Friday, November 20, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: A Touch of Winter

Do you have a first memory of snow?
I do.

Falling Snow
Flickr:  Kate Ter Haar   License

It's one of my earliest childhood memories.
I was not quite four, 
and we were living in an apartment
in my Grandmother MacBeath's home
at the corner of Fitzroy and Edward streets.
in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

I distinctly remember seeing snow falling
through the kitchen window.
I raced outside in my pyjamas,
through the gate, and into the backyard.

I looked up into the lowering skies 
and felt cold snowflakes kissing my face.
I couldn't believe fluffy white things
were falling out of the grey clouds.
It was pure magic!

And then Mom was suddenly bundling me
up in a blanket and carrying me inside,
promising me that we would dress in warm clothes
and go outside to play in the snow after breakfast.

I still feel that magic when I see 
the first flakes of winter coming down; 
but like many adults, I'm over snow quickly
if I have to shovel it, drive in it, or slog through it 
over ice like my father did so long ago.

Sunday, November 6, 1960 
My father wrote:

Dear Mother:
I just have time to dash off a short note to you.  
A plane is expected in today, 
and from the look of things around here, 
it could very well be the last one before freeze up.  

The temperature is hovering around 10 above.  
There is about a foot of snow – it is knee deep in places, 
and the lake is covered, about half covered that is, 
with about ½ inch of ice.

A Partially Frozen Northern Lake

A good calm night and a real hard frost would do the trick.  
As I said before, I will wire you just as soon as 
the last “last plane” comes in.

I turned in my canoe Friday.  
The lake is frozen over along by the causeway, 
and I can walk across with no difficulty.

The Partially Built Causeway
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Painting by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I am glad to be rid of that canoe.  
It is no fun, and it is quite dangerous during this cold weather.  
If I upset it in deep water, I could be in real trouble, 
because it would be too cold to swim in, 
and I would be hampered by my parka and heavy boots.

I had to buy a pair of four buckle rubber overshoes.  
The snow was too deep for my low zipper over shoes, 
and I don’t like wearing rubber boots more than I have too.

Dad's Store ~ The Hudson's Bay Post
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Donald MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I was so sorry to hear about your disaster with the dinner 
after you worked so hard to get it ready.  
The next time you feel like a big meal,
you should phone the Rendezvous or Starrys (Windmill)
and have something sent up.

I will take good care of the snap on cake tins ~ 
I might even send them back for a refill 
after I have eaten all they contain.

Sara is buying all the Christmas presents this year.  
I guess I told you that.  I can’t do any shopping.  
You have to shop by mail and get your orders in early, 
and I did not know about this in time to do it.  

The only present I bought was a pair of
moose hide Indian mitts for Sara.  
She loves this sort of thing, 
and I had one of the Indians make them for me for $5.00.  
I couldn’t even get anything for the children.

Myrtle (Pratt) MacBeath

I hope that by the time this letter reaches you, 
your worries about the cottages, storm windows, etc.
will be over, but knowing poor Herb like I do, 
I guess they will just be starting, eh?

In Earlier Days:  The Four Pratt Siblings
Maude (back), Belle, Myrtle, and Chester
St. Peter's Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Uno and I were over to Dunc and Maureen’s for bridge last night.
Maureen and I got beaten by 850 points.  
We should have won by at least 1,500 points, 
but Maureen made a couple of bad mistakes. 

She opened the bidding once with 2 no-trump.  
I was holding a hand with a count of 16 points.  
You are supposed to have at least 22 points to open 
with 2 no-trump and strength in all suits.
I figured we were loaded and pushed for a slam.  
I ended up in 6 hearts, 
and when she laid down her hand 
I nearly dropped through the floor.  
She had 11 points and only had two suits stopped.  
We went down 4, doubled and vulnerable.  

The next time she passed up my opening bid – 
I had a count of 18, and she had 17, 
she passed, and we missed a game and a quick rubber.

Maureen MacRae
The Father's Island, Lansdowne House
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Well, I have not too much news, 
because that is taken care of by the Lansdowne Letter, 
and I have to get a letter written to Sara, so I will close.

