Cameron F. L. Waddington
On the Straight & Narrow!
A Life in Combermere
I visited Cam on a beautiful September day of fall colours in his 1950s home in Combermere. Son Kent led me on a little walk down a well-trodden path under the trees between their homes (a testament to their close relationship) to meet his father, then left us quickly, taking Cam’s little dog “Beauty” with him, so Cam could tell me is life story in preparation for his 80th birthday party in 2008.
A magnifying glass lay on the coffee table in Cam’s living room to read all those newspapers and magazines with, now that his eyes were clouded with cataracts. Old pictures of his Mother and wife Dorothy adorned the brick fireplace, against a backdrop of dark green walls and gold carpet, his personal choices. Tall purple asters swayed in the front yard and a wind of traffic blew by on the highway, while I interviewed him.
A little bored and lonely, Cam confided he had no secrets and though elderly, he was still able to recall many dates, from years of faithfully kept records. After all, his forebears were the original pioneer settlers of Combermere and he had history to uphold. Soft spoken, sensible, hardworking, and honest, he was kind enough to tell his story to me, a complete strange, on short notice. That is how this tale came to be.
More Blessed to Give
When I asked Cam to give us a quote that characterized his life and which meant something to him, he said, “It’s more blessed to give, than to receive” (from his Sunday School days) but added “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!” (John F. Kennedy.) Both seem fittingly symbolic of his values, as you will see. And now, let’s heat from Cam.
Crooked Nose, Crooked Mouth
I was born in Smith Fall on the 15th of March, 1928. I think it was a Saturday. I wasn’t too well aware of the fact at the time! (chuckles) Dad was about 31 and Mom was 6 years older. Perhaps that’s why I was an only child (the best and the worst) or maybe they planned it that way because of the Great Depression. I was named after both my Dad Lewis and Uncle Fraser and after Mother’s Family, the Camerons. So I’m Cameron, Fraser, Lewis, Waddington. They say Cameron means “crooked nose” and Campbell means “crooked mouth!” (Laughs)
My Dad’s name was William Lewis Waddington and we called him Lew. I think Dad’s father was William and his Mom was Mary Elizabeth. She was a Hudson. Oh boy, off hand … Mom’s parents were William Lumsden Cameron and her mother’s name was Isabel Croy. My wife was Dorothy Eleanor Jenkins. My children are Cameron Kent and Suzanne Lynne. That’s it!
The Cameron Family
Mother’s name was Irene Lillian Cameron. She was a quite woman and a good cook. She played biolin in an orchestra in Ottawa and had a piano. I still have it and Kent has the violin! Her family was from Quebec, but she grew up in Ottawa. Her siblings were Isabel Hollington in Ottawa and Gordon Cameron ~a miner in Timmins. I saw lots of Isabel and her daughter Mitzi (Marjorie May), but not much of Gordon. His wife was Arlene and they had several kids ~Glenwood, Arlene Anne, Gordon and Sandra.
Jack and Gertrude
Dad’s brother was Jack (a jack of all trades who worked at the Governor General’s Residence in Ottawa) and his wife Mable and their children Ellen, Edith, Betty, Jacquetta, Bill, Charlie and Bert. I knew them all. And there was Dad’s sister, Gertrude and her husband Fraser Reid (a mining engineer who discovered something to do with gold or atomic energy). They lived in Cobalt and then Toronto, Ontario. Their children were James, Jack, Donald, Lewis and Agnes.
How Mom & Dad Met
Grandfather Cameron used to come to Combermere to hunt and fish and I guess that’s how Dad and Mom met. Later, Dad went Ottawa to visit Mom when they were courting. Mom was a city girl, but liked the country. She used to stay with my Great Aunt Margaret and her husband Captain Hudson’s house. Margaret and the Captain’s son was my cousin Edwin, who was about the same age as my Dad. He didn’t get along with his wife and left Toronto to live in Combermere. When he was old, I looked after him in my home until he died.
The Only One for Her
We lived in Smith Falls when I was little. My Father was a traveling salesman for George Robertson Ltd., Wholesale Grocery, until 1934. Mom’s father had a business in Ottawa, not too far away, but I don’t know what it was. Mother was a very honest woman and tolerated no profanity. It was a late marriage (1925) for them both, perhaps delayed by World War One. Dad used to say, “She’s the girl for me!” and they got along great. They were happily married. If there was a difference of opinion my father might fly off the handle, by Mom would say, “Now, don’t get your tail in a knot!” They would agree to disagree and walk away.
