Tag Archives: Linda Seccaspina

Friday Nights with Brian Murphy

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Friday Nights with Brian Murphy
Photo by Jim Roy

Every second or third Friday night for a number of years CHEZ-FM DJ Brian Murphy could be found in my store Flash Cadilac talking to me for hours. I will never understand how we became friends, as we were different as night and day. But there he was sitting on a stool next to my cash register, and we always had hours to chat about stuff. Both of us had a love of music, but no one knew more about music than Murph. I loved to tease him about his love affair with Dire Straits, and he would in turn constantly mention my extremely bad taste in music. But sometimes he would admit that some pop music wasn’t all that bad. I wonder what he would have thought of BTS. Murph, I’m going to ask you that when I hopefully got up into rock and roll heaven, unless Hell is Gothic, and well, you know, I might enjoy that.

Brian was never there to shop, and seldom took interest in my customers (even the sexy ones) unless they mentioned music. I always had a Diet Coke or two for him, as he got thirsty discussing life, and sometimes he overwhelmed me with his knowledge. You could never have a 15 minute conversation with the music genius–his musical thoughts came in volumes. He would talk endlessly about his record collection in his basement which was floor to ceiling, as well as covering the stairways and hallways. Brian, you would be happy to know (in later life) I married one of “your tribe” who had 7000 records to get rid of in Berkeley, California to move here to Canada. I know you would have told him what was more important in life LOL.

After Brian was let go amid the big CHEZ-FM shuffle I wondered what he was up to when I no longer saw him anymore. When I read his obituary I was devastated and angry at myself for not reaching out to him and hoped to God his frog collection would be taken care of. He will always be the Sultan of Swing to me and so much more.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I wonder what Brian would have to say about a particular genre of music I’m playing. When he died CHEZ-FM posted the following on their website:

“Heaven has just welcomed its new music director.”

If tears could build a stairway, 

And memories a lane.

I would walk right up to Heaven

And bring you back again.

The Brian Murphy Fund
*Application and donation links found below*
A Sub Fund of the Education Foundation of Ottawa and An Endowment Fund within the Community Foundation of Ottawa
This award is in memory of Brian Murphy, host of CHEZ 106 “The Source” “Blues 106,” “Jazz 106” and other programs. He was known as one of Ottawa’s most original people. Brian will be remembered for his encyclopedic knowledge of musi

Please leave comments so I can them all here for permanent doucmentation… thanks

CLIPPED FROM
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
18 May 1991, Sat  •  Page 51

This is Artcetera, speaking from the home of Brian Murphy, host of CHEZ’S The Source, Blues 106 and Jazz 106 programs on Sunday nights. The shows reflect Murphy’s eclectic tastes in music, a subject for which he is wildly enthusiastic. He’s also a champion talker. Let’s listen in.) Now I’m going to get myself in real serious trouble with what one friend calls the jazz ayatol-lahs, and another friend calls the jazz weasels. Because really what jazz is, even though it has become in a sense an art form ta-dah ta-dah, is pop music. MOZART WROTE POP MUSIC, or adapted pop music. And nothing makes me angrier than the jazz ayatollahs or the jazz weasels, or the BLUES ayatollas or the BLUES weasels, people who are so structured in their musical taste.

. . . I’ve always gotten from certain people in the Ottawa jazz scene the ayatollahs, the weasels the feeling that they really can’t take me seriously when it comes to jazz. Why? Because I like rock and roll. (It’s me again. We’re talking to Murphy because May 24 is his 50th birthday, and CHEZ is dedicating the day to his music, and also holding a birthday party for him at the Penguin. The radio station is broadcasting from his house that day, and they’ve asked him to pick 125 to 150 rock songs, and they will make up the playlist for the station that day.) I just took a page for every letter and as songs came into my mind I started going through them … So you got a list that starts A’s: Allman Brothers, Ramblin Man and Animals, House of the Rising Sun. B’s: The Band, The Weight, The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations, here’s a tough one, Beatles, I’ve got two, Am The Walrus and In My Life. And I’ve got Bonzo Dog in here, which will probably come out, and this particular song means a lot to me: Urban Spaceman . . . (Music magazines spill on the floors of Brian Murphy’s house.

There’s barely room on the kitchen table for the breakfast he eats at 4 p.m. he doesn’t go to sleep until 8 or 9 a.m. He collects things in the shape of frogs, and frogs spill along the shelves of his living room in ceramic and plastic and wood. A frog quilt spills off his bed. CDs spill out on top of the thou sands of albums kept in the boxes in his basement. Books spill on his desk. Words spill out of Brian Murphy.) First of all, above all, I’m an entertainer. I’ve got to make people feel good. That doesn’t mean that occasionally I can’t stop and make them think about something or make them angry about something that makes me angry. But at the same time as I’m entertaining, I’m kind of teaching. I’m taking all of this lore, all of this knowledge, all of this listening, and sifting them through this particular body and mind, and what comes out is some kind of synthesis of all this stuff. (May 24 is also the 50th birthday of Bob Dylan.

Above Murphy’s basement sanctuary, where he goes to turn on a record and read some science fiction and think about the connections that run through music, above that sanctuary is a sign: ‘The Most Famous Album Never Released: Bob Dylan & The Band The Basement Tapes.’ Basement. Tapes. Connections.) Dylan was the wordsmith. Dylan was the man, the person who opened the words up for everybody. In a sense, Bob Dylan made poetry acceptable to the masses. What a horrible way to have to put it. (Murphy rocks from leg to leg, from subject to subject. He loves music of all kinds, he hates people who put it into pigeonholes, he wants people to understand . . . There are only kinds of music another line I’m going to steal and it’s been attributed to Kurt Weill and it’s also been attributed to Igor Stavinsky there are two kinds of music, good music and bad music.

Take your pick. . to understand something called Sturgeon’s Law, a law that says that 90 per cent of everything is trash. Mur phy’s Corollary puts Brian Murphy that at 95 per cent. So you shouldn’t be surprised … – -J Pop music is banal and all of those things, but! lot of it more than you realize is great music. It can move you. “I’d be surprised if a lot of pop music is bad- ‘ A lot of everything is bad. But when it’s good; -” we just ask Brian Murphy.) . Part of what I try to do is I go through life trying to find these perfect records. To me the ultimate compliment about a piece of music, no matter what its genre, is it makes you feel good to be alive.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada18 May 1991, Sat  •  Page 51

Missing Berkeley Series – Larry Thrasher

Clippings of –The Naughty Boys –The Eastern Passage -60s Music

The Canadian Beatles aka The Beavers- Mike Duffy was their Road Manager –Bands of the 60s

Saturday Date with “Thee Deuce” in Almonte

Dance Hall Days with The Coachmen
The Coachmen Return!!! Born to be Wild Circa 1985

The Day I Tried to Long Tall Sally Paul McCartney

Kindle Fire Minutes of “Dancin the Feelin“ with James Brown

Music in the 60s- Memories of Herman’s Hermits

Back to The Future — Twisting Your Dignity Away

I Lived in Pestalozzi College – Life in Ottawa 1972

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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.

Comments-

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

Linda

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 🙂

Scully, You are Not Going to Believe This!” Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Scully, You are Not Going to Believe This!” Linda Knight Seccaspina

As a fan of the X-Files I have always believed that there is someone else out there in the skies. However, sometimes I thought my late father was nuts when he insisted I join him in a spaceship watch outside on his driveway. In the late 60’s he claimed to have seen something up in those starry skies on Miltimore Road hovering over the Brome Pond area– which I blamed it on too much exhaust coming out of his Ford Pinto. In 1974 it happened again and this time he made me sit for what seemed like hours to see what he claimed was another UFO. Of course I never saw anything unusual and usually handed him a glass of wine and told him to go watch The Rockford Files.

Today, going through the news archives I found out that there were indeed many UFO sightings in the Eastern Townships in that time frame and my father, Arthur Knight, might not have been so crazy after all. In the late 60’s many sightings in the Sherbrooke area have been documented and Michael Phelps sent a letter to the Sudbury Star in 1990 in response to a request by the newspaper for personal encounters.

The letter discussed a 1968 incident at an Ayer’s Cliff cottage on the shores of Lake Massawippi that his family was renting. Walking home one evening the whole sky was lit up like giant spotlights being turned on. He looked across the lake and saw  3 or 4 balls descend and after a few seconds they were gone. His sister had seen the same thing, but later they found out that it had not been a visit from beyond, rather it had been nothing but what they call ‘earthquake lights’. These lights in the sky are caused by electrical properties of certain rocks in specific settings. When nature stresses certain rocks, electric charges are activated, as if you switched on a battery in the Earth’s crust.

On the 15th of July in 1974, a UFO wave swept the Sudbury, Ontario and once again the Eastern Townships area. Among these were some UFOs that had a bell shape and that was what my father had insisted he had seen in his second encounter. In October of  the same year a bell-shaped UFO was also seen between Deauville and Rock Forest, and in this case, the object was orange in colour.

So today I sit here, over 30 years later, and wonder what my father actually saw. Did he see spaceships, or was it natural mineral gas lights coming off nearby Gale Pond? For those that have no idea what I am talking about– Gale Pond, which is now called Lac Gale, sits on top of Gale Mountain in Bromont. 

As a kid we used to climb the rough trail up the mountain where a former volcanic crater sat at the top, disguised as a natural lake. There we would mingle with the campers of Gale Camp that Reverend Peacock of the Anglican church in Cowansville had begun in 1944. Kids would swim off the dam on the south end of Gale Pond and the water warmed up faster than any other lake after a good rainstorm. But did we ever see any spaceships coming out of the water, or was there anything else that would have been labeled odd? Not that I remember! The only thing that would have had something similar to wild lights and burning speed would have been the Farr boy’s toboggan zipping down that trail coming from the top of Gale Mountain.

So what did my Dad see? Personally, I believe there are just two possibilities– either we are alone in this universe, or we are not.  I guess we will never know– but after doing research for this story, more of my childhood came back in a flood of memories. It’s just so hard to forget an area that gave me so much to remember– even on the subject of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

UFO Sightings in Lanark County 1982 — Lanark Village

Was it the Germans Or UFO’s that Invaded the Ottawa Valley in 1915?

Saturated with UFO activity Lee Cole 1994

Unsolved Mysteries — The Almonte Woman Abducted by a UFO (Part 2)

More UFO Sightings in Carleton Place!

Was it a UFO? A Meteorite or a Fuse Box? A Carleton Place Legend

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

Did the Germans Start the Fire at the Portland School in 1915?

Letting my Hair Down — Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Letting my Hair Down — Linda Knight Seccaspina

Letting my Hair Down — Linda Knight Seccaspina

I still have my original crimping iron from the first day of the “Regretful HairStyles 80s” era. It’s the colour of pink candy floss and works better than anything new on the market. When it comes to crazy hair and makeup, no decade trumps the 1980s– but throwing this crimping iron in the trash can is out of the question at this point in my life. They say ‘Old is not gold’, but honestly this crimping iron is along for the ride like the wine coolers, the cassettes and the mall. So do I still crimp or curl my hair? Personally, I always try not to anger the beast, and most days my life is held together by a single bobby pin.

Regretfully, I lost a vintage 1920s Marcel curling iron in my hair styling repertoire that I found in my Grandparent’s barn on South Street in Cowansville, Quebec. It was part wood and part metal and should have had a danger sign on it. Vintage curling irons were once heated on the fire or the stove for the most part, so I used my grandmother’s wood stove to warm it up. I was warned never to curl your hair with a vintage curling apparatus as they are dangerous and you can burn your hair off, and might even singe your scalp. Each time I used it my grandmother would get hysterical and tell me to be careful. In the hair salons of days past they used to try it on a piece of paper first before they curled their clients’ hair. Why am I thinking there must have been a few minor salon fires in those days?

My grandmother, Mary Louise Deller Knight got her first perm when she immigrated to Canada and it really didn’t go very well. She kept telling the hairdresser her hair hurt under one of those over-sized dryers and no one listened. It was a sad day after that my friends. Mary loved to control everything in her life, and sad to say you can’t. That’s why hair was put on your head to remind you of that very thing. So after they lifted the lid,  a lot of Mary’s hair fell out and eventually grew back very thinly.

Mary tried every potion and lotion known to man and finally she gave up, and that’s when Eva Gabor came into her life. They always say that beauty comes from inside– inside a hair salon actually– and we would make quarterly trips to Montreal to buy her Eva Gabor wigs and I never ever discussed it. When she asked me questions about certain styles I chose my words very wisely—until her golden years. That’s when she plopped those wigs on her head sideways, backwards, and any other position known to man, and someone had to tell her. 

It doesn’t matter who you are, just remember that no one really has control over their lives and your hair is here to remind you about that fact. On great days it swings like the hair in an old Breck commercial and on the bad days it’s frizzy and wavy when you can expect a day of total loss of control. You are as strong as the hairspray you use and always remind folks that the messy bun you are sporting actually took 18,501 tries. Thank you to the past few weeks of Canadian humidity– I always wanted to look likeThe Lion King said no one ever. Your comb is not a wand.

In the end my grandmother made me promise that when she died to make sure her wig was on her head straight which I did. Dead or alive– you need to look like you are not having a bad hair day, as after all, no one is looking at your shoes.

Psychics or Ouija Boards – Who Ya Gonna Call?

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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

Oh Dear, William Penfold and my AB Positive Blood

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Oh Dear, William Penfold and my AB Positive Blood

William Penfold—my 4th great grandfather

In researching my lineage it seems I just can’t get a break. I am the way I am for a reason. I come from a bunch of colourful characters that my gynaecologist warned me about. My gynaecologist ?? Yes, when you are researching your ancestry talk to your gynaecologist. Don’t you?

My great grandfather was in charge of British Music Halls then ran away to America leaving the family. Another was a lady in waiting to Queen Victoria with loose skirts. A great grandfather was a lawyer who took on scalawags and now it seems William Penfold my 4th great grandfather was a bit of a smuggler. How is your day going?

So I blame AB positive blood……

Was it Because I Have AB Positive Blood?

I was told by my doctor once that 10% of the world’s population has AB Positive blood and it’s where I get my “oddness” from. Funny, I never thought I was odd! All I knew was I didn’t want to end up in the military like my Father had daily visions of. It had come to his attention many times that I was different, and I stuck out like a sore thumb in my rural hometown in Quebec. When your father is a prominent municipal fixture, and the only electrician in town, word travels around like a bush fire that your daughter is weird or a character as they called me. Honestly, there are lots of people like myself, and then there are those that pretend not to be.

My friend Wanita Bates said something once that made complete sense to me after all these years.

‘Linda, some of us have gifts to feel what is going to be in style, and you and I are one of them.” When I had my store I was way ahead of fashion trends, but when major retailers grabbed on to it and money making was involved–I was long out of it. 

So after heated arguments with my father, I left home and headed to Montreal, Quebec. I attended fashion design school on Bleury Street where I became instantly bored. Instead of great 60’s fashion and styles that I was expecting my teacher made me make pattern after pattern of 1950’s styles. After classes, I would venture into store after store, just absorbing the culture and the fashion.

After almost completing my course, I decided I needed to find a job. Well Twiggy, Mary Quant, and all the Carnaby Street styles were afloat and guess who was wearing them? My Dad was getting remarried and gave me $75 dollars to buy something for his wedding. Being the drama queen I purchased a black velvet Twiggy mini dress and a black floor length Dr. Zhivago style coat. It was a real floor duster with black faux fur trim, and Omar Sharif would have been proud.

So when I went for job interviews I insisted on wearing the same “ultimate”outfit I wore to the wedding. Most clothing manufactures were not into the “Carnaby look” yet and I was told time after time, “Kid, get yourself another coat”. In layman’s terms I was scaring all these fashion people with my wardrobe. Defiant, I kept wearing it.

A few weeks later I got my dream job. It was working for trendy Le Chateau on Ste. Catherine Street hemming pants. It was their first store, and their clothing styles were worn by anyone who wanted to be someone. I was right up their alley– or so I thought.

Sadly, I only got to work there for about 6 months, as I was basically hired for the Christmas rush. In those few months I got to meet the Montreal trendsetters, wore “Gabardine Mod” pants, and so began my lifetime eating disorder. But, it was a time I will never forget, and believe fashion has never been so exciting. Just being able to sneak into the Boiler Room on Crescent Street and watch fashion happen was mind blowing.

For some reason only known to God, I was just not ‘cool” enough to work as a salesperson in their store, and rent had to be paid. In the middle of the coldest winters ever I hauled my derriere all over the Island of Montreal looking for a job.

I finally found a job at The Fine Togs Clothing Co. It was a childrens manufacture run by Blossom and her husband Hy Hyman. Actually Blossom ran the company and Hy smiled a lot and played golf. They thought I was a spunky kid and if I had stayed there, I would have probably be retiring from the company about now. They were good people.

If my grandmother Mary was my foundation for my hard working ethics, then Saul Cohen was the drywall. He expected me to arrive at 7:30 every morning and I had to ask to leave around 7:45 pm at the end of the day. The man worked me to the bone, and I just chalked it up to experience. I worked in the cutting department, sewing, swept floors, did book work, and worked in the show room. There was not one stone that he did not make me turn over, and turn over again.

‘Sauly” was relentless, and when he found out that my Mother had been born to a Jewish Mother  he made sure I knew about my heritage. Anytime I asked to leave early he would turn around and say to me,

“Do you know how our people suffered?”.

Enough said.

One day he decided that I was ready to represent the company selling their clothing line at the Place Bonaventure clothing mart. He told me I had to have, no, must wear, something conservative.

So I did what every other girl my age did. I went to Sears and bought “The Suit”. It was navy blue, a box jacket complete with a knee length pleated skirt. I had red shoes and red earrings to match. That was the last time I wore something so conservative. It just wasn’t me.

I applaud Saul for everything he taught me and how someone actually got me into something that wasn’t black. Word got around the clothing market about me and I was soon hired by a competitive children’s wear company run by Palestinians. Yup, I was no peace maker between the people of Israel and Palestine, but this was a time I will never ever forget.

