Friday, July 8, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Friday the Thirteenth

I have to smile when I remember how superstitious
my intelligent and well-educated father was.

My earliest memories of him date from when he served
in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

At that time my father was a towering, almost godlike, presence in my life,
with his huge size, his parade marshal voice, and marksman skills.

I was in awe of him when we spent Saturday mornings
at the indoor firing range at Alexandra Point Range,
or sometimes even the outdoor shooting range near Tea Hill.

I used to love picking up bullet shells from the floor of the indoor range for him,
something really cool that none of my friends ever got to do
and way more fun than the ballet lessons I had to attend
before going to the range with him.

Big Soldier ~ Kitche Shemaganish
(The Nickname the Ojibwa People Gave My Father in Lansdowne House)
Most Likely Prince Edward Island, Circa:  1952
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

It wasn't until a few years later that I began to feel the 
the incongruity between his size, intelligence, and education
and some of his superstitions,
like his dislike of broken mirrors or walking under ladders,
of black cats crossing his path and Friday the Thirteenth.

He spooked easily, and I have many memories of him
peeking through his fingers at scary shows on television.
The intensity was simply too much for his sensitive nature.
And guaranteed, you wouldn't have caught him whistling past a graveyard!

I suspect he sensed things that no big strong man of that time would have admitted to.

So I smile whenever I read the opening of this letter
and I remember fondly all his Friday the Thirteenth admonishments
to be extra careful and to watch out for black cats and ladders,
and for God's sake, not to break a mirror!
The amusing thing was he was serious! 

On Friday, January 13, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There, Everyone:
Today was a bad day to get up, and to put it in the words
of that unknown Brooklynite, "I should have stood in bed."  

However I guess as Friday the Thirteenth goes,
this wasn't the worst or the best that I have spent.

We held a health clinic in my school today
and inoculated over one hundred Indians of all ages
against a variety of communicable diseases.

Needles!  Nobody Wants One!
This is a four-year old child in the Philippines receiving a measles vaccination.

I was there all day helping Mike check the records
to determine just who had had what.  

Gorsh, but I had a rip snorter of a headache before the whole thing was over.
I don't think that I have ever heard such a variety of cries
as I heard from the Indian children that day.
They cried in every pitch from A sharp to G minor,
or whatever the two extremes of the scale are.

Bill Guinn, one of the pilots for Austin Airways, was in all night,
and we spent the evening playing pool over at the hall.

Playing Pool

Bill is from Cape Breton, so Bill and I
represented the Maritimes against the world.  
The world did much better than the Maritimes,
as neither Bill or myself is too good at pool.  

We had a good night though.
Bill slaughtered me at checkers several times,
and I took the Brother's measure at chess twice.
I also took Duncan to the cleaners twice at chess.

The Battleground!

Maureen and Baby Duncan are back from Winnipeg,
after having the cyst removed from the baby's neck.
It wasn't a dangerous type of cyst.

They may have taken the cyst from his neck,
but they sure didn't take any of the devilment from his makeup.
He is still as full of hell as ever.

A Bundle of Devilment on the Lam from Uno
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

I'll sure be glad when Sara finally gets that cottonpickin' typewriter up to me.  
Uno is starting to do more typing, and it is not always to easy to get at the machine.
I shouldn't complain too much though, because I really have used it much more than him.

Things are going better than ever in school these days.
My campaign to get the Indian children to speak
more English seems finally to be bearing fruit.
They actually use English occasionally when talking among themselves.

A Teacher Ahead of His Time
with Flexible, Changeable Seating
and Activities to Promote Conversation
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

Making It Fun ~ Bobbing for Apples and Conversation
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

Because of the unaccustomed social activity,
and because of the strenuous week I put in (Foss),
I think I'll call it a day and pack her up.

Bye for now,
Love, Don.

Dad with Brother Bernier
on Another Social Evening in the Mission Kitchen
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I don't share many of my father's superstitions;
in fact I make a point of walking under ladders
and crossing paths with black cats.

My only worries about mirrors are all those wrinkles
that are increasingly reflected back at me,
and Friday the Thirteenth is usually a great day for me.

But I peek through my fingers at scary shows,
and you won't catch me whistling past a graveyard either!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

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


1.  Alexandra Point Range and Tea Hill:  
      I can't be positive that it was the indoor firing range at Alexandra Point Range Military Base
      that my father and I went to weekly.  However, it's my best guess, because that's where
      the army trained shooters and my dad was a marksman and shooting instructor on Saturdays.
      I am certain about the outdoor range near Tea Hill, because I clearly remember Tea Hill and
      have vivid memories of lying prone in the grass next to my father as he shot his rifle and
      of "army crawling" with him from position to position to shoot.  Bet that wouldn't happen now!

2.  Mike Flaherty:
     Mike was the nurse at the nursing station in Lansdowne House.  He provided basic medical
     services for the white and Ojibwa people who lived in the community.  He was also responsible
     for assessing the health of the Indians and for carrying out government health programs such as
     inoculating them against infectious diseases.  The health clinics were usually held in my father's
     and Uno's schools.

3.  The Hall:  
     The Hall was located in the Roman Catholic mission on the Father's Island.  Father Ouimet
     showed movies there on Saturday nights and sometimes on Wednesday nights too ~ providing
     the films arrived on the mail plane.  I don't remember pool tables, but obviously there was at
     least one.

4.  Brother Raoul Bernier:
     Brother Bernier was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.
     Father Ouimet was a priest in the same congregation.

5.  Duncan and Maureen McRae:  
     Duncan worked for the Department of Transport, and one of his duties was running the weather
     station in Lansdowne House.  He and Maureen were the parents of Baby Duncan.

6.  Uno Manilla:  
     Uno was the teacher at the Roman Catholic Day School at the mission.
     He shared a two-room shack with my father.
     Although Dad didn't mention it, Uno did return to Lansdowne House to finish the school year.

7.   Mr. F. Foss:  
      Mr. Foss was the Indian Schools Inspector.  Earlier that week he spent a day observing my father
      in his school and another day observing Uno in his.  It was a stressful time for both Uno
      and my father.  Mr. Foss would visit each of his various schools two or three times a year.
      Mr. Foss was stranded in Lansdowne House by bad flying weather for an extra day.  He
      probably spent both nights as Father Ouimet's guest, which meant he also shared his meals with
      Dad and Uno.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario

Location of the Maritimes
New Brunswick (Orange), Prince Edward Island (Pink), Nova Scotia (Red)
Note:  Cape Breton is the Island Part of Nova Scotia, Located to the NE of the Peninsula Part.
Flickr:  Opus Penguin   License

Location of Charlottetown, P.E.I.


  1. Wow, Louise, I see some similarities between your father and my own father in this post! It really resonates with me. Thank you so much for sharing. I am referring to his spooking easily. My father was not superstitious, though, but I remember on a few occasions when there would be a loud noise it would spook him. Probably memories of his prisoner of war days.

    1. Happy Friday Morning, Linda! Thank you for sharing about your father. My heart goes out to him and to all people who have endured being prisoners of war. I have known several and have listened to what they were willing to share. I have known people, too, who have survived being shot down in a plane or having their ship sink in the Pacific, and heard what they were willing to share. Some of these vets were, as we used to say, "shell-shocked." Today we refer to this as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and fortunately our understanding of PTSD is more compassionate now and treatment options are better today than they were in the past. I have tremendous respect for people who served our countries in the forces.

      I try not to say political things on-line, but I have to remark that among all the appalling things that Donald Trump has said during his campaigning, his words about John McCain were a gut punch:
      "He (McCain) is not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." When I heard that and instantly thought of all the true and quiet heroes who honorably served our countries, who were injured, imprisoned, and killed, or plain served, it was all I could do not to vomit on the kitchen floor. Not that that was the most appalling thing that Trump has said, but it hit me hard because of the impact service has had on my extended family and friends. (My first husband was a Vietnam era veteran, paralyzed in a stateside accident, when he was on active wartime duty about to go to Vietnam).

      So, the thought of all your father endured, hidden in your brief reference of his POW days, make my heart connect with him. We must never forget the bravery of such people.

      Have a lovely weekend, dear Linda! You are such a special friend!

  2. I love maps too, and often Google an area, and see the nearby places, or the contours, and I so like yours every time. Your Dad, I guess he had reason to be as he was, and up there, maybe more reasons to look for anything spooky. Even now as an aged adult ( sounds better than over 75) I am not a fan of thunder or lightning at all. Ladders I avoid, and Friday 13th, that doesn't worry me,now or ever.What treasures all your Dad's photos are.

    1. LOL! "Aged adult!" I have entered those years, too, Jean, although I'm a little behind you. You and I are separated in age by the same amount of time as myself and my youngest sibling, Bertie. I'm 66.

      I keep trying to find a description that doesn't feel like "crone." I've never quite gotten past seeing Hans Baldung's "The Ages of Man and Death" in the Prado Museum in Madrid in 1972. It really hit me that, OMG, one day I'd be a crone! Now I chuckle, sort of, and remind myself that we "mature women" have more experience, judgement, and wisdom. And of course, I am trying to disrupt the woeful image that younger people in our western culture have of older people in my own small way.

      You are definitely not alone in your dislike of thunder and lightning. Many people and animals don't like them. I actually love thunder and lightning, although I know that lightning storms are dangerous and can be deadly. We have spectacular lightning storms in Colorado, and after 34 years of living here, they still fascinate me and thrill me.

      Thanks for your kind words about my father's photos. I'm in the process of cataloguing the hundreds and hundreds of photos I have from generations on both side of my family. It's daunting, but I'm slowly making progress!

      Have a lovely weekend in beautiful New Zealand! Hugs to you! I hope both you and Hugh are doing well!

    2. Hi Louise, although I am right now 75, in a few weeks will be 76!!! And photos, I really do need to look at and catalogue and name so many of my Dad's, he has some of his Mum, maybe about 1920's or so. Our weekend, a cold southerly, not quite sleeting, but drop a few degrees and it will be. A very good day to stay in and do some sewing. We are OK,Hugh not the best, but even after his spinal surgery, still has problems and always will, a result of a damaged sciatic nerve that was compressed beyond repair when surgery was left too late, But with us, 2 feet on the earth is good.

    3. Oh, Jean! I'm sorry to hear that Hugh is still dealing with a damaged sciatic nerve. It's always hard for me to think of people enduring pain, especially after seeing how my first husband suffered with pain that was incontrollable. Do catalog those photos! I am scratching my head and rubbing my eyes as I try to identify all these wonderful photos with no descriptions. It will mean a lot to those whom the photos come years down the road. Not quite sleeting ~ yuck! I dislike sleet more than anything! Thinking of you both and hoping you are warm and cozy!

  3. I think perhaps, your father had a keen sense of the spiritual world and that is what spooked him a bit. I understand this well. Superstitious or something a bit more. The unknown world can be intriguing yet, scary. Your father lived an amazing life and your words bring honor to his journey.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights, Truedessa! You are right, my father sensed the spiritual world, so much so, that he almost became a minister. There is no doubt in my mind that my father sensed "ghosts" or spirits, although he very rarely said anything about it. Actually a number of my extended family members have experienced things that are difficult to understand from a scientific point of view. I have a sister who has a "keen sense of the spiritual world" too. Me, I guess I'm a hopeful agnostic. It's hard for me to reconcile the scientific and the spiritual, but I do think we are very limited in our understanding of existence and consciousness, the universe, and anything beyond.

      It was great to see your comment, Truedessa. I don't get to your blog nearly enough, and I got such a kick out of the kind words Alex said to you in a recent post of his! Have a great weekend!

  4. If he was in the service, there's a chance he saw far scarier things. I won't walk under a ladder, but only because I don't want it to fall on me.

    1. Haha! Before I walk under a ladder, I do look up, Alex! My father missed serving in WWII. He was just young enough that he didn't get into the war. My mother, who was a year older did serve in the Air Force during the latter war, but in Canada, not overseas.

      I've seen the terrible toll war takes from those who have served, so I am grateful that my father did not have to endure war service. And also for my gentle second husband who has nothing of warrior in him. He was among those in the draft lottery in 1971, and fortunately his birthdate received a high number.

      Enjoy your weekend, Alex! I'm sure you are looking forward to it after a hectic IWSG Day. I'm almost through the IWSG anthology and have been enjoying it. What fun to read short stories written by IWSG members I know from blogging!

  5. I love superstitions! They are the remnants of pagan beliefs in our modern society, living examples of magical thinking. Of course, there are Christian superstitions too but they usually get called "religious beliefs" to exempt them from that category, LOL. Glad to hear Uno came back. I was worried.

    1. Hi, Debra! I find superstitions fascinating for the exact reason you stated, and it's fun to trace down where individual superstitions originated. I didn't understand, on a visceral level, how related Christian beliefs and earlier religious beliefs were until I saw a sculpture in an exhibit on the Quest for immortality in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science about a decade ago. The sculpture was called Osiris Rising, on loan for the exhibit from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It showed a mummy becoming Osiris at the moment of his rebirth, and it suddenly slammed me that the Osiris myth paralleled so much in the Christian beliefs about Christ and resurrection. I had such an overwhelming feeling of man's eternal yearning to understand the unknown, and also that the idea of resurrection wasn't new with Christ. Now I may have read that previously, likely had read it, but it didn't slam me until I saw that sculpture right in front of me. I don't know what it is about me and certain artifacts: some paintings, sculptures, tools, fabrics, mosaics, things people created with their hands can have a powerful and unforgettable emotional impact on me.

      On a lighter note, I was glad that Uno came back. My siblings and I had such fun with him while we were in Lansdowne House. He was a great guy.

  6. Getting that many inoculated sure must have brought about a fair share of cries haha can hurt when you're a kid. Don't think I've ever had anyone in my family believe in superstitions. Had a few go all religious beliefs a few times, guess they are more comfortable with it under that moniker.

    1. Can hurt when you're an adult, too, Pat! Haha! I've had way too many needles, so I've become more stoic about them, but they still hurt and I don't like getting them! I absolutely dread getting them in my mouth; those are the worst! I hope that you have a fun weekend, Pat!

  7. Dear Fundy,
    You always have lovely and fun comments on my blog!!
    Sorry I don't come as often as I would like on yours, but I am still very busy and dead tired...
    Superstition is one thing but perceiving what we call the supernatural is quite another. I guess it has all to do with the fact that we live in a 3D dense world and since many other dimensions are intertwined with it the most sensitive of us - such as your father - can well perceive real things difficult to explainable in our plane.
    Much love, Louise and take good care of yourself :)

    1. Much love back to you, Noushka! And don't worry about getting around to blogs! I totally get it! And please take care of yourself! You've had way too much on your shoulders! Hugs coming at you!

  8. Louise, your father sounds like a very interesting man. Love the humour in his eyes. I wonder if the war drew out his suspicions? I'm not even sure if my dad was suspicious. I believe in karma; maybe that's the same thing?

    1. Hi, Joylene! My dad did have a great sense of humor! I think he was superstitious from a very early age. Who knows what part karma played? I've been told by different people across decades and around the world about how my current life (and my father's) have been influenced by things that happened in our past lives. Always a surprising and fascinating topic for this agnostic! A big mystery for sure. Have a good one!

  9. I'm so jealous. I wish my father had been intelligent and well-educated. Or loving ;)

    Thanks for sharing, Fundy Blue.

    1. Thank you, BG! Your comment reminds me of how fortunate I was to have the parents I did. Not everyone has that start in life, as I well know from teaching in a poorer neighborhood throughout my career. And love is perhaps the most important of all.

      Education was always a big deal in our family. Dad came from parents who strongly believed in education; and my mother, who came from a poor family in Nova Scotia, was the first in her direct lines ever to go to university. One of their main goals was that all five of we children would graduate from university. They made huge sacrifices for that to happen, even when four of us were girls. Many people thought my parents were crazy to waste money on girls going to university. All of us have advanced degrees, and a great joy in each of our lives has been lifelong learning.

      Have a great day, and thank you for stopping by!

  10. What lovely, lovely memories!
    Your dad sounds like a wonderful man. Love that he was such a good teacher - and willing to have fun in the classroom. Not always easy to do in those years!!
    I was introduced to all kinds of superstitions growing up - and didn't realize they were superstitions for a long time. I thought everyone knocked on wood and was terrified of breaking mirrors!

    1. Hi, Jemi! Thank you for your very kind comment! I still knock on wood except I use my head for "wood." I enjoyed your Monday IWSG post so much!

  11. Years ago I worked for a doctor that was from Ireland. His mother was so superstitious that on Friday the 13th she had everyone in the house stay in bed all day. He was absolutely amazed as he grew up and immigrated to America that others didn't do that. He was always a bit skittish on the few Friday the 13ths that we had when I worked for him, but managed to keep on doing what he had to do.

    Your dad's experience as a teacher about the Indians certainly was an adventure I do believe.

    Thanks for visiting :)


    1. Thanks for sharing, Betty, and for your kind words! Wishing you a happy Friday!


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