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Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of  Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina
Photo is a typical Robin Hood Float that was in every local parade– this one was in Delta 1937)

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.

CLIPPED FROM
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Hazleton, Pennsylvania
18 Jul 1963, Thu  •  Page 22

Funky Soul Stew was Once Cooking in Carleton Place

Pig Candy — Cooking With Chef Dr. Dusty from Ballygiblin’s

What was a Fowl Supper?

Was the Butter Tart Really Invented in Barrie, Ontario? Jaan Kolk Files

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

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

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

January 30,2022

The Lasagne

I have been sick the last few days and I decided to order my groceries online. I always make lasagne, but in that particular moment I was feeling like I just couldn’t. So seeing a special in the Independent Grocers flyer I decided to order one this week.At 4:05 Pm I get a concerned call from Steve who is picking up the groceries, saying he thinks they might have screwed up the order as there is a frozen lasagne in one of the bags. I reassure him all is well with the order and just bring it home please.Unpacking the groceries I see that the lasagne is FAMILY size and frozen like a very hard chunk of ice. There is no way we are going to eat all of that in one sitting so I sit on the chair at the kitchen island fretting what to do. It’s suddenly like me and this giant Lasagne against the world.How do I do this?How do I make it into meals?I wish my Grandmother was still alive. Mary Louise Deller Knight was a pro at things. She knew what to do, and would have handled this for me. She had a freezer that was the size of a case of canned drinks and yet could fit the neighbourhood’s frozen food into it.Sometimes she would be outside the kitchen door with her axe. A prime turkey or any other large food item would be sitting on a tree stump and she would cut that sucker in half with one fell blow. There she had it– all good for a few meals and easy to fit in the freezer.After the final blow she would take out my Grandfather’s round shaving mirror and pluck her chin hairs. It was a weekly tradition to the soothing sounds of Mantovani because the light was better outside. That is something I learned from her— to try and tame growing forest on my face, good lighting is the answer. However, I guess I should have watched her more for the keeping of large frozen items as this Sunday morning I am still thinking of what to do with it LOLOL. It looks like it has more horsepower than my car.

Linda Seccaspina

January 10 at 12:57 PM  · “Skyler Seccaspina1h · New colleague. First day on the job.”

As I see my granddaughter Tenley sit at her Dad’s desk I remember my days of sitting at the desk at the F. J.Knight Company on South Street in Cowansville. My grandfather and dad had a business of being electrical contractors for over 60 years. They also had a retail store where they sold fixtures and whatever you needed for electrical work in the front of the house. I sat at the front desk in that store every Friday night for 14 years selling lightbulbs and whatever while my Dad Arthur, chewed the fat as they say, with his customers.When I was 12— I was promoted to working summers typing out invoices with carbon paper (three layers). There were so many pieces sold per invoices it drove me nuts. I also did the window/ window sills display for them… pretty funny when you think of it. At 3 pm every day my Grandmother Mary Knight came into the store with cheese and crackers and a glass of milk. Friday nights,when the store closed– it was Tommy Hunter on TV and then more cheese and crackers. I was always trained to work hard, respect people, but have a damn opinion please LOLOL– So it gives me great joy to see Tenley ‘helping” her Dad, and I already know she has opinions.

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

Everybody Hurts – Sometimes — Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Everybody Hurts – Sometimes — Linda Knight Seccaspina

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

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Words About Not Smelling Like Teen Spirit….Linda Knight Seccaspina

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.

Things Borrowed from my Grandmother — Human Hair Nets

The Stack Perm or the Disco Wedge ? 1970s Hair Fashion

Let’s Just “Gruel” in the New Year

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Let’s Just “Gruel” in the New Year

When I used to watch old movies as a child; gruel was served to orphans as an economic necessity. You certainly couldn’t feed hundreds of children steak and eggs on the city’s dime and Dickens loved using gruel as a metephor for cruelty. The Dickensian delights of the Victorian workhouse, immortalised in the moment when a starving Oliver Twist dares to ask for some more watery gruel.

In my family–the gruel came with much praise and many comments every day in January — undoubting the decision of its wholesomeness along with a small side bowl of prunes for everyone’s constitution. In today’s realm it would be much like yogurt attempts to advertise for the thoughts of regular constitution.

Gruel can actually be quite tasty they say. Mary Louise Deller Knight’s was not. Like the 1976 tune “Give Peace a Chance” I was instructed to give gruel a chance- every single day. The thin porridge has had a bad reputation with me ever since. My grandmother decided the month of January should be dedicated to getting everyone’s body ready for the rest of the Winter and layers of morning gruel lining my intestines would do it.

