August 18, 2019

A Sunday Drive Down Memory Lane

I’m feeling nostalgic lately so last Sunday, I told Raymond I wanted to take a drive to the area where I grew up. I wanted to take some pictures of my childhood haunts. Although I didn’t capture all of them, I caught a number of notable ones. I share this piece of my history with you now.

The MacMillan Cemetery is located in West Covehead, one of the two communities I grew up in. I walked and biked past that cemetery many times during my youth on my way to and from my best friend’s house. In those days, I didn’t slow down for a visit. Who wanted to be around tombstones and dead people? It’s only now, in middle age, that I hear the ancestral voices. I would have liked to know them.

In the middle of the cemetery sits the headstone of my great-great-great-great grandmother, Sarah (MacPherson) MacMillan. She was born in 1755 in Lochaber, Ayrshire, Scotland. She and her husband Laughlin emigrated from Scotland in 1806 on the Rambler and settled in the area now known as MacMillan’s Point. Sarah died on January 16, 1856 in West Covehead at the age of 101. The headstone inscription has faded with time as did any memory of her. Who was she? What was she like? Only imagination knows.

This rural church is less than a ten-minute walk from where I lived as a young child. It’s where I was baptized and first went to Sunday school. I remember the Sunday school Christmas concert where I played an angel. My line: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Quite a mouthful for a five-year-old. I was dressed in a white flower girl dress I’d worn that fall in a wedding with the addition of white bristol board wings edged in silver garland and a silver garland halo on my head. My daughter Hannah was baptized here.

This is where I went to elementary school from 1973 to 1979 (grades one to six). I loved going to school, and I was in Group Six, the “smart” group. The thought of that makes me laugh now. I have many memories of this three-room school so someday I’ll write a blog post about it. In 2014, I was fortunate to have my picture taken with my elementary school teachers. From left to right: Nadine Axworthy (grades 5 and 6), Betty Gay (music teacher from grades 1 to 6), Ida Carpenter (grades 1 and 2), and Mary Gill (grades 3 and 4). The building is now used as a small community centre.

The original community hall was moved to this site in March 1937. “The Hall,” as we called it, was used for school fairs, card parties, dances, bingo and meetings. My earliest memory of the hall was standing on the stage as a four or five-year-old in a line of older kids.

I was the W of RAINBOW, and my line was supposed to be: “W is for worship, wisdom and work. We’ll do our work, never fear.”

Instead of reciting my line, I looked down at the crowd seated in front and started to cry: “Daddy, I don’t like all these people looking at me.” Dad came to my rescue and scooped me off the stage. I remember going to Brownies at the hall and attending numerous community events, usually afternoon bazaars and tea parties.

I went to bingo once, lost five dollars, and never played again. The hall was eventually torn down and replaced by the North Shore Community Centre just up the road.

The site of my beloved Thymewood which I wrote about recently. The elephant ear is still growing there. If you look closely at the second photo, you can see the spot between the spruce trees where the ponies came out of the woods at the end of the pony ride. Look at the wild purple thyme. Oh, my heart!

I asked my dad if this is where our gift shop, Thymewood, was originally located before he bought it. No, it wasn’t. He said the shop was about 300 yards nearer the Stanhope Golf and Country Club. Thymewood Lane was named later. Too bad. It was a romantic idea.

If you look closely, you’ll see the corner of my family home in West Covehead. Our original home that stood on the exact location burned down in 1979. This Cape Cod rose from the ashes. The silver maples that my parents planted out front have all but obscured the view from the road. The lawn and trees at the front were once filled with a market garden. We were produce vendors at the Charlottetown Farmers Market for many years. I’ll write a blog post about that someday too. Damn, it was hard work!

This was my other church while I was growing up. It was established in 1806 and was the first Presbyterian congregation on Prince Edward Island. Here, I went to Sunday school, listened to some good (and not so good) sermons, sang in the junior choir, and got married (the first time). My son Max was baptized here. Many of my family members are buried in the cemetery, and I’ve bought a plot to have my ashes interred when the time comes (unless I change my mind and have them spread all over God’s creation).

And what do you do after you’ve done a tour of your childhood stomping grounds? Why, you stop at a cheesy diner reminiscent of your childhood years (the 1970’s) and order a greasy burger with fries and a Pepsi from a teenage guy who’d rather be doing anything but serving a middle-aged woman and her husband. The burger was good, but I ate sunflower sprouts for supper to compensate.

Thank you for joining me on my Sunday drive down memory lane!