Friday, May 25, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: The Pervert and the Sandwich Man

Somehow on that hectic crazy day of June 12, 1961
my mother, my four siblings, our dachshund Gretchen, and I
made it on the overnight train from Nakina to Sioux Lookout,
after our hasty flight from Lansdowne House to Nakina.

Nakina Railway Station
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Unlike when we traveled from Nova Scotia to Ontario in February,
we did not have the comfort of a sleeping car with berths.
We sat up in the left front of a passenger car, occupying three seats.
Barbie and I sat in the very front with no seats facing us or across the aisle from us.
Mom and Bertie sat in the seat back to back with Barbie's and mine,
with Roy and Donnie in the third seat facing Mom and Bertie.

Poor Gretchen was stashed in the baggage car three cars behind us,
ensconced in the green toy box she had traveled in from the Maritimes.
When the train went around a curve to the left, we could see Gretchen's car well.
We wondered how she was faring in her nest of blankets inside the toy box.
We were worried because the cover of the box was down,
and she was alone in the dark.

Gretchen Claims Her Spot in the Middle of Things
An Island in Attawapiskat Lake 
Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath, June 4, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The train conductor stopped by periodically to chat with us,
and we kids pestered him with worried questions about Gretchen.
He assured us that he was personally checking on her and that she was doing fine.

Unidentified Rail Vehicles
Canadian National Railway, 1971
A Roger Puta photograph posted by Marty Bernard 

The big excitement was the dining car!
We rarely had a chance to eat out, so it was a thrill
to go to the dining car and order from a menu.
We had cake and ice cream for dessert,
because it was our mother's thirty-sixth birthday;
but for my mother it was all about a hot cup of coffee and a few minutes to relax.

After dinner we settled down as best we could for the long night on the rocking train.
The lights dimmed in our car, and the conversation hushed and gradually ceased.
My family, exhausted from the events of the day,
dropped off to sleep quickly, but I was wired and restless.

Barbie was curled in a little ball under a blanket by the aisle,
which left me lots of room to twist and turn on the wide seat.
I turned backwards and watched Gretchen's baggage car.
I turned forward, laid my head against the cool window,
and watched the dark forest fly by,
revealed only by the faint light spilling from the train.

I moved close to Barbie, leaned my head back on the seat,
and stared at the ceiling trying to quiet my racing brain.
Images of our abrupt departure, the bumpy flight out,
the raging forest fire, and our scramble for the train 
circled around and around in my mind like hawks riding a thermal.

"You're still awake," said the conductor coming up the aisle from behind me.
"Is everything okay?"

I nodded yes.

He sat on our seat with his back to the window and added,
"I just came from the baggage car.  Your little doggie is doing well.
I let her out for a few minutes and gave her some water.
She was really happy to see someone."

"Thank you.  She's not used to being in a box."

"Would you like to see Gretchen?' he asked.
"I bet she'd really like to see you."

"But she's in the baggage car.  I can't go there."

"I'm the conductor.  I can take you there."

I looked back at the car full of sleeping people.
We'd have to tiptoe through two more cars
of sleeping people to reach the baggage car.

I thought of Gretchen,
of how she would jump up joyfully when she saw me,
of how good it would be to give her a big hug,
and of how her tongue would tickle as she covered my face with licks.
It had been a tough day for her too.

But I felt uneasy.
The baggage car was dark.
No light escaped from it.

A tiny voice deep inside me was whispering,
Do not go back to the baggage car with this man.
"I promised Mom I'd look after Barbie.
I can't leave her alone," I replied.

"Barbie will be just fine.  She's sound asleep."  
He put his hand on my knee and squeezed it.
"Think how excited Gretchen would be to see you!"

Shocked, I instinctively drew back, scooching closer to Barbie.

"You do something nice for me, and I'll do something nice for you.
I'll take you to see your little doggie."

My throat was paralyzed.
I couldn't make a sound.
He pushed his hand firmly up my thigh.
I couldn't move.
I was stunned.

