With autumn closing in, time to say so long to sweet summertime

Going fishing

Looking a bit Norman Rockwell-esque, two young Queensborough people head “down’t street,” fishing poles in hand, to go fishing on a perfect summer day. That would be summer in Queensborough at its best.

Happy almost fall, readers!

Did you know that fall officially begins this coming Wednesday, Sept. 23? No? Well, neither did I – until CJBQ radio host Jim Wright dropped that fact during this past Saturday’s broadcast of ’60s and ’70s oldies, a show that (as you can imagine, knowing as you do my feelings for that era) I love.

In fact, one of the things I love about the era of the ’60s and the ’70s is that those were the days when fall started on Sept. 21 – every year. Just as summer started on June 21, winter on Dec. 21, and spring on March 21. There was a kind of reassuring certainty about those unchanging seasonal start dates, despite the fact that blizzards were known to dump several feet of snow on the first day of “spring,” and we’d often been suffering through a weeks-long heat wave by the time summer “started” on June 21. Now that science and technology and whatnot have got us all fancy about precision when it comes to the start of the seasons (as with everything else) – well, you just never know (unless Jim Wright tells you) when autumn might officially begin. And where’s the usefulness of that? Thank goodness for Jim.

Anyway. I’ve ranted about that topic before here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and I probably will again. Had to get it out of my system. But let’s go back to where we started: Happy almost fall!

Boxes of books

Some of the many, many boxes of books that had to be moved from Montreal to Queensborough.

I hope your summer has been long and languorous and happy, filled with family times, and perhaps with travel to new places, and with some seriously good gardening. I am painfully aware that one thing your summer has not been filled with is reading posts from yours truly here at Meanwhile at the Manse. Raymond and I have spent our summer truly, finally and completely getting our stuff  – primarily books – moved from our former home in Montreal to our new home in Queensborough. This has involved many, many long trips between the two places, much packing, much stress, much expense. I’ll spare you the details, but I hope you’ll be understanding and excuse my absence from your internet space.

And hey, here I am again! I don’t think my busy schedule will allow a return to daily posting, but I think once a week is highly doable. What do you think: does “Monday at the Manse” have a bit of a ring to it? I shall aim for a post for you every Monday (with perhaps some occasional extra posts when I can manage it or feel particularly inspired) for the foreseeable future. And hey, this is the first one!

And so now, as the air turns crisp and cool, the leaves on the trees turn to scarlet and gold – autumn closing in, as Bob Seger once sang – I’d like to show you lots of pictures of what summer 2015 has been like for Raymond and for me and for Queensborough. It was great! If you weren’t here, you missed a lovely quiet rural old-fashioned summertime. Sweet, sweet summertime, to quote Bob Seger once more. Here it is – or at least, was:

Welcome to Queensborough planter

Welcome to Queensborough! The beautiful flowers and plants at one of the entrances to our hamlet, courtesy of the Queensborough Beautification Committee. Note the Canadian flags in honour of Dominion Day.

Helping a turtle on Barry Road

Summer isn’t summer without turtles crossing the road – something we all should try to help them with, to save their lives. Here’s Raymond helping a tiny one cross Barry Road between Queensborough and Cooper.

Bee balm

Beautiful bee balm in the Manse garden. Good for the bees and pretty to boot!

Wild parsnip

Wild parsnip – a problematic, invasive plant that is, unfortunately, taking over the roadsides in our area. Watch for a future post specifically on the subject. And in the meantime, avoid touching the wild parsnip!

Johnston's before move

The interior of Johnston’s Drugstore in Madoc just before the old store on the main street that’s been there for so many years finally closed and moved to a new, larger location. Johnston’s is a truly great local family business of many decades’ standing.

New Johnston's

An employee cleaning the windows of the new Johnston’s location, just before the opening. It’s a nice big store! But it’s still sad to lose the old one.

Historic sign planter

Another beautiful planter in Queensborough, this one around the sign by the Black River telling a bit of the history of our hamlet.

Bob Hudson Queensborough painting

A lovely painting of the bridge over the Black River in Queensborough by Bob Hudson, a talented artist with strong ties to the Madoc area. This original painting is now in the Sedgwick-Brassard collection: it was my gift to Raymond on his birthday this past July 30.

Toad before disappearance

This is a toad that showed up in the Manse garden one summer afternoon and commenced to doing something quite amazing: it disappeared into the ground! See next photo …

Toad after disappearance

Can you find the toad? Neither can I! it parked itself in a corner of the garden, and proceeded to bury itself and just … disappear! I looked into it on the internet and discovered that this is actually a thing with toads. Amazing!

New Queensborough sign front

The Queensborough Beautification Committee undertook an excellent project this summer: erection of a new sign at the northern entrance to town on Barry Road. The sign was designed and made right here in Queensborough at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop.

New Queensborough sign back

Here’s the back side of the new sign. Beautiful! And – thank you for visiting!

Ray's Famous lobster and crab salad

Raymond and I did actually take a holiday this summer – two weeks in Maine, where we love to go. Here is one supper from that vacation, Ray’s Famous Lobster and Crab Salad (one scoop of each, on top of a bed of greens). It was inspired by a similar dish at the wonderful Kennebunkport restaurant Mabel’s Lobster Claw, and Raymond pulled it off smashingly.

Dominion Day planters

The lovely planters throughout the village (with Dominion Day windmills as of July 1), installed and tended to by hard-working volunteers with the Queensborough Beautification Committee.

Colourful carrots

Colourful (and delicious) carrots from the garden of our friends and neighbours Jen and Ed. Pretty as a picture!

Farm equipment at Jos's

Kind of a classic photo of summer in Queensborough: farm equipment in for repairs at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop – the former Sager’s General Store. Jos Pronk’s work is much appreciated by local farmers for his ability to repair all manner of equipment.

Camaraderie at Hazzard's service

The wonderful local music group Camaraderie performing at the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners Church

War of 1812 ceremony at Hazzard's

… and a ceremony honouring a War of 1812 veteran buried in the Hazzard’s cemetery that was part of the same summer service.

QCC yard sale

The giant fundraising yard sale held by and at the Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s historic former one-room school).

Moving Chuck's shed

An exciting late-summer afternoon: loading a heavy old shed from the property of our friends and neighbours Chuck and Ruth onto a big truck owned by Smokey’s Towing of Queensborough. We all came out to watch this interesting (and eventually successful) operation. Good Queensborough entertainment!

Queensborough rainbow

Full-bow rainbow over Queensborough after a midsummer rainstorm.

Croissants on the back deck

A breakfast that, sadly, Raymond and I can’t get in Queensborough (until that patisserie – French bakery – eventually opens up here): croissants and pain au chocolat with morning coffee and reading on our back deck in Montreal. Probably for the very last time, given our move to Queensborough.

Red truck at 780 de l'Epee

Raymond’s red truck in front of our former home in Outremont (Montreal), during one of our many trips back there to move stuff this summer. That’s our place with the green door.

Not-quite-ripe tomatoes

The heirloom tomatoes in our garden at the Manse that didn’t quite turn ripe and red in time for Raymond to live his dream of entering them in the vegetables category at the Madoc Fair. Maybe next year!

Fair teacups

Hey, and speaking of the Madoc Fair – you know it’s coming when the teacup ride shows up in the parking lot at the Madoc arena in mid-September.

Honey Bunny

The big news for Raymond and me at the end of this summer was the arrival of our two new kittens. Here is Honey Bunny…


… and here is her sister Teddy – who we initially thought was a male, and hence the name. Now Teddy is short for Theodora.

Tired kitties

And here are both Teddy and Honey Bunny, exhausted after a day of chasing each other around the Manse. They have brought much happiness to the Manse, which was a sad place after our beloved Sieste died at the start of the summer.

Unloading boxes of books

The end of the endless move! Just this past weekend, our books from Montreal were unloaded from the great big moving truck into our new acquisition: the historic Kincaid house next to the Manse.

Yes, people, the end of Summer 2015 for Raymond and me was the excitement of being able to become the new owners of the great old house next door, a funky place even older than our 1888 brick Manse. It is the new home of our many, many books. And one of these days we hope to restore its interior, along with that of the Manse – and maybe there’ll even be some sort of commercial enterprise there. Like, say… a bookstore? Bosley Road Books, Queensborough? What do you think?

In which Sieste the cat learns to share the hassock. Sort of.

Sieste and the church schedule

This is Sieste the cat, somewhat reluctantly deciding to share hassock space with the schedule for services at St. Andrew’s United Church. The things a cat has to put up with!

Long, long ago, I told you (here, in fact) about how the Manse needed a hassock, an oddball object that was unavoidable in North American households in the middle of the 20th century (including here in Queensborough when I was growing up at the Manse) and that has since kind of gone missing in action. Later, I delightedly told you (here) about how Raymond and I finally acquired a cool midcentury hassock that fits right in with the midcentury vibe of our happy Queensborough house. (And if you’re wondering why a house that was built in the Victorian days of 1888 has a mid-20th-century vibe – well, chalk it up to my midcentury youth here.)

Anyway, what you might not know – yet – is that one of the favourite recurring characters here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, Sieste the cat, totally loves that Harvest Gold hassock. It is one of her preferred places to perch, and she’s even got used to the fact that it has wheels and sometimes rolls around a bit when she jumps up on it. (I think maybe it’s her version of a midway ride at the Madoc Fair.)

Even as I write this, Sieste is on the hassock by my right knee, keeping an eye on me and on all that might be going on in the Manse’s dining room on a quiet Wednesday night. Which is, truth be told, not all that much – but then it doesn’t take a lot to amuse Sieste.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the photo that’s at the top of this post because I found it funny how Sieste felt she had to find a place on the hassock a couple of nights ago, even though much of the hassock space was taken up with a piece of paper showing the schedule of services at St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough and the two churches with whom we share the services of The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, St. John’s United in Tweed and Bethesda United in the hamlet of White Lake. The schedule was there on the hassock so I could refer to it as I did some church work – I am the secretary at St. Andrew’s – but Sieste could not bear to have her space usurped. So she kind of worked her way into the situation, first by jumping up and announcing her intention to make that pesky piece of paper make way for her:Sieste making her peace with the church schedule 1

And then by trying to find a way to settle down beside it without looking like she was being too accommodating to this annoying intrusion on her space:

Sieste making her peace with the church schedule 2

And then finally settling herself comfortably (without disturbing the church schedule, I might add) and making peace with the situation.

You’ve heard of separation of church and state? Well, I consider this separation of church and cat. A separation in which, appropriately, everything has its place. Right there on the hassock.

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.

Rabbit-foot keychains: why did that seem like a good idea?

Tiny bunny at the fair

This adorable baby bunny was there for the stroking and picking up at the Madoc Fair‘s petting zoo. (Which was aimed at kids, but I loved it too.) It is so lovely to feel a bunny’s soft fur. But why would you ever want to separate its soft foot from its soft body?

If you read my post last night, about some of the simple but charming things that I enjoyed seeing at last weekend’s Madoc Fair, you might remember that one such thing was the soft and cuddly baby bunnies who were among the pettees at the fair’s petting zoo. (I didn’t share my photo of the little white one because I was saving it for tonight’s post. And now you have it. Isn’t he/she adorable?)

A day or two after our visit to the fair I was reminiscing aloud about petting and holding the bunnies. “They were so soft!” I told Raymond.

Whereupon he took it upon himself to remind me of a phenomenon from both of our childhoods that I had utterly, utterly forgotten:

“Well of course they’re soft,” Raymond replied. “Why do you think people used to always carry around rabbits’ feet?”

Remember these? Yikes!

Remember these? Yikes!

Wow – it all came back to me with a bang. Rabbits’ feet! On keychains! Everybody seemed to have them, didn’t they? Or was it just the kids? But wait a minute; my memory must be faulty on that front. Those 1960s days of my childhood in Queensborough were days when kids had absolutely no need for keys, or keychains. No house was ever locked, and besides, mum was always home. So why did all the kids have rabbits’ feet? Were they just a loose thing they kept in their pockets and purses?

And more to the point: were they real? Did a bunny really give up a foot for each of those soft little pocket and purse treasures?

And even more to the point: what the heck was that all about? I mean, I vaguely know that there’s an old tradition of a rabbit’s foot bringing good luck, but was that why people had them? Or was it just a midcentury fad of some sort? (Clearly it wasn’t just a Queensborough fad, if Raymond, who grew up in Lowell, Mass., also remembers it.)

Much as I treasure Raymond, I really wish he hadn’t reminded me of the rabbit-foot phenomenon. I have a ghastly feeling that, if those furry little feet were real, an awful lot of rabbits were raised just so they could be killed and their feet chopped off and marketed. And that’s just awful.

Which makes me very happy to say that I personally never had a rabbit’s foot. And neither did anyone in my family. Poor little bunnies! Far better they should be kept intact, four feet and all, to be picked up and petted at the Madoc Fair.

Stuff that won prizes, and won me over, at the Madoc Fair

Madoc Fair 2014, Ann's prizewinning drawing

I am so proud to say that this is my old friend (and, truth be told, former babysitter!) Ann Roushorn Sexsmith with her prizewinning drawing of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. The highlight of this year’s Madoc Fair for me was when Ann, out of the blue, offered me that lovely first-place picture. Wow!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since this year’s edition of the Madoc Fair. I figured that tonight I’d better say what I have to say – or more to the point, show what I have to show – from the fair, or it will all recede into distant memory.

So first things first! The absolute highlight of the fair for me this year was running into Ann (Roushorn) Sexsmith, who once upon a time was a regular babysitter of my siblings and me here at the Manse. Now, it’s always nice to see Ann, but this time was special, because she was beaming with pride at having (very deservedly) won a first-place ribbon at the fair for her black-and-white drawing of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. (Ann has been a fine artist ever since I’ve known her, which is quite a considerable time.) She knew that, as a dedicated member of St. Andrew’s, I’d be tickled about the subject of her winning picture, and very kindly agreed to pose for a photo with it in the exhibition hall at the fairgrounds.

And then came the best part of all: Ann promised me the picture!

I was so touched by her kind and deeply meaningful gesture that I had tears in my eyes as I answered a heartfelt “Yes, oh yes!” to her question, “Would you like to have it?”

So before too long Ann’s picture will hang in a special place at the Manse. You know, I’ve said this before and I will say it again: Queensborough-connected people are just the best and most generous kind of of people.

As for the rest of the fair, well, Raymond and I had a delightful time perusing the exhibits and watching the horse pulls and chowing down on the kind of food that you only get at the fair. (Burgers cooked up by the volunteer fire department, and Grandpa Ellis taffy, and candy floss and whatnot). Fortunately for us we were there on Saturday, late morning and early afternoon, when the weather was terrific; later in the day Saturday and for most of Sunday the rain just teemed down and made things miserable.

Anyway, most of my photos from this year’s fair were from the aforementioned exhibition hall where Ann’s picture had taken first place. There were vegetables and flower arrangements and art and quilts and photographs and sewing and knitting and maple syrup and jams and jellies and so on and so on and so on. And I just loved it all.

I also was quite taken with this year’s edition of the petting zoo, something that of course is aimed mainly at the kids but that I always drag Raymond to because I love it. There were lots of animals in it this year, and they were so great! So yeah, I dragged Raymond in and he pretty much had to drag me out, because I could have spent hours laughing at the duck with the beehive hairdo, and cuddling the super-soft baby bunnies, and chatting with the friendly pig, and admiring the pretty baby goats and the miniature horses.

But: it’s goodbye to the fair until next year. Here’s a little memento, a showcase of the simple and good things that win prizes and make people happy on that very special weekend:


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As the Madoc Fair arrives, I say: “Bring back the Booth!”

Satisfied customers at the fair booth

Service with a smile and satisfied customers at the Queensborough booth at the Madoc Fair, September 2005. (Photo taken from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

This coming weekend brings the Madoc Fair, and if you’re not excited about that, well, I don’t even want to know you. I love the fair, and Raymond does too.

Grandpa Ellis taffy

The Grandpa Ellis Taffy trailer is a happy sight at the Madoc Fair.

We especially like the horse-pull competition – which formed the backdrop and running theme of my first long post about the fair, back in 2012 when I’d visited it for the first time since my long-ago childhood – but we also get a kick out of the displays of prize-winning vegetables and baking, the sheep-herding demonstration (which that first year featured a duck, instead of a sheepdog, herding the sheep, which was pretty entertaining), and the 4-H kids doing their thing, all dressed in spiffy white, exhibiting their dairy calves and whatnot. And I like the Grandpa Ellis taffy, which you can see being made just minutes before you are able to buy and eat  it. And Raymond lingers longingly over the shiny new pickup trucks from Doug Hunter Ford that are always on display inside the arena.

But what I want to tell you about tonight isn’t all of that stuff. I want to tell you about the booth that the United Church Women of St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough ran at the Madoc Fair forever and ever and ever. It’s a little wooden building in a prime spot on the fairgrounds, near the horse-pulling track and the bandstand; and at that little both every fair weekend, folks would line up many people deep for French fries and hot dogs and hamburgers and the best homemade pie you ever tasted. The women (and some men) of the church worked their bottoms off all weekend, peeling hundreds of pounds of potatoes, working over hot fryers and grills, and slicing up pie after pie after pie.

