Friday, March 25, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Ceilings, Water Samples, and Salmon

Have you ever slogged through a dense, dry report
wondering about about the lives and stories behind the statistics?

Just two days ago I stumbled across a collection
of Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990
in Library and Archives Canada.

I quickly located the 1961 report 
that covered the time my father taught in Lansdowne House
and began skimming through its 66 pages.

It's fascinating to see all of the federal government's 
annual interactions with the First Nations Peoples
summed up in 66 concise pages, 
complete with statistical tables.

Northern Ontario had 54 Indian schools 
scattered across its wilderness of rock, lake, and muskeg.
My father's was one of the 38 single-classroom schools. Table

Church of England Indian Day School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

His school was mentioned in the report in a short phrase
as one of three schools constructed in Northern Ontario 
during the fiscal year ending on March 31, 1961.  Education 

But nowhere in the report could I find any mention
of the quality of construction completed
or whether the schools were actually equipped
with the furniture and supplies needed to function.

I can't help laughing as I remember what was not
in the brief innocuous words of the government report:
My father arriving in Lansdowne House
and finding the new school without a stick of furniture.

After a radio call to the Department of Indian Affairs in Nakina,
my father furnished the school temporarily
by borrowing old handmade desks stored in Father Ouimet's attic
and carrying them over to his school on the mainland via canoe.
He also scrounged card tables and chairs, sawhorses and lumber
around the community to accommodate his Indian children.

Dad's Children in Their Borrowed Desks
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

That was the beginning of a number of challenges
my father had to overcome at his new Indian school
including shoddy construction, malfunctioning oil stoves,
and partial shipments of necessary equipment.

Fortunately people in Lansdowne House pulled together,
helping each other out with difficult tasks.

On Monday, December 12, 1960 
My father wrote:

Dear Sally:
I had a very busy weekend.  
Friday when I came to school, it was very cold, 
and the ceiling had fallen down again.  

Mike, Duncan, and I spent the morning putting up the ceiling ~
insulating it and sealing the fire door shut.
The three of us spent Friday afternoon banking the school
with snow to keep it warm.

Saturday morning I hauled four or five loads of wood for our shack,
and Saturday afternoon, I spent pumping oil 
from barrels into the school oil tanks.  
I pumped 400 gallons, and by the time I was finished,
I was nearly frozen.

  Dad's Shack on the Father's Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

It was 25 below all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  
The temperature usually drops to 30 below and lower at night.

Sunday I spent the morning reading, and then about 11:00, 
Mike came over and asked me to help him take lake water samples.
I had dinner at the nursing station, and after dinner 
we put on moccasins and snowshoes and took off for the lake.

We walked five miles and drilled twelve holes in the ice.  
It took us from 1:00 to 5:00 to do it.  
We went up one side of the peninsula for about ¾ of a mile 
and then cut across the peninsula and down the other side.  
Oh, and we went around the island.

Lansdowne House and the Father's Island, 1935
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Library and Archives Canada / PA-094992

I had supper at the Father’s and then came back to Mike’s 
and had a nice hot bath ~ 
my first bath in a bath tub since I arrived here.  
Boys but it felt good.  
I was so tired that Mike asked me to stay the night.  
I did.  I’m quite stiff today.

Tomorrow or Wednesday I have to go out after a Christmas tree for the school.
That will involve another three-mile hike on snowshoes.
This life sure is different from anything that I have been used to up till now.

I had gained five pounds last week, 
but I knocked three of them off this weekend.  
I weigh an even 200 pounds now.  
Another ten pounds to go, and I will have reached my goal weightwise.  
However, I have quite a ways to go yet to reach my goal strenghtwise.

I can tell you one thing though.  I’m in great shape from the hips down.
I never saw my legs so muscled up as they are now.

