Getting to the other side should not be this risky

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! If you happened to be travelling this holiday weekend, I hope you made it there and back again safely, and in between enjoyed a happy time over good food with family and/or friends.

But speaking of getting there and back again safely, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to point out a dangerous spot on the route that I and many of my fellow Queensborough-area residents drive every single day, often more than once a day. In doing so, I’m hoping to raise some awareness and give the people who might be able to do something about the situation – which includes me and my fellow Queensborough-area residents – a bit of a push to do just that: do something about it.

The dangerous spot in question is the intersection of busy Highway 7 – part of the southern Ontario route of the Trans-Canada Highway – and Cooper Road, which runs north from 7 to the hamlets of Cooper and – when you turn east off it at Hazzard’s Corners – to Queensborough. (On the south side of 7, Cooper Road becomes Wellington Street in the village of Madoc.) For us residents of Queensborough and Cooper and surrounding rural areas, “town” – the place where you buy your groceries, do you banking, etc. – is generally Madoc, which lies directly across that busy intersection. We also use the intersection to get from home to points further south via Highway 62, which runs into Madoc; I take that route to Belleville every weekday to get to work, and many others do the same.

The problem is that there is no traffic control at the intersection aside from a stop sign with a flashing red light above it on the north and south sides – in other words, nothing to stop or slow down the fast-moving traffic on Highway 7 to allow us north- or southbounders through.

Heading south into Madoc, or north on the way home, it’s rare that we don’t have to wait for one or more cars or transport trucks to pass on Highway 7 so that we can safely cross. Everybody’s used to that.

But there are many times in the year – notably during the summer months, when Highway 7 is crammed with vacationers pulling camper vans heading both east and west, and also on holiday weekends like this one just ended – when the traffic comes in a steady, speedy stream. You have to be so patient and so careful, constantly looking in both directions, for a space between vehicles that’s sufficient for you to zip across. On really busy days the wait can be five minutes or more. To get an idea of what we’re up against, click on my video at the top of this post: I took it early this afternoon. I didn’t wait for the Highway 7 traffic to get crazy – just pulled over to the side of Cooper Road and filmed the first minute’s worth of traffic that came by. What you see is utterly typical of the highway under summer and holiday-weekend conditions.

The danger, of course, is that people, being people, get impatient waiting to get across. They may be late, or in a hurry to get somewhere, or just have a very low tolerance for waiting. Impatience and frustration can lead to risk-taking: darting through the fast-moving east-west traffic when there isn’t enough between-car space to make it across safely. I’ve seen the aftermath of one very nasty accident at that intersection, and I have no doubt that there have been quite a few more.

Wellington Street and Highway 7

The sign on the south side of the busy intersection: Highway 7 and Wellington Street in the village of Madoc. On the north side, Wellington Street becomes Cooper Road, Hastings County Road 12.

I’ve been thinking about this problem for some time, doubtless because, as mentioned, I use that intersection at least twice every weekday and several times on weekends too. But I got prompted to write this post because of a story a Queensborough neighbour told me a couple of weeks ago. His wife had been driving east on Highway 7, signalled and stopped to turn left (north) onto Cooper Road toward Queensborough, and was struck by a tractor-trailer. Mercifully the truck driver saw his error in time to swerve a bit and hit primarily the passenger side (she was driving alone) rather than crashing straight into the back of the car. She did not suffer any major injuries, though her car of course did; and my lord, what an absolutely terrifying experience. You see, in addition to there being no lights to control Highway 7 traffic at the intersection, there are also no turn lanes for the many vehicles that turn north off it toward Queensborough or Cooper, or south into Madoc. Yikes.

In contrast, just a short way west on 7, at another busy intersection – in this case, where Highway 7 meets Highway 62 – a set of traffic lights controls things and keeps everybody safe. Yes, impatient people, you do have to wait for the light to change from green to red – but isn’t that 45 seconds or so a heck of a lot better than waiting indefinitely for a gap in traffic at an uncontrolled intersection, and maybe taking a big risk when that gap doesn’t come soon enough for your liking? Here’s another video from today to show you how everything’s under control there, even on a super-busy traffic day:

I haven’t looked into this situation enough to know why there are lights at one busy Madoc intersection and not at another; perhaps the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (which I assume makes the decisions on traffic lights on provincial highways) gives priority to an intersection of two highways – in this case, 7 and 62 – over a one-highway/one county road – Highway 7 and Hastings County Road 12 (Cooper Road) – intersection.

But shouldn’t safety come before ministry priorities?

Highway 7 is pretty much the dividing line between two municipalities: Madoc Township to the north and Centre Hastings (which includes the village of Madoc) to the south. Not long ago I asked a member of Centre Hastings council about this situation; the council member told me that the transportation ministry is the body that has to take action. The advice I got was to gather people’s voices and ask the ministry to do something. Which I suppose is what I’m doing here, although I think it would be appropriate for the councils of Centre Hastings and Madoc Township to weigh in with the ministry as well. Horrible highway accidents are not in anyone’s best interest; safe roads are good news for everyone.

