Christmas cards on display, in traditional Manse fashion

Christmas cards 2016 at the Manse

Some of the beautiful Christmas cards that Raymond and I received this year, on traditional display at the Manse. We had to use three separate door frames to display them all. Thank you, everyone – and Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all five of us – Raymond and me, plus kitties Honey Bunny, Sadie and Beauregard – at the Manse. (I’m sending out my weekly post a day early so I can say that while it’s still Christmas.) I hope that as I write this, on what is for us a very quiet and pleasant Christmas night, you too are enjoying a quiet and pleasant Christmas night.

Sadie and winter wonderland

Sadie is one of the three Manse cats who join Raymond and me in wishing you a happy Christmas season.

And hey – thank you for all the nice Christmas wishes we have received from you! Some have come as face-to-face wishes, and some in comments here at Meanwhile, at the Manse; some as emails – and some as Christmas cards! I love Christmas cards, old-fashioned though I suppose they now are.

Raymond and I really enjoy receiving Christmas cards. We read each one carefully, and then put it on display in exactly the same way that my mum did in the long-ago days when I was a kid growing up at the Manse and, as the minister’s family, we received a gazillion Christmas cards.

Should you want to copy the Manse technique (by way of Lorna Sedgwick, my mum) for Christmas-card display, here’s what you do:

You take a roll of masking tape (something my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, always had ready to hand), and you unroll a strip that’s exactly the length of the frame atop the door opening in your living or dining room. You tack it, sticky side out, at each end (and maybe a few places in the middle, if it’s a long opening and the tape is sagging). Then you run vertical strips down both sides of the door opening. And then you stick up the cards! The ones that open from the top get stuck along the top of the doorway, and the ones that open from the side go along the sides. (Raymond thought I was being too picky when I insisted on that separation of card placement by opening direction on our first couple of Christmases at the Manse, but since it was my mum’s way and I am a determined person, I have prevailed.)

And voilà! You have a lovely addition to the Christmas decor at your house. And every card on display reminds you of the nice person or people who sent it, and the seasonal wishes they included.

It’s a Christmas tradition from the Manse of the 1960s and ’70s that I am thoroughly tickled to have revived in the Manse of the 21st century.

Thank you again to all of you for your wonderful Christmas wishes. They make me want to do a Christmas dance! Want to join in? Here goes, and again, merry Christmas!

Share if you remember! (Or don’t. Your call.)

Madge

How can anyone of a certain age forget Madge the Manicurist, who stealthily soaked her clients’ hands in dishwashing detergent? Ah, those were some fun TV commercials.

I expect most of you people spend at least a bit of time each week, or even each day, on Facebook. Hipster types may mock Facebook and claim to spend their social-media time on cooler Twitter instead, but as a journalism professor who pays a lot of attention to these things, I can say with some assurance that way more people spend way more time on Facebook. It’s a bit of an oversimplification to say that Twitter is mainly a place for journalists to talk to other journalists – but not much of one. Facebook is where everybody is. It’s where many people get their news of the world, along with updates on their second cousin’s aunt’s elbow operation. Not to mention those recipe videos that move at such high speed that they make a person dizzy. (How can you get interested in food when you’re nauseous from dizziness?) And of course there are the cat videos! (My personal favourite.)

At any rate, if you’ve spent any time on Facebook, and if you’re at all interested in nostalgia, you’ve probably seen posts that blare at you, “Share if you remember this!” Or “Share if you did this when you were a kid!” The posts, and the pages they come from, are generally about simpler days when kids played outdoors rather than on their phones. And I never share them, because enough with the sharing already. But when the posts are about things I remember from my childhood and early-teen years here at the Manse in Queensborough, I do enjoy them.

And sometimes I save those photos, with the thought that my Meanwhile, at the Manse readers might enjoy them too. If you’re one of those nostalgic types, today is your lucky day! Herewith, an utterly random sample that should bring back a memory or two – both good (the Easy-Bake Oven!) and bad (cigarette vending machines – yikes!):

tupperware-party

Because apparently in the ’60s and ’70s women had afternoons or evenings free to gather and discuss plastic food-storage containers.

tea-figurines

Did you collect these from the boxes of teabags?

bubble-gum-cigars

I don’t know about you, but I loved bubble-gum cigars as a kid.

