Tag Archives: life

I Lived in Pestalozzi College – Life in Ottawa 1972

I Lived in Pestalozzi College – Life in Ottawa 1972

Looking at the unassuming apartment complex now, who would’ve known that a college once existed here at 160 Chapel Street? Known as the “People’s University,” Pestalozzi College was a student-run cooperative residence that existed in the late 1960s and into the 70s as a free-thinking, open-concept school, based on the model of Toronto’s infamous student-run Rochdale College. Some of the extracurricular activities that occurred in the building included literary readings and the Ontario Provincial Gay Liberation Conference in 1973 as well as Ottawa’s first public gay dance, hosted by GO (Gays of Ottawa, who also had their headquarters there). Existing as an alternative school, the entire building was a strange mix of open education, residence, and “free love and good drugs” that eventually fell apart in much the same way that Rochdale did. By the late 1970s, both school and building existed as a community centre of sorts, offering facilities for artists’ studios and yoga classes before the entire building (with very little notice) was converted by its owners into an apartment complex, Horizon Towers. A holdover from the Pestalozzi days, the Sitar Indian Restaurant on the ground floor still exists (417 Rideau St., 789-7979). The Water Tower Project

Photo from-https://www.villagelegacy.ca/items/show/118

It was 1972, and I was being transferred from Au Bon Marche in Sherbrooke, Quebec to their new Liberty Stores just after the Cummings Bridge in Ottawa which connected Rideau Street to Montreal Road in Vanier. The Vinebergs, who were the owners, were taking a big chance on opening that store as gossip said Ottawa people did not cross the bridge into Vanier.

I needed a place to live and the kind store owners had decided I was to settle in with a nice family in Alta Vista. Well, that thought went into the dumpster, and the only place I wanted to live was Pestalozzi College on Rideau Street. Being a former weekend hippie, 23 years-old and the future owner of the “den of sin clothing emporium” called Flash Cadilac on Rideau Street–well, you can see where this was going to go. I rented a room in a 10-man unit with 9 other men because I knew this was where I was meant to be. One-bedroom apartments at Pestalozzi went for $145 monthly; two bedrooms, for $180. Single rooms in four, five and 10-man units rented for $85 monthly; double rooms, for $65 per person. How could you beat that price to live in what I considered “the place to be”.

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
16 Mar 1971, Tue  •  Page 31

When I first got there they had a volunteer system to do some of the chores like vacuuming, but 1/3 of the building did not agree with that. Similar to the piano that I once practiced on the 6th floor, well, the thought of volunteering left the building and the minds of the 650 residents. I have no idea why they thought that would work out because even if we all got along, cleanliness was not a priority in our unit, or any other unit by the looks of them. But there was still the 22nd floor library reading room in the $7.5 million building at the corner of Rideau and Chapel Streets with the television room next to the reading lounge to make you feel like you belonged.

Pestalozzi was a lot of small communities combined into a village, like our 10-man unit– it was a series of communal units. Sometimes the residents were sitting horizontally grouped around a floor reading and talking–or there might be a group of parents or those that love bicycles, you name it. It seemed that each group knew what they were doing, like ours, but no one had no idea what was going on in the building except when the continual abuse of the garbage shoot set on fire each week.

There was a board of eleven members and the hired maintenance, security and bookkeeping staff. I was immediately labeled a ‘wacko’ in my unit as I have never been the ‘average bear’. I wore floppy hats and vintage clothing being an eclectic fashionista since a very young age. Then there was the fact that I have lots of opinions and am not afraid to speak them. But, soon they overlooked the freakiness and became like brothers. They were the first to defend me with Halloween masks and fake axes to rid me of bad dates. But, I still felt safe even with the occasional break and entry, stolen bicycles, drunks and once in a while, drug dealing. I guess I moved there too late to see the nude parties on the roof and the most eccentric thing I ever saw was some of the male students in my unit trying to teach their dogs to climb trees. Maybe I just didn’t want to see it, as this is where I felt I belonged, good or bad.

A year and a half later, one gentleman from the 10 man unit (Angelo Seccaspina) and I were a couple and we moved to one of the one bedrooms in the building. I can’t begin to tell you how bad it got after that. You have heard about the miracle of birth? Well, cockroaches can do that too. Seeing one on the floor or your counter is no problem, but when they disappear you know you have issues. I swear the building became ground zero in Ottawa and they had military training. We tried everything known to mankind to get rid of them but those cockroaches moved up floor by floor until they reached the top and raised a victory flag. The dream was over, and we moved to the farthest point in Nepean to get rid of them.

