Friday, June 30, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Suckered!

In my last post I said that our Easter break in Lansdowne House
was one of the happiest times in my childhood.
We had many happy times when I was growing up,
but in retrospect, this was a special time.

We were together with everything we needed:
warmth, food, water, and shelter from the cold and snow.
My parents were healthy and relaxed,
and they had the time to spend with us,
with their friends, and with their passions.

My mother and father had been seriously ill in the past,
and would be so again in the future.
They had just survived another lonely separation
and would endure others; 
but for now we were all together,
jammed into a tiny house buried in snow, 
doing chores, playing, squabbling, and dreaming big dreams.

Four in the Wayback!

A Rare Everyday Photo
Roy, Donnie, Bertie, and Me
It was Barbie's turn in the middle seat with Nana,
while Mom sat in the front with Dad.
Somewhere between Ontario and Nova Scotia, Summer 1963
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Sunday, April 1, 1961
my father wrote to his mother:

Dear Mother:
We have been snowbound all weekend - since Thursday to be exact,
and we are hoping that the plane finally gets in today,
as the Easter Bunny, or rather his wares, are riding on that plane.
We haven’t had the usual Easter egg hunt yet.
I guess we’ll have that on Easter Monday morning instead of this morning.

I hope that I can get this letter out on today’s plane,
for it will make an extra letter for you in your next mail,
and it will help preserve continuity with the letters preceding it.

A Lansdowne Letter:  April 1, 1961
Photo by Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In the last letter that I wrote to you,
I mentioned that the Mitchells were coming over for Bridge last night,
and that I was expecting Rhea and I to take a bad trimming at the hands of Bill and Sara.

Well, we didn’t take a beating.
We trimmed them by 2200 points (6100 to 3900),
and in so doing I realized a life-long ambition.
I bid and made a grand slam-seven no trump.

I think I would bid seven no trump!
Photo by Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It was really that hand alone that got us the victory for the evening,
for it gave our score a terrific boost.

First, 7 no is worth 220 points;
and since Bill doubled it, it was worth 440 points.
Then, because we were vulnerable,
we earned a bonus of 1500 points.

Finally, because it gave us a quick rubber,
we earned a further bonus of 700 points;
and because we were doubled,
an additional bonus of 50 points
for making a bid that was doubled.

All told that one hand gave us 2690 points.

Bill with an Ojibwa Man
Rhea on the Ice

© All Rights Reserved

Sara gave me a lovely pair of mitts for my birthday,
similar to the ones I gave her for Christmas, but nicer.
The cuffs are solid beadwork, and they are trimmed in muskrat fur instead of beaver fur.
They are lovely and warm and will make a nice souvenir of the north.

I would send you something made of moose hide, except for the smell.
I know you wouldn’t like the smell, seeing as the smell
of the slippers I sent you caused you so much distress.

I am, however, preparing something for you made by myself,
and I’m going to send it to you for Mother’s Day.
It is something that I think you will like, and there will be no smells to it.
If I get it finished in time, I will get it out before break-up,
and it will arrive before Mother’s Day,
but if I can’t get it finished before the breakup then it may be a bit late,
but never-the-less, it will still be your Mother’s Day gift.

Barbie and Dad,
with Dad Sporting His birthday Mitts
Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Winter 61-62
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I am sure that the plane will be in today, for it is a lovely day today.
The sun is shining, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
It would be a lovely day to wear an Easter bonnet to church,
except Sara has no bonnet to wear or church to wear it to.
Oh well, if I get that job in Sioux Lookout, she will have both next Easter.

Talking about Easter, I am glad that you don’t want flowers,
for it would be well nigh impossible to arrange for flowers up here.
I hope though, that you had a nice Easter, and that you got out
to Aunt Maude's or that some of the family got in to see you.

I hear signs of life from the bedroom,
so I believe poor Sara is again among the conscious.
The poor girl is very tired; and so, I let her sleep in this morning till now, ten thirty,
while I got up to see that the children got their breakfast,
and got dressed properly, and got out to play.
In spite of the fact that the sun is shining brightly, it is quite cold out.

Properly Dressed and Out to Play
Roy, Donnie, and Louise (Me)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Circa 1956
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Louise is over at the McRae’s house babysitting Duncan Jr.,
while his father and mother are away snowshoeing with Mike and Anne.

It is a lovely day for snowshoeing, and if it is nice tomorrow,
Sara and I are going to borrow Mike and Anne’s snowshoes and go out ourselves.


Like Mother Like Son:  Family Snowshoers
Nana with Friend:  St. Peter's Bay, Prince Edward Island, Circa 1917
Dad:  Lansdowne House, Ontario, Circa New Year, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I think I hear the Norseman circling overhead,
so I guess I better wind this effort up and get it down to the mail.
I will write and tell you all about the snowshoeing if we go.
Bye for now, Happy Easter.
Love, Don 

My Parents, Don and Sara MacBeath
Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Circa 1949
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I have a vivid memory of Easter Sunday, April 1, 1961.
In his letter Dad neglected to share how
he rousted we five out of our warm snuggy sleeping bags.
He suckered us, especially Roy and me, so bad!

Although the weather had been cold and snowy,
Roy and I had break-up on our minds.

Every year freeze-up occurred in the late fall, 
a period when the villages of the north were cut off from the Outside
while the lakes froze up enough to support the weight of bush planes.

Likewise, every year break-up occurred in the late spring, 
another period when the northern communities were inaccessible,
while the lakes melted and cleared of ice so bush planes could land on water.

Roy's and my curiosity about this phenomenon was raging,
and for days we had been waking up and racing for the front window
to see if the ice had gone out.
We had badgered our father with endless questions
about what break-up would be like,
fueled by romantic notions of being unreachable and alone in the North.

It didn't matter how many times Dad pointed out
that planes were still landing and taking off on the ice;
every morning we scrambled out of our sleeping bags and ran for the window.

"Louise, Roy, everyone come quickly!"
my father roared to wake us that Easter morning.
"The ice has gone out!"

We tumbled out of our bunks.
It was a free-for-all as we five tried to squeeze through the narrow bedroom door,
run past the space heater, and rush into the living room.
I don't think Bertie understood what was going on,
but for sure she wasn't going to miss out.

We pressed up against the window and looked out
at the white lake and the nearby black-treed islands.

Out Our Front Window
During a Snowstorm
Painting by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

 "What do you mean, the ice has gone out?"
I asked, puffed up with indignation.

"April Fool!" Dad sputtered, unable to stifle his laughter.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

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

1.  The Mitchells:
     Bill Managed the Hudson's Bay post, and Rhea was his wife.

2.  Bridge:
     My father loved a challenging game of bridge, and he played to win.  My mother also enjoyed playing bridge,
     but she couldn't remember cards the way my father could.  Her greatest pleasure in bridge was putting a good
     licking on my father who had a tendency to crow and lord-it-about when he won.
     Bridge is a card game played by four people using a standard deck with 52 cards with no jokers.  The players
     form two partnerships, and partners sit opposite each other at a table.  The objective of the game is to bid for and
     make the most tricks possible in each hand and to score a total of 100 points before the other partnership does.
     The game has several variations and scoring methods.  Wikimedia  

Omar Sharif Playing Bridge
A well-known actor, playboy, and bridge player:
“Acting is my business,” he once said, “bridge is my passion.”  

3.   Grand slam-seven no trump:
      I found a reasonable explanation of a grand slam-seven no trump at
      Quote:  "A slam* is a bid of six in any suit or notrump, which requires that you win 12 tricks.
      If your side can win 12 tricks, it is not sufficient to bid only game; you must bid six to receive the slam bonus.
      A grand slam is a bid of seven in any suit or no trump, which requires that you win all 13 tricks."

4.  Mitts:
     The mitts that my father so appreciated were made by a local Ojibwa, and my mother probably bought them
     with the help of Bill Mitchell, the Hudson's Bay manager.

5.  Norseman:
     The Norseman was one of the bush planes that regularly flew in and out of Lansdowne House, and the sound
     of it passing overhead as it came in for a landing or took off is one of my favorite memories of the north.  
     The Norseman was a single-engine bush plane produced in Canada, starting in 1935, with over 900
     manufactured during the following 25 years.  It could operate from unimproved surfaces, like a frozen or 
     open lake, and it was known for its stubby landing gear.  Wikipedia  To me it is synonymous with the wilderness
     of northern Ontario.

Red Lake Floatplane FestivaL 2009, Northern Ontario, Canada
You Tube ~ 7018lh

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited


  1. No trump has been my motto for almost a year now.

    1. Mine, too, Adam! I'd say LOL, except it's no matter for LOL! Have a good one!

  2. He got you good!
    Moose hide smells bad? Good to know.
    Did you get your Easter egg hunt?

    1. Hi, Alex! Yes, we got our hunt on Easter Monday! The late Easter Bunny was up to his devilish tricks, despite his late start. Dad pointed out to the younger kids that it was tough for a bunny laden with eggs to get around in all that new snow. Several feet had fallen that previous Thursday. Dad was very sincere and believable when he had to explain away glitches.

      He did lose his cool once when I was a small child. The tail end of Hurricane Hazel hit northeastern Canada as a gale in 1954. I remember my father going around outside with a hurricane lamp the evening the storm was due making sure that everything was battened down. Nana, his mother, was particularly worried about the damage that might happen to her apartment building.

      I had more important things on my mind because I had lost a tooth. I tucked my tooth under my pillow for the fairy to find and went to sleep. I was distressed the next morning when I woke up to find my tooth still there. That far out-weighed the ripped out-of-the-ground and toppled chestnut trees across the street and the storm litter everywhere. My father had passed a sleepless night during the storm and had forgotten about the tooth fairy's task. When I asked, at 4 1/2, why she hadn't come, Dad replied (cover your ears, Alex!), "Jesus Christ, Louise! Do you think a fairy can fly in a God-damned hurricane?" She managed to make it the next night, a little wind-whipped (according to Dad) but okay.

      Have a good one, my friend!

  3. I imagine moose hide would smell worse after being in the mail for a while. Quite the hand they got indeed. lol one way to get the kids all up and wide awake.

    1. Happy Friday, Pat! My father took great delight in tricking us throughout his life. Have a great weekend!

  4. Louise, that photo of "Rhea on the ice" gave me quite a start! It looks exactly like an old photo I have of my Mom and her mother after the war . . . my grandmother is wearing that same fur coat with upturned collar and my Mom has those same fur-topped winter boots. It's positively uncanny! I wonder if everything came from Eaton's, lol!

    1. I'll bet they did! LOL Have a great weekend with your Rare One!

  5. Oh How I so enjoy the letters and the stories. The tooth Fairy, your dad was so quick with his reply. And I always wonder how you Mum managed with the laundry washing, strings of clothes hung inside in front of the fire? A wringer washing machine? or was it a copper and tub and a hand wringer? What we have today and accept as the norm. Enjoy your weekend up North, down here.. already 1st July, Canada Day, a Federal Statutory Holiday!!! So no work for me as I celebrate your day in advance.

    1. Hi, dear Jean! I always appreciate your encouraging comments. I hope you and Hugh are enjoying your statutory holiday. Also that you're both feeling well and energetic.

      Laundry was a huge issue for my mother. She had no electricity, no running water, and no heated water. She washed our clothes in a galvanized steel tub with a scrub board. Bertie's cloth diapers were boiled in a pail on the stove.

      Fortunately Bertie was getting potty-trained. Bertie was lucky because the rest of us had to use a chemical toilet which was basically a pail with some kind of chemicals in it under a seat. One of my lovely jobs was to empty that pail almost daily at the community site. I had to carry it quite a way and didn't want to slop the bucket.

      Mom would have disposed of wash water and sink water in a garbage pit we had a ways from the house ~ hand-carried by bucket. Any hot water she needed, she had to heat on the stove.

      Occasionally Mom would take the clothes over to Maureen's to wash and partly dry in her equipment at the DOT house that had electricity. Mostly she washed it at home though, because of the weather and looking after Bertie. It was too cold to hang clothing outside, so it was draped over clotheshorses to dry, or furniture, or a temporary line strung near the oil heater.

      Later that summer in Lac Seul, Mom and I actually scrubbed the clothes off rocks in the lakes. I thought that was pretty cool, like I was in India or Africa. I'm sure Mom didn't find it too romantic, especially after the first few times! LOL She was always on alert for bears which were in the area, and which we sometimes spotted.

      Have a good one!

  6. Your posts always fascinate me and brighten my day, Louise! And seeing all the photos only adds to this. Thank you so much for sharing, my cherished friend.

    1. Hi, Linda! Thank you, yet again, for your lovely comment! I've just gotten back from a dinner and drinks with the parents of two students that I taught, as well as my decades long friend Cheri and her husband who also taught Alana and Erica, the same two students (Cheri taught them). What a lovely time we had talking over all the years. Alana went on to become a Rockette in New York and Jerica went on to become an off-Broadway dancer in NYC. We had the best time! Of all the hundreds of sets of parents I knew during my teaching career, Paulette and Mike have remained closest to me. As have their daughters. Sometimes it's just awesome to have one too many glasses of wine and talk your heart out for four hours with friends who have known you forever! Sending you big hugs and lots of love! Enjoy your weekend, my special Montreal friend!

  7. I love your dad's painting, and his mitts are cool. I know nothing about bridge, but I like the photo of Omar Sharif. He was a gorgeous man. I'm not too old to enjoy eye candy.


    1. Oh, Janie! You are so right! Omar Sharif was drop dead gorgeous! The very best of eye candy! I hope that you are looking forward to a wonderful weekend! Take care, my friend! Sending you a big hug!

  8. Louise, you have a knack for bringing me right into your adventures as a child. A welcome feeling as a reader. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Geo! Your comment means a lot to me! Have a great July 4th weekend!

  9. HAHAHA! Your dad was fun! These memories are priceless!

    1. Thanks, Martha! I hope that you and George had an awesome Canada Day!

  10. I smiled at the April fool joke from your dad. When I think of your circumstances a lot of people would be discouraged. But your father seemed to make it fun and interesting wherever he was. He was quite a man. The picture of you kids in the way back brought back memories of my kids in the back of our station wagon. We called it the way back too.

    1. Hi, Peggy! I rode backwards a lot during my childhood, LOL! When we were living in Lansdowne House, we all thought of it as an adventure. We went through some difficult times during my childhood; but that was our reality, and we perceived it as normal. Our parents sheltered us from many of their challenges, and we always had warmth and good food and books! It was novel to have five of us sleeping in bunks in a tiny bedroom, but most kids we knew anywhere shared beds and rooms. I think one reason that my siblings and I are so close all these years later, is that we spent so much time together growing up. We moved a lot, so the constant in our lives was each other. It was thrilling to me to move to the North, live among the Ojibwa, and explore an area of Canada that remains one of the least visited even today. I wouldn't have traded it for anything! I hope that you, Don, and your family have a lovely 4th. Hugs and love to you + a little belly rub for sweet Sadie!

  11. Whenever i read your beautiful post one thing springs in my mind frequently that whatever the environment or circumstances were your parents never let them effected on you kids in negative way.
    among such hard seasons and stern conditions this is amazing that your brought up was brilliantly normal and exquisite .

    even you felt for others and helped them in great manner .
    this is inspirational!!!

    you are an extraordinary person risen from extraordinary environment and circumstances . and i respect you for that alot !

    photos are truly a treat

    1. Hi, Baile! How lovely to hear from you!
      Thank you for your kind words about my parents and me. I was fortunate to grow up in a time when parents believed that children needed to be protected from adult issues that they weren't equipped to deal with mentally and emotionally. Now children are exposed to so many things that are difficult for them.

      When I was teaching, I came to know hundreds of families, some over a number of years. Some of the saddest situations were in families where children were basically raising themselves.

      When it comes to children, I believe that they get the strongest start in life when they are surrounded unconditional love. I don't care what kind of family they come from, the one common characteristic of healthy families is love. Children need to be children, not little adults. They need opportunities to try all kinds of things, so they can discover their talents and passions. They need to be allowed to fail when the consequences are smaller, so they can develop resiliency and know that they can overcome obstacles. Children need to grow up within a moral framework, so they have a solid foundation and know right from wrong. They also need to learn compassion and empathy ~ two qualities that humanity must have if we are to survive.

      I agree that photos are truly a treat! People can communicate through photos, even when they don't know each others languages. Photos clearly show our common humanity ~ or sadly, our inhumanity. I truly enjoy looking at the photos you share, Baili. Your beautiful family gives me so much hope.

      We rarely hear positive things about Pakistan here in the US. What you are doing with your blog is truly important. People who visit your blog regularly learn so much about your country and culture.
      Most important of all, readers of your blog can see the beauty in your country and culture and can realize that we have so much more in common than is different. I think that ordinary people sharing themselves with others around the world does more for peace than diplomats and leaders. I admire you and respect you for your courage in reaching out to people in a second language. I am monolingual, a fact that I am not proud of. I am so glad that I found your blog!

      I'm enjoying a lovely Fourth of July at home, although it is hot (by my standards). I am also praying for peace and hoping that world leaders act wisely and smartly. My biggest worry right now is that the world may descend into another world war. I see people in so many places living under horrific circumstances and suffering unimaginably because of war. Praying is, for sure, one thing I can do.

      Wishing you lots of love and joy today, as well as continued healing!

  12. Bridge! I played for an entire year at Dalhousie .. .....the year I attended. LOVED it! 7 no trump....what a great hand!!
    Oh your father was a real jokester! Kept you all on your toes, I bet.
    Your chemical toilet sounded difficult to say the least! Don't know if I could have dealt well with that!
    Have a great 'rest of week', Louise. Hello to Terry.

    1. Hi, Jimbo! You know, when it's dealing with a chemical toilet or looking for a bush outside in waist deep snow and way below zero ~ that chemical toilet looks so good!

  13. Priceless! I love your posts so much! Your dad was too funny! LOL! Really enjoyed all the pictures! Thank you!! Big Hugs!

    1. Thanks, Stacy! My Dad had a great sense of humor! Wishing you a great weekend!


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