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Cottage Shack Articles: Our Schoolhouse Rocks – Jan. 14, 2022

The Schoolhouse Series – Part 1 – By Patricia Turnour

To view the original article and others in the 2022 series visit the Cottage Shack online magazine

As curator of the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM), I have many opportunities to research and restore our precious artifacts. I wholeheartedly thank everyone for thinking of us as the forever home for their treasures.

As we begin a new year, I would also like to share my appreciation for our wonderful volunteers. We are like a colourful quilt made up of a patchwork of friendly, talented, caring people.

Being curator does keep me busy, but I still manage to find time for my other occupation, schoolmistress. Having being a schoolteacher for almost 40 years puts me in good stead for this position.

We have a unique schoolhouse attached at one end of our display barn. Not that long ago, it had a gravel floor, gaping holes beneath the wall boards, a leaky roof and sagging rafters. The room was also shared with an abundance of wildlife.birds nesting in the corners of the ceiling were a common site. Bats also enjoyed hanging from the rafters.

However, things were about to change. We began with minor repairs to the schoolhouse walls. It took the vision of our A-Team to really get things going. After much blood, sweat and tears (literally) the current “school” emerged (perhaps the subject of a future article about the A-Team).

Today the school house proudly boasts a shiny new metal roof and a display wall for maps and pictures. It houses a well-loved collection, from times long past, of local pictures, textbooks, story books and memorabilia. Perhaps our family name is inside one of the covers. Our oldest book is entitled The Plays of William Shakespeare (1811).

And here my story begins.

Our previous school teacher was “Miss Grace” Willmott. She is fondly remembered by many young visitors whom she put through the paces of a typical pioneer school day. “Miss Lorraine” Garside often served at her side as her educational assistant. These lovely ladies still do help in the schoolhouse on special days and tours.

Today, though, it is I, Miss Patti who now takes centre stage as schoolmistress. In yesteryear my day would have started long before the arrival of the schoolchildren. Lighting the wood stove, pumping water from the well, preparing the lamps and ensuring that lessons have been planned for all eight grades, just to name a few!

When visitor children come to our school, I explain that we are imagining attending school in the village of Eady in the 1800s in the original Eady SS #14. Our records indicate it was built in 1879. Mr. Alpine was the first teacher whose wages were $360 per year. Some of the original teachers were Dan Coffey (1907), Miss Amy Weaver (1916) and Miss Alma Walker (1922). Unfortunately, that school burned down in March 1925, so classes were temporarily kept up at the Thompson house. A new brick school was soon constructed and remained in service until 1963. Eventually, it evolved into a private home.

Most of the children attending school back in those earlier times would have come from farm families and with a great distance to walk. My mother attended a one room country school and I have certainly heard just how far and how deep the snow really was.

Visiting children are also given a quick course on “School Rules.” The students take turns reading the Rules chart aloud. There are many sources online for this information.

Children must:

  • Obey your school master and accept his punishments
  • Help and love each other
  • Refrain from fighting and teasing
  • Be silent during lessons and speak only when spoken to
  • Not leave your seat without permission
  • Raise your hand and stand to speak
  • Always write with your right hand
  • Remember cleanliness is next to godliness
  • Stand when an adult enters the room

After reading these rules, the children do look a little worried about the consequences of misbehaving. On this note, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. One such punishment is the infamous dunce chair. Once seated there. A pointed hat is placed on the naughty child’s head. He/she is stuck there until the teacher has determined that he/she has learned his/her lesson. There is never a dearth of eager students willing to demonstrate this.

Another punishment involves me putting three dots on the chalkboard placed about a foot apart and directing the miscreant to put a finger of the right hand on the right dot, a finger of the left hand on the left dot and their nose on the middle dot. Again, no lack of volunteers (even the parents join in). I am certain that the consequences of misbehaving in the early days were a little more severe! Spare the rod, spoil the child comes to mind!

And so, our school day begins; and that is the subject of my next article, “Teacher, Teacher Can You Teach Me,” part 2 in this series.

In conclusion, I would just like to thank the many visitors who have walked down memory lane with me and shared their schoolhouse experiences. Being born and raised in the city, I did not have the opportunity to attend such an inspirational place. We truly appreciate your memories and musings.

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Cottage Shack Articles: Tea For Two – Dec. 23, 2021

To view the original article and others in the 2021 series, visit the Cottage Shack magazine online

“Afternoon tea…The mere clink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose.”

From the private papers of Henry Ryecroft, by George Gissin

My name is Patricia Turnour and I am Director and curator of the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). Although we have closed things up for the winter, we have hopes and plans for next spring. One such custom we hope to preserve is our weekly Devon Tea. Due to Covid restrictions, we have certainly missed this event for the last two seasons.

