Hard to remember those days, but there I am in Grade 3 –third row, number 4- big smile–blonde Bette Page haircut– soon to have massive dental work done in the 1990s. On the top right hand corner lies our beloved teacher Miss Righton from Cowansville High School. Everyone loved her, especially the boys. There were only two teachers that my fellow male classmates considered ‘’too hot for teacher” when I went to school and they were: Grade 2 teacher Miss Spicer, and my Grade 3 teacher Miss Righton. In a sea of the matronly and the spinsters were two teaching women that wore stiletto shoes and petticoats that peeked out of their 50’s circle skirts. Remember Van Halen’s music video “Too Hot for Teacher” in 1984? I wondered if anyone ever had a teacher like the video model Lillian Muller in their lifetime.
As I looked in the mirror today I wondered if Miss Righton still looked the same way– or was she still alive? Even though I still think I see the same young person in the mirror at age 70, I know that I am gazing at a mirage. By the looks of also 70 year-old Muller she has had some Botox, a wee bit of plastic surgery (she denies it) and some media photos of herself appear photoshopped.
When I Googled her I was relieved to also find a few unflattering pictures of her. One has to imagine that there has to be a little something sagging under those clothes, and where the heck was her bellybutton on one website photo. Once again, the miracles of Photoshop mysteriously eliminated another body part of a celebrity.
Many years later Muller has made a career as an inspirational speaker and author. Unlike Miss Righton and myself, she has been a raw food vegetarian since she was 27 and has never had a drink in her life. When Muller auditioned for the Van Halen video she thought she wouldn’t get the part because she was 30 at the time. Now, at the
same exact age as myself she is now posing for senior publications instead of Playboy, but really she has not changed much.
Miss Righton and I had parts in the Cowansville Elementary School Grade 3 “stick, triangle and tambourine” band while Muller went on to star as Rod Stewart’s affection in “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” video in 1978. Muller also posed in matching white bikinis for a photo shoot with her 21 year-old daughter before she went to college. I can feel quite positive in saying that there is no way that Miss Righton and I followed suit.
Muller is still acting and became the author of “Feel Great, Be Beautiful Over 40” in 1995. She was never married, even though she dated “Magnum P.I.” star Tom Selleck and Hugh Hefner. If I do remember correctly Miss Righton married a country lad, and let’s not get started about my private affairs.
As I pop my second Arthritis pain caplet into my mouth I salute her and former teacher Miss Righton. Do we women really want to look like Muller and have to maintain an illusion on a daily basis? Personally, I’d rather be me; and besides George Clooney said he was comfortable looking older because it’s better than the other option, which is being dead. High five to that!
I can’t remember what year as a teen I began wearing fashionable tops made out of Sugar Bags. All I know is when I did my grandmother had a fit. It was bad enough I loved corn, but this? My grandfather said in England corn was only fed to the cows– but to purposely show yourself out in public in such a garment was a travesty to the Mary Louise Deller Knight.
My grandmother said all she could think of was the great poverty of the Great Depression. But in my mind there was a romance to the idea that anyone could make something beautiful from something so mundane as an old sack of sugar or flour or anything else.
In truth, feed sacks were used for sewing well before the depression and for several years after. The evolution of the feed sack is a story of ingenuity and clever marketing. Women looked at these sacks and began to use them for everything in the household and also became popular for clothing items. Manufacturers saw what was happening and they began to print their cloth bags in a variety of patterns and colours.
Every mother and grandmother knew how to sew when I was growing up. Grammy and I would always go to the fabric store and pick out patterns and cloth to make clothes. Unfortunately, my grandmother loved the colour brown, because it was sturdy and basic, much like the sugar bags. I might have been sturdy in size, but I was never basic, and I grew to really not care for the colour brown.
Truth be known I never liked much colour and still don’t, and even though I had creative genes, sewing wasn’t really my forte. In fact I should have walked away from the sewing machine. But, I pinned, I taped, and if it fell apart, well it fell apart, but the general public got the idea of my styles. I am very grateful the glue gun did not exist in those days– truly grateful.
I had never listened to anyone who tried to talk me out of my views on life, fashion, and being yourself. I was sturdy like the mighty feed bags. At age 15 I marched into the CHS Vice Principal’s office who doubled as a guidance counsellor and told him I would not be returning to school the next year. I also asked for my $10 dollar school book deposit back.
I can still remember to this day where his desk was positioned in the room, and the look on his face that was partially hidden by his oversized spectacles. In a crisp but curt tone he scolded me.
