Friday, October 3, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Fun Is What You Make It

Sometimes I miss simpler times
living in isolated communities.

Some of the best fun
and the richest experiences
I’ve had happened when I lived
in Westport, a vibrant outport
on the lonely coast of White Bay, Newfoundland.

Waiting for the Coastal Boat
Westport, White Bay, Newfoundland
Early Summer, 1975
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

Or in an Indian fish camp 
on Lac Seul, Ontario
with eight other people:
my mother, my siblings,
John, Fritz, and Kokum.

         The Garrick and MacBeath families
         gather somewhere on Lac Seul.

       V-Shape:  Louise (me), Barb, Fritz, Roy
       Left:  Bertie and Mom (Sara)

                                                              Donnie:  above, girl in front
                                                              David:  one of the Garrick brothers
                                                              with children and/or nieces and nephews 

        The MacBeaths and the Garricks:  below     
         Donnie ~ first and front girl left                    Lac Seul, Ontario, Canada                 
           Louise, Barb, Fritz, and Roy                        Early Summer 1961                         
         Bertie and Mom ~ far right                           © M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

And, of course, in Lansdowne House!

When you have little,
maybe not even electricity 
or a radio,
you make your own fun.

Mom (Sara), we five,
and our beloved Gretchen
picnicking somewhere
on the shores of 
Lake Attawapiskat.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
Mom, Gretchen, Bertie, Louise
Donnie, Roy, and Barb

The tiny white community of Lansdowne House
totaled fourteen once my father arrived:

Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier ~ Oblate Missionaries
Uno Manilla ~ Teacher, Roman Catholic Mission School
Two Mitchells ~ Hudson Bay Company
Brian Booth ~ HBC Clerk
Three MacRaes ~ Department of Transport
Three MacMahons ~ DOT
Margaret Kelly ~ Nursing Station
Donald MacBeath ~ Anglican Indian School 

Dad (Don) and Brian Playing Cribbage
Dad and Uno's "Cottage"
Lansdowne House, January 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

The tight-knit white community
led an active social life,
Oblate Father and Brother included.
They played cards and other games 
with great vigor and serious competition. 

Wikimedia ~ Adam B. Morgan

One distinct memory 
my young Baptist self had
was standing by the kitchen table 
in the forestry building
and watching Mom and Dad playing bridge 
with Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier.
I was holding my breath 
and waiting for lightning to strike.

Five days after arriving in Lansdowne House,
Dad was in the thick of things.

Dad wrote on Sunday, September 18, 1960:
"I was invited out to dinner last night by the MacRaes, 
one of the two married couples at the DOT Station.  
They are a very nice young couple.  
You would like them if you met them.  

"Their names are Duncan and Maureen MacRae.  
They have a little four-month-old baby, Duncan Jr.  
I had a lovely dinner and a most delightful evening 
talking and teaching the MacRaes to play chess.  
They are most anxious to learn the game.  
They want me to come over Wednesday night 
for another talking and chess session.

"They are a lovely young couple.  
They even say grace at mealtime, 
and that something you don’t see too often now.  
I am getting quite religious myself up here.  
The Father, the Brother, and Uno 
say grace and cross themselves before every meal, 
so I say my own grace before each meal.

"You should have seen me setting out 
for the MacRae’s for supper.  
There I was all decked out 
in grey flannels, white shirt, blue blazer, tie, cufflinks, 
trench coat, rubber boots, and carrying my shoes 
to wear when I get where I am going.  
It is certainly different than anything 
that I have been used to up till now.

Dad heads out
for his canoe
on the first day
of school.
He dressed
like this too
when invited
for dinner.
He's taller than
the door!  
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  

"I didn’t leave the MacRaes until 1:00 o’clock in the morning; 
I couldn’t get away before that time.  
When I finally did leave it was quite overcast, 
and the water was quite choppy, 
so Duncan drove me home in his speedboat, 
and we towed my canoe behind.  
I can tell you that I came back across the water 
much more quickly than I went over there.

"Well, I have only been up here five days so far, 
but I have loved every minute of it.  
The country is lovely, 
and the white people up here 
are so friendly and hospitable, 
and the Father and the Brother are such congenial landlords.  

"Besides the two invitations to the MacRaes, 
I have been invited to Milt and Iona MacMahon’s 
at a date convenient to me.  
The MacMahons  are the other DOT couple up here, 
and the Mitchells run the H. B. store."

 Uno and Dad
 with baby Duncan
 on Uno's bed
 in their two-room "cottage."
Three of Fourteen
Lansdowne House,  Late 1960 or Early 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

That's it for this edition, folks!
Signing off:  Don and Louise


  1. haha those rubber boots are stylin, but yeah, have to keep the shoes all nice and clean haha

  2. Hey Pat!
    You're so great to visit and comment when I'm sooooo behind!
    But I swore I'm going to get these Friday posts on the North up.
    Otherwise my sisters are going to harass me with emails and phone calls cracking their whips ~
    especially my author sister Bertie!
    I glanced at your blog last night ~ I know there is a funny song and a looong piece of text,
    so I've got to get back asap.
    Gotta run for Friday Night Date Night at Parkway.
    Have a happy Friday night!

  3. Your dad is so,dapper. I love reading his letters. He paints a picture of everyday life. Thanks for sharing his interesting life. And yours.

  4. Thank you, Peggy! And thank you for visiting and commenting when I am so erratic! Have a good weekend! I'm going to catch up on all my blog comments, and then I'm going to visit my blogging buddies whom I have been missing! Have a happy weekend, and I'll be by your blog as quickly as I can!

  5. What wonderful images! They alone tell a story. This is so much fun to read, Louise. And I bet you are having a great time writing this up. I look at old photos of my parents that seem so surreal. It's incredible how quickly time goes by.

    1. Thank you, Martha! It is fun to do these posts. I'm finding my way finally! I'm glad that you are enjoying them! Have a happy week!

  6. These are wonderful photos! So full of memories. I wish for simpler times too.

    I like your blog - will be coming back :-)

    1. Hi WFL! Thank you for your visit and kind comment! Have a good one!

  7. Hi Louise, It's Barb - loved the post! I miss simpler times too! But indoor plumbing is delightful too - lol

    1. LOL! I'm glad I'm not lugging that chemical toilet to the community dump! That got old fast! And I sure don't miss the outhouse at Lac Seul! I was always scared going out at night, and of course, I always had to go out at night! There were bears there! I'll call you before you go to Ray and Jerry's ~ I need some advice from Ray about how to search parliamentary records. I haven't been having much luck. Have a good week, Barb!

  8. What fun looking at the old photos. The families look like they are really enjoying life at the seaside. People really used to communicate without electronic gadgets. Ha Your father was a very dapper gentleman. Thank you for sharing the pictures and family.

  9. Thank you, Manzanita! Yes, we did have fun! It's fun writing this series on the North! Have a good one!

  10. Absolutely charming. What wonderful adventures and memories. The photo of the kids waiting for the boat was very touching, they all looked so vulnerable. Somehow it seems to me that not too many kids today would exude that feeling of vulnerability. Brought a lump to my throat.

    1. Thank you, Francie! We didn't just have adventures in the North! I have very fond memories Westport, Newfoundland. The people were amazing, so kind and generous. When I returned to Westport after 33 years, people said they were so glad that I came. HOME. Happy evening to you!

  11. What an adventure!
    I lived on a little island for 5 years in the 60s. No tv, no radio, but a richer social life, so even though it was completely different from your experience (tropical), I get it.

  12. Thank you, Terry! Five years in the tropics sounds great! Peace Corps?

  13. And the adventure hardy your Dad, and for that matter everyone, was or had to be then to survive.
    Your father was very sociable Louise. I suppose that would be prerequisite for his job!
    Great photos and dialogue. Precious to have. I like this 'journey' you are on.

    1. Thanks, Jim! I'm on my way now, and it feels so go! Thanks for your continued support and encouragement!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.