I spent some time this evening poking around the transportation ministry’s website, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I could find no obvious link for “I want to report a dangerous intersection where your ministry should install traffic lights.” I suspect that the best way to start on this one is to contact our elected representative at Queen’s Park. Members of Provincial Parliament have staff and contacts and know-how about government affairs that we ordinary people do not; plus what they’re paid to do is represent us on matters that concern us. Our MPP is Todd Smith, and he’s a friendly guy who was right here in Queensborough just recently, for our wildly successful Historic Queensborough Day. If you agree that this intersection needs a look and some action by the ministry, you can ask Todd to speak on our behalf by calling his constituency office in Belleville (613-962-1144; toll-free 1-877-536-6248), emailing him at todd.smithco@pc.ola.org, or writing to him at P.O. Box 575, Belleville, Ont., K8N 5B2.

Sir John A. speaks, Historic Queensborough Day

See that chap in the blue polo shirt standing behind Sir John A. Macdonald (I am not making this up) on Historic Queensborough Day last month? That’s Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith, and he’s the guy to contact if you agree with me that the Highway 7 intersection that many of us use every day could be made safer by the provincial transportation ministry.

And while you’re at it, why not contact some or all of the members of Centre Hastings council (click here for contact info) and Madoc Township council (members here, though contact information is a little skimpy; the township office’s number is 613-473-2677, and you can contact the township clerk by email at clerk@madoc.ca) to ask them to make the case to both Todd Smith and the transportation ministry?

Elmer the Safety ElephantAs we saw with the successful battle to save Madoc Township Public School, it is possible to make rural voices, issues and concerns heard. But that won’t happen unless we take it upon ourselves to speak up.

And hey, let’s hark back for a moment to my midcentury Queensborough childhood and ask: what would Elmer the Safety Elephant do?

A Canada Post puzzle, or: torn between two places

queensborough-on-the-map

Queensborough (starred in this Google map) is within a 15-minute drive of two larger centres: Madoc (centre left) and Tweed (lower right). Officially we are part of the Municipality of Tweed (or the Greater Tweed Area, the GTA, as some wags like to call it), but our connections – schools, shopping, and most especially postal service – are historically closer to Madoc. Click here to read an earlier post about whether “going to town” means Madoc or Tweed for us.

“You don’t need to use the RR number in your addresses any more,” the friendly clerk at the post office in Madoc told me a few months ago. Or actually – my memory for word-perfect conversations being wobbly at best, plus did I mention that this was several months ago? – what she might have said was, “You shouldn’t use the RR number in your addresses any more.”

Are you wondering what I’m talking about? If so, you surely don’t live in rural Canada, where RRs – the number of the rural route that your particular postal-delivery person follows – have been entrenched pretty much since there’s been postal delivery. For probably all of the past century, and more than the first decade of this one, rural addresses were “Katherine Sedgwick, RR#2 (or RR2 if you were feeling too rushed to include the number sign) Madoc, Ont.” And then in the early 1970s they added newfangled postal codes, which made lots of traditionalists hopping mad; you can read all about that here. So my mailing address back in the days when I was growing up here at the Manse in Queensborough was

Katherine Sedgwick
RR#2
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

RR#2 was the route based out of the Madoc post office that covered Queensborough and surrounding areas. RR#1 was the section of Madoc Township more or less due north of the village of Madoc, while RR#3 was the hamlet of Cooper and environs. I think there were a couple of other RRs for the areas south of Madoc as well.

When Raymond and I bought the Manse five years ago – Five years already! Wow! – and my focus returned to Queensborough after an absence of almost 40 years, I was vaguely aware that the RR number alone wouldn’t cut it any more, address-wise. Sometime during the 15 years I’d lived in Montreal, Ontario had decided that every address needed a street number, even if the street in question was a dusty country road. The main reason for this, as I understand it, was so that emergency responders could more easily find where they were going – and so were born what rural Ontarians call “911 numbers,” as opposed to “addresses.” This initiative also resulted in rural roads that had never before had names suddenly getting them. The road that the Manse was on, nameless back in my 1960s and ’70s childhood here, is now Bosley Road, named for one of the families that once lived on it. And the Manse’s number on Bosley Road – its 911 number – is 847.

Our mailbox

Our brand-new (in 2012) mailbox at 847 Bosley Rd., RR#2 Madoc.

So ever since Raymond and I got our mailbox in operation, the address I had been using for us was

Katherine Sedgwick
847 Bosley Rd.
RR#2
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

But then the post-office clerk made that comment about not using RR numbers. Clearly this required further investigation.

It turns out that, just in the period when Raymond and I were still living and working in Montreal and visiting the Manse on weekends when we could, Canada Post was beginning the process of eliminating rural routes. You can read about that here and here, in pieces out of the Grande Prairie (Alta.) Daily Herald-Tribune and the more local Peterborough Examiner from late summer and fall 2012, a few months after we bought the Manse.

Now, I like to think I’m reasonably plugged into the news – being a journalist and all – but somehow or other I remained utterly oblivious to this development at Canada Post. I am pretty sure it’s because during the main period of its implementation I was still living in Montreal, where RRs are unknown and have zero impact on daily life.

But let’s move on to the present day – a few months after the clerk at the post office basically told me (in the nicest possible way) to get with the program. Here’s what I have done in response to that comment:

One: Most of the time, kept using RR#2 in my address. Because it’s the old-fashioned way, and I like old-fashioned things.

Two: When I’m rushed – like, when I’m trying to write many dozens of Christmas cards, as I was last month – dropped the RR#2 from my return address, knowing that not only would it still be correct, but Canada Post would probably like me better.