“My dear Miss Knight, what golden path have you chosen for yourself?”
“I am going to be a fashion designer Sir,” I said emphatically.
He got out of chair and perched himself on the edge of my chair and asked me loudly if I was joking. He continued in a loud monotonous drone telling me young ladies became either nurses or teachers. The elderly gentleman suggested that maybe I look into the world of home economics if “I enjoyed sewing”.
With that I stood up and again I asked him to cut me a cheque for $10.00. With a look of defiance, a shake of his hand, and $10.00, the world was now my oyster
If my grandmother Mary was my foundation for my hard working ethics, then Saul Cohen was the drywall. He expected me to arrive at my job in a children’s wear manufacturer at 7:30 every morning and I had to ask to leave around 7:45 pm at the end of the day. The man worked me to the bone, and I just chalked it up to experience. I worked in the cutting department, sewing, swept floors, did book work, and worked in the show room. There was not one stone that he did not make me turn over, and turn over again.
‘Sauly” was relentless, and when he found out that my Mother had ties to the Jewish religion he made sure I knew about my heritage. Anytime I asked to leave early he would turn around and say to me,
“Do you know how our people suffered?”.
Another person I owe who I am today is the late Morty Vineberg from Au Bon Marche in Sherbrooke, Quebec. I learned the retail trade from the bottom up from him, and to this day, if there is a spot for just 50 items, and I have 300; I can whip that into shape as fast as you can say “bargain designer clothes”. In those days you took pride in your work, listened and worked hard, and you learned from those that knew.
How do you explain to kids today that’s how life was? You don’t– you had to be there– when life was never sugar coated and as sturdy as an old sugar bag.
Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina
Years ago before I went to California I had 100’s of cookbooks. My favourites were the church cookbooks from the local rummage sales and I have given away a lot–but today I still have about a 100 left.
Remember the well worn coil- bound cookbooks put out by Canadian companies? I still have well-used copies of Robin Hood, Maple Leaf and Red Rose which are probably museum items now. These little books are full of things our grandmothers used to make, such as dinner rolls, pickles, jams, jellies, and the beloved tomato aspic.
By today’s standards some of the ingredients are not for healthy eating: canned soup, shortening, MSG and lots and lots of mayonnaise. But these books were especially big on baking and contained classic recipes for breads, cookies, squares, cakes, and especially pies. This is perhaps where their timelessness shines through for everyone.
The recipes from my vintage cookbooks are from times I still remember, and in the 50’s my mother used to make Tuna Pinwheels and Canned Devilled Ham Canapes for her canasta parties. Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight was a stickler for an attractive food presentation, and she also made something called Congealed Salad for holiday meals. A combination of Orange Jello, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and wait for it, shredded cheese. I think my Dad called it “Sawdust Salad” and I seriously tried to remain clueless as to why.
I’m sure everyone has a family member that says they’ll bring a “salad” to a family dinner, but then they bring some Jello concoction they found in one of their cookbooks. Bonus points if it has marshmallows in it like the amazing Ambrosia Salad. Actually, I feel more justified in calling anything a salad if I dump leftover taco beef and salsa onto a little lettuce topped with shredded cheese.
There are many loving memories of my grandmother baking on Saturdays. The old beige crock which held the flour under the cupboards — a hint of yeast — and the mixture of sweat pouring from her forehead. This mixture was placed in loaf pans, and if the day was bright the bread was set out in the sun to rise, otherwise the pans were placed near the big black wood stove which made the room toasty and cozy.
After the dough had risen to twice its size it was quickly placed in the oven. Making bread was only the beginning of the baking day– cakes, pies and cookies followed. There might be homemade applesauce for supper, toast for breakfast, bread pudding and the other delicious dishes which came from my grandmother’s magical kingdom. It was always homemade with love. That meant that I had sneaked the spoon out of the mixture and licked it and no one was the wiser when it was used again.
The steamed brown bread baked in a can was certainly one of Grammy’s few baking tragedies. It was so horrible my Dad took my Grandmother’s failed recipe target shooting at the Cowansville dump. I would like to think that some of those rats got to feast on one of those brown breads. Of course, maybe after sampling it, they might have wanted to be put out of their misery.
The best is all those hundreds of recipes lovingly collected, saved from the newspapers or magazines, with notes written on the side. Finally assembled into cookbooks, the secrets were still not there. I remember writing down some of my Grandmother’s recipes and next time we made it she had changed the amount of pinches and methods on her recipes.
