Tag Archives: south street

Once Upon a Time it was Yesterday —- Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Once Upon a Time it was Yesterday —- Linda Knight Seccaspina

Once Upon a Time it was Yesterday Linda Knight Seccaspina

They say if you time travel in your dreams you might end up in a continuous loop, and if it were possible to go back a few years maybe we could undo our mistakes. Last night I found myself once again breathing in the past.

Sitting on a bench outside the old train station in Cowansville, Quebec in a dream, it seemed like forever, but in reality it was probably just a few minutes. Nothing had changed as the lunchtime whistle blew from the Vilas factory across the way, and the ghosts of workers past streamed out of boarded up doorways and broken windows.

The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
22 May 1987, Fri  •  Page 3

I saw the Realmont building and remembered it being such a mysterious place to some of us as teenagers. Whispers of what went on in that building were always on my mind and the secretive hygiene products of what we thought they sold were now irrelevant in my life.

I looked at the old bowling alley across the street and remembered the evenings spent in a cigarette smoke filled basement dancing to 60s music and the friends I will never forget.

Sitting on the cement steps of the old Voyageur Bus Terminal I watched my late Father trying to calm the owner, telling him to ignore the teenagers with their transistor radios as they were never going to take his jukebox business away. In reality all of us are just full of hot air and I had to giggle at my father’s lack of faith in technology. I snapped a photo of the two of them realizing it would probably only end up becoming memories and kept on walking down South Street stopping to peer into Hashim’s window.

I had spent a great deal of my youth shopping in this store and loved the smell of new clothing and running my hand down the long wooden counter on Friday nights. In those days you trusted your retailers, and so did my Father when I purchased a pair of lime green ‘leprechaun’ shoes there in the 60s for $7. I remember those shoes as being the most outrageous, but incredibly uncomfortable shoes I had ever worn. 

My Grandmother was sitting on the screened verandah and I waved as I walked by and said I would be back. She pointed to the big Shell truck that was unloading gas at the corner gas station. Every Friday evening the truck would pull up and the heavy smell of gas would invade the air. Grammy would put her hands on her hips and tell the driver that the next smoker who lit up was going to blow us all to kingdom come. My grandparents never owned a car so they had great difficulty understanding those who did.

I longed to see the shoes in Brault’s window as I had always admired their quality and cutting edge. The Anglican church beckoned me to pay homage to the place that I had spent a great deal of time in. The usually locked door was open and I looked inside and remembered the sound of the choir and the smell of the vestry that my Grandmother and I worked in every Friday night. I saw apple blossoms on the church pews for someone’s wedding and this seemed all too real and better to relive this just once more and not a thousand times again.

It was a debate where to stop next– Cowansville High School or Le Patio restaurant across the street. Both had been instrumental in my growing pains and I swore I heard the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” on a continuous loop and the smell of “patates frites avec sauce” filled the air.

I looked down the street and saw the shattered glass of the Mademoiselle Shoppe and knew I could not cross the bridge and go further because I was caught in a loop of that Winter day in 1959. Many children were hurt in a terrible accident which I am sure they too never ever forgot.

Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near and life now has to begin at the end of my comfort zone. My past has given me the strength and wisdom I have today and some things are better left in yesterday along with all the mistakes and regrets. What happened yesterday is just a story, and I accept the result of once having had the time of my life and know that you can always go back home– somehow.

A Curio of Nostalgic Words

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A Curio of Nostalgic Words

 

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Photograph of the Knight family in front of the smaller dining room sideboard on South Street in Cowansville, Quebec. The late, Robin Knight Nutbrown, Frederick J Knight, Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight, Arthur J. Knight, Mary Louise Deller Knight, and the last one alive–me–Linda Susan Knight Seccaspina

The transparent yellowed curtains that hung in my Grandmother’s dining room never hid what mischief I was up to while she sat on the screened porch on Friday evenings. As a child I understood that the family business was open until 9, and I spent the evening hours waiting for my father in the rear of the building– which happened to be my Grandparents home on South Street in Cowansville.

