Treasures and memories: why yard sales are the best

T.P.T. ashtrayOkay, people, here is my latest yard-sale treasure. Put up your hand, right now, if you remember the T.P.T. (Toronto-Peterborough Transport Company Limited) freight line! Remember the big tractor-trailers with T.P.T. painted on the side, heading east or west on the 401 and many other smaller south/central/eastern Ontario highways besides? Why, I believe that I even remember a T.P.T. truck passing once (maybe more than once?) on the small country road on which my elementary school, Madoc Township Public School, was (and is) located. “It’s the T.P.T.!” a boy shouted; and we all caught the reference and recognized the logo on the side of the big truck.

Now, a brief search on the internet has landed me precisely zero information about the no-longer-extant Toronto-Peterborough Transport Company Limited. It was certainly a going concern, with lots of trucks and staff and whatnot, back in my youth here at the Manse in Queensborough. (Queensborough being just a little more than an hour’s drive away from one of the T.P.T.’s termini, Peterborough. Or “Peterboro,” as people used to sometimes spell it back in those days – when Queensborough was often “Queensboro.”) Doubtless that relatively small company was swallowed up by a much bigger one, as so often happens. And so the T.P.T. lives on only in some people’s memory.

Well – in some people’s memory, and also in the old-fashioned heavy-duty ashtray that I was thrilled to find at a yard sale last weekend! It was a tremendous yard sale, put on by the good folks at St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Madoc. (Possibly the only Presbyterian church in the whole world named after the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, but that’s a whole other story.)

Raymond and I hadn’t known in advance about the giant St. Peter’s yard sale, but were lucky enough to spot a poster for it at the One Stop Butcher Shop (best burgers ever) in downtown Madoc a mere half-hour before it was due to end at 2 p.m. You faithful readers all know (thanks to many posts, like those here and here and here and here) how much we love yard sales, and so you can surely imagine how speedily we zipped up St. Lawrence Street West in our little Toyota, hoping to find some treasures before the whole shebang shut down.

And we did! The T.P.T. ashtray being decidedly the best, if you ask me – even though the Manse is decidedly a non-smoking household. Just to see that old logo again, after all these years! And to think about the smoky 1960s/’70s trucking-company offices where that ashtray might have lived, and probably been overflowing with butts… And yes, I know I am one of the few people you can think of who gets nostalgic about overflowing 1960s ashtrays, but what can I say? Those days were golden, “toasted” Lucky Strikes and all. (Would the Canadian equivalent of Luckies be Sweet Caps, I wonder?)

What else did we find at the St. Peter’s yard sale? Well, I’m so glad you asked! Here is a photo showing most of the loot, though I should note that behind the Password game you see is yet another Password game (bonus!):

St. Peter's yard sale finds

(Oh, and there’s also this: the price tag on one of the two Password games. Apparently it was purchased for $1.99 at a store called Sayvette. Does anyone remember Sayvette? I have to say I do not; what do you know about it, readers?)


And here is a delightful find. Do you remember these? Of course you do! Every kitchen had one, for the bills and letters and postcards and shopping lists and whatnot. And now the Manse does too:

That thing for bills

All right, then. So much for last weekend’s yard-sale excitement. Now on to this weekend’s yard-sale excitement, which takes place in (you will probably not be surprised to know) – Queensborough!

QCC yard sale

Yes, this Saturday, June 13, the Queensborough Community Centre (our hamlet’s historic former one-room schoolhouse) is the place to be for a giant yard sale and barbecue. As you peruse all the wondrous items for sale, you will enjoy the aroma of peameal bacon and hamburgers (with fried onions, yum!) and hot dogs being barbecued by master chefs Raymond Brassard and Chris Whalen. You can also partake in homemade sweets and coffee. And you can enjoy just hanging out at a fun community event in beautiful downtown Queensborough!

And who knows? Perhaps you will find something as wonderfully nostalgic for you as was that T.P.T. ashtray for me. Finds like that, people, are what I call good stuff.

Great community journalism: the North Hastings Review, 1971

North Hastings Review

The North Hastings Review issue of June 16, 1971. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed reading a newspaper as much as I enjoyed reading this one.

A wondrous thing arrived in the mailbox here at the Manse the other day. It was a copy of a now-defunct weekly newspaper: the North Hastings Review, issue of June 16, 1971. Its arrival was easily the best thing that’s happened to me so far in 2015.

You’re thinking I’m addled, aren’t you? You’re wondering: How on earth could a 44-year-old copy of a tiny and long-gone newspaper be such a thrill to that Manse woman?

Well, I will tell you. But first let me tell you how this treasure – which I must emphasize is only on loan – came my way. Its sender was Ken Broad, who has been known to read and comment on my posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and who, while he now lives elsewhere, is a native of the Queensborough area, having grown up on a farm just a bit west of here in Madoc Township. (Ken notably sent me a photo of his ticket to the 1971 Rock Acres Peace Festival, an incredible artifact of Queensborough’s version of Woodstock. More on that anon, as it happens, but if you’d like to see that photo, it’s here.)

Anyway, I am pretty sure that the reason Ken had held on to this particular copy of the North Hastings Review – which was published in nearby (to Queensborough, I mean) Madoc, and later became the Madoc Review before it became nothing at all (sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I believe) – was that there was a story about him right there on the front page. He had just sold his fuel-delivery business to Tom Fox of Campbellford – a familiar name in this area – and there is a story about the change in ownership, and a photo of the two men, right there at top left of Page 1.

In a brief note he sent along with the paper, Ken said that his father (a remarkable person whom many people called “The Major” due to his distinguished service in both the First and Second World Wars – but that’s a whole other story, and a great one) used to call the North Hastings Review “the 7-7-7 paper: 7 days to print, 7 cents to buy and 7 seconds to read.” Oh lord – as the former editor of another small-town newspaper, the Port Hope (Ont.) Evening Guide, I am very familiar with readers’ joking comments about how one could throw our modest little daily paper up in the air and read it on the way down. But you know what? Behind the joking, people loved and (more to the point) needed that paper, that daily report on what was going on in their own community. And I am totally certain that The Major and all the other readers of the North Hastings Review also very much appreciated its community reporting, even while they made gentle jokes at its expense.

Anyway, I must tell you that, as I told Ken in my email of thanks to him, it took me a lot longer than seven seconds to read that paper. With the exception of the small print in some of the classified ads, I read every single word. And all of it was an utter joy.

Why? Two reasons.

North Hastings Review front page

This is a front page with a lot of local news. And so many of the names are familiar!

One: this was the local news from what I consider my time. On June 16, 1971, I was about to turn 11 years old. My family had been living at the Manse in Queensborough for seven years, and we would live there for four more. We were deeply embedded in the Queensborough-Madoc-Eldorado-Cooper area, and because my father was the local United Church minister, we had contacts and friendships with many, many families in that area. The people who are mentioned in the pages of this issue of the North Hastings Review are people I knew (and in some cases still know) – everyone from teachers and fellow students at Madoc Township Public School (where I would have just been finishing Grade 6 in June 1971) and Madoc Public School (where the following September I would start Grade 7), to players on the local minor-sports teams whose games are reported, to the ministers of the local churches cited in the long column of notices for church services, to the mother and father of the bride in a delightful report on a wedding that my father had conducted.

North Hastings Review church ads

Some of the church ads (people actually went to church in 1971!) in the North Hastings Review.

And two: This newspaper is great journalism. And no, I am not trying to be funny. The North Hastings Review is chock-full of local news, and providing local news is what local newspapers are supposed to do. When you’d finished reading it, you really knew what was going on in the local area – from who had dined with whom the previous Sunday in Cooper and who had visited whom in Bannockburn; to who was the winning pitcher (as it happens, the late Lorna Matthews, a wonderful person who was the church pianist at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough for many years) when the Cooper women’s softball team defeated the “Madoc Ladies” 24 to 7; to who gave a demonstration on refinishing furniture at a meeting of the senior citizens’ club; to where local school groups had gone for their end-of-year excursions (Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and the Shrine Circus in Peterborough; the reports, which appeared on the front page, were written by some of the students themselves, and I can only imagine how proud their parents must have been); to what was on sale that week at George West’s Men’s Wear.

North Hastings Review Rock Acres story

The major story of the week: the latest news on the Rock Acres Peace Festival, which had been planned for the Quinlan farm near Queensborough – or “Queensboro,” as the Review spelled it.

You got the big stories – an in-depth report on what at that point looked like the defeat of the plans to hold the aforementioned Rock Acres Peace Festival on the Quinlan farm outside of Queensborough; in fact, the Quinlan family later won the legal battle against the local authorities, the festival went ahead, and you can read all about that here and here and here and here.

North Hastings Review community news

Everything you might have needed to know that week about what was going on in the hamlets of Bannockburn and Gilmour. Good stuff!

And you got the small ones: the aforementioned who-visited-whom listings for the local hamlets, like Bannockburn, Cooper and Gilmour. You got full reports on the doings of three municipal councils; the police news; the meeting of Unit 3 of St. Andrew’s United Church Women; a birth notice (on the front page); and the new officers of the Kiwanis Club. And all of it, I have to tell you, is well-written and well-edited. I think I spotted maybe two typos in the whole affair; that is very impressive, and significantly better than any newspaper (or news website) can boast these days. (Kudos to its publisher, Maurice Goulah, and its editor, Carol Foley, for that.)

North Hastings Review Letters to the Editor

A letter to the editor from Grant Ketcheson, comparing the farming life in Scotland to that in the Madoc area. Good stuff!

But there’s more! There’s a letter to the editor from a young whippersnapper farmer from the Hazzard’s Corners area named Grant Ketcheson (still a great friend to this day), who was visiting Scotland on an agricultural scholarship and sent a lively report on farming practices (and weather) there as compared to the Madoc area. There’s the report on that wedding conducted by my father, complete with the extraordinarily detailed description of the wedding dress that those reports always had: “The bride was lovely in a full length taffeta gown highlighted with a dainty lace trim around the scoop neckline, down the full-length sleeves and around the full skirt. The bodice and sleeves also featured rose appliques and her long full train with matching lace trim was attached at the waist with a large bow. The three-tiered bouffant veil was gathered to a circle of dainty white orange blossoms and seed pearls, leaving the centre open for flocks of curls. She carried a cascade bouquet of yellow daisies.” (And if you want to know what the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom wore at the reception, you’ll just have to get you hands on your own copy of the paper.) There’s a column by Bill Smiley, who was omnipresent in small Canadian weekly newspapers back in those days. It was delightful to see the late Mr. Smiley’s byline again after all these years.

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And there are the ads for businesses that bring back such good memories: George West’s, as I mentioned; Wilson’s (which only recently closed down after many years in business; I wrote about that here); Johnston’s Pharmacy (still going after all these years; that too is reported on in this post); the long-gone and much-missed Plaza cinema in Marmora (I saw my very first movie there!); and (ta-da!) the Cash & Carry! Which was having a sale that week on wood panelling. I’d almost be willing to bet my bottom dollar that the wood panelling that got put up in the Manse kitchen during my family’s tenure here – about which we were so excited at the time, because wood panelling was so fashionable; and which Raymond and I are now very keen to get rid of, because, let’s face it, it’s awful – might have come from that very sale at the Cash & Carry down there on St. Lawrence Street East in downtown Madoc.

It is community journalism at its very best.

I know that Ken Broad knew I would appreciate having a chance to go through that paper, but I bet he didn’t guess just how much I’d appreciate it. Such wonderful, wonderful memories, all thanks to a terrific community newspaper. And a person who had the excellent good sense to preserve it – and the kindness to share it.

