Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


O Canada! Let our pride show!

Ordinary citizens made this country what it is

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Canadians across the land will celebrate Canada’s 144th birthday this weekend. And although the hype will be around Prince William and Kate’s first overseas visit as a married couple and their Royal Tour showcasing our country’s magnificence, I choose to celebrate Canada and its colourful past along with the present, remembering the ordinary Canadians who forged our country as well today’s citizens.

Last Sunday, Jacques and I visited the Cumberland Museum. I was raised in Cumberland and wanted to show him where I hail from. It turned out to be their special senior day, complete with strawberry social and live entertainment. We started out with a tractor-driven wagon ride that took us around the premises to where the Ottawa Valley Live Steamers and Model Engineers run a model train powered by steam and diesel. A young oriental couple and their child were heading out there. Apparently, their son loves to ride on the train.

On our way to that station, we admired two Canadian horses owned by Gerry Lalonde who raises the special breed of horses in the area. The Lalonde family were neighbours; I went to school with Gerry and his sister, Suzanne.

Circling back, we decided to get off the wagon and start our visit close to the saw mill. We visited Watson’s garage which I remember well. We also went into the old schoolhouse which reminded me of my school days in the small, Beckett’s Creek rural school I attended for seven years (I skipped a grade).

One teacher, eight grades! This is where I first experienced teaching. As my teacher’s aide, I helped students in the younger grades practice their reading and their math skills. I sometimes gave the spelling lesson. So I knew from an early age what career to choose ... I think I have always been a teacher and will always be a teacher!

The printing shop and the blacksmith shop were most interesting. We were surprised to find out that typesetting printing machines were commonly used till fairly recently. The resident blacksmith in Vaughn’s Blacksmithing Shop gave us a remarkable lesson in the art of forging metal. He was kind enough to offer the fancy utility hook he fabricated during the demonstration. I thanked him, assuring him it would be used in my garden.

We then headed over to the tent where strawberry shortcake and tea were being served. We met Rachel who often photographs events at the museum and Anne Hawley who volunteers at the museum and the Cumberland Market. Anne is a gardener and some years ago, I had the privilege to showcase my art (paintings and books) in her beautiful Cumberland garden.

We also chatted with a couple from Clarence Creek. I was once again reminded to slow down and smell the roses as Mr. Chabot recounted suffering from an unexpected stroke. He credits his wife and the paramedics’ quick response for saving his life and limiting the damage ... partial vision impairment but no paralysis.

Afterwards, we went on to see the beautifully renovated fire hall, examined the Foubert house, visited the Duford house and general store. After the strawberry social, there was an open invitation to participate in an old-fashioned sing-a-long in the historic church that comes from Vars. We made our way back to the old Vars train station and browsed around. So many of the tools, appliances and artifacts we saw were familiar… Things that were used by our grandparents and parents in everyday life at home, on the farm, by the local business owners and tradesmen ...

Last March, I won a year pass for the Cumberland Museum and intend to spend some time there with my grandchildren this summer.

A wonderful visit! It is so important to return to our roots once in a while in order to better appreciate the courage of our predecessors, their ingenuity and frugality, their sense of duty and of community. We drove along Old Montreal Road, past the farm where I was raised. I showed Jacques what had once been my school. I mentioned my neighbours and how they impacted my life.

I am grateful that my grandchildren have a truly wonderful, Canadian environment in which to learn and grow. We have celebrated Canada Day in the community for some years now! Another favourite treat is the NAC’s Canada Day concert which Jacques and I will attend.

Happy Canada Day! Blessings to all! Let’s enjoy and celebrate our beautiful country and never underestimate what we have.


Thank you again for a great column Alberte, you know how to have fun and appreciate life...I love that about you!


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