I would always sit and chat with her, or watch her bake in the kitchen, but my favourite pastime was looking through the glass of her old china cupboard. There was the broken engagement ring that sat in a teacup as the ruby stone had fallen out, and a handed down figurine that my great great grandmother had received from Queen Victoria. Each piece in the cabinet had a story and my Grandmother was an amazing storyteller that made everything seem to come alive.

 

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My curio cabinet that I hope my grandkids will love. The figurine from Queen Victoria is on the second shelf on the left in front of the green card.

 

Besides the china cabinet there was a very long sideboard at the end of the dining room. It held all the good dishes and silverware that were used on holidays and it seemed each set had a memory. Tucked away in the back was the black tin ‘money box’  that was brought out every Saturday night to tally up the week’s receipts.  I can still hear the click of the old adding machine along with low murmuring voices that went on for an hour with Lawrence Welk playing in the background.

While I sat on the plastic covered couch in the living room I would patiently wait to hear the closing sound of one of the compartments in the sideboard. That was a sign that Grammy would make us all a snack of saltine crackers topped with Cheese Whiz, and of course another story about anything she felt she needed to talk about.

When I was 9 my Grandparents decided to make the electrical store bigger so they cut the dining room in half and her sideboard no longer fit the new smaller room. Not one for nonsense, she did the same thing to the sideboard that she did to her Thanksgiving turkey each year. She hired someone to cut it in half so it fit the room. Even though it was now half the size it never lost one memory. For years I heard her tell visitors what happened to it and that sideboard carried on its traditions, never missing a beat.

I always assumed my Grandmother just liked reminiscing about the past, but it was really something else.  Now I can see that she was sharing her knowledge and trying to teach me life lessons along the way. When she died I not only grieved her death but I wondered what would happen without her to tell me stories about the past.

The day they tore down the old house on South Street I felt I lost my childhood, and for the first time in my life there really wasn’t any family to come home to. I ended up taking her dining room sideboard and it remained with me through a marriage, a divorce, and finally met its match in a fire in 1995.  Was this the final end to memories?

The day of the fire I realized that my Grandmother’s words would still flow through me with or without the old sideboard. She had installed this desire within me to keep history alive for future generations.

Sometimes for days or even weeks I can’t face my childhood memories, but then there are days like today that the memories run out of my eyes and roll down my  cheeks.  I understand how her words made me who I am today and that she gave me a gift that attempts to connect people and dream of a better world.

My Grandmother would be horrified that we spend less and less time in face to face communication. But, even with technological communication we can still tell a nostalgic story and now to a bigger audience. By telling a story we hope that our rendition of events is more complete than the last interpretation we heard–or so we hope. Like my fascination with my Grandmother’s china cabinet and sideboard: with nostalgic words we can dream of a brighter tomorrow, and a happier day where our inner child comes out to play once again.

 

 

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 (US

relatedreading

Remembering one of the “Tom Sawyer’s” Of Cowansville Quebec

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

Ashes to Ashes and Spins of the Washing Machine

The Days of Smocking and Spanish Bar Cake

The Ghost Ship of Brown’s Hill

Linda’s Dreadful Dark Tales – Minecraft Story of the Lake Memphremagog Monster

Hocus Pocus –Necromancy at Fitch Bay

Been Caught Stealing– Bank of Montreal

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

Misty Glen Mountain Snow Bunny Hop

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

Back to The Future — Twisting Your Dignity Away

Groovy Hints on How to Catch and Keep a Boy – 60’s style

The Dreams of a Sugar Plum Fairy

I Was A Free Range Child

Scrapbook Photos of Cowansville

6 Seconds of Cowansville High School – Our Miss Phelps

The Benefits of Having a Large Human Chassis for Traction

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