Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Keepers and Burners

Readers of my northern posts sometimes remark on 
how many letters I have from my past; 
but I often think about how many are lost.

My "Nana" Myrtle Pratt MacBeath 
was an inveterate letter saver, as am I.
It's because of her that I have so many letters preserved.

The  New Mrs. Myrtle MacBeath
Royal Stewart and Myrtle Jane Pratt MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My "Grammie" Ella Cossaboom MacDonald
burned just about every piece of paper that came to her.
I can see her still, standing by an old oil drum
at the edge of her field in Smith's Cove,
feeding letters, newspapers, and receipts to the hungry flames.
I'm sure that she used that quiet time to mull over 
her day and the lives of her children and grandchildren.

Grammie with My Brother and Me
In Her Backyard
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Circa1952
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Dad, too, had the burning habit,
and I know that many letters from Mom, Roy, me, and others
started wood fires in Dad and Uno's cantankerous stove.
In a few letters I have, both Dad and Nana exhort each other
to burn certain private letters.
Boy, I'd like to get my hands on some of those!

Flickr:  Sarah Wynne   License

My mother wrote letters constantly,
but many of hers vanished into flames.
Thank goodness for Nana,
or I would have hardly any of Mom's from this time.

Thursday, January 26, 1961 
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law, Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
Another week has gone, and I must get a line off to you.  
I went to the hospital Tuesday for the B.M.R.
(basal metabolic rate) and arrived home Wednesday.
I won’t know for a while what the result of the B.M.R. is,
but I imagine it is all right.

The children have had colds this week; the weather changed so quickly.
I am not sending them to school until Monday.
It has been so cold outside, the worst we’ve had this winter.
The children are fine now.  Their colds weren’t much.

Don has been writing.  He seems to be very contented with his work.
I have been packing dishes and summer clothes in case we leave.
Mostly though, I have been washing.
It’s a big problem without the dryer.

Uncle Cecil drops in to see how we are.
Grammy and Aunt Nan have both had colds.
Also Mary Lou and David.  I guess it's on the go.

Louise is already talking about her birthday, and of course, Valentine’s Day.
She talked the school Red Cross into collecting clothes
for the Indians and sending them to the Red Cross.
The Red Cross evidently will send them wherever they request.

I must close now and write to Don.
With Love,

A Rare Photo of My Mother 
on Lake Attawapiskat
Near Lansdowne House, 1961
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I don't know how my mother did it: 
five kids, ten and under, down with colds,
drying clothes outside in the winter air 
on a clothesline that ran to an old apple tree,
packing for a move she wasn't sure we'd make,
squeezing in an overnight hospital stay for a test,
no car, and a daughter crazy for parties and Valentines.

Thank goodness for my Great Uncle Cecil,
who was hoofing it up and down the road checking on
his mother-in-law, Sara Cossaboom,
and his niece, Sara MacBeath,
not to mention caring for his own wife, Nan,
and looking in on his daughter-in-law
Mary Lou and his nephew David.

Meanwhile Kelsey, Mary Lou's husband,
the one person in the bunch with a car,
was keeping four households going 
with grocery and medicine runs
and taking my mother to and from the hospital.
I miss those times of multiple generations
close by and helping each other out.

As for my Red Cross project ~
Never under estimate the power of a ten-year-old idealist!!!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Kelsey and I
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
on the Annapolis Basin
off the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Basal Metabolic Rate: 
     The B.M.R. is the amount of energy needed to support the body’s most basic functions to stay
     alive.  The test is meant to be performed when a person is at rest in a neutral, or non-stressful,
     environment.  That likely explains why Mom spent the night in the hospital.  One thing the test
     measures is the status of the thyroid, always a concern for my mother who had Graves Disease.

2.  Smith's Cove People: 
     Grammy:  My great grandmother, Sara Cossaboom
     Aunt Nan:  My grandmother Ella's sister (both were daughters of Sara Cossaboom)
     Uncle Cecil:  My Great Aunt Nan's husband; my substitute grandfather, since mine had died.
     Mary Lou:  My "aunt" who was married to Nan and Cecil's only surviving child, Kelsey.
     David:  My cousin, son of Mary Lou and Kelsey.  I adored my "Uncle" Kelsey.

My Great Grandmother, Sara Cossaboom
In Her Backyard with Sweet Peas Running Amok 
Smith's Cove, NovaScotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Canada   Wikimedia

Location of Smith's Cove

Smith's Cove on the Annapolis Basin

Lansdowne House, Now Neskantaga 
Northern Ontario, Canada


  1. Louise, you truly are blessed! I have absolutely no letters from my parents...none at all, not even one. They didn't write much and were mostly together until I was 9 when they separated. I love all your photos here and much of what you are sharing here brings back childhood memories for me.

    1. I am blessed, Linda! And I'm grateful for my blessings! It makes me happy to know that my letters and photos bring back childhood memories for you! As I get older, those memories become more and more precious. I'm guessing it's the same for you! Have a great weekend, my cherished Montreal friend! Sending lots of love!

  2. It's it amazing how people got by with so little back then? Now every household has multiple cars.
    You were a generous ten-year-old.

    1. Hi, Alex! We certainly don't need all the things we have these days. Right now we're living in a tiny, spartan hotel suite and without a car ~ although the living space is littered with technology. That's something that I would have a hard time giving up. I can't believe the pleasure I get from photography and writing ~ all made so much easier and more creative by technology. Give me a cup of coffee and my computer and I can play for hours!

      As for generous ten-year-old, I had discoverd injustice in the world, and it really impacted me. At the same time I was reading and sharing my father's northern letters, I was also reading Anne Frank's diary and finding out everything I could about what happened with the concentration camps in WW2. Sometimes, even a ten-year-old is compelled to action. Have a great weekend!

  3. Lovely photos☺ I like the idea of saving letters ♥

    1. What a nice surprise find your comment this morning, Summer! I'm glad that you enjoyed my photos. Thanks for visiting!

  4. "With sweet peas running amok!!' LOL Just struck me funny!!
    Sweet peas were the rage back then and well into 70's and 80's. At least around here in Nova Scotia.
    Good to hear from your mother. I agree, Louise, how did she ever do it!? I have come to the conclusion that mothers just do it! They are 'built' to do it.
    Once an idealist always an idealist....that is good!

    1. I'm glad to see that you are back to your usual self, Jim! Great Grammy's sweet peas were definitely out of control. All my family's gardens had sweet peas because everyone loved their happy colors and lovely fragrance. Somewhere in an alternate universe and alternate me lives in Smith's Cove and is growing sweet peas. That thought comforts me, since it ain't gonna happen in this Louise's life! LOL

      I will die a flaming idealist. I can't stop tilting against windmills! LOL
      Have an awesome weekend, my dear friend!
      btw, I was happy to see Ron post!
      Take care, you two!

  5. Some of the burn after reading letters would be neat to read indeed for you. People sure did what they had to do back then, now they just whine about it.

    1. There wasn't time to whine back then! LOL We've gotten soft since then ~ rhetorical we! Have a good one, my creative friend!

  6. Your Mum ,as was your Dad, a real "battler" as the word we sometimes use down here. yes, the washing and getting clothes dry would be the main worry in your winter, and no modern washer to spin them out so well. How did she manage? Love your photos and today's story.

    1. Thanks, Jean! I'm really glad that you enjoyed today's post! "Battler" is a great word. I guess well all do what we have to when challenged. I caught up on your post yesterday, but I was having trouble commenting. So, I'll be right over to see what happened. Take care!

  7. Such memories your blog conjures up for me! Today, I especially was reminded of my grandmother when I saw that photo of your great grandmother wearing that buttoned-up dress with a belt and sweater--that must have been the style at that time and not particularly flattering. Those ladies would turn over in their graves if they saw what some of the women are wearing today. LOL

    1. How lovely to hear from you, Susan! and you're right ~ These ladies would turn over in their graves. My great grandmother often disapproved of what I was wearing and doing. I think of her almost every time I work out because she would consider it so unlady-like! LOL Have a great weekend ~ We have the royals tomorrow!

  8. I can see them burning papers and the flames eating them up. You told that well.

    Thanks for your excellent question earlier. I would love to see you do an Ask Me Anything. I promise you, it is fun.

    1. Thanks, Happy Whisk! I'm thinking about the Ask Me Anything! maybe I could blog faster with something like that! I am so slow!

    2. You had a wonderful question and if you need any addtional help, my email is on the side of my blog.

      Are you thinking about doing an Ask Me Anything, post here?

  9. my hubby is also a letter keeper he has our love letters before marriage and i have his when we are away or angry we read those and feel blessed that we have each other

    1. Hi, Baili! How lovely to find your comment this morning. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I think it's very sweet that you and your husband read your love letters when you are apart or angry. It's always good to remember why you love each other during trying times.

      I don't have any letters from my husband because we have rarely been apart ~ just some emails that I have saved. But we've exchanged a lot of greeting cards over the decades of our marriage, and we both enjoy rereading those. We feel blessed to have each other too.

      I read your most recent post when Robin and Sara decide to go to Karachi together. It was beautifully written, and I must go back to your previous posts and read the story from the beginning. It was fascinating to see a different place and culture through your eyes. I think connecting with others around the world is an important key to peace and understanding in our beautiful world. Have a great weekend!

  10. It's too bad about those lost letters but thankfully some were saved. They are such treasures. What tough times your family went through, and what a hardy bunch they were! I love that you did that with the Red Cross! We're never too old or too young to do something good!

    1. Happy Saturday morning, Martha! I hope that you and TMAMITW have fun plans! We're contemplating waiting at the BC parliamentary buildings for a glimpse of William and Kate late this afternoon. Is is really worth it???

      It's funny, but I didn't realize until I was an adult that we had some tough times growing up. It's the way life was, and I just accepted it as a kid. It was tougher for many others around us, and our parents protected us from a lot of their worries.

      I had a number of kiddos over the years who were passionate about certain causes, even at eight or nine. They could make a real contribution and did so. And our nieces and nephews have been inspiring to watch growing up; they were often volunteering and raising money for charities starting at a young age.

      Regular people doing kind things can multiply around the world and add up to great things.
      Enjoy your weekend! Sending you a big hug!

  11. Once upon a time even I was a inveterate letter collector/saver. Then I gave up that habit. Nowadays no one writes letters or even sends cards, its all by email nowadays.

    1. Hi, Rachna! I'm afraid that I will never be able to give up my letter saving. The letters make me feel very close to loved ones who are gone, although it is bittersweet to read them sometimes. It's sad that people no longer write letters, even cards. We're all so busy, and emails are so convenient. I recently wrote a letter to a close friend, and it felt strange to be writing in cursive ~ my hand got tired! LOL

      Have a great weekend!

  12. How very precious are those saved letters. It gives you such a glimpse into your father's life that you would have never realized without them. My husband and I communicated while he was in the Navy. I threw away the letters but he saved every one. The ramblings of a college girl aren't near as interesting as your father's but fun to read.

    1. Hi, Peggy! Sorry I'm responding just now. My sister Donnie, her husband and daughter + the daughter of another sister of mine came to Victoria to visit us. We have been on the go many hours a day. My college girl ramblings are pretty sad too, but mostly I rambled in my journals. You might feel, looking back, that they weren't so rambling. I'm a little kinder to my younger self! How sweet that Don saved your letters! Have a great day!

  13. It was such a different way of life, a different era. It's amazing to me how quickly times change from one generation to the next.


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