We wined, cheesed and Black Fly Shuffled – and we’re not done yet

Square dancing at the Orange Hall by Jamie

Old-time square dancing at the Orange Hall in Queensborough! After half a century, it came back. The Black Fly Shuffle, a couple of Saturdays ago, was truly a historic night in our little hamlet. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

Hello, everyone, from almost the far side of all the social activities that have been happening in Queensborough this spring. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, the answer is simple: I’m pooped!

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The kayakers doing their thing over the dam on the Black River in Queensborough in April. Freshly barbecued hamburgers and homemade pie awaited when they got out of the water. (Photo by Lloyd Holmes)

Way back in early April, I gave you a rundown of everything that was lined up for our tiny hamlet in the coming weeks. (Man, early April now seems like centuries ago.) First there was the annual visit of the intrepid kayakers ending their spring-runoff run down the Black River with hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade pie and a very warm welcome in Queensborough. I’d told you in that early-April post that the event probably wouldn’t happen because of low water conditions; but it did come off in the end, and was a great weekend, as you can read here. In that same post, I also told you about the successful Ham Supper that we held for approximately the 4,728th time (okay, I exaggerate a bit, but it’s probably been close to a century) at Queensborough’s St. Andrew’s United Church. And I telegraphed the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Queensborough Community Centre, which once again packed them in. (Sadly, I had to be in Toronto that weekend so don’t have photos of it.)

So what happened next?

Well, first it was the Wine, Cheese and Chat About Queensborough event at the Queensborough Community Centre on Saturday, May 12. It was the first time the Queensborough Community Centre Committee had tried anything like this, and it went even better than we’d hoped. Everyone circulated through the tables labelled for the four themes established for Queensborough by community members at a similar event five or six years ago: Develop, Beautify, Heritage and Enjoy. As we enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine (or a cup of coffee), the ideas flowed. All was helped along immensely by Karen Fischer of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who has worked closely with Queensborough in recent years to develop a vision for our community and to try to make it a reality – and who took these photos of us at work:

Heritage Table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Heritage table at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Elaine Kapusta as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

The Enjoy table (the fun one!) at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Raymond Brassard as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

Beautify table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Beautify table at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Shane Cox as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

Develop table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Develop table at Wine, Cheese and Chat, with me as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

The community members who gathered came up with some fantastic ideas for our hamlet, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Special Christmas activities, including seasonal lighting of the falls on the Black River.
  • A co-op neighbourhood store.
  • A farmers’ market featuring locally grown and raised foods.
  • A bandshell for community entertainment events.
  • A Queensborough archives.
  • Historical street signs for DeClair and Rockies roads.
  • More plaques for historic buildings.
  • A street dance.
  • More play areas for kids.
  • Bread-making classes. (Along the lines of our recent master class in pie-making, a monster hit.)
  • Restoration of Queensborough’s baseball diamond so that we could host softball tournaments featuring teams from all the local hamlets.

Is that not a great list? Next week the QCC Committee will be following up and talking about next steps, which ideas to proceed with, and so on. If you’re interesting in joining the committee and taking part in those discussions and plans for the future, you are welcome! We’re meeting at the community centre (the village’s former one-room schoolhouse), 1853 Queensborough Rd., at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 11.

* * *

So there was all that. And then there was – drum roll, please – the Black Fly Shuffle!

Orange Hall: It was worth the wait

Half a century – it was worth the wait! This is the sign put up at the Orange Hall – the former Loyal Orange Lodge Branch 437 – by Jamie Grant (a talented graphic designer) to welcome Queensborough back inside one of its most important buildings for the Black Fly Shuffle.

Dancing at the Shuffle, by Jamie

Dancing to the country tunes of the Country Travellers in the freshly painted and gussied-up Orange Hall. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

It was the first community event held in Queensborough’s historic former Orange Hall for close on half a century. And what an evening it was!

The hall, looking terrific (and funky), even in its mid-renovation state, was filled with people of all ages enjoying old-time square dancing and also “round dancing” (by which I mean regular dancing; I’d never heard that term prior to the Shuffle, and perhaps you haven’t either, but now you know. You’re welcome) to two bands, Doug Pack and the Country Travellers and John Sedgwick (my brother!) and the ToneKats.

Country Travellers

The Country Travellers perform traditional country music, much to the delight of the crowd and the dancers at the Black Fly Shuffle. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

The ToneKats at the Shuffle, by Jamie

The Kingston-based ToneKats, featuring my brother John (at right on stage, playing bass), livened things up with songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Bryan Adams among many others. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

It was just fantastic to watch the square dancers – both the veterans, who were amazing, and the rookies, who did their best to learn the moves – in action. And I don’t think it’s just sisterly pride when I say that my little brother’s band was terrific. Also, this being Queensborough, of course there was great food involved: halfway through the evening, at 10 p.m., there was the traditional (for old-time Queensborough dances) break of 15 or 20 minutes when everyone was able to load up their plates with sandwiches, cheese, cookies and other goodies that had been brought by all who came to the dance. It was delicious, and it was just the fuel we all needed for another round of energetic dancing, putting to the test the floor joists in the 146-year-old hall.

