In what is news to precisely no one: women’s work is never done

Peeling potatoes for the Turkey Supper

Me in the midst of peeling 20 pounds of potatoes late at night, after a long day’s work, in the cramped Manse kitchen. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

More than once here at Meanwhile, at the Manse I’ve paid tribute to my mum, Lorna Sedgwick, for somehow surviving the Manse years of my childhood. Now that I am living through the Manse years of my adulthood (having moved back to this great old house in Queensborough a while back), I think I have a much better appreciation of what was involved in raising four small children, working full-time as a high-school teacher, keeping a big old house in reasonable order, preparing three meals a day for an ungrateful lot (and this when she hated cooking), and last but certainly not least, fulfilling all the demands that were placed on a midcentury minister’s wife – including having company to dinner pretty much every single Sunday.

And all this without a dishwasher! Or many other of the conveniences we all take for granted today. (Mind you, Raymond and I still don’t have a dishwasher at the Manse.)

My mother told me not long ago that quite often on Friday afternoons, when she would arrive home at the Manse after a week of teaching, she would just sit in the car in the driveway for a while, too exhausted to immediately face the job of cooking supper for the family. Too exhausted to even face the family.

Now, my workload is not nearly as heavy as my mum’s was. For one thing, there are zero small children to raise, though there are three cats. For another, my husband does an immense amount of work around the house, including cooking meals more than half the time. That said, my paid job (co-ordinating and teaching in the journalism program at Loyalist College in Belleville) is probably more demanding and time-consuming than my mum’s job was. And I have a daily commute of almost an hour each way, whereas Mum only had the less-than-15-minute drive to Madoc and back, to teach at Centre Hastings Secondary School. And even though I don’t have minister’s wife duties, I do have quite a bit of work in my role as secretary at St. Andrew’s United Church. And then there is Meanwhile, at the Manse to produce!

Let’s just say that I sometimes feel, as I’m sure my mother felt a hundred thousand or so times back in those Manse days of my childhood, that I am really tired of being tired.

But who doesn’t feel that way these days? Every working person I know is putting in more hours than workers did even a generation ago. Nine to five? What the heck is that? And we’ve all got so much going on outside of work as well. The other day I was talking to a businesswoman in Madoc who works full time six, and often seven, days a week. How does she do it?

While I fully realize that many, many men (like my husband) work every bit as hard as their wives do, I’ve been thinking a lot about “women’s work” over the past two or three weeks. You won’t be surprised to know that these thoughts have been prompted by being at the Manse, and by thinking about my mum and the women of her generation, and the generations before that.

These reflections kind of got started on a recent Friday night, when, after a very long and trying week at work, I had to spend several hours in the Manse’s ridiculously small and poorly laid out kitchen/pantry doing prep work for a meal to be served to guests the next day. They are guests whom we always enjoy having over, and the meal was not at all a fancy one; but because Raymond and I had out-of-the-house stuff to do most of the following day, I had to get things ready Friday night – when, let me tell you, I was ready to drop from exhaustion. Here I am whipping the cream for the world’s greatest retro dessert at about 10 o’clock at night, feeling more than a little sorry for myself:

late-night-whipping-cream-in-the-manse-kitchen

As I whipped, I kept thinking about my mum, and all those long-ago evenings in that very same kitchen when she, as exhausted as I was, would be using the hand-held mixer to prepare some dessert or jellied salad or other so as to lighten the load of same-day preparations for company. “How did she do it?” I kept wondering.

(But you know, it paid off: the next day when dinner was a snap to get on the table because of all the advance work that I’d done, I felt pretty pleased with myself. That, however, was after a good night’s sleep.)

I got thinking along the same lines last week, on the night before the Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church that I told you all about in last week’s post. My assigned task, because I am utterly incapable of baking one of those homemade pies that St. Andrew’s and Queensborough are so famous for, was to peel and cut up (into small pieces, so they’d cook quickly) 20 pounds of potatoes. People, do you know how long it takes to peel and cut up 20 pounds of potatoes? I’ll tell you. It takes exactly an hour and a half – 45 minutes per 10-pound bag of potatoes. There was a time when leaning over the kitchen sink for an hour and a half would have caused my back no problems whatsoever. But as a woman of a certain age, I can definitively say: this is not that time. And this hour-and-a-half mission happened, of course, after another very long day at work and another long commute home. You can see me hard at work on the potato front in the photo at the top of this post, and here’s another view where my peeling hands are just a blur!

peeling-potatoes-2

But I hasten to add that I wasn’t really feeling sorry for myself on potato-peeling night. Instead I was thinking about all the other women of St. Andrew’s United Church and the wider Queensborough community who, that night and over the past several days, had worked way more than my measly hour and a half to prepare food and make everything ready for the Turkey Supper. And then there was the day to come, when many of the same women would be working all day long doing prep work and setup, then serving up the food at a furious pace during the 2½ hours of the supper, and then working late into the night to clean everything up. And people, I hope I’m not giving away any secrets if I say that most of those women are older than I am – some by quite a bit.

They are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Every year I vow that I will take lots of photos of our Turkey Supper, and every year I fail to fulfill that mission. Why? Because I’m so busy running around helping out! There’s just no time to stop and take photos. And most especially not this year, when – thanks in part to you excellent people – we had what was probably the biggest crowd in the long, long history of St. Andrew’s Turkey Suppers.

Cars parked all through Queensborough for the Turkey Supper

“The cars were parked all over Queensborough!” one visitor to our Turkey Supper told me, completely accurately. I am pretty sure it was the biggest turnout in the history of the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016

A view of the newly renovated hall at St. Andrew’s packed with people who were there for our famous Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016 2

Another shot of the Turkey Supper diners, featuring Raymond (in the checked shirt) who, with our minister, Norm Long, never stopped pouring coffee and tea.

I hope my photos give you some sense of how busy we were. Thanks to ticket sales and donations, our church has received a wonderful financial boost that will help its work a lot in the coming year. But oh, how I wish I had photos or video of Lorraine mashing the potatoes and keeping a steady stream of warm and delicious food coming out of the oven; of Ann Lee making sure all the trays on the buffet table were always filled; of Joan and Stephanie and Barb and Wanda and Lorna and Doris tirelessly washing and drying the plates, cutlery and glasses over and over and over as they kept being used over and over and over; of Netta and Debbie and Susanna racing to clear tables and install new place settings in time for the next round of diners! How I wish I could show you Eilene, making pot after pot of coffee and tea; of Joan, filling bowl after bowl of salads; of Lois, cutting and serving up dozens and dozens of pies; of Sandra, keeping track of when there were spaces at the table and summoning expectant diners to fill them; and especially of Betty, overseeing the whole shebang, as she has done for so many years, and doing a fantastic job. And how I wish I could show you the bustle – exhausted bustle, but bustle nonetheless – as everyone worked to clean everything up afterwards – on empty stomachs, because the crowds were so huge that there was no turkey dinner left to feed these hard-working volunteers!

Pictures failed me. And really, so do words.

Except this: thanks to the work of these women, of women like my mother, who have spent the majority of the days of their lives working until they were ready to drop – we have been fed, and cared for. The world is a much better place for “women’s work.”

All yours: a great meal plus a piece of rural-church history

Giant potato masher at the Turkey Supper

This is one of my favourite images from past Turkey Suppers at St. Andrew’s United Church: the giant-sized potato masher (wielded by a strong woman) getting the job done to feed the crowds.

Readers, I can’t imagine a better way for you to spend the latter part of this coming Wednesday than to come to beautiful little Queensborough and to head up to St. Andrew’s United Church (812 Bosley Rd., just up the way from the Manse) for its ever so famous annual Turkey Supper.

Cars lined up for Turkey Supper

Cars lined up all the way from St. Andrew’s down to the Manse for a previous Turkey Supper.

Now, many’s the time I’ve sung the praises of the wonderful old-fashioned suppers (the Ham Supper around Easter, the Turkey Supper just before Thanksgiving) at historic little St. Andrew’s. You probably don’t need me to tell you all over again how great the turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be, not to mention the stupendous selection of homemade pies for dessert.