Since CCHM was established over 50 years ago, the house has been abuzz with many people every Wednesday afternoon. The cozy fireplace room is the perfect setting for an afternoon of relaxation and good company. Our volunteers and co-op students don period costumes and aprons to enhance the ambiance. A variety of teas and home-bakes scones with preserves are served in fine china at tables clothed in vintage linens. Children feel all grown up as they sip tea from our daily teacups. This weekly event soon became well known as the “Devon Cream Teas.”

The “Cream Tea” has a fascinating history rooted in British tradition. Food historian Matthew O’Callaghan found that teas became very popular in the 1840s just as tourism was beginning to flourish. Well-to-do ladies would often take train journeys into the countryside. There seemed to be something lacking between the mid-day and evening meals. Thus, late afternoon teas became very popular, filling this gap. They were relatively expensive and, therefore, out of the reach of most commoners. For the upper-class fancier fare such as sandwiches, fruit, ripened cheeses, dipped chocolate, crumpets and tea cookies were soon added. The more risqué was not for the tea-totalled, daring to add port, bourbon, sherry or even champagne to this afternoon delight. Eventually, afternoon tea became a staple of almost all British households.

The origin of Devon cream has even deeper roots in British history. When Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey had been badly damaged by marauding Vikings in 997 AD, Ordulf, Earl of Devon oversaw repairs, and the monks rewarded the workers by feeding them bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves. And so, the Devon cream tea was born. It was so well liked that the monks continued serving it to passing travellers. Unfortunately, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1500s but the legacy of its “clotted cream” lives on.

Another interesting anecdote comes from a long-standing controversy between Devon and Cornwall England. In Devon people first put the cream on their scones and then the jam. In Cornwall they put the jam on first. Queen Elizabeth apparently puts jam on first. When visiting CCHM and enjoying our Devon tea we will have you be the judge.

On many of these Wednesday afternoons artisans and craftsman are on the grounds demonstrating their skills. Some have product to sell.

All of our buildings are open and yours can be guided or self-guided using a map.

The schoolhouse is always open and with me as school mistress. Children are invited to experience the “pioneer school day” as we sing songs, play games and study the three Rs.

Local speakers are often available to talk about an activity that was popular in days gone by.

As one of our long-time volunteers has been quoted as saying: “Our teas are about keeping the past alive.” It is so important to preserve local history for future generations. These teas have also been an important social link to the community. Whether as a weekly volunteer or as a visitor from near or far, we welcome all our tea lovers to our cozy cabin.

See you in June! Tea is served.

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Cottage Shack Articles: Be It Ever So Humble – A Woodrow Christmas – Dec. 17, 2021

To view the original article and others in the 2021 series, visit the Cottage Shack online magazine

Being curator of the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM) afford me many interesting glimpses into our past. Sitting before the massive stone fireplace, warmed by a racing fire, I begin to form an image of the Woodrow Family huddled together around this hearth so very long ago. I see the children pushing and shoving to get closer to the heat. Woollen mittens, socks and scarves hang from the mantle overhead, perhaps to dry there after a day of skating on the river or building snow forts in the yard.

My focus shifts to a family portrait hanging on the wall nearby. Archibald, Catherine and five of their 10 children posed for it. Just imagine what life was like for this large family living in this small home that originally consisted only of this “keeping room” and an upstairs loft where the children slept. It was not until the 1860s that the cabin was expanded.

So, this very room where I am sitting has certainly stood the test of time. A place where folks felt safe and secure in such a wilderness; where the fellowship of family and the companionship of friends were vital to life in this rugged New World.

Catherine, Archibald and their young daughter Catherine immigrated to Canada in the 1830s from Islay, Scotland. Although little has been written about their early days in Canada, I am sure their experiences were common among other immigrants. They likely tried to re-create as many Scottish customs as possible.

Celebrating the Yuletide surely would have been one of the most important ones. Unfortunately, most luxuries would not have been available to them back then. More likely their home would have been meagrely decorated with greenery taken directly from the forest. Cedar boughs reaffirmed that life goes on in an uncertain world. It was not until much later in that century that the Christmas tree became popular and eventually traditional.

Most ornaments or decorations would have been lovingly made by the family. A few Christmas cards may have been placed on the mantel. The custom of writing on Christmas cards and mailing them our did not become common until after the 1850s. These earlier cards portrayed cherubic children, animals, birds, Father Christmas and religious messages. Some cards even pictured wistful, sun-dappled scenes – reminders of the summer to come. Here at CCHM we have a wonderful collection of this early ephemera (printed memorabilia).

