Friday, November 6, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Exhaustion and Pumpkin Grinners

I'm sharing two letters today from November 1, 1960.
One was written by my father the day after
his tangle with the Wintigo and his stag party.
in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario.

The second was written by my mother 
on the same day in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.
So many of her letters are lost, 
and I treasure each one for the glimpses 
it gives me into my childhood.

One of the Few Photos from My Early Childhood.
Dad takes my sister Barb and his nephew Jeff on a stroll.
April, 1958, New York State
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 1, 1960
My father wrote:

Hi There:
Today was a dead loss as far as days go.  
I did nothing out of the ordinary, 
or learned nothing new, 
or even exciting.

Writing in a Lonely Cabin in the Northern Bush 
Flickr ~ Philip Bragg   License

The only bit of news that I have to relate 
is that I overslept and missed breakfast.  
Oh yes, in my rush to get ready and over to school on time, 
I cut myself shaving.

It is snowing tonight, the dogs are howling, 
and I am exhausted physically, emotionally, and editorially, 
so I’m going to sign off right now and go to bed.  

Tomorrow I hope to be able to give you 
the Lord’s Prayer in Ojibway.  
Bye now, good night, and all that.

I can sympathize with my father, 
having been in that state many times.
The more I experience in life,
the more I understand my father.
Coming to understand one's parents 
is a humbling gift 
that comes with maturing adulthood.  

I am always taken aback when I see evidence of how
my parents struggled financially throughout my childhood.
I never caught on until I was nearly through grade seven.

They always protected we five siblings 
from their worries, and still thought they did 
when we were old enough to sleuth things out.

It hurts to think money was so tight
that my mother worried over getting 
such a small thing as a pumpkin for us for Halloween,
something she revealed in the following letter.
Parents truly are amazing!

Me, Donnie, and Roy
One of the Few Photos from My Early Childhood:
Money was tight for pumpkins and photographs.
April, 1958, New York State
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On the same day my mother wrote 
to her mother-in-law Myrtle (Pratt) MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
Thank you very much for the nice letter and the money for the children.  
I bought some sweet apple cider from the fruit man
for the children today with some of the money.
They love it.

Last evening I planned to write to you, 
but I was too exhausted after all the Halloween spooks.  
There were thirty-six here, 
which would seem like a handful to you.  
I imagine you were very busy.

Last Friday the children took Barbara 
to the school Halloween party.  
She went to school for the whole day and took her lunch.  
They had a marvelous time, 
and evidently the children all loved Barbie.  

They took their costumes with them.  
Barbie was dressed up like a great grammy.  
She had on an old dress of mother’s 
and a rolled up potato sack as a bosom.  
She looked so cute with her hair done up in braids and wound around her head;
and of course, the children through she was a scream,
and so they laughed.


Poor Barbie was disgusted
and wouldn’t dress up like
an old woman last night.  

No sir, 
the children had laughed at her!  

Barbie, Me, and Bertie
Lac Seul, Ontario, Canada
Summer,  1961
Photo likely by John Garrick
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

She just couldn’t understand why, 
even though I explained that Halloween costumes 
were supposed to be funny.  

Last night she went like a ghost and was much happier.  
Donnie went as a ghost also.  
Roy wore a red mop for hair and went as a girl.  
Louise just wore a mask.  

They received more things.  
I thought they wouldn’t receive much, 
for when I was a girl there were only a few people 
who handed out trick-or-treats.  
However they came home loaded with more things 
than they received in Greenwood.  
Now the house is sticky from top to bottom.

Friday I didn’t know what I would do to get pumpkin grinners for them.  
The Raymonds across the street sent two.  
Aunt Nan had heard me worrying so she sent me two, 
and someone gave Louise another.  
We ended up with five nice little pumpkins.  
We had them in the livingroom and kitchen windows.

