Hey, Queensborough: Let’s talk about Queensborough!

Which direction for Queensborough?

What direction for Queensborough? Please come and have your say, and enjoy some wine and cheese, this coming Saturday (May 12, 2018) at the Queensborough Community Centre.

You know, I love the fact that people from all over the world – and I mean all over the world; in the past couple of days alone, we’re talking Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., the Philippines, Australia, France, Ireland and Russia, in addition to Canada and the U.S. – check into and read Meanwhile, at the Manse. People out there in the wider world: Thank you! I love you! But my most important audience will always be the people who live right here in our North of 7 neck of the woods, because – well, because you are my people. And because we are doing things together. Good things.

This post is aimed at that local audience. It’s about an interesting experiment we’re undertaking this coming Saturday (May 12) for the people who live in and care about Queensborough and the Greater Queensborough Area.

(What is the GQA, you ask? Well, I define it by the roads that lead into or are close to our hamlet. If you live anywhere on Bosley, Barry, DeClair, Rockies, Hunt Club or Queensborough roads – as well as the smaller roads that lead off them, like Hass, Carson, Hart’s and Cromwell; and then there’s Cooper Road and surrounding offshoots – then feel free to consider yourself a citizen of the Greater Queensborough Area.)

The event, organized by the Queensborough Community Centre committee, of which Raymond and I are proud members, is called Wine, Cheese and Chat About Queensborough. Here’s the deal: you show up at the Queensborough Community Centre (our hamlet’s historic and well-preserved former one-room school, at 1853 Queensborough Rd.) at 4 p.m. Saturday; you are warmly welcomed and offered a glass of red or white wine (donated by volunteers with the committee) – or, if you prefer, a cup of coffee or tea – plus some first-rate local cheese from the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory; and after half an hour or so, when everyone’s met everyone and we’re all feeling comfortable, we’ll sit down and talk among ourselves about our little community.

The background is this:

Six years ago, a whole bunch of people from the Greater Queensborough Area gathered in the same place (though without the wine and cheese, more’s the pity) and tossed around ideas for what they’d like to see happen in Queensborough: their vision for the community, if you like. The event was, like this coming Saturday’s, organized by the Queensborough Community Centre Committee; and, like this coming Saturday’s will be, it was brilliantly helped along (I can’t bear the bureaucratic word “facilitated”) by Karen Fischer, an agriculture and rural economic development advisor (in the old days they called them “ag reps”) for our region with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Karen has been a staunch – and I mean staunch – friend to Queensborough over the years. She has attended so many meetings, responded to so many emails, offered up so many ideas: I think – in fact I know – that she likes us here in Queensborough! She really likes us! And so I know she’ll do a great job once again this coming Saturday, helping us corral and organize our ideas and maybe turn them into one or more plans of action.

The upshot of that gathering six years ago was a vision statement and four goals for our community. This vision statement says:

The Queensborough Community vision is to maintain a quality rural lifestyle through building community pride and preserving its heritage, and supporting and developing a vibrant commercial, residential, recreational and cultural setting.

And the four goals we set were:

  • Develop community pride
  • Preserve our heritage
  • Develop economically
  • Enjoy.

But now, prodded by Karen and ourselves, we’re wondering: do the vision and the goals need to be updated? A lot of people – including, wonderfully, a lot of young families – have moved into our community since 2012. What do these new Queensborough residents – you new Queensborough residents – need, want, expect and hope for from our community? And how can we all work together to make this happen?

Those are the questions we’ll be asking, and hopefully answering, this coming Saturday.

And here’s what I have to say about all this: you should come!

Because there’s so much we can talk about!

