Give me more of that old-time entertainment

Queensborough Orange Lodge

The former Orange Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Queensborough. It’s not exactly in the greatest repair at the moment, but wouldn’t it be something if it could be restored to one of its past uses: as an arts centre for residents of the area?

One of the most striking and historic buildings in Queensborough is the tall old wooden barn of a place that for many, many years served as the Loyal Orange Lodge – the L.O.L., as the fading green paint atop of the building’s facade still says. It stands unused except for storage, and has definitely seen better days. An unfortunate renovation some years back made a bit of a mess of the original front doorways. But it’s loaded with history, and, as a column in one of the local papers reminded me rather indirectly the other day, was an important spot for entertainment in our little village back in the days when entertainment was hard to come by.

Queensborough L.O.L. showing windows

The unusual windows in the building, 16 panes of wavy old glass over 16.

As you can read in the walking-tour guide to the hamlet’s history produced by the Queensborough Community Centre, the Orange Hall (as everyone calls it) is one of the earliest buildings in Queensborough, erected in 1862. It served not only as the lodge for local members of the ultra-Protestant Orange order until the 1980s (yes, you read that correctly), but as the first place of worship in the village. Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians (though presumably not the Roman Catholics) all gathered there for Sunday services and Sunday School before their own churches were built, starting with St. Peter’s Anglican in 1871.

I have also been told, though have not been able to confirm this, that it served as a hospital during the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic that swept North America in 1918.

Back in the days of my childhood here in Queensborough, the Orange Hall was the local polling place; I believe I remember my parents going there to vote in the federal election that brought Pierre Trudeau to power in 1968, and also (dimly) them going to the hall to vote in a referendum on whether Elzevir Township (where Queensborough is located) should stay “dry” (that is, no selling of alcohol permitted) or go “wet.” (I assume this vote was brought on by a restaurateur, possibly the owner of a German place called Mother’s that opened back in the early 1970s, wanting to get a liquor licence. And I’m not sure how the vote went, to be honest.)

But the other thing the Orange Hall was used for back in the day was entertainment: dances and musical performances and travelling shows, including medicine shows. Those were the days before television and even radio, when people worked long hours and had to make their own fun; that is doubtless why every town and village had super-competitive hockey and baseball teams. Christmas pageants and church socials and card parties and quilting bees were where people gathered for a bit of respite from work and the often-hard realities of day-to-day life. The Orange Hall, which I have been inside once since Raymond and I bought the Manse, still has the stage from which performers would have entertained people of the village with songs, readings, plays and declamations on the virtues of some quack medicine or other.

The stage in the old Orange Hall

The stairs lead up to the stage at the front of the old Orange Hall, which is now used for storage.

The newspaper piece that got me thinking about all this was the Heritage Herald in the Tweed News, a column produced weekly by the tireless Evan Morton, curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Evan was writing about an old photo that had been donated to the centre, showing a group of young men in uniform at what seems to be a First World War recruiting event at the Hungerford Township Hall in the village of Tweed. Also in the photo is a poster advertising a coming appearance at the hall by a Tom Marks. Being the diligent historian that he is, Evan had looked into this and reported that Tom Marks was a member of a vaudeville troupe that was once hugely popular in Canada and the U.S., the Marks Brothers, known as “The Canadian Kings of Repertoire.”

The Marks Bros.

A poster for “The Canadian Kings of Repertoire,” the Marks Brothers of Perth, Ont. You can find this and more photos related to this once-famous vaudeville troupe at this excellent Flickr page.

The brothers – Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Alex, Ernest, John and  McIntyre – “left the farm and took to the boards and the footlights throughout the latter part of the 19th century and into the 1920s. The brothers from Christie Lake, near Perth in Eastern Ontario, played to an estimated eight million Canadians, as well as to sizeable audiences in the United States. Their road shows, largely melodramas and comedy, kept audiences crying, booing, laughing and cheering until movies sounded the death knell for touring repertory companies,” according to a blurb about a book about them, which you can find more about here.

To all of which, I can only say: Who knew?

But also, intrigued by the fact that one of the brothers was to appear in wee Tweed around the time of the Great War, I got to wondering: might the Marks Brothers ever have performed at Queensborough’s Orange Hall? It seems at least possible, given this information provided on this page by a former curator of the Perth Museum:

“They delighted audiences in many remote towns and villages, most of them starved for entertainment, with their flamboyant performances and lavish scenery.”