We do hope that you will be with us for Christmas.  
It wouldn’t seem like Christmas without either you or Don.
However, I realize that Aunt Maude might need you, 
so we will go on planning on you coming, and then we’ll see.

Don seems to be growing
very fond of his Indian children.  

Some of Dad's Indian Children
Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada
September,  1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I hope he doesn’t mind the freeze up too much, 
but I should think he would be glad to get rid of 
that canoe in this cold weather.

The children are all fine now, except for colds, 
as long as they don’t get worse they will be all right.  
Roy is back to school.  
He went out with the rest last night, 
since it wasn’t too bad an evening.  
They took a flashlight with them.

Thanks again for the money.  
Louise (Mom’s sister) sent two very nice 
coats for Barbie and a ski suit.

It’s been so long since I used a typewriter 
that I find I make a lot of mistakes, 
but I should soon get back in the the groove of things.

I am so glad to hear Aunt Maude is doing so well.  
It is good for her to be home.
With love,

Barbie still doesn't  like to be laughed at
(not that I do either!),
and she ditched Barbie a long time ago.
But, oh don't siblings enjoy their long memories?

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Barb and Me
Westport, Brier Island,
in the Bay of Fundy,  Nova Scotia
Photo by Roberta MacBeath Heembrock
© All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Word Pictures on an Inclement Day

TLL: A Cold Morning on Satan's Highway


1.  Fruit Man:  In the fall of 1960 a variety of local vendors went house to house in their small trucks
          selling their wares to the many housewives who did not have cars and couldn't drive to Digby
          or Annapolis Royal to a grocery store.  A milkman delivered milk daily, but there was also a
          meat man, a fish man, and a produce man (probably the fruit man, but I could be wrong).

And for Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Nova Scotia in Canada

Location of Digby in Nova Scotia

Location of Smith's Cove
on the Annapolis Basin between Digby (left) and Annapolis Royal (right)
It was about 6 miles or 9.7 kilometers from the Cove to Digby.
Birch Villa Cottages  Smith's Cove


  1. Parents sure do what needs to be done, the good ones anyway, so kids feel happy and safe. Cutting yourself shaving is never fun either lol

    1. You're right, Pat, the good parents do. I worked with hundreds and hundreds of parents throughout my teaching career, and I saw all kinds. I met very few who truly didn't care about their children. Most, no matter how difficult their situation, tried their best. Of course some of those came from dysfunctional families themselves, or had done poorly in school, or had struggled with drugs and violence in their backgrounds, so they may not have had the best parenting skills, but they tried non-the-less because however misguided or unskilled, they loved their children. This was one of the main things I came to learn from working with parents.

  2. Times were tight, but it sounds like friends and family were generous. Probably another reason you didn't know money was scarce when you were young.

    1. You're right, Alex. There was a real sense of community in the small places I grew up in. People helped each other, Certainly, in northern Ontario and in the outports of Newfoundland your survival might have depended on the people in the community. I have found that some of the poorest people are the most generous.

  3. Louise, those were the days when local farms came on their trucks and went door to door! We got fresh eggs, pies, milk and whatever other goodies they might have brought with them. Nothing like farm fresh dairy! It was so nice that a family member helped with some money for the children! This reminds me of my mother's great aunt. She was very kind and loving and money was scarce in my family. I was an only child and my mother was on welfare and unable to work due to her health, and my father tried to do his best to bring home his meager pay and take care of us. My great aunt helped us a lot and I was very grateful to have her. Your photos are beautiful, as always, and the last one made me smile.

    Thank you so much for taking time to look at my old posts from the archive...March 2012. I saw your comment and was very touched, and I really appreciate your friendship and support. Love and hugs to you. :)

    1. Hi Linda! I did enjoy reading your earliest posts, and I am going back to read more! I also enjoyed hearing about the local farmers and their trucks in your comment. Dad actually a one or more summer jobs helping the milkman in his area of Charlottetown, P.E.I. The milkman was still using a horse drawn cart!

