I’ve Got a Secret– Newspaper Gossip and Ploggers


Yesterday I was looking for information on the Internet, and I bumped into something that just baffled the mind. Who knew that after fifty years some of the old Eastern Townships 1950’s social columns would be posted for the world to see.

Obviously, someone who was into genealogy, or had way too much time on their hands had posted years of them online. They were all from small local newspapers we had back in Quebec, Canada called, “The News and Eastern Townships Advocate” and the “Granby Leader Mail”.  In fact Marjorie-May Laurie worked for Simms Printing in Granby (’69-70) and the Leader Mail was done from the plant. She always knew when a certain friend from High School came home to visit her parents in Abbotsford as it made it into “the Socials”. They found their way to the newspaper on small bits of paper – typed or hand written, and at time with very odd spelling.

Here are some I found about my family:


“Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Knight with their little girls, Linda and Robin spent a week’s holiday in Montreal.”

Actually it was another week for my mother to see the specialist, Dr. Gingras at the Darlington Rehabilitation Centre in Montreal. My father decided to bring us along to give her something to smile about. She played the piano one day in the common room and I danced around to the “Waltz of the Flowers”. Several Thalidomide afflicted kids came in to enjoy the music and my bad dancing.

One tried to dance with me, gracefully waving her hands that were somewhere near her armpits. I stopped in shock, and my mother glared at me. I took off my black Mary Jane shoes and gave them to the girl as I knew she had admired them. She was my hero, and so were all the other afflicted kids in the Darlington Rehabilitation Centre.





“The Brownies closed their season of 1959 with a Doll Exhibition at the Parish of Nelsonville Church Hall.”

The paper said that Judy Clough and Linda Lee Pratt won out of the 30 entries. My beautiful Miss Revlon doll did not even place. Seems the second judge ratted to the others that my mother had sewn the doll dress. I never forgot that lesson. Don’t lie about doing things you never did.

What I most remember about that day was my father being so amazed that television signals were finally coming from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. My father said that he hoped the residents of Newfoundland would be able to see the Queen’s address on Christmas Day.

He was screaming the whole conversation as he stood precariously on top of the Albert Street roof installing a new TV Antenna. Two neighbours were yelling back at him, worried he was going to break a leg. They had no interest in the Queen, nor did I.





“Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Knight held a party last Saturday night at their lovely home on Albert Street in Cowansville.”

What they did not read is that Linda Knight, their daughter could not sleep. She joined the party and sat in a circle of adults as they played a sort of musical chairs with a huge bag of women’s underwear. When the music stopped, the one holding the bag had to put on whatever they picked out. Did I mention they were blindfolded?

What was that all about?

There was also no mention of the woman that had way too much to drink and had sat beside an open window. Somehow she fell out of the window into the bushes below with a paper plate of pineapple squares in her hand.




“Mr. and Mrs. Murray Wallet and their children Sheila and Gary spent a week at their summer cottage in Iron Hill.”-Photo Sheila Wallet Needham

I used to love going to my best friend’s cottage. It stood in all its glory partially hidden by lilac trees. There isn’t a week that does not go by that I don’t think of it.

There is nothing but wonderful memories of walking along the stream that came down from the mountain top. We also used to make evening gloves on our arms with the mud from the hole in the earth that was called their swimming pool.

We toasted marshmallows and hot dogs in a bonfire, while the fireflies buzzed around us. To get water we had to shake the hose that ran up the hill to the underground water source. We were always unsure if a bear was going to pop out. The best of it all was sitting inside sipping cocoa, and laughing at stories while the rain pounded down on the tin roof.

No amount of descriptive words in any newspaper could do it justice.

        good thesis


I needed to get some information from one of my past blogs and during a Google search I turned up an essay that had been done by Assistant Professor Beth Garfrerick from the University of Alabama on how social information was distributed through the ages. I read a lot of small town newspapers from the past on a daily basis to try and get bits of information to piece community history together. Contrary to what some believe, it takes hours, and sometimes days, to get something interesting enough to entice readers. I refuse to document boring stuff; I want to do stories that are not your run of the mill.

A lot of my information comes from what Ms. Garfrerick calls “Ploggers”. Those were the local “newspaper print loggers” who played an important role in recording births, deaths and everyday happenings. If these were not online I could not write these stories. Gradually though these archived newspapers are being sucked up by the genealogy boards, so you have to pay for the information now.

But, I was pleased as punch that Professor Beth Garfrerick  quoted me on page 12 of her thesis:

“Others disagree. Canadian blogger Linda Seccaspina, posting July 10, 2012, on the zoomers.ca blog, believes that small-town newspapers continue to publish the news that most residents of those communities want to read. In * “I’ve Got a Secret – Small Town Newspapers,” she wrote, “Who does not want to know who got arrested at the local watering-hole or whose lawn-ornaments are missing that week? Even though large newspapers are losing money the local weekly small-town newspapers still manage to survive. Why? Because the local population depends on their weekly words and supports them.”

You shouldn’t presume that everything you read in a newspaper is accurate. I really consider myself  a writer who is sometimes a social critic. I follow along and take notes from the past, and sometimes I throw in my two cents. It may be coincidence that the decline of newspapers has corresponded with the rise of social media. Or maybe not.



July 27, 1906– from Ville de Cowansville


The brass band are giving regular exhibitions of their musical abilities these pleasant evenings, and gaining well-merited-praised.

The younger son of Mr. John Mooney had a bad fall from the rear-end of an express wagon in the C.P.R. station-yard on Monday afternoon, breaking his collar bone and severely cutting the flesh on the side of the hand, face and forehead. Dr. G. F. L. Fuller has the case in hand.

Prof. W. W. Harries has rented the house on Main Street, near Mr. M. O. Hart’s, belonging to Miss Wilkinson, and has moved his household effects and family there. We are pleased to note this addition to the village social life.

Mrs. Hugh ____ of Montreal and little daughter were here over the week-end visiting Mrs. ___gman, who is also anxious to locate his home here, if houses were to be had for hire or purchase. It is lamentable that eight or ten excellent families are prevented from making Cowansville their permanent home on account of the scarcity of houses. Building lots and lumber are both so high-prices that it discourages people from building much needed residences in Cowansville.

The results for the Model Department in the recent Government examinations are not so satisfactory as were those from the Academy Department, due to the epidemic which prevailed during the winter and almost broke up the whole room’s studies.


Eddie Leonard, Esq. of St. Johns, is visiting at his father’s, the genial joint prothonotary, for a few days. He is offering no advice to the sports who indulge in the wild game of lawn tennis.

The vigilant High Constable has just returned from an outing for his health. He penetrated the summer resorts as far as the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, which he founded inhabited by negroes. His health is much improved.

Farm for Sale, Sweetsburg, Que. – 100 acres. Stock and tools, good sugary, buildings in good repair, well watered, running water and telephone in house, half mile from church and school house, cheese factory, Sweetsburg Station on premises, a going concern. Price $4500. Enquire Charles S. Cotton, Sweetsburg, Que.

Notes from the newspaper The Mail –Granby – 1896 to 1898–from Ville de Cowansville

February 19, 1898 – Saturday Eastern Townships social notes

Mr. Jacob D. Ruiter of Cowansville died on Monday morning of pneumonia, aged 56 years. He leaves a family of nine children.

February 23, 1898 – Wednesday

Judge Lynch has reason to feel gratified at the interest in road improvement that has attended his efforts as President of the Good Roads Association. Bedford, Cowansville, Farnham and Granby are all taking definite steps towards having permanent macadamized roads. It is only right that the towns should lead the way in the reform. They have less length of road to construct than the rural municipalities and the statute labor problem is not so difficult for them to solve. If all the towns and villages had good roads the country folks would see that what they now consider impossible is not so difficult of attainment after all. (Cowansville Observer)

The firm Boright & Teel of Cowansville has been dissolved. Mr. Teel will carry on business at the old stand.

L. Jones & Son’s store at Sweetsburg was broken into on Monday evening and a suit of clothes and other articles taken. Suspicion points to a young man lately in the employ of T. R. Pickle who disappeared at the same time.

February 26, 1898 – Saturday

Mr. Duffy’s New Partner – Mr. A. J. E. Leonard, advocate of Sweetsburg has entered into partnership with Hon. H. T. Duffy, Commissioner of Public Works. Mr. B. Rainville, Mr. Duffy’s late partner, will take up the practice of law in Bryson, Pontiac County, it is said.

March 16, 1898 – Wednesday

Mr. Alvin Laraway of Sweetsburg, an old miner some seventy-five years of age, and five other at and around Sweetsburg, started for Klondyke on the 8th inst. Mr. Laraway has been to California three different times and only returned from South America a few months ago, where he had been looking after some mining property for a party in New York.

April 16, 1898 – Saturday

Cowansville now gets two mails a day from Montreal, one in the morning and at night.

The Vilas foundry at Cowansville is now working overtime to catch up with spring orders.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


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Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

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Misty Glen Mountain Snow Bunny Hop

Music in the 60s- Memories of Herman’s Hermits

Back to The Future — Twisting Your Dignity Away

Groovy Hints on How to Catch and Keep a Boy – 60’s style

The Dreams of a Sugar Plum Fairy

I Was A Free Range Child

Scrapbook Photos of Cowansville

6 Seconds of Cowansville High School – Our Miss Phelps

The Benefits of Having a Large Human Chassis for Traction

New Year’s Eve ’68- Thrills and Spills with the High School Golden Boy

Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:)

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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