“Pack up all your dishes; make note of all good wishes”

Red truck, Kincaid House and mock orange

A happy photo taken this morning, showing Raymond’s bright-red truck, the historic Kincaid House next to the Manse that Raymond and I are now the proud owners of, and the mock-orange shrub that is sprouting its way to a return from what we thought last year was dead – all under brilliant sunshine and a beautiful blue Queensborough sky – pretty much epitomizes the happiness I feel about being home for good.

Two things happened in this past week that were a big deal for Raymond and me here at the Manse. And as it happens, they kind of connected with each other. In chronological order, they were:

One: Guy Clark, a matchless American/Americana songwriter and performer, died, and you can read a well-done obituary and appreciation here. The year 2016 has been one of tough losses in the music world, what with David Bowie and Glenn Frey and Prince all moving on from this particular plane; and though Guy had been in poor health for some time and his death was not unexpected, his departure leaves yet another big gap.

Two: We said a final goodbye to our life in Outremont, Montreal, Quebec. This past Friday we packed up the very last of the stuff that was kicking around the condo we had owned there for the past 11 years, signed the papers that will turn ownership of it over to another family as of Tuesday, May 24 (when you’re probably reading this), and – with both red Ford Ranger truck and grey Toyota Corolla loaded to the gills – headed west on Highways 401 and then 7 one last time, to permanent full-time residence at the Manse in Queensborough. I have irrevocably returned to the house and community I grew up in. My dear Raymond has, uncomplainingly and endlessly supportively, come along for the ride.

Bill and Raymond packing up the red truck

Our dear friend and upstairs neighbour Bill (left) helping Raymond pack the red truck with the last of our Montreal belongings.

As we packed the red truck in Montreal under a hot sun on Friday morning, with the help of our upstairs neighbours and dear friends (and fantastic musicians) Bill and Sue, I couldn’t help thinking of one of Guy Clark’s best-known songs, the first track on his first album (Old No. 1) released way back in 1975. (The very year, as it happens, that my family moved away from Queensborough after my happy childhood there.) It’s called L.A. Freeway, and it’s about moving from huge Los Angeles to a very much smaller and more rural place.

“Pack up all your dishes,” Guy counsels his beautiful artist/songwriter wife Susanna at the start of the song. “Make note of all good wishes … Throw out them LA papers, and that mouldy box of vanilla wafers.
Adios to all this concrete.
Gonna get me some dirt road back street – ”

And then he goes into the well-known chorus, which also resonated with me, given that Montreal, for all its wonderful attributes, has (as I learned on the very first day I drove in to live there, way back in summer 1997), horribly designed and downright terrifying highways. I couldn’t get the words out of my head as I drove the packed-up, non-air-conditioned red truck west out of the city one last time:

If I can just get off of this L.A. [Montreal] freeway without getting killed or caught
I’ll be down the road in a cloud of smoke to some land that I ain’t bought…

Well, Raymond and I in 2016 weren’t quite like Guy and Susanna in 1975; we had bought land, or at least a house – our Manse – on “some dirt road back street,” and we had already built a life there, and we were on that day bringing the last remnants of our old city life to it. And here are the kinds of things we saw and appreciated once we were home on this gorgeous holiday weekend:

Phlox, spring 2016

The phlox that I planted very successfully are returning for another year.

Day lilies soon, spring 2016

The day lilies that will soon be a sea of orange loveliness behind the Manse’s old garage.

Wildflowers and dandelions on the lawn, spring 2016

Purple wildflowers (who knows what they are?) and bright-yellow happy dandelions on Victoria Day 2016 at the Manse.

Laundry on the clothesline, 2016

Laundry on the clothesline on a great drying day!

The maple tree and the Tree of Life, Spring 2016

The maple tree that we planted a few years ago, doing very well; and the Tree of Life in the background.

The Manse's elm tree, spring 2016

Our happy little elm tree, getting a whole lot bigger.

