In Sight Of Abbotsford Mountain

The Poetry and Memories of
Margaret Wallace Coburn

Margaret Wallace was born in 1896 at Milton East, Quebec. Later she moved a few miles south to Granby, where she married, raised her children, then looked after her aged parents. She lived to the age of 96 in her house on Denison Avenue, surrounded by photos of her descendants, five of them great-great-grandchildren.
These are her memories, of a lifetime in sight of Abbotsford Mountain.

Our Mother

Our mother was an American and very proud of the fact. She had a small American flag which she prized highly, but her father and mother were both Canadians. Her father, Henry Baker, was the only son of Joseph Baker of Dunham, Que., and her mother's people lived near Shefford Mountain - some, anyway. Joseph had four daughters besides Henry - Harriet, Lavina, Alice and Eliza. Of these, Harriet married Edmund Lister Watson, Lavina died early, Alice married Charles Schenck, a wealthy German who lived in Brooklyn NY, and Eliza never married.

Henry Baker, our grandfather, was well educated for that time and was a school principal until his health failed, shortly after his second marriage. His first wife was Laura Gibson and they had one daughter, Emily, who, after her mother's death, was adopted by the Adams family of Adamsville, Que. His second wife was Caroline Woolley and they had four children, Stella (our mother), Edward, Henry and Effie (who died in infancy). Mother was actually born in a poorhouse, but only by accident - grandmother Baker, pregnant with her first baby, visited an uncle who, with his wife, was in charge of a poorhouse, and unexpectedly gave birth to Mother - on the spot. Mother never had much to do with her half sister Emily because they never even met until they were grown up, and Mother considered her rather snobbish.

When grandfather fell ill with dropsy grandmother had to get work in a cotton factory to support the family and what with the lint in the air she breathed, and overwork, she finally got T.B. These were hard times for the family - grandfather died and grandmother died soon after, on our mother's 14th birthday, actually. Uncle Randall Woolley and his wife Emma took Mother in while Ed and Henry went to foster homes.

Mother was very unhappy there because, although Aunt Emma was kind enough in her way she had a family of her own and did not object when Uncle Randall put Mother to work in a paper mill and took all her wages for her keep. Luckily, Mother found a friend in her Sunday school teacher who, on learning of her neglected condition, asked her if she had any other relations. Mother told her that she had an aunt, Harriet Watson, in Dunham.

This lady wrote to Aunt Harriet and the upshot of it was that Mother was shipped off to Dunham where Aunt Harriet and Uncle Edmund made her most welcome and treated her as one of the family. There were six children in the family already - five by Uncle Edmund's first wife, Edmund Jr., Fred, Will, Diana and Clara, and one by his second wife, Aunt Harriet - Ben.

They had a private tutor (Uncle Tom Watson) and the girls, including Mother, took music lessons. Uncle Edmund also insisted that Mother get a teacher's diploma. After she got the diploma she taught school for a time at Shefford Mountain, staying with her cousin on her mother's side, Jim Coupland, and Ms wife Carrie.

Mother must have been about 21 when she went to teach at Milton, because she was 22 when she married our dad, whom she met at his brother George's place where she was boarding.

Dad and his sister Minnie were the only children left at home when Dad and Mother were married. Uncle Edmund and Aunt Harriet gave Mother a nice wedding and reception at their place. Grandfather, Grandmother and Minnie moved to Granby right after the wedding and settled in the house now occupied by Dorothy Lindsay. After the old folks died Minnie married Ed Payne and they both lived there.

My mother and I were quite devoted to each other, but we were not really on the same wave length, especially as I was growing up.

I knew she was worried about me for I once overheard her saying to Dad, "I don't know what s going to become of that girl, she's always got her head in the clouds. Last night I sent her to get some lettuce from the back garden for supper and ended up getting it myself, and where do you suppose she'd got to - sitting on the shed roof admiring the sunset!"

"Oh well", said Dad, "I wouldn't worry too much. The world would be a dreary place if we were all alike, you know."

Then there was the time, when I was nearly full grown though only ten or so, and rather slow and clumsy.

Something I had done exasperated her even more than usual for she grabbed the first thing that came to hand, which happened to be a basket of clothes pins, and threw it at me! The pins of course flew in all directions while I stood open-mouthed in astonishment.

My expression must have amused Mother for she burst out laughing, then I laughed too, and together we got down and picked up all the pins.

Then Dad came in the door. "What on earth are you doing?", he asked?

"Just making a fool of myself!", said Mother, and continued to help pick up the clothes pins.

I have many fond memories of my mother, but one in especial stands out like a picture.

It was the year I graduated from high school. It was early spring, for sleigh bells were still ringing, and I was just getting over the measles.

In those days June exams were all important, but for some reason an exam was just coming up then which I knew would affect my standing in my grade. Since I was not yet strong enough to put in a full day at school, Mother asked the teacher if I might just come in for the exam and leave immediately after, as she would drive me there and back.

The teacher agreed, so Mother muffled me up to the ears, neglecting to dress herself warmly enough, as it was a cold windy day-All was well on the way over for the wind was at our backs, but coming home it was bitterly cold with the wind in our faces and Mother gasped "My hands are nearly frozen!"

I offered to take the reins but Mother would not hear of it. "It would not be safe right after the measles", she said.

Somehow the sight of her urging the horse on with those poor frostbitten hands remained with me so that when in later years she fretted or complained, one glance at those old wrinkled hands reminded me of how they had fondled us as babies, washed, dressed and fed us and later sewed and knitted for hours on our clothes, and even after we left home reached out eagerly to greet us back.

Finally, as she lay in her casket with those hands folded peacefully at last, I laid one hand over hers and with brimming eyes silently acknowledged how much I owed to her and to those precious hands.

Our Dad

Dad rarely spoke of his boyhood but I gather he was reasonably content. Being the youngest of eight children (Isaac, William, George, Julia, Mary Elizabeth (Minnie), Dad, and two children who died in infancy), he was teased quite a bit. His first name, of course, was Archibald but he preferred to be called Archie, partly because when he was very small, whenever he cried about anything one of his peers would yell "Archie bawled! Archie bawled!" He played a lot with the Hackett boys who lived just across the street in Milton. They were a well educated Irish Catholic family, three members of which became quite well known - Father Hackett, Dr. Hackett, and Judge Hackett of Montreal. Dad said they had a definite influence on his early life, their conversation and manners being far superior to that of the other boys he met.

Later he went to school in Granby where he received a teacher's certificate - but never taught. He did apply for a position but was turned down, not for lack of qualifications but because there were several teen-age girls to be taught, and they considered him too young and good looking for the position. So, he went back to farming.

Just when he began to play the piano (by ear) and became in demand for sing-songs, dances, etc. I don't know, but I know we all loved to hear him play the melodion, the piano, or even a mouth organ if handy. If there was to be a presentation or short speech on any occasion he was always called on. Also he acted as pall bearer at numerous funerals until he finally rebelled.

He knew lots of poetry, and used to recite it by the hour while ploughing; I would walk behind in the furrow, listening.

Though a quiet man he was a man of great integrity and so honest he fairly overdid it. At least Mother thought so when her favourite sap bucket, which she used for many purposes about the house, disappeared when we left the Milton farm. Dad explained that all the farm implements were included in the sale, and buckets were included - in the house or not.

From Milton we moved to the Galbraith house on City Ave. in Granby. Dad went to work in a factory but he hated the confinement and no longer being his own boss.

He had a nervous breakdown and Mother, who had planned the move to be nearer the center of things, gave up and agreed to move to a farm on the Roxton Road, where Dad soon perked up and we all lived happily for several years.

Later, Dad and Mother sold out again and moved to 6 Long Ave. in Granby for their retirement.

My brother said our dad snored with variations, and I guess that just about describes it.

He usually fell asleep about as soon as his head touched the pillow - then the music began. First a gentle rumbling which grew gradually louder and louder and louder and finally ended in a tremendous snort. Then silence.