Three, and this is the big one (not to mention the point of this post): Begun to wonder and worry a bit about where Queensborough falls in this brave new RR-less world. Let me explain.

Ever since the mid-1960s, when the hamlet of Queensborough lost its own small post office – which had been very ably managed in my early childhood years here by the late Blanche McMurray at the general store that she and her husband, Clayton, ran – Queensborough has been served by mail deliverers based at the post office in Madoc. We were always, as I mentioned above, Madoc Rural Route No. 2. (And of course in my mind, if possibly nowhere else, we still are.)

But here’s the thing: in the late 1990s, when the Ontario government in its wisdom decided that many small Ontario municipalities needed to merge into each other and become larger (and theoretically more efficient) municipalities, Queensborough became a part of the newly created Municipality of Tweed. Until then we had been one of the two (or was it three?) hamlets in the extremely rural municipality known as Elzevir Township; but Elzevir, while it still exists in name, is now part of the much larger Municipality of Tweed, which also swallowed up the former Hungerford Township south of the village of Tweed. At the same time, the former village of Madoc and township of Huntingdon merged to become the Municipality of Centre Hastings. Many other such mergers happened all over the province, with the resultant sad loss of many historical names and geographical designations: goodbye, for instance, Victoria County, and hello “City of Kawartha Lakes.” Don’t get me started.

tweed-logo

The Municipality of Tweed includes us here in Queensborough.

Anyway. Long story short, Queensborough is and has been for nearly two decades a part of the Municipality of Tweed. We pay our taxes to Tweed, we take our trash and recycling to the dump in Tweed, we vote for Tweed councillors (and are quite ably represented by them); in pretty much every reckoning, including geographically, we are part of Tweed.

But our post office is in Madoc! And thus our mailing addresses have Madoc in them. And without that RR in those addresses, they look like this:

Katherine Sedgwick
847 Bosley Rd.
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

Which makes it look like Bosley Road is in Madoc! Which it isn’t! Yikes! Wrong town! While we had that RR in place, the Madoc part of our address made sense; without it, it doesn’t. Bosley Road is, for better or worse, in Tweed.

Madoc Post Office

The post office in Madoc, whence comes the mail that arrives at the Manse and in the rest of Queensborough. But is Madoc our address? It’s a bit of a puzzle.

I fear that the disappearance of RRs from our addresses is going to lead to future confusion. Already Google and other online location services are befuddled. When, for instance, I post a photo on the social-media app Instagram and try to add my location to it, things go quite haywire. The suggestions that come up include “Queensborough Community Centre, 1853 Queensborough Rd., Madoc” (which, again, makes it sound like the community centre is in Madoc when in fact it too is in Tweed); “Tweed, Ontario”; “Madoc Fair Grounds, Madoc”; “Eldorado, Ontario”; and so on. Not the one designation I do want, which is, of course, “Queensborough, Ont.” When I do a search for that, I get no results.

(Though for a brief shining moment – actually a couple of weeks – last fall I found that Instagram would allow me to find and use Queensborough as a location. Then it stopped. Weird.)

So yeah: this disappearing RR thing is leaving us in Queensborough in a bit of location limbo, We know where we are; but will people trying to find us?

Then again: what better way to keep our little jewel of a village our own special secret?

I want to know: Will we ever see the rain?

Honey and Bunny and Sadie nodel our dried-up lawn

Sadie (left) and Honey Bunny – allowed outside only on condition that they be harnessed (because of traffic and other dangers) – model our dry-as-a-bone and crispy lawn.

Readers of my vintage will instantly recognize the musical reference in the title of this blog post. It is, of course, to a Creedence Clearwater Revival song from 1971, Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (Which you may listen to here, if you’d like to hear that classic all over again.) Now, I fully realize that in it John Fogerty is talking about something altogether different than drought – though having studied the lyrics a bit just now, I have to admit I’m not at all clear on what he is on about. Nevertheless, I have not been able to get my variant on the words of his chorus out of my head since about this time yesterday, when Raymond and I arrived back home at the Manse after a three-week vacation on the coast of Maine.

Summer 2016 had been hot and worrisomely dry well before we left on July 10; I first mentioned our area’s low-water worries in a post in late June. So every single day Raymond and I were away, I would check the weather forecast for Queensborough on my iPhone, desperately hoping to see some rain in it somewhere. Sadly, it always looked just like it does right now:

Queensborough weather forecast

You will of course note the discouraging lack of a symbol of a cloud with rain coming from it in this eight-day forecast. Yes, there is one image suggesting thunderstorms on Friday, and that brings some hope; such images showed up from time to time when I was checking the forecast from 600 miles away. But then the next time I would check, they had disappeared, to be replaced with full sun and a projected high temperature of 30 or 31 or 32 or even 33 degrees. And what the forecasts said turned out to be true, we found out upon our return yesterday. While areas around and not far from us – Belleville to the south, Haliburton County to the north, even nearby Madoc – have had at least a bit of rain, every dark cloud and every bit of moisture has skirted Queensborough. We seem to be our own little heat dome – well, make that drought dome.

