Summer 1963

The Costain’s summer holiday was a road trip to Quebec City as tourists, followed by the exciting scientific event of a solar eclipse on July 20th.

We explored the old city of Quebec, stared at the Plains of Abraham where the British took over Canada- big, flat, and boring except for drilling soldiers- (by Grades 7 and 8 we had studied Canadian history covering the 18th century over and over again, while the 20th was never mentioned), took a river cruise on the St Lawrence by the Isle d’Orleans, ate yummy food, and enjoyed staying in hotels.

On the 20th of July we were on our way home, and left the highway for the back roads to find a spot that Cec had determined would be ideal for viewing the eclipse. Charlie’s telescope had been packed in the car of course, and we stopped at a farm outside Montreal and asked permission to set it up. There were no crowds, no one at the farm seemed interested, so in the laneway we had a solitary viewing of the phenomenon with the special lens, with time for each of us to see the sun disappearing as our surroundings became darker and darker, then reappeared. [I recommend the NFB film ‘Eclipse at Grand’Mère’ on YouTube which shows the interest the public had in this solar eclipse- and the boxy cars, and be-gloved ladies using their telescopes.]

Plus, at the farm, there was a puppy!

The rest of the summer was more local, with Cyn and Cec’s wedding anniversary at the end of July and Granny and Grandpa Costain staying with us for the rest of the summer.

In August, Linda’s birthday was celebrated with a family excursion to Upper Canada Village. I can’t help thinking that much of the ‘old- time’ pioneer atmosphere that the village attempted to re-create, such as the horse and buggy, must have seemed quite familiar to my grandparents, but there was a picnic table and birthday cake and Linda was 12!

A few weeks later, school started in September, with Linda in Grade 8, the top grade in elementary school, and Charlie in Grade 7. To get to school, they walked out the back door, through their garden past the old apple tree and Cec’s vegetable garden and compost pile, and crossed a fallow field to the highway. On the other side of the highway, there was a path down the edge of another field, then their church hall, and the school playgrounds. It took them 10 minutes, rather than the 30 or 40 minutes on the school bus which took them on a tour down to the river and back picking up students- and occasionally longer on icy winter days when it could not climb up the steep hill on the return journey!

A bit later in the fall, the family took the grandparents to Kingsmere, one of our favourite places to take tourists. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, was an eccentric man, whose personal beliefs in the occult only became known after his death, but one thing well known was his estate in Quebec, 24 km north of Ottawa in the Gatineau Hills. He bought this acreage in the 1920s and over the next 30 years, developed and landscaped it into a showplace modelled on English country estates, with lawns, hedges, trees, fake ruins, picturesque buildings, attractive vistas, stone statues… After his death, the Mackenzie King Estate became a lovely park with buildings and tearoom managed by the National Capital Commission, open year-round, and the Costain children always enjoyed exploring and having tea there. If you leave the pathways to walk on the lawns you realize that you are walking on thyme, not grass, and the scent is wonderful.

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