Fowl sightings in central Hastings

The wild turkeys before they got through the fence …

… and after, scampering off into the distance. (Photos by Raymond Brassard)

Raymond took these photos of wild turkeys on our last visit to the Manse, when we were driving in to Madoc from Queensborough one morning. I had never seen a cluster of wild turkeys before, so I was quite excited. They all started out on one side of the fence (the road side) but very soon they’d all got through or over the fence and were scampering away into the farm field – except for one poor chap who was having a hard time figuring out how to get to the other side. We watched him flail about for a while (it was pretty funny) but then had to be on our way, hoping one of his buddies would come back and help him out. No turkeys to be seen on our return trip, so presumably he got reconnected with his gang.

I’d kind of forgotten about the turkey incident until one recent day when I was carrying on a phone call with my Aunt Marion, the retired nurse, nursing instructor, and missionary to Papua New Guinea (I wrote about that here) – and a woman who truly has a way with a turn of phrase. She was telling me about wild turkeys up in her neck of the woods (Sedgwick Central, at Gelert, in Haliburton County) and how, because it was mating season, the males were – and if you know my Aunt Marion you will appreciate the tone and volume at which this quote was delivered – “ALL DECKED OUT LIKE SIR WALTER RALEIGH AT THE ROYAL COURT!!!”

You couldn’t make Marion Sedgwick, or her quotable quotes, up.

Anyway, on to one more memorable fowl sighting in the central Hastings area: the Drain Poultry Farm’s Chicken Coop store just north of Tweed on Highway 37. The store is great, selling farm-fresh eggs picked that day (as well as lots of other local products), and we stopped in to buy a dozen. I have to say you cannot miss the place, what with the giant chicken out front. It makes me smile every time we pass by, and this time I just had to get a picture.

There’s no missing this chicken: the giant hen who shows the way into the Drain Poultry Farm’s Chicken Coop store just outside Tweed.

Now that is a memorable fowl.

One mystery solved: that colour is called… Coppertone!

Look familiar? If you're of a certain age, you're sure to recall being in the home of a friend or relative who had chosen Coppertone Brown appliances.

Raymond’s cousin Lu Eno Charbonneau has come up with the answer to one of the questions I asked in my last post. Having reminded everyone, whether they wanted to be reminded or not, of the glory days of Avocado Green and Harvest Gold appliances, I made mention of other, shorter-lived colours that subsequently appeared. The two that I remember best are a brown and a red, and I wondered what they were called. Well, Lu has nailed the brown: Coppertone! I’m still trying to find the name (and an image) of the red that was used in appliances of that era, though. Like the Coppertone stove here, the red colour was darker around the edges of the appliance and lighter toward the centre. It was a really deep red, not bright. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am very fond of red, so always thought (and still think) that kitchens that had those appliances in them looked quite nice. In a late-’70s kind of way.

At the risk of boring everyone with still more information about vintage appliance colours, here’s something interesting I found during my search for the name of the red ones. It’s from a site called colorcombos.com, and it’s from a post called “A Brief History of Kitchen Appliance Color Choices.” I suspect it’ll dredge up still more appliance memories from the mists of the past:

“While white appliances were the only choices initially, by the 1950s colors such as Stratford Yellow, Sherwood Green, Turquoise Green, Cadet Blue, Woodtone Brown, Petal Pink and Canary Yellow offered homemakers exciting new ways to coordinate their kitchens. Cadet Blue and Woodtone Brown proved to be unpopular and were discontinued in less than 10 years as were several of the other colors.

“By 1960 a few new shades had been added and almost as quickly cancelled including an attempt at a charcoal gray. Standard yellow, pink and turquoise were the only real survivors of this color craze. A new color, Coppertone became a popular choice until the 1980s. In fact, Coppertone and turquoise were the two favorite appliance colors, after white, for several years.

“As the later 60’s approached, turquoise was replaced by avocado and a Harvest Gold shade. These became the new stars for the remainder of the 60’s, the 70’s and the early 80’s. Bright Poppy Red made a short appearance in the 70’s but as the decade closed New Naturals had become more popular. Harvest Wheat, Onyx Black, Coffee, Fresh Avocado and Almond were introduced with Almond and Harvest Gold definitely taking the lead. The 80’s saw Coppertone and Avocado fade away.