Was it Because I Have AB Positive Blood? Basic Element #2

I finally got my wish to be an assistant fashion designer, and quickly found out I was going to collect a pension before I became a designer. Lessons that were learned: when management says your designs basically stink– don’t believe them. A year after I left a certain firm, I saw my ‘unsuitable’ designs in the Eaton’s catalogue making lots of money for them.

Disillusioned, I left Montreal for love in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Again, mentors in life were: my Grandmother, Saul Cohen, and owner of Au Bon Marche–Morty Vineberg. I learned the retail trade from the bottom up from him, and to this day, if there is a spot for just 50 items, and I have 300; I can whip that into shape as fast as you can say “bargain designer clothes”.

Morty opened a discount clothing store in what he called “the dark side of Ottawa”. Today, I believe they call that Vanier, or is it part of Ottawa now? He told me how people would not cross the Cummings Bridge and shop in Vanier. Mr. and Mrs. Vineberg wanted to be the first, besides the seasonal swans, to get Ottawa consumers to cross that darn bridge. I think if there hadn’t been an “interior crime spree” going on in the store, again, I would have stayed.

Each day I had to turn my eye, and to be honest, I did tell Morty in certain terms, that all was not well in that former Bingo hall. But, it had gotten to a point that I needed to spread my wings, and so barely a year after the Vinebergs had transferred me, I quit. Ange, was working as a project manager for Olympia and York’s fabulous 240 Sparks, but he encouraged me to open my own business and a week later he too left his job.

Was it Because I Have AB Positive Blood? Basic Element #1

Flash Cadilac was created and flourished through creativity. I was lucky I was able to pursue my dreams– but I had never taken the word “no” for an answer. In fact I had never listened to anyone who tried to talk me out of my views on life, fashion, and being yourself. At age 15 I marched into the Vice Principal’s office who doubled as a guidance counselor and told him I would not be returning to school the next year. I also asked for my $10 dollar school book deposit back.

I can still remember to this day where his desk was positioned in the room, and the look on his face that was partially hidden by his oversized spectacles. In a crisp but curt tone he scolded me.

“My dear Miss Knight, what golden path have you chosen for yourself?”

“I am going to be a fashion designer Sir,” I said emphatically.

He got out of chair and perched himself on the edge of my chair and asked me loudly if I was jesting.

Jesting?Jesting?

I quickly realized had I told him I had gotten pregnant by the Keebler Elves it would have gone over better. He continued in a loud monotonous drone telling me young ladies became either nurses or teachers. 

The elderly gentleman suggested maybe I look into the world of home economics if “I enjoyed sewing”. Seeing most of us either skipped our “Home Ec” class because of the Suzy Homemaker recipes or stared at the teacher’s legs while she spoke because we knew it made her uneasy, that notion was definitely out.

With that I stood up and again I asked him to cut me a cheque for $10.00. With my Grade 9 education, a shake of his hand, and $10.00 the world was now my oyster.

William Penfold—my 4th great grandfather

When William Penfold was born in 1791 in Itchingfield, Sussex, England, his father, John, was 32 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 32. He married Hannah Humphrey on February 18, 1821, in Hartfield, Sussex, England. They had 12 children in 23 years. He died on April 13, 1872, in Hartfield, Sussex, England, having lived a long life of 81 years.

The Standard
London, Greater London, England
24 Oct 1857, Sat  •  Page 3

What is a Chandler-

a dealer or trader in supplies, provisions, etc., of a specialized type:a ship chandler.a retailer of provisions, groceries, etc.

CLIPPED FROMThe Standard
London, Greater London, England
01 Feb 1850, Fri  •  Page 8

  1. William Penfold (1791-1872)4th great-grandfather grandfather of me…
  2. Emily Penfold Hider Friend (1823-1900)mother of …
  3. Harriet Hider Crittenden (1850-1910)mother of …
  4. Arthur Crittenden (1873-1954)father of …
  5. George Arthur Crittenden (1896-1970)father of …
  6. Bernice Ethelyn Crittenden (1927-1963)mother of …
  7. Linda Susan Seccaspina (1951-)You

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

A Letter to my Grandchildren April 14, 2020 — Linda Knight Seccaspina

We Are Family

Linda’s Countdown to the Royal Wedding–Day 2-May 13th Mother’s Day

Words to Wear Pants By—- Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Words to Wear Pants By—- Linda Knight Seccaspina

Words to Wear Pants To—- Linda Knight Seccaspina

I looked at a photo of my Grandmother today posing with yet another one of her regular house dresses on and realized I had never seen her wear her pants in her life. I remember the drawers of pinkish Eaton’s corsets, the array of stockings and her many hats and gloves. Evening in Paris bottles graced her bureau along with a tiny container of rouge and a stack of assorted hankies. 

She had 5 or 6 dresses hanging in an old wooden closet along with a wire hanger full of assorted belts. Belts that wrapped around her bust line were a must and the ones that came with the Eaton’s dresses were versatile. I even knew one of her friends who ordered dresses and then returned it but kept the belt because they were that desirable.

None of her friends that I could remember wore pants either. Maybe it was the odd conversation around a table at the local Legion that kept these women in tow. I remember my Grandfather and his friends ask if the whining would come from a different direction if the women wearing pants were drafted for service.

My mother Bernice had two pairs of cotton capri pants, one white and one blue which she wore with a sleeveless blouse and a tiny scarf tied sideways across her neck. My father never had complaints about it and said his wife had been wearing the pants in the family for years. He blamed everything on the war anyways– or her celebrities in the Photoplay magazine. They were the root of all evil according to Arthur J. Knight.

I can’t remember when I started wearing pants except for shorts in the summer as a small child. The first time I walked into my grandparents home sporting a pair of jeans Grampy Knight asked me if I had been hired for agricultural work. I loved those jeans and refused to wash them less they would shrink to a point where I could not get into them. My Grandmother was horrified and for six days when I got Strep throat she monitored them on the chair beside my bed. Every day she would beg me to wash them as jeans in such unkempt condition were probably against the Bible doctrine and maybe even provincial health laws.

In the late 60s the local hotels and fancy dining rooms banned women for wearing pants. As a teen we were not allowed into church dances with them, and even local offices banned them as office wear. The clothing manufactures went into overdrive realizing the business they could lose and petitions were begun by female office workers. It’s not like it was a new thing as some women had been wearing pants for decades.

Some folks were still up in arms including my Grandparents who quoted Deuteronomy again. “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”  Of course they had a specific verse for The Beatles too– not that there was anything wrong with that.

According to some, pants were the beginning of the loosening of morality and jeans, hot pants, long hair and bell-bottomed pants were not only offending good taste, “they were also stimulating the sexual passion to such an unbearable degree that there wasn’t even one young man left pure in that moment of time in the Townships.” Of course they mentioned that about drive-ins too.

Sometime in the lates 70s, my stepmother began wearing “the pant suit” or the power suit as they called it. Suddenly my father was telling me I should buy a couple of pant suits and conversing with my Grandfather that the Royal Bank had issued a statement that they were taking a fairly liberal attitude to clothing on the job. There was no objection to women wearing pants for work, although pant suits and coordinates were preferred.

After my bout with Strep Throat I never wore jeans again until the mid 2000s. Maybe because it just wasn’t considered rogue anymore for a woman to wear pants. Or, maybe because yoga pants suddenly had become the bacon of clothing.

My Grandmother was buried in one of the dresses she wore throughout her life, and I’m sure she never really wanted to wear pants. For her granddaughter, me, wearing jeans and pants encouraged women they could make change. Granted some days I sometimes ask myself if I should wear the smarty pants or the fancy pants, but I am still controlling the zipper.

A young woman has appeared twice at the Clinton, Ontario skating rink in male attire, and she is promised a visit from the magistrate if she repeats the performance. “Any woman who wants to dress as a man must come to police headquarters to get permission.” February 1887 Almonte, Ontario Gazette

And Now for Something Completely Different– The Junk Drawer……. Linda Knight Seccaspina

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And Now for Something Completely Different– The Junk Drawer…….  Linda Knight Seccaspina

photo from Tracey Beckerman as I wont show mine LOLOLhttps://tracybeckerman.com/whats-hiding-in-your-junk-drawer/

And Now for Something Completely Different– The Junk Drawer……. Linda Knight Seccaspina

Across vast countries, mixed into every culture we all share one thing, one dirty little secret throughout time. That, my friends, is the junk drawer. No matter if you move, don’t have junk, or even aspiration to have one, that drawer is with you– sometimes forever. Someday you might even have enough of a variety in that drawer to make a spaceship– or even save the world.

Let’s be totally honest, is there anything you would really miss in that drawer? The nails and bolts, the bits of string, and yes, even small packages of Ketchup when you always keep a fresh litre in the fridge. If a global condiment packet shortage comes our way, my junk drawer will reign supreme. I can’t even begin a conversation with you about that strange light bulb in my drawer that could possibly be useful 20 years down the line— or the fork with two missing centre prongs that is used to unjam the dishwasher as seen on YouTube.

That’s where the birthday candles are kept, keys, keys and more keys that fit nowhere and lots of twist ties.One day down the road some archaeologist is going to find all these bread and twisty ties and conclude it must have played an incredible role in our society. Sometimes just the right whatever-it-is can be found in there, but how many old pens do you have in that drawe,r and actually how many work? 

