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Report on trip   Things Mom remembered about the old house 




Report on trip
Here is a letter that Marjorie Barmby and my mother, May Quale, sent out after their return from a trip with Walter and Melvin to Europe. I follow the letter with some of my memories of the visit as numbered footnotes.

Regina, Saturday, Aug 18, 1973
Dear Family Members and Friends,
Some of you have had recent notes from us and may wish to skip parts of this letter. We don't want to bore you. Walter and I are now basking in the lovely hospitality of May and Melvin. Harold will come for us Sun.
We made the flight from London to Regina with a stop in Toronto – flying time 10 hours. The huge 747 over the Atlantic was very smooth, the weather beautiful. When we flew to London on July 4 it was night and we missed seeing the splendid cloud formations and sometimes sight of land and sea.
Janet and Harry Kwasniak met us in London and took us to a small hotel in Loughborough (1), about 100 miles north by only 8 miles from their home in Kegworth (2). Both were having holidays for a while and came for us many times for sight-seeing (3) and usually took us to their place for supper. We used our 21 day rail passes for many trips, including five days to Scotland. We had a crash course on a glimpse of England. Our interest in the courty's affairs and its past were heightened by what we saw. We inspected old and very, very old churches, museums and ruins. It was a great pleasure to view the central country from the train to and from Scotland (different routes) and later up the eastern area to Driffield where we visited Walter's cousins, Eva Clarke, Ethel Leake and her husband George.(4) These cousins were all the Barmby relatives we found. They live together in a beautiful home and extended to us the warmest of hospitality. They do not travel and seemed delighted to have us. We spent hours looking at pictures and tracing the family tree.
Janet and Harry met us again at Harrogate (near Leeds). We spent three wonderful days with them at the home of their friends there. Then we were off by train to Newcastle where we took a night passage to Bergen. I'll let May elaborate on the out-of-this-world beauty of Norway, the marvellous hospitality of Melvin's relatives and our trips by bus, rail, ferry and car through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Holland. We spend three exciting days in beautiful Copenhagen. With 5 cameras among us we feel certain we'll come up with something worth sharing – perhaps a travelogue for the next reunion.
Walter says, “The old castles, churches and museums are all very interesting but most interesting is learning how the common people of Britian and Scandinavia live – how a Norwegian farmer dries his hay on the family clothesline; why beer in Denmark is cheaper than coffee; or why you can't get a drink of water on their trains. Take off your hat to the London bus driver who can put an 8' bus thro a 7'6” opening and never scratch the paint. All the good and smart people do not live in the western hemisphere.”
Melvin says, “The English train system is very good but brooms seem very scarce.” He was usually appalled at the electrical work he saw.
My advice – do all the travelling you can while you're young with plenty of stamina.
Love, Marjorie

Here's May,
the highlight for me, of course, was visiting Janet and Harry in their own home and meeting their lovely friends. I visited Janet at her work in the Biochemistry Dept of the Leicester University. She is also taking courses in the Open University and hope to have her degree this fall. She is a very busy girl.
A second highlight was our visit to Mel's relations in the Valdres Valley – undoubtedly the most beautiful spot in the world. The beauty was only exceeded by the hospitality which we enjoyed in eight different homes.
Although the people everywhere we found to be open, friendly, honest and helpful, the greatest thrill as always was to arrive home again, safe and healthy. We are adjusting to the 7 hour time change and a normal way of life is fast overtaking us.
We learned one thing – When you travel abroad, take less clothes and more money.
Love, May
  1. The small hotel was actually a bed-and-breakfast run by a family that really took to the foursome. The landlady had grown up in one of the villages on a local lord's estate and had baby sat his children years before. Whenever she had guests that she thought were special enough, she would contact the lord and get him to give her guest a tour of the manor house and grounds. So it was that the 6 of us went to the manor. His staff took us around because he was inspecting some fields in his helicopter. So we visited a almost stately, but honestly very old manor including things like its dovecote. Near the end of the visit we were in the magnificent garden and were being shown medieval plantings. Marjorie spied a type of mother-hen-and-chicks plant that she had to have and so when no one was looking she bent down and started to dig one out with a spoon. It was at this point that the lord returned from his inspections. He was charming condescension itself. He helped Marjorie to her feet and told one of the servants to get a trowel and containers to get the plant for Marjorie. Walter was vivid, Mom and Mel were embarrassed, and Harry and I were close to laughing out loud. The lord and his servant were absolutely serene. On the way back home we were treated to Harry's opinion of the landed gentry especially ones as rich and family-ed as this one. We inherited the plant because Walter was not going to have it in the luggage when they returned to Canada – it's illegal to bring in plants.
  2. We lived in a tiny, newly built row house. It had one room downstairs which had a kitchen around the back of the stairway, a table area next to that and then a carpeted live room. The whole downstairs was smaller than most peoples living rooms. Up stairs there was a smallish bedroom, a bathroom and a box room. There was a 'postage stamp' of yard front and back. The visitors couldn't stay with us but they spent a lot of time there. They could not get over how small the house was. They also could not get over how small our car was. When we went somewhere, Harry and one of them would have the two front seats, three of them would crowd into the bench seat in the back, and I would sit sidewise on the floor of the little space behind the back seat. It would take some time to load and unload the group. Another wonder of our living style was that we shopped every day and didn't have a frig. After a few days they went out and brought one. That evening after walking past the frig several times and not noticing it, I asked Harry where the milk was (it was usually on the back window sill) and everyone said at once, “its in the frig”. I opened the frig and got it and then said, “But we don't have a frig.” Big laugh.
  3. When we were sight-seeing. It would come lunch time and so we would look for a pub with food. There was one in Loughborough that we went to if we were in the area. So the publican was familiar with the group. One day Marjorie, Mom and I arrived at the pub and the publican said, “the lads are in the corner.” Although they couldn't see us, they could heard the remark and thought it was very great to be called 'the lads'. They were on about being the lads for the rest of the day. One of the first places we took them was a very small, very old church that I knew was not locked and had a nice brass rubbing plaque. They had a good time there poking around. I thought that was it for little old churches. But it was not. Every time Marjorie saw an old church, she would want to stop. Once when Marjorie said, “Oh there an old church.” Walter said, “All the villages have churches and all the churches are old. We can't stop at all of them.” And once when we were going to see a very old pub in Nottingham. Marjorie was not keen and said, “You see one pub, you've seen them all.” Melvin said, “You see one church, you've seen them all.” For all the discomfort of the little car, and all the remarks about too many churches or too many pubs, everyone stayed in the great mood. Mel took the trouble to secretly have a piss in each and every church yard.
  4. Melvin was quite taken with George Leake. One, because he took Mel and Walter to the pub right away and introduced them to his friends there. And two, because he had never been to Hull or York, the two closest cities. Mel keep saying, “He never even went to Hull!” I think the cousins fed Walter too much creamy sweets for he got a gall bladder attack when he was back in Harrowgate.
Things Mom remembered about the old house
Emily Cushing and I used to play up in the attic. There were lots of old magazines and we would cut out all the Campbell Kids and paste them in scrap books.
I was always mixed up in my directions in the attic. I had to look out the window into the yard to straighten myself out. I think it was because of the change of direction in the two stairways going up to the attic.
The house was very well built. The walls were back plastered with a dead air space for insulation. When Ronnie Houghtaling cut a window in the south wall of the east bedroom for Mother he cut through nine layers of material. No wonder it was a warm home.
I remember the wonderful aroma through the upstairs when Mother would have five or six boxes of apples stored along the south wall in her bedroom. The winter supply of of apples were of several varieties: Red Delicious, Macs, Golden Delicious, Winesap, Banana. In the evening we would being down a big dish of assorted apples for a family treat. Apples in those days had a delightful smell that they don't seem to have now.
I remember the big folding screen that was used for a little privacy when a bed was made up in the big front room. That room often served as a bedroom. There was a huge cupboard that looked like a chest of drawers. But it unfolded into a bed. Some times when Emily would come over to stay all night we would get to sleep in that bed with the screen around us.
I remember the old summer kitchen. It was made of the two granaries that had been Mothers first home on the farm. When the house was built the stairway came down into the kitchen. Then later a landing and a turn were made so the steps came into the main room.
During the winter months, a big stove was set up in the front room. The stove pipes went up through the floor into the west bedroom and then across through the east bedroom to the chimney. A lot of heat was given off by those pipes. During the summer, there was the hole in the floor in the west bedroom. If you lay on your stomach with your ear to the hole you could hear everything said downstairs.
To make the west bedroom into two rooms, Dad had Mr. Sonder come out and build a room divider. It consisted of two clothes closets with cupboards above and a bookcase desk on the south side.
We used to throw the dirty clothes into the attic stairway. Then on wash day we'd kick them down the stairs into the dining room. There they would be sorted into piles of whites, darks etc. Mother would have a copper boiler of water on the stove to heat. The hard water had to be softened with lye. A thick scum would form and it had to be skimmed off. Part of the time the washing was done in the old kitchen and in the summer in a granary next to the house, later on the front screened in porch. Before Mother got a washing machine with a motor, she used a gas engine to run the machine. She was an expert at running that engine.
Mother made her own soap with beef tallow and lye. Before wash day some of the hard soap would have to be cut up and melted down with hot water ready to add to the washing. I still have the pitcher she used to dissolve the lye when making the soap. It had to be exactly the right temperature and so did the melted fat before they were mixed together. It was such good soap but only worked in soft water.
After Grandpa Krewson died in 1928, the new kitchen was built. It was partitioned into three rooms, a pantry, a little bedroom and the kitchen. There was no room for a dining table, so food was served in the dining room.
Sometimes Mother would say, “I just have to have a nap”. She would take something to read, and lie down in the little bedroom. In five minutes she would be back at work. Her dishwater would not have gotten cold. Two lines of reading were enough to put her to sleep. What a trick!
When Milly and Ronnie lived on section 28, Milly didn't like the partitions in that kitchen. One rainy day when Ronnie was sleeping on the couch, Milly woke him to ask if he would take out the partitions as he had sort of promised. He sleepily agreed. When he woke up she had removed everything in readiness. Ronnie wanted to know what she was doing. When she told him what he had promised, he was mad! The partitions came down and out with a bang! After that the kitchen was one room and there was a place for a dining table.
When the new kitchen was built, a cistern was made to catch the rain off the roof. The various members of the family there at the time put their hand prints in the top of the cistern. Now that the house is gone, the cistern is out in the open and those hand prints are easily seen. Dad used to get the cistern filled in early spring from snow melt before the ground thawed. It was good water. There were no chemicals used at that time to pollute the water.
The snow used to be so clean. Often when it came down softly, we would catch some and mix it with cream and sugar for an ice cream treat. It was easier than turning the freezer although we did that a lot too. Dad sure loved ice cream.