Sunday, August 13, 2017

Country Fairs 1910-2017


A sumptous prize-winning quilt at the Williamstown Country Fair (August 11-13, 2017) 

Moose, beaver, poutine, maple syrup and Mr. Dressup. This is supposed to be a joke, but the display at the Canada pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exhibition wasn't all that different. It included Pelee Island wine, tho.

"Won many prizes for her baking and crafts." So reads the line after Margaret McLeod Nicholson's name in the seven page McLeod family genealogy.

Margaret (1854-1942) was indeed a very fine baker and cook, who never gave out her recipes without leaving out an ingredient, but there was much more to her.

She was a fiercely protective mother, a devoted wife through thick and thin, a new woman, a feminist and a suffragette sympathizer.

She also had a bit of the olden ways about her, taking an interest in what her dreams told her.

I discovered all this when I found the 1000 Nicholson family letters. I have published the letters and a number of quasi fictional books based on them, two about the Canadian Suffrage Movement.


But, today, it was her baking and crafts I was thinking about.  You see, I visited a Country Fair in Williamstown, Ontario. Although the place is near where I live and nearer where I talk my pets to the vet, I have never been in the lovely LITTLE town.

And I can't recall attending a country fair, anywhere. I think that back in 1970 I went to a fake 'Country Fair' in the Chomedey section of Montreal, where I saw an enormous bull sitting in a pen. A city girl, I had no idea how big bulls could be.

This Williamstown fair, the oldest annual fair in Canada, was sprawling, and full of fun and good things, even a bull or two.  It was a beautiful day, too.  While my husband watched a tug of war between 10 teams of burly men, I looked at the shiny antique cars on display (more throwback to the 60's)and visited the large crafts section to see the prize winning fair fare circa 2017.


Prize winning baked goods. I hope they don't go to waste.


 A Model T Ford from 1924. Probably not too different  from the ones from 1911.

Model T Interior.  Bare-bones. 

A Ford circa 1911, a model that might have cost as much as a nice house, say 2,000 dollars. And they didn't have credit back then. My Nicholson letters reveal that the 'motorcar'  were a big deal in the 1910 era in Richmond, Quebec. The Nicholsons couldn't begin to afford one, but Mr. Montgomery, next door, bought one in 1909 and even upgraded in 1911.




1960's T-bird interior.  


The lure of the sound of bagpipes led my Highlander husband  (with me following) to the dance competitions. My knees ached just watching. The Nicholsons and McLeods are his family. 



How now curly-haired cow. Heritage variety. I could have bought some chickens or turkeys ....or a Shetland pony!

Norman Nicholson (1850-1921) was not a farmer. He was a merchant in hemlock bark in 1899 when he signed this certificate. The hemlock industry would soon collapse and he'd worked in various jobs, inspecting ties on the Transcontinental Railway and overseeing the building of the Richmond, Quebec Post Office, until his death in 1921. He never had the money to buy a car, even a Model T!

Margaret McLeod Nicholson 1910. She did not like the new-fangled automobile. She thought her neighbour foolish to buy one, but she happily went on car rides with anyone who had an auto. (The one exception being in 1921 when she went to vote for the very first time. She couldn't wait for her ride, so she walked to the polls.) Perhaps she protested about autos in her letters to make her husband feel better about not being able to afford an auto like his many friends and family members.