The crokinole party.

Raymond tries our crokinole

In preparation for the next Eldorado crokinole party,  today I hauled out our own crokinole board – a lovely vintage one that Raymond had bought at a local auction – and attempted to explain the rules of the game to him. Here he is trying it out.

Last Friday night I finally made it to the monthly community crokinole party held at the Madoc Township Recreation Centre (and firehall, and council chamber, etc.) near the hamlet of Eldorado. My friend Isabella Shaw, who I believe is the main organizer of this event, had invited Raymond and me several times, and each time we’d had a conflict with something or other. So even though Raymond was in transit between Montreal and Queensborough last Friday and I’d have to attend alone, I was determined to make it.

Isabella’s family was friends with my own back when my siblings and I were growing up here at the Manse. My dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, used to make maple syrup with Isabella’s husband, Cyril, who has been a very well-known local producer for many years. (I wrote about Cyril and Isabella and maple syrup days here.) She is one of the many people around here who have been incredibly welcoming as I return to this place that long ago was, and now is again, my home. And she was especially eager to bring us into the community crokinole event after I posted here about Raymond not knowing (until very recently) what crokinole is. (If you don’t know either, check out that post and read on here. And for still more, check out the amazing site Mr. Crokinole.)

crokinole board

Even though Raymond and I are novices at crokinole, I’m delighted to have this beautiful vintage board. It’s made by the Bentley Sporting Goods Company of Niagara Falls, Ont. – which, according to the Mr. Crokinole site, manufactured the boards between 1946 and 1958 – and was purchased (we still have the labels on the box!) from none other than the T. Eaton Company.

So off I went to Eldorado (it’s only a little more than five miles from Queensborough) last Friday night, despite being pretty tired from a long week at work. And what a time I had! Mainly I came away struck by two things: 1) what a terrible crokinole player I am; and 2) how very nice people were.

Here (for the uninitiated) is what you do at a crokinole party – at least, if it’s a crokinole party in Eldorado. You sit down at one of the tables for four that have been set up, and the person across from you is your partner. You and he or she play with either the black wooden discs or the light-coloured ones. Your mission is to get as many of your team’s discs as possible in high-score positions (close to the centre) even as you knock off the other team’s discs. If they have discs on the board, you have to try to shoot them off. If they don’t, you can try to get your disc into the hole in the centre of the board; at Eldorado they call that a “button,” and it’s worth 20 points. After several rounds the game is over and you add up your scores, and the winning team moves clockwise to the next table, while the losing team stays put but one of the two members moves to a chair to the right or left – so you never play twice with the same partner.

That last rule was a fortunate one for my partners, because I was, not to put too fine a point on it, awful. I started off the evening with a couple of “buttons,” which was most encouraging. But it was all downhill from there; my skills were, I think I can accurately say, rather far below even the beginner level. And they seemed to get worse as the evening went on! (Though I attribute that to the fact that I really was tired from the work week even before the games began.)

But – and I hope it’s all right if I say this, and partners that night, I apologize! – for me the evening really wasn’t about crokinole. It was about being welcomed in to a community event, experiencing something new, meeting some old friends and acquaintances from my childhood here (and trying to remember their names!) and also meeting a bunch of new people. It was about sharing news of local happenings and people, and answering kind questions people had about the Manse project and my family and my late father. Much of this friendly conversation went on during the crokinole games, and since I’m not the world’s greatest multi-tasker, I found myself concentrating more on the conversation than on trying to make good plays. (I was concentrating so hard that, unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the event. Next time!)

But speaking of good plays: many of the people I played with were extraordinary crokinolers! (Is that a word?) Able to hit two or three of their opponents’ discs with a single shot, strategically using the posts, or pins, that encircle the centre of the board to make brilliant ricochets. To be honest, I would rather have sat back and watched these great players do their thing (and maybe learned something from them) than been trying to make my own pitiful moves.