      I was blessed with amazing great aunts and great uncles. (My one aunt and my one uncle were wonderful too). Aunt Maude, my grandmother MacBeath's sister, was especially helpful to my father "Donnie." Among other things she took me to live with her for several summers to ease the burden on my mother whose health was precarious when I was younger. Aunt Maude related to an independent tomboy of a great niece, whereas Nana took the BOY. I quite frustrated Nana who wanted a quiet, sweet granddaughter who delighted in velvet and ribbons and tea parties.

      Love and hugs right back at you, dear Linda!

  4. Rich history, as always. And your mother's letter is so timely with the holloween season. Both letters transfer an emotional effect. Yet, when both parents wrote them, I'm sure they did not envision how far-reaching they would be, especially after being shared by a daughter/child.

    1. Hi Peaches! It's great to see you! The chronology of the letters just happened to fall out that way. My parents knew that I wanted to write a memoir which is why the letters and other papers were entrusted to me. It is only since I retired that I finally could write consistently. Sadly, my father died quite young. Mom died early too, but she lived far longer than any doctor expected, especially when no one thought she would see 30. They would be stunned to see how far their humble letters have reached. Have a lovely weekend, Peaches!

    2. Just stopped by your blog and wanted to leave a comment; but it said no new comments. Could be me or not ~ just want to say that I enjoyed your first blog post. It's always fun to go back and see how others started. When I taught third graders we often started writing for the year by making a list of why people write. It was always fun to see what they came up with. Happy writing, Peaches!

  5. "Coming to understand one's parents is a humbling gift that comes with maturing adulthood." That is so true, Louise. It makes all the judgments of them during our youth seem very silly indeed.

    1. Notice I included the word "maturing", Debra! We have to have life knock us on our butts a few times before the way the world works sinks in! Have a lovely weekend with your Rare One!

  6. I just love that you have all these pieces from your past and it can help you grow, learn, and understand your parents now. That's such an amazing and precious piece of your history to have. I'm amazed at how much has changed in just a few decades. The world has moved on so much. Family dynamics have changed. I'd forgotten how much I loved reading your posts. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    1. It's lovely to see you, Elsie! And thanks for your kind comment! I used to marvel at how things had changed during my great grandmother's and grandmothers' lived; and now there is our lives! No one anticipated something like the WWW and internet. I am enjoying this blogging and memoir journey. It is comments from bloggers like you who have fueled me with courage to keep on writing a book, when I had no idea how to do it. Have a happy weekend! Sending you hugs and strength!

  7. More letters that give a huge window into your Dad's and Mum's real life, with hardships that parents can hide so well.Now, I think they are more open, and children, no matter what age, will be told of finances? illnesses, decisions, and again, so many thanks for sharing with us. Special photos, yes, even having a camera and getting the photos printed would be a cost that had to be well thought out.

    1. Happy Friday, Jean!
      You're right, planning for film, flashbulbs, and developing was necessary because they were costly. The number of our family photos shrank as the family expanded. It wasn't until I hit eighth grade and started taking and developing photos with my Dad's Brownie Hawkeye that our childhood photos started to increase. I poured my baby sitting and newspaper carrier money into photography. I loved photography from the beginning and took my first photo at the age of four or five ~ some hens on my Great Uncle Chester's farm in P.E.I. I've got that photo somewhere. btw, my first numerous photos were of our "gang" in Wolfville, and "Sophie Doodle" Ron was frequently in my early photos.

      As a third grade teacher, I got to learn a lot about what parents share with their children and what they thought they didn't share. Fortunately I was very protective of their privacy! I think children have to grow up way too fast today. The 1950s and early 60s really were the golden years to be a child!

      I get such pleasure sharing these letters and photos from my past. I still shake my head in disbelief over the fact that others are enjoying them. Thank you for being such an encouraging and regular reader, Jean! Hugs!