The Little Thief Saves Father’s Life
In Smith Falls, we had an apartment in a middle class neighbourhood on Daniel Street. My Dad came home weekends with quite a lot of money from sales and Mom saved it in the little green glass case in the china cabinet. There was a Red & White Grocery store, right next to use, owned by the man who owned our apartment. Well, I was small and wanted some gum, so I “relieved” my Dad of his bundle of money. (Laughs) There was a window well not far from the sidewalk and I stuck all the money in there! Yes, I was severely chastised for that, but I guess I saved Father’s life by showing them where the stash was! It must have been hundreds of dollars ~ even thousands!
The Hame Strap
My Mother had a Hame strap, you know it’s used to tie up harness to a horse’s collar, about that long (gestures). She used to switch me on the back of the legs with it. It was enough of a lick that you did what you were told, not often, but it was there and you knew it, like the strap at school, which I got a few times for chewin’ gum! It was called Red Jacket, not bubblegum, an extra long cinnamon stick. Well I was a pretty good kid. There wasn’t a lot of discipline problems. Neither Mom nor Dad were too strict.
A Recess Cowboy
Then when I was about six, we moved to Ottawa (Mother’s home town) where Dad took a job with Underwood Typewriters, a big company in those days. We lived in a house on Frank Street. I had a friend who wouldn’t let any kid beat me up! In Ottawa, I went to Elgin Street School, but I hated class and wasn’t a good student. My Favourite subject was recess. I liked being outdoors more and watching all the Western movies ~I wanted to be a cowboy. But I didn’t skip class. I liked art class, drawing whatever (laughs) I like TV now. I can watch it all day long.
Moving to Combermere
We moved to Combermere on the 3rd of September, 1936 because Dad lost his job with Underwood Typewriter. It was the middle of the Great Depression. So we came home to his family in Combermere. I was only 8 and I didn’t mind moving to the country. I was closer to my Father because he wasn’t away all the time doing sales anymore.
A Little Hellery
My favourite thing was to ride my bicycle. But by then I was full of mischievery. (laughs) I got into trouble for smoking when I was probably ten or eleven. I thought I was getting’ away with it, but Dad didn’t smoke and he could smell it a mile away, so he warned me good. I had my chums in town, one of who is still my friend, Even Schweig. He used to be a carpenter in Toronto and he was good at it. I stop in and see him on his birthdays. He’ll be 80 in December.
Two Wagon Tracks
Back then, Combermere was a pretty quiet place, maybe only 100 folks. The road past our house was 2 wagon tracks with grass on both sides and in the middle. Hermon Boehme used to take his cows down to his farm about 7 a.m. You’d hear the cattle coming across the bridge and the bells “ding, ding, ding”. At the corner where you turn at Hudson House to go to the Post Office ~It was all loose sand, hard driving my bicycle through, unless I was on the wagon track.
In winter, Combermere was pretty well closed down. The store was open 6 days a week, but it wasn’t a hard life, at least not for me. At the time, Dad was Treasurer at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. He worked all day Sunday doing the book keeping and helped out the poor, while I had to go to Sunday School and dow hat I was told.
Selling My Bed
It was the Dirty 30s, but I didn’t feel poor and we never went hungry. Dad didn’t drink and he didn’t waste money, owned his own car. My Mother, she was frugal and got along with whatever she had. We just lived simply. Mother’s bottle of wine lasted 10 months. Ladies would visit and she’d pour one ounce to serve with short bread cookies ~just a wee sip, a mouth full! But my parents did sell my bed because they needed the money. They bought all their furniture from a place in Smith Falls called Marsh, an undertaker who had a furniture store. Kent and I have a list of all the house contents, receipts… what they cost.
A Great Dad
Father never put himself in debt for anything, kept records of everything and I’m the same. I don’t owe anybody anything. He was an honest man, hardworking, all kinds of friends, great Dad any way you look at it. The only time we ever had a run in was ~when I wouldn’t put a pair of rubbers on my running shoes for the rain. He chased me round the house, but I went to school without them anyway!
My Spinster Aunts:
As a child, my only living Grandparents was my Father’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Hudson) Waddington. Well, she and her two sisters ran Hudson House Hotel here in Combermere. They all had shares in the palce. Once Aunt was Annie Maude and the other was Frances, both spinsters, never married.
Aunt Frances was a pretty quiet lady and she kept cows to milk for butter and cream to serve at the hotel. I can remember they had strawberries for dessert with these pans of thick creams in the refrigerator to pouring on the fruit. I was still in public school, about 10 when she died, so that would be about 1938.