You might think that these excellent players would have been irked at being stuck with a partner, or even a tablemate, as bad as I was. But you’d be utterly wrong. Every single person was so encouraging and nice. On the rare occasions when I actually managed to knock off an opponent’s disc, they’d cheer me on like it was a totally great play. (It was not, you can be sure.) Isabella had assured me that the event was not about how good a player you are, but about fun and fellowship. And that was exactly what it was.

It was lovely.

And there were prizes at the end! You handed in your scorecard (thank goodness, because I would be embarrassed if I had to show it to you) and the people with the highest scores and – get this! – the lowest scores got to choose a prize. Which means I (holder of the lowest score, naturally) came away a winner! How nice is that? (I got a block of one of the excellent local cheddar cheeses, Ivanhoe. Yum!)

After the games were ended and the card tables folded up and put away, out came the lunch. (Everyone is asked to bring a contribution for it.) There were sandwiches – yes, the delicious church-basement kind that I wrote about here – and wonderful sweets, many of them homemade, and pickles and – of course – cheese. And coffee and tea to wash it down. And we sat around and chatted and I answered more kind questions about my family, and met some more old friends and new people, and was struck all over again at how nice everyone was and what a pleasant and easygoing evening it had been.

I left amid urgings all round (and a promise on my part) to return, with Raymond next time. (The next crokinole party is Friday, April 25, and you are all welcome to come!)

As I walked out of the Eldorado hall into the darkness and quiet of a cold, clear night in the country, I thought about how much evenings like this matter in rural areas. When you live in the country, possibly not even within sight of your nearest neighbour, community events are, I think, more important than they are in the city. A lit-up building full of people, a warm welcome, stories to share and games to play, and a nice lunch at the end of it all – if that’s not a great way to brighten up a cold, dark night, then I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

Yes, Dad. I shovelled out the mailbox.

Shovelled-out mailbox

The results of my labours: a mailbox that (until the next snowfall, at least) is beautifully accessible to our mail carrier. My father would be proud of me!

“The mailbox needs to be shovelled out,” my dad would say. It wasn’t an observation; it was a direct order. Oh man, how I hated hearing that!

Because in my growing-up days at the Manse in Queensborough, my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was a stickler for getting the mailbox shovelled out properly. It wasn’t enough to remove the snow that the snowplow had cast its way from immediately in front of it; we kids (the designated shovellers; Dad was busy doing harder labour, such as felling trees for firewood to heat the Manse) were expected to create a nice long spur in the snowbank so that the mailman’s (it was always a man) car could ease in toward our mailbox and ease out again, and he would be left satisfied and even happy with his mail-delivery experience at the Sedgwick mailbox.

And hey, I guess wanting to keep the mailman happy is understandable; I still love getting mail now, but back then in the 1960s and early 1970s, mail was a lifeline to the outer world. Why, even our Globe and Mail came by mail – same-day delivery, if you can believe it.

(Of course, that was in the days when Canada Post was operating on the principle that its job was to deliver the mail. Now it’s in the process of moving on to – well, I’m not sure what it’s moving on to, besides irrelevancy and oblivion.)

Anyway. My dad’s long-ago words were ringing in my ears the other day, especially after some mail (Christmas cards; how lovely!) arrived in our mailbox but the flag to alert us of this was not up. And I realized that it wasn’t up because the snowbank in front of the mailbox had prevented our carrier from being able to reach it to put it up.

So: the mailbox needed to be shovelled out.

I have to tell you that, despite my ramblings this year and last about the possibility of acquiring a snowblower, I am beginning to enjoy shovelling snow. While we are very fortunate that our neighbour John, with his handy-dandy plow, looks after clearing our driveway, I have made it my personal mission to keep the walkway that leads to the mailbox, and the space in front of the garage doors, always clear and passable. I like the fact that it makes me work my muscles, and I like spending time in the fresh air, and I like the conversations that happen with neighbours who pass by while I’m shovelling.