Dad in the Bush on the Peninsula
Photo Likely by Mike Flaherty
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

Continued at Afternoon Recess:
Mr. Gowan is in visiting the settlement now.  
He is in in response to a letter that I mailed to him regarding the school
and the problems I have been having regarding the heating, etc.  

I did not get a chance to ask him about the forestry shack 
when he was in my school just now, 
but I will press him for an answer to this question 
as soon as I see him after school.  
I sure as hell …

And the rest of the letter is missing!
But I found the missing page from a letter 
written back in September attached to this one.
Maybe this letter's missing page will surface somewhere. 

It is funny to note that in the letter of September 12th
when my father was grounded in Nakina by bad weather,
he was trying to track down Mr. Gowan 
and learn where he was going to live
once he finally arrived in Lansdowne House:
"I have met and talked with a few more Indians,
but I still have not succeeded in seeing 
Mr. Gowan, the Indian Agent at Nakina.”

Now Dad was pressing him for permission to move into the forestry shack,
so my mother and we five children could join him.

It's fair to say that my father and the Indian Agent
had an up and down relationship.
The Department of Indian Affairs 
did not want employees to rock the boat, 
and my father was already making waves.
Oh the things to come that are missing in that bland report! 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Boars Head Lighthouse
Tiverton, Long Island, Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Freeze-up Approaches

TLL: A Big Bang


1.  Mike Flaherty:  The nurse at the nursing station.

2.  Duncan MacRae:
     Duncan worked for the Department of Transport,
     and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.

3.  Father Maurice Ouimet:  
     The priest at the Catholic Mission in Lansdowne House.
     He was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.
4.  Mr. Gowan:  As the chief administrator for the Department of Indian Affairs in Nakina,
     the Indian Agent managed the lives of all First Nations people in his jurisdiction
     which included the native people in Lansdowne House.

5.  Liquid Capacity Conversions:
      400 gallons = 1514 liters

6.   Temperature Conversion:  
     -25º F  = -31.6º C
     -30º F  = -34.4º C

7.  Distance Conversions: 
     5 miles =  8 kilometers 
     ¾ of a mile =  1.2 kilometers
     3 miles = 4.8 kilometers

8.  Weight Conversions:
          5 pounds = 2.26 kilograms
      200 pounds = 90.7 kilograms
        10 pounds =   4.5 kilograms

9.  My favorite statistic in the 1961  report:
     The Indians of British Columbia took 262,323 salmon for home consumption.  Source

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Lansdowne House
Surrounded by Water
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Wishing for a Christmas Miracle

I remember only too well 
the first time I had to be apart from Terry
for any amount of time.

It was the summer of 1993.
Terry had to work in Seattle for several months,
and I went out with him for the first month. 
It was great while it lasted,
but then the time came when I had 
to return to teaching in Aurora, Colorado.

We said goodbye, and I watched him walk to work 
from the window in his apartment kitchen.
A dreary, chill rain had just stopped,
and he dodged puddles on the sidewalk as he hurried off.

The lump in my throat was so big, I could barely breathe, 
and I didn't know my heart could ache so much.
I couldn't fathom how we could be apart for six long weeks.

So when I read my father's words
in a letter he wrote at the end of freeze-up,
I can begin to understand the loneliness he was feeling.
By then, my parents had been separated 
over twice as long as Terry and I had,
and they still faced unknown months apart.

   Reading Letters from My Father
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Freeze-up ended in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario,
when the first plane in arrived on December 8, 1960.

I can imagine my father's delight at the sound of the bush plane
approaching from the south over winter-bound Lake Attawapiskat
and his excitement as he collected his letters and packages;
but it was a painful moment
when he set his mail aside and loneliness closed in again. 

On Thursday, December 8, 1960 
My father wrote his mother, Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
The box arrived safely today.  
Everything was in fine shape.  
It made me awful lonesome though 
to get my first Christmas presents.  

It really brought home with a bang 
the fact that I am not going to be with my family for Christmas.
Gosh, but it is going to be so lonely.

My Parent's First Christmas Together
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
December 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It is a real rip snorter of a night out tonight  - 
25 below zero with a 30 mph wind in from the northwest.

I have not been writing the Lansdowne Letter since freeze-up
because Uno’s typewriter is on the bum, 
and mine hasn’t arrived yet.  
As soon as either mine arrives, 
or the part for Uno’s arrives, 
then we will be publishing regular editions again.

I have been dreadfully discouraged, disheartened, and homesick lately,
and I have not been able to concentrate on doing anything except my job
and have been having a hard enough time concentrating on it.

Christmas in Charlottetown
Me (Louise), Roy, Donnie, and Mom (very pregnant with Barbie)
Prince Edward Island, December 1955
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I weigh an even 200 pounds now.  
Only 10 more pounds to lose to reach 190 which is my goal.  
Hope I don’t gain too much eating those cookies that you sent up to me.

I am so lonely up here.  
I do so wish that some miracle would happen 
so that I could get home for Christmas, 
but I know that’s impossible.  
I don’t care what happens, 
I am never going to stay away from my family
for another Christmas for all the money in the world.

Christmas in Alymer
Barbie, Donnie, Roy, and Me with Mom
Ontario, 1957
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I could have gone out for Christmas to Nipigon with Uno, 
but it would have cost me about $100.00 all told,
and if I spent $100 to go to Nipigon, 
I think I would spend another $50.00 and come home.  

Anyway, what am I talking about?  
It will be a long time before I am able to spend $150.00
without worrying about it.

Christmas in Margaretsville
Roy, Barbie, Me, and Donnie
Nova Scotia, 1958
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I still have not received my traveling expenses,
and they still aren’t paying me my proper salary,
but it will all sort itself out before spring.

That’s one good thing about working for the government.
It may take you considerable time 
to get all the money coming to you,
but eventually you do get it all.
(I hope so, for they still own me some from the air force.)

I think I am going to have to get a pair of snowshoes.
It is no fun tramping through two or three feet of deep snow
for over two miles each day as I tramp back and forth to school.

Well, I must sign off now 
and get some official correspondence done.

I was disappointed that there were no stamped envelopes in the box.
Perhaps you can send me some soon, eh?
Thanks so much for the lovely box.  

Bye now,

Give my love to Aunt Maude.
Tell her I’ll be writing to her soon.
I’ll drop you another line soon.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Grand Passage Between Long island
and Brier Island in the Bay of Fundy,
Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Anyone for ... Kokosh Wiass?

TLL: Unlikely Friends


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

2.  Wind Conversion:
      30 miles per hour = 48 kilometers per hour

3.   Temperature Conversion:  
     -25º F  = -31.6º C

4.  Weight Conversions:
      200 pounds = 90.7 kilograms
        10 pounds =   4.5 kilograms
      190 pounds = 86.1 kilograms
5.  Depth Conversion:  
     2 or 3 feet =  .6 or .9 meters

6.  Distance Conversion:  
     2 miles =  3.2 kilometers

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: A Mother-in-Law's Impending Visit

My apologies to my family and friends
for my unanticipated hiatus from blogging,
but I'm back now to pick up the narrative 
of my family's time in the North.

At that point my father was cut off from the Outside
anxiously waiting out freeze-up
in the remote wilderness of Northern Ontario
while my mother was fighting through  
loneliness and isolation in rural Nova Scotia.

Lansdowne House on Frozen Lake Attawapiskat
Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Unable to communicate with her husband,
my mother was alone with five young children.
living in her mother's home,
and struggling with little money and poor health.

My mother persisted,
and I often wonder how on Earth she did it.
Cheerful and resilient, she kept her worries inside.

With Christmas coming in less than three weeks,
my mother tried to firm up plans 
for her mother-in-law's impending visit.

What a different time it was!
Everything had to be worked out 
through letters passing back and forth
between Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Money was as scarce as hen's teeth,
so a long distance phone call was only for emergencies.
Even stamps were used prudently.

On Thursday, December 8, 1960 
my mother wrote to her mother-in-law Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
This is going to be a fast letter for it is late.  
I haven’t written because Roberta was very sick with the flu.  
I was just going to get the doctor 
when I realized that she was finally getting better.  
It made a lot of extra laundry, blankets, etc., 
and it is so hard to dry things now.

Donnie Holding Roberta with Barbara
Clothes on the Clothesline, Grammie's Back Yard
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
Summer 1960 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

We have been as warm as bugs in a rug, 
but now that it has turned cold, 
I realized I had better warn you to bring warm things 
for your legs and shoulders.  

If you could bring a pair of flannelette blankets, 
I wish you would, for I gave Don most of ours.  
I can borrow anything I need from Aunt Nan, 
but I doubt that she would have flannelette sheets.  
I could get ordinary ones from her, so let me know 
whether you will have room to bring any or not.

Kelsey and Mary Lou are going 
to Mary Lou’s home for Christmas.  
I had forgotten when I wrote you.  
However, Mrs. Robinson or her son will pick you up.  
Your train arrives here at 11 o’clock.

Me (Louise) with My Childhood Hero, Kelsey
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
Summer 1952
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Mrs. Robinson's son would drive you here 
and back to Halifax for $10.00 return.  
He brings another woman with him I believe.
However, I told Mrs. Robinson that you might be nervous about driving,
and I would worry about you if you came by road.  
Also there might be a snowstorm.  
However, if you wish you could come with him.  

If you did, you would go back with him on a Sunday.  
I don’t know what time they leave,
but I could find out for you if you are interested.  

He has a nice new car and is about nineteen or twenty.  
He takes a number of people from the Cove and is a very nice boy.
But as I said I would feet safer if you are on the train.

I had decided to let you have the room Louise and I are using, 
and Louise would sleep with Barbie and I with Roy.  
The way he sleeps, he wouldn’t even know I was there, 
and it would please him.  

However I begin to wonder if you would be better downstairs where it is heated,
but that would leave another problem.  

There is only one solid wall away from the windows.  
Unless there is a wind blowing from the north this wouldn’t bother you.  
We could move the couch in the dining room for you.  
I am going to put one there for Christmas to give us more room anyway.  
Where do you think you would be the most comfortable?  
Of course we could arrange things differently after you arrive.

I can’t think of anything else.  
I have been trying to get things fixed up for you, 
but with the children sick, especially the baby, 
things have gotten beyond me.

  Baby Roberta Today
in Grammie's, Now Bertie's, Living Room
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
August 2015
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

However Mrs. Robinson’s daughter is coming in to help me
Saturday, and if all goes well, I will be able to get her regularly.  

There is so much for me to get caught up with, 
though I hope you won’t mind 
if things are not as nice as I would like to have them.  

I made cranberry jelly Wednesday.  
Tomorrow I will make the puddings, the cake Monday,
a quick fruitcake on Tuesday.  
Stella is making me some nice mince pies,
cookies, and doughnuts,
so don’t bother to bring any.
There doesn’t seem to be anything else that I can think of. 
There are two places in the dining room that we could put a couch
if you would like to be by the heat.  
It’s below zero tonight,
and the first time I have had the furnace on all day.  
I have been paying about $10 - $15 a month for oil, 
a lot different from Margarettesville.

With love,

So many changes have occurred since then.
No more doctors making house calls 
nor hanging bedding out to dry on the clothesline in the winter.
No doubling up and sharing beds.

No trace of the Robinson's home just a dash away,
only warm memories of childhood fun 
with their younger son Wayne, my brother, and me
all over the woods, the pastures, and the shore. 

Drivers still take people to and from Halifax,
but guaranteed not for $10 round trip;
and the newer Trans-Canada Highway is much faster
than the torturous old road that wound 
through endless villages and towns in the Annapolis Valley.

The Dominion Atlantic Railway train 
and the Bear River Station are long gone,
and the Bear River Railroad Bridge (photo) came down in 2012.
My grandfather Jack MacDonald helped build that bridge (photo);
it's the reason I'm here.
He'd dive off the bridge to retrieve dropped tools
and then get time off to court my grandmother.

Ella and Jack
Young and In Love
circa 1912
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Now Grammie's house, the house that Jack built,
faces the demolition dozers in two months.

The House That Jack Built
It sheltered my family many times over the years.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Sometimes the most ordinary words in an everyday letter
flood me with bittersweet memories,
especially of those I love who are gone.

Every family has its stories,
and I believe those stories are important.
Is someone in your family saving yours?
I hope so!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Beautiful Cove on Long island,
in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Back into Circulation

TLL: Grounded Planes and Real Coffee

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada

Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

Thursday, March 3, 2016

IWSG: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 Staring Down the Big 66!

It's the first Wednesday 
of the month ~ 
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and offer their encouragement
and support to other members.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are stepping up to help IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are:
Lauren HennessyLisa Buie-CollardLidyChristine Rainsand Mary Aalgarrd.

I hope you have a chance to visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!
~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Happy March to all the IWSG members making the rounds today!
I really appreciate when you visit my blog.

On February's IWSG Day 
I posted about crashing and burning.
It was all downhill from there.

I flamed out in the following weeks,
disappearing completely from the Online World.
I hit a wall.

Not on the horizon, 
not approaching,
but very close
appeared a big 66!

The Big 66 Approaches

I knew that I'd be turning 66 in March, no big deal;
but then I chanced to read in AARP 
that people turning 50 could anticipate living until 80.

Then it slammed me:
66 is more than half way to 80!

Down into the depths of depression I spiraled.
What on Earth was I thinking?
Who was I kidding?
Me, write a book?
I was practically in my grave!

No more happy talk.
No more Ms Tickety-Boo.
I was in a beat-me-up black place.

I wallowed for days,
and then I fought my way back
in a whirlwind of cleaning, pitching, and organizing
that went on for weeks.

I didn't write ~ heck, I didn't think.
I went through the motions of daily living
as I turned everything upside down and inside out.

And then a few days ago, I leg-pressed my personal best
at the end of some undulating sets of reps.
My trainer Julie slipped some extra pounds on the weights
without my noticing, and Bam!
I pressed 315 pounds four times.
When she told me, I jumped around the gym fist pumping.

She said not many women my size could do that.
I said, "You mean age."
She said, "No, I mean size; but definitely not your age either."

Well damn! I thought.  There's life in the Old Girl yet!
Goodbye black clouds of despair!
Hello sunny skies!

I stared down 66.
Back to writing again.
Back to blogging again.
Back to photography again.

Yesterday we flew from Denver, 
via Salt Lake City, to Honolulu.

Flying past Diamond Head 
Honohulu, Hawaii
March 1, 2016

We haven't been here 24 hours,
but Terry has already connected with 
the Diamond Head pickleball players.
He played for three hours, and now he's taking a nap.

Someone Wants to Play!
Diamond Head Pickleball Court
Honolulu, Hawaii

Meanwhile I walked for five miles 
reconnecting with favorite spots
and checking out a fabulous bakery 
with amazing cream cheese scones.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday ...
Terry will be pounding the pickball court and napping.
I'm going to have lots of time to write!

We're happily checked into the Royal Grove
for the next five weeks!

And for that big birthday racing toward me,
Terry's taking me to Waikiki's other pink hotel,
the Royal Hawaiian, for a birthday slice
of my favorite Pink Haupia Coconut Cake
washed down with ridiculously expensive mai tais
at The Original Mai Tai Bar.
I'm feeling much better mentally!

Happy writing to each of you!

 Sunset on Waikiki