I remember Aunt Maude as a very heavy lady and she was the cook. In 1936 when they built the highway through here to Barry’s Bay, she made lunch for the road workers who stayed at the hotel. Annie Maude liked to tease ya’ and say I was “citified” because we came from Ottawa. She smoked like a chimney. Which was not considered ladylike at the time. Well, she had a knife about that long (gestures) and pretend she was going to hit us with it. She was a great cook. Some kinda’ ground up meat. She’d cut the crusts off the sandwiches and we’d take them when she wasn’t looking.
Aunt Maude did have a Catholic boyfriends, which was a “no, no” as our family was Protestant. The Priest said they couldn’t marry and you did what the priest said in those days. Well, she lived till about 1950. Both Annie and Frances were buried in the Anglican Church Cemetery here in Combermere, where my parents and wife are too.
My Cousins at the Hotel
I had 3 cousins living in the hotel ~ my Dad’s brother McGilvray and his wife Edith and their daughters… Helen (The oldest), Marion and Rita. Uncle Gill as we called him wasn’t very ambitious, but made himself look busy ~has to with all those women around him! I’m not in touch with my cousins now. I didn’t get along with their spouses.
At Christmas everything was decorated up and we always went cut down our own Christmas tree. No one sold them in those days ~you had to go out and find one yourself! Somehow, there always seems to be lots of gifts and games… I still have one little gun that shoots sparks out of it and I got lots of clothes, even though those were hard times financially.
Two Christmas Dinners
Christmas Eve I had to go to bed early or Santa wouldn’t bring the toys! We had lots to eat at Christmas too. I had a chum Leslie Drevinok. (He was German and later worked for Gatineau Power in Chelsea, Quebec. He lives at the far end of the road past the Church.) First thing on Christmas morning I went to see what Leslie got and I usually wound up having lunch there, then dinner at our own home, so I had two dinners on Christmas day and all my gifts were good.
Saved by Handwriting
When World War One broke out in 1939, I was about 11. Well, you had commercial travelers come through the store, who went into the army, overseas and some of them you never saw again. Dad had such beautiful penmanship, he became an army clerk in Seaforth and didn’t have to go to the ‘front’. I have samples of his writing, very neat and flowery. He would initial bills, “WLW” with great flowery strokes. Of course I tried to copy it and Kent after me with his own wild signature. I have lots of pictures of Dad in service. When World War Two came along, my folks were quite stirred up and he used to reminisce about his time in service.
Too Young for Service
I did have some cousins who went to war ~Uncle Jack and Aunt Gertrude’s kids in Toronto and Ottawa, but I wasn’t old enough, just a little too young, just under the line. So, when I quit school as a teen, I worked in my Dad’s store and Wednesday afternoon was my time off. I delivered groceries with my Dad’s old dodge. He bought it new in 1938 and had it ten years.
My Father’s business was W. L. Waddington’s General Store at the end of the bridge. It’s gone now. Just the new bridge remains. It was a general store, groceries, flour and feed, clothing, shoes, boots. He worked in the store as a boy when it was Strafford’s ~Frank Stafford’s Store.
We lived in an apartment above the store. Well, you know, Dad was lucky. Only a few people didn’t pay up when he gave them credit and he watched his money pretty close. I remember the Army coming through town from Petawawa about 1940. The soldiers wanted drinks, chocolate bars, cigarettes and the Officers controlled it wall. A couple hundred soldiers all regimented, came in the front door and filed out the back in a line.
Thumbing to School
During the War you couldn’t get much gas, only 120 gallons a year, 5 gallons a coupon and then they cut it to half. So I used to thumb rides to high school in Barry’s Bay when I was about 12/ There used to be a sawmill, named after the owner, Frank Pastway, out back of Dad’s store at the river. They were drawing lumber to Barry’s Bay and putting it in boxcars on the train. I’d get a ride out on the Pastway trucks, or with the traveling salesmen selling stock to our store and they’d stat at our hotel. If I was lucky, sometimes I’d get a ride home, but sometimes I’d get home pretty late!
My First Love
I guess my first love was Audrey Coulas. Used to be a fella’ by the name of Ernie Boyle, the Road Supervisor who took the whole gang in the back of his half ton truck to skate in Barry’s Bay where she lived. I think it cost us a quarter each. We’d have tarpaulins over us in the back of the truck to keep us out of the wind. Audrey worked in a restaurant where I had my lunch every day and we used to go skating together. I was about 13. We went together for a few years. But later, she went to work in Belleville ~so I didn’t see her often ~Easter, Christmas, a long distance romance. Beautiful girl. She moved to Peterborough and I used to visit her there too, but I guess we drifted apart after a while.
Learning to Drive
Did you know Arnold Sanders in Lake St. Peter? He’s 85 now and taught me to drive. He said I would make a good driver ~that I never missed a stone or a hole! (laughs) He used to drive truck for Pastway Lumber and I used to get rides to school with him. That’s my first car there in the photo. I was 15. Bought it in 1943 for $275 ~a 33” Chev. It was 10 years old. It was navy blue and had a rumble seat.
Although my family was Anglican, I went to a Catholic high school. For Grade 9 and 10 I had a good teacher, a nun. But in Grade 11, I couldn’t take the new teacher, quit school and went to work in Dad’s store. It wasn’t so strict, but the nuns pushed you. I was about 16 and my parents weren’t too pleased when I left. Of course, they wanted me to go to university. Dad had only Grade 8, Mother finished high school, but I had other ideas. I don’t even know what I’d like to be now! (laughs)
Drinking, Dancing & Flying
When the war finished in 1944, I was 16. I had a 36 Chev by then and to celebrate, I took some friends out to drink at the garbage dump, so the police couldn’t see us and had a real party. I had lots of friends then ~Nelson Boehme (pronounced Bame), the Bellisle brothers ~ James and Ronald nd I was popular because I was the only one with a car. I was apparently a good dancer, the ladies all wanted to dance with me. I could be modest here! (Laughs) I was also plane crazy. There was an airfield in Killaloe. They took you up in the sky for $10.
You know, we always voted Conservative. I don’t think my parents liked the Liberal Party. I think it was hereditary! (Laughs) we always tried to do what we could to help the Conservatives get elected, so I drove folks to voting booths back in the 1940s. I’m sill Conservative. The only time I never voted ~was for Premier Harries (a few years back). I didn’t like him and I wouldn’t vote against the Conservatives, so I just didn’t vote at all.
The Waddington Estate
Shall I tell you a little family lore?... The Waddingtons owned 65 acres on Hwy 517 from Highway 62 to Madonna House. Our ancestsors were original pioneers who settled the town of Combermere. They owned half the Island and what is now the Anglican Church property.
The Hudsons & Dennisons
Father’s mother’s family owned the Hudson House Hotel. The village of Combermere used to be called Dennison’s Bridge after her mother’s family. Grandmother Mary’s bothers were Hal Hudson (who had a house on one side of the hotel) and Captain John Charles Hudson (who had a house on the other side of the church).
Penny Pinching Camerons & Croys
The Camerons and Croys were mother’s family… Mother’s father William Lumsden, I don’t know where he was from or the Croys. But Mother was born near Montreal. The Cameraon name is Scotch from the Orkney Island and Mother’s family were penny pinchers. That’s probably the only Scottish tradition I received. (laughs) I don’t know what brought them to Canada.
Grandfather Waddington was gone a long time before I was born and Great Grandmother Isabel too. Grampa Waddington died young, at about 33, no idea from what. Gramma never remarried. She was a very quiet lady who made the beds at the hotel, filled the coal lamps and did the dusting. There were maybe 10 rooms.
We used to out to visit from Ottawa, when I was a child. Father grew up there, right across from Stafford’s store. There were a lot of people who came to hunt and fish in those days from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and a lot of surveying going on, contractors building the highway, truck drivers. The hotel was pretty busy in summer, so I never got spend much time with Grandmother Mary.
The Croy’s and & Lumsdens
Isabel Croy, I can’t tell you anything about her at al. I think Mother was 9 when Isabel died, so if Mother was born in 190, Isabell passed away about 1899 at the turn of the century. Grandfather William Lumsden, I think he died about 1925, so he was a widower for a quarter century. I have a photo William, but not one of Isabel. They lived in Ottawa. Dad had two brothers, Jack (John Hudson Waddington), McGillvray and a sister Gertrude who was married to Fraser Reid. Uncle Fraser and Aunt Gertrude witnessed my parent’s marriage.
A Gentleman Hunter
That’s my Grandfather William Cameron in the tent photo, ready to fish. They came up here from Ottawa, stayed in the hotel. He looks like a gentleman hunter in a white shirt and khaki pants and a big moustache, maybe Scottish red hair. He was a businessman, but I don’t know anything more about him. Here’s a pictures of him at Palmer Rapids with his Springer Spaniel, a big dog. Funny, when you see the way they dressed in those days. I don’t think they ever saw an iron, all rumpled up. You wouldn’t be caught in them today. Nice lookin’ leather shoes, though. Spiffy.