Stephanie at the ticket booth

Stephanie Sims, one of the volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee, was on ticket-selling duty in the old ticket booth at the Orange Hall. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

We Stand for King and Constitution

“We Stand for King and Constitution”: this is the Loyal Orange Lodge flag that was in the Orange Hall when Jamie and Tory bought it. (I believe the king in question is a young Edward VII, after whom the Edwardian Age is named.) It was on display at the Black Fly Shuffle, and lots of visitors found it fascinating. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

Perhaps the best part of the evening was the stories.

“We had our wedding dance here,” one person told me.

“I met my husband at a dance in this hall,” said another; she and her husband recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

A third told me that a community bridal shower had been held for her in the hall prior to her wedding, which was 60 years ago this past fall.

Others spoke fondly about attending – or performing at – dances in the old Orange Hall back in the day, and reminisced about some of the shenanigans that were known to take place outside, in the darkness of a spring or summer evening. Hot times in little midcentury Queensborough!

jamie-and-tory-at-lol-by-gary-pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who have brought Queensborough’s Orange Hall back to life. (Photo by Gary Pattison)

I cannot say enough about the husband-and-wife team of Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who took a huge chance in buying the Orange Hall a year or so ago, have done an immense amount of work on cleaning it out and cleaning it up, have built a full stage and added a ton of whimsical touches, have lots more plans ahead – and basically threw open the doors and welcomed a whole community inside their building at the Black Fly Shuffle.

It was a lovely, lovely night. A night to remember.

Here are some words that kind of say it all, posted by Tory on the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page the day after the Shuffle:

Tory's words after the Shuffle

And here’s a terrific video that Jamie made of the big night. The woman who gives the camera (with Jamie behind it) a huge smile at about 1:47 is, of course, Tory:

* * *

Okay, well – have you caught your breath yet from all that activity? (And I haven’t even mentioned the 128th anniversary celebration at St. Andrew’s United Church, which happened this past Sunday, and was absolutely wonderful.) Now: guess what’s next!

It’s happening this coming Sunday, June 10, and it’s the second annual Music Night at St. Andrew’s, an evening when you get to sit back and enjoy great music by local performers for an hour and a half, followed by a social time over coffee, tea and lemonade with friends and neighbours – and all in aid (thanks to a freewill offering) of sending two Queensborough kids to camp. Yesterday I did the camp registration for those kids, brothers aged 9 and 11 who are fairly new arrivals in our hamlet and have already made friends with pretty much everyone in town. They are smart, friendly, polite and full of beans. I’m certain they will love their week at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac in early July – and I thank you in advance for helping make it happen by coming out to Music Night! (And if you can’t come but would still like to support the cause, let me know.)

Music at the Church 2018

I think I can safely say, as I have many times before, that Queensborough is a happening place. To see all those people come together a couple of weekends ago for an old-fashioned community dance – that was really something. As is seeing all the people who come and enjoy events like our Pancake Breakfast, church suppers, the kayakers’ weekend, and so on. And then to know in advance (thanks to the success of last year) that so many people will come out and support Music Night to send two local kids to camp this summer…

Really, you know, Queensborough is not just a happening community; it’s a caring community.

And we know how to kick up our heels and have a good time.

I cannot imagine a better place in all the world to be.

Dull moments are few and far between in Queensborough

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What an amazing image! Lloyd Holmes of Marmora (though originally of Cooper) took some incredible photos as kayakers from all over Ontario, Quebec and beyond descended on Queensborough for the Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival last month. It was just one of the many special events that have been going on, with more to come. Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Oh my goodness, people, I am just breathless trying to keep up my reportage on all that’s been going on in Queensborough, and all that’s about to go on. If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s simply this: there is too much happening, and thus never a spare moment! Which is a pretty great thing to say about a hamlet as tiny as ours, but still: one gets dizzy after a while.

So tonight, in the few spare moments I have managed to find, I want to quickly give you the scoop on the two big upcoming events in our hamlet that you absolutely have to know about  – and attend, if you possibly can. And then I’ll give you a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

QCC pancake breakfast

The men of Queensborough, hard at work serving up a delicious pancake breakfast. They’ll be doing it again this Sunday.