Undoubtedly, food would have been part of the magic and charm of Christmas Day at the Woodrow homestead – from the morning oatmeal spruced up with brown sugar, cinnamon a pat of butter to the roast goose features at the evening table complemented with vegetables carefully harvested from the garden and brought up from the cold cellar. Dates, figs, nuts, candies and other delicacies might be enjoyed in a year when the farm had done well. In the days leading up to Christmas Catherine would busy herself lovingly baking fruit cakes, plum pudding, cookies – all the family favourites. We have a great collection of Vintage Cookbooks that include some of her recipes.

Simple handcrafted gifts would be shared and enjoyed. Store-bought dolls, dresses, hats, hair ribbons, toys or games would have been very special. Is m sure that with 10 children, hand-me-downs were certainly in the mix.

Christmas carols, games and other merriment would have filled the walls of this little cabin. Eventually the Woodrows may have owned a piano, a pump organ or a dulcimer – a sounding board with strings stretched across and held on the lap of the player who strikes the strings with two small hammers. We have a wonderful example of one of these early instruments. Although the children were taught how to play simple tunes, most often it was Father who played for the family.

The telling of the Christmas Story and prayers would have been led by Archibald.

A sleigh ride to the Village for Christmas Eve church service may have been an annual ritual. Our Robinson cutter is a fine example of an early horse drawn sleigh. It is on display in all it refinished splendour in our carriage barn.

With the embers of the fire fading I reflect about how much I have enjoyed writing this article. I am reminded of simpler times and about the true meaning of this holiday.

I gaze out of the window. Snow is falling softly. The season has begun.

By Patricia Turnour

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Cottage Shack Articles: Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits! – Dec. 9, 2021

To view the original article and others, visit the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Patti Turnour and I am curator of the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). As we were putting the museum to be for the winter, I couldn’t help reflect on the past year. To say the least, the past two seasons have been far from normal. Without the revenues from our signature events such as the weekly Devon Cream Teas and Heritage Day, it has been challenging. However, our dedicated team of volunteers will spend this winter planning and preparing for what we hope will be a better, more normal 2022 season.

Cleaning our display barn last week, I came upon an interesting article from the Orillia Packet and Times titled “End of an Era in Coldwater.” It talked about the famous local barber Mr. Lloyd Bell who served the area for 57 years.

Born in 1911, Lloyd began work in the shipping department of the T. Easton Company rising to the position of head shipper before becoming a barber. Her apprenticed in Richmond Hill and then moved to Coldwater with his wife Edith and daughter Barb. Soon his little shop became a hub of activity. Good skills, reasonable prices and great conversation proved to make Lloyd quite popular with the locals. One of his long-time clients, Harold Greenwood was quoted saying; “It was just a good place to take a rest, for a few minutes.” Lloyd knew everything that was going on and was usually willing to share his opinion.

As far back as ancient times barbering included this social aspect. Greek men were known to gather in the agora (market square) to have their hair, and beards trimmed. Rowdy debating and idle gossip ensued. This notion of gossip was the main reason that school teachers in the 1800s were not permitted to get a shave or a haircut at a barber shop. How times have changed! As the years passed Lloyd became a mainstay of the community. This was especially evident on Saturday nights when local farmers customarily came into the village to do their weekly errands. Mr. Bell kept the shop open very late to accommodate every customer, some of whom came in just to chat.

A very polite and kind man, he would be seen wearing his renowned fedora hat, always tipping it to the ladies. His family, his shop and his Coldwater United Church were the things he cared about most.

Lloyd remained very independent in his later years, driving until the age of 94, and cutting hair at 95. Many devoted friends and neighbours helped him get his mail and groceries, as needed. He would often arrive at one’s door with flowers in hand, to show his gratitude.

Upon Mr. Bell’s passing in 2007, his daughter Barb Jefferies deemed his chair and all his barbering equipment be donated to the museum.

A tribute to this fine man lives on in the form of a dedicated room in our display barn. Gary Brandon and a group of volunteers constructed this mini shop version and therein staged all of the barbering tools. Front and centre is the beautiful, vintage barbers hair, surrounded by scissors, razors, mirrors, shaving mugs and brushes. My co-op student lovingly buffed and shined them until they all gleamed. Three pictures of Mr. Bell and his barbering certificates grace the walls.

This past summer one of our volunteers brought her grandson to Mr. Bell’s shop at CCHM to see the legacy of the man who had cut his father’s hair. Many of our visitors share stories of times they had spent in that very chair and delighted in a social moment in the company of this fine man. He touched the lives of so many local folks.

Mr. Lloyd Bell was a very special person who we are honoured to recognize and celebrate at CCHM. It is fitting that the Godfrey beauty salon – the subject of the previous story – is directly across from his barber shop in our display barn.

