December 22, 1916
Today was a day of walking around the town. I had a fine breakfast in the morning prepared by my Aunt Henrietta. Both of my parents are well into their 70’s now and slowing down. Aunt Henrietta, in her early 60’s has taken up the bulk of the housework from my mother. When my parents decided in 1877 to move to Leith (I was an infant), Aunt Henrietta decided to come along to help out. She was 21 at the time and not married off yet, so the best prospect she had was to help set up the Rose Hill homestead in Leith She never did marry and stayed with my parents. She’s like a second mother to me, and in some ways a second wife to my father.
Shortly after I left for Seattle, my parents sold Rose Hill. They stayed at Tom and Elizabeth’s in Annan for a while and then moved into town above 8th St. E. Hill. Shortly after they bought land near the Sydenham River just southeast of downtown and built this house, a smart looking red brick house, not near the size of Rose Hill but but less drafty too. The Presbyterian church is only a few blocks away, they can walk it in the summer and take the horse and carriage in the winter.
I took a walk through Harrison Bush. The bush had recently become a park in 1912 and is a popular destination in the summer – the winter less so. The Pavilion is a popular gathering spot after the Friday and Saturday early movies at the Classic Theatre. The mile drive, which ran the perimeter of the park became a popular attraction for the young folk, much to the chagrin of the town father, because the mile walk through the woods gave opportunity for couples to steal kisses from each other. The family picnics on Sunday after church, it was forbidden to walk the mile drive without an adult chaperone.
Because it was the dead of winter, there was no such romantic activity today on the mile drive. The woods were quiet, but I did hear some shouting coming from the direction of the Pavilion. I double-backed to see what was the commotion, and I found the Park Caretaker, Mr. Anderson, hanging onto two boys of about 15 years.
“Your parents will have to pay for damage, and we’ll have to get the police involved!” Mr. Anderson was waving toward the Pavilion, and then he saw me.
“These boys broke in! Come to think of it, what are you doing here?” I could see he was beginning to suspect me of the same intention.
“Just walking to enjoy the weather. I’m Tom Thomson, son of John Thomson, just up on 4th Avenue.”
I could see his glaze of suspicion disappear immediately. “You’re the Thomson boy, artist in Toronto. I seen some articles about you.”
“Do you need any help with those boys, you have?”
“No, sir. I know both their mothers. They both belong to the I.O.D.E and I know they’ll be none too pleased.” With that statement, he let the two boys go and shooed them out of the park. “I’ll take care of you too later!”
After inspecting the damage (which was minor), and exchanging some more pleasantries, I was back on my way. I walked north through the downtown streets. I wanted to go the harbour and see who was wintering there. I didn’t have a chance when I arrived by train.
The Owen Sound harbour was full of passenger and freight steamers. There were several tugs too. I could see the Assiniboine, Keewatin, Manitoba, Alberta, Athabaska, Manitoba, and I couldn’t quite see the last one, but I’m sure it was the Caribou. The freighters, Algonquin and Turret Crown were there too. In 1901 I took the Assiniboine to go out West to work in the Harvest Excursion. After the Excursion I continued West to Seattle to join my brother George.
I walked up St. Mary’s Hill, and along the bluffs to take in the view of the frozen bay. I came back down 8th Street Hill, making it back to my parents by late afternoon. They were used to me not showing up for dinner in the middle of the day, so they had dinner ready in the evening instead. We had a good time talking, no serious discussions though. The serious topics would be saved until after Christmas. After dinner we sat in the front room. My father played the piano and I played accompaniment with my violin that I had left behind. I never had the urge to bring it with me on my travels but it felt good to play it whenever I came back home. I am glad to be here, in a nice warm house with plenty of food and drink, but I feel like I’m living on borrowed time. The daily papers remind us constantly of war and the sacrifices that everyone expects to be made of each other. It’s two days before Christmas and I’ll try to keep those thoughts of sacrifice at bay, until at least after Christmas.