Let’s get right to it. This Sunday (May 6, 2018), you owe it to yourself to come to our hugely popular Pancake Breakfast. The all-male volunteer crew from the Queensborough Community Centre (with substantial help from quite a few female volunteers) will serve you up a splendid breakfast of pancakes with fresh Queensborough-made maple syrup, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and juice. It’s just the best, not only for the food but for the chance to catch up with the news from neighbours and from former Queensborough folks who come back for this event each year. Here’s the poster. Be there. The super-reasonable cost is $10 for adults and $5 for kids six to 12 years old; kids under six eat free. Wow!

Pancake Breakfast

Okay, next: The Black Fly Shuffle. Folks, I’ve previewed this already, but I really can’t begin to tell you how great this event is going to be. In a single evening we are going to:

  • See my musician brother John Sedgwick on stage with his excellent Kingston band, the ToneKats, in the community where he, like me, grew up;

AND… (drum roll please)

  • Have an old-time square dance! Complete with caller! People, are you ready to allemande left and allemande right and do-si-do and dip and dive once more? I am sure that you are. And if you don’t know those old-time square-dance moves, not to worry: we have some veterans of Queensborough square dancing who will show you how it’s done.

Black Fly Shuffle Flyer 2

We hope the blackflies after whom the dance is named won’t bother us too much as we whoop it up (in a family-friendly, alcohol-free way) in Queensborough. If you can imagine a better time than this, my friends, then you have a heck of a lot more imagination than I do.

Jamie and Tory at LOL by Gary Pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers are having more fun than anything with the old Orange Hall. (Photo by Gary Pattison)

If you’re interested in attending – and who wouldn’t be? – you should nab your ticket(s) now, because they really will go quickly. (Remember our recent Master Class in Pie-Making, when we had to turn people away because it was so popular? Don’t let that be you when it comes to the Black Fly Shuffle!) It’s going to be an absolute hoot. The poster tells you everything you need to know about where to get tickets.

And: I would be very remiss if I didn’t give a huge shoutout to Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who became the owners of the Orange Hall not very long ago and since then have done so much to return it to its old place as community centre, arts centre, dance hall and so on. In just a few months, Jamie and Tory have made a huge difference in Queensborough, and we are so appreciative!

Okay, now that I’ve got your social calendar filled for this coming Sunday and also for Saturday, May 26, my work here is pretty much done. But before I sign off and return to still more planning and publicity work for Queensborough events, let me share a few visuals of what we’ve been up to recently.

First comes the Ham Supper, an annual tradition at St. Andrew’s United Church. As always happens, I was too busy setting and clearing tables, pouring tea and generally being a gofer during the supper rush to get photos of people enjoying the great food, but I did get this one that I rather like of the cleanup crew:

Ham Supper 2018 cleanup

As I said when I posted this photo on the St. Andrew’s United Facebook page: If you think the food-serving operation at our church suppers is impressive, you should see what it’s like in the kitchen afterward! The busy and well-organized volunteers wash, dry and put away a mountain of dishes, and any leftover food is packed up and donated to a program that feeds hungry high-schoolers in nearby Madoc. We had another successful event thanks to all who showed up, and to all who helped. And we had a lot of fun!

Of course there was lots of pie:

Pies at the 2018 Ham Supper

A Queensborough Supper wouldn’t be a Queensborough Supper without a LOT of pie.

The other big event that’s happened recently is the one I telegraphed to you at the very top of this post: the annual visit by kayakers from all over the place during the Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival, which was April 21 and 22. The weather was gorgeous, the water was high, and lots of spectators turned out to watch the fun as the kayakers jumped the dam over the Black River in “downtown” Queensborough.

One spectator kind of stood out:

Goose at the kayakers

A Canada Goose kept close watch on the proceedings for much of the day Saturday.

Here are spectators and kayakers enjoying the sunshine on the lawn of the historic home of Lud and Elaine Kapusta, where burgers were barbecued for all by volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre:

The Kapusta lawn during MACKFest 2018

Things get colourful as the kayakers gather at the takeout spot below the dam:

Kayakers at the bottom, MACKFest 2018

Still wearing their wetsuits, the adventurers line up for burgers and hot dogs:

On the porch, MACKFest 2018

It’s a big job keeping up with the demand for burgers, as Chef Don discovered:

Don at the barbecue, MACKFest 2018

Of course, this being Queensborough, there was homemade pie for dessert:

MACKFest 2018 pies

But enough of my middling photos. Let’s turn it back over to the pro. Here are more of Lloyd Holmes’s amazing shots of the fun. Thank you so much for sharing them, Lloyd!

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Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 8

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

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Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 5

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

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Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

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Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

And with that, I believe I’ve made my case that we know how to have fun in Queensborough. See you at the Pancake Breakfast and the Black Fly Shuffle!

“Lovely as a tree.”

