December 28, 1916 A Visit to the Harknesses

December 28, 1916

Tom Harkness telephoned and said that I should come to Annan today and stay until the New Year. Tom is married to my sister Elizabeth. They still have one daughter living at home, Jessie, my favourite niece.

My parents don’t have a telephone, they don’t see the need for one. Tom telephoned the Owen Sound office of Sydenham Mutual on 8th St. and had one of the telegraph boys deliver the message to my parents’ house.┬áTom was one of the earlier ones to get a telephone in the township – back in 1908. He was one of the founding directors of the Leith and Annan Telephone Company. Rev. Fraser, to my surprise, was one of the founding directors too. I thought the Reverend would see the telephone as a purveyor of evil – only recently, did Presbyterians allow organs into churches and I doubted that they would embrace the use of the telephone. But he did.

In his telephone message, Tom said I should bring my violin along. The Annan Community Hall soiree was going to be held on Saturday night, and it promised to be a big to-do. The construction of the hall was just completed last September, and at the annual general meeting in October, it was decided to hold a soiree on December 30th. Tom is also a founding director of the hall association and president too. My sister Elizabeth is the head of the Annan’s Women’s Institute and the chair of the organizing committee for the soiree. I must admit, I know people of influence who live in Annan.

The weather was good, so I decided to walk along the shore to Annan. The first part of the journey, I followed the CPR line along the factories on the east shore, then as the line turned south, I headed north toward Leith. It hadn’t snowed for a few days, so the road was packed down by sleds from the past few days. In winter, the Leith shore road is tricky because the northwesterly winds from the bay bring snow and drifting. It wasn’t unusual for the road to be impassable for days at a time. The longer, but more reliable way to get to Annan is to take a Meaford stage to Bothwell’s corners and a horse and sled to Annan. But with the weather, I decided to take the walk along the shore.

The bay hadn’t frozen over yet. Despite it being cold, the winds had prevented the bay from freezing over. The ice kept breaking up, and refreezing, so there was about a half mile of frozen rough ice to the still open water. All it would take is one cold calm night and the bay would be frozen completely over and smooth enough to skate on all the way from Leith to Owen Sound. I could see the dark blue water in contrast to the snow covered ice. I doubt it would be frozen by New Year, but most certainly before January was out.

I made it to Leith without much trouble and then walked up to Annan. The Harkness farm is the second farm just north of the village. Their house is a fine fieldstone house. Tom’s father, Gideon and his brother John were both stone masons from Scotland. They came to Canada to work on the St James Cathedral, then moved on to Galt, and finally came here to Annan.

We had a good supper. Elizabeth remarked that my violin made the journey intact and I remembered that Aunt Henrietta had baked some sweetbreads for the soiree. I produced these and Elizabeth set them aside in the kitchen. Tomorrow, she would be doing making her contribution of desserts. Jessie was home too. She told me she’s engaged to be married next summer, to a fellow named Fisk who has a grocery store in Owen Sound. I brought my sketchbook, and made a pencil sketch of her, while sitting by the fire. There’s no better way to end a winter day than sitting by a fire, reading or sketching.