The first floor of the building was split between the Store and the main living quarters which contained a back kitchen, a parlour, two hallways and a more recent bathroom. One of the hallways was more like a room from which every other part of the house was accessed. In this dark and low lit room was a big chair, a credenza full of pictures and a organ piano. With only a couple of incandescent lights burning, I took photographs the credenza with pictures of Frank in his military pilot’s uniform, his mother’s parents, him as a child with a fish and a friend and his daughter. The piano was on the opposite wall with the door to a bedroom which was once part of the Store, but, was taken over as living quarters as the needs of the Store become less.
I never played it. My Mother played just a few hymns.”
Down at the end of the hall was the parlour with an old TV and another fabulous stove. The ceilings on this floor were all tin and the parlour had windows on three sides. The walls were covered with paintings of the type of bomber that Frank flew in Burma during the war.
I was so excited to see the inside of the old General Store. Frank closed the doors in the early 1960’s and left everything pretty much in place – an old sock mender still in its original box, the old weigh scale, the cheese cutter, the paper rack – even the old postal boxes still hang on the wall. It is like stepping back in time to the days when the store was on the road to Muskoka and bustled with life. Frank gave me the tour and talked about what each one of the tools above were used for an how. Frank said there is a woman in Gravenhurst who still knows how to use the sock mender.
Frank said his mother was so good at measuring cheese, that she could cut the weight almost exactly. The cheese cutter was both cutter and storage. She barely needed the weigh scale. There is a meat cutter as well – and it is mechanical as opposed to electric. Frank wound it up and showed me how to get the blade going.
The Store was both post office and hardware store and grocery store, therefore was the social center of the community. There is an old folding seat that was attached to a support pillar inside the store near the door, where Frank said an old Boer War veteran used to come in and tell him stories.
There is an old hockey trophy made from a sap bucket that Frank’s team won from Washago in 1929. Frank told me about how hockey can make friends, rivals and competition was stiff!
As I looked up the ceiling toward the hanging bare bulb, I realized as I followed the wires along and around insulators that I was observing old knob and tube electrical. The room was chock full of goodies, including the old sales slips, one of which I have here.
The first room and the last room I visited was the kitchen. It was a ‘newer’ part of the building built by Frank’s brother, but it still pre-dated Frank. One of his earliest memories took place in the kitchen.
We sat next to a window that looked over the garden. The window was flanked by two electric lights designed to look like lanterns, lanterns which would have hung there originally. The water pump used to come in where the couch I sat on while we talked now sits. Frank recalled to me his only memory of his Father. When Frank was 2 years old, only months before his Father died, he remembers him standing in front of the window sharpening his razor blade on one of those long belts like you see in a barber shop while he shaved.
The house was so full of memories and seemed to almost have a life of its own. It is a comfortable place, in spite of the fact that so many of the comforts with which I am familiar are absent from this house. All of the lights were warm, the rooms welcoming. Frank was a most gracious host. I bid my farewell and I promised to visit again. It is a promise I intend to keep.
See part one – “Inside the General Store”