Did you know the Mayflower steamer that sank near here in 1912 was captained by my Grandmother’s brother (my Great Uncle) John Charles Hudson? He was drowned. They had gone to Barry’s Bat to pick up a casket! Kent has the whole fascinating story. Captain Hudson’s wife was Margaret and she worked with my Dad in Waddington’s store. Okay, back to my own story…
The Kybosh on Edna
When I was about 19, I went out with Edna McCann from Barry’s Bay for two years. She was Catholic and between her Mother and the Priest, they “put the kybosh” on us. I was kinda tee’d off about it. That was 1947, but we’re still friends today and I’ll tell you more about that later…
The Lion’s Club
I was a Charter Member of the Madawaska Valley Lion’s Club in 1953. I was in my 20s. Guess I was influenced by my father’s good woks in the community. We sold tickets to raise money for charity, like Easter Seals for crippled children and a swimming program. That club still exists today. In 2003, I was given a special pin for 50 years being a Charter Member and I’m the only one of five still living!
A Peasant Blouse & Ringlets
How did I meet my wife? Dorathy waited tables in summer at Sunset Inn up the street, next to the Anglican Church. It burnt down in the 1980s. She came from a farm in Greenview, near Maple Leaf. The Inn was owned by my Great Aunt, Margaret Jane Hudson ~after her husband the Captain Hudson drowned on the Mayflower. Well, I saw this good looking girl coming down the street… in a peasant blouse, long ringlets and here I was delivering groceries. We went together for 5 years. She was beautiful and lots of fun. Dorathy started the Lionettes in Combermere and later we travelled all over Ontario together. She was fun to be with and a good dancer.
After she graduated from school in Bancroft, Dorathy taught school (all 8 grades) in Hybla and then in Pleasant Valley, near Maynooth for a few years. Then she went to Toronto and jot a job there in a finance company as an investigator. She was very smart and a hard worker. Gas was 40 cents a gallon then and I had a car so I went to visit her on Dovercourt Road, 3 houses south of Bloor Street. I still have the gas ration book from that time. But I never thought about leaving Combermere… I liked it too well.
A White Sport Coat
Well, by then, our friends were all gettin’ married and she said “We better get married too!” so we were engaged on the 15th of September, 1954. I was about 26. We were married in the Anglican Church here, only 6 weeks later on the 30th of October. I still have her diamond wedding ring. It cost $500 which was a lot of money in those days. I had to borrow it from a bank, one of the only times I eve went into debt. Since I only made $150 a month, it was kind of hard to pay for. Every time the bank manager saw me he’d remind me to pay up. At the wedding, I wore a formal suit ~black pants, black shoes, white coat, white tie (the fashion back then). I don’t know if I had a carnation or not. Dorathy had a long white gown and a scalloped veil she borrowed from her sister. Oh gosh, the church was full. It was the most exciting thing, for me anyway.
We had a reception in the Anglican Hall, maybe hundred or more the first gift we received was a pair of silver candlesticks and a sterling silver vegetable dish from Burke’s Jewellers in Toronto. Dad and Mother gave us a push button General Electric stove, which cost $400+. Still have it sitting in the garage.
The Oil Barons
And we got $50 from Mrs. Suhr. She was from Oil City (Pennsylvania), but had a cottage up here. They were oil barons. They’d come up here in a limousine with a chauffeur and we’d deliver the orders to her cottage, hundred of dollars of stuff at a time.
Building Our House
The day I got married was the day we started building our house. There partial windows in the living room was broken and we couldn’t get the right glass in time, so we stayed over a winter with my parents and paid for construction of our own place as we went, the flooring, walls, and insulation. Then I started building Father’s house next door in 1958.
Dorathy had a sister Inez who married Bill Boehme, a school bus driver. Their son is David and their daughter is Vivian. Inez’ brother Claude was a truck driver in Belleville. She also had two brothers, Floyd and Lorne who were teachers in Sharbot Lake and Picton. I knew them all and got along fairly well with them.
Well, Kent was born in 1956 and Suzie in 1963. When Kent was born, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It was just fantastic to have a son and he was a good boy. When we returned to pick him up from the babysitters back of the hotel, when he saw me he’d go “squirrely,” he wanted so bad to be with me. One time Kent swallowed a penny. I guess he was about four. We took him to a specialist in Ottawa, Dr Maloney, the brother of Jim Maloney the M for this county. He said, “Don’t worry, it’ll come out.” So we save the penny! He said they had kids who swallowed dinky toys. I’ll tell you more about Suzanne later.
A Landmark Goes Down
You know, they tore our store down about 1959, to put in the new bridge. By then it was about 50 years old, with tin sheets inside and outside and on the roof, because there had been so many fires, but was “Cold as charity.” Dad sold it to the highway for $33,000 but the building was worth more than that (it had a big storehouse) and they didn’t pay us for the stock and there went my chances of taking over the store. I had worked there for a long time, and did have my hopes about it.
