CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter And Railways: The Snow Plow

A Run On a Plow
This 1925 snow plow was bought by the Ottawa Valley Railway in 1996. The OVR managed the CPR lines between Sudbury and Carlton Place , Ontario.

 Nowadays , that stretch has shrunk to the track from Sudbury to Mattawa to Petawawa. The current involvement of Canada in military action in Afghanistan and abroad has extended life for the railway east of Mattawa to the Armed Forces Base in Petawawa.

 I never thought in my life I would see the track east of Mattawa being torn up because of the lack of traffic. But a car ride up the Trans Canada Highway, #17, shows track beds empty and crossings ripped out . I do hope that a good portion of this old trail can become part of the Trans Canada Trail .Its history preserved in a new form for this new generation of healthy hikers and cyclists.

When I was young , all traffic moved east -west. For central eastern Canada, that traffic moves now north-south.Mostly on highways. Companies , such as the OVR , come in when the downward turn of the railway holds little hope for survival.

There is no doubt that this old plow won't be as busy as it has been in the past. 

When Dad was a section man back in the 40's and 50's , part of his job was to get out on the track and shovel out switches that had be packed in  or covered by the passing snow plow - day or night. Those stormy winter nights made for long work days since he was still required to put in his regular eight daytime hours as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Square Dancing With that Special Step

As much as I had enjoyed my little experience with Grade Four square dancing, it was a long time before I got to see how the Metis , Northern Cree and Ojibwe people of Manitoba combined the square dance with a Red River Jig.

 What an exciting thing it is! Now that is one style I would have loved to learn. Alas , I am too old now. A case of the spirit is willing but the body is weak. Guess I'll just have to watch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Square Dance

Until I reached grade 4 , about nine years of age , the only dancing I had done was imitations of my parents' waltz or their version of rock and roll. I had watched reruns of Fred Estaire and Ginger Rogers on the local late show on TV. And attempted to add a little flair to my style. It never entered my mind that these people had to learn through long years of hard work to dance. I just assumed they practised at home in the livingroom like I did at the CPR section house.

My first experience with a learned dance in grade four was a square dance. Everyone in the class had a chance to try the steps each afternoon for an hour...taking turns. It was so much fun and awfully exciting learning something so exotic . Well , exotic to my world. I had only ever seen square dancing on Don Messer's Jubilee , out of the Maritimes, on television.

With my enthusiasm and style, I must have cut a decent picture because my little step for keeping the beat between movements was chosen as the one that everyone would use. I was so proud of myself. At last! Something I could do that others would need to learn from me. That was a change.

When a couple of weeks went by , it was announced that a set of 4 pairs would be chosen to dance for the parents and teachers at the next PTA meeting. We were ecstatic.

Then the bomb fell right on top of me.

We were required to buy some green fabric to sew a skirt and some red fabric to make a sash. We also needed a white blouse to complete the outfit. My inside emptied as my heart fell. There was no way that the money for such extravagances could be spared . I didn't even have to ask. I knew the answer would be " No ".

Terror filled my mind. How could I tell them that we couldn't afford all that?

That was the first time I thought about the others who hadn't been chosen. They sat there in their desks with faces I had only just recognized. Some sad , some resigned , some disappointed and some heart-broken. That is where I usually sat. What I also recognized was that most of them were children who's parents couldn't afford the expense either.

But I thought ," They said that I am such a good dancer that they'll let me dance anyway. I did have a white blouse. And I could wear my school skirt." I felt sure that all would be well.

A week before the meeting , there was to be a dress rehearsal. I never did mention the outfit to Mum and Dad , just the fact that we would be dancing at the PTA night. So when I was asked where my outfit was that day at school , I timidly said that I did not have one.

"What?" screeched the teacher. I broke into tears. " Do you realize that you have let everyone down?" I saw the others dancers' faces fall on cue. Scowls tore my heart to shreds.

On top of the humiliation, more devastating was the comment from the PTA Chairwoman , who had come up with the square dance idea...who had designed the outfit to be worn.

"What can you expect? If her parents were not so involved with the 'Le-gion' they would have a couple of dollars for such an important thing as this. I know from their church tithes that they could well afford it if they had any decency."

It was the first time in my life , I had heard my parents being denigrated . And it was done publicly, in front of the whole class. Condemned , drawn and quartered.

My parents were not like that in my mind and heart . I was shamed and felt more so because my Mum and Dad were being punished for something I failed to do. I should have said that I could not participate weeks before. But I so wanted to dance.

So someone else was chosen to replace me . As it happened , the PTA chair just happened to have enough cloth to make an extra skirt and sash . All at no cost to the replacement. I did not go to the PTA meeting and told my parents that a better dancer had been chosen.

Later , the teacher (my cousin) recounted what had transpired - minus her part . Mum was angry. But not with me. At Church that Sunday , she cornered the woman in a quiet location to inform her that when she had an idea that depended on others to fulfil, she should have the courtesy to give them the option of whether or not to participate . She should not assume that everyone must fall into the steps of her dance.

Mum then spoke to her husband who took care of church monies to tell him that the information as to the financial status of our family , or any family in the congregation, was private information. Not for public consumption- which included his wife." What we spend our money on , such as it is , is none of your business. If we have done wrong , then God is judge...just as He is yours."

None of the encounter was done within earshot of others. A subtle lesson from Mum. Red faces left many questioning looks that received no answers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Imagine my surprise when I opened my blog stats today and that found a higher than normal number of readers had viewed my blog since yesterday.