Pies at the church supper

For many people, the selection of homemade pies is the highlight of the community suppers at St. Andrew’s United Church.

But, you know, I just did anyway.

However: we have two special added features to the Turkey Supper this time around! And that’s kind of exciting.

St. Andrew's by Dave deLang

A historic rural church: St. Andrew’s United, opened in 1890. (Photo by Dave deLang)

The first is that diners will get a chance to see the recent renovations our congregation has done in the church kitchen and hall (where the supper takes place). A worn-out vinyl floor has been replaced with a sturdy and attractive wood-look laminate; and the walls have been painted an elegant and attractive soft green colour. It was a big undertaking, and quite something for a small rural church; we’re proud and excited about the results. Here, have a sneak preview:

St. Andrew's hall, newly renovated

The new look at the St. Andrew’s Church hall, just waiting for you to come see it.

St. Andrew's hall, newly renovated 2

Another view of the renovated hall.

When you’re there for the Turkey Supper, take a few moments to examine some of the interesting pieces of history that adorn the walls of the hall. Here, for instance, is the collection of Sunday-School-related pictures and artifacts:

Sunday School artwork

And here are some closeups. This stuff is pretty cool.

Picture given to Sunday School by the Pattersons

This typewritten note, more than 70 years old, is on the back of the large print of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. John and Barbara Anne Patterson were the small children of The Rev. W.W. and Cora Patterson. Rev. Patterson and his family made a big mark on St. Andrew’s and Queensborough; they were here during the difficult years of the Second World War, and they have been fondly remembered ever since. If you click here you can see a great photo of the young family outside the very Manse where Raymond and I now live; other posts I’ve done that feature the Pattersons are here and here and here.

Cooper Sunday School 1932

I love this photo, which shows the members of the Sunday School at Cooper United Church in 1932. Cooper was one of the three historic churches in the United Church of Canada’s Queensborough Pastoral Charge when my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, became its minister (and my family moved to the Manse) way back in 1964. Sadly, the Cooper church was closed by United Church Central in Toronto in 1967. I love this photo not just as a memento of that little church, but because of the astounding number of children and young people who were in that Sunday School. Wow! (If you click on the photo you’ll get a larger image that will allow you to read the names.)

War volunteers from Queensborough Sunday School

“For King and Country”: The names of young men and women who’d attended the Sunday School at St. Andrew’s United (in those days called Queensborough United) who signed up for service in the Second World War. A lot of familiar names here.

Here is another grouping of church artifacts on our newly painted walls, this one featuring photos and drawings of St. Andrew’s, churches with a connection to it, and other local churches:

Church images artwork

I also wanted to show you this, and before you say, “That looks like a piano in a closet,” let me explain: Yes, it is a piano in a closet, and here’s why it’s there. A member of our congregation, Terry, who does an enormous amount to ensure the church building is running as it should, realized that the piano’s normal spot in the church hall meant it was in the way for Turkey Supper visitors, particularly those who might use walkers or wheelchairs, and especially if they needed to visit the church washrooms. So get this: Terry (an engineer by profession) did a bunch of research and designed and built a little wheeled rig (at very low cost) to allow the piano to be easily moved into and out of that closet as need be. Talk about ingenuity and initiative in a good cause!

Piano in the closet

The church hall’s piano, moved out of the way to make extra space for diners at the Turkey Supper. In its temporary closet home it also serves as handy shelving for leftover pieces of new flooring.

But listen, just because I’ve given you a guided tour of the renovated church hall, don’t think you shouldn’t come see it for yourself. It’s a lot better in person!

Also: if you come, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a neat little piece of St. Andrew’s history. Here’s the scoop.

After some deliberation, our congregation has decided to clear out some vintage wooden folding chairs that have been in use in the St. Andrew’s church hall for many, many decades.

St. Andrew's folding chair

This vintage folding chair can be yours!

St. Andrew's chair folded

The folding chair, folded.

