On mornings like this, I think a snowblower is in order. Don’t you?
A little less than a year ago I posed the question to readers: do Raymond and I need a snowblower at the Manse? The answer was a pretty uniform yes. But a little less than a year ago the matter wasn’t particularly urgent, because we were still living in Montreal and only spending a couple of weekends a month, at best, in Queensborough.
Gracious, what a lot can happen in a year!
Now here we are installed in my childhood home, and the snows have begun to come. And while our neighbour John – the same one who does such a fantastic job of keeping our lawn mowed in summer – has happily taken on the task of plowing out the driveway when needed so I can leave for work at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m., Raymond and I have to accept much of the responsibility for clearing walkways and the garage entrance and basically any snow that needs moving outside of the pre-dawn hours.
While I don’t mind the odd bit of shovelling – and neither does Raymond – I think I am safe in saying that neither one of us wants to court cardiac crisis should a few feet of heavy snow land overnight, which is eminently possible at any time.
So it’s time to talk turkey. Or more specifically, what we should get each other for Christmas.
Last year it was something very lovely: the maple tree that we planted in the Manse’s front yard. This year, I think it’s time for machinery over Nature. Because really, what says “Merry Christmas and I love you” better than a shiny new snowblower?
When there’s a gap of close to 40 years between the time your family moved away from the house you grew up in and the time you move back to it (having made a sudden and life-altering decision to purchase it), you are bound to have forgotten some things about that childhood place. But the wondrous thing about returning all those years later is that every now and then, with no warning, you get reminded of one of them. And it takes you back.
That’s what happened to me this past Sunday, a crisp, sunny day here in Queensborough. As I gazed out a window in the middle of the afternoon, I realized I had completely forgotten the beauty of the long blue shadows that the trees cast on the snow of the Manse’s back yard on such a day.
It could as easily have been December 1973 as December 2013. And that unexpected moment of timelessness felt comforting. And just right.
Did the household you grew up in have one of these kits, by any chance?
Our friend Lindi – who writes the excellent Ancestral Roofs and In Search of Al Purdy blogs (both of which I have mentioned numerous times before), and who is a historical and architectural researcher/writer extraordinaire – gave us the perfect gift for the Manse not long ago.
How perfect was it? I’m glad you asked.
It was so perfect that when Lindi presented it to me, wrapped in a bag, doubtless thinking that I would never guess what this oddly shaped thing was, I in fact knew what it was instantly – before it was even out of the bag.
The contents of the vintage shoe-maintenance kit are several fine wooden-handled brushes, probably all of a different level of coarseness. Now all I need is some shoe polish and I’m off!
And the reason I knew instantly what it was – which was: a home shoe-polishing and maintenance kit, in a wooden box – was that my father had a kit exactly like it when I was a kid growing up at the Manse. It was important for my dad, a United Church minister, to look presentable when he was out on ministerial duty, and in the early 1960s part of looking presentable was having shoes that weren’t all scuffed up. And since there weren’t exactly a lot of shoe-shiners in the little towns near Queensborough (and since there was no money to spare for such luxuries in our household anyway), one had to do one’s shoe care oneself. Hence the need for the shoe-care kit in the wooden box, with the angled thingy on top on which you placed your shoe while polishing and buffing it.
What a wonderful gift! And now it is right back where Dad’s old shoe kit used to be, in the closet of the master bedroom at the Manse. It makes me smile every time I see it; and one of these times I must take out the brushes, acquire some polish, and actually try using it. I would look much more presentable if I did.
What do the Beach Boys and Hymn Sing, an old CBC-TV show, have in common? Well, they’re both part of tonight’s Meanwhile, at the Manse post! My thanks to another blogger, Tracy at Tracy Takes the Cake, for finding this period-piece photo.