Like, for instance (to throw out some of my own pet beefs/ideas/projects):

  • Why in the HECK can’t we get trash and recycling pickup in Queensborough? Having to emit ridiculous amounts of fossil-fuel pollution into the environment as we drive all the way to the Tweed dump at Stoco is just ridiculous, especially when the trash and recycling pickup trucks from neighbouring Madoc Township drive right through our hamlet on the way from pickup in the Cooper area to their next stop on Queensborough Road to the west. Can we not persuade our municipal council to help us find a way to piggyback onto that service?
  • Would games nights at the Queensborough Community Centre be a good idea? Back in the day (that would be my long-ago childhood here in Queensborough), crowds of people would show up every week for euchre parties at the QCC, and everyone had a whale of a time. Some local hamlets – notably Actinolite, which along with Queensborough is the only other population centre (if you count “population” as being 50 or so people) in Elzevir Township, now part of the Municipality of Tweed – still have euchre parties, and they are still popular. Meanwhile, local libraries hold games afternoons at which people young and old gather to enjoy playing all kinds of board games. I’ve already spoken with one fairly new Queensborough resident who would love to attend regular games nights; should we try it?

But what else? What do we need in Queensborough? I’m voting for a store, but you all knew that, given my many posts on the topic and my nostalgia for the general stores that once upon a time were pretty much the heart of our community. What else? More in the way of kids’ playgrounds and activities? More heritage stuff? (Don’t even get me started on my cunning but still secret plan to turn a historic but decrepit and neglected building into the official Queensborough archives … )

What are your ideas for our community?

People, we need you. It’ll be a fun and fulsome exchange of ideas. Do you have kids? Bring them along! We’ll have juice boxes and lots of people with lots of kid experience to help entertain them while you’re engaged in visionary discussions.

Here’s the official poster for the event that went out to the community via Canada Post. If you live in the GQA, I hope and expect you’ve seen it. If you’re further afield but are a friend of Queensborough, and would like to join in the discussion, you are so welcome.

Queensborough wine, cheese and chat

Your community really does need you. Even if you’re one of the quiet households on Barry, Bosley, Queensborough, DeClair, Rockies, etc. roads who keep to yourselves – this is a fantastic chance to come out to a friendly gathering, meet some neighbours, and participate in a great discussion for a future that will affect all of us.

As I finish this post lateish into the evening, the peepers are singing their hearts out in “downtown” Queensborough. Their music is making its way into the Manse through the screened doors and windows. This lovely spring that has finally arrived has brought new life everywhere, and our hamlet is looking so beautiful. As I weeded the flower garden for the first time of the season today, I waved to so many cars and trucks passing by, and everyone waved back.

We live in a wonderful place; we are so fortunate. Especially when it comes to our friends and neighbours.

So: let’s channel all of that good stuff about living in this lovely, quiet place, look to the future – and make that future a good one for us, and for the generations that follow us, in the GQA.

Oh, and P.S.: Whether you can come on Saturday or not, please visit the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page or click here and respond to a quick and easy survey we’ve posted there (with much help from our friend Karen Fischer); your answers (and by the way, the survey is completely anonymous) will be SO helpful as we chart our community’s course.

The lucky penny from long ago

The lucky pennyThe Manse had some houseguests this past week, and that was a very nice thing. But this story is not about the houseguests, delightful as it was to spend some time again with Raymond’s sisters from the Boston area. This story is about what happened just before the guests got here.

I suspect I am not alone in having a tendency to leave serious housecleaning duties until I am forced into it by the imminent arrival of guests. (I should add that my husband, who leans toward the neat-freak category – though in the nicest possible way – does not have this failing.) So as usual in the day or two leading up to the visit, I transformed myself into a bit of a Bugs Bunny Tasmanian Devil, whipping around the house, upstairs and down, dusting, washing, Windexing and especially tidying (i.e. putting things where they should have been put when they first entered the Manse, as opposed to an in-between spot on one of the Manse’s two stairways as they awaited their final landing place). Raymond of course did his part (to put it mildly) with lots of cleaning and tidying and especially vacuuming, a task that I loathe.

