Memories of Conversations With Johnny

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Memories of Conversations With Johnny

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When I was a child my father would bring me to many Eastern Townships rural auctions. We would sit for hours on hard wooden benches in some old barn while he bought a lot of old furniture he didn’t need. During that period of time I learned a lot and bring that knowledge with me every single time I venture into a thrift shop or an estate sale. I might not be a mathematician, but I can tell you when things were made and how much they’re worth pretty quickly.

My Dad met a pair of elderly twins at those auctions that had lived in the hills of the Eastern Townships for most of their lives. One of them had been nicknamed Hillside Johnny. Johnny was a recluse and seemed to talk to just a chosen few, and very few seemed to be on that list. When the folks at the auctions spoke about him and his home,it was said that his was not “a home of culture”. The more they talked about him, the more curious I became.
John used to walk up and down the length of the auction barn sporting a strange shirt, soiled pants, well worn work gloves and “highwater” pinkish underwear that seem to explode above his pants. Every 15 minutes his hat seemed to change like magic and the holes in his socks appeared larger.
As the long-haired man spoke here and there to some I overheard that his brother lived with him, but they had not spoken in 5 years. He no longer used his kitchen after they converted it into an extra bedroom and cooked on a hot plate in a disgusting over-crowded garage. This in a home in a highly sought neighbourhood in Bromont with a view that would soon cost mega dollars.
I listened carefully as Johnny told my Dad that he had not driven a car in years, but instead rode his bike the 3.5 to 5.5 miles up and down the hills that would give a younger man a heck of a workout.
Each time my Dad saw him he handed Johnny something in a coloured shopping bag that seemed to match his underwear. What was in that bag? I never found out, and after the auction John used to slowly wander down the road clutching the bag along with a significant body aroma trailing him.
In my life I have always been called different, but some days I wonder if I am slowly morphing into the same classification as Johnny? Will I too some day cook on a hotplate inside a garage after my vintage clothing collection takes over my home? Maybe we all have a little Hillside Johnny in us, and being weird is kind of like being a limited edition. Johnny was just something that people didn’t see that often, and maybe strange was all he had– or wanted. After all, an original has always been worth more than a copy, and that’s the way it should be.
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Glenn van der Werff I read that very nice piece of yours the other day Linda. Thanks for sharing it. I recall there being a weekly or monthly auction in the barn at Moynan’s home near the apple orchards on the road between Cowansville & Farnham. They mostly sold cattle but there could have been other stuff too. 🙂 Keep on writing.

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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