Friday, October 14, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Ready to Go!

Neither my father or mother had much time for writing letters
as our departure for Lansdowne House approached in February, 1961.

My Parents at Acadia University
Pre-Five Children
Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, Circa 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Dad was busy teaching and preparing for our move
into the forestry department shack on the mainland,
and he had discontinued The Lansdowne Letter again
because Uno’s typewriter was not working well,
and he disliked using it too much.

He dashed off a long, hastilly-written letter to his mother
a little over a week before we were due to arrive up North.

Another Thursday, Another Deadline
Letters, Calendars, Tools of the Blogger's Trade
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Nana had decided to sell her apartment building
at the corner of Fitzroy and Edward streets
where she had lived for many years
in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  
Her plan was to move to southern Ontario and rent a place
in senior housing while my family lived in the remote North.

I'm not including the first part of the letter
which addresses my grandmother selling her house,
but I am sharing the latter part about our family.

My Grandmother MacBeath's Apartment Building
(We lived in the two-story apartment with the red and white door in the mid-1950s.)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

On Saturday, February 11, 1961
My Father wrote to his mother, Myrtle:

Dear Mother:
Well, the trip up here is all settled.
Sara is leaving Tuesday or Wednesday
and is arriving in Nakina on Monday, February 20, 
and will be flown directly in by Austin Airways.
She is laying over in Montreal for several days with her brother John.
I am quite excited and happy about being reunited once again with my family.

I am winning my battle of the bulge.
I am now down to 187 pounds, and my waist is 37 inches.
Some difference from 239 pounds and 41 inches, eh?

My problem now is that nothing fits me, except my shoes and hat.
Everything else just hangs on me.
Oh well, at least when Sara comes up,
she will be able to take in my pants for me.

Clothes Falling Off
My Father Standing Outside His Two-Room Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I don't know what I will be able to do about my coats.
Guess I'll just have to wear them big till I get outside
to a tailor and have them altered.

Perhaps it is just as well if I don't rush into altering all my clothes,
because this loss in weight may be temporary.
However, I am going to make a real effort to never let
my weight go above 190 pounds again.

I have revised my goal downwards.
At first I was going to be satisfied if I could get down to 200 pounds.
Then I thought 190 pounds would be good.
Then I set my goal for 185.

My ultimate goal is going to be 180 pounds.
At this weight I will actually be underweight,
but it would be nice to have a 10 pound margin to come and go on.

It is really amazing, Mother ~
even my shirt collars are too large for me now.
I could wear a size 14 1/2 shirt, certainly a 15,
instead of the 16 that I have been wearing for so long.

I am enclosing some pictures of myself,
and of Maureen, Duncan, and Duncan Junior.
The pictures of me on snowshoes were taken the day
I went with Duncan and Mike to take water samples around the peninsula.

I believe I wrote you about this adventure.
We walked between 4 and 6 miles ~ 
one mile through heavy bush when we crossed the peninsula.

Collecting Water Samples
Around the Peninsula
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

That picture of me coming out of the woods is very good.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the camera was unable to record the language
which just about then was eloquent to say the least.

Though you can't see it, I am towing a sleigh and am on snowshoes.
That cotton pickin' sleigh seemed to get stuck or hung up on every bush I passed.

Also, I lost my snowshoes once or twice.
You are really helpless without them,
because the snow in the woods is just about waist deep.

Maureen McRae Hauling Groceries
Roman Catholic Church and Dad and Uno's Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The temperature that day was just about 20-25 below, but I sweated gallons.
I happened to weigh myself before starting out,
and, out of curiosity, I decided to weigh myself when I got back.
I was three pounds lighter.
However, this weight loss was temporary,
and I gained back two pounds as soon as
I satisfied my thirst which was monumental.

The other pictures of me are taken at the door of the shack where I am,
(or by the time you receive this, was) living with Uno
and on the steps of the church.

Dad and Duncan McRae
Outside the Roman Catholic Church
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I still can't see why you can't come up and visit us at Lansdowne,
especially if we helped out with the costs.
I really think you would enjoy the place,
and the flight in would be an interesting adventure.
However, we won't settle this point now.

I wish though, that you didn't sound so discouraged or down in the lip
over the prospect of the children coming up here.
After all, it is not going to be forever, and, if it is at all possible,
I'll try to at least get Louise, and possibly Roy,
down to the Island for a while this summer;
and, I am almost certain that I will be down myself for a while,
unless my plans misfire dreadfully.

Well, I must sign off now.
I have a lot of work to do today.
It is wash day again
I want to have as few of my clothes as possible dirty when Sara arrives.
Beside it is at least three weeks since I have washed.

Bye now,
Love, Don

Duncan McRae on the Ice
Between the Father's Island and the Mainland (Peninsula)
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

P.S.  The Lansdowne Letter is again out of print due to typewriter difficulties.
Uno's machine is on the fritz again, and mine hasn't arrived yet.

Also, when Louise, Roy, and Donnie are with me,
I will initiate them into the good Lansdowne House custom
of Thursday night letter writing.
I'll make sure that they all write a letter to Nana on Thursday nights.

This has been quite a year for Charlottetown, hasn't it?
What with Prowse Brothers going out of business, S.A. also,
Henderson and Cudmore's expansion, and the Kennedy Affair.
I wouldn't be too surprised if I read the Bishop of Charlottetown turned Protestant.

I surely appreciate The Guardian.
It is the only newspaper I get,
and I read it from front to back ~ even the Classified ads.

Prowse Brothers
(Between Electrical Poles, Center)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Well, bye now,
Love, Don.

My Father Traveling in Snowshoes
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 20, 1961, 
a lot of people were waiting on that date!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Charlottetown's The Guardian newspaper 

2.  Duncan and Maureen McRae:
          Duncan, married to Maureen, worked for the Department of Transport,
          and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.
          They were the parents of young Duncan.

3.  Weight Conversions:  
        1  pounds =     4.5 kilograms
     187 pounds =   84.8 kilograms
     239 pounds = 108.4 kilograms

4.   Temperature Conversion:
     -20º F  = -28.8º C
     -25º F  = -31.6º C

5.  Distance Conversions:
     37 inches =   93.9 centimeters
     41 inches = 104.1 centimeters
     4 miles =  6.4 kilometers
     6 miles =  9.6 kilometers

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Canada's Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island   

Location of Smith's Cove
where Mom and We Five Were Living

Location of Lansdowne House
Where My Father Was Living
Northern Ontario, Canada


  1. I love this post and all the photos, Louise! Perhaps it may be just me, but I have noticed that most people address their mothers as "Mom" or "Mommy" and not so much "Mother", so I was delighted to see "Dear Mother" in your father's letter! Thank you so much for all your posts, I thoroughly enjoy them. Hope you had a great week, dear friend. Hugs.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I always appreciate your kind words and encouragement! You and the other regular commentators keep me going. Nothing like that Thursday night deadline. I've been traveling and working on our house so much, that I can't get ahead!

      Dad always referred to his mother as "Mother." But his mother-in-law; it was always "Mac."

      Have a lovely weekend ~ sending you hugs! I'm packing and traveling, so I won't get around to my blogging buddies' posts until I get home! Take care ~ sending you love and hugs!

  2. Amazing your father lost so much weight while he was there. Hope he was able to keep it off.
    I imagine trudging across the snow in snowshoes and towing a sled would be exhausting.

    1. Been there, done that, Alex, no fun (Well without the snowshoes)! I had to meet the mail plane each week with a toboggan to get our supplies. Well, I took the plunge and sent my fantasy story to my sisters and sister-in-law to check over ~ scary step I've never taken before ~ but I don't know where you get beta readers. LOL If it weren't for the IWSG's anthology contest, I would never have written a fantasy story or sent a story to others to check over. I am continually in awe of this wonderful group you started. Thank you!

  3. Can imagine losing ones snow shoes would be a pain in the butt. Good way to drop weight too. Beats any fad diet. Just move on up north.

    1. Hey, Pat! Where you're at! Losing a snowshoe is no fun. I've sunk to my waist before. LOL Have a great weekend ~ sounds like it is nice Down East right now. After a month of all things Canadian, weather, business, hockey, I'm returning to the USA where nothing exists beyond its northern border. Take care!

  4. The physical hardships that our parents' generation put up with just stagger me, looking back from our culture of convenience.

    1. It's something what they went through, and yet they had it easier than our grandparents. I could use some of those physical challenges after a month hitting Victoria's great restaurants and bars, let me tell you! Thanks for continuing to read my tale. Enjoy your weekend with your Rare One, Debra!

  5. More interesting insights... I am waiting to hear what you thought of the interior town.

    1. Thanks, Sage! I will have lots to share! I'm in the midst of packing to leave in after a month in Victoria. Ugg! I'll be catching up with you when I get home tomorrow ~ of Sunday, if we're stranded by a storm. Hope all is well!

  6. Very interesting look into the life of your father. Thank you for sharing with us. The battle for the bulge lives on.

    1. Hi, Sheena-kay! I'm battling right now with the darn weight. LOL Thanks for visiting and leaving kind words. Have a good one!

  7. Sitting on the edge of my chair, waiting for the next edition of your blog! Want to hear more stories about what living in Lansdowne House was like from your kid perspective (although I have some clues from reading your previous blogs).

    1. Thanks, Susan! Just before I left home for Victoria, I was going through old files and found something I had been searching for for a long time. I had given up on finding it, and suddenly there it was. Over 10,000 words I had written as a 6th grader (12) about Lansdowne House. I managed to type it up while here in Victoria. As you can imagine, it was floridly-written, but wonderful to find! Now the fun really begins! I'll be home tomorrow unless a storm grounds us, and, I'll give you a call. Thanks, always, for your support, my special friend. Sending you hugs!

  8. Another episode, and it tells us more of how hard life was there. Do you need a proof reader? Or someone to give an honest opinion? I would be so happy to help there. Selling and moving , how testing that would be for your grandma, was she by herself at that time? Massive in those days, and even now hard enough, some of my friends who are older, and now single, find making choices and decisions take their toll. Enjoy your weekend. We had rain all day, and the fire was lit, not again, as I have said previously, but once more.

    1. Hi, Jean! Yes, my grandmother was a widow and in poor health at the time. My father was her only child. He worried about her a great deal, and he gave her a lot of advice in the letter about what to do that I didn't include in my post. I rarely cut parts of my father's letters, but I thought this was too boring.

      We left Victoria and Seattle yesterday in rain and wind, but the Stormageddon the forecasters predicted for the northwest did not have its expected punch.

      We are enjoying a lovely, warm fall day here in Aurora, and I have two goals, catch some leaves with my camera and get some basic groceries (in that order)! I hope you have stayed warm, dry, and close to home during the rains.

      Thanks for your generous offer to give my fantasy short story a look with objective eyes! I will take you up on that gratefully! I'll send my story off to you later today!

      Have a great week! Hugs to you and Hugh!

    2. Looking forward to some great reading. We didn't get anything here on TV about the storm in the West up your way, and down here the leaves change colour so much deeper the further south you go.Maybe the colder winter gives them that kick to change faster and deeper.

  9. The anticipation for all of you must have been palpable, Louise!! How exciting!
    Did your father grow back into his clothes or was your mother busy taking them all in?
    We certainly do have a life on ease and convenience compared to both past generations, eh?
    One generation making it a bit easier for the next.
    I am getting excited now for your arrival at Lansdowne!
    Here's to a great weekend for you both.

    1. Thanks, Jim! We got home last night and are taking it pretty easy today. My life is so much easier than that of my parents, for sure. Thanks for hanging in there with me through this long journey to reach this point. I was excited then, and I'm excited now. I hope that you are enjoying a great weekend two! Hugs to you and Ron!

  10. I so enjoy these posts, Louise, especially the old photos. We do have it easy these days, don't we? The previous generation seems to have faced to many struggles and hardships. I'm so looking forward to your perspective while you lived there!

    1. Thanks, Martha! I am excited about getting into my part of the narrative. Of course, I will still be using my parents letters, but it will be more and more of me. Sorry I've fallen behind on blogging again. We just got home and are packing for the next adventure. Plus I'm trying to finish a short story for a contest, and the deadline is looming! Life is never dull, thank goodness! Hope all is well with you!

  11. Love this post, Louise. Love PEI. I'm sure I've driven down the streets in these photos above. Our youngest lives in NB, so we travel the area whenever we're out there. Your photos are in excellent condition. So glad you're able to trace your heritage thru pics.

    1. Thanks, Joylene! I love P.E.I too, although I haven't been there since 1976. It's nice that you have the Confederation Bridge to drive over from New Brunswick. The last time I went I, yet again, had to wait in a long line for the Wood Island Ferry from Nova Scotia. I am fortunate to have many of the family photos, and I have taken care of them over the years. Now I'm digitizing them all bit by bit. Thanks for visiting and leaving your encouraging comment! Take care!

  12. Those old photos are so precious, along with the stories behind them. Definitely worth sharing.

    1. Thanks, Lynda! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos and stories. Telling this story is the most meaningful undertaking for me in my retirement. It's the kind encouragement of people I've met in the blogging world that keep me going on a daunting task. Have a good one!

  13. What a wonderful photo journal you have here. So interesting and a priceless history for your family!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Karen! One of my main reasons for doing this series of northern posts is to preserve the stories for my family. I'm glad that you enjoyed this post! Take care!

  14. All I keep thinking is Brrrrr! We lived on Lake Ontario for a year, and that's how much further north? Do they even know summer exists up there?

    1. You are right, Crystal! It is bitterly cold up there in the winter. But it's also very beautiful. I was stunned by the sun-filled, blue sky days and the glorious northern lights at night during the winter. I've never seen such winter beauty anywhere ~ but, boy-oh-boy, I've never experienced such cold! Summer does exist; It's warm, lovely, hauntingly beautiful and brief. But its standout characteristic (from my point of view) is the amazing variety of kinds and sizes of mosquitos and flies that bite! LOL Have a good one!

  15. Reading your dad's letters is like seeing a movie. I have told you before that this would make a great book. You just have to do it. This is like history coming alive and now you will be making an appearance. I can't wait to hear about your adventures there. I look so forward each week to these tidbits of a life I could never imagine.

    1. Thanks, Peggy! You've have been a wonderful support for me, and I appreciate it so much! Thank goodness for people like you who have kept me going. I'm working on my book, but without this blog I probably would have given up, because so often it seems overwhelming. I'll get there, but I'm definitely learning how to do it as I go. Sending you a big hug!

  16. Great Post Louise - sorry my comment is so tardy - I am excited for the rest of the story now that we are finally arriving - I remember poor Gretchen travelling in the green toy box. How on earth did Mom do this - oh yes she had her amazing helper Louise! Hugs your sister Barb

    1. Hey, Barb! We made it to Vegas ~ tonight we're at the Sun Coast just across from the J.W. Marriott (Rampart Casino) where you, Donnie, Bertie, Terry, and I stayed so long ago. It's been about 15 years since we drove from Denver to Vegas or back. It's my favorite drive in the US ~ all those gorgeous rocks. I may not have internet for about a week! I can see Gretchen in the toy box to this day! Hope you had fun with Rae and Gerry! Talk to you soon!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.