Friday, September 25, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Having a Blast!

Life may have been hard in the northern bush,
but one thing for sure, it was rarely boring!

Even doing laundry could be an adventure
in isolated Lansdowne House a half century ago.

Saturday, October 29, 1960 
My father wrote:

Hi There:
This also is being written on Sunday evening.  
I was a very busy housekeeper Saturday; 
in fact, both of us were.  

This may be a bachelor’s shack, 
but it is the neatest cotton pickin bachelor’s shack 
in the whole Canadian bush.

  Dad Outside His Bachelor's Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo Likely by Uno Manilla 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

I got up this morning about seven thirty, 
and after I had breakfast, 
I came back to the shack and got Uno up.  

Then I gathered up all the dirty clothes 
I could find (both mine and Uno’s), 
and I went over to the Father’s and did the wash.  

It was quite a wash because neither of us 
had done any for three or four weeks.

Father Ouimet, Dad, and Brother Bernier
In the Kitchen of the Roman Catholic Mission
Photo Likely by Uno Manilla
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

Up here, you don’t do a wash till you have a big one 
because before doing the wash, 
you have to start the pumping engine for water, 
and if there is no wind to turn the wind charge, 
you also have to start the gasoline generator, 
or you will run down the storage batteries.  
There was no wind today.

While I was doing the wash, which incidentally 
took me all morning and part of the afternoon, 
Uno cleaned house.  

He washed and waxed both floors, 
dusted and cleaned everything 
and just had the cottage gleaming 
by the time I was through of the wash.

Uno and Dad with Baby Duncan
Photo Likely by Maureen or Duncan MacRae
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

Hanging out the clothes sure had 
an element of excitement today.  
The Brother was blasting all around the yard, 
and the only way to get the clothes up, 
was to dash out between blasts and work like a beaver 
till you heard the Brother’s warning yell, 
and then run for cover till the blast was over.  

Then you went out and resumed hanging 
including any of the clothes that happened to be 
blown off the line by the concussion.  

And I’m not fooling either.  
I actually had a couple of things blown off the line 
during one or two blasts.

It must have been particularly nerve racking 
for poor Uno in the cottage.

Wikimedia  edited


Once the Brother
blasted a large rock 
right close to the cottage.
It was actually just about
one or two feet away 
from the corner of the shack.  

Before he set that one off, 
the Brother came in and had Uno place 
everything that was breakable on the floor, 
open all the windows, 
in case they were broken by the concussion, 
and then leave the cottage.  

There was one window that we couldn’t get opened, 
and so there was one pane of glass broken – 
also a couple of cups in the cupboard.

It was a good job that the blast by the cottage 
wasn’t as powerful as the one that blew 
some of the clothes off the line, 
or there wouldn’t have been a window left in the cottage.  

The one that blew the clothes off the line 
was stronger than the Brother anticipated. 
Besides blowing a couple of things off the line, 
it also blew ten panes of glass 
out of the east side of the church.

The Father's Island
The Church, the Bachelor's Shack, and the Windcharger
with Maureen Duncan (Baby Duncan's Mother)

Brother Bernier was blasting between the two buildings at the back of the shack.
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

This evening everyone seemed to land at our shack.  
First Duncan and Brian came over, 
and then the Father and the Brother came over, 
and then Mike stopped in to see us 
while he was making his sick calls over on the Island.  

In the end we had a table of bridge 
going in the front room, 
and a three-handed game 
of cribbage going in the bedroom.

  Different Night, Different Room
Uno and Brian playing Cribbage
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

All in all, it was a most pleasant evening.  
Quite relaxing, after the bang-up day we spent.

Well, that winds up Saturday, 
so I will sign off for now, 
and get Sunday’s edition written.

Bye now,

Fortunately Uno and Dad both liked a clean place.
Their bachelor's shack had only two rooms,
a small front room and a tiny bedroom;
so when company came to call,
their bedroom was pressed into duty.

Two Thirds of a Tiny Bedroom
Baby Duncan Gets Away
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

The Brier Island Nature Reserve 
Bay of Fundy
Photo by Roy MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: What's a Teacher to Do?

TLL: Fun Is What You Make It


1.  Room and Board:
     Dad and Uno rented their humble "cottage" from Father Ouimet.
     It came with electricity, cold running water, and a cranky wood stove.
     Dad and Uno joined Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier for meals at the rectory.
2.  Brother Bernier:  
     Brother Raoul Bernier ran the sawmill in Lansdowne House.
     He was blasting out a basement for a new church.
     He and Father Ouimet were members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.

3.  Uno:  The teacher at the Roman Catholic School.

4.  Duncan, Maureen, and Baby Duncan:
     The MacRaes lived on the Mainland.
     Duncan worked for the Department of Transport,
     and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.

5.  Brian Booth:  The clerk at the Hudson Bay Post.
6.  Mike Flaherty:  The nurse at the nursing station.

And for Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House
Sketched on Map of Ontario 
from Atlas of North America:
Space Age Portrait of a Continent
National Geographic 1985, pages 166-167.

Location of Lansdowne House
On River Emptying into James Bay
by Akimiski Island, the Largest Island in James Bay

Province of Nova Scotia
Brier Island is at the very tip of the long red thin finger in the Bay of Fundy,
and I am at the very tip of the island.


  1. haha who knew laundry could be so energizing. Get to get your exercise in to running back and forth up there. I'll take the washing machine and dryer any day lol

    1. LOL, indeed! Later, when we lived in an Indian fish camp on Lac Seul, we had a tub and scrubboard; but I preferred taking our clothes down to the lake and washing them from some rocks. I thought it was an adventure, living history, and washing like they did in India and exotic places. I don't feel so romantic about laundry now! Have a good one, Pat!

  2. Why were they blasting? Someone must've had a time replacing all those windowpanes.

    1. Hey, Alex! Brother Bernier was blasting out a basement for a new church. And that would be Brother Bernier replacing all the windows. He was an OMI brother, and he took care of a lot of the repairing and building that the mission required. He also ran the saw mill on the island. Happy Hump Day!

  3. What's that odd thing hanging on the wall by Uno's bed?

    1. Hi Debra! That thing had me guessing for a while every time I looked at the photo. I think it's an exercise device, with half of it hanging below the bed. You would grab a handle at each end and pull them wide to develop your chest.

      When I went to Acadia as a freshette in the fall of 1967, we had to do whatever the upperclassmen told us around campus during Frosh Week. They took particular delight in making all we new girls pretend we had such a device and exercise with it saying, "We must, we must increase our bust, the better, the better to fill our sweater." LOL We live in more evolved times now. Today we'd have a rubber band with handles! Hav a good one!

    2. Oops! I was thinking of another photo where one end is dangling down behind the bed. Theres is no second handle, unless it had fallen off and needed to be repaired. I'm sticking with my exercise gizmo, because I can't imagine what else it might be!

  4. Some people still do their laundry by hanging it up outside, as I guess it brings back great memories for them as well as saves on electricity by not using a dryer. I love this post, Louise, but then again, I love all your posts. Your father seems like a very kind, loving and approachable person, at least this is the feeling I get from his letters. :)

    1. Thanks, Linda! I love it when people enjoy my posts! Hanging laundry outside can be lovely on a warm sunny day; but oh how I hated bringing in frozen laundry!!! Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be around and catching up as soon as I can! Hugs!

  5. Sounds like a lot of hard work, and even down here sometimes I have had the washing freeze on the lines outside. Now, I have clothes racks, and in the winter the laundry all dries overnight in the room with the fire going all night. But when we have been camping, I have done washing in a stream, rinsed sheets in a fast flowing river ( telling Hugh to hold onto them tightly!!).How times change. Love your Friday letters so much.

    1. Hey Jean! Oh the clothes racks! We called them clotheshorses! Not sure why, but we did. In a family with five kids in a small house, we had more than one! I can remember running to grab the clothes off the line when rain threatened or started to fall many times! But toucan't beat the fresh smell of clothing hung outside to dry. Grammy had a long line on pulleys stretched across her back yard. I was often leashed to it as a toddler. I could run up and down the yard, but not get into trouble. Apparently I was a high risk kiddo, because almost every childhood picture of me has me in my harness. LOL

      I have to say that I've never rinsed sheets in a fast flowing river! How exciting; you were probably laughing! Regular dryers are so mundane, not that I'd give mine up!

      Have a lovely weekend, Jean!

  6. Man, that was quite an exciting and eventful day!!! I might even welcome some blasting to make my laundry a little more exciting!!! Ha ha.... Loved this post, as I do all of your Dad's letters! XOXO

    1. XOXOX back at you, Audrey! I'm glad that you enjoyed this post! I groan when it's time to do the laundry, like it's such a big deal for two people! LOL Today it is the antithesis of exciting. I would have loved the adventure of hanging laundry between dynamite blasts; who gets to do that? I have set off dynamite charges in the field in Newfoundland as a geologist. Oh so cool! I'll have to do a post about that sometime! Have a great weekend with your awesome husband and girls!

  7. What a fun post! Even writing about laundry and cleaning was interesting. Your dad, whether he realized it or not, was a great writer - and storyteller.

    1. Happy Saturday morning, Martha! You must be just about ready to get your house on the market! I'm sure you are wise enough to sneak in a little down time this weekend!

      Dad was a great storyteller. It's too bad that he never really had a chance to write more. The pressures of working and raising and getting five children through university was a time-eater.

      But I'm so glad that I have these letters, and I will get a book done, even if I have to self-publish. I spent an afternoon in Russell's Bookstore here in Victoria combing through all their used books on First Nations peoples. I came away with two books and photos of others for when I get home. Great fun!

      Enjoy your weekend, Martha!

  8. As a kid, I, too, had to hang up the freshly laundered, wet clothes outside on the clothes line. I also remember sometimes bringing in the frozen clothes when the weather suddenly turned cold. I did not look at it as an adventure, though--I hated this job! I'm so thankful for electric clothes dryers and washers! I love your dad's positive attitude about taking care of such mundane chores and his special way of conveying this through his wonderful storytelling skills. Can't wait to hear more!

    1. LOL! Seriously, I wouldn't part with mine either, Susan! My sister Donnie has a clothesline that she loves in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, but she certainly uses her dryer for most things! I'm glad that you are enjoying Dad's storytelling! I can't believe we'll be home in less than two weeks! Looking forward to seeing you.

  9. What a fascinating post! I loved all the pictures to go with the letter and it sounds like hanging laundry in the bush is far more exciting than I would have expected. :) I haven't hung laundry in ages, but as a child I helped my mom do it all the time. Thanks for including the maps too!

    1. Thanks, Jess! Sorry for my late response! I thought I had responded already! I do appreciate your kind comment! Have a good one!

  10. It is so great seeing all these men doing these household chores, Louise. Goes to show that they can do it, if they have to!! lol
    Your Dad was sure a 'man of his time' he is up north and look at that tie he is wearing.......forever a gentleman! My father wore a tie up to when he was in his 90's!!
    I so admire the tenacity of these people and that generation.
    Your father has a way with words that grabs one's attention.
    thanks for this entry and looking forward to the next.

    1. Thanks so much, Jim! Yes, Dad always dressed, until he was seriously ill! It means so much to me that you are hanging in with all my posts! I've had a cold this past couple of days, and I'm slowly catching up! Hope all is well with you three!


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