  8. So wonderful to have letters written on the same day. Such a treasure. And such a glimpse of that time in your family history. These day to day things are what we tend to forget. I can see where you get your gift of writing.

    1. Thanks, Peggy! It is wonderful! And part of what this northern series has turned into, is a way to share family history with my family, especially the nex gen. The process keeps me moving forward. I'd love to get my hands on my brother's diaries! He hasn't missed a day of writing in decades! He is a marvelous raconteur, but like me, he had a demanding career. I'm going to get after him when he retires to see if he'll collaborate with me on further northern things. Wow! That's the first time I put that idea into words. You bring things out of me, Peggy! Sorry I'm late replying, but I've been flattened by a medical issue. I'm sitting up and walking around a little; but the Not So Ever-Patient has given me sitting-and-no-working orders for the day. But at least he hasn't tied me to the bed! I've turned the corner and am getting slowly stronger. You can't keep me down for long. Hi to Don and little Sadie! Hugs to you!

  9. "Coming to understand one's parents is a humbling gift that comes with maturing adulthood." That line squeezed my heart. I am still learning about my parents! Every time I speak to my mom, I discover new things and it makes me so emotional. My dad died quite a few years ago and my biggest regret is not spending more time listening to stories of his youth. This post really touched me, Louise. We were a poor family when I was growing up and I also had no idea of the struggles my parents faced on a day to day basis when I was a kid. They kept it private and made us feel secure and comfortable. I don't even have a single memory of my parents arguing. They would discuss their issues on their own time, well away from prying 'little' ears. As the years go by, I realize more and more how blessed I was. I won the parent lottery!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Martha! I have huge regrets over not talking about family history more with Dad in the later years. I didn't understand at that time in my life, how fleeting life is and how ill my father was. Denial, I guess. I think parents today share far too much with their children. Children are not equipped developmentally to handle adult struggles. We need to be more protective and wrap children in love and security. I'm glad that you have had such loving parents, Martha. That comes through in so many of your blog posts, especially on the series you wrote about your first marriage. Have a happy week, my friend! Hugs to you!

  10. It is amazing what parents will sacrifice for their children... Your collection of letters are wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Sage! I never realized what places this northern series would take me when I began writing it. I am grateful for the chance to do this and for the encouragement I have received from readers. Have a good week!

  11. Hello Louise,
    Yes I did get your comment where you gave me the link to the parrot veteran sanctuary and enjoyed very much.
    It brought back lovely memories of our own experience with our parrots and I'd say the most loving ones are the cockatoos.
    Such a pity we are so far apart, I would have loved to spend time with you :)
    Your friendship means a lot to me and your kind and loving words have been truly soothing these last weeks.
    I am slowly picking up the pieces and photography is definitely a way to recovery for me but I fear moving alone...
    I enjoy reading about your parents and your childhood, what difficult times they went through.
    I looks like we are about the same age :)
    Hugs and love from this side of the ocean!!

    1. Hugs back at you, Noushka! Sorry I haven't gotten back quicker. I've been down with a medical issue, but I've turned the corner and am getting back on my feet. Terry has been wonderful, and for once, I'm listening to him seriously. He's right; the world won't end if I let things slide.

      I'm so glad that you enjoyed the parrot video. I debated whether or not to send you the link, because I wasn't sure if it would make you sadder or give you some cheerful relief. But I went with my gut.

      How could you not fear picking up the pieces alone? That's a gut-wrenching prospect after such a deep loss! Half of you is missing. But you have already taken the most difficult steps; you have started!

      "The Lord of the Rings" is my favorite book of all time. When I need courage, I often think of this passage:

      "I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
      "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

      When things have been really difficult for me, I tell myself, "You can lie down and die, or you can get up and start walking." So far, I've always started walking, even though sometimes it has taken me a long time to stick that first foot out there.

      Your friendship means a great deal to me, Noushka! And if I've soothed your grief just a little, then I'm so grateful that I could. I'm sorry we are far apart, but I love that we have connected this way. Hopefully sometime we will be able to meet in person. I would love that! Sending you love and more hugs!!!

  12. These letters were very revealing indeed, Louise. Good parents always have their kids in mind, no matter what.
    I wonder sometimes how our parents did it, don't you. When we were kids I don't think I ever thought that they got tired and exhausted or worried at all. You are so correct, we finally 'get it' when we have experienced some worry or have been hit in head by something or other.
    Your parents were exceptional people. You have a lot to be proud of.

    1. Thank you, Jim! I do wonder how they ever did it!!! Working with these letters from my past fills my heart with my parents' presence, and that gives me courage to keep on this wandering writing path that I have chosen. The forest is less dark and tangled as I push through it.

  13. Hi Louise, I loved this post although it is strange to read about yourself. And I agree, I do not like to be laughed at ha, ha. I have always had this memory of being dressed up in an old lady costume and being laughed at - too funny, it really happened and must have been quite traumatic for me! Mom and Dad went through so much to raise their 5 kids- they were wonderful parents. hugs your sister Barbie/Barbara/Barb

    1. Hey Sis! So you have a memory of that! Isn't it satisfying when a piece falls into place? Like me finding evidence that validated my memories of the racetrack fire in Charlottetown. The costume experience obviously had a bigger impact than anyone realized. I have to admit that I was excited when I remembered that photo of you at Lac Seul ~ such a perfect illustration! I'm grateful that you allow me to share our experiences in my writing.

      Cheri was here for Friday and Saturday nights; she left yesterday. I hadn't told her that I was flat on my back from my medical nemesis. I knew she wouldn't have shown up to stay, if she had found out before she boarded the plane in Phoenix. But her visit did more to help me than anything except Terry's taking care of me. He's been really stern this week, and for once, I'm really listening to him. Just about the worst I could imagine happened, and things worked out just fine. I'm doing much better and am A-Okay.

      Truly, I try to remember to call you "Barb" all the time,but sometimes "Barbie" slips out. You were such a cute little kiddo! Definitely a Barbie, not a Barb or Barbara! Hugs right back at you, and lots of love!

  14. Louise,
    I love how you have shared these letters from your Dad AND your Mom! And as you say, it is amazing to read and to understand your parents as adults and not just as your parents, if you know what I mean!!
    And may I just say, I can see YOU in the way that your Dad and your Mom both write! Just my observation!
    And I am tickled to read the comment above from your sister, Barb! It must be nice to have family members read your blog, mine never do! xx

    1. Hi Kay! It's wonderful to see you! Thanks for your kind comment! I've started on a journey with all these family documents, and I now believe I can accomplish what I set out to do. I've floundered around so much, but at long last I think I'm on course.

      You may say anything you like, Kay! I always appreciate your thoughtful observations and comments! I'm seeing the way I write in my parents' writing too. Both of them were multi-talented people who dealt with huge challenges, rarely having time to spend on their shared passions of writing and painting. As I write, I feel like I'm helping them achieve the dreams they couldn't. They believed in me, and finally I am believing in me!

      A number of my extended family members read my northern posts, which is why I put a link up for them on Facebook every week. My siblings are such good sports about my sharing their stories and photos. I can't tell you what it means to me when I touch their hearts or bring back memories for them. Your family members may not read your blog posts now, but they may very well turn to them at a different point in their lives!

      Big hugs to you! Have a great week!

  15. As someone who lived and taught in Canada's North...Baffin Island, I am most interested in your father's work. Too, I am intrigued by your memoir writing and willingness to share your efforts with us. What a fascinating journey you are discovering it to be! Thanks and Take Care

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Jocelyn! I thought teaching in the north was my future, and instead, I end up here in Colorado. I would love to visit Baffin Island! Thanks for visiting!


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