A year ago about this time Raymond and I were in Queensborough to see to some business about the purchase of the Manse – we hadn’t yet become the owners – and to do some measuring inside the house. (I guess thinking that our renovation job would start right away after the sale went through. Boy, were we wrong about that.)
Anyway, our visit coincided with the day of the annual community skating party on the millpond in “downtown” Queensborough, so of course we stopped by to take it in, even though neither of us are skaters. As I reported in a post here (very early in the life of this blog), it was a bright sunny day and it was like looking at a painting or a Christmas card, watching the people of all ages skating and chatting and enjoying the hot dogs and hot chocolate.
The skating party was to take place again this coming Sunday, but unfortunately has had to be cancelled because the ice is not thick enough to be safe. Too bad!
But when Raymond reported this news to me – he had seen it on the Facebook page of Jos and Marykay Pronk, who own a home and business in downtown Queensborough and are very active in the community – it got me thinking (what doesn’t?) about the old days in Queensborough.
I would give my eye teeth to be able to lay my hands this evening on one old photo in particular to show you what I mean, but I think the photo is inconveniently located far from Montreal at the Sedgwick farm in Haliburton County. The picture, probably taken in about 1972, shows my brother John (aged 8 or so) and his best friend, Larry Parks – and maybe my youngest brother, Ken, (who would then have been 6) as well; I’m not sure about that. Anyway, the lads are dressed up in their hockey equipment, John wearing a Habs sweater and Larry a Bruins one, and they are ready for action out there on the rink – which was right in the front yard of the Manse.
This was of course the era of the great Habs and Bruins teams, and the great rivalry between them. Here are some highly entertaining videos I just found; first, one featuring the greatest Bruin (and quite possibly the greatest hockey player, period) of them all:
And the second featuring the year that a lanky young unknown goaltender for the Habs (who became the idol of my brother John, a minor-hockey goalie) put paid to the Bruins’ hopes:
Anyway, back to shinny in Queensborough. If memory serves we had that makeshift front-yard rink for several winters. There was nothing remotely fancy about it; just a very rough ice surface on which endless games were played and penalty shots taken. I can remember Ken, when he was really little, staying out there on the ice until he was absolutely frozen solid, then appearing at the door of the Manse kitchen, opening it up, and falling face-forward onto the floor, too cold to move and with his skates still attached to his feet. Pretty funny, and pretty cute.
Fortunately for Ken – and anyone else who spent time out there in the cold on the rink – there was always a warm fire burning in our old Findlay wood stove, thanks to my dad. We’d pull off our cold and wet socks and mittens and drape them over some edge or other of the stove or oven door. And watch the snow on them melt and sizzle as we warmed ourselves by the blaze.
Can’t you just smell the wet scorched wool?
An addendum: After reading this post, Pauline Weber, a photographer who lives not far from Queensborough, sent this nice picture to show that the outdoor-hockey tradition lives on:
What a classic Canadian scene. Thanks, Pauline!