Friday, April 20, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Stranded

The first Sunday in June 1961 brought Lansdowne House
one of those vibrant, late spring days that pulls people outside
with its promise of warmth and freedom
and banishes memories of subzero days and vistas of glittering  snow.

The last bits of rotten ice lingered in Attawapiskat Lake,
as our family piled into a canoe mid-morning and set off in high spirits.
We had no premonition of the danger that awaited us down the lake.

As Calm as a Millpond
Canoeing on Attawapiskat Lake
Near Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
May 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Wednesday, June 7, 1961
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Folks:
Last Sunday we had quite an adventure,
or misadventure, depending upon how you look at it.

I borrowed Tim Wabasse's canoe and three HP outboard
and took the family away down the lake on a picnic.
We all enjoyed it, even Gretchen and the baby,
although they don't think too much of canoe trips.

We went down the lake for a distance of about five miles,
and we found the most delightful little white sand beach.
All the children went in swimming, and even Sara went in wading.

A Rare Photo of My Mother
Wading in Attawapiskat Lake
Near Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 4, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It's a good job that we were alone, for the children
all went swimming in either their underwear or their birthday suits,
and even Sara took off her slacks and was running around in her panties.
They were just like a bunch of bloody nudists.

Only Father managed to preserve his Patrician dignity.
I found a most delightfully shady tree
and spent the day under it reading and napping.

The Only Way to Enjoy a Picnic ~
According to My Father
Sandy Beach, Attawapiskat Lake
Near Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 4, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


When we started on our trip, the water was as calm as a millpond,
but during the day a rather strong breeze sprung up.
Because our little beach was in a sheltered cove,
we did not notice the increase in the wind,
or that there was quite a sea running.

As soon as we got out of the sheltered cove, we were in for a rather rough passage;
and, because of the waves and the wind, we had to keep going.

In a rough sea, the safest thing to do is to keep headed into the waves.
It would have been inviting disaster to attempt to turn
the canoe around and go back to the cove.

We had about two miles of open lake to cross before we came to an island,
and I can tell you that it was quite exciting.
We shipped quite a bit of water, and everybody was soaked
from the spray before we reached the lee of the island.

At first the children thought that it was quite a lot of fun;
but before the trip was over, the novelty had worn off,
and they were beginning to be afraid.

There was only one thing to do, and I did it.
I landed on the island and made preparations to stay there till the wind died down.

The Sandy Beach ~
Not the Island We Were Stranded On
Roy, Gretchen, Louise (Me), Mom, Bertie
Attawapiskat Lake, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 4, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

If it had only been Sara and I in the canoe,
even if we only had Louise and Roy with us,
it wouldn't have been too bad, and I would have kept on for home.

However, I was frightened that Barbie or Donnie might panic,
and all it would take to upset the canoe would be to have one
or both of them leap to the same side of the canoe,
just as a big wave hit her.

As soon as we landed, we pulled the canoe up on land,
and I started everyone gathering firewood.

I did this for several reasons.  First, we were all wet,
and gathering firewood would keep everyone warm.
Also, there was a damned good chance
that we would have to spend the night on the island,
and if we did, we would need a good fire.

Luckily we had lots of matches, but that is about all we had.
I certainly learned something on this trip,
and that is to never go on a trip like that without an axe,
a flashlight, some sort of tarpaulin, and some spare food.
All we had were matches, and the remains of the picnic lunch,
and I can assure you that this was very scanty fare indeed.

We landed on the island about five in the evening,
and we were there till about eleven-thirty at night
before we were rescued by Mike O'Flaherty
and Milt MacMahon in the nursing station's big boat.

We finally got home after midnight,
and after getting something to eat, we all went to bed.
Since then we have all been busy nursing colds,
of which we seem to have an overabundance right now.

During our stay on the island, we managed to get most
of our clothes and blankets dried, and about nine o'clock
we gave the children what was left of the picnic lunch.

