June 12, 2009 2:12 PM
I have told the story before of my Grandmother reluctantly wearing Eva Gabor wigs at the age of 52. Her hair had been badly burned at the hands of a 1930’s salon perm and her thinning hair failed to cover her bald spots. Hence, a different style of Eva graced Mary’s head every single day. But, even with all her hair issues it never stopped her from inflicting Toni home perms on me. There was no talking to my stylist, Grammy Mary Louise Deller Knight. She would stand there forever adjusting her wig from side to side in frustration while she gave me a perm until her wig gave in.
The smell of a Toni Perm still haunts me like it was yesterday. Just seeing the little plastic squeeze bottle coming towards me still gives me nightmares. Did you know there were actually rules and instructions for those perms? My family knew their own version all by heart, as it had been handed down by word of mouth through many generations. I don’t think I can ever forget the words: “Let me know when it starts burning!”
When the perm was over; the towels were taken out to be boiled in hot water because they smelled. The scent was almost up there with Vick’s Vapor Rub– on the top ten most hated list. My Grandmother? Grammy Knight went outside to shake her wig. It seems that her Eva Gabor wig wasn’t that comfy when she was stressed out. I finally nipped the perm in the bud in 1961. When the movie “The Parent Trap” came out, I went to the hairdresser with a picture of Hayley Mills’ pixie cut and said, “Do this!” I was finally sick of feeling like Rapunzel caught in the tower with a head full of fuzz. Hear no perm, speak no perm and see no perm–evermore!
When I got the Hayley Mills cut I was interrogated by the hair salon’s many patrons and hairdressers. They were horrified, it was so short, so I just pretended to be Audrey Hepburn, from “The Nun’s Story,” for the next few months. I still can’t talk about perms. My rule now is:
“Mess with my hair today people and I will cut you like bad bangs taped down with Scotch Tape and roll you up like a jacked perm!”
January 10 2018
When I grew up everyone’s family had a food they were known for in the community. Food captured a lot of the 50s with the invention of nuclear colours, and things made with cheese that should have never graced a meal on the supper table. In that era for example, we veered away from foods cooked from scratch to pre-packaged processed foods as households sought “convenience”. I concur that the word “convenience” would have been anything affiliated with the word Kraft.
Oysters were common in my world as my Dad used to convene the Trinity Anglican Church Oyster Supper in Cowansville each year. Arthur Knight was known for his Oyster Stew just like my Grandmother was known for her salmon sandwiches and Cheeze Whiz and Maraschino Cherry Pinwheel sandwiches. Of course if we have to be honest here, let’s not forget the Jellied Salads.
My Grandmother put me to work in the church kitchen as soon as I could fit into an apron. I hated the fact that my Grandmother, Mary Louise Delller Knight, made the tinned pink salmon sandwiches as I feared I might have to be a witness to anyone choking on one of those fine bones she might have innocently left in the filling. Minus the bones, her salmon sandwiches were definitely amazing and never quite tasted like the neighbours. I couldn’t figure it out until years later when I found out that the neighbour had been committing a felony for decades and had been using canned tuna instead.
As for those Cheese Whiz and Maraschino Cherry Pinwheel Sandwiches, mayonnaise was a prime ingredient in this recipe. Most normal folks used cream cheese, but not my Grandmother– she was a Kraft gal, with her only wish to be carried away in a riptide of cheese. Thankfully, she never made my Grandfather’s favourite of Sardines on Toast with onions. That was always “real eating” as far as they were concerned.
When the special dinners rolled around for the Legion or the Lodge, Jellied Salads were her specialty, and Grammy loved making them. On the morning of the event she would call out to my Grandfather who was working in the garden:
“Fred, could you bring me some fresh tomatoes so I can make a Tomato Aspic for the Legion dinner?”
My Grandfather would smile, and hum some unknown tune as she boiled those tomatoes to death to add to the Lemon Jello. Grammy always insisted on making extra for me, and she would serve a piece of jellied salad with a slice of lamb. Of course her famous mint sauce accompanied anything and everything that now looks similar to Uggs.
Mary Louise Deller Knight always insisted on picking fresh mint from the side of the house near the Shell Station on South Street, which I was not in favour of. I always threw my hands up in the air and mentioned that cats, dogs and the homeless had peed on it. She laughed, and I would shake my head, and yet everyone in the family except me would rave about about her mint sauce. Years later I am the last one in the family standing and sometimes wonder if her Mint Sauce did everyone in.
When I was in my 40’s I found myself making those very same Cheese Whiz and Maraschino Cherry Pinwheel Sandwiches that I used to loathe. After a church luncheon I was told never to darken the church’s doors with those awful sandwiches. When I protested how others used to like my Grandmother’s way back when they rolled their eyes. They said if anyone made that recipe today, people would think that the house that it came from was either a front for making Meth or hiding bodies. I shook my head and wondered if they really knew that the smart dressed gals might be the clever and good looking ones but— it’s really the ladies who make the church sandwiches that are real wife material.