“From the pastels of the 50’s, the earth tones of the 60’s and the off-whites and return the whites in the 80’s and 90’s, today kitchen designers often choose stainless steel for an efficient utilitarian look or black for sleek sophistication. It may be that as more and more men have become comfortable and active in this part of the house, their opinions about appliance colors are bearing more weight. It’s just hard to picture a man cooking over a pink stove.”

A Frigidaire washing machine whose colour is Poppy Red – not quite the shade I recall from the appliances of the 1970s / early '80s.

I like that last bit, though I would not have much truck with a man who would turn up his nose at cooking over a vintage pink stove.

You’ll note that the post mentions a briefly popular 1970s colour called Bright Poppy Red, and my sister-in-law Eloise Maddox had suggested that that might be the one that I’m remembering. But I looked it up and I don’t think so – it’s brighter than the appliances I remember. Perhaps the colour I’m thinking of was only manufactured in Canada. I am going to get to the bottom of this, but I need your help! Anyone got any suggestions? Better yet, photos?

… and Harvest Gold and – what were those other colours?

At the centre of things: in the Manse kitchen (at the very beginning of the move-in-and-tear-things-up phase), the dryer, in Harvest Gold.

Of course my last post‘s tribute (if that’s what you could call it) to the Avocado Green appliances of yesteryear wouldn’t be complete without a Part II, acknowledging Avocado Green’s slightly-later-on-the-scene competitor for our decor dollars, Harvest Gold. How do I know it was slightly later on the scene? Well, much as I hate to admit it, I do remember those days; plus I read this evening (in doing my research, you understand) that in 1969 Kenner introduced a swingin’ Avocado Green version of its Easy-Bake Oven, which was replaced by a Harvest Gold version in 1970. So there. Good times. (You can see the Easy-Bake through the years here.)

(I am also extremely pleased to note – see photo at right – that the very first incarnation of the Easy-Bake Oven came in none other than turquoise!)

Harvest Gold appliances may not be in too many homes anymore, but you can find them at the Manse. Currently the dryer (conveniently located in the kitchen, where it was back in our day as well, though it was a white Moffatt unit at the time), the electric stove, and the bathroom sink are all in that memorable colour.

But here’s my Friday-night question for you: there were two other appliance colours in the 1970s that were considerably less inescapable than Avocado Green and Harvest Gold, but fairly common nonetheless. One was a deep brown colour that I think might possibly have been called Burnt Almond, but I cannot seem to confirm that even with the help of the information superhighway. The other – which I will confess to having a fondness for, because basically I like all things red – was a deep red colour. Both it and the brown one were, as I recall, darker in colour at the bottom, getting lighter toward the top of the fridge or stove or whatever it was.

What were those two colours called, folks? Search those windmills of your mind and share with the rest of us. Even better, send some photos if you can find them!

Avocado Green and the power of suggestion

Great colour for a tasteless (in my humble opinion) fruit. But for appliances? Bathtubs? Well, they certainly thought so in the '60s. (Photo from Exploring the World of Trees, tree-species.blogspot.ca)

I was peeling an avocado for a salad the other day, and thinking about how incredibly exotic such a thing would have seemed during my Queensborough childhood. I seriously doubt that anyone in the village had ever seen an avocado, unless for some crazy reason they might have visited California. So why was everyone in those days so mad to have Avocado Green appliances?

Now that was the late '60s/early '70s high life: a kitchen featuring Avocado Green as far as the eye could see.

My years at the Manse (1964 to 1975) were the heyday of Avocado Green in the kitchens and bathrooms of North America. It truly was the ne plus ultra of middlebrow style; all the women coveted those appliances, and envied the lucky ones who got them. People would visit their homes and oooh and aaah. When my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay, retired after a long career at Brascan and he and my grandmother moved from Toronto to Peterborough, Ont., they bought a brand new suburban house and had an Avocado Green fridge and stove in the kitchen and an Avocado Green bathtub, toilet and sink in the main bathroom. Wow! It really didn’t get any better than that.

But what got all those middle-class Central Canadians to buy into the Avocado Green dream? The power of advertising? The power of suggestion? Mass hysteria?

Whatever it was, it resulted, in the 1980s and onward, in a lot of homebuyers feeling embarrassed about the dated, ridiculous colour of their appliances and ripping them out and replacing them as soon as they could afford it. If you were a late-20th-century renter, as I was in Montreal, and your landlord was cheap, you might find yourself lamely trying to pass off your Avocado Green fridge and stove as “vintage funky” instead of “hideous,” which is what you really thought.