Sieste the cat in my old bedroom

The view (featuring the late and much-loved Sieste the cat) of the childhood bedroom of my sister, Melanie, and me

Anyway. On the evening before the visit, I was up in one of the guest bedrooms, a spot particularly close to my heart because it was my bedroom (well, mine and my sister’s) through my childhood and early teens when I was growing up in this very house. I was in the process of putting nice crisp linens on the bed, which of course means doing a lot of back and forth, tucking in sheets and whatnot. And as I was doing this back and forth around the bed, something caught my eye.

Vintage linoleum mat 1

A detail from one of the Manse’s linoleum mats, this one in the master bedroom.

It was a small round raised spot in the vintage linoleum mat that covers much of the wooden floor of that bedroom, and in fact all the bedrooms in the Manse. Long ago – that post is here – I told you about how delighted I was when Raymond and I discovered these midcentury floor coverings not long after buying the Manse, as part of the necessary task of removing some 1970s carpeting that had seen better days many days before. At the time I wrote about somehow preserving some semblance of those linoleum “carpets” laid down on the original wooden floors; since then, we have grown extremely attached to them, and it is very likely they will remain just where they are even after the house is renovated. They are a lovely vernacular midcentury touch, and the colours are cool.

But back to that round raised spot. Here’s what it looked like (centre of the photo, tending toward the bottom – it’s hard to spot, and so you can probably understand why no one had seen it before this):

Penny-shaped outline in the vintage linoleum mat

“It looks like there might have been a coin stuck under there once,” I mused absent-mindedly to myself as I fluffed pillows and tucked in corners. And then I stopped and looked at it again, and said to myself, “Hey, self – maybe there is a coin stuck under there.” And reached under the linoleum mat. And pulled out – a penny from 1965.

Nineteen-sixty-five, people! Do you realize how long ago that is?

In 1965, Expo 67 was still in the planning stages. Nobody had heard of Pierre Trudeau. John Robarts was the premier of Ontario, and you couldn’t order a drink on a Sunday in his province. The Sound of Music was the movie of the year. The pop hits included a brand-new number from the Rolling Stones called Satisfaction …

… as well as Help!, Ticket to Ride and Eight Days a Week from the Beatles, What’s New, Pussycat? by Tom Jones, Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers, and one of my all-time favourites, Petula Clark’s Downtown. Oh, and Roger Miller’s classic King of the Road:

I was five years old.

My family had only moved into the Manse the year before as my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, took up duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say that rural ministers in those days did not make princely salaries. Which means that no coins, even pennies – “coppers,” my dad used to call them, now that I think of it – went to waste at the Manse. Why, that penny could have bought my sister or me two blackballs or two wintergreens from the vast penny-candy selection at McMurray’s general store “down’t street” in Queensborough! We would never have let it go astray knowingly.

But go astray it somehow did – very possibly not right in 1965, when it was newly minted; but sometime before the linoleum mats were covered by that garish carpeting early in the 1970s. And there the penny lay from that day until this past Tuesday night, April 5, 2016. Forty-five years or so.

Call me sentimental, but as I examined the penny I’d just discovered, I couldn’t help but think about all the things that had happened in those 45 or so years – things that had happened in that very room; in this Manse; and in this big old world. As the penny lay hidden, I grew from a little kid into a teenager; my family moved away from this house, and a series of other ministers and their families came and went; prime ministers and presidents took the world stage and moved on; movie hits went from the sweetness of The Sound of Music to the grittiness of Midnight Cowboy and Chinatown, and then on to the megahits like Star Wars and all those comic-book-themed extravaganzas. Pop music went from the Beatles to the Eagles to Fleetwood Mac to the Sex Pistols to Nirvana to Kanye and Beyoncé. And still the penny lay hidden and unchanged, even as every single thing in the world around it changed practically beyond recognition.

You won’t be surprised to know that I have stored the penny in a special place, and that I think of it as my lucky penny. There are times – and the evening that I found it was one of them – when I think I am the luckiest person in the world, to be living once again in the house I grew up in, in the beautiful and largely undiscovered corner of the world that we locals call North of 7. And to have seen and lived through as much as I have, the wonders that this wonderful world has to offer, in all the years that my penny lay hidden and lost.