So my friend Earl has weighed in again, this time on my Manse Years Musical Challenge, offering up quite a lovely version of The Beach Boys‘ God Only Knows, sans instrumentation. Pretty much reinforces what a musical genius Brian Wilson was (and is), and how amazing their harmonies were. Earl’s comment was, “When these guys hit all the right notes, instead of fighting and self-destructing, they were doing secular hymns.” Let’s have a look and listen, and then (you won’t be surprised to know) I have a few more thoughts – odd places my brain took me when I was thinking about the Beach Boys and Earl’s comment. But first, take it away, Brian:
Okay, so there’s that. But Earl’s phrase “secular hymns” got me thinking about an old CBC-TV show, partly because the show featured hymns, and partly because when Earl and I worked together at the Montreal Gazette we shared many a happy (and hilarious) reminiscence of old CBC-TV programs. First and foremost being – how could it not? – Front Page Challenge, though a close second was Razzle Dazzle, complete with Howard the Turtle and of course the pretty and fresh-faced Trudy Young. More on those shows another day, perhaps. For now, let’s talk about Hymn Sing.
Do you remember it, folks? It aired on Sunday afternoons back in my childhood at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s and ’70s. (And in fact I was astonished just now to discover that it kept going until 1995.) It featured an extraordinarily white group of youngish people, nicely dressed and singing favourite hymns. It was a thoroughly pleasant show, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for good hymns; but it was a bit – well, stiff, shall we say. (And did I mention white?)
If you’d like to know more about the show – like, did you know it was produced in Winnipeg? – you can find it here; and if you’re a total Hymn Sing nut, you can get an episode-by-episode guide here. (If you ask me, that’s a bit much.) Sadly I was unable to find any videos of those young people actually singing, but those of us who remember the show can always replay it in our heads.
I do, however, have one little treat for you: the song those nice young people always sang as the closing credits rolled. Close your eyes and it’ll take you right back to Sunday afternoons at the Manse, or wherever in Canada you happened to grow up:
Okay, now I think it’s time to go back and close with Brian Wilson and my own favourite Beach Boys song. Not a secular hymn, perhaps, but the harmonies are – well, divine. And since it’s a promotional video for the band from way back in the day, it’s got a happy 1960s madcap air to it too. Something to enjoy on a Friday night!
O’Hara Mill (whose historic log house is featured in this delightful photo illustration from Quinte Conservation) will be welcoming visitors to its Christmas event this Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening. It is a lovely way to get into the mood for an old-fashioned Christmas.
You might think that weekends here in our extremely rural part of Hastings County would be quiet, without that much to do. But if you thought that, you would be totally wrong.
Here it is Thursday night and I just don’t know how Raymond and I are going to get to everything we’d like to this coming weekend, what with all that’s going on in the Madoc-Tweed area. Among the major events:
And speaking of Tweed, that village’s Santa Claus parade is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Can it top Madoc’s nighttime parade of a week earlier?
Another very big event in Tweed is the annual Festival of Trees, which I confess I have not attended before and the concept of which I am still rather fuzzy on. I gather there are beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths to see and buy tickets on, and if you’re lucky you will win one of them. This event has raised lots of money for local good causes over the years, so I think it’s high time Raymond and I took it in.
And finally, on Saturday at the Marble Arts Centre (the former United Church, and it really is made of cream-coloured marble from local quarries) in the Elzevir Township hamlet of Actinolite there is a family Christmas event featuring a student theatre production, seasonal readings, and Christmas treats to eat.
So much to do!
Not to mention the fact that Raymond and I have to get a Christmas tree, and set it up and decorate it. And put up the exterior Christmas lights. And do all the regular household chores. And of course go to the dump.
Who ever said that country living was slow and peaceful?
I am sure many of you remember a card-table set exactly like this being in your family home, or maybe (like me) at that of your grandparents. What better place for a game of Chinese checkers?