We drove in yesterday to find our lawn not just shades of brown and yellow, but downright crispy to walk on. You’ve already seen the front yard in my photo at the top of this post; here’s a shot of the normally verdant back yard:

Parched back yard

And here’s just one example of how most of the perennials are looking:

Parched hosta

And here, to cheer things up a bit, is a closer look at two of our three cats, to show you just how cute they are.

Honey Bunny and Sadie up close

Everyone in the Queensborough area is worried about the drought. It’s terrible for the farmers; I hate to think what the prospects are for this year’s corn crop. It’s terrible for the groundwater situation, and thus for household wells. Everyone I’ve talked to since we got home says (with cautious relief) that their well is holding out so far, but everyone is also being very, very careful with water usage – and lamenting the fact that you really can’t tell what the level in your well is, which means you can’t know whether household disaster (the well running dry) is imminent, or whether you’re in relatively good shape.

How bad is it? A recent story in the Belleville Intelligencer – written, I am proud so say, by a brand-new graduate of the journalism program in which I teach at Loyalist College – says that the local conservation authority expects it will have to issue a Level 3 low-water warning for the first time in its history. (We are currently at an already-worrisome Level 2.)

Basically, nobody has ever seen anything like this before. Well, actually, not quite; yesterday I was chatting with a nonagenarian retired farmer from the nearby hamlet of Cooper. Had he ever seen anything like this before? Yes he had: the summer of ’49. (That’s 67 years ago, people! Not many of us can say we remember weather details from that far back.) There was no hay to harvest that year, and no hay to harvest means nothing to feed the cattle. He said the farmers got through the following winter by helping each other, handing over a couple of bales whenever they could spare them to someone even more in need than they were. “By the end of that winter, my cattle weren’t looking too good,” he concluded.

But let’s jump ahead 67 years and return to the drought of 2016. Raymond and I are coping like everyone else whose household is on a well – being very sparing with water use, planning to do laundry at the laundromat in town, and resigning ourselves to having a crispy brown lawn. And despite the drought, we found there were good things happening on the Manse’s modest acreage when we returned from our trip. For one, there are lots of little tomatoes on our heirloom tomato plants:

Tomatoes on the tomato plants

And my beloved phlox, which get a fair bid of shade, are looking not too bad:

Healthy-looking phlox

And wonder of wonders (and thanks to a little bit of watering help from our neighbour Ed), the new shade garden that I put so much sweat and even blood into creating is not only not dead, but looking kind of okay!

Shade garden, Aug. 1, 2016

And those are all good things. Plants can be hardy, through drought and other trials. And you know, so can people. Here is one more story out of my conversation yesterday with the farmer from Cooper that I think kind of says a lot. Believe it or not (given that we’re talking about heat and drought), it has to do with a hockey arena.

The Cooper arena has been closed for some time now and is used only for equipment storage. But when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, it was a hot spot for local hockey games and skating parties all winter long. That is, if you can call a building that was the coldest place I have ever known – invariably colder inside it than it was outside, except for the dressing rooms where there were blazing wood-burning stoves – a “hot spot.” Here’s a picture of the old place that I took a while back:

Cooper Arena

The old Cooper arena. On the winter nights of my childhood, there was no colder spot to be found than the stands of that place.

I well remember being in that arena with lots of other local people, cheering on two teams – maybe from Cooper? Queensborough? Eldorado? Tweed? Madoc? There were lots of local hockey teams then – as they battled it out on the ice and we shivered in the stands. There were some great players in those days, and some great rivalries. If the walls of that old barn of a place could talk, I’m sure they could tell some great stories.

But the story my Cooper friend told was this: that it was because of the great drought of 1949 that the arena got built in the first place. The men of Cooper got together to put it up that summer because – well, because there was nothing else to do. No crops to harvest, that’s for sure.

What do we take away from this story? Well, not only is it a great tidbit of local history, but to my mind it is further proof, if any were needed, that people in rural communities will always make the best of a bad situation.

The rain will come, eventually. It will be glorious. “Shining down like water,” like John Fogerty wrote. It may not come in time to save the crops and lawns this year. But we will make do.

And in the meantime, maybe we should just get together and build something.

A newfound treasure of local sports and culinary history

Cooper Comets Cook Book

A copy of the Cooper Comets Cook Book from sometime in the mid-1970s – do you happen to know when? There is no date on it – has made its way to the Manse. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

A treasure, people! And I don’t use that word lightly.

Oh all right – maybe when it comes to finds from the era of my 1960s and ’70s childhood here at the Manse, I do use the word lightly. What I mean is: all such finds are treasures to me, be assured. But sometimes I suspect readers must roll their eyes at my breathless reporting on my vintage finds, whether they be pieces of Blue Mountain Pottery, or multiple copies of Donna Parker in Hollywood, or old roadmaps, or a record by the Singing Post Family. “Why is she accumulating all this junk?” is probably the question in at least a few minds. Because, as we’re constantly told these days, our mission is to declutter, to simplify our homes and thus our lives by keeping only the things we constantly need and use. Well, I ask you: where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, a desire on someone’s part to get rid of – well, if not exactly “junk,” at least something that this person considered old and no longer useful, is what was behind my latest thrilling vintage acquisition, the topic for today’s post.

I have my Queensborough friend Jen to thank for my newly acquired copy of the Cooper Comets Cook Book. Jen happened to be in one of the local hardware stores recently when someone there – I’m not sure whether it was a customer or an employee – brought forth this delightful little volume and announced that he or she was getting rid of it. Jen, who well knows my love of local history and artifacts, immediately offered up that she knew someone who would be thrilled to have it. And before you know it, the Cooper Comets Cook Book was in my hands. Which means I get to share it with you good people!

Now, there’s absolutely nothing that’s not great about this slim little volume, but let me tell you some of the things I love about it:

Queensboro Cook Book

My most treasured cookbook from the days of my childhood here at the Manse.

One: It’s a classic example of those locally produced midcentury cookbooks that I’ve written about before – the ones in which members of a church group like the United Church Women, or of the local branch of the Women’s Institute, or of a sports organization, or of a school group, get together and contribute their own recipes and those they can beg, borrow and steal from their friends, mothers and mothers-in-law, so that a cookbook can be produced and sold as a fundraiser for the group in question. My most treasured example of these cookbooks is the Queensboro Cook Book, produced in 1966 by the U.C.W. of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough; thanks to two wonderful women and Queensborough natives, Barbara Martin and the late Isabella Shaw, I have two precious copies of that foodstained cookbook. But the Cooper Comets Cook Book is now a close second to it in my heart.

Two: It’s a great reminder of simpler days when every little community in rural Ontario – hamlets like Queensborough, and Eldorado, and, yes, Cooper – had sports teams, primarily hockey and baseball. And, as the Cooper Comets show us, they weren’t just men’s and boys’ teams; women played too. (I’ve written before – that post is here – about the hard-to-beat teams that were fielded in those midcentury days by “The Tannery,” a community that wasn’t really even a hamlet, more a collection of homes and farms in the Tannery and Riggs Roads area north of Madoc.) I remember that Cooper in particular had a reputation for teams that were skilled and tough. The Comets were no exception; as is explained in the introduction to the book, they were league champions from 1971 to 1973. Here’s that introduction, complete with the listing of the team members:

Cooper Comets Cook Book, introduction

The introductory page of the cookbook, including a listing of the team members at the time of publication. So many familiar names!

Three: The ads. All cookbooks like this one were funded partially by ads paid for by local businesses, and leafing through them, you are frequently reminded of businesses that you patronized long ago that are no longer with us. And sometimes, happily, you spot ads for businesses that are still here, like Johnston’s Pharmacy and the Toronto-Dominion Bank in Madoc:

Cooper Cook Book including ads

A typical page of the cookbook: half recipes, half ads. What a delight to see that one of those ads is for Johnston’s Pharmacy, still in business (though now in a new location) all these years later!

Most of the ads – featuring stores like Stickwood’s Dry Goods, and Ross’s Ladies’ Wear, and Rupert’s Drugstore, Brett’s Garage, and the Madoc Cash & Carry, and Kincaid Bros. IGA – are an exercise in happy nostalgia for me, and I bet they will be for you too, so here you go:

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Oh, and here’s a very special one, featuring three Queensborough businesses:

Cooper Comets Cook Book Queensborough ads

Wow! Sager’s and McMurray’s general stores (about which I have written fondly many times, including here), and Allan Ramsay’s trucking company (Allan being the man who finally got general-store proprietor Bobbie Sager to say yes to matrimony) were all advertisers in the cookbook. A good showing from Queensborough! (Though the cookbook company should have had a proofreader to catch the misspelling of Doug Chapman’s name.)

Vintage cookbooks

Some of the many vintage cookbooks filling a bookshelf dedicated to them at the Manse.

And finally, of course, there are the recipes. As I’ve written before, I love vintage cookbooks in general, and have a fairly good collection of them. I am intrigued by what these culinary guides tell us about the lives of people in those eras – what they ate, how they prepared it, and what their attitudes to food were as compared to how we approach food and cooking now. (Hint: they were a lot more Jell-O friendly in those days.) Now, many of my vintage cookbooks are by “the experts” – people such as James Beard, and Julia Child, and Elizabeth David, and Irma Rombauer (of The Joy of Cooking), not to mention giant food companies like Betty Crocker and homemaking publications like Chatelaine and Better Homes and Gardens. But many others are collections from groups like the St. Andrew’s U.C.W. and the Cooper Comets. These recipe-writers are not famous TV chefs like Julia Child, or newspaper food columnists like James Beard, or literary types like M.F.K. Fisher. They are ordinary women who had busy lives and families to feed when they weren’t doing chores on the farm or working at a part-time or full-time job in town. They did not have a lot of time for fancy-schmancy stuff in the kitchen. Many of the recipe titles feature the words “quick” or “easy;” many of the recipes are along the lines of casseroles whose ingredients are hamburger (“hamburg,” as we used to call it back them), a can of soup and some bread crumbs on top, perhaps with some ketchup or mustard and salt and pepper added in for “seasoning.” And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that.

One other interesting thing about the recipes, though, is the emphasis on desserts and sweets. As the pie selection at the St. Andrew’s United Church Ham and Turkey Suppers always shows…

Pies at the St. Andrew's supper

… desserts are kind of a specialty around here. As I’ve often said, you never leave a community meal in Queensborough (or environs) hungry, and you especially don’t leave feeling the need for more dessert. Here’s a typical double-page spread in the Cooper Comets Cook Book, just one of several featuring squares and “bars” (another name for squares):

Cooper Comets Cook Book, squares and bars

I have to say that, while I might not be trying too many of the casserole or pickle recipes in the book anytime soon (I think it’ll be a frosty Friday before I ever try to make pickles), some of the dessert recipes look pretty darn tempting. And easy! Like this one:

Cooper Comets Cook Book, Chocolate Ribbon Cake

I mean, yum!

So yeah: this cookbook is my new favourite thing, and I thank the person in the hardware store who parted with it, and Jen for her quick thinking in nabbing it for me – and most especially the women (some of whom are no longer with us) of the Cooper Comets – who in my eyes were, and are, superstars of sports, cooking and the home front. Ladies: play ball!

Great community journalism: the North Hastings Review, 1971

North Hastings Review

The North Hastings Review issue of June 16, 1971. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed reading a newspaper as much as I enjoyed reading this one.

A wondrous thing arrived in the mailbox here at the Manse the other day. It was a copy of a now-defunct weekly newspaper: the North Hastings Review, issue of June 16, 1971. Its arrival was easily the best thing that’s happened to me so far in 2015.

You’re thinking I’m addled, aren’t you? You’re wondering: How on earth could a 44-year-old copy of a tiny and long-gone newspaper be such a thrill to that Manse woman?

Well, I will tell you. But first let me tell you how this treasure – which I must emphasize is only on loan – came my way. Its sender was Ken Broad, who has been known to read and comment on my posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and who, while he now lives elsewhere, is a native of the Queensborough area, having grown up on a farm just a bit west of here in Madoc Township. (Ken notably sent me a photo of his ticket to the 1971 Rock Acres Peace Festival, an incredible artifact of Queensborough’s version of Woodstock. More on that anon, as it happens, but if you’d like to see that photo, it’s here.)

Anyway, I am pretty sure that the reason Ken had held on to this particular copy of the North Hastings Review – which was published in nearby (to Queensborough, I mean) Madoc, and later became the Madoc Review before it became nothing at all (sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I believe) – was that there was a story about him right there on the front page. He had just sold his fuel-delivery business to Tom Fox of Campbellford – a familiar name in this area – and there is a story about the change in ownership, and a photo of the two men, right there at top left of Page 1.

In a brief note he sent along with the paper, Ken said that his father (a remarkable person whom many people called “The Major” due to his distinguished service in both the First and Second World Wars – but that’s a whole other story, and a great one) used to call the North Hastings Review “the 7-7-7 paper: 7 days to print, 7 cents to buy and 7 seconds to read.” Oh lord – as the former editor of another small-town newspaper, the Port Hope (Ont.) Evening Guide, I am very familiar with readers’ joking comments about how one could throw our modest little daily paper up in the air and read it on the way down. But you know what? Behind the joking, people loved and (more to the point) needed that paper, that daily report on what was going on in their own community. And I am totally certain that The Major and all the other readers of the North Hastings Review also very much appreciated its community reporting, even while they made gentle jokes at its expense.

Anyway, I must tell you that, as I told Ken in my email of thanks to him, it took me a lot longer than seven seconds to read that paper. With the exception of the small print in some of the classified ads, I read every single word. And all of it was an utter joy.

Why? Two reasons.

North Hastings Review front page

This is a front page with a lot of local news. And so many of the names are familiar!

One: this was the local news from what I consider my time. On June 16, 1971, I was about to turn 11 years old. My family had been living at the Manse in Queensborough for seven years, and we would live there for four more. We were deeply embedded in the Queensborough-Madoc-Eldorado-Cooper area, and because my father was the local United Church minister, we had contacts and friendships with many, many families in that area. The people who are mentioned in the pages of this issue of the North Hastings Review are people I knew (and in some cases still know) – everyone from teachers and fellow students at Madoc Township Public School (where I would have just been finishing Grade 6 in June 1971) and Madoc Public School (where the following September I would start Grade 7), to players on the local minor-sports teams whose games are reported, to the ministers of the local churches cited in the long column of notices for church services, to the mother and father of the bride in a delightful report on a wedding that my father had conducted.

North Hastings Review church ads

Some of the church ads (people actually went to church in 1971!) in the North Hastings Review.

And two: This newspaper is great journalism. And no, I am not trying to be funny. The North Hastings Review is chock-full of local news, and providing local news is what local newspapers are supposed to do. When you’d finished reading it, you really knew what was going on in the local area – from who had dined with whom the previous Sunday in Cooper and who had visited whom in Bannockburn; to who was the winning pitcher (as it happens, the late Lorna Matthews, a wonderful person who was the church pianist at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough for many years) when the Cooper women’s softball team defeated the “Madoc Ladies” 24 to 7; to who gave a demonstration on refinishing furniture at a meeting of the senior citizens’ club; to where local school groups had gone for their end-of-year excursions (Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and the Shrine Circus in Peterborough; the reports, which appeared on the front page, were written by some of the students themselves, and I can only imagine how proud their parents must have been); to what was on sale that week at George West’s Men’s Wear.

North Hastings Review Rock Acres story

The major story of the week: the latest news on the Rock Acres Peace Festival, which had been planned for the Quinlan farm near Queensborough – or “Queensboro,” as the Review spelled it.

You got the big stories – an in-depth report on what at that point looked like the defeat of the plans to hold the aforementioned Rock Acres Peace Festival on the Quinlan farm outside of Queensborough; in fact, the Quinlan family later won the legal battle against the local authorities, the festival went ahead, and you can read all about that here and here and here and here.