Some information for this article came from the archives of Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum and some from an article by Courtney Whelan of the Orillia Packet and Times. Mr. Bell’s daughter was another wonderful source.

Come and visit us when we reopen in the Spring and experience a walk in the past through our display barn. Then tour the many other attractions.

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Cottage Shack Articles: Co-Op A Novel Idea, A Local Beef Ring – Nov. 26, 2021

To read the original article and others in this series visit the Cottage Shack magazine

Being curator at the Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM) requires me to learn all I can about our wide variety of artifacts and buildings.

The Woodrow log house is the only building on site. Though a few of the outbuildings have been built by volunteers, most are genuine originals donated by former owners from off-site and reconstructed here. Some came with many fixtures, tools and furnishings, authentic to the structures; they serve to further the credibility of the museum’s representation of a particular feature of earlier rural life.

All my previous articles have been related to fashion. This entire is vastly different as I have chosen to write here about what I feel is our most interesting building on site – The Eady slaughterhouse. Our guests either find it very intriguing or a little unsettling – sometimes both. During a tour, when we describe and explain the reasons for such things as a blood trough, bleeding our and butchering, a visitor’s attention soon becomes focused on the true purpose of the operation that was once performed here.

Doug Binns, one of our volunteers has researched this building extensively and written an article published in an issue of the Coldwater Current newspaper titled “Fresh Meat – What a Luxury.”

In today’s world we think nothing of going to the supermarket to purchase fresh beef, pork or poultry for our dinner table. But in the 180s and early 1900s, the lack of fresh meat was a real concern. Area farmers generally did not lack animals as sources of protein for their families, it preserving large quantities of meat certainly was a challenge. Thus, the emergence of the beef ring.

In the Medonte/Coldwater area around 1904, Mr. Sam Dunlop came up with the original co-operative idea. Most visitors to CCHM are surprised to learn that co-ops were around at the turn of the last century – not a more modern concept. Mr. Dunlop gathered together 25 families to form the original group. A slaughterhouse was constructed on the Russell farm on the 10th line of Medonte just north of the Village of Eady.

Each shareholder family was, in turn, required to deliver an animal to the slaughterhouse between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. of their designated day to be slaughtered the next day by the resident butcher, Mr. Scarlett. This process happened regularly very 2 to 3 weeks. Once the animal was slaughtered, hung to bleed out and butchered, the meat was then wrapped in brown paper and the package was tied with a string. The family whose animal was processed received the best cuts of meat – juicy steaks and choice roasts as opposed to boiling beef. Packaged meats were placed in labelled boxes attached to the walls of the slaughterhouse, each co-op member having a numbered box. The butcher would then let the members know that their meats were ready for pick up. If a family did not eat the meat promptly, they would often preserve it with brine.

Beef rings grew in popularity as they were a very efficient way to ensure that fresh meat was always available. The Eady beef ring grew in size at one point to 35 members. Here are the names of some local families that were recorded as members: Dunlop, Johnston, Walker, Hawke, Ball, Kent, Wilson, McFarland, Merced, Bell, Graham, Blaney, Spence, Orion, Rose, Moon, Reid, Kellington, Russell, and Young.

In 1965 the co-op was disbanded. However, local farmer Geordi Kent continued to slaughter his cattle and pigs there well into the 1960s. The locals were enjoying grocery stores providing their meats and farmers had long since begun shipping their cattle to meat packing plants located in the major centres. Though the slaughterhouse remained on the Russell property, serving for some years as a storage shed, it retained much of the specialized equipment that had been incorporated into it.

Bill Wilson, who had spent his youth on a neighbouring family farm, returned to the area in 1979. He and his wife Linda purchased the Russell farm and settled into their retirement there. Shortly afterwards they donated the slaughterhouse and contents to CCHM. The structure was dismantled and carefully delivered to the museum. It was reconstructed on our site and restored to its original purpose.

While many of our visitors find the experience to be quite gruesome, some of our local folk have fond memories of this place. A brother of one of our volunteers actually was at one time an assistant to the butcher.

You might want to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum in the Spring to see our slaughterhouse firsthand…if you dare!

By Patricia Turnour

Editor’s Notes:

It is often the case that when someone makes a donation to CCHM their interest is piqued to the point that they themselves become volunteers and, in some cases, member of the board of directors. Such was the case of Bill and Linda Wilson.

While researching this subject I got a look at the original Minute Book that recorded the annual meetings of The North River Beef Ring from 1928 to 1954. It belongs to and was loaned to me by Bernice Dobson, a great grand-daughter of Archibald and Catherine Woodrow whose homestead is the main attraction at CCHM. What also makes this book of value to Bernice is the fact that many of the eateries were made by her father Joe Walker, one of many grandsons of the Woodrows.

