I am tickled this evening to report that I came away from Historic Queensborough Day with not only great memories, but also gifts! Some from people who, until that day, had been strangers. Now that’s what I call a bonus!
When Raymond and I finally got a chance to put our feet up at the end of the day Sunday – he after barbecuing hamburgers all afternoon and me after serving as tour guide – we had collected between us an interesting newspaper article, a book of rich family history, and some very cool stuff from reader (and Queensborough native, though he now lives in Kingston, Ont.) Ellis DeClair. All of it has made for fun reading.
The newspaper article was given to me during the day by a visitor whose identity I managed to completely forget during the subsequent general whirl of events, for which I offer humble apologies. It is an instalment of the excellent local-history column in the weekly Tweed News by Evan Morton, the curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Now, I have been reading Evan’s columns faithfully since Raymond first gave me a subscription to the Tweed News (he always knows the way to my heart) not long after we bought the Manse, but this was from 2009, which was before that time. It’s a report based on the logbook kept through the years for the one-room schoolhouse called Pineview School that was a going concern between 1899 and 1947 in the area northeast of Queensborough that is called the Rockies.
When you drive back to the Rockies now you find it hard to believe that it was once such a bustling little community, with a church as well as a school. I mean, people do still live there, but the homes are very few and far between along a road that kind of seems to go on forever before it comes to a complete dead end rather far from anywhere. But a community it once was, and this report tells the story of the schoolteachers, the students who ended up serving in the wars overseas, how the logbook had to be kept to meet the standards of the government’s education inspectors, and even what years the building was painted. (In 1939, “the upper walls and ceiling were made yellow and the lower walls deep gray.”) Fascinating!.
Next was a book called Beyond the Back Fence: The Kincaid Chronicles, written – and given to us – by Keith Kincaid. Now, Keith has a journalistic connection as well as a Queensborough connection with Raymond and me; for many years he was the chief executive officer of the Canadian Press, which is an extremely key role in the Canadian journalism world. He is now retired, which gives him time to do things like research and write about family history. And as it happens, the Kincaid family has very deep roots in the Hazzard’s Corners/Madoc/Queensborough area, having come here from County Donegal, Ireland, in the 1840s, in search of a better life.
I have not yet had time to read the book (it’s been a busy few days), but Raymond has, and he reports that it’s extremely well-written (as of course you would expect from a journalist!) and interesting. Among other things he learned from it: back in the 19th century, Queensborough had two doctors and a fancy tailor shop selling made-to-order clothes.
It was a huge pleasure to meet Keith at Historic Queensborough Day, after he’d driven all the way from Lake Huron by way of Toronto to be here. And I am very much looking forward to reading the chronicles of the Kincaids making their way as farmers in this beautiful but hardscrabble region – which is perfectly evoked by the photo on the cover of his book.
And last but certainly not least: Ellis DeClair had a delightful collection of papers that he passed on to Raymond for me.
One was clearly a result of my recent post about the CKWS-TV (Kingston) dance-party show called Uptight, which I remembered from when I was growing up here at the Manse back in the 1960s and ’70s. Ellis had dug up an interesting article (I am pretty sure from the Kingston Whig-Standard) that contained an extensive interview with Bryan Olney, who was the popular host of the predecessor to Uptight on CKWS (good old Channel 11) , called Teenage Dance Party. Olney’s reminscenses about the show, the music, and working on Kingston TV were just great.
Next there was something I’d never seen before: copies of pages from a food-ration booklet from the time of the Second World War. And the booklet was issued in the name of none other than Ellis DeClair of RR1 Queensboro, aged just 2 years old. This is a fine addition to the growing trove of historical documents about life in Queensborough through all kinds of times, including the war years.
And finally, something that really made me smile. Ellis must be a careful reader, because he had picked up a reference I made in posts way back in late 2012 and early 2013. The reference in question was to a phrase that the late Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay, longtime Queensborough storekeeper and our unofficial mayor, used to use to describe my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, and her husband, Allan Ramsay. As I reported in those posts (here and here), Allan used to work with Dad when heavy equipment and trucking were needed for Dad’s woodlot operations and so on; Dad, as I explained here, not only was a full-time minister but did a lot of other getting-your-hands-dirty hard work besides. I can still hear Bobbie laugh as she called the two of them “the preacher and the bear.”
I always thought that phrase was just something Bobbie had made up. But thanks to Ellis, I now know its origins: it’s the title of a (very silly) song about a preacher who goes out hunting and gets chased up a tree by a bear. The song was wildly popular when it was first recorded by one Arthur Collins way back in 1905, in the days of phonograph cylinders, and remained known and performed right up to the days of Jerry Reed and even Andy Griffith in the middle part of the 20th century. (It was probably one of those later performances that had stuck in Bobbie’s mind.)
Ellis found and printed out the story of the song’s origins and the life of Arthur Collins (who, unfortunately, was known for a style of minstrel-type singing that, we readily see in retrospect, was appallingly racist, but was very popular in the early 20th century). He even included a photo he had found of an old recording of it by Collins. (Apparently Mr. Collins, knowing a good thing when he saw it, recorded it many, many, many times.)
Anyway: I thought it was really something that, at the end of an event celebrating Queensborough’s history that turned out so well and seemed to make so many people happy, I ended up with extra gifts of reading that gave me insights into things I’d never known before. They were yet another reason for a toast as Raymond and I celebrated the day with some bubbly on the front porch of the Manse.
And they are further proof (as if any were needed) that people with Queensborough connections are just the best kind of people!