Presently the snoring began again but just as you were getting braced for the final snort - he turned over. Silence again - then a resumption of the snoring but in a different key! Or, he might, to vary it, fall back on the sawing technique, "See saw, see saw, see saw." Then, just as you were finally falling asleep he'd stop dead and after a minute maybe begin a weird whistling and this too had variations.

Well, in the daytime it might have been intriguing, but in the middle of the night...!

Mother and Dad were the closest of companions in the daytime but at night she got as far away from him as she could (at the far end of a long hall) because as she explained plaintively, "You know I wouldn't mind if he snored like anybody else, but to make such a production of it!"

Fred and George

My older brothers, Fred the older and George two years younger, were about as different as brothers could be, both in tastes and temperament.

Fred was energetic and ambitious, full of "biggety" ideas, as Dad used to say.

George on the other hand loved books and music and apples (he used to fill his shirt with apples, to eat during the day) and unless stirred up was far from energetic. He had imagination though and would spend hours whittling out tiny boats and ducks to sail on our brook, or making pin-wheels or water-wheels and little fences to pen in animals he had whittled out.

This was mostly when Fred was away. Fred had little use for such frivolous things. He favoured projects such as building a tree house, making a swimming pool or skating rink or even a circus.

Like many folks with biggety ideas he frequently came to grief but that never fazed him.

Take the circus for instance: He, as eldest, had been taken to his first circus and was fired by it.

It was spring and there was a big empty hay loft over the cow stable and at that time of year lots of young live stock for a menagerie - an ideal circus arena, but for one drawback. The loft could only be reached by a ladder attached to the wall, but Fred with George's reluctant help succeeded in pushing, pulling and dragging up the equally reluctant menagerie.

The menagerie consisted of one coop containing a hen and chickens, another coop with a cat and kittens, our big rooster, who protested indignantly while being tethered by his leg to a convenient crossbeam, a dog, a young calf, and two young pigs in an improvised cage, who squealed loudly all the way up. Finally Fred managed to corner the barn tomcat, Caesar.

This was his undoing however, for Caesar absolutely refused to be tied up. He yelled, clawed, spat and swore until he upset all the rest of the menagerie so that we had a live rendition of "Old Macdonald had a farm". The dog barked, the pigs squealed, the hen cackled, the rooster chortled and the calf baa-baa-ed piteously for his mamma.

In fact they raised such a racket that Dad, entering the stable below, heard the commotion and came to investigate.

Instead of "blowing his top" as some men would have done, Dad patiently listened to Fred's anxious explanation of the affair and only remarked dryly, "Your menagerie doesn't seem to like it much, Fred, I guess now you'd better put them back where they belong", and shouldering the calf he disappeared down the ladder.

Fred looked very crestfallen but promptly obeyed. Somehow we always knew when it was time to draw the line with Dad.

However the boys, later on, attached two swings to parallel cross beams over the hay mow where they practised acrobatics with great hilarity, if little success. So Fred did finally work the circus out of his system.

His next venture, the tree house, turned out better, although it involved so much work that George had to be cajoled into helping. He finally rigged up a rope and pulley though, which he used pulling up the tools and timber while Fred built the platform with railings, and a cupboard to hold books and oddments, such as apples, candy, etc. Cleats nailed to the trunk of the big maple tree served as a ladder to reach the "house".

The swimming pool idea occurred to Fred in sugaring time when "the Babbling Brook", as we called it, was overflowing.

He planned when the water was back down to normal, to build a dam with an outlet at the side. To do this, he and George loaded a stone-boat with the tools and timber needed and used one of the work horses to draw it to and fro.

Fred being good at carpentry made a really nice job of the dam, but of course it was still too cold for swimming.

Later, on a nice warm day, when even Mother could not object, they set out for the pool - leaving me in tears. Alas, none of us had bathing suits, and Mother did not approve of swimming in the nude in mixed company!

However I had hardly dried my eyes when the back door opened and two very disgruntled boys trailed in.

It seems Fred, in spite of all his careful planning, had forgotten about black flies and of course he realized there would be mosquitoes to follow. He was thoroughly disgusted. I don't think he ever even went back to the pool that summer.

George and I did go, but only when there were not too many mosquitoes about. George even built a little saw mill there with a roof with tiny shingles on it, and a saw about six inches long. I don't know where he got the saw but, to his final satisfaction, he rigged it up, powered by a water wheel he had made and was even able to saw very small twigs with it.

Of course there were endless other things we did, such as playing Indians, the boys arrayed in elaborate headdresses of feathers, obtained from the chicken pen they said, but some of the hens were surprisingly short of tail feathers, especially the rooster! They dyed the feathers with whatever colouring they could find and made powder horns out of real cows' horns and carried home-made bows and quivers of arrows and tomahawks in their belts.

I, as the squaw, had to carry any supplies needed and wore no "trimmings" but was flattered to even be included, although I did not appreciate having my doll scalped! I was over four years younger than George, so was not often included in Fred's schemes.

I was thrilled though when he suggested making a skating rink behind the house and helped lug pails of water. Unfortunately, not only did it take a vast amount of water to form even a thin coating of ice but an unforeseen thaw eliminated even that.

Fred was, as usual, vociferous in his disgust, but I'm sure he soon had another bright idea, only I cannot now remember what it was.

Brother George was no horseman, but surprisingly enough he survived a run-away with great aplomb.

In our day, after a field had been seeded, it had to be rolled and for some reason (Fred must have been away) George drove the span of horses attached to the roller. Something scared Jack (he was an excitable horse anyway) and he bolted dragging old Chegaw with the roller and George bouncing along behind. The result was funny, if rather scary, for as old Chegaw refused to run away he served as a pivot around which Jack and the roller circled the field.

George figured that Jack in time would run out of steam - and so he did. Then he drove the exhausted pair back to the seeded portion of the field, finished the rolling and drove back to the barn grinning as he saw our anxious faces.

(I suspect "Chegaw" was originally "Petit Gar" since Dad got him from a Frenchman, but we always pronounced French words as they sounded to us. Thus Madame Picard, our wash lady, was "Mampycare" - all one word.)

My Sister Winifred

She was nearly eight years younger than I, so when she was 3 or 4 years old I tended to regard her as a big doll that I could dress up and pose like my other dolls. The trouble was she would not stay put and Mother often had to come to her rescue.

She was bright and quick and loved to join in the conversation at table, or elsewhere, but having read books and articles way beyond her age she tended to bring up subjects not usually discussed in mixed company - to Mother's embarrassment and our delight!

We older ones thought her cute and funny, and laughed unfeelingly until poor Win would flee in tears and hide behind the bureau in Mother's room, her small feet projecting. When Mother attempted to console her she wailed, "I'd just as rather be dead!"

Fortunately Fred, who was 15 years older, made a pet of her, even sending her presents after he left home - notably a teddy bear over which she was ecstatic. Also I suspect she was more Mother's pre-conceived idea of a daughter than I was.

Sometimes she was still young though. Mother once read aloud to us an article from our weekly paper. It was about a pet monkey who had escaped from his master, snatched a baby from its cradle and carried it up onto the roof of the house. Luckily the owner of the monkey managed to coax the monkey to come down, and the baby was restored to its mother unharmed.

So far as we older children were concerned that was the end of the story, but for my young sister it was only the beginning.

That night after she was tucked in bed, and the light out, she began to think about that story. Then she heard some unidentified sound in her room.

Fortunately Mother, passing by the door, heard the faint sounds from the bed and entering found my small sister utterly panic stricken - she was sure that the monkey had come to carry her off!

My Brother Reg

When my niece Joan asked me to write a poem for her dad's 80th birthday I was stumped. I could think of nothing adequate to span so many years, so have settled for some word pictures as they spring to memory.

First: a roly-poly baby sitting on the kitchen floor, swaying as he tipped up his bottle to get the last drop, then rolling over fast asleep. (You see, he's not really changed that much!)