Avocado green, looking surprisingly good. (Photo from makefive.com)

It seems like Avocado Green is a little on the trendy side again, doubtless due to the new cachet of all things ’60s thanks to the Mad Men phenomenon. I can certainly imagine Betty Draper hounding her husband (whether Don or the new guy) to get some Avocado Green into her life. I rather doubt that we’ll ever see it used for appliances again, but you can find it in other places, and as long as it’s a reasonably bright shade it’s really not all that bad. Like this:

On one of our recent visits to Queensborough I found a thrillingly retro variation on Avocado Green at the motel we were staying at (this was before we had a bed set up at the Manse), the very friendly Park Place in Tweed. It’s a nice spot right on Stoco Lake, but I have to say the absolute highlight of the place (or at least the room we stayed in) was the bathroom:

The best part of the very pleasant Park Place Motel in Tweed: the bathroom.

What do you call that colour? Jade Green perhaps? Now that I could get into!

A magazine that celebrates Hastings County

I’m sure my earlier posts have conveyed my enthusiasm about the interesting things that are going on in Hastings County, and the interesting people who live and do cool things there. What I find so intriguing about the area is that it’s pretty much (so far) undiscovered by the world at large. Those of us who know it know that we’re on to a good thing, and it’s rather pleasant that our numbers are still relatively few. It means, for instance, that historic villages retain many traces of their history, undisturbed by development and “progress.” Mind you, it also means that the tourism industry – which could mean a great deal to an area that is not immensely prosperous – is not well-established. But it’ll come; it’ll come. There aren’t many undiscovered places left, especially in south-central-eastern Ontario, and especially given that booming-with-tourism Prince Edward County is right on our southern doorstep, sooner rather than later many more people will know about the charms of Hastings County.

One operation that is doing an amazing job about spreading the word, to county residents and visitors alike, is Country Roads magazine (countryroadshastings.ca). This snazzy semi-glossy quarterly publication has well-written longish articles and great photos celebrating the history, interesting places, and creative people of Hastings County. It is run by Nancy and John Hopkins out of the lively arts-oriented village of Stirling (recently named Canada’s Hockeyville for 2012!), and they are doing a bang-up job. The quality of the writing and editing is very high, and the subjects chosen for articles are invariably interesting. Each issue tells you stuff that, even if you are a longtime resident of Hastings County, you probably didn’t know before.

What I especially like about Country Roads is that it takes you into corners of the county that you may very well never have visited. As I’ve written before, the southern part of Hastings – Highway 7 (the Trans-Canada) and below – have rich, fertile farmland and are more populous. North of Seven (as people say), however, the geography changes to the thin soil on the Canadian Shield, and it’s hardscrabble all the way north to the town of Bancroft and beyond. If you travel that way on Highway 62, it’s very possible you will meet no other vehicle than southbound logging trucks all the way between Bannockburn and L’Amable. (Don’t the places have great names? As poet Al Purdy would say: “Say the names. Say the names.”) But off to the east and west of Highway 62 are little places, some of them barely holding on to even being places, that once were something, and may even now be something – or will be soon. Country Roads goes to those places.

The most recent issue, for example, features a great article by my friend Lindi Pierce about the general stores past and present of rural Hastings County, with a special focus on one called the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery in Ormsby, a hamlet (population: 20) I’d never even heard of, even though it’s not that far north of Queensborough. It’s run by a young couple, Lillian Oakley and Garry Pattison, with a dream. Their vision, Lindi quotes them as saying, is “to keep the romance of the general store alive.”

“We do it out of love…to make memories,” she records Lillian saying. “I give the kids penny candy. I want them to grow up remembering the old country store; I want to be the little old lady behind the counter in the store they tell their kids about.”

Just as Lillian and Garry are doing their bit to bring fresh life to rural Hastings County with their funky general store, so Nancy and John Hopkins are attracting interest in a beautiful undiscovered area with their wonderful magazine. Cool stuff in unexpected places: that’s Hastings County.

In praise of laundry chutes, and other vintage technology

It's tidy, it's neat, it makes the dirty laundry go away. What's not to like?
(From Andy Johnston Construction of Vancouver, Wash.)

It seems to me you don’t see or hear much about laundry chutes any more. Why not? Such a clever invention!

