1,001 Nights at the Manse

Katherine in blog position

This is the view of me that Raymond has had for many and many an evening – 1,001 evenings, in fact – as I’ve worked in the blue glow of my MacBook Pro to churn our yet another yarn about life at the Manse. It’s time to move away from the blue glow, just a bit. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

Tonight we are celebrating here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. Why? Because we have reached our 1,001st post!

Celebratory Manhattans

A thousand and one posts? Hey, that calls for a Friday-night Manhattan at the Manse!

Yes, just like Scheherazade, that legendary young woman of the Arabian Nights who held off a cruel king’s bloodthirsty urges by telling him stories every night for 1,001 nights – featuring Aladdin and the lamp, and Ali Baba, and Sinbad the Sailor, and all that stuff – I have recounted a yarn for you every single night (minus Sundays, because a minister‘s daughter shouldn’t work on Sundays, right?) 1,001 times, as of this very night. Now if that doesn’t call for a little celebration, what does? It being Friday night and all, I think I’ll have a Manhattan – minister’s daughter or no.

I’m in a bit of a celebratory mood for another reason too. It’s this: I decided a while back that with my 1,001st post I’d cut myself a bit of slack and lift the daily deadline that I imposed when I started this blog, on Jan. 30, 2012 – the day that Raymond and I became the owners of the Manse, the house that I grew up in. I do this with mixed feelings; I know from many years of practising journalism that deadlines are what force writers to produce, and without them, they… well, they often don’t produce. My daily deadline has been very helpful in giving me both focus and an imperative to get the job done.

But writing a post every day takes an extraordinary amount of time, and I am finding that I need some of that time – time being, along with health, the most precious commodity that any of us has – for other things. I have community work to do; I have St. Andrew’s United Church work to do. (I am the church secretary.) Also, spending a bit more time with my mum and the rest of my family couldn’t possibly hurt. Having more time to spend with Raymond would be a very good thing; he has been unendingly patient as dinner has been delayed night after night after night as I have hunched over this laptop, writing like mad about Avocado Green and Freshie and antimacassars and crokinole and the like. I’d like to stop dipping into his huge well of patience. And hey, the timing is good too: two days from now (April 12) is our seventh wedding anniversary, and maybe giving more of my time to my excellent husband and less to producing words on my laptop is a good anniversary gift.

Also: I could use a bit of a rest. Since I started this blog I haven’t taken a break from it, even when on vacation. I need a vacation.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Meanwhile at the Manse is going to go dark. Far, far, far from it! I promise I’ll still post with great regularity. Because, you know, there is just so darn much going on in Queensborough to tell you about! And there are so many interesting bits of local history to be dug up and reported on! So much artistic activity to investigate! Why, just last night as I was going through my photo files to find a picture I took a year ago of a crumbling shed on the road to town (to use in last night’s post, which is here), I realized that I have a lot of photos and ideas for posts kicking around. And then of course there are all those memories of my childhood here at the Manse in the 1960s and ’70s still to be mined – along with pictures of vintage finds from auctions and flea markets and yard sales to complement those memories, and take us all back to those happy midcentury times.

So yeah, there’ll continue to be Meanwhile, at the Manse stories. And if I give myself a little more time to produce them, I should be able to do some deeper research when it’s warranted, which it often is. Like: doing an interview with one of the people who was on the scene shortly after the UFOs landed in Cooper. (I am not making that up.) Or: checking out a hand-painted mural of a Queensborough scene that exists in a local house, a wonder that I only recently learned about. Or collecting still more reportage about Queensborough’s first and only (to date) rock festival.

Remember that old line about there being “a million stories in the naked city”? (In researching it just now, by the way, I discovered that the line is actually that there are eight million stories in the naked city.) Well, I am pretty sure there are a million stories in Queensborough alone – or, for that matter, in any place on this good planet. Every place, no matter how small, has history, and art, and interesting human beings, and anecdotes, and oddities, and slices of life both ordinary and extraordinary. All that’s needed is someone – a Scheherazade-type character – to find and tell those stories.

As of this post I’ve told 1,001 stories about life in Queensborough, and life at the Manse. And I’m rather proud of that accomplishment. Well, proud, and – ready for a bit of a rest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories so far. I hope you don’t mind if it’s a bit longer in between them from now on. Most of all, I hope you’ll stay tuned. There are many more stories to come. I can’t wait!

Did you know that I am the universe’s oracle of Freshie?

Freshie drink mix package

A reminder (to all those Canadian readers of a certain age) of the drink of our childhood. Just add water and stir!

In June 2012 I did a post about Freshie, the powdered drink mix from my childhood that was pretty much the Canadian equivalent of Kool-Aid.

In searching for information on Freshie for that post I discovered that – well, basically that there wasn’t really any information out there. Wikipedia has the sum total of this to say: “Freshie was a Canadian drink mix that was a popular alternative to Kool-Aid in the domestic marketplace from the 1950s to the early 1980s.” (Well, it then lists the flavours it came in, but that’s it. And besides, I frankly don’t believe that Freshie ever came in root-beer flavour.)

Anyway, not letting that lack of information stop me, I blithely went on and did my post, which included some mention of homemade popsicles made with Freshie (or Kool-Aid), a bit of a comparison between the two delicious (and so nutritious) beverages, and some commentary on how hideous the stylized bird featured on the front of the Freshie package was:

blog post on Freshie drink mix

And that was that. Or so I thought. But let me tell you: Freshie is probably the single most-read topic I have ever written about in the more than a year and a half that this blog has been extant. Very rarely does a day go by when someone somewhere in the universe doesn’t find his or her way to Meanwhile, at the Manse by Googling “Freshie” or “Freshie drink mix.” (WordPress‘s statistics tell me these things.)