Second: a lively seven year old perched on the top of our veranda roof hailing us as we stood open mouthed below.

Third: an agile teenager running and jumping at sports meets, winning medals and trophies galore, and later at McGill Stadium winning the pole vault.

Fourth: sitting at the piano belting out tunes like his dad which made our toes tingle.

I was going to enlarge on his triumphs on the golf course, but lest this sound like an epitaph I'd better close with a more recent picture -

Fifth: Reg, Peggy and myself seated around my dining room table after lunch one Sunday - Reg asleep (apparently) and Peggy filling me in on news of the family, but now and then lobbing a question at Reg across the table, who between snores surprisingly enough came up with fairly adequate answers. It went something like this - "Reg, what was the name of that man we met on the road to - ?, you must remember, and was it last Summer or the Summer before - ?"

Oh well, back of every man, "cherchez la femme", and without Peggy Reg just wouldn't be Reg - and I've just thought of a verse that fits him:

He's the kind of man who is always there
For a troubled daughter or a wife in despair
Or a sister with gadgets in need of repair
Yet it's not so much what he says or does
I think we lean on him just because
He's always there.

The Trump of Doom

One summer when I was five or maybe six years old, a travelling evangelist came to our little country church to preach. He was not a Billy Graham type but rather the "hell-fire and damnation" type more common in my day.

I suspect these evangelists were called on specially to put the fear of the devil into local miscreants. Be that as it may, he certainly scared the daylights out of me!

I liked our regular minister, but I never listened to his sermons. However, from the moment this man entered the pulpit and glared down at us, I never took my eyes off him.

I don't remember his text and only the highlights of what followed (accompanied by appropriate shouts of denunciation and thumps to emphasize his points), but four points stood out clearly -1. the end of the world was at hand - no one knew when, 2. a trumpet would sound, 3. people would be working together - one would be taken and the other left, and finally 4. if we did not repent we would all be consumed in hell fire.

Of the four points, the third stood out most clearly in my mind: after the trumpet sounded some would be taken and others left.

Translated in my young mind this meant that some day some awful "thing" would maybe grab and make off with me and no questions asked.

In comparison with that horrifying thought, hell fire took second place.

I don't remember what happened after the service. Presumably, once out of the pulpit, the preacher reverted to normal and no longer impressed me, but that night when I knelt to say my prayers I added one fervent petition: "O God, please don't let the end of the world come tonight."

Then, one morning about a week later I was awakened early in the morning by what in my dazed state of mind I thought must surely be the "Trump of Doom". I leapt out of my bed and dived into my parents' bed, screaming "Don't let them get me!"

Of course then it all had to come out and how my parents laughed, especially as they surmised that the "Trump of Doom" was only our big Plymouth Rock rooster, greeting the dawn on the fence outside my window.

My Trip to New York

I was only nine years old at the time, so if you don't care for the impressions of a nine-year-old, just skip it - but it was fun.

It began when the letter came to us in Milton from Mother's Aunt Alice Schenck, a rich relative living in Brooklyn, New York. It invited my mother and me to visit her and contained a cheque to cover the price of return tickets by train and boat.

We were to meet my Uncle Ed, Mother's brother, at New London NY where we would board a small steamer going down the East River and coming out in New York Harbour. Uncle Ed was to be our guardian and conductor.

Why, out of a family of four (at that time) was I the one invited? Well, Dad could not leave the farm, my sister Winifred was too young and my two older brothers were needed on the farm.

Our wash lady, Madame Picard, was hired to keep house while we were gone.

It took a whole day by train to reach New London where we met Uncle Ed, who saw us all on board our steamer and bedded down in our berths.

Early the next morning we entered New York Harbour and I had my first sight of the Statue of Liberty, but I was just as interested in the shipping - long barges, smaller boats, a big ocean liner and lots of tug boats all hooting and tooting at each other and an occasional deep bass note from a big liner - not to mention the hundreds of gulls screaming overhead.

It was all so exciting I was nearly worn out by the time we reached our wharf and remember little of our passage by train through the tunnel under the river to Brooklyn and the street car by which we completed the journey.

I remember my first sight of Aunt Alice's three story mansion with the imposing front steps, but we went around to the side door and down two steps into a sunny dining room with table set for our arrival.

There was my great aunt, her housekeeper and her big tabby cat. Aunt Alice was a robust but handsome woman and, dressed in a black silk dress with lace collar her snow white hair piled high, would have intimidated me but for her lovely smile and twinkling dark eyes.

She and Uncle Ed entertained us during lunch with their lively banter.

After lunch Mother and I needed a rest so Uncle Ed toted our valises up two long flights of stairs. My aunt accompanied us to our room where, in the excitement of unpacking, Aunt somehow lost her balance and sat down in Mother's valise, which lay open behind her on a low bench. The valise promptly closed around her and what a time we had getting her out - Uncle Ed pulling her and we holding onto the valise! Aunt was nearly helpless with laughter and so were we as soon as we realized she was unhurt. That certainly broke the ice and nearly broke the valise too, for ever after it had to be adjusted before it would close.

A large double parlour took up the second floor and contained, besides chairs, tables, a large fire place, couches, etc. all manner of interesting things - pictures, mementos and brie a brae.

At a turn of the stairs was a niche in which stood a big stuffed owl which I loved on sight.

That evening as we sat around the fireplace Aunt Alice told us about the itinerary she had planned for us (at her expense) - a wonderful ten days.

Central Park was lovely - so many fine trees, flowers and a wide stream crossed by arched bridges from which we watched people boating up and down, but the Bronx Zoo fascinated me most, especially a huge glass dome, large enough to enclose two trees, in which bright tropical birds flitted about. There was also a pond under the trees with many kinds of waterfowl swimming or wading about.

We sat on a bench outside watching them while we ate our lunches (we always brought our lunches). Gray squirrels frisked about waiting for a handout and a peanut and popcorn vender came along just in time to complete our menu.

Then we watched the keepers feeding the bears with whole loaves of bread and whole fish which they tossed over the high spiked fence. The bears grabbed the fish first and then dunked the bread in the large pool in the center of the enclosure to soften it up. Of course they stole each other's rations and got cuffed in return. They were very amusing and seemed happy in their big compound with rocks, a big cave in the background.

My uncle was surprised that I could name so many of the animals, but Mother explained that we had a large book on natural history at home with very good illustrations.

As we were going through a building housing some of the larger animals a man entered carrying a large paper bag and whistling loudly. At once all the animals poked their heads through the bars of their cages and to each he gave a single sugar cube from his bag. We were very surprised because feeding was forbidden but a keeper told us the man was one of the directors of the zoo and so especially privileged. It was amusing to see an elephant carefully take a cube and even a hippo opened his huge cavern of a mouth which could have swallowed a whole loaf of bread! It seems most animals like sugar.

We went through all the buildings, even the snake house (but not Mother for she hated snakes).

At the Metropolitan Museum I was chiefly impressed by the tall totem poles, the miniature town which covered about ten square feet of floor space, and a pair of particularly ugly big black gargoyles which served as newel posts to a flight of stairs and seemed to actually smirk at me! The statues and sculptures were lovely, not at all like the ugly things we so often see today.

The picture gallery was too large to cover in the time allotted and anyway I was too young but I did recognize some of the plump Gainsboroughs in the collection and admired many of the pictures in other collections. Then I watched some students who were painting copies (seems they were allowed to on certain days). Oh yes, I was horrified looking at a large picture of Dante's "Inferno".

I enjoyed going through the Aquarium on the Harbour. The walls were lined with large glass tanks of water containing all kinds of fish and marine life. I loved the tropical fish and was fascinated with the tiny sea horses standing on their tails but on turning a corner I was startled to come upon the biggest frog I ever saw! He must have weighed fifty pounds and squatted right on a level with my eyes. I just goggled at him and he at me while my uncle looked on and laughed.