Would Queensborough have been one of those “remote villages starved for entertainment” that the Marks lads visited? I’d love to know.

But anyway, the photo that Evan featured, and his findings about the Marks Brothers of Perth, Ont., got me thinking about those long-ago days when shows would come to the Orange Hall. And I’d like to share with you a delightful reminiscence of them that is included in the late Jean Holmes’s wonderful history of Queensborough and Elzevir Township, a book called Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. This story comes from the late Ed Alexander, whom I remember from my childhood days here. Thinking back on his youth, Ed told Jean and her history-gathering assistants

about the travelling plays that came to the Orange Hall. The fee was 35¢ to see the show. When he was young, if he did not have enough money to pay his admission, he walked around the block on the wooden sidewalks, with a long stick with chewing gum stuck on the end. He would put the stick between the boards and collect enough coins to pay his admission. The shows were usually medicine shows. The owners were trying to con the public into buying their medicine. It was usually described as a “cure-all.” It was a type of tonic, basically useless. 

And then it gets to the part I just love, referring to a part of those shows that apparently was especially popular with the men who worked in the small mines – gold, silver, marble, iron, lime, pyrite, copper, lead and actinolite – that once dotted this part of central Hastings County:

Along with the sales pitch, there would be songs and skits, and prizes for the most popular female. Sometimes, Mabel Chase, from the Chase Boarding-house in Actinolite, won. All the miners would come to buy the medicine and they voted for Mabel.

Ah, Mabel. Mabel, Mabel, Mabel. What I wouldn’t give to travel back in time to see her beaming and blushing with pride as she was chosen “most popular female” – once again – by the miners and others gathered for the medicine show in the Queensborough Orange Lodge.

Times to remember indeed!

You know you’re living in the country when…

Manse mailbox

Our mailbox, properly accessible, on the sparkling cold morning after two days of non-delivery of mail because we had been neglectful of the winter obligation of keeping it completely shovelled out. Lesson learned!

Anyone who lives in a rural area of Canada knows the following rule: You have to shovel out the mailbox.

That is: If it is winter, and if your mailbox is on the side of the road that runs in front of your house, you have to shovel away any snow that accumulates in front of it. If you don’t, the person who delivers your mail won’t be able to drive up to it, open its door from inside his or her vehicle, and pop your mail in. (Canada Post‘s rules prohibit mail deliverers from getting out of their vehicles to put stuff in your mailbox. I expect it’s primarily a safety precaution, but possibly also a time-saving measure.)

Now, longtime readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse might remember that I have previously declared myself fully cognizant of that winter requirement on the mailbox front. In a post I did a couple of years ago (and which you can read in full here), I invoked my late father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, in recounting how I was making it a point in the midst of a very snowy winter to keep the mailbox shovelled out so as to clear a path for the mail carrier. And I’ve kept up my mailbox resolution, shovelling it out many, many times since that post was written.

But as those of you who live in the northeastern part of North America know, the winter of 2015-16 has not, to date at least, been a very snowy one. I’ve shovelled out the mailbox a few times this winter, and Raymond has too; but when the amount of snow on the ground is little more than an inch or two, mailbox shovelling is not top of mind as an essential Manse chore. As a result of this complacency, two things happened recently: one, we failed to get mail for a couple of days; and two, I learned a valuable and happy lesson in how things work in small towns and rural areas.

Last Wednesday, Raymond and I were thoroughly puzzled when the red flag on our mailbox – the indicator that one does, in fact, have mail – failed to go up. There were a couple of things we were vaguely expecting to arrive that day; but more to the point, Wednesday is the day that the Tweed News weekly newspaper comes by mail, and the Tweed News never fails to appear. Why, the only thing surer than that columnist Evan Morton (curator of the wonderful Tweed and Area Heritage Centre) will have a good read in the paper about some aspect of Tweed’s history is the fact that the paper will show up, like clockwork, on Wednesday in the mailbox.

Not last week, though. “That’s odd,” Raymond and I said to each other Wednesday evening at the non-appearance of the Tweed News – and any other mail. But we shrugged and assumed that everything had just been delayed a day for some reason.

But when no mail – and especially no Tweed News – appeared Thursday, we suspected something might be wrong. It never crossed our minds that an unshovelled mailbox was the problem; we hadn’t taken the shovel to it in a while, but there seemed no reason to. The amount of snow on the ground was pretty small, and to the casual observer (i.e. us, from our front porch), the mailbox looked quite accessible.

But that is where we had it wrong. And that is how I learned my lesson.

On my way to work in Belleville on Friday morning, I stopped in to our local post office, which is in the village of Madoc. (Long gone, and very much missed, are the days in my childhood when Queensborough had its own post office at McMurray’s general store, and the late Blanche McMurray was the extremely capable postmistress.)

Madoc Post Office

The Madoc Post Office, where you always get service with a smile.

On duty at the counter that morning was Sheryl, one of the two very pleasant people who staff the Madoc Post Office. “Hi, Sheryl!” I chirped as I walked in. “Hi, Katherine!” she cheerily responded. “Is there something up with the mail?” I asked, starting to explain that we uncharacteristically hadn’t received anything for the past couple of days. (I had worriedly been wondering if our carrier had been ill and they’d been unable to find someone to replace her.) Sheryl knew instantly where I was going with that, and I didn’t even need to finish my sentence. “She [the mail carrier, that is] hasn’t been able to get to your mailbox for the last couple of days,” she explained.

Well! I was mortified, knowing as I so well do, from my earliest childhood, the importance of keeping the mailbox shovelled. I blithered something apologetic about not having realized there was a buildup of snow, plus an assurance that things should be okay as of Friday because the neighbour who snowplows our driveway had, the previous afternoon, taken a good swing at the area in front of the mailbox. Sheryl assured me that all should therefore be well: the carrier had our accumulated mail in the truck with her at that very moment, and so it all should end up in the mailbox that day. And she was right. It did. Tweed News and all.

(Which, I will add parenthetically, was especially good because Raymond had, as in each of the previous few Februarys since we bought the Manse, placed a Valentine’s Day message for me in the classifieds! How sweet is that?)

Valentine in the Tweed News

Raymond’s (“R.B.”) 2016 Valentine’s Day message to me (“K.S.”) in the classifieds of the Tweed News. He generally chooses Shakespeare, my favourite – this time A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

So why am I telling you this story? Because it’s actually not, despite appearances, about an unshovelled mailbox. I didn’t even realize it was a story until the end of the day on Friday, when I was recounting to Raymond (who was in Montreal) my exchange with Sheryl. As I told him how she had had the answer to my query about not getting mail before I could even get that query fully out of my mouth, I suddenly burst out laughing. It was a laugh of delighted recognition at another of the joys of living in a rural area. (For other examples of said joys, I refer you to many hundreds of previous posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse.)

Think of it this way: if you lived in a larger town, or a city, what are the chances that:

a) You know the first name of the person behind the counter at the post office, and she knows yours?

b) The post office is actually a post office, and not a corner of a Shoppers Drug Mart?

c) The post-office person whose name you know, and who knows yours, is completely familiar with the condition of your mailbox? And knows off the top of her head the specifics of why you haven’t had mail for a couple of days – without having to look into it, or check the computer, or make a phone call, or promise to get back to you, or – most likely of all – tell you it’s not anything he or she knows anything about and therefore why are you bothering him or her with your dumb question? (Though they might phrase it more politely.)

d) The person behind the counter would know the whereabouts of your accumulated mail at that very moment (in the truck with the carrier, on the way to Queensborough)?

My laughter as I told the story to Raymond was delighted laughter – delight at living in a place where people know each other by name, and problems get fixed, and mail gets delivered, and lessons (about always being vigilant about mailbox shovelling) are learned – and we all just get along. And we do it, in part, through knowing more about each other’s business than people in the big city do. Is that a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

A Queensborough link to Canada’s first prime minister

Sir John A. MacdonaldAs some readers will doubtless know, preparations are being made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the most famous Father of Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was born on Jan. 11, 1815, in Glasgow; emigrated to Kingston in Upper Canada with his family five years later; became a lawyer in that city; and went on to great political success and a permanent place in history by being one of driving forces behind the creation of our country in 1867 and prime minister for a total of 19 years.

I was reminded of the upcoming anniversary and attendant celebrations (see this link to some special events in Kingston and elsewhere) thanks to an excellent article by my friend Roseann Trudeau in this week’s issue of the Tweed News. Roseann’s article also reminded me that I should write here at Meanwhile, at the Manse about Sir John A.’s Queensborough connection. Yes, you heard (or at least read) that right: the Queensborough connection to Canada’s first prime minister. You see, Sir John A. was once a property-owner in Queensborough! So there.

I first learned of the Sir John A. connection from Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, the invaluable history of our area written back in 1984 by the late Jean Holmes, the longtime clerk of Elzevir and a woman I remember fondly from my childhood days here. Here’s what Jean’s book says:

Billa Flint

Billa Flint: Elzevir Township politician, entrepreneur, temperance man and all-round interesting character.

“Sir John A. Macdonald owned eleven lots in Queensborough between 1868 and 1870, and some again in 1886. It is reasonable to assume that he would have known the Hon. Billa Flint very well, even though Flint was a Liberal and Macdonald a Conservative. [Note from Katherine: Billa Flint (for whom the village of Flinton is named) was a prominent and wealthy Elzevir Township entrepreneur and politician; he was the local member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a senator after Confederation. The suggestion that Times to Remember seems to be making is that since Flint moved in those Ottawa circles, he might well have suggested to Sir John A. that he make an investment in property his neck of the woods, i.e. Queensborough. Flint was also, by the way, a vehement temperance man, which means that he and Sir John, the latter well-known for enjoying his drink, might have had some interesting conversations. Anyway, back to Times to Remember:] For some unknown reason, Macdonald purchased lots in Queensborough. Later he sold (or lost) all of them to the Merchants’ Bank for the large sum of $6,600.”

Isn’t that just a most intriguing tidbit? Though I will confess I wasn’t sure whether to actually believe it, and indeed I infused some doubt about the veracity of this tale when I made mention of it in the text of the booklet about Queensborough’s history that I helped put together for the Queensborough Community Centre Committee. (The booklet is a fundraiser for the committee’s work, and if you’d like a copy, it can be yours for a mere $3 [plus postage]. Just let me know.)

However, prior to our committee’s wildly successful Historic Queensborough Day last September (which you can read about here; that was a wonderful day!), I saw the proof of the matter. It came in the form of a copy of a legal document that seems to be the turning over of the property to the Merchants’ Bank by Sir John A. and his wife, Agnes, who apparently was co-owner. It is dated Feb. 1, 1870, and all the details are there, including mention of “Lots Numbered Eighteen and Nineteen in the First Range and Forty and Forty One in the Second Range of the Village Plot of Queensboro“:

Sir John deed Page 1

And it is signed by both Sir John (who is listed at the start as “The Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, of the City of Kingston, in the County of Frontenac and Province of Ontario, Knight Commander of the Bath“) and Agnes (“Dame Susan Agnes Macdonald, his wife”):

Sir John deed Page 5

Now, legal documents tend to give me hives because, as a journalist and editor, my life’s mission is to see that information is conveyed in language that anyone can understand, whereas legal documents tend to be written in language that no one can understand. So I wasn’t really sure exactly what this document between the Macdonalds and the Merchants’ Bank is, but since it cites the same amount that Jean Holmes mentions, $6,600, it seems like it is the turnover of the property for default of payment that she refers to. That is confirmed in a note I have from the person who is owed enormous thanks for finding (back in the 1970s) and making a photocopy of this precious document, local lawyer and Queensborough property-owner André Philpot. As André explained in sharing the document with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee: “The copies aren’t perfect but they do show that for whatever reason Sir John bought land in (Queensborough), mortgaged it to ‘The Merchants’ Bank’ and seems to have signed it off to them – presumably because he couldn’t keep up the payments … Sir John was a better nation builder than investor and it looks like this may just have been a speculation that didn’t work out.”

Anyway, since we’ll all be hearing a fair bit about Sir John in the next while because of the bicentennial of his birth, I thought it timely and important to share his Queensborough connection. Really, doesn’t our little hamlet and its history just never cease to amaze you?

“Let us not forget to be kind.”

Hart's-Riggs Women's Institute

The Hart’s-Riggs Women’s Institute hall, located in the historic old schoolhouse that once served children in the Hart’s-Riggs area northeast of the village of Madoc. It was here that I learned about the Mary Stewart Collect this past week.

This being a relatively rare Sunday post – I only write on Sundays when I need to catch up on a missed instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse – I thought it would be an appropriate time to share a very lovely prayer that I came across this past week. It is a prayer well-known in some circles (notably the worldwide Women’s Institute, of which a bit more later), but I suspect not so much to the general population. Its content certainly wasn’t known to me until this past week. If you happen to be a person who sometimes says prayers – even if only very rarely – I think you will find it a meaningful one.

The prayer has a name: it is called the Mary Stewart Collect. As you will find if you look it up on the internet, it was written in 1904 by a woman named (no surprise here) Mary Stewart, who was a high-school principal in Colorado. Her own title for it was A Collect for Club Women; she explained (according to this site and many others) that she came up with it “because I felt that women working together, with wide interests in large ends, which was a new thing under the sun … that perhaps they had need for a special petition and meditation of their own.”

I had until this evening been labouring under the delusion that the Mary Stewart Collect was specifically a Women’s Institute prayer. That was a result of reading probably hundreds of writeups about local W.I. meetings in the local press when I was growing up here at the Manse – and in fact I’m still reading them to this day, because the Tweed-area Chapman branch of the W.I. faithfully sends in reports of its monthly meetings for publication in the Tweed News, to which Raymond and I are faithful subscribers. In every one of those hundreds of reports over the years, it was mentioned that the meeting had started with the Mary Stewart Collect. But as I have just learned, the prayer has also been used by Business and Professional Women’s Clubs and the like, in the United States and all over the place.

Hart's-Riggs W.I. sign

“For Home and Country” is the slogan of the Women’s Institute, and it is proudly displayed on the hall of the Hart’s-Riggs branch.

Adelaide Hunter Hoodless

Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, the founder of, and inspiration for, the Women’s Institute.

Okay, I think now is the time for a little bit of information about the Women’s Institute, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. The W.I. was founded in Stoney Creek, Ont., at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the work and inspiration of a remarkable woman named Adelaide Hunter Hoodless. “The tragic death of her son, John Harold Hoodless, from drinking contaminated milk led her to campaign for clean milk in the city. She devoted herself to women’s causes, especially improving education of women for motherhood and household management,” explains a section on Adelaide Hoodless on the site of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario. The idea of an organization for women to help promote better health and better lives for all – its slogan is “For Home and Country” – quickly spread across Canada and around the world; you can read a good [though British-oriented] history of the W.I. here, and an overview of the Women’s Institutes in Ontario here. I should also mention that an incredibly important element of the work of Women’s Institutes in this country has been the collection and preservation of local historical information in what are called Tweedsmuir Books; I explained about them (and how important the Queensborough W.I.’s precious Tweedsmuir book has been in my own community) here.

Okay, one final thing, the question that I bet at least some of you are asking: Why is this prayer called a “collect”? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I was wondering the same thing. Long story short, calling prayers “collects” seems to be a thing for churches with episcopalian bents, i.e. Anglican and Roman Catholic. It is not a tradition, as far as I am aware, in most Protestant churches. But anyway, “a collect” is apparently a name for “a short general prayer,” according to Wikipedia, and here is a good explanation from the Church of England itself.

So back to the Mary Stewart Collect. I was introduced to the words of this prayer – or collect – this past Tuesday, when, because of my work on Meanwhile, at the Manse, I was honoured to be invited to be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Hart’s-Riggs branch of the Women’s Institute. This branch, which meets in the W.I. hall at the corner of Tannery and Hart’s roads, the historic former schoolhouse for that small rural community, has a long history of good works, community service and fellowship. (When you think about it, “fellowship” seems like an odd word when you’re talking about a women’s group, doesn’t it? Anyway.)

All right, that’s more than enough preamble. Here is the Mary Stewart Collect, as printed in the program of the Hart’s-Riggs Women’s Institute. I think it is a simple and graceful prayer not only for Women’s Institutes, or for women’s groups in general, or for women in general; it is a simple and graceful prayer for anyone at all. For all of us.

Mary Stewart Collect

Keep us, O Lord, from pettiness. Let us be large in thought, word and deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding, and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretence and meet each other face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgement, and always generous.
Let us take time for all things; make us grow calm, serene, and gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight-forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize that it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life we are one;
And may we strive to touch and know the great human heart common to us all;
And, O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind.

Local sausage, local wine – what more could one ask?

Potter Settlement wines

Winemaker Robin Johnson and his assistant from Potter Settlement Winery, which is very possibly the first winery in Hastings County and is located not far from Queensborough, set out their wares at the Feast from Farm event in Tweed a couple of weekends ago. Raymond and I bought the first bottle of their product ever sold!