From Sherbrooke Daily Record online–http://sherbrookerecord.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx
Sept 2 8:30 Pm
Remembering 1964 — The Columbia Record Club
In 1964 Linda began to get herself into financial trouble with a mail-order company called The Columbia Record Club. At 14, she had a huge passion for music, and all she had to do was tape a penny to a card she found in the back of a comic book and have a home address. She happily picked out what she thought was 12 free music selections– after all, Columbia House had shipped 24 million records to other teenagers that year. Nothing could be wrong, could it?
Linda, like other kids, in greater North America had failed to read the fine print. She along with other Beatle fans never understood the “music appreciation club” wanting her and other music aficionados to purchase a certain number of monthly selections that were not even in her genre of music. Of course, had it not been for Columbia House she never would have had an appreciation for Barbra Streisand had she not listened to her records they shipped her without consent some months before.
As the months passed Linda found herself with a lot of unwanted music and a growing bill that she could not pay. Her father had warned her, as he too had been taken in by something called “The Book of the Month Club” and caught by something called “negative option billing”.
A man called Les Wunderman had taken “The Book of the Month Club” to new heights and created such novel marketing ideas as: the database, the 1-800 number, the ‘buy 12 items for a penny’ and post-paid insert cards. Linda had no idea about all of this, as all she knew was that she could order records for free without the cost of even a stamp. Columbia Records, and book clubs, may have in essence been scamming people, however, those of us in the far north of Canada would not have gotten any cool records or books without them.
There was nothing like receiving something free in the mail, even if they were hounding you for the $25 you didn’t have. The collection agencies began to send her nasty letters for the outstanding records she owed. Linda began to respond to the letters and argued they charged full list price for the records plus a very large “postage and handling” charge, usually $2.98 per record. A $4.98 LP that you could get for $2.79 in most record stores would cost $7.96 with the club. Columbia House kept sending her records and bills until one day Linda decided to ask for the help of the smartest kid in the 9th grade. Word on the street was that he was some “boy genius” and was filled with all sorts of facts.
It took her days to gather up the courage to set up “an appointment” during school lunch break, and finally one day she took the plunge. As she told him of her dilemma he lowered his glasses and read the letters carefully and told her he might have an answer the next day. Fourty-eight hours later he summoned her to his desk, as by that time others had gathered, as it seemed they were ‘under the boardwalk’ with Columbia Record House too. The young man with the razor sharp haircut was tapping his fingers on his desk when she entered the classroom. He looked at her and began to smile broadly and said,
“Linda, I have an answer to your problem and it’s quite simple!”
Gasps could be heard around the room that we had someone so smart in our school that could save us all. He held up the collection letter and began to laugh,
“Just tell them that contracts like this are not legal tender for anyone that is fourteen!”
With that everyone clapped their hands, and that very night letters from all corners of Cowansville, Quebec were sent to Columbia Record House. In later years some of us still found ourselves caught in the clutches of other “kissing cousins clubs” that sold CDs, video and cookbooks. But, it always made us remember that day when we learned that you could not force ‘little children’ to buy Ray Charles Singers records, but negative option billing would always be legal in some shape or form.
January 28, 2007 1:45 AM
Every Saturday morning I would awake to rousing marching tunes by John Philip Sousa being played on the old Hi Fi in the family living room. John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known primarily for American military and patriotic marches. I have no idea how my father Arthur J. Knight found this musical passion, but he got it from somewhere. He loved the military so much that he joined the Canadian Army during the WW II, but never made it past the training session in Georgia because the war ended. I often wondered if he wanted to follow my Grandfather Fred Knight’s footsteps as he returned from the trenches in France after WW1 with medals and and a lifetime encyclopedia full of stories.
I never remember asking my father to turn the death defying volume down as he chose to crouch next to the Hi FI speaker with his ear glued to whatever was being played. I figured if he kept it up for enough years he was going to lose his hearing– and then there was the fact that he put up with my Beatle music. No teenager would ever want to mess around with their Father’s views on their music. “The Washington Post” by Sousa was his absolute favourite, and then that usually followed with the “King Cotton March” with some added piping and drumming from the Grenadier Guards thrown in for good measure. This wasn’t a passing fancy- he would listen to music, and absorb it– but you would never hear it come out directly in his conversations. I don’t think anyone knew except for my sister and a few others.
When I was 13 I joined “Les Optimistes de Cowansville” and was handed a bass trumpet which I hated, and then a flag. I did a lot of practising but after never getting the snare drum I truly wanted to play I went back to being a Beatle fan and a Viet Nam War protester. I can tell you that none of that made my Father happy especially protesting a war. In all honesty I have to say that in later years I realize how much his love of marching bands and bagpipes affected me. Even if I didn’t enjoy the music at the time my heart skips a beat at a parade, and of course the bagpipe drives me to tears because of my Father.
When the first Monty Python movie came out and the opening credits began, someone in the theatre audience asked where on earth they got THAT music from. Without missing a beat I yelled: “John Philip Sousa”. So you can say that my Father never really stunted my likes and dislikes in music– as Monty Python would say, “it was only a musical flesh wound”. Know what I mean? Nudge nudge. Nudge nudge! Know what I mean? Say no more. As John Philip Sousa once said: “The average music-lover hears only the production under prevailing conditions.”
