Friday, May 5, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Puss, Puss, Puss!


Ask any elementary student what his or her favorite part of the school day is,
and chances are that he or she will exclaim "Recess!"
The Ojibway children in Landsdowne House a half century ago
were no different from children everywhere.

White or Ojibway, we loved our recess breaks
at my father's Church of England Indian Day School.
We had a fifteen minute recess in the morning and another in the afternoon,
as well as an hour break at lunch,
and we children crammed every bit of energy, movement, and noise
we could into those precious minutes of freedom.



Church of England Indian Day School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



Our activities varied with the weather and season.
We had little in the way of playground equipment,
just a small swing set and a ball or two;
but like children the world over,
we had plenty of inventiveness and imagination.

The younger children, especially the girls,
liked to take turns swinging and pushing each other on the swings,
even in the coldest subzero temperatures.
But many of us opted for more energetic pursuits.



Swing Set at the Roman Catholic School
Father's Island, Lansdowne House, 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



As I wrote at twelve, a year after I left Lansdowne House:
"Recess and noon hour were times we loved.
In the subzero weather we raced about laughing and shouting.

The Indians had no organized games of their own,
but they enthusiastically joined in ours with a vital interest
unparalleled by white children.  

Even boys eighteen and nineteen lapped up Hide and Go Seek.
They plunged vigorously into Red Lights and Green Lights
and went wild over our Giant Steps and Hospital Tag.
But of all games, their favorite was undoubtedly Puss in the Corner.



Puss in the Corner
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Traditional Games of England, Scotland,
and Ireland (Vol II of II), by Alice Bertha Gomme

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org



Each day we arranged ten to fifteen empty, navy-blue oil drums in a large circle.
We needed a "multi-cornered" space, one drum for each child playing,
except for the person who was "It."
The number who wanted to play was amazing! 

The child who was "It" would step into the center,
pause while carefully considering the best corner to run to,
then screech "Puss, puss, puss," and the race was on!

There was a mad scramble as everyone changed drums.
The boys were a blur of black leather jackets, blue jeans, and caps,
the girls a maze of multi-colored cotton skirts, blue and red jackets, and flying black hair.  
Shrieks and laughter filled the air.  
The child who ended up without a drum became the new "It."  

Again and again we repeated the cycle,
and the empty oil drums rocked from the noise and banging they took.



A scourge for some, but not for children with an imagination!
Oil Barrels or Drums in the North



Oil drums were very useful in a number of games.  
One winter "drum sport" in particular stands out in my mind.
  
Eight or nine of us would each select a sturdy looking drum, turn it on end, and mount it.  
Carefullying balancing ourselves, we would begin to rock the drum back and forth.  
Shortly we would be furiously rocking the drums around and around.  
Inevitably the drums would tip, and we would tumble off.  
The object of the game was to see who could rock the drum the longest."



Dad's Ojibway Girls at Play (Inside)
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Dad's Ojibway Boys in Their Jackets and Caps
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




I look back on these happy times with my Ojibway friends with great fondness.
It was some of the best fun I ever had!
Dad was not out supervising us as we ran and played.
He was probably enjoying a quiet cup of coffee and a quick smoke at his desk
before we all tromped in to resume our lessons.



My Father, Just Before Leaving to Start the School Day
Father's Island, Lansdowne House, 1960
Photo likely by Uno Manilla
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



I think school would be much improved today
if teachers pushed back against the cutting and eliminating of recess
in the pursuit of improving high stakes test scores.

Children need to run and play outside every day.
In my opinion children learn better when they do.





Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario



Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited



Lansdowne House
Sketch by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Rough Sketch of Lansdowne House
by Donald MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This sketch shows the Father's Island and the tip of the "Mainland" peninsula
that contained the community of Lansdowne House.         
                                                                    #23 My Father's Church of England Indian Day School
                                                                    #15 Forestry Shack (Our Home)
                 Black Dots ~ Indian Homes

                                                

33 comments:

  1. Fun doesn't need expensive toys, gadgets or other luxuries ( at least in my mind), and pure, clean, healthy fun is wherever you can find it. My fun was with my imagination, an old World War 2 jeep, goodness knows how my Dad had it come to our farm, no motor, no padded seats, I decorated it with huge chowmollier ( like massive kale) leaves!!! A rope swing under huge pine trees, a swim in the trough at the cowshed. I am sure we are all better for these simple ways of entertainment. As always, love those maps.

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    1. What fun to have a WWII jeep to play with, Jean! All you needed was imagination! We had a rope swing hanging from an apple tree in our grandmother's backyard in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia. It was fabulous fun, especially after dark because I could look up at the brilliant Milky Way stretching across the sky overhead. I haven't been in a swim in a cowshed trough, but I did take a swim in a stock pond out in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. I was on a two-week dig with the Denver museum and was desperate to rinse off since it was about thirty miles to town. A little scary, but it felt good in the 90º F. heat. I think we are better for simple fun. I hope that you are enjoying a good weekend. We are in Phoenix with friends ~ lovely time, but it's hard to get at my computer! Take care!

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  2. It's the simple games and toys that are the most fun. It's like the giant cardboard box - what kid didn't have a blast playing with one of those for days?