Manse looking southwest 16 Oct 2017

Here at the Manse, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of trees, both on our own and our immediate neighbours’ properties.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…

You all know that one, I’m sure – or at least some version of the first two lines. It came into my head this evening as I was downloading photos of the trees here at the Manse. The autumn foliage in the Queensborough area has in general been less than spectacular this year – probably due to the cool, wet summer and then the sudden burst of extreme heat just around the time the leaves had started to turn – but in the closing days of the foliage season some trees are looking pretty great. And one of these, I am happy to report, is the maple tree that Raymond and I proudly planted a few months after we bought the Manse 5½ years ago.

It’s funny to go back and look at the photos of that planting day in November 2012, to see how scrawny our maple was then – even though we’d taken the advice of my brother, John, and bought the biggest and fastest-growing one we could afford because, you know, none of us is getting any younger and it would be nice to see it turn into a tree of some size in our lifetimes. Here’s the view of our tree from the front porch of the Manse that grey late-fall day:

The maple on the day it was planted

Day 1 of our newly planted maple tree. It didn’t look like much then!

And here’s the same view (a little zoomed in on the tree) from this bright fall afternoon:

Autumn Blaze maple with the Tree of Life in background

Our beautiful maple tree (with the equally beautiful Tree of Life behind it to the right, across the street).

As you can see, our maple tree has grown and flourished. And the fact that it’s a variety called Autumn Blaze means that it looks spectacular come September and October – more so, I think, this year than in any of its autumns past.

So yes, poems may be lovely – but can they ever be as beautiful as a tree? That’s the question American poet Joyce Kilmer (“Joyce” in his case being a male name) asked (and answered in the negative) in his poem published in 1913 and memorized by countless schoolchildren since.

In reading here about the history of the poem – which is simply called Trees – I learned that Kilmer was inspired by the view from the window of his writing room in his family’s home in rural New Jersey. His son, Kenton, recalled many years later that their “well-wooded lawn” contained “trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I do not know what else.” Kenton Kilmer also said: “Dad never meant his poem to apply to one particular tree, or to the trees of any special region. Just any trees or all trees that might be rained on or snowed on, and that would be suitable nesting places for robins. I guess they’d have to have upward-reaching branches, too, for the line about ‘lifting leafy arms to pray.’ Rule out weeping willows.”

That description of the Kilmers’ “well-wooded lawn” reminded me of what Raymond and I are fortunate enough to enjoy here at the Manse. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, which I also took this afternoon, not only do we have our maple but also the elm tree that we planted post-Manse purchase (it’s in the right foreground of the photo; it’s lost almost all its leaves now, but has also grown and flourished beautifully in the five years since it was planted), as well as huge yet-to-be-identified (by me, at least) evergreens at the rear of the property (actually in our neighbour-to-the-west Julie’s yard, but we can enjoy their beauty too) and a beautiful birch (behind Raymond’s red truck) and quite a few colourful deciduous trees on the property of our neighbours to the south, Brian and Sylvia.

And on the right of my photo you can just catch a glimpse of the branches of the two huge evergreen trees that fill out the northeastern section of the Manse property, and that tower over the house. Here’s a summertime photo I took of them when I wrote a few years ago about my (probably needless) worry about their proximity to the Manse:

Very large trees very close to the Manse

The two huge spruce trees – Norway spruce, I believe – that tower over the northeast corner of the Manse.

These two trees – which I once identified as red spruce, but which I believe are actually Norway spruce – are making their presence felt in a very different way than our Autumn Blaze maple this season. Like every other coniferous tree in our area this year, they have produced cones like it was nobody’s business. (Rather like the apple trees – another kind we’re lucky enough to have on our property – were drooping with their bumper apple crop last year.) The spruce trees are absolutely loaded with cones, as you can see in this photo:

Lots of cones on those trees

And better still in this closeup:

Cones closeup

And you can probably figure out what this means for us down below:

Cones on the ground

Yes indeed: a lot of cone-picking. This is how our lawn looks after two clean sweeps of the cones have already been made this season. And there are still hundreds left to fall!

But despite our trees sometimes being work – as in picking up many lawn bags’ worth of cones, not to mention fallen leaves – I have to say I am always appreciative of their beauty, and of how much they contribute to our lives and landscape. Like Joyce Kilmer, I love living in the midst of a “well-wooded lawn.” Would I swap poems for trees? Let’s just say I’m happy I don’t have to. Here’s Joyce Kilmer’s sweet little poem in full.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

War and remembrance, and a long-ago wedding at the Manse

rocky

Newlyweds Joan and Roscoe Keene in front of the Manse (and their decked-out wheels), on June 9, 1945 – just a month after VE Day brought an end to the Second World War in Europe. (Photo courtesy of Grant Ketcheson, whose late father, Allen, is the young chap at left throwing the confetti)

A while back, my Madoc Township friend Grant Ketcheson sent me a couple of photos from June 1945. They feature a happy occasion: a wedding that took place right here at the Manse in Queensborough.

