Friday, October 24, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Damn. Damn. Damn.

My father wrote faithfully, almost every day
from Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario.

Even when Dad thought
his day was humdrum,
he drew our family in with his stories
of life in a place so different
from our grandmother's home
in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.

On Thursday, September 22, 1960
he wrote:

"Well, here I am again 
at the same old stand.

You certainly don’t 
have to worry 
about me running off anywhere.

This will be the last section of this week’s edition, 
because tomorrow is mail day, 
and I have to get it over to the post office 
to make sure that it gets out tomorrow on schedule.

I sure hope that there are lots of letters for me tomorrow.  
One whole week is a long time to wait between mails, 
and it would be an awful disappointment 
if there were no letters.  

I can sometimes sneak 
a letter or two out at other times, 
like I did last week, 
by asking the pilots of the various planes 
that drift in here during the week 
to mail letters for me.

  Bush Plane ~ Noorduyn Norseman CF-FQI

However, they are doing this 
merely as a service 
and accept no responsibility 
for the letters if they are lost.  
After all, it isn’t a regular mail run.

We had company at the Father’s last night.  
A pilot for Superior Airways out of Armstrong 
was forced down here by bad weather 
and had to tie his plane up in the lee of the Island 
and spend the night at Lansdowne.

He and the fellow with him 
ate and spent the night at the Father’s.  
I didn’t try to finish this letter and get it out with him, 
because the regular mail run will be going out tomorrow, 
and you will be expecting a nice long letter on that run.

Chicago Bill ~ Bush Pilot
More than once CB was forced to spend the night at the R. C. Mission
or on the couch in our home in the forestry building in Lansdowne House.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

When I come out in the spring, 
I am liable to be talking with a shattered syntax 
and an accent that is a combination of French and Ojibway.  

There is no one up here 
except the DOT boys and their wives 
that speak anything approaching perfect English, 
and I find myself slipping into 
the broken English of the Indians 
or the French Canadian version 
used by the Father and the Brother.  

Their English isn’t too bad actually, 
but they do have a pronounced accent 
and, at times, a rather unique grammatical construction.  

Also, I am liable to be like the Indian teacher 
that went outside for her summer vacation and had a flat tire.  

She got out, 
looked at the tire, 
and said, 
“Oh. Oh. Oh.  
Look.  Look.  Look.  
Damn.  Damn.  Damn.”  

She was so used to saying everything 
over several times for the Indian children 
that she started talking that way herself.
And you really do have to repeat yourself a lot, 
because there is really a terrific language barrier.

Well, it appears that I am running out of news 
and anything else to say.
Today has been very humdrum.  
I didn’t fall out of the canoe, 
get aground on any rocks, 
or have any other misadventures.  

A humdrum day is much more comfortable to live, 
but it sure slows up my letter writing.  
It’s an ill wind that blows no good, eh?  

I guess I will go over to the Father’s for supper 
and see if I can hear any local gossip 
that might make interesting writing and reading.

Father Ouimet and Don MacBeath
R.C. Mission, Lansdowne House, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Bye now,

Fundy Blue signing off on her latest Northern post.


  1. I can really see how, in an isolated community, any visitor would be a welcome diversion and a source of novelty. No wonder our forebears placed such emphasis on hospitality.

  2. Happy Friday, Debra! I miss the old-time hospitality values. Our lives have gotten so complex and busy that we almost have to schedule (in pencil!) hospitality.

  3. lol having to repeat things so that it became common would be quite funny and annoying. Not sure I'd want to be in that isolated a spot ever.

    1. I used to love isolated places, but I don't know if I could handle them now. Have a good day at your bay!

  4. At least they did get visitors, for whatever reason. Treasure those old letters, Fundy.

    1. I do treasure them, Alex. Although it's daunting to contemplate transcribing them all which I am in the process of doing! Happy weekend!

  5. I echo Alex's comment. Great post, and I always enjoy your photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Linda! And I'm so glad that you enjoy the photos! Take care!

  6. Now those days must have been interesting. I used to love to write letter, but can't tell the last time I sat down and wrote to a relative, much less to do it by hand. I can also see how it's easy to adapt the way other people talk if we're with them all the time.

    1. I haven't written a letter by hand in forever, JL, although I do send emails. Sometimes I wonder what will happen to today's personal stories when so much happens via brief texts or Facebook posts. Have a good one!

  7. I love those old photos!.
    its fantastic that even on days he may have considered hum drum your father still wrote. There's something about writing letters that is very personal. What a wonderful thing to be able to share these memories!
    ...imagine repeating things 3 times... and not even realizing it :)
    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks, Dawna! I do miss exchanging letters with friends. I am always excited when a "real" letter comes in the mail. It doesn't happen too often these days! Take care!

  8. Love the photos and the insight into hus experiences there.

  9. LOL - I hear Dad's voice every time I read your posts - love them & you - hugs your sister Barb :)

    1. I miss you, Barb! Are you coming to visit anytime soon? Shelly, at Parkway, is always asking when you're coming to visit! LOL! I feel so close to Dad when I work with his letters. Actually he and I are a lot alike! More than I ever thought! You'll laugh when you see next week's Northern post! I'm working on it now! It is so Dad! Love you!