It was a great fundraiser for the church, and it was pretty universally regarded as the primo spot for good eats at the fair. And while I never got the chance to work in the booth myself back in the day – I imagine it was felt that kids would only get in the way of the super-efficient ladies of the UCW – I think I’m safe in guessing that the volunteers who did take part had a great time even though they worked really, really hard.

A few years ago the St. Andrew’s people decided that they’d have to give up the booth at the fair. The number of people who could be rounded up to help out was getting smaller and smaller, and nobody was getting any younger, and it was just too much work for too few people.

Inside the fair booth

The view from inside the booth – something I never got to experience when I was growing up here, but would love to get a chance at now as a volunteer worker and server. And the best thing about this photo? At right is Pauline Harris, who was a pillar of St. Andrew’s and just a wonderful person. (Photo from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

But this week I got a happy reminder of the days when the Queensborough booth was in full swing. Our friend Terry, a stalwart and hard-working member of the St. Andrew’s congregation who was also, with his wife, Joan, a volunteer at the booth for many years, gave me a delightful gift: some DVDs featuring video footage of the women (and men) at work.

Fries at the fair

Fries at the booth, fresh out of the deep-fryer. (Photo from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

What a treat it was to watch! Everyone did seem to be having a lot of fun. The fries looked scrumptious; Raymond, who adores fries, was practically drooling. And perhaps best of all, there were the much-loved faces of some people who are no longer with us – notably Pauline Harris, a pillar of St. Andrew’s and the community, and Bobbie Sager Ramsay, ditto on the pillar front and about whom I’ve written many times before. (The best one is probably the story of Bobbie’s wedding, which took all of Queensborough by surprise; it’s here.)

When St. Andrew’s gave up the booth, it was taken over by another church group, this one from Madoc. And good food is still served there; the pie in particular is still pretty great. But what I wouldn’t give to have that annual tradition back in the hands of our little church and community, this time with Raymond and me on hand to help out. I am a non-stop whirlwind of energy when it comes to working for a good cause, and how I would love to be part of a Queensborough team helping to feed the fairgoers and support our lovely and historic church at the same time. And maybe I could even enlist some of you wonderful Meanwhile, at the Manse readers to stop by and give an hour or two of your time to help too!

So what do you think? Should we start a Bring Back the Booth campaign?

Or – come to think of it (she says at the end of a long, hard week) – should we just take it easy and enjoy the fun of an old-fashioned fall fair – and let someone else cook the fries and pie? I suppose there’s quite a bit to be said for that too.

At any rate, people: see you at the fair this weekend!

August Affair: a poem about the Rock Acres Peace Festival

Rock Acres Peace Festival site

At the heart of the Rock Acres Peace Festival – a photo taken by one of my correspondents who has kindly shared memories of the event but has requested anonymity. Thank you to that person!

Today, people, is Aug. 6, 2014. Do you know the significance of that date? Well, I’ll tell you. It is the 43rd anniversary of Day 1 of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough‘s one and only (to date, as I always like to say) rock festival.

Since Meanwhile, at the Manse has (I say quite proudly) become the go-to place on the internet for information about that amazing (and, yes, long-ago) event, you can learn all about Rock Acres in my various posts, notably here and here. But if you want more, just click on “Rock Acres Peace Festival” under the Categories heading on the home page of this blog, and you’ll learn pretty much everything you might want to know about what happened when hundreds of long-haired young people came to tiny Queensborough for a weekend of peace, love and music in that summer of 1971.

Okay, well, maybe not everything. Because as it happens, on this anniversary of the start of the festival, I have a new bit of information for you. How do you like that?

Goldie Holmes

Goldie Holmes, Queensborough’s Quilt Lady – and unofficial midcentury poet laureate.

It is nothing less than a poem about the great event by the late Goldie (Ash) Holmes, Queensborough’s famous “quilt lady” – she made quilts that were brilliant folk art featuring buildings and scenes from the Queensborough area; you can read about that here and here. Goldie also wrote poetry and, as I reported here, a song recorded by one of Canada’s early country-music stars.

My Memory Book of PoemsGoldie’s poem about Rock Acres is included in her collection My Memory Book of Poems, published in 1976. The book is delightful to leaf through; Goldie recorded all manner of events in verse, from the Madoc Fair, to bus excursions by the Queensborough branch of the Women’s Institute, to the momentous Rock Acres Peace Festival. The poems may not go down as monuments in world literature, but as records of a place, a time and a community – Queensborough and its inhabitants and institutions in the middle of the 20th century – it is kind of unmatchable.

I love her poem about the rock festival, which is entitled August Affair. The metre and rhyme may be a bit tortured, but Goldie paints a very complete picture of the event. And what I especially like is her fair and even kindly attitude toward the young people who came from near and far to Queensborough. As you read it, I think you’ll appreciate her interest in these kids (They “gave us a slant/On this generation, how they like to live/And it gave us a chance, hospitality to give,” she writes), and her appreciation for what they did for our hamlet’s economy and renown.

So without further ado, here is the inimitable Goldie Holmes on the Rock Acres Peace Festival. And hey, everyone: happy anniversary!

Rock Acres Peace Festival crowd

Another photo by my anonymous correspondent, whom I thank once again!


The “Rock Acres” festival is over, Hurrah!!
It is something we’ll remember for many a day.
In the year nineteen hundred and seventy-one,
In the spring, the excitement begun
When the public became aware of the plan
For a rock festival on a local man’s land.
His sons did some planning, folks hoped for no harm
When the festival came to “Rock Acres” farm.
There were injunctions against them and feelings ran high
When they first said the festival would be in July.
But it was put off until August and then,
The young folk came walking, the weekend to spend.
Some carried bundles, some had packs on their backs,
But for “Rock Acres” farm they were all making tracks.
They came on cycles, and cars too, good ways to travel
And went in on the narrow, crooked road made of gravel.
When they came to our village, in the heat of sun’s ray
To swim in the mill-pond and put in the day.
Until it was time for the festival fun,
Of Rock and Roll music when night-time had come.
They behaved very well, caused no fuss or havoc
Didn’t shop-lift, or cheat, or create any panic.
The two local merchants sold things galore
Friends helped out at Sager’s and McMurray’s stores.
The kids had long or short hair, some wore jeans, some short pants
Some had on bikinis, and gave us a slant
On this generation, how they like to live
And it gave us a chance, hospitality to give.
The O.P.P. were kept busy, here and there on patrol
And we felt they were keeping things under control.
Around our village we felt pretty good
And hoped they all sensed our deep gratitude.
Down at “Rock Acres” festival there was plenty of drugs
Also there were many mosquitoes and bugs.
Can and pop bottles and other stuff too
Could be seen on the ground ‘ere the festival was through
There were some traffic problems, which were handled quite well
And a number of people said the festival was “swell.”
Some rail fences around, soon went up in smoke
In little bon fires to warm young folk.
The weather was fine, the whole weekend through
Which helped out the young folk, and helped us out, too.
The noise bothered some of the neighbours quite near
And kept them awake all the night, so I hear.
I’m glad the rock festival is now in the past
And I hope it’s the first that we have, and the last.

– Goldie (Ash) Holmes

When Turtle Wax seemed to be a household necessity

Wax before you rideYesterday I penned (okay, typed) a glowing tribute to the days when we all drank Tang, that sickly-sweet orange concoction made exciting by the fact that “the astronauts drank it!” Today it’s time for another instalment in what may become an occasional series here at the Meanwhile, at the Manse: “Stuff That Used To Be Ubiquitous.”

Today’s entry, as telegraphed in yesterday’s post (because it’s what got this whole train of thought of mine leaving the station) is: Turtle Wax.

Now, I realize that Turtle Wax is still around – as, I guess, is Tang, for some unknown reason. But as far as I can tell Turtle Wax is now a bit of a specialized product, used by people who polish up their vintage cars for the show-and-shine and “cruise night” events that are popular in many places (including this immediate area). Gone are the days when regular polishing of one’s car with wax was considered a useful, even necessary, way to spend one’s time.

Turtle Wax ad

Ah, the good old days. Or at least, the old days. (Photo from the carconnection.com)

And really: how did we ever get into that way of thinking? Who on earth has – or ever did have – time to spend hours polishing the car? Who cares if the car is actually glowing, as opposed to just clean?

Well, I guess people did care about that stuff back in the 1960s when I was growing up here at the Manse, because Turtle Wax seemed to be an omnipresent thing.

Not that my family ever used it, as far as I can recall. In fact, here is a mid-1960s photo of my two younger brothers, Ken (left) and John, which I have used before for other purposes, but will now show you the general state of our family car, a 1961 Pontiac Strato Chief (like this beauty, only black):

John and Ken and the family car

I think you can clearly see that Turtle Wax was not a high-priority item in our household. My father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was way too busy visiting parishioners (sometimes bringing his own farm upbringing to bear in lending a hand with their farm work), preparing sermons, tending to the aforementioned family farm up in Haliburton County on his so-called “days off,” harvesting trees for firewood from a local woodlot, making maple syrup, etc. etc. etc., to be paying any mind to the state of shininess of the family car. But I also remember packages of Turtle Wax always floating around the house in my childhood. Did they come as free samples, I wonder? Maybe given out at the plowing match or the fall fair or other such rural events?

I don’t have an answer to that, but I do know that Turtle Wax was one of those front-of-mind products in those days, kind of like iPhones and video games and high-end barbecue units are today.

Which says a lot, I guess, about changing priorities. And how our ideas about how best to use our free time have morphed over the years.

But now that I’m really thinking about it, I’m getting all nostalgic, and a little envious. Because, you know, who wouldn’t like to have nothing better to do on a sunny summer afternoon than to spend a few hours Turtle Waxing the Chev?

Neighbours, and kindness, and help when you need it

flat tire on Highway 7

This is the only photo I took of our itinerary-altering flat tire, and I am wildly disappointed in how poorly it shows just how flat that tire was. But be assured (and we have witnesses): it really couldn’t have been flatter. Just what you need when you’re setting out on a long trip home.

Well! Raymond and I have just had a somewhat more eventful (and longer) weekend in Queensborough than we had planned.

We had expected it to be one of our flying visits, arriving at the Manse after work – okay, after my work; Raymond is now retired, though amazingly busy for all that – late on Friday night, and heading back to Montreal after church at St. Andrew’s United on Sunday. But there was the small matter of a tire flatter than a pancake (discovered through sheer dumb luck, as Professor McGonagall would say, thanks to a spur-of-the-moment pit stop in tiny Kaladar) and unable to be fixed when it’s Sunday and you’re “north of 7” (Highway 7, the Central Ontario Route of the Trans-Canada Highway and also, in Hastings County and points east and west, the demarcation point between, as poet Al Purdy put it, “the fat south/with inches of black soil on/earth’s round belly” and the “bush land scrub land” – the barrenness and, for 19th-century homesteaders, heartbreak of the rocky Canadian Shield). Our flat-tire mishap meant that we had to stay an extra day and night in Queensborough. I had to use up a vacation day from work, but that was all right; we got some stuff done that otherwise would have had to wait, and hey, we got to spend a bit more time in tiny and pretty Queensborough.

But what I wanted to tell you about was not so much our misadventure (or, depending on how you see it, adventure) but the kindness of our Queensborough friends and neighbours.

Having discovered the flattened tire in the hamlet of Kaladar (and mercifully not farther east and in the middle of nowhere, though Kaladar is not that far from the middle of nowhere), we hied our way across Highway 7 to a gas bar with an air pump and filled it right up. And then, figuring we were better off heading back to a place where we have a spare vehicle (Raymond’s red truck) than further east on Highway 7 with a dodgy tire and a road with a whole lot of nothingness on it, and on a Sunday to boot, we turned around and drove back west. But by the time (20 kilometres or so) we’d turned north off 7 onto Queensborough Road, the tire was totally flat again. We couldn’t carry on.

What to do? People, neither of us had ever changed a tire in our lives before. Apparently we had both led a charmed existence on the flat-tire front, until yesterday. We dug out the car manual and tried to figure it out, and more or less did, but executing the tire change was more than we could manage. (Tight lug nuts and whatnot. Don’t get me started.)

As Raymond was making unhappy noises while struggling with all of this, I suddenly thought: Wait a minute. There are people – friends and neighbours – in Queensborough, just a few minutes up the road, who are far more used to dealing with these kinds of situations than we city slickers are. So I called our friend John, who looks after our yard and does a lot of other good maintenance work around Queensborough – you can read about his latest efforts here – and said (to paraphrase, but only just): “HELP!”

And John said: “Chris Moak’s your man. I’ll call him.” Chris owns a busy and successful Queensborough business called Smokey’s Towing, and given the nature of that business has seen and dealt with a lot of car problems. So John kindly called Chris and directed him our way, called me back right straight and said he’d done so, and Chris showed up in no time. And had that spare tire put on in just a few minutes, and gave us some good what-to-do-when-driving-on-a-spare advice.

So we (slowly) drove the crippled car back to the Manse, where Raymond got into the red truck, and we headed off to our Madoc garage, Derry’s Dipsticks and Driveshafts. Odd name, great garage. Excellent service, fair prices, no nonsense. We left the car there with a note explaining its presence so that the Derry’s people would know what was up when they arrived at work Monday morning. And we headed back in the red truck for a quiet evening at the Manse. And while we were doing that, I left a phone message for our across-the-way neighbours Chuck and Ruth, whom we’d seen Sunday morning and to whom we’d announced that we were heading back to Montreal. I didn’t want them to worry that intruders had taken over the Manse when they saw lights in it on Sunday night, which is why I left the message. (Chuck and Ruth were, like pretty much everyone else in the area, off at the Madoc Fair on Sunday afternoon.)

Okay, so it’s mid-Sunday afternoon and we’re back at the Manse, and there’s time for a nice late (very late) breakfast and even a nap. And while I was still napping, but Raymond was up, a knock came at the door. It was Ruth: “We got your message, and we didn’t know if you’d have anything for supper, so I brought you some things.” How lovely is that? Including freshly picked garden tomatoes! And homemade cookies!

We walked over to thank Chuck and Ruth. And then we popped in to see our nearby friends and neighbours Jen and Ed, and we left that visit with a big mason jar of Jen’s just-made spicy black bean soup.

And when we got back to the Manse, I thought: wow.

John being at the other end of the line and knowing just what to do and whom to call, just when we needed it. Chris getting us on the road in no time flat. Ruth and Chuck bringing supper. Jen and Ed always being there, and sending us home with a future supper. In small rural places, like Queensborough, that’s the way it works. People really do help each other out.

This morning, we took the red truck to Dennis Derry’s garage – where he charged us a grand total of $16 and change for fixing the tire. As Raymond says, you couldn’t put a foot in a garage in Montreal for that kind of money. Raymond drove the truck back to the Manse, and I followed him in the newly repaired car. It was a bright sunny day, and the rocky north-of-7 landscape was beautiful.

And I found my eyes filled with tears as I reflected on the kindness and help we have received in this rocky north-of-7 place. What a gift it is for us to have found that place. And more especially, to have found the people, our friends and neighbours, who live there.

Happy significant birthday to Raymond!

Raymond in morning suit

This is my husband all dressed up and looking ever so handsome! And no, he’s not dressed up for his significant birthday today; this photo was taken on a Sunday morning a few months ago when communion was to be served at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal. Raymond, like all male elders of the church, is required to wear a morning coat, if you please, for serving communion. Formal? You bet.

Today is a landmark birthday for Raymond, my honey and my husband and the other half of the ownership of the Manse in Queensborough, Ont., that gives this blog its raison d’être. And so I want to say (and please join with me in saying it): Happy birthday, dear Raymond!

And I thought I might have some fun in marking the occasion by showing you Raymond in his different guises, from downtown big-city-newspaper editor to homebody to driver of the almost-famous red pickup truck that graces the driveway of the Manse (and that shows up on Google Street View photos of Queensborough, for all the world to see).

First, here is Raymond in slightly more casual mode than in the photo above, though still in the same room, our library in Montreal. With his cat Sieste:

Raymond and Sieste

And here he is looking casually handsome in one of his favourite places, North Hatley, Que. – on the terrasse of his daughter Justine’s excellent food shop, Saveurs et Gourmadises. Note how his shirt matches the geraniums:

Raymond at Saveurs et Gourmandises, North Hatley

Here’s Raymond in another of his favourite places, Stonington, Maine. This is the deck overlooking the ocean outside the American Eagle suite (where we always stay) at the wonderful Inn on the Harbor:

Raymond in Stonington

And now we get to more casual Raymond, doing his thing at the Manse and environs. First, Raymond hard at work on yard duty at the Manse:

Raymond on yard duty at the Manse

And Cowboy Raymond (wearing newly purchased hat) at the Madoc Fair, 2012:

Cowboy Raymond at the Madoc Fair

And finally, Red Truck Ray:

Red Truck Ray

And that is, to quote the name of the legendary Guy Clark‘s latest album, my favourite picture of you. Happy birthday again, my dear Raymond!