As you can probably guess, I am happy to be in Queensborough.

But let’s close off by listening to Guy Clark’s gorgeous song about leaving the city behind for a better, simpler life. This video shows the cover of that great first album, Old No. 1, and the painting on it of Guy’s denim shirt by Susanna. Those two were a wondrous creative pair. Guy’s words to her in the song ring so true: “Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe; love’s a gift that’s surely handmade. We’ve got something to believe in. Don’t you think it’s time we’re leaving…” Adiós, Guy, and thanks for everything – including the inspiration.

A brief glimpse of a sign from times past

Pigden Motor Sales sign at Bush Furniture

What a thrill it was to see the old Pigden Motor Sales sign revealed once again, thanks to renovations of the exterior of the Bush Furniture store in Madoc!

I shouldn’t wait too much longer to file a report on something interesting and cool that happened in the nearby village of Madoc (which is “town” for us Queensborough people, at least on the days when Tweed doesn’t fit that bill) not very long ago. File this one under “fun blasts from Madoc’s commercial past.”

Northstar fridge red

The retro-style red fridge that I will buy from Bush Furniture one of these days. (Photo from Elmira Stove Works)

Here’s the story: There is an excellent local furniture and appliance store called Bush Furniture, with outlets in both Madoc and Tweed. At the Tweed store I found the refrigerator of my dreams, the retro-style red one that I will have someday, and you can read about that here; meanwhile, Raymond and I have purchased both a more mundane white fridge and a much-needed chest freezer from Bush’s in Madoc, and in both cases we have been thoroughly pleased with the quality of the merchandise, the friendly service, and the efficient delivery of the product. For all those of you in central Hastings County thinking of buying furniture and appliances from the big-box stores in some regional city: I heartily suggest you think again, and go local with the Bush folks. You won’t regret it.)

But anyway. Both Bush Furniture outlets have undergone renovations recently, and the work on the exterior of the Madoc store uncovered a real treasure – if only briefly.

You see, Bush’s in Madoc is located in the building that once housed Pigden Motors, a Dodge/Chrysler dealership back when I was kid growing up here in the Manse in Queensborough. Its location on Russell Street (or is that Russel Street?) was the car-dealership strip in those days; Derry’s Garage, Madoc’s Pontiac-Buick-Chev-GMC dealer, was right across the street. I’m sure there are many stories of the two businesses’ friendly rivalry.

(Meanwhile, I expect there was also a Ford dealership in town back then. Was it Armstrong’s Garage on St. Lawrence Street East? Or Brett’s Garage on Durham Street South? I am hoping a reader can enlighten me. And also, I should send out a shoutout to Madoc’s current car dealership, the bustling operation that is Doug Hunter Ford, carrying on the tradition out there on car-dealership row on Russell Street just south of Highway 7.)

Oh – have I digressed again? Oops. Well, this blog is nothing if not full of digressions.

What I want to say is that the renovations to the exterior of Bush Furniture – still a work in progress as of this date, I believe, which is why I’m not including an “after” photo – briefly revealed the old sign for Pigden Motor Sales. My eyes practically popped out of my head when I saw it, and of course I had to bring my car to a screeching stop and get some photos.

For one thing, I am a sucker for all old painted commercial signs. They are so beautiful, especially when faded and reminding us of businesses that once were so proud to proclaim their existence. But mainly, I was delighted to see that visual reminder of a prosperous and well-respected Madoc business from back in the days when all of us were so much younger.

The painted Pigden Motor Sales signs is covered up again now, and the front of Bush Furniture looks very nice as the renovations continue. But I’m glad to know that the old sign is still under there. And even gladder that I got a chance, even if a very brief one, to see it once again, and to share it with all of you.

Musical memories from Saturday mornings long past

So there I was the other day, driving home from work and minding my own business, when my current favourite local deejay (not that there are very many local deejays to choose from, but still) played a piece of vintage music that took me back to the very earliest days of my childhood. The deejay is, of course, Freddy Vette of good old CJBQ 800 AM out of Belleville, whose weekday-afternoon show of songs from the ’50s and ’60s is hugely popular. Freddy was doing one of his frequent audience-interaction things, inviting listeners to come up with the next few words when he lifted the needle – what? you mean deejays don’t actually spin vinyl records any more? Well, you know what I mean – on the recording of the theme song from none other than the Saturday-morning cartoon show Tales of the Wizard of Oz. (Which, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can watch and listen to at the top of today’s post.)

Now, I have to tell you that until that little radio interlude the other day, I had probably not thought of The Wizard of Oz Saturday-morning cartoon show for – well, let’s just say it was several decades.

vintage TV set

Yes, I know I’m dating myself, but it can’t be helped. This looks a lot like the TV in my grandparents’ living room on which, as a tiny child, I used to watch The Wizard of Oz and Hercules cartoons.

The Wizard of Oz may very well be the first TV show I ever watched, back in the days even before my family moved to the Manse in 1964. While my father completed his divinity studies at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto, we lived with my maternal grandparents in the leafy Toronto suburb of Leaside. And it was there, on the big old black-and-white TV that stood in a corner of my grandparents’ living room, that a very tiny me sometimes watched The Wizard of Oz – about which I can today recall absolutely nothing except its theme song. Let’s just say that if I hadn’t been driving, I could have called up Freddy with the correct response when he stopped the record halfway through: “Oh the world of Oz is a funny, funny place where everyone wears a funny, funny face; the streets are paved with gold – ”

“And no one ever grows old!” I enthusiastically told the radio. (The radio did not, by the way, respond.)

That entertaining exercise got me thinking about other ancient Saturday-morning musical memories – not so much the cartoons themselves, but the theme songs from them. And I thought that you readers – especially the ones old enough to remember and hum along with me – might get a smile if I were to bring a few of those melodies together in this instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse. So come along for the musical ride.

We’ll start with another cartoon that is, in my memory at least, of the same very-early-’60s vintage as The Wizard of Oz. I think this because I remember watching it, too, from the comfort of the yellow upholstered armchair in my grandparents’ living room. How thrilling the theme song for The Mighty Hercules was!

Next I’m going to show you one that’s a bit of a mystery to me. I have always had the dimmest of memories of there being a Saturday morning cartoon show featuring The Beatles, but for all my adult life I thought I must be confused about that because I never found any reference to such a show. That is, until just a few weeks ago when someone posted this on one of those Facebook pages dedicated to funky stuff from back in the day:

ABC cartoons

You’ll notice that the ad’s listing of the cartoon shows does not include mention of The Beatles, but the images of the four chaps front and centre are so distinctive as to leave no doubt. So I realized that my dim memory was right! And then I proceeded to search out the opening theme for the show. I suppose I must have watched it back when I was a kid at the Manse (the glory days of television, as I have argued before), but I confess it brought back no memories whatsoever. Does it for you?

Gotta love And Your Bird Can Sing, though.

Then there was The Jetsons, which has a theme song that’s not terribly catchy but, in my opinion, possibly the best cartoon opening sequence of all time. So mod! So futuristic! Orbit High School! The flying car that folds up to become George’s briefcase! A guy who starts his workday with his feet up on his desk! Man, those were the days – or should I say, those will be the days…

And now, because I was really more a child of the ’70s than the ’60s, I’d like to move forward a few years to when the cartoons featured shaggy-haired kids wearing bell-bottoms, playing in fake bands, and constantly solving mysteries. Here’s one that you kind of had to love:

And speaking of Scooby, let me show you an utterly useless thing that I scored in a fundraising yard sale a couple of years ago at the wonderful Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Stupidest thing ever, but it makes me smile every time I see it. Note the “SD” on Scooby’s collar – as if everyone wouldn’t instantly know who he is!

Scooby

Okay, back to theme songs. This show may have been more of an acquired taste. Early girl power, though:

And finally, because I want you to leave this blog post with an irresistible pop song in your heart, a classic that was not a theme song, but – well, swing it, Betty and Veronica!

Good food, and lots of it, in a historic setting – times two

RMS AscaniaI suppose you might be wondering what on earth an old postcard showing the Cunard ocean liner Ascania has to do with life here at the Manse in Queensborough. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s all about the food.

Along with my love for vintage cookbooks, I have a soft spot for vintage menus. I’ve got a small but interesting collection of them: bills of fare from long-gone midcentury restaurants in various parts of North America, and also menus that were handed out to passengers in the glory days of air and ocean-liner travel, when elegant dining was considered to be an integral part of the excitement of long-distance voyages. I love poring over these menus, imagining the people who once held them to ponder their selection for “luncheon” or dinner. I love the reminders of how things used to be when people dined out, like how it was once common for a glass of tomato juice to be served as an appetizer. I love the way the restaurants, and especially the cruise lines and airlines, did their best to make everything sound so refined and fancy. And I love the vintage prices!

My latest addition to the collection came from an antiques warehouse in the pretty village of Orono, which is a drive of about an hour and three-quarters from Queensborough on the way to Toronto. Orono has done a fabulous job of turning itself into a destination for visitors, with nice restaurants and pretty shops, many of them focused on antiques. In one of those shops this past Saturday, I spotted this delightful image in a boxful of stuff:

Ascania menu front

Because it said “Cunard” on the front, I guessed, correctly, that it was the cover of a long-ago menu from that venerable British luxury cruise line. And here’s that menu, from 62 years ago:

Ascania luncheon menu

Isn’t it lovely? Sounds like some pretty nice gastronomic offerings there on the R.M.S. Ascania, though I’m not too sure what “Home-made Brawn” is, and I’m not entirely sure I want to know. Also, I wonder what “Colonial” cheese is. Maybe it’s the very cheddar that our own Hastings County has specialized in making for more than a century and a half – Canada being, of course, “the colonies” in the eyes of British steamship owners in 1954.

I have subsequently learned that I was on the mark in finding the offerings of the Ascania menu appetizing. How do I know this? Because of this interesting discovery that the internet turned up! It’s the flip side of the colour postcard of the Ascania featured at the top of this post:

Postcard from the Ascania

Note how Jack writes from on board, as the ship is passing Newfoundland and Labrador en route to Montreal, “The boat is very overcrowded but oh Elsie such good food – it makes my heart ache each time I sit down to a meal.” Isn’t that lovely? One can’t read the year on the postmark, but I suspect the card was sent in the years after the Second World War, when England was still suffering from food shortages that would have made the offerings of the Ascania look sumptuous indeed.

Here, from the website of the London Telegraph, is more evidence that the shipboard food was much appreciated: a lovely memoir by a chap named Cyril Collie of emigrating from England to Canada on board the Ascania in February 1952. He reports, in part:

“The Ascania was not a luxury liner but to me it was first class all the way. I shared a stuffy inside cabin with three other young men, two of whom spoke very little English. Along with many others on board they were refugees who had survived the holocaust and were seeking a new life in Canada.

“Britain at that time was still a country of shortages and rationing and I’d known little else since age 11 when the war had started. There were no such conditions on the Ascania. It was as though we entered another world.

“The food was excellent, plentiful and we could order anything we wanted. Any amount of liquor, chocolates and cigarettes could be purchased at tax free prices. Overnight we went from a world of austerity to a haven of abundance.”

I wondered if there was any way to find out where exactly the Ascania had been on the day my luncheon menu was handed out to its passengers – Wednesday, March 17, 1954. I didn’t find that, but I did discover from various sites, including this one and this one, that at the time the Ascania sailed the route between Liverpool and Montreal – and that in 1957, only three years after that menu was printed, the ship was decommissioned and destroyed.

So that’s a lot of history learned thanks to one luncheon menu!

And now, while I have your attention and we’re talking about food, let’s turn to your opportunity to eat very well in historic surroundings. Not a vintage Cunard ocean liner, granted, but the homey and historic setting of the Queensborough Community Centre, our village’s former one-room schoolhouse. Here are the details:

Pancake Breakfast 2016 poster

That would be this coming Sunday, people, and you don’t want to miss it. Not only is the food good and plentiful, but the company – your neighbours and friends, whether you’ve known them all your life or have just met them – is second to none. And as an added bonus, this year you get to admire a fantastic bit of renovation that’s just been completed: the schoolhouse’s classic original tin ceiling has been freshly painted, and looks wonderful!

Newly painted ceiling at the QCC

The newly painted ceiling at the Queensborough Community Centre – another beautifully executed project by Queensborough craftsman Ed Couperus. (Photo courtesy of the Queensborough Community Centre Facebook page)

The food may have been bountiful and delicious aboard the Ascania, but somehow I doubt the shipboard breakfast buffet could compare with the new-crop maple syrup, freshly made pancakes, sizzling bacon and sausages, soft scrambled eggs and buttery warm toast that you’ll enjoy at the Queensborough Pancake Breakfast this Sunday morning. I’m getting really hungry just thinking about it.

Or maybe I’ll rephrase that by echoing Jack in his postcard to Elsie: “It makes my heart ache.” We are blessed with bounty!

Engelbert Humperdinck. Yes, you heard right.

What can I say, people? Lately I’ve been thinking about Engelbert Humperdinck.

And no, I don’t mean the 19th-century German composer. I mean the crooner (although apparently he hates having the term “crooner” applied to him) who was ever so popular in pretty much exactly the time period (mid-1960s to mid-1970s) when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse in Queensborough.

Engelbert Humperdinck Another Time, Another Place

The only Engelbert Humperdinck album the Manse had ever had – until recently.

The Sedgwicks were not big Engelbert Humperdinck fans. I believe we owned exactly one of his records (and being a detail person, I’ll tell you that it was this one). And I’m fairly certain that it entered our household only as a result of us having had to order a certain number of albums from the Columbia House Record Club, or another of those “get-15-albums for 99¢!” record clubs that were so popular back in those days. Since the last time the last song on that album (which was I’m Holding Your Memory, But He’s Holding You, if you must know) spun its way around the turntable on the old Electrohome (or was it RCA?) stereo here at the Manse in 1974 or 1975, I doubt I’d thought of Engelbert Humperdinck more than three times. Until about two months ago. But weirdly, he’s come across my aural radar screen several times since.

That first time, a couple of months ago, I was driving to Kingston and amusing myself by listening to the Jim Wright oldies show (I love that show) on good old CJBQ radio, the Belleville-based station of my youth that I’ve written about many times before. Just as I turned off the Marlbank Road, an unintroduced easy-listening-type song by a guy with (I soon decided) a really great voice came on. The voice was oh so familiar, and yet I just couldn’t put my finger on which of the crooners of the late ’60s/early ’70s it might have belonged to. Tom Jones? Not rough and sexy enough. Frank Sinatra? Way too modern-sounding (well, mid-century modern) for that. Pat Boone? Perish the thought. It was a little too cool for that. Elvis? No, not the distinctive voice. By process of elimination, I decided that Engelbert Humperdinck was my best guess. And when Jim got back on the mike, I learned I was right!

But then I almost immediately forgot what song it was, which tends to be the case with those interchangeable midcentury crooner songs. I think it might have been this one – which I will tell you, at the risk of getting ahead of myself, has now become one of my favourite Engelbert Humperdinck numbers because of its sheer hummability:

Or maybe it was this one, which is, frankly, pretty great:

But anyway, it got me thinking after all these years – nay, decades! – about Engelbert Humperdinck. And not just thinking about him, but re-evaluating him. Because I’d always considered him a lower-end Tom Jones, a showboat at whom women even more desperate than were Tom Jones fans would fling underwear at concerts. (And that was true; that did happen.) But what I’d failed to appreciate in my younger days, when I was listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan and (embarrassingly) the Partridge Family, when I was so (I thought) much smarter than anyone a generation or more older than I, was that Engelbert Humperdinck had – and has – an amazing voice, and an insanely great way of delivering a song.

And so when I happened across an album called Engelbert Humperdinck: His Greatest Hits in the used-record bin one recent Saturday at the wonderful thrift shop in downtown Madoc, I snapped it up, cheesy cover photos and all:

Engelbert Humperdinck's Greatest Hits front cover Engelbert Humperdinck's Greatest Hits back cover

And I took it home and listened to it. And, well… have been humming Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, and Spanish Eyes, and Release Me, and The Last Waltz, on and off ever since.

(But not Quando Quando Quando. That is a terrible song, and I defy anyone to say otherwise.)

Then a couple of weekends ago, I came across still more Humperdinckia!

Engelbert Humperdinck Souvenir Song Album

Yup, it’s an old, battered and stained collection of Engelbert songs, though not really his greatest hits; this one is more about songs made famous by others (Gentle On My Mind, for instance) that he had also covered. But still, it is a great piece of midcentury nostalgia, and I love it.

And hey! Should I ever need to know the chords for A Man Without Love – well, I’ve got them.

But meanwhile, let’s leave with another great song by Engelbert Humperdinck from back in his prime. Heck, let’s go all out and have his greatest hit ever. It’s got emotion, and a love that’s grown cold, and a hot new love waiting in the wings. Not to mention one of those sleek and funky late-1960s microphones. What more could you want?

The lucky penny from long ago

The lucky pennyThe Manse had some houseguests this past week, and that was a very nice thing. But this story is not about the houseguests, delightful as it was to spend some time again with Raymond’s sisters from the Boston area. This story is about what happened just before the guests got here.

I suspect I am not alone in having a tendency to leave serious housecleaning duties until I am forced into it by the imminent arrival of guests. (I should add that my husband, who leans toward the neat-freak category – though in the nicest possible way – does not have this failing.) So as usual in the day or two leading up to the visit, I transformed myself into a bit of a Bugs Bunny Tasmanian Devil, whipping around the house, upstairs and down, dusting, washing, Windexing and especially tidying (i.e. putting things where they should have been put when they first entered the Manse, as opposed to an in-between spot on one of the Manse’s two stairways as they awaited their final landing place). Raymond of course did his part (to put it mildly) with lots of cleaning and tidying and especially vacuuming, a task that I loathe.

Sieste the cat in my old bedroom

The view (featuring the late and much-loved Sieste the cat) of the childhood bedroom of my sister, Melanie, and me

Anyway. On the evening before the visit, I was up in one of the guest bedrooms, a spot particularly close to my heart because it was my bedroom (well, mine and my sister’s) through my childhood and early teens when I was growing up in this very house. I was in the process of putting nice crisp linens on the bed, which of course means doing a lot of back and forth, tucking in sheets and whatnot. And as I was doing this back and forth around the bed, something caught my eye.

Vintage linoleum mat 1

A detail from one of the Manse’s linoleum mats, this one in the master bedroom.

It was a small round raised spot in the vintage linoleum mat that covers much of the wooden floor of that bedroom, and in fact all the bedrooms in the Manse. Long ago – that post is here – I told you about how delighted I was when Raymond and I discovered these midcentury floor coverings not long after buying the Manse, as part of the necessary task of removing some 1970s carpeting that had seen better days many days before. At the time I wrote about somehow preserving some semblance of those linoleum “carpets” laid down on the original wooden floors; since then, we have grown extremely attached to them, and it is very likely they will remain just where they are even after the house is renovated. They are a lovely vernacular midcentury touch, and the colours are cool.

But back to that round raised spot. Here’s what it looked like (centre of the photo, tending toward the bottom – it’s hard to spot, and so you can probably understand why no one had seen it before this):

Penny-shaped outline in the vintage linoleum mat

“It looks like there might have been a coin stuck under there once,” I mused absent-mindedly to myself as I fluffed pillows and tucked in corners. And then I stopped and looked at it again, and said to myself, “Hey, self – maybe there is a coin stuck under there.” And reached under the linoleum mat. And pulled out – a penny from 1965.

Nineteen-sixty-five, people! Do you realize how long ago that is?

In 1965, Expo 67 was still in the planning stages. Nobody had heard of Pierre Trudeau. John Robarts was the premier of Ontario, and you couldn’t order a drink on a Sunday in his province. The Sound of Music was the movie of the year. The pop hits included a brand-new number from the Rolling Stones called Satisfaction …

… as well as Help!, Ticket to Ride and Eight Days a Week from the Beatles, What’s New, Pussycat? by Tom Jones, Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers, and one of my all-time favourites, Petula Clark’s Downtown. Oh, and Roger Miller’s classic King of the Road:

I was five years old.

My family had only moved into the Manse the year before as my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, took up duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say that rural ministers in those days did not make princely salaries. Which means that no coins, even pennies – “coppers,” my dad used to call them, now that I think of it – went to waste at the Manse. Why, that penny could have bought my sister or me two blackballs or two wintergreens from the vast penny-candy selection at McMurray’s general store “down’t street” in Queensborough! We would never have let it go astray knowingly.

But go astray it somehow did – very possibly not right in 1965, when it was newly minted; but sometime before the linoleum mats were covered by that garish carpeting early in the 1970s. And there the penny lay from that day until this past Tuesday night, April 5, 2016. Forty-five years or so.

Call me sentimental, but as I examined the penny I’d just discovered, I couldn’t help but think about all the things that had happened in those 45 or so years – things that had happened in that very room; in this Manse; and in this big old world. As the penny lay hidden, I grew from a little kid into a teenager; my family moved away from this house, and a series of other ministers and their families came and went; prime ministers and presidents took the world stage and moved on; movie hits went from the sweetness of The Sound of Music to the grittiness of Midnight Cowboy and Chinatown, and then on to the megahits like Star Wars and all those comic-book-themed extravaganzas. Pop music went from the Beatles to the Eagles to Fleetwood Mac to the Sex Pistols to Nirvana to Kanye and Beyoncé. And still the penny lay hidden and unchanged, even as every single thing in the world around it changed practically beyond recognition.

You won’t be surprised to know that I have stored the penny in a special place, and that I think of it as my lucky penny. There are times – and the evening that I found it was one of them – when I think I am the luckiest person in the world, to be living once again in the house I grew up in, in the beautiful and largely undiscovered corner of the world that we locals call North of 7. And to have seen and lived through as much as I have, the wonders that this wonderful world has to offer, in all the years that my penny lay hidden and lost.

Is it silly to say that I wish the penny could tell me the stories of what transpired in my old bedroom through all those years it lay there?

Is it silly to say that I’d like to tell my penny some of the stories of the things that have happened to me in all those years?

It probably is. And maybe those stories don’t even need to be told. But I’m glad I have been prompted at least to think about them, and about all that can happen as a penny lies lost. My lucky penny was a lucky find.

The agricultural event of the year is coming to Queensborough

Cornervue Farms, site of the 2016 plowing match

The McKinnon family’s Cornervue Farms on Queensborough Road will be where all the action is this coming Aug. 24 and 25 at the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show.

“A time-honoured practice of plowing the soil still has its place in agricultural practices today, and achieving the elusive perfect furrow continues to challenge plowmen and women.” So begins the section called Plowing on the website of the 2016 Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show. And I think it’s a good place to begin today’s instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse.

Why? Well, mainly because this instalment is about the happy fact that the 2016 Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show is going to be happening right down the road from Queensborough. That’s going to be more excitement and activity than this neck of the woods has seen in quite some time!

Hastings County Plowing Match 2016

But also because I expect there are some readers – urban folks – who are wondering: “What on earth is a plowing match?” Those readers – and any others who’d like to know more about the contest “to achieve the perfect furrow,” whether with a modern tractor, an antique tractor, or a team of horses, can read lots more here.

I personally am looking forward to watching competitors try to achieve that perfect furrow – and, being the inquisitive journalistic type, to learning through observation of the judges what exactly constitutes “the perfect furrow” in the first place. I may have grown up in a rural setting here in Queensborough, but the fine points of plowing are not something I’m particularly familiar with.

Mainly, though, I am excited that a farm in our little neighbourhood is going to play host to this big event. In recent years, farms in the Stirling area and down south in Tyendinaga Township have been the site of the Hastings plowing match; this time round, the choice is the farm of Don and Angus McKinnon. The McKinnons, father and son, have a fine spread that runs quite a distance along Queensborough Road just west of our village, in Madoc Township. The focus of the event will be Angus’s Cornervue Farms at 2431 Queensborough Rd.

Plowing

This is what it’s all about, people. But if you’re not that into plowing, there are food and merchandise tents and lots of other activities.

This will be only the second plowing match I’ll have attended in my life, and the first one was a very long time ago – 1970, in fact, the International Plowing Match held in Victoria County (now called Kawartha Lakes). I don’t remember much about that long-ago event, save that there were tons of food and merchandise tents, lots of displays about all manner of farm equipment and products, and so much mud – it rained – that my kid-sized rubber boots would stick in it and my feet would come right out of them when I tried to walk. I had a ball! (And somewhere I probably still have the vintage sample-sized tin of 3-in-One Oil that was one of the giveaways at the merchandise tents.)

County plowing matches are not as big a deal as “international” plowing matches. (I put “international” in quotation marks because I do not believe that there are a lot of competitors from, say, Spain, China or Kenya at those affairs. Here is a fun and nostalgic read about them, though.) But the county matches attract many hundreds of spectators and competitors, and they’re a huge deal on the regional farm scene. They are two days when farmers and farm families take a bit of a break from their toils and get together with their friends and fellow farmers to compare notes, look at new products, shoot the breeze – and, yes, check out that elusive quest for the perfect furrow. In a rural area like this, agricultural events don’t get any bigger.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that there will also be lots of good food at this event. Basically when you come to any farm event you are going to be well-fed – but especially in Queensborough, where, as I’ve often reported, we know how to feed people. One of the food tents that will be set up at the plowing match will be run by folks from St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, Bethesda United Church at White Lake, and St. John’s United Church in Tweed. Our three churches form an informal pastoral charge, and the food tent will be a fundraiser for the work of the churches. As anyone who has ever enjoyed the annual Ham Supper or Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s knows, the food will be good and plentiful. As regulars at St. Andrew’s, Raymond and I are looking forward to meeting and helping feed all the visitors to the show.

So there you have it, people: two days of your summer all mapped out for you.

Welcome to QueensboroughMake your plans now to head to 2431 Queensborough Rd. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, and/or Thursday, Aug. 25. Spend the day watching some fine plowing, catching up on all that’s new on the tractor and farm-equipment front, enjoying the activities at the family tent, and of course eating some great food prepared by our church group and other community organizations. At some point take the short (less than five minutes) drive east along Queensborough Road into beautiful “downtown” Queensborough and admire our historic little village on the Black River:

Downtown Queensborough, summer

“Downtown” Queensborough, summertime.

If you’re coming from “away,” you might consider staying overnight in one of the motels, campgrounds or bed and breakfasts that the nearby towns of Madoc and Tweed have to offer, and learning more about this beautiful part of the world that I’m always telling you about.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one either serving you up a hamburger – or still trying to figure out what makes one furrow more perfect than another. Come say hello!