Memories of an Old Fashioned Hallowe’en

vintage-halloween

It doesn’t seem that long ago……….back in the 1960s and 1970s, when we couldn’t wait for that magical night in October – Hallowe’en!

The days grew shorter, crisp air blew in from the north, and an eerie silence hung over our yard, as the last few geese left for the season.  Darkness crept up our lane-way each evening, shortly after the school bus dropped us off, and bare branches cast long shadows across the Third Line.

bare trees golden

 

In the days leading up to the big event, we watched ‘The Great Pumpkin’, and if we felt brave enough, maybe a horror movie or two, just to put us in the spirit.

 

The great pumpkin

 

great pumpkin

 

Who could forget Janet Leigh’s blood-curdling scream in the movie ‘Psycho’, or Jessica Tandy running for her life, in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie ‘The Birds’ ?

 

psycho   the birds

 

The living room always fell silent at our house, during Ichabod Crane’s encounter with the Headless Horseman, in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’…..

 

Icabod Crane

 

We often listened to some music, to put us in the Hallowe’en mood!

 

purple people eater

 

monster mash

We’d read a few ghost stories, or play a scary board game, although our Mother wouldn’t allow us to bring a Ouija board into the house!

One year, Mary-Jane, a friend who lived in Perth, invited some of the members of our 4H Club to visit her, and try out the Ouija board in her rec room.

 

Ouija board

 

I recall some of us almost jumped out of our skin that same night, when a candle flickered in the middle of our ‘session’!

candle flickering

 

Some of our favourite t.v. shows had Hallowe’en ‘specials’:

 

Munsters

Addams family

Preparations were made weeks in advance – deciding what we would wear for Hallowe’en.  Anyone familiar with the late fall weather in Lanark County, knows that our costumes would need to be loose enough to fit over our fall jackets.   I remember a few Hallowe’en nights when there was snow on the ground, which meant clunking around in a big pair of boots all night.

It was time to head to the attic, and find some discarded clothes!

attic

 

Kids today, would not have been impressed with our costumes.  They were homemade, and usually consisted of an old pair of pants, an old shirt, maybe some tattered sheets. No one in those days bought a pre-made costume, so we had to be creative.

 

costume     costume-2

costume-3      costume-4

Over the years, Kellogg’s advertised free Hallowe’en masks on the back of their cereal boxes.  All you  had to do was cut out the mask, punch two holes in it, and add a rubber band or a string.  These were all the rage!  Especially the Tony the Tiger mask!

Kellogg's Hallowe'en masks

masks-on-cereal-boxes

Tony Tiger mask

 

Sometimes, there were Hallowe’en parties at Glen Tay School, and we wore our costumes,  and bobbed for apples.

 

bobbin for apples

 

Mother always helped us find a suitable sack for our candy, and we could choose between an assortment of her old pillowcases.  It was always a good idea to bring at least two pillowcases – just in case it was a busy night!

 

pillowcase

 

The weeks passed by, and October 31st finally arrived!

After school, we ate supper quickly, and could barely contain our excitement!

Next, we watched out the window………………………………….and waited for dusk!

spooky night

 

We donned our costumes, grabbed our pillowcases, and began the trek up and down the Third Line.

 

dark country roads

 

Some of the lanes were long.  Very long.  So, we often had a debate at the end of each lane, with our friends, and decided whether it would be worth the walk.

 

long-farm-lane

 

Up and down the Third Line we scampered, running up the long lane-ways,  and along the dark country side roads.

 

late fall road

 

Kids today, might be surprised to learn that people didn’t decorate their homes, nor did they have elaborate displays on their front steps, or in their yards.

Most people didn’t have any decorations at all, and the ones who did, usually had a single, jack-o-lantern, on their front porch.

 

jack o lantern

 

jack-o-lantern

 

In small, rural communities like ours, it wasn’t unusual to be invited inside, and whoever answered the door would try to guess who we were!

 

inviting Hallowe'en kids inside

 

We’d stay inside for a few minutes, and might be asked how our parents were doing, or how things were going at school. Some people would even ask us to sing a song, or tell a joke, to earn our candy.  It was all good-natured fun. Often, the person who answered the door would remind us to be careful crossing the roads, or ask us to say hello to Mother and Dad for them.

 

kids crossing the road

 

It’s true, we may not have had glamorous costumes, and the decorations were a little bit sparse in those days, but the homemade treats and goodies made up for that.

It was not uncommon to receive farm fresh apples,  loose peanuts,  homemade fudge, and Hallowe’en Kisses.  There was no need to check the treats before eating them.  We knew everyone, and they knew us.  They were our neighbours, our classmates, our friends.

 

fresh apples

peanuts   kerrs-kiss-2

 

So which house on our route the tastiest treats?

By far, hands-down, the best fudge on the Third Line was at Radford’s and Korry’s.   Mrs. Radford’s fudge was legendary in the area, and Ethel Korry’s fudge was so creamy, and silky smooth! Sometimes Mrs. Korry and her daughter-in-law Merle, were still busy cutting the fudge into little squares when we arrived, and they’d wrap them, and place them in little bags for us.