Because much of the script is extremely difficult to read, I chose to rewrite the entry from 1928 to provide some insight into how a typical co-op functioned. The 1928 minutes were the only ones that provided sufficient legibility for a good excerpt from it. You can see that the meetings were structured and that the shareholders took their rules and responsibilities seriously.

I also found it curious that they annually held an oyster supper. Reference to it appears in the Minute Book as late as 1937.

North River Beef Ring Minute Book

An excerpt from the meeting of October 13, 1928

Moved by: Norman MacDonald, Seconded by: Mel Lovering That Les Archer and George Lovering be judges for coming year. Carried.

Moved by: Les Archer, Seconded by: Judy Kitchen The price of beef be the same as last year – 12 cents/pound. And kill two in May.

Moved by: Dave Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer Anything under four hundred the price to be be $10.00. Carried.

Moved by: Clint Archer, Seconded by: P. Lovering A fine of $10.00 is not put in proper turn in the ring. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer P. Hawke be paid $5.00 for repairs to the slaughterhouse and Nora Lovering $1.00.

Moved by: Les Archer, Seconded by: A. Hawke The secretary write The Johnson Farmhouse, for the full amount due to the ring is not settled for his share to be sold and (he) put out of the ring. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: P. Hawke That every share holder is to be present at the fall meeting or a representative, is not his share be forfeited from the ring. Carried.

Moved by: Clint Archer, Seconded by: Mell Lovering The laws of the ring be posted up in the slaughterhouse. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer We have an oyster supper on the 27 Oct…(unintelligible).

Andrew Lovering Received Cash $53. 38

Expenses – $45:00

Balance in the bank – $12.73

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Cottage Shack Articles: You’ve Got Mail (A-Team Part 4) – Nov. 18, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group of dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. On any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list is endless.

Although there is a lot yet that needs doing of that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You could too!

In earlier stories of the A-Team, I wrote about volunteering at the museum on Wednesday mournings and about how our group was expanding. I also shared some details about the early restoration and refurbishment projects we tackled.

Over the winter of 2017/2018 we were blessed with the use of a large, well-equipped workshop that belongs to my brother-in-law. By this time the A-Team was working both mourning and afternoon of a Wednesday and had grown in size to six members, so we were able to tackle two projects. One was the pre-fabrication of the framing for a future storage shed and Playhouse for kids – it will be the subject of a future article.

Restored Mail Sorter and Post Office Display 2021

The other project involved the restoration of an antique mail sorter donated by Tom and Terry Malloy who had obtained it about 15 years earlier in a Severn Township barn. It is a beauty. They had kept it high and dry in their basement throughout their tenure.

Sadly, they were unable to provide any knowledge about its origin. We chose to believe that it very likely had been employed in one of our local village post offices.

It’s fascinating that the modern postal system, having started with the inception of the adhesive postage stamp, came about in Canada mid-19th century around the time that pioneer Archibald Woodrow was building his homestead, the centrepiece of the museum.

The mail sorter was the forerunner of today’s post office box system. Whereas today people can whip into the post office with key in hand and quickly get their mail from their P.O. Box, in earlier times the mail was sorted into numbered, glass fronted boxes nestled together in a cabinet mounted one a table. The postal clerk or, in most places the size of Coldwater, the postmaster stood behind the table and handed you the mail from your numbered box. This meant that on occasion you would find yourself in line while another ahead of you may engage the postmaster in idle gossip. Customer: “Well…I heard…the cherry pie Mary Chater entered in the Fall Fair came from Walker’s bakery. And it won second prize!” Postmaster: “Perhaps Walkers might henceforth want to advertise their pies as prize-winning.” “NEXT!” But I digress.

That winter we restored our new gem. Bob remembers how a visit to a car wash solved the issues of some layers of crud. The next step required a level of dexterity since much of the finer pieces – the ones that were not already missing – had to be detached. Replacements for the missing and damaged pieces needed to be fabricated. John worked some serious magic by hand-carving a couple of rosettes. He also produced a long piece of scrollwork that crowns the front of the sorter. All the glass was replaces. Trip around the boxes posted a challenge. A few lengths of a closely matched moulding were the ticked. These we cut, fitted and attached to the glass with double-sided adhesive strips.