Oh yes, Sara sent me some lovely pictures 
of Louise, Roy, and Donnie, which were taken at school.  
I may be a bit prejudiced, 
but I think they are very handsome children.

Our School Photos, Fall 1960
Donnie, Roy, and Me
Smith's Cove Elementary, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I am keeping my hand in with advanced subjects.  
Uno and Maureen are taking Grade XII subjects 
by correspondence, and I am helping both of them.
I can’t get them together and do it though, 
because they are taking different subjects.  
Maureen is taking Geography, History, and Arithmetic, 
and Uno is taking English and French.

Even if they were taking the same subjects, 
they are taking them from different provinces.  
Maureen is taking hers from the Manitoba Board of Education, 
and Uno is taking his from Ontario.  

On top of this, every so often the Father gets me over 
for a session in English grammar and vocabulary.  
He is very anxious to improve his English, 
and he says that this is the first time he has ever had
someone who was well-educated and used good English, 
and he wants to learn as much as he can.


Father Maurice Ouimet and Donald MacBeath
The Roman Catholic Mission
Lansdowne House, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Well, must sign off now.
Bye now,

Dad in His Rubber Boots
Lansdowne House
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

P.S.  You may not hear
from me till after freeze-up, 
and then again you may.
Will wire when freeze-up is on.  
Don’t forget the stamped envelopes.

I find myself sympathizing with my father a lot.
Crossing the Father's causeway was not easy.
I did it jumping from stone to stone,
when the ice had melted,
but I never crossed it when there was danger 
of my plunging through thin ice.
I think of my father going back and forth
twice a day to get to and from school.
I'm glad that it wasn't me!

I also am glad I didn't have to
play bridge with Dad as a partner.
He was a serious and intense bridge partner
who knew every rule and strategy
and could recall every hand played during the game.
He played to win!

I'd have passed up Dad's opening bid of 18
after going down doubled and vulnerable in the previous hand.  
I'd be lucky if I could sort my hand!  Poor Maureen!  

Not that Dad was a poor sport or an ungracious partner;
he was formidable, and Mom wisely partnered
with someone else when opportunity arose.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing to Tiverton
on Long island,
in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: To Hell with the Stepping Stones

TLL: The Government Strikes Out ~ Again!


1.  Uno:  Dad's roommate and teacher at the Catholic school

2.  Duncan and Maureen MacRae:
     Duncan worked for the Department of Transport,
     and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.
     Maureen was his wife.
3.  Father Maurice Ouimet:  
     He was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.

4.  Unit Conversions:
     10º F. = -12º C
     One foot = 30.5 centimeters
     ½ Inch = 1.27 centimeters

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Canada   Wikimedia

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada


  1. haha I play to win too, remembering who did what and who has what cards in their hand. Some partners hate that lol Can't say I have the same appreciation for snow I did as a kid though.

    1. Happy Friday, Pat! I play to win, but I struggle to remember what cards have been played. I'm getting better at Black Jack though. At least I'm no longer like a deer in the headlights! Have a good weekend!

  2. I wouldn't be too fond of those rubber boots either.
    I wonder what five dollars then translates to now?
    And I bet once he returned home for good, your father never got in another canoe.

    1. You know, Alex, I don't think my Dad ever did get in another canoe once he left the north. Nice big ferries with stabilizers, yes, and a dory or two in Newfoundland; but he was done with canoes. Have a great weekend!

  3. What beautiful memories indeed, great photos and thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Blogoratti. Sorry I'm just replying now. My internet link went out after I replied to the above comment. I hope you have a great week!

  4. I don't have a "first memory" of snow but I have a strong memory of looking at the frost patterns on our windows with my mother when I was very, very little. I think that's when I heard of Jack Frost and his paint brush for the first time.

    1. I heard about Jack Frost the same way!!! I used to love all the beautiful frost patterns on the windows. Have a great week, Debra!

  5. Well, I was the grand age of 71, 4 years ago, when I got to stand outside in falling snow. I had been to the ski fields many years ago, but no falling snow at that time. Rubber boots, I would be scared to slip and get them full of icy water. What treasures your photos and Dad's letters are.