Of course we had coffee going
as soon as we got the fire going.  

It will be a dark day indeed
when the MacBeaths
are unable to have coffee.


Along about ten p.m. it was beginning to get quite cold,
and rain was threatening; but we had a nice fire going,
Bertie was asleep, and the other young ones
were showing signs of yielding to the charms of Morpheus.

Along about this time, we started to notice a light
down towards Lansdowne House which appeared to be moving about.
We didn't know what it was, but in about an hour
we found out that the light came from the nursing station boat,
which manned by Mike and Milt, was out searching for us.

They finally stumbled upon us and our island about 11:30 a.m.,
and when they landed, we served them coffee,
thereby adding credence to the general opinion
that you can always get coffee at the MacBeaths,
even at the damnedest times.

Needless to say, we were very glad
to see and hear Mike and Milt.

I guess that we stirred up quite a commotion at Lansdowne House
when it was discovered that we hadn't returned from our picnic.

Bill Mitchell was the first to become alarmed;
and when he told Mike that he didn't think that we had arrived home,
Mike rushed over to our house and confirmed that we were among the missing.

He and Milt very quickly launched the nursing station canoe,
which because of the pontoons which Mike added
is the most seaworthy boat in Lansdowne House.
He took Milt's ten horse motor and his own 7 1/2 horse as a spare,
along with several tanks of gas and started out on the search. 
Actually, I should say they, for both Milt and Mike were in on the search.

It was about 9 p.m. when they got started,
and they didn't find us till about 11:30 p.m.
They saw our fire about a mile and a half from the island,
but for some reason they came to the conclusion that it was just an Indian campfire.
I guess that the Indians frequently camp on this island.

Anyway, they continued their systematic search of the lake,
instead of coming directly to the fire,
just in case we should be capsized somewhere out in the lake.
I don't know who was happier to see whom when they landed.

Lunch on the Sandy Beach ~
Not the Island We Were Stranded On
Mom, Gretchen, and Baby Bertie; 
Donnie, Roy, and Barbie (back);
and Louise (Me) by Bertie
Attawapiskat Lake, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 4, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

After they had a nice warm cup of coffee each, got warmed at our fire,
and bailed out their boat which had shipped quite a bit of water,
we loaded the kids, the dog, and Sara into the boat,
and I got into the stern with Milt, and we shoved off for home.

We left everything else on the island, including our coffee pot.
It took us about twenty-five minutes to reach the Hudson's Bay dock,
where we were met by a very relived Bill Mitchell
who normally would have been in bed hours before.

Bill Mitchell and an Ojibwa Man
Hudson's Bay Post
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

He and all the other residents of Lansdowne House
agreed that I did the wisest thing possible
when I landed on the island to ride out the storm.

The next afternoon I got one of the survey boys to run me
out to the island where I picked up the canoe
and all our belongings and brought them along home.
I had Roy along for company.

You'd think that our trip had had its share of misfortune,
but just as we were landing below our house,
didn't I have the misfortune to run upon a very sharp rock
and punch a small hole in the canvas covering
of the canoe causing a very bad leak.

Dad punched a hole in the canoe just below this hill.
This is the path to the lake where we got our water.
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Before I could return it to its owner I had to patch it.
I got a small piece of canoe canvas
about the size of a playing card and a bottle of amberoid glue,
and in about an hour I had the canoe water tight again.
Then I sailed around to the other side of the peninsula
and returned it to Tim before something else could happen to it.

Well, that's the news from Lansdowne House for this week.
I'll admit that it isn't the type of news to bring comfort
to nervous grandmothers, great grandmothers, and great aunts;
but it was exciting and a great adventure,
so I told you all, and I'm glad---so there.

I'll likely never hear the end of this,
and I am expecting great gobs of criticism and advice;
but before you cut loose, please consider
that at least I was sensible enough to appreciate the danger
of our position and come ashore before we got into real difficulties.