There were large pools in the center of the Aquarium with sea lions and seals in one and alligators in the other but I preferred watching the shipping on the Harbour outside.

Of course I saw the skyscrapers including the Flatiron Building which was new then, the big stores, the elevated railway and we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to reach New York where we did our sight seeing.

We went to Coney Island but as it was late in September the amusement park was closed except for one concession - a scenic boat ride through a tunnel which we took but I would have been content just to see the ocean for the first time and watch the big waves rolling in.

Then we went to hear Sousa's Band at the Metropolitan Opera House and from the balcony where we sat the stage seemed a mile away. We borrowed Aunt Alice's opera glasses to see the instruments and faces of the performers but when the band let loose its volume filled that whole vast theatre! In later years I was to recognize some of the marches I heard that night.

Aunt Alice accompanied us to the play "The Old Homestead" by Herman Thomson. She usually stayed at home because she was not supposed to travel much having suffered a stroke three years before. During the play I was surprised to see a whole load of hay, drawn by two big dray horses, driven on to the stage. There was also a farmer with his pitch fork and straw hat and women in sun bonnets and, in the center of the stage what seemed to be a well complete with windlass and oaken bucket - also I was pleased to receive a small box of opera drops which were peddled around.

I think the highlight of our trip was our visit to the dock yards in the Harbour - the din caused by big iron-tired wagons rolling over cobble stones bearing cargo to load on the ships, the rough seamen and sailors all in white and sea gulls wheeling about. Best of all we saw a huge liner, the Lusitania, the ship which during World War I was sunk by the Germans.

Uncle Ed was keen to go on board and managed to bribe a steward to take us on and show us around. Uncle must have paid him well for he showed us everything - the big ornate staterooms, the dining rooms, the huge ball room and even the kitchens with their enormous kettles and cauldrons, the chefs with their tall white hats and the helpers slicing up big hunks of meat and vegetables. We felt so sad later when we heard of the sinking of that fine ship.

My last memory of our trip was of waving goodbye to the Statue of Liberty as we steamed for home at night and looked back on the wake of our little steamer.

The Christmas Concert

Like most old people, I don't sleep that well at night and also hike most such I reminisce. So the other night I got to thinking of a Christmas Concert we had in the little old country school house I went to as a child.

I suspect my mother and her bosom pal Cousin Effie hatched the idea (the teacher was not too enthusiastic). Anyway, Cousin Effie acted as M.C. and general supervisor, while Mother played the little organ to accompany the singing.

The first number on the program, I recall, was the song "Jingle Bells" sung by the pupils while one of the boys hid behind the organ with a long string of sleigh bells which he rang vigorously throughout the chorus.

Then there was a motion song, sung and motivated by six little girls dressed in white, their long hair loose and in their hands branches of "holly" (really evergreen twigs strung with cranberries since no holly could be obtained). Their song began like this -'We'll wave our holly branches with berries red and gay; For Christ the Babe of Bethlehem was born on Christmas day."

The stage was rather small, so some of the movements had to be deleted but all went well - no one fell off.

After this there were various recitations by the small fry -sister Winifred recited "Hang up the baby's stocking". You could see their mothers mouthing the words, and one small girl lisped delightfully!

Then came the play.

I can't recall what it was all about but, of course, I remember my own part. As I was quite tall for a twelve year old I was chosen to represent "December". Arrayed in a long white night gown trimmed with yards and yards of white swans' down, which my mother had patiently basted on, and my long hair loose and generously sprinkled with artificial snow, I sparkled quite convincingly. Of course I had some lines to say -

How beautiful December is,
and just as full of grace
as the lilies tall by the garden wall
that nod in their hiding place.

After this speech I was supposed to crown Santa Claus. Santa (our caretaker) wore a fur coat with a red sash, high boots, whiskers and a mask, complete. He was supposed to approach me to be crowned with a wreath of evergreens I held, but because his mask slipped a little he could not see where he was going and marched right by me.

I guess he would have walked right off the stage if I'd not grabbed him! The awkward thing about that was that I had to crown him from one side instead of head-on as planned, with the result that the crown landed rather awry.

However, I quickly straightened it and rammed it down well over his ears to be sure it did not fall off.

I guess that part of the play had not been rehearsed but the audience seemed to enjoy it and clapped loudly.

Finally there was the Christmas tree with real candles and presents for all, followed of course by refreshments.

The only thing I can remember about the refreshments was a whole keg of brightly coloured hard candies donated by our local store keeper.

I'd never seen so much candy in my life - 5 cent bags were all we usually got.

At last it was all over and we had been congratulated on our remarkable production, and there was nothing more, so we reluctantly climbed into our open sleighs and pungs and set out for home - chattering merrily.

My Silver Medal

I still have it tucked away in the drawer of my writing desk -my one and only award of merit.

It was awarded by the local Bank of Commerce to the pupil in the Granby High School who wrote the best composition on "The Maple Tree".

Only pupils in grades 9 to 12 were eligible, and the school principal and staff would act as judges.

As I was only in grade 9, I had little hope of success, but I could not resist trying.

But knowing our principal Adams I knew my composition would have to be absolutely grammatical, intensely patriotic and a little "flowery".

Keeping these requirements carefully in mind I did my best.

Of course when I was told I had won the medal I was delighted and quite puffed up, until Mr. Adams had this bright idea.

All spring he had been planning on having an "Arbour Day" celebration on the school grounds. Parents of the pupils and some guests would be invited. There would be the planting of a maple tree, singing of patriotic songs, speeches and sports, and of course eats.

We were all excited about it. I too thought it would be fun until Mr. Adams sprung on me the bright idea of his.

"I have decided", he said to me, "that it would be most appropriate on this occasion for you to stand on the front steps and read aloud your composition on The Maple Tree."

I was too horrified to speak! In our day you must know, pupils were not trained to perform in public as they are now. Added to this I was painfully shy. It would have been an ordeal for me to read before one stranger, let alone about 250, and from the front steps too!

For the first time in my life, I played hooky.

When Mother called me on the fateful morning, I said "Mother, I don't feel at all well." (That was true anyway.) "I don't think I can go to school this morning." To my relief Mother fell for this "old chestnut" and even proffered sympathy.

I felt guilty but knew that if I told the real truth she'd insist on my going, so I stayed in bed all day dreading the next morning when I'd have to face Mr. Adams.

So it was in fear and trembling that I entered the school room the next morning and murmured "Good morning, Mr. Adams" (the required ritual) and awaited my fate.

"Good morning, Margaret", he said. Then with a twinkle in his eye, "By the way, what happened yesterday? Did you by any chance get cold feet?" And that was all.

Bless his old soul, he had sized up my reaction to his request just as accurately as I had previously sized up his in regard to the composition!

Our Little Witch

The leaves were whirling down the street
I heard the patter of children's feet
T'was Hallowe'en.
With merry laughter and voices shrill
They all came charging up the hill
To Grandma's.
A clown, a jester, a pirate bold
And a tiny wee witch scarce six years old
Our Shirley.
"Oh Grandma, look!" small Shirley cried
"Here is a witch but it's me inside
I filled each little hand with sweets
And heard them run back through the streets.
That was last year.
Again the leaves drift down the street
But there's no patter of children's feet
The front door's locked and my heart is sore
For little Shirley will come no more
She left us.
But look! the back door opens wide
And a little maid has stepped inside
Who is she?
And suddenly I dare not ask
What face is hid beneath that mask
Breath fails me.
I give her a penny 'tis all I had
She takes it and leaves. I must be mad
To rave so.
To dream that our witch has come again
To ease our hearts of their load of pain
Yet hope will live.

My Career

My first career of course was raising my children. But after my husband died I lacked funds so I began to take in roomers and boarders.

I could only accommodate two roomers at a time and the first pair were a brother and sister, Millie & Doug Edwards.

They were just a little older than my son Larry, who was then 17 and the only one left with me, so they fitted in well and were a lively and delightful pair. I can still see then: bright laughing faces as all three came clattering up the side steps for lunch (for they were all working). What fun we had, talking and laughing and fooling.