You know maybe if Grammy had followed the old recipe above I might have given it a chance. But- she made her slushy gruel, containing oats, water, milk and onion. That’s right — onion. As my grandfather would say:

“There’s no flavour at all without the onion.”

I begged to differ.

As she rejoyced about it ‘sticking to my insides’, today I would have retorted, “They call that Dysphagia!” In yesterday’s life it was “eat your meals or starve.”

Today, in these nutritionally conscious times, gruel is an all-rounder. It’s got all the carbs and water you need to barely survive for another day. For the health-conscious gruel can be made more interesting by adding bee pollen, maca, hemp seeds, coconut butter, lentil sprouts or fermented tree-nut cheese. Consider yourself warned this might become a new food trend!

Me? I think I will just eat my ethically-sourced, fair trade hat and avoid it like the Black Plague.

More gruel recipes click here.

Pease Pudding in the Pot, Nine Days Old

Never Miss a Chance to Dance! Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Never Miss a Chance to Dance! Linda Knight Seccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina 1968 and Saul Cohen working at Place Bonaventure from-Ramblings of a Rebel with a Cause!

Never Miss a Chance to Dance!

No one in this world wanted to take over tap dancer Ann Miller’s job more than I did. After 70 long years of random attempts, all that remains is a pair of silver tap shoes tucked away in a cupboard long forgotten. I used to wear them on a day to day basis for many years as I always believed one should be on call if someone had the odd tap dancing job. In life I have always winged it: life, eyeliner, just everything.

As a child my mother told my father that I had natural rhythm and would probably belong to a professional dance troupe. Actually, what she really wanted me to be was one of the dancers on American Bandstand, but I had other goals in mind. When I was eight I wanted to fluff out my tutu and be the Sugar Plum Fairy so badly that I accidentally bumped the reigning fairy off the stage during practice. Seeing the stage was a foot off the ground, she was luckily not hurt, and I was to remain a Waltzing Flower forever.

At 17 I had my first “break”. I became one of the regular “crowd” dancers on a Montreal based TV show called “Like Young”. Every Saturday afternoon I lined up outside CFCF-TV sporting my grandmother’s orthopedic brown lace up shoes, ready to dance. Those borrowed shoes were just super for dancing and they looked fabulous with my floor dusting Le Chateau gabardine pants. I was nothing but double-trouble on the dance floor.

After the show was over we would all head downtown and refresh our spirits at the Honey Dew restaurant on Saint Catherine Street. One giant glass of Honey Dew along with a hot dog and then it was off to Place Du Soul. It was the “all ages” place to be, that was right across from the Greyhound Bus Station in case you had to leave town quickly. Each week I resumed my Sugar Plum Fairy dreams of long ago– only this time it was for the coveted title of go-go cage dancer. The elevated cages were about twenty stairs up a shaky ladder and it became a weekly goal to try and fight the others to be queen of the dancing soul-castle.

One weekend James Brown was the headlining act and even though I had issues with vertigo I decided I was finally going to be dancing in that cage that evening.  As I stood in line waiting my turn I told several people that the lead singer Bruce from “Les Sultans” was soon to be coming in the front door.

“Les Sultans” were the French Canadian version of the Beatles in those days, and I tell you that line stopped being a line in about two seconds flat. Smiling a very large sinister smile I climbed those twenty stairs wearing a short print mini dress, white boots and a huge white bow on top of my head. I never looked down once and realized quickly there was no lady-like way to climb that ladder without flashing my underpants. Remember, there is always a wee bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.

James started to sing, “I Feel Good,” and it couldn’t have been a better song. I stayed up in the cage as long as I could and danced my boots off. Others got tired of me hogging the limelight and tried to climb up and get rid of me. I threw my boots down one at a time.  Last song, bootless, and eyeliner running down my face James threw me a kiss in the air and sang “I Got You”. I would never live my mother’s dream of being one of Dick Clark’s dancers, but finally, I was the Sugar Plum Fairy of Soul and covered in a “Cold Sweat”!
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we should dance. When you are sixty and still dancing, you become something of a curiosity. If you hit seventy and you can still get a foot off the ground, you’re phenomenal. Now, with a cane, dancing can be difficult, but I still dance like nobody’s watching. Because, in reality, they aren’t watching you. That’s because they are all too busy checking their phones. Why be moody, when you can shake your booty!

Dealing With Technical Difficulties Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Dealing With Technical Difficulties Linda Knight Seccaspina

Dealing With Technical Difficulties Linda Knight Seccaspina

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 the increasing repetition of her tales, and then I would just nod my head and let her carry on.

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 2021 and I am a bit  younger than Mary Louise was in the prime of her ‘broken needle’ storytelling 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 Dementia 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. Except maybe in the summer when doing anything with a humid sports bra is much like resistance training.

Years ago in the subway, I pulled out what was then the ever popular disposable Tracfone 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 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 dishes and glassware no one really wants along with a plastic bag full of other plastic bags. My couch is not covered in plastic like Grammy’s was, but I still have company towels in the bathroom. I read stories on the internet, but still long to go through piles of my Grandparent’s dusty Reader’s Digests just for the memories.

I smell like vapor rub now on a daily basis because of knees that no longer have cartilage, and people back in my hometown of Cowansville tell me I look just like my Grandmother. 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 here 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.

Anyways, never let aging get you down, remember, it’s just too hard to get back up!

Remembering Courage Strength and Love- Linda Knight Seccaspina

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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.

Girls Just Want to Have “Fun-gi” Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Sports & Sports– Ville de Cowansville
Forty-six children from the Cowansville Municipal Swimming Pool, who received their Red Cross Certificate, accompanied by their teachers, Ms. Roland Boucher and Mr. Paul Meunier, and officials of the Red Cross (The Voice of the East, August 21, 1962)- Ville

Girls Just Want to Have “Fun-gi” Linda Knight Seccaspina

I stood there and peered through the chain link fence watching the cutest boy in town make a spectacular dive into the town pool and melted. The summer had begun and I had yet to make decisions between sitting at home reading my books, or doing something really special.  Would it be sitting under a tree reading the latest Nancy Drew or would I be learning how to be an Olympic style swimmer? I wanted to stand on the diving board, jump into the air and amaze my friends. No one was going to stand in my way even though I was petrified of water.

Anyone that knows me is quite aware of my fear of anything to do with water. It began the day my late mother stood me on the end of a lake pier much like Patty McCormick from the film The Bad Seed. Over and over she told me not to stare into the water less my reflection pulled me in. Of course I stared into the water, fell in, and needed to be rescued.

After telling my best friend about my summer vacation dream she told me I should start small by conquering a lake first. So the next Sunday at Selby Lake I slowly ventured into the water inch by inch. I thought that swimming might not take all that long to learn until one of my friends came roaring out of the lake covered in blood suckers.

As I stood on terra firma and watched a few men try to burn the suckers off the boy’s body with a lighter I suddenly thought that this might not be the best idea. Sure enough, that first day I stood there at the Cowansville pool feeling quite alone, shuddering from fear and looking very uncool wearing a rubber swim cap.

Not only am I afraid of water, but I also have an issue with feet, germs and wetness. After exiting the change room I had to figure out how to walk to the mandatory shower and exit without my feet touching the floor. I tried very earnestly to put my foot down on the wetness of the concrete, but all I could feel was imaginary bacterial ooze crawling through my toes.  I closed my eyes, ran under the shower as quick as I could, and then stood by the end of the pool.

Actually I stood on the edge of that pool for about 7 days and then graduated to sitting on the edge until the instructors became very concerned. Was Linda ever going to swim, or would she end her summer vacation still being a landlubber? Finally one day I courageously stood on the ladder and slowly descended into the blue water. For another two weeks I spent most of my time in the water but now only desperately clutching the edge of the pool with my hands.

Every lesson I would assume the same position until one day I made a miraculous headway. As I approached the pool one morning for lessons I saw the town fire truck parked right next to it. It seems that someone either polluted the water with their bacterial laden feet or there had been way too many “accidents” in it. The fire trucks were filling the pool, which was now only 4 inches deep, and I quickly ran through the germ laden floor, down the ladder and into the pool. With the water lapping dangerously around my ankles I mimicked every swimming style known to man air guitar style. I was finally in my element and was achieving my summer goal. I was swimming!

To this day I do not swim in lakes and still have fear of water due to the movie Jaws premiering years later. However, my biggest fear was met that very day I achieved my first diving board jump. I did not drown, but a week later I had a strange rash on my face that grew with the speed of light. I had contacted what is called Staphylococcus Aureis, or in layman’s terms- Impetigo. Some people blamed the water, but in my mind I knew where I got it from–it had to be the concrete changing room floor. But, in the end strong delusions travel around like cold germs on a sneeze. As my Grandmother treated my rash she said to me:

“Just wash your hands my birdie and say your prayers, because germs and Jesus are everywhere!”

Can I get an Amen?