eight-track-club

By the early 1970s, vinyl records had to move over for the new technology in town: eight-track tapes. And so, naturally, where once there had been record clubs offering 10 albums for a dollar, suddenly there were eight-track clubs. I expect it was still a scam, no matter what format the music came in.

walking-wheel-toy

I would never have thought about this long-ago toy again, had this photo not appeared in my Facebook feed.

cigarette-machine

It’s hard to believe these once existed, but yes, they were inside the front door of pretty much every restaurant and bar. And, you know, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”

lawn-chairs

Lawn chairs before they got all fancy and “outdoor living room“-y. Durability was not their strong point, as I recall.

nestles-quik

Oh yeah. Nestlé’s Quik in the cardboard containers with the tin tops. Best treat ever.

easy-bake-oven

The toy I always wanted but never had. I wrote about my longings here; and here is a wonderful look at the reasons for the enduring popularity of the Easy-Bake Oven.

hunts-manwich-sandwich

I can still hear the TV ad jingle for Hunt’s Manwich Sandwich. Because, you know, a man needs a special sandwich. Not to mention a woman to open the can and whip it up for him.

bank-book

Bank books! Wow! And this one isn’t even that old – it’s got the updates printed with a good old dot-matrix printer. I can remember when the entries were hand-written by the friendly tellers at the Toronto-Dominion Bank in Madoc.

musical-chime

That was a lovely toy, though I imagine its endless musical tinkle caused by active kids drove more than a few parents crazy.

swag-lamps

Swag lamps! An object of design desire once upon a time. My family never got one at the Manse in Queensborough, though to her delight my mum did get a swag lamp at the next manse we lived in. It was perfect for bumping your head on!

Okay, that’s enough of a ramble down memory lane for one day. Given my propensity for saving these bits of virtual memorabilia from my childhood, I can, and probably will, do this again. Thanks for the memories, Facebook!

In what is news to precisely no one: women’s work is never done

Peeling potatoes for the Turkey Supper

Me in the midst of peeling 20 pounds of potatoes late at night, after a long day’s work, in the cramped Manse kitchen. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

More than once here at Meanwhile, at the Manse I’ve paid tribute to my mum, Lorna Sedgwick, for somehow surviving the Manse years of my childhood. Now that I am living through the Manse years of my adulthood (having moved back to this great old house in Queensborough a while back), I think I have a much better appreciation of what was involved in raising four small children, working full-time as a high-school teacher, keeping a big old house in reasonable order, preparing three meals a day for an ungrateful lot (and this when she hated cooking), and last but certainly not least, fulfilling all the demands that were placed on a midcentury minister’s wife – including having company to dinner pretty much every single Sunday.

And all this without a dishwasher! Or many other of the conveniences we all take for granted today. (Mind you, Raymond and I still don’t have a dishwasher at the Manse.)

My mother told me not long ago that quite often on Friday afternoons, when she would arrive home at the Manse after a week of teaching, she would just sit in the car in the driveway for a while, too exhausted to immediately face the job of cooking supper for the family. Too exhausted to even face the family.

Now, my workload is not nearly as heavy as my mum’s was. For one thing, there are zero small children to raise, though there are three cats. For another, my husband does an immense amount of work around the house, including cooking meals more than half the time. That said, my paid job (co-ordinating and teaching in the journalism program at Loyalist College in Belleville) is probably more demanding and time-consuming than my mum’s job was. And I have a daily commute of almost an hour each way, whereas Mum only had the less-than-15-minute drive to Madoc and back, to teach at Centre Hastings Secondary School. And even though I don’t have minister’s wife duties, I do have quite a bit of work in my role as secretary at St. Andrew’s United Church. And then there is Meanwhile, at the Manse to produce!

Let’s just say that I sometimes feel, as I’m sure my mother felt a hundred thousand or so times back in those Manse days of my childhood, that I am really tired of being tired.

But who doesn’t feel that way these days? Every working person I know is putting in more hours than workers did even a generation ago. Nine to five? What the heck is that? And we’ve all got so much going on outside of work as well. The other day I was talking to a businesswoman in Madoc who works full time six, and often seven, days a week. How does she do it?

While I fully realize that many, many men (like my husband) work every bit as hard as their wives do, I’ve been thinking a lot about “women’s work” over the past two or three weeks. You won’t be surprised to know that these thoughts have been prompted by being at the Manse, and by thinking about my mum and the women of her generation, and the generations before that.

