Our Family Scrapbook

When fields were more than just fields!

We didn’t have iPhones…we had FUN!

When I was about 10 years old (that’s me in my ballet tutu), my family moved from Cumberland Street in centertown Ottawa, Ontario, to Orleans, Ontario, which at that time was just a village with a few streets running willy-nilly off the main road. It was within commuting distance of Ottawa, so my parents got to keep their jobs. Most of Orleans was farm country, so there were many fields, trees and wildflowers. I thought it was heaven after being an inner-city kid all my life.

Our street, Boyer Road, was a couple of miles long, with a huge hill at one end that was fun-scary to ride down on our bikes, but absolute torture to walk back up. There were houses on one side of the street, a small-time contractor’s version of a “community.” There were fields behind our house and further back, a delightful wooded area where we built a wonderful tree house.

Every summer, my dad mowed the field across from our house and made a croquet court. (As soon as I find it, I will post the photo of Dad on his mini-tractor that pulled a manual lawn mower). He put bright rubber tubing (made from an old red garden hose) over the wire wickets so we could see them clearly. He mowed that croquet court every week. A little further down the road, we kids mowed a big part of the field and created a baseball diamond–we played softball just about every day. A short distance from our baseball diamond, the boys mowed a huge area to create a football field, complete with white lines and homemade goalposts.

When we weren’t out in one of those fields, we were playing in the fort that we built in the field behind our house. We “borrowed” some scrap lumber from new houses being built nearby–I’m sure the construction workers knew, but they never said anything. The project started off with about five or six of us kids, but as the sun grew hotter, the kids grew thirstier until soon, there was just me. I built that fort almost single-handedly and loved every minute of it. My dad came out and tested the strength of our fort to make sure it wouldn’t collapse on our heads. Once he was convinced that we would be safe, he came back with a big piece of clear, heavy-gauge plastic, which he installed over the window openings to protect the treasures we kept inside from the rain. My mom found a cute pair of curtains and we put them up to give our fort a homey look.

In addition to our fort, we built a tree house in the woods. It was fun, but a bit scary when we tried to cram too many of us into it simultaneously. One day, I was alone in the tree house when my friend Nicole came looking for me. At the edge of the woods, she saw a grass snake and ran home like the devil was chasing her. She told my mom about this “huge and scary” snake, which freaked out my mom. When I came home, Mom gave me a big lecture about the dangers of snakes in the woods. Today, we wouldn’t let our kids play in the woods, period, and it wouldn’t be for fear of a harmless grass snake. Times have surely changed.

I loved my bike!

Every evening, after the dinner dishes were done (by me and Mom), my brother and I would go to the construction site and pick up all the empty pop bottles. We’d pile them in our bicycle baskets and ride a couple of miles down the huge hill to the dépanneur, where we would buy another supply of soft drinks for the construction workers. Riding back up that steep hill was impossible, and we had to walk up while pushing our bikes, which were now loaded with a couple of dozen bottles of Coca-Cola. Of course, I marked up the cost of the pop so we would make a small profit. By the end of the summer, we had made enough money to buy new living room drapes for my mom, so our hard work really paid off. I was very proud of those drapes and felt I had contributed to our new home.

Those were the good old days!


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