Then we moved W. L. Waddington’s Store into the Hudson House across the road. Father rented it from his brother McGillvray’s wife Edith. I worked there with Dad until 1962. I was about 37 and Dad was about 61 by then. But folks wouldn’t drive off the highway a block to come into the store, so business was bad and I didn’t like Dad paying me, because he wasn’t making and money. There were days in the winter when dad wouldn’t take in $7.00
Losing the Hotel
Grandmother Mary E. Waddington left her share of the hotel to Uncle Gill. She was the last one to die in her family. Dad was left some property too, but so many of his relatives died without wills and everybody had a little chunk of the hotel. By 1973, no one was paying taxes, to the municipality put it up for sale. Lewis Waddington paid for two different parcels. He got one on the waterfront, 7 acres.
On the Madawaska
I tried to get a piece of acreage, but one of Dad’s cousins kept paying the tax on that. Kent bought the island and the 60 acres on Highway 517. Finally, I got the property on Highway 515 ~ 1100 feet along the Madawaska River. Then I sold some of the waterfront plots. I still have one just below the bridge, next to where Pastway had their sawmill.
Captain Hudson’s House
See Captain Hudson’s house in the picture? I bought it in the winter but a coupla’ hippies I rented to, put a woodstove in and I didn’t know. They were going to have a party and had a big pot of soup on the stove. The fire got pretty good and shook the pipes and down they came. That was in the 1960s.
Fired or Misfired
Well, I took a job as Clerk Treasurer for Radcliff’s Township for a year. I don’t know if you could say I was fired or just let go! They wanted ya’ to work Saturday morning so you didn’t have much time to yourself. I needed an adding machine to do the tax roll and they borrowed an old one from the ex-clerk, but you’d add something up and get 3 different answers. (Laughs) Consequently, I couldn’t balance the books when the Auditor came. Whether I was fired or misfired….
The Dot Shop
Then I started a store in Barry’s Bay about 1962 ~We called it the Dot Shop after Dorathy. I was about 35. It was a gift shop… Just trying to recall things here. It started out as my business, but there were so many women customers, Dorathy decided we better carry lady’s wear. Of course ladies didn’t want me there, so it became Dorathy’s store. Then she got the Sears catalogue contract, so she closed the Dot Shop and we bought a building across the street on Opeongo Line, which is still there. So then I worked part time at the LSBO in Barry’s Bay and stayed home looking after the kids and cooking and started sipping wine and rye.
Then I weighed trucks for the Department of Highways in Purdy, Palmer Rapids, Quadeville, Bancroft, Apsley and sometimes as far away as Renfrew, Coboconk and even Bobcaygeon. At $11 an hour the pay was good and anything over 40 hours was paid at time and half and they paid you mileage to and from work. The guys in Bancroft who did my payroll were jealous. But it was only for 3 months a year. I liked that job, because you were out in the fresh air and everyone was friendly.
The Circle Broken
The saddest time in my life? Mom died in 1972 from bowel cancer. That was 35 years ago. She was about 82… I haven’t thought about this for so long…. I’d never been away from my family. I was 44 and pretty shaken up. How do they say it?... The circle is broken. And the day when my wife died and Dad died. We were all close. Both my parents and Dorathy are buried in St. Paul’s Anglican Church cemetery on Highway 62 at the corner of Old Barry’s Bay Road. Dad lived another 20 years after Mother died and I looked after him.
In 1987, Kent took a six month trip around the world. Suzie and I met him in England for 2 weeks. I was just back a few days when my sister in law Inez came to me at work and said I’d better go home, because Dot had cancer. She was gone 5 weeks later. In 1969, I quit smoking to help her quit too, but she wouldn’t, went on for another 18 years. It’s been 38 years now, since I smoked. Dot would have one cigarette going in the kitchen and one here in the living room. It had already moved to her liver and she was in violent pain… the colour of wood when she died.
Taking Early Retirement
Well… I retired when Dorathy got cancer. It was a shock all right, loosing her. I was 59 when she died and haven’t worked since. There was no use. I had enough money and didn’t have to work. I’m not a religious person, but I live right, say my prayers at night, don’t cheat anybody, don’t owe anybody, everything I’ve got is paid for.
Much to My Sorrow
After a while, I started seeing this backward woman, a heavy drinker, but I didn’t want to lower myself to living common law. Kent is a very moral person. I couldn’t do it to him. One day I quit drinking, all by myself. It’s been 5 years now. But music helped me get over losing Dorathy (any music but Western) and having the kids helped me too. You know I’ve kept a diary everyday for years now. I keep track of the weather and what I pay for things and when somebody visits.
