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.