Showered with gifts (III): A set of TV trays, at last!

New TV trays

Our new (old) TV trays, a gift from our new friend Judy in Madoc. Note the splashy still-life design; as I recall, the designs on sets of TV trays back in their heyday were almost always colourful and splashy. I love them. Thank you, Judy!

Longtime readers might recall that quite a while ago – almost two years ago, in fact, in a post here – I asked an earth-shakingly important question: Don’t you think it’s high time to bring back TV trays? In it, I reminisced about those colourful sets of TV trays, or tables, that almost every household back in my youth used to sport. They were designed, I guess, for when people wanted to eat (Swanson TV Dinners, anyone?) in front of the television; but they were also useful simply as makeshift side tables and whatnot. And hey, with their inevitably bright patterns, they added some colour to the room!

Anyway, I mused in that post that, in the interest of adding to our collection of funky and useful artifacts from the era when I was growing up here at the Manse, Raymond and I should try to acquire a set of TV trays. And now, guess what’s happened? Well, you probably have guessed, given that I’ve been doing a series of posts about gifts that people have given us. (In case you missed them, Instalments 1 and 2 are here and here.) Yes indeed: we have been given a vintage set of TV tables!

And a very nice set it is, if I do say so myself. I am so grateful to my new friend Judy, of Madoc, who called me up out of the blue not long ago and said: “I hear you’re looking for some TV tables!” Judy had a set that she felt she really didn’t need anymore (“Like any sensible person,” I bet you’re thinking), and she said she’d be more than happy to donate them to the growing collection of mid-20th-century furnishings and artifacts here at the Manse.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Raymond and I finally had time to go pick them up, but I want to tell you that I’ve already put Judy’s TV trays to good use. When we had a large crowd of family members for dinner on New Year’s Day, those little folding tables were awfully handy for storing desserts and silverware and other stuff.

I should also note that Judy’s gift is one with value: Raymond and I were visiting an antiques emporium in not-far-away Peterborough not long ago, and I found two sets of TV trays for sale there:

TV trays at Nostalgic Journey 1 TV trays at Nostalgic Journey 2

Neither, in my view, is as nice as the set Judy gave us; and both had a fairly hefty price tag on them.

So you see, the list of cool stuff that we’ve acquired – often because other people are just trying to get rid of it, but hey, that’s as good a reason as any! – continues to grow. Thank you for a colourful and useful addition to the Manse’s vintage look, Judy!

The missing Madoc candy canes: a Christmas mystery

I have a flashback-in-time Christmas treat for you tonight, folks. With a dollop of mystery added, just to liven things up. Grab your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and/or your Nancy Drew roadster, and let’s get this thing solved!

Okay, here’s the story: thanks to my Queensborough friend Sally, who drew to my attention the clip that’s at the top of this post, I can share with you a fun feature from good old CHEX-TV (eternally Channel 12) in Peterborough. CHEX is apparently looking back at Christmas-themed news stories from its archives, and the other day aired the one here, set in Madoc (that would be “town,” if you live in Queensborough). It’s from 1990, and while I find the story quite charming, I am utterly alarmed to hear 1990 described as “all those years ago.” Yikes! As I said to Sally: Wasn’t that just yesterday?!?

Anyway, as you’ll see if you watch the video, it’s about a clever idea that the folks at the Centre Hastings Retraining Centre, a workshop for developmentally disabled people, came up with when a work contract dried up. The idea was to make oversize decorative candy canes – and these beautiful candy canes caught on in Madoc (and beyond) like wildfire. The merchants’ association of the time decided that they would be the theme for the town for the Christmas season, and as you can see from the images, they made Madoc look very pretty indeed.

(I have to say I also very much appreciated the images from “all those years ago” of Madoc when more of the downtown businesses that I remember from my childhood in the area were still operating. The biggest treat was to see Stickwood’s dry-goods store once again. Thank goodness for photo and video archives!)

Anyway, here’s the mystery, amateur sleuths: where are those candy canes now, all these years later? As Sally said in her message to me: “How amazing it would be to get those candy canes as a feature of Madoc once again!” To which I heartily concur, and I find it difficult to imagine anyone saying no to the idea.

So now, to find them. Are you ready, local sleuths? Go!

“Are you building a museum?”

Manse telephone table

One of the best “museum”-style objects in the Manse: our vintage telephone table. It is comfortable and useful, and I love it. It’s one of those old-timey things that people who don’t like old-timey things are totally missing out on.

“Are you building a museum?” That’s the interesting question that Jim, who’s a friend and former Montreal Gazette colleague of Raymond and me, asked in response to my post of a couple of days ago – the one in which I announced that I felt I needed to acquire for the Manse one of those colourful 1950s-’60s metallic folding-step step stools that we all used to have.

Jim’s question is a good one. I expect there are others among you good people who read Meanwhile, at the Manse who have wondered the same thing, as I ramble on about cool and funky midcentury (mid-20th-century, as I always realize I need to explain) stuff that I’ve managed to acquire, or would like to acquire. I think it’s a polite way of saying, “Why the heck are you collecting this old junk?”

But let’s keep the question to “Are you building a museum?” Here is the answer: “No. But.”

No, I am not building a museum. (And neither is Raymond.) But: the more time we spend on this Manse adventure, and the more time I spend remembering and reflecting on the years when I was growing up here, the 1960s and ’70s – well, the more interested I get in vernacular mid-20th-century design, in things that we all had and used back in those days and thought nothing of, but that we realize in retrospect were beautifully designed and are kind of worth retrieving now, in the 21st century, when so much of what is made is disposable and (not to put too fine a point on it) crappy.

Things like a red dial phone (you can find it in the photo at the top of this post), the receiver of which feels comfortable and beautifully ergonomic in your hand when you are making a call. Especially if you are making that call from the comfort of a 1960s-era telephone table!

And a made-in-Peterborough (Ont.) Westclox clock that is easy to read and brilliantly precise, and beautiful to boot:

Westclox clock

And timeless children’s toys, like the Fisher-Price garage:

Fisher-Price Garage

And, yes, a useful and space-saving folding-steps step stool:

Gorgeous step stool

Which I have now absolutely determined I must have, sooner or later.

Is the Manse a museum? No. It’s a place where the ever-patient Raymond and I like to have, and use, and appreciate, thoughtfully designed stuff, no matter what era it’s from. It is, I hope, an interesting place. A little on the eclectic side.

A place where every object has a story.

Here is what the Manse needs next.

Vintage step stoolyellow step stoolIf you’re of my age, or somewhere around it, I just know you’ll remember the step stool in the photo above. (A photo, by the way, which I came across thanks to the entertaining Facebook group called 1960’s and 1970’s Advertisements.) I am fairly sure that once upon a time (the 1960s or so, when I was growing up here in the Manse) pretty much every household had one. My maternal grandparents had a yellow model at their home in the leafy Toronto suburb of Leaside, though somehow I don’t think it made the trip with them to Peterborough when my grandfather retired and they moved there. (More’s the pity, because then it might still be in the family and I might be able to get my hands on it.)

red step stoolAnd if I’m not mistaken – and I shall count on my cousins to correct me if I am – my Uncle Philip and Aunt Genevieve had a red model in their farm kitchen outside the Lindsay-area hamlet of Reaboro.

But for some reason we Sedgwicks didn’t have one at the Manse in Queensborough. And by gum, now that I am back in this house, I want one.

Those stools were great! Good design: they were reasonably comfortable to sit on, with steps that allowed even a kid to climb up easily, and for the sitter to rest his or her feet on once ensconced in the seat. The steps also folded away when not needed, which was quite handy for saving space in those midcentury kitchens that were often considerably smaller than ours are today.

Also, they looked good. And came in many colour options. (I love things that come in many colour options. As you will know if you read my post last night about our plans for a new wood-burning stove.)

And finally, I need one of those step-stools because the way the Manse kitchen (pre-renovation) is laid out, there’s only room for one of us – either Raymond or me – to fit into the pantry and do the cooking, and if the other one wants to hang out there and chat with the chef – possibly, just possibly, with a glass of wine in hand – that person needs a stool to sit on!

So I guess the next mission is for find me one of those vintage step stools to add to the Manse’s decor. Anyone got one that they’d like to get rid of?

The wood-stove decision has finally been made.

Neo 2.5 wood stove

Pacific Energy’s Neo 2.5 wood stove, in Sunset Red.With it, I believe our wood-stove solution has been found! (Photo from Pacific Energy,

One of the most popular (that is, frequently read) of all the posts I’ve written here at Meanwhile, at the Manse over these past almost three years is the one from June 2012 (it’s here, if you’d like to check it out) wherein I ruminated over what kind of wood stove – modern, or traditional? – Raymond and I should get for the Manse. We most certainly do need a wood stove. Pretty much everybody in these parts has one. My family had one when I was growing up in this house. A wood stove is an economical and reliable way to have cozy heat even when the power goes out; and it creates a warm (in every sense of the word) centre for any household, if you ask me.

Now, as it happens Raymond and I have pretty much decided what kind of wood stove we’re going to get, and in fact that decision was made several months ago; I’ve just been waiting to share it with you until what seemed like the appropriate time. Tonight, as I walked from my car into the Manse amid falling and blowing snow, howling wind and bitter cold, I decided that this is that time.

We found the stove of our dreams thanks to our Queensborough friend Dave‘s recommendation that we visit a store called Friendly Fires in Peterborough. There we explained to a knowledgeable staffer named Hayley that we needed and wanted a wood stove, but were torn between (as I’d outlined in that old blog post) an old-fashioned-style Heartland along the lines of the vintage Findlay that adorned the Manse kitchen in my childhood, like this model…

Heartland wood stove

… and the sleek modern styles that one finds in European-made stoves, like this:

Sideros wood stove

White NeoWell! Hayley had just the solution for us. She showed us a brand-new European-style model called the Neo, from a line made by Pacific Energy. As you can see from the photos at the top of this post and to the right here, the Neos are elegantly designed and compact. They throw a lot of heat – and they come in lots of different colours! (That last being almost the most important consideration, from my point of view.) I fell in love instantly, and we left clutching the colourful brochure that told about all the wondrous things Neos could do (BTUs and whatnot; if you’d like to check for yourself, there’s more here and here) and a promise from Hayley that she’d call us as soon as she could find out the retail price. (The Neo being so new that, as she explained, they were only just starting to come off the factory floor.) And as it happened, as we walked into the Manse from that Peterborough trip, the red phone was ringing and it was Hayley, with a price that seemed quite reasonable.

So we are sold on the Neo. However, there are still some major decisions to be made and obstacles to be overcome before one of them is burning brightly and keeping us toasty on wintry nights like this one at the Manse.

The first is where exactly it should go. Almost certainly that will be the kitchen; but as anyone who has installed a wood stove in recent decades will know, there are a lot of issues that have to be resolved before you just go and put in a wood stove, like proper setup of the chimney, making sure the stove is far enough away from the wall, and so on. You don’t really get a second chance if you decide that you put it in the wrong place the first time – or at least, you do, but it’ll be a lot of cost and mess to change it.

Neo colour options

Just look at these colour options for the Neo! So exciting!

So really before the wood stove can go in, we have to have our full renovation plan for the kitchen in place. Which we don’t yet, though we’re working on it.

And secondly (and this part is a lot more fun), there’s the decision to be made about the colour! Should it be Sunset Red, or Ivory, or Ebony, or Coffee Bean Brown, or Titanium, or Coffee, or Black Pearl, or Royal Blue?

On this cold winter night with the sound of the wind howling outside the window beside me, I shiver – with excitement – at the possibilities!