William the Widower
Dad was a pretty lonesome widower, although he had some lady friends he knew for 50 years. He lived next door and came to my place every night for supper. Having spent most of his life in a grocery store, he liked to shop, wanted to know the price of everything. He also liked to travel. He was Treasurer for the Lion’s Club and the Anglican Church for years. We were best friends, Dad and I, Kent and myself. I pretty well knew what he’d do and we never argued.
Tapping in the Night
In his last few years, Dad came to live with me. He had fallen and broken his hip, had to have metal pins put in. Our bedrooms were divided by a wall. At night, I’d hear tap, tap “Can you get me a drink of water? I need something or heartburn, indigestion.” This went on all night for three years and he was blind for the last two years. It was the 31st of August 1991 when he passed away from bone cancer. He was 94 and I was 63, but I a long time to get used to the idea he was going to leave us.
The House Next Door
Dad always got along with Kent very well, who was always doing something for him. I never cared much for Dad’s cottage. It was a mile and a half down the Madawasaka River, on the edge of Combermere. I had to say with Mother there in summer when I was a teen and didn’t like it, since there were no kids around, but I had my bicycle. Well, a year or two before he died, he gave Kent his house and Cottage.
All Those Cars
You know, I’ve had about 50 cars in my day. Maybe 7 or 8 now, 4 Cadillacs ~I’ve got 2 Fords, a 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix and a 1974 Torino Elite. I wasn’t a mechanic, but I was a good driver. There’s a Buick and a Ford in the backyard and one Cadillac here and one in the garage. My first Cadillac was 4 years old and belong to the Bank of Japan! Kent’s friend’s mother worked there. That was about 1978. Kent’s garage has room for six cars! I guess he gets his love of old cars from me.
When Kent went to collage in Ottawa and Toronto, I supplied him with the car and the insurance and his Mother supplied him with gas money and he never drank and he’s a good driver. We were in England together in 1987, twenty years ago. We had a little Ford Fiesta and I don’t know how he managed to drive on the other side of the road. He paid for himself to travel around the world. He bought a ticket for $1400 and way away from January to June. He loved traveling, been to just about every place, Brazil, Scandinavia, France, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Fiji and the Arctic (nearly), twice. I’ve been to Germany, Italy, Ireland about 3 years ago. I’ve also seen South Carolina, Florida, BC, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and also Ohio quite often, as I have friends there. I like to see the countryside.
The Waddingtons in Leeds
Kent and I went to Venice together on a cruise boat with fantastic meals and huge windows. You’d look out and see a white ocean liner going by so quiet and it was very hot. We were on the River Po in Italy. Each place we stopped there was a bus tour, fantastic buildings. My favourite place was London, Buckingham Palace. We saw the Crown Jewels, Parliament Buildings. We wanted to see Scotland too, but it took so long to go anywhere, all the little towns and roundabouts. We did go north from London to see the town of Waddington for several nights, where our ancestors came from in the Leeds area, but we didn’t meet any relatives. Kent might know about the family tree research.
And now to my grandchildren. Suzanne was married the first time to James Dombroksie, but they had no children. Her second husband was Ryan Greg, but I have another name for him ~just cheeky I guess. Spencer is 5 years old now, a temper like you never saw, just apt to throw something at you! Suzie was a sweet child and is a loving parent and good to me, but had a lot of drama in her life. (Editor’s Note: Sadly, Susan passed away just a young woman, suddenly in 2009, only a few years after this story was written.)
Two Strange Bulldogs
Susan’s daughter Madison is a big girl. Her father is Joe Byron. That’s a long story. Madison Jade Irene and she goes by the last name Waddington. But Kent never married. No children there! Kent and Suzanne don’t see eye to eye about things. Madison is 12 and loveable, but she and Spencer are like two strange bulldogs together.
A Typical Day
Well, now I pass a lot of time watching TV, Boston Legal and crime shows, Grey’s Anatomy. I’m quite the detective fan, don’t I know! (laughs) I also like to read “Life” magazine, but I don’t buy it anymore, too pricey and “Liberty” magazine ~they don’t publish anymore. “McLean’s” and “Time” current affairs, lots of newspapers ~but I’m not much for books. I do get a little bored, and a little lonely. (No, don’t need to break for lunch. I can go on all day like this.)