There is still not a day I don’t regret living there. It came after protesting the Vietnam war, and standing up for what was right, which I still do. It was a great dream they had, and I can say I was part of some of it. But sometimes dreams don’t pan out quite like you want them too and the building lost money each of its first five years with the utility and mortgage payments regularly going unpaid. After losing more than $5 million, the college was finally taken over by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in 1976.


I visited Pestalozzi in the summer of 1971, IIRC, looking to stay there for my first co-op work term in Ottawa from U of Waterloo, but it did not work out. (I don’t think they were really organized yet.) In Waterloo, I stayed several terms with Waterloo Cooperative Residence, which was the most successful of the student co-ops in Canada. I see it’s still going.- Jaan Kolk

You might enjoy this photo from WCRI, Phillip Street, in the 1970s. It was the first warm day of spring 🙂

No description available.
You might enjoy this photo from WCRI, Phillip Street, in the 1970s. It was the first warm day of spring 🙂
-Jaan Kolk


I completely forgot about Pestalozzi and Rochdale, until reading your article.

I came to Ottawa from Montreal in 1969, on my way to Vancouver, but never made it out west. I rented a room at the 30 Gilmour co-op, now it is a halfway house. Ottawa was much different then, I remember going to a school on Lisgar street, for a free meal everyday. You’ve brought back memories that I’d forgotten about. I do remember your store Flash Cadillac, but I don’t think I ever visited.

I’ve often wondered what became of all the folks that came and went from 30 Gilmour. There were people from all over, including a few draft dodgers, one of which actually came here with his Dad. We all got acting jobs as extras for a couple of days, in a film that was being done here. There happened to be a neighbour who worked for Crawley Films and came over to ask if we would be interested in making a few bucks. We even had to join ACTRA to make it legal.

Those were the days…we thought they would never end.

Cheers Bill Shattuck

Angelo and I stayed together off and on until 2014 and he helped me open Flash Cadilac at 174 Rideau Street in 1976 and closed in 1997. Sadly, he passed away in 2014 from cancer. During his bout with cancer I continued writing on what it was like to live with cancer and then turned to history. Who knew after writing for decades and being printed in the U.S. for years I would have turned to history, but that is where my heart is and will be until I die. To pass the past along is an honour.

Flash Cadilac, Ottawa, Ontario.Flash Cadilac was a unique store before its time. It opened in 1976 at 174 Rideau Street in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was owned by fashion designer Linda Seccaspina and her late husband Angelo. The emporium was one of the longest running stores in downtown Ottawa and Linda closed down everything in 1996. (I had Savannah Devilles after Flash for a few years –The Last Skull of Savannah Devilles

The store was not without controversy. It was deemed a den of sin by some, and had a large wall that carried photos and autographs of many famous people that had shopped there.Their clothing was often featured in Flare Magazine, and the beginning TV years of CJOH-TV’s “You Can’t Do That on Television”. Canadian music stars such as Lee Aaron, Alanis Morisette, Glass Tiger, Toronto(band) and many more wore Linda’s designs. She was also a great supporter of street kids and helped as many as she could to get them off the street.Linda went on to open another store after Flash Cadilac for two years called Savannah Devilles, closed it, and seemed to disappear out of sight. She was featured on the Canadian Women’s Channel “W” before her store closed and declared an icon of Canadian fashion. The Ottawa Citizen upon the closing of the store called her “The Mother Theresa of Punk Rock”.

That was lovely, but if I had to pick a bio for the store I have always loved the following written by blogger, chef, and friend: Doff Doppler aka Devin Goulden.In the beginning there was Flash Cadilac, a store notoriously known for its apparel: leather, lace, whips, chains, tattoos, and piercings. I would say that sums it all up folks!

Jaan Kolk–You might enjoy this photo from WCRI, Phillip Street, in the 1970s. It was the first warm day of spring 🙂

Psychics or Ouija Boards – Who Ya Gonna Call?

Psychics or Ouija Boards – Who Ya Gonna Call?

A True Story

I used to believe in full moons, tea leaves, psychic readings and especially my horoscope. I never left the house without reading what some stranger had written in the daily newspaper. If my dream book went missing it was insomniac time. I had a psychic visit my store one day who told me she loved the clothing I sold so we made a trade. Madame B would come once a week and tell me things that I needed to know in exchange for some free items. She would look me straight in the eyes and grasp my hand while telling me the same things week after week. Madame B always told me to relax and things would eventually come.

“Who knows what is coming, but something is coming!” she would always say.

 That bit of information cost me a piece of jewellery each week. Madame B confirmed that when we first met she saw a giant red aura around me. But then so did the woman who worked at Walmart in Brockville. That bit of information from Madame B cost me a silk scarf; the woman at Walmart asked for nothing. On the fourth week of knowing Madame B I told her I finally found a house after looking for a very long time. Madame B assured me that very house would definitely be my new home as she tried on a pink bra and admired her reflection.  

