Last month I blogged about a Victorian tea party I attended on the grounds of a local museum. If you are a history lover, please join me for part two of the tour, a visit to yesteryear.
While the Victorian cottage is one of the original buildings on the museum site, there are many others. Most have been moved to the site, including a one room schoolhouse, a small church and a log cabin from the days of the early settlers, as well as a local lighthouse.
The 1919 church with the original pipe organ in the corner.
The one room schoolhouse.
At the risk of sounding like someone from Little House on the Prairie, I seldom admit I once attended a one room schoolhouse. It was located less than half a mile down the road from our farm, within walking distance even for a first grader, and was the same school my dad and all his ancestors had attended. In 1963 the government closed all the remaining rural schools, and our parents drove us into town to the Catholic school until the bus system was started a few years later.
What do I remember from my year and a half there? Not much, as I was only six. The big wood burning stove, so hot you could cook hot dogs wrapped in tin foil on top for lunch,
games of baseball for all ages at recess, getting the strap once (just a little tap on our hands) for talking in class and being made to stand in the corner with my cousin – much more humiliating. The teacher was always yelling and in a bad mood – can you imagine trying to teach 40 kids of all ages. It may sound archaic, but I suppose it would be similar to home schooling now, with different age appropriate lessons. As there were only three of us in grade one, myself, my cousin and an unkempt boy whose family no one knew, we did not get much attention, but I must have absorbed something from listening to her teach the older grades, as when we were given tests at the new school I passed with 92%. (They thought we were country hicks who would have to be held back a year). My new grade two teacher was pleasantly surprised and told my parents I was smart, a moment I remember to this day. I always had a friendly rivalry with the boy sitting in front of me over who would get top honors, sometimes it was him, sometimes me, and as I went on to graduate from the University of Toronto, it didn’t to me any harm, although I admit some kids who needed extra attention were not as lucky.
Compare this slate with the tablets of today. I vaguely remember the sound of the school bell being rung.
At the one room schoolhouse the grade ones were let out half an hour early, and my cousin, who lived next door, and I would dawdle along, catching tadpoles in the ditches, playing in the snowbanks and making up fairy stories, the road being lined with beautiful trees, (channeling Anne of Green Gables here), and arrive home the same time as my siblings. It seems I remember more than I had thought.
Here is a picture of the class of 1934, with the school in the background appearing larger than I remember.
This is a log cabin from 1874, not a replica but an actual cabin moved to the site to preserve a part of history.
My great-grandparents John and Ellen were married in 1870 and I try to imagine my Irish ancestors living in such a small drafty house during their early years on the farm. The old white farmhouse I grew up in had two parts, the initial smaller dwelling and a larger addition with bedrooms upstairs to accommodate their growing family of nine children.
This picture of an old stove certainly puts my complaints about the ongoing delays in my kitchen reno into perspective. What my ancestors would have given for such modern conveniences as a stove you could turn on with the touch of a button.
Not too keen on the sleeping arrangements, a loft accessed by very steep stairs. I remember my dad saying some of his uncles slept upstairs in the granary when it was new, which probably looked like this. I imagine it was freezing in the winter, hence the quilts.
Open concept floor plans were popular back then too! We have an antique farm table dating from 1870, longer than this one.
While most farms had large vegetable gardens, including rhubarb, and were mainly self-sufficient,
there were times you simply had to go into town for a few provisions at the general store,
and perhaps a new hat.
The model train room, which boasts three large train sets, is always a hit with the guys.
As well as the individual buildings, there is a large agricultural building full of old farm implements such as this cutter/sleigh. We had one just like it and my dad sometimes took it for a spin behind the Clydesdales.
There is also a large exhibition hall, with a marine room and different display rooms and lots of historical archives. It does seem strange that my Barbie/Skipper carry case has now achieved vintage status.
I remember playing with this doll house too.
Several volunteers were setting up the loom for a display of weaving the day of our visit, a time consuming process. There was no fast fashion back then.
And of course, I always enjoy looking at old medical exhibits, such as this infirmary,
Perhaps somewhere among those antique bottles is a clue for my (long neglected) murder mystery? Agatha Christie used the knowledge acquired during her days as an apothecary apprentice when writing her books.
When I think back to the changes in my profession over the past one hundred years – the invention of penicillin and antibiotics, vaccines, insulin – these are discoveries which saved lives. In my student days pharmacy labels were prepared on typewriters, not as ancient as this one as ours were electric with correcto-tape.
The last forty years of my career has seen the implementation of computers (a massive improvement for record keeping, drug information and drug interactions), clot-busters for preventing damage in heart attack and stroke, palliative care measures for end of life, improved chemotherapy, drugs for depression and mental illness, biologicals for autoimmune diseases, and more new drugs on the market than you can possibly keep up with. When I think of the future – targeted chemotherapy, gene therapy, cures for diseases never thought possible – it is amazing the amount of change that can happen over the course of a century.
One Christmas my father was given one of those autobiography books to document your life for the grandchildren. One of the questions was what are the most important changes you have seen in your life as compared to that of your grandparents.
“When my grandparents settled here the land was all bush. Roads were Indian trails. People lived far apart. They had to build houses, barns, roads, clear land. Walking and horses were the main modes of travel. Machinery was crude or non-existent. Since then tractors and combines have been invented. Hydro, paved roads, cars, radios, toasters, tvs, micowaves, computers. Household goods and furnishings have changed such as washers and dryers, refrigerators and stoves, air conditioning in summer and furnaces in winter instead of a wood stove. My mother churned butter and we had an ice box and a root cellar for vegetables, an outhouse, no running water in the house and having to heat water on the stove for a bath. Materials are softer now than the scratchy clothes I wore as a child. You have toys now that we never dreamed of. The biggest changes are education and modern schools, and medicines and childhood diseases.”
My father was a child of the Depression, and one of changes he recalled was hydro. The farm didn’t get hydro until after WW2, 1947, and all of a sudden you had lights in the barn and weren’t milking cows by lantern light, and you could stay up late with hydro in the house. Worth thinking about the next time I grumble because the power is out a few hours due to a storm. As to the future, he commented on computers and the internet which was just starting up. In the twenty years since he died we now have – Google, Youtube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Siri, Spotify, Netflix, IPods, IPads, GPS, digital cameras and clouds which are not rain clouds, although we have plenty of those too! We are now testing cars that drive themselves, robots and artificial intelligence. It feels like something out of the Jetsons – that old 60’s cartoon about a futuristic world which was very predictive. Does anyone else remember the theme music?
What will the future hold? Maybe someday my old 1986 DOS computer, currently residing in the basement, with it’s orange blinking screen and large floppy disks, will be on display at the museum, resting behind the electronics exhibit, along with a Sony Walkman and a ghetto-blaster.
As a history lover, I feel it is important to preserve our heritage, and I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the past.
Postscript: My mother painted the log cabin (two versions), but she placed it in winter time, as my ancestors arrived here in late October, not expecting snow. Is the lighthouse a beacon to the new world? You can tell I’ve been hanging around the art world too much…
Postscript: This is my 100th post. I never would have imagined that!