Saturday, April 13, 2013

Crisco, Masonic Swords and the Supernatural

As I wait for Spring, (another 5 inches of snow in my backyard today) I am watching some X-Files episodes on Netflix.

I prefer the funny episodes as I am not much of a fan of the crime genre or its enfant macabre, the serial killer plot.

Yesterday I watched Small Potatoes, one of  my favorite episodes, and yes, a serial killer Jonestown-story involving the past lives of Mulder and Scully, so a sentimental, serial-killer story.

The past lives concept is appealing, of course, even for non-Hindus. (Except there are almost 6 billion people on the planet now, so how can everyone have ONE past life, never mind 20?)

X-Files gets you to thinking about the supernatural - and everyone has had a few experiences in their lives out of the normal range - ones not fueled by drugs or long-distance running.

I have one attached to my Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster e-books.

It's a story about a Masonic sword and it could inspire an X-Files episode, should Mulder and Scully get back on the road again.

Now, I have based my e-books on family letters, family letters I found in an old trunk in my father-in-law's basement in 2004. My mother in law had passed away in 2002, without telling anyone about the trunk.

One day I was in my father in-law's basement, doing his laundry, waiting for the washing machine to complete its spin cycle, and I spotted the trunk (which I had ignored 100 times before) and decided right then and there to see what was in it.

The trunk  was crammed under a shelf so I could open it only a crack, but I did and slipped my hand in and pulled out the first thing my fingers touched, an ad for Crisco Shortening from 1916.

Me and the trunk 10 years ago from Gazette photo.

A Direct Mail ad for Crisco from the WWI years. Trying to take advantage of the rising cost of butter, no doubt.

As I was history-challenged back then, the 1916 date meant nothing.  The advert, of the Direct Mail variety, was addressed to Mrs. N. Nicholson. I had no idea who this Mrs. N. Nicholson was.

But I had been an advertising copywriter and I recognized slick copy when I saw it. So I was intrigued.

I pulled out the trunk from under the shelf and lifted the cover and saw that the trunk was full of letters, most bound loosely with old cord into bundles of 100 or so.

A thousand letters there were, with the bulk of them from the 1908-1913 era.

(The letters, pictures and memorabilia. I soon unbundled the letters and read them all.)

Over time I read them all, transcribed them all and printed them out and put them in a binder for some relations who were interested in reading them.

I also wrote up a summary of the content of the letters and sent a Christmas letter around to  a wider range of Nicholson descendants.

Eventually, I sent an essay version of this family letter to a Canadian History Website that posted  it with a picture of Norman Nicholson, the husband of Margaret (Mrs. N. Nicholson) in his Masonic uniform. (I had  found an old family album tucked away in a drawer.)

A few months later the webmaster of this Site contacted me to say he'd been contacted by a party in British Columbia who had Norman's sword and wanted to return it to the family.

And here's the X-Files aspect of it. The woman who was returning the sword had decided to on a whim.

Her husband had taken the sword from the Nicholson home in Richmond Quebec in the 1950's. (His family had been renting the house.)

The sword, in its sheath, had traveled the world with the man and now, in 2004, it was hanging on a wall somewhere the Okanagan Valley.

But then one day in 2004, the wife is told that Masonic swords have names inside, so she takes the sword off the wall and pulls it from its sheath and sees the name Norman Nicholson.

She looks up Norman Nicholson on the web, but there are too many under that name.

So her  husband tells her that he has something else belonging to the Nicholsons, in his stamp collection, a letter addressed to a Margaret Nicholson.

The wife then  looks up Margaret and Norman Nicholson and lands on the Canadian History Website and the picture of Norman in his Masonic garb, with the sword by his side.

(Norman, like all leading citizens of his town, was a Mason (despite the fact the Presbyterian Church was against them because being a Mason meant you kept secrets from your wife. Norman took his Masonic responsibilities very seriously and he made sure he paid his hefty dues even when cash-strapped.)

Had she done this 4 months before, she would have found nothing!

The sword is returned to us by courier immediately.

(Yes, she is very keen on giving it back to us. If this were an X-Files episode, the sword would be rattling on the wall :)

I place the sword on the mantelpiece in the living room beside a picture of Young Margaret.

At this point, I am working on the Tighsolas website, mounting the letters and including background material about the 1908-1913 era.

I have put a thick binder of Nicholson documents, temperance cards, train tickets, wedding invitations, also from the trunk, on the coffee table.

  (Son Herbert's signed Temperance Pledge. Methinks he broke his pledge. He was always in debt.)

My husband and I go downstairs to watch TV.

We hear a huge thump over our heads. The dog? I go upstairs to see that the binder has fallen off the table and broken open and its pages are spewed all over the room.

On the top of all the pages, Norman Nicholson's yellow death certificate.

(He died of a pulmonary embolism in Montreal in 1921.)

Anyway, I've since written many ebooks basedon the letters, social history books: Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Not Bonne over Here and Furies Cross the  Mersey, all available on Amazon.