In doing Round 1 of the never-ending exercise called “How We’d Like to Renovate the Manse,” Raymond and I had thought we would be very smart if we put our laundry room on the second floor (the suggestion of my old-home-renovation-expert brother John), which would mean no trotting up and down stairs with baskets of dirty and clean laundry. Since one generally takes off one’s dirty clothes upstairs, we reasoned, why not launder them on the same level?

Another reason for this cunning plan was that the Manse has, as I’ve noted before (and as John never fails to be amused by), very little plumbing. No long pipes the width or length of the house in our basement, carrying water (or waste water) to and from sinks or powder rooms or appliances in far corners or upper storeys. No, our plumbing is of the minimalist school: a few short pipes against the south wall of the basement, leading up to the ground-floor bathroom (which is also against that wall) and the pantry where the kitchen sink is (adjacent to the bathroom, also on the south side). That’s it. We had planned (and still do, actually) to continue in that minimalist vein and just extend the plumbing one storey up, to serve a much smaller WC on the ground floor, a new master bathroom immediately above it upstairs, and (we had thought) a new laundry room off, or in a corner of, that master bathroom.

The sum total of the plumbing at the Manse. It's the minimalist approach.

But a few more rounds into How We’d Like To Renovate The Manse, we’re thinking it might be better to put the washer and dryer in or adjacent to the small downstairs bathroom. One reason is that we could use the extra space in the upstairs bathroom for linen and other storage; the Manse is not overly endowed (to put it mildly) with closet/storage space. Also, it could make more efficient use of the downstairs space. And finally, the presence of a washer and dryer, even if they’re not operating, doesn’t really fit in all that well with the “haven” or “spa” mood that seems to be ever so popular for master bathrooms these days. When you’re soaking in your nice deep designer tub, do you really want to be listening to the undies in the spin cycle, or examining your supply of Tide to ascertain whether you need to pick up more the next time it’s on sale at Costco?

But having a downstairs laundry room brings back the toting-laundry problem, which was cause for more mulling. And then I suddenly remembered a nifty feature in the house my mother grew up in, on Sutherland Drive in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto: a laundry chute!

I couldn’t recall where the opening for that chute was, so I did what any investigative reporter would: I called up my mum. She explained that it was in a closet in a small upstairs bedroom that my grandparents – her parents – had turned into a den. The laundry room in that house was in the basement, so stuff you tossed into the chute went whooshing two floors down, landing in a basket in a recessed area beside the washing machine. (I don’t remember, and didn’t think to ask my mum, whether there was also an opening on the ground floor, for soiled dishtowels and whatnot.)

Anyway, the chat made my mum smile. That laundry chute was “the most brilliant idea!” she exclaimed.

Pneumatic tubes: what ever happened to them? Technology that was clunky and cool at the same time.

And then she got thinking about another cool thing from the olden days of her youth that you just don’t see any more: pneumatic tubes in businesses like department stores and banks. (You can read more about them here.) They were used, I believe, to convey payment to a central cash office – and perhaps to deliver change?

At the risk of dating myself more than I already have, I have actually used a pneumatic-tube system: in the days when newspapers had compositors, at the Globe and Mail we used to send layout plans down to the composing room using a tube system. Who needs PDFs and whatnot when you can transmit information from floor to floor via something that looks like it came out of The Jetsons?

Anyway, if we do put the laundry room on the ground floor of the Manse, we will look into also installing a laundry chute.

It would be quite thrilling also to have a pneumatic-tube system in the house, but I can’t quite think what we could use it for. Anyone got any ideas?

Euchre parties, an old-fashioned thing. And lone hands

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I have been spending the past couple of days with colleagues at The Gazette, discussing important professional things but also, in interesting dinnertime conversations, all manner of other stuff. This evening I got into conversation with my friend and colleague Pam
about, of all things, euchre parties. Those were a big deal back in the day in Queensborough, and a real community activity – except for my family, which didn’t play cards. And because of that card ineptitude, I always found the writeups about the Queensborough euchre parties in the late lamented Madoc Review newspaper absolutely fascinating – especially when there were reports of a “lone hand.” What on earth was a “lone hand,” I wondered then and have wondered now, until this very day. Pam explained that a lone hand is when a player feels he/she has cards strong enough to play a hand alone, without his/her partner, and does so, and wins all five tricks. Kind of cool how the questions you had a long, long time ago (“What the heck is a lone hand?”) get answered when you least expect it, many decades later. Life is funny and interesting and oddly satisfying that way. Thanks, Pam!