Tag Archives: Grandparents

Remembering Courage Strength and Love- Linda Knight Seccaspina

Remembering Courage Strength and Love- Linda Knight Seccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina 1953 Cowansville, Quebec

Remembering Courage Strength and Love- Linda Knight Seccaspina

By the 1930’s 90% of the urban population was dependent on a wage or salary, and most families you knew lived on the edge. Living in the city meant reliance on a male family member with a job to stay alive, and if you lived on the farm you counted on what you grew to feed everyone.

As a child, my Grandmother used to tell me all sorts of stories about the Depression. Each morning she made sandwiches for the hungry people knocking on her door, and her weathered screened verandah sometimes became a shelter for homeless people during rainy nights.  The train station was just a few blocks down from where they lived on South Street in Cowansville, and those that rode the freight trains would get off daily to see if they could find work or food. 

I was always told that we had a hobo mark on our side door, and Grammy Knight would also take in needy families until they got on their feet. Grampy once said that he never knew who would be sitting across from him nightly at the dinner table. Each time my Grandmother asked him to go to the grocery store to get another loaf of bread for someone in need he went without complaining.

One day Grammy hired a young homeless woman named Gladys who worked for her until she died. I was barely eight years old when Gladys passed, but I still remember her like yesterday. Gladys was an odd looking woman who tried to hide her chain smoking habit from my Grandmother. The manly-looking woman would talk up a storm while she cleaned with stories that young ears should have never heard– but I always did.

Gladys would tell me all about her days during the depression as a teenager, where she would hide along the tracks outside the train yards. She would run as fast as she could along the train as it gained speed and grab hold and jump into the open boxcars. Sometimes, she missed, and sometimes she watched some of her friends lose their legs, or their lives, as they jumped off as the train was reaching its destination.

There was nothing left at home for her during those horrible years of the Depression. One Sunday they were without money for the church collection plate and under one of the old rugs they finally found a dime which they proudly placed on the collection plate. 

There were just too many mouths to feed and Gladys knew she wasn’t going anywhere if she remained at home. So she just rode the rails as it was free and she knew she would find food somewhere, which was more than she was going to do at home.  She cut her hair, wore overalls and a cap, and survived life on the road until my Grandmother hired her.

Gladys ended up dying in her sleep in ‘the back room’ of my Grandparents home. After she died, my Grandmother promptly labelled it ‘Gladys’s room’. When I was older and came home on weekends, that very same room was where I slept. You have no idea how many times I thought I saw Gladys in the dark shadows scurrying around with her feather duster, and yes, still chain smoking.

When I was older my Grandparents would make a simple dinner for themselves. My Grandfather would cut up tomatoes, add mayo like a dressing with salt and pepper. While I watched him eat,  I would say, “is that all you’re having !!?? He would reply to me,

“I’m from a time when you looked in the icebox and you put together what was in there and that’s what you had. Remember that “my birdie” … it isn’t always right there for you when you get home . Money was scarce and we had to survive on what we grew in the garden. We learned to use everything and had no waste”.

My Grandparents taught me a lot about life. I never thought I would be my Grandmother, but here I am now. They taught me to count my blessings, not my troubles, and to “show up” for people. Your ancestors that lived through those times were brave and they never judged a book by its cover. You just never know as they say, the things you take for granted might be something others are praying for.

Fred and Mary Knight Cowansville Quebec – Photo from Linda Knight Seccaspina Collection

Do Gopher’s Regrow Tails? Tales of the Depression

Ramsay 1927 — The Depression

345 Franktown Road- Wave’s Inn– photo Lorie Paul
Hi Linda. My name is Lorie Paul. I moved to Carleton Place last October, but have had a family cottage on the lake for over 60 years. My Dad (Kenneth Paul) grew up on Napoleon St. I have this picture of my Dad working at what was a lunch counter at 345 Franktown Road (Wave’s Inn). He would have been around 14 or 15 at the time, so early to mid 1930s.
I have always wondered who the other gentleman in the picture was. Wondering if I should post the picture to see if anyone knows who it is, and perhaps a family member would like to see it as well. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post in any of the Carleton Place FB pages. My dad is standing on the left in the picture. Thanks so much, and have a great day.

The Kitchen Stool — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Kitchen Stool — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth



This is my grandparents John and Charlotte (Mavis) Lahey on their wedding day. Picture taken in Charlotte’s parents home on McArthur Road Eastview


The Kitchen Stool

When I was just a young school  girl
It seems to me I traveled in somewhat of a whirl

Many times after school, I visited my Gran
I hoped that she had baked and used her old muffin pan

On this stool, while I was seated
A glass of milk and a muffin I would be treated

My Gran and I were such good friends
We would talk and visit until the end

Then home I’d go to do my home work and school projects
And hoped that I remembered what I was taught and did not forget

My time with my Gran was oh so sweet
The cherished memories I shall always keep

The stool has now come into our home at last
As I sit, I continue to think of those wonderful days in the past.

