Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Little Shack

There was another big rain last night which you could hear pounding on the roof. It reminded me of staying in the little shack at camp. There is a whole history to the shack that pre-dates me and I encourage others to share (if they dare), but I thought I would start with some of my memories.
When I was little, Rosie and Jim were the main occupants of the shack (at least when we came to visit.) It was exciting to be asked to come inside. The memories are fuzzy but I think there was a big metal frame bed in the middle and there seemed to be stuff everywhere (which has nothing to do with the occupants).
By the time we were old enough to start staying in the shack, it had been set up for multiple occupants – a bunk bed and a single. There was nothing fancy about it – wood floor, wood panelling walls and a peaked roof. In all these years, the screen door and the main door have not changed.

Staying in the shack was a rite of passage. It made you feel much more grown up. We were in our own little world over there. There was always stuff everywhere probably because there was no closet and just a small dresser and we were three girls who changed outfits multiple times a day.

Staying in the shack was much closer to camping then being in the main house. This had its pros and cons. Having to run to the biffy on a rainy night was not fun; sometimes you just held it in. Running to the biffy in the dark also meant risking an encounter with a skunk or the bear! There also seemed to be more mosquitoes in the shack then the main house – that screen door was not completed sealed. I hated the annoying buzz of the pesky mosquitoes in my ear and was obsessed with killing them all before turning out the light (we always tried to clean up the smudges on the ceiling).

But, the pros were big. You could hear every boat pass by; you could hear the creatures in the woods (well at least in your mind!) and you could hear the rain on the roof. There was nothing like the sound of rain on the roof in the shack. Not the big storms – that is a different story which I am sure Eliza will elaborate on. But when it was a gentle steady rain, the sound on the roof was melodic and soothing and put you right to sleep. It made the shack magical.

I arrived one summer to find the little shack all done up (I don’t think I would call it renovated). New panelling on the walls, carpet on the floor and a tiled ceiling. Moe was all about improvements at camp which you cannot fault him for. But with the tiled ceiling you could not hear the rain on the roof anymore. I still loved staying in there I did miss the sound of the rain on the roof and a small bit of the magic was lost.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Life in Cars

This month, the lease for the Dodge Ram comes to an end. It was definitely not my first choice when we got it three years ago but it certainly has served its purpose and of course I have now become a bit attached to it. I also love telling the guys at work that I drive a Ram 1500 with a Hemi engine. They are impressed. I will be a bit sad when we return it next week.

We are replacing the Dodge with two vehicles – a truck for the farm and a car for the city. Marty found the new farm truck in an online Richie Bros. auction in Texas which was an adventure in itself. The new car remains a bit of a mystery at this point but I am feeling the pressure to make the right choice. Every car we have marks a period of time in our lives. It reflects our needs at the time, the styles of the day, and is forever caught in pictures and memories.

My life in cars is not very long. It starts with the White Parisienne. I don’t remember it at all but I was around when it was!

Next up was a blue sedan with a white top, bought second hand from my grandparents. I do have a vague impression of the back seat of that one.

Next came the Buick Skylark. It had metallic brown/bronze paint and a light beige interior (which I am sure Nancy thought was impractical!). It looks a bit like a 70s muscle car so I wonder how much you could get for it now?

After the Skylark was the 1973 orange VW Westfalia camper van. We had the VW van for years and it defined my childhood. It was like a member of the family. Sticking with us when we moved house, going on vacation with us, travelling to Headacher, being there when we learned to drive. I sort of wish we still had it! What most people do not know is that there were two orange vans but I will let George tell that story.

We became a two car family in Kamloops when Nancy needed a car for her business. She ended up with a 1981 red 4 door Honda civic hatchback. This was another car that we had forever. It was what we really learned to drive in and it was the car of choice for Janeen and I as teenagers. When we were in university Nancy permanently loaned us the car and it served us well. It just kept going and going and going.

At some point, George got a gold Honda accord. This was our first manual car and learning to drive a stick is not as easy as it seems but it is a great life skill. The gold Honda eventually morphed into a maroon Honda accord which Nancy and George still drive today (I don’t know two people who drive their cars longer than Nancy and George!)

The first car I ever got for myself was a 2001 Black VW Jetta with black leather seats. To me it was pure luxury. I only put 20,000km on that car – most of it driving to the grocery store on the weekends! I met Marty when I had that car and we started driving up north on a regular basis. After a terrible car accident, we decided that we needed something bigger and safer. The next car was a 2004 red Volvo XC70. I loved that car. I really loved that car. In a million years, I never could have predicted what came next. When the lease on the XC70 came up I wanted to get another one but we needed a truck for the farm and a way for Marty to get supplies for the house. We knew that a truck was the only logical vehicle but I was heartbroken. Once again, a lease is coming to an end and although I am not heartbroken this time, I have come to like the truck and I will miss it a bit I think.

We are done with leasing so I am actually going to buy my first car! I won’t spoil the surprise as to what it will be but I am sure there will be some stories that will come with it…

Friday, July 10, 2009

Green Door

Green Door was # 1 on the billboard charts in 1956. The lyrics describe a nondescript establishment with a green door behind which “a happy crowd” play piano, smoke and “laugh a lot” inside. The upstairs of the boathouse at Headacher was dubbed “The Green Door”. I remember happy crowds, laughing a lot however the Head sisters did not smoke.

My first recollection of the top floor of the old boathouse is watching my grandfather (Henry Head) sitting in a rocking chair looking out the front window. It seemed he spent hours and hours up there. The scenery forever changing with the coming and going of boats, tugs pulling log booms, trains and sometimes rowers from the Kenora Rowing Club. I can remember how soothing the sound of the water was lapping against the dock and sometimes gushing up in between the deck boards.

The wallboard that covered the walls was warped with time and dampness and green in colour, hence the nick name of the Green Door in 1956. One needed to be careful around the walls as the paint would rub off on your clothing. The linoleum floor was green squares with black lines. At the back of the boathouse on one side there was a sink with cold running water. At the other side was a trap door to the lower part of the boathouse. Climbing down through the trap door was a challenge. As a little kid it was a special event under the careful supervision and watchful eye of Maurice.

The top floor of the boathouse was also over flow sleeping quarters. I remember the old metal frame beds with very thin dusty smelly mattresses on open mess wire “springs”. Even way back then there was a double bed that made up into a couch which was very uncomfortable. I do not remember sleeping up there. Now, I wonder how anyone could sleep up there.

I seem to remember there was at least one other room which housed things like bear skins and the old white canvas tent. The bear skins were dirty and dusty. Who knows how long they had been around. It didn’t seem to stop us from playing with them. I remember the tent very well. Once or twice a season there was great excitement when Dad brought out the old tent for a sleep out in the back yard or just play time. Please notice in the picture of Elaine and I how the old tent is black with mold. I couldn’t stand the smell of the old thing so sleeping in it was not something I enjoyed. The poor old thing also leaked and in those days the remedy was to put your finger on the drip and draw the finger down to the edge of the tent and the water would follow. It seemed to work for a while.

As time went on I seem to remember playing up there. A great attraction was an old wind up gramophone. Now operating this was also a challenge. Great care needed to be taken when winding it up. If over wound, the handle would snap back at you. If you didn’t get your hand out of the way quick, zap you got hit. The handle would fly around backwards until it had unwound itself and then we would try again.

The top floor of the boathouse became the hang out for us as pre-teens and teenagers. We would sit up there for hours and hours watching boats, log boom tugs, trains and sometimes rowers from the Kenora Rowing Club.

As young teens we hung out up there with neighbourhood kids and the “young men” who worked at Coney Lodge as boat boys and grass cutters.

Later, we often hung out the front window waving at the locals whizzing by in their boats and more often than not, they would stop by to chat and join us “behind the green door”.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Travelling with my Dad.

I grew up in an era where the way of life and the related experiences were very different. There was a certain level of technology in the those days but nothing like the miracles of today. Those days were in the mid forties to the late fifties. As I reflect back on my childhood I remember the many experiences my Dad provided me as a way to learn and remember.

These memories were brought to mind as we bought Taj a toy grader for his birthday coming up soon.

I was 11 years old when my Dad took me to his work. He was a travelling salesman for The George McLean Company, a wholesale grocer. He had two territories that he serviced in between Lake Manitoba & Lake Winnipeg known as the inter-lake region. Dad arranged for me to travel with him to the Eastern Territory. We left on a Monday morning in the summer of 1948 and returned on Friday after a week on the road. It was all very exciting, overwhelming and fun. We never seemed to drive very far before we made another stop at one of my Dad's customers store. After several stops I began to see a pattern that my Dad followed when in a customers store. Over the years he had established such a high level of trust with the customers that he moved up and down the aisles making note of what the customer needed. Before we left the store owner would check the list, add to it and sign it. When I realized how much respect my Dad had with his customers my pride burst at the seams.

Three events stand out in my mind that I will never forget. The first being filling up the car with gas. Simple you say. Not in those days. My first task was to move a tall handle back and forth filling the glass tank above. Thus the term "pumping gas". When it was full I then put the hose nozzle in the fill pipe of the tank. My Dad gave me the amount of gas he needed and I squeezed the handle letting the gas flow into the tank. I had to watch the glass tank to make sure I put the right amount in. Far different from the city gas pumps and the pumps used today. There aren't many individuals who can remember filling a car with gas like that.

On Monday night we stayed in the Lundar Hotel in Lundar. This town is where my mother was raised. My Dad took me to the Post Office Building where the telephone operators worked to send in his daily orders. He pointed out that my mother was a telephone operator and this is where they met.

On the same trip on the Thursday we were staying overnight at a town called Ericksdale. After we had dinner my Dad met the operator of the Road Grader. My Dad knew him of course because he had often met him on the roads leveling and grading and in particular in the winter when he kept the roads clear. The grader operator was going out for an hour or so to work on some roads. Whether it was my Dad who asked if I could go or the operator himself I don't recall. All I know is I was in the cab of the grader and for sure I had my hand on the wheel standing in front of the operator. It was dusty and dirty but it was fun. A lot of my friends of the day were envious of my experience.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day Fireworks

Happy Canada Day! All across the country, people will be watching fireworks tonight. Whenever I was at Headacher for July 1 or any other holiday, we would always watch with interest to see what the Town of Kenora managed to pull off for a fireworks display. When we were in Kenora a couple of years ago on the August long weekend, the town put on a very impressive display; a professional fireworks show that was coordinated, multi-layered and lasted for about 20-30 minutes. It was not always the case.

When I was younger and spending summers at camp, the fireworks displays were on a much lesser scale. They were more along the lines of one burst at a time and pretty standard stuff. We would still ooohhh and aaahhh with enthusiasm as it was the spirit of the show that was most important.

There was one exception to these modest firework displays. One July 1 we gathered on the dock to watch the show. It started as usual with a few bursts here and there. Nothing fancy of course. After a long break between two bursts the show picked up speed. There were groups of fireworks going off, some were high, some were low and they were all colours. This went on for about 5 minutes before there was a break. A loud cheer when up all over the lake; it was the best fireworks show that we had ever seen in Kenora. We were waiting for more! We would wait in vain. That was it; it was over. 5 minutes of glorious fireworks display was all we got. Maybe the town was taking a new approach – bigger but shorter?

It was not until the next day that we learned the change in format had not been intentional. Nope, we had been witnessing a pyrotechnic boo boo. The firework barge had caught fire! Intentional or not, it was a great show and every time we watched fireworks at the lake we remembered the time the barge caught fire!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Canadian

A couple of weeks ago we were on our way home to the city and listening to the Vinyl CafĂ©. Stuart McLean was hosting the show from “The Canadian”. They were somewhere in northern Ontario on their way to Toronto. It made me realise how lucky we were to have experienced that train when we were kids and made the trip through the mountains and across the prairie to Kenora. Not many Canadians these days have the opportunity to experience their country from the Dome Car.