Seafood, Dogs & Amaryllus
You asked me my favourites …seafood! There’s not much of that around here, but when I get to the city, I buy shrimp and eat it all, ‘cause Kent won’t eat it, nor Susan. I love my dog “Beauty”, so does Kent. She’s four, a Heinz 57, maybe some Lasso Apso? We all spend some time together. I like maroon, but that’s LCBO green on the walls and oh, pretty much any flower, Amaryllus the ones with the long stalks, a peachy colour.
Nobody I’d Rather Be
Well, I don’t like drivers who ignore “Stop” signs and mean people, and guys who pick on women and people who won’t pay their bill! My friends might describe me as a “turkey” (laughs) Who do I admire? A heart specialist in Ottawa, but, I don’t think I’d rather be anybody but me!
You know, if I was stuck on a desert island for 3 months, I’d have to have my TV, a good lookin’ woman (or a happy one) and my dog. If I had a million dollars, I’d give most of it away. I don’t put much value on money, since I can buy anything I want now. I can remember things way back, but now that I’m getting older, now what happened last week!
What I’d Do Different
Gosh, if I could, I’d finish high school, go to collage. Kent has his Master’s degree in Geography. When you look at the rock cuts, he can tell you why it’s like that. He’s traveled nearly to the North Pole twice! I’d like to see Scandinavia. I’ve been across Canada, but not to Saskatchewan or Manitoba and I’ve been to the most Easterly and Westerly points of our country. I’d also look after my teeth and not work for my family, the money wasn’t good, $30 a month. But then, I had a rook over my head and when I built my house, I got everything wholesale from the family store…
A Little History
You asked me some historic events I remember ~Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. (Laughs) Well, one day I was helping put a roof on my chum’s cottage on Black Fish Bay on Kaminiskeg Lake. The lady next door came over and said President Kennedy was shot. God, you just don’t believe those things! And you know, as time goes on, things are getting worse. You could walk any place in the city back 40 years ago and be safe, now you’re afraid to walk out your door. People get knifed for no reason in today’s world.
Happy, Healthy & Good
Looking back, the happiest days in my life were when my kids were born and when I bought my first car. I was only 15. I just want to be healthy and happy. I get bored and don’t want to hear all the gossip. Maybe some people are jealous of me, because of what I have, all the cars and the house paid for. Maybe I’m wrong.
Edna 60 Years Later
I haven’t changed much over the years. I’m content although I do get lonesome now and again. But I have a lady friend in Eganville, Edna McCann. We kept company 60 years ago (1974) remember? I might not see her for a month, but we talk on the phone. We went to school together in Barry’s Bay. If I go to Ottawa to see the doctor, I take her with me and we go for dinner. But I’m getting’ so that I don’t like driving anymore… my eyes are clouded.
Things I’d Still Like to Do
I’d still like to build a new house, although I don’t know as I’d live long enough to enjoy it. (Laughs) I still have a lot on the Madawaska River. I’d build another bungalow, something similar to this, no stairs to climb, brick so I wouldn’t have to sand or paint. I had thought about building 10 or 15 years ago… I guess I’d like to travel a bit more, but I don’t like traveling alone. The most important thing now is just to live. Last year I had a series of mini-strokes, minor paralysis (I could feel it coming on) and cancer. The radiation affected my short-term memory. The Doctor said, “You’re lucky. Could have left you paralyzed or could have killed you.” So I take blood thinners and blood pressure pills and something for heartburn.
The Masonic Lodge
My spiritual beliefs? Well, I do believe in God but I’m kind of doubtful about the afterlife… I belonged to the Masonic Lodge in Eganvill, #433, since 1949 ~all out of the Book of Ruth. I haven’t gone in years. Used to go regularly, I’ve got 18 degrees out of 32 in the Scottish Rites. The 33rd is Honorary. I learned from that to treat people the way you like to be treated, don’t cheat anybody, don’t steal and when I got my 14th degree I bought this ring. It has triangular Arabic numeral inscription. I have to look up the meaning. It’s a Brotherhood that never ends.
Words of Wisdom
As for Madison and Spencer, my grand children, I’d like to say that I love them both dearly. My advice to them is “Don’t go into debt.” I remember when I didn’t have a job 30 years ago. I bought a new car and owed $1,000 on it and had no money and I thought if I ever get money again, I’ll control it. I’d just like my grandchildren to know, that I was a good guy… Words of wisdom to them about life, “Stay on the straight and narrow!” Treat people the way you like to be treated and I want people to remember me as good natured, honest, sober (laughs).
Well, I thought maybe because I’ll be 80 (If I make it another 6 months) that he might want to put something in the newspaper about me. Is that why I’m telling my story? I never know what he’s up to (laughs), but it was my pleasure…
Interview, Transcription & Editing
Layout & Photography in Colour Booklet
By Kent Waddington Photography