Sunday, April 10, 2011

The White Picket Fence !!

When my Dad popped the question to his bride-to-be back during the winter of 1932-33 ..... asking her whether she would follow him into the wilds of Pokiok where he hoped to build a home .... she answered affirmatively  .... then added somewhat jokingly ......  " Provided you put up a white picket fence !" So marry they did on April 26th , 1933 with Dad signing a seven-year lease the ensuing 8th of July  on a piece of land in Pokiok adjacent to that of a certain Frederick S Johnston ...... a man to whom I have often referred to affectionately in earlier posts as "Uncle Stan". For the first seven years he simply leased the land until he could muster up the money to buy it outright "wholus-bolus" I guess.

Reading through the lease which I have here before me as I write these lines I can't help but smile and chuckle at some of the clauses and restrictions .... and the old legalistic language ... witnesseth , doth , hath , etc. For example , the document stipulated that the Lessee ( My Dad ) " shall not nor will at any time during the continuance of the term hereby granted , build , erect , use , exercise or carry on , nor permit or suffer to be built , erected , used , exercised or carried on in or upon the premises hereby demised , any slaughterhouse , butchery , soap boilery , tallow chandlery , factory worked by steam power or any other noxious noisy or offensive trade or occupation whatsoever without the consent in writing under the hand of the said Lessor ( Estate of late Irene Maud Simonds ) ." Furthermore the lease added that should my Dad decide to engage in one of the above - mentioned activities and the Lessor's consent be forthcoming then he would be obliged " at his own cost charges and expenses to fence in and enclose the said lot of land hereby demised with a good and lawful FENCE." One way or another my father seemed to be haunted by "fences" !And we think our modern day zoning laws are a bit odd !! They were every bit as weird 80 years ago in the heydays of  frontier Pokiok.

Anyways Dad didn't entangle himself in any of the aforementioned enterprises ..... and therefore , was not held to build a fence as a security measure. He did , however , build a house , a garage , a two-seater outhouse , a 400-gallon cement reservoir in our cellar which he kept constantly filled with water syphoned from the well across the road , a chicken coop for some 60-70 pullets , hens and roosters which he erected on adjacent property which did not belong to us , a monster BBQ ... or 'picnic centre' as my Mom called it ..... made up of some 60-70 cement blocks ...... and then there was his pride and joy ..... the garden ! He turned an arrid , rocky , barren backyard into one of the prize-worthy , productive gardens on Pokiok Road ..... all this done the "blood,sweat and tears" way by spending all his off hours from the port wheelbarrowing and lugging by hand good silt and topsoil from the hollow up the road back down to our yard. During the war years we reaped many excellent harvests of mainly squash , potatoes , beets and beans whereas once the war over Dad went into flowers "big time". Although he loved all flowers he had a giant soft spot for dahlias ( he knew them all by name ) and gladioli.

Ah yes , the white picket fence ....... well it took him 20 years to finally get around to satisfying Mom's request so in 1953 ...... seen in pictures above ..... he set about sinking the posts in cement and sawing up the stakes/pickets. He finished it by mid July.

P.S. Mom also wanted to have a blue spruce out front so Dad planted one ...... as seen beside her in the photo. The bottom picture shows the fence in the early 1980s when the old rocks and underbrush have all been cleared away. Note the size of the blue spruce. For antique car lovers ...... take a gander at my Dad's 1949 Hudson parked there behind Mom. Maybe Chrysler had it in mind when they brought out their already defunct Cruiser ????? Mom's photo was certainly taken on a Sunday after Mass as she is wearing her hat and sporting white gloves .... a sign of the times and customs !


  1. Sylvia Johnston SpencerApril 13, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Hi Gerry,
    Enjoyed your last two posts.
    I remember your Dad's love of gardening because my Mom did as well. My Dad did not share the "passion" that real gardeners have and like to share so my Mom often enjoyed both gardens. I am sure they traded seeds and bulbs and ideas.
    I would go over with Mom and I was the beneficiary of your Mom's delicious baking. It is sad that today's kids don't get to know their neighbours like we did.
    I hope you have met the people in your original home. I met him once and he seemed quite nice...he took wonderful photos of birds.
    Russell Flynn lives in Katherine's home. I do not know who owns our home now. Paul's son sold it last year. Mom and Charlotte had hoped it would stay in the family but it did not work out that way.
    One of these years, we will go back and visit Saint John. Your home town always beckons. We visited my husband's last fall and we enjoyed the time spent there. Funny how everything was so much larger in his mind's eye.
    Take care... enjoy your researching and we will enjoy your results.

  2. Hi Sylvia .... I can still see your Dad , hammer in hand with the chewed up yellow lead pencil tucked away behind his ear. Uncle Stan was more into carpentry than into gardening like your Mom and my Dad. And absolutely nobody could walk the way Uncle Stan did..... slow shuffle with toes pointed inwards without being pigeon toed. I loved to watch him walk ...
    Sorry the old homestead is no longer in your family .... yet having Russell and Huneybub in Katherine and Frank's makes up for it a wee bit I guess !!
    Art just called me and we are meeting for our weekly talk-a-thon on Tuesday morning at the mall ..... Irene will be there too. Maybe we'll find out a wee bit more about Joe's recovery. Art tellls me that he had returned to hospital a few times since his operation. Hopefully and prayerfully we hope things will keep on getting better for him ... and for Irene as well ... by ricochet.
    Always glad to have you drop by , dear Sylvia , so I shall try to come up with some old memory soon .......Gerry

  3. Doesn't Josie look grand in her bonnet and gloves

    the kid from the south