Monday, February 28, 2011

The House that Built Me - Part 3 - Tiny Country School

When we moved to the little cottage in the Fall, I once again had to start over at a new school. We moved a lot before we bought the cottage – in fact, I was never in the same school for more than 2 years at a time. It made it hard to make friends so I concentrated on learning – probably a good thing now that I look back on it.

The only school in the town of Bonfield was a french school and even though I am of French Canadian heritage, I wasn’t taught the language growing up while going to school in Southern Ontario. Both Mom and Dad are bilingual but only spoke french when we were visiting their families.  It also came in quite handy for them when they were discussing something they didn’t want me to overhear – I remember trying so hard to understand what they were saying and over the years I did manage to learn enough to understand most sentences – but it took a while.

The nearest school for me to attend was 10 miles away and my Dad had to fight with the school board to get them to send a bus to pick me up. The school was in an even smaller farming town called Rutherglen.  The school had 3 classrooms – Grades 1&2 in one class, 3&4’s in another, and I was in the 5&6 class. Our principal was the teacher for 5’s and 6’s.  I was just starting Grade 5 and so I spent 2 years at that school before going to North Bay for Junior High which was another 2 years in a different school. Luckily, most of the friends I made in that tiny school house in Rutherglen had to go to North Bay too, so I had some friends with me to start the scary life of high school.

This is a photo of it as it stands now. It's no longer used as a school.
This was the Grade 5/6 class. I'm the third from the right in the front row. My Mom made that blue dress for me. It was always one of my favorites!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One for my memory bank!

My Granddaughter Hailie loves stickers! Today when we were visiting my Mom, she pulled out some address labels she has. Both Mom and I were putting them over our mouths and pretending we couldn't talk. Hailie attempted to do the same only she didn't have the sticky side towards her mouth. We told her to turn it around and she proceeded to turn her self around in a circle! Too cute! Love you Hailie Bear!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The House that Built Me - Part 2

I can’t remember how much time passed after we viewed the little shack with the real estate agent, but it wasn’t long before we moved in.  It was in the Fall of the year and the place needed much work before it was liveable. I’m not sure of the exact time my parents told me we were moving to that place or the day we moved in, but I do remember the ground shaking along with the cottage and all it’s contents whenever a train would roll by. The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) tracks ran right behind our house – about 100-150 ft away! Because it was a crossing that several cottages used to access their driveways, they would have to blow the train whistle every time they approached it. That took some getting used to!

Mom and Dad had the only bedroom so they put my bed in the back corner of the house where my bedroom would eventually be built – it’s been a long time joke between us that all I had for a bedroom that first year was a “space”!

The first thing we did was get rid of the old furniture that came with the place and clean! We cleaned and cleaned and Mom painted the walls and ceilings! Winter was coming quickly and we had no wood for the wood stove my Dad put in to replace the old oil furnace, so that was next on the list.  When the lake was frozen enough we would take the snowmobile and sled and travel up the lake a bit to crown land where we cleared out the dead trees that were laying down. Dad would cut them up with the chain saw and I would help haul them to the sled. Once we got them home, he’d chop and split the wood and I would help pile it. We did that every weekend that winter.

 To be continued…

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The House that Built Me - Part 1

  I was born in Southern Ontario and lived there for the first 9 years of my life. Both of my parents were born and raised in Northern Ontario and decided they wanted to move back up north to be closer to their families. My Dad  found a job working in a large mining company as a plant foreman in North Bay, so that’s where we were headed.

  We packed all our belongings, moved up north, and rented a house in the city while my parents looked for a place to purchase. They wanted a quiet place in the country and preferably on a lake. The near north, as they call that area, is dotted with lakes – some large and some small.

  I’ll never forget the day we drove out to the country…it seemed like we drove forever before we turned off the main highway and onto a secondary highway which led to the tiny French village of Bonfield, which is situated on the north shore of Lake Nosbonsing. The first thing I remember seeing was a tiny damn with a little waterfall beside a park and train tracks – lots of train tracks! We  took the first bend in the road, crossed the tracks, and on to another sharp bend which had a general store to the left. The store was located in an old house with the owners living quarters in the back. It was a typical  farmhouse style with green wood siding and the store at the front. It’s no longer there but I can still picture it in my mind.

Photo of Bonfield Ontario

  We drove through the town and turned on a small dirt road that followed the west side of the lake. We crossed an old rusty iron bridge, crossed the tracks again, and drove about a quarter of a mile along the lakeside before turning into another small road that was more like a driveway entrance to a string of cottages on the lake. The train tracks ran between the dirt road and row of cottages that faced the lake,so we had to cross the tracks again on the driveway before finding the cottage where we were to meet the real estate agent.

Even though I was only nine years old, I remember thinking that this was not the kind of place that I wanted to live. It was the boonies and I didn’t even know what the boonies where then! I was used to living in a large city in nice homes, in nice suburbs, not a tiny town out in the bush! But of course it wasn’t up to me.

  We pulled into the end of the long driveway where we met the real estate agent. I couldn’t believe that my parents were even looking at a place like that! It was no more than a shack as far as I was concerned. It looked horrible on the outside and I could only imagine what the inside looked like.

  We got out of the car and followed the agent inside. I was right! The place was horrible! There was an old oil furnace in the middle of the main room which had spewed black soot all over the ceiling. There was only 1 small bedroom, a tiny bathroom with a shower stall, and small kitchen. The only redeeming quality it had, was it was on the lake. But even the front yard leading to the lake was in dire need of work as the man who owned it, only used it as a party place and had gravel poured on the front lawn to use for parking.

 Dad listened to the agent tell him about the property and cottage while Mom and I snuck away. When we were back in the car, Mom and I looked at each other and both said “No way are we living here!”  Dad came back to the car and we drove back to the city. I thought that would be the end of it and I would never see that little shack again. Boy was I wrong! … be continued.