I had no idea that a man would do such a thing,
especially the conductor who had been so kind to our family and Gretchen.

He groped me all over.
I could barely breathe.
My heart beat so loudly, it whooshed in my ears.

Then he grabbed my right hand and forced it down
on the hard lump between his legs.
I was so horrified that it snapped me into action,
and I wrenched my hand away.

Anger flared in his blood-flushed face.
He leaned forward into mine, breathing heavily, and said,
"You say one word to anyone, and I'll hurt your dog."
Then he vanished into the connection to the car in front of us.

I don't know how long I sat there too terrified to move,
so afraid that he would return to our car.
All I knew was that I must stay awake,
because I couldn't risk that man returning and going after Barbie.
I had to protect my sister from that filthy, disgusting man.

I pressed against the back of our seat, determined to sit up wide awake,
and I realized there was a small gap between Barbie's side of our seat and mine.
Furthermore, there was a similar gap in my mother's and Bertie's seat
which was back to back with ours.

I wriggled my right hand between the gaps
and touched my mother's lower back.
She was stretched out on her seat sleeping deeply.
Then I found her belt and clutched it in my hand.

My relief was so strong that tears suddenly gushed down my cheeks.
If I could just hold on to my mother's belt, I'd be okay.
I'd make it through the night.

I sat in the shadowy car with my arm stuck through the seats behind  me
and clung to that belt like it was a life ring in heaving waves.

I stared at the blank wall facing me, trying to block
the appalling memories of what had happened to me.

Time crept by, and then I heard soft steps coming up the aisle behind me.
I shrank into the back of the seat
and clenched my mother's belt even tighter.

The sandwich man walked quietly by me,
did a double take, stopped, and stared at me.
I froze, unable to breathe.

I recognized him instantly for he had been up and down our car,
selling sandwiches, pop, snacks, and cigarettes several times,
but this time he wasn't carrying anything.

"Did that old coot bother you?" he asked.

Tears welled up in my eyes, but I couldn't speak.

"He did, didn't he?" he said through gritted teeth,
looking at my arm crammed between the seats.
"It's okay to let go.  You can let go of your mother's belt."

It must have been his realization that I was gripping
my mother's belt that stopped him in his tracks.

He crouched in front of me and said gently,
"Don't worry.  I'll make sure he doesn't bother you again.
Just let go."

I nodded mutely and worked my hand back.
My fingers were stiff from clenching so long,
and I wriggled them to loosen them up and get rid of the prickles.

He stood back up and said, 
"Why don't you try to get some sleep?"

"I can't," I said.  "I have to watch Barbie.
I can't let him touch Barbie."
Tears were flooding down my face.

"He won't touch you, and he won't touch your sister.
I'll keep my eye on you both.  I promise.
Now try to sleep."

I did.  I fell, bone-weary, into a sound sleep
after he came back to check on us and assured me,
"Trust me.  He's not coming back."

I never saw the conductor or the sandwich man again.
I didn't say a word to anyone.

Gretchen was safe in her green toy box,
stretching, yawning, then leaping up to greet us
madly wagging her tail when we opened the top of the toy box.

And then we were unexpectedly flying to some place called Lac Seul,
not staying in a rented home in Sioux Lookout as we had thought.

In the weeks and months, and years that followed
I'd think back to that night on the train and wonder:
How could a conductor molest me in a train car full of people?
How could I not make a sound, call for help, wake my mother?

And worst of all:
They knew.  People who worked on the train knew.
They knew what the conductor was doing to young girls,
but they didn't do anything about it.

I didn't blame the sandwich man for not doing more than he did.
Even as a young girl, I understood that he was young,
needed his job, and the conductor had a lot more power than he did.
To this day I am grateful for his compassion in the moment
and for how he watched over my sister and me the rest of that night.

It was almost two years before I told my mother.
I was so ashamed, so mortified, so embarrassed, so disgusted,
so afraid that I had done something wrong,
so confused and so unbelieving that I hadn't screamed
at the top of my lungs and called that bastard out.

My mother was aghast:  "Why didn't you tell us?
We could've done something.
We'd have made sure he never touched a child again."

We were standing in the kitchen in Sioux Lookout,
a bright, sunlit, white kitchen.
My mother wrapped her arms around me and gave me such a hug.
"You were only eleven, Weesie, such a young girl.
It wasn't your fault.  You did nothing wrong.
Don't ever be afraid to tell me anything, ever again."

That night on the train changed me.
I didn't know it at the time,
but that night I became a runner.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petit Passage to Tiverton
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House, Nakina, and Sioux Lookout
Northern Ontario, Canada

Lac Seul
Northern Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

To See a Photo of Lac Seul Click Here

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Backing Up

I ended my last post with a threat of bears in Two Point on Lac Seul,
but for this post I need to back up to our departure from Lansdowne House;
for the trip to Sioux Lookout had a long lasting impact on one of us. 

Our sudden eviction from the Forestry house in Lansdowne House,
followed by our even more sudden departure from the village,
left us no time to think about leaving or to say goodbye
to some of the people we knew.  It was that abrupt.

Mom, my siblings, and I scrambled into the Norseman
tied on at the Hudson Bay dock and settled into our seats.
Dad handed up Gretchen, and I took her and held her on my lap,
along with a Nancy Drew book I was reading.

The Hudson Bay Dock
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Father Maurice Ouimet
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Anguish filled my heart and blurred my eyes which threatened to overflow.
I loved Lansdowne House and its people, and it physically hurt to leave.

Someone unhitched us from the dock and pushed us off.
Then the pilot started the engine and taxied out into the open lake.
When we arrived we had landed on skis on ice,
now we raced across the water on pontoons.
The plane made a little step up and lifted into the air.

The pilot circled over the village to give us a last look.
I'm sure it was every bit as hard for Dad waving from the dock.
Then the pilot headed for the southern horizon,
and Lansdowne House shrank and vanished into the bush.

A Last Look
at the Father's Island
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Father Maurice Ouimet
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I dug into my Nancy Drew mystery with a fierce concentration,
trying not to think about leaving and trying not to get airsick.
The Norseman droned through choppy air, and I fought the urge to throw up.

Suddenly Roy was shaking my arm, and he and Mom were shouting
above the noise of the engine for me to look out the window.
I looked below and saw a long, ragged line of smoke and flame
devouring the spindly trees and skirting the boggiest patches and lakes.

It was likely the forest fire that had forced us out of our Forestry home,
the one that firefighters were moving into our house that evening to tackle.

Forest Fire
Location and Date Unknown

Already that spring, wildfires started by lightening were popping up 
in the vast wilderness of the boreal forest in northern Ontario,
and I can't be certain that this fire, twenty or thirty minutes
south of Lansdowne House, was the fire that evicted us.
No one knew it yet, but the fire season in June and July of 1961 would prove severe, setting a record that stood for half a century.
The Department of Lands and Forests would battle over 200 wildfires
with many firefighters, fifty-six airplanes, and eleven helicopters
during the two months in its Northwestern Ontario Region. 

The savage sight of billowing smoke and bright flames crowning trees mesmerized us. 
But for me the violence was surreal, for we bump-glided above it
sensing no searing heat, no crackle of flame, nor acrid odor of smoke.
The raging fire slipped behind us and vanished just as Lansdowne House had.

Landing on pontoons for the first time thrilled us, 
the experience heightened by a frisson of fear that we might not hit the water right.

Certainly I was remembering Dad's tale about a Superior pilot
who misjudged where the surface of the water was when landing in Armstrong in 1959.
He tried to land ten feet below the actual surface,
his plane went to the bottom of the lake,
and it was two days before his body was recovered.

We did not suffer the same fate, but landed uneventfully
and taxied on the lake to the Austin Airways dock in Nakina.

