Larry Clark Memories : Billings Bridge, Willow Trees and the Orange Lodge

Larry Clark Memories : Billings Bridge, Willow Trees and the Orange Lodge


 You asked for photos re: my previous submission but photos of my youth are few and far between mostly due to the fire at Arklan— 31 Jan 69. This is not so much about Carleton Place– but may be of interest. It is about my grandparents. As you can see, Dan Bennett in the photo below could not easily be encouraged to “dress up”. I was to learn later in 1946 that I had a second maternal grandfather as my mother had been adopted. I learned of him when he came to visit us and brought with him, his son Bill, from a second marriage and a huge 2 lb block of chocolate. He was an electrician that had come (Weston) to wire our newly built house on the corner of Napoleon and Arthur.

 1929 Reo, Dan and Tillie Bennett- Larry Clark Photo

In the early 40’s, I spent my summers with my Grandparents in Ottawa (Billings Bridge area). They had a home (which he had built himself) on Riverside Drive almost opposite the intersection with Alta Vista-4 acres I believe, on the Rideau River. This was a rather desirable location and in the early 50’s was being expropriated by the city of Ottawa. They were offered no greater value due to the location on the river and they fought the city to no avail. They were one of the last holdouts but eventually had to accept the offer.

They sold and moved to Kemptville to be near where their son, Earl, lived in South Mountain. Tillie died there in 1957. Grandpa (Dan; b.1872) and Grandmother (Tillie; b.1871) were my constant companions for months at a time. Dan had a huge garden stretching to the river. There was bush on the right side and a house on the left, the occupants of which I barely knew.  Dan was sociable enough with them but didn’t appreciate the fact that they had a very large Weeping Willow close to the property line in the vicinity of his garden. He maintained that it provided too much shade to his garden and it was sucking up all the water from that same area. Most of that area of garden was planted with potatoes, where I learned to treat their tilling with much disdain. A large swing in the yard adjacent to the Riverside was much more pleasurable until the day I passed out and fell off.  A contributing factor to this malaise was a large boil on the back of my neck. A poultice (bread, or Flax seed?) was fashioned and administered to the offensive sore, to draw out the poison. I survived.

1929 REO

A garage on the other side of the property harboured a 1929 REO which was driven at least once a week. Dan was very frugal , changed the oil regularly but with used oil (suitably strained). This was procured sans payment at the local friendly service station in Billings Bridge. On long trips i.e to CP, he would turn off the engine at the top of the larger hills, coast down and re-start at the bottom. It was at least on one such excursion that we stopped on the side of the road while Dan cut some cedar branches from the adjacent trees. These were taken home to be placed in bureau drawers with the clothing.

This rather boring trip would consume most of a morning’s hours. At least, I would be returned home and not have to suffer the same trip in reverse. Life at Dan and Tillies was never boring. They taught me to play Rummy (age 4/5) and it wasn’t long before they accused me of cheating because I tended to hold my cards; not putting them down immediately. This prevented them from discarding on my hand. Early evenings would be spent on the porch counting passing cars, which weren’t too commonplace in those days. Some of the time was allotted to trying to turn my stomach into knots-at least that is what I would be admonished for; repeatedly, climbing onto the porch and jumping off.

The best was the Tuesday and Saturday night visits to the Orange Hall, which were Euchre nights. At that point I couldn’t understand the game (that came later) but I enjoyed watching (learning), quite often bearing the brunt of players remarks (teasing) to which I was subjected. However, I took advantage of this friendship by becoming an entrepreneur. There was a corner store at Bank/Riverside which sold soft drinks (before it was Americanised to “pop”) for 7 cents. Deposit was 2 cents. I would take orders, collect a 10 cent payment and go purchase the items but never paid a refund on their dime. Of course I got quite a bit of flak for that and even more by collecting the empties and returning them to the store. That’s where I learned about “sticks and stones”!  

Daniel Bennett- Photo Larry Clark

The Orange Lodge figured  prominently in their lives as Dan performed as “King Billy” at the annual 12th of July parade for many, many years. He would be leading the parade on a huge (to me) white horse, while I would be standing on the sidelines with Tillie. It seemed to me that the parade venue changed every year, so that we would be visiting many different towns in the Ottawa, Gatineau area. When a group of Orangemen got together, there were many stories of the atrocities that the Catholics inflicted on the Protestants in days gone by. One such, was that of group of Catholics captured a Protestant; sealed him in a barrel; drove spikes into it and rolled him down a hill to a bitter end. Scary stuff until I learned many years later that these events probably took place (if at all) 400 years previously.

witch hazel

Dan earned extra money as a dowser (perhaps his only  income-I only knew he had once worked on the railroad). For this purpose, he would require a source of witch-hazel to which end we would drive along Riverside Dr. (near Bronson, mostly countryside in those days) until the perfect tree formation was found. He would be looking for a branch with a fork that had fairly equal diameters and was approx. 2 feet long. At the devining site, he would grasp the ends of the forked branches, twisting the ends to force the opposite single end into the air at an approx. 60 degree angle. He would then pace back and forth until he was satisfied with the results. I was a doubter, (perhaps that is where I acquired a doubting attitude) but he would show me the twisted bark on the branch? He would only search for water if the homeowner agreed to to dig a well by hand. He maintained that a drill could easily miss the source of water that he had indicated. He would locate the water in a variety of locations on a property and then proceed to go through a variety of ministrations and would then advise as to how deep you would have to dig to find water. They would then decide which location would be the most suitable.

Thanks Larry once again for sending your memories.

Read more about dowsing and twitching here. Twitching or Grave Dowsing– Our Haunted Heritage

Glory Days in Carleton Place– Larry Clark

Larry Clark — Your Veribest Agent

A Personal Story — Caught in the Ice– Rocky Point- Larry Clark

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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