St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market last weekend: overcrowded and overhyped, if you ask me. I’ll take smaller local markets any time.

Raymond and I were in Toronto last weekend, and visited the much-vaunted St. Lawrence Market. Now, both of us had been there in the past – but it was the rather distant past, so it was kind of like it was all new. All around the place were signs proclaiming that National Geographic had named it “The Best Market in the World.” Man, typical Toronto “we’re world-class” attitude. The St. Lawrence market is perfectly all right, I suppose, but (on a Saturday morning, anyway) it is wildly and most unpleasantly overcrowded. And you know what? When it comes to gorgeous super-local produce and general friendly ambience, it has nothing on Montreal‘s Jean Talon Market. Trust me on this. (And the next time you have a chance to get anywhere near Montreal, go visit Jean Talon. As should National Geographic, by the way.)

Anyway, my point here is not compare big farmers’ markets in Montreal and Toronto. I’m actually trying to lead you in to a story about a different sort of market, a much smaller and more local and quite exciting one, that Raymond and I visited one recent weekend.

Feast from FarmIt was a special event called Feast from Farm organized by the economic-development and promotion folks at the Municipality of Tweed, and it was held outdoors in downtown Tweed, in a park right beside pretty Stoco Lake. It wasn’t huge; there were about 15 booths featuring products from the area, everything from home baking and jams to pickled eggs. There were also four booths where chefs were cooking up samples of local products, two where beers from local microbreweries were featured, and – most exciting of all, as far as I was concerned – one featuring what I believe is the very first winery in Hastings County. It is called Potter Settlement Winery, and happily for us here in the Queensborough area, it is very close by – just a jog down Potter Settlement Road, which is in the vicinity of the hamlet of Sulphide, not far from Tweed. I just think it is the coolest thing ever that we have our very own local winery. Prince Edward County, look out!

I have been hearing bits and bobs about Potter Settlement Winery (here is its Facebook page) for the past two or three years, but learned that they were still in the building stage, working toward their first harvest and first year of wine production. Well, guess what: this is the year! At the Feast from Farm event, winemaker Robin Johnson was offering tastings of the first two wines, a red called Marquette Rouge and a white called Frontenac Gris. Since trying out these local wines was the primary reason Raymond and I attended the event, we beetled over to the booth and did just that. And were very impressed! We bought a bottle of the Marquette Rouge, and guess what: it was the very first bottle they’d ever sold!

On the front page of the Tweed News the following week, there was a photo of Robin Johnson at the event and a writeup about it, and in it he was quoted as saying they’d sold their first-ever bottle of wine there. Raymond and I are very proud to have been the buyers! It is stored in the wine cellar, perhaps permanently since it’s such a one-of-a-kind thing; I think we’ll have to stock up on more bottles for actual consumption.

Sausages from Seed to Sausage

At the Feast from Farm event in Tweed, visitors were served up sausages (with great sauerkraut and mustard on the side) made at Seed to Sausage in Sharbot Lake. Yum!

The other highlight of the Feast from Farm was no less than the best sausages we have ever tasted. They came from an operation based in tiny Sharbot Lake, Ont. – about 45 minutes due east of us on beautiful Highway 7 – called Seed to Sausage. Neither of us had ever heard of it before, but you can bet we will be paying attention from now on. Seed to Sausage makes sausages (of course) and also salami, pancetta and a variety of other kinds of smoked meats. What they were serving up at Feast to Farm, alongside some good mustard and splendid sauerkraut, was a sausage that included – get this! – cheese curds from Empire Cheese of RR#5 Campbellford. (The best of the local cheese factories, we are reliably informed by locals who know their cheddar cheese; you can read my post about Empire here.) Now, I love sausages, and enjoy buying ones made with interesting ingredients like shallots, wild mushrooms, white wine and herbs – even curry. But I’d always steered away from sausages mixed with cheese products, because that seemed like a weird combination. But man oh man: the Seed to Sausage cheese-curd sausages were absolutely the best ever. I cannot wait to stock up on some!

(Seed to Sausage supplies high-end restaurants, and operates a store in Ottawa. There’s also a retail outlet in Sharbot Lake, but after this coming long weekend it’ll be closed till the Victoria Day weekend in May 2015. I think I need to talk them into setting up shop in Madoc or Tweed.)