Now, before I tell you the rest of the story, let me explain that back in those days, it was fairly common for couples to be married at the minister’s home rather than in a church; I wrote about another such wedding, which took place in October 1939, here. And in this post I told you the story of probably the most famous wedding in Queensborough’s history, that of village storekeeper and unofficial mayor Roberta (Bobbie) Sager and her longtime beau, Allan Ramsay, in the mid-1970s. The wedding was top-secret, and man was the rest of Queensborough surprised when they learned about it the next day. It happened right here in the Manse living room where I’m typing these words; and it is one of the great boasts of my life that I can say I was present on that historic occasion when my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, declared Bobbie and Allan man and wife.

But back to the June 1945 wedding of Joan Murray and Roscoe Keene – the happy couple you can see having confetti tossed at them in the photo at the top of this post, and eventually Grant’s aunt and uncle.

Grant sent me that photo, as well as the one you’ll see just below, because he knew I am interested in a) local history and b) photos showing the Manse (the house I grew up in, and to which I returned a few years back) in earlier times. To which I say publicly (as I told him privately at the time): Thank you so much, Grant!

Here’s the second photo:

Keene wedding

The wedding party is all smiles in this photo taken at the northeast corner of the Manse: from left, Winnifred (Keene) Ketcheson, sister of the groom; bride Joan (Lomax Murray) Keene; dashing groom Roscoe Keene (Winnifred’s brother); Bessie Keene (mother of Roscoe and Winnifred); and Cora Patterson, wife of The Rev. W.W. Patterson, who had just performed the marriage at the Manse. You can read more about Cora and W.W. Patterson and their time at the Manse here and here and here. (Photo courtesy of Grant Ketcheson, Winnifred’s son)

I’ll dispense fairly quickly with the house details that Raymond and I spotted with interest in examining these two photos. And then I’ll turn to my main focus for this post: war and remembrance. Because, as we all know, this coming Friday is Remembrance Day.

So yes, house details: it is fascinating to see what our Manse looked like a little over 71 years ago. Probably the first thing I noticed was the lovely maple tree on the front lawn behind Joan and Roscoe in the first picture; that tree was an important part of my childhood in this Manse. Here’s a photo from about 1968 of my two little brothers, John and Ken, playing in the shade of that same tree:

John and Ken 2

My brothers Ken (left) and John, sometime in the mid to late 1960s, playing in the shade of the old maple tree that you can see behind the newlyweds in the photo atop this post.

The tree was, most unfortunately, cut down some years before Raymond and I bought the Manse; as I told you here, we have honoured its memory and striven to bring shade back to our front lawn by planting a new maple in its place.

We were also interested to see that in 1945 the rounded door to nowhere off a second-storey room (my father’s study during my childhood here), as well as the “official” front door (which no one ever used) that shows up in both of Grant’s photos, were painted quite a dark colour as opposed to white, which they are today. There are also the old windows, two panes over two, that I hope to replicate as part of our renovation/restoration project. And finally in that first photo, I am struck by how well one can see, in the top left corner, the house far to the rear of the Manse on the property next door. Trees that have grown up since then would make that house invisible in a photo taken from the same angle today.

In the second photo, the main change we noticed was the railing along the porch of the Kincaid house in the right of the picture, immediately to the north of the Manse. Raymond and I added that empty historic house to our Queensborough holdings a year and a half ago, and arranged to have a new porch built to replace the crumbled old one:

New porch being built at the Kincaid House

But we didn’t think about a railing. So that old photo is food for thought, and possible future action.

However: architectural details are surely not what you will find most interesting about these photos. What makes them compelling is the story behind them, which I will tell with Grant’s help.

“My uncle’s wedding, June 9, 1945,” he begins. “He married a war widow, Joan Lomax-Murray.

“Her first husband, Alec Murray, was a Barnardo boy who grew up at Hazzard’s.”

Now, I’ll stop the narrative here to explain for younger readers (or readers from other countries) who may not catch the reference: “Barnardo” children, named for Thomas John Barnardo, were children from the United Kingdom who, because they were orphans or came from impoverished families, were “rescued” and sent to Canada, where they were raised by Canadian families, usually rural ones. Here’s how Library and Archives Canada explains it, in the introduction to a large amount of information about “Home Children”:

Between 1869 and the late 1930s, over 100,000 juvenile migrants were sent to Canada from the British Isles during the child emigration movement. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Many believed that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help.

Thomas John Barnardo began the movement, first opening a school in London for these kids who came from dreadful circumstances, and later arranging for them to travel to Canada. Doubtless his intentions were good, but many of these children, torn from home and everything they knew, were placed in unsympathetic families who used them as a source of free labour. Here is a story from the Winnipeg Free Press that gives a sense of what some of them endured. That said, there can be no doubt that other “Barnardo boys” found good and welcoming homes in Canada. It seems Alec Murray was one of these; the fact that, after his death, his English widow went to the trouble to come and visit his Canadian “family” tells you that he must have spoken fondly of that family and his experience in this country. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s let Grant continue to tell the story.

