Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sepia Saturday - Skipping Rope

This week's Sepia Saturday theme photo shows an assemblage of grim looking people around a May Pole. The smells of Spring came rushing to mind - melting snow, mud, humidity, budding pussy willows. In my photo box I found this group shot of "kids on the street", dated May 14, 1950. Most of the snow was gone; we were free of our heavy winter gear and into lighter clothing.   

Kids on Dominion Street
I'm on the extreme left and next to me stands my cousin Maurice in a double breasted suit and a lapel pin. Odd for a child but he looks comfortable in the outfit. He traded the suit for a robe when he grew up to become a priest.  We knew the value of hats in a cold climate.  I was wearing a babushka (we probably got that name from the Ukrainians), Maurice sported a toque.

It wasn't warm enough in May for the girls to be rid of their sagging lisle stockings. Beneath the happy smiles, hidden from view was the torture garment of the day- the ugly garter belt, a core part of every suffering girl's clothing.  At this age, my garter belts (hand-me-down from my sister) garters were held on with safety pins, the belt itself a tattered scrap pocked with pin holes and rips, the entire deconstructed mess hanging by threads to an itchy waist band.
Uncomfortable underwear didn't hold us back. Either just before or just after this picture, we  started sweeping the sidewalks. Sanded all winter to keep them from being slippery, the scratchy surface was a detriment to roller skating and rope skipping, so we all pitched in and cleared a few blocks. A couple of kids in the photo, including my cousin, were holding jump ropes  - we were ready to go! 

The sidewalk broom exercises were the genesis of my superior sweeping skills, noted by observers even to this day. In the photo below,  I hadn't yet achieved sweeper status, but was happily (?) apprenticing with a mop.

Apprenticing with the mop

In 1950, we still had the old front door. A few years later,  Canada entered the great age of consumerism, when the "tin men" hit town and we acquired a flamingo decorated screen door. A flamingo? In Winterpeg? In Canada? Those were the days of magnificent salesmen, sweeping across the Canadian plains like locusts, separating the population from their money. About that time if you could peek inside our house, you'd see that we had acquired silver-plated stand ashtrays, a black plaster cougar with glass green eyes and a picture of Jesus whose eyes moved with you when you moved - all appropriate must-have accoutrements for middle class Catholic families.
Circa 1959. My graduating sister, original garter belt owner and me.

I'd like to finish this with the words to some of the skipping songs, but they've vanished, drained away with much of the useful information from my aging brain -  old classmate's names, plots of novels, names of authors. All that remains in my memory are scraps of tunes and the sound of the rope slapping the freshly swept sidewalk.

Note: Margaret Buffie third from left, besides having magnificent dimples,  become an acclaimed writer of children's books in Canada. Here are some of her titles and awards:

Honors Awards

Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 1987–88; Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award, 1989, for Who Is Frances Rain?; Ontario Arts Council grants, 1987 and 1989, Canada Council grant, 1995; McNally Margaret BuffieRobinson Book for Young People Award, 1995, for The Dark Garden; Vicky Metcalf Award, 1996, for body of work; McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, 2005, for The Finder. Works placed on shortlists for Governor General's Award, Mr. Christie Book Award, Ruth Schwartz Book Award, and Canadian Library Association Book Award, as well as on Notable Canadian Young Adult Fiction lists, Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice lists, Canadian Library Association Notable Canadian Fiction lists, and American Library Association and New York Public Library Best Books for Young Adults lists.


Who Is Frances Rain?, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987, published as The Haunting of Frances Rain, Scholastic Inc. (New York, NY), 1989.
The Guardian Circle, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989, published as The Warnings, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
My Mother's Ghost, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, published as Someone Else's Ghost, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
The Dark Garden, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Angels Turn Their Backs, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.


The Watcher, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2000.
The Seeker, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2002.
The Finder, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2004.


My Mother's Ghost was adapted as a film by Credo Entertainment and Buffalo Gals Pictures, 1996.


  1. I love the photo of you mopping the sidewalk. Bet that didn't help too much.
    And the garters! I don't remember having to wear garters as a child. That must have been a Canadian thing.
    The author info was so interesting. Just think, we both have young adult writers in our past. How many people can say that?
    Thought this might help jog some of those lost memories:
    Great to see you back on Sepia Saturday.

  2. Oh I know some Mays around here and in Michigan where I grew up can be so cold! Love the cool family photos!

  3. I also love the photo of you with the mop. It's classic. The garters belts and uncomfortable underwear aside, it looks like you had a really fun childhood. Now that I see the photo of you kids wearing coats in May, I'm afraid I have to cross Winnipeg off of my potential retirement spots.

  4. Darn, sorry to miss the photos of the fine cougar and Jesus: 2 sets of eyes both with a threat and a promise. I enjoyed your post.

  5. I'm so glad I didn't have to wear garters as a kid. they were bad enough when i started wearing stockings!

  6. Say say oh playmate, come out and play with me, and bring your dollies three, climb up my apple tree, slide down my rain barrel, into my cellar door and we'll be jolly friends for ever more!

  7. I'm holding up a sign showing the number "10" for your mop moves. New Olympic sport!

  8. Oh I remember garters too, horribe things. Interesting pictures and descriptions.

  9. As I read the post I was trying to guess the location of the early photographs. I see that you now live in California, but something in the images and your words was telling of much colder climates. Gradually the information emerged from your words, making a thoroughly enjoyable post.

  10. I never had to wear the kind of stockings that required garter belts until I got older and started wearing nylons. Where I lived, little girls had to wear slacks under their dresses in winter.

  11. I was telling myself that California has never been that cold. When you came to Canada that I could understand. You had a unique mopping action even at that age. We are due in Michigan in the middle of May - hope it's warmer. I kept getting confused between garters and garter belts - pehaps it's another senior moment.

  12. Oh my gosh, I love your blog and thoroughly enjoyed this post and your memories. I'm glad that garters had gone by the wayside by the time I was out of diapers, lol.

    I'm your newest follower,

    Kathy M.

  13. I'd love to have that flamingo front door, but I think you've given me too many presents lately (which I love).
    I don't imagine you've kept the flaming, though!

  14. the photo of you as apprentice mopper is wonderful. I hope you weren't walking backwards....

  15. The flamingo is a hoot. I had forgotten about seeing them before but I have. Yes, it isn't too tropical in Canada.

  16. I love your sense of humor! This post was a positive pleasure to read. I, too, love the mop photo but I have to wonder if whoever had the ladder out to paint was just a little concerned to have you there with a long-handled mop. (Not to mention the chances of dust on wet paint!) Garters? Only when I started wearing stockings as a teen. But I have an older friend who once explained to me how she had to wear them as a child. I was glad I was younger than her (because they were bad enough when I was a teen!).

  17. Great pics!!
    Wish people were as caring of their surroundings as you kids were.

    I remember some of those kitsch home decor. When I emptied my parents' place in 2008, I came across some of these "beauties"...