I remember the time Larry got a letter from his girl friend and Doug insisted on reading it over his shoulder. Seems he had helped Larry write a letter to her, so said he was entitled to read the answer. Well they ended up sitting side by side on the living room floor each holding half a letter, having torn it apart in then-struggle.

Then there was the time when they laughed at poor Millie who, in a hurry as usual, managed to upset a whole bowl of tomato soup in her lap. Luckily she sprang up so was not scalded, but she was hopping mad when they laughed at her, especially as she was dressed to go out and had to change all her clothes.

They never really quarrelled though - it was all done in fun.

There was an interlude after that because Mother and Dad needed help, so I moved in with them and rented the two flats in my house.

While I was with my parents I worked part time nursing.

My first patient was a wealthy old gentleman who, with his ailing wife, lived in a suite in the Windsor Hotel. He was confined to a wheel chair so required a lot of care.

I did not mind that but I did mind being ordered about like a slave and told him so. I expected he'd fire me but he didn't. He was really very nice to me after that and at the end of three years we actually parted in tears!

Mother was worse then and needed me, but later she improved enough so that I agreed to go and help my sister when she had her second daughter, Janet.

I arrived some time before she was born and had to accompany Win to the hospital as Charlie was away on business. That proved to be a false alarm so she had to come back home (grumbling all the way) but all turned out well in the end except that the poor baby had hiccups for a few days.

I looked after the three children - George, John and Grace.

George washed the dishes (it was July so he was out of school). He also ran errands and even bought himself a sun suit - and came home in it! He just hid behind a counter in the store, made a swift change, and came home with his old suit under his arm.

John and I had our altercations but he always came running to me when hurt. One time he and Grace, running in opposite directions, collided in the kitchen doorway and banged their heads together. Charlie, coming upon the scene, was concerned to see me holding the two wailing infants in my arms, one on each shoulder!

Grace was a pet and caused no trouble except once she took a sun bath with her dad on the back lawn and nearly got a sunstroke. Luckily I saw her still there after he had left, scooped her up and sat her in the kitchen sink, washing her with cool water until she revived somewhat, then laid her on the sofa. It was three or four days before she was her usual lively small self.

Winifred insisted on sun baths for baby Janet and how she hated them! Win caught me sympathizing with her one day. "I don't blame you a bit, Janet", said I. "I wouldn't like it either to be put on my tummy with my fanny in the hot sun!"

"You're a big help", said Win, and Janet was left to howl until Win finally relented and picked her up.

Win suggested I stay in St.Catharines the rest of the summer and go out nursing.

This I did, and the first woman I nursed died soon after I got there although it wasn't my fault as she was on her way out when I arrived.

The second case was mainly upset because her husband was seeing another woman. He came back and I guess they made up. Anyway she got better.

My next job was a short one too but that was partly my fault. She was a rich, spoiled and possessive woman and her only daughter had got fed up with her and moved out.

Her illness was mostly feigned, or at least so I figured. She wanted everyone to think she was abused and her husband humoured her and tried to please her.

Finally he came to me for advice, and I suggested that he try taking her on a trip to distract her mind and that's what he did.

My last was another baby case but the grandmother came and took over.

After that I, with Win's help, bought myself an entire new winter outfit and went home to Granby for Christmas.

After ten years with my aged parents, Dad died, then Mother. I went back to live in the lower flat of my old home. The upper flat was rented and Larry was married and living in Edmundston NB so I began taking roomers again, but no more boarders for I was still nursing locally.

They had bed and kitchen privileges so they fed themselves. I provided dishes, a cupboard and drawer for their provisions and use of fridge and stove.

They were an interesting assortment, for from 1960 to 1979 there was a steady stream of them. I had Pentacostals, Jehovah Witnesses, Baptists and even a Chinaman.

It was his cute little wife who begged me to take him. He was a student at McGill but had found a summer job in Granby, only nowhere could he find a suitable place to stay. She was so pretty and appealing that I finally agreed to take him (she was working in Montreal) but I did wonder what I was letting myself into.

However he was a perfect gentleman with charming manners and cooked most appetizing meals for himself. I suggested that we arrange our meals on trays and eat in the livingroom where we could watch T.V. This we did but when I saw his tray I was actually ashamed of mine.

His tray was a work of art. I told him so and he explained that he had once worked in a restaurant.

Unhappily after only a month he had to leave. He had received the report on his exams at McGill and he had failed, poor lad, so he had to join his wife in Montreal and make other plans. He was very disappointed and I'm sure she was too.

Of course I could tell many more stories about these folk who came in and out of my life, but I'd run short of paper, not to mention readers.

My Children

I have confined most of my stories to my own generation, purposely, but should include some mention of my children, though having so many memories makes it difficult to choose which.

So with Wallace I shall take it by stages - from the time when he was a sturdy, independent lad with a broad grin for everyone, to his early teens when he was my right hand man, running errands, doing chores (bar washing dishes!) and picking berries at which he was a dabster for he loved the woods, as I did. Of course he took time off for Hallowe'en pranks, and he loved card parties and dancing.

But then came the war when he left me just a boy and came back five years later a thin gaunt man with damaged body, but still with the old determination to make something of himself - and he did, with the aid of a loved but long suffering wife!

Then there was Shirley, whom I loved but lost so early, but who had a distinct personality and was eager to try anything.

Finally there was Lawrence, who was fun loving, charming, and a trifle irresponsible until his wife Charlotte settled him down a bit! He was a born salesman, so he succeeded as a boy at selling newspapers and as an adult at selling his work as a photographer. As he was good at meeting the public he was asked to head various organizations, which he did faithfully until his heart gave out and he had to curtail his activities. I love the pictures he and Charlotte send me from time to time.

Mardi Gras and Hallowe'en

Mardi Gras fell on February 17th this year and as I gazed out of my window watching the cars go quietly by at 5 p.m. I thought of other days and other times.

Back in my childhood in the small village of Milton, there were no cars - only horse drawn sleighs and bobsleds, and Mardi Gras celebrations started about 4 p.m. and raged till midnight, when they ceased abruptly for the celebrants were mostly Catholic and had to be sober in time to attend six o'clock mass or there would be the devil to pay!

First we'd hear the sleigh bells and then see the sleighs and bob-sleds come tearing by loaded with men and boys shouting, singing, tooting horns and whistles, dressed in all manner of weird costumes and whatever they happened to have - some with high hats, baggy pants and tail coats, some with red sashes and toques, and most rather tipsy.

We enjoyed their antics but never joined in them, settling instead for our traditional pancakes and maple syrup.

Hallowe'en was our day and we did it full justice.

About 4:30 p.m. the small fry began trooping down the street dressed in gay home-made costumes - clowns, black mammies, Indians, old ladies, and once a devil all in black with horns, tail and a pitchfork complete! There were pumpkin jack-o-lanterns in the windows and everyone laid in a stock of kisses, suckers, gum drops, etc., pieced out with popcorn balls and donuts, for often one had 40 to 50 visitors.

By 9 o'clock the young fry were home and then the real revelry began - hideous faces would appear at the windows, wild howls and peas (from home-made pea shooters) rattled the windows. Woe betide anyone who had left anything loose around - mats, chairs, toys, or machinery - for these would be missing and would be found the next morning in all manner of unexpected places - a big brass kettle hanging from a tree limb, a rocking chair astride a rail fence, an outsize pair of bloomers hanging conspicuously near the road.

For the most part it was aggravating but fairly harmless, even though my Wallace once put a dead skunk on our neighbour's front step!

Some of the older boys went too far though - tipping over privies, scratching slogans and names on fences and houses with chalk or even paint with which they also decorated the barn animals (when they could catch them) with stripes and spots.

Once they even stuffed up a chimney of one man who had made them unwelcome, but when they went on to make a bonfire in the middle of the street, throwing on some of the loot they had collected, the police intervened and after that they were kept under surveillance.