Before you all go gray with worry, I will assure you that
that was our swan song with regards to picnics at Lansdowne House.

Northern Ontario Lake
A Beauty You Never Forget

From now on all our spare time will be devoted
to packing for our move to Sioux Lookout.
Besides, I don't think I'd ever have the gall to start on another expedition
after causing everyone so much worry, anxiety, and trouble.
Even if I did have the gall, I don't think that anyone
would allow us out of their sight anyway.

Speaking about our trip to Sioux Lookout, we are going to be
awfully busy for the rest of our time in Lansdowne House.
We have an awful lot of work to do, because we have a lot of things to pack,
and we have to pack it in segregated packages
so that all the things we will need this summer will be in certain parcels,
and we won't have to open everything when we get to Sioux Lookout.

Right now we are involved in long distance house hunting
by means of personal emissary (Mike),
radio telephone (nursing station and H.B.C.), and mail.
I will let you know the results of our search as soon as we find out ourselves.

Anne is going out tomorrow to have her baby, and Mike is going along with her.
He is going to look around Sioux for us.
Also, I have enlisted the help of the Indian Agent at Sioux,
a Mr. Swartman, and have contacted a real estate agent.

Everyone says that we should not have too much trouble finding a nice house,
but everyone also cautions us not to pay too much rent
and to be careful whom we deal with in Sioux Lookout,
because apparently newcomers are all fair game to the natives of Sioux Lookout.

Oh well, I am not exactly an amateur in this game of house hunting,
so I guess I should do O.K.
As I said, I'll let you all know whatever develops.

Well, I just have to sign off now and get this away,
and get some other letters written.
See you all next week


Dad dashed down a postscript to his mother on one of the copies:
Dear Mother:
I have not time to write a personal note this weekend,
but Sara wrote one, and so did Louise,
so I guess that should be O.K., eh?

Dad's Mother and Friends
Before Marriage and Motherhood
(Nana second from left)
Likely St. Peter's Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Are you keeping these circular letters?
I hope you are, especially the ones written since Sara came up here.
If you are, please continue.  If you have not, please start.

These letters are sort of a journal, and I would like to have copies of all the letters.
Sara saved all she got from me, but she doesn't get anymore,
so will you please save them and send them to me as soon as we get to Sioux.

Sometime I just may get around to writing an article for a magazine,
and I think these letters would make a good start
in an article or even a series of articles.
What do you think?  Am I being reasonably hopeful or just ridiculous?

All Sara's family keep remarking on how they enjoy the letters
and saying that I have a gift for writing
and should try to write something for publication.
What do you think?
In spite of everything I say,
I do have great faith in your judgement.

Bye now,

Next week I'll fill in the parts
Dad left out in his letter to the family.
He neither fooled nor mollified the grandmothers,
great grandmothers, and great aunts with his breezy tale.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

Point Prim, Bay of Fundy,
Summer 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Three HP Outboard:
     A small motor attached to the
     outside of the stern of small
     watercraft such as a canoe.
     The motor propels the watercraft
     and provides steering control.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

2.  HP:  Horsepower:
     "Horsepower is defined as work done over time. The exact definition of one horsepower is
     33,000 lb.ft./minute. Put another way, if you were to lift 33,000 pounds one foot over a period
     of one minute, you would have been working at the rate of one horsepower. In this case, you'd
     have expended one horsepower-minute of energy."  Quotation: 

3.  Amberoid Glue (also Ambroid Glue):
     I couldn't find a good definition of amberoid glue, but I've pieced together a little information.
     Around 1900 the original amberoid glue was made from celluloid scraps and contained the
     organic solvent toluene.  The cellulose nitrate adhesive was valued for its fast-drying and
     waterproof properties.  It replaced spruce gum for repairing canvas canoes.  Later it was
     used as an airplane dope to tighten and stiffen fabrics stretched over airframes to make them
     airtight and weatherproof.  Then amberoid glue became widely used for building model airplanes.
     The glue is remembered fondly by many model makers from the '50s and '60s  for its wonderful
     smell.  Unfortunately, the toluene was an intoxicant and produced a sense of pleasure that was
     not a high from enjoying building models.  Sniffing the toluene fumes in the glue became popular
     and led to drug problems ~ which may be why it is hard to find these days.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