In all honesty, that drawer never started out to become a junk drawer, it probably had high hopes to be a utensil container and somehow it became a vast memory capsule for your family. In one fell swoop unexpected visitors called one day and whatever was hanging around on the counters got thrown in that drawer for a last minute hiding place and its fate was sealed forever. 

In my drawer I have a flashlight with no batteries, but flashlights without batteries also exist in various places around my home. They are all awaiting the first storm so I can complain about them not working.There are scraps of paper with written notes on them I can’t read, like the poison hotline centre. Menus from restaurants along with enough mouse traps to catch The Mickey Mouse Club constantly jam the drawer each time you attempt to close it.

My sons are in their mid 30s yet rolls of hockey tape along with a remote control that controls nothing still lie at the back of that drawer. Instructions for the old BETA VCR and batteries that we just aren’t sure if they are dead yet lay next to markers that are half dead but not dead enough. There are small pieces of metal with no purpose that my late husband put in there along with matching pieces of similar plastic with elastic bands that no longer stretch around them. A Tim Hortons ‘Roll Up the Lid to Win’ remainder is in there along with things that came from the bottom of pepsi bottles caps for contests that ended at least a decade ago.

If anyone uses a tool, the mandatory protocol seems to be to give it a home in the junk drawer instead of putting it back. I swear my grandson who is now 3 will do the same in 10 years if I am still alive. It’s just the family traditions that will never be broken. Why are we still saving the extra buttons that come with sweaters, and various blouses even though the chances of using them are null to void? Odd band aids used to be in that drawer until I decided cleanliness needed to be next to godliness and some of them just didn’t stick anymore. I just threw out the small ancient Nerf gun with two bullets as I realized protection while cooking dinner is no longer needed.

No matter how you argue that your junk drawer isn’t like mine– this drawer exists in every household and you know it is the staple of every happy family. Right now you can go to this drawer and whatever you are looking for is right beside the old roll of duct tape that is next to the empty BIC lighter. I am sure we could empty out that drawer for the good of mankind, but in all honesty how could you break the news to the junk closet or the junk room? To those that say they haven’t opened that drawer in a long time I would suggest that you go take out that half broken rogue potato masher or spatula that is keeping the drawer stuck and investigate. If you really think of it junk drawers are mostly like opinions– everyone  has got one and they are mostly full of crap.

The End

My column for the Sherbrooke Record this week

Related reading

The Good, the Bad and the “Eggly”

Spittle Spatter and Dirty Faces of Yore

Shaking Things Up! Linda Knight Seccaspina

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

Gym? I Thought You said Gin!

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

As they say, if you shake a family tree hard enough the nuts will begin to fall out. I spend a good part of my day writing history, and as of now I have about 5800 different stories on Lanark County in Ontario and the Eastern Townships. I never thought this would be what I would be doing in my later years, but after writing about what annoys me and celebrity gossip in for years I finally found my calling.

I don’t write text book history, I write about people that made our communities, the families. It wasn’t the politicians that helped our towns and cities grow, it’s the people that worked hard. As far as I am concerned everyone has a story and it’s all about chasing that information. But how far do you dig for these stories? What happens when you find the family stories that are like cornbread that isn’t done in the middle?

Last year each member of a local family all got Ancestry DNA kits for Christmas and their mother begged them to return them, assuring them that they were not accurate. Well, no one listened to her and most of them eventually found out that Dad wasn’t their real father. Apparently there had been a lot of unzipped genes in the family and family dinners were never the same after that.

What I have found odd with my own lot is that no one ever told me the stories about the good guys of the family. All I ever heard were stories of ancestors that never made it up to the standards of the Knight or Crittenden family. There was Cousin Odessa that was named after the Port of Odessa that was suddenly sent to Cowansville, Quebec from London. My grandparents soon found out that Odessa should have been named after Port Sherry instead of Odessa. As Alexander Fleming once said “If Penicillin can cure those that are ill, Sherry can bring the dead back to life!” I would like to believe Odessa is still out there somewhere like a good bottle of biologically aged sherry,

Last year I pieced my together my small family tree together while remembering the persistent repetitive stories of:

“She had to lock the door against the Fenians who were coming to her door- it was terrible!”

“He worked for Bell Telephone when he came from England in the early 1900s and froze to the poles in the dead of winter installing wires”

“She worked in the cafe in Devon where they sold the Devonshire Cream. Once she spilled soup on someone important and got fired”

“Every week your Grandfather gave her a 50 cent piece which she put in a small velvet bag that she wore around her neck. We never found it and wondered for years what she did with all the money.”

“He ran away to the USA without his family and if you look at this photo of his grave, that is why you should never leave your family- this is what happens– you die!!!”

Now this is only a tiny smattering of what I heard in my life, and every statement is true. I still have that postcard of my great grandfather’s grave and will probably pass the same message on to my sons.

I am wondering if I was told all these stories because there were far worse ones out there and they figured that would stop me from digging and finding something no family wanted to hear about. That however will never happen unless I win the lotto and then can afford another $25 dollars a month to join Ancestry in Europe.

As a writer I keep a buffer zone on family tragedy of 50 years, but I still have had some family tell me to take down a story that happened over 100 years ago. Personally I feel like Nancy Drew when I write as I feel like it’s solving a puzzle. But, when you find out a father’s name blank and crossed out on a delayed birth certificate be prepared for what you are going to discover. Ten to one some family is not going to want to hear that their great grandmother was caught with a man and morphine in a hotel room in Watertown N.Y in 1891 like I did this week.

So why do I write about past family stories? I am curious by nature, nosy, and I love the thrill of finding a story no one has heard about before. If I find a family mystery, I dig until I find the answer. I want people to know about the local individuals from the past whose lives helped make us what we are today. Our children and grandchildren need to hear about their ancestors- good and bad- it’s all history.

My youngest son’s favourite Tshirt reads:

“If you think I’m crazy you should meet the rest of my family!”

He’s right- crazy doesn’t run in our family– it gallops!

Gym? I Thought You said Gin!

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Gym? I Thought You said Gin!

by Linda Knight Seccaspina

Kids today have no idea what some of us older folks went through in gym class back in the day. I am not ashamed to admit that I’m not a huge sports fan except maybe synchronised swimming. In school I would have sold my soul to be exempt from gym class. The classes were stereotypical – tough gym teacher, tense atmosphere and I stunk at everything. I hated the bloomer uniforms and I swear I still have nightmares about them at age 69. In today’s day and age gym classes are slowly disappearing from schools, yet no one really complains about it. Is it because most people hated them like I did.

If I close my eyes tight I can still remember the box horses and really, if you google them now all you can find is stories about equestrians. Those oddly shaped wooden boxes expected me to run and springboard on top of them like The Flying Willendas. Let’s get the initial facts straight: I became an instant circus fan after seeing those high wire folks at Belmont Park. However, box horses were not made for people who loved cupcakes and the sports bra had not been invented yet. There was still no resistance training available for us growing young gals. Dodge ball stills scares me as it just seemed to be an excuse to hit each other in the back as hard as you could. I knew some kids who used to have panic attacks the day before Dodge ball events and dreamed about the gym teacher looking like a talking bicep.

Honestly I tried to have a positive look, but all that was offered to me in that gym class besides good intentions was going to the bathroom a lot and getting a ‘ Linda is improving‘ each report card. I have no idea what I was improving in, but I just remember the gym teacher always seemed to shake his head in dismay. It’s the same exact dismay I seem to now feel on an exercise bike while I watch the Pioneer Woman serving pasta with a giant cup of cheese and God only knows what else on that plate.

There was never a class photo that involved myself and anyone else participating in sports unless I was photo bombing it. Friends and I are also positive that none of the jocks or jockettes would have recognised me even if they hit me with their bikes. That’s just how it was, and I had to admit that part of my life would always have its ups and downs. Those exact feelings today would be called squats. I am sure there are still a few of us that were traumatized by gym class and being the last person picked for teams. Again, that feeling would be like wearing NIKES when you just can’t do it.

Sometimes I wonder if the gym classes from the past are now like a psychological block when it comes to exercise. I have always been under the belief that calories should scream like bloody heck when you burn them. In the end you will always have to rationalize that memories of your old gym class will always follow you around. There will always be that someone that thinks they are going to the Olympics instead of the local gym. Or, when someone shouts the word ‘exercise’ do you think you just heard the words ‘extra sides’?

It’s not like I have not tried to be more active, but if I ever had to run for my life, and believe me I have thought about this often- I would be dead.  One should always remember that Zombies like to eat the untrained ones first. When I used to run before my knees fell apart I thought I heard people clapping for me on the trails. It was one heck of a great motivation, but actually it was just my flapping inner thighs cheering me on.

Maybe I should have tried harder in gym classes in days gone by and not given the gym teacher a hard time. But at my age now it’s only memories and no matter what– if I can walk and talk at the same time now I am a rock star. My family always knew and still know that I will never be an athlete and that’s okay. I have learned to try and do everything 100% —except if I’m donating blood, and well, that’s another discussion.