The fun was soon over, and I guess our parents were thankful, but we rather missed the excitement.

The Axe

Our family has always had a tendency to exchange practical and sometimes unusual gifts on birthdays and other special occasions and this tendency has sometimes brought about amusing situations.

Such as the time Mother decided to give Dad an axe for his 82nd birthday.

Now Dad was quite active for his age and took pride in doing chores about the house and particularly was proud of the neat piles of kindling he split for the kitchen stove - this in spite of having only an old hatchet with a broken handle.

So Mother decided he should have a proper axe for his birthday.

Down came the Baton's catalogue and although somewhat confused at finding there were various types of axes listed, she finally decided that a lumberman's axe should do nicely.

Are you smiling? If you are, you know more about axes than poor Mother did. Imagine her surprise when the delivery boy placed in her hands an axe which only a sturdy lumberjack could have been expected to wield with ease!

And it looked even bigger when unwrapped. We all gazed goggle-eyed - even Dad.

"But Stella", he protested gently, "I only needed an axe for cutting kindling."

That tied it. The idea of Dad, who was not a very big man anyway, wielding that huge axe to split his bits of kindling sent us into gales of laughter.

But Dad would not hear of having it returned, no siree! Mother had given it to him and "It would be very useful for the man who came to split the stove wood." (I'll bet he was surprised too!) Anyway the axe, as it was always called was carefully placed upright by the shed door where, I'm sure, Mother thought it would intimidate any chance intruder.

The amazing thing was though how many uses we did find for it - anything from driving fence posts to splitting up winter squash, cleaving apart chunks of frozen meat, crushing ice for the fridge - you name it. It was indispensable.

Now many years later the axe stands in the corner of my shed and although it seems to have shrunk a bit with the years, as I have, it's still a noble axe and I wouldn't part with it for worlds.

A Prayer for our Dad

O God, if now at last his soul is free,
And if his dim old eyes can really see
Not beauty merely as he saw it here,
Not through a glass darkly, but crystal clear,

And if no longer need he ever strain
To catch the words he listened for in vain,
But hears and sees and greets with joy once more
The ones he loved in happier days of yore,

And free forever from all fear and pain
Strides on without support of hand or cane -
O God if this indeed can really be,
Accept, we pray, our heartfelt thanks to thee.

Is it God's Fault?

Many people do not believe in a merciful or living God. They say, "How can He just look on while thousands die of famine and disease, or from wars?"

But is God responsible for famines and diseases?

There is really sufficient food for everyone if we decided to share our surpluses with those who lack, instead of hogging them.

Then again disease, if not inherited, is mostly caused by unwise or sinful living and the bible has warned us that the sins of the fathers who did not obey His commandments would be visited upon their children.

As for wars, they are always man made - someone wants more land or more power or both.

On the other hand God causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and seed time and harvest to follow in at least enough places so that by sharing all could subsist.

We take for granted all the good and beautiful things with which we are provided and think only of the evil things which are, for the most part, man made.


Criticism I think should be used sparingly, after careful consideration, and if in any way possible given in private.

Of course teachers and parents must criticize as part of their responsibility, but I think the same rules apply.

Some peoples' lives have been deeply affected by criticism. If sensitive their self esteem will be damaged, if insecure they will draw back into themselves. One should encourage whenever possible, and strive to bring out the best in people, to build them up so that they do not become discouraged.

I once had a friend who hurt and discouraged me with her criticism in my early youth. I say a friend because in later years and even at the time I realized that the criticism was justified. But oh, if only she had been kinder and more diplomatic!

However during the last year of her life, when I had the care of her, she told me of her early troubles and frustrations and at last I understood her bitterness and resentment towards others whom she considered so much luckier than she had been.

So next time you meet with a sharp-tongued person, remember not to judge them too harshly. Life may not have been very easy for them.

My Epitaph

One day when I was quilting, as I so often used to be in my spare time, I got to thinking - I guess they'll all say after I die, "Margaret Coburn? Oh, the woman who made so many quilts!"

I laughed to myself but after a bit I began to think, "Do I want to be remembered only as a woman who made a lot of quilts?" Somehow I felt dissatisfied. "Can't I amount to something more than that?", I continued to reason. Could I perhaps spend more time with people? "But if I do I'll have to give up quilting." Well what of it - aren't people more important than quilts?

Then began a time of reaching out and bit by bit finding friends and things I could do for them and say to them.

How blind I'd been! Here I was way past my allotted three score and ten years and all that time wasted! Still I had been spared and, God willing, maybe in time I could sell someone on a pattern of life they would enjoy as they did my quilt patterns.


It's funny isn't it how, when we think of the word in a religious context, we often get it wrong?

We laugh at the school boy's definition of faith as "believing what you know to be untrue", but there is just enough in his definition to make us stop and think for a minute. For all too many people do seem to believe, though they probably would not admit it, that being a Christian, a man of faith, means doing despite to your intelligence, saying goodbye to your intellect, taking a deep breath and swallowing the lot - "the lot" being a hotch-potch of ill-digested and ill-considered credal assortments!

God is the God of truth and He never asks us to do despite to the intelligence He gave us. But our intelligence will not take us all the way in our relationship with Him. More than that is called for. When we become Christian disciples, He expects us to use all we have got in the way of thinking and reasoning powers.

I believe in God because of all the goodness and beauty in the world, the wonderful creation and provisions made for every living creature. When we listen to the T.V. news, we forget the kindly soul who helps us in trouble, the little child who makes our day when she smiles and tucks her little hand in ours. We forget too the flowers, trees and mountains lifting our spirits with their beauty.

And where does intelligence come from? Surely from an intelligent source! And doesn't the utterly dependable running of the universe and intricate planning for each of creation's living creatures, great and small, point to the super-intelligence of a Creator?

I believe in the bible (allowing for the various translations and interpretations) as basically God's text book for our guidance. Knowing our limitations He, through his inspired writers, gives us texts and commandments to live by. True, with our limited intelligence we find parts of it difficult to understand and other parts seemingly irrelevant. Yet the more I study it the more I realize that if we really followed its instructions, especially Jesus' teachings, we could have a vastly different and better world.

I figure that if I try to follow the commandments He provided, I can't go far wrong anyway.

My Poems

I have written many a poem
Though if a snob you mightn't know1 em
For my style is not like Shelly, Burns or Scott!

But if you want a laugh
Or a bit of friendly chaff
You will find it in these pages
Like as not.


I've found it helps when I'm happy or sad
To take up my pen and writing pad
For white seems whiter and black light brown
When you think things over and write them down
So swallow your curses
Or put them in verses
As I have.

My Nephew John

Only once in a while, there comes along
A kindly man like my nephew John
I open the door and there he stands
A pot of goulash in his hands
Or maybe a homemade cake or pie
Or a sleeping bag in which to lie.
He's making a book of my poems and tales
And however bored, he never fails
To consult me.
We discourse on everything under the sun
And laugh and yak, it really is fun
And if ghouls and graveyards are his cup of tea
It's really quite alright with me
I love it!

Homework in Absentia

This morning (while peeling potatoes)
I went for a walk in the woods
Down a fern-bordered path that led to the brook
I hurried with happy intent
To find the old swimming pool just as it was
(Except for mosquitoes and flies!)

I went to the sugar house, saw the sap boil
Tasted the sugar on snow, helped my dad fill the tins
And shook them down well -
(But oh dear, my potatoes are done!)

Just time for the beds now but what do you think?
I found them all made up, I just had to blink!

After dinner (while washing the dishes)
I called on a neighbour close by
I told her of all I had done, in detail
Not waiting for any reply
And though she's a talkative person
Much given to speaking her mind
She just listened and smiled, and said not a word
I thought her especially kind!

While lying awake oft many a night
In fancy I'm skiing - how airy my flight
How daring and skilful! It's really uncanny
For the one time I did ski, I fell on my fanny!

The Sugar Woods

Go put on your jeans, your jackets and hoods
And come with me to the sugar woods
We'll climb the hill and follow with ease
The road that winds up thru the trees
Where the buckets hang.

We'll each grab a bucket and tip it up
For in the woods we don't use a cup
Then hark to the boom of the gathering tank
As the runners slide over rock and bank
Let's help them gather!

Into the tank the sap goes ker-splash
Back for more we all of us dash
Till the tank is full and we change our course
Back to the cabin we turn the horse
Oh! there's the cabin and the steam's coming out
They're sugaring off beyond a doubt
Gee, aren't we lucky?

To each little nipper
They hand out a dipper
Of golden ambrosia.

So we'll drink our fill without a fear
For sugaring comes but once a year
Then back down the hill we'll wend our way
Saying, "This is the end of a perfect day."

The Cottage in the Woods

All day I work in the big old mill
Where the wheels go round and round
And the sound of the looms and the heat and the fumes
Fairly make my head resound.

But Saturday night come rain or shine
(Or Friday night if I'm lucky)
I say to my wife, "Pack up the grub"
And no matter how tired, she's plucky.

Then off we go in our big old car
Forty miles, but it doesn't seem far
For we're full of our plans for the house we made
Whether freezing or 85 in the shade.

We cleared the land and laid the logs
And slept at night to the tune of the frogs
My little dog Jingles barks with glee
As he chases a chipmunk up a tree.

And my wife and Mom they never fight
They just play Scrabble from morn till night
The boys forget that they're almost men
And fool and play like when they were ten.

We enjoy our food to the very last crust
And eat and eat till you'd think we'd bust
Then I sit in my old armchair and rest
As happy and snug as a bird in its nest
And I wouldn't exchange for the world and its goods
My little old cottage in the woods.
(Written for son Wallace)

Ode to a Crooked Tree

This is an ode to a crooked tree
(You dared me to write it so here you be!)
The tree I'll describe, and it won't take long
For it's not very big to have grown so wrong
Yet when it was planted 'twas straight as could be
A cute little, green little, maple tree
But so beloved by boy and beast
That it's now developed a cant to the east
But my son refuses to pull it out
So 'twill always be there beyond a doubt
And grow and grow like a green Bay tree
Always as crooked as crooked can be
'Till folks will all know the Coburn abode
By the crooked old tree that grows by the road!

Wallace & Vera

For fifty years now, come rain or shine
They've hung together, these children of mine
Though life was not always a bed of roses
And neither of them was as meek as Moses
They faced up to life with a laugh or a grin
No matter what kind of a mess they were in
And with three kids like theirs, it was really the limit
The stunts they'd get up to if left for a minute
But they've turned out just fine, I do declare!
Partly due to the two who were always there
So we love them both, and always will
May their days be blessed, come good or ill.

Candle-light Service at St.George's

The church is waiting for her Lord,
Come one and all with glad accord
To bid Him welcome.

The flickering candles with their light
Dispel the darkness of the night
From window ledge and altar high
They light up faces far and nigh
Of friend and neighbour
Waiting in silence hushed and awed
This yearly Advent of our God
With hearts uplifted.

Then up the aisle a white-robed band
With each a candle in his hand
Comes singing.
And last of all but not the least
Our well-loved Rector to the feast
His message bringing.
And as with rhythmic step they pace
The candles light each happy face
And spicy fragrance fills the air
From Christmas trees placed here and there
Their tinsel gleaming.
And high aloft on carved screen
Behold a wondrous star is seen
Its soft light beaming.

So down thru the years I hope they'll sing
Over and over
Each dear old hymn with recollection
For though some weary and wander away
Yet most will return at a later day
With renewed affection
For the powerful link which memory forges
Will draw us back to old St.George's
Some day.

Calvary's Cross

"Lord take away pain", rose my anguished prayer
"Oh take away sorrow and tears
Let me rest from the weary nights of pain
Set me free from tormenting fears."

To my soul He spoke in the silent night
From the depths of His infinite love.

"Shall I take away pain", the Saviour said
"With its power to cleanse and refine
To teach you courage and sympathy
And make you more wholly mine?
Shall I take away sorrow that knits heart to heart
And tears that wash away sin?
Such answer, my child, would mean ultimate loss
Shall I take from the world its Calvary's Cross?"


To be resigned need not mean
To be hopeless or depressed
Or drained of all ambition to achieve
Rather it means acceptance of a plan
In which we play our part
As we believe.

Too small our minds
To grasp His mighty plan
Enough to tread the path
His followers trod
To do each day what conscience bids us do
And praying, leave the rest to God.

Home Again

I've come back to my comfortable pew
As from the first I feared I'd likely do
I thought I'd find some better way
To serve my fellows more
Than singing hymns and making calls
And serving teas galore.

Alas the spirit faltered for the flesh was weak
I'm back now in my same old seat.

I see the same faces in the pews
A little older maybe
White heads everywhere
Without the hats that used to shield
We look like dandelions in a field!

However I'm much too old to care
I love them all
And sink back with a sigh
I've come back home again
To serve as best I can
Until I die.


Some poets seek for inspiration
'Mid sylvan glades and hills
Or strolling down a winding path
Alight with daffodils.
Alas, I have no time to squander
I've dishes to wash and clothes to launder
So when I have a thought sublime
And to jot it down I find no time
At midnight when I cannot sleep
Or oft upon the toilet seat
I sit and ponder!

Flying Geese

Last summer we decided, my friends and I
To make a nice quilt somebody would buy
Give the church money and have some fun
And feel quite proud when our quilt was done.

So we gathered bright cottons, pink, green, yellow and blue
And looked for a pattern not too hard to do
Flying Geese was the pattern we finally chose
It was easy to make, for the geese flew in rows
One row flew north, the next row flew south
(For they had no leader to shoot off his mouth).

Well, we worked every Tuesday until it was done
We laughed and we gossiped, it really was fun
Bright geese, pink and yellow, and green and blue
They mounted in piles as our fingers flew
We sewed them in rows on a lavender "sky"
And they really looked pretty (I can't think why).

Now I wish that my tale had a happier end
That we'd sold our fine quilt to a generous friend
But alas, the fine stitches we carefully took
Were doomed to be covered with ashes and soot!
Our quilt was destroyed in a terrible blaze
While we stood by helpless and felt in a daze.

Gay, pretty wild geese on a lavender sky
Your wings are now singed and you never will fly
But the memory lingers of warm summer days
When we came close together in so many ways
Not a cent did we make, but we had our reward
And we'll make some more geese if it pleases the Lord.
(The Victoria Memorial Hall of St.George's burnt down on 10 October 1978. Our quilt was in it.)

Take Time to Listen

However busy you may be, take time to listen
Still your hands and calm your heart
Before you face the day.

And listen to that still small voice within
Don't stifle it with cries for help or pleas for better things
God knows your needs far better than do you
Let Him arrange your day.

Who knows but that some word of yours
Could help a neighbour in distress
Could help a doubter to believe
Listen, and He will help you to achieve.

A Toast

Oh it's easy to smile
When the world's smiling too
And everything's chipper and fine
And health and success
Make your blood fairly fizz
Like bubbles on top of the wine.

But when the tide turns
And there's things he's afraid of
It's then that a man
Shows the stuff he is made of.

So all power to the man
Who's the toast of the town
But hats off to the one
Who can smile when he's down!

On What a Nuisance

Sometimes, when suffering from frustration
I cry aloud in my vexation
"Oh, what a nuisance to grow old
To watch one's frailties unfold
In daily aberration!"

My small alarm clock always stands
Within the reach of my two hands
So why this morning, by my bed
Did I find a milk bottle instead?
(Something clicked within my head.)

My milkman comes at half past eight
So luckily I was not too late
For if he'd come an hour before
He'd have found my clock outside the door!