So there’s been some good action in the comments section of my recent post on vintage tabletop hockey games (you can skip to the comments section here). One of the things that my friend Earl (whom we have to thank for this whole tabletop-hockey thread) said in a comment today really stuck with me. He was writing about the Munro Hockey Game, a bare-bones tabletop model that brought endless hours of fun to kids in the middle of the last century. As you can read here, the game was invented and produced by Donald Munro in his Toronto home, and it caught on thanks to being picked up and marketed by the two Canadian retail (and catalogue) giants, Eaton’s and Simpson’s. As Earl put it so well, it was back in “that halcyon Murray Westgate era when Canadians still made things with their own hands.” (As opposed to importing them from China, as we do today.)
Anyway, that got me thinking about a couple of other things that I’ve happily collected for the Manse, including the folding card-table set that you see atop this post (placed in the Manse’s children’s corner, which features a lot of vintage Fisher-Price toys). You do remember this table-and-chair set, right? Of course you do. Your grandparents had it. Everyone’s grandparents had it back in the 1960s. It was where you played your first-ever game of Monopoly, after you were given it for Christmas in about 1968. Where your grandparents played Canasta with friends. Where your little brother was parked to do crayon drawings when he was underfoot.
Oh all right, that’s all me (and my little brother). But I know that most readers have most certainly seen just this chair-and-table set before. And I’m guessing that the reason is that it was probably sold, like Donald Munro’s tabletop hockey game, through the Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues. The ubiquity and popularity of those handy retail tools made many such items equally ubiquitous in Canadian households.
You know me well enough by now to know that I was very happy indeed when I found such a table-and-chairs set for sale at the Stratford (Ont.) Antique Warehouse and so could add it to my midcentury collection. But it was only when I got it unloaded at the Manse that I discovered something that added to its niftiness, aside from my childhood Monopoly memories. Look at this label, still affixed to one (and only one) of the chairs:
Made in little Brighton, Ont.! (Not very far away from the Manse in Queensborough, as it happens.) Given the aforementioned ubiquity of these sets, I’m guessing that Cooey Metal Products Limited of Brighton was just pumping them out for a few decades to fill demand. (In fact, thanks to the internet and more specifically a post on an interesting blog I’ve just discovered called Progress is fine, but it’s gone on for too long, I have learned that Cooey Metal Products was “a manufacturer of utility metal furniture, such as stacking chairs, folding card tables and chairs which were sold through large retail chains and furniture stores across Canada. The plant was in operation from 1941 (to) 1989.”
It’s interesting to think that once upon a time in small towns and cities across Canada there were modest-sized factories manufacturing all manner of things – things that Canadians needed, wanted and used.
I said at the outset that I would try to dig up entertaining YouTube videos of at least some of the nominees and post them from time to time so that we all could enjoy the good stuff from those years, which in my humble opinion are unmatched in pop-music excellence. And so, since good music is what’s needed to cheer a person up on a dreary day, and since the weather forecast is dreary dreary dreary for the next few days (first dreary mild, then dreary cold), I thought this evening would be a good time to prepare us all by bringing some warm cheer through more of your Manse-years song nominees.
This evening I’m giving you some of the ones that came in when I put that original Meanwhile, at the Manse blog post on Facebook – not something I do often (or ever, actually), but I did do it that once. So these nominations came on Facebook, as opposed to here at the blog, which means many of you might not have seen them. And they are excellent song suggestions! Guaranteed to make you feel good.
One, from excellent mystery author (new book Something Fishy in stores now!) Hilary MacLeod, an old friend of Raymond and a more recent friend of me, was The Beatles’ This Boy, and you can of course see that one (the lads performing it on The Ed Sullivan Show) atop this post.
And here are some more! From my high-school friend Clayton, more Beatles:
From our former colleague Alan Hustak, one that reminds me of my need to do a post about songs that were utterly ubiquitous back in the day – but that, now I look at this video, really was brilliant (as was Barbra Streisand):
And finally, from another former colleague, Johanne Durocher Norchet, one of my favourite songs of all eternity (and I’m only sorry the video is so, well, static, but the song’s brilliance makes up for it)… Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Otis Redding: