The nice people you meet when you buy the house you grew up in, in Elzevir Township

Ladybugs are lucky, right? So it was a good sign when I found one on the living-room floor in the Manse. And indeed we have been lucky in connecting with so many people who have helped us on this adventure.

It’s uncanny how often, since we embarked on this adventure with the Manse, Raymond and I have turned to each other and said, “People are so nice!”

Is there something in the water in central Hastings County that just makes people nice?

I mean, people in Montreal are not not nice; far from it. But so many people in Queensborough, Madoc, Tweed and beyond – most of them people who didn’t know us from Adam – have gone the extra mile to be helpful, and seemed to be happy to do it. It has been quite extraordinary.

So tonight being Friday night, when a person feels happy because it is, after all, the best night of the week, I think it’s time for a mention of the many people who’ve helped and the many ways in which they’ve done so.

In no order whatsoever:

The small but active congregation of St. Andrew’s United Church, Queensborough, Ont., who welcomed us in from the cold for the service on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 22, just days before we were to take possession of the Manse. You could easily see how folks in that situation might feel a little sad or even resentful that the Manse, which had been the church’s property since its inception, had had to be sold. But they – and the lay minister for the day, Jim Mayhew – could not have been nicer. It was wonderful to see friends from a long time ago – when they were The Ladies Of The Church, and I was just a kid: Pauline Harris, Ruth Holmes, Betty Sexsmith and Jean Tokley.

Shelley Morley, then of Coldwell Banker Ekort Realty and just recently moved to ReMax Quinte, who patiently showed us the house more than once, held our hands while we dithered, talked us down when we (okay, I) verged on panic, talked us through all those complicated purchase documents, and offered help and guidance above and beyond what a realtor needs to do.

Joan and Terry Mandzy, who work so hard for St. Andrew’s United Church. Joan had been my pen pal for years, ever since she took over as church treasurer after the death of the legendary Bobbie Ramsay, general-store proprietor and unofficial mayor-for-life of Queensborough. Joan was great about keeping me up to date on how the church was doing and letting me know about special services and community events. When Raymond and I made our first visit to Queensborough after our offer to purchase the Manse had been accepted but we had not yet taken possession, Terry made arrangements for us to get into the house and do a whole bunch of measuring – and spent hours ahead of our arrival shovelling the front walk after a terrible snow and ice storm. Talk about above and beyond! And then they invited us for a lovely lunch after the morning service at St. Andrew’s, sensing (rightly) that we had made no arrangements to feed ourselves. (And there aren’t exactly any cafés or restaurants in Queensborough.)

Connie Robinson of McDougall Insurance in Madoc, who got us through the ins and outs of getting insurance on our 124-year-old house, which got slightly tricky because it’s a house with an oil tank. (Insurance companies are not crazy about oil tanks any more, it seems. But we will take good care of ours.)

Judy Smith of the Madoc TD Canada Trust branch who, when we thought we’d never be able to swing a mortgage, made it seem easy. Judy, who came to Madoc quite a while ago from a huge city at the farthest extreme of the country – Vancouver! – was also encouraging because she appreciates the area so much. “You’ll love the lifestyle here,” she told us.

Elaine Kapusta (and by extension her husband, Lud). I’ve already mentioned Elaine and Lud many times in the blog. They work so enthusiastically to keep the community vibrant. I will never forget the time Elaine spent the best part of an hour on the phone with me, calling from Montreal, wanting to pick her brain about what it was really like to return to the house she grew up in. (We are forming a club, you know.)

The staff at the Madoc Home Hardware. Just before our first-ever visit to the Manse as the owners, we stopped in to load up on cleaning supplies, rags, a bucket, a stepladder, a broom, etc. etc. etc. When they found out what we were up to they were most encouraging.

The folks at Don Wood Fuels in Tweed, who are all set to keep the aforementioned oil tank topped up whenever it needs it, whether Raymond and I know it needs it or not.