So I am very happy that I randomly hit on Freshie as a topic!

The back porch, or summer kitchen, of the Manse

This is the currently very messy back porch – or, as Raymond calls it, summer kitchen, which undoubtedly is what it once was – at the Manse. We hope to someday open up the walls a bit, screen it in, and turn it into a beautiful porch. And vintage things – like old metal Freshie signs, for instance – would look terrific on the walls!

So happy, in fact, that I was all set to commemorate my brilliant and popular choice of topic by buying a cool bit of Freshie memorabilia. It was a vintage metal sign that must have been used in grocery stores once upon a time, and it just said “Freshie.” And I found it last summer at the Stratford Antique Warehouse, a place Raymond and I like to visit every time we’re in Stratford, Ont., to take in some Shakespeare at the famous theatre festival there. And I almost bought it for the Manse in Queensborough, thinking it would be a good addition to the walls in the back porch there – but held off because of the price, which was somewhere north of $40, a little much for a whimsy, I thought at the time.

You totally know where this is going, don’t you? Yes, just like that vintage Stock Ticker game that I stupidly failed to nab when I spotted it at another antiques place, I let it go, and have regretted doing so every single day since. Especially because every single day since, my WordPress stats show more and more evidence of people’s lingering interest in Freshie, thanks to their online searches that bring them right here.

As it happens, I was back in Stratford one recent weekend to see Measure for Measure with my mum. As soon as we’d unloaded ourselves at the motel, I zoomed over to the antique warehouse, hoping against hope that the Freshie sign that I had stupidly let slip through my grasp might still be there for me to retrieve a year later. It would have soothed my non-buyer’s remorse forever!

Dairy Queen sign at Stratford Antique Warehouse, from defactoredhead.com

I couldn’t resist throwing this in: this great vintage sign is for sale at the Stratford Antique Warehouse (which you can see in the background), and every time I see it there I wish I could afford to buy it – and had a place to put it. (Photo from the blog De Facto Redhead [defactoredhead.com] – where here you can find a post that includes not only this great photo but also some tales of the blogger’s own non-buyer’s remorse!)

I went straight to the booth where I was pretty sure it had been. No dice. I searched all the other booths in that general area of the warehouse. Nothing. Then, of course (you knew I would) I searched every single booth of that entire huge place. I don’t know what I was thinking; maybe one of the dealers had bought it from the first seller and was reselling it? Craziness, I know. Desperation, actually. And then as a final last-gasp move I asked a staffer if she remembered the Freshie sign. And she didn’t, but said she’d ask the others. And they didn’t either. Which indicates to me that someone (someone smarter than I) bought it quite a while ago, probably right after I was boneheaded enough not to a year ago.

So yeah, non-buyer’s remorse strikes again.

But all that aside: don’t you just feel better knowing that when you come here to Meanwhile, at the Manse, you are coming to perhaps the single best (and most popular) source of information in the entire universe on the subject of Freshie?

I know I do.

Kool-Aid or Freshie? Discuss.

A recent yard-sale find, purchased because it reminded me of the popsicles that my Aunt Genevieve used to make. Now all I need is a packet of Freshie!

My cousins Nancy and Valerie have commented a few times on recent Sunday-dinner-related posts, which has got me thinking about all the good times our two families spent together when we were little kids in the Manse years. One of the absolute best things about visiting the Paynes’ farm near Lindsay, Ont., was the popsicles that Aunt Genevieve made. We never had anything so exciting at our house. A perfect midafternoon treat on a hot summer day was one of those popsicles pulled out of Aunt Genevieve’s freezer.

(Did you know that high-end homemade popsicles are quite the thing now? Here is a piece by the New York Times‘s wonderful Mark Bittman, complete with yummy-sounding recipes. Strawberry-basil pops, anyone? Tomato-cucumber? Orange cream? Mojito?)

I’m pretty sure – though Nancy or Valerie, please correct me if I’m wrong – that those popsicles were made by mixing up a batch of Kool-Aid – or, more probably, Freshie – and pouring it into the popsicle moulds. Wasn’t Freshie kind of the Canadian version of Kool-Aid? According to the ever-authoritative Wikipedia, yes: “Freshie was a Canadian drink mix that was a popular alternative to Kool-Aid in the domestic marketplace from the 1950s to the early 1980s.” (Sum total of entry.) Have any U.S readers ever heard of Freshie? I’m guessing not. Kool-Aid was certainly available in Canada in those days, but I suspect Freshie may have been cheaper, in addition to being the homegrown product.

When I think back on it, we (I’m talking kids in general in those days) consumed a lot of that stuff – in liquid as well as popsicle form. Understandable, I guess; a packet cost next to nothing, and it was easy enough for a mum to add water to that sugary, chemically powder, mix it up, and instantly make a lot of kids happy. In the back of my mind, though, I can still hear Dad grumbling, “You could always drink water!” Which would have been a lot better for us, but where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, Kool-Aid vs. Freshie: I think (probably because of the price factor) we usually had the latter, but I remember wanting Kool-Aid because of – get this – the packaging. Those colourful pitchers with the smiling face on them and the droplets of condensation looked so tantalizingly delicious! Whereas the cockatoo, or whatever that stupid bird was on the Freshie packet, was just ugly.

But that’s just me. Which side do you weigh in on in the Kool-Aid-vs.-Freshie debate?

And more to the point, can you sing the Freshie jingle? “Freshie is the treat for me, and me, and me, and me … “