Thirty-four days later I moved into that very same house and Madame B told me I would live there forever, as she pocketed a necklace and tried on a skirt. On the sixth week I brought a Ouija board into my new home that was intended to talk to the spirits of the past. Madame B did not assist me this time because my shop was running out of bras, skirts, and sweaters. That night, I took out my finest candles – tall, slim and pure white. I lit them and they shone brightly against the dark of the night. I prayed for the old man who had died in the house and then for his wife who was now in an old folk’s home. I asked for their love to last an eternity. As I blew out the candle, tears ran down my face. The very next day I found out that the old woman had passed during the night.

I thought I heard the smooth wood mantle sigh as the house had come full circle and so had I.  Finally I felt so complete that I never needed to listen to Madame B again or hand out free merchandise. I believed that I could handle life myself now, and so ended the days of needless information, charlatans and free merchandise. 

Related Stories

The Devil’s Telephone? The Ouija Board

A Bewitched Bed in Odessa

The Witch of Plum Hollow – Carleton Place Grandmother

Different Seasons of Witches in Lanark County

Spooky Night at the Seccaspina Hotel

The Spirits Are Alive and Well

Gypsies Tramps and Thieves

The Witches of Rochester Street

Hocus Pocus –Necromancy at Fitch Bay

The Witch of Plum Hollow – Carleton Place Grandmother

The Witch Hollow of Lanark County

A Winnie the Pooh Moment –When You Lose Your Spot…

A Winnie the Pooh Moment –When You Lose Your Spot…



I sat in my new spot at church again today. For 38 years I have sat in the same place on the north side because that was where I was comfortable. Everyone seems to have a spot somewhere. My grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight sat in the same pew at Trinity Anglican Church in Cowansville, Quebec until she died. Mary was so devoted to her community that she actually passed away in the church pew at 9:50 that Sunday morning amid echoes of loud chatter around her of: “Wake up Mary, you are going to miss the service!”

So for 69 years I continued the ritual of sitting in the same spot no matter where I went. When I moved to Carleton, Place Ontario in 1981 a pew spot was chosen and that’s where I sat- next to an elderly neighbour named Muriel.

Muriel made an impact on me and there is never ever a day that I will not forget her. You see she made me promise that I would sit in her spot in a certain church pew after she died.  If you were sitting in it when she was alive she made you move. She told me that bad things would happen to me if I didn’t sit in her spot upon her demise. If you have seen me sit on the right hand side of the church it is for a very good reason, and– if you are sitting in her spot I used to slide myself in there no matter how many people are sitting there.  After all God said she had full custody of that seat and like Muriel I always have thought that life should be Pay per Pew. That was until 4 weeks ago when a couple sat in my spot and all of a sudden I just did not know what to do.

Should I ask them to move?

Will the ghost of Muriel come to haunt me since I was not sitting there?

Really, a person should be comfortable sitting any place. It’s no big deal as there are many seats available on the south side of the church. I could have taken one of those as the people who sit over there are very nice. I know most of those people, and I would be welcome on the south side.

However, I’m not going to sit on the south side. That’s for southsiders and I’m a northsider. I can just hear those southsiders if I sit over there saying: “What’s she doing over here?” I’ll tell you what she’s doing over there-someone took my seat, that’s what.

So what did I do?  I said nothing and sat on the other side of the pew. I admit it felt weird for a few weeks, but it wasn’t like I was left handed, or a frequent flyer, and there was a name on the pew.  Let’s face it — world order will not be in shambles if you sit somewhere else.

Have you ever noticed that you’re stuck in your ways when it comes to seating preferences? Do you always sit in the same chair when you enter a conference room, or select the same bike each time you take a spin class? No matter what we think or try to rationalize –you are where you sit, and don’t let too much of yesterday take up today. It’s not worth the view from the seat.



Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 12

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 12


Photo– 1995? After the 54 Rock Fashion show I put on. LOL Exhausted


Just Like Me– They Long to Be Close to You

I am sitting here listening to The Carpenters realizing that no song today will ever give me the same reaction their songs did. If silk had a sound, it would sound like Karen Carpenter. I am fighting back the tears right now as their songs echo through my headphones. The Carpenters were played continuously for times of angst in my life, and  honestly, sometimes left me more depressed than I already was.

Then I remember one summer evening driving back to Ottawa from a White Zombie concert in Montreal and trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. I was bringing three other people home, and everyone was fast asleep- that was no help. I began to laugh at my shenanigans at the venue that night screaming in zest at Rob Zombie that “I wanted to bear his children”. Giggling at those minutes of nothing but pure insanity could still could not keep me awake.

Insert- one Carpenter’s Gold CD in the car CD player and I begin to sing at the top of my voice with the windows open. Surely that would keep me awake! First track ends and the song “Close to You” comes on. Immediately I hear three voices in the back seat begin to sing the song together in great harmony. I was shocked — these folks knew every word of The Carpenter’s song. I realized then and there that when Karen Carpenter sang– she touched everyone’s soul. After that night I was never sad when I heard the Carpenters melodies because I realized life is a gift–don’t be sad—as someone, somewhere, is still wrapping it up for you as “We’ve Only Just Begun!” .



It “Depends”

I watch a lot of channel 700 with the Vintage Songs from the Past. They just played Gino Vanelli’s “I just want to stop” and I stopped typing- yes I stopped posting and typing. It brought me back to the day when I was buying purses for my store Flash Cadilac from this gal from England who was staying with a friend below Gino Vanelli’s apt in Old Montreal. He heard us talking about him and came downstairs and sang this song to me. I almost peed my pants. Time has flown by, and as for peeing my pants? I just stare at the Depends commercials now and realize time is drawing near. LOL




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)


Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 10

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

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 8

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 7

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

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 5

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

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 3

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 2

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 1


Today I am 67 — How did I get Here?

Today I am 67 — How did I get Here?




When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine


Today I turn 67 and frankly I don’t know how I got here. Every morning I look in the bathroom mirror I see the same face I saw years ago, but when I take a selfie the person staring back at me is not that same face in the mirror.

I was born on the 24th of July in the year 1951 on supposedly the warmest day of July. My mother had a rough labour, and soon after she was placed in the Victoria Hospital in Montreal as she had a horrible case of postpartum the likes no one had seen before. For two years my Dad travelled on one of the Cowansville McCrum Trucks each evening to see his wife who did not recognize him and screamed for security. My first memory is sitting on a iron bed in that hospital watching my Mother play solitaire and her smiling at me, yet she had no clue to who I was. My father said I could not have been more than a year and a half.

Childhood was not easy with my younger sister and I being alone a lot while my father attended my mother in various hospitals. I think I developed street smarts of some sorts during those formative years and learned to take crap from no one. It was the only way to survive in a way and thankfully I had my grandparents to lean on after my Mother died.

Years passed and I became a fashion designer for years where my creativity could flow. I had always been different and never made any apologies for it. My life had many ups and downs like everyone else, but somehow you survive, you have too. Heart attacks, strokes, you name it dealt me cards I had to handle, and sometimes I wondered if life had an expiration date for me.

I became a writer and have never figured out how this happened. I found myself back in history, back in time, recording the past of an area I never lived in with passion. I longed to find my own family, to understand why I was the way I was. I found a great grandfather that left his family for the music business and another that resided in Queen Victoria’s court and her bad reputation was known for miles. There were artists, and some that worshipped leading their community over their families. It was all  that I uncovered under the family dust.

Did I really come from that?

1966 the year before I left home at 15.5 to tackle the city of Montreal- Photo by Agnes Rychard, my “kitchen table mother” who made me the cake.


Where do I sit if there is history on on every chair and it does not look like mine?

All around me were murmurs of neglected dreams– or were they? I had always fled from conformity and my past life. There was too much pain, too many memories that crushed the remains of my heart. One could speculate for hours about why I became what I am today.

So maybe I still am that 16 year-old girl in the mirror, even if the reflection no longer looks like me. The wrinkles and the wisps of white hair are battle scars from the past. I need to make peace with the reflection, but honestly mirrors need to think longer before they reflect. In the end I am not going to take that reflection seriously, as my true reflection is in my heart.

If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four

One question.. Can I get 64 back?

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

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 3

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 3

lindasad (1).jpg




Apr. 26th, 2007 at 11:57 PM

I’m addicted to sugar. It’s my best friend and my worst enemy. When I was little I used to suck on sugar cubes at my grandmother’s high teas once  a week as if they were a part of the top five food groups.


For two weeks I have been trying to get off sugar. A few jellybeans here and there, a few spoonfuls of American Idol’s low fat ice cream.  It doesn’t matter if I think American Idol knows nothing viable about ice cream- ice cream is always an option as it lights up my brain like a pinball machine.


Part of me understands that sugar makes me happy, and that worries me. If you give up both carbs and sugar, isn’t that giving up complete happiness? Much of the joy I get from eating jellybeans is the initial gush of sour and sweetness as I smack those rebellious suckers into submission.


Do you know when diabetics don’t have Dextro pills they take a few jelly beans or jelly babies instead? That tip came from the pharmacist at the local drugstore as she punched me through last week. That’s like saying that 75% of lab rats choose sugar water over cocaine? Now that brings back vague memories of a Two Ronnies sketch about wanting the sweet shop owner to give him just jelly boys, not jelly girls, because they have a touch more jelly.

