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

tom-ayres-book-launch-2016

 

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

 

 

Tour the Stafford House December 6th & 7th

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 became more and more popular, 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. This traditional, rural home would become the backdrop for four well-loved books: “Lanark County Kid”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Calendar” and “Recipes and Recollections”.

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 materials. The interior plan finishes and details have been lovingly preserved, and its overall scale and materials, are enhanced by its setting in a park-like yard, 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”

You will be charmed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and the large and romantic woodland which drifts down the hillside towards the railroad tracks, and the beloved duck pond, mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books. Close by, you can take a walk or a drive down the side road and see the little creek where the Stafford children caught tadpoles in the spring, and then walk along the fields where they carefully chose their Christmas tree each year in December.

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.

This year, for the first time, you can visit the Stafford House in Eastern Ontario, Canada, the setting which was the influence for Arlene Stafford-Wilson to create her beloved tales of Lanark County in days gone by.

Special exhibits include 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. Admire some of the author’s Mother’s original hand-written recipes that were preserved, then later published in ‘Recipes and Recollections’.

Take this extraordinary glimpse into this beloved home of author Arlene Stafford-Wilson and her family, decorated for the holidays.

A visit to this historic home will be sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.

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

This ninth annual Christmas House Tour is scheduled for December 6 and 7, 2014 from 10:30am to 3:30pm daily and is sure to delight.

To see the historic Stafford House and an additional 7 unique and lovely homes featured in the Tour:

Tickets for $30 are now on sale at the following vendors:

Almonte  Crush Marketplace 14 Mill Street 613-461-2211
Kingston Oderin Kitchen Supplies 57 Brock Street 613-531-4544

Merrickville Unravelled 108 St. Lawrence Street 613-655-1902

Ottawa Tivoli Florist 282 Richmond Road 613-729-6911
Perth  Home Furniture 18 Gore Street East 613-264-9876
Smiths Falls Elizabeth Interiors 8 Chambers Street 613-283-7581

Ticket enquiries 613-267-2270

 

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 putting them between the pages of a book.

red leaves  maple multi leaves

Walking through our yard, I’d pick out the biggest and brightest leaves I could find. I’d seek out the perfect ones that hadn’t been torn by the winds, or chewed by insects. I’d try to get a nice variety of bright green, lemony yellow, and of course the stars of the show were the brilliant oranges, and rich, shiny reds.

girl collecting leaves

I’d bring them into the house, and Mother would get out her tube of waxed paper, the iron, and the ancient, battered, ironing board. That old thing had seen better days!

ironing leaves

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

ironing board

 

When we’d finished, I’d take my treasures, and store them carefully between the pages of a thick book, and place them on a shelf of the bookcase in the living room.

leaves in a book

 

Pressing the brightest leaves and saving them in a book was my way of trying to hold onto the season and make it last. It was the most colourful time of the year, and I wanted it to stay with us as long as possible.

Of course like most things in life, it didn’t last, and bit by bit the north winds came, the nights grew colder, and one by one the leaves blew off the trees, and the cruel frost stole their colours away.

bare trees

Overnight, it seemed that our yard changed from a bright, happy carnival of colour, into a stark, eerie, cold and barren place, gloomy and silent, waiting for the onset of winter.

It was during those final weeks of October that I’m sure we could have rented out our yard to a production company to film a spooky horror movie. The tall, imposing maple trees stood bare and dark, against the evening skies. Most of the birds had gone south for the winter, and so the yard was quiet……too quiet.

spooky trees

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

bare trees sunset

I rode my bike a little quicker, back from Cavanagh’s store; not just because the air was cooler, but because it was deathly quiet, and the leafless trees cast long, ominous shadows across the Third Line, as I made my way back home.

Cavanagh's at night

Why did the places and things that seemed so natural and so comfortable a few short weeks ago, suddenly seem dark and ominous?

I think it all boiled down to three things: heat, light and colour.  Over the course of the eight weeks beginning in early September, to the last few days of October, we lost all three.

It happened gradually of course; not all at once. The heat left first, and although the first part of September was almost like summer, it was as though someone was turning down a giant thermostat, a couple of degrees each day. The light left slowly as well, a minute at a time, over the days and weeks, then came the end of daylight savings time, and the light was reduced to a brief eight hours or so each day. The colour was the last to go, and hung on bravely until the frost came, and the leaves turned a murky shade of lifeless orange, and were so brittle that they could be crushed like egg shells.

dried leaves

The transition from summer to fall that we witnessed each year might have seemed daunting, even depressing, to someone new to the area. Being Lanark County kids, we just took it in our stride, knowing that this, like our other three seasons, was only temporary. Dealing with the changing seasons, whether the change seemed like a positive, or negative thing, was a good lesson to carry with us in life. We learned to make the best of whatever was thrown at us.

jumping in the leaves    hiding in the leaves

So every fall, as the winds grew cooler, and the dusk came earlier, our thoughts would turn to Hallowe’en. Our stark, colourless yards looked spooky anyway, so we made the best of it! We didn’t fret because summer was gone; we made the most of the new season, by making plans for the scariest night of the year!

It was time to scrounge around in the attic, put together our best costumes, and get our candy sacks ready for that annual trek, up and down the Third Line!

…………………..

 

 

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

…………………….

http://www.staffordwilson.com

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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http://www.staffordwilson.com