This is the story of an amazing day, spent a couple of miles north of home, at a neighbourhood potluck at Don and Irene’s farm. It happened 5 years ago. Don and Irene moved to town shortly after that, and Don has since passed away. I wish we could have taken pictures of them and their wonderful works of art.
Written in July 2010…
An Awesome Discovery
We made the most awesome discovery at a neighbourhood potluck the other night.
Don lives in the house he grew up in. He and his wife Irene moved back in 17 years ago, after his mother died and his father was not able to keep the place up. I’ve always admired the place from the road while riding by on my bike. I love their barn, which is painted red, with “Charlie’s Place 1953” in white letters on the front. I’d always assumed Charlie was a horse, but have since learned Charlie was the original owner, Don’s father.
Don and Irene have done some amazing things with the place. They are in grain farming now, so they don’t need the barn for livestock. Don uses it as a workshop downstairs, and the loft is a private museum.
On the way up the wooden stairs to the loft, the wall is plastered with poster board Holstein cows, each of which contains a birthday greeting to Don, from his 65th birthday. You may wonder why there are “No Smoking” signs on that wall, because as you enter loft you see an abundance of pipes and lighters. The middle section of the front wall is plastered to the roof with old green Sail pouches. The truth is, this is evidence that Don used to be a heavy smoker, but not any more!
They have everything from old books (imagine a dictionary that’s 6 inches thick!!), magazines and catalogues dating as far back as the late 1800’s, a butter churn and butter washer, a non-electric icebox, rock and shell collections, hundreds of pens, doorknobs, cigarette lighters of ALL kinds and designs, lanterns… I can’t begin to scratch the surface of what they have there! And it’s all tastefully arranged in such a way that no matter where you look, and no matter how many times you look there, you’ll see something you didn’t see before. The front end of the loft has a tiny kitchen area, off which is a guest room with bed complete with patchwork quilt, and tons of props for the plays in which Don and Irene are actors. It looks like one of those shops where you can have your photo taken dressed in the Old West style, with fancy dresses, hats, guns…. It is marvellous!
The back end of the loft has a small parlour on the right, with a piano, record player with old 33 rpm’s, and a couch and chairs. The left side is set up with half a dozen wooden tables and chairs. Here and there are life sized dolls made of stuffed nylons, dressed in period costume complete with shoes. Off the dining area is a small powder room for ladies, where they could change costumes. An old bicycle hangs from the beams. Don’s old golf clubs rest in their bag near a doll dressed in an authentic baseball uniform.
The piano is from the Eastburg Church, which used to stand on the corner a mile north of our home. On the wall they also have the old church sign and school signs. They have pictures of the Eastburg school which stood half a mile north of our place, and of another one that still stands empty and deteriorating in a canola field a few miles from our place. That’s the one Don attended when he was growing up.
Charlie’s Place. So much to see and hear… it is nothing short of awesome! But it doesn’t end there.
We had our meal in a grassy square bordered by bushes and flower gardens. Nearby stands a summer kitchen with wood stove, and an old two room cabin which is another private museum.
The cabin is homey and warm. The roof has been outfitted with a sun dome, so the kitchen is awash with sunlight. The wood cookstove is fully functional, as Nathaniel discovered to his chagrin when he lifted one of the lids and got soot on his fingers. Lots of old utensils sit on the floor, stove and cupboards. Iron frying pans, one of which has been made into a clock and hung on the wall above the small table. Another, the largest I have ever seen, hangs on the wall above the stove. An old toaster, plug-in but not automatic. Andrew and Timothy couldn’t guess what that was! A bacon press. The tiniest frying pan I have ever seen… tinier even than the plastic ones the Fuller Brush man used to leave with my mom when I was little, and she used to let me play with…
Timothy, Andrew and Nathaniel all had a turn sitting in “the most comfortable rocking chair I’ve ever sat in”. Andrew played with something I wouldn’t call an an antique… remember those bright cherry red apples that babies played with in the 70’s and 80’s? A bigger-than-life apple that jingles when you moves it.
“And it’s weighted too, right?” I asked Andrew.
“I dunno,” he said, and put it on the floor to test it out. He was… ahem… fascinated by the sound. Andrew is not afraid of that saying, “Small things amuse small minds.” He often plays around with things in a most… “small things” way. And I can’t laugh, because I do the same thing.
The boys were surprised to know it wasn’t an antique, and that babies were still playing with them when their oldest sister Irene was little.
“That’s when people were still in the post-hippie age,” said Timothy laconically from the rocking chair.
“It’s a BABY toy,” I said, looking at him through squinty eyes.
“Yeah, well they fed babies crack, you know.” Timothy laughed.
I hope he was pulling my leg.
The other room in the cabin is a bedroom/sewing room. A double bed covered with a beautiful not-so-antique quilt, with two life sized stuffed dolls “sleeping” on one side of the bed… a daddy, lying on his side with one arm slung protectively over his little boy. A cabinet full of salves and medications and even a dark blue Noxzema jar! I have to wonder, though… what on earth is “sour salt”??
Next to the sewing table is a small desk with several old school books and notebooks on it. A wooden pencil box with a sliding lid like the one I used many years ago. But the desk was not nearly as old as the first one I had in Gr.1 at Chapel Street School in Georgetown, Ontario. Mine was an old dark wood desk with real ink wells and wrought iron scroll work on the sides. Now THOSE were antiques!
While we were in the house, Nathaniel came in and said, “Dad, you’ve GOTTA come see the bike trail!”
Minutes later, Ian came and asked me if I wanted to see the bike trail. I pleaded sore feet, which was true. What’s the big deal with a bike trail anyhow? Of course, I was wondering why there was a bike trail in the middle of farm country when one can ride a bike for miles and miles on the dirt roads. I was also wondering about Don’s enigmatic statement that you don’t “ride” your bike on this trail.
“But Mom, you’ve gotta see it. Come on, it’s just over here, and you don’t have to go far to see what I mean.”
I followed him grudgingly.
It’s a bike trail all right, but NOT at ALL what you’re probably picturing. It’s a trail OF BIKES. A winding trail cut through the trees, with another trail going off in another direction for a short distance, lined on both sides by bikes of every conceivable size, colour and age!!! Andrew counted them. 87 bikes! One little pink bike with white tires looks like a smaller version of Irene’s first bike we gave her when she was 7.
What a thoroughly delightful evening! What an awesome discovery!! To think of all those treasures that have been there all along, hidden from view! Makes me wonder what talents and awesome discoveries lie beneath the surface of my other friends and neighbours!
© Willena Flewelling