Friday, November 26, 2010

Household Amenities in Pokiok

Art McGuire and I got together yesterday for our weekly conflab during which we covered everything from his Dad's sojourn on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during the First World War ...... through Bunker Wallace running faster than "greased lightning" and barefoot at that! ...... to the plight and hard times of the "have-nots" in Upper Pokiok who lugged their water home by the bucket from a more-or-less nearby well ...... as compared to the flagrant luxury of the "haves" in Lower Pokiok who simply turned a tap and out she flowed !! We also agreed that the older we get the more we enjoy reminiscing about the past. By no means though does this mean that we live in or dwell nostalgically or unwholesomely on a long-gone period of our lives with hopes of its resurrection or rebirth. We simply delight in rehashing  and sharing experiences and feelings either common or individual acquired by both of us while growing up in Pokiok. And since the road behind us is far longer than the road ahead Art and I still have a ton of cobblestones to lay before we hang up our mortar boards and trowels.

While driving home from my "happy hour" with Art it started snowing ...... and my mind drifted back to yesteryear winters in Pokiok .... more precisely Saturday evenings beside the old kitchen stove reading the "funnies" from the usually thicker edition of the Times Globe that day ... Dagwood , Mammy Yokum , Dick Tracey , Superman , Buck Rogers , etc , or maybe even an inserted roto gravure with interesting pictures to check out. My Dad would normally read out loud some of the important newsy tidbits while my Mom busied herself baking pattypans or date squares in the oven , mixing up a batch of frosting and keeping a close eye on the many pots and kettles atop the stove full of hot water for later use ...... often lifting the lid to add a stick or two of dry wood from the pile in the corner to keep a strong fire going ..... for Saturday was "Sponge Bath Day" in Pokiok .... at least it was in our home. 
 But first we had to listen to the iconic Foster Hewitt and the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on the radio from Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto during which my father and I got to sample and literally devour Mom's pattypans as fast as she could put frosting on them. What a delight that was! During the War years I was still very young and scarcely lasted the whole third period so my Mom would start "washing me down" with extra warm water drawn from the hot water tank at the end of the stove covering my upper and lower limbs with Ivory Snow soap ... and all the while questioning me about the countries of the world (especially Europe and North America) their leaders and their capitals , the States and Provinces and their respective capitals , etc Some nights though my Dad took over and made me learn by heart and recite morsels from Robert Service... Dangerous Dan McGrew , Sam McGee , The Law of the Yukon , The Preacher's Son , etc ... which poems , believe it or not , I can still recite quite well after all these years. Nothing beats home education I guess ! Nor a good memory either .... the computer age hard-drive !!

My friend Art McGuire is a great guy ..... a born storyteller as well .....and now and then will kid me good-naturedly about his being three and a half years older than I .... and therefore , by having that headstart , can recall people , things and events not yet registered nor stored away in my memory locker. And this may very well be true. However , what I lack in my recollections ( 3 years worth) I amply make up for by way of experience. While the plush society of Lower Pokiok was basking in the luxury of turning taps on and flushing .... we denizens of Dogpatch Pokiok up the hill were fetching water home by the bucketful and heading out .... flashlight in hand ... on cold winter nights to a wee shack down behind the house on the edge of the cliff to satisfy certain bodily needs ..... then adding a scoop or two of lime before shivering our way back up to the house. Now those nights I remember !! They are engraved in my memory forever !! 

The picture in upper right corner shows me standing in front of our old outhouse..... maybe 1938. It was a two-holer and that always mystified me as I don't recall ever seeing two people in there at the same time. Others on the hill likewise had two-holers but I cannot recollect who they were. My Dad had made a window on the upper part of the door with shutters ... even went so far as to shingle the shack. Later he would whitewash the whole shebang. Picture on the left shows my Dad standing in shovelled pathway leading down to said shack. He is wearing my old hand-me-down coat and his cherished "peak cap". I added the third picture to introduce you to my old aunt Kit , an old Irish gal named Catherine Hayes , ......sweet , gentle and blind...... my Mom's mother's sister. My father built the po-chair I'm seated on ..... there is a hole under my rearend and usually a pot was placed underneath during potty training. Ah! the joys of country living !  

  Ben Wetherby sings THE LITTLE WHITEWASHED BUILDING ON THE FARM on his album "A New'fy Saraday Nite [sic, sic, sic!]."

From the Varsity Outdoor Club Songbook, 1993 (pdf file):


By the barn, oh, by the barn,

It's the most important building on the farm,

Where we used to sit at ease

With our elbows on our knees

In that little whitewashed building by the barn.

Where we used to read our mail

As we tore up Eaton's sale...

Where grandpappy cursed his soul

When his pipe fell down the hole...

We would sit there for a reason

When the apples were in season...

Where the hornets built their nest

And grandpappy let 'em rest...

Where he changed his mind at last

When one stung him on the— ...


  1. Sylvia Johnston SpencerNovember 28, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    Love it!!!
    I remember this way of life as it wasn't until the 50's that water and sewerage lines were brought through.
    I certainly remember your Mom's baking and cooking. I sampled my share. Your Mom and Dad were always busy, enjoying life and ALWAYS had time for a visit from any of us.
    I remember Saturday night baths, the big metal tub filled with the hot water held in a resevoir at the side of the wood stove. I remember Camay soap...that lovely smell.
    I love this road we are travelling with you and so happy that you and Artie have your happy hours!! Irene and I certainly do when we manage to pull a "get-together" together.

  2. Hi again , Sylvia
    Yes , and for a while folks were drawing water from a pipe in front of Doc Day's house half way up the Big Hill. I can still remember seeing water sloshing back and forth in big pails ... even spilling over ... as the cars or trucks climbed to the top of the hill afterwards. Amusing sights !!
    You mentioned visiting my folks so here is a quote from MOm's letter of May 12 , 1955 " Ginny and Sylvia sang on a radio show last Saturday. Ginny sang Molly Malone and Cookie sang Daffy Down Dilly. They sang for Dad out in the yard and he had them come in to sing for me. They were cute and he encourages them , in fact if they become famous , they will have him to thank."
    Art just called me and it looks as though we might be getting together with Irene next Monday. I am looking forward to meeting your best friend.
    Please keep coming back , Sylvia .... and should you have any childhood photos of your family , friends or physical surroundings in Pokiok I woul love to see them. Every little bit helps jog this old memory .....