Walking Without Knowing the Amplifying Truth

Standard
Walking Without Knowing the Amplifying Truth

First Nations children were once living in residential schools under the thumb of priests, nuns and staff charged with purging these children of their culture and traditions and replacing them with their own. Several of the churches were engaged in the management of day and residential schools. This co-operation of the churches in the case of residential schools was as follows: Roman Catholic, 44; Church of England, 21; United Church, 13; Presbyterian Church, 2, making a total of 80. I have never understood why people try to hide history–great nations should never hide their history– but we did.

Today I discovered my truth in this matter by having a flashback and putting two and two together. Funny how that works- and after I had a good cry- I realized that all truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Years ago in the 1950s and 1960s I used to help my Grandmother with her Anglican church groups preparing “the bales” to go north as they told me. The bales were actually handmade quilts rolled up with warm mittens and scarves, along with books and treats. We made a lot of them each year, and in my young heart I envisioned they were being transported to the North Pole. Every year I saved up my allowance to buy treats for the families that I thought lived in igloos, wore snowsuits and had big smiles like in the books I read. I was wrong – they were being sent to residential schools.

“As early as 1921, one official report described living conditions in residential schools as “a national crime.” When children wet their beds, the nuns at the Sturgeon Lake residential school would wrap the soiled sheets around their heads. If they tried to run away from the school where they were forced to live until they were 16, their heads were shaved. If they dared to speak Cree, their hands were rapped with a ruler. But the thing that hurts the most is they forced their religion on the children day in and day out.”

As I type the above words I wondered if my grandmother’s church group should have sent boxes of hymn books like they used too. I was always told the children loved getting these books– and now I can see that they did not. We have rules now that the government can’t penalize you because of your religious beliefs– so why were these children forced with this injustice. The residential schools were conducted by church authorities, with financial assistance from the Dominion Government and supervised by the Indian affairs section of the Department of the Interior. Half these schools were under Roman Catholic control and they remain divided among the other denominations. An Anglican bishop in Alberta told the media churches must stop “beating themselves up” over the question of abuse at Indian residential schools and should return to the basics of preaching Christianity. Unfortunately, I can’t tell whether the bishop was being purposefully ironic, or he really couldn’t see the contradictions of his statements.

In the larger residential schools in the 1930s daily duties were allotted to the pupils, who took turns:

Staff Girl

Set staff table. Clear away all staff dishes. Wait on the staff table. Dry staff dishes. Help to put dishes away In pantry. Sweep kitchen and dust. Clean kitchen stove and kettles.

Kitchen Girl

Pack up and wash staff dishes while staff girl dries. Wash all pot and tea towel. Help with up school meal. Clean both kitchen table before meal.

Dining-room Girl:

Wash all tables. Sweep room after all meals. Dust the dining-room thoroughly. Sweep and tidy the lobby after breakfast and dinner. Take wood to the sitting–room when required. Keep the dining-room shelf tidy. Put all Bible and prayer books away tidily.

Dormitory Girl Every day, clean wash stands In both dormitories. Dust. Clean lamp globe.

Monday, prepare for school wash.

Tuesday, sweep and dust boys’ dormitory.

Wednesday, sort and put away clothes. Fill all lamps, also table lamp.

Thursday, sweep and dust girls’ dormitory.

Friday, sweep and dust top bedrooms.

Saturday, sweep both dormitories. Sweep sewing room. Fill all lamps.

After we packed the bales I went home to loving parents. I had a warm meal, watched television and slept in a cozy bed.The next morning I got up for school without having to do the above chores with a full breakfast in my stomach. I told all my friends how we had sent the bales to happy people in the north, not knowing it was all a lie. One hundred and forty articles knitted by the church group members, as well as cash and other things were being shipped to the residential schools. As well, I remember that our church help donate money for an organ so the children could be forced to sing hymns that were not part of their own religion. Why did this all seem so right to everyone when it was all so wrong?

So what should we do now? In a world of TV soap operas an apology is always followed by acceptance, and the story moves on after the required tears and hugs. But, it just doesn’t work quite that way in real life– and especially in this case. More than one in five former school pupils have applied for compensation for living in residential schools have been turned down. Thousands of children that were taken from their families filed claims stating they were sexually and physically abused and forced to learn English. It’s not like we can just turn a page and everything is good. We have to realize that this is not just a dark chapter in our country’s history, it’s something we as a country need to come to terms with when it comes to making decisions about everyones future. We all are connected in a circle of life that is far deeper than any of us can truly understand– and today my realized participation and ignorance came full circle. Apologies are not just enough– it’s a start– but we have to do more than that.

“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.”

― Charles Dickens

Also read-Kamloops Industrial School– “A New Idea in Residential Schools” After the Fire 1925

Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 27
Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 27

Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 27