Austin Airways Bush Plane Base
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Austin Airways Norseman 
Fueling at the Dock
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I have no memory of getting from the dock to the train station,
but I'm quite certain that the Austin Airways staff helped us,
just as they had when we flew into Lansdowne House.
There is something special about people living in unforgiving environments.
They step up to help friends or strangers with warmth and compassion,
recognizing that another time it could easily be them in a tough spot.

Austin Airways and the Nakina Hotel
Fall 1960
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

To be continued...

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petit Passage to Tiverton
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Dad's Tale:
     I shared my father's story in this post:  TLL: Bush Planes and the Puzzle of Thanksgiving.

2.  Forest Fires 1961:
     We didn't know it at the time, but 1961 would be a record year for forest fires in northwestern
     Ontario with 1,534,917 acres or 621,159 hectares burning.  That record wasn't broken until 2011.

     Foster, W. T.  "Aircraft in Forest Fire Control in Ontario."  The Forestry Chronicle (1962): p. 46.

3.  Landing on Pontoons:  

Landing on Pontoons in Nakina
youtube  ~  tatarjj2007

Main Street Nakina
Looking West, Fall 1960
Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Main Street Nakina
Looking East, Fall 1960
Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House, Nakina, and Sioux Lookout
Northern Ontario, Canada

Lac Seul
Northern Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

To See a Photo of Lac Seul Click Here

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Life Disrupted

In my last post, I shared the letter
my mother had written to her mother-in-law
on Thursday June 8, 1961.

She had spent that evening writing letters and stressing over completing the grocery list 
going out on the next day's mail plane.

She would never see those groceries arrive in Lansdowne House on Friday, June 16th.

Wading in Attawapiskat Lake, June 4, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

By Monday afternoon, June 12th, Lansdowne House was a memory
for Mom, us five kids; and Gretchen, and Uno and Dad
were going to have a well-stocked larder by the end of the week.

Back to the Brown Cabin
by the Church for My Father
The Father's Island
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Father Maurice Ouimet
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Wednesday, June 14, 1961
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law,
Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
Well, here we are in Lac Seul.
I imagine that Don gave you
all the details.

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

I arrived in Sioux Lookout and Mr. Caswell told me Mike had a place for us
at Lac Seul which we could have until we could find a place in Sioux.

It is very rugged here, but very beautiful.  Lac Seul is a huge lake with many islands.
There are beautiful birch trees on the islands, not as much scrub as at Lansdowne House.

We have a little house with three rooms in it,
a large one for a bunkbed, a double bed, and a crib.
In the living room is a cot for me.

The kitchen is large with cupboards, a table, and a wood stove.
It is something like in Margaretsville.
There is a nice sandy beach near here.

We are staying in a little cottage near Anne's home (Mike, the nurse's wife).
There are two of Anne's brothers home now, so they get us whatever we need.
They brought me in an icebox tonight.

The Garrick Home
Fritz Garrick, Mrs. Daley (Minister's wife),
Mina (Fritz's sister), various nieces and nephews
Summer, 1961
Two Point, Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Anne's uncle made sling shots for all the children.
They are so good to the children, and so the children are having a marvelous time.
Today they helped them paint a canoe.

I want to get this off in the mail tomorrow.
I know you will want to hear how we arrived, etc.
There is a boat that comes with the mail on Mondays and Thursdays.

We are all very easy here anyway.
I will be glad when Don is through school and finds a place for us all.


On the Beach not far from Our Cabin
with Anne's Brothers
Fritz Garrick, flanked by Bertie on the left and Barbie on the right
John Garrick on the rock
Summer, 1961
Two Point, Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserve

The devil is in the detail it is said.
In the case of my mother's letter to Nana,
the devil was in the details she omitted.

To make a long story short,
the Department of Lands and Forests evicted us,
not for cause but for fire, a huge forest fire.

On Saturday the forestry department radioed my father
and told him its fire fighters were on their way:
We had forty-eight hours to vacate, by 6 p.m. on Monday, June 12th.

A fire with a fifty-mile front was burning through the boreal forest,
and the forestry department needed the house to coordinate part of the response.
My parents scrambled to make contingency plans,
for the school year didn't finish until the end of June.

Then my parents caught a break first thing Monday morning.
Mike O'Flaherty, who had rescued us from the island just before
accompanying his wife Anne to Sioux Lookout for the birth of their baby,
wired to say he had found a place for us to stay.
By early afternoon we were on a plane to catch the night train
from Nakina to Sioux Lookout and our new life.

But things didn't go the way we expected.
Mike didn't meet us at the station.
Instead he sent the town's taxi driver, Mr. Caswell, 
who broke the news that he was taking us to catch a flight
to Lac Seul where Mike had a place for us.

Lac Seul?

My brain was foggy.  It had been a very long night on the train.
I have a vague memory of Mike at the dock seeing us off,
assuring my mother that everything would be fine,
that he was sending us to Anne's family
in Two Point just outside Sioux Lookout,
and that a nice little cottage was waiting for us.

Mom managed to get a wire off before we left
to let Dad know that we were not staying in Sioux
but flying to some place called Lac Seul.
It was the last word my father heard from anyone in over a week.

"Just outside Sioux" proved to be a fifteen minute flight;
and exciting, for we flew in a real seaplane,
a seaplane that landed on its belly in the water.
Before I knew it, almost before I had time to be afraid,
the plane was plowing through the water on its belly
and racing for the shore by the Hudson's Bay post on Lac Seul.

A Grumman Goose
I don't know what we flew on, but it might have been a goose.
Flickr:  Alan   License

Anne's brothers, Fritz and John Garrick, met us with their fishing boat
and told my mother they would take us to Two Point about eight miles away.

I never forgot that first trip to Two Point; neither did my mother.
The old fishing boat owned by "the boys," as we came to call Fritz and John,
chugged through silver waters on a lake as smooth and reflective as a mirror.
As we headed deeper and deeper into the silent bush, the world slipped away.

For the next two months we had limited contact with the Outside.  
In Lansdowne House there was always a plane flying in
or neighbors stopping by.  Here there was no one,
except for Fritz, John, and their mother Kokum.
The closest short-wave radio was eight miles away by boat
at the Hudson's Bay post.

By the time the wilderness of lake, spruce, poplar, and birch
had swallowed up the Hudson Bay post, my mother had entered
a state of semi-shock.  She was exhausted by recent events,
and she was utterly appalled at being alone in the wilderness
with five young children and three Indians she knew nothing about.

Reaching "home" didn't help either.
We clambered onto the dock by a fish house and a few other weathered buildings,
and the boys helped us carry our few belongings
up the long path through a rough meadow
to the nice little cottage waiting for us:
a three-room log cabin whose walls were riddled with a variety
of animals including several weasels and a family of chipmunks.

My mother came to a sudden stop outside the cabin.
I thought she had spotted the outhouse some thirty yards
or so in back of the log cabin toward the trees;
but, no, instead she asked, "Why is all that heavy wire nailed over the windows?"

"To keep the bears out," Fritz answered.

Black Bear
Northern Ontario, Canada

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.  Forest Fires 1961:
     We didn't know it at the time, but 1961 would be a record year for forest fires in northwestern
     Ontario with 1,534,917 acres or 621,159 hectares burning.  That record wasn't broken until 2011.

2.  Mr. Caswell:
     We got to know Mr. Caswell very well doing our time in Sioux Lookout.  He was the town
     taxi service.

3.  Margaretsville:
     This is a small Nova Scotian village on the Fundy Shore where we lived in 1958-1959.

4.  Icebox:
     This was a very old icebox even in 1961.  I think Roy had the job of getting a chunk of ice for
     it every day or so from the fish house.

5.  Anne's Uncle:
     Kokum's brother was a trapper who came and went throughout the summer.  We all called him
     Uncle Pipe, because he frequently smoked a pipe.  Once he showed us a treasured and beautiful
     antique Ojibwa clay pipe that he kept wrapped in a thick, soft cloth.

6.  Two Point:
      It was Two Point River, but we all called it Two Point.  I have no clue where it was.  I haven't
      been able to locate it on any map ~ yet.

7.  Lac Seul:
     Lac Seul is the second largest lake completely within the province of Ontario.  Technically,
     it is a reservoir of the English River, and it stretches about 150 miles (241 km) in a large crescent
     from Ear Falls in the west to Sioux Lookout-Hudson in the east.  A power generating station is
     located at Ear Falls.  Lac Seul has a surface area of 640 square miles (1658 sq. km).  The lake is a
     maze of islands, bays, rocky points, shoals, and narrow channels.  The water is clear, but has a
     distinctive tea color.  It is famous for its sport fishing.  sunsetcountry

8.  Fritz, Bertie, and Barbie:
     Fritz, John, and Kokum loved children, like many of the First Nations people and M├ętis of
     Northern Ontario.  My younger sisters adored Fritz, especially Barbie.  Wherever Fritz was,
     Barbie was, and Bertie was not far behind.  He had a special way with small children.  John was
     shyer, but equally kind-hearted.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House, Nakina, and Sioux Lookout
Northern Ontario, Canada

Lac Seul
Northern Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

To See a Photo of Lac Seul Click Here

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Childhood Fun and Adult Responsibilities

Early June 1961 provided a succession of beautiful spring days in Lansdowne House.
Our stranding on one of the many islands in Attawapiskat Lake
did not dampen our enthusiasm for running free outdoors.

While my parents packed for our upcoming move to Sioux Lookout,
we kids played outside every moment we could.

Boreal Summer
Flickr  NASA/Kate Ramsayer   License

Roy and I spent many hours among outcrops and along the shore
playing Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers with our cap guns,
an activity that was popular during the 1950s and 1960s.

My father was a skilled marksman,
and we kids all spent time on the range
at some point during our upbringing;
so it wasn't odd for Roy and me to have a blast with our cap guns.

Of course, we argued over who was wounded or killed
(usually the Indian or the Robber),
and we softened the ignominy of loss
with dramatic portrayals of injury and dying. 

The mock-revolvers must have been popular in Lansdowne House,
for the red paper rolls with fifty caps were stocked at the Bay.

Paper Caps

The caps were tiny discs of percussion fireworks pressed between two layers of paper.
When you pulled the trigger, the paper roll advanced,
loading a new cap and releasing the hammer.
The strike of the hammer produced a gratifying bang and puff of smoke.

We were always caught between the desire to fire repeatedly
and the worry of running out of caps,
which meant there was no argument over who was about to die.

All the World Is a Stage
This is the path to the lake where we got our water.
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
June 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My sisters and I played a tamer game of Bride and Bridesmaids,
sometimes with a reluctant (or desperate for someone-to-play-with)
Roy roped in as the hapless groom.
The game was inspired by abundant wildflowers,
and the object was to make gorgeous bouquets
and march down the aisle (the path to our waterhole)
humming "Here Comes the Bride."

Gorgeous dandelions popped up everywhere,
and I swore when I married for real,
I would carry a huge bouquet of vibrant yellow dandelions.
(I did not!)

The Humble Dandelion
Flickr  AJ Batac   License

We played lots of more typical games, too,
like Hide and Seek, Red Lights Green Lights, and Giant Steps
during the long twilights after supper.
My mother's experience of these lovely days was quite different.

On Thursday, June 8, 1961
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law,
Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:-
Things have been very quiet this week
with the exception of the outing last Sunday.

Wading in Attawapiskat Lake June 4, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

We all enjoyed the trip though and hate to leave
just when the weather is getting nice,
especially when there are so many nice places to go for picnics.

Actually it's very safe because there are so many islands.
If the weather turns you can always stop and wait.

The McRae's had a worse experience than we did.
Maureen was telling Louise they were caught out in a thunder and lightening storm
and stopped at the same place as we did, but they didn't even have a match.

Mike has quite a boat; it belongs to the government.
It's a cargo canoe like we had,
but with a much stronger motor and pontoons, one on each side.
It is unsinkable.

Last Saturday Duncan and Maureen
were over for bridge.
Monday they had to fly Duncan to Sioux Lookout.
They didn't know what was wrong with him,
but think it might be some kind of kidney infection.
He wired that he would be back Friday.

Dad and Duncan, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

Louise stayed with Maureen one night, and Maureen fixed her hair all up for her
and played Macbeth for her on her record player.

Monday night we went over to Maureen's and played bridge
with Maureen and one of the boys from the geological survey crew.
They are all college students or graduated.

Don and Barbie have been down with colds.
Don feels pretty miserable today, but everyone seems to be taking it all right.
Roberta is outside now playing with a little Indian baby.

I imagine the next few weeks here will be hectic
since we will be trying to pack which is rather difficult
when you don't have much room
and when you don't have a washing machine.

It sounds as if you have been having your hands full
with the apartments and cottages.
It will be nice when you don't have to worry about them any more.

The MacBeath Cottages 
Brighton, Outside Charlottetown, 
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Painting by Don MacBeath, March 1961,
as remembered from his childhood
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

When we are at Sioux Lookout, it will be much easier for you to come to visit us;
and in time, perhaps, we will be in Ottawa which would be nearer.

I imagine everyone will be going home to the Island
for the summer now, and you will be seeing Barbara.
It was so nice of her to come to the station to see us.
I only wish we had had more time to visit with her.

There is so much writing to do for mail day.
I will be glad when we reach Sioux Lookout,
so at least I won't have to worry about the weekly order.

Here if you forget something, it's just too bad for you,
because more than likely you can't get it at the Bay.

You have to make bread because you can't count on them
having any, and it's a drag.
I don't know why, except I'd rather do a big wash.

I guess it's you can get at a wash and get it done,
but bread you can only do in stages.
It tastes good though, and everyone insists I'm going to have to keep it up.
Personally I think once a month will be fine.

Making Homemade Bread
Flickr  Karen Sabin   License

It's so very beautiful here now.  The trees are all in leaf now,
and the water is usually just like a mirror
reflecting all the  islands, and there are dozens of them.

The grass is all green, and there are all kinds of birds.
The children are bringing in all kinds of flowers, some I've never seen before.
There are some that look like lilies of the valley, but don't smell like them.
Then there are little pink ones that grow in clusters,
and some form of a bluebell.
I must get out for a walk before we leave,
so I can see some of them growing.

With Love to you and Aunt Maude,

(which may or may not be the flower
my mother referred to as like lilies of the valley)

I'm not sure my mother ever took that wildflower walk.
We could not imagine the abrupt and unexpected
twist of fate our lives were about to take.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

 Bay of Fundy out of Westport
Summer 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Macbeth and MacBeath:
     Maureen chose Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth because I am a MacBeath (pronounced
     "Macbeth"), and I was thrilled to hear the dramatization of the life of a Scottish king
     whom we always joked was our only claim to Royal blood.

2.  Apartments and Cottages:
     Nana had recently sold her apartment building in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,
     and was in the process of selling their summer cottages in Brighton, just outside the

3.  Barbara Pratt:
     The Barbara my mother referred to was the daughter of Nana's brother Chester Pratt.  My father
     was fond of his first cousin and named my sister Barbara after her.  When we moved North,
     Barbara Pratt came from Peterborough to Montreal to meet us before we boarded the train to
     Nakina (likely Montreal).  Barbara would be going home to St. Peter's Bay on the "Island" which
     is how all Islanders referred to Prince Edward Island.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited