but what if she is the real Easter Bunny? Would she be mad at me because I’d found out?

Just as I was wondering if I should ask her, Mother opened the door, and told me that we’d be going to town soon, to pick up some things for Easter. I hung my rope over the handrail beside the steps, to dry, and came into the house. Mother already had her purse in hand, and her car keys in the other. As I headed back outside, she closed the door behind us. We stepped around the puddles in the driveway, got into the car, and she started it up.

It was a wet, mushy drive down the lane-way, and the Third Line wasn’t in much better shape. Big puddles everywhere on the way to Perth, and cars splashing each other as they passed. This was the dirty part of the year; not quite winter, and far from summer; just lots of mud, water, and small piles of murky-looking snow.

We drove up to Wilson Street, turned right, and in a few minutes we were parking in front of  the IGA store.

IGA store

 

Mother had read in ‘The Perth Courier’ that the Easter Lilies were on sale, and she wanted to pick one up for Aunt Pat, because we were having Easter dinner at their house.

IGA page 1

IGA page 2

(“The Perth Courier”, March 26, 1964, page 7.)

We walked into the store, and the lilies were near the front entrance. We picked one up, paid, and drove back out to the Third Line.

The days passed quickly, and soon it was Easter morning. There was a little yellow wicker basket at the end of my bed, filled with small chocolate eggs, wrapped in foil, and one tall chocolate rabbit, sitting on shredded green tissue, just like always. The wrapper on the rabbit said, ‘Mr. Solid’, and I peeled back the top of the wrapper, and took a little bite off of his ears. It tasted so rich and creamy that I took another little bite, wrapped him up, and set him gently on the green ‘grass’ in the basket.

 

Easter basket

I put on my new Easter dress, which wasn’t really new, but was new to me, and next I put on my little white shoes, with the strap across.  I took my small white stretchy gloves, and slid them on my hands.  They were a little tighter than the last time I’d worn them, but they would still do. I took them off, and carried them downstairs.

Easter kids

Mother had our breakfast on the table, and she was also getting ready for church. She had her good dress on, and was wearing an apron over it, to protect it. After breakfast we headed up the Third Line, toward Calvin Church.

Calvin church

When church was over, we stayed in the churchyard for a few minutes, talking with our friends and neighbours, then headed back home, and had our usual bowl of soup for lunch.

soup

Later that afternoon, we headed into Perth, drove up Gore Street, and turned off onto Halton Street, where Uncle Peter and Aunt Pat lived, at house number 48. Mother had been holding the Easter lily on her lap in the car, and carried it up the steps, to Aunt Pat’s house.

Easter lily

 

Aunt Pat was busy in the kitchen, preparing the ham and scalloped potatoes.

ham and scalloped potatoes

We always had the same thing at Easter – ham, scalloped potatoes, and fruit cocktail for dessert; and it was always tasty. Everyone went ahead into the living room, sat down, and Uncle Peter was telling jokes, as he often did, and kept everyone laughing.

Uncle Pete and Aunt Pat

(Uncle Peter Stafford and Aunt Pat Stafford)

I stayed behind in the kitchen, with Aunt Pat, and waited until no one else was around.  I asked her the question that had been bothering me all week. “Aunt Pat, is my Mother the Easter Bunny?”.

Aunt Pat was checking the ham in the oven, and she turned quickly around, and looked surprised at my question. “Who told you that?”, she asked. When I explained that Roger had told me, she laughed, and shook her head, and said, “Your brother is full of beans! Sometimes boys make up stories, and you shouldn’t pay any attention to him.”

What a relief! I finally had my answer, and now that I did the question seemed ridiculous. My hunch was right all along, that Mother wouldn’t have time to deliver chocolate to everyone in the world. It was just another ‘creative’ story from Roger. I would be more careful in the future not to believe his wild tales.

……………………………

 

Aunt Pat, had solved the mystery, and this little girl became a wee bit more skeptical.

In the years that followed, I had many memorable times with my older brother, and as the decades passed, he became a great friend, and a good-hearted companion.

Arlene and Roger

(Arlene Stafford-Wilson and Roger Stafford, Sept. 2018)

 

When all is said and done, we have our older siblings, as well as the local school-house pranksters, to thank for our healthy sense of skepticism, and the way it shields us from modern-day predators……. so much bolder and more cunning, than the early ones we encountered, on the Third Line.

…………………………………………….