As he told me in a phone conversation this evening, Alec Murray – known locally, like other Barnardo boys, as “an English lad” – became very much a part of the Madoc and Madoc Township community, and particularly the community around the tiny Madoc Township community of Hazzards Corners. He worked on farms in the area, and was very active in the historic landmark church that marks those corners.

As an adult, when war came to the Commonwealth and the world, Alec Murray returned to England, to serve and, it seems, to revisit his roots in the area of Manchester, England. While there, he met and fell in love with a young woman from that same area – and they married. Here is a photo of that wedding at Swinton, England:

alec-and-joan-murrays-wedding

(Photo courtesy of Grant Ketcheson)

When you see the bright smiles on the faces of Alec and his new bride, the former Joan Lomax, it’s heartbreaking to know that Alec did not survive the war. Private Alec Murray “of Madoc, Ontario” was killed at Ortona, Italy, in December 1942. Grant continues:

“His widow came to Canada to visit with Alec’s Canadian family, and [eventually] married my mother’s brother, Roscoe Keene. It is a long and touching love story that I hope to put on paper someday.

“My mother [who, readers, you will recall from the second photo in this post was there at the wedding at the Manse] always said that there should have been a stone in the cemetery for Alec Murray as he had become a ‘Hazzards boy,’ always active in the church. When my Aunt Joan died, Uncle Roscoe had the stone inscribed with their names [his and Joan’s] and “Farewell My English Rose” added after Aunt Joan’s name.

“At the bottom of the stone, he had this added: ‘In loving memory of Sgt. Alec Murray C4552, Killed in Italy 09/12/43. He gave his all for us.’

Here is a picture of that gravestone:

keene-gravestone

(Photo courtesy of Grant Ketcheson)

I don’t know about you, readers, but as Remembrance Day 2016 approaches, my eyes fill with tears when I read, “He gave his all for us.”

Perhaps especially so because the inscription was done at the behest of Roscoe Keene, the now-nonagenarian second husband and widower of Joan, who died in 1999. The same Roscoe Keene who is the dashing young man you see in those photos taken on his wedding day – June 9, 1945 – here at our Manse in Queensborough, and who now lives near Kingston, Ont., enjoying a well-deserved retirement after many years as a marine engineer. What a class act Mr. Keene is, to have had an inscription honouring Alec Murray added to the tombstone for himself and his late wife in the historic cemetery at Hazzards Corners Church.

“Yes, Alec Murray is remembered at Hazzard’s Cemetery!” says Grant. “Now, I think my uncle is a classy guy, and I have told him so. I think that whole story would make a great Nov. 11 story.”

And indeed it does. A story of love, loss, sacrifice, strength and reslience.

Let us not forget.

Everyone loves a good apple. But what kind is it?

First apple from our tree

The first apple I picked from the apple tree that Raymond and I acquired when we bought the property next door to the Manse. This photo of it proved ever so popular on social media. Now comes the important question: what kind of apple is it?

The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
with fruit are bending down.

Did you learn that little poem in your school days? I certainly did, sometime early in my elementary-school career at Madoc Township Public School, when I was growing up right here at the Manse. It was one of the poems we students were required to memorize and recite out loud, back in the time when such things actually happened in elementary schools. Longtime readers might recall a post I did some time ago about my younger brother John and his youthful recitation of this poem, hampered by a missing baby tooth or two: “The goldenwod is wullow…”

Anyway: despite the terrible drought that has gripped Eastern Ontario this summer, the trees in apple orchards really are bending down with fruit this September. Or actually – I can’t speak for the orchards, because I don’t know of any cultivated apple orchards around Queensborough. But the apple trees in people’s yards, and at the edges of farm fields and fence lines, and along the roadsides, are most certainly bending down with a bumper crop of fruit. Maybe drought is good for apple crops? Hard to imagine, but there sure are a lot of apples.

Apples on the tree

The branches of our very own apple tree are laden with fruit.

Including, I am pleased to say, on the apple tree that graces the property next to the Manse – a property that Raymond and I bought about a year ago. It’s from that tree that the apple you can see me holding in the photo at the top of this post was picked about five seconds before the photo was taken. I posted the photo on Instagram and Facebook a couple of days ago, with a few words to the effect that it was the first time I’d ever picked an apple from our own tree, and that it tasted really good. (Which it did. Super-crisp and perfectly sweet-tart.)

Gracious, the number of likes and comments that came in! From old friends and new, from all over Canada and the U.S. Perhaps it’s the season: late summer turning to fall, when apples are at their best and people are thinking about them. Perhaps it was a reminder for some of the childhood treat of picking and eating a just-ripe apple from your family’s tree, or that of a neighbour. Whatever the reason, I was inspired to carry on with the apple-tree theme for today’s instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse.

