Mamie and Papie

Grand-mère is the formal French term for grandmother. It can be spelled with or without the hyphen. Grand-maman is slightly less formal, and there are several informal terms, including gra-mere, mémère, mémé and mamé. Mamie is also used by modern French families. Mamie is the endearment we gave to my great grandmother, Mathilde (Sugar) Arsenault.

Grand-père is the formal French term for grandfather. Grand-papa is slightly less formal, and there are several other informal terms, including pépère and papy or papi. Arrière-grand-père is the French term for great-grandfather. We knew my great grandfather, Gabriel Gallant, as Papie.

It’s Sunday.  And finally, the temperatures are warming.  I attended Mass this morning and participated in the Rite of Sending, as I have decided to sponsor a beautiful young woman in her decision to be confirmed in the Catholic faith and to partake in the most Holy Eucharist, this year at Easter Vigil.  Later, we will gather at the Cathedral where Bishop William will receive the elect.  It is a beautiful and important rite.

Honestly, life has been tremendously difficult these past days, weeks, months and even years, but through all of everything, I continue to be a person of hope.  There have been some exceptional moments that have risen out of the struggle and for those moments and experiences, I am forever-grateful.  Blessings come in the shape of love, through friends, family and kind strangers…this love expressed through food, visits and messages.  It’s surprising how simple love is.

In your journey, you may find it a very difficult thing to reconcile….to reconcile with anything…memories, people, events.  I think it’s almost more natural to slip toward bitterness, abandonment and rage…a downward slope is always easier, right?  It takes some resilience, determination, strength and will to climb.

Every morning, I climb.  I don’t think this was always the case.  I have no cause to be stuck in the mire. My life, like your own, is a sparkle… it begins and it ends in a blink. There isn’t time or ability to shoulder the weight of bitterness and resentment. Nor is there time or ability to hang out with those who want to be angry, unloving or surly. Move toward love. Surround yourself with love.

One of the blessings of these recent days has been a re-connection with a maternal auntie and uncle. Through this re-connection,  we have together, been able to work at building a common narrative and to put to rest parts of our common past. I feel that my mother’s loving heart has provided the way for this to happen.

My uncle went through an album of his and this morning, I was sent a photograph of my Mamie and Papie… my great grandparents. I had never seen this image before. I’m not embarrassed to say that I sat in front of my monitor and wept. I was so taken by the connection I felt to Prince Edward Island and my mother’s family. I hope that if you are family and reading this, that you will save this image to your own archives and treasure it.

I have such specific memories about these two. They are very sensory memories and those of my child self. Smell of wood fire. Potato pancakes. Crispy pork fried. Tobacco. Sound of kitchen voices. Clinking milk bottles. Do I remember Papie patting beats on his legs? Place… upstairs attic bedroom. Floor vents. Light. Mamie returning home from bingo. Collecting up metal placeholder chips in morning. Earl. Great Aunties. Stories. Laughter. Salt water. Ocean. Seaweed. Family. Furnishings. Wood stove. Mamie. Knees. Hugs. Being held. Feeling loved. Mom’s happiness. People calling this magical place, ‘the island’.

I’m grateful that this afternoon finds me so grounded in the memory of my mother.  I love you, Mom.


340 Water Street, Summerside, PEI


Historical building, yes, but also a workplace for my Summerside family for so many years!  I can not help but keep the images of the place in my heart because it is a place that is a part of my identity, just as the woolen mill, here in the west, is.  The description and historical significance appears below in blue and was collected from this site.


The large three-storey flat roofed warehouse at 340 Water Street is clad in white vinyl. It is located west of the Central Street intersection overlooking the harbour. It is situated between the street and the former railway line now part of the Trans Canada Trail. The registration includes the building and its lot.


The large three-storey structure at 340 Water Street has been a landmark on the harbourfront of Summerside for over 130 years. It has considerable historical significance as the warehouse of the prominent Lefurgey family who shipped produce in vessels that were constructed on the land south of the building.

The plain building was built for John E. Lefurgey who purchased the lot running south to the shoreline in 1873. The date of the building’s construction is assumed to be before 1878 when its presence is marked on Ruger’s Panoramic Map. Its shape indicates that it was constructed to run adjacent to the railroad bed which was laid in the early 1870s.