My Best Guess
for the Sandy Beach and the Island We Were Stranded on

Imagery:  Landstat/Copernicus, DigitalGlobe
Map Data:  Google

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Riding High

In early June 1961 my father was riding high in anticipation
of his new job as a supervising principal with the Indian Affairs Branch
of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Sioux Lookout.

He and my mother had been through many hardships,
and finally their future was looking brighter and easier.

I can feel his optimism and happiness in the words he wrote 
from Lansdowne house so long ago ~
not to mention a touch of satisfaction and vindication.

A Happy Beginning
Don and Sara MacBeath 
September 4, 1948
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Friday, June 2, 1961
My father wrote to his mother,
Myrtle Pratt MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
There is time this morning, (there were occasions when
I didn't think there would be), to write you a short note.

The main reason that I want to drop you a private line
is to thank you for the gifts that you sent to Roy for his birthday.
I particularly admire the book, and I intend to read it
after Roy and Sara have finished it.  Louise has already read it.
She is a very fast reader, just like her old man.

Cracking the Books
The Freshman and His Roommate Graham Boswell
Acadia University, 1946-1947
Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Roy is not too bad in the reading department either.
He is not quite as fast as Louise, which is natural
seeing that Louise has had a year more experience,
but I do believe that he is a more retentive
and comprehensive reader than Louise.


© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I am going around in circles these days.
I am so happy and excited with the prospects of my new job.
I will be moving there as early in July as I possibly can do so.

One of the letters that I had to get off this weekend was to the Indian Agent,
Mr. Swartman, inquiring about the prospects
of renting a four bedroom house in Sioux Lookout. 

You can see from the circular letter and from what I told you on the phone
that this is really going to be quite a large and important job.
I am going to be quite busy this year, and especially this summer.

I will be glad to be out in civilization again for several reasons,
the principal one being that now you will be able to visit us
without having to fly in a bush plane.

I am looking forward to seeing you this fall, or winter, or both.
The kids are already making plan's about Nana's Christmas visit.

Christmas, 1961
Dad, Louise (Me) with Bertie, Roy, Donnie, and Barbie
Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It is regrettable that I won't be able to come down this summer,
but it just can't be helped.  It is imperative
that I spend the summer working at my new job,
for now that I am started on my way up in the department,
I don't want to do anything that might prejudice my chances.
It's going to be a case of go, go, go!!!!, for about a year,
but it will be a wonderful challenge.

I have one plan along the social line that I hope I will be able to realize.
I hope that I will be able to follow in Father's footsteps and become a Rotarian.
I should have no trouble with respect to category.

I just thought, wouldn't it be ironic.
if there was no Rotary group in Sioux Lookout?

I hope there is, because the next time I am in Charlottetown,
I would love to go down to the Charlottetown Hotel
on Monday afternoon and show the Charlottetown Rotarians
that I am just as good as they are.
Wouldn't it really make Mrs. Miller sit up and take notice
to see that I could belong to the same club as Tom DeBlois?

The Charlottetown Hotel
Now the Rodd Hotel
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, 2012

Oh, by the way, don't noise my new promotion around too much
till it is announced officially by the department.
It might be contrary to departmental protocol.
You can tell the family, of course,
but don't make like Hazel and put it in the Charlottetown Guardian.

Well, I haven't seemed to do anything but brag about myself,
and I have not answered any of your letters; but on recollection,
I realize that there were none to answer in the last mail.
You're slipping, Ma.

I will devote my next letter more to you and your doings,
but time is running out on me now,
so I just have to sign off and get ready for school.

Bye now,

Dad's Mother
As young woman Nana would have loved
the adventure of flying in a bush plane.
St. Peter's Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Circa 1915
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

No wonder Roy and I were competitive!
We were always being compared.

Dad was spot on in his assessment of my brother Roy's
ability to retain information that he read.
Roy has a prodigious memory and a driving curiosity about the world,
and he is a voracious reader.

I can talk with him for hours on wide ranging topics,
never letting on about my admiration ~
not to mention a touch of envy.

I'll go toe to toe with Roy anytime on voracious reading,
driving curiosity, and comprehension,
but I'll never match his long-term retention of facts and figures.
In any trivia competition I want him on my team!

I vaguely remember Mrs. Hazel Miller as Nana's next door neighbor, 
an elderly, proper lady, rather like my grandmother.
Obviously more was going on than my big ears detected
as a small girl in Charlottetown!

Sioux Lookout currently has a Rotary Club, 
but I haven't found out if it did in 1961.
I don't remember if my father ever became a Rotarian,
but he was a proud Mason.
Whatever was behind my father's comments
on the Rotary Club of Charlottetown is lost in time. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Chad and Sisters Two
Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours
Westport, Brier Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Telephoning the Good News:
     When my father was hired after his interview in North Bay, he was able to telephone his
     mother with the good news, but he couldn't share it with his wife until he had traveled
     by train back to Nakina and flown by bush plane into Lansdowne House.
      TLL: An Unexpected Trip

2.  Indian Agent:
     As the chief administrator for the Indian Affairs Branch in Sioux Lookout, the Indian Agent
      managed most aspects of the lives of First Nations people in his jurisdiction.
3.  Rotary Club/Rotarians:
     Rotary Internation is an international service organization of business and professional leaders
     who provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and
     advance goodwill and peace around the world.  Wikipedia

     In recent years the Rotary Club of Aurora provided student dictionaries to all third graders in
     Aurora, my city.  My students and I always appreciated the Rotarians visits and their dictionaries.
4.  Thomas DesBrisay DeBlois :
     Tom DeBlois was a prominent Charlottetown businessman and community volunteer who served
     as president of DeBlois Likely Ltd. and executive vice-president of DeBlois Brothers Ltd.  His
     volunteer roles included member and president of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown.
     press ~ The Guardian (Charlottetown) 2014-08-28

5.  The Charlottetown Hotel:
     The Canadian National Railroad built the Hotel Charlottetown (informally known as the
     Charlottetown Hotel) in 1931.  Rodd Hotels and Resorts bought the property from Canadian
     National Hotels in the early 1980s and renamed it the Rodd Charlottetown.  It was renovated and
      restored in 1999.  Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed there in July 1973 during Prince
      Edward Island's centennial Confederation celebrations.  Wikipedia

6.  Charlottetown Guardian:
     The Guardian is published six days a week in Charlottetown, P.E.I.  The newspaper's origin
     dates back to the 1870s.  Wikipedia

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House
Northern Ontario, Canada

Location of Charlottetown
Prince Edward Island, Canada

Charlottetown and Its Harbour
Prince Edward Island, Canada, 2005

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: The Delousings

I wouldn't be sharing my family stories today
were it not for my paternal grandmother,
Myrtle Pratt MacBeath.

When my father began writing his Lansdowne Letters,
he asked his mother to save them.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Sometimes she and my father would agree to burn
very personal letters they had written to each other,
but most of my father’s letters survived,
thanks to Nana’s efforts to preserve them.

My mother wrote frequent letters too,
but only a few of hers have survived,
also due to her mother-in-law’s effort.

I imagine that many of the letters my mother wrote to her mother
went up in flames in the trash barrel in her mother’s backyard.
My maternal grandmother, Ella Cossaboom MacDonald,
believed that many things should be consigned to the flames,
perhaps because her family history contained dark secrets.

My Grandfather Jack Courting My Grandmother Ella
Circa 1913
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I can still see Grammie in all kinds of weather feeding the flames
in her trash barrel near the old apple tree that we used to swing from.

The Best Swing Ever!
Barbie swings while Donnie watches.
Fall, 1960
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The surviving Northern letters eventually found their way to me,
and I am grateful that Nana saved this letter written by my mother,
not just for the details of our days in the North,
but because it reminds me of what a rock she was for our family.
No matter what storm waves slammed her, my mother stood firm.

When the Indian Agent unexpectedly summoned my father
via radio to Nakina on the departing mail plane, 
he refused to tell my father the reason for the sudden trip.

My parents assumed the worse,
that another of my father's letters about the poor Indians
in Lansdowne House had hit the Canadian press
(Thanks to me and my Junior Red Cross project).

They thought he was about to lose his job.
They had no idea that Mr. Gowan would send Dad
on the overnight train from Nakina to North Bay,
again with no explanation.

No one would guess from reading this letter
that my mother spent four anxious days waiting for my father 
to fly back to Lansdowne House and tell her what was going on.
My parents had gambled everything on moving North,
and it would have been a disaster for my father to lose his job.

My mother stood firm.
She carried on with no idea when Dad would return,
even teaching school for him while he was absent.
There is no one I admire more than my steadfast mother.

She was the rock on which we rode out many storms,
sheltered by her love and her belief that everything would work out.  

On Thursday, June 1, 1961
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law,
Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
I haven't gotten a line off to you recently.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It was a madhouse here lately getting ready for break-up,
and then Don leaving unexpectedly for North Bay.

I taught school for him all day Monday,
washed all day Saturday at the nursing station,
and on Sunday I had Sunday school for the children
and started out for a wiener roast with them,
but had to come back for the wind was too cold.
We had our picnic in the house.
They all seemed to enjoy it anyway.

Sunday morning bright and early
Roy opened his gifts from you.

He and Louise are both reading the book you sent.

The shirt and socks are lovely.
The children were all delighted
with the candy, tablets, and pens.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Don got word Friday morning that he was leaving that day.
We were having a party in the afternoon for Roy, Glennie, and Duncan Jr.
Their birthdays were on the 26th and Roy’s on the 28th,
so we decided to celebrate them all at the same time.

I made Roy a birthday cake, an angel cake,
and I added walnuts and cherries to it and decorated it
with white icing and little round colored candies.
It looked very nice.

Roy received two t-shirts, a silk Hawaiian shirt,
a water pistol, and a cap pistol (from Louise).
Don gave him a pair of fins and a snorkel outfit
when he came back from North Bay.
All in all Roy had a very nice birthday.

The weather has been very beautiful.
The lake is so much prettier without the ice.
We went on a picnic the Sunday before last
up the lake in the canoe and took along a camp stove.
We had a lovely time.
It was difficult to keep the children out of the water,
and it was still freezing cold.

Lake Attawapiskat
The Paths to Our Water Hole
After Breakup, 1961
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Roberta goes to play with Glennie and Duncan in the mornings
quite frequently.  It is the only solution to our problem,
for they have a fence all around the yard which is big. 
They play in a sandbox and have a great time covering each other with sand.

We are all excited about going to Sioux Lookout;
and, of course, Don is looking forward to his new job.
It will be good to have a bath tub again,
also a dentist, for I think Mike pulled the wrong tooth.
This isn’t Mike’s fault because he isn’t a dentist and pulled the one I indicated.

A lot of the Indian children had fleas, or is it lice, the kind Louise got in Atholville.
Our children and about two Indians didn’t have any,
but Mike had to spray ours today for fear
the Indians might think they were being discriminated against.

Donnie, Louise (me), and Roy
on the Stairs to Our Second Floor Apartment
Spring, 1957
Atholville, New Brunswick, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Except for Don’s trip, this week has been very quiet.
Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier were to come over for Bridge
on Tuesday evening, but the Father cut his hand badly on a planer.
He removed nearly half of one finger, and so he couldn’t come.
Mr. Pratt came with the Brother, and the Brother and I beat them,
but not by much.  Most of our games seem to be close here.

Thanks for the nice things you sent Roy.
He will be getting you a letter off this week.

I must get some more letters off, and it is very late,
so I will close for now.
I hope you and Aunt Maude are both well.
It must be a relief not to have to worry about the apartment house any more.
The children were all anxious about your garden.

With love,

The Tip of the Peninsula (Mainland)
A Pontoon Plane at the Hudson's Bay Dock
Fall, 1960
Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lice!  If you've ever had them, you will never forget
the shame, the itching, and the remedy.

My teacher discovered lice crawling through my hair 
during a head check in the fall of 1957.

We had recently moved to the small Acadian village
of Atholville in Northern New Brunswick
where I attended a Roman Catholic school.
One of my teacher's periodic duties
was to check every student's head for lice.
I was mortified when she found lice on mine.

My teacher was almost gleeful because she didn't like me.
I was Baptist and likely the only Protestant student in the school.
The principal notified my mother and quickly sent me home.

Worse than the shame were the intense itching
and the nightmarish thought of bloodsucking insects
creeping among the roots of my hair
and attaching their pale nits to the base of individual strands.

Before bedtime each night, my mother washed my hair and dried it vigorously.
Then she sprinkled my hair with a DDT powder, rubbed it into my scalp,
and began the time-consuming task of combing my hair
with a fine-toothed comb designed to comb out lice and eggs.

I remember sitting in the lamplight in the kitchen, my head over an enamel basin
as my mother repeatedly parted my hair, side to side and front to back, 
and meticulously combed each section of my hair.

She frequently rinsed the comb under the hot water tap,
dried it, and sprinkled more DDT powder on it.

She combed and combed for a long time,
until she couldn't find any more lice or nits.
They were almost microscopic in size,
but they looked huge and disgusting to me.

Every morning she combed my hair again and washed my bedding.
This went on for a good two weeks.

At least I wasn't alone in my humiliation.
My teacher routinely found someone with lice.

Imagine how shocked I was when I walked into my school
that first Thursday afternoon in June, 1961,
and my father grabbed me from behind in a big bear hug.
The nurse, Mike O'Flaherty, dusted my hair with DDT powder,
and Dad tousled it with gusto.
I can still hear my father's gleeful chortle and my classmates laughing.

When Mike and my father discussed treating
the Ojibwa children for lice, they decided
to include my brother, sisters, and me in the process.
They did not want the Ojibwa children
to feel discriminated against because they were Indians,
so they hatched a plan to ambush me
and make the delousing more of a game.

They treated my dubious brother, 
and everyone giggled at our grey hair.
Soon there were greyheads everywhere,
and clouds of dust filled the air
as the children rubbed their heads and shook their hair.

My father chased us all outside for an early recess,
opened the school doors to air out the classroom,
and joined Mike for a quick cup of coffee
in the nursing station across from the schoolyard.

My mother may be the person I admire the most,
but my father wasn't far behind.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Shore of the Annapolis Basin
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 24, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  The Problem with Bertie:
     Bertie was late learning to walk; but once she found her legs, she was always on the go.
     Bertie loved to play outside in Lansdowne House; and by the spring, she could slip out the kitchen
     door when my mother's back was turned.  One morning my mother opened the door after
     hearing a knock to find a wet and muddy Bertie riding on the shoulders of an Ojibwa neighbor.
     He had found her sitting in a puddle on a path in the bush singing and washing her dolly.  When
     the MacMahons invited Bertie to play in their fenced in yard, it solved a big worry for my parents.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House
Northern Ontario, Canada

Location of Atholville and Smith's Cove
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

Location of Atholville
New Brunswick, Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

Atholville and Sugarloaf
As seen across the Restigouche River from Quebec, 2007
Wikimedia ~ Credit:  Tourisme-Nouveau-Brunswick