Karen Yarrow of the Madoc legal firm Bailey Yarrow. Karen’s multiple degrees – not just in law, but also in teaching and nursing – would make her intimidating, if she weren’t so nice. She did a great job for us in handling all the legal details of the sale. And I must also mention Andrea, Karen’s assistant.

Elaine Vannest, tax and property assistant for the Municipality of Tweed. Very helpful when I called her to inquire about details of the property-tax setup, and terrific when we stopped in to the municipal offices. She helped us with tax queries, dump queries (very important in a rural municipality) and recycling queries, and steered us to other sources of information and help.

Hilary Macleod, of Prince Edward County (and Prince Edward Island too), who has been a friend of Raymond for many years, is a professor in the School of Media Studies at Loyalist College in Belleville, and who has given us good advice on house renovations – and steered us to a wonderful restaurant in Belleville called Capers. Okay, the name is a tad unfortunate (sounds like 1980s Peterborough, Ont.), but ignore that. Go there, people living in or visiting the area! Locally sourced food and wine, thoughtful presentation and service. A delight.

Have you noticed how many of these people are women, by the way?

But not all; there’s also:

Ed Couperus, who keeps an eagle eye on the Manse for us and has lots of knowledge and good advice. And who brought us a bottle of his homemade chokecherry (from local chokecherry bushes) wine as a housewarming gift!

Tim Rashotte, owner of the Rashotte Home Building Centre in Tweed, who took 45 minutes out of what was doubtless a busy day to talk to us about our Manse project, offer advice and answer questions.

Don Reed, the chief building inspector in Tweed and several other Hastings municipalities, who happened to be in the Tweed municipal building the day we stopped in and answered questions about building permits and the like (for renovations), and also offered good advice.

Evan Morton, local historian extraordinaire, who keeps the home fires burning at the Tweed Heritage Centre, writes a great column in the weekly Tweed News, and is a tireless gatherer, protector and disseminator of local history. (And has been known to fill in as pianist at St. Andrew’s United Church when needed too.) I emailed Evan one evening this week, hoping he could help me in my search for a copy of the long-out-of-print book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. Got a very helpful and friendly reply back almost immediately. I know that Evan and Raymond and I will have many more chats in times to come, and we look forward to becoming members of the Heritage Centre.

Fred Middleton of Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Co., who came to do the requisite insurance-company inspection of the Manse and while there affably shared so many great stories about the colourful history of various parts of Hastings County.

And finally, the latest example of someone who came out of the blue and was very kind: Gary Fordyce of Oshawa, collector and seller of local-history books from all over Ontario. It turns out that the abovementioned Times to Remember in Elzevir Township is so scarce as to be hugely expensive if you can find it. On the excellent used-book network Abebooks it starts at $150; though used-book sellers on Amazon it’s $252. But Raymond discovered that at Kijiji, Gary was selling it at a much more manageable (though still not cheap!) $70. I had an extremely pleasant chat on the phone with Gary today; he’s a retired railway worker who, as a result of his job, has been all over the place, and has taken an interest in history and many other things. He told me that whenever he has a book to sell he consults other online sources and makes sure to make his price lower. What a gem! With any luck my copy of the Elzevir Township history, purchased of course from Gary, will arrive by the middle of next week. You can check out all the other treasures he has here.

Good folks all. This has been so much fun!

6 thoughts on “The nice people you meet when you buy the house you grew up in, in Elzevir Township

  1. “Elzevir” sounds alarmingly foreign by Hastings County standards, doesn’t it? What’s the story on the name?

    Another query: when you lived there, do you remember, was your MP George Hees? I knew him slightly when I was in the press gallery in Ottawa. Hees was a rich kid, a CFL star, had a good war, then became an industrial tycoon. He was a dapper sophisticate, ladies’ man, and and party animal, with a good sense of humour and a quick wit. When I was in Ottawa his riding was called Prince-Edward Hastings; his aristocratic manner led people to call him “Prince George of Hastings” but almost everybody liked him. Including Gerda Munsinger.