Despite living in a healthy society, or trying to, cookbooks seem to remain every bit as popular as romance novels and mysteries. Nostalgia triggers a story about our lives, helping us reflect on traditions and moments about the days when our parents and grandparents were alive. That’s why we should never lose print recipes, and real paper-based cookbooks.
Those mystery meat recipes, and foods that were the same colour as rainbow radiation will always resonate with us. That’s because we get to see and relive the gravy stained favourites, and the memories of family. If reading about cookbooks has you craving a big slice of cake, you’re not alone. I was always told if you can read you can cook. I can attest that my cooking is so fabulous that even the smoke alarm cheers me along from time to time.
My father cheered for the losing Toronto Argonauts until he died and even when comedian John Candy took over as owner, he still could not resurrect their life-force.
There is a difference between the CFL and the NFL and it has something to do with the size of the field but don’t ask me about it.
Upon leaving a Canadian University, my best friend’s boyfriend got picked up to play for the Edmonton Eskimos and after a week of practising with men that were double his size he left. The town of Cowansville, Quebec talked about it for at least a year.
I once was a cheerleader for the *Cowansville, Quebec Colts, who only won one football game in two years. I had no idea what they were doing on that field but I can still remember the cheers word for word.
American lobbyist J. C. Watts once played for the Ottawa Rough Riders and was dating one of my staff at the same time. He came to dinner one night and absolutely hated my Italian soup. Watts played football the next day and blamed my soup for feeling ill. No one else was sick so I cursed his game.
When the clock says there is 5 minutes left in the game you know that it’s really somewhere in the neighbourhood of at least 22 minutes.
Superbowl Sunday February 5, 2102
I have always been on a stadium free diet and knew that “The East Coast Bowl” extravaganza would be on all day. The only thing I cared about on Superbowl XLVI was the commercials and seeing Madonna. My joys would be the halftime show and eyeing the linesmen bend over during the game. Between you and me there is nothing better than seeing a man in tight pants blocking other players.
If it were not for the commercials and Madge I would rather watch a faucet drip or knit a sweater for the Easter Parade. Tom Brady’s wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, did send me one of her mass emails begging me to send good vibes and prayers so her hubby could win the game. Stupid is as stupid does.
Of course I have already watched most of the commercials online but still enjoyed watching David Beckham once again for the same reason I like the linesmen. I still think some of the commercials should be more geared to women. Women are the ones who are busy dishing out stadium style snacks with the Slim Jims lined up in the dip like goal posts.
There is nothing worse than listening to hours and hours of male cheering for those on the field that are getting beaten up and tackled. I have also heard them say that the next best thing to being in the stands is sitting on the couch with friends. Their fragile egos are so geared to sports that if they can’t be out there playing then they like to watch. Note to all the women is that particular view on football seems to be the same way they feel about sex.
This year was the best lip synched show thus far, featuring Madonna and friends. The “Like a Virgin touched for the 3000th time” is nothing but an icon to me. People complained that Madonna could have been the mother of any of the players and everyone wanted to hand her a cane. May I remind you of former older entertainers who also did Super Bowl appearances, like Bono, Springsteen, Aerosmith and the list goes on. I scream double standards and age discrimination and was shocked Betty White was not joining her on stage to do squats and ride the male ponies.
If you were not into football there were the alternatives from the puppy bowl to marathons of AbFab and Downton Abbey. Personally I would take Patsy and Edina’s drunken insanity on AbFab over football any day. I did however vote for Maggie Smith from Downton Abbey for MVP.
Does the football game really say that there is less aggression in women or is it really a matter of a man’s dreams and personal glory? I understand men do not like to explain football to women and I have absolutely no interest in asking why the man in my life does the end zone shuffle screaming,
“We’re number 1!” We’re number 1!”
In the end I may not care for the sport, but I do cherish the few moments during a football game when you can watch a loved one “move like Jagger”. Got to love your personal linesman and worth every second of the irritating sporting event.
