Out of the blue, vintage fencing for the Manse

Fenceless Manse 2

Does this Manse need a vintage fence along the front of the property? I think it most certainly does! I have nothing against the front yard being open to the street, but a gorgeous fence from the first half of the last century would be a lovely touch. And it’s coming soon!

A very long time ago – less than a month after I began this blog, way back at the start of 2012 – I asked readers a question: Has anybody seen this fence? It was a plea for information on how a person (i.e. me) could track down vintage fencing of the type that I remember from my childhood here at the Manse in Queensborough: traditional page wire gussied up with decorative small metal maple leaves. To illustrate what I was talking about, I used a photo I’d found of a painting by Robert Bateman. That lovely painting will surely evoke nostalgia in anyone who, like me, grew up in rural Ontario in the middle of the last century. Here it is again:

Robert Bateman Maple Leaf Fence painting

Maple Leaf Fence, by superstar Canadian artist Robert Bateman.

A couple of years after that first mention of the maple-leaf fencing that I longed for, I did another post on the theme, having come upon a 19th-century farmhouse in Hungerford Township (the rural area south of nearby Tweed) that has that exact fencing along its front:

Maple Leaf fence, rural Hastings County

Many’s the time since I wrote the post that I’ve thought about dropping a note into the mailbox at that house, telling the owners that if ever they decided to do away with or replace their fence, to please give me a call and I’d gladly take it off their hands. I never followed through – mainly because the fence is so well-cared-for that I strongly suspect the owners love it as much as I do, and would, sensibly, not want to part with this nice piece of vintage Canadiana.

Maple leaf fence 2

A gate at a farm outside Queensborough that has some of the coveted maple leaves.

My desire for the maple-leaf fence has come up in a few other posts over the years, like here and here. But I was being realistic when I said this in one maple-leaf-fence-themed post:

“Truth be told, vintage fencing is pretty far down the list of priorities for the Manse. (A renovated kitchen to replace the tiny pantry being pretty close to the top. Followed by approximately 38,212 other things.) But as an eternal optimist, I hold out hope that it might happen someday.”

People, “someday” has arrived! I am thrilled to tell you that five-plus years and well over 1,000 blog posts since my first plea for help on finding vintage maple-leaf fencing, I have found my fencing.

Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago I received a brief note via Facebook Messenger:

“Hi Katherine – my name is Debbie and searching for maple leaf fencing on the internet led me to your blog. I have a roll (approx 40-50 ft) for sale. It is very old and I bought it as a project for my house (1832 log cabin) but I changed my mind and decided on cedar rail fencing instead. Would you be interested in purchasing it?”


Would I be interested in purchasing it? I most certainly would! Forty to fifty feet is just about exactly the length we need for a fence along the front of the Manse property. Clearly this was meant to be.

Debbie was kind enough to send photos, which only made my heart beat faster:

Debbie's fence 2 Debbie's fence 1

So as you can probably guess, one day very soon Raymond and I are going to climb into his little red truck and take a drive that will end with us bringing home 40 or 50 feet of just the fence I’ve been wanting for the Manse. Life is good!

But I have to confess something. More than five years after I wrote that first plaintive plea for help in finding the fence that would match the one I remember being in front of the Manse in my childhood. I have come to the realization that – wait for it – my memory is almost certainly faulty. Here; you can judge for yourself:

Melanie and me at the Manse, 1965

That’s a photo of me (at right) and my sister, Melanie, in the gateway that once stood at the end of the flagstone path to the Manse’s front door. On either side of the gate is the fence. Which … does not have maple leaves on it. It is a plain page-wire fence.

So that fence memory that I treasure from my childhood must be from somewhere other than the Manse. I feel certain that the maple-leaf fence was somewhere in Queensborough or its immediate area – but I guess it wasn’t at the house I grew up in.

But who cares? The Manse may not have actually had that classic vintage fence once upon a time, but it should have. And now, I am delighted to say, it will.

Better late than never.

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.

A fashion trend for sheds, once upon a time. Featuring: pink.

Pink and grey barn

An ordinary-looking barn, right? But what I find not so ordinary about it is the colour scheme: grey with pink trim. It was kind of a thing in our rural area, back in the day – and now that I am living in that area once again, I can’t help but wonder: why pink?

Memory can be a fickle thing, they say. There are so many things that we think we remember that may in fact be quite wrong. (Here is a very interesting article from The New Yorker on the subject.) Have you ever got together with family members or old friends and, in reminiscing about the things that happened in the old days, discovered that various people in the group had quite different versions of some of those events? Or that they’ll all remember something vividly and you – who apparently were there as well – have no recollection of it at all?

I say all that by way of introduction because I’m about to tell you my very first memory of Queensborough, from when I had just turned four years old. But is it a real memory? I think so, but…

Maybe you’ll laugh when you hear what it is: a grey shed with pink trim, with a pink swing set in front of it.

The shed and swing set were at a house right near the Manse, and in my memory my family – Dad, Mum, me, my younger sister, Melanie, and my baby brother, John – drove by that house as we made our way to our new home (the Manse) in Dad’s 1956 Chev for the very first time, in July 1964. Dad, newly ordained a United Church of Canada minister, was about to take up duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge.

I remember it so vividly because of the swing set; I was convinced that it meant that the house’s yard was a public playground, like the one where I had played on the swings so often near my maternal grandparents’ home in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto. That is where we had been living before moving to Queensborough, while my father finished his studies in divinity school at the University of Toronto‘s Emmanuel College.

The day we arrived in Queensborough we had probably driven all the way from Toronto, or possibly from the Sedgwick family farm up in Haliburton County; either way, it was a long car ride for a four-year-old, and you can imagine how appealing a swing set looked at the end of it. And a pink swing set at that! Perfect for a little girl!

It was all my parents could do to keep me from dashing the 50 yards or so over there and jumping onto the swings at the house of people we didn’t even know. (We very soon found out they were the Gordon family, and their daughter, Connie, became a good childhood friend of mine.) Presumably Mum and Dad put me to work instead, carrying some things from the car into the big brick house that was to be our home for the next 11 years. (And that is now home again, after my husband, Raymond, and I bought it three years ago.)

The Gordons’ house is now the home of our neighbours and friends Chuck and Ruth, and the pink swing set is long gone. The shed/garage is still there, but it is no longer covered in grey insulbrick with pink trim. But, people, that shed colour-scheme trend that dates from sometime around the middle of the last century still shows up in this area, and every time I see it, I am reminded of that first sunny July day in Queensborough, so very long ago.

Every weekday on my drive to and from work I pass not one but two such buildings. One is the small barn that you can see in the photo atop this post: the other is a garage between the hamlet of White Lake and the hamlet of Ivanhoe, along Highway 62:

Pink and grey garage

I finally stopped and got photos of them both yesterday. Because – well, who knows how long there’ll still be traces of that interesting midcentury colour scheme for barns, sheds and garages?

I mean, I get the grey insulbrick. Grey is a pretty traditional colour for garages and sheds, right? But what, people, what on earth is, or was, with the pink trim? I mean, I love it – but why would the men (inevitably men) who built and/or covered those barns and sheds in siding, and painted the trim, have chosen pink? It seems like such an odd thing to have happened over and over and over again. I’m thinking there must have been some sort of marketing campaign or something: “Pink is the perfect colour to set off your brand-new grey insulbrick siding!”

I have trouble imagining the farmers of central Hastings County going for such a marketing push. But how else to explain it? People, do you have any ideas?

This funny little colour thing is a happy circumstance for me – because it reminds me of a sunny day long ago, when all the world was young, and there was a shed with pink trim with a pink swing set in front of it. But I sure am curious to know how all those pink-trimmed sheds came about.

“Somebody’s going to end up in the drink!”

Curve looking southeast

With banks of snow alongside the road and the Black River covered in ice and snow, the potential for danger (in the form of an unwanted trip into the water if you happen to lose control of your vehicle) doesn’t look very severe. But take away that snow, and – well, I think we’ve got a job for the Municipality of Tweed‘s roads department.

“Somebody’s going to end up in the drink!” Those were pretty much the first words out of the mouth of my younger sister, Melanie, when she arrived here at the Manse for a family celebration this past New Year’s Day.

What she was referring to was the road into Queensborough from the southeast, which at the edge of the village takes the form of a bridge over the Black River; that is followed as you continue on into “downtown” by a curve alongside the river. The reason for Melanie’s dire prediction was the fact that very little stands between that river and any vehicle whose driver is unlucky enough to lose control in slippery conditions on the curve.

Now, in my photo at the top of this post the situation doesn’t look all that bad, but that’s because of all the snow we’ve had in recent weeks: the high banks of it alongside the road would surely prevent all but the heaviest vehicle from splashing down if the aforementioned loss of control were to happen right at the moment. But when there isn’t any snow to act as a safety wall – and keep in mind that at New Year’s, when Melanie was visiting, we had had next to no snow – well, it’s a different story. Here, take a look in this photo I took in the dog days of summer (late August) a couple of years ago:

Curve in the dog days of summer

Here’s the scene minus the snowbanks, in a photo I took to show the vegetation in the river that tells you it’s the dog days of summer. Now, picture that scene on a dark and stormy night with slippery roads, and I think you’ll agree there’s a potential hazard.

As you can see, there are a few desultory guardrails in place; but they are extremely elderly and I’m thinking it wouldn’t take much momentum to knock them over. And much of the curve has no guardrails along it at all.

I don’t want this post to sound like a complaint, because it isn’t; it’s really more of an observation, and a question about whether something should be done. I’d be interested to hear what other Queensborough-area residents think.

I also think a good argument could be made that this very pretty scene at the centre of our village looks better without additional guardrails.

But I do feel that some consideration should be given by the municipal authorities as to whether that particular stretch of road meets standard safety criteria. In this case the “municipal authorities” would be the Roads Department of the Municipality of Tweed, of which Queensborough is a part. Now, I should add for those not familiar with the Municipality of Tweed that it covers an absolutely vast area, which means that the Roads Department is responsible for maintaining a lot of roads and bridges. So I’m not at all criticizing the fact that our possible road probem hasn’t been attended to yet.

But, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained; so here I am venturing my observations of the situation. Municipality of Tweed roads people and councillors, consider yourself alerted to an issue that might need some attention.

Of memories, and old friends, and connections rekindled

Joey Edwards on the job

Joey Edwards, the star DJ at local radio station CJBQ back in my childhood days at the Manse and now a radio guy in far-off Beijing. I got the nicest note from him the other day, about having been able to renew old friendships and share good memories, and thanking me for my small part in it. It made my day! (Photo courtesy of Joey Edwards)

This evening, dear readers, I find myself ruminating, and not for the first time, on how the absolute best part of writing Meanwhile, at the Manse is the connections it has allowed people to make. By coming across my news reports on what’s doing in Queensborough, my memories of growing up here in the Manse, and the latest in our endlessly-being-revised plans for doing some renovation and restoration work on this happy old house, all kinds of people have rediscovered some of their own memories and even sometimes people they once knew.

When they tell me about making those connections, it makes me so happy. All the hours spent over my laptop in the evening, all the photos I stop to take as Raymond and I are driving along the high roads and back roads of Hastings County and environs, seem mighty worthwhile when someone says “Thanks!” or “Good job!” or, as one nice reader put it in a comment the other day: “I lived many of the stories.”

I love rekindling those memories of our beautiful and little-known part of the world, and maybe even helping people rediscover something about themselves through those memories.

One of the best notes I’ve ever got on that subject arrived in my inbox about a week ago. It was from Joey Edwards, whom some of you will remember as the star DJ of the evening pop-music show on CJBQ radio, 800 on your AM dial, Belleville and TrentONNNN! (as the jingle used to say) back in the early 1970s when I was a young teenager in this old Manse. My sister, Melanie, and I were huge fans of the great mix of music and laughter that Joey delivered over the airwaves every weeknight, and his zany cast of characters – remember Wilbur, who I believe was a mouse? – and hilarious accents, including an impeccable Beatle one.

Oh yes, and Joey was from nearby Madoc! So he was not just a star, but a local star.

Now, I have recounted before – in one of my favourite posts, I have to say, and it’s here if you’d like to read it – about finding Joey again after all these years. He was, and is, busy being very successful in the radio/audio business and happily married to Nancy, who doubles as his business manager, way off in Beijing. (Which is a heck of a long way from home, if you ask me.)

And here’s the best part: in recounting here at Meanwhile, at the Manse the happy discovery of the local area’s favourite 1970s radio DJ, it seems I was able to put Joey in touch with some old, old friends.

An email with the subject line THANK YOU! showed up on Feb. 1, and to my delight it was from Joey. He started by explaining that he’d resolved a problem with his computer that had prevented him from viewing Meanwhile, at the Manse for a while – prompting both him and me to wonder briefly if the Chinese authorities had somehow decided that stories about the Manse were seditious material and blocking them – and then went on:

Bottom line: I can access your wonderful blog again. I have spent the last few days catching upon all the “back home” news I have sadly missed. Hard to focus on some of the images and words due to tears! Your stories, photos and news about my old stomping ground make me feel like a boy all over again.

What incredible joy you have brought me and my twin brother, Bud. Because of you, MANY old high school friends have written to me and many of my radio fans have popped in. Every time I open my computer, I never know who might be showing up from CHSS [Centre Hastings Secondary School], circa 1964. My wife is stumped by her husband sitting in front of his computer crying like a baby occasionally reading a sweet letter from an old Madoc chum.

How can I ever repay you?!

You and Raymond have a wonderful 2015!


Now how about that, people? Isn’t that just about the nicest letter a person could ever get? (I should mention that Joey gave me permission to quote it.)

Then a day or two later another email arrived, from an old school friend of Joey and Bud who had recently been in touch with them for the first time in 50 years!

We have been sharing many a story these past couple of days, he wrote. I was researching cheese factories in the Madoc area and “Curds” pulled up your site about DJ Joey. [Note from Katherine: That would be thanks to the comment Joey wrote, about desperately missing cheese curds, on my post here about the local cheese factories.] The 3 of us created many memories during our years at Madoc Public School and CHSS. Thanks again!

Isn’t it amazing that a brief reference Joey had made to cheese curds on a long-ago post I did at Meanwhile, at the Manse here was sufficient for his boyhood friend to come across him and reconnect after half a century?

And best of all, for me, that both of them were kind enough to write and say thanks?

You have to love it. You really do. Or at least: I sure do.

A long-ago lick-and-stick project, for a good cause

Inside cover of The Hymn Book

To you, dear readers, I’m sure this looks like nothing more than a couple of bookplates stuck inside the cover of a book. To me, they bring back some happy memories.

Since this is a rare Sunday post from me here at Meanwhile, at the Manse – I usually give myself Sundays off, treating Sunday as the day of rest that it was in the Christian tradition in which I was raised in this very house – I thought I might deal with a Sunday kind of topic. As so often happens, it has been inspired by a chance discovery I made a while back here in central Hastings County.

The church that Raymond and I attend, St. Andrew’s United right here in Queensborough (where my dad was the minister when I was growing up here), has a shared-ministry arrangement with two other churches, St. John’s United in Tweed, and Bethesda United in the hamlet of White Lake, just south of Madoc. (You can read about that arrangement here, if you’re interested.) Whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month, we hold a joint service at one of the churches, which gives us a chance to worship in a different place and see friends from those other churches. One recent Sunday that joint service was at Bethesda, and so I hied myself off to that pretty and historic little church.

At Bethesda they use older hymn books than we do at St. Andrew’s – one of them being The Hymn Book, which was published jointly by the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada back in 1971, when the two national churches were considering an amalgamation that was eventually called off. I have always liked this hymnal very much; its hymn selection is elegant and wide-ranging, traditional but with some interesting and challenging pieces thrown in. (As well, it was the hymnal in use throughout the United Church when I was a young teenager singing in the choir at St. Andrew’s, and I suspect that everything from one’s happy teenage years, even hymn books, seem special.)

Anyway. When I opened my pew copy of the The Hymn Book for one of the hymns that Sunday at Bethesda United, I was interested and touched to see (thanks to a bookplate inside the front cover) that it had originally been used at Eldorado United Church, where my father had been the minister. The bookplate notes that this hymnal (and probably several others) had been given to Eldorado United by the Sandford family in memory of the Sandford and Franks families:

New Creed, new version

Sadly, Eldorado United closed a few years back; I suppose its congregation must have chosen to donate its hymn books to Bethesda as a congregation that was still active.

I was delighted to be holding in my hand a hymn book that, for all I know, I had once held in my hand as a much younger person standing in the pews at Eldorado United.

And I was also delighted to read once again the United Church Creed, pasted (rather crookedly, and I’ll get to that in a bit) onto the right-hand page inside the cover:

United Church Creed

That creed was adopted by the church in 1968, and I have always considered it to be a splendid and poetically, pithily written statement of Christian belief. (In this I am not alone; I know that churches of various denominations all over the world include this United Church of Canada creed among their own statements of faith. Hey, did you know that the word “creed” comes from the Latin “credo,” meaning “I believe”? So a “creed” is simply a statement of what ones believes.)

The original version of “The Creed,” as we called it back then, has since been altered a bit to get rid of the male-centric language: “Man is not alone” has been replaced, sensibly, with “We are not alone;” “the true Man, Jesus” is now “Jesus, the Word made flesh;” and so on. And one line has been added, again I think sensibly: in the part that starts with “He calls us to be his church” (now changed to “We are called to be the Church”), “to live with respect in Creation” is added in between “to celebrate his (now ‘God’s’) presence” and the timeless “to love and serve others.”:

New Creed, new version

But aside from the happy reminder of that well-written statement of faith which came into being during my childhood years at the Manse, another memory came into my head as I looked at the United Church Creed pasted into that copy of The Hymn Book. And it was this: I probably pasted it there!

Flooding back came a dim memory of my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, enlisting my sister and brothers and me to stick those copies of the Creed into the hymn books in use at St. Andrew’s and Eldorado United churches. And here’s the best part: I am fairly sure that we had to lick each one to make it stick! That is, I know that they were sticky on the back when moistened; but was there anything resembling a sponge or some such to moisten them? Why, who needed that, when you had four little kids who were good at doing as they were told, and would probably enjoy the adventure of licking a hundred or so (maybe more!) bookplates and sticking them into hymn books?

That was so like my dad: make good use of the ready and willing labour at hand. And really, what’s wrong with that?

When I saw my sister Melanie the other evening – we were celebrating my mum‘s birthday with her – I showed her the picture of the rather crookedly-pasted Creed and asked her if she remembered licking and sticking them in. She cast her mind back, and her recollection was a little fuzzy like mine, but – she did!

Hey, maybe the reason our memory of it is fuzzy is because of the chemicals we ingested from licking those bookplates…

But you know, those were good times. Heady times. The late 1960s! The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, had come up with a truly great statement of faith. My dad, a great rural minister (if I do say so myself) was keen to share it. We kids – Melanie, John, Ken and myself – were always up for a project if Dad put us on it. Even if it meant a lot of licking and sticking – and even though the sticking may not always have been very straight or very square.

What a gift it was to be reminded of all of that, completely unexpectedly, when I opened my Hymn Book at Bethesda United Church that recent Sunday.

What a gift.

Get out your knitting needles!

Beehive knitting booklets

Do these these look familiar, people? Booklets featuring knitting and crochet pattens for “shells” (sleeveless sweaters), raglans (what are “raglans,” anyway?) and more to the point – for tonight’s post, anyway – “carefree afghans” that one could create using Patons Beehive yarns? Don’t you just love the hairstyles on the models in the middle one? Ah, the memories…

A while back I wrote a post (which is here, if you’re interested) about a very entertaining find I made at the used-books-for-sale cart at the Tweed Public Library: to wit, a couple of vintage booklets containing instructions and patterns to create macramé delights. And I am talking delights, people! Why, with those instructions you could macramé yourself a hanging-plant holder, or a lampshade, or even a wine rack! (I am not making this up.) And if you happened to do such a thing today, and installed your creation in your home, you would instantly create a mid-1970s time warp. All good clean fun, if you ask me. Not that I’m quite prepared to try it at the Manse.

Anyway, what I didn’t include in that post, and in fact was saving for just the right moment (which happens to be now), was another find I made in that same pile of vintage handicrafts how-to booklets. As I was riffling through it and smiling at the 1970s macramé memories, I suddenly came upon one booklet that was so familiar, from so long ago, that it almost made me gasp. Here is the cover:

Carefree Afghans

What a flashback! That same booklet had sat for years around the very house where I am writing this post – the Manse, of course, in Queensborough – back in the early 1970s, when my mum, Lorna, had (along with much of the rest of the female population of North America) taken up knitting such things as “carefree afghans.” To take advantage of that knitting craze – a wave that seems to crest every 20 or 25 years, in my experience, not that I’ve ever been much more than a very casual surfer on it – the good folks at Patons, makers of Beehive yarns (100-per-cent artificial fibres, as I recall) produced booklets of instructions like this. There were probably quite a few booklets of afghan patterns out there, but the instant I spotted this one I knew that it was the one my mum had used here at the Manse.

Okay, let’s take a brief pause and ask the obvious question: why were those knitted blankets, or throws, or whatever we might call them now, called “afghans,” do you suppose? I leave that to the wisdom of the readership to answer.

Oh, and let’s take a second pause and ask a second question: How on earth did my mother, who was a full-time high-school teacher, mother of four young children, and United Church minister‘s wife who was expected to carry out all the minister’s-wife duties of the time (including  preparing and hosting dinner parties for families who were members of the church congregation every single Sunday night), have time to sit around and knit afghans? That, my friends, is a huge mystery to me. (Also, I might add, to my mother.)

Anyway. I should tell you that the reason you did not see a post from me here at Meanwhile, at the Manse last evening was that we were celebrating Mum’s birthday at her home in Port Hope, Ont. I took advantage of the family gathering to bring along my Carefree Afghans find – and sure enough, it elicited gasps of recognition from my mum and my sister, Melanie, just as it had from me. Now I must show you the back cover, on which is the pattern my mum liked best and made into not one but two “carefree afghans”:

Carefree Afghans (back)

It’s the one with the mod squares in pink, plum, red and scarlet, the very colours Mum used for her second go at that afghan; her first one was in various shades of green. “Toned Tiles,” this carefree afghan is called in the Patons book. “Designed for the modern living room or recreation room,” it says in the introduction to the knitting instructions.

Both Mum’s red and green “Toned Tiles” afghans were well-loved and well-used in our “modern living room” – notably for keeping knees warm while watching Hockey Night in Canada on the telly – for many, many years; those Patons 100-per-cent-artificial-fibres yarns were pretty much indestructible, even in a family with four rambunctious children. And in fact, the green Toned Tiles afghan is, Melanie informed us last night, still extant and in occasional use up at the home at the Sedgwick family farm in Haliburton County. More than 40 years after it was knitted!

Talk about a carefree afghan built to last. I suspect it needs to find a permanent home at the Manse – where that pattern was carefully followed by a very busy young mother, all those years ago.

My latest story of non-buyer’s remorse has ended happily

Eden skater

Odd, cheesy, but, for me anyway, eye-catching: when I spotted a reproduction of this weird vintage painting, I knew I had to have it. Except then I made the stupid mistake of not buying it!

It was reader (and old friend and colleague) Jim who gave me the wonderful phrase “non-buyer’s remorse,” way back in May 2013 when I wrote about how annoyed I was with myself for not having swooped down in time on a vintage board game from my Manse childhood that I’d seen offered for sale. (That post is here, if you’re inclined to revisit it.) I thank Jim so much, because that concise little phrase so perfectly sums up the feeling you get when in a shop – usually, in my case, a collectibles shop or antiques barn – you see something you are intrigued by, then decide the sensible thing to do is not to buy it, and then regret that stupid decision ever after.

Despite my full knowledge that the way to avoid suffering the pangs of non-buyer’s remorse is to follow another, equally apt, adage – to wit, “If you see something you really like, buy it” (unspoken postscript being “or you’ll be sorry”) – I did it yet again not long ago. What a dope!

Raymond and I were checking out a tiny newly established vintage store on the main street of the nearby village of Tweed. The store is called The Vintage Booth, and you can find it on Facebook here.

As soon as I crossed its threshold, something caught my eye. It was a reproduction of an oil painting, tallish (20″ or so) and narrow (7″ or so). It could only be described as a) tacky and b) an apparently unabashed imitation of the midcentury “Big Eyes” paintings of Margaret Keane. The Big Eyes paintings have been in the news lately thanks to a movie of that name by Tim Burton about the crazy fact that for many years Keane’s husband, Walter Keane, claimed (falsely) that he had painted those odd but popular pictures.

The print at The Vintage Booth was of a little blonde skater wearing a navy-blue costume with white fur trim and a white fur muff. She did indeed have big eyes, but not as big as those hauntingly weird ones in Margaret Keane’s paintings. And I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

It wasn’t the artistic merit (which was extremely dubious in any case) of the picture that caught my attention; it was its familiarity.

I couldn’t imagine that my dad and mum – not exactly arbiters of high art, but far from black-velvet-Elvis-painting-types either – would ever have adorned a wall of the Manse with such a picture in the years when I was growing up here. And yet – I’d seen that picture somewhere before; and had not just seen it, but spent a lot of time with it. I knew that picture. Perhaps it had been hung for a time, early in our Manse years, in the bedroom that my sister, Melanie, and I shared? Maybe we even chose it for the wall, when we were very young girls?

As I think about it now, I am pretty sure that, wherever this print hung, there was a companion picture. And since the words “Robin Hood” have unexpectedly popped into my head, I kind of think it might have been this one, conveniently found on the internet:

Eden Robin Hood

Or, actually, maybe it was this one? (Not Robin Hood-ish, but oddly familiar.)

Eden green ballerina

I don’t know – the memory of all of this is so misty and so vague. I am sure I would never have thought of these paintings again in my whole life had I not seen the skater with the muff in Tweed that day.

I don’t remember how much the genial proprietor of The Vintage Booth was asking for the picture – maybe $20? – but I told myself it was too much to spend on a whimsy, and a cheesy whimsy at that. And I left the store without it.

Stupid stupid stupid!

I realized my mistake shortly afterward. I kept thinking about that strange, and tacky, and kind of sweet picture, and how it had been a half-memory for me – and wishing I’d forked over the 20 bucks so I could look at it whenever I wanted, and maybe figure out why I remembered it.

A couple of Saturdays later, when Raymond and I were in Tweed again, I couldn’t get to The Vintage Booth fast enough. I had my money in my pocket and was ready to grab the skater with the white muff.

And of course it was gone. Argh! What’s that I hear you saying? Ah yes: “If you see something you really like, buy it.”

Eden harlequins

Harlequin-costume paintings like these are what Eden (whoever he or she is/was) is best known for.

However, this tale has a happy ending, thanks once again to my friend the internet. That same evening, on a whim, I googled something along the lines of “skater with white muff big eyes painting,” and instantly several images came up. I learned that these paintings – there are lots more besides the skater, including a whole series of big-eyed girls in harlequin outfits – were done by someone named Eden, and that nobody seems to know who that person actually was. I learned that it wasn’t too hard to find such prints for sale, at places like Etsy for instance. And best of all, I learned that a print of the skater with the muff was being offered on eBay, with about 12 minutes left in the bidding! Great timing on my part, even if it was sheer dumb luck.

Long story short: for the reasonable price of $11.50 U.S. (plus shipping), I am now the proud owner of a copy of the skater-with-muff painting. It hasn’t yet arrived at the Manse, but it will.

What I’ll do with it when it does, I am not exactly sure. Let’s just say it will not be displayed in a prominent place where visitors might see it and think I know even less about art than I actually do.

But one thing I am sure of: I showed that particular case of non-buyer’s remorse who was boss!

The sound of children is livening up Queensborough

Queensborough kids 1.0

Here’s a great old photo I happen to have of some of the gang of Queensborough kids back when I was among them. It’s taken in the back yard of the Manse, and we kids are gathered in the back of my dad’s half-ton truck, apparently for a tea party or something. The year is 1968 (according to my childish handwriting on the back of the snapshot) and the kids at this particular gathering are (clockwise from front left): Ken Sedgwick, Janine Parks, John Sedgwick, me, Melanie Sedgwick (hands on chair), Larry Parks, Bonnie Parks and Johnny Parks. Oh, and Clancy the collie. Those were great times!

I was doing some yardwork here at the Manse the other evening when a sound that brought back happy memories of long ago came skipping through the dusky stillness. It was the sound of children playing.

The children were up at the Queensborough Community Centre, our village’s former one-room schoolhouse, where there is a swing set on the grounds. It’s just uphill from the Manse, so the echoes of the kids’ shouts and laughter carried very clearly. It sounded like there were four or five of them, and they were obviously having a great time. And I was thrilled to hear them.

Because much as I love being back in Queensborough – the pretty little hamlet where I grew up – one thing I dearly miss from those growing-up years is the presence of a lot of kids. When my siblings Melanie, John and Ken and I were growing up here, way back in the 1960s and ‘70s, there were lots of kids living in Queensborough. We were never short of friends to play tag or hide and seek or softball with, to join in on a game of Monopoly or Sorry or Stock Ticker on rainy afternoons, to ride bikes with or go pop-bottle picking. And with all those kids around – the Baumhours, the Lalondes, the Parkses, the Gordons, the Whites, the Goughs, the Walkers, the Lewises, the Letendres, the Ramsays, the Canniffs, the Barciers, and so on and so on (including the Sedgwicks), our little village was pretty much always full of the sounds of kids at play.

I missed that when Raymond and I bought the Manse and started spending time here. Yes, there are some great young people around Queensborough, but many of them live on the outskirts rather than in the village itself; and also, many of them are of high-school age or older. In other words, less likely to be raucously playing outside together on an autumn evening.

But in a lovely bit of serendipity, two families with three fairly young children each have moved into houses in “downtown” Queensborough just within the last three weeks or so. I am reliably informed (by the kids, some whom I was thrilled to meet on Halloween) that the families hadn’t known each other before they moved here, but the two sets of kids seem to have hit it off smashingly. And so one hears them a lot as they explore the village and play games and just generally hang out and have fun together.

It reminds me so much of the happy old days of my childhood here. It is music to my ears.