The chairs have a great midcentury design and are very sturdy, but they are a little too low for people sitting on them to be comfortable at one of the Turkey Supper or Ham Supper tables. So we’re going to replace them with newer chairs – and that means that if you’d like one or more of the old ones, you may have them for the low, low price of $5 each. (Bulk discounts available; and if you’d like to donate more for a chair – hey, all proceeds go to help the work of our church – we’ll accept it gratefully.)

I thought I’d do a little digging into the history of these chairs, and began by checking them for a manufacturer’s stamp. Sure enough, I found it:

Globe Furniture stamp

The stamp on the underside of the St. Andrew’s folding chairs. It tells us that they were made by the Globe Furniture Co. of Waterloo, Ont., and also that the chair’s model name was #7.

Then I poked around the internet to see what I could find out about the Globe Furniture Co., and came upon this very enlightening article from the Waterloo Region Record, headlined “Globe Furniture’s products went to churches around the world.” I learned that the company was founded way back in 1889 (a year before St. Andrew’s opened) and was in operation until 1968. I learned that Globe Furniture “was known for the ornate wooden pews, altars and pulpits it made for churches in Canada and as far away as Peru and South Africa” and that it “also made school desks and theatre seats.”

Now, “theatre seats” is close to how Globe Furniture marketed the chairs that have been in use at St. Andrew’s for all these years. Further internet digging (I searched for “Globe Furniture Co. No. 7 chairs”) located a wealth of information about the company made available by the Waterloo Public Library. (God love public libraries.) And more specifically, an article including this vintage advertisement which, in its lower half, features our very chairs!

Ad for No. 7 folding chair

There it is! The No. 7 Portable Folding Chair! The words in the blurb below the photo are partially cut off, but I think I’ve got it right in filling in the blanks: “This chair is especially well adapted for use in School Assembly Halls, Town Halls, Lodges and other places where the chairs are frequently to be stacked to clear the floor. Backs and seats are cross banded birch veneers. Legs and stretches are solid Birch.”

So there you go, people: you can own a piece of Ontario manufacturing history and of St. Andrew’s United history, and provide your home or cottage (or School Assembly Hall, if you happen to have one) with one or more sturdy birch folding chairs. At the bargain price of $5 each!

And hey, if you can’t make it to the Turkey Supper but would like a No. 7 chair or three, contact me (leave a comment on this post, or email me at sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com) to make arrangements. We’d prefer it if you could come get your chairs, but if that’s not possible and you’re not too far away from Queensborough, I’m fairly sure Raymond and his red truck can be pressed into service to deliver them to you.

But vintage chairs or no vintage chairs, you owe it to yourself to come for the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper. All the details are below. And if you come, please say hi! I’ll be there helping out, as always, under the direction of the church women who (unlike me) know what they’re doing. A good time, and a great meal, will be had by all.

Turkey Supper poster

In which a historic church joins the internet, and turkey is served

St. Andrew's on Facebook

This year, the 125th of its existence, St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough joined the internet age with its own Facebook page. If you use Facebook (and who doesn’t?) please seek us out (the page is called simply St. Andrew’s United Church, Queensborough) and like us. You’ll get regular updates on what’s going on at our pretty little church – such as the ever-popular church suppers. You wouldn’t want to miss those!

Welcome to Monday at the Manse! In this instalment, I’ll tell you all about how I’ve got you covered when it comes to dinner this coming Wednesday, and how this great meal comes with the added bonus of some fine music and a chance to rub elbows with the friendly folks of Queensborough and area.

But first, a little tale about (and plug for) a historic country church that as of 2015 has joined the digital age, or the “information superhighway,” or whatever your preferred term is for the internet. And how, thanks to the introduction of this wondrous technology, you can keep up with what’s doing at that church from the comfort and convenience of your own laptop, phone or desktop computer. Life is good, people!

St. Andrew's by Dave deLang

St. Andrew’s United Church, in a great picture by Queensborough photographer Dave deLang.

As regular readers will doubtless have guessed, the church I am referring to is St. Andrew’s United in Queensborough. Built in 1890, St. Andrew’s is the only one of the four churches our hamlet once boasted – the others being St. Peter’s Anglican, St. Henry’s Roman Catholic and the Queensborough (or Queensboro, as it was often spelled once upon a time) Methodist Church – that is still operating. St. Andrew’s has been a very important part of the community for 125 years, the place where generations of Queensborough and area residents have worshipped, have been baptized, have been married, and, yes, have been bid farewell at funerals. As in so many Canadian churches, our congregation is smaller now than it once was (like, back in the days of my Queensborough childhood in the 1960s and ’70s, when my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the minister there), but it is still active, and it has grown in recent years. St. Andrew’s is a friendly, pretty and welcoming church, one that I am proud to be a member of.

So as our church prepared to celebrate its 125th anniversary this past May, I decided it was time to get the word out about the good things happening at St. Andrew’s. How best to do that? Well, I thought, since everyone and his or her cat seems to be on Facebook, that’s probably the best place. I’d never created a Facebook page before, but how hard could it be?

Not hard at all, as it turned out. I had the Facebook page up about five minutes after I started. Oh, okay, maybe 10 minutes. But still – it’s ridiculously easy.

And now historic St. Andrew’s United Church is on Facebook, and if you go to our page, which is right here, and hit the Like button, you’ll get regular updates (one or two a week – don’t worry, we won’t flood you with quotations over images of cloudscapes or anything like that) about what’s doing at St. Andrew’s. The time of the service for the coming Sunday (it’s sometimes 9:30 and sometimes 11 a.m.), special events, etc. Pretty straightforward stuff, but how exciting it is for us to have this new tool to share our news!

Turkey Supper Facebook postAh – and speaking of sharing our news, let’s get back to that food thing I mentioned. If you click on the St. Andrew’s Facebook page right now, you’ll learn that this coming Wednesday, Sept. 30, is the day of the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper. The supper is a tradition with deep, deep roots in Queensborough, and an event at which people have been gathering to enjoy a great meal and a visit with friends and neighbours (and the new folks who show up!) for many decades.

I’ve written about our church suppers before, and you can read those posts here and here and here. In this one I recounted a bit of the history of the suppers, throwing in my happy memories of them from my childhood. But all you really have to know is that if you beetle up to Queensborough, and specifically to St. Andrew’s (the address is 812 Bosley Rd., just up the hill from the Manse) between 4:30 and 7 p.m. this coming Wednesday (Sept. 30, 2015), for the very reasonable price of $12 for adults, $6 for children aged 6 to 12, and absolutely free for kids under six, you can enjoy turkey and mashed potatoes (some peeled by yours truly) and all the trimmings in a great country-church setting. And the icing on the cake (so to speak)? The huge selection of pieces of homemade pie that will await you for dessert! Take a look at this photo, taken at our Ham Supper this past spring:

Pies at the St. Andrew's supper

Raspberry, blueberry, apple, pumpkin, pecan, choccolate, lemon meringue, coconut cream… and all homemade! What are you waiting for?

Now if that doesn’t whet your appetite, I can’t image what would. I am fairly sure that for a significant number of the people who attend the suppers at St. Andrew’s, the pie is the best part.

(Yes, you are allowed seconds. I knew you were wondering.)

Finally, there’s this: something new and wonderful will be added to the Turkey Supper in this 125th year of the life and work of St. Andrew’s in the Queensborough community. As you sit in the old pews, nicely polished by a century and a quarter of occupation, waiting for your number to be called so you can go into the church hall and eat, you will be entertained by two members of our congregation, Katherine Fleming and Carol King, who have wonderful musical gifts. Both women are well-known throughout this area for their vocal abilities, and we are so blessed to have them at St. Andrew’s. On Wednesday, whether you’re a member of St. Andrew’s or not, you will get the chance to hear them in performance.

Good music, good food and good conversation, all in a beautiful little church in a beautiful little hamlet: if that’s not worth hitting the Like button on Facebook for, I don’t know what is!