Friday, April 29, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Disappointing News

Letters were flying back and forth among my family
members as 1960 turned into 1961.

My mother and father were each struggling with loneliness
and with isolation.
Dad may have been cut off from the Outside by seemingly 
endless miles of muskeg, frozen water, and scraggily forest,
but Mom was isolated by a lack of transportation 
and two young children always at home.

And while my father was fighting to get weight off,
my mother was struggling to get weight on.

Guess whose genes I inherited?
Not those of my tall, slender mother with long graceful legs,
the mother who could have been a model in New York City,
but gave it all up for a chance to be the first person
in her family to go to university.

Easier, Honeymoon Days
Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia
September 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Dad's mother, Nana, had spent Christmas with us in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.
Just a few days after she returned to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 
my mother received very disappointing news from my father
which she passed on to her mother-in-law in this letter.

Friday, January 6, 1961 
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law, Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
I promised you a letter, but I have been so tired from Christmas 
and the dentist that I have found it hard to settle down and write.  
It is wonderful to have it quieter during the day.  
The baby is back to normal now.

I received a letter from Don today.  
Mr. Foss wrote and said he didn’t think Don could get the Forestry shack 
because there is a large survey gang moving in in the spring.  

However Don doesn’t sound discouraged for Mr. Foss said 
they have approved plans for a three-bedroom house for us.  
Also his pay is being straightened out.  
So all in all he sounds very happy about things.

I was very disappointed, but on the other hand, now that Christmas is over,
I’m going to put on some weight and get some rest.  

The Dining Room and Living Room Today
in the Home We Lived in in January 1961
Our Grandmother's Home, Now Owned by  My Sister Bertie and Her Husband Peter
My mother wrote many of her letters in this room.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

With Muriel to help me it should give me a chance 
to go up to Aunt Nan’s and get away from the house for a while.
This should give me a good rest.

The children are all fine and happy to be back at school.  
Louise and Roy both won prizes for giving the best speeches in their classes.

I thought you would like to hear about our change in plans, 
and now I think I will close and get to bed.
With love,

P.S.  Don’s Christmas letter arrived today, Saturday.  
Am mailing it to you.

Just when they thought they might get together up North,
my parents' hopes were dashed 
with the unavailability of the forestry shack.
It was looking like many more months would pass
before we would all be together in Lansdowne House.

And that speech I gave that won a prize?
No one suspected what trouble a ten-year old could cause,
starting with a brief speech
about the starving Indians of Lansdowne House.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

Patiently Waiting in Smith's Cove
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Wintery Lansdowne House
Painting by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


  1. Oh my, a speech at such a young age.. and your way with words has stayed with you.Yes, we know so little of the sacrifices our parents made, and yours made huge ones. Photos, what treasures to have.My Dad had limited education, too far and no money to send him to high school, but he went on to be Secretary of school committees, clubs, became a judge at calf club days, then positions at the bowling club, boat club, and was so good at writing up minutes, letters, and a poem for every special occasion. My Mum was equally good with words too. So no wonder my comments run away with more words than probably 90% of your blog readers!!!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jean! That was the beginning of my long history of public speaking and debating. Although I was shy, if I were passionate about a topic, my passion would overcome my fear of standing up on a stage and opening my mouth. I already had heard about Mom's family listening to powerful speeches by Churchill, even Hitler, on the radio in Grammie's house during WW2, so I knew that words were powerful. But my first speech in Smith's Cove taught me that ordinary people like me could move people emotionally with the spoken word.

      At nine I was already a flaming idealist, having discovered that the world was cruel, unjust, and dangerous beyond my peaceful horizons. My mother's job in the air force during WW2 was typing letters to families of Canadians who had been killed; she typed more than one letter to families in the Cove during her service. And because she was so isolated, my mother talked to me. She found "The Diary of Anne Frank" somehow and gave it to me to read. She talked to me about all kinds of injustices in the world from how the lack of health insurance could devastate a family, to the ugliness of prejudice against the people in the Cove who were of German ancestry, to the ovens of Auschwitz.

      It was unjust that your father could not attend high school, because he was obviously an intelligent man who hungered to contribute and who had to have self-educated himself a lot to accomplish all that he did. He was like Mom's mother; we were living in her house because she was working as a paid companion and "nurse" to sick rich people in New York City. Her lack of education was a hurdle she overcame in her own way. People like your father and my grandmother did the best they could to make a living and to support their families, to make things better for their children and grandchildren. And of course I remember how your mother excelled in her studies. Your comments are well-written and always interesting, encouraging, and appreciated!

      We're at the beginning of another snow storm today, expecting 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 centimeters) of heavy wet snow. Oh Lord, it is wonderful to be retired and not have to go out onto the roads which were icy before the snow began to fall.

      Have a wonderful weekend with Hugh! Sending head scratches or favorite pats to the kitties. Take care!

  2. Another great installment. I could feel the hope, then the discouragement. There is nothing worse than being separated from family.


    1. Thanks, Teresa! My mother was disappointed on many levels that I didn't understand as a child. I was disappointed because I longed to experience the romance and adventure of the North. A six or seven month postponement in my nine-year old life seemed like an eternity. Have a great weekend!

  3. I enjoyed seeing the photo of your 1961 home. I've never understood people who struggle to put on weight. Never been a problem for me!

    1. Thanks, Debra! I had to hunt around to find that photo. You have know idea how many photos I have! Grammie's house is coming down in May, and over the last couple of summers I've been trying to get photos of every nook and cranny. It's very hard for me to accept that I will never walk inside those loving walls again. It was not just a house, it was loving arms wrapped around me.

      I'm with you, Debra! I have always had to fight weight. Not one of we four girls inherited my mother's legs. Nope, we got the MacBeath "thunder thighs." It's taken me decades to accept that big thighs can be powerful thighs, and strong, powerful legs are a wonderful asset, especially as the decades mount up. Have a great weekend with your Rare One! btw, I'm going to see Ron and Jim in August!!! Can't wait!

  4. How often do people say they have to gain weight after Christmas?
    Bummer there was a delay. But getting a house rather than a shack sounds better.

    1. Not me for sure,Alex! I wish I had that problem! My mother struggled to keep weight on her entire life, and she could eat like a horse! A "house" in the North was often a euphemism for what was really a "shack." But the housing for white people was far superior to the housing for Indians. The conditions under which Indians were living was appalling, and 50+ years hasn't improved things much. Enjoy your weekend, Alex!

  5. This post really touched me deeply...well, I have no family. So I really understand the pain of being separated from family. Your photos are lovely and I love that dining room, Louise!

    1. Thanks you, Linda. I am sorry that your understanding runs so deep. I miss my parents keenly every day, but I have my siblings and the nexgen. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be alone; and yet, you reach out and inspire so many people. You have a kind and generous heart, Linda, and your Peaceful Place spreads joy and hope around the world. Sending you big hugs and much love!

  6. Oh I love so much hearing about your family. And wow, how amazing you could give such a speech at 10!!

    1. Thank you, Kezzie! You've continued to visit my blog and comment, even as I have not gotten back to yours. My life has been in such ups and downs and turmoils, but I will get round to you. btw, Terry and I will be passing through England later this spring; maybe we can cross paths somehow. I would love that!

  7. Hi Fundy, I loved this post! I too cannot figure out why none of us got Mom's legs! But I am thankful every day that I did not get her health issues - so I am happy with my genetic gifts such as they are. I too can't beleive I will never walk through Grammie's house again or curl up on the couch with a good book. I laugh when I think of the hornet's nest your little speech caused. Hugs sister Barb

    1. Hugs, Barb! I hope you are feeling a little better! I'm so sorry that you have gotten the crud that I had! It was miserable.

      Another day, another snow storm here. I am counting on getting to Parkway tonight. I haven't been there since February 26th. That must be some kind a record! You know I've been sick when I haven't been able to go to Parkway for three Fridays in a row, let alone any other day!

      I finally caught Bertie on the phone today, and we had a good chat. She told me that Grammie's house is coming down in early June; the demolition has been pushed back from May. She also told me that they were going to salvage what beach rocks they could from the foundation and use them in the fireplace. That made my heart sing! I imagine our grandfather collected those rocks from the shore just like Uncle Cecil did when he and Aunt Nan built their house. She is very sad that it has to come down, but she is excited about building their new home. She doesn't know when she's going to Nova Scotia other than late July - no plane tickets yet. She's looking forward to meeting Ron and Jim. btw, she and Peter are planning to stay with you, in case you don't know: Haha!

      I really struggled with this post last night. I kept thinking, no one will find this letter interesting. I had already typed and rejected one that Dad had written to Nana that was mostly about losing weight. But next week it's back to Dad's Lansdowne Letters with a long one. And I sure as heck didn't want to start typing that last night, after already transcribing two letters and trying to make them work as posts.. And I couldn't find fresh photos anywhere. I'm mostly making my own maps now. I was tearing my hear out, but I plodded on. I'm always so grateful (and surprised!) when people like my posts. You know the Double Arches watercolor that Mom did for me, with all the tears and hair pulling? Well, that's me with many of these posts. They do not come easily!

      When are you going to start writing again??? Donnie seems to be the only one among we five who does not have the writing bug.

      Feel better! Love you! XOXOX!

  8. Delays sure suck when you are all prepared and hope to be together and then poof, sorry, have to wait a little longer haha ugg says the cat. Hey, needing to get weight on isn't that bad, unless one is so thin they may break haha.

  9. I'm sure you had that gift of good speeches then as well as you can tell a good story now. I am rooting for your family to reunite...even though I know already that you will.

  10. Hello Fundy,
    Reading all of this makes me feel like I am looking through a lens into another family's life, and I think of my own family's experiences and finally the life each one of us and how short it is. An unstoppable kaleidoscope with highs and down, joys and pains, hopes and disappointments... And all of a sudden it all ends, a loved one disappears and your life goes down the drain only to leave place to the next generation like a rolling ball that never stops.
    Sometimes you think you've got answers but most of the time you wonder what it is all about, what purpose our lives serve...
    Ok, sorry, I feel blue again, it is raining!!!! :)
    Many thanks for your kind words again Louise, I wish you a great weekend,
    warm hugs from France :)

  11. I can only imagine the disappoint you all had, Louise. That was a very long time to wait!!
    How fortunate to still have your grandmother's home in the family. Must really feel like 'being home' when you all are there.
    Your mother was a beautiful woman and she started Acadia the year I was born.....1948 was a very good year!! lol
    Have a wonderful week.

  12. The home is beautiful and I love the artwork. The pain of being separated can be tough on a young family. I've said it before. This is a wonderful blog and a wonderful story. My family of seven camped in Nova Scotia for vacation one time. It is a fascinating place, and we only saw a small part. All the best, my dear. Thanks for sharing these letters with your readers.

  13. wow the house is gorgeous ! really nice! i've never been to nova scotia but i'd love too! =)
    loved you blog! i'm following you! :) please hop on my blog and if you like it, follow me too!!


  14. Beautiful house--I wonder what it would be like living in northern Ontario in the 60s (it would be isolated today, but more so then)

  15. This is my first peak into this personal history. What a nice way to share it with readers.


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