Thursday, May 22, 2014

Five Places: My Mother's Childhood Home

My mother's childhood home | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
My mother (right) with her mother, my oldest brother, Stewart, and her father
at the Haileybury home. This lawn/meadow is where they pastured their milk cow during the Great Depression.

How many people get the chance to live, even for a short period of time, in their parent's childhood home? I don't think many of my friends have done so, but I -- along with my father and a few of my siblings (Patricia, Harvey, Andrew, and Christine) -- spent a whole summer living in the home where my mother grew up, in Haileybury, Ontario.

I have no pictures of the house, but it was a small bungalow at the end of a gravel road. Beyond it, the land fell in a steady, forested slope to Lake Temiskaming. I believe my grandfather had acquired the land under an incentive or compensation for British troops after the first World War.

My mother's childhood home | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
You can see New Liskeard, Haileybury and Cobalt
on this map. The big, grey blob is Lake Temiskaming.
(Click to enlarge)
The summer that we lived there, my father had a job near Cobalt, working as part of the construction team on a new dam. Mom had a job in Burlington, at the time and she was probably dreading the crazy summer weeks with all the kids at home, so we got shipped north with Dad. A great solution, in my humble opinion.

While Dad worked from dawn to dusk, we kids ran free. My older sister, Patricia, took over domestic responsibilities and took me and my little sister, Christine, to swimming lessons in Lake Temiskaming's frigid water. (I hated those lessons, but they did the job.)

When we got there, the house had been vacant for some years as my grandfather, suffering from Alzheimer's, was living in a residence in nearby New Liskeard, so we had the place to ourselves. My brothers, Andrew and Harvey, took turns scything the meadow to create a lawn, but the mosquitoes were horrendous nevertheless.

The floors sagged toward the middle of the house; the kitchen lean-to drooped; there were water spots on every ceiling, and the entire place smelled of mildew. But it was an idyllic summer. In one of the rooms I found a full deck of Partridge Family collector cards and drooled over pictures of David Cassidy for hours on end, singing "I think I love you!" at full volume.

One of the neighbours, a war veteran with an odd lump on his bald head, sold penny candy out of his basement. (Not at all creepy, though I never heard of any inappropriate behaviour.) All the kids in the neighbourhood would save their coins and would troop down to his house to splurge on blackballs, candy cigarettes, licorice whips, wax lips, pixie sticks, jujubes, candy necklaces . . . all those treats that make me feel like an eight-year-old again.

Mom visited for a week during that summer, but I'm pretty sure that our absence was her real vacation. Can you imagine: a mother of seven children having her house all to herself? I wouldn't be surprised if she remembers it as her Best Summer Ever.

This post is one of five in response to the question:
If you had to describe your life in five places, which sites would you choose and why?

Other posts in the series:

My Childhood Home
Bravo Zulu
Barrie Street
In the Green Wood


  1. That is a great summer! I love it.

    1. It was. I wish I had some pictures of it.

  2. Lol! I bet your mom very much enjoyed her summer! I love those idyllic summers. Funny how in our older age we tend to focus on the discomforts (the smell, the bugs, etc.), but when we're young, it all just adds to the fun and the memories.

    1. It's true, eh? It really doesn't take much to make kids happy. We tend to forget that.

  3. What a wonderful summer. What a wonderful memory.

  4. I believe Mom made the trip up by train a few times over the summer. She worked at CCIW 3-4 days a week. I think she found the travel a bit gruelling.

    I totally don't remember the basement candy store!!! That is very sketchy! Lol!

    1. I'm sure she did. I wouldn't want to make that trip more than once a month. Poor thing.


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