 

(see Mrs. Radford’s fudge recipe at the end of the story!!!)

cutting-fudge     homemade-fudge

 

One of the best stops for trick-or-treating on the Third Line was the popular general store – Cavanagh’s – owned by Jim and Helen.

 

Cavanagh's store - colour

 

The Cavanagh’s were generous with their candy, and some of our favourite treats were the Pixie Stix, the Thrills, and the Gold Rush gum.

 

pixy-stix thrills-gum  gold-rush-candy

 

Kraft Caramels were a popular treat, and many of the neighbours would throw a handful into our pillowcases, along with some pumpkin teeth candies.

 

pumpkin-teeth    kraft-caramels

 

Our Mother often made caramel apples, with fresh apples from our orchard.

 

caramel-apple

caramel-apple-on-plate

 

One of our favourite treats on Hallowe’en were Mother’s homemade caramel popcorn balls.  She mixed freshly-popped popcorn, with the melted caramels, in a big metal pot, on top of the old stove.  She shaped them into a ball, let them dry on a cookie sheet, and wrapped them in plastic, before handing them out at our front door.

 

caramel-popcorn-ball-after

 

Those were certainly nights to remember!   – Long, dark, lanes in the country, our costumes made from discarded clothes, and our pillowcase sacks!

The cool fall air, and the tall, bare, maple trees that lined the dark roads, leading up to the farmhouses, all added an air of suspense, as we ran from house to house.

Homemade treats, fresh from our neighbour’s kitchens, couldn’t be beat.

We even had a little song that sang on Hallowe’en, and perhaps it will bring back some memories of those happy Hallowe’en nights, of our youth:

 

It’s Hallowe’en,
The lamp is lit,
And ’round the fire
The children sit,
A-telling ghost tales
Bit by bit,
‘Til sister Jane says “Hush!”
What’s that a-peeping
‘Round the kitchen door?
What’s that a-creeping
‘Cross the bedroom floor?
What’s that a-sweeping
Down the corridor?
Oooooh! It’s a goblin!

 

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 vintage hallowe'en.JPG

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koolaid ad

 

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Hope you enjoyed our trip back in time, to those magical Hallowe’en nights, along the Third Line!

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As promised, a recipe for the best fudge on the Third Line.

Oh the Radford family’s lane was soooooo long!  I have to admit that it wouldn’t have mattered to us kids if their lane was ten times as long, we would have gladly made the trek for a few precious pieces of Mrs. Radford’s homemade fudge!

 

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Mrs. Radford’s Fudge:

(kindly shared with us – from Nancy (Radford) Tarle)

Mom’s Cream Candy

2 c brown sugar

½ c milk (any kind including Carnation)

¼ c butter

1 tsp vanilla

Boil the first two ingredients, stirring constantly on lowest heat required, to maintain low boil, until soft ball stage in cold water. Add butter and vanilla, (and nuts if desired).  Beat until thick, with electric mixer, then finish beating by hand until no longer shiny, and begins to harden around sides of pot.  Pour into pan.

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The families who lived along our ‘Hallowe’en route’:

Blair, Brady, Bowes, Cavanagh, Chabot, Closs, Doyle, Heney, Johnston, Jordan,Kerr, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Paul, Perkins, Pettigrew, Popplewell, Radford, Scott, Siebel, Somerville, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, Tysick, and Webber

 

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For more memories of Hallowe’en in the 1960s and 1970s:

“Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”

recipes-recollections-cover-1

available in local stores, and online

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

(photo of Cavanagh’s store courtesy of JoAnne (Cavanagh) Butler)

Paranormal Perth: Garden Ghosts on Gore Street

Have you experienced any of the 10 signs of paranormal activity?

1. Disappearance and re-emergence of objects in the house

2. Finding unidentified objects in the house

3. Appearance of unexplained marks around the house, e.g. scratch marks on the walls, odd marks on cupboards or walls

4. Hearing sounds of doors closing or opening, banging, laughter, walking, speaking, etc. in the absence of any source

5. Sudden changes in temperature

6. Lights or electronic equipment going on or off repeatedly or not working without any reason

7. Mobile phones not working

8. Cats or dogs whining or barking unnecessarily

9. Feeling a presence in the house

10. Feeling of being watched

 

Ghost in the garden

A chill that travels down your spine, the unexplained feeling of dread, or a sudden drop in temperature, are physical signs that many have experienced in a haunted locale. How do places become this way? Why do spirits linger in certain buildings, or even in certain rooms?

ghost 1

Some say that the history of a building is almost always a primary factor. When a building is very old, and has a long history of human habitation, it’s far more likely that someone over the years has experienced strong negative feelings in that space.

ghost 2

Senator Matheson of Perth, and his Beautiful Daughters…

It’s been more than 200 years since the first settlers established the town of Perth, Ontario,and many of the beautiful limestone buildings date back into the early 1800s. Some of these historic, old, buildings, have changed hands many times over the years, like the present Perth Museum on Gore Street.

Roderick Matheson’s home was one of the largest and finest in Perth.  Being a Senator, he often held lavish parties in the beautiful gardens to the side and rear of the stately home.

