Friday, June 16, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Another Crisis in the MacBeath Home

Another crisis hit my parents in the spring of 1961,
but at least this one could be contained and resolved.

Snowy Day in Lansdowne House
Out Our Front Window, Forestry Department 
Northern Ontario, 1961
Painting by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 31, 1961
My father wrote:

Hello Everybody:
Thanks goodness that we were snowed in today,
or I would never have gotten this off this week.
Last night (mail night) was my birthday,
and Duncan and Maureen came over to help me to celebrate the occasion.

Duncan and I gave the distaff sides of the two partnerships
a terrible trimming at bridge.  We beat them by about 2200 points.

Best Buds
Dad (left)  Duncan (right)
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I have been sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear
from Ottawa regarding that position in Sioux Lookout.
I don’t imagine I have a hope in Hades of getting it,
but a fellow can hope.

Actually, in spite of my pessimistic pronouncements
on the subject, I am quite hopeful.
I can’t imagine they would have written to me regarding it,
if they hadn’t been giving me, or my name, some consideration.
It would sure be wonderful I did get it.

Sara has gained another five pounds and has now reached 110 pounds
for a total gain of 15 pounds since she came north.
She is looking better every day, although the faint possibility,
which I thought was so preposterous when she first arrived,
that of having to get her a girdle,
doesn’t seem nearly so preposterous now.

She is threatening to go on a diet now.  The very idea!!!!!
She hasn’t looked so good or so healthy in a long time.
I have hopes of getting her up to at least 120 pounds by spring.

My Mother, Sara MacBeath
Location Unknown, Circa 1950
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In the previous paragraph I used the phrase
“before spring,” because it is still very much winter up here.
In the last ten days or so we have had a couple of bad blizzards
and a real bad ice and sleet storm.

Also, the night before last, Lansdowne House received some fleeting notoriety.
We had the dubious honour of being the coldest place in Canada--17 below.

Right now Sara is making like a chartered accountant
and is trying to get her account books in order.
I can’t help her, for I am afraid that her mathematics
are too devious for a mere man like me to follow.

I must give her credit though, for after a series
of darns, gosh darns, and oh damns,
she always manages to get everything to balance.

We are facing a crisis right now, that of an Easter Eggless Easter,
but I imagine we will weather it by substituting chocolate bars and other forms of candy.
We still have not become completely accustomed to the northern method
of ordering everything like this months in advance.

Chick with Eggs

Tomorrow night the Mitchells are coming over for bridge.
I am looking forward to a beating then, for Sara and Bill always play Rhea and me,
and while they seem to click like they had been playing together for twenty years,
Rhea and I have yet to reconcile our different systems of playing and bidding.
If it is possible at all for us to misconstrue each other’s bids, we do it.

I was just thinking how amazing it is that two people can view
the same situation and experience such different emotional reactions.
For example the Easter holidays have started, and while I am positively delighted
that I am able to stay home from school for the next ten days,
Sara is utterly appalled at the prospects of having
the four children home for the next ten days.

The Father and the Brother are also coming over soon for bridge
-- next Tuesday to be precise.
However since I always play with the Father and Sara plays with the Brother,
and because I enjoy the same success with the Father that Sara enjoys with Bill Mitchell,
and also because Sara and the Brother are bothered like Rhea and me,
I am looking forward to a successful evening.
That last sentence was a whopper, wasn’t it?

Father Ouimet, Don MacBeath, and Brother Bernier
Kitchen in Roman Catholic Mission 
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Sara is now reading back issues of The Guardian.
I just heard her exclaim with surprise that Liz Taylor was sick.
She just asked me if Liz had died.

Now she has just discovered that George Formby had died.
Nothing like being up to date on the news, eh.

The aerial for our radio just arrived,
and Duncan is coming over to help me put it up the first fine day.
Then Sara ought to be able to keep up with the news with more success.

Well, I have just about dried up as a source of news for this week,
so I’ll let Sara get in a few licks and close out this week’s letter for me.

Bye now,
Love, Don.

Sara and Don MacBeath
Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, circa 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My mother added to my father's letter:

Hello Everybody:
I am also reading the Contract Bridge Section in the papers,
so I can disappoint Don when we play with the Father and Brother.

There isn’t much more that I can think to say
except that I hope you are all well
and that the Easter Bunny is good to each and every one of you.

Love, Sara.

Contract Bridge
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My father had a childish delight in Easter.
I'd like to say it was all about the Christian celebration of Easter,
but it wasn't.  It was all about him hiding eggs as the Easter Bunny.

There were always treats that were almost impossible to find.
He divided whatever house we were living in into sections for each of us to search,
and he adjusted the difficulty of the hiding places according to our abilities.