Mr. Lefurgey, who had come to Green’s Shore in the 1850s as a general merchant, built many ships to use in his business of shipping oats and potatoes to markets in Great Britain. The large warehouse building provided ample space for the storage of produce. Mr. Lefurgey was active in town affairs and represented the Summerside area in the House of Assembly from 1870 to 1890.

After his death in 1891, the estate was left in the hands of his wife, the former Dorothea Read, and his son, William. When William died in 1893, his brothers, John Ephraim (J.E.) and Alexander Alfred (A.A.) took over the family business. J.E. Lefurgey was well known in the community and served for a time on the town council. In 1905, he purchased real estate in Vancouver and shortly afterwards settled there. Alfred Lefurgey, a Harvard law graduate, served in the PEI Legislature in 1897 and was elected to the House of Commons in 1900, representing East Prince until 1908.

The Lefurgey warehouse passed from family ownership in 1909. The new owner of the substantial property was William H. Edgett, a produce dealer in Moncton. He and John Grady, the accountant for the firm of David Rogers & Sons for many years, formed the Edgett Grady Company for the purpose of buying and selling local produce. The business was bought out in 1912 by the Montreal firm of Gunn Langlois, which specialized in the handling and shipping of eggs and poultry.

In 1916, during W.W. I, all three floors of the eastern portion of the building were used by the 105th Battalion for the sleeping quarters of Summerside recruits. In December of that year, after a major fire on Water Street destroyed many buildings, the firm of Sinclair & Stewart moved several of its departments into the vacated section of the building and occupied it for almost a year.

The firm of Gunn Langlois ceased operations in Summerside around 1932 and the building changed hands in 1933. Lorne MacFarlane, a partner in the MacFarlane Produce Company, became sole owner in August 1934. A month later he sold the portion of land between the building and the edge of the water to Percy Tanton and his son Ray who wanted it for a mill and lumberyard. In 1960, that land became the property of the Irving Oil Company.

Lorne MacFarlane was one of several individuals who formed the PEI Bag Company Limited, which began manufacturing jute bags for the packing and shipping of potatoes and other produce. In 1937, an addition was built on the south side of the structure and in 1941, a sprinkler system was installed. The success and expansion of the bag business eventually necessitated the use of the whole building and in 1944, the MacFarlane Produce Company moved to other premises. Some reinforcement of the building took place in 1949 when a fifteen-ton machine to cut, print, and fold bags, was installed on the third floor.

Over the years, production has expanded to include bags made from paper and polypropylene to meet the needs of customers who package various types of produce, including potatoes. The business has continued to prosper and is currently owned by descendents of its founders.

Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile


The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the building:

– the three-storey massing and form of this industrial building with flat roof and large footprint that parallels the adjacent former railway line
– the placement of windows and doors representing a mainly functional purpose, on the north elevation they provide a sense of balance and are 2 over 2
– the ongoing contribution to the historic streetscape reflective of industrial commercial activities

These are my own photographs, snapped during my visit to the island in 2011.

Apparently Roger Wells had plans for the building and this article states that in 2013 the city rejected the idea of using it as storage for antique cars.  The article mentions that it was put up for sale at that time.  Now, I’m going to go digging to see what’s happened with it since.  What an amazing art gallery and studio space that would be!

I know that of my relations, my Auntie Gladys likely worked there the longest.

PEI Bag Company


‘The Bog’ Legacy

Tonight, I’m a long way from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,  but I still feel a huge support for Jim Hornby and I’m disappointed in the recent rejection of his application for P.E.I. 2014, 1864 legacy funds.  I’ve written about his huge contribution to black islander historical research in the past.  I want to include his letter written to the editor of the Charlottetown Guardian dated February 5, 2014.


‘The Bog’ legacy

Black community deserves permanent recognition by P.E.I. 2014 Inc.

 After reading a P.E.I. 2014 Inc. press release that described their theme song “Forever Strong” as a “musical legacy,” I have had enough already of this phony-baloney outfit. Let me share a few thoughts about a “legacy” for this city during our celebration of 1864.

In reliance on their published criteria for funding 2014 events, early this year I invested considerable effort in leading applications for three medium (maximum funding $25,000) grants to celebrate the legacy of Charlottetown’s West-End mixed-race black community known as “the Bog.” This community was at its peak in 1864, close to 100 people lived in the area extending from Black Sam’s Bridge (linking Euston Street and Brighton Road), down Rochford Street roughly to Richmond Street.