North Hastings Review community news

Everything you might have needed to know that week about what was going on in the hamlets of Bannockburn and Gilmour. Good stuff!

And you got the small ones: the aforementioned who-visited-whom listings for the local hamlets, like Bannockburn, Cooper and Gilmour. You got full reports on the doings of three municipal councils; the police news; the meeting of Unit 3 of St. Andrew’s United Church Women; a birth notice (on the front page); and the new officers of the Kiwanis Club. And all of it, I have to tell you, is well-written and well-edited. I think I spotted maybe two typos in the whole affair; that is very impressive, and significantly better than any newspaper (or news website) can boast these days. (Kudos to its publisher, Maurice Goulah, and its editor, Carol Foley, for that.)

North Hastings Review Letters to the Editor

A letter to the editor from Grant Ketcheson, comparing the farming life in Scotland to that in the Madoc area. Good stuff!

But there’s more! There’s a letter to the editor from a young whippersnapper farmer from the Hazzard’s Corners area named Grant Ketcheson (still a great friend to this day), who was visiting Scotland on an agricultural scholarship and sent a lively report on farming practices (and weather) there as compared to the Madoc area. There’s the report on that wedding conducted by my father, complete with the extraordinarily detailed description of the wedding dress that those reports always had: “The bride was lovely in a full length taffeta gown highlighted with a dainty lace trim around the scoop neckline, down the full-length sleeves and around the full skirt. The bodice and sleeves also featured rose appliques and her long full train with matching lace trim was attached at the waist with a large bow. The three-tiered bouffant veil was gathered to a circle of dainty white orange blossoms and seed pearls, leaving the centre open for flocks of curls. She carried a cascade bouquet of yellow daisies.” (And if you want to know what the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom wore at the reception, you’ll just have to get you hands on your own copy of the paper.) There’s a column by Bill Smiley, who was omnipresent in small Canadian weekly newspapers back in those days. It was delightful to see the late Mr. Smiley’s byline again after all these years.

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And there are the ads for businesses that bring back such good memories: George West’s, as I mentioned; Wilson’s (which only recently closed down after many years in business; I wrote about that here); Johnston’s Pharmacy (still going after all these years; that too is reported on in this post); the long-gone and much-missed Plaza cinema in Marmora (I saw my very first movie there!); and (ta-da!) the Cash & Carry! Which was having a sale that week on wood panelling. I’d almost be willing to bet my bottom dollar that the wood panelling that got put up in the Manse kitchen during my family’s tenure here – about which we were so excited at the time, because wood panelling was so fashionable; and which Raymond and I are now very keen to get rid of, because, let’s face it, it’s awful – might have come from that very sale at the Cash & Carry down there on St. Lawrence Street East in downtown Madoc.

It is community journalism at its very best.

I know that Ken Broad knew I would appreciate having a chance to go through that paper, but I bet he didn’t guess just how much I’d appreciate it. Such wonderful, wonderful memories, all thanks to a terrific community newspaper. And a person who had the excellent good sense to preserve it – and the kindness to share it.

Should we do it again next year?

St. Andrew's on Historic Queensborough Day

It was terrific to see the good turnout of local folks and visitors from afar at historic St. Andrew’s United Church at the start of  Historic Queensborough Day.

I thought it might be fitting to end my string of Historic Queensborough Day-themed posts with some thoughts about repeating the event in future years. Now, I should stress that this idea didn’t come from me; it was something that numerous people suggested during the celebrations here in our little village last Sunday. “I’d come again, and bring other people,” was something I heard more than once. And: “I know someone who would love to come to this.” And so on.

While the volunteers who helped out that day, some of whom (like me) are perhaps still recovering from all the excitement and hard work, probably feel a bit wary about promising a repeat event quite so soon after the first one, there certainly have been some good ideas tossed out for a second Historic Queensborough Day. Are you interested? Well then, I’ll tell you:

  • First off, as Anne Barry of the Queensborough Beautification Committee noted during Sunday’s ceremonies – which included recognition of the great work that her committee has been doing – there are plans in the works for more signage (probably with landscaping/flowers attached) and other projects at entrances to the village. So that would be a lovely thing to recognize.
  • Some of the visitors Sunday said they’d like to be able to tour a few of the historic homes in the area. I know that house tours can be extremely popular – the famous and longstanding one in Port Hope, Ont., being a good example – so that might well be something to think about. (Mind you, the Manse is unlikely to be one of the tour stops, unless this so-called renovation that Raymond and I are supposedly undertaking suddenly gets moved into high gear.) One excellent suggestion I received today was that the tour include “the old stores, churches, mill and maybe a few houses.” Now wouldn’t that be great?
  • As I mentioned in an earlier post, the hosts at the two splendid gardens that were part of this year’s event both said they wished it had been held earlier in the summer, when gardens are in full bloom. Maybe an earlier event with more gardens?
  • As I’ve also written before, Queensborough and its views and buildings have a long history of being subjects for painters, photographers and other artists. In addition, we are (and have been through the years) blessed with an abundance of talented people who do outstanding wood carving, photography, painting, quilt-making, and so on. Some sort of focus on Queensborough and the visual arts, past and present, could be both interesting and beautiful – and good publicity for local artists and artisans.
  • And what about music? One reader suggested a concert in the park (presumably the pretty park area down by the Black RIver), and wouldn’t that be nice?
  • We’d have to have the horse-and-wagon rides again. People loved them – and thanks once again to Bruce and Barb Gordon for providing them. I also found myself reminiscing during the day about pony rides that used to be a prime attraction for kids like me once upon a time (when I was growing up here) at strawberry socials at St. Andrew’s United Church. And that got me thinking that pony rides and/or other events just for kids would be a fun thing to offer.