    1. Wow, Jean! It's hard to imagine a life loved without snow, since I've seen so much of it! LOL Better late than never! Have a great week!

  6. Louise, your photos are taking me back to simpler, needless to say, I love this post. But then again, I love all your posts! :) I don't think I remember my 'first' snow but I have always loved the winter and when I was a child I enjoyed going tobogganing!

    1. Tobogganing! That was the best fun, Linda! We kids would slide on anything, even strips of cardboard! Thanks for your kind words about my blog posts. I'm back home and back with internet. I even paid to get on line in Vegas. but the connection was unusable. I gave up. I'll be catching up with your posts shortly. Have a lovely week!

  7. Once again a great letter from your father. His descriptions of his experiences are absolutely priceless. The way he adapted to those rough circumstances was amazing. He was a blessing there and so generous in his help to his friends.

    1. Hi Peggy! Thanks for your kind comment! Dad was a born teacher, and it didn't matter what age or kind of student he worked with. It was always about the relationship first. Have a lovely week my friend! Now that I'm home and have dependable internet again, I'll be catching up!

  8. I don't have a first memory of snow. But then, before this, I didn't live in a snowbelt. So there wasn't much to remember back then.

    1. I'm sure, like kids everywhere, there were many memorable things to do where you grew up. I have to say that I'm glad I grew up in lots of snow! Have a happy week!

  9. I don't have a memory of my first time seeing snow but I do have many memories of 'the first snow of the year' and many heavy snowfalls. I grew up in Montreal and we had A LOT of snowstorms and even blizzards when I was a kid. We spent many days playing in the snow, having snowball fights and building snow forts. These memories are so wonderful that each year when the first snowfall arrives, I get all choked up with emotion and quite overwhelmed. It's like an avalanche of childhood memories washes right over me!

    1. Snow forts and snowball fights ~ It was so much fun! I loved the snow. I'm glad that you have all those wonderful and powerful memories, Martha!

  10. I've always loved the snow, but grow tired of it quickly, lol.

    I remember after my sister's wedding my wife and I decided to go to Ruby Falls in Tennessee. They rented out canoes and we have never been in one. I swear the whole time we thought we were going to flip over, it was less relaxing than we had hoped it would have been.

    1. Oh my, Brandon! I didn't realize I had fallen this far behind in replying to comments. I think I was baking a pie and packing for our Thanksgiving trip when you posted this. It's been downhill ever since for me (in a good way). I laughed at your account of your canoeing experience. They are very tippy! Once you get the hang of it, canoeing becomes more relaxing. Happy Friday!

  11. Hey Fundy, I am late in reading your Friday Dad Letter but as usual, enjoyed it very much. Dad always played to win - no matter what the game ha, ha. I remember Mom's Indian gloves/mitts - they were beautiful - can you imagine, only $5.00. Hugs, Barb

    1. Hugs, Barb! As my sister, you probably recognize when time has gotten seriously away from me and have a good understanding of why! LOL Rats ate my beautiful mukuks in Sherbrooke (Stillwater). I've been looking at gloves and mukluks on my travels this year. They cost a fortune now! :( Hugs right back at you!

  12. I too don't remember my first encounter with snow in Halifax as a child. I am sure I liked it though and found it fun to play in.
    I was thinking as I was reading this latest letter how much we take for granted today. Your father had to use that shaky canoe and then walk on thin ice to get to work!! imagine expecting that from us today?! They were a much stronger and versatile generation than we.
    I loved to play bridge back in college days. I would have learned so much from a partner with your Dad's knowledge of the game. He thought Maureen made a couple of bad moves!!! lol
    Have a great week, Louise and thanks so much for letting in to read these letters.

    1. Hi, Jim! I'm so sorry that I'm just replying now! I've been chasing my tail since the beginning of Thanksgiving week. We do take so much for granted now. Sometimes I feel like we're disconnected from reality. I would love to play bridge now that I have more time. Well, isn't that a funny sentence to write. I've been time-starved all my life, and nothing has changed in retirement, LOL! Have a great weekend, my friend!


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