    • Brian, you have (ever the editor) made me do research! But it was interesting research, so thank you. I don’t yet have an answer on why Elzevir Township is so named, but I’m hoping that when my copy of Times to Remember in Elzevir Township arrives I’ll have that for you. Funny, when I lived there I never thought of it as a foreign-sounding name, but now that you mention it it does sound rather exotic, doesn’t it? More anon.
      But as to the MPs I have lived though:
      George Hees (“Gorgeous George,” as some called him), ex-CFL star and all-round Dapper Dan, was never our MP back there in Elzevir Township. After his return from the political desert post-Gerda Munsinger (during which he was president of the Montreal Stock Exchange, I discovered; who knew?), he ran for the Tories in Northumberland riding in the 1965 election, defeating the incumbent, Liberal Pauline Jewett (again, who knew?). The Northumberland riding then became part of Prince Edward-Hastings riding, and Gorgeous George was re-elected there in 1968, 1972, and 1974. But the “Hastings” part of that riding was the southernmost part of Hastings County; us folks in Elzevir lived in the riding of Hastings-Frontenac (1952-1966) and then the riding of Hastings (1968-1979).
      Our Hastings-Frontenac MP when we moved there in 1964 was one Rod Webb, about whom I have no recollection whatsoever; but then again, I was four years old. In the election of 1968, the riding resisted the Trudeaumania wave and voted in a new Conservative MP (whom I do remember), a farmer named Lee Grills. In 1972 a new person ran for the Tories: Jack Ellis, whom I had utterly forgotten about until I looked into the riding’s history this evening, but whose face on campaign posters I can now see clearly in my mind’s eye. He won (of course; the riding always went Tory) and won again in 1974.
      But I did have Gorgeous George as an MP! In 1976 his Prince Edward-Hastings riding boundaries changed and it was renamed Northumberland, and he stayed the MP there until he retired in 1988. By 1976 my family had moved from Queensborough to Campbellford, Ont., which is in Northumberland. And in 1982, I moved to Port Hope, Ont. (also in Northumberland) to take a job as a junior reporter at the Port Hope Evening Guide. I well remember Mr. Hees coming to visit our newsroom, part of the offices of the Cobourg Daily Star. He was an old friend of our publisher, the late James (Jim) Johnston, a former aide to John Diefenbaker who loved talking about the old days. George was the consummate hail-fellow-well-met politician. I was a scrawny 22-year-old socialist long-haired late-hippie jeans-and-sneakers-wearing kid reporter, but with a huge smile on his face, like I was his oldest and best friend and supporter, Mr. Hees grabbed and pumped my hand saying, “Great to see you again!”
      I had never met him in my life.

      • Okay, an erratum in my reply to Brian. I’d forgotten that in the days I worked at the Port Hope evening Guide, Port Hope and Cobourg were in Durham-Northumberland riding, not part of the adjacent-to-the-east Northumberland riding. So once I moved there, George Hees was no longer the MP (though he still visited our newsroom). Allan Lawrence was the (Tory) MP forever in Durham-Northumberland. That riding was dissolved in the late ’80s, and all of Northumberland County is now in Northumberland-Quinte West riding. In doing the research to answer Brian’s query I was startled at how often ridings in that general region of central Ontario were reconfigured and renamed throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Couldn’t anybody make up their mind?

  2. LOL @ your the opening of your statement in the third paragraph. Just wondering — as you’ve lived in two of our biggest cities, in terms of being unfriendly, do the “M” people have more of this than the “T” people? I haven’t been to Montreal in 40 years, so I can’t say from experience.

    • An interesting question, Sash, but I probably can’t answer given that it’s been so very long (the late ’80s) since I lived in Toronto. I have been back to visit Tronna several times, though – and if I had to say, I think I would pick Montreal for being a friendlier place.

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