Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay

 

Whenever I saw the big white and pink Chaplin’s Dairy truck pull into the yard, I had only one thing on my mind; and that was their delicious chocolate milk.  It came in small pint-sized glass bottles, and had a round, waxed cardboard cap on the top to seal it in. The cap had a little tab, so that you could pull it off of the bottle, and the pint bottle was the perfect size for small eager hands.  After the cap was off, I was just seconds away from tipping the bottle and tasting the richest, creamiest chocolate milk ever produced.

Chaplin's Dairy milk tab

 

Our Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy for decades.  He drove one of the big pink and white trucks, and had a regular ‘route’ of customers in Perth.  He used a big, black, metal carrier to transport milk from the back of the truck to the customer’s front door.  The carrier had eight slots, and each slot held a quart bottle of milk.  He also had a book of order slips. It was a small, thick pad of paper about three by six inches, stapled together at the end.  There was a top sheet that was numbered, a small sheet of carbon paper under that, and a blank sheet at the bottom.  On the top copy, Dad wrote the customer’s name, address, and what they had ordered, along with the total price and that was the customer’s copy.  Because each order was written on top of the sheet of carbon paper, the Dairy had a carbon copy underneath for their records.

Once in a while Dad would bring me to the Dairy and I was fascinated to see the many steps that the milk went through in order to end up on someone’s table.  It was fun to sit in the big truck so high up, and the ride was very different from our car at home.  The truck bounced up and down a lot more, and made a lot of noise, as we drove down the lane, and up the third line toward Perth.  It was neat to look outside, and see how much lower the other cars were on the road.  Every time we’d go over a bump or hill the truck would bounce again, and of course there were no seat belts in those days, so it was quite exciting.

We’d drive along until we could see Nick and Doreen Webber’s house at the corner, and we’d begin to slow down.  Just a bit past Webber’s house we turned right, and Chaplin’s Dairy was a small building on the right side of the road, just up from the corner at Glen Tay.

We’d park the truck, and I would follow Dad into the Dairy.  As soon as he opened the door I could see all of the steam in the air.  It was really, really, humid.  The inside of the building was grey and concrete and the floor was always wet.  Sometimes we’d see one of the Chaplin brothers Cameron or John, and they always wore big rubber boots and the steam rose up all around them.

Because the milk came in glass bottles in those days, a lot of the steam was produced from the big machine that they used to sterilize the bottles.  When the customers were finished with their milk, they would rinse their bottles (hopefully!), leave them on their doorstep for Dad, and he would bring them back to the Dairy that evening.   John or Cameron Chaplin would take the empty bottles and put them through the bottle washer.  The bottle washer washed, rinsed, sterilized, and then rinsed again, so the bottles were sparkling clean and ready for the next batch of milk.

The next machine filled the bottles, then capped them with the little waxed cardboard caps.  There was a large room toward the back of the Dairy, and that was a cold storage room, where the freshly bottled milk was kept.  Most of the time when I visited I saw them bottling homogenized, 2 per cent, skim, and chocolate milk. Sometimes, one of the Chaplins, would hand me a pint bottle of chocolate milk, right off of the filling machine.  I would gladly accept, and thought to myself that if Mother was here she would say that I was going to spoil my supper.  Dad never said anything though, because he knew how much I loved Chaplin’s chocolate milk.

Chaplin’s Dairy was a family business.  The dairy was started by Delbert Chaplin in the early 1900s, and his brother Edgar Chaplin also worked in the business. The Chaplin family owned a large 300 acre farm at R.R 4 Perth and Delbert demonstrated his ingenuity by setting up a method to process their milk from their Holstein herd.  At first he operated the business from their farm, but later in 1935 he built the Dairy building at Glen Tay corners.

Delbert Chaplin

1920  – Edgar Chaplin, (Uncle of John and Cameron Chaplin)

When Chaplin’s Dairy began to deliver milk from the new location at Glen Tay, the quarts of milk were just 5 cents each, and it was delivered by horse and wagon. The milk was not bottled at that time but was distributed to the customers from a large tank at the back of the wagon.  The customer would leave a container on their front step or front porch, and Delbert or Edgar would ladle the milk out of the larger can with a pint or quart measure.

The Chaplin farm was producing an average of 3,000 quarts of milk per day and John, Cameron and their brother Don processed the milk and delivered it in the Perth area.