We were pretty young so the memories are spotty. For example, I have no recollection of eating on the train at all. Maybe we fasted the entire way? No, wait, there were granola bars and maybe some chewy bears? I am sure we ate in the dining car and had our three meals a day but I can’t remember it!

I do remember the scenery (which probably says a lot about the beauty of this country if it made an impression on a kid!), the dome car, the challenge of walking between the cars and rolling into the stations we stopped at. Nancy, Janeen and I got on in Kamloops, joining Eliza and Elaine who boarded in Vancouver. I have memories of the mountains and the spiral tunnel so we must have travelled through them during daylight. I also have memories of getting off somewhere on the prairies at twilight and walking around. Otherwise, we spent hours up in the observation car or in our seats, watching the country rock by, reading, playing games and spending time together.

As we travelled through towns and urban centres people would watch us pass by. Freight trains and commuter trains are common in this country but everyone stops to watch the cross country passenger train go by. Then, as these days, it was something special. Thanks Nancy and Elaine!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hot Rocks

My first entry into the blog is about mothering, even though Mother's Day has come and gone for this year. I know that this may appeal more to the female readers of our blog, but Jim really understood what I felt about this topic, so I'm hoping that all can relate.
I am reading a book that I bought some time ago, but never read. Now that I am retired (?) I have finally gotten around to it. It is called Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnatch. I will be ready to pass this book along on February of next year as there is a reading a day to complete. It is fairly spiritual in nature. although not religious at all. Some of it I read and think, "Well, I'll never do that or that's kind of silly." But then other readings are bang on. The reading for May 13th, Honouring the Great Mother, was one of those and it moved me to tears. It is a section about Homecrafting, and Getting Your House in Order. Rather appropriate for us at the moment, don't you think? Anyway, I would like to quote two paragraphs to start.
"Many women I know share a seldom-expressed yearning to be comforted. To be mothered. This voracious need is palpable-and often unrequited. Instead, we are the ones who usually provide comfort, caught between the pressing needs of our children, our elderly parents, our partners, our friends, even our colleagues.
Though we are grown, we never outgrow the need for someone special to hold us close, stroke our hair, tuck us into bed, and reassure us that tomorrow all will be well. Perhaps we need to reacquaint ourselves with the maternal and deeply comforting dimension of Divinity in order to learn how to mother ourselves. The best way to start is to create-as an act of worship-a comfortable home that protects, nurtures, and sustains all who seek refuge within its walls."
Since Mom died and actually well before, I have struggled with allowing myself to be mothered by me or any one else. I am very much ready for that to happen now and have realized that building the new house is my permission to do so.
As we struggle through this patch of extremely cold weather and snow, my thoughts turn to Mom (and Dad too, as he always played a role in the excercise) and the hot rocks. The patience and caring they showed through the careful heating of those stones on the old wood heater, the wrapping of the stones in layers of old sheets (even though sometimes they were so hot, they singed the sheets that were on the bed) and then the delivery of those toasty warm stones to the bottom of our beds before we even got there on those chilly nights at camp was a gift beyond love. It was a lesson on creating the perfect environment for us.
I can flick on my electric blanket in the little house now (and that works unless we have a power outage), but as I plan the new Headacher, I am consciously throwing in little percs for me and those who "find refuge within its walls". I am having heated flooring in the main floor bath, and I hope a heated towel bar. May not be as good as "hair stroking" that we all remember, but something I can do for me. We are having Central Vac. And that allows me more time to do more for others.
I am so enjoying stories of gardens, canning, old clothes and bacon. I could go in any of those directions and probably will eventually. For now, I am going to enjoy bacon and eggs tomorrow morning Andrea, one of the camp specials. And I'll probably do a Granz and make a 1/2 sandwich with the piece of bacon left. Not quite an Amma sandwich, but close. How wonderful it is that everyone has memories of special people in their lives who for a space in time, makes us feel mothered.