CPR Section House

CPR Section House

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 .