Frannie's Blog

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Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada
I look for beauty and truth in everything. It's not always there of course but I try to find it or make it happen. I love people who make me laugh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, ( Way Back When...)

This is the house I grew up in. I still dream about it and everything remains very vivid. It had a certain smell and atmosphere which I can conjure up at will. The rooms were small by today's standards but we were lucky to live there and particularly enjoyed the wraparound porch which was screened in the summer. The only room I never went into was the attic, understandably, since the opening was just above the stairwell and a pretty scary climb.

The rent was something like $25/month. There was no garage, few people owned cars back then. My Dad walked to work, Mom walked to the village to shop and we walked to school. Train service was excellent and again, within walking distance. It was a nice way to live.

Our kitchen had five doors; back-porch, side porch (pictured) front hall, dining-room and cellar. There was painted burlap wainscoting around all the walls with dark wood trim. The colours I remember were teal blue and cream. Mom made the vintage frilly curtains on her treadle sewing machine and did the laundry in this ringer-washer. Forget about clothes-dryers...she used the line outside and in winter the stiff clothes were arrayed over the various radiators which we referred to as 'coils'. I would sometimes wake up at night to the sound of urgent thumping followed by hissing. That meant Dad was 'bleeding' the coils. It didn't bear thinking about.

Mom used the coal stove which involved carrying lumps of coal from the cellar (not a basement, it was very rough) in a skuttle and feeding them in through a hole in the top and poking them around to adjust the flames. In winter she would warm our clothes by the open oven door. The neatest thing was the upstairs grate which let the heat up to the bedrooms and through which my sister and I used to spy on the visiting grownups, sometimes sending down messages tied to a string. Messages like 'We need gingerale' or 'Come upstairs and see us.' It often worked.

Here I am, aged five, proudly holding my cherished Maggie Muggins doll on Christmas Day. I remember the beige and white flocked wallpaper installed by my parents. Tres chic for the time! On the table next to me are several tins of cigarettes, either Players or Export A, destined to be given as gifts to the milkman, iceman or coal deliveryman.

This is the idealized watercolour version I painted for my parents some years ago. The property seems considerably larger and the adjacent houses no longer exist, but everything about the house is correct and the poplar trees and hollyhocks were really there.


Joanna Olson said...

I loved reading this. It reminded me so much about
how I grew up too. My house doesn't exist any longer. Only recently it was torn down. Lots of good memories from your post.

frannie said...

Thanks Joanna,
One good thing about getting older is all the history we have to share.

Ronna said...

Just love this post Fran! I, too, dream about the house I grew up in in Cote St. Luc. Funny how that is. Great post!

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

Oh those memories. I have a picture of myself with a doll that I got for Christmas that looks so much like yours. I remember how much a new doll meant to me too. Funny when you think about it now and what kids get for Christmas. Not sure how many would even want a baby doll anymore.

frannie said...

That's so true Barbara, I don't recall my 4 year-old granddaughter wanting a doll. But she does like books, so that's a plus.

Lynne said...

Well, just took me back in a heartbeat with those photos. It made me think of the kitchen table with the enamel top, where we used to draw things in pencil...and Dad would draw his signature trains....or messages would be left on it. You still have that table, don't you ? Maybe you could draw something on it and add a photo to this group. I'm only saying...
I, too, dream of this house. Good times.

frannie said...

Lynne, re the enamel-top table; see earlier post on my studio.

Knatolee said...

These are great photos, and I love your painting.

You look very serious with your doll. :)

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