It’s a common fact that if you eat too much sugar throughout the day you put your body through a roller-coaster ride. How much sugar is “too much sugar” I wonder? Did you know that a pack of M&M’s may be more than you should eat in a day? That bit of info is from the World Health Organization, who I am sure knows that by 3 pm my alter ego Lizzie Borden has appeared and I could become the prolific neighbourhood axe murderer.

I am as useless as the “g” in lasagna while the “white death” sucks me in each day and I will eat anything short of Splenda. I have heard that Splenda kills. I mean I never do anything half-ass as somehow my full derriere is always involved in everything. Coming from a long line of very knowledgeable lunatics- I think I can solve this. Maybe I just need a sugar daddy or a glucose guardian.


Women with Guns in the Past (1).jpg

Sep. 24th, 2007 at 11:15 AM

Last night there was another drive by shooting on 63rd Street. They say that crime is up in Oakland, California by 50% this year. Having lived on a drug corner for years it is actually no great surprise to us. When I went to the Post Office and saw all the candles, cards and teddy bears outside Sonny’s place I began to worry I knew the victim because everyone knows everyone here.
Lorenzo was sweeping the street by his car getting ready to set up for another day of selling bootleg CD’s. I asked him point blank who died last night. He said, “It was my nephew” and I started to cry. I knew he was barely 19 years-old and just another neighbourhood kid that thought he didn’t have a chance in life and relied on crime to get him by. I gave Lorenzo a big hug and told him how sorry I was.
I asked him,
“Lorenzo is there going to be a hood war now?”
He shook his head and said, “I just don’t know.”
I felt overwhelmed and went home and got a teddy bear, wrote a sympathy note and placed it with the others on the makeshift memorial. People in the hood don’t send sympathy cards–they set up memorials with lit candles, teddy bears, notes, and yes, the odd empty liquour bottle.
People marvel why I still live in an area that has constant crime. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The people here are real, and no one cares about the latest movies or trends. Each day is a trial just to get by.
I appreciate that and have respect for all of them especially the women that raise their families single handedly. I think I am the strongest I have ever been in my life and have proved to myself I can exist without a lot of money and appreciate everything in life now. I have learned that no one in life gives you a chance- you have to take chances. The cry of the ghetto is being heard by a nation with their fingers stuck in their ears.
The neighbours don’t call me Linda anymore- they baptized me “Lisa in da Hood”. It’s because I am getting my education on the streets of Oakland, and I now surround myself with people that can hear and appreciate the sound of my soul.
download (36).jpg


Sep. 25th, 2007 at 8:44 AM

They say it isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters, as what’s on the chairs. Since I didn’t own a table when we first moved into our loft there was definitely no chairs. I was once what was called a freegan, and if I couldn’t find it in a thrift shop or in a dumpster– I didn’t need it. Every week I would scour a local salvage company for things and one day a spectacular chrome glass topped industrial table waved at me in one of the aisles.


It was 12 feet long by 6 feet wide and I figured the former lab table weighed about 100 pounds. For 40 dollars it was mine, but how was I going to get it the 10 blocks home? Paying the 80 dollars delivery was way out of my budget and I really wanted this table. So there were only two options-pay the delivery charge, or push it all the way home as it had roller casters.


I have never been shy of chaos, so I embraced my situation and began to push that baby home. The first part of my journey consisted of cobblestones, train tracks, and oncoming traffic on a one way street. As I approached the main street I was asked many times if I had a license “to drive that thing”. The worst was attempting to cross a pedestrian cross walk–no one would stop–and it wasn’t like they couldn’t see the darn thing. Suddenly I was playing a personal arcade game of Frogger with this table and traffic was not stopping for me.  I just had to keep this glass tadpole safe. Common sense is like deodorant, the people that need it most never use it. So I forged on and let the drivers decide if they really wanted to hit a glass table.


The glass top vibrated all the way home and on each block I would stop and talk to the table. Was it a sign of impending mental collapse? I just took it as comparing expert advice between each other to get us both home safely.


Finally, I was home and pushed it up the handicap ramp and thought I was home free until I got to the front door. Suddenly I realized I was missing 8 inches to push it around the corner. It was the old ‘whenever something is wrong- it’s always too big’ dilemma. The front door flew open and a burly man covered in tattoos solved the issue by moving the table sideways, and in it slid- glass top intact.


It in the end the table took its rightful spot in the empty kitchen and looked fabulous. I, on the other hand, had vibrating hands that were part of a sweaty body that looked like it had been in a monsoon. My motto is that if we spend all our time worrying about what might be, then we will never have what is– like the table.