Chaplin's early milk bottles

The demand for their milk increased, and they expanded, and made arrangements to have five neighbouring farms supply their business with additional milk.  They were also producing chocolate milk and buttermilk at that time.  They made butter as well, but only to supply their own families and it wasn’t for sale to the public.

Chaplin's truck

L to R: Gordon Chaplin, (Royce Frith seated in truck), Donald ‘Don’ Chaplin

By 1945 the sons had taken over the dairy farm and Don took on the responsibility of managing the farm, but their father continued to be active at the Dairy.   They continued to expand their business and operated for many decades.  They expanded their product line to include grape juice and orange juice.They were successful and respected in the community and were known for their high quality products throughout the Perth area.

Tim Stafford: ” When I turned nine, Mom told Dad that she could no longer put up with  me on Saturdays because of my bad behavior.  That’s the ‘how and why’ of me working with Dad, on the milk truck for Chaplin’s Dairy.

I wasn’t much help at first, but he gave me fifty cents and a chocolate bar purchased at McGlade’s service station, on Gore Street.

Later, when I got my driver’s license, John Chaplin hired me and another high school student, Don Lindsay, to do his milk route, and the Christie Lake cottage route, while he covered the other routes and the ‘inside’ workers for summer vacations.

We were making $25.00 a week, plus we were expected to eat at the restaurants we delivered to on a rotating basis.  The daily meal was paid for by Chaplin’s Dairy.  John Chaplin’s favourite restaurant was Wong’s Chinese, but Don and I preferred ‘The Bright Spot’, where Muz MacLean, Hillis Conroy’s son-in-law worked.  We usually ordered grilled cheese, french fries, and cokes.”

Chaplin's quart milk bottles

Quart milk bottles –  1960s

 

Roger Stafford“I am not positive, but I believe I was about 12 when I started working Saturdays and summers with Dad on the milk truck. The first Summer I worked with Dad, our brother, Tim, was working with Grant or Gary Chaplin.

They were delivering to the stores and restaurants in Perth, and to summer camps and cottages. They drove to Christie Lake to deliver to Cavanagh’s (general store) and the Lodges (Norvic Lodge and Arliedale Lodge) . I believe Tim had been Dad’s helper on the milk truck, prior to me starting to work with Dad.  

We used to be at the dairy by 7:00 a.m., and usually got home between 17:30 and 18:00 in the evenings. When I first started with Dad, we delivered milk out of the back of a pickup with a tarp over the glass bottles to protect them from the sun and cold.  Milk was 23 cents a quart bottle, and 25 cents for chocolate milk. We also had pints and half pints in glass bottles. Whipped cream and buttermilk were also carried on the truck. It was not long after I started that we used an enclosed truck to deliver out of. It was much easier, but it had no air conditioning, and a piss-poor heater. When I worked six days a week in the summer, I earned $6. for the week.”

In 1970 Don decided to sell the farm and a few years later in 1974 John and Cameron made the decision to stop processing the milk themselves and just be distributors.  In total, John worked for 42 years in the business and Cameron for 30. At that time Chaplins were one of the last small dairies that still processed their own milk.  They began to sell milk for Clark’s Dairies in Ottawa.  John felt that there were too many changes taking place at that time and that the cost would be too prohibitive to continue processing their own milk.

The milk industry in the 1970s was changing from glass bottles to paper cartons,although most customers preferred the taste of milk in glass bottles. The process of returning and washing the bottles was becoming too time consuming, and too expensive. The federal government was also insisting that businesses use the metric system.  This conversion would have meant purchasing new equipment because their milk was sold in pints and quarts, and they would have to begin selling in litres.

At the point in time when John and Cameron decided to sell the business, they had 1,000 customers, and a modern fleet of trucks, doing 12 runs per day, with four salesmen.  They also offered a complete line of dairy products which included cottage cheese, eggs and also several types of juice. Their last delivery was made by Cameron, on Sept. 17, 1977 and their milk at that time, was 65 cents a quart.

Chaplin’s Dairy was sold that year to Bill McConachie.  Bill was formerly a driver for many years who brought the milk from Ottawa.  His plan was to begin delivering milk to Smiths Falls, to increase his market.

It’s likely difficult for the younger generation to believe that milk was delivered door to door each day, or that it had no expiry date stamped on the bottle.  The milk was fresh from the cow either that day, or the day before, processed at Chaplin’s Dairy, and delivered right to your door step.  There was no need for an expiry date.  It’s also interesting that they managed to have a pretty successful recycling process of sterilizing the bottles and getting them back on the trucks by the next morning.  That was all accomplished without ‘blue bins’ and recycling plants.

Did the milk taste better in a glass bottle?  Yes, it did; and anyone who has drank it from a bottle will tell you the same thing.  We certainly drank enough of the stuff at our house to offer an opinion on that.  One of the benefits of having your father work as a milk man is that he brought home enough milk for the family, each night, in his milk carrier.  When you are raising five children, that’s a lot of milk.  We were fortunate to have had such fresh milk each and every day and we never ran out.

Chaplin's pint milk bottle

One Pint, glass milk bottle, 1960s

Although the work wasn’t easy, I believe that Dad enjoyed his customers in Perth, and the quick chats had each day.  Whenever Mother and Dad shopped at the IGA on Wilson Street, customers from his milk route would often come up to say ‘Hello’, and exchange a few words.  Dad was well liked, and at Christmas his customers showered him with gifts.  He received many, many boxes of chocolates, packs of cigarettes and one and two dollar bills in lovely Christmas cards.  He was always late getting home Christmas Eve, and part of the reason was that his customers took a few extra minutes to wish him a Merry Christmas, and give him their gifts.

We were fortunate to have grown up at a time when there were family businesses, producing high quality products, and selling them door to door.  At one time we had a milk man, an egg man- (Mr. Greer), and a bread man, delivering right to our door.

As the years passed by, many of the small family businesses have closed down, one by one, and in many cases our products are produced far away by people we don’t know. There are dates stamped on the products now telling us when they are destined to ‘expire’.  We often have no idea what processes are used to make some of the things that we eat, and so we purchase them on faith alone.  Gone are the days when we always knew what we were eating, and even knew the people that made the goods.

Now, we are left with the memories of Chaplin’s, our small, local dairy in Glen Tay. It was a place where we could stop by for a visit and be greeted by John, Don, or Cameron in their big rubber boots, clouds of steam rising all around them. With a big smile they’d pluck a pint of chocolate milk off of the line, and hand it to a little girl from down the road. Their products were made with pride and care, and they were confident that their customers would be satisfied.  For years, Chaplin’s Dairy was a well known business in our community, and their products were enjoyed in Perth and area homes for many, many decades.

 

 

 

(excerpts from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line’) 

LC Kid

Memories of working at Chaplin’s Dairy – my brothers Tim Stafford and Roger Stafford, excerpts from the book ‘Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen’

R and R bookmark image

photos:  Stafford family collection,  Perth Remembered

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

Fly Me To the Moon…The Story of Our Cousin Don

“For the first time we were united,

people around the world,

sharing a home,

on a small blue planet,

in a vast dark universe.”

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

 

 

“What do you want with that old stuff?”, Don’s eyes crinkled up, and he grinned.

“I’m going to do a little write-up”, I answered, with the certainty of an overconfident teenager. “I think it will make an interesting story.”

“If you think so.”, he smiled again, and assured me he’d ask his sister Ruth to forward some papers to me, in the mail.

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford

 

That was July 1974, a few years after the moon landing, and I was knee-deep in a conversation about space, with my mother’s first cousin, Donald Rutherford. He and his wife, Rosemary, had driven from their home in Melbourne, Florida, and were spending time in Ogdensburg, with his sister Ruth, and their Aunt Nellie.  My Dad, Mother, my brother Roger, and his wife Ruth, and I, had come to Ogdensburg for the day, as we did several times each year, to visit with our American cousins.

It seems fitting, this week, on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, to do that ‘little write-up’, as I’d promised Don, so many years ago. True to his word, he sent those ‘papers’ about his work, to his sister Ruth, who passed them along to me.  Don’s career spanned the era of the formative years of the U.S. space agency, early missile testing, and beyond the Apollo missions at the Kennedy Space Center.

From me, his inquisitive younger cousin, who always enjoyed our discussions about space-ships, flying saucers, and Star Trek, the story that follows is a tribute to Donald Burlingame Rutherford, an engineer, working in the earliest days of the space program. Although, he’s no longer with us, passing from this life in 1994, at the age of 86, I hope he would approve, and that I’ve put all his ‘papers’ to good use.

 

 

 

From Lisbon to Ogdensburg

Donald Rutherford, and his sister, Ruth, grew up in the family home at 320 Jersey Avenue, on a quiet residential street, in Ogdensburg, New York. Both born on the family farm in Lisbon, not far from the mighty St. Lawrence River, they spent their early childhood riding horses, playing in the sprawling yard of their country home, until their father, Fred Rutherford, accepted a position with International Harvester, when the family moved to Ogdensburg.