Anyway, there you have my foodie report, and information on where to get great Hastings County wine and brilliant Frontenac County sausages. I promise that if you check them out (and support fantastic small producers into the bargain) you will not be disappointed.

Does Molson the Kitten belong at the Manse?

Molson the Kitten

Here’s the ad that caught my eye, featuring Molson. Don’t you thinks he’s adorable? (Photo from the Central Hastings News)

Most weeks in the Central Hastings News, one of the three local weekly papers we get here at the Manse (the other two being the Tweed News and the Community Press) there is an ad from the local branch of a volunteer organization called the Cat Care Spay/Neuter Initiative. The ad features a photo and the story of one of the cats available for adoption (or, as they like to put it, for moving to a “forever home,” which I confess I find a tad saccharine).

Most weeks I, inveterate cat lover that I am, examine the ad with great interest. And sometimes I even point out that week’s candidate to Raymond, in a not-so-subtle suggestion that we might want to adopt a companion for our Sieste. (Whose adventures you’ve probably read about before here at Meanwhile, at the Manse; but should you require more information, you can find it here and here and here.)

Most times when I show him the Cat of the Week Raymond chuckles and immediately returns to his book, magazine or newspaper. The wordless message of the chuckle is, of course, “Why would we want another cat?”

Sieste at the doorway

Do you think Sieste would welcome the sight of Molson (and maybe his brother Turbo too) arriving at the front door of the Manse?

But I have to tell you that the photo of Molson, the kitten featured in last week’s issue, seemed to get to him. (As well as to me, of course.) Molson is a “tuxedo cat,” black and white like Sieste; and I think you’ll have to agree that he is cute as a button. And, according to his promotional writeup, “He will follow you around and loves to hide and jump out at you to surprise you. His playfulness is only surpassed by his cute and loving personality.” Now that’s pretty appealing! Even to Raymond.

No, I haven’t yet prevailed on him to give the good people (and cat rescuers) at the Cat Care Spay/Neuter Initiative a call. But here’s the thing that might really win him over: last week’s ad promised that this week we’d see a photo of Molson’s brother! Whose name is apparently Turbo.

Maybe Raymond is just holding out for a pair.

And on an important (though utterly unrelated) note: Don’t forget about the world-famous Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 1) evening. It runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m., and you will enjoy a terrific old-fashioned church supper in the historic surroundings of St. Andrew’s. I hope to see you there!

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

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.

Happy anniversary to us!

Chanel in my chair

A bag of Chanel waiting for me in my morning-coffee chair at the Manse: is that not just the best way to start the day on one’s wedding anniversary?

I got a lovely surprise this morning when I emerged from (I am not making this up) close to two solid days and nights of sleep, brought on by a monster head cold. It was good to feel something close to human again, and what a delightful way to re-enter the human state: there was an anniversary gift on the rocking chair where I sit! And it was Chanel!

Today is the sixth anniversary of the day Raymond and I were married in Montreal. If you like, you can see a wedding photo in this post. When I wrote that post, on this date a year ago, I noted how astonished we both would have been if, on the day of our wedding in 2008, someone had told us that a few years hence we would be the proud owners of my childhood home, the Manse in Queensborough. Well, I can now safely report that if you had told us when I was writing that post a year ago that by the time of our next anniversary we would be living full-time at the Manse, we would also have been flabbergasted.

But here we are. And there is Chanel! (Very possibly a first at the Manse.) I love Chanel No. 5 perfume, which is about as classy as perfume gets, if you ask me. And I adore it when I am surprised by a gift of Chanel No. 5. So Raymond was off to a very, very good start.

And guess what – there was more! In the Tweed News, no less! In the top left-hand corner of Page 9 of this week’s edition was this little ad:



No doubt it had a lot of Tweed News readers scratching their heads. Not me! Obviously I recognized the date as that of our wedding; and W.S. can be none other than our mutual favourite William Shakespeare. (The lines are from Venus and Adonis.)

This is not the first time Raymond, veteran newsman that he is, has used the power of the press to convey a romantic message. There was a surprise Valentine’s Day message, also in the Tweed News, a year ago. Since I’m a veteran newswoman, these messages are doubly meaningful.

I have to say, as I sit here comfortably at our Manse, that I feel like I have the best husband ever. And isn’t that just how one should feel on one’s wedding anniversary?