News from the Atlantic Veterinary College of a necropsy recently performed on an ocean sunfish that washed ashore on PEI last November reminded me of a story my great-grandmother submitted to a Bluenose News contest and was published in their July 1948 edition. Bluenose News was a small free magazine published by the Drummondville Cotton Company of Montreal, makers of fishing twine.
Cecil and Everett were two of her seven sons, five of whom were fishermen (the other two were my grandfather, Wilbur, who was prone to seasickness so became a farmer and box mill operator, and Elmer, who was a renowned market gardener and poultry keeper).
I’ve always had many questions about this piece. How did Cecil and Everett “give chase” in the slow boats they had pre-1948, and how fast is a sunfish? How did Eva get her hands on a copy of the December 1940 edition of Australian Wild Life in tiny Freeland, PEI? Did Eva have a diary where she recorded oddities like the exact measurements of strange fish caught by her sons and, if she did, where the heck is that diary now?
As I examine this story more closely, I realise that this is probably not a photo of the sunfish caught by my great-uncles, as Eva says “they gaffed a fish like the enclosed picture.” The fellow on the left doesn’t really look like any of my family, and cameras were still pretty rare in the 1940s and certainly not carried around while people were working by the ocean, so I guess this is just something she found somewhere.
Eva loved to read. My mother remembers that when the weekly Family Herald arrived, Eva put her work aside until she had read every word, then she would tell everyone the tales and tips she had learned. Beyond her family’s memories, I only met one woman about ten years ago who remembered going to the Hardy house as a little girl to hear Eva telling stories.
Having a story published must have been a big thrill for Eva and receiving the handsome sum of $10 would have been most welcome, too! I’m sure she told this story again and again.
The new fast charger in the Summerside Canadian Tire parking lot is now working. It costs a pretty penny, but I wanted to try it out to make sure I understood how it worked. It’s easy: plug in, wave pre-loaded Flo card at station, press green button, charge. The one at the O’Leary corner Tim Horton’s is also supposed to be online.
Had the funny experience again today of describing what it is like to own a GM product to someone who sells GM products. I’m not usually an early adopter of anything, so this is a funny place to be. Good thing I like to talk!
Great new tune and video from Tame Impala. I was so busy trying to follow how each person and scene changed over time that I didn’t notice the video aspect ratios also changed to match the decades (see, there is a benefit to sometimes peeking at YouTube comments!). Run Kevin Parker Run!
Now I find myself the co-chair of the PCHA Wishing Well Gift Shop committee while one of our members recovers from an illness. As someone who is consciously trying to not buy anything unnecessary, being the head of a group who sell knick-knacks along with items to cheer inpatients is a peculiar place to be!
I am not going to be much hands-on assistance as I live 45 km from the hospital, and I’m probably not the person to make decisions on buying Chinese-made doodads, so I am helping with things like updating forms, making lists, and creating spreadsheets. One thing we hope to improve upon is the gift shop branding, so I went searching for logos.
I found various digital versions of our PCH Auxiliary logo, but most seemed to be ugly scans of letterhead. I asked the helpful and good natured Bevan Woodacre, PCH Foundation‘s communications officer, if he might happen to have a nice copy of our logo and I was soon gifted with the keys to the Dropbox kingdom! He had been collecting these for some time, and I’m so grateful to him for that foresight.
The Wishing Well Gift Shop itself never seemed to have any branding except for the sign above the door. A label on the sign directed me to Marie Ford at the Sign Station in Summerside. I showed her a photo of the sign and asked her if she might still have our artwork. She cheerfully said she would have a look (and the database search took quite a while as they would probably have hundreds of thousands of files). By the time I arrived home, she had sent me a couple of versions of the logo.
With PEI’s plastic shopping bag ban in place, the Wishing Well uses paper bags for purchases, if people request them. I hope to figure out how to get a rubber stamp to start bashing our logo on everything.
I was lucky to find these two helpful and organized people. Life really is all about weaving a web of connections, both online and off.
While sitting quietly before a yoga class this fall, I thought of the enormous privilege I had being in a warm sunny room with nothing to do but breathe and think only of myself.
I looked down at my hands and realised that no matter how hard some days can be, I am at the easy end of a line of women who worked hard and had difficult lives, a line that reaches back and back beyond what I can imagine. I can name many of these women six or seven generations in the past, but beyond that, the women fade away. But they do exist in the lines and size and shape of my hands.
When I hold my mother’s hand, I can reach back to 1848, when her great-grandmother Martha (Ellis) Sharpe was born. Here they are together, likely around 1927, a year before Martha died. My mother, Vivian, would be about five.
The woman standing on Martha’s right is my great-grandmother, Eva (Sharp) Hardy. Eva’s son, my grandfather Wilbur Hardy, is the fellow in the back. His wife, Thelma, died in 1927, and my mother and her younger brother went to live with Eva and her husband, Ernest.
Stories my mother tells of life with her grandparents are a big part of my story. Eva died in 1952, 14 years before I was born, but if she walked through my door right now, I know I would be able to start up a conversation with her as though we had been together forever.
She lived a simple and humble life and didn’t have many possessions. Eva and Ernest had a small house with tiny closets, really just a couple of hooks behind a door. Her two or three everyday dresses would always be covered by an apron. She cooked every day, of course, baked bread, fed hens, gathered eggs, kept a wood range filled, so an apron was necessary to keep those precious dresses clean.
In trying to live more lightly on this earth, I am really just trying to live more like Eva. It has been a long process. I do not live her simple and humble life, and have far too many possessions. I’ve never been hugely into fashion or having lots of clothes, but I once had many more than I do now. My goal is to only have what I really need, take better care of what I own, and buy clothing either used or, if new, produced ethically, sustainably and locally, and only when necessary to replace what is worn out.
I happened to be in Summerside before Christmas on a day when Emily and Amanda, the lovely women who are Ureshii, were having an open studio. I have gotten to know Amanda from another one of her ventures, and we have followed each other on various social media for years, but this was the first time I had looked at their beautiful clothing.
I bought a lovely t-shirt with a block printed strawberry on it, and a pair of their famous (and very comfortable!) underwear. Then I asked if they made aprons, describing what I wanted without using the actual word of what it is: a pinafore. Yes, they did, and after many measurements were taken and fabric options discussed, an apron was in the works.
As busy as they are, the apron was finished in just a couple of weeks. I popped by to pick it up a couple of weeks ago, and it fit beautifully, perfectly. Emily, who is the seamstress of the pair, noted that she had sewn and not serged the edges, thinking I would appreciate it. I certainly do.
After a bit of guidance on how to don the apron, I managed to pull it over my head and they stood back and checked that everything was just right. We all declared ourselves pleased, and off I went to run my weekly errands.
I put the apron on when I arrived home from town, and begrudged taking it off that night to put on my pjs to go to bed. I wore it while I made soup the next day and have worn it every day since. It has a beautiful big pocket ready to hold some eggs from the nesting boxes or a tomato or two from the garden, to shove my hands in when I’m pondering something, to hold some scissors or a little snack. It feels timeless, like I could be here in 2020 or back in 1820. It is perfect.
Unexpectedly, it wraps lovingly around my back. The apron hugs me, keeps me warm, and when I put flour-covered hands on my hips to consult a recipe, the apron is there to keep me clean. Unlike a chef’s apron, there is also no tie to cut me in half (and to be a tut-tutting gauge of how large or small I am at any time!).
My mother and I talk often about her grandmother. We wonder what she would make of this modern world that is so convenient, where laundry isn’t an all-day affair, where you are free to spend your time doing yoga if you feel like it.
Aprons aren’t really necessary now as fewer people cook at home, laundry is a daily occurrence for many, clothing is cheap and almost disposable. But maybe we need aprons, a practical costume to ground us to the tasks at hand, to help us make better decisions about the clothing we wear.
Eva wouldn’t recognize many things in our house if she did walk through the door right now (oh, how I wish she would!), but she would feel very comfortable with this beautiful apron. It connects me to her, and to the women of my past who allowed me to be here, wearing an apron just because it is beautiful and I want to. Thank you Emily and Amanda, and Eva and Martha, and on.
As a former dairy farm worker (I always called myself a milkmaid so I could be a maid a-milking), I enjoyed this article that gives a great overview of PEI’s thriving dairy sector in Salty, PEI’s monthly food paper. The tip that code 3610 on a package of cheese shows it was made on PEI is one I’m going to test out on my next grocery trip.
I’ve been recording precipitation amounts for CoCoRaHS since November, dutifully recording rain and snowfall and entering it on their database every day around 8 a.m. I told my mother this morning we received over 7 cm of snow in the past storm. This evening she told me that the CBC PEI weatherman had included the snowfall total for Foxley River in his report, and sure enough, here’s the proof from his Twitter account. Proud weather nerd here!
My mother, Vivian, says her time serving in the RCAF Women’s Division during the Second World War was one of the happiest periods of her life. That might sound bizarre to us now, but even those veterans I knew who fought in Europe only told stories of the funny things that happened, both to keep buried as deeply as possible the horrible events they saw, and knowing those who hadn’t been there could never understand what they had been called upon to do and witness.
Before enlisting, my mother had never travelled more than a few miles from home, grew up without running water or electricity, had been keeping house for her father and brother, and working hard on their farm. She served in Canada and Newfoundland, far from the battlefields, so the war really gave her adventure and freedom from drudgery. There were dozens of other women in her group, and she made lifelong friends.
Amazingly, my mother is still in contact with one of the women she trained and served with, a lady named Vina Trowsdale who lives in North Bay, Ontario. They write to each other frequently, sending long letters and newspaper clippings on things the other might find interesting.
I was just searching to see if there was anything online about Vina and found this great interview from 2015. I just showed it to my mother, and she said this is basically her story, too. Thanks, Vina!
Dr. Madigane was a family doctor, OB/GYN and medical director at Stewart Memorial Hospital for nearly 40 years until her death in 2014. She was also my doctor for much of my life and a family friend.
Dawn wanted to ask Dr. Madigane’s family if the Coalition could include her in a series of colouring pages they were developing of Island women leaders as part of their Commemorating Island Women’s Political History project. I was happy to be able to make that connection for her. Dawn also encouraged me to send along a favourite photo of Dr. Madigane that I might have.
My connection to Stewart Memorial goes back to my grandmother, who was the first cook when the hospital opened in 1951, and my father, who helped raise funds for the hospital’s construction and was later on the board of directors. As a volunteer myself since 2002, I became “that person” who collected information and artefacts about our hospital, especially after it closed in 2013.
With the help of my friend, Fran Sark, we nominated Dr. Madigane for the Order of Prince Edward Island, which she received only four months before she died after a brief illness. I had the privilege to introduce Dr. Madigane at Government House the night she received her honour, and I was then humbled to be asked to speak at her funeral. I am now on a committee of our Auxiliary that gives three scholarships each year to people from our area who are pursuing education in healthcare-related fields.
I found the photo of Dr. Madigane I sent to Dawn in an album at the hospital years ago. It shows Dr. Madigane in 1978, just four years after she arrived on PEI from England. I’m not sure where the photo was taken, though by the snow outside the window behind her and that big red bow on the box of Turtles, I guess it was taken around Christmas. She is wearing one of her beautiful trademark headscarves. Dr. Madigane was beautiful and smart and funny. You can see all of that and more in the photo.
Dawn emailed yesterday to tell me that Dr. Madigane’s family were very supportive of the project and liked the photo I had sent. Island artist Renee Laprise created the colouring page of Dr. Madigane from the photo, and I love it so much: the added stethoscope (which Dr. Madigane did often have around her neck), the tree just like the beautiful mountain ash that stands outside the old hospital, the beautiful drapery, and the transformation of the box of chocolates to a weighty book. She joins other fantastic Island women in a learning resource that will help teach young people about the contributions women have made to Island life.
I’m happy they called her “beloved” in the description of her page, because she was. She was so full of life, so fearless and steadfast. We still miss her, and likely always will.
I think she’d be tickled to be included with these other great women, some of whom she knew well, like Catherine Callbeck, who was the provincial minister of health early in Dr. Madigane’s time on PEI, and who gave a beautiful tribute to Dr. Madigane in the Senate. Dr. Madigane was one in a million, a great Islander, and I’m glad a new generation of young people will get to know her, too.