We didn't have Easter baskets filled with goodies like our American cousins did.
We had to hunt down every egg and other items, one by one.

We earned our booty,
especially as our father had a streak of devilment in him that surfaced every Easter.


I can still hear my father going from area to area
and helping his perplexed kids with an encouraging,
"You're getting hotter, hotter."
Or "colder, colder."

Like I was going to find the egg
replacing a battery in his electric razor
or the egg hidden in hollowed out slices
in the middle of a loaf of bread
without his, "You're hot!  You're burning hot!"

Meanwhile our mother was also helping us, going from area to area.
She had assisted my father hiding the Easter eggs the night before.
He had spent hours at it, laughing with delight as he went about his bunny duties,
especially whenever he found a really original hiding place.

Dad was driven by the theory that since we kids had waited so long with such excitement
that he should make the fun last as long as possible.

Mom, taking pity on us, would nod toward a hiding place
with a slight tilt of her head or a subtle point with a finger.   

I can still remember, as second grader,
searching our living room in Alymer, Ontario.
The very first things I found were two fluffy chicks
and a marshmallow egg underneath the edge of the chesterfield.
The thrill of spotting those yellow chicks
shot down through my body right to my toes:
The Easter Bunny had really come!

As much as hunting down those eggs frustrated me at times,
I'd dearly love to have Dad hide a few for me next Easter.
How we all loved those Easters!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Shore of the Annapolis Basin
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 24, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Mail Night:  Typically the once-weekly mail plane flew into Lansdowne House on Fridays to drop off and pick
     up mail.  That meant many people spent Thursday night, or "Mail Night" writing personal and business letters to
     make Friday's mail run.

2.  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 his wife Maureen were good friends with my parents.
3.  My Mother's Health:
     My mother had Grave's Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism or overproduction of
     thyroid hormones.  Four years previously my mother had had an operation to remove her thyroid.  Unfortunately
     her parathyroid glands were accidentally removed also.  She struggled throughout her life to keep weight on.
     Grave's Disease also impacted my mother's vision.

4.  Weight Conversions:  
        5  pounds  =     2.3 kilograms
      15  pounds  =     6.8 kilograms
    110  pounds  =    49.9 kilograms
    120  pounds  =  108.4 kilograms
5.   Exclamation Marks:
      It was fun to discover, when I was working with my father's letters, that he used exclamation marks liberally too.

6.  Temperature Conversion:  
       -17º Fahrenheit  =  -27º Celsius

7.  Bill and Rhea Mitchell:
     Bill was the manager of the Hudson's Bay Post in Lansdowne House and married to Rhea.

8.  Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier:  
     They were members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church. 

9.  The Guardian:  Newspaper published in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island since the 1870s.  Wikipedia

    10.  Liz Taylor: 
    Quoted from Wikipedia:
    "Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, DBE (February 27, 1932 – March
     23, 2011) was a British American actress, businesswoman, and
     humanitarian. She began as a child actress in the early 1940s, and was
     one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the

     Photo:  Wikimedia

11.  George Formby:
     Quoted from Wikipedia  
     "George Formby, OBE (born George Hoy Booth; 26 May
     1904 – 6 March 1961), was an English actor, 
     singer-songwriter and comedian who became known to a
     worldwide audience through his films of the 1930s and

     Photo:  Wikimedia

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House
Known Today as Neskantaga


  1. Your father hid eggs in the middle of a loaf of bread? That is devious all right. Ours were just behind the chair.

    1. I think the egg in the loaf of bread was my all-time favorite of his hiding spots, Alex. It was a brand new loaf of store-bought bread. He carefully unsealed the end, removed about a third of the loaf, took out the next third and hollowed the slices out, slipped in a large, wrapped, chocolate-covered marshmallow egg, replaced the rest of the slices in the wrapper, and resealed the loaf, then stashed it with a couple of other new loaves. He was laughing about that for days! Have a great weekend!

  2. haha that sounds like fun indeed. Hiding the eggs in all kinds of weird places. Want that booty, have to work for it. Having to order things so far in advance would sure be annoying. By the time you got it you might even forget you ordered it.

    1. Happy Friday morning, Pat! I hope it's a good one where you're at! When you lived year round in the north, you had to order a year's worth of non-perishables at a time, and they were transported in over the frozen muskeg by tractor train. Anything else had to be flown in with a 10 cents/pound surcharge. When you were raising a family with five children on about $350/month, 10 cents/pound added up. You really had to think ahead. Now we have Amazon! Amazing!

  3. I laughed out loud at your description of the crazy places your father hid Easter eggs!

    1. Hi, Debra! I'm still laughing a half century later. It was hard for Dad when we all grown up. In later years Dad took to hiding a bottle of brandy for Mom to hunt for on Easter. I happened to be home one Easter when Mom discovered the brandy in the toilet tank in the bathroom! Of course with the help of, "You're hot! You're burning hot!" Have a great weekend with your Rare One, my friend!

  4. Louise, what a great post! But then again, all your posts are great. I love all the photos and the places your father hid Easter eggs made me laugh. I love your father's sense of humour as well as his talent for writing. I do believe that his talent has been passed on to you, and this is a wonderful blessing. Thank you so much for sharing, my cherished friend.

    1. Hi dear Linda! Thanks, as always, for your kind words! Dad had the best sense of humor. He could tell jokes all night long and never repeat one for nights in a row.

      I tried your chicken-with-no-liquid-crockpot recipe the other day. It turned out absolutely delicious! And the broth became the basis for a scrumptious soup. I'm starting to cook most everything from scratch. It doesn't always go as well as your chicken though.

      Terry was in Vegas from Tuesday morning until last night. I decided to make a homemade apple crumb cake to surprise him. It was complicated, and I had bowls of stuff all around the kitchen. Things were going well until I momentarily lost my focus and folded the crumbles for the top of the cake in the batter. I was aghast! LOL In desperation I stuck the whole thing in the oven to bake, because I had a couple of hours into it, not to mention all the ingredients. It turned out to be a crumble cake for sure! But the crumbles taste good! Terry got a good laugh out of it, and he gamely said it was delicious.

      Have a lovely weekend, my special Montreal friend! Sending you love and hugs!

  5. Hiding places, many, so many years ago, maybe about 1977 or so... when my Mum and Dad had travelled south to stay with us, he hid a "Mother's Day" gift for me, as naturally he thought I should have one as a mother. A long length of string, carefully twined round places so it was hidden from sight, then I was told on the phone to go downstairs, and look for some string!!! Eventually found the tail end, and even now I remember the excitement as I found a carefully wrapped gift. Your Mum and Dad must have had so much fun, after all the littlies and you were safely asleep, to find those hiding places. Yes, ordering so far in advance, you would need to have a huge list. A few years ago Hugh and I were camping, the first time I had gone with him, to a very isolated place.No shops for over an hour's drive either way... .He was so accustomed to what he needed, and on the last day, enough COFFEE for one cup, and a few pieces of toilet paper left on the roll!!! Needless to say I made sure on further trips there were more than ample of MY two necessities.

    1. LOL! Coffee and toilet paper would be my two necessities, too, Jean! I think we train our husbands to expect that what they need will always be at hand, and whose fault is that???

      What fun that you had to follow a string to find a gift left by your father. It's always great to have a little more fun worked into our lives. (I have a little bird, probably a finch, outside and singing his heart out ~ so beautiful this Saturday morning.)

      Guaranteed the night before Easter and the night before Christmas, my mother and father had so much fun. I can hear their laughter now. That laughter is among my most favorite memories of them.

      I hope that you and Hugh enjoy the rest of the weekend! Sending you love and hugs!

  6. I read the comments (usually do). Brandy in the toilet tank! That's hilarious. It's great that he found such joy in what many people would consider a small thing: hiding eggs and later, brandy.


    1. Hi, Janie! Thanks for your comment which provided me with an insight I didn't grasp fully. You're right ~ my father did find joy in a lot of small things! He was such a monumental figure to me, that everything he did was big in my eyes. I have the same trait of finding delight in small things, and I have always thought that came to me from my mother. But when I read your comment it really hit me that Dad had that quality as much as Mom or more. Wow! The longer I work with Dad's writing and think about growing up, the more I understand my father from my adult perspective and the more I recognize what we have in common. I can see different parts of my father's personality coming out in each of my siblings and me, but it's really fun to stumble across something right in front of me that I didn't see. Thank you for that, Janie!

  7. I can tell how playing games made up such an important part of the life away from regular entertainment. Your mom and dad made their own fun in that isolated place. I loved how your dad really his those eggs. He seemed to always be challenging you children. No wonder you grew up adventurous.

    1. Happy Saturday, Peggy! I hope that you are enjoying your lovely garden and patio. Just a few more days, and it will be technically summer!

      To this day I love games. The sad thing is that today many people don't like to play games, or they don't make time to play them. Part of me lives for going to Nova Scotia in the summer and playing card games with my family.

      And you're right ~ Dad was continually challenging us, and he took great delight in it. We five siblings are all adventurous in different ways, but adventurous is definitely a commonality. I'll bet that you, as a teacher, have had lots of fun observing how certain family qualities and characteristics are expressed in you and your sisters and pass down through the generations, mixing in with everything coming from your spouses. Have a good one, my friend!

  8. Whenever I read these stories of your father, I get teary. What a wonderful man. You were truly blessed to have such endearing parents. They were always thinking of someone first. How terrific. These days experts say dysfunctional families are normal. That would make yours extraordinary, I think.

    1. Hi, Joylene! Thanks for your lovely comment about my father! Although I think every family has a disfunction or two ~ LOL I've had computer issues, so I'm just replying now. Not taken in by Scareware, but it was close. Thank goodness for Apple support! I hope hope that you are feeling stronger and better every day!

  9. What a fun family event your Easters were, Louise!
    Your father had quite the imagination and sense of humour. Got me thinking about my Easters as a child. I guess we would have like your American friends....each having our own 'basket'/hat filled with chocolate/candies.
    I liked your mom's 'add-on' to your dad's letter. Was she a woman of few words but still getting her point across? i think she liked beating your Dad and his partner in bridge! As I am sure he did too!!
    Fun letters this week, Louise. Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks, Jim! A hat filled with Easter candy ~ I love it! Mom also wrote a letter that day, which I will share this week. Dad was one of those people who could remember every card played by everyone ~ a talent that I didn't inherit ~ And he loved to win! So, of course, Mom loved to beat him whenever she could! Some of the challenges for Mom whenever she played with the Brother were that he was a shy (around women) French Canadian who spoke broken English. Have a good one!

  10. Making a game out of gift-giving is a gift in itself, I think. Your Easter hunts reminded me of when my family opens gifts on Christmas morning. I pre-select a family member (unbeknownst to that person) to receive a wrapped gift from me with a clue inside. When opened, that 1st clue leads to another gift with a 2nd clue inside, and so on. The clues lead the hunter to different places inside and/or outside the house until the final gift is discovered which, of course, is hiding that special Christmas gift. It's like a treasure hunt. Naturally, the rest of the family follows behind the hunter as he/she searches for the next wrapped clue, in anticipation. It's a hoot to watch the expression on the hunter's face once the final gift is discovered. Each year, a different and unsuspecting family member is picked to find his/her gift from me in this manner. To add to the fun, I sometimes transpose words from a familiar Christmas carol into clues, and the hunter has to sing the "clues" before opening the package. Thanks, Louise, for the happy memories your blog brought me today!

    1. What wonderful Christmas fun, Susan! And you're right ~ the game is a gift too. I think it's hilarious that the chosen person has to sing the clues before opening your gift. I love when you share your memories in your comments. Have a great week, my friend!

  11. Your dad was a kid at heart! I can just imagine him scheming and dreaming the "perfect" spot for hiding eggs.
    What an isolated life you led way back when. Amazing!

    1. Hi, Dreaming! Yup, my dad was a kid at heart, and since he was an only child, he loved having a big family! I hope all is well with you!

  12. Your Easter Egg hunts sound so wonderful. Special memories.

    1. Hi, Linda! Special memories for sure! Have a good one!

  13. What fun Easters!! I want to go on an Easter egg hunt! You dad sounded hilarious! I can't remember us ever having Easter hunts. The one thing we always got, was a bran new outfit! I loved getting new clothes! Big Hugs!

    1. Big hugs back at you, Stacy! We often got a new Easter outfit at Easter too, or at least a piece of a new outfit or new to us. Have a good one, my friend!

  14. "Thank goodness we're snowed in," is a phrase you just don't read very often! What a great letter and inspirational Easter bunny antics.

    1. Thanks, Joey! I've always enjoyed being snowed in ~ as long as we had food, water, and fuel. I've been in Colorado over thirty years, and I still keep my larder and car stocked. Old habits die had. Have a good one!

  15. I'm surprised your father lived beyond Easter after mentioning his wife's weight in a letter (and she would have seen it, I assume since she also commented in the letter! Good stories.

    1. Hey, Sage! My father liked to live dangerously! What really would frost my mother was when my father would sing "The Campbells are Coming." My mother was a MacDonald. I remember him doing that in Newfoundland when I was 24 or 25 and visiting home. My mother was making breakfast and got so angry that she threw a raw egg at him and it broke open on his forehead. Oh such fun memories! LOL Have a good one!

  16. I loved that comment about different opinions over the same situation. Isn't that a true principle if ever I heard one!

    1. It is a principle, isn't it, Crystal? I hope all is well with you!

  17. HAHAHA! What a delightful post. Your dad sounds like he was a hoot. These are wonderful memories and I love that you are sharing them with us.

    1. Thanks, Martha! I enjoy sharing them ~ must come from decades of encouraging children to share their stories! I'm a happy camper ~ I had my computer in the shop and doubled my RAM memory. Here's hoping that resolves all my maddening processing issues. I hope all is well with you and George! Take care!


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