From the Pen Of Noreen Tyers–January 10, 2005


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.

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


The Flying Teeth in Church — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Writings of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Memories of Grandpa’s Workshop — Noreen Tyers

Cleaning out Grandmas’ Fridge — Noreen Tyers Summer Vacation at Richard’s Castle

Would You Eat Preserves After 40 Years? 150 Years?

Would You Eat Preserves After 40 Years? 150 Years?



Yesterday I saw a photo by Mark Gilliam on Facebook who lives south of the border in Tennessee.

“My parents old root cellar. My mom canned these almost 40 yrs ago– and now she’s gone now, abandoned world!”

My assumption would be that by the looks of those rusted lids, I would not be sharing it with anyone.  Even if they are somehow miraculously properly sealed and free of bacteria, there is still a possibility that the metal of those lids has likely contaminated the contents by now.

My Father was doing a cleanup of my Grandparents home in Cowansville, Quebec before it was torn down and I remember he found some old preserves that hadn’t been touched in years, perhaps even decades knowing Mary Louise Deller Knight.

From the looks of the art on the front of the boxes that stored them, it could have even come from the late 50’s or early 60’s. However, no matter how the “spicy apple”…”cinnamon pear”…”wild strawberry” looked tempting we passed. After all forbidden fruit has caused a few to be “in a bad jam”!

Some people say not to use anything after a year to the date that it went into the jars. Others will tell you that they recently ate the last of the tomatoes their grandmother canned in the summer of ’99.

Since prehistoric times, humans have found ways to make food last longer through a variety of methods ranging from fermentation and pickling to salting, smoking and drying, but a method for preserving food in a nearly-fresh state had remained elusive until the tin can. These jars seen above I won’t even enter in the equation– but they were most certainly set up for a ‘hardy time”.



With the lack of air to spoil them, thousands of artifacts were recovered intact, including jars of preserved food that are still edible, tested by one of the excavators themselves, who ate a pickle from the Arabia finding it to be still perfectly fresh. From-What was Found (and still edible) inside a 150 year-old Sunken Steamboat

If I was Mark I think I might have opened at least one of his mother’s jars. I imagine aome might have been the equivalent of “fruit-roll in a jar” if it has fermented— or you’ve got some kind of novel 30 years-in-the-making alcoholic fruity spirit. You know moonshine:)

Or, if your canner was good, maybe might have some really good 30 year-old preserves. In all honesty maybe they never should have named them preserves.  I think I would only eat that stuff if if I had been hiking through the Sierras in the snow in 1846 with the Donner party. Imagine the stories these jars could have told if they could talk. Could have been a great alternative to cannibalism.




Wendy LeBlanc- OMG, looks like my mother’s cold room before I cleared it out – er, I mean had someone clean it out for me. Oldest jar with a date on it was only 1993 but I figured a fair few of them were older. Oldest item in freezer was applesauce dated 1978. Can anyone beat that?!



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If you have a garden, dig a trench about 18-24 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Fill to no more than 4-6 inches with the food out of the jars and recover. We canned a lot and when we would find crates of old lady “grand Ma passed just get the stuff out of the house some is like 10 years old” that’s what we did. Had a beautiful garden. Made the peppers very hot if you did the trench with all the acid/pickling stuff where the peppers were gonna be the next year. After the trench was filled in we would rinse the jars in the garden area and rake in the residue.




Clipped from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,  09 Apr 1920, Fri,  Page 3


How Did We Turn Into Our Parents or Grandparents?



Granby Leader Mail- 1958

For years my late grandmother, Mary Louise Deller Knight, would repeat her life stories and anything else that she felt she needed to say. At first I would remind aging Mary of her increasing repetition, and then I would just nod my head and focus on other things.

To add to the situation, Mary also forgot how long she kept things in the freezer. During the years of increasing memory loss she had created her own breakfast specialty called ‘Freeze Dried Waffles’. Sometimes I would hide them in my pocket after she served them, and then skip them across the Yamaska River like stones. Mary Louise never really got any better with her memory, and I hoped that I would not have the same issues.

The year is now 2015 and I am younger than Mary Louise was in the prime of her ‘broken needle’ story telling era. I can recall anything right down to the finest detail of whatever happened to me thirty to forty years ago; but ask me what I did five minutes past and I am at a loss.

I began to worry I might be getting Alzheimer’s and then someone explained the difference to me. Not finding my keys – that was one thing, but if I did not know what a key was, then that was an issue. This morning I sat down and wrote what I needed at the store, on the top of my hand. I have long rid myself of hand written notes as I can’t find those either, unless I stick them in my sports bra. Cash register receipts, keys and credit cards also store quite nicely inside that spandex athletic bra.

Years ago in the subway, I pulled my disposable Tracfone out and stared at it. The back looked quite odd and I couldn’t figure it out. Suddenly part of my phone was handed to me by a woman who realized I had no idea what was going on. Of course; the back plastic cover had fallen off!

I thanked her and told her how much I appreciated it and how forgetful I was sometimes. She told me not to worry because she was exactly the same. Her cell phone had broken one day and when she took it back to the Verizon store she had literally begged them to replace it with the same model. They told her that her phone was outdated, no longer available and end of story, much to her horror.

She finally received a new phone and told me she sat there for days trying to figure it out. Only when a neighbor loaned the frustrated woman her high school aged son to help her was she finally able to use it. She longed for the days of being able to buy something with only one sheet of instructions. I laughed and told her these days you needed a PhD to operate a food processor. She smiled and said,

“I do have a PhD, and I still can’t figure anything out without calling a 1-800 number to India.”

She continued sharing stories and told me not to worry, as we are not alone in this world of memory loss. I shook my head and realized how I have turned into my Grandmother.

Why do I still keep hard candies in a dish like she did? I have cabinets full of things no one really wants to touch, along with a mountain of plastic bags all of Carleton Place could share. My couch is not covered in plastic, but I still have company towels in the bathroom.  I read stories on the internet, but long to go through piles of  dusty Reader’s Digest just for the memories.

I smell like vapor rub now on a daily basis because of knees that no longer have cartilage, and people tell me I look just like my Grandmother now. Nothing wrong with that, but what happened and when?  I vowed on a daily basis I would never be like my parents and grandparents, but I am. No matter what we think, they are always with us– everywhere we go and in everything we do.  They are living on through us and with us– and maybe, thank goodness for that.

Put Your Cell Phones Down— If I Could Save Time in a Bottle



I saw this picture on Terry Poulous’s Facebook page this morning and the tears came down my face. I was raised pretty well by my grandparents and they were the beginning footsteps to making my life a kinder softer world when life wasn’t so grand.

Years have passed since my grandmother Mary Deller Knight died. I was her granddaughter, yet I also was her daughter, as she was always there for me with her comforting hands and warm smile. There was never a day that went by that she did not smell of fresh baking, and Evening in Paris perfume.

I want to sit in her kitchen again with my feet dangling off the chair watching the flames of  the wood stove, and smell the first pot of coffee, while I watch the sun come up. I want to see her boil my grandfather’s egg, and watch her tap it exactly four times to break it, while wiping her brow with one of her dishtowels.

I want to help her make mocha cakes like she used to do every week for the Royal Canadian Legion. I can still feel the stickiness of the frosting on my fingers, as I roll the small cakes around in the crushed peanuts.

I want her to send me to the Dairy at exactly 11:30 am, to buy one quart of milk in a clear glass bottle that has the paper closure tab on top. I want to feel her press that shiny extra dime in my hands that she will give me when I go. I sit here and imagine the cold creamy ice cream I will buy with just a hint of strawberry sweetness, that will slide across my tongue after my lunch.

I want to go grocery shopping with her on Friday nights like we used to do, and watch her ask the butcher for suet to feed the birds. She could never ever just give the birds in her yard bird seed. I want to hear her tell everyone in the grocery store how much she loves her granddaughter. Some of them will not understand, as they only speak French. But, they will nod their heads and smile, and call her ” Madam.”

I want to hear the clock strike nine once more on a Friday night, and watch her put Cheese Whiz on Saltine crackers while the overture for the Tommy Hunter Show begins.Then she will pour me a tall glass of milk to wash it all down while I ask her why we have to watch Tommy Hunter again.

I want to hear her scold me again for messing up the clear plastic cover on her teal blue uncomfortable couch. Yes, the same couch I will make out on, with my boyfriend years down the road, and she will not know.

Most of all I want to smell her macaroni and cheese baking in the oven while she dances around to the music on the radio. She will make a huge garden coleslaw to go with it, and everyone will have seconds and we will serve each helping with our matching aprons.

I want to hear her scold me again for messing up the clear plastic cover on her teal blue uncomfortable couch. Yes, the same couch I will make out on, with my boyfriend years down the road, and she will not know. One day I told her I did not want to be left here alone after she died. As she wiped her hands on her apron she told me I had to remain and carry on– so I do.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you