Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mom and I on Tour

Mom flew from Vancouver to Ottawa on Sunday. June 23, 1974. That was her first ride in an aircraft and, even though it was not a through flight - the plane landed in Winnipeg on the way - she enjoyed the experience. I had told a number of people that Mom was coming for a visit so I had received a host of invitations from folk who wanted to meet her. However, for Mom, the most important were members of Dad's family.

When the family were all gathered at home in Coquitlam we would spend many evenings in playing cards or board games. My roommates in Ottawa (Gary Grant and Roland Boissell) loved that sort of past time too so that was how we spent evenings if Mom and I were not out visiting or touring.

July 1 - Canada Day - fell on a Monday that year so, technically, it was my day off. We slept in until mid morning and then, after breakfast, we left to drive up to White Lake.

Tante Bea - Dad's oldest sister - was a large buxom woman and, when I brought Mom into that cabin she was waiting to give Mom a big hug. Some of the cousins were outside playing horseshoes when one of the other cousins arrived. The players tried to coax him into the game but he said, "No! I want to meet my Aunt!"

We remained there visiting until after supper when I brought Mom back to the City and to Parliament Hill for the speeches, concert, carillon, and the fireworks. All were spectacular.

The next day Mom and I left on our extended drive all around Eastern Canada. Our first stop was Ajax - an outer eastern suburb of Toronto - where Bea and Edgar's oldest son, Gerry, lived with his wife and daughters. Gerry had visited us on Dawes Hill during World War II. He was in the RCAF Signal Corps and was posted to Australia so, passing through Vancouver while on his way, he dropped in to see his uncle. Our visit with him and his family was just over night.

Once settled in Ottawa, I rejoined Big Brothers and my assigned 'Little Brother' was at the Big Brothers' camp near Haliburton and that was my next stop. Leaving Haliburton I drove into the town of Huntsville which was the hometown of one of Mom's friends back in B.C and then turned back south down the main highway to Barrie where we spent the night.

The following day was very hot and muggy and we were dogged by threats of thunderstorms plus possible tornadoes all the way through Stratford, London, and Simcoe to Fort Erie where,finally, the storm broke.

The next morning dawned clear and sunny and, thus, better for sightseeing. When Fort Erie, the Historic Park, opened for public viewing we went in for a look around and that was the first of a number of historic places that we saw on that trip. After Fort Erie the next stop was at Niagara Falls which we found to be as gorgeous as the brochures claim it to be. Luckily I parked in the first lot that I came to which is above the falls. From there we walked along the pathway to the main tourist center thereby walking along the bank of the river to where it plunged over the cataract. That is awesome!

Where the Niagara River plunges into the gorge.

Leaving Niagara Falls I drove along the Parkway through Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort George and then on to Hamilton and Toronto. Mom did have partial vision but was registered with the CNIB and, thus, she was permitted to stay at their lodge on Bayview Avenue while I stayed downtown at the YMCA. After booking into our respective 'inns' we did the tourist thing downtown (City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square and some of the downtown stores).

The following day, Sunday, we tried to get over to the Islands but that was the day of the CHIN picnic (an ethnic radio station in Toronto which held a picnic around Canada Day for years) and the ferry docks were a mob scene. Instead we went to Ontario Place where we wandered around and went to view a film at the IMAX Theater. We visited the Toronto Islands on the following day.

From Toronto I drove east to Trenton and the Air force Base where the Mostyns then lived - Frank had been transferred from Cold Lake, Alberta to the larger base beside Lake Ontario. It had been years since Mom and Yvonne had seen each other and each warmly greeted the other. At Frank and Yvonne's invitation, we remained there for a few days using their home as our base for touring - usually with their kids in tow.

Our first day trip was around the nearby Prince Edward County and the town of Picton. This county is an agricultural peninsula and is a very pretty place.

After a day for golfing - I have never golfed since! - we took the three Mostyn kids with us up to Kingston. We toured Belvedere House and Old Fort Henry. During my stay in Ottawa I was to Fort Henry more than once and enjoyed thoroughly the military reenactment of a battle during the War of 1812 as well as a military Tattoo - especially the evening one beginning in daylight and ending after dark.

I had made a reservation for a 1000 Islands tour which left a pier in Gananoque shortly after 3:00 PM. Whether or not there are actually 1,000 islands at the end of Lake Ontario I have no idea - but there are certainly a lot of them. The launch cruised past the summer homes of many entertainment notables like Irving Berlin and industrial barons like Andrew Carnegie. We enjoyed ourselves.

Two more days with the Mostyns and then Mom and I left to drive to Montreal. I had made arrangements with Tante Cecile for Mom to have a guest room in the convent. Cecile was thrilled by that arrangement but not Mom - the nuns retired at 9:00 PM and there were no amusements available like TV! I stayed at the downtown 'Y'.

I took Mom around Old Montreal, for a ride in a caleche and to Notre Dame Cathedral which had recently been refurbished and it was breathtakingly beautiful. On a later visit to Montreal I heard the organist practicing on the huge organ and that sound was magnificent!

Dad had talked fondly of St Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal so it was a pleasure to go there. We climbed that grand staircase - which pilgrims navigate on their knees - and went into the building. Again, on a later visit to Montreal, I was fortunate to hear the organist practicing on that great instrument. Like at Notre Dame, the sound was magnificent!

Tante Cecile acted as sort of a catalyst for the Montreal relatives. Our first trip was across the St Lawrence River to the suburb of Boucherville and the home of a cousin where Uncle Georges Cadieux lived. That was a disappointing visit all around as this branch of the family were ardent 'Separatistes' and refused to speak any English. Since Tante Cecile did not speak English she did not seem to notice the rudeness but Mom and I were most uncomfortable.

Uncle Georges and his late wife had been out to the West Coast in order to go to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and had visited Mom and Dad at that time.

On the following evening Tante Cecile guided us back across the St. Lawrence to the suburb of Brossard and the home of Mariette and Frank Newcombe. Mariette is the daughter of Dad's full brother, Lionel Lacasse. Both of our hosts spoke English - they were school teachers - and, when Mariette's sister and her husband and another couple - relatives by marriage - came in, they spoke only French. However, as both English and French were spoken all evening, nobody felt left out and we had a great time.

When we left Montreal I drove south to Hemmingford and the African Safari Park which we drove through (except for the monkey enclosure as the baboons in there like to hitch rides on the rooftops of cars and would tear material made of fabric - my car had a vinyl top). The thrill was when a huge tiger rubbed himself against the car while passing.

Before leaving I parked the car and we walked along a nature trail where I had a laugh. Mom was carrying a bag of popcorn and had an argument with a baby elephant who wanted all of the contents! Next we encountered a small wild sheep who actually stole whatever was left in that bag.

Not having my fill of animals, I drove on to Granby where we visited that famous zoo. Not as much fun as the Safari Park!

Continuing on I drove east to Magog where I showed the St Benoit sur Lac Benedictine Monastery to Mom. We stopped for dinner at a wonderful French restaurant that Dan Matheson and I had visited upon leaving the monastery on a recent retreat. - "Auberge de l'Etoile et Son Motel". I have no idea whether it still exists but we certainly enjoyed our meal.

Our drive on the following day was to New Brunswick and we drove through the State of Maine to reach there - my one and only time in New England! We crossed back into Canada to St Stephen where we found a nice B & B in which to spend the night.

I should add here that Mom had limited vision so, unless an object was up close, she might not really see it. Therefore I was driving to and through all of these places for my benefit more than for Mom's.

Using the road map I saw a highway that passed through Fundy National Park. Much of the drive was through forests but we did have some views of the Bay of Fundy. In St John I found the famed 'Reversing Falls' but the tide was at the wrong level for us to actually witness that phenomena - and the same was true for the Hopewell Rocks.

I continued on through Moncton and to the ferry terminal at Cape Tormentine. Not having a reservation for our night on Prince Edward Island we asked the tourist agent on the ferry to call and make a reservation for us. This proved embarrassing as there was an error and, instead of twin beds, we had a room with a double reserved for us! Fortunately, the motel manageress was able to correct the mistake - after we paid her a further $10.

The next day we went into Charlottetown, toured the site where Confederation was hammered out, drove to the east end of the Island - Souris - and then along the beaches facing the Gulf of St Lawrence to Cavendish.

Mom was a huge fan of the books written by Lucy Maude Montgomery so she was thrilled when we stopped at Cavendish and she was able to enter the cottage named 'Green Gables'.

We had decided to return to the mainland for the night so we headed for the ferry, However, while on our way, we stumbled upon a Lobster Supper in a community hall. What a feast - and it cost us a mere $7.00 each. We were given more lobster than we could possibly eat plus salads, fresh baked bread and slices of pie which were right out of the oven. One of the best meals that I have eaten ever!

We were able to get on the 8:00 PM sailing back to Cape Tormentine from where we traveled to the town of Parrsboro and a wonderfully funky B&B. In the morning we discovered that we had been staying in the 200 year old house that had belonged to Sir Charles Tupper - one of the Fathers of Confederation! There was an old - but functioning - bathroom so Mom decided that she would have a bath which worried me. She had arthritis and I wondered how in the world she would be able to get into and out of that old tub with its high sides but she managed.

Thanks again to Michael W., here is a photo of Ottawa House in Parrsboro which is the original home of Sir Charles Tupper who was one of the Fathers of Confederation. This was our hotel for the night.

Being in Nova Scotia again, it was natural that I would take Mom to Peggy's Cove. In spite of being there at the same time as hundreds of other tourists, we enjoyed that lovely spot. We went on to Halifax where I drove Mom to the sites that I had seen during the reading week a year before. After that we turned north and west through Moncton to Frederickton and, on the following day, on up the St John River Valley through the area that had been home to Grandmere Alda Martin, and over the border back into Quebec. We were in Quebec City that evening.

We booked into a motel in the Upper Town, took the funicular railway down to Lower Town where we had supper and then - much to my astonishment - Mom suggested that we walk back up the steep and winding streets.

I drove the rest of the way back to Ottawa via the 'old highways' through Trois Rivieres. Joliet, Hull and home.

We were back in Ottawa on Thursday, July 25 and Mom remained with me until Sunday, August 4 when she flew back to B.C. During that week I was called upon to conduct four funerals. Yes! I was "The Burying Minister"!

Mom so enjoyed her flying experience that, the next time that she went up to visit Alda, Leo and family, she opted to fly to Williams Lake instead of traveling on the Greyhound bus. That was a relatively short and bumpy flight so she didn't suggest an airplane over the Greyhound bus again.

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