Tag Archives: Linda Seccaspina

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.

It’s Too Cold to Be Pretty — Winter 2021

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It’s Too Cold to Be Pretty — Winter 2021

February 19, 2021

It’s too Cold to Be Pretty

I live in an old home that was built in 1867 and various additions were added throughout the years. Everything was built with stone– and the walls are three feet thick. The thickness of the walls holds the heat away for a week in the hot summer and then it becomes an oven. The same applies to winter–keeps the cold out for a bit and then cold drafty temperatures prevail.

Sometimes as I type I wear fingerless gloves similar to the 19th century folks that once lived here only they had muffs. Apparently the Victorians paid attention to their hands first to keep warm and muffs were just the item to keep their fingers toasty. Of course the drawback which is the same with fingerless gloves is that once you have to do things with your hands other than sit there, smile and twiddle your fingers– it’s fruitless. You just can’t press that ‘delete winter’ button as fingers need to be free—cold or not.

One perfect thing about winter in an old home is snuggling under those warm blankets, not that I don’t have backup. Decades ago at an auction in Knowlton, Quebec my father bought me one of those long-handled bed warmers that they used to put charcoal or hot rocks in and rub the contraption over the sheets. But one must ask themselves how safe that would be today. I have never heard Martha Stewart say all is well with smouldering coals with her 300- thread- count sheets. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, she has also not come out with matching nightcaps and socks to accessorize her sheet line either.

Former owners of my home used to have a lift up hatch door in my living room floor for access to the cistern below. For all of you that have older homes you know a cistern is where they stored all the water caught in rainstorms. Using the roof as a rain collection surface, gutters and downspouts delivered water to the cistern. In the old days when the temperature dropped, water in homes began to turn into ice. I can’t imagine my first job in the morning lifting up that hatch to the cistern and break the ice up if we had not saved water from the previous day for cooking.

But then again we have a few spots in the house that have to have heaters running on them when it goes below freezing, or the pipes will freeze and burst. That in the old days was called being “frozen up”. It must have been pretty miserable in this home built by the first Scots in the area to be so cold. Come Spring, no one knew what pipe was going to break first when the thaw came and buckets and bowls were always ready to collect the drips.

Needless to say when we bought his home in 1981 we had no idea the cistern existed until 20 years later as they had constructed a stone wall over the entrance. Goes to show you how fed up they were with the cistern and they probably got sick of catching the fresh fish they stored in the cistern on cold days with an axe.

I read a lot of Victorians kept warm in an older home by living in one room during the colder days with a fire roaring. It did mean that people would have frozen if they had left the room, so I imagine they seldom left.  One would likely assume that was when strong deodorant was invented or thought about.

Long drapes and fireplaces or wood burning stoves solved a huge problem in days of yore, but it’s not solving mine. I long to get rid of the daily uniforms of warm sweatshirts and sweatpants and sleeveless fun fur jackets. Today I took a photo of spring items I wanted to wear. A green and blue sweater and extra long vinyl baby blue elbow gloves. I laugh when I look at the gloves and realize 100 years ago I would have been cleaning the cistern with them. You have to admit they could clean a lot of floors with the length of them.

I look in the mirror at the white winter skin that gazes back at me in contrast to my black attire. Even though the outfit has been monotonous this winter it has kept me warm. Of course back then I probably would have been jokingly identified as a sickly Victorian woman who would not have made it through the winter. Stay warm my friends, Spring is coming.

Being Old is No Place for Sissies! Part 2

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Being Old is No Place for Sissies! Part 2

As I sit on a cemetery of rolled socks on my bed I wonder why I get up each morning. At almost 70 my legs and my knees are bad from various falls and I am a klutz. Each morning I try to put a pair of socks on and I fail. Either the knees won’t bend or somehow a sock gets pulled on and it either feels weird like the top of the sock is on my heel and I just give up. At the end of the week the rolled socks are put back in the drawer until I have to go outside which is rare these days.

Today was the day to get groceries and it is -16 C outside and socks are a must. I yell, I cry, one knee will not bend but I can’t give up. Not today. A close friend died a few weeks ago and I must take something to the family. I heard they were receiving a lot of food so I decided beverages were the way to go. Going anywhere I need my husband Steve to help me as the great white outdoors has become a challenge to me. I have no idea what happens when I venture outside the house. Suddenly the smooth and straight home floors turn into a Vesuvius Volcano erupting and each bump in the outside world is conducive to tripping over. One way to find out that you’re old is to fall down: if they laugh at you –you are still young. If they start to panic like they do when I trip and fall you’re in the old age bracket. I usually lay there and think: ‘oh great, is this what we are doing now?’

