I appreciate how much of today’s story involves the intricate description of food. I find when I’m describing places I’ve been or experiences I’ve had, it usually starts with “remember that time we went to Virginia Beach and our hotel was across from Ben and Jerry’s and we ate ice cream for breakfast”. Or “I really miss living in St. Lazare, the goat cheese sandwiches at Anise et Marjolaine were divine”. Basically I’m either eating, planning what to eat, or thinking about what I just ate. Grandma’s cake was one of my top favourite treats and I was delighted to find that the bakery in our grocery store in Quebec sold a very similar one (did I mention how great the food was when we lived in Quebec?)
The path down the hill to Uncle Jack’s (Kumlin’s now) may not be as well worn, but visiting with them still is something that I always enjoy. When I was a kid the path was used regularly as I’d take off on my pony for quiet rides along the creek by their place.
Percy was secretary for the hall for many, many years. Margy, his sister, got married later in the year to Jack C. Buckley of Springbank. I was immediately put on sandwich making committee for the hall dances. We would order twelve or fourteen sandwich loaves unsliced and slice them very thin. Two lbs butter warmed to soft consistency to spread easy. Ham bought then sliced very thin at the butcher shop and about four large tins of salmon mixed with a little homemade salad dressing. The sandwiches were really good but the cakes everyone brought to the dances were just scrumptious. A favourite was one Nan Copithorne used to make – a big plane white cake with white icing covered with toasted almonds. Everyone seemed to be such a good cook what a goal I had to set myself! It wasn’t easy, but before long I had mastered a few good recipes too. It was so nice having Archie McLean taking full charge of the kitchen and making such delicious coffee in the two big copper boilers. He also cleaned the hall and all for only five dollars a night.
Aunt Ada (Mrs Jimmie Nicoll) always wore a million dollar smile and she had the art of meeting everyone at the dances and making them feel especially welcome. It was nice always having a floor manager – announcing each dance etc. They always had one moonlight waltz and when the evening was over they would dance the to the song “Home Sweet Home” and everyone sang it. Usually the ladies wore big ball gowns even though it was the dirty 30s. Our hall was beautiful with dozens of Japanese lanterns and balloons hung from the ceiling. We had a pretty good orchestra too, but Percy played the violin and that meant I had to sit out a lot of dances.
Like Wordsworth’s description of Hiawatha’s friends “Straightway ran the path between them, never grew the grass upon it” <it’s actually Straight between them ran the pathway, Never grew the grass upon it”, but I googled and I’m betting Grandma wrote that from memory>, the path between me and Jack Copithorne’s and Nicoll’s was certainly well worn. We seemed to meet at least once a week for tea, and always walked, as it didn’t seem far. Aunt Ada was an exceptionally fine cook, her lemon jelly rolls and hot biscuits just make my mouth water to think of them. Nan Copithorne was always sewing and redecorating. I remember one time she decided to paint her long dining room in red and pink. We were all quite horrified, just couldn’t imagine anything pleasant about that combination. When she was finished she had us down for tea and were we ever surprised! It was beautiful! We learned that tones and shades made all the different effects. Nan’s homemade bread was superb. For tea in June she would often serve strawberries, rich yellow cream, fresh bread and fresh homemade butter.
But the laughter and gaiety of these gatherings out shone any food you could mention. Everyone had such a crew of young men working for them and everyone home a girl to help too and they were all like one big happy family. They just made their own fun to compensate for the hard work.