Notes from the Peanut Gallery:
What “self-respecting guy” would shell out $14.95 for a pair of Beckams briefs? I can get a 5-pack of boxer briefs at Wal-Mart or Target or Costco for about $12.- Walter B
*Yamaska August 8, 1962
Brome-Missisquoi Junior Football League Schedule
Aug 5 Cowansville Colts vs Farnham Frontenac
Aug 11 Farnham Frontenac vs Knowlton Larks
Aug 18 knowlton larks vs cowansville colts
Aug 25 Farnham Frontenac vs Cowansville Colts
Sept 1 Knowlton Larks vs Farnham Frontenac
Seven 8 cowansville colts vs knowlton larks
Sept 15 Playoffs
Sept 27 Playoffs
Oct 8 Playoff
Yamaska, August 29, 1962
Cowansville Junior Football Club, after a long stand, will host its first game in Cowansville on Saturday, September 1st against the Knowlton Larks. This game will be played at the Municipal Playground, located on Bernard Boulevard, and at 2 PM. There will be a parade if the weather is favorable. She will depart from City Hall at 1hr 15p.m. leading Cowansville Youth Harmony, followed by the league, executive club and players in convertibles. If sometimes it rains, there will be no parade but the parade will still take place at the usual time of 2 P.M. The parade will be rescheduled to next week when Cowansville hosts Farnham Frontenacs.
The Colts will try to hold on to the top spot in the league, having a slight lead over the teams.
Come support your local football league.
The Yamaska Sept 5, 1962
Cowansville Colts play their first game at home. Knowlton Larks win 21-18
The Cowansville Colts were hosted by the Knolwton Larks this past Saturday, September 1. The game took place at the Stadium on Bernard Street in C’ville. Spectators witness a football game being held for the first time in Cowansville. Even though the Larks defeated the Colts by a small three-point margin, these teams displayed a well-balanced game.
The ride was preceded by a parade that rocked City Hall formed by the Cowansville Junior Harmony. She was followed by convertibles carrying Brome-Missisquoi Junior Football League executive and Cowansville Colts Club executive, as well as Horseman M. Armand Beauregard reppin’ the city. Plus the Cowansville players in their blue and white uniforms followed.
The referee was under Mr. Hubert Dubois former Assistant Chief of SRFU and assisted by Dick Ferris of Farnham, Rupert Dobbin of Sweetsburg. A large crowd of supporters were present to support the local club, as well as supporters from Knowlton Larks and Farnham Frontenacs. The latter being the club that will meet Cowansville this week on September 8th at 2 p.m. in the Cowansville township.
Thank you to Cowansville Junior Harmony for showing out during the parade as well as at halftime convertible owners who provided their free help during the parade. Thanks also to Mr Hubert Dubois of the QRFU Montreal has provided his good competition in terms of professional arbitration and it is understood that he will come for future parties. Although the Cowansville Colts lost this game, they are still a great team in the league, and that will be proven at the next game in Cowansville Saturday, September 8th at 2 p.m. vs. Far Frontenacs. Lava.
Come along and support our local club.
The Yamaska 19 Sept 1962
Farnham Frontenacs defeat Cowansville Colts in the last minute it was a surprise 21-19 definite record
COWANSVILLE – In a surprise final, the Farnham Frontenacs lined up to make the winning touch over the Cowansville Colts who will play strongly into the end of the game or the Frontenacs made the final touch to do so win the game. It was apparent that near the final minutes Cowansville’s defensive line was considerably weakened and Farnham’s backfield used a bit of strategy to lock in all the winning points. Colts scored 6-0 in the 1st quarter, 7-6 in the 3rd 19-15 But in the end, the Colts just didn’t look like they were able to go ahead enough to stay near a touchdown margin.
While it was another disappointment for the Colts who just missed a loss to the Knowlton Larks last week, the Colts will play next week for a semi-final first leg, the first ever will be held in Knowlton next sat 15th sept. The second leg will be held at Cowansville, the semi-final will be the series total points between the two clubs. The semi-final winner will play first place with the Farnham Frontenacs in a 2 of 3. Today’s points were counted for Cowansville by: M. Liberty (13), D. Peacock (21), each having a touch, and P. Jordan scores a hit. Farnham was G. Harrison (31), one touchdown, R. Pie (25) two touch, D. Root (27) and H. Takeda got one and two points, respectively.
Colts cheerleaders supported their club perfectly like Farnham’s well organized. M. H. Dubois de Montreal QRFU referee was umpiring the game with the help of Dick Ferris from Farnham and Rupert Dobbin from Sweetsburg. M. A. Just from cowansville was taking minutes and M Ray Tetreault of Farnham was the corrector on these. Young football fans are invited to go to Knowlton for English school semi finals.
Come and support your local club.