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    1. You've got it, Alex! It's hard to beat a big cardboard box. Inside or out, they are limited only by your imagination. When I was little, before Mom and Dad had any spare money, we would go coasting on big pieces of cardboard. I hope that you are enjoying a good weekend with your wife! Take care!

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  3. That sounds like a fun game. I remember having a ton of fun during recess in elementary school. We loved to play tag, freeze, and so many other games. We just wanted to burn off some energy!

    FYI, I made the big move away from Blogger and can be found at:

    Elsie Amata


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    1. Thanks, Elsie! I did find your new website. Tag and freeze were games we played in a number of different schools. (We moved a lot). I'm grateful for having such a wonderful childhood. Have a great weekend!

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  4. The easy things sure can be the most delight. Recess is always a grand time to do just that. Stupid how they are trying to coop kids up so much, let them run free a bit and they'll want to learn. Not sit there bored come when recess should be.

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    1. Hey, Pat! I hope you're enjoying your weekend! As much as I loved school and learning, I loved recess more. I always felt sorry for the kiddos in our school. P.E. was cut way back in addition to the cuts in recess. Little kids were not meant to sit quiet and still most of the day. I used to come up with every way I could think of to get them moving in the classroom, and I took them out for an unofficial recess myself many afternoons. They were better for it! Have a good one!

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  5. "Musical chairs" was our version of "Puss in the Corner." The same basic tag and run principles were at play in "Duck, Duck, Goose" as well if I recall correctly. Good times!

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    1. Dad's Ojibway students loved "musical chairs" too. They would sometimes play it on Friday afternoons. Dad would have an art and game period, just to break their shyness in the classroom. I played "Duck, Duck, Goose" later in Nova Scotia, after we lived in the north. I hope you and your Rare One are enjoying the weekend!

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  6. Great childhood memories for me in this post, Louise! I agree that the simplest things bring us the most joy!

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    1. I'm glad that this post reminded you of great childhood memories, Linda! We are fortunate to have grown up in a time that was carefree and fun. When I look at how kids are suffering in so many places, it breaks my heart. Sending you love and hugs!

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  7. It is with fondness that we look back on our childhood and carefree days... another good post!

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    1. Thanks, Sage! I was glad that I could get it written while on the move. This traveling and writing can get challenging. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  8. Thanks, Everyone!
    I will try to get on-line to reply and visit you in return tomorrow. We have been traveling, and I couldn't get to it today.

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  9. Hello dear Fundy,
    Many thanks for your sweet comments :)
    I seems you are reliving your childhood one more time through all these exceptional memories!
    Enjoy your trip and take lots of pics :)))
    Warm hugs and take care!

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    1. Hi, Noushka! I got pulled away before I could completely catch up on your posts, but I'll be back! We drove from the Mojave Desert into the Sonoran Desert, and it was lovely. Many of the desert plants were blooming. I haven't had a chance to go through my photos yet, and I hope I got some good ones. It's a challenge when you're moving 75 to 80 miles an hour on the highway and shooting with an iPhone. LOL I do an entirely different kind of photography from you! Sending you love and hugs!

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  10. Now THOSE were fun times indeed Louise! Nothing too complicated just simply good fun outdoors.
    I remember my days in elementary school in Halifax when we kids took full advantage of before-school,, recess, lunch and after-school in the playground!!

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    1. We were lucky weren't we, Jim! Give kids a little time, and they will make the most of it! I hope that you and Ron are having a good weekend. We're in Phoenix with friends right now. Terry and I checked out a retirement community out near the White Tank Mountains for much of the day. It's a ways out, and we drove through a beautiful stretch of the Sonoran Desert. I can never get enough of the amazing Saguaro cacti! Sending you and Ron lots of love and hugs!

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  11. Such fun times! I couldn't agree more with you. Kids needs to play and run around and have fun. To just be kids!

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    1. Kids do need just to be kids! We get to be grown up a long time. I hope you are enjoying yourself this lovely spring weekend!

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  12. Excellent post and view into a school day remote from mine but familiar in spirit. With volleyball and badminton in the Olympics now, I shall not be surprised to see Puss in the Corner there next.

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    1. You always make me smile, Geo! Wishing you and Norma a lovely day tomorrow!

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  13. I agree with you on recess. When I was in school, it seemed we had at least 40 to 45 minutes to run around, play kickball, whatever. When my kids were in elementary they got 10 to 15 minutes. Ridiculous.

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    1. Ridiculous and maddening. Kids need to move!!! Thanks for stopping by. Sorry for the late reply. I'm still catching up from our latest road trip and internet access challenges.

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  14. I agree, every child should be outside enjoying the fresh air and running around! I love these happy memories!!! Big Hugs!

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  15. I forgot to say, I really enjoy seeing all the pictures you share with us!

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    1. I'm glad that you enjoy the photos I share. Finding images and maps that are available to use is a challenge, and I only have about 50 photos from Lansdowne House.

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  16. Kids can always make their own fun. We played a similar game called Upset the Fruit Basket. When I taught I always loved the days when the weather allowed the children to get out of their seats and go outside for a while. I felt they were more productive if they had a little stretch.

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    1. Right on, Peggy! Children were more productive if they got to and ran around a little. Adults are too! Hope you're having a great day!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.