We’ve also had a few suggestions for making things more fun for everyone at future events:

  • Having a special “sneak preview” of the historical displays the evening before the event for the volunteers, including the owners of the gardens, who will be working hard on the day itself. Maybe a wine and cheese reception would be nice.
  • Ensuring there’s a guest book at the various events, where visitors can leave not only their names and where they come from but also their contact information if they’d like to know more about Queensborough or hear about future events.
  • Have name tags for people who are longtime residents, or descendants of longtime or early residents, so that other visitors will know them and can ask questions and share stories and knowledge.
Lineup for burgers

The lineup for barbecued burgers and hot dogs was really, really long, but people were patient and chatted happily about Queensborough as they waited. This photo, by the way, is one of a bunch of very nice ones of Historic Queensborough Day taken by photographer Dave deLang; you can find more on the queensborough.ca website by clicking on Home and then Event Calendar – or just click here. And thanks, Dave!

  • And possibly most importantly of all: buy more food to barbecue! Raymond had to run into Madoc not once but twice on Sunday to replenish supplies, even though the planning committee had bought what we thought was lots and lots of food. It sure is a good problem to have, to end up with way more people in attendance (and chowing down on burgers) than had been expected.

So what do you think, people? Should we do it again? Would you come if we did? Would you (gulp) volunteer to help out? Please post your comments and thoughts!

Tonight I have a postscript: As I write this, I am feeling very badly because Raymond and I have inadvertently missed another local social event, a roast-beef dinner being held by the Cooper-Rimington Women’s Institute in the nearby hamlet of Cooper. We had heard about the event last weekend, had had every intention of attending to enjoy a delicious meal and to support the Cooper community – and managed, in the past few busy days, to forget about it until it was too late. I’ve already had glowing reports from some Queensborough folks who did attend, and I just wanted to say to Cooper readers: our apologies, and please let me know about the next event. I promise to publicize it here, and to be on hand myself to enjoy it!

Oh, come to the church at the Corners…

Hazzard's ChurchPeople, I think that this coming Sunday afternoon you owe it to yourself to join us at Hazzard’s Corners Church.

(I should explain that by “us,” I mean us folks who, apparently blessed with a charmed life, are fortunate enough to live in the Queensborough/Hazzard’s Corners/Hart’s-Riggs/Rimington/Eldorado/Cooper/Madoc area. And no matter where you live, if you know one or more of those names – names for tiny places that, in some cases, now exist pretty much only in history and memory – then you are one of “us.” All the more reason to come to church on Sunday!)

The occasion is the annual summer service at beautiful and historic Hazzard’s Church, which was built in 1857 as a Methodist place of worship and then, when church union came about in 1925, became a United Church. Hazzard’s was closed in 1967, when so many other small rural United churches across the country were, but thanks to historically and community minded volunteers it has been kept in wonderful shape and is graced with services every August and every Christmas. (I’ve written about those lovely services several times before, like here and here.)

The service this Sunday (that would be Aug. 17) begins, as the summer service always does, at 2 p.m., but it is preceded (as it always is) by a rousing hymn sing that starts at 1:30. Which means that you will want to arrive sometime before 1:30, because everybody loves the hymn sing, and you will too.

Now, here’s where I feel a tad awkward about this invitation: I feel compelled to tell you that if you come, you will have to listen to yours truly speak. I was extremely honoured to have been asked by the Hazzard’s folks to be the guest speaker at this year’s service, and in a moment of probable foolishness said yes. So there you have it. Full disclosure. It will be very moving to me to stand and speak at the pulpit where, back in my childhood in the 1960s, my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, conducted services every Sunday. It is always a thrill, when I return to Hazzard’s Church, to meet people who remember my dad from those days. I only hope I will be able to do justice to their memories of Dad’s remarkable rural ministry in this area.

Memories and community: those are the important things about the annual summer service at Hazzard’s Corners Church. People come from near and far to sit in those old straight-backed pews once again, to sing the hymns they remember (or can imagine) singing there many years ago, and to renew old friendships and share good stories and warm reminiscences. It is always a happy occasion.

I suspect I am not the only rural church-going person of a certain age who, when thinking of services at churches like Hazzard’s, always ends up with one particular song running through her mind. Come on, you know what song it is (having been tipped off by the title of this post): “No spot is so dear to my childhood… Oh, come to the church in the vale! Oh, come, come, come, come, come to the church at the Corners…”

Okay, I’ve tweaked the words a bit. But here, have a listen to the Carter Family sing the original. And at the same time, maybe think about how much you love small rural churches, whether in the wildwood, or at Hazzard’s Corners, or wherever. And maybe resolve to visit, or revisit, one of the best of those churches, and some great old memories to boot, this Sunday.

So – take it away, A.P., Sara and Mother Maybelle: