Big news: the return of Historic Queensborough Day!

HQD Orange Lodge

The former Orange Lodge, one of Queensborough’s oldest structures and one that has lots of fascinating stories to tell, will be among the buildings open for a peek during Historic Queensborough Day. The historic building has just been purchased by a couple who have very exciting plans for its future. This is wonderful news for Queensborough!

One fine September Sunday three years ago, the biggest and most successful event in recent Queensborough history took place: the first-ever Historic Queensborough Day. One of the comments heard over and over from the hundreds of people who showed up that day was: “You have to do it again!”

Well, folks, I am very glad to report that we are doing it again.

Please mark Sunday, Sept. 10, on your calendar and plan to be in Queensborough that day to learn about and celebrate Queensborough’s history, enjoy a great meal, and meet a whole bunch of old friends and new. Historic Queensborough Day 2017 is going to be bigger and better than ever!

A large group of hard-working volunteers – members of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee plus lots of other interested residents – has been working for some time on the logistics of the day. We’re very much still in the fine-tuning phase, but at this point we have a full lineup of of events, and that’s what I want to share with you right now.

HQD QCC with Buddy Table

The Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s former one-room schoolhouse) will house a raft of displays on Historic Queensborough Day. Outside, barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers will be served, and homemade sweets will also be for sale. Diners will be welcome to sit at the newly installed “buddy table” (at left in photo), a giant picnic table installed by members of the community in memory of indefatigable Queensborough supporter the late John Barry.

The focus of the day, as in 2014, will be the Queensborough Community Centre, where there will be all kinds of displays about Queensborough’s history: the schools, the businesses (stores, hotels, blacksmith’s shops, etc.), military history, the churches, the cheese factories (did you know that wee Queensborough had two cheese factories?), the mines that once dotted the area around us, the railway that had a station here, women’s groups (including, of course, the Women’s Institute), the Orange Lodge (which was as much a community centre as the home of a fraternal organization), the families and genealogies, the “nursing home” (essentially an early hospital), and more. But the highlight will certainly be one of the most famous things ever to come out of Queensborough: a folk-art quilt featuring images of the buildings of the village, made by hand in the middle of the last century by Queensborough’s Quilt Lady, Goldie Holmes. You can real all about Goldie, her fame and her quilts here and here; and here is a photo of the quilt you will be able to see in person on Sept. 10:

The famous “Queensborough quilt” by the late Goldie Holmes that is usually displayed at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre but for one day only – Historic Queensborough Day – will be back in Queensborough. Can you identify the buildings on it? (Hint: one of them is featured in the photo at the top of this post; another one is the Manse!)

What else is on for the day? Well, I’m glad you asked. A lot!

In no particular order, events include:

HQD The Kincaid House

The Kincaid House, one of the oldest (and most photographed/painted) in the village. This will be the spot to get a family photo taken and at the same time share with our eager history-recorders your family’s history in, and connections to, Queensborough.

  • A presentation, including a documentary video, on the latest available research on the Indigenous peoples who once moved through and camped in the Queensborough area.
  • The ever-popular horse and wagon tours of the village’s historic sites and buildings; here’s a photo of yours truly (the one waving) doing the tour-guide routine on Historic Queensborough Day 2014 as volunteers Bruce and Barb Gordon lead their team, Don and Barney, through the village:
Historic Queensborough Day

Photo by Ruth Steele

  • A visit from none other than Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald – or at least, a most remarkable facsimile. Sir John A. and his wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald, will be on hand to greet visitors and talk about their connection to Queensborough (hint: it has to do with a property deal that didn’t end up all that well), and the great man will make a brief speech to the assembled crowd at 1 p.m. Now how about that?
  • And a new event that I’m pretty sure will be very popular: open doors and a chance to peek into some of Queensborough’s most significant buildings. It’s not a fancy house tour; you’ll get a look inside, but you won’t tromp through every room. And some of these buildings are very much in the “before” stage of the before-and-after restoration process. But it’s a rare chance to get a glimpse of these buildings’ past, present and possibilities, as I like to say. One stop on the open-doors tour is the former Orange Hall, featured at the top of this post and a critical part of Queensborough’s history; we’ll have information about its past, and perhaps some ideas for its future from its enthusiastic brand-new owners, Jamie and Tory. Another is the Kincaid House. Other stops include:
HQD former Anglican Church

The beautiful former St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Queensborough’s first church), now a private residence.

HQD The Thompson House

The outstanding Thompson House, built in 1845.

HQD The Thompson Mill

The grist (flour and feed) mill and sawmill on the Black River that the village of Queensborough grew up around. Queensborough’s first post office was inside the mill, and vestiges of it remain.

HQD Ice Locker at McMurray's Store

The ice locker at the former McMurray’s General Store (and before that, Diamond Hotel). Here ice that was cut from the frozen Black River in wintertime was stored through the year to keep food cool and fresh.

HQD Billy Wilson's Blacksmith Shop

The former shop of blacksmith Billy Wilson, the only one of several blacksmith’s shops that once served Queensborough that is still standing.

HQD Daisy Cottage

The lovely (and in the process of being lovingly restored) Daisy Cottage, the home of Evelyn Lynn when I was a kid growing up at the Manse.

And of course there will be food! The barbecues at the Queensborough Community Centre will be fired up in the morning to serve peameal bacon on a bun for those who’d like to grab breakfast; a little later the volunteer chefs will switch over to hamburgers and hot dogs. You’ll also be able to buy hot and cold drinks and homemade goodies. Hey, it wouldn’t be Queensborough if there weren’t good food!

Barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014

The barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014: sunshine, good food, and Queensborough memories to share.

Those of us who have been working hard to organize Historic Queensborough Day 2017 are feeling pretty excited about it all. The turnout at our first event, in 2014, exceeded all expectations, and we’re hoping for even greater things this time around. If you have any questions about the day, or have artifacts, photos, historical documents etc. that you’d like to contribute to our displays (we’ll take good care of them and get them back to you!), please contact either Elaine Kapusta (613-473-1458, elainekapusta@hotmail.com) or me (613-473-2110, sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com).

Queensborough looks forward to welcoming you on Sunday, Sept. 10!

Visitors bring the most interesting things

The Preacher and the Bear

What does this old record have to do with Queensborough? Read on…

I am tickled this evening to report that I came away from Historic Queensborough Day with not only great memories, but also gifts! Some from people who, until that day, had been strangers. Now that’s what I call a bonus!

When Raymond and I finally got a chance to put our feet up at the end of the day Sunday – he after barbecuing hamburgers all afternoon and me after serving as tour guide – we had collected between us an interesting newspaper article, a book of rich family history, and some very cool stuff from reader (and Queensborough native, though he now lives in Kingston, Ont.) Ellis DeClair. All of it has made for fun reading.

Article on Rockies school

The newspaper article was given to me during the day by a visitor whose identity I managed to completely forget during the subsequent general whirl of events, for which I offer humble apologies. It is an instalment of the excellent local-history column in the weekly Tweed News by Evan Morton, the curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Now, I have been reading Evan’s columns faithfully since Raymond first gave me a subscription to the Tweed News (he always knows the way to my heart) not long after we bought the Manse, but this was from 2009, which was before that time. It’s a report based on the logbook kept through the years for the one-room schoolhouse called Pineview School that was a going concern between 1899 and 1947 in the area northeast of Queensborough that is called the Rockies.

When you drive back to the Rockies now you find it hard to believe that it was once such a bustling little community, with a church as well as a school. I mean, people do still live there, but the homes are very few and far between along a road that kind of seems to go on forever before it comes to a complete dead end rather far from anywhere. But a community it once was, and this report tells the story of the schoolteachers, the students who ended up serving in the wars overseas, how the logbook had to be kept to meet the standards of the government’s education inspectors, and even what years the building was painted. (In 1939, “the upper walls and ceiling were made yellow and the lower walls deep gray.”) Fascinating!.

Next was a book called Beyond the Back Fence: The Kincaid Chronicles, written – and given to us – by Keith Kincaid. Now, Keith has a journalistic connection as well as a Queensborough connection with Raymond and me; for many years he was the chief executive officer of the Canadian Press, which is an extremely key role in the Canadian journalism world. He is now retired, which gives him time to do things like research and write about family history. And as it happens, the Kincaid family has very deep roots in the Hazzard’s Corners/Madoc/Queensborough area, having come here from County Donegal, Ireland, in the 1840s, in search of a better life.

Beyond the Back Fence

I have not yet had time to read the book (it’s been a busy few days), but Raymond has, and he reports that it’s extremely well-written (as of course you would expect from a journalist!) and interesting. Among other things he learned from it: back in the 19th century, Queensborough had two doctors and a fancy tailor shop selling made-to-order clothes.

It was a huge pleasure to meet Keith at Historic Queensborough Day, after he’d driven all the way from Lake Huron by way of Toronto to be here. And I am very much looking forward to reading the chronicles of the Kincaids making their way as farmers in this beautiful but hardscrabble region – which is perfectly evoked by the photo on the cover of his book.

And last but certainly not least: Ellis DeClair had a delightful collection of papers that he passed on to Raymond for me.

One was clearly a result of my recent post about the CKWS-TV (Kingston) dance-party show called Uptight, which I remembered from when I was growing up here at the Manse back in the 1960s and ’70s. Ellis had dug up an interesting article (I am pretty sure from the Kingston Whig-Standard) that contained an extensive interview with Bryan Olney, who was the popular host of the predecessor to Uptight on CKWS (good old Channel 11) , called Teenage Dance Party. Olney’s reminscenses about the show, the music, and working on Kingston TV were just great.

Ration book

Next there was something I’d never seen before: copies of pages from a food-ration booklet from the time of the Second World War. And the booklet was issued in the name of none other than Ellis DeClair of RR1 Queensboro, aged just 2 years old. This is a fine addition to the growing trove of historical documents about life in Queensborough through all kinds of times, including the war years.

And finally, something that really made me smile. Ellis must be a careful reader, because he had picked up a reference I made in posts way back in late 2012 and early 2013. The reference in question was to a phrase that the late Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay, longtime Queensborough storekeeper and our unofficial mayor, used to use to describe my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, and her husband, Allan Ramsay. As I reported in those posts (here and here), Allan used to work with Dad when heavy equipment and trucking were needed for Dad’s woodlot operations and so on; Dad, as I explained here, not only was a full-time minister but did a lot of other getting-your-hands-dirty hard work besides. I can still hear Bobbie laugh as she called the two of them “the preacher and the bear.”

I always thought that phrase was just something Bobbie had made up. But thanks to Ellis, I now know its origins: it’s the title of a (very silly) song about a preacher who goes out hunting and gets chased up a tree by a bear. The song was wildly popular when it was first recorded by one Arthur Collins way back in 1905, in the days of phonograph cylinders, and remained known and performed right up to the days of Jerry Reed and even Andy Griffith in the middle part of the 20th century. (It was probably one of those later performances that had stuck in Bobbie’s mind.)

Ellis found and printed out the story of the song’s origins and the life of Arthur Collins (who, unfortunately, was known for a style of minstrel-type singing that, we readily see in retrospect, was appallingly racist, but was very popular in the early 20th century). He even included a photo he had found of an old recording of it by Collins. (Apparently Mr. Collins, knowing a good thing when he saw it, recorded it many, many, many times.)

The end of Historic Queensborough Day

How the day ended for Raymond and me!

Anyway: I thought it was really something that, at the end of an event celebrating Queensborough’s history that turned out so well and seemed to make so many people happy, I ended up with extra gifts of reading that gave me insights into things I’d never known before. They were yet another reason for a toast as Raymond and I celebrated the day with some bubbly on the front porch of the Manse.

And they are further proof (as if any were needed) that people with Queensborough connections are just the best kind of people!

You know what I miss in summer? Inner tubes.

Swimming in an inner tube

No, this is not me. But you get the general nostalgic idea. (Photo from a cool shop at Etsy.com)

With summer continuing to trickle through our fingers, and the end-of-season hot weather that we suddenly experienced early this week now almost completely dissipated, I thought I’d better seize possibly my last opportunity (for this year, at least) to offer up a seasonal thought. It is about: inner tubes.

Do you miss inner tubes? I miss inner tubes.

Not in my ordinary day-to-day life, of course; and it is within the realm of possibility that, had a couple of things not crossed my path recently, I would never have thought of inner tubes again. (Not being a cyclist. Am I right in thinking that only bikes have inner tubes any more?)

The first of the two inner-tube-related things to cross my path was two kids heading for the beach when Raymond and I were vacationing at the seaside in Maine early this month. As the kids walked happily along, they rolled in front of them modern plastic versions of what we kids used to use when we went swimming at the Sand Bar in Queensborough: rubber inner tubes from car tires. Nothing could beat those inner tubes as flotation devices, and what pleasanter way to spend a hot summer day than lollygagging in the river, floating around on one of them? Man, that was a good memory. While I’m sure the modern plastic ones are great, I don’t think anything can beat the larger size and the pleasant mild rubbery smell of the inner tubes. And remember how hot they’d get in the sun, and how good that felt against some parts of your skin even as other parts of your body (feet, butt, hands) were trailing in the nice cool water? That is good vintage summertime stuff, that is.

The other inner-tube-related thing that caught my eye was part of Evan Morton’s weekly column in the Tweed News. Evan is the tireless and irreplaceable curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, and an avid collector and cataloguer of all manner of local history, lore and artifacts. People are forever dropping off treasures they’ve come across in their attics and garages at the heritage centre, and it’s fun to read about the new (old) arrivals and Evan’s research on them in his column.

This bit was about such a treasure, a kit for patching inner tubes. I’ll let Evan tell it:

“One item was an ‘Ezy Seal’ vulcanizing tire patches tin, filled with the patches (and) manufactured in Kansas City, Mo. … ‘Clean and buff a space larger than patch around injury. Fill large holes with rubber from another patch. Remove backing and center patch over injury. Do not touch rubber with fingers. Clamp patch tightly and light fuel unit. After fuel has burned at least five minutes, remove clamp. NOTE: Use of cement is not necessary but will insure permanency on synthetic tubes.’ (Aren’t you thankful that you don’t have to do such patch work yourself any more?)”

Well, I never actually did do such patch work, but that paragraph in Evan’s column conjured up such a familiar and happy image for me. It is of my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, patiently patching inner tubes right here in the Manse kitchen. All of our family’s vehicles back in my Manse childhood – cars, half-ton truck, tractors – were old verging on ancient, so of course their tires were too. Which meant a lot of patching.

I am pretty sure Dad didn’t use the Ezy Seal system, though. Remember how the directions that Evan quoted said you didn’t need “cement”? Well, LePage‘s contact cement was an absolutely critical item in my dad’s tire-repair repertoire.

You know, here and now in 2014 I could be anywhere in the world and still “close my eyes and dream (me) up a kitchen” – the Manse’s kitchen, that is, and I’ve borrowed that line from the legendary Guy Clark‘s wondrous song Desperados Waiting for a Train – and I would instantly be able, in my mind, to smell the contact cement as Dad patched tires. As it is, however, I am not just anywhere in the world. I am right here at the Manse, and so I don’t have to dream up that kitchen; it is right here, and so am I. Again.

And thanks to a jog to the memory from some faraway beach-bound kids, and our treasured local historian, I am imagining once again that happy old contact-cement smell. And wishing inner tubes were still here.

Along with Dad to patch them.

History and community spirit – again!

Queensborough historical sign

“Queensborough: A Place of History and Beauty,” the headline on our new sign on the bank of the Black River in “downtown” Queensborough says. To which one might add (given the generous donations of time, talent and money around the sign project): “And also a place of great community spirit.”

As I reported not too long ago, the pretty little hamlet of Thomasburg (which is, like Queensborough, part of the GTA, the Greater Tweed Area) had a significant occasion last month when a sign outlining its history was officially unveiled. The event got lots of coverage in the local press (one of the stories is here), and this all prompted Evan Morton, the tireless and irreplaceable curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, to wish in his weekly column in the Tweed News that the other GTA hamlets might follow suit.

Well! What Evan didn’t know, apparently, was that Queensborough actually beat Thomasburg to the punch! The only difference being that our historical sign hasn’t (yet) had an official unveiling, with municipal officials and whatnot on hand. That may yet be arranged. But the most important thing is that the sign is up, and – thanks to generous donations of money and time and work by volunteers in the community – is looking very handsome indeed.

You might recall that I reported here on the early efforts, led by Queensborough’s Elaine Kapusta and the Queensborough Community Centre Committee, to produce the sign. And in the interest of full disclosure I should admit that the text was composed by yours truly, though that work was no big deal. What I really want to tell you about this evening is all the other work and support that went into this project.

First, after the sign itself was produced, there was the building and erecting  of the framework for it and the planter box at its base, followed by staining of the wood: that was looked after by John Barry and Frank Brooks. And then there are the newly planted flowers in that planter, which are lovely! Those were paid for thanks to a generous donation by Chris and Vicki Moak and family (you might remember that Chris and Vicki, who own a busy towing company, saved Raymond and me one time when a car situation left us by the side of the road). Anne Barry was the volunteer (from the Queensborough Beautification Committee) who planted them.

In its site down by the Black River in “downtown” Queensborough the sign looks fantastic! It tells people who pass through our hamlet something about its history – with photos, including of course one of the Rock Acres Peace Festival – and also, I think, about its community spirit. This bit of beautification (and education, about Queensborough’s past and present) was all completed thanks to private donations and volunteer work, so at zero cost to taxpayers.

Over the two and a half years that this blog has been in existence, I’ve recounted lots of instances of good old-fashioned community spirit and community pride here in Queensborough. (Very notable among those other examples are the recent erection of made-in-Queensborough street signs, and the flower baskets that have been hung from them and that are being maintained by volunteers.) Our historical sign is only the latest; I know there will be many more to come. It all just reinforces (as if that were needed) how proud and happy I am to live in this beautiful, historic little place.

December in the country: so much to do!

Christmas at O'Hara Mill

O’Hara Mill (whose historic log house is featured in this delightful photo illustration from Quinte Conservation) will be welcoming visitors to its Christmas event this Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening. It is a lovely way to get into the mood for an old-fashioned Christmas.

You might think that weekends here in our extremely rural part of Hastings County would be quiet, without that much to do. But if you thought that, you would be totally wrong.

Here it is Thursday night and I just don’t know how Raymond and I are going to get to everything we’d like to this coming weekend, what with all that’s going on in the Madoc-Tweed area. Among the major events:

It’s Christmas at O’Hara Mill this weekend. Raymond and I attended this event last year, very much enjoying the atmosphere of the restored mill and farm buildings where a fire burned brightly, musicians played, and hot chocolate and cookies were served.

It’s the final weekend for the Artist and Artisan Christmas Show and Sale at the Tweed Heritage Centre, where (I am reliably informed) one can find wonderful one-of-a-kind gifts made by local artists.

And speaking of Tweed, that village’s Santa Claus parade is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Can it top Madoc’s nighttime parade of a week earlier?

Another very big event in Tweed is the annual Festival of Trees, which I confess I have not attended before and the concept of which I am still rather fuzzy on. I gather there are beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths to see and buy tickets on, and if you’re lucky you will win one of them. This event has raised lots of money for local good causes over the years, so I think it’s high time Raymond and I took it in.

And finally, on Saturday at the Marble Arts Centre (the former United Church, and it really is made of cream-coloured marble from local quarries) in the Elzevir Township hamlet of Actinolite there is a family Christmas event featuring a student theatre production, seasonal readings, and Christmas treats to eat.

So much to do!

Not to mention the fact that Raymond and I have to get a Christmas tree, and set it up and decorate it. And put up the exterior Christmas lights. And do all the regular household chores. And of course go to the dump.

Who ever said that country living was slow and peaceful?

It is Christmas bazaar time – and here’s one not to miss

Heritage centre Christmas Sale Poster

As you can tell from the new photo atop the blog – taken at about 7 a.m. this morning – winter seems to arrived in earnest here in the snow belt. While all that overnight snow last night made things quite beautiful here in Queensborough this morning, it also meant that digging-out-the-car time has arrived again. More on that anon, save to say that we Manse-dwellers are blessed with neighbours who kindly have steered us toward the safest (that is, earliest-plowed) routes on snowy mornings, not to mention a neighbour with a plow who has agreed to be our clear-the-driveway guy on snowy mornings like this.

Anyway, let’s leave off the hard work of snow-clearing and get back to the winter-wonderland aspect of winter. The snowy beauty may wear a bit thin by, say, mid-February, but in late November and December, in the days leading up to Christmas, it’s all very nice to think about. And hey, what would Christmas be – especially in small towns and rural areas – without local bazaars?

Of which, as you can probably imagine, there are a lot around here. At churches and schools and community centres. Weekends, weekdays, whatever – there’s a bazaar and craft fair and holiday sale for every taste. But tonight I’m drawing to your attention – thanks to my correspondent Pauline, a fellow resident of Elzevir Township, a wonderful photographer and gardener, and a wholehearted supporter of community projects and the local arts scene – one in particular, which starts this Saturday and runs through the following Saturday, Dec. 7.

It’s kind of special because it’s a production of the Tweed and Area Historical Society (I should note that Queensborough is a part of the Greater Tweed Area), it takes place at the wonderful Tweed and Area Heritage Centre (which I have mentioned many times before – a priceless local resource), and it features the work of local artists and artisans. And now I’ll turn it over to Pauline:

“There are always lots of interesting things, locally made – everything from stocking stuffers and goodies for your Christmas entertaining to larger gift items. And 20 per cent of sales goes to support the Heritage Centre, a motherlode of local information.”

So, people, I think you’d better check it out, as I will be. Christmas shopping made easy, and you’ll be supporting local heritage research and education into the bargain. What could be better?

Tell us what you know about historic Thomasburg

Slush General Store, Thomasburg

The Slush General Store, which Carol Martin tells me was a longtime landmark in the hamlet of Thomasburg. The building is still standing, and is now a private home. Readers: might you have any other historic photos of Thomasburg? (Photo courtesy of Carol Martin)

Thomasburg, as you may or may not know, is one of five hamlets in the municipality of Tweed (or, as I like to call it, the Greater Tweed Area) – the others being Queensborough (of course), Actinolite, Stoco and Marlbank. All are tiny and pretty, though you can readily guess which of them is closest to my heart. Until very recently, Thomasburg was the hamlet I was least familiar with; I’d heard about it all the years I lived in Queensborough as a kid, back in the 1960s and early ’70s, but had never actually been there. One recent sunny early-summer day, though, Raymond and I made an excursion down Highway 37 south of the village of Tweed to Thomasburg and poked around it a bit.

It’s a hamlet chock-full of interesting old buildings, including some very handsome 19th-century homes. A couple are so large as to suggest that they once served as hotels – a reminder of the long-ago days when a trip from, say, Belleville north to Tweed was a long and arduous affair, and people might have needed to stop for refreshment or, if it were late in the day, for the night.

One thing we agreed during our little tour around Thomasburg was that it would have been helpful had there been some sort of a sign, or brochures available at a central location, giving a bit of the history of what is clearly a historic little place, and perhaps explaining what some of the buildings used to be. And now, lo and behold, I have discovered – thanks to correspondent Carol Martin, who lives in Thomasburg – that the Thomasburg Beautification Committee is engaged in the project of erecting just such a marker at the Thomasburg Hall, with a short text about the hamlet’s history that Carol is writing, and some historic photographs. How great is that?

Now here’s where you come in, readers: the Thomasburg Beautification Committee has been able to unearth a few vintage photographs of the hamlet (thanks to the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, and they’ve also checked with the Hastings County Historical Society), but they would love to have some more. So: do any of you out there by any chance have any old photos of that pretty little hamlet? Or do you know anyone, or any organization, that would? If so, Carol would love to hear from you at cjmartin.thomasburg@gmail.com.

And my thanks (and Carol’s)  in advance if you can help out with this excellent project that preserves and celebrates the history of one of the lovely little corners of Hastings County!

In search of the perfect furrow

Hastings County Plowing Match 2012

This is what it’s all about – and believe you me, plowing a perfect furrow is not easy! This photo is from last year’s Hastings County Plowing Match, which took place at Donnandale Farms in Centre Hastings. (Photo from centrehastings.com)

If you live in Hastings County you’re probably aware of what I’m about to tell you, but if you don’t, listen up: tomorrow and Thursday (Aug. 21 and 22) are the dates of the 2013 Hastings County Plowing Match. Now, you urban folk will be wondering what I’m on about, so let me tell you: a plowing match is a terrific place to rub shoulders with the folks in your local agricultural community, and to see what they’re up to.

Hastings County Plowing MatchYes, there are plowing competitions, for both tractors and horses – plowing a perfect furrow is a very fine art – but as I was reading through the special supplements on the big event that graced the two local newspapers when I was at the Manse in Queensborough last weekend, I got the sense that the plowing part of it is kind of an excuse to just have a big old farm-themed get-together. And it sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m very sorry I won’t be there this year (why do they hold it mid-week instead of on a weekend, I wonder?) but hope to be on hand for the 2014 event.

There are always a ton of exhibitors at these things, showing off wares that run the gamut from barn-building materials to farm machinery to pellet stoves to insurance policies and on and on and on. There’ll also be information booths from all sorts of community groups, including Harvest Hastings (an excellent organization that works to promote locally produced foods) and, if I’m not mistaken, the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. There’ll be kids’ activities and an arts and crafts show and – of course – food!

The only plowing match I’ve ever attended was one that took place a long, long time ago – 1970, in fact, and thank you, internet, for coughing up that fact – in Lindsay, Ont., and it was the International Plowing Match, which was a very big deal. I would have been 10 years old and I don’t remember a single thing about the plowing; it is eminently possible I didn’t even see any of the plowing. What I remember is the huge tent city of exhibitors (many of whom were giving away free samples of exciting stuff like 3-in-One Oil), and the mud. It had been a rainy week leading up to the match, and the field in which it was held was just a sea of deep, sticky mud. I remember my boots getting stuck, so that my sock foot would come out and the empty boot would still be sticking out of the ground. (I guess it was kind of like Glastonbury with tractors.) Anyway, it was fun.

So listen: if you’re casting about for a late-summer activity to keep you busy in the next couple of days, my suggestion to you is to head over Stirling way (here is a map showing where the match takes place, and there’s lots more information here) and get to know a bit more about what’s going on down on the farm.

And into the bargain, you may gain a whole new appreciation for a nice straight furrow. Not to mention a sample-size tin of 3-in-One Oil.

The olden days of telephone service

telephone operators in Owen Sound, 1937

This photo shows telephone operators in Owen Sound, Ont., in 1937; apparently their switchboard was one that many small local Ontario phone companies (which existed before Bell took over everything, and perhaps included the company in Tweed, Ont.) used to use for connections to more distant points. (Photo from greyroots.com)

Thanks so much to all of you who have commented on last night’s post about my retrieval of the old Manse telephone number from my childhood! You’ve provided very helpful and encouraging news about dial phones (to wit: that, contrary to what Bell says, they can still be used, which means my vintage red dial model will soon be headed Manse-ward) and lots of intriguing information about, and links to, the early days of telephone use. As I said in reply to a couple of those comments, it is amazing to me how now we don’t even think twice about the phone technology we use every day, forgetting what a wonder it was back when it was new.

Evan Morton, curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre

Evan Morton, the genius behind the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. The centre is a jewel, and Evan’s history-themed columns in the Tweed News are wonderful.

Anyway, before we leave the telephone theme, I thought I’d share some good tidbits on the subject that have appeared in the Tweed News recently, and that I held onto for just such an occasion as this. They come primarily from Evan Morton’s wonderful Heritage Herald column in the News; Evan is the curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, and does an outstanding job of collecting and reporting the history of the Tweed area (which includes Queensborough, where the Manse is). Some of the information also comes from the weekly “The Tweed News – Days Gone By” feature, which looks at the stories that were in the headlines 50 and 25 years ago from the week of publication. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Evan has a lot to do with that column too.)

Okay, so from two recent “The Tweed News – Days Gone By” columns, here are two of the latest developments on the telephone-technology front as of 1963 – 50 years ago:

April 17, 1963: When you use your dial telephone for the first time after this Sunday, it is important to emphasize that you must dial the 478 code before the individual number. [Note from Katherine: 478 was (and is) the code for Tweed; in Queensborough we had (and still have) the Madoc prefix, 473.] In some centres, when making local calls, only the last digit of the code was necessary for dialing, but with the newer system, such as we have here, this cannot be done.” Which was really too bad, because dialing just five digits was a lot faster than dialing seven; dialing was time-consuming! Interesting that Tweed had that switchover to seven-digit dialing as early as 1963; at the Manse we continued to be able to dial 3-xxxx for local numbers for some years after my family moved there in July of 1964. (And when I was a cub reporter working at the Port Hope Evening Guide and Cobourg Daily Star in the early 1980s, you could still dial 885- Port Hope numbers by just starting with the 5, and 372- Cobourg numbers starting with just the 2. That didn’t last long, though.)

June 26, 1963: Free calling service between Tweed-Madoc: The long distance charges on telephone calls between Tweed and Madoc will be removed on July 7. Inauguration of this new free-calling service, which follows months of planning, is aimed at making the two communities’ telephone service faster, more useful and more economical, according to Milton Sweeney, Bell Telephone manager for the region. The total number of telephones in Tweed’s local calling area will be raised to more than 2,620. There are some 1,430 telephones in Tweed and 1,190 in Madoc. Basically, the new plan will enable telephone users in Tweed to enjoy the convenience and economy of being able to dial directly to Madoc telephones as freely as they wish. Madoc telephone users will have the same convenient service with Tweed.” Imagine! Free calls between Madoc and Tweed! This seems seriously odd today, given that Madoc and Tweed are about 10 miles apart; why would there ever have been a charge for calling between one town and the other? Then again, as the phone companies make more and more noise about wanting to charge for local calls, one realizes that – well, what goes around comes around. But at least those early-1960s callers got all that “useful and economical” Tweed-Madoc phone service!