But my mission has involved some hard work of late, because we have had a lot of snow in Queensborough – just like Christina Rosetti‘s beautiful Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter says, “snow ha(s) fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.” And then there was the freezing rain from the recent ice storm coating it all, which meant some serious hacking away at the heavy accumulation.

But over the course of this past weekend, I got that mailbox shovelled out to the max. I hacked and tossed and dug and cleared, and I have to tell you, that space in front of the mailbox is a thing of beauty.

The mail carrier will, I am sure, be happy. And my dad would be proud.

Farewell to a friend, a vibrant spirit

Art Gough

Art Gough, 1934-2013: educator, runner, appreciator of life, father, grandfather – and good friend. I like this photo because that big smile on Art’s face is absolutely typical of him. (Photo courtesy of Graham Gough)

A person who played a very important role in the life of my family when we lived at the Manse back when I was a kid was Art Gough – a gifted and much-loved teacher and principal, a marathon-runner, and a man with a boundless sense of how much fun life could be.

Art and his family moved to a nice old brick house in Queensborough in 1970, when he was named principal of Coe Hill Public School further north in Hastings County, and the Goughs and the Sedgwicks quickly became fast friends. Art went on to be the principal at nearby Madoc Township Public School – which my sister and brothers and I all attended, though before his time there. He made a very important mark on that already-fine school, bringing teachers and students together as one big enthusiastic team and leading the charge for the Township School to be a place known for its academics, sports and special activities, such as debating. (His impact was such that when the board of education tried to shift him to a larger school a few years after his arrival, the teachers and local parents rose up in protest. The board backed down, and Art stayed at the Township School until his retirement.)

Anyway: I am sad to report that Art died a week ago tonight. Today his family and many of his friends gathered for a celebration of his life. In the days between I have, as you might imagine, been thinking a lot about Art, a truly remarkable man whose approach to life had a large impact on my own.

I was extremely honoured (and more than a little bit nervous) that Art’s sons asked me to speak at the service today, and I’ll put the text, more or less as I said it, at the end of this post. My focus was primarily on Art as our Queensborough neighbour and good friend of my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick. That is how I knew him best. But I was a bit worried about not going into all the other important things that Art was – teacher and principal, as already noted; and exceptional athlete, also as noted; but also world traveller, participant in theatrical productions, Christian Science member, animal-lover, and on and on the list goes.

I needn’t have worried, though. Wanda Burnside, a former Madoc Township Public School teacher, painted a wonderful picture for us of the exciting and memorable times the school went through under Art’s leadership; and Bill Gough, Art’s youngest son, spoke eloquently and movingly about many parts of Art’s life – including, of course, Art as father and grandfather. The pride and affection in Bill’s voice as he spoke were lovely to hear. As was the fact that a major focus of his talk was how much Art liked to laugh, and how good he was at getting others to laugh. That is one of the things I will remember most about Art. He had an incredibly quick mind, and he used it in the best possible way: to enjoy life, and to help others do the same.

Bill also mentioned a couple of things I found absolutely remarkable: one, that Art never took a sick day in all of his long career as a teacher and principal; and the other, that he ran every single day from 1964 until 2010, when his health began to fail. One time, Bill told us, he ran on the tarmac in between flights at Los Angeles Airport. Another time he ran on the deck of a ship in the stormy North Sea. But he never once missed a day. Can you imagine? (This would of course explain why he was able to run more than a dozen marathons.)

Art Gough running a marathon

Art running in one of the many marathons he completed. (Photo courtesy of the Gough family)

And speaking of the running, I well remember how, when Art and his family moved to Queensborough in 1970, running was seen by the people of Queensborough as an extremely peculiar thing to do. (I think this was a bit before Participaction had kicked in.) That said, it wasn’t long before they got used to seeing him out on the road, and began not to be so surprised by it. However: I can tell you from first-hand experience that there was some pretty major head-shaking and eye-rolling down at the general stores when Art was spotted running on icy roads that were well-nigh impassable to vehicles during the worst winter days.