Of late , I have not been writing daily posts as I have been lost in research supporting my memories. Actually , I have been listening to a massive amount of golden oldies from the 50's and 60's . I would like to share every one of them, and tell you where and what I was doing in a world where something is always happening.

But I digress. Let it be known that it wasn't the quality of my recent posts ( non-existent for the most part ) that explained this anomaly.

A quick look into traffic sources showed that today , one source was the cause of over half the reads.

I thought ," Gee , I am not that interesting that someone would read 55 of my posts. Or am I?...Na-aa! Not likely."

It had to be something else.

Thanks to Google , I typed in the URL and was directed to a very 'cool' site indeed. It has plenty to look at ( great photography ) and plenty to read ( articles of all sorts-not too long). It is international in flavour and Canadian in every way.

The Canadian Railway News


If you enjoy the news of railways in Canada and around the world , why not take a side step from this blog over to their website. You won't be disappointed.

...Oh! Thank you over at OKthePK for linking into my blog. It was a very pleasant surprise , indeed.

If those new people have the time, dig into my archives for stories of a family who grew up in a CPR Section House. Enjoy!

When Music Became Social

Thinking back about the music through my young childhood took me on quite a ride this past few weeks. So much music happened and changed the world around me as I moved up into my teens.

I got the concept early that when people gathered together , music was a key to connecting them . An intimate sharing . Of like mind and purpose.

At home , it was listening to the radio ; spinning a record or two ; singing a song to which our family all knew the words ; or listening to someone sing a special one that suited their thoughts at the time.

It was joining the group on tunes that Aunt Ivy chorded on the piano. It was following along to television shows that provided the words at the bottom of the screen, in sync with the music.

 It was watching Mum and Dad whirl a waltz around the kitchen to a love song Dad would whistle or sing. And it was putting on records when Mum and Dad were not around - trying to imitate the movements of dance.

It was attending Brownie Pack meeting on Tuesday nights and participating in bonding campfire songs.

It was going to the movie theatre on Saturday with a hundred other children and following the bouncing ball in films designed to bring us into order with song.

It was going to church on Sunday and singing hymns with the congregation at the specified times ,or learning memory ditties in Sunday school .

All of it was practice in functioning as a unit. To help us follow the dance . To unite wandering thoughts to a purpose.

And I did for a long time , follow the dance . I really did not realize the purpose . I just heard the music.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bill Haley and his Comets - See You Later Alligator

Enjoy yourself!

Rock Around The Clock

The very first time I heard a rock and roll song ( not a home made version by Mum and Dad singing and dancing) was on a Juke box in Uncle Van's Diner/Grill . Rock Around the Clock was playing for the few minutes that I was there. I was hooked. It made me want to dance. My parents were in their twenties. Rock and Roll fit their spirits . They always danced when they had a chance. It was a case of break free and enjoy the moment. Thank you Bill Haley and the Comets.

In later years , when Mum worked as a waitress in that same Diner , sold to Myrt by Uncle Van , Mum would buy used records from the 'record man' for a quarter of the cost of new records. Once every couple of weeks , hit tunes came to our house for a whirl.

Hit Parade USA 1950 - Top 10 - DanntaS

This is what my parents were listening to in the year that I was born. I recall Dad whistling many of these tunes over the next five years and Aunt Ivy adding them to her piano repetoire.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where Did the Music Come From?

 While I do tasks around the house , I always have the radio on. A habit from days of old , when it kept you in touch with the world from isolated places .

Housework is a tedious and lonely thing.I improve it with CBC 1 and its variety of talk and music .

 My thoughts are free to go everywhere even though my body is tethered to the mindless chores.

 Being of the 'baby boomer' generation ,an inordinate amount of music on the radio stations ( other than CBC ) is my ' golden oldies ' . In my case , that is the 50's-60's-70's-80's-90's and the first ten years of the 21st century. So far.

  Songs at different times that affected my life during different periods bring me immediately back to where I was and what was happening in my world at that moment . I am sure all of you have that same feeling...that the song somehow affected you deeply at the time.

 For 2 minutes and 30 seconds you run the memories past your mind's eye while you scrub the toilet... singing every word as if it were written only recently just for you.

 Often, it makes me remember when I was very little that my music came from my parents 'Golden Oldies' .Dad would break into song and give Mum a whirl around the kitchen , cheek to cheek. Singing in his beautiful bass as he looked deeply into her eyes . Every word of the song was for her only. Vera Lynn -you bring tears to my eyes for how you affected my parents.

House parties gathered friends and family together once a year at our home. While Aunt Ivy played our twangy old piano , all of them sang along never missing a word . Tears , laughter and memories binding them together in common experience and response.

Through the stove pipe hole , we, children, watched the whirling couples and listened to the music. All those songs , words and feelings became ours ,too.The memories became ours by proxy.

I smile to myself when I find my teenager listening to songs from all those periods of my life on YouTube and i tunes.

When I say,"Where did you find that one?", he answers "Oh , I heard it somewhere. I like it." I know with every song he listens to, he will understand his parents more.

I remember when he first heard the music as a very small child.

Music of my parents came from a profoundly impactful time in their lives.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Temporarily Derailed

...by the odds and ends of life as I know it ...I will return once I am back on track. Thank you for staying in touch by reading old posts.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rocky Mountain Express // Trailer

Russ Milland over at http://www.trha.ca/ pointed the way toward a new IMAX adventure film that will be shown daily until December at the Ontario Science Centre. This trailer is just a tease. Boy ! This is one I would like to see. There is nothing like an IMAX film to make you feel like you are actually experiencing it all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Have Been Busy - Not Lazy

A month ago they looked like this . It felt as if I had time to spare.

Then before I knew it , my harvest table was full of the harvest .

So it was transfer some to the neighbours...

Then on with the process of cleaning , mashing , cooking and juicing all the rest.

These grapes produced 30 litres of extracted juice.

At 1-2 litres at a time , I finally produced grape jelly by the jar and a half dozen half litres of grape syrup . I still haven't cleared away the paraphernalia.

But I will be back to the blog as soon as I do .

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pics From The Mattawa Section House

Dad in the service car -late 50's

Sis, BooBoo and I on the snow hill
beside the house '59

The front Yard

In the front yard '64

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Red Rose Tea Porcelain and Paper

A few Red Rose Tea figurines still hang around
our house including the precious Black Sheep.
 Red Rose Tea (owned by Brook Bond out of Montreal) teamed up with Wade Company out of Ireland to do a mutual promotion. Individual Wade Whimsies were put into tea boxes after 1967 in Canada . Many of these figurines were from Wade Sets produced from 1954-1959.

Every new box of tea brought a new miniature figure to sit with the others on the sash of the single hung window in the kitchen at the CPR section house. Of course , we never drank enough tea to collect all the pieces in any one series.

The figurines were so popular that tea sales increased . The company expanded this promotion into the United States in 1983.

 Before the Ward Whimsies however , Red Rose issued series of Tea Cards from 1959 until 1974. We were always anxious to read about each of the songbirds from the back of the card. Maybe that is where the special place in my heart for birds began...who knows. (Series 1)

There are no more Tea Cards in our house. I'm afraid porcelain out lasted paper in the hands of children.

This one reminds me of a giant Mudpuppy.
Look for vast amounts of information at

Check around your house/ your grandmother's house for Red Rose Tea Memorabilia. It is far more collectible than you may think. Then go to the website and discover what has happened to all these free gifts that came out of the Red Rose Tea Box.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Red Rose Tea 1977 TV commercial

The " Pity " commercial for Red Rose tea began in the 70's. It was so popular that it was revived in the 80's. I can remember the phrase being used so often that it entered the lexicon of the 'baby boomer' generation .

Red Rose

The TV audience in Quebec got messages like this from the Red Rose Tea Company of Canada ( Brook Bond ).

Red Rose Tea - Pity 1989

This is a not so old Red Rose tea commercial (1989) . Red Rose Tea was a staple in many Canadian households since 1890 . In the 1950's and 60's , like the laundry detergent boxes , Red Rose Tea boxes brought many a 'free gift' into our home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homestead Series Make Your Own Laundry Soap

If you remember the 1950's , advertisements for laundry products inundated the lives of women . The shelf full of products awaited all manner of special treatment situations. The ads made every women feel guilty or inadequate for not treating the laundry by their new scientific methods- a field in which women were most often uneducated and uninformed.

Remember when Cheer became blue . Some new formula that would get your clothes whiter and brighter . Nothing new really. They just took the Blueing which was used in the first rinse of wringer washing methods and put it into the box - to be convenient for the new automatic machines.

What's blueing you ask? Cubes of compressed washing soda with a synthetic blue dye added. The blue was an optical illusion to make the whites 'seem' whiter. The washing soda alone with the soap did the work.

To make the laundry even cleaner some borax was added to soften the water making more room for dirt in the water.

Filler was added to give weight and bulk . It made you seem like you were getting more cleaning power .Not really . The filler could be peanut shells sawdust or other ground plant fibre . They did serve another purpose...to absorb the oils and grease that the soap and soda released into the water. Although , the oils would not get stuck in the clothes again as they were already stuck on the soap molecules .

And that fresh clean scent that tries but never really does very well in imitating nature . Perfumes . Only the clothesline puts in the scent you are looking for. Although , for a few decades , people lost touch with the smell of fresh air caught in the laundry and couldn't recognize it . The company told them what nature smelled like ..

What of all those beautiful clouds of suds ? Quite simply...more special effects . Sudsing agents had nothing to do with the cleaning of clothes. They just made the chore prettier to do . A little glycerin added to the mix made the suds last longer. Most people washed until the suds collapsed . Suds that lasted longer meant that the clothes would be agitated longer before the collapse. The agitation did the work not the suds.

When you take away the additions , you are left with what you see in the video .

Much of the time , Mum purchased laundry detergent based on the free gift in the box . Hand towels , facecloths and glasses made their way into the house via the detergent box . People eventually complained that they were being cheated as the items took up too much room . Really the space sacrificed was 'peanuts' and amounted to one load on average since you had to use so much anyway .

Probably an evil rumour started by soap companies to increase their profit margin . We were better off with the free gift in the box .

Check for videos of those magical laundry detergents from your early days . They are a real laugh now.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sorting The Laundry

Wash Day was a big work day at the CPR section House . It started at 8:00am every Saturday morning . Our incentive , besides clean clothes , was going to the movies on Saturday afternoon after the last load was hung up on the clothesline. Movie time was 1:00pm. It was a tight window , but under Mum's tutelage , we made it most times.

Everyone woke up Saturday morning , stripped beds and gathered their dirty clothes. From the top of the stairs , we tossed the armfuls down the stairs into a huge pile at the bottom. When all was collected , Sis and I would descend to the fourth step , then leap into the huge mound .A pile of anything 'cushy' was always worth jumping into.

Washing was done in the back porch. But the all important key to successful laundry was the sorting . That was done on the kitchen floor.

Since everything was made of cotton or wool ,  the process was relatively uncomplicated .

The first sort was by colour: whites , reds , colours , darks .
Woolens were put into a separate pile no matter the colour .
Dad's work clothes also had separate treatment.

The second sort was to separate each of those piles into weight: heavy , medium and light.

The third sort was by amount.
If there was not enough laundry to make a load , the medium and light weight piles were combined .
If a pile contained too much , the pile was made into two smaller piles.

The fourth sort was by order of washing. Since the washer water always started with the hottest water possible , the laundry had to be separated into what piles were to be washed hot .
The other piles then were sectioned into medium heat ( second wash in the same water ) and cool ( third wash in the same water ).
Each pile ended in its temperature row , fully sorted , ready to wash .

Sis and I got so good at sorting , that the stage of gathering and sorting took no more than a half hour. We learned early that washing took a lot less time that way .

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Washing was Green- Arr-rgh!

With all the talk of clotheslines being the 'green' way to dry clothes , I began to wonder if the way in which the laundry was washed would catch on . Are women/men willing to go 'green-er' ?

When Mum was in Tabarette and Snake Creek , and even in the earlier days in Mattawa , laundry was a green process. No electric/gas wringer washer . Just a laundry tub , scrub board , bar of soap and a clothesline . Using water heated on the woodstove (which had a pot of beans  baking in the oven ).

 That precious washing water was used three times : hot , medium and cool , before it was discarded to the gravel outside or used to scrub the outhouse . Rinse water at the end of the process found floors to wash . Then the bar of Sunlight soap made its way back to the kitchen for other uses .

As the amount of laundry increased exponentially with each child , the tub and board shifted first to a gas operated wringer washer and then an electric one. We learned to do laundry with the electric wringer washer , Sis and I .

 At the time , I resented my brother having little to do with the process except in the making dirty laundry . 'Boys don't do laundry!" Mum declared . He was just a lump in the carriage when Dad was Mum's primary laundry assistant in Larchwood . He rarely saw Dad in that position since Dad out of the house most of the time .

 I do recall that Mum did get him to carry a basket or pail once in a while when he got big enough- praising his efforts . But it didn't catch on with him . Roles became narrowly defined once Sis and I were old enough to take on household work .

 Dad's major domestic role was cooking breakfast every Saturday morning for the family . Bacon and eggs became a ritual with all the flare and glory of 'haute cuisine'- including accolades to the chef . 'Well , I bring home the bacon after all .'~ author unknown ( but oft quoted in early , 'green-er' times).

Arr-rgh ! I do prefer the more modern definition of green . So do my boys .

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Perfect Day

I have always been a fan of clotheslines . It was a major element of laundry day when I was growing up. There were no alternatives for us. What was a clothes dryer? The folding wooden rack used in winter to thaw and dry frozen clothes next to the wood stove . Salt in the second rinse water didn't always work .  Or the line , stretched out from the clothesline stand pole out back to the pole at the edge of the bush .

Every time Laundry Day approached - yes, there was an assigned day when using a wringer washer and rinse tubs- we would look to the skies  and cross our fingers for the 'Perfect Day'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sidetracked :TrainTalk TV

The folks at http://www.trha.ca/ posted this gem for railfans everywhere .

http://www.traintalk.tv/  is out of Calgary,Alberta ( Neil Enock ) . It is full of information and enjoyment for everyone with a connection to the railroad.

Train Talk TV has been in operation for a full year now so I am sure from what I have seen that they are here to stay . Of course , this is 'with a little help from their friends'.

After checking the blogs I follow , I realized it has been a while since I pointed out Eric's blog out of Kingston ,Ontario . Check it out as well . There are plenty of photos and articles and stories for rail fans there .

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Major Attraction

There are many things you can do in your yard to attract wildlife . At the Mattawa CPR section house , there were no gardens and hiding places for animals immediately around the building . Yet , critters wandered out of the bush on a regular basis and spent time visiting a major attraction right beside the house : the clothesline pole .

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Sure Sign That Winter's Coming

August in the CPR section house brought the first sign of winter : a huge pile of firewood .

Clipart from
  Prior to delivery Dad would hitch a chain to the current abandoned car and haul it away .With the newest old car in the lead , the backseat full of kids and Mum or the neighbour's teenager steering the abandoned car , we headed to the junkyard to deposit the most recent metal 'car-cass'.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Birchbark Baskets and Porcupine Quills

Here is my small collection of birchbark baskets decorated with the quills of those spring time visitors . Porcupine quills are black and white but can be easily dyed ...it is a hair after all . Sweetgrass is often used to finish the edges of baskets . Each of these baskets holds a memory inside as well as those memories of where, when and how it came to me .

Porcupines, Porcupine Pictures, Porcupine Facts - National Geographic

Porcupines, Porcupine Pictures, Porcupine Facts - National Geographic

When we lived at the CPR section house in Mattawa , porcupines were a common sight in the spring . Inevitably , April would bring one to sit on the pole that supported our clothesline . It made hanging up laundry on warming spring days exciting with a porcupine about four feet above our heads .

Luckily , porcupines do not...I repeat ' DO NOT ' throw their quills or we would have looked like pin cushions . After a few days , we would wake up to find the porcupine had vacated its perch during the night until next year .

A few years ago , an old Ojibwe man told me that after the winter , this prickly animal will find a high place and fast for a few days before beginning its new seasonal diet . You may have seen a few on your travels at the very tops of trees in the early spring in Canada and the United States .

Check out the National Geographic link for a wonderful photo and map in their very informative article.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Historic Mattawa

Historic Mattawa from old postcards shots from Vintage Postcards
Music from Artist: Stompin' Tom Connors singing Big Joe Mufferaw


Crossing The Mighty Ottawa River Railway Bridge

This is the bridge we used to walk across on the annual pilgrimage to climb the  mountain each May.

Thanks to hogger01 for his video posts on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anything Can Open A Memory

  On a trip to the grocery store , we passed a yard where two preteen girls were volleying a shuttlecock back and forth .

Immediately , the memory of when I first used a badminton racket flooded back . Playing badminton in the low light after supper is not such a great idea.

A little brown bat flying about looking for its evening meal fell victim to a strong right hand and the working end of the racket. Unfortunately , it didn't make it through the experience . It was tearfully buried beside the CPR section house.

(I can't resist - that game could be called ' Bat-minton ,I suppose.)

That happened about fifty years ago .

The 'alpha' memory doesn't fade readily when it affects you emotionally , good or bad , as this one did with me .

Have you had an 'alpha' memory stimulated in you lately?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recognizing Basic Rights

"Society will always reward certain people/groups with unequivocal acceptance into the rhythms , laws, views and behaviours of the dominant culture . Constant vigilance and maintenance of this equilibrium is how a society strikes reasonable balance among its social and political groups."

                                       Shannon Thunderbird

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Still On My Mind

"Perhaps the most horrible effect of corporal punishment done to any child is that it is still in his/her mind . It will be there forever. As adults who suffered it , we may understand why it occured , justly or unjustly .  But it will never be fully reconciled . For every time it comes forward in memory , it is experienced as it first occured , before we can even begin to think about it." ...C. Powless

These are my words. Here are more words from greater thinkers than I that are worth some thought.

"We tend to forget at times that it is the littlest ones , the children , who do suffer the greatest hurt. If we cannot comprehend why certain sorrows are visited upon us , how on earth can they?"...Sharon Key Penman

"The fundamental condition of childhood is powerlessness."...Jane Smiley

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair a broken man."...Frederick Douglass

"Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives."...Maya Angelou

" There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats a child."...Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Corporal Punishment

 At the Penitentiary Museum in Kingston last week , we entered the second room on our self-guided tour.It displayed most of the items that were used for physical punishment of prisoners during the first century and a quarter .

Both my husband and I recognized the strap in the display case immediately as a standard fixture in schools when we were children .

Sunday, July 17, 2011


On Friday , we decided to venture out into the heat and humidity . July is quickly disappearing and my husband's vacation time is half over . A short distance outing to a small museum fills the requirements perfectly. It doesn't take all day( perfect for the teenager ); it doesn't cost an arm and a leg(perfect for my husband);and we are going to learn something historical ( perfect for me ).

Coming off the hill (Warden's House/museum
to the main gate of the prison
 This time, it is the Kingston Penitentiary Museum in the old Warden's House in a position of authority overlooking the oldest ( and still active ) maximum security prison in Canada .

The teenager next to the walls that were expanded
over time since 1830's. The walls are the giveaway-yes , it is a prison.

www.virtualkingston.ca ( attractions ) has a virtual tour of the museum should you be interested.

The small museum was surprisingly busy . Most of the visitors were teenagers trying out some of the corporal punishment samples on display. I imagine the authority in their lives sending them there with the thought "they think they have it tough" on mind. Perhaps with the intent to firmly establish lines of authority psychologically without really letting them in on it.

I watched their reactions (as well as those of our teenager) change from childish game playing to wide-eyed ,silent awareness as they imagined themselves on the working end of the tools of the trade. Over the next half hour, those looks changed further as the concept of being imprisoned and receiving corporal punishment registered. This was their first sensing of what ' the end of the road ' actually could feel like . And it was not pleasant.

What really came home to me was how the atmosphere created by the simple presence of the items affected every person who entered the museum. There were no explanations of why and in what context the items existed , just simple cards identifying them and telling how they were used . There was no tour guide to explain and rationalize ...just oneself on a self-guided tour through feelings and reactions...isolated .

At the end of about an hour , the group of teenagers was no longer actively and energetically voicing opinions and judgements . They were silent , thoughtful and even a bit fearful- caught in thoughts they had never really explored . No one told them what to think or how . They reached that place through absorbing the atmosphere of punishment .


Of course , being older by several decades , from a time when corporal punishment was still in vogue , I could not help but remember my limited experience with it through my childhood . I will share that in the next post.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bakelite and Hot Pink

 For 50 cents at a rummage sale , I got my first radio. It was a leftover from the 1940's that had probably broadcast many a war report , serial and the official time at least twenty years before I came across it on a table at the Anglican Church Hall in Mattawa.

Mine was even plainer than the one in the photo. No red dials and gold accents . Just a simple , no nonsense Bakelite tube radio to fulfil a function- not serve as an artistic statement .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Moss on a Blog

I have been away for over a week in the 'bush' at my brother's camp . Totally simple existence . Concern for more basic things takes precedent over blogs and such . Although I did think of the blog momentarily on the first morning -perhaps withdrawal symtoms- it took me only a couple of hours to get into the swing of things at camp .

But , I am back and will start again in earnest tomorrow. Thank you for following , re-reading and dropping in while I was away .

It's time to push back the moss of inactivity.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Summer Break

Well , I am off for a week to my brother's cabin in the bush ...or Camp as mid-north to north Ontarionians call it .

Unfortunately , there will be no posts during that time . Not because I don't want to for I do look forward to this part of my day . Writing stories and reading stories . It's just that it is physically impossible for it to happen .

Friday, July 1, 2011

Side Tracked: Canada Day

It is July ! st and a day of celebration in Canada today - Canada's 144 birthday as a country - young by some standards .

Just up the road , in the capital city , Ottawa , in front of the Parliament Buildings on a hill beside the Ottawa River , 250 000 people or more will have made the trip from close by and far away to take in the spectacular events planned for this year . The fact that William and Kate will put in an appearance during their four day Canadian trip will certainly swell the crowd well beyond the usual quarter million .

But by far most Canadians will be at or near home celebrating with family , friends and neighbours . For sure , I won't be in the Nation's Capital as I don't particularly do well in crowds bigger than ten thousand free ranging people . Twenty to forty thousand at a hockey game is fine because everyone has a spot to claim and free range activity is limited by the twenty minute break clock .

No big crowds and city lights for me . It's small town all the way . Since , we live in the middle of many small towns in rural eastern Ontario , we have decided on a different one this year .

Kemptville , Ontario , a town of about 3000 people . Just think , each little place puts together a day of fun that reflects their community's make up . I think going to a different one each year helps me get to know the people by how they 'party'.

How do you party on your country's birthday ?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mr.K and the Beaver

photographer-Dominique Braud
There was a little creek that started in a marshy area just west of the Mattawa section house about one km . The marsh was small but fed by run off from higher land and by springs . The creek followed the access road to our yard where a grate covered the tunnel that led it under the tracks where it emerged about a mile northeast of our house on its way to the Ottawa River .

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Put An End To It

I think Mr. K-Geezer finally got tired of two little girls dogging his movements at every opportunity . We were sure he didn't know that we were spying on him. How inexperienced we were .

For a while , every time we were on the porch , Mr. K came out of his door to sit on the porch and listen to our activities . It began to spook us quite a bit . Even in our fear , our curiosity urged us onward to spy on him .

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Porch

The porch on the section house in Mattawa was like the basement . In the sense that it was divided in half by a ship lap lumber wall: their and ours .

Our side had the old couch that Mum and Dad had purchased second hand when they were in Snake Creek . It had been relegated to the porch because mice had moved into it . So it was moved out . The mice didn't stay . Cold winters needed warmer lodgings for mice . I wonder where they ended up .

Their side ( neighbours ) had the front seat from an old car , which was in better shape than the couch .

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mr.K-Geezer (cont'd)

Otto , Freida and their three boys were the first neighbours we had at the section house in Mattawa .

For some of that time , her father came to live with them , no longer able to care for himself alone . Being unfamiliar with German names , I thought his name was Mr. Kenny Geezer .

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mr. K-Geezer

An old man moved in next door . He was the scariest person I had ever seen ...but I was timid at the best of times . My friend and I watched him whenever he was out and about . Something about him was creepy. He was fodder for our imagination .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saving Sis

One summer afternoon , Sis and I were playing behind the house when she screamed and started to cry . Before my eyes , I could see her face puffing. "Mum ! There's something wrong with Sis ! ", I yelled through the kitchen window .

When Mum rushed from the house and saw my sister she picked her up and rushed inside , with me close behind . Sis would not respond to her questions of what had happened . She just lay there swelling and beginning to turn blue around her mouth . Sis was struggling for breath . Her eyes were swollen shut . Mum knew that within minutes she would be dead . Suffocated .

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Big Critter In the Basement

Mum's wine storage was working well , a cool dark place to allow the wine to age and sediments to settle . Despite several cheesecloth strainings before bottling , there was always a layer of sediment in the bottom of each bottle . When one was taken upstairs , opened and allowed to breathe before serving to visitors , the smell of yeast was inevitably the back scent of the 'bouquet' .

However , bottles began disappearing one at a time .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Crock

Mum had a five gallon crock that she made good use of at the Mattawa section house .

photo from logcabinantiques.com
 Primarily , she used it for the first rising of her bread as she needed a large space to accomodate enough dough for 6-8 loaves . The crock could be warmed behind the .....

The Problem With Outhouses 1

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creepy Basement

The basement in the Mattawa section house was not one that would ever be considered potential living space for the family . It was already occupied . Occasionally other visitors came by for very short visits .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Before 1963 and the end of the steam locomotive , there was no running water in most CPR section houses . Daily human waste management was handled by natural composting and wood ashes from the kitchen stove in an outhouse .

The Mattawa outhouse was a two seater , which always seemed odd to me as we never shared the experience in groups .

There was a large hole cut into the bench seat for adult bottoms , and a smaller hole for smaller bottoms .

When I was about ten , I thought that I was old enough now to sit on the larger hole .  At first, everything appeared to be going well . I was feeling fairly smug that my decision was working . However , in order to reach for the toilet paper , I had to release my grasp of the front of the bench to pull tissue from the roll . That is where things went wrong .

The second that I let go , I slipped into the hole a good way before I was able to stop the sliding . There was nothing to grab that I could use to pull myself out of the predicament . If I dared release the compression of my flat hands ( now whitened from pressure) from the bench's surface , I was going down...down into the morass below...not an appealing thought...and definitely a terrifying one .

With my heels dug into the edge of the bench , I did all that I could do under the circumstances . I screamed the scream that would bring all mothers rushing to save their young . " Mum ! (wait) Mum! (wait)".

 After what seemed like an eternity , my fear increasing with each scream  , as the release of air caused me to shrink a bit and slip further toward doom , Mum came racing to the outhouse in a panic . She yanked at the door which sent the hook and eye screw flying from the wood.

When she set her eyes on her girl child suspended by a virtual thread over the pit of doom - with just her feet , two arms and a head sticking out of the outhouse hole , she broke into peals of laughter at the sight . I ,on the other, hand broke into tears and cried " Help me , help me !"  How could my mother not recognize my situation . As I started to slip again , she grabbed me from a fate too horrid to imagine .

" Sometimes , you think that you're too big for your britches ," she guffawed . I was never going to hear the end of this tale at family gatherings for quite a while .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday Afternoon

During the 1950's and 60's , there five grocery stores in Mattawa .

Red and White Stores were found in small
towns across North America like this one.

Independent Grocers Association
 The two larger stores were on Main Street . Ross's R&W was located next to the building that housed McCool's Drug store and the Bank of Nova Scotia .

The Groulx's IGA was further down the street on the opposite side right next door to the building that was once the bakery run by Dad's parents when he was a small child .

Three small privately run stores , Walter's on Bissett St. , Gilligan's on McConnell St. and Huard's on John St., took care of immediate needs of families who lived near by . Dad had an account in Huard's that was about a mile from the CPR section house .
Mum and Dad used all the grocery stores , juggling an account at each store that was never fully paid off for years .

 Shopping Day was Saturdays and Movie Day for the kids . While Mum and Dad did the shopping , each child was given a quarter to buy a ticket to the Saturday afternoon movie . Saturday afternoon was for children .

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bicycles 1963

Scotty and Booboo's Bicycle 1963

 When BooBoo turned 9 , Dad and Mum got him a Collie cross dog for his birthday ( Scottie).  That same month , he entered his name in a Bick's Pickle Contest at the local Red&White grocery store . At the end of June , BooBoo became the proud owner of a brand new red and white CCM bicycle . We were all thrilled that someone in our family had actually won something , if not a little envious .

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chickens in the Trunk

The steamer trunk , that had held Mum's possessions when she came over from England as a war bride , saw many things in its lifetime .

In Tabarette , it held her precious items , including embroidered sugar bag creations , folded cotton from flour bags and wool for knitting socks or mittens .

 In Snake Creek , little frilly dresses for a baby girl were added .

In McKerrow , items of clothing based on season filled the space .

In Larchwood , a second cedar trunk was purchased to hold the blankets and winter clothing during summer . Precious things were still kept in the steamer trunk .

After a few years in Mattawa and the growing need for storage , the trunk was emptied . Special memories were put into the bottom dresser drawer and the trunk migrated to the shed where it held Christmas decorations and such that were pulled out once a year .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Else Is On Mum's List ?

There is a story behind everything and I could go on the wending path through each memory . For now I will keep it brief . Perhaps I'll go back to it later .

This is a shortened account of some of Mum's 'outside the home' activities .

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Else Did Mum Do ?: Library

Mum did more than run a household and raise children . Those jobs alone could fill a book with the list of tasks , chores and tricks for survival . She was also active in as many ways possible in her community .

Library: In her early days (1948/9) , newly arrived as a war bride , one place Mum looked for immediately , was a public library. When she found none , she thought it would be good idea to start one . She approached the Town Office with a plan to start a lending library with donated and used books . Townsfolk and people along the rail line would surely benefit from a library .

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Job and a New Camera

After Mum had had such a rough spell with depression and feelings of inadequacy , she roused herself into action . She was going to get a job despite what my Dad thought of it . The money was needed with three growing children . Dad was working away on the gangs and returning home every second weekend . Most of his home time was spent at the Legion and the money was reduced as a result . Mum did make one expenditure paid over time for herself : a Ricoh 35 mm camera . She wanted a little colour in her life .

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Three Lost

This post may be offensive to some . Please use your own discretion.

When BooBoo was three in 1957, Mum became pregnant again . Everything was going normally in the pregnancy and she would be due in late spring .

 However , Mum couldn't get excited about preparing for this child as she had done for her previous three . Perhaps , it was the worry that another mouth to feed would put a strain on already less-than-needed money .Perhaps, it was concern that something would go wrong . She never did say anything except that she could not feel the same way about this baby but didn't know why .

Friday, June 3, 2011


The summer that the Wild Cat Strikes were on was a hot one . The kids in town spent a lot of time down at the town beach at the Mattawa River . Nothing felt better than the river on days when the temperature soared .

An illness began to spread around town -mostly young people were coming down with something . The heat seemed to be making it worse . Fever , rash and overly active bowels . Many were 'laid up' in their beds at home . Mum was worried that whatever was making everyone ill would hit us sooner or later . She had this habit that whenever something was going around we would have to bring a stool sample to the doctor for testing . This time was no different in approach. It was different in the result .

A Horrible Death

During the Wild Cat Strikes of 1964 , trains stopped mid-trip and the cars were parked on sidings for the duration . In Mattawa , just yards east of our house were two livestock cars : one filled with dairy cows ; one filled with pigs .

At first , having these animals near was exciting to us . Every spare moment was spent peeking through the spaces between the wooden slats at cows' soft eyes and pigs' wet snouts . After two days , this livestock , which should have been in the stockyards at Montreal the day before , began getting restless .

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tears and Fears and Ears

It really did not occur to me that the changes happening with the CPR had serious repercussions for our family . I was ten years old when I found out differently .

Dad had been working on the railgangs for two summers , returning to section work in Mattawa during the winter . With the introduction of machines , gangs were becoming smaller . Fewer workers were needed in the rebuilding of track for the new diesel trains . Seniority did little to protect employees when there were fewer jobs . Dad's ten years was borderline at best . He had no training to take on a more modern position . The end of the line was visible .

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Job Loss and Employment Security

1956 1958 1960 1961 1964

Labour in Canada was going through a relatively calm period during the 1950's and 60's . The exception in this time was in the national railroads of Canada. The change from steam to diesel led to massive job loss and the employees , especially engineers , firemen , trainmen and passenger train service staff bore the brunt of the change . But all unions were losing great numbers , including Dad's .

 Once all the unions in the CPR came together the country slowed to a virtual standstill .

The diesel locomotive , the mechanization of track maintenance , two-way radios , centralized traffic control and reduction of passenger service more than decimated/or threatened to decimate the employees of the CPR.

It was more than the system could take  and the employees flexed against the change in a series of one day strikes that rolled along the tracks across the country . The 'Wild Cat' Strikes of 1964 .It took a long time for the strikes to move from location to location .Trains were parked on sidings and the employees simply walked away for a day . Even when they returned the next day , the stoppages further along the line prevented the trains from moving . Nothing moved until the stretch between major cities was clear of strikes . Then traffic could travel only as far as the next stoppage .

The cost to the CPR brought them to the table to face a new concept never before discussed at any negotiation table in Canada before 1964. Employment Security and Job loss . These strikes set a precedent for the labour movement forever after .

An excellent article written by Leslie Ehrlich and Bob Russell can be found at www.historycooperative.org/journals -Labour Article -Employment Security and Job Loss: Lessons from Canada's National Railways

Monday, May 30, 2011

Budd Car

Passenger Ridership was decreasing on short runs such as on the Mattawa-Temiscaming line and the Mattawa-North Bay stretch . More and more people were purchasing cars and transportation took to highways . However there were still enough passengers to warrant a service .

 For the 1950's , CPR offered shorter trains hauled by steam locomotives . The cost was more than what passage fares brought in . Often one or two freight cars were attached to passenger trains on short trips , but even freight was diminishing as people turned to personal vehicles for small cartage .

Model of Budd Car -Dayliner

In an effort to continue passenger service , the diesel engine offered the opportunity to create the 'Budd Car' - a dayliner with an engine as part of a coach car . These stainless steel cars took over from the traditional passenger train on all short runs for as long as ridership held out . It was flexible enough to be extended to 2 or 3 cars more as need dictated , with a baggage car for freight or an extra coach on busy routes.

 The Budd Car left Mattawa Station at 7:00am and returned at 5:00pm on the North Bay run. Once or twice a week, it did a trip to Temicaming as well. Thirty or forty people boarded the dayliner each day and returned after a day of work , shopping , doctor/dentist appointments or visiting .

By the mid 60's , ridership had diminished so much on the Mattawa runs that the service was discontinued . The Budd Car still runs in some large urban centres or as a summer tourist service .

I never got the opportunity to ride the Budd Car.

Tears of Steam

From 1949's successful pilot program with diesel on Vancouver Island , it was only a matter of time before the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada completed the switch over . It took eleven years for diesel to chase out the last steam locomotive .

When Dad had taken us on the Passenger train hauled by a steam locomotive in 1958 , only he and Mum knew that it would probably be the last time to experience it , as well as our first . Within the next year and a half there would be no more .

During that time , we saw new diesel engines out of Montreal , being hauled to points west behind steam engines . It was exciting and sad at the same time . As long as we saw them going somewhere else , we would breathe a sigh of relief . Not yet !

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mattawa Station: 1890's on

These photos show the rise and decline of Mattawa Station over a century+.

At the beginning when the train's arrival was an affair -a place to be seen . (1890's)
photo from trainweb.org



2000's (first decade)
OVR ( Ottawa Valley Railway ) tried a few tourist runs from Mattawa Station along the scenic route north to Temiscaming . How times have changed this station !

Friday, May 27, 2011

Biscotasing Holiday

A service car
 The service car was parked on a siding in Biscotasing , where the rail gang with which Dad was working for the summer was situated . For one week , our family  lived in the service car . Dad went to work each day and returned to us at the end of his work day .

Mum immediately tied a rope from tree to tree beside the track for the laundry . While we children played and dirtied clothes , Mum would wash them out in the handbasin with water she hauled from the lake in a bucket . We only had one change of clothes so that meant five days of hand laundry .

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Biscotasing , Ontario

 Take a little time to discover Biscotasing just over half way to Chapleau from Sudbury on the CPR . 'Bisco' was a railway camp (1884) on Biscotasi Lake , next after Sudbury during the building of what would become the Canadian Pacific Railway - a line to carry Northwest Mounted Police to the rebellion in Manitoba .

A small town grew around the railway . It was the site of treaty negotiations for Treaty Nine Nations of Aboriginal People in the area 1906 long after  land had been confiscated for the railway and lumbering. This photo of the Chief shows that his people remained close during the meetings.