Ruth Rutherford with her brother Donald Rutherford, on the farm in Lisbon, in 1913

 

Donald and his sister Ruth, on the farm in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, NY, with their horses

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at school – center of photo, (with a center-part in his hair) – 1920s

 

 

 

320 Jersey Ave Ogdensburg

320 Jersey Avenue, Ogdensburg, N.Y. – home to Fred and Ethel Rutherford and their children Donald and Ruth

 

“He’s a real whiz at math, and likes to solve problems. 

He’d be a shoe-in as an engineer!”

 

Don Rutherford at Clarkson U

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York

“Don is noted for three things:  being late to classes, loafing in the radio shack,

and week-end trips to Prescott…”

 

 

Don's grad announcement 1930‘The Republican Journal’,  June 2, 1930 p. 10

“He was a member of the American Society of Electrical Engineers.”

 

Clarkson programme 1

Clarkson University, Programme, Class of 1930

 

 

(from the Clarkson University programme, 1930)

 

 

 

Clarkson news clipping

 

A few years after he finished his studies at Clarkson U., the twenty-six year-old Donald

asked his sweetheart, Ida, to marry him. 

She was a high-school teacher, and a graduate of St. Lawrence University.

 

Don and Ida's wedding announcement

‘The Advance News’,  July 1, 1934 p. 9

“Both are well known and highly esteemed…”

 

Ida Charter marriedThe Hammond Advertiser July 5, 1934 p. 1

Tragedy in Dayton, Ohio

It was in the warm spring days of May, when Don Rutherford, and his young wife Ida, arrived in Dayton, Ohio.  Don had accepted a position as one of the engineers, hired to enhance the flight capabilities of U.S. aircraft, at Wright Field.   They had barely settled in their new home when tragedy struck the young couple.  Driving near the Englewood Dam, on route 48, a truck collided with their car.  Ida was rushed to the Good Samaritan hospital, and sadly, Ida passed away on June 5th.  She was 37.

Donald later filed a lawsuit, seeking damages from the driver of the truck, Clara Strickle, owner of a local restaurant in Xenia, near Dayton.

The Journal Herald, Dayton, Ohio, June 6, p. 2

 

‘The Ogdensburg Journal’, June 9, 1942, p. 5

 

‘The Dayton Herald’, June 20, 1942 p. 14

 

 

 

In 1947, the U.S. government created the United States Air Force, and that same year, combined Wright Field with nearby Patterson Field, creating Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

 

Don Rutherford

Donald Burlingame Rutherford during his days at Wright-Patterson Air Base

 

Seven years after Ida’s death,

Donald found love again,

and married Rosemary Schumacker Gillen,

a colleague from the Wright-Patterson Air Base.

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Gillen, when she and Donald Rutherford were dating, 1948

 

It was also Rosemary’s second chance at love.  In 1927, when Rosemary was 21, she married Charles Gillen, and they later divorced.  They had one son, Charles Raymond Gillen, born 1933.  Charles Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-1970.  He married a young lady from Paris, Solange Riffet, at Fort Monroe, in Virginia, in 1962.  Sadly, Rosemary’s son, Charles, became very ill, and passed away in 1987, at the age of 54.

Rosemary rarely spoke about her career, although it is known that she held positions at Wright Field, later Wright-Patterson Air Base, Patrick Air Force Base, as well as Cape Canaveral.

 

‘The Dayton Daily News’, June 6, 1949, p. 26

 

Don at awards dinner

Don and his second wife, Rosemary, on their wedding day, with friends, in 1949

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, with Don’s mother Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, and Donald B. Rutherford, with Don’s 1949 Chrysler Windsor

In 1956, Donald was sent to Kessler Air Force Base, in Mississippi, for specialized training in Electronic Countermeasures.  He, along with his colleagues, were focusing on the production of missiles specifically designed to deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems.  Keesler opened a ground support training program for the Atlas Missile, and Donald was among the first sent for their training program.

 

 

Test launch of the Atlas

 

 

In the summer of 1956, Donald was sent for additional training at M.I.T., in missile guidance, dynamic measurements, and control.

 

 

 

 

In the spring of 1959, Donald trained with Martin on the MGM-13 TM-76B tactical surface-launched missile.

 

 

MGM-13 – test launch

 

 

Don Rutherford Patrick Air Force Base 1956

Don Rutherford, standing,  (dark shirt), at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida,  June 7, 1956.

 

“An Act to provide for research

into the problems of flight

within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere,

and for other purposes.” 

The National Aeronautics

and Space Administration (NASA)

was established on October 1, 1958,

 

Don Rutherford Nike Rocket 1963

Preparation of NIKE Rocket to  be fired, simultaneously with the MINUTEMAN, March 18, 1963, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center – Don Rutherford (standing-rt.)

Minuteman missle test launch

‘Minuteman’  test launch

 

Don Rutherford Air Force Missile Test Center 6-5-63

Don Rutherford (left) with colleagues, at a Pre-Launch Test, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center June 5, 1963

 

Don Rutherford Missile test center

Pre-Launch Test 3267, June 5, 1963, Air Force Rocket Test Center in Blockhouse – Don Rutherford standing – rear

Don and Fred Rutherford

Donald B. Rutherford with his father Fred Allan Rutherford

Don Rutherford service award

Donald B. Rutherford receives Certificate of Service, from the U.S. Air Force

 

 

Donald worked at Patrick Air Force Base, where he took part in a variety of missile, and manned and unmanned space programs in the 1960s.

Both Don and Rosemary were offered positions at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and they worked there for many years.

On February 6, 1959, the first successful test firing of a Titan Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was achieved.

NASA’s ‘Mercury’ and ‘Gemini’ space flights were launched from Cape Canaveral, as well as the ‘Apollo’ flights.

 

 

rocket 1

Donald Burlingame Rutherford  – rt.

50th anniversary of Donald Rutherford’s graduation – 1930-1980

Donald and Rosemary’s home in Melbourne, Florida.
Lt to rt:  Ruth Rutherford, Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, Fred Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, Nellie Rutherford

When Don and Rosemary retired, they purchased two blocks of properties near their home in Melbourne, Florida, renting them out.  In their spare time, they spent many happy days on their sailboat, along the sunny Florida coast. Both were dog lovers, and always had two or three well-loved, and well-spoiled pets in their home.

Don and Rosemary in their retirement years

 

One of their favourite television shows was ‘Jeopardy’.  As they became older, they even planned their day so they could be home in time to watch the show.  One night after ‘Jeopardy’ was over, Rosemary could not wake Don.  He had passed away during the show.  He was 86 years old.

 

Brookeside Cemetery, Waddington, NY

 

 

 

letter of condolences from Clarkson University to Rosemary Rutherford, 1994

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, passed away on Valentine’s Day, 1996, age 90, at the Meridian Nursing Home, Melbourne, Florida.  Her son predeceased her in 1987, and he and his wife, Solange, had no children.  There were no known survivors.

Rutherford siblings – 1889

Don Burlingame Rutherford’s father (left)

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford’s father (center)

L – Fred Rutherford, middle – Charles Rutherford, rt – May Rutherford, photo: 1889, other siblings: Nellie Rutherford, born 1897, Robbie, died in infancy

Fred and Charles were brothers.  Fred Allan Rutherford and his wife Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, had two children:  Donald Burlingame Rutherford, and Ruth Rutherford.  Charles Herbert Rutherford and his wife Dorothy (Woolsey) Rutherford, had four daughters and one son:  Dorothea ‘Dolly’ Rutherford (Glover),  Mildred ‘Mill’ Rutherford (Waterhouse) , Audry Rutherford (Stafford), Muriel Rutherford, and Jack Rutherford.

family in OgdensburgStanding l.to rt. Ruth (Parks) Stafford, Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Rosemary Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, – seated – Ruth Rutherford (Don’s sister) and her little dog Rastus.   photo: 1976, Stafford family collection.

 

 

NASA began with a group of engineers working with the NACA, (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics ), along with engineers transferred from the Vanguard program and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.  Toward the end of the 1960s, there were over 14,000 engineers working on design and testing, of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rocket-propulsion systems, many of these equipped to operate beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

These engineers, men and women, worked in anonymity. Many worked at test facilities, and most weren’t able to discuss their work with friends, or even family. Some worked on projects for years, and faced failure after failure, before achieving any success. They were the unsung heroes of the space program, and this story is dedicated to the many thousands, who worked behind the scenes, in the shadow of heroes.

 

“For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon, and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace,”  John F. Kennedy, 1961.

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

(all documents and photos received from Donald B. Rutherford, were stamped ‘Declassified’, by the U.S. Air Force)

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.

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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.

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

LC Calendar

http://www.staffordwilson.com