Finally, in Evan’s Heritage Herald column of this past June 26, he talked about the days when people had to go to a place of business (in the early days of Tweed phone service, P.K. Newton’s Drug Store) in order to make a phone call. “Telephone service,” Evan writes, “matched the store hours, closing at 7 p.m. weekdays, and at 9 p.m. Saturdays. An urgent call on a Sunday required the telephone line in the Newton home… There was one long-distance line, to Napanee, where calls would be switched to distant points of the Bell network. Weather conditions dictated the success or failure of long distance calls: ideal weather permitted clear reception to Toronto or Montreal; bad weather created such static interference on the line that calls were restricted to Belleville.”

Really, it’s only 50 years ago but it sounds like 150. Though there’s this: internet/cellphone service in the Madoc-Tweed area continues to be dicey (don’t ask me how I know) and sometimes dependent on the weather, just like those long-distance calls of long ago. Et alors: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

The mystery of the Queensborough quilts

This is the famous "Queensborough quilt" by Goldie Holmes that is proudly displayed at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. But it seems it is not the only "Queensborough quilt." So where is the other one?

This is the famous “Queensborough quilt” by Goldie Holmes that is proudly displayed at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. (The Manse is featured in the panel at far right in the second row.) But it seems it is not the only “Queensborough quilt.” So: where is the other one?

The mystery of the Queensborough quilts: does it sound like an installation in the Nancy Drew series? (Some readers thought a post from last fall, “The mystery of the old steps,” did.) Anyway, this is not about Nancy Drew. It’s about one of the great figures in mid- and late-20th-century Queensborough history, Goldie Holmes.

I’m pretty sure almost everyone who lives in the Queensborough area knows who I mean by Goldie Holmes, but for those from elsewhere: Goldie was our village’s famous “Quilt Lady.” Her quilts showing local buildings and scenes were folk art par excellence, and were recognized as such by artists, galleries and collectors. Her work was well-enough known that Goldie was the subject of a CBC-TV program back in the 1980s, when host Sylvia Tyson interviewed her about her life and work. You can read all about it, and find a link to the CBC show, in my post here, from last December.

In addition to all that, Goldie and her husband, Art, were my family’s kitty-corner neighbours in Queensborough. And they were very, very nice people.

Okay, so what’s the mystery? Well, I’ll tell you.

The Manse as folk art: a detail from Goldie's quilt.

The Manse as folk art (complete with garage): a detail from Goldie’s quilt.

That first December post I did about Goldie was followed by a second one, titled “Goldie’s famous Queensborough quilt, and its narrow escape.” It recounted how Goldie’s most well-known work, a quilt featuring prominent houses and other buildings in Queensborough, had at one point been destined for the home of a collector in the United States but, through a happy twist of fate and the kindness of strangers, ended up instead at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, just a few miles from Queensborough. There it is on display so that local residents and visitors can admire and appreciate Goldie’s work. (You can read the whole story here.) I particularly love that quilt because two of the buildings featured on it are St. Andrew’s United Church and – the Manse!

But wait! Wait just a minute! Mystery alert!

A photo of Goldie Holmes in front of her "Queensborough quilt" that appears in the book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. Look closely and you'll see that this is not the same quilt as the one that's at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre.

A photo of Goldie Holmes in front of her “Queensborough quilt” that appears in the book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. Look closely and you’ll see that this is not the same quilt as the one that’s at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre.

It seems the quilt now on display at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre is not Goldie’s only “Queensborough quilt.” How did I stumble on this conclusion? It was thanks to a photo I came across while flipping through the local history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township the other day. There was Goldie in front of her Queensborough quilt, and I stopped flipping to admire it – only to realize that it’s not the same quilt as the one on display at the heritage centre.

Look at the bottom row of panels in the black and white photo: on the left is Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay‘s general store, and on the right is McMurray’s. From this I think I am safe in guessing that this was the first Queensborough quilt, because the two stores were probably the most important buildings in the village. (Though it seems strange – mysterious, even – that St. Andrew’s United Church, which at the time Goldie made these quilts was the last church in the village still open, and was very much a hub of the community – should only have put in an appearance on a follow-up quilt.)

So here are the questions I am left with:

  • How many Queensborough quilts were there? Obviously at least two; were there more?
  • What order did Goldie do them in?
  • And the most important question of all: where is that other quilt? Is it preserved? Is it safe? Is it (perish the thought) lost?

I think I’d better do what Nancy would do: get into my roadster with Raymond (sitting in for Bess and George) and zip off to Queensborough to try to get some answers.