Last week I had already bought the beverages for the family and left them in the back seat. Anyone clever would know that even in a garage those cans are going to freeze. Each day I listened to the weather and never once did I think about canned drinks sitting on the back seat. Until– Thursday when my husband phoned me from work to say there had been an explosion in the back seat. He said it looked like glass shards everywhere, when in reality the cans had exploded and it was ice.

Socks on, ready for the world, I suddenly sneeze and I will not go into details, but pants must now be changed. How did I ever get here?  I can laugh, cough, sneeze and pee at the same time. In my mind I consider myself the closest to Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek you will ever see. Wigs hanging in the hat room, jewellery to rival any Bollywood wedding, but I have never once seen Moira go through this. Maybe I rival Phyllis Diller more than Moira and no one has the heart to tell me. I am still at that delusional age where I think everyone that I went to High School with looks older than me. Just like the COVID grey hair coming through the once red hair are now called my wisdom highlights.

My husband asked me if my socks are okay because he has heard all about my predicament in stereo for a long time. He gently asks if he can fix them and I just shake my head and say no. I softly say to him, ‘This my train wreck and this isn’t your station!’

People look at me and are flabbergasted I will be 70 this July. Unfortunately when they hear me stand up and hear the sound effects I make they catch on pretty quickly. I guess I just thought getting old would take a little longer. How fast it happened is still a bit of a surprise. Now the night time leg cramps come and you think to yourself: ‘This is it, this is how it ends!’

I remember the nights of dancing all night– and tap dancing at various Rocky Horror Picture Shows. Those days may be gone, but it’s how you take it. My mind is still functioning and so is my fashion wardrobe. I am still young at heart, but slightly older in some places. I am never going to change and one day I want to be that little old lady that puts vodka in the IV bags at the retirement home. So yes I have my complaints, but I would rather make people laugh about them, because we are all in this together. So next time you are slow at moving and things fall apart, remember that ageing gracefully is an art– but ageing disgracefully is a total blast!

Related reading

Being Old is No Place for Sissies

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past 10

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Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past 10

Goodwill-Mission-Street-Site

Market Street Goodwill Complex- San Francisco

From Years of writing on Live Journal

 

November 3rd, 2005

I just finished packing at the same time for the second straight night in a row. It was all horrible packing tonight. ( I refer it to kindly as bitch packing) Most of it was going over to the UK.
I made sure that Mr Cambridge in South Wirral had lovely soft pink tissue to protect that size 22 white mini dress he bought for himself, and the Gothic hat I made and sold with 7 yards of black bridal illusion net was packed with equally nightmarish tissue to please the dark kinder-goth girl in New Mexico.
I got up late today as I was so tired from the past two days of posting and packing. I literally ran to buses and the subway today just to keep on track. I have all my hunting spots down to a specific time when they bring new things out.
I was a good 30 minutes behind today. Even “Cashier Joe” at the Community Thrift shop said to me “You’re late today” and I just laughed and rolled my eyes. I started off the day going up Market Street to the Goodwill salvage depot. On the way a brisk cold damp wind was blowing hard. It was darn cold.

I saw this old woman backing up  against the wall of the Bank of America building and felt really sad for her. I thought how sad it was that she was lifting her dress and getting the hot air to blow up her skirt from the vent to warm her up. I soon found out that was her way to relieve herself. As things were flowing down the walls I was very quickly flowing up the street trying hard not to catch any down winds.
I got into the salvage place and started going through bins. The man who own the Sharks vintage chain and his pickers and a whole slew of Latinos from the flea market were forming this very straight line in front of the chain fence that separates the Goodwill workers waiting for bins of clothing to come out.

I found this great piece of vintage fabric from 1971 from Walt Disney’s movie The Aristocats. I was looking at it and the guy from Sharks comes over:

He says ” Hey Linda, I see you here every week, want a job?”

I looked at him and started to giggle and politely said no. Me and my ‘allergic nose’ can barely stand 30 minutes in here, and I am going to come here every day earning basically $5.00 bucks an hour? I think not. Once a week is enough for me.

I paid for the stuff and the cashier said “New bins coming out soon”.
I said, “Oh they come out at noon? ” He said, “No, every 30 minutes.”

I mean that’s crazy–these bins come out like cinnamon rolls at a take out place. These people stay there all day every day and all day long just to get stuff to sell at the flea markets and vintage stores. I immediately hear horror movie music in my head.

My fun find today was a great silk skirt from the J PETERMAN COMPANY for a buck. Yes, that J Peterman CO. If you are a Seinfeld fan like me you know when I  wear that sucker this week there is going to be one gory description full of adjectives.

I leave the salvage place on the rest of my hunting journey while Shark Man keeps asking me if I need a job. I am allergic not only to dust but to stupidity, so I decide to speak to him in fluent sarcasm. Shark Man laughs and says he will see me next week.

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Quilts

Have you ever asked yourself why everyone loves quilts? What drove families to  gather in their communities and make quilts for their families? Quilts connect everyone and they speak about former lives of families, and their joys, their hardships, and their homes.

Seven days after my birth I was placed in a quilt my grandmother had made and brought immediately to her home as my mother was ill. I was tucked into my crib with the same quilt I came home from the hospital in.

One night my father gathered me up in that same quilt and smuggled me into the Royal Victoria Hospital hoping my mother might remember me as she had postpartum depression. I can still see her looking down at the cards she was playing solitaire with while I was holding on to the edge of that dear quilt in fear. To this day I will never forget that image – my father says I was barely two,  but I still remember the grayness of the room. While my life was sterile and cold, the quilt held warmth and security. My grandmother always said that blankets wrap you in warmth but quilts wrap you in love.

At age 12 my mother died, and my grandmother sat with me on her veranda and wrapped that same quilt around me while I cried. Life was never the same after that, and the quilt was placed on my bed like an old friend when I stayed with her.  I would stare at the painting on the wall while I tried to sleep and thought that a lot of people understood art but not quilts. If I had a lot of money I would own a quilt and not a piece of art, because in the end which gives you the most comfort?

When I got married at age 21,  my Grandmother sat at the dining room table for weeks and worked on a quilt for my new home. As I traveled down the road of life the quilt was always there while people came and went. Although it was aging gracefully it was still heavy and secure anytime I needed it. Through death and sickness it held comfort, and the promise that it would never desert me. This quilt held my life with all the bits and pieces, joys and sorrows, that had been stitched into it with love.

At age 47 the quilt died peacefully in my arms. A terrible house fire had destroyed it, and as I looked at the charred edges I realized the thread that held it together had bound the both of us forever. Now it was time to go down the final road by myself,  and remembering the words of Herman Hesse I began the journey.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

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Romancing the Princess Theatre Linda Knight Seccaspina

Last night I dreamt I was sitting in one of the maroon velvet chairs of the Princess Theatre in Cowansville, Quebec. It was dark in that theatre and I was alone, but the light from the projector still shot across the room, yet there was nothing on the screen.

For years the Princess Theatre was a safe haven for me. Every Saturday afternoon, I would go to the matinee and be whomever was on the screen. Growing up in a small town you did what you could for entertainment. My limited picks were the local swimming pool, neighbourhood kids, and the Princess Theatre for movies. Because the theatre was small we seemed to get the big movies later than the rest of the world – but 50 cents and a bag of popcorn was a sure fire way to put a smile on your face.

The Princess Theatre was where I first saw Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, which scarred me for life. Seeing The Sound of Music was the closest I ever came to seeing my Grandmother enjoying her own personal hootenanny while caterwauling along to the songs in the film.

Small town gossip spread quickly among the rows of that theatre and for weeks we hear rumours about the local minister being told not to laugh so loudly at the risque antics in the film Carry On Doctor. Summer romances began on the second level and continued into the colder months, and sometimes there was more steam coming out of the balcony than there was outside.

Drive-Ins were illegal in the province of Quebec as the Catholic Church deemed them pits of sin that could take you halfway to Hell. Had they only looked at the balconies of the Princess Theatre I swear that place would have been shut down in a Cinerama moment.

Esther Williams and her swimming extravaganzas on that movie screen had me hooked making me want to create my own musical number. One day after seeing Jupiter’s Darling I stopped at the local five and dime (The Ritz) and bought one of those flesh coloured nose plugs. Arriving home I dragged out my wading pool in anticipation and went to work.

The hose was hauled out from underneath the porch, pool filled, and I would sit and wait patiently until the water warmed up from the sun. Once ready I would don my one piece bathing suit, rubber cap and nose plugs.

I always seemed to entertain the afternoon passersby on Albert Street as I would kick my legs up in the air and do my personal version of synchronised swimming. Once most of the water had left the pool from overuse I would get out and bow to no one in particular. Seeing the pool was no more than 3 foot around and barely ankle deep I must admit it was quite the MGM presentation. In my mind I was presenting The Greatest Show on Earth

I had never became a talented swimmer from the encouragement I got from movies, but each time I watch an old move I remember the Princess Theatre in Cowansville. Some old theatres have gone by the wayside, but the memories have lasted in our hearts, mine especially.

What do you remember about your Main Street?

Every Friday night as a young child, we would walk up Albert Street to make our way to the Main Street of Cowansville, Quebec. Everyone was there with smiles on their faces and you could hear the sounds of a jazz band playing from the Hotel. There were clothing stores filled to capacity with people purchasing things, and you could see men in haberdasheries standing on small stools being fitted with pants.

We would stop and look carefully at the store windows and then make our way down to the hat store. Their veranda was yellow and white with many gorgeous hats in the window. I watched my mother point at one and saw my father tell her to go buy it.

Inside it smelled of lilacs and I would sit on one of the fabric covered benches and watch everyone try on hats. The women who worked in the store seemed like they were right out of the fashion magazines and their hair was coiffed in the latest styles.

I remember the hat that my mother bought that day and watched the daisy trimmed straw hat being carefully wrapped up in tissue and then placed in a brown paper bag. The cookie store was next and I was allowed to buy 3 cookies covered in peppermint icing that had chocolate drizzle on them. I never touched them until I got home as I wanted to savour every bite.

After my mother died my father would take me up to Brault’s drugstore every Saturday night where I was allowed to purchase one magazine and a chocolate bar. My father never really talked to me much as he was always busy, but this brief time that we spent together each week is something I will always remember.

He would never understand the teen magazines that I bought but figured it was useless to argue with me about considering another choice. Sometimes he brought me to the Blue Bird Restaurant where we would have a chocolate milkshake and my father would talk non stop to the owner. They would talk about the fire that happened years ago and destroyed most of the street and how chain stores were coming in and might possibly ruin the smaller businesses.

One of those chain stores was Canadian Tire and when it opened there was a line up that stretched down the street and around the corner. They had sent everyone catalogues beforehand and everyone wanted to see all the good deals they professed to have. The kids got a free sucker and balloons and I remember the man that owned the hardware store nearby standing in his doorway with a huge scowl.

Main Street was the place I bought my first lipstick and eyeliner. I was in seventh heaven when pantyhose came to town and was proudly displayed in the Continental store window. That was the same store that I bought my first 45 RPM’s and actually one day I was dared to steal one by my friends – that was the first and last time I ever pulled that stunt. The fact that it was Shelley Fabares’ “Johnny Angelwas not really the perfect thing to put between your loose leaf binder with the name angel in the title.

As I got older and moved away things changed. They erected a shopping centre and an A & P came to town shutting the Dominion store down quickly. People opted to go into the air conditioned mall rather than putter along a dying street. The Princess Theatre no longer had a full house, and it only held remembrances of watching Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music with my grandmother. No longer did Bonneau’s grocery store stand on the corner and the street now held French bakeries and a cafe that sold exotic waffles with strawberries and cream.

There was no family left to complain to about the changes, and no one really remembered the old stores anyways. The Bank on the corner shut down and became a restaurant and all you could smell was retail death in the air.

The evolution of retail has hit most small towns; from Main Street to shopping malls and then on to big box stores. No one remembers when a trip to the Main Street was a big deal and now frozen food and big screen TV’s have replaced homemade cookies, theatres, and shoe stores. Now only floral displays with donated benches are many a town’s dream of hoping to attract customers that might remember what it once used to be. We know the magic is still there, you just have to remember. Remember to #supportlocal they are counting on it.

Fifteen young women crammed into an Austin Mini, bringing to Britain the new world record for the number of people in a Mini. This effort beats the previous record set by US college students. (Photo by Ron Case/Getty Images)

The Benefits of Having my Human Chasis

One snowy New Year’s Eve I remember leaving a dinner with friends that invited me to crowd into a Mini Austin for a ride home. It was not exactly an invite per say – it was actually more of a dare to see how many people we could fit into the “Cooper”. One by one we piled into this tiny car with me scoring a seat riding shotgun.

Since I seemed to have the largest “chassis” in the group it was only fair that I house a couple more people on my lap. There was no way in the world we would ever reach the Guinness World’s Book of Records total of 21. We had no super smart Malaysian students that had once figured out the solution and no one volunteered to sit in the boot of the car.

Packed to the rafters with 9 people the driver attempted to leave and immediately the wheels spun in the fresh new snow. We were all pretty uncomfortable at this point and voices of desperation start to surface to the top.