Is it silly to say that I wish the penny could tell me the stories of what transpired in my old bedroom through all those years it lay there?

Is it silly to say that I’d like to tell my penny some of the stories of the things that have happened to me in all those years?

It probably is. And maybe those stories don’t even need to be told. But I’m glad I have been prompted at least to think about them, and about all that can happen as a penny lies lost. My lucky penny was a lucky find.

Spring is here to cheer the soul

Welcome to spring, dear readers! Despite the mild winter we’ve had here in Queensborough and many other parts of North America, I think I speak for pretty much all of us when I say that it’s good to experience the sights and sounds of the change of season.

One of the greatest things about spring is that it’s so colourful. After months of the world outside our doors being largely white and brown and grey, it is delightful to see various shades of green emerging – like this bulb poking up hopefully from a spot in the Manse’s tulip and daffodil garden:

A bulb coming up

And the deep orange and black of a woolly bear caterpillar:

Woolly bear caterpillar

And the light-blue buckets that have been hung to collect sap for maple syrup on Queensborough Road:

Sap buckets, Queensborough Road

That’s a sight that gladdens my heart, because it was this same stretch of maples that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, used to tap for syrup back in the days of my childhood here at the Manse. (I wrote about those happy maple-syrup memories here.)

But there are some brighter signs-of-spring colours too, like the cheerful mix in the spring/Easter display at the headquarters of the Pronk Canada machine shop in “downtown” Queensborough, in the historic building that (in my childhood days) housed Bobbie Sager Ramsay’s general store:

Easter display at Pronk Canada

Meanwhile my friend Graham has done his own annual welcome-to-spring ritual by bringing out his colourful collection of Adirondack (or Muskoka, if you prefer) chairs for a perfect riverside view:

Graham's colourful chairs

But before I get to the most colourful spring event of all in Queensborough, let’s get all multimedia here and switch to audio. Another way you know it’s spring is the chatter and song of the birds, the blue jays and chickadees and mourning doves and juncos and who knows who else who were in full voice the other morning at the Manse:

And now the most colourful part of spring in Queensborough, and it happened just this past weekend. It’s when intrepid kakayers taking part in MACKFest (the Marmora and Area Canoe and Kayak Festival) brave the high, cold waters and challenging rapids of the Black River – just for the fun of it. (I have to tell you that spending several hours in freezing-cold water and scary rapids in a little kayak is not my idea of fun, but these brave souls just love it.) Their run ends with many of them going right over the dam on the river that’s at the heart of Queensborough, something we spectators love to see. And they are rewarded for their efforts on the beautiful lawn of Elaine and Lud Kapusta’s historic home with a warm fire and barbecued hamburgers and hot coffee and lots and lots of pie served up by volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee. This year there were fewer kayakers than in past seasons, probably due to the MACKFest organizers having changed the date of the event (because of uncertain water conditions) at rather short notice. But it’s always a sight to see, and thanks to three photos by Queensborough photographer Dave deLang you can get a taste of it:

Kayakers above the dam by Dave deLang

A collection of kayakers in the still waters above the dam that is the finish line for their run. (Photo by Dave deLang)

Kayaker about to go over by Dave deLang

The moment of truth: a kayaker far braver than I could ever be prepares to go over the dam. (Photo by Dave deLang)

Kayakers going over the dam by Dave deLang

This is what we wait for all year! You have to see it to believe it. (Photo by Dave deLang)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve found this past winter to be a rather trying one. The sights and sounds of spring in Queensborough, though, are guaranteed to make a person feel better about just about everything.

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!

And the prize for the most impressive icicle goes to…

Biggest icicle of the winterWell, it seems to have happened, right around the time of the dreaded (by me, anyway) return of Daylight Saving Time: spring is officially in the air. Why, everybody I met today was positively gleeful about the warmth of the sunshine, the 5C temperature, and the melting snow and ice. After this harsh, brutal winter, there is hope! Spring will come!