Lies The World Told Me
The first ridiculous warning that I ever got from my parents was that if I swallowed watermelon seeds I was going to grow a watermelon in my stomach. Since I was more interested in the sweeter side of life I never gave that tale another thought. But honestly, their warning about swallowing gum terrified me. The first time I accidentally swallowed gum, I thought that I was going to die– but I was too afraid to tell anyone. So, I just carried on with life. Nothing horrible happened, and even though I was told gum stayed in your body for 7 years I soon realized that it was indeed a hoax and that humble chewing gum was no power for my gut.
My Mother however, insisted on sharing things that drove me to the point of insanity. One of her better ones was that Pinocchio was real, and if I lied my nose would grow. Of course that never stopped the little white lies/stories that I told, but I’d hold my hand over my nose while I told them. But, if was far better than my friend telling me that the oil spots on the street were caused by small children getting run over because they didn’t hold hands.
Every day I would check behind my ears to make sure potatoes were not growing because I never washed behind them. My Grandmother told me that spinach would make me strong like Popeye, and I would force myself to eat a few forkfuls at lunch. I would rush outside with her as she told me to close my eyes and try and lift the house. Of course she exclaimed that it moved, and instantly I would run back inside and finish the spinach off. After all, you are what you eat, not how you clean your ears.
I thought it was terrible that I was told that closed stores in the mall was where they put the kids that demanded toys. But then, I told my kids when they were small that if they didn’t trim their nails their overgrown nails would put holes in their socks.
In the summer I would watch storms filling the sky while I drank only Coke, as I was told if you mixed Pepsi and Coca Cola together there would be an explosion, and that’s why restaurants never served both. Thunder was angels bowling and lightning was them getting a strike. I would always silently congratulate the angels when I saw lightning, and would imagine God giving them a high five and knew that they were happy I had not caused an unneeded explosion.
As the Easter season approaches, I will never forget the time when I told my Communion class that Easter was the day when Jesus rolled back the rock, and if he saw his shadow we would have six more weeks of winter. I have to admit that I was quite young when I began to imitate my family’s tales of terror in my own little way. I told my Father when I was 16 that I heard that anyone over 30 was going to be sent to farms. It was a sign of the 60s, but indeed a terrible thing to say. However, when I turned 30 he turned to me as I blew out my Birthday candles and said,
“Happy Birthday Linda, you are 30 today, what time is your bus pulling in to take you to the farm?”
That did indeed hit me hard, harder than the time he said if I kept picking my nose my forehead would fall in. Were they flat out lies? Maybe they were just trying to get a point across so we would behave. But then again, I have never drank a single cup of coffee in my life as I knew for sure it was going to stunt my growth. So how come I am so short?
From Sherbrooke Daily Record online–http://sherbrookerecord.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx
January 12, 2018.
I sit here drinking from a mug of steaming hot chocolate topped with fake whipped cream trying to figure out what to write. As I stick my finger into the canned sweetened whipped cream that was propelled by nitrous oxide I realize very little has been written about the foodie topping. I figure my extreme fascination all boils down to one thing– my late mother’s beloved Royal Chintz whipped cream set which supposedly came from somewhere called Arnart 5th Avenue via a 1950’s slow boat from Japan.
I don’t have many fond memories of my childhood, but that miniature lilac gilt trimmed mini jug and saucer was the first thing I grabbed when they were settling up my father’s estate. As the beginning stages of my childhood gluttony began, whipped cream became part of my DNA. Family food fights with the finally invented aerosol whipped cream cans and making sure boxes of Dream Whip were stocked in the kitchen cupboards became passions of mine. My Grandmother’s threats of over-beating fresh whipped cream resulting in butter are still instilled in my brain.
Because whipped cream is so beloved as a food group to me, did I really want to waste it on sex later in life? “You, me, handcuffs and whipped cream” became the first hint that a possible suitor was not for me. I mean, was it really safe to put IT down there? Why waste it when sugar, cream and a cold mixing bowl could produce an orgasm the gentleman might not even be capable of giving me. Even a suggested bikini made from an aerosol can of whipped cream did not interest me as it was a definite “killing sexy time” moment– especially with a misspelled product name called Reddi-Wip without the ‘h’. I actually blamed that spell change from Whip to Wip on The Mandela Effect, in which many of us are certain we remember something a particular way, but it turns out we’re dead wrong.
When the children came around, breastfeeding was not even a thought for me as all I could think of was my breast spraying aerosol whipped cream into the child’s mouth. You have to wonder how I have survived life with all the fancy coffees and those grande non-fat lattes sporting whipped cream. Even when fitness model and blogger Rebecca Burger died in 2017 from “a domestic accident” with a whipped cream canister, it never turned me into a whipped cream agnostic. Now I just whip it myself and maybe just add a touch of Drambuie if I am feeling sassy. I could use the workout.
From my entry in the Erma Bombeck contest– two years ago #32… this year #24.. maybe before I die LOL
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)