My father Arthur Knight always insisted that you keep bags of sand or salt in the trunk for traction in case you got stuck in the winter. However there was no sand or salt in the back end of this car, only a bunch of lightweights.

I sat in the front seat slowly losing the feeling in my legs due to the human load being forced upon me and suddenly had an idea. I could be the “living” bag of sand in the rear and hopefully that would help. After shouting out my idea everyone agreed and the doors opened with people literally falling out into the snow. I immediately got into the back end and the passengers reassumed more uncomfortable positions. With a huge push from a passerby we were off.

The car swerved and slipped in the snow but one by one we were safely dropped off and had enjoyed a life experience we would never forget. Arthur Knight’s bag of sand, who was really his daughter in this case, had saved the day.

I decided to look this traction myth up on Snopes.com and the page was completely blank. Had Arthur Knight had it all wrong? I found a few discussions on a few automotive boards and one man had this to say.

“So while extra weight generally improves traction, the only safe place to put it is in between the wheels. That’s why, for traction, we suggest car-pooling. In fact, when recruiting car-poolers, you could start by putting up a sign at Weight-Watchers.”

After more research I decided to go back to Snopes when I found another link about the topic. Again the page was blank and the lone entry was about a woman called “The Human Couch”.

Legend goes that a 500 pound woman had to be brought to the ER after she had experienced shortness of breath. While they attempted to undress her an asthma inhaler fell out of one of the folds of her arm. A shiny new dime was under her breast and a TV remote control was found in one of the folds of her lower extremities. Her family was extremely grateful they found the remote and the doctor said it was the first time he had found buried treasure.

No wonder it had been an entry selection when I typed in “sand weight and car”. I sit here and giggle about what I have written and wonder if people reading this will consider my story legend or lore. At least I wasn’t listed as “The Human Couch” because losing a TV remote is a felony I hear in some countries.

Betty Betty Betty

I always believed in Betty Crocker– well, I wanted to believe that the first lady of food was real. Similar to finding out that Nancy Drew’s author Carolyn Keene wasn’t real, one day Betty Crocker was no longer real either. I realized that dear old Betty was just a brand name and trademark developed by the Washburn Crosby Company.

The story goes that they chose Betty as her name because it sounded as American as the Apple Pie she would show us all how to make. The original Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook was first published in 1951 and everyone knows someone that has a Betty Crocker Cookbook in their home. Betty, like Margie Blake from the Carnation Company, was important to me as my mother died young, and food somehow replaced parental figures. Well, that’s what a few years of therapy taught me.

The recipes from any Betty Crocker Cookbook are from leaner times, 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. 

Families all loved baked bread, but I guess not all people liked Betty’s Fruit Loaf recipes because on page 78 of my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook, the former owner of the book hand wrote:

“Terrible, even Nookie the dog turned it down.”

The steamed brown bread baked in a can was another baking tragedy. 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.

Betty Crocker’s 7 minute-frosting that my mother would put on some of her 1950s nuclear coloured cake was a family favourite. Then there were the Floating Islands, homemade Rice Pudding, chilled with whipped cream and cinnamon on top. My grandmother’s specialty was steamed English Pudding, and when she was done, she would soak lumps of sugar with orange extract and then place them decoratively around the pudding. One by one each lump would be lighted with a match which would result in a near miss family dinner explosion each time.

Nostalgic 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, books, and foods that were the same colour as radiation will always resonate with us because we get to see and relive the gravy stained favourites, and the personal notes in the margins. If reading about Betty Crocker has you craving a big slice of cake, you’re not alone. Time to bake!

Related reading

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Part 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past

Linda’s Christmas Letter 2020

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Linda’s Christmas Letter 2020

1918 December

This letter to Santa was written by Ruby Butler from Perth, Ontario in 1918. Although we are facing a pandemic like they were during that year, we are not facing a war. The armistice of November 11, 1918, brought relief to the whole world and hope to 10-year-old Ruby Butler in Perth. The Spanish flu, however, was a devastating and previously unknown form of influenza, and struck Canada hard between 1918 and 1920. This international pandemic killed approximately 55,000 people in Canada, most of whom were young adults between the ages of 20 and 40. No matter what we are going through, we have all worked together this year, and while we can’t smooth out the surf, we are all learning to ride the waves safely and carefully.

What has not changed is that the children of the world are still writing to Santa amid a world that a lot of them do not understand. Yesterday my daughter in law sent me a photo of my grandchildren and their cousin sitting in front of a window where they could hang out with Santa safely. I looked at Tenley’s eyes and saw the love and belief in her eyes. Santa still exists, and while I am old enough to understand that a man cannot fly around the globe led by reindeer, I still believe in the magic. I love spreading magic because it relives our childhood memories and encourages everyone to have kindness, empathy and generosity in their hearts, especially when we need them most like now.

Like the writer of the 1918 Santa letter who did not want Santa to die I am sure the children of today have had lots of fears that they do not talk about. They probably also silently worry someone they know will contract the disease, but they remain silent. This year I chose not to remain silent. From my kitchen island I decided to spread virtually what I thought would take people’s minds off of things, and the pandemic, and make them smile. The child we once were stays with us, and I for one refuse to let it go.

This year especially; I feel there is a lot we can learn from the children we used to be. That little person still exists; you just need to listen to what he or she has to say. It’s important to learn from experience, to change and become a better person. But, what most people seem to think is in order to do so, we must leave our old selves behind– and that is wrong. The easiest thing in the world was having fun as a child because even the littlest things made us happy. They still can.

If there is one thing you ought to try and hold on to for this year and next year– it’s this: Be happy, have fun with the simplest of things, enjoy life, and find hope in even the most dire circumstances — you’ll find the strength to accomplish things others wouldn’t believe possible.

For a day take a step back and revert to olden days when crazy cartoons and bowls of sugary cereal felt like living the dream. Laugh every day, love yourself like children do, be kind, considerate, and compassionate. Each New Year gives us the perfect chance to start something new and fresh. Just make the world a better place for yourself and others. Make someone happy….

Thank you for reading me this year, I appreciate it, and please stay safe!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Linda

Related reading

Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:) 

Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:)

Linda and the Lack of a Christmas Card–This is Your Christmas Letter 

Linda and the Lack of a Christmas Card–This is Your Christmas Letter 2018

15 Hours Until I am Out of Facebook Jail…

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15 Hours Until I am Out of Facebook Jail…

If anyone had told me I would be in Facebook Jail for 24 hours I would have laughed. When I got the immediate memo yesterday from Facebook saying I was being sent to the other side of the fence I flipped out– because, yes, it is a real thing that I never ever expected. 

First of all, it was my mistake. I was trying to reply to something funny Shawn Greenberg said on my timeline about voyeurism and bylaws. As I typed out a response including a story I wrote years ago for San Francisco media I accidentally included a ‘shady site’  link.  In fact I am even afraid to type that 4 letter word of what the site was less I get banished again. Anyone that knows me knows I would not do that — but yes, it did indeed happen by adding the four letters .com. Remember that– never post .com without thinking.

I tried to defend my case but Facebook was not having any of it. I had done the big no no for them just like when I posted a silly picture of a man wearing his underwear as a COVID mask last year. I was incited for posting armed robbery photos. You have to love these ‘bots’ they employ. At the flick of a word or photo maybe not intended they shut you down as quick as you can say WD40.

So this morning I sit here not being able to post history and each time I go to ‘like’ something a notice flashes on my screen how much time I have to remain seated in the virtual dugout. In all honesty, it was probably for the best, as I should be resting. Most of you know I had a bad fall at a senior residence three weeks ago. There is no doubt I had some bruised ribs, but there is one that seems to be not healing, so I am having an XRay done today. So yes, I should stop everything and rest. But, that is not who I am — but I do think someone higher than I also had pull in this matter to get me to stop for a few minutes. Maybe it was Zuckerberg himself LOL.

So what’s it like being off of Facebook? The virtual walls are really unsympathetic and how do I really feel? It’s not that I did not resist this morning, pounding and screaming at  Facebook’s imaginary door kind of feeling cut off from the world. In all honesty I really don’t have a problem with shutting down Facebook– what I have a  problem with is something or someone telling me ‘No’ LOL. It was like being grounded by my parents. Let’s be honest at age 69 I still still need to understand what is within my control and what isn’t. It’s that simple.

Being off of Facebook is not quite how it is portrayed on a comedy sitcom, but it’s not far off either. I’ve actually read accounts of people getting so mad at losing privileges like I did– that they set something on fire– or went out and ripped off tags off of  mattresses at local Furniture stores. While I am nowhere near this condition, and I am not going to storm Main Street; I felt I should research some first hand recounts to write this story.

Instead of reading stories about being booted off Facebook I began to read chains of postings on Reddit on what it was like being in a real jail in the States. Well some of those stories are eye openers I tell you, and I will think about soap in a different light– but in reality, isn’t Facebook like a real jail? You sit around, you waste time, and you do have a profile photo/mug shot LOL— but  again I was sober when I accidentally posted the link, and did not set anything on fire.

I realized a long time ago life isn’t all about me. I know what is within my control and what isn’t. I don’t think I have an addiction to Facebook– but what I do have an addiction to is getting as much community history out there as I can— and trying to unite my community to support local and each other. Community is important to me, always has been, and Facebook is an excellent tool to talk with your community.

So next time I have something funny and off colour to say to Shawn Greenberg I will tell him personally, as that is hopefully within Facebook’s  ‘reasonable use’ guidelines.

God Speed Everyone!! See you on the Other Side!

My Name is Bernice — A Letter to a Daughter

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My Name is Bernice — A Letter to a Daughter

Bernice Ethelyn Crittenden in West Brome

Yesterday after I posted my first blog about women in the 1950s I got a lot of email from Quebec and Ontario. There were so many other mothers like mine that had postpartum– I was not alone the way I felt. So I begin to heal and wrote this in my mother’s voice. Thank you for all your emails– truly touched my heart.

A fictional letter from Bernice Ethelyn Crittenden Knight– but all the content is true.

For years I have been trying to make my oldest daughter Linda Susan Knight aware of how much I loved her. I died in the Brome Missisquoi Hospital in September of 1964 the night Linda was confirmed at Trinity Anglican Church. She was taken out of school at 3 PM, told of my passing, and told to dress up in her confirmation dress and act like nothing had happened.

Sometimes in life you don’t have a choice, and I have tried to send her signs to sit, think and remember what we as a family went through and how no one is to blame except life.

Yesterday, her youngest son Perry sent her a link to an article about the Allan Memorial Hospital which was near the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. For years Linda had blocked that name out of her mind not wanting to remember what when on there, and yesterday it clicked– and she remembered– and she could not forget about everyone whispering “The Allan” and her mother’s name together in the same sentence when she was still a small child.

 -
CLIPPED FROM
The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
15 Apr 1935, Mon  •  Page 7– no mention of her daughter

When I was 8 -years-old my mother Gladys Crittenden died of a cancer related sickness and l was living in Park Extension in Montreal with my father George. I know how Linda felt when I died when she was 12– but we really don’t control anything. Six years later my father remarried and I got tuberculosis at age 14 and spent years at the Ste. Agathe Sanitorium because I had lost a lung. So when I was sent home to the Eastern Townships years later I had nothing. They had told my Father I was not going to live, so they burned everything I had — including giving away my beloved piano.

 My mother Bernice Ethelyn Crittenden Knight is front and centre with the white dress and Joan Crawford hair. 

I found a job working at Bruck Mills in Cowansville, Quebec and met my husband Arthur Knight in the Cowansville Post Office. We fell in love, got married Sept. 6th, 1947, and built a home on Albert Street that Arthur’s father financed. We had a happy few years until I got pregnant with Linda Susan. I had a difficult birth on the hottest day of the year– July 24, 1951, and the forceps had to be used many times to get her out safely which caused her to have petit mal seizures for 28 years of her life.

After her birth I recognized no one– and I wanted to see no one. I was diagnosed with nothing but a ‘nervous condition’ and sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal which was 45 minutes from Cowansville. My mother-in-law Mary Knight looked after Linda and I did not see her again for a year and a half. My husband journeyed as often as he could to see me, but here was a young man who was just as much in the blue as everyone else was. I was told there was no other place to fix me except the Allan Memorial Hospital which was affiliated with the Royal Victoria.

My main treatment took the form of electroshock therapy. I am not here to talk about the good and the bad of electroshock therapy– but, this was the only known treatment for us women who had postpartum depression. In the 1950s it just wasn’t a recognized medical condition. Even Dr. Spock had only half a page in his book, saying you might feel weepy or become nervous after giving birth. All of this was hushed up and no one ever really spoke about it. It just didn’t exist. When you have electroshock therapy the first few times, it’s very scary because when you wake up, you don’t know your name, where you are, or your family. It’s like your mind has been erased. That terrible feeling lasts for at least a day before it starts gradually coming back to you. When you are suffering so much, you are willing to try anything. I was willing to take the chance that it might work to go back to my family– or out of there– because I really did not know my family.

The Allan Memorial

Things never got better for me and each time my husband came to see me I screamed for the nurse to throw him out as I had no idea who he was. I knew something was wrong with me, but I had no clue what it was– nor did the doctors.

When my daughter was a year and a half they told my husband to bring Linda in to see me hoping it would nudge my memory. Linda said there are always two things she remembers. Sitting on the edge of my metal bed at “the Allan” watching me play solitaire, and being in her grandmother’s bedroom, everyone cuddling her saying she won an electric kettle from the Cowansville Branch #99 Legion draw. She was just a little over a year and a half. How could a child remember that night– so young?

It must have been a recollection of trauma. At dinner time she was put on my bed and she touched one of my cards. In anger I tried to strangle her. I just could not take the pressure of being asked questions anymore. The constant drone of voices, the smiling staring faces and nothing but a desire to slip into a dark and secret place again.

Vintage Culinary Blogging –Fun to Cook Book | lindaseccaspina
Vintage Culinary Blogging –Fun to Cook Book

In 1953 a switch flipped and I began to get better and came home. Was I ever the same again? No, not really– but I had another daughter in 1955 named Robin. She too lost a mother when in 1957 for the next 7 years I had every test and medicine and operation known to man because I lost the use of my legs. Years later in 1997 Robin died from Lymphoma, it was decided that I did not die from a heart attack as listed on my death certificate ( so people would not talk) but had lymphoma on the spine– but no one knew what it was in the 60s. These daughters of mine have horror stories to tell you what they saw in hospitals through the years, but it gave them compassion to look beyond that initial glance to who people really are. They always looked for the best in people, no matter if you were a thalidomide child or a neurological patient with frightening bandages.

Yesterday Linda got the message I was trying to send her after all those years thanks to her son sending that link to the Allan Memorial. I never deserted her, and I loved her, and after years I think she finally gets it. She is finally mourning me. Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord and yesterday it did.

Losing a mother is one of the deepest sorrows a heart can know Linda. May that love surround you now and bring you peace.  — Bernice Eyhelyn Crittenden1927-1963

This was written through the words of her daughter Linda Susan Knight Seccaspina- who finally realizes that those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard but always near– this is proof.

Vintage Culinary Blogging –Fun to Cook Book | lindaseccaspina
linda, late robin knight and bunny and art knight

What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?

We Are Family

Because You Loved Me…..

A Curio of Nostalgic Words

The Personal Ad of June 9th 1966

To My Son on his 35th Birthday

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To My Son on his 35th Birthday

On August 6th of 2010 I wrote a blog for my eldest son Schuyleur and today I am reposting it for his 35th birthday. Where does the time go?

The son I once knew has disappeared.

If you see him, please let me know where he is.

I think he is about six feet tall, and has a big smile – like his Mother.

Beware, as Schuyeur has a lot of stories to tell – like his Mother.

Thirty five years ago I gave birth to a baby that was the size of a small country. After 28.5 hours of labour he was put into the Intensive Care Nursery because I had Gestational Diabetes and he weighed more than all the babies in there combined. Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan from North Grenville remembers too– as she was there as a nurse in the Civic Hospital.

I named him after a character in a soap opera called Schuyleur Whitney from the late “The Edge of Night”. He asks me often why I did not spell his name with only six letters. (Skyler)

I told him because of his name, he would excel in spelling.

He did.

Schuyleur mysteriously came home after lunch one day when he was in Grade one. He told his grandparents that they had closed school for the afternoon due to lack of school work.

The school called looking for him thirty minutes later.

Busted!

So where did my son go I ask myself. The one I used to know.

Where is the kid that made an exact replica of Mr. Hankie from South Park for his Caldwell french immersion class?

Who else, but my child, makes an animated piece of poo from Fimo?

What other child argues in French with his teacher that it should be accepted as his class project?

He is definitely his mother’s child.

He was once a birthday party man, used to love my store, and the girls that worked for me.

He used to like to play dress up.

Yes, his Halloween chicken suit gathers dust upstairs.

Maybe one day he will come back for it.

The house is quiet now, and the yard holds no more laughter and chaos.

The basketball net has been long forgotten, and his silver bike lies unused in the garage.

Maybe, I am looking for the wrong person.

Maybe, Mothers always see their sons and daughters as still young children.

Carleton Place businessman Angelo Seccaspina passes away ...

Maybe, we never seem to realize that they have grown up.

Instead of the small child I am looking for, maybe I should see what he has become.

A man that worked hard in school, and wants to succeed.

He has made us proud.

One day, he too, will search for his child not realizing that he or she has long grown up.

Only pictures on shelves hold the memories I seek.

Documented proof that instead of searching for my child, I should be now looking for the man that he has become. 

schuyleur seccaspina | lindaseccaspina