One of the nicest responses I had to posting the photo on social media was a reminiscence shared in person yesterday morning at church (St. Andrew’s United in Queensborough). A neighbour and friend said to me: “That apple tree – I remember walking under it on the way to school.” The tree stands on the edge of the property, alongside Queensborough Road and the narrow sidewalk along which generations of children once walked every day to and from classes at Queensborough’s one-room schoolhouse, which stands maybe a hundred yards west of the tree.

Queensborough Community Centre

The old one-room schoolhouse in Queensborough, now the Queensborough Community Centre.

I will always regret missing – by just one year – the chance to attend that one-room schoolhouse; it was closed the summer before six-year-old me was to start school, which is why I ended up at much bigger and fancier (for those days) Madoc Township P.S. But regrets aside, I love the image of schoolchildren decades ago stopping to pick apples from the very tree that Raymond and I can now call ours.

The apple tree coming home from school

A view of the apple tree as a kid would see it walking home at the end of an early-fall schoolday. I would think those easy-to-reach apples would be pretty tempting.

And I love the idea that our apple tree is an old one. Because – well, you folks know me. I’m a sucker for history, and for stuff that’s been around a long time. Like the Manse. And the apple tree. And the house on the property next door, the property where the apple tree grows:

Kincaid House by Dave deLang

The house on the property next to the Manse, commonly called the Kincaid House after the family that lived there for many, many years. This beautiful picture is by Queensborough photographer Dave deLang.

At the moment we use the house for storage, primarily of our large (to put it mildly) book collection. But someday, someday… a bookshop, maybe?

But back to the apples. One question I got as a result of my apple-photo post on social media was what kind of apples they are. Wealthy was one suggestion, and I have to say I had never heard of that variety before. (I have since learned a bit more, thanks to various websites including this one from Maine, which says that the Wealthy “is considered to be a standout among pie apples.” Sadly, as my friends know, pie-making is not my forte.) Another suggestion was Northern Spy. My own first guess was McIntosh, since those are common around here, but my friend who remembered the tree from her Queensborough school days was doubtful about that. As this site (from an apple-growing outfit a bit southwest of Toronto) indicates, all three varieties are to be found in Ontario.

But if you’ve ever looked through the criteria for discerning apple varieties (as Raymond did, when I posed the question to him of what our apples might be), you’ll find that the variables are many, and coming up with the right answer is pretty darn hard. So, readers, it’s your turn.

Does anyone familiar with our Queensborough apple tree know what kind it is? Or are there any apple experts out there who can identify it from my photo?

And hey, if you need a taste in order to come up with the answer: stop by and pick one yourself! You just have to reach over the fence – like many a schoolkid before you.

Meet the new bike – same (almost) as the old bike

us six at the Manse

I’ve showed you this photo before; I love it because it’s the only picture I have of my whole family (my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick; my mum, Lorna; and, from left, me, Melanie, John and Ken) from the days when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s. However, I’m showing it to you today because it is ALSO the only known photo of my very first bike. It’s the sweet little blue CCM that you can see parked on the Manse’s front porch behind us. Dad always made me park it on the porch to keep it out of the sun that might fade its paint – and I haven’t forgotten the lesson. (Photo probably by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

People, I have got myself a bike! It’s something I’ve been wanting pretty much since Raymond and I bought the Manse four years ago – a way to get around Queensborough (and a little beyond) when I want to go quicker than on foot but without burning fossil fuels.

My dream, much scoffed at by people who are more serious cyclists than I am (which is pretty much the entire world), was an old-fashioned bike with no gears to work, no cables running from handlebars to wheels, and brakes that you’d apply by cycling backwards. Also: a bike with a comfortable seat and that allowed you to sit up straight rather than hunkering down over the handlebars.

A bike, in short, very like my first one. Which was the best gift ever from my parents, The Rev. Wendell and Lorna Sedgwick, when I was perhaps eight years old and growing up right here at the Manse in Queensborough.

I remember that bike well. It was a little CCM, just the right size for a small girl of eight or so, and it was a lovely light blue, with a white seat and handlebars and fenders. I didn’t yet know how to ride a bike when I received it, but I remember my dad patiently holding me steady and upright as I wobbled a few times around the Manse’s front yard – and how then, suddenly, magically (as always happens when people figure out bike-riding), I got the hang of it and took off to ride on my own around the block that is “downtown” Queensborough. And from there, I could go anywhere on my bike! The best was riding up to the top of the hill at the western edge of our village, past the former one-room school and the former St. Henry’s Roman Catholic church, and just whizzing down it at what felt like the speed of sound, whistling down the wind. (When I came back to Queensborough many years later, I was startled at how un-steep that hill, so challenging and fun in my childhood, turned out to be; but I have decided that it must have been levelled down a bit in the interim. Either that or it’s yet one more case of things being so much larger and more impressive when seen through a kid’s eyes.)

Anyway: my dream of having a bike in my Manse adulthood that’s like the bike I had in my Manse childhood has come true! And here it is:

Me with my new bike

Same house, same porch, and a delightfully similar bike! Me smiling about my new wheels as Raymond and our friend Lauraine look on from the porch. (Photo by Paul Woods)

I gasped when I saw this bike in the bike section of the Target store in Biddeford, Maine, during the recent seacoast vacation that Raymond and I took. It was perfect! Retro styling, no gears, brake by pedalling backwards, a comfortable seat – and it was turquoise! (Which is a very resonant colour for me here at the Manse, as longtime readers will know from posts like this and this and this.)

It is a Schwinn Cruiser, and while it looks (in my opinion) like a million bucks, the price was stunningly low. People, this gorgeous bike cost only $139! Now, granted, that’s $139 U.S., which at the current horrible exchange rate is about $3,500 Canadian – no, no, I’m kidding. The exchange rate is horrible, but still, I got this great-looking bike for considerably less than $200 Cdn. You can’t beat that with a stick.

I had to laugh at myself as I wobbled around the Manse’s front yard a few times when I first got on it – just like the first time I got on that little CCM back in about 1968. (And don’t think I wasn’t missing my dad being there to keep me upright.) It had, I realized, been a long time since I’d been on a bike. But I got the hang of it once again, and have zipped around the block a few times since. I need to get a basket so that I can cart stuff – like a dozen farm-fresh eggs from Debbie the Queensborough egg lady, or bulletins to be delivered for the Sunday service at St. Andrew’s United Church – while I’m riding around on my retro turquoise two-wheeled wonder. But aside from that, I’m thrilled about my bike and the possibilities.

Now I just have to work up the nerve to climb up that hill on the western edge of the village – and whip down it once again, after all these years. I hope the wind still whistles.

The door in the dump

The door in the dump

I was startled to find, lying atop a pile of construction debris at the dump, a door that looked remarkably like the doors in the Manse. A sad end for a fine old thing.

“These don’t go in the recycling,” the helpful attendant at the dump told me, holding up two wire hangers from the dry cleaners that I had tossed into the blue bin along with the tin cans, aluminum foil and hard plastics.

“You have to take them to the bin for metal back there,” he said (not unkindly), gesturing with his head to the large section at the Municipality of Tweed dumpsite where you take your bagged garbage and also large items such as furniture and construction materials, which go into big dumpsters.

I sighed a little bit, because it was a wet, overcast, muddy day, I was sick with a bad cough, and I really just wanted to get this dump excursion over with. Now I had to make a stop at the metals bin along with my recycling and garbage-bag stops.

But in the end I was kind of glad he’d sent me there. Well, glad – and sad.

Because in the construction-materials dumpster that was close to the metals dumpster, I spotted the nice old wooden door that you can see in my photo. It caught my eye because it is very similar to the old wooden doors still in use here at the Manse, and that I imagine date from the time when the house was built in 1888.

Bathroom door at the Manse

The door of the bathroom at the Manse (formerly the minister’s study, we have it on good authority). As you can see, it’s a lot like the one I spotted in the dump.

I am pretty sure the one at the dump was bigger than our doors, so even if I could have retrieved it – I couldn’t; it was too far down and out of my reach, plus I would have had no way of transporting it in my little Toyota – it probably wouldn’t have been helpful in eventual Manse renovations. And also it had obviously been modified, the way the front door of the Manse had been sometime after the years when I lived here as a child:

Inside front door

The front door of the Manse as it is today – modified and very much in need of repainting and general touchup, but still solid.

Front door back in the day

This c. 1971 photo of me and my family at the Manse (from left, my sister, Melanie, being a cutup as usual; me standing; my Mum with a cat whose name I’ve long forgotten; and my brothers Ken and John with Finnigan the not-very-bright dog) allows you to see (in the background at right) that the front door of the Manse was in its original state then, with no window in it.

As with our front door, the top panels of the one at the dump had been cut out to make a window. And also, it was very battered and worn – just like our doors are.

But it was not so battered and worn that, after some stripping of old paint and touching up, it wouldn’t have looked quite splendid installed in a house of its period. And that’s why it made me sad to see it lying there in the dumpster. A good solid wooden door that had been made – probably locally – well over a century ago, featuring some nice detail, and that had served its intended purpose well for many, many years – now just tossed, to be forgotten and replaced with something that I’d be willing to bet won’t be nearly as nice or as sturdy, and won’t have been made by local craftspeople.

Well – let me just say that if you ever go dumpster diving at the Tweed dump, I don’t think you’ll be finding any of the Manse’s doors.