This is my 2nd entry to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Older Than 50 Years. As usual, my photos are more about the stories that go with them, and less about the photographic composition. I’ll have to make this short and sweet though, because I seem to have gotten tendonitis in both of my elbows and my right arm is flaring up right now. And if you really believe that will keep me from writing a long dissertation then I have some swamp land under the Leo Frigo Bridge I would like to sell you.
Last post (you can read it here if you missed it) I told you about a mini family reunion we had and the
stalking finding of our 3rd cousin Randy, still living on the original Conard family farm.
Our jolly caravan’s next stop was to visit my grandparents cottage on the bay, where we spent many a spider-filled day. The original plan was to park on the road and peer thru the leaves at it while trying not to be noticed (or arrested), and then mosey on to my house for lunch. However we were spotted by the current owner, Callista, who graciously invited us in and let us run amok on her property while we ooohed and aaaahed over our collective memories.
Callista was as thrilled to hear our stories as we were to hear hers. While the interior is completely different, much of the exterior has the same feel, mainly because they kept the original stonework of the outside walls and fireplace – built with bay rock picked from the shore by the original owner (not my grandparents).
The same wet cement steps that our young feet ran across when we banged thru the wooden screen door into the cottage to play crazy eights and drink bug juice. The same stoney corridor along the outside back of the house where chips of blue china were cemented in the grout and waves of bright green moss spilled across the top. The same slab stone steps leading to the same rocky beach with the same boat house, although the front portion was gone. They even had a hammock where my grandparents used to have one.
What was missing? Besides the front section of the boat house, I spotted only a few spiders – most of them quite small. I swear when we were kids the spiders were the size of quarters and had huge bulbous abdomens and they hung on EVERYTHING. I remember calling for grandpa to beat webby paths thru them in order to get the bamboo fishing poles or the black inner tubes we used for swimming. Before going to bed my cousins and I would call for grandma to spider proof the bedrooms and make sure we didn’t have any in our sheets.
A note about the boathouse: As kids, we spent very little time in it (spider haven – the really really big ones lived inside the boat house) but a lot of time on top of it, as it served as a beach deck. A web and spider covered beach deck which I recall being a bit freaked out about. Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? I hated spiders. Still actually not a fan.
Anyway, my grandfather got a really good deal on some irregular cinder block – which couldn’t have been too bad seeing as the boat house is still standing. He sent my Uncle Jim and my dad and some guy who had access to a milk truck to go pick it up. Now remember, this was the early 40’s so you need to get that image out of your head of the giant tanker trucks you see running around today. This was probably more like a 1935 panel truck or something.
My uncle, my dad, and the driver were hauling the load of cinder blocks to the cottage when the transmission broke. My uncle said they “broke gear box” just as they were about to go down the escarpment to the cottage. I’m not sure what that hill looked like in the 40’s but I can barely ride my bike up it now without needing oxygen, so I’m sure it wasn’t any better. It was, needless to say, a harrowing descent, well remembered by two mid-80 old farts.
They laughed when they told this story, but fewer smiles appeared when they described how they had to haul that cinder block down to the beach two at a time in a wheelbarrow. Which leads me to the next tidbit – there was a family of girls in the next cottage down – one of whom still lives there and happened to come talk to us while we were visiting. I am sure there were many girlish eyes stealing glances at the sweaty teenage boys building muscles while hauling cinder blocks….
Obviously we had to take our picture on top of that iconic building and I was a little worried about the actual structural integrity left in those old block walls. All that boyish hard work paid off however, because the boat house still supported the weight of a bunch of older than dirt cousins. I was impressed.
Old fartedly yours,
PS. Besides frightening long lost relatives and imposing on complete strangers, we also visited the cemetery to say howdy to our Belgian immigrant ancestors. great-great-great grandparents Gillian and Marie Francoise Nihoul Conard and our great-great grandparents Louis and Marie Flore Laurent Conard and our other great-great grandparents Joseph and Mary T Boulet VanCaster (whose daughter Pelagie Blanche married Louis and Marie’s son Julian (my great grandfather), in turn having my grandfather Cliff Conard who then had my father – Thomas W. Conard). I have pictures below for my family members who were not able to make the reunion, and of course for any
weirdos of my followers who happen to have a bit of a morbid streak like me and love looking at old grave markers. I also included a few bonus pics. ENJOY!