But before it does, I have to show you this photo of what I have decided is the prizewinning icicle, for this winter anyway, in all of Queensborough. It’s in a very significant place, too: the east side of one of the most historic buildings in our historic village, the former McMurray’s General Store (and before that, Diamond’s Hotel, and before that, the American Hotel; this impressive building was erected as a hotel when Queensborough was a bit of a boom town in the early 1850s).

Now, there has been competition for the prize of most impressive icicle of the winter. Thanks to the bitter cold and all that comes with it, pretty much every house in Queensborough had a quite glorious display of icicles. Here, for instance, is a photo of one of the better ones at the Manse, taken this past weekend:

Icicles at the Manse

Icicles large and not-so-large at the Manse: the one on the upper story, outside the window of the study, was probably four feet long. Not bad, but not the champion.

But that icicle in front of our study window was as nothing compared to the one down at the former McMurray’s store. That was an icicle (I am using the past tense deliberately, because I expect that thanks to the moderating temperatures it will be gone by the time you read this) worthy of the name! It had to be at least 20 feet from top to bottom!

Very impressive. But listen, speaking of icicles: how many of you remember breaking off the smaller-sized ones and sucking them like popsicles, the taste of the wool of your red mittens mixing with the cold clear tastelessness of the ice?

I don’t know about you, but I have to say: could have used a little sugar.

Showered with gifts (II): local artists, local churches

picture from Ann

A happy occasion: my friend (and long-ago babysitter) Ann (Roushorn) Sexsmith stopped by the Manse one recent Sunday afternoon to present me with her drawing of our own St. Andrew’s United Church (the church she and I both grew up in) – a drawing that had won her a first-prize red ribbon at the Madoc Fair. What a wonderful gift!

As I started telling you good people last night, I thought I’d devote a few posts to the interesting, sometimes delightful, often treasured things that readers have given to me because they know they will have significance for this inhabitant of the old United Church Manse in Queensborough, Ont. Yesterday’s post was about a sweet little midcentury jewelry holder that now adorns my bedroom dresser; tonight, we turn our attention to pictures of local churches by talented artists.

Here at the Manse, Raymond and I actually have a wall devoted to those pictures (and, for good measure, a not-yet-functioning cuckoo clock from the Black Forest that Raymond picked up at an auction sale). Here’s a photo:

Wall of church pictures

And here are the stories behind the pictures.

The largest one, on the left, I’ve already told you about (in a post here); it is a beautiful drawing done by Ann Sexsmith – who, when she was a young teenager named Ann Roushorn, had the unenviable job of babysitting my sister and brothers and me when we were kids here at the Manse. And it won first prize at this past fall’s Madoc Fair! And while I was admiring it and congratulating Ann at the fair, she promised to give it to me! I was a bit taken aback by this extreme generosity, but completely thrilled. And sure enough, one Sunday afternoon after church late last fall, there was Ann with the picture. I made sure Raymond snapped a photo of the two of us with it, to commemorate the occasion.

The picture at top right is something I’ve also written about before; it’s part of a post that you can read here. Here’s a closeup of the picture:

Hazzard's church by Vera Burnside

Hazzard’s Church, by Vera Burnside.

It is a drawing of Hazzard’s Corners Church done by the late Vera Burnside, a talented amateur artist who was also one of the world’s greatest elementary-school teachers and Sunday School teachers. I remember her Sunday School classes very well and very fondly. What’s extra-special about this particular framed print of Vera’s drawing is that it once hung at the home of the late Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay, who, like Vera, was a pillar of St. Andrew’s United, and was also a longtime Queensborough storekeeper and our hamlet’s unofficial mayor. (More on Bobbie, including the great story of her secret wedding, here.) That picture was given to me by my friend Barbara, Bobbie’s sister, along with several other treasures. It was a gift that still brings tears to my eyes.