Yamaska Oct 17, 1962
In the Brome-Missisquoi Junior League Farnham’s young representatives finished their season in style by winning the Grand Final at Knowlton Larks 24-19
The Horrors of Wool, Bread Bags, and Red Dye Number 7 Linda Knight Seccaspina
During the 50s because of the baby boom, there was suddenly a high demand for more stylish clothing for children. Many boys began to wear jeans to elementary school– but girls of all ages were still expected–if not required-to wear dresses and skirts for school, church, parties, and even for shopping.
Out of all the outfits I wore as a child I remember my 3-piece red wool winter snowsuit. It was a short red wool swing jacket with matching jodhpurs and a hat. That particular red outfit and enduring Toni Perms would have been enough to drive me to a psychologist for years.
There was nothing like playing out in the snow with this 3 piece red wool outfit on. I have to wonder what manufacturers and mothers were thinking. It wasn’t warm, and when it got wet it weighed triple its weight. The scratchy wool fabric rubbed my thighs so much that chafing couldn’t even be called a word.
Red dye number 7 has never been safe for the world, but in the 50s when you removed coloured wet wool your skin matched the shade you had been wearing. It took a lot of scrubbing to get the colour residue off, but nothing was redder than my raw inner thighs. I had matching red rubber boots and sometimes I had to wear bread bags on my feet in those boots to stay dry.
My friends next door hated the snow boots they had to wear. They were black boots with buckles on the front that every male in any generation seemed to wear. They were tough to put on and were even more difficult to remove. Worn over shoes, the heels of your shoe would tend to become wedged in the narrow neck of those boots.
To remove the boots at school, the boys would have to sit down on the hallway floor and try to unbuckle the now soaking wet buckles, which was difficult to do with cold hands. The boys could never seem to get their feet out of them without a fight. One boot or the other was always stuck halfway off, with one foot seemingly wedged in at some strange angle. Parents thought the solution to this was once again to place empty bread bags over their shoes before the boots, but it never helped. That idea only caused them to have to deal with wet, empty bread bags along with the boots. At least their parents were there to help in the fight to get the boots on at home, but at school the kids were on their own. By the time those feet got into the still damp boots, the school was nearly empty.
I hated wearing navy blue school tunics and white blouses and Monday seemed to be the only day I could wear the same white blouse as Friday without anyone knowing. In those days we wore uniforms so everyone would be dressed the same and no one would feel slighted.
Then there were the tights– yes, the tights. They were so uncomfortable and scratchy that I couldn’t help but complain. I even snuck into one of the church’s closets one Sunday before the service and took the tights off. Unfortunately my Grandmother caught me without my tights under my Choir robe and told me sternly, ”you have to put them on now!” I told her that they were uncomfortable but she told me I had to wear them for the rest of the church service at least. There just seemed to be something unfeminine about not being able to sit down comfortably with the crotch sagging down to your knees.
Now, most fashion for kids is just as trendy as adult fashion– even more for school. Every style comes back, even if you don’t want it too. Today, you need a small loan to buy a school uniform and as for the bread bags, well, I hear Reynolds Oven Bags, size Large, do a better job than Wonder Bread bags! As for the chafing– at my age my thighs don’t chafe anymore. They just applaud my efforts as I move around.
Everybody Hurts – Sometimes Linda Knight Seccaspina– Sherbrooke Record Column
I don’t know if any lollipop in the world could have made me smile after lining up at the town hall, or was it the fire station, on the Main Street in Cowansville in the 50s. There we were– 100s of kids in line for a polio shot with doctors and nurses pushing those ugly needles down in our arms. Loud cries pursued like clockwork, and children were led out with a lollipop in their hands mixed with tears. That image has never left my mind, nor the two hours one Friday night at Dr. Roy’s office on South Street with someone trying to pin me down for yet another inoculation.
At my age now I have been picked and prodded all my life and one more is not going to make a difference. But this week I got a COVID booster and there was no treat for me after I had received it. I seem to miss that little act of kindness after something significant in my life. You go through hours of labour and at the end there is your baby, or you get hit by a car like I did at age 6, and there were stacks of Illustrated Classics Jesus comic books given to me by my Grandfather Crittenden.
So what happened and when?
Enduring a bout of strep throat at the age of 17 my Grandmother asked me what I wanted to eat as a special treat. I told her there was nothing I would enjoy more than KRAFT spaghetti. It had to be KRAFT, nothing else. After hours of dreaming about boxed spaghetti she turned up with a bowl of vegetable soup. Is that where it turned all wrong? Or was it just Mary Knight’s way of saying– everyone that hasn’t felt well should have vegetable soup, bread and butter and a piece of cheese for their first meal. All I know is that when I got that COVID booster this week, there was no lollipop, no stickers, just a full shot because I am 70. I could have really used a treat when I had the aftershocks afterwards: you know: “the fever, headache, fatigue and pain at the injection site”. For 24
hours I could not move, and in my mind an ear worm song of “It’s a Small World“ was playing in my head. It’s still playing actually.
My husband Steve understands ‘treats’ and even though I was dead to the world he asked me what I felt like eating. I said,
“I would like a McDonalds Chicken Burger please”.
He looked at me in the way Mary Knight used to look at me and said,
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a bowl of soup?”
I gave him ‘the look’ which he understood immediately. I don’t know how husbands figure things like that out but there was no other conversation after that. But Steve doesn’t treat me like regular glue anyways, I’m always glitter glue to him.
As I began to eat that chicken burger I realized that was not what my body wanted, and could barely take a few bites. But that was my treat for all this and why didn’t my mind or body want the treat. It was obvious that my body was still in distress and Mary Knight’s remedy of a bowl of soup, bread and cheese would have been better. I went back to bed and never thought about it again.
At 2 am I woke up and my hair was soaked just like I had gone swimming. Obviously the fever had broken and my body was going back to normal. I smiled. Now where was that treat? Yes, I thought, I needed that treat even if it was now cold. I ventured downstairs quietly and looked in the fridge. Nothing there. Then I looked at the garbage pail. Sitting on top was the McDonald’s bag and there inside the box was my chicken burger. Some of you are saying,
“Oh no she didn’t”
I am telling you right now, “oh yes she did!”
Pulling a George Costanza from Seinfeld, I took out what was left in that container and I ate it all. You have heard the saying, “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight”. It was after midnight, and I was going to have that treat still with the ear worm of It’s a Small World playing through my head.
Words About Not Smelling Like Teen Spirit….Linda Knight Seccaspina
Just about every home in the world had a bottle of “Evening in Paris” somewhere in someone’s bedroom. Once upon a time even the perfume machines in women’s restrooms had them. If you put in a coin and pushed the buttons a big squirt of perfume would come out. My Grandmother would always get a bottle for a gift when I was a kid and I never heard her say she didn’t like it.
My Grandfather would take one of us girls to Varins drug store on South Street on Christmas Eve to buy a gift for her. We would come home reeking of many perfumes he had tried on me, but he always bought Evening In Paris as a special gift to win Grammy’s heart with its enticing scent.
How wonderful I felt when Grammy dabbed the fragrance from that cobalt blue bottle on my wrists and behind my ears before sending me off to school. I also remember when the vial shattered and spilled inside her coat pocket —-you could smell her long before she approached you in the preceding months.
One of my favourite flowers, Lily of the Valley, grew everywhere and after my Mother died they sent home her belongings in a blue Samsonite suitcase. When I opened it a bottle of her favourite perfume Coty’s Lily of the Valley had broken inside. For years, each time I opened that suitcase, I relived the rare hours spent with my Mother, in the many hospitals she lived in during my childhood before she died. Fragrances made me feel loved. Nothing is more memorable than a smell, sometimes it’s the key to our memories.
This is exactly where I should pump the brakes in my written journey about scents you remember. Last week I told my 7 year-old granddaughter that when I passed she and her cousin could share my collection of jewellery and hats. She was ecstatic, and then she turned to her mother and said,
“Mum, are they going to smell like Gammy?”
I was shocked and wondered if I had begun to smell musty or bad.
They say when a person approaches old age, they are more likely to start suffering from a distinctive whiff which is often described as a greasy or grassy odour, or ‘old people smell’. I remember going into my grandfather’s bedroom and it always had a certain scent to it. Concerned, I looked it up and they report it’s called– wait for it–Skin Gas. Apparently it’s 2-Nonenal gas, emitted by skin, which is a byproduct of the normal ageing process.Of all the things I thought I’d be thinking of in the new year, this wasn’t one of them. But, last week’s conversation with my granddaughter really made me think about what she was going to remember what Gammy smelled like. Getting to the bottom of it– she just didn’t care for my perfume.
Evening in Paris contained “bergamot top notes and middle notes of jasmine, Turkish rose, violet, iris, ylang-ylang, and a hint of peach and woody cedar that gave way to a sensual, powdery base of soft vanilla”. My Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet on the other hand, was supposed to be a “peony-rose sprinkled with some juicy apricot, an airy floral scent with clean white musk” wrapping it up. The first word that comes to my mind when I wear it is “celestial”– to her I smelled the opposite.
Trying to evoke my scented nostalgia for her memories would never be possible. Every once in a while a gal gets a yearning for a little powder, roses, and violets. Now, all I think about is that older people’s skin and smell will contribute to greenhouse gasses.
I don’t have many photos from my childhood, but this photo above is a favourite of mine. I have often wondered what this doll was as I have never come across it in my research journeys until last week. There it was, staring at me from the 1954 pages of the Almonte Gazette. I remember my doll talking, but it wasn’t 24 inches long so I assume it was a fake Trudy doll bought at the local 5 and 10 “The Ritz Store” situated on the Main street in Cowansville, Quebec.
My people didn’t travel much, so my beloved doll was a knock off, just like the knock off purse I got myself last week. But, my friend Stacey says we shouldn’t call anything fake anymore— you call it “designer inspired” as it’s all about the verbiage. Sovthe Trudy doll I had was “designer inspired” LOLOLOL.
This doll meant a lot to me as my mother was in the hospital a lot so she was a constant friend. I even used her on my book about cancer, because I never forgot her.
Trudy is long gone, so when I tried to find about the doll I found out that one of the Trudy dolls became haunted. This is nothing new to me– seriously…. read-The Spirits Are Alive and Well
On one of my excursions, we headed to a well known haunted area of the Maine coast called Wiscasset. Naturally when I saw a lawn sale at a run down house directly next door an old run down cemetary I had to stop. The toys were being ‘sold’ by the girl in the family who was maybe 7. She had all her items displayed on a blanket and was sitting with them. I thought it was strange that she had a doll in a box it didnt go in so I decided to ask this girl about it! I asked how much she wanted for the doll, and asked her if that was her original box, knowing it wasnt.
She looked at me point blank and said: “No, I put her in the box to keep her still at night”. I said, “Well did it work”? She said, “Not until I put the tape on it”. I have left this this taped up and have never opened the box.I could tell this girl was dealing with something supernatural in her life. She felt that whatever entity was in this doll had been contained to the box. There is immediately something scarey or strange about this doll in the box. The box was made of tin & plasticand I did not buy it.
I later saw a similar crazy doll on EBay (in a box) sell for $500.
Double, double, toil and trouble; no more Love Potion Number 9’s but we can still buy these silly dolls. I wonder if the sales of “Jesus or Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich” will now have restrictions? Cheesus Christ!
Well at least each eBay sale is protected through PayPal; but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been scammed by a Craigslist soul. Sadly these people that once bought these new prohibited items are now going to have to settle for an out-of-eBay experience. I used to think these things were scary– I realized real people are LOLOL
This morning I was supposed to get up early, but I fell back to sleep quickly and dreamed of talking to my father at the old house at 569 South Street in Cowansville, Quebec. My Dad and I never carried on many conversations when I was a teen, because he saw one way and I saw the other. But, this morning there he was back in the old electrical shop looking for a screwdriver.
He was happy to see me, as was I, and he explained to me that my grandmother’s house was being sold along with the huge lot they had. After she passed away I never saw the house demolished and was glad I didn’t. Each time an older home comes down my heart breaks for the history that it once had.
Decades ago in Cowansville they tore down heritage homes on Main Street to make way for street and property improvements. My father was an alderman, or echevin, as they called them in those days. In the hours leading up to the decision at council I was merciless. My father threw his hands up in the air after each argument and called it progress. That night, at age 14, I stood up to the Cowansville Town Council and told them how they were going to regret the decision. These homes were stately mansions of the past and I know a lot of folks regretted it years later. But, it still did not stop them from tearing down the Robinson home near Sweetsburg for a retirement home a few years ago. Some even suggested that the heritage protestors trying to save the building were ‘anti- seniors’.
Desperately wanting to keep the peace in my dream with my father I asked him if they were going to take down the huge trees on the property and he said he didn’t know. Deciding to get to the nitty gritty I asked him the big question. Why? Again, the familiar words of ‘being a man of progress’ was his answer. Not wanting to argue, I told him that older buildings were more than just old bricks and mortar. They have a story, they have a soul, and so many have been lost to developers and decay. But in reality most of them move inanegative position because of lack of interest in their preservation. He looked at me with that Arthur Knight corner smile and said that I had not changed.
I thought of the history in my grandparents home and knew my father would not change his mind. I asked him if he knew that as of August, 2020 the city of Halifax has lost 40% of its historic buildings in 11 years. Out of 104 buildings that were inventoried as heritage assets in 2009; 43 had been demolished.
You also have buildings that are in the “demolished by neglect” category. A common excuse is that the properties are beyond saving and not worth the air in the sky to remain standing. A question I would like to ask these owners is: How long have you owned it and who is responsible for this run down state? Generally the owners have owned it for quite a length of time and they are guilty of its condition. In most cases some owners of older properties are in favour of supporting heritage– except when it comes to them.
In the end the Knight house came down on South Street along with my maternal grandfather’s stately mansion on Albert Street- the Cowan home ( one of the founders of Cowansville) years later. All I have left in the Townships are the memories and the stories I tell.
My Dad in his councillor career was most proud of getting an artificial lake ( Lake Davignon) put smack in the centre of town. I, on the other hand, remember the family gravestones at the Union Cemetery. I think of the Anglican church vestry named after my Grandmother, memories at Legion Branch #99 that my grandfather helped found, and a street named after my father. I consider myself a progressive town councillor however l live by the mantra: “Progress is not tearing down everything that’s old and building something new”. After all, tearing down is easier than building up. This year let’s think about protecting heritage of any kind so that future generations may enjoy the history and the memories.
1935..6 miss marion phelps Back row l to r …archie boyd , alvin teel , willard barrette , joyce cassidy , lorna stowe , joy lee , arthur knight , eric smith , leonard lickfold , doris craigie ,, donna isaacs , dorothy corey Front row l to r ..shirley hamilton , barbara seale , mary gordon johnson , phyllis buchanan , reid pickel , bill shanks , joyce lickfold , arlene corey , betty henry , dempsey forster , jack barker , donald boucher
It is December 15th, almost a week before Christmas, and you would never know it. I wrote a piece a few years ago called “Searching For Christmas” and it seems, as the years go by, it disappears more and more. The Martha Stewart Christmas CD plays for the umpteenth time, and after 17 Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel I just can’t watch another. Or can I?
I had something happen to me a few years ago that was life altering. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it, and it has literally changed my perspective on life. It was almost like learning there was no Santa Claus when I was a child. That innocence that reinforced the goodness of mankind suddenly vanished. So, I sit here and ask myself, how many Christmases do I have left? What if I had not lived, and missed Christmas that year? Well, I did live, and Christmas is almost around the corner.
So I try to snap out of this funk and remember. I remember the smell of Christmas trees and their sharp pine pungent scent, and the smell of home baking in the air. To be honest, the last years of my childhood Christmases were not spent smelling a fresh evergreen tree. It was gazing at the latest model of Sears “best in the line ” decorator trees in my Grandmother’s living room. I remember the delicate fragile glass ornaments that belonged to years gone by and the blue lights on the tree.
I can still hear Miss Watson playing the church organ next to the Chrismtas tree at Trinity Anglican Church, which also shone with blue lights. I felt like it was something that was decided upon one Altar Guild Day in one fell swoop of a pact. Can I still hear these women talking with their glasses perched on their noses and fluffing their short tight perms? Did these church ladies decide that blue lights, and only blue lights, should be on a Christmas tree? I am positive that’s what happened and then they all went home and changed their lights to blue in a no nonsense way.
Memories then flood my mind of two weeks after Christmas in 1995 when my sons and I stood on top of a water- soaked carpet looking sadly at a completely black Christmas tree. Staring at the remainder of a horrible fire that burned everything the day before, my oldest son wondered if his purchase of one small TY Beanie Baby monkey started the fire that turned our lives upside down for over a year. He is very much like his mother. We dwell on things and don’t give them up. We are good at that.
But Christmas went on the next year and no one was a Negative Nancy. We still watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas and baked cookies and hung up stockings and I still left small presents on the door steps of the elderly. So what to do? How do I get out of this Downer Dan mood? I decided to make Butter Tarts–now that would make me feel festive.
Twenty minutes later after listening to Loreena McKennitt singing “Good King Wenceslas” for the umpteenth time, I take the tarts from the oven. They smell wonderful and I know they will be enjoyed. I turn the Martha Stewart Christmas CD off and file it away, not to be played for… let’s say…at least a day. Charlie Brown’s Christmas by Vince Guaraldi fills the air and I dance. I realize the holidays are what you make out of it and not to expect anyone to drop the Holiday spirit outside your bathroom door– because it just isn’t going to happen. Christmas just isn’t a season–it’s a feeling sometimes being torn for the familiar and just a chance to feel old feelings twice. If kisses were snowflakes I would send each and everyone of you a blizzard.