    2. Dad has that same sparkle in his eyes that I do! LOL!

  10. I think it's wonderful that your dad wrote so much. Look at what he left for you to enjoy! So many memories. And the photographs are fabulous!

    I had a good laugh at that teacher that repeated everything! Reminds me of my beginner reader books in first grade. "See Jane run. Run Jane run..." LOL...

    1. I so loved Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff, and Spot! LOL! Dad wrote a lot, and my typing is improving so much as I transcribe his letters! I'm sure glad I decided to take a course at a business school many years ago. Have a great weekend, Martha!

  11. Your Dad made even the humdrum sound interesting. What a wonderful thing to still have all those letters. One of our treasured possessions are some photo albums my Grandad put together while he was stationed in Italy in WW2 with all his handwritten annotations. x

  12. Hi Julie! And lucky you, not only do you have photos, but they have your Grandad's handwritten notations! I'm sure that you treasure them as much as I treasure mine. I hope that you are enjoying a lovely weekend! Take care!

  13. You have me hooked; I can hardly wait for next Friday's post. Your father, even when he thought events humdrum, painted an incredibly colourful picture of life at Lansdowne House. His teaching experience gives me quite a hook to hang my understanding on (I taught both English and music).. but it's more than that. His understanding of the Indian teachers' repeated words.. not laughing at her but seeing the humour, the little excursions out that he valued in their own right, but knew would result in stories to entertain his children.. so many small things that I love about reading his letters. Will you ever post copies of letters that you sent to him in return. I am guessing they would be a beautiful read as well. Oh.. and though I thought my mother knew every "saying" in the book, she never told us the one about "one crow, two crows" .. my goodness, that was wonderful to read in your comment today :) Thank you! Oh.. and one more thing.. I love to see your sister's comment here.. this blog is such a gift to her.. I can feel a similar bond as my sister and I, lately, remember our childhoods.

    1. Hi Carol ~ another rich comment ~ thank you so much! I'm on a hunt for missing letters, those written by us kids and Mom's. I pretty much have a complete set of my father's because he sent out carbon copies to our extended family, and many of them came to me. We shall see what I eventually track down.

      The Counting Crows rhyme is an old one that my grandmother taught me: "One crow sorrow, two crows joy, three crows a letter, four crows a boy, five crows silver, six crows gold, seven crows a secret never to be told. eight crows a wish, nine crows a kiss, and ten crows a time of joyous bliss." It's well-known in Nova Scotia.

      It's fun to have my sister Barb comment! She's the blogger-savvy one of my sibs. My youngest sister is the whip cracker when it comes to my writing. She's published two books and has a third being considered by a publisher. So she's always on my case which is awesome. And my sister next to me is my cheerleader on the phone. Families are the best. I'm glad that you have a great bond with your sister.
      Have a happy week!

  14. My grandmother used to write letters - I wish so much that I still had even one of them.

    1. I wish you did too, Tonja, because they are wonderful to have. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Have a great week!

  15. Cool letter and cool insight to life in a lighthouse (at least that is what I'm gleaning from this). I can that in spite of what some people want, a solitary life isn't what its cracked up to be.

    Father Nature's Corner

    1. Hi GB! Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. It was fascinating to have you glean a lighthouse! That is definitely solitary on an island! Actually my father was in a tiny, remote, fly-in community in northern Ontario. I've settled into a routine of posting each Friday on my father's adventures in the North, and I always struggle with how much set-up to do. I don't know if I could ever go back into such isolation again, but I sure loved it when I was a kid. Have a happy week!

  16. What a great post! What it must have been like for your Dad! The "Oh oh oh...look look look...damn damn damn" made me laugh!

    1. Hi Kay! It was the adventure of a lifetime for my father, and eventually for me ~ although I have to say, I've had a number of adventures of a lifetime in my life! LOL!

      I'm into "Unbroken." I had no idea that so many crews died in training. I don't know how they got up every morning and went out and flew over and over with so many dying. And I had no idea Louis Z. was such a rapscallion when he was young. He was lucky to have big brother Pete and a feisty mom. I'm loving this book.

      Have a great week, Kay!

  17. Love the story about the teacher and the tire!

    1. Wasn't that a fun story, Terry! Having worked with lots of non-English speaking students, I so get what happened to her! Have a great week!

  18. I can understand about not worrying about me running off. Hey, I'm a writer. Too busy writing to rn off and do stupid stuff.

  19. I know the feeling, Stephen! Have a good one!

  20. Wow. What a wonderful legacy, all those letters. I have an old journal from my dad, and one or two letters, and they are such a treasure.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

    1. Hi Crystal! I'm glad that you have those personal treasures from your dad. Have a wonderful week!

  21. What a great way to hear your dad, through letters and journals.

    1. It is quite amazing, TPC! I hear my dad's voice and feel him with me as I read his words. It's wonderful because I've been missing him for thirty years. Take care!

  22. Humdrum or not, I can only imagine how thrilled you all were receiving and reading/hearing these letters from your father, Louise. Those were the When we had to wait for things!! Heaven forbid! Do you think we all may have been more patient back then? Or just the opposite?
    Thanks for sharing is priceless.

  23. Hey, Jim! It's good to see you! I think we didn't know any different back then! But letters were wonderful things! Actually they still are, but people barely write them any more. But I am loving sharing my father's stories. I am having so much fun! Have a good one, my friend!


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