Meteor Shower in Jordan’s Front Field

meteor shower

 

It was one of those sweltering hot summer days in August when most people preferred to stay inside and try to get a ‘cross-breeze’ flowing through their house, for a little relief.  Even my friends Debbie and Jane, who loved to lie outside and work on their tans; decided it was even too hot for that.  Debbie lived down the road at DeWitt’s Corners, and we were visiting our friend Jane, as we often did, relaxing in their living room, and fanning ourselves with some magazines to keep cool.

 

We had a stack of ‘Tiger Beat’ teen magazines, and were going through them page by page, picking out the cute guys.  Donny Osmond was often one of the stars splashed across the front cover in those days.  Donny and his brothers might as well have been from Mars – five brothers with enormous, perfect teeth, wearing white fringed jumpsuits, and white leather boots.  It definitely wasn’t a sight you would have seen on the Third Line – not even up at Christie Lake. Sometimes at the lake we saw tourists from Pennsylvania or New York, who were dressed a little fancier than the locals, but that was about the extent of it.  No, we never saw any lads in white jumpsuits around Perth.

 

Another head poked into the room – it was Patti, from next door.  Patti announced breathlessly, that she’d heard there was going to be a meteor shower that evening, and she thought we should all stay up to watch it.   Hmm, I thought to myself, – it wasn’t like I had anything better planned.   I could stay at home tonight with Mother and Dad, and watch ‘The Tommy Hunter Show’, or see a meteor shower with my friends.  That was an easy decision.

 

So, where were we going to watch the meteor shower, and by the way – what exactly was a ‘meteor shower’?  Patti explained that it was thousands and thousands of shooting stars falling all at once, and that it would go on for the entire night.  She said we could set up an area in her front field, bring some snacks, and make an evening of it.

 

We began to make plans for what sort of supplies we’d need to stay up all night in Jordan’s field.  Debbie suggested that we should have some music.  She had just bought a new album by Deep Purple called ‘Machine Head’, and we all loved their song ‘Smoke on the Water’, so she volunteered to tape some songs from that album, and also some songs from a couple of albums I had at home.  I said I’d ride my bike home and bring back Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, and my Eagles album.  Everyone liked Elton’s ‘Honky Cat’ and ‘Rocket Man’ and the Eagles ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Take it Easy’. They’d be perfect for our night of stargazing.

 

I was home in no time, grabbed my albums, threw them in a bag, and off I went on my bike, back down the Third Line to DeWitt’s Corners.  I had some money left over from my birthday, so I stopped at Cavanagh’s store, and went inside to pick up a few treats for us.  I didn’t have that much money, so my choices were a bit limited.  Helen Cavanagh was working behind the counter as usual, and was asking how the family was.  She always made a point of asking about Roger in particular – likely because he had been such good friends with their son Bill.  We were talking about how hot it was outside, and it was nice to be inside the store because it was a lot cooler in there.  I picked up a bag of black liquorice twizzlers; I didn’t see any of the strawberry kind; and then I grabbed a bottle of Pure Spring Cream Soda, and a bottle of Tab.  After paying, I still had a bit of change left, so I spent the rest on Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum, stuffed it into my pocket, thanked Helen, and headed out of the store.

 

We all met at Patti’s- Jane, Debbie and I, and gathered up our stuff – our snacks, the tape recorder to provide the music, and we also had a pair of binoculars, although I don’t remember where they came from, and we headed out to the middle of Jordan’s front field.

 

It was a beautiful night.  There weren’t too many nights of the year in Bathurst Township that were warm enough to stay outside all night, but this was definitely one of them.  It was one of those perfect August evenings – it had been a little too hot during the day, but now that the sun was sliding down below the horizon, it was likely still around 75 or 80 degrees.

 

We grabbed a quilt from Patti’s house, carried it outside, and spread it in the field.  We were about halfway between the house and the Third Line.  We wanted to be far enough away that our music wouldn’t bother anyone in the house.   Patti went into the house and brought out four bowls of spaghetti.  That was one of her favourite dishes to cook for guests, and she had definitely perfected her sauce.

 

Debbie had been fiddling around with the cassette player and had got the music going.  By then, it was really dark, and it seemed like all at once, we started staring up at the sky looking for meteors.  We were asking Patti what time the meteor shower was supposed to begin.  She said she wasn’t sure – which didn’t get a very positive reaction from any of us, but she never claimed to be an astronomer, so we’d just have to wait and let nature take its course.  It wasn’t too long after that we began to notice falling stars, one after another, sometimes in clusters; they almost looked like they were raining down.