The magnificent garden was lush and green, with apple and plum trees, gooseberries and currants,  peonies, bachelor buttons, and row upon row of breathtaking, richly-scented rose-bushes.

The garden was an impressive backdrop, where he entertained the area politicians, the wealthy, and prominent business owners.

His seven daughters – Mary, Rose, Flora, Isabella, Joan, Anna, and Eliza – each one strikingly beautiful in her own way, milled about the garden at the Senator’s parties, greeting guests, and giving them personal tours of the impressive grounds.

Some local say that the daughters were so attached to these gardens, and this impressive limestone home, that their spirits lingered, long after they departed this earth, and may still be seen at dusk, tending the roses, strolling in the moonlight…..

Matheson house for blog

Some may not realize that the Matheson family occupied the impressive stone manor as their family home for almost a century.

When the last family member, Eliza Matheson died in the house in 1929, the building was sold, and became the elegant Birkacre Tea Room from 1930-38, operated by William and Jessie Kinloch.  Soups, sandwiches and afternoon tea were their specialties, served in the beautiful garden, during the fine weather months.

 

AFternoon tea Birkacre July 21 1933 p 1

 

Birkacre Inn Aug 3 1934 p 28

 

From 1938-46 the building was called The Vanity Fair, a posh restaurant owned by Clifford and Alice Carr.

 

Vanity Fair Christmas Dec 23 1938 p 2

 

Strong Vibrations from the Spirit World

It was said that during the late 1930s and early 1940s members of the spirit world became particularly active in both the main building, as well as the gardens, as the owners played hosts to several prominent clairvoyants, at the Vanity Fair.  Psychic Medium Madame Cornel was a regular guest during 1938.  Madame Cornel was said to be a gifted medium, and people from the area flocked to the Vanity Fair to hear her psychic predictions.

 

Vanity Fair Nov 11 1938 p 10 Mme Cornel

“The Perth Courier”, Nov. 11, 1938

clairvoyant 1930s

In 1939, the Vanity Fair played host to another well-known Clairvoyant from Ireland – Madame Kildare.   It has been said that when Diana Kildare sat at the table and laid out her 40-year old tarot cards that you could hear a pin drop in the room.

Unexplained Noises and Lights Along Gore Street

There were many mysterious noises and lights seen both in the home, and in the garden, thought to be spirits brought back by the visiting psychics and mediums.

 

Vanity Fair Madame Kildare Apr 21 1939 p 5

“The Perth Courier” April 21, 1939

seance

1930s seance

 

The Matheson family, particularly the beautiful daughters, didn’t seem to want to leave their home…..

garden ghost 3

Of the seven daughters in the family, only one married; and the other six girls remained at home, lavishing much time and energy tending the lush garden at the back of the property.

Garden ghost 2

Although some paranormal researchers say that violence or sorrow may cause a spirit to feel bound to the world, until justice is rendered, this is not always the case.

Some say it can be the strong attachment to a particular location, and that spirits may return to a place where they spent their happiest times. It’s been said that these feelings of contentment, of the person never wanting to leave, can seep into a place, either in the walls of a building, or the soil of the ground itself, and leave a certain ghostly energy or impression.

Researchers claim that ghosts tend to stay in places that they considered to be their own during their former lives, and areas that were once very closely linked to themselves as a living human being.

 

 

Matheson House garden 2

 

photo:  Matheson House and rear garden  (now the Perth Museum)

Matheson House garden 1

The Matheson House family garden

– For many decades, where many have reported seeing shadowy figures at dusk, tending the plants and flowers.

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The Perth-Upon-Tay Legion bought the building in 1947, and it was their meeting place until 1967, when it became the Perth Museum.

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Today, Matheson House is home to the Perth Museum, located at 11 Gore Street East in Perth.

Matheson_House_Perth_Ontario_2012_1

A view of the formal Dining Room of Matheson House, restored to its former glory as a stately family home.

Perth Museum Dining Room

Matheson House Drawing Room – beautifully restored, one of the many opulent rooms at the Perth Museum

Matheson House drawing room

On your next visit to Perth, Ontario, step back in time at the Perth Museum, where you will see lovingly-restored rooms, as they were during the years when the prominent Matheson family occupied the home.

Matheson House garden

Remember to stop by the garden, where the lovely young Matheson daughters carefully tended their plants and flowers, and entertained prominent guests.

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Don’t be surprised if you sense something unusual as you tour the old building.  You may feel a draft, or see a flash of light, or movement.

 

ghost 3

You may even feel as though someone is watching you!

ghost 7

 

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For more information on the Perth Museum (former home of the Matheson Family) 

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Tel: 613-267-1947

11 Gore Street East, Perth, ON, K7H 1H9

 

 

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ghost 4

 

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Read about an eerie encounter with the spirit world that took place in the 1960s.  What happened on October 24th, 1967 when a young girl wandered into the garden at Matheson House?  Who did she encounter? What happened next?

Discover who or what was lurking, in the haunted garden at Matheson House in:

 ‘Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples’. ISBN 978-0-9877026-47

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Lanark County Connections small book cover

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

(some photos courtesy of the Perth Museum)

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!

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

LC Calendar

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http://www.staffordwilson.com