The completed assembly required sanding with two grades of fine sandpaper. Providing a finish that is close to the original colour required the mastery of our two most experienced antique refinishers, Mike and Bob. Mike grew up in a family of “antiquophiles.” When I asked him about the formula for the final coats of finish he said, “If I tell you, Clay, I’ll have to kill you! It’s a secret family recipe that my mother got a long time ago from a farmer in Trois Rivieres.” All I was able to determine is that it consisted of a highly flammable mixture of linseed oil, beeswax and turpentine in approximately equal portions. Apparently, the secret lies in the manner in which the elements are “cooked.” Two coats of this unique finish were buffed on with soft cotton cloths. Minwax stain was added to the mix when applied to the newer pieces to get a good colour match.

The final step of the process was numbering the glass fronts of the 54 boxes. This assignment was given to me, the very armature artist. Numbers, letters and sign painting not being in my wheelhouse, a trip to Staples was in order. There I obtained several sheets of peel and sticks decals that were relatively easy to apply. Voila! And very professional looking, I might add!

While we were busy at Gary’s shop, our honorary A-Team member, Rollie produced in his home workshop the elegant able upon which our mail sorter so proudly rests – the dilapidated table that had accompanied it was neither original nor salvageable. Therewith we were able to install the completed ensemble making it the focal point of the village post office on Main Street in the display barn at CCHM.

And now, dear reader, we have a problem and we need your help. Ad mid-point of the sorter and at the table level there is an opening for the pass through across the table of mail stamps, money, etc. It has a door the postal clerk can raise and lower as required. That is clear enough. However, there is also in that vicinity a turned rod about an inch and a half in diameter mounted between two protruding brackets. At approximately sic inches long it looks similar to the core of a toilet roller and is accessible from the front only. And it doesn’t rotate, but is locked in place with no apparent means of release. We are done stratchin’ our heads! Somebody Tell us what it is, and what is its purpose! PUH…lease!

If you are are retired – or not – and want to spend one day a week with a group of really great guys doing some remarkable historical preservation works, give me a call at (705) 209-1087. Or email me at

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Cottage Shack Articles: All Around the Cobbler’s Bench – Nov. 11, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine

As curator and director of Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM), I have had the pleasure of working on my interesting and informative displays. From wagons and buggies to tractors and buzz saws, the challenge is to ensure that our artifacts are well researched and well cared for.

One of our many displays is title “All Around the Cobbler’s Bench.” It is located in our carriage barn. A description based on our research accompanies the display.

Doug Binns, one of our devoted volunteers has a keen interest in the subject. He wrote about the talents of the Shoemaker in the Coldwater Current newspaper, July 2012. His article was titled “One Two Buckle My Shoe.”

The history of shoes is really quite simple. Even prehistoric man, wandering the world in bare feet regularly would have injured the soles of his feet. It did not take long for these nomads to ban together to find better ways of life. They soon began covering their feet with pieces of wood, animal hide or bark. Even today, this practice continues. An excellent resource for this information is the book All About Shoes by the Bata Shoe Company.

As society became more sophisticated, so did footwear. The simple sandal provided a much more pleasant way for walking. One’s social and financial status would eventually influence footwear fashion. Shoes also began to be designed for specific purposes, i.e., bedroom slippers, simple walking shoes, sports shoes, heavy work boots, skates and ski boots.

New fashions began to appear such as welt button, patent leather, lace and ladies’ spring heels. We are fortunate to have samples of most of the turn of the century shoes. The cost at that time would range from $1.95 for a pair of common-sense shoes to $3.00 for a more elite style. This we learned when perusing our 1906 Sears Roebuck and Company catalogue.

Although our collection is interesting, it pales in comparison to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection that boasts of more than 2000 shoes. Even more impressive is the fact that this display covers more than 3000 years. A shoe collector’s dream! A trip to London, England perhaps?

Although not on par with that museum, our collection includes a variety of ladies leather shoes and boots and some dainty, cloth covered shoes that usually completed a bridal outfit. The few pairs of men’s shoes and boots in our display have barely stood the test of time. Our children’s shoes, are tiny and fragile. As most of our footwear was donated by local folks, we lack examples of stylish footwear such as ones that would sport jewels, buckles or bows. DONATIONS GLADLY ACCEPTED!

As part of our display, we have some interesting tools of the trades of shoemaking and other leather works. For a long time, cobbler was a traditional handicraft – up until the invention of the industrial sewing machine in 1846 and the consequent advent of the mass production of footwear. CCHM has such a machine. It is heavy and cumbersome but still functional.

In small communities like Coldwater the shoemaker’s talents would be engaged to make all manner of leather goods including such things as saddles, reins, harnesses and other horse tack. Volunteer Bob Turnour, with a “heady” assist from Doug Binns also created a “harness rack horse” for the display of such artifacts at our museum.

If you are curious to learn more about vintage footwear, plan to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum in the Spring to view our “All Around the Cobbler’s Bench” display.

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Cottage Shack Articles: Widow’s Weeds – Nov. 5, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Patricia Turnour and I am curator at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). Among other things, my very rewarding work includes acquiring new artifacts, setting up displays and researching local history. As a volunteer, not-for-profit organization CCHM benefits from the generosity of grants to hire students for the summer months. Their work in cataloguing our collection has been invaluable.

Through the articles we write, our individual interests are emerging. My previous research on hats grew out of my passion for them. I sport one every day that I work at the museum.

My other passion is vintage clothing. We recently displayed our collection during the Coldwater Fall Fair. Our most interesting apparel is our selection of widow’s wear, also known as “widow’s weeds.”

What are Widow’s Weeds?

The word “weeds” is an old English term meaning garments. It was originally spelled “waeds.”

There have always been cultural rites associated with death. Common in Western society has been the wearing of black. But the most complex list of rules emerged during the Victorian era. Queen Victoria herself donned full widow attire after the passing of her beloved consort, Prince Albert. For over 40 years she continued to wear black. Even her staff wore black clothing and black armbands. It is believed that the only time she was not in black was when she was buried in her white wedding dress.

Only the upper-class women, who could afford the expense of replacing an entire wardrobe, followed Queen Victoria’s lead. When grieving the loss of a husband, parent or child her mourning rules were strictly followed. A mourning consultant would often be hired to guide a widow through the exercise, which included some bizarre regimens such as corresponding exclusively on black-edged stationary and greeting cards.

The weeds consisted of long black dresses, capes, veils, hats and shawls. All were usually made of coarse uncomfortable materials thus enhancing the widow’s suffering. This attire was not for the faint of heart, especially during the warm summer months! Weeping veils were worn to hide the widow’s face and most dresses had large sleeves used to wipe away the widow’s tears.

No adornments were permitted in the initial stage of one’s grief but eventually black jewelry called jet – a fossilized, light weight wood – was allowed. Few social engagements were attended besides church and funerals. Widows were expected to behave conservatively.

Following a year and one day of deep mourning, a period of half mourning prevailed, during which a slight brightening of attire to colours such as greys and browns was acceptable. After the year and a day of deep mourning, widows were meant to burn their weeds to provide closure and show the end of their grief.

After the Victorian era, these rituals and strict protocols faded. However, during the era the custom did prevail in North America.

CCHM is fortunate to have an extensive collection of widow’s weeds. Some of the items, we believe, were actually worn by the Woodrow ladies. Thankfully, they were more frugal than most and did not burn this clothing. They likely passed it on to others in need. It was also believed to be bad luck to wear these clothes when not in mourning.

To have such items intact is very special and our collection will be on display when we reopen in the Spring.

Stay tuned for my next article titled: All Around the Cobbler’s Bench about one of our latest displays. Located in the carriage barn is a wonderful display of shoes, skates, boots, harnesses, etc. The role of the shoemaker extended way beyond mere footwear.

(Portions of this article appeared in the Coldwater Current newspaper in August 2012.)

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Cottage Shack Articles: All About Ladies Hats – Oct. 28, 2021

You can read the original article and others in its series at the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Patricia Turnour and I have been involved with CCHM for the better part of 16 years. Although my role has changed many times, my dedication and commitment to this amazing place has remained steadfast. As curator, I have the opportunity to work alongside many wonderful volunteers. Whether outdoors building a fence or guiding a tour; or indoors arranging a display or greeting visitors, the work is always rewarding.

Each of us who write here about our particular interests in CCHM brings a unique perspective that, we hope, adds to the museum’s charm.

Through my articles, my passions and interest will become apparent. I have done extensive research into the history of millinery and, therefore, my first article is about hats. Not only am I a keen collector, but the museum also has a large assortment of headwear. A number of our hats were recently on display during the Coldwater Fall Fair.

Headwear has been in use since cave dwellers wore pelts to protect their heads. Through ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, some sort of headdress was worn. Eventually hats even became symbols of fashion, wealth and status.

Mop caps of the 17th and early 18th centuries, like those worn by Martha Washington, were used simply to keep hair clean. Pioneer-style bonnets served the same purpose and provided protection from the sun. These simpler fashions seldom needed the skills of a milliner. By contrast, the wealthy of the day, sported fancy, and often plumed, hats and powdered hair. “Rats” were made using collections of hairs from one’s combs and brushes gathered together and sewn into a piece of netting which was then placed under a hat to increase the hair’s volume.

During Victorian times many ladies’ hats were regarded as artistic masterpieces. But hats also came to have a variety of practical uses. For example, the light-weight lingerie hat that emerged out of the Edwardian era was typically worn in summer. Frequently, at garden parties and weddings, the wealthy class adorned these simple hats with cabbage roses, daisies, poppies, ribbons and even bird’s nests.