But that was Art. Indomitable, unstoppable – and full of life and laughter.

Now that I think of it, the image of him out running on the icy winter roads around Queensborough is – well, it’s classic Art. It was something nobody else would have done – and there was Art, doing it. It was a perfect example – though there are many examples – of how he stood out from everyone else. The father, grandfather and friend whose life we celebrated today was an extraordinary person. I hope all who knew him who might be reading this will stop and think about something he did or said that made them laugh. I think Art would like that a lot.

Here’s what I said today:

Since Art Gough was an educator, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that he taught me something – well, me and a whole lot of other people. Probably many of you here. Given the number of students he interacted with through his career, probably hundreds and hundreds of people.

As I’ve been thinking about it over the past several days, though, I’ve had trouble finding just the right word or words to describe what that very important lesson was. Then this morning I happened to be on a long, quiet drive, and about halfway though, the words “vibrant spirit” came to me. “Man!” I thought. “That is the perfect way to describe Art.” And maybe that is also the best way to describe what he taught us through his example: to have and to be a vibrant spirit.

My family and Art’s became friends when the Goughs moved to our little hamlet, Queensborough, in 1970. My father Wendell, the United Church minister, was always quick to welcome strangers, and so he invited Art and Claude for dinner to the Manse one Sunday evening. (The rest of the family hadn’t yet arrived from their previous home in the Newmarket area.) This turned out to be the first of what would be many get-togethers over the years; Claude, Graham and Bill were not much different in age from my three siblings and myself, and our parents hit it off immediately. In particular, the friendship between Art and Wendell was something that I think I am safe in saying had a deep and lasting impact on their lives – and on ours.

The Goughs and the Sedgwicks spent wonderful times pre-screening films that Art had ordered for use in his schools (with long discussions and dissections of them afterward); and around the dinner table, with great big pots of tea to finish off the meal; and on long hikes through the woods and wilderness around Queensborough.

And always during these happy times there was a great deal of talk – mostly between Art and Wendell, though we were all welcomed and encouraged to join in. There was talk about religion, about science, about education, about history, about running. About the mysteries of the universe. It was good talk, often scholarly talk. Friendly but pointed debate. There were challenges and responses. Agreement, sometimes. Agreement to disagree, other times. I think I speak for Art’s sons, and I know I speak for my sister and brothers, when I say that we loved listening to Art and Wendell talk.

Art knew the secret to good and lively conversation. It’s a very simple tactic, but oddly, many people don’t seem to be aware of it. It is just this: ask people questions. And if you want it to be a really lively conversation, ask them questions about themselves.

Actually, there’s one other thing you have to do to make this tactic work: be genuinely interested in the answers you get. That was something Art was a master of.

He would ask you something about yourself: your work, or where you came from, or what you thought about such-and-such a thing, or maybe (if you were a young person) what you hoped to do with your life. He would listen carefully to the answer; and he would use it to formulate a followup question. And another. And another. And so he would end up finding out an enormous amount about you as a person. But perhaps more importantly, he often helped you learn something about yourself. Because his questions were not the kind that you gave yes-and-no answers to. Without being the least bit invasive, they were – searching. Which meant that the answers they elicited were often illuminating. I have heard people say, during a night of conversation with Art, “I’ve never told that story before” or “I’ve never thought of it like that before.” And they would say it with kind of a sense of wonderment. He had drawn something special out from somewhere deep inside them.

That, my friends, is a gift.

And while I never had Art as a teacher or principal, I can easily imagine what a gift it was to his students to have this adult in a position of authority pay so much attention to them, to be so interested in who they were and what they could do and what they hoped to do.

Art knew that everybody has stories to tell. And that sometimes they don’t even know what those stories are until they start telling them – because somebody thoughtful, kind and wise has encouraged them to. That was Art.