And finally, there is a church picture that, for me anyway, has a bit of mystery attached – and I am hoping that some of you readers might help solve that mystery. It’s this picture:

St. Andrew's by F. Strish

A drawing of St. Andrew’s United Church by “F. Strish.” Who is F. Strish?

This one was a gift from our friends and fellow St. Andrew’s members Jack and Lois, who just knew – how did they know? – that I would love to have it. It’s a print of another black-and-white drawing of St. Andrew’s Church, and a very nice one too. But here’s the mystery: who is the artist? The picture is signed “F. Strish,” and I have to confess that that is a name I do not know at all. Who is this talented artist, and how did he or she come to do this picture of our church? Was it a commission, perhaps? I know that someone out there will know.

Anyway, while I have previously thanked Ann, and Barbara, and Jack and Lois, for their gifts of these pictures that are so meaningful to me – because of the churches’ local significance, and because my late father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was once the minister at them – I guess this post is my way of doing it again, and more publicly.

I so often feel blessed to be living at the Manse in Queensborough, where I grew up. But never more so than when, out of the blue, an old (or new) friend passes on something meaningful and lovely like these church pictures, saying something along the lines of: “I thought you should have it.” Or: “I thought you would like it.” That’s the nicest gift of all.

Because nothing says Merry Christmas like low gas prices

Raymond filling up

My very handsome husband, Raymond, filling up his little red truck (complete with newly purchased Christmas tree) at gas prices that were below $1 a litre for the first time in years. Yay!

So I don’t know about you, folks, but here’s what everyone I know is talking about: low gas prices!

Yes indeed, like a benevolent Ghost of Christmas Past, below-dollar-a-litre prices have arrived in Central and Southern and Eastern Ontario, and people are some happy. (I hasten to add that I include myself in that number.)

I guess the somewhat discouraging thing about this otherwise delightful state of affairs is how incredibly dependent we are on gasoline to get through our daily lives. Way more so here in the new life that Raymond and I now lead in Queensborough than when we were living and working in the big city of Montreal.

Gas is 99¢

Posted gas prices at less than $1 a litre: a nice Christmas gift for rural Ontarians who pretty much have to drive everywhere they go.

I mean, people will grumble about high gas prices wherever they happen to be, and when they’re almost $1.50 a litre in Montreal all drivers, and certainly all cab drivers, are crabby. But in Montreal lots of people take public transit, and are thus far less affected by gas prices than are drivers. In addition, even if you choose to drive around the city, chances are good (unless you’re a cab driver) that you’re not travelling anywhere near the distances that the average rural Eastern Ontario driver covers in a day, or a week. When you live in Queensborough and have to travel at least eight or nine miles to do almost anything – buy milk or bread, go to school or work, get your hair “done” (now I’m seriously dating myself, though please don’t think that I get my hair “done” – that was my mum’s generation) or go to the dump – well, you burn a lot of gas. And the even sadder part is that, things being what they are, these days you really couldn’t live in Queensborough, eight or nine miles from all services, if you didn’t drive. Bring back our general stores, I say!

But anyway. Tonight I just wanted to share the news that the gas prices are making us all here in rural Ontario quite happy. “In Oshawa it’s 92!” shouted a woman to a total stranger at a gas bar in Port Hope where Raymond and I happened this morning, as the two of them both did a little happy dance about filling up at 97 cents a litre there. And I had to smile at the chap I spotted at the Ultramar in Madoc who, when the price had gone down to 99¢ a couple of days ago, was filling up not only his vehicle but, obviously, every gas can, old and new, that he’d been able to rustle up from around his property.

Well, the reality of rural-Ontario life in 2014 is, as I’ve said, that you have to drive. In an ideal world that won’t be the case; there will be not only transportation support and services available for non-car-owners, but also the ability to buy food and other necessities right where you live, just like we used to be able to do in the good old days of my childhood here.

But we’re not in that ideal world just yet, and so: Merry Low Gas Prices, everyone!