The widow’s weeds, which is comprised of widow’s cap, weeping veil and black dress, worn during mourning became the trend when Queen Victoria wore it while mourning the death of her husband Prince Albert. We are most fortunate to have a collection of grieving clothes at CCHM. These clothes were supposed to have been burned at the end of Mrs. Woodrow’s mourning period. She being frugal, as many women in her circumstances, saved them for later use by others in the family should the need arise.

At the onset of the 20th century, although many hats shown off by ladies were still plumed and worn with matching high collar fashions, shorter hair styles began to emerge and smaller, close-fitting hats were designed to accommodate the change.

During the First World War, fashions in general were much simpler. Hats lacked the plumage and other adornments of pervious decades. Unfortunately, too many women wore black hats with netting in mourning a soldier’s death.

This fashion trend prevailed through the Second World War during which other hat designs were inspired by the military.

By the 1950s many new and creative styles were emerging. Designers were commissioned to create unique headwear for famous celebrities. For example, Jackie Kennedy popularized the pillbox hat. Paris and Milan designers created masterpieces made of glass, fruit, tule (netting), etc. Mr. Bunn, a famous Harlem milliner is quoted as saying, “Buy the hat first and the outfit to go with it is merely an accessory.”

since the 1960s hat wearing has become much less fashionable, though.

Queen Elizabeth continues to wear beautifully designed hats matching her attire on every occasion. And at some event such as the Royal Ascot Derby it is customary for ladies to be seen flaunting exciting original designs. The Hampton hat, sported by wealthy, vacationing ladies summering in the Hamptons of Long Island, New York is a brimmed straw hat decorated with ribbons, bows, and flowers.

Smaller sculptural hats called fascinations are less cumbersome but still allow women to be socially appropriate. Several have worn these unique fashions at recent royal weddings.

At CCHM we are fortunate to have a large collection of hats worn by local women in days past.

We hope this story will inspire you to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum when we reopen in the Spring.

Stay tuned for Part 2, titled Widow’s Weeds.

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Cottage Shack Articles: My Favourite Artifact – Oct. 21, 2021

First in a Series About Historic Machines and Equipment at CCHM

To read the original article and others in this series visit the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-Team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group of dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. On any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list of dos at the museum is endless.

although there is a lot yet that needs doing or that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You could too! Until recently I have given no thought as to what might be my favourite among the thousands of artifacts at the museum. But upon the arrival of the autocracy in 2020 it was love at first sight. It arrived I pristine condition, and to an A-Teamer this was huge because most arrivals represent one more restoration project. Don’t get me wrong; we all love working on restorations, but they seem to stack up faster than we can complete assignments that we also take on.

There is no way this beauty was going to be left exposed to the weather. Instead, a portable garage was erected by the A-Team to house one of the buggies making room for the autocracy in the carriage house.

What is so fascinating about the autocracy is the history that it brings. Our museum’s focus is very much on the agricultural society of the past century and farming is still an important local industry. There are a number of tractors in our collection including a Fordson tractor which is probably the earliest of the internal combustion types as well as a steam-powered giant.

The advent of the small farm tractor early in the twentieth century revolutionized farming. It could do the work of five horses for the price of one. But not all farmers could afford one, especially those with modest acreage. A conversion kit provided the perfect solution by turning a car into a tractor. One of the manufacturers even advertised that a Model T Ford could be converted to a tractor in 10 minutes and returned back to a car in 5 minutes. During the Great Depression of the 1930s and through the tractor scarce years of World War 11 this concept became quite popular with farmers, so much so that during the War and into the 1950s an Orillia company Otaco became a major producer of autotrac kits. The name Otaco was an acronym for Orillia Tudhope Anderson company 1902, makers of wagons and farm implements and, at one point, the Tudhope motorcar.

The autotrac was the “poor-man’s tractor.” As described by Bill Vance in the Times Colonist:

The autotrac was built using pre-fabricated parts, ad once the car was converted, there was no going back. It was constructed by removing the passenger cabin (often a Model A Ford such as ours), cutting off the back part of the car’s frame ahead of the axle and replacing it with a commercially available kit. The wheelbase was usually shortened for better maneuverability and access to implements. The kits would fit a variety of cars built up to the early 1930s, cars that were sitting around but their road going days were over.

The main elements of the kit were a frame with drawbar and a pair of large steel-cleated or rubber-clad tractor wheels with large internal ring gears.

The conversion kits could be installed by a large garage or blacksmith shop, or by a skilled farmer with instructions supplied.

Come visit us on a Wednesday at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum and, if you would like, I will be proud to show you my favourite artifact.