His brilliance at conversation was something to watch. Until I got used to it by spending enough time in his company, I used to be amazed at how, under his seemingly effortless direction, a theme would emerge from an afternoon or evening of conversation, and how he could tie together the various threads that the talk had taken, bringing us back to that theme – generally with great joviality and much laughter.

Laughter was a very important ingredient in the mix when you spent time with Art. As I’ve been thinking about him over these past days, it has struck me that I absolutely cannot picture him without a huge smile on his face. He would grin when he first saw you, exclaim, “Great to see you!” – and you could tell he absolutely meant it. He loved stories (his own and others’) that made him – and you – laugh. He was a keen observer of quirks and eccentricities – including those of daily life in Queensborough – and when he talked about them they seemed even funnier.

For instance – and this is a story I know the Gough family knows well: there was The Night of the Olives at the United Church Manse. [Readers, I will interpolate here and say that I’ve already done a separate post about that incident here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. You can, if you wish to read it twice, go here.]

One Sunday evening back in the early 1970s, when the Sedgwicks were hosting the Goughs for dinner, my dad happened to make mention of a little foible my mother Lorna had. Which was: that she liked to serve a small bowl of olives whenever we had company (which was often), but that every time she would buy a new jar of olives, leaving the many previously opened and still half-full jars taking up valuable space in our little fridge. (And with the olives turning interesting colours after they’d spent enough time there.)

Well! Art seemed to think that that was at once the most incredible and the funniest thing he had ever heard. “Really? No, that can’t be true.” And so on. He wasn’t going to let the subject drop, because it was just too much fun. After much banter, he finally decided that he would need to verify this amazing phenomenon for himself. He demanded the evidence! And so we kids happily obliged by rooting through the fridge and bringing out the olives, jar after jar after jar. Since you all knew Art you can probably well imagine his expressions of ever-increasing astonishment and hilarity as we got into the double digits. Everyone around the table was laughing their heads off – including my mother. It was a wonderful, convivial, uproarious evening, one none of us ever forgot – and it was Art who made it happen, who directed the play, so to speak. And who was having at least as much fun as everybody else. And who made us laugh for years afterward when he would drop a reference to “the Olive Incident” into other conversations.

The thing about Art was that with him you never knew how a day, or an evening, or a conversation, would end up. The only thing you could be sure of was that it would take many interesting directions, very possibly some detours – and that you would enjoy being along for the ride.

So, yes – the lesson he taught me and so many others, through his example. I guess really it was a lot of things wrapped into one:

To be curious.

To be genuinely, genuinely interested in other people.

To appreciate and celebrate the world around us, and the possibilities of life, including and perhaps most especially the simple ones close at hand.

To laugh, readily and often and unreservedly.

And most importantly – to share those gifts with others.

Art – thank you for all of that. May the lesson of your vibrant spirit live on in all of us.

K0K 2K0: When postal codes were new. And people were mad.

Now, postal codes are so accepted that Canada Post plasters them all over its mailboxes. But it was not ever thus.

Now, postal codes are so accepted that Canada Post plasters them all over its mailboxes. But it was not ever thus. I remember when people were seriously ticked about the very concept of postal codes. A long, long time ago.

It’s funny how every now and again you are reminded of how something that is totally normal and taken for granted in your everyday life (and everybody else’s everyday life, for that matter) was once, long ago, brand new, and strange. Like laptops. Or cellphones. Or the internet. Or: postal codes.

I got thinking about postal codes tonight because Raymond and I were writing Christmas cards, and several of mine were to the postal code K0K 2K0, which is Madoc, Ont. – and by extension Queensborough, which is Rural Route 2 from Madoc. My very first postal code.

Here I am totally dating myself. I am so old that I can remember a time long ago when, in Canada at least, there were no postal codes. When “Katherine Sedgwick, c/o Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, RR#2 Madoc, Ont.” was all that was needed in the way of an address to get a letter or postcard to yours truly from the farthest ends of the earth. And then sometime in the early 1970s, postal codes came along, and the thing I most remember about it was how steamed – and I mean steamed – almost everybody seemed to be about them. “Why should I have to add this?” “What the deuce?” “What was wrong with the old way?”

It seems funny now. Who would think of being bothered by having to add a few letters and numbers to an address? Our American friends and neighbours had been doing it with zip codes for more than a decade before our postal codes came into effect, and they lived to tell the tale.

But it was a complication (though not very complicated) to something that had been simpler. People always resist life getting more complicated. It’s human nature. And I remember laughing at all the old farts (as I thought of them then) who were complaining about postal codes, and feeling very self-righteous as a young modern creature who understood the need for mechanization and was kind of into postal codes, proudly putting them on all my letters and cards when the oldsters were still trying not to.

Ah, simpler times. Can you imagine getting steamed about having to use postal codes? If only people then had had an inkling of all the things to come that really merited getting steamed about. Like, for instance, the ungodly and usurious roaming rates you have to pay for using your phone when you leave the country.

Oh, wait a minute: no. Let’s not even think about what it would have been like to have had to explain roaming rates – or, come to think of it, cellphones – to people who were busy being ticked about postal codes. Worlds, and technology, collide, and we just have to let people be mad about the collisions that happen in their particular era.

Tonight, though, I am a little nostalgic for the time when the highest-tech thing we had to complain about was: postal codes.

Dad

This photo of Dad was taken just a short time before he died in December 2004. It was taken by Lance Crossley, then a reporter with the Minden (Ont.) Times, who did a really nice feature story on Dad’s project of building stone fences at the family farm. We thought Lance’s photo did a wonderful job of showing the real Wendell, and we placed it on Dad’s casket at the funeral visitation. I also used it to accompany the piece I wrote about him for the Globe and Mail’s Lives Lived column.

I’ve mentioned my father, Wendell Sedgwick, many times in the months since I started this blog, starting with explaining that the whole reason I grew up in the Manse in Queensborough was that Dad was the minister at the United Church of Canada‘s Queensborough Pastoral Charge between 1964 and 1975. But I feel that despite all the references, I haven’t really said very much about him. It’s oddly difficult; Dad meant so much to all of us in his family, and when we talk about him amongst ourselves we don’t have to recount what he was like. It is deep shared knowledge, something that unites us without having to be voiced. So how to voice it?

Today, the day that would have been Dad’s 81st birthday, I wanted to try.

I thought I could at least start by sharing this piece I wrote for the Lives Lived column in The Globe and Mail. It was published on June 28, 2005, a little over six months after Dad’s death. I found it difficult to write, but I felt I owed him that small tribute. And I knew he would have been pleased, because he was a devoted lifelong reader of (and frequent letter-writer to) The Globe. Here it is.

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Wendell Sedgwick

Farmer, forester, minister. Born Aug. 29, 1931, on the family farm near Gelert, Ont. Died Dec. 11, 2004, on the family farm, in an accident, aged 73.

‘So much to do and so little time in which to do it.” Anyone who knew Wendell Sedgwick well had heard him say that hundreds of times. He always said it in a sad way — mournfully, really. Work was the defining theme of Wendell’s life. He knew he could never finish all that he felt he had to do. But he never stopped trying.

In his mid-20s, he left the farm to attend the University of Toronto and become a United Church of Canada minister. He seemed to feel an urgency to do as much with his life as he could. He had probably thought a lot about the parable in which Jesus tells his listeners it is their Creator’s will that they make the most of the talents they have been given.

Wendell had talents in abundance. He read voraciously, and had a startling memory for what he had read. He could recite poetry by heart from an apparently bottomless repertoire. (He also made up poems, generally funny ones, on the spot, never having to pause to think about what the next line would be.) He had shone in all subjects at school. And he was athletic, tall and strong.

For most of his 33-year ministry in rural central Ontario, Wendell conducted three services each Sunday. He was a commanding presence in the pulpit, uncompromising in his faith and his sense of right and wrong. But he was never self-righteous. He once told a newspaper reporter: “I know my own failings and preach to that, and the people usually have some of the same feelings.” And just as he preached a God of love and forgiveness, he was slow to judge others, always looking for (and generally finding) the best in people.

It must have helped in his ministry that, because of his farming background, he understood the life his parishioners led. His visits to people’s homes in his capacity as clergyman were more than likely to end in a discussion of what to do about a sick calf or troublesome piece of equipment. He was someone people naturally turned to in time of need, and not just spiritual need.

Ever since he had left home for university, there had been the question of who would maintain the Sedgwick farm. The answer turned out to be: Wendell. Throughout his ministry, every July (officially his “vacation”) plus two days a week whenever possible the rest of the year, he was there, working from dawn until long after dark, trying to do in a few hours and weeks what it would take anyone else the full year to accomplish.

When he “retired” in 1997 he could devote himself full-time to the farm. He built up his herd of beef cattle. He spent a lot of time in the bush, clearing out dead and dying trees (to make way for new, healthier growth) and turning them into lumber on his sawmill. He made maple syrup. He plowed and planted and harvested. He built a fence of the stones from his rocky fields.

Wendell’s sudden death was a wrenching blow to his family and a wide circle of friends, neighbours and former parishioners. He was a person to whom many looked for wisdom, guidance and help, and it was – and is – hard to imagine life without him. But none who knew him, especially his children, will forget the lessons he taught through example, about being honest and generous, and always doing your best, and working hard.

And there is an odd but real comfort in the fact that when he died, he was doing what he always wanted to be doing: working on the farm.

Katherine is the eldest of Wendell’s four children.

Three little kids at the Manse

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This is a very early Manse photo. It was taken (according to the neatly hand-written notation on the back of the photo by my grandfather J.A.S. Keay, the photographer in the family) on Feb. 6, 1965 – my mother Lorna Sedgwick’s (née Keay) 31st birthday (which must have been why my grandparents were visiting us in Queensborough), and only seven months after my dad, Wendell Sedgwick, had taken up his duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge and he and his young family had moved into the Manse.

The photo shows (from left) my sister, Melanie (a few months shy of 3 years old), my brother John (a month away from turning a year old), and me, aged 4 and a half. Those cute matching plaid dresses that Mel and I are wearing were doubtless hand-sewn by my grandmother, Reta Keay (whom we called Didi); she was excellent at sewing and made a lot of clothes for us. (Though when we got older we tired of having matching dresses.)

My youngest sibling, my brother Kenneth, wasn’t born until March 1966.

All the old photos provide interesting evidence of mid-century furnishings and finishes at the Manse. This photo was taken in the living room. I expect the grey wallpaper with the white flowers that you can see is still there underneath other layers, and it brought a shock of recognition to see it again. The curtains were eventually (i.e. sometime before we moved away from Queensborough in 1975) replaced by the ones that are still there now; and I think the couch (or “chesterfield,” as we called it back then) is the one that was there through all the years we lived there and is the one that is still kicking around in the back porch of the Manse.

I want to get that couch fixed up and bring it back in; “old times sake” and all that. Raymond seems to think otherwise.

Bother.

A tour of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge

My dad. In his official capacity, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick.  (Photo courtesy of my cousin Bruce Payne.)

I’ve referred many times to the churches at which my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was minister in the years (1964-1975) that my family lived at the Manse in Queensborough. With this evening’s post I thought I’d take you on a little tour.

In 1964, just after his ordination as a United Church of Canada minister upon his graduation from Emmanuel College at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Dad was appointed to the Queensborough Pastoral Charge. The charge had three “points,” or churches. There was St. Andrew’s in Queensborough:

St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. The white church hall at the right is a new addition since the time my family lived at the Manse. There was a hall (you can catch a small glimpse of it between the new one and the main brick building), but obviously it was much smaller.

 And Hazzard’s United Church in Hazzard’s Corners:

Lovely and historic Hazzard’s United Church at Hazzard’s Corners. (The “corners” being the intersection of Queensborough and Cooper Roads.) The church has been lovingly maintained by the community, and services are still held in it twice a year, in August and at Christmas. The next one: Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012.

And Cooper United Church in Cooper:

Cooper United Church. Isn’t it a pretty little building, in a pretty setting? It was painted white when it was a church. Now it is a private home.

The three churches were fairly equally spaced on a circuit that was about 20 miles around in total.

As I recall there were two services on Sunday morning, at 9:30 and 11 a.m., and a third in the evening, probably at 7:30 or 8 p.m. St. Andrew’s was considered the main church of the charge, and one of the morning services was always there. I believe there was a rotation between Hazzard’s and Cooper for the evening service. We kids always went to the morning service at St. Andrew’s, which of course was just a two-minute walk up the road from the Manse. We also went to Sunday School there, which was held before or after church, depending on whether the service was at 9:30 or 11 a.m. And I think we usually went to the evening service as well. I loved those evening services, which had a very different feel to them than a morning service. Quieter and more contemplative, perhaps. And I loved the drive home in the dark to the Manse afterwards, especially the route along the quiet country road between Cooper and Queensborough.

In 1967, however, there was a restructuring of the pastoral charge – and of many charges in the United Church. I suppose it was the beginning of the phenomenon that has by now hit most churches very hard indeed: people stopped coming. (Remember when Time magazine asked Is God Dead? And Pierre Berton published his bestseller The Comfortable Pew? Well, it was the Sixties. Everything had to be questioned. Here is a good article from Kenneth Bagnell in the United Church Observer that looks back at that mid-’60s cultural and secular shift – as well as ahead to the future.) Across the country many smaller churches were closed, and consolidations were made. The decision was made (at a higher level than that of the pastoral charge itself) to close the Hazzard’s and Cooper churches, and to merge with Eldorado United Church to become the Queensborough-Eldorado Pastoral Charge. I know how attached communities are to their churches, and it must have been so hard for the people of the Hazzard’s and Cooper areas to see their beautiful, historic little churches close down. Fortunately, many of them stayed loyal to the charge and became stalwarts in the new setup. Many Cooper and Hazzard’s people started attending St. Andrew’s, while some Hazzard’s people moved over to Eldorado United, where there was a sizeable and busy congregation.

Eldorado United Church, which is right on Highway 62 just outside the hamlet of Eldorado. Note the “Sold” sign on the front; the church closed last year and was put up for sale.

Queensborough-Eldorado was a healthy and flourishing pastoral charge for some years, well past the time when Dad accepted a call to the Seymour Pastoral Charge outside Campbellford, Ont., in 1975. (He served the four churches there from 1975 to 1986.) Unfortunately, that phenomenon of people not attending church just got bigger and bigger. The Eldorado church closed its doors last year and was sold to a private buyer this year.

It’s the same thing in so many places. As I write this, my mother, Lorna, is attending a meeting about the future of the Welcome United Church building in the village of Welcome, Ont.. The Hope Township Pastoral Charge, with three churches (“points”), was the third and final charge where Dad served, from 1986 until his retirement from the ministry in 1997. All seemed well with the charge until not very long ago, but two of the three churches have just closed and operations have been consolidated at Welcome; discussions are taking place about what to do next.

It is almost unimaginable now, in 2012, that in the 1960s and 1970s four small churches in tiny rural Queensborough, Hazzard’s Corners, Cooper and Eldorado were as much a going concern as they were. But they were; and my memories are the happier for it. I’m glad to have lived in those times.

And on a looking-to-the-future note, St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, Ont., is still going, having just celebrated its 140th anniversary, and now with a very fine minister, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, conducting services twice a month (with excellent lay-minister supply on the other Sundays). Raymond and I are happy to be a part of that. St. Andrew’s is a lovely little country church, with a great history and a warm welcome for all who come. Stop in if you’re in the neighbourhood!