 

We stared at the sky for hours.  We talked about school for a while.  Debbie and I were graduating from Glen Tay Public School that year – Patti and Jane had one year left to go.  We all wondered what it was going to be like to be at the Perth High School.  Patti’s older sister Janice, was already there, and so Patti knew a bit about what it was like.  It was going to be very different for all of us to be in such a large school, and also to be in Perth all day, instead of out in the country.

 

It was getting late. The stars were still falling, streaking through the sky – it was really something, and I for one, had never seen anything like it.

 

Patti went up to the house, and when she came back, she said it was three in the morning.  We were all getting tired.  Jane and Debbie decided to pack it in and go home, so they grabbed their stuff, and headed up toward the house to retrieve their bikes.  Patti and I watched from the field as they rode down the lane, and turned up the Third Line, giving us a wave as they headed home.   Well, we might as well go inside too.  We picked up the corners of the quilt, carried our stuff in, and headed up to Patti’s room.  I don’t think it was very long before we fell asleep.

 

The next morning, I got up, picked up my bike out front and headed home.   It was Sunday morning so I would be expected to get ready for church.  I got home, walked into the kitchen, and Mother asked if I’d had a nice time at Patti’s and I said that I had.  I went upstairs, had a bath, and put on a dress for church.

 

In the car on the way up the Third Line, heading for Calvin church that morning, Mother had the radio on, and was listening to the news.  The weatherman in Kingston was talking about the meteor shower the night before, and what a ‘spectacular’ sight it had been.  I didn’t want to say that we had sat out in Jordan’s field all night watching it, because I didn’t think Mother would be very impressed, so I said nothing.

….

 

Many decades have passed since our ‘meteor shower’ get-together, but I’ve since discovered that meteor showers occur regularly, are visible in most parts of Eastern Ontario during the summer, and they almost always are at their peak during August.   In fact, on the local news this past summer, the weather forecaster, spoke about the ‘Perseids’ meteor shower.

 

Naturally, when I heard the words ‘meteor shower’ my ears perked up. I hadn’t thought about the meteor shower for years.   They went on to say that the Perseids meteor shower had been observed for almost 2,000 years.  They said that the meteor shower is visible from the middle of July and the peak is usually between August 9th and the 14th each year.  It was their next statement however, that almost made me fall off of my chair.  They stated, “August 12th, 1972 is reported to have been the most active shower in recorded history.”

 

August 12, 1972?  I was speechless.  According to the weather forecaster we had witnessed the most ‘spectacular’ meteor shower!  Well, it certainly was a night to remember – the pitch-black sky out in the country, some great friends, some good music, and the most active meteor shower in recorded history, long ago, in Jordan’s front field.

 

This story is dedicated to the girls who sat with me, on a quilt, in Jordan’s front field, on August 12, 1972, :  Patti Jordan, Debbie Majaury, and Jane Munro. 

Thanks for the memories my friends!

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line’)

LC Kid

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

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

 

 

Port Elmsley – Drive-In Dreamin’

port-elmsley-sign

Someone decided one night long ago, that we should save a few dollars, and put a couple of people in the trunk of a car, so they could get in for free, at the Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre.

I guess we can just chalk this one up, along with the other peculiar things that we did as teenagers.  Luckily no one was hurt, but for the three bucks they each saved on admission, it was a pretty undignified way to arrive at the movies.

It’s possible that we weren’t the first ones to try that little stunt.  After all, the Drive-In had been open for a long time before any of us had ventured there.

port-elmsley-concession

It was in September 1952 that ‘The Perth Courier’ ran a short article about a Drive-In being constructed at Port Elmsley.  The article stated that it was the first to be fabricated in this district, and it was built by Gordon White of Ottawa for W.J. Williams, of Newboro.

The article went on to say that it would be assembled on a ten acre property, a half mile south of Highway 15, and that the Drive-In would have a capacity for 300 cars. It would feature a design first of its kind in Ontario, where the projector booth would be in a two-story building, nearly 400 feet from the screen.  This was a distance that was 150 feet greater than any of the other Drive-In theatres at that time.  It was to open the following May of 1953, at a total cost of $75,000.  True to their word, they opened on schedule, and called the new Drive-In ‘the Showplace of the Golden Triangle’.

port-elmsley-ad-1953

 

Port Elmsley was indeed a great location for a Drive-In theatre, because it’s situated about halfway between Perth and Smiths Falls.  There were always droves of cottagers and tourists staying around Rideau Ferry, and the surrounding lakes in the summer. There were also many residents of the towns and villages nearby, that enjoyed a drive up Highway 15, on a warm summer night, to see some great movies.

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Because the Drive-In opened in 1953, many folks had parked in that huge parking lot and viewed many movies on that big screen long before my friends and I ever made it there in the ‘70s. In fact, it was more than twenty years after it opened that it became one of our familiar haunts each summer, as we passed the nights away, under the stars.

Some of us were lucky enough to have gone to the Drive-In as children, dressed in pajamas, playing on the teeter-totter and swings between the first row of cars and the giant screen. As the sun sunk low in the sky, we were having the time of our lives. What could be better than staying up past your bedtime with a whole bunch of other kids, the aroma of popcorn in the air, and watching the cartoons at the beginning of the show?

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Every kid knew the words to the concession jingle ‘Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, to get ourselves a treat.”  When we heard that song it was our cue to start heading back to our parents’ cars, because the movie would be starting soon.  By the time they played the Chilly Dilly song, about the big, juicy, dill pickles, we were in the back seat, with our pillows and blankets, all ready for the show to begin.  Much to the delight of most parents I’m sure, we were asleep by the time the second feature began, and this allowed them some peace and quiet, and time alone – well, almost alone.

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We’d usually begin assembling all of our gear during the afternoon.  First, we’d pack up a bottle of Windex, and a roll of paper towels, because there was nothing worse than having a big messy streak or some bugs splattered right in the middle of your window.

Mosquito coils were also vital to a relaxing evening.  Because of the speaker hanging off of the front window, we weren’t able to close it all the way, so burning a mosquito coil would take care of any of the little pests that flew into the car.  If none of the gang had any, we’d have to head out to Canadian Tire on Highway 7, and pick some up before the show.  We’d place one of the little green coils on its small metal stand, set it on the dashboard and light it up. Many years later I happened to read on the side of the package that those coils were for outdoor use only.  Oh dear!

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A couple of pillows and a blanket, were a nice touch, and made movie-viewing a comfy, cozy event.  We’d also bring a small flashlight, because nothing was worse for us girls than stumbling around on the gravel path, trying to find our way to the washroom, on a dark, moonless night; especially right after watching a scary scene in a horror movie. That just didn’t work for us.  Sometimes we’d bring a roll of t.p. from home, in case they ran out, which happened once in a while during the all-night movie marathons.

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I still recall the crunch of the gravel, as we slowed down to enter through the gates, into the Drive-In, and began scouting for a good spot.  A good spot to us was front-row-centre, and enough space for the three cars to park side by side, so that we could socialize.  We also had to make sure that all three speakers worked, so we would pull into the spots and test the speakers, otherwise we’d have to move all three cars to a new location, maybe a row behind.  Of course every row farther back that you were you would have to contend with people getting in and out of their cars in front of you or turning on their cars to clear their windows because they were fogged up for some reason.  So, the best real estate in the lot was the front row, right in the center of the screen, and if we went early enough the best spots would be ours.

I think the lads liked having spots near the front, not just for the sake of the movie, but so that their cars were together, and very visible in the front row.  There’s no denying that they all had sweet cars.  Those three cars managed to get some looks, touring around town, and had been known to burn up more than a little rubber on the quarter mile runs down Roger’s Road.

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The warm summer air was filled with strains of Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’, or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and typically, a little bit of our favourite space-cowboy, Steve Miller, singing “The Joker’; a song that you could say became a symbol of  the times. Some have said that it was an era of music like no other, before or since, and the sounds of our generation could be heard throughout the parking lot of the Drive-In, on those sultry summer nights, in Port Elmsley.

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As the sun slid down lower in the sky, the horizon glowed, first in a dusty pink, then a soft purple. There was always one car that began honking their horn, because they believed that it was dark enough to see the movie.  After a minute or two, more people started to honk, and then shortly after that the show would begin.

One of the things that we enjoyed the most were the ‘Dusk to Dawn’ shows, where the first movie would begin at dusk, and the movies would continue all night, until the early morning, when it became too light to see the picture on the screen.  The movies were played back to back, and were often horror films like ‘The Exorcist’, or ‘The Omen’, or ‘Jaws’. I recall one night that my friend and myself, even after having consumed large quantities of pop, did not want to use the washroom, just in case that giant crazy shark ‘Jaws’ had somehow compromised the plumbing system out in Port Elmsley.  We just weren’t taking any chances.

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We saw many nights come and go in Port Elmsley.  There were some beautiful, sleek, muscle cars in those days, parked row after row, paint glistening in the moonlight.  We made numerous trips to the concession stand, in an attempt to fill our unquenchable teenaged appetites.  We even had a few scary trips in the dark, giggling on our way to the washroom and back. We screamed a few blood-curdling screams, as did some of the folks in the neighboring vehicles one evening, I recall, as the character Jason appeared in his hockey mask in the thriller ‘Hallowe’en’.

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Today, the Port Elmsley Drive-In is one of a handful of drive-ins still operating in Ontario. Leave it to the folks in Lanark County to know a gem when they see one, and to continue to go out, and enjoy movies, under the stars.  I hope that in the future that the little kids in their p.j.s, young people, and not so young people, will take the time to visit the drive-in and have as much fun as we did.  Take a trip to Port Elmsley and make some of your own memories!

…….

In its heyday, Port Elmsley had many residents, and some of the family names that were common in that area were:  Armstrong, Taylor, Stone, Hunter, Weatherhead, Best, Couch, Wicklum, Weekes, VanDusen, Seabrook, Shaw, Sherwood, O’Hara, Moore, Dudgeon, Lavender, Findlay, McTavish, McVeety, Beveridge, and Clements.

…..

 

For information on the Port Elmsley Drive-In – showtimes and coming attractions:

Port Elmsley Drive In

 

…….

The full story “Dusk to Dawn in Port Elmsley” is part of a collection of stories in the book “Lanark County Chronicle”

lanark-county-chronicle-for-website

 

Available at The Book Nook, and The Bookworm,  in Perth, Mill St. Books in Almonte,

or on online

 

The Legend Behind the Recipes

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

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WWII Recruiting poster, 1942, RCAF, Womens’ Division

 

Jack Rutherford

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Tim and Judy 1946

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Judy Tim Jackie Roger at the fence

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

 

Stafford Christmas long ago

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

 

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

Perth Fair results 1965

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

apple sauce loaf

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

 

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

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

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

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

 

 

Irish Settlers & the Ghost of Burgess Township

banshee

 

Burgess Ghost

The story of the Burgess Ghost begins with the arrival of so many Irish to the areas around Westport, the Scotch Line, Black Lake, and Stanleyville, that it became known as the ‘Irish Invasion’.

This is the the home where the story took place, in the cold, bitter winter of 1935, at the home of Mr. John Quinn.  John lived in the house with his wife, and two sons Michael age 13, and Stanley, 11.

 

Quinn house Burgess

Quinn house, North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Burgess ghost 1

“The Windsor Star”, Jan. 14, 1935, p.7

“By evening, the ‘ghost of Burgess’, was the one topic of discussion in Perth”

Burgess ghost 2

Andrew Burke saw the windows break, and the dishes jump

Burgess ghost 3

William Cordick saw three flat irons come down the stairs

Burgess ghost 4

Hundreds of people drove through a snowstorm, to the Quinn home, to see the Ghost of Burgess

Burgess ghost 5

“The Windsor Star”, Jan. 14, 1935, p.7

Burgess ghost 6

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 16, 1935, p.1

Howard Traynor and Michael Norwood huddled in the house until daybreak

Burgess ghost 7

Predominantly Irish, simple, hard-working farm folk

Burgess ghost 8

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 16, 1935, p.1

“The Mounties are searching the place, determined to ‘get their ghost’.”

Burgess ghost 9

“Bradford Evening Star”, Bradford, Pennsylvania, Feb. 6, 1935, p.9

“…a teapot jumping into a woodbox.”

Burgess ghost 10

“Minneapolis Star”, Minnesota, Aug. 5, 1935. p.8

 

Don Rennie, reporter for “The Perth Courier”, wrote a story on the Burgess Ghost in 1967:

“Strange occurrences were happening in 1935 at a farm in North Burgess just off the Narrows Locks road. Mr. John Quinn, his wife and two children, Michael, and Stanley, ages 13 and 11, reported innumerable phenomena taking place in their home. Stove lids, according to the Quinns, “danced” in the air, the teapot “jumped” off the stove into the wood box, three flat irons “walked” down a staircase and dishes “pranced” on the dining-room table. Word of this mysterious goings on spread quickly throughout the district. Although, perhaps skeptical, hundreds of persons from miles around flocked to the Quinn home.

burgess ghost 12

On the Sunday after the reporting of the “ghosts” more than 100 cars arrived at the Quinn farm. Along with the cars a flotilla of cutters and sleighs dotted the white-capped farm. The snow fell incessantly and the thermometer dipped way below the zero mark.

Newsmen from across the country arrived, and the CBC news from Toronto, reported the strange events. Although the strange occurrences could not be readily explained, many held doubts in their minds as the credulity of the phenomena. Believing that there had to be a reasonable explanation behind the occurrences, the Perth detachment of the OPP decided to hold an investigation.

On a Saturday afternoon, members of the force motored to the Quinn home, and inspected the building. Nothing strange occurred while they were there. That same evening Inspector Storey returned to the house. He remained there until Sunday morning along with about a dozen district men, sat in the house, speaking in hushed tones, but again nothing happened.

Quinn family and police Burgess

photo: members of the Quinn family, and the local police force

Mr. Quinn was unable to explain the strange occurrences that had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Pieces of beef he had placed in a barrel had been found littered throughout the house, he said, and the Wednesday before a window pane crashed for no apparent reason. He had not thought that too odd until it happened the very next evening.

Andrea Burke, a neighbouring farmer, declared that a bone thrown out of the home time and time again had always returned to the house for no explicable reason. Another neighbour, William Cordick, swore that he had seen three flat irons descend the Quinn’s staircase one after another.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Irish Settlers to North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Most, but not all of the Irish in North Burgess Township, came from County Down and County Armagh, and many came in the 1840s, to escape a horrible famine, that swept through Ireland  like an unstoppable plague.   A disease called Potato Blight ravaged their crops for nearly a decade, and during that time over a million died of starvation, and an equal number fled Ireland on ships sailing to Canada and the United States.

irish potato blight

Most were tenant farmers, leasing their land; unable to pay their rent when their crops failed, and were evicted by ruthless landlords.  They bundled up what little they had, and boarded ships headed for the new world.

Irish immigrants

Seven weeks was the average length of time spent at sea, and the conditions endured by these Irish immigrants were so terrible that the ships were nick-named ‘coffin ships’.  The lice, ticks and fleas common in these over-crowded vessels were the ideal breeding grounds for the transmission of disease, and by 1847 an average of 50 passengers died each day of typhus on their voyage from Ireland.

coffin ship

 

typhus

 

The areas where this ‘wave’ of Irish settled in Lanark County:

nburgess

These new settlers brought their traditions, customs, and stories with them to the new country.  Stories and legends were passed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter.  Tales from the old country were told in the evenings by the fire, and the one story that seemed to run up and down the concessions in North Burgess was the legend of the Irish Banshee.

Irish legend

The Banshee, or ‘Bean Sidhe’ is an Irish spirit, and her high-pitched wail foretells of a death in the family.  It was said that each family had its own Banshee, and that they travelled with them from the old country.  Some said that the family’s Banshee would stay in Ireland at the family’s estate, and mourn the dead.  The settlers to the new land brought their vivid descriptions of the Banshees – some claiming that she was an old hag with red eyes, but others said she was a fair, pale Irish beauty with long red hair dressed in a flowing gown.

Banshee   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s been said that whoever hears her high and piercing shriek could be sure that there would be a death within 24 hours.  Irish lore tells that the Banshee always wailed when a family member dies, even if the person had died far away, and news of their death had not yet come. The wailing of the banshee was the first warning to the household of the death.

When several banshees appeared at once, it was said to foretell of the death of someone prominent, or of an accidental or unintended death – often of a murder victim, a suicide, or a mother who died in childbirth.

The early settlers in North Burgess passed down their stories of banshees, fairies, ghosts and the little people.  Although they were fiercely loyal to God and to the church, they never abandoned their beliefs in the spirits and creatures of their ancient folklore.

The Story of the Burgess Ghost became a local legend….

The story of the ghost in the Quinn house was passed down through the years, told and retold at family gatherings, around campfires, and particularly in the weeks each year leading up to Hallowe’en.

In a strange final twist to the mystery of the Burgess Ghost, the Quinn family home burned to the ground.  The cause of the fire was never determined, and remains a mystery to this day…..

In 1972, the Quinn home was burned to the ground.

haunted house headline

haunted house of Burgess

quinn house 1

quinn house 2

Mysterious Fire Destroys Burgess Ghost House

burgess ghost 12

“The Ottawa Journal”, Jan. 4, 1972, p.5

………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Some of the families who were among the earliest settlers to North Burgess Township:

Adam

Bennett

Byrne

Byrnes

Byres

Callaghan

Chaffey

Darcy

Deacon

Donnelly

Dooker

Doran

Eagan

Farrell

Hanlon

Haughian

Jackman

Kearns

Kelly

Kerr

Lappan

Lennon

McCann

McCracken

McGlade

McIver

McLeod

McNamee

McParland

McVeigh

Mullin

Murphy

O’Connor

O’Hare

O’Neill

Parry

Powers

Quigley

Quinn

Ryan

Scanlon

Smith

Stanley

Stapleton

Thompson

Toole

Traynor

Troy

White

………

In 2002 the townships formerly known as North Burgess, South Sherbrooke and Bathurst were part of an amalgamation, and adopted the name of Tay Valley Township, as they are known today.

……..

For genealogical records of the founding families of North Burgess Township:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onlanark/nburgess.htm

National Archives of Canada – Immigration Databases Online Searh –  Immigration to Canada

St. Bridget’s Cemetery Staneyville Ontario

Roman Catholic interments North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – Burials from 1822-2000  North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – North Burgess

Irish Immigration to Canada

Irish Immigration to Canada National Archives

Lanark County Genealogical Society

https://lanarkgenealogy.com/

Archives Lanark

http://archiveslanark.ca/index.php

Search the census records for North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Searchable online census records for Lanark County

Irish Genealogy Records online

Irish Records

……………

For more information on Irish Folklore in the early days of Lanark County:

Banshees of Burgess’, is part of a collection of short stories in ‘Lanark County Classics – A Treasury of Tales from Another Time’. The reader will discover more about the early families from Ireland who settled in Lanark County, and their customs and beliefs in the supernatural, brought from the old country.  The story explores some of the tales passed down by these Irish settlers, and documents their personal experiences with Banshees, ghosts, and fairies while living in Lanark County.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm, Mill St. Books and online.
“Lanark County Classics” – ISBN 978-0-9877026-54

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

…..

(map of Northern Ireland – By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – map by NNW, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7918534)

A Sure Sign of Spring

robin in snow    crocus in the snow

If there’s one consolation after a long, cold, Eastern Ontario winter, it would have to be our first taste of Lanark County maple syrup in the spring.  Long known as the ‘Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario’, Lanark County has the highest quality syrup to be found not just in Ontario, but possibly on the entire planet.

maple syrup capital image

Our frigid nights, when the temperatures drop down well below zero are the perfect complement to the gradual onset of spring weather where the mercury rises slowly but surely into the single digits during the late mornings and afternoons.  This combination of freezing at night and thawing in the daytime creates the ‘perfect storm’ for the precious, sugary sap to drip in a constant stream from our maple trees.

maple syrup bucket.jpg

It takes no less than 40 gallons of this light, watery fluid to produce just one gallon of maple syrup, after a long steady boil in a large tank or cauldron.  It’s a lot of effort, labour and raw materials combined to produce a sweet, flavourful maple syrup, but not many would argue that the challenging and costly process is well worth it.

maple syrupmaple and pancakes

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of our pioneer settlers in Lanark County, and so this year’s annual Festival of the Maples in Perth will feature even  more vendors, music, and events.

maple festival gore st vendorsmaple fest syrup on snow

Some think of maple syrup as a ‘guilty pleasure’, but did you know that this tasty treat contains over 54 antioxidants and has many health benefits?   Recent studies done in Canada and the U.S. state that the botanical compounds found in maple syrup actually protect the brain cells from the kind of damage found in Alzheimer’s disease.  Article on health benefits of maple syrup

Whether you are a native of Lanark County or just a visitor looking for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, a visit to the Festival of the Maples in the historic town of Perth is sure to delight everyone in the family. From the tiny tot enjoying maple taffy on the snow, to the grown-ups sampling some of the local maple beer there’s something for everyone at this annual celebration of all things maple!

Join us at The Book Nook between 1 pm and 4 pm!

Festival of the maples 2016

http://www.staffordwilson.com

For more information on Lanark County maple producers and the history of maple production:   “Taffy on the Tay”  from Lanark County Chronicle  ISBN 978-0-9877026-23, available in local book stores.

Easy, mouth-watering recipes for Maple Butter and Maple Fudge at the conclusion of this article.

Contact information listing vendors known for their premium quality maple syrup; many are award winners:

Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush
Address: 291 6th Conc Rd., Pakenham, On
Phone: 613-256-3867 Email: info@fultons.ca Website: http://www.fultons.ca

McFarlane’s Maple Syrup
Grant & Gail McFarlane
1550 Prestonvale Rd
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-5410
Email – grantandgail@storm.ca

Paul’s Maple Products
Brien Paul
267 Sugar Bush Way,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-5276
Email – dpaul@storm.ca

Coutts Country Flavours
Address: 1230 Port Elmsley Rd. RR5 Perth, Ontario K7H 3C7
Phone: 613-267-0277 Email: couttscountryflavours@live.ca
Website: couttscountryflavours.ca/

Jameswood Maple
3231 Wolf Grove Road
Dwight James
249 Purdy Rd,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-256-4466
Email – jameswood@storm.ca

Temple’s Sugar Camp
Address: 1700 Ferguson’s Falls Rd. (CR#15) Lanark, On
Phone: 613-253-7000 Email: TemplesInfo@xplornet.com
Website: http://www.templessugarcamp.ca

Dorian Heights Maple Products
3631 Watsons Corners Rd,
RR 1 McDonalds Corners, ON K0G 1M0
Phone – 613-278-2177
Email – dorian75@live.ca

Springdale Farm
Don & Marion Dodds
Home – 1790 Galbraith Rd, RR 2
Clayton, ON K0A 1P0
Sugar Shack – 1699 Galbraith Rd.
Clayton, ON K0A 1P0
Phone – 613-256-4045
Email – info@springdale@.ca
Web site – http://www.springdalemaple.ca

Fairbairn Farm
1827 Wolf Grove Rd,
Almonte, ON K0A 1A0
Phone – 613-256-5047
Email – dfairbairn@hughes.net
Web site – http://www.fairbairnmaple.com

Wheeler’s Pancake House & Sugar Camp
Address: 1001 Highland Line Lanark Highlands (McDonalds Corners), On
Phone: 613-278-2090 Email:webinfo@wheelersmaple.com Website:http://www.wheelersmaple.com

Ennis Maple Products Ltd
848 Ennis Rd,
Balderson, ON K0G 1A0
Phone – 613-267-3491
Email – ennismaple@yahoo.com
Web site – http://www.ennismaple.com

Ryan & Glenn Stead
5692 Hwy 511,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-2578
Email – steadmaplesyrup@gmail.com

Sugar Maple Farms Ltd.
David & Paul Chant
3187 Thousand Acre Rd,
RR 2 Portland, ON K0G 1V0
Phone – 613-272-2616

 

Two of our favourite Maple Recipes:

Maple Butter

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup softened butter
• 1/4 cup maple syrup

Preparation Time 5 minutes:

Mix butter and maple syrup with electric mixer until blended. Serve on toast, cracker or warm muffins. This is so tasty and could not be easier to make. Use this creamy maple butter spread on bread, pancakes, muffins, toast, and biscuits.

Yield: about 3/4 cup

Maple Cream Fudge

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cream (I use Heavy cream/whipping cream)
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of maple syrup
pinch of salt
vanilla

Add the two sugars, butter and cream, maple syrup and salt into a sauce pan. Place over medium heat. Stir while bringing to a boil. Lower the heat and continue to stir slowly while the mixture cooks. After about 7 minutes, test by pouring a small amount into some cold water. You want it to form a soft ball. You might need to cook it for another minute or two. Remove from the heat, add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla and start stirring. It takes about 14 or 15 minutes for the fudge to cool and thicken. Pour into buttered dish. TIP: If you let the fudge sit for 10 minutes after removing from the heat and allow it to cool slightly this will reduce the stirring time. Option: Replace the cream and cup of white sugar with one can of Sweetened Condensed Milk and increase the maple syrup to 1 cup

Arlene Stafford-Wilson http://www.staffordwilson.com