Our Women's Auxiliary

People are saying we've had our day
But don't you believe it, we're still going strong
In time to come, we'll prove them wrong.

It's true we can't quilt as we used to could
But maybe that"s really all to the good
For there's things more important than just making quilts
There's helping and praying and just being there
When someone is lonely and wants you to care.
They just call up Penny, in a jiffy she's there
With Mildred beside her to do her share
And the rest of us try to follow their lead

But I guess we'll never entirely succeed.
But at least we're not dead, as I'm sure they'd agree
If they just listen in when we're having a spree!
(written after two quilts raised $390 for St.George's)

Our Zoo

In Granby we have a fine zoo
Come see if you think it's not true
We have birds, beasts and fish
Snakes and eels if you wish
But you may have to search for a "loo"!


Did you ever see a pink flamingo?
Well neither had I 'till today, by jingo
When I saw them down at the Granby zoo
And the word to describe them is "gro-tes-que!"

Though perhaps you pronounce it to rhyme with "desk"
My kid brother didn't, and he knew best
For they sure "growed eskew", I know you'd agree
If you just take the trouble to go down and see.

For they wade on spindle-shanks four feet high
And run on the water when they take off to fly
Their feathers are pink and then- necks are like hoses
And they have a remarkable hook to their noses
Which they keep out of sight a good share of the time
For they feed under water, way down in the slime.

When they stretch out their necks and stalk o'er the sand
They remind me of Alice in Wonderland
For on nothing so strange did you e'er chance to look
Unless on a page of that wonderful Book.

Yet for me these weird birds have a strange fascination
As something unique in the way of creation!

A Dream

Last night I had a wonderful dream
I was eating a short cake with gobs of whipped cream
Though of course I'm supposed to keep to my diet
There was just no one there to check or deny it.

Then I suddenly found myself up on a hill
With a path leading down and the wind was so chill
That I took to my heels, and ran like a hare
With never a thought of my old wheel chair!

O, isn't it great, when life's just a pain
To escape to a place where you're young again
Where nothing has changed, you can walk or drive
And it feels so good just to be alive.

Well, I hope sometime that I'll awake
Where there's never a pain and never an ache
But in the meantime, I hope I may dream
Of good folks around me, and lots of whipped cream!

Growing Old

Growing old is not so bad
I've got more leisure than I ever had
I've lots of folks to tote me around
They send me candy by the pound
And books and flowers by the scad -
Yes, growing old is not so bad!

But if you ache in every joint
You will no doubt dispute the point.

A Fantasy

The stars are shining up above
Can't you hear them hum?
What's the use of going to bed
When sleep will never come!
Join me on the balcony
The balcony's my throne
From which I view a fairyland
Every bit my own.

The moon is shining thru the leaves
It gilds my silver hair
And makes me feel I'm like a queen
Infinitely fair.
The birds are twittering in their nests
Home-lovers all are they
The crickets chirp down in the dirt
My humble folk at play.

The roses in the garden
Are the fairest of my realm
And yonder cloud's a dream-boat
With a snow-man at the helm.
The breezes bring me messages
They whisper in my ear
They tell me romance is not dead
Nor dreams of yesteryear.

The scented breeze so lulls me
That I slumber on my throne
And wist not of an enemy
Until I hear the drone
Of four and twenty squadrons
Of mosquitos o'er my head
And then I promptly abdicate
And scurry off to bed!

Along My Way

It's just occurred to me today
How much I owe in every way
To the folks I meet from day to day -

A knock on my door, a cheery smile
My son has come to chat awhile
His little dog bolts straight thru the door
On a bee-line for the cooky drawer.

The toot of a horn I hear outside
Someone is taking me out for a ride
They tuck me in snugly and snap my seat belt
From rain they protect me as though I would melt!

Kind friends have asked me out to lunch
I think they likely have a hunch
That I miss my loved ones gone before
And friends I knew but see no more.

A hand grasping mine when the going is tough
Brings tears to my eyes, but its just enough
To stiffen my back for another day
O, thanks to the folks that I meet on my way.


My name is conscience,
I'm the lad
Who tells you what is good or bad
I am a pest,
I know that well
And yet without me you'd go to
Now hark to me, you take that job
No letting down, or Til play hob!
Just work and sing like the busy bee
Till they write on your tombstone R.I.P.
(to a reluctant candidate for president of the W A.)

Second Thoughts

O how I wish I could be young again
That everything looked bright and clear
That I never had to cup an ear
To hear what folks were saying!
That days were full of things to do
And each day I had strength anew
And glad anticipation.

But I forget how tired I got
How weary of the daily round
How bored because I had no time
To just enjoy the world around
To do the things I longed to do
And make some of my dreams come true.

Now it's too late to sit and dream
Of all the things that might have been
But now I've time to sit and rock
To visit friends and laugh and talk
Time to gaze in admiration
At all the wonders of God's creation.

So now you see I'm more alive
Than when I was just twenty-five
Although I'm really ninety-three
And not as spry as I used to be!

Ira Huxtable

We miss our old neighbour from across the way
And watch for his light at the close of day
But the window is blank and seems almost to glower
Like a T.V. screen when you shut off the power
Yet no giant was he in brain or in span
Just a whimsical, friendly, little old man
With a fund of dry humour no grief could assuage
A friend to all comers whatever their age.

A Smile

Are you, my friend, grown old like me
Your hearing poor, you can hardly see?
Do days seem long as you sit alone
And the nights still longer as you lie and groan?

Do you weep and tell each soul you see
How really hopeless things seem to be
And put on a show for their sympathy?

Don't waste your breath! They've troubles too
It only irks them thru and thru
To listen to your lamentations.

Put on a smile for just that while
Make yourself warm to them, thank them for caring
(Even if really you find them quite wearing.)

Of course at times your effort's in vain
They have no sympathy with your pain
They are even it seems a trifle snooty
Because they are only doing their duty.

But often you win an answering smile
And can count that a victory well worth while
For when that friend has gone away
You'll feel its warmth for the rest of the day.


Now does it not seem strange to you
When autumn leaves are every hue
And I should like so much to stray
To stay inside and clean all day?
But rain or shine or drunk or sober
We always houseclean in October!

On My List

So many people to pray for tonight
So many things only God can set right
So many people with faith so dim
They go their own way with no thought of Him.

So I think I shall make a long list of them all
Lest I leave out some sinner who's set for a fall
Or some poor old soul who cries in the night
And has almost decided to give up the fight.

"But what good can it do", you may say with a shrug
"For an old dame like you to kneel on a rug
And offer up prayers that no one will hear?"

"Well of course you may think that, I did once, my dear
But I know better now, for I've felt a firm hand
Guiding me out of the sinking sand."

So I think God will hear me tonight as I pray
And care for each one in His own special way.

Jeanne Landry

There's a woman down in Edmundston
Jeanne Landry is her name
She has our Charlotte Whitton
Completely put to shame.

Not only is she prettier
But wittier as well
And what she's planning to do next
You just can never tell!

I like her chicken Bar B.Q.
I like her jolly way
But best of all I like the way
She brightens up my day.

Jack Landry

It's been a pleasure to know you, Jack
You're one of the few who have the knack
Of making people feel at ease
You always do your best to please
And often manage to appease
When trouble's imminent.

So when you reach the pearly gate
They'll welcome you as sure as fate
For they must be weary of harps and such
And those old songs they've sung so much
So they'll say, "Come in, Jack, for we all know
You're a regular whiz on the pi-a-no."

A Thought

How can the Lord give thought to me
A mote in all eternity?
How find the time to hear my plea
Or deal with my uncertainty?

And yet sometimes I'm almost sure
He slaps me when I'm too cock-sure
And helps me when I need it most
Not when I feel inclined to boast
But when I honestly desire
To help someone in trouble dire.

And it relieves me of all tension
To know God's bound by no dimension
For be it an elephant or a gnat
He plans for its food and its habitat
A concern so great is inconceivable
So I have to believe in the unbelievable!