Cowansville Quebec Legion- Branch #99

November 10, 2014 –7:44 PM

War was a serious business in the Knight family– even when we were at peace. From a young age I was lectured from time to time on the devastation of war. My Grandfather had lived in the muddy trenches of France for long periods of time and then spent the rest of his living years dealing with the repercussions of being gassed. He called the use of gas “a cynical and barbarous disregard of the well-known usages of civilized war”— even though they had no idea what had happened to them at the time.

To Frederick J. Knight of Cowansville, Quebec who had valiantly fought in the British army there was something more soldierly about using a sword or a gun. Gas had a profound psychological impact on soldiers – it terrified and killed many of them. Watching him hold his temples in pain from migraines every few days upset me and constantly made me question if war had been worth it. The mind of a child wondered if it had led to a better tomorrow, or had it just been a terrible waste of life to those who had lost family.

Watching my Grandfather and Father walking proudly on Remembrance Day with their medals pinned on their overcoats with the rest of the Branch #99 Legion I could feel their emotion. For me it was just a day of having cold feet and hands with the rest of the Brownies as we stood on the frozen ground in front of the cenotaph during the ceremony. For my Grandfather, Father and the rest of the former soldiers it was a chance to represent those who were no longer with us.

When my husband died my oldest son inherited a plain ring made from a spoon that was made by a friend of his Grandfather Seccaspina. He had spent two years in a German prison camp called Bergen Belsen and on April 15, 1945, Eliseo Seccaspina was liberated with 60,000 other prisoners. Unfortunately he came home with the sad news that his brother Angelo would not be coming home. Angelo had both his hands cut off by the Germans as he attempted to join his brother on the back of a truck. His body lies somewhere near the border of Italy and was never found. Some will be forever lost, but we will remember all of them and tell their stories. Each time I put a poppy on I remember–because their spirits never die– they just live on through us.

For the living and the dead we must bear witness- Eli Wiesel




Friday November 16, 9:30 pm 2007

I walked out of the subway and hauled my cart up the escalator. I had bought a lovely black bag to put in the red cart to hold anything I might find on my journeys. Actually, I got the cheapest thing I could find at the dollar store and it had a picture of “The Last Supper” on the front and back. Last week an eager young lady asked me where I got the bag and I told her where I bought my holy economical find. She told me that Jesus was her “homeboy” and we both high-fived each other. It was definitely a Hashtag #Blessed moment!

Today was to be different.

I had already seen a “Rico Suave” sort of Latino gentleman in the subway earlier in the day and he was still in the same spot, now eating a lunchtime snack. He approached me as I got off the escalator and screamed at me,

“Where did you get that bag and how can they put a picture of something so holy like that on one of those cheap bags?” Are you a Catholic?” he screamed at me.

I became aggravated and knew we were causing a scene— and then it happened– the hot dog, or should I call it an assault wiener he was munching zeroed in on me and my bag. Let’s be frank– we were covered in condiments. Was this in reality “food for the soul”?

Oh well, if God is watching I can at least be entertaining right? And with that I wiped off what I could and threw my hands up in the air. I suddenly said the first thing that came to mind:

“Lettuce praise and relish Him!”

What can I say, “the spirit” might have been with me that day, and I would like to think he approved of the message. I had it “my way”!



January 18, 2008

Three weeks ago I had the dilemma of wondering what to wear to a Christmas party. I pulled out two of my favourite jackets and tried them on. I just stood there with my mouth open. There was no doubt that the shoulder pads rivalled those of Joan Collins on Dynasty. That goes to show you how long I have had these jackets and how I just can’t seem to shake the 80’s when it comes to jackets or clothes for that matter.

Recently, someone approached me with an intriguing question:

“Did you ever wear clothes with shoulder pads?”

I looked back with curiosity and wondered where this question came from.

“Yes,” I answered.  “In fact, I still have a few jackets that have shoulder pads.”

They gasped slightly, almost in complete  shock, and their eyes were went wide like the Margaret Keane’s “big-eyed art” hanging on my wall. I silently wondered what was so horrible about shoulder pads. Did I not know shoulder pads were such a major fashion faux pas? Okay, maybe I did.

It’s hard to come to the realization that as time goes on I’m just not as “cool” as I once thought I was. Still in disbelief that in 2008 that shoulder pads were still in my closet, I realized that I was packed more than a quarter back.

Later in the day I saw a trendy looking woman with a big padded shoulder jacket on in the subway. It was an over-size number, and I thought  she looked cool until I saw she had things hidden under her jacket. In fact, huge bumps were very conspicuously protruding. The gal looked nervous, and then I saw her take one of the duct taped packages out.

Those were no pads in those shoulders– there were  drugs under that jacket!! In fact they were wrapped as Christmas packages with festive paper and duct tape! She removed her jacket and packed the items back in the over size interior pockets. Suddenly I noticed she had track marks on her arms. She was a drug dealer– but was she a drug dealer in a good way because she had padded shoulders? I guess your fashion style is a way to say who you are without having to speak. As soon as I got home I threw the darn jackets out and knew I could never look at a shoulder pad again. On a bad day there is always lipstick. 




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)


Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past — Part 2

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 1

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Reflections of How I Used to Be….

Reflections of How I Used to Be….




Two small mirrors hang precariously on what was once my oldest son’s bedroom bookcase. These mirrors that are still loosely taped with Scotch Tape will never be removed as a long as I am alive as they were memories of comfort for my son. Just two very small mirrors held peace and tranquility as their reflection revealed to him things that might go bump in the night as a child. After all, life is only a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see.

Each morning I have looked in the bathroom mirror and seen the same face I have recognized all my life. Only when I take a selfie do I realize that some where in that mirrored reflection lies wrinkles, worry lines and the aftermath of years gone by that I don’t see.  Would I give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two for the girl I once knew in the mirror? Do I miss the person I used to be and used to look at?

When I was a child I told the mirror I wanted to be many things: a social worker, (would have brought everyone home) a doctor, (squeamish at the sight of blood) and a rock star (can’t sing). Then I really tried to have an easy life after many ups and downs and decided it would be better just to be strong, so I’ve had my reflective routines down for years.

The problem with getting older is you still remember how things used to be when you once looked in the mirror. Some days it was distorted and the reflection told you survival was not going to be easy– and maybe you just couldn’t run up that hill anymore. Because of a lonely childhood I used to think the worst thing in the world was to end up seeing just my reflection alone in that mirror. Maybe I just expected too much. In all honesty I really don’t understand the conflicting reflections I see in this world and still choose to remain quite naive. Some days I get banged up emotionally and hold myself hostage because that’s who I am and don’t face the fact that not everyone is meant to stay in your life.

Is there a point where you begin to give things up and not look at them anymore? Can I die while I still remember who I am –and who I used to be in that reflection? As Winnie the Pooh once said– “I used to believe in forever, but forever is too good to be true, so remember how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go”. I will never regret being that once younger, now older, face in the mirror because it made me who I am at this very point in time. I chose who I wanted to be and look back at the former reflections and finally realize what is now present and coming in that mirror can be so much better than what is gone. The mind always replays what the heart cannot delete– but some days it feels like I’m walking on broken glass–dangerous with sharp edges, but I am not going to hurt myself putting it all back together, as it can be all swept away and forgotten.

I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world

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.


What Becomes of a Broken Heart?

And Suddenly I Became Sad for NO Reason at All….

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The Love Story of the Lanark County Brakeman



Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario


I found this anonymous story and had to share it. A brakeman in the service of the railway that ran through Lanark County fell between two cars of a moving train, the merciless wheels crushing off both legs. The unfortunate man was removed to a comfortable place and being told by the attending surgeon that he could not survive the injury, he was asked if he wished to send any message to his family.

He replied that he would not die until his wife could come to him and the surgeon shook his head in a doubting manner. The bleeding helpless but conscious brakeman, knowing that every one despaired of his life, again assured them this time more determinedly than before, that he would foil the plans of his master, Death, until his wife in person could receive his farewell.



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lindaseccaspina – WordPress.com-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

When one of the superintendents received telegraphic advice of the accident and the dying man’s wish, he ordered his most experienced and courageous engineer to attach his locomotive to a coach and bring his wife to the side of her husband. In ten minutes from the time the order was given the train had the wife on board even though the night was stormy.


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Perth Remembered

The Superintendent stood at the back of the telegraph operator, and in flashes of electricity ordered all trains on to side tracks. Through the darkness and the storm the “special” whirled upon its mission of devotion and love. The villagers who hovered around the depot stoves at way stations on winter nights crowded out upon the platforms and stood in respectful silence as the mighty locomotive dazed both sight and hearing for an instant only.

Steel rails vibrated under wheels and the engineer knew that God and a good road-bed were in his favour. As he backed his driving-wheels at the station his engine seemed as proudly conscious of victory as does the race-horse when leading under the wire. The brakeman had kept his word. Husband and wife embraced. Bystanders, blinded by pitying tears, left the two alone for a moment, only a moment. For with the kiss and the farewell the brakeman closed his eyes and died.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


Related reading


A McDonalds Corners Love Story

The Ghost Lovers of Springside Hall – A True Love Story

Actually I Train Woodpeckers for Search and Rescue!


Now that Spring has sprung I am reminded about the day a former neighbour complained about my squirrel collection. I love to feed the black squirrels that gather in my yard and she became convinced I had trained several ninja squirrels to enter her garden after dark and tear up her budding flowers.

Instead of arguing I jokingly told her I had trained some beavers to do some pretty good tricks, but squirrels were a lot harder to educate. I also reminded her that squirrels were simply polished yard rats that are going to dig up flowers anytime they want and there are countless documentaries on a squirrels perseverance to conquer a bird feeder or outwit a cat.

The angry neighbour did not give up and insisted I had trained the squirrels to wait until it grew dark to do their damage. Well – unless it was a flying squirrel with a friend named Bullwinkle, that would be just about impossible. Laughing, I told her that it was probably a leftover squirrel recruitment from the government’s top secret ‘Squirrel Lethalization Program’ to train squirrels to be assassins, but they still had not mastered running back and forth safely in front of cars.

Weeks later she insisted there were tiny scratches on her windows, disappearing bird food in the feeder, and her garbage cans were tipped over in the night. Had anyone even questioned the squirrels she asked? Have you ever tried to interrogate a squirrel I replied? They never provide a straight answer, always bounding all over the place.

So in retaliation my neighbor began to train her cat to poop and pee on my property and sometimes I saw the feline driving her car around the neighborhood watching me. To top it off I think she actually persuaded a random local raccoon to tear up my garbage.

Finally she insisted I must do something about the problem or she would call animal control. Was there a training manual for squirrels I asked? This whole story began to sound a little squirrely to me so I attempted to train a squadron of local birds to defile her windshield when her cat drove by- who was now trained to steal my mail.

Finally the irritated neighbour moved away and there were no more thoughts until I remembered this story today. Actually I’m dictating these comments to an earthworm who sits on my keyboard and types it in for me. It’s slow-going, but we get there eventually.

Absolutely true story except the cat- he was a slow learner. The earthworm is currently a project in motion.

Do I Really Have to Write a Bio? Christine Armstrong



You have met Amanda McNeely, Tiffany Nixon, Jennifer Fenwick Irwin, Lisa Strangway and Teri White who are part of our working team for your Ladies Who Lunch date on June 6th. Here is another one of our members ready to put this shindig all together.

Christine is one of our planning ladies for Ladies Who Lunch June 6th in Carleton Place. I had asked her to write a bio, but she was hesitant. Of course any bio is easier said then done. Where do you start? Where do you end? Like me she thinks everything happens for a reason and we are supposed to learn something from it all. Does it really shape us into the person we end up being?

Christine came from a wicked combination of ancestral roots. Family gatherings were quite the event coming from German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French Canadian descendants. Everyone expressed their opinion the way it is, they it was, and the way it will be–and none of them ever backed down from what they believed in.

Her love of art blossomed as a child when they headed up to the family’s ancestral home in beautiful Wiarton, Ontario. Everyone in the family, and she means all the generations, spent their summers at Great-Grandma’s boarding house. The entire family spent a couple of weeks living under the same roof, and as Christine said, “If that doesn’t bring a family close, she doesn’t know what will”.

In High School she had her own style and was different from the norm. She was an outspoken member of her student council and collaborated pairing a Pink Floyd prism on the council door. Christine believed in free speech and always stood up for what she believed in. Summers and weekends were spent hanging out in downtown Ottawa shopping at Flash Cadilac and Rock Junction. She met the love of her life in High School, and they have been together ever since.

Like she said earlier, everything happens for a reason, and at the age of 16 she became a Mother. Driven, she received her High School diploma with everyone else. She studied Child Youth Work at Algonquin and worked at McArthur High School and the Robert Smart Centre at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Work became hard to come by at that time, so she went back to school and studied accounting. By that time the recession of the 80’s hit so she took whatever work was offered. Christine worked a dictionary of jobs from: taxi dispatch, receptionist, waitress, special event server at the Prime Ministers house and finally executive assistant for GTIS.

Once she had her second child she decided to stay at home with her young children. But, she still had an art space overflowing with projects, lobbied the City of Ottawa, and was a vocal member of NO DUMP, and even worked the back war room of a political campaign for a Mayor of Ottawa candidate. Of course local residents of Carleton Place will remember Christine’s store C Style Fashions on Bridge Street where she dared to sell the eclectic in a rural town.

Christine said life is too short to dwell on what you could have done, or should have done, so she has had no regrets. She is following her heart and is most happiest when she does art and finally wants to write that book she has dreamed of since High School.

What you might not know about Christine is that in 2005 she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Walt Disney once said all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. I have no doubt nothing will ever slow Christine down. Ever.. because she is no vanishing act.