Tag Archives: cowansville

My View from Down Under

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My View from Down Under

 

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I always wanted to be tall. Since my Mother and both Grandfather’s were tall I could never understand why I was short. There are benefits of being tall, even as far back as 1899.  I have always noticed the first words in classified ads required servants and parlour maids to be tall, have good character and go to church. I had some of the character, and certainly went to church,  but my head always stretched to see over the pews.

 

They say being short isn’t a huge problem, but it limits you being in certain occupations such as being a basketball player. That’s not always true, as I did win a basketball contest in Grade 7 at Cowansville High School. It wasn’t that I was of the perfect height to beat even the boys in that class– it was called having a good aim. Even Mr. Busteed the gym teacher could not believe what I had done, but I think he was just being short sighted.

 

My Grandmother used to measure me on the wall of the shed, but my parents used another method called “the Blue Spruce Tree” in the front yard. My father had bought this tree as he had always wanted a Blue Spruce tree. Why? I will never know, and he never said anything about it. But he took care of that wee thing, and each year I was placed in front of it to see who was beating who in the height category. Needless to say that tree won year after year, and when I googled it on Google Earth– well, never mind, it has beat me lock stock and barrel. In fact, many of the trees in my yard grew faster than I did. Did you ever have  a feeling that you were born short because everyone wanted it that way?

 

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Sometimes, even today, I sit on chairs and my feet don’t touch the floor, and not being to reach things on the top shelves of the grocery stores is just infuriating. I always sit on the aisle seat as I never get short folks to sit in front of me. Instead, I always get someone the size of Lurch from the Addams family blocking my view. My view of the Giants Pennant Winning parade that I had to cover in San Francisco for the local Bay area media in 2010 was strictly the top of floats.

 

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I’m short, but I always say most of my body consists of legs, and while we are on the subject of body parts, once upon a time my thighs were deemed too skinny to most of my friends. I remember sitting next to a few of them pushing my thighs into the swimming pool bench trying to make my thighs appear larger. In crowds I’m completely lost, and people could step all over me and not notice what actually happened to me. This exact scenario transpired when I met Paul McCartney at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle in the 60s. I was short changed by the female crowd and local police had to rescue me.

 

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The Blue Spruce Tree 2018 Albert Street Cowansville Quebec.

 

I think high school was the worst when you would get a pain in your neck dancing with someone over 6 ft. tall.  I just didn’t want to be introduced to their belly buttons, so the only solution was to sit down or stand on a chair. Needless to say I remained mostly seated.

I cheated through life wearing heels and platform shoes, and now I look at my feet with their  hammer toes, ingrown toenails, corns, bunions, and wonder if I just tried too hard to not be abbreviated. Somewhere between the age of 40 and 50 I lost 1.5 inches. I am now a compacted 5 ft 4 and a half and if you see the wandering lost 1.5 inches tell them to come back to their lilliputian home.

As Erma Bombeck once said, “Being short is just like the common cold. They will never find a cure for it”. 

 

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USA

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.

relatedreading

 

Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 11

 

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Saddle Shoes –Did You Walk a Mile in Those Shoes?

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Saddle Shoes –Did You Walk a Mile in Those Shoes?

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I was a child who missed the saddle shoes of the 40s and the 50s by a few years, but my older Albert Street friend and neighbour Verna May Wilson made up for me. There were those of of my friends who thought the return of saddle shoes in 1972 was the best thing since Lucky Charms and Lava Lamps. Then there were two or three and myself who said they hated the entire situation with I believe we said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”. And, as would be expected, there were a few old timers that had to throw in their two cents and tell “us kids” about the “olden days”. One of my friends launched the conversation, and her first words were, “Hey, saddle shoes are coming back, and my Mother thinks that is great!” For her Mother it was like smelling wine and roses— no, more like winning a sweepstakes contest.

Some of you some will remember the old days of saddle shoes when you bought them sparkling white and clean, and then you tried your very hardest to get them dirty before the kids at school got the chance to do the job for you. Seems nice white saddle shoes just wasn’t the thing in those days, and it was very painful to have your friends trying to take every inch of bark off the uppers of your saddle shoes.

 

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I really don’t wander around beginning conversations about saddle shoes these days, but when the subject has come up  I once again have always always expressed my displeasure with them. 

I do remember hearing Verna telling me her Mother became hysterical at the sight of the new saddle shoes when she returned home after her first day at school. They were scuffed and gave the appearance of having gone through a small war, but that was the “in” way to wear saddle shoes.

Day after day a bit more wear and tear became noticeable, and just about the time you really got the uppers of your saddle shoes to the point where they were socially acceptable with the “In” crowd things started happening to the rest of the shoes, and it was time to get a new pair.

 

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There were all sorts of things Verna Wilson did with saddle shoes. She would change her laces to match an outfit and I swear some peaked out of their Albert Street Venetian blinds on a daily basis to see what she had done. But, this was a girl that came home at lunchtime to change into another fresh white blouse that she wore with her navy blue school tunic, and she was perfect in my eyes.

She mentioned there was a professional scuffer at Cowansville High School that would scuff your saddle shoes for a nominal price. I heard that his scuffing business was so popular that you had to wait as long as three or four days to get his attention.

My style once older never followed Verna, but it involved my Grandmother’s borrowed pearls, penny loafers, with a scent of Evening in Paris. I was also so mesmerized with tap dancing that sometimes I taped nickles on the bottom of my shoes. The coin sometimes came in handy for a call on an emergency payphone. Can you even imagine– a penny! But after months of wearing them my father began calling them “clodhoppers” as that’s what they used to call big shoes that just didn’t fit well anymore.

 

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Shoes have always been part of everyone’s lives and they can either afford you the adoration of your peers, or jeers from the cool kids table in the lunch room. Should we get into the Hush Puppies era, or can we just stop now at Saddle Shoes and Loafers and suppress those memories?

Did you know that all these shoes we wore actually changed the shape of our feet over the course of our lives? As Leonardo DaVinci once said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”  Maybe so, but after a lifetime of fashionable shoes, my feet are no masterpieces– they in fact looked like very scuffed Saddle shoes that no one would want– and that my friends are going easy on them.

 

historicalnotes

 

I was Linda Knight, Junior bridesmaid at this wedding.:)

 - J. Dunn, Hadlock -Wilson -Wilson Wedding Held...

Clipped from

  1. The Gazette,
  2. 08 Sep 1959, Tue,
  3. Page 26

lindaaa.jpg - Youngsters Bid Saddle Shoes 1 . I I i I l 1 L I...

Clipped from

  1. Asheville Citizen-Times,
  2. 16 May 1943, Sun,
  3. Page 20
  1. Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

Never Say Dye, Said Miss RIT

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1920s RIT box thanks to Doris Blackburn/ Karen Blackburn Chenier

I have often wondered where I get my love of wearing dark colours day in and day out.  Did it all stem back to the tender age of 12? On a shopping trip to Granby, Quebec I once met a woman reciting poetry on the street. She was thin, cool, and wore nothing but black. Smoking a long slim cigarette, she blew perfect circles into the air and looked like she didn’t have a care in the world. I immediately assumed at that young age that one did not have to think if you wore the colour black.

But the more I thought about it, I realized my Grandmother never wore colour much either except to Rebekah Lodge meetings. Those box-shaped handmade white dresses she wore didn’t have that much shape to them, but she always added some sort of lace trim–which didn’t help much. But, most days she wore as many shades of blue as she could think of. Her friends must have wondered how she managed all those shades of dark blue she came up with– but I knew how she did it.

Dresses in those days were always “freshened up” according to Grammy and RIT  Dye encouraged creative homemakers like herself to give their dingy clothes new life for just a couple of quarters a box. The ‘catch-all’ drawers in her white bureau situated in the heart of her kitchen contained dozens of boxes of the product. Some days before she bought her washer; a pot of dye would be boiling on top of her woodstove along with lunch.  My grandfather’s eyes would be in a panic when he saw one of her dresses stewing away hoping she would not reuse that pot again for food preparation.

Most garments made out of rayon and crepe were not washed as a whole in those days, and only ‘spot cleaned’ as necessary to preserve the shape and colours. Spot cleaning was huge in my Grandmother’s world–and I always seemed to be her test subject before I went back to school after a lunch that included gravy.

Even though she wore Mitchum’s deodorant, dye ran easily, especially with the dark colours that she wore. Those Kelinart’s underarm dress shields with the plastic linings were worn to reduce those ghastly yellow underarm stains–but they never seemed to work. I know a few vintage dresses I have seen in a friends closet that have not been washed in a  lifetime– but not Grammy’s. The vast majority of the time after spot cleaning they always went back into the pot for a new shade of dark blue. Immediately the rubber gloves went on and a brick went into the pot to weigh the garment down.

I never saw my Grandmother wear pants and her life was a long and sordid tale of  boiling pots, washing machines, and dry-cleaners for her dresses. Life always needed a splash of colour she said, and even when RIT Dye was no longer popular with homemakers Grammy still continued.

In the 1960s  fashion designers began featuring tie-dyed clothing. Tie-dye became the look of a whole generation, saving the RIT Dye brand from extinction. I, being a young thriving fashionista, began tye dying with the best of them under the guided hand of my smiling grandmother. Live fast and dye pretty might not have been in her phrase dictionary, but it was in mine. Grammy made me realize having the control to dye your clothes and change your look was a part of self-expression and has always been the purpose of life for me. I realize now that  self expression was for her too as long as she had a box of RIT.

 

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Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

Who Wears Shorts Shorts? The Law Against Shorts!

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Who Wears Shorts Shorts? The Law Against Shorts!

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In the late 50s for a brief time it was against the law to wear shorts in Cowansville, Quebec. Having an extremely dusty memory these days I don’t recall if the surrounding villages and towns had the same law. I don’t think I ever wore shorts that much except to go on a picnic, and of course there were those Cowansville High School bloomer gym suits that were not only modest, they were also downright medieval.


Memories of walking by the Ritz’s five and dime on Main street and seeing a handwritten sign in the window that said “No shorts allowed!” seems like yesterday. Honestly, I had never really thought about it until I saw a newspaper clipping this week that pants and shorts on women should not be worn in public places during that time. Gossip says the law began in in my small town when the powers to be rushed through a policy in case some shapely females appeared in such attire on the street.  Oh the horrors! The media reported that it was a popular vote, but I’m wondering with whom, because I remember my Mother saying a lot of women called the town hall every day to put a stop to it.

In May 1959, the Associated Press noted that the city council of Plattsburgh, N.Y., had voted to ban the wearing of shorts by anyone over 16 years-old on city streets. Violators were liable to receive a $25 fine or 25 days in jail. An alarmed woman wrote to the local newspaper saying it was “an advertisement for adultery when a lady wore shorts.” The writer also added she was a “decent person” who resented having to look at the “ugly legs” of men and women in shorts. Exposed gams, she added, were a “disgrace to humanity.” Sherbrooke even charged a ballet teacher with indecent exposure, while making her way to emergency at the Sherbrooke Hospital. She had broken her wrist in a fall and was in her dance leotard!


When I went to school we had to wear those awful navy blue tunics with a white blouse all the time. My kneecaps were frost bitten several times walking back and forth to school in the winter. We were allowed to wear pants, but they had to be taken off once we got to school. Because, back in the day, everyone knew only “easy” girls wore pants to school.


During one of my Grandmother’s ‘porch talks” she told me the real problem stemmed from the male youths that stood on the street corners and whistled at the girls. She herself had seen it many times sitting on her veranda on South Street and women had to be protected from annoyance and molestation. The word molestation was over my head in those days but I did know about the ‘street corner loafers’ as my Grandfather called them hanging out by the bus stop near the train station. The line had to be drawn somewhere they both said or we would be watching young women walking down the street in their bathing suits.

Nobody objected to women wearing shorts on the tennis court or to get a good suntan in their backyard, as apparently we were informed that the sun shone just as brightly in your garden as on the street. But shorts had their place in those days, and there was great public sympathy for the local troubled councils who had to reconcile their duty to the women of their community with feminine perversity in their attire.

I don’t know how long the law lasted as I had other things to think about. Now everything is a go, and women would never let their local towns and cities set the standards in a dress code. After all times have changed, and when a woman says “What?” about something– it’s not because she didn’t hear you. She is just giving you a chance to change what you said. My how times have changed!



Linda Nilson-Rogers My former ballet instructress was charged with indecent exposure, while making her way to emergency in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in the mid 50’s! She had broken her wrist in a fall…and was in her leotard!

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

 

Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun

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Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun

 

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This month the Townships Sun in the Eastern Townships of Quebec dedicated a good portion of their magazine to my personal  writings. I was above the moon and beyond, and when I opened the magazine I saw that Mrs. Lewis, as I once called her, had written a small piece about my grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight.

For anyone that knew my family in Cowansville, Quebec we were staunch Anglicans and attended Trinity Anglican Church every Sunday. One had to pretty well have malaria not to go under my grandmother’s watchful eyes. It didn’t even matter towards the end of my grandfather’s life that he had a falling out with the minister, Sunday prayer was a mandatory wireless access to God with no roaming fee.

Seemingly as it was banged into my head, a person’s character was also shown to other parishioners each week by where we sat. I would say we wore out the same spot on the bench through the years, and my Grandmother actually died in church one Sunday ten minutes before the service in the same spot she had sat for the past 65 years. That my friends is holy devotion.

I began wiping dishes in the church kitchen at 6. At 7 I went with Grammy every Friday night for altar duty. I decorated pews, I sang in the choir, and even was in charge of the Sunday School at 16.  I cherished my Grandmother through my life and a lot of what I write is about her, as she was everything to me. Thank you Mrs. Lewis for writing this piece about Mary Deller Louise Knight. Sending you massive hugs– she would have been thrilled to read what you wrote.

 

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The Eastern Townships Sun

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Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

relatedreading

The Secret World of Menopausal Mary

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 11

Debunking the Stories My Family Told Me

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Debunking the Stories My Family Told Me

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I am the last one standing from the Knight and Crittenden family dynasty and come from a lineage that not even Heinz 57 would understand. My bloodlines are thick with British and Irish roots and a few other tree branches slipped in between. My mother’s side from the Call’s Mills and Island Brook area were all from Ireland, and as a child, tales were told on a weekly basis about our Irish ancestors.

My favourite story was one about my great great aunt fighting off the Fenians during the fight at Eccles Hill on May 25, 1870. According to the Crittenden legend, she fought them off single-handedly using a spoon as a door lock. Knowing my mother’s side of the family, I assumed she probably invited them in to play cards and have a few pints.

Farmers in the vicinity of Eccles Hill near Frelighsburg, Quebec were constantly in dread of being robbed by the Fenians and complained that the Irish were invading the area like a hobby. Many of the locals took their valuable silverware to the woods and buried them in order to be safe. But, like the rest of my past dynasty, it seems that my family didn’t worry about their cutlery and used their silverware instead to lock their doors.

We all need to remember locking doors wasn’t a huge priority in those days. Even if they left home for a week or two, homes were unlocked as break ins didn’t happen that often. Knowing my family I am sure there were some big, scary looking dogs involved that would either deter robbers from trying, or ensure intruders would be caught and immediately maimed in the process. But these were the hopeless Fenians that were invading Eccles Hill, while presumably the Benny Hill Theme song was playing  in the background.

So how did this great great aunt of mine with nerves of steel do it? This family folklore has stuck with me since I was a child, and instead of wondering for the brief years I have left; I decided to finally find out the truth for once and for all. Upon doing research I found out how to open a door with a spoon, but nothing was coming up until I found a story of a woman who went to the last Olympics and her room had no locks on it so she used a spoon.

I looked at the photo once, I looked at it twice and shook my head– it was that simple. All those years wondering. That was it? Yes, that was all she wrote as they say. So many chapters in my life lost in this little family tale. Some families have Kodak moments, some families have wonderful memories,  but I swear my family has straight jacket moments.

 

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

relatedreading

 

Fenians OR Ballygiblins? Fighting Irish 101

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 9

A Curio of Nostalgic Words

Been Caught Stealing– Bank of Montreal

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

I Knew it Wasn’t Petticoat Junction!– Eastern Townships History

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I Knew it Wasn’t Petticoat Junction!– Eastern Townships History

 

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I not only write history about Lanark County but I dabble from time to time in Eastern Townships history, as that is where I grew up. There are a lot of ex-Quebecers in Lanark County– actually more than I ever imagined, so I am sharing this photo with you. I search non stop for odd photos and found this great one labeled “A train crossing in the Eastern townships, Quebec Date[1914]” so I put it on the People from Eastern Townships page looking for a location.

Neil Herring replied:Linda, this is a terrific picture. Several things come to mind. First, this is not a simple crossing. There’s a major water stop on the track. There were only a few of them and they were located near sources of water, typically springs on a hill nearby in order to get gravity feed to the water tower. There was a water tower at the bottom of the hill in front of Fairview Farm, fed by the springs behind the sugar bush, used until the 1940s, I believe.

Second, there are hills in the background. This would lead me to believe that the location is to the east, perhaps on the Megantic Line coming west into Lennoxville or to the west, on the Montreal-Sherbrooke line, heading east.

It’s unlikely this is on the run coming north from Stanstead.

Finally, we have no photos from the day hay was loaded loose like this and carted off to the hayloft as the Herring family couldn’t afford to have a photographer take pictures of such unimportant activity. A true find. Thanks for sharing”.

 

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

 

relatedreading

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 6

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 4

Sometimes You Need to Just Walk Your Potatoe

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Ashes to Ashes and Spins of the Washing Machine

The Days of Smocking and Spanish Bar Cake

Been Caught Stealing– Bank of Montreal

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

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