These reflections kind of got started on a recent Friday night, when, after a very long and trying week at work, I had to spend several hours in the Manse’s ridiculously small and poorly laid out kitchen/pantry doing prep work for a meal to be served to guests the next day. They are guests whom we always enjoy having over, and the meal was not at all a fancy one; but because Raymond and I had out-of-the-house stuff to do most of the following day, I had to get things ready Friday night – when, let me tell you, I was ready to drop from exhaustion. Here I am whipping the cream for the world’s greatest retro dessert at about 10 o’clock at night, feeling more than a little sorry for myself:

late-night-whipping-cream-in-the-manse-kitchen

As I whipped, I kept thinking about my mum, and all those long-ago evenings in that very same kitchen when she, as exhausted as I was, would be using the hand-held mixer to prepare some dessert or jellied salad or other so as to lighten the load of same-day preparations for company. “How did she do it?” I kept wondering.

(But you know, it paid off: the next day when dinner was a snap to get on the table because of all the advance work that I’d done, I felt pretty pleased with myself. That, however, was after a good night’s sleep.)

I got thinking along the same lines last week, on the night before the Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church that I told you all about in last week’s post. My assigned task, because I am utterly incapable of baking one of those homemade pies that St. Andrew’s and Queensborough are so famous for, was to peel and cut up (into small pieces, so they’d cook quickly) 20 pounds of potatoes. People, do you know how long it takes to peel and cut up 20 pounds of potatoes? I’ll tell you. It takes exactly an hour and a half – 45 minutes per 10-pound bag of potatoes. There was a time when leaning over the kitchen sink for an hour and a half would have caused my back no problems whatsoever. But as a woman of a certain age, I can definitively say: this is not that time. And this hour-and-a-half mission happened, of course, after another very long day at work and another long commute home. You can see me hard at work on the potato front in the photo at the top of this post, and here’s another view where my peeling hands are just a blur!

peeling-potatoes-2

But I hasten to add that I wasn’t really feeling sorry for myself on potato-peeling night. Instead I was thinking about all the other women of St. Andrew’s United Church and the wider Queensborough community who, that night and over the past several days, had worked way more than my measly hour and a half to prepare food and make everything ready for the Turkey Supper. And then there was the day to come, when many of the same women would be working all day long doing prep work and setup, then serving up the food at a furious pace during the 2½ hours of the supper, and then working late into the night to clean everything up. And people, I hope I’m not giving away any secrets if I say that most of those women are older than I am – some by quite a bit.

They are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Every year I vow that I will take lots of photos of our Turkey Supper, and every year I fail to fulfill that mission. Why? Because I’m so busy running around helping out! There’s just no time to stop and take photos. And most especially not this year, when – thanks in part to you excellent people – we had what was probably the biggest crowd in the long, long history of St. Andrew’s Turkey Suppers.

Cars parked all through Queensborough for the Turkey Supper

“The cars were parked all over Queensborough!” one visitor to our Turkey Supper told me, completely accurately. I am pretty sure it was the biggest turnout in the history of the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016

A view of the newly renovated hall at St. Andrew’s packed with people who were there for our famous Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016 2

Another shot of the Turkey Supper diners, featuring Raymond (in the checked shirt) who, with our minister, Norm Long, never stopped pouring coffee and tea.

I hope my photos give you some sense of how busy we were. Thanks to ticket sales and donations, our church has received a wonderful financial boost that will help its work a lot in the coming year. But oh, how I wish I had photos or video of Lorraine mashing the potatoes and keeping a steady stream of warm and delicious food coming out of the oven; of Ann Lee making sure all the trays on the buffet table were always filled; of Joan and Stephanie and Barb and Wanda and Lorna and Doris tirelessly washing and drying the plates, cutlery and glasses over and over and over as they kept being used over and over and over; of Netta and Debbie and Susanna racing to clear tables and install new place settings in time for the next round of diners! How I wish I could show you Eilene, making pot after pot of coffee and tea; of Joan, filling bowl after bowl of salads; of Lois, cutting and serving up dozens and dozens of pies; of Sandra, keeping track of when there were spaces at the table and summoning expectant diners to fill them; and especially of Betty, overseeing the whole shebang, as she has done for so many years, and doing a fantastic job. And how I wish I could show you the bustle – exhausted bustle, but bustle nonetheless – as everyone worked to clean everything up afterwards – on empty stomachs, because the crowds were so huge that there was no turkey dinner left to feed these hard-working volunteers!

Pictures failed me. And really, so do words.

Except this: thanks to the work of these women, of women like my mother, who have spent the majority of the days of their lives working until they were ready to drop – we have been fed, and cared for. The world is a much better place for “women’s work.”

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.

A cool piece of regional history that’s very close to home

Several times in the past (notably here but more recently here) I’ve written about the excellent magazine called Country Roads (subtititle: “Celebrating Life in Hastings County“). It’s a delightful collection of interesting stories and beautiful photos about the people and places in this intriguing (and relatively undiscovered) part of the world that I grew up in and that Raymond and I now call home. Whenever copies of the new issue show up in stores, restaurants and other outlets, locals and visitors snatch them up eagerly. If you’d like to have your own electronic read of the latest issue (Spring 2015), just click on the link at the top of this post.

Aunt Gert story, Country Roads

What I want to specifically draw your attention to this evening, however, is one article in that most recent issue. It’s a feature story (which you can find on pages 22 and 23 of the electronic edition above) by Barry Penhale headlined A Medical Pioneer, and it is about a remarkable woman named Gertrude LeRoy Miller who, throughout the decade of the Great Depression, served as the nurse in charge of the Red Cross Outpost hospital in tiny Wilberforce, Ont. – a little outside the boundaries of Hastings County (it’s actually in our neighbour to the northwest, Haliburton County), but close enough.

The building that housed the Outpost hospital is now a museum and is designated a National Historic Site, partly because it was the first such hospital in Ontario. (You can check out its website, which includes listings of events at the museum, here.) But the focus of the article is less on the building and more on Gertrude LeRoy Miller, who, as it notes, is “by far the best-remembered Outpost nurse.” It explains that she arrived in tiny, remote Wilberforce from her native Toronto in 1930, brand-new nursing diploma from Toronto Western Hospital in hand.

Gertrude LeRoy Miller

A photo of Gertrude LeRoy Miller “during her first winter in Wilberforce, 1930-1931,” featured in the Country Roads article.

“Over the years she became steadily better-known for her countless errands of mercy, and often was the only one on the scene when remote homesteads coupled with violent storms and almost impassible roads combined to hold off the arrival of doctors from Haliburton (village) or Bancroft,” Penhale writes. “She soon discovered that isolation and the meagre existence associated with bush life were almost the norm for the area as she made her rounds. Not only were many people unable to pay for health-related servives, but a suspicion of anything modern among those whose home-doctoring methods often had their roots in local folklore meant that she had to exercise considerable tact. Some of these same people in  need proved, in the beginning, to be less than hospitalble. To her credit, Nurse LeRoy won over many such individuals, much to everyone’s benefit.”

The article goes on to recount some of Gertrude’s adventures in remote-country health care, and how she would sometimes make her rounds on skis or on a handcar of the Irondale, Bancroft and Ottawa Railway. And it tells the happy story of how her memoirs were eventually published (by Barry Penhale’s company, Natural Heritage Books) as a book called Mustard Plasters and Handcars.

Didi and me

My maternal grandmother (and Gertrude LeRoy Miller’s sister), Reta LeRoy Keay, with me, age five, at the Manse, December 1965. (Photo by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

Now, this is all interesting enough in and of itself. But it’s particularly interesting for me because – I am Gertrude LeRoy Miller’s great-niece! She was the aunt of my mum, Lorna Keay Sedgwick, and the sister of my maternal grandmother, Reta LeRoy Keay. I have many happy childhood memories of visiting Aunt Gert and her husband, Uncle Del (Delbert Miller; I remember Aunt Gert always called him Delbert) in their Wilberforce home, listening to her stories of her nursing days and his of being a hunting guide and naturalist. (And admiring the astoundingly colourful fish swimming in the aquarium they had in their kitchen.)

Also, I should tell you that, while my grandmother and Aunt Gert died some time ago, their youngest sister, Virginia LeRoy Luckock (my Great-Aunt Gin) – who features in one of the photos in the Country Roads article – is still very much with us at the age of 99. Isn’t that something?

Anyway, as I think about Aunt Gert and how tickled I was to see her story included in Country Roads, it dawned on me that there is a much closer connection than just that article between her and my telling you this story this evening, from here at the Manse. It is this:

Because of Aunt Gert’s nursing career taking her to the WIlberforce area of Haliburton County, my mum’s parents were also introduced to that area, and subsequently bought a summer cottage on a lake nearby.

And because my mum spent summers in the area and knew and liked it, she applied for, and received, a teaching job at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School when she graduated from university and teachers’ college.

And it was through teaching at the Haliburton high school and living in Haliburton that my mum met my dad, who at the time was a young farmer in Haliburton County.

us six at the Manse

My family – Dad, Mum and us kids – in the Manse years of my childhood, 1964 to 1975.

And they married, and Dad went on to university and divinity school, and became a United Church of Canada minister – and in 1964 was appointed to his first pastoral charge, which was the Queensborough Pastoral Charge, and moved his young family, me included, to its Manse. And that Manse was therefore the house that I grew up in. And  because many years later I bought the house I grew up in and decided to write a blog about that, here I am today, telling you stories about the Manse, and about Queensborough, and about Hastings County and its history. And about Aunt Gert.

So basically, if you enjoy Meanwhile, at the Manse, you have Aunt Gert to thank for its existence. And actually, I guess I have Aunt Gert to thank for my existence.

Thanks, Aunt Gert!

The secret ingredient in the Manse’s long-ago lunchbags

Tomorrow's school lunch

Tomorrow’s school lunch (and breakfast, truth be told): Yogourt with granola (from Saveurs et Gourmandises, North Hatley, Que. – the fantastic food shop of Raymond’s daughter Justine) mixed in, check. Leftover vegetarian lasagna, check. Cutlery, check. Chocolate-chip cookie (from the Hidden Goldmine Bakery), check. (Andy Warhol-inspired kitchen-utensil holders in the background, check.) But where is the carefully folded Kleenex?

Hands up: How many of you out there have made school lunches until you thought you couldn’t stand to see another lunchbag, section another orange, or add one more layer of jelly to peanut butter? Oh, there I go dating myself again: peanut butter isn’t allowed in schools any more, is it? It’s a crazy world.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about school lunches because I’ve just finished making my own. Because, you know, when you’re a teacher, and you’re packing up a lunch for work the next day, it becomes once again – as it was in your long-ago student childhood at Madoc Township Public School – a school lunch.

What I was thinking about as I put together my lunch in the Manse’s tiny pantry kitchen (as opposed to the large kitchen kitchen, where the kitchen table is and, sadly, the old Findlay wood-burning stove of my childhood in this house is not) was that I would have been doing exactly same thing in exactly the same place 40 and more years ago.

Because my mother, Lorna, was impossibly overburdened back in those days – what with dealing with four young children, filling the demanding role (social and otherwise) of the minister’s wife, and holding down a full-time job as a high-school teacher – we kids were quite sensibly pressed into household-chores duty to help out. I believe we took turns at washing and drying the dishes and making the school lunches, but somehow in my mind I always see myself, and none of the others, in charge of those lunches. Perhaps it was my household-chores area of expertise, though I never much liked doing it.

Laura Secord puddings

An important part of the school lunch, once upon a time: Laura Secord puddings. Apparently they are no longer produced.

What made me smile as I was remembering all that was how my mother had the routine of making lunches down to a science. There, laid out on the ironing board (conveniently located just outside the pantry door) would be four paper lunchbags and/or metal lunchboxes, four sandwiches (peanut butter or pimiento-flavoured cream cheese or an evil [I subsequently decided] mixture of chopped ham and sweet relish, or macaroni-and-cheese loaf, or Kraft sandwich spread) wrapped in waxed paper (I never did get very good at the art of folding waxed paper so that it would stay closed around the sandwiches, but those were waxed-paper days); four desserts (some Oreos or Coffee Break cookies – remember Coffee Break cookies? What ever happened to them? – or a Laura Secord pudding with spoon – hey, what ever happened to Laura Secord puddings?); and four pieces of fruit, like an apple or a banana or that orange cut into sections. And finally, always, always: a folded Kleenex. My mum insisted that a Kleenex be packed with each lunch. Because you just never know when you’re going to need a Kleenex.

And you know, that was rather a sensible thing on my mum’s part. Those Kleenexes probably came in handy lots of times, like when you’d come into the warm classroom from recess on a cold winter day and your nose would start to drip. And there was the solution, right there in your lunchbag.

Which suddenly makes me realize – I’ve forgotten to pack something in tomorrow’s lunch!

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.