The Landlady

82 Years Ago This Summer…

In 1925, Ruby’s mother took her to the Bruce Mines Fair for the first time. As far as I know, there still is a Bruce Mines Fair, but I don’t imagine it’s near as interesting now as the way Ruby describes it. Maybe I should just let her tell it – she’s a much better story-teller.

The fair lasted for three days, and people would be getting ready for next year about the time this year was finishing up. They had a prize for everything. You could bring all your livestock to be judged, and your preserves, and pies, and quilts. My mother always won first prize for hooked mats, every single year, but she put in all kinds of other things, too; flowers, and canning, and vegetables. Especially carrots; all her carrots had to be exactly the same size. She’d line them all up on the kitchen table and grumble over them.

People would get excited over the fair like you wouldn’t believe. Even the kids had events, like the three-legged race and the potato-sack, but they had other contests for them, too, like “Best Dog” or “Best Cat” and they’d all bring their pets. It’s a wonder all the animals made it through the weekend.

The older girls would put needle-point in – I won once for a tea cloth. The big stores like Sears and Eaton’s would award trophies and such for the best entries, and one of them sent me a silver platter for that tea cloth – had my name engraved on it and everything – I was right proud of that. I wonder where that is now? I don’t remember….

Long pause….

Me, prodding: Did people sell things, too?

Oh, of course! You could sell anything you’d brought, which was why it was so important to win! The winners sold first, and made more money. But you couldn’t take a thing off those tables until all the entries had been judged, so at the very end of the last day, that’s when things got really crazy. All the people with blue ribbons would be puffed right up to twice their size, holding out for more money than people wanted to pay, and all the “losers” would just be trying to get rid of stuff so they didn’t have to drag it all back home again.

My mother spent the whole week before the fair walking on a razor blade, and us along with her, trying to get everything packed up and making sure not to forget anything important.

She took me to the fair for the first time when I was about a year old. That must have been a mess for her to deal with; all that stuff to organize and pack and making lists, all the while with me hanging off her hip. When we got there, she saw they’d set up a Ferris Wheel. She’d never been on a Ferris Wheel before, and that’s all she could think of, but she couldn’t get herself a ride because she had me with her.

She finally run into someone she knew and asked the lady if she’d watch me while she went on that Ferris Wheel. So whoever this woman was, she took me, anyway, and my mother finally got her ride. She thought that was the cat’s whiskers, being up that high and seeing everybody’s house for miles and miles around. She didn’t want to come down again.

When she did finally get off, she couldn’t find me anywhere, of course. There were crowds and crowds of people, and it was some time, probably a couple of hours, even, before she found the woman that had me. When she got me back, she noticed I had a blue ribbon pinned on my dress.

Wouldn’t you know that lady had entered me into the Most Beautiful Baby contest while my mother was on the Ferris Wheel. And didn’t I win?

Me, smart-ass-like: Did she get any decent bids on you?

Random Song for the Day: “Voice on Tape” – Jenny Owen Youngs

12 replies on “82 Years Ago This Summer…”

Sure would like to see a photo of Ruby…I have an image in my mind…kind of like a lady friend of my mom’s who is the same age as Ruby, maybe a couple older. Everyone calls her O.Z., probably her initials, and talks constantly about her aliments and the past.

OZ is tall and slender, and still gets around pretty well…although she is now lugging an oxygen canister along with her.

She and Ruby could have some great conversations.

Les Says: I have begged and pleaded for Ruby to let me put a pic up here. She adamantly refuses – won’t even let me put an OLD photo up. Nope. She says “Nothin’ doin’.”

I love it! Ruby is full of stories, and you tell them for her so well.

Les Says: It’s all pretty close to verbatim, actually, although she doesn’t like me using the recorder anymore, so I have to pull some of it from memory (I don’t scribble fast enough, and that tends to throw her off the story).

Tell her that such beautiful stories should have a beautiful face to go with them.

Les Says: Actually, Mushy, I already tried that one after our last email conversation on the subject. She wouldn’t fall for it. She laughed for a long time, though, before she gave me another flat “No.”

Wonderful, Les,

“Smart-ass”??? – who ya talking ’bout, Willis?!!!

Les, in reply to your email. There is a very simple two-step solution, which I won’t reveal to you just yet, for reasons that will be apparent later.

Do not – repeat do not – let anything cloud the creative process. Don’t count the words yet. Put that out of your mind. Just write the story, let it take your imagination wherever it needs to.

Just slip into drive and let your imagination steer you down the Creativity Highway.

Trust me. Been there, done that.

Go. Slip off the shackles and go ….

And tell me when you’re done and at that stage I’ll reveal the two-step answer.

Trust me ….

Keep smiling


Les Says: Thank you. You realize though, that I’m driving without a license? Never mind, never mind, I want the answer, so I guess I’ll get busy…

Great story Les, I love it.

Keep that lady talking, she’s a gold mine.

Les Says: Luckily for all of us, OldGuy, it’s getting to where I can’t get her to shut up!

Snared me completely in the tale. And you brought to the forefront two wonderful fairground memories from my own childhood.

Keep smiling


Les Says: Don’t tell me you won the Most Beautiful Baby contest while your mother was on the Ferris Wheel?!

Who on earth told you about the Beautiful Baby contest, Sherlock Holmes-Becker?

Actually took my kids on a giant ferris wheel coupla weekends ago. Great fun!

Les Says: LOL! I shall have to learn to smoke a pipe (I’ve already got the hat).

Ruby’s not a gal’ to mess with, if she says “no” to a piccy, I guess she has her reasons, ‘sides, I’d hate to cross her – but it is a pity! Oh Les, lovely penmanship, as ever – beautiful, my friend, you have the gift..

Les Says: Oh, you’re telling me, you don’t mess with Ruby! When I first met her five years ago, I was scared shitless of her, I’m not kidding. She never smiled, and she always just looked MEAN. Turns out she’s just a “slow warmer”.

As for my “gift” – I lost it there for a while. It was Ruby that gave it back to me, I think, and I will be forever grateful.

Is Ruby still in Bruce Mines and where are you located. I was born in Cloudslee and was just checking around to see if I could find out info on a Ruby Bryant from Bruce Mines.

Les Says: “Ruby” is the fictional name I’ve given her, as she won’t let me publish her real name. No, she’s not in Bruce anymore, but I’ll ask if she knows anything about Ruby Bryant for you, and email you back, what say?

Wow, that’s a cool story. The fair here is still a big deal, but for other reasons. Things are so much less organic.

Les Says: You’re a Bruce Mines boy, Al? Welcome to Where the Walls are Soft!

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