 

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”  ISBN 978-0-9877026-30)

LC Calendar

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Spring Forward the Hands of Time

Daylight Savings Time

The tail-end of winter dragged on like my math class at Glen Tay School, and I’d seen quite enough snow for one season.  I kicked at the chunks of ice, as I trudged down the lane-way, to wait for the bus on the Third Line. I stood there cold and shivering those dark mornings, in early March. I could still taste the remnants of the bitter cod liver oil that Mother insisted we take every morning in the winter. I couldn’t even remember what it was supposed to do for us. It sure didn’t make me feel any warmer. I stared up the Third Line toward DeWitt’s Corners, and strained my eyes to see if the bus was coming. It wasn’t.

My teacher, Mrs. Conboy, told us that if March “came in like a lion” that it would “go out like a lamb”. I wasn’t really sure what she meant by that, but if she was talking about the weather, March, that year, had come in more like a ferocious white dragon, and had dumped another foot of snow on our yard. Just what we needed; more snow for my brother Roger and I to shovel after school.

snowbanks

 

Despite the fact that we’d tapped the trees, and had a nice jar of maple syrup sitting on the kitchen table, it really didn’t feel any warmer. I kept staring down at Mother’s flower bed still heaped with snow, wondering if those perennials would ever come up again. The only flowers I’d seen since last fall were the glossy photos in Mother’s tattered copy of McConnell’s Seed Catalogue. Lately, she’d been sitting at the old kitchen table in the evenings, staring at the pages of that seed catalogue as though it contained the secrets of the universe. Maybe she was dreaming about her flower beds; planning which seeds she’d plant, if those mountains of snow ever melted.

 

seed catalogue

 

One of the things making me grow weary, and impatient for spring, was wearing boots. Put them on; take them off…on and off, off and on, month after snowy month. I’d been stomping around in boots since last November. It seemed like I was always weighed down with hats, and mittens and scarves and sweaters. No wonder some of the animals slept through the winter. It didn’t seem like such a bad idea on days like this. Maybe next fall I’d fill up a great big sack with Mother’s chocolate chip cookies, eat them until I passed out, and wake up again in the spring. If the black bears that lived in the bush near the train tracks could do it; why couldn’t I?

 

bears hibernating

The weeks passed by and one night, after supper was finished, we were attempting to watch the news, on the old black and white television in the living room. Dad was standing over the set, moving the ‘rabbit-ear’ antennae back and forth, trying to get a clearer picture. Great, I thought to myself, there’s even ‘snow’ on the TV. Dad continued to fiddle around with the knobs at the back, and kept adjusting the antennae until he finally got a reasonable looking picture on the television. After Dad turned up the sound I heard the most beautiful words I’d heard for a long time. The man reading the news announced that Daylight Savings Time would be starting this Sunday morning.

 

Walter

Daylight savings time

Dad remarked from the comfort of his lazy-boy chair, that it was none other than Ben Franklin, who invented daylight savings time. At that point, I didn’t care who had invented it; I was just happy to hear that it was beginning soon. Mother said she’d have to remember to turn her alarm clock back on Saturday night before bed, so we wouldn’t be arriving late at Calvin Church on Sunday morning. Mother also said that it was going to be difficult getting up for school the first few days next week, because I’d really be getting up an hour early. I was so happy to hear the news that I would have gladly gotten up three or four hours early, just to have that extra hour of daylight after school.

I’ll never understand why some of those Lanark County winters seemed to drag on forever. Frigid days of boots and snow, and cod-liver oil, and days too cold to play outside, went on and on. Of all the seasons in the year why did the worst one last the longest? It reminded me of the way that we had to finish all of the vegetables on our plate before we’d get any dessert. Every scrap of broccoli, every mound of mashed turnip, every morsel of creamed corn had to be consumed before we’d get a slice of Mother’s moist, delicious chocolate cake.

mushy vegetables    chocolate layer cake

So, maybe winter was the ‘vegetable’ part of the meal. Something we had to work our way through, before we got to the good stuff. It was something often mushy, just like the snow; sometimes bitter, like the cod-liver oil. Sometimes it was cold, like the broccoli that often sat on my plate until the end, when I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Spring was like the reward for suffering through the long winter; just like eating the chocolate cake after enduring those awful vegetables. I wondered to myself if spring would seem as sweet if we didn’t have to tolerate the long harsh winter first. After all, I knew for sure that after consuming a plateful of tasteless green mush, nothing could compare to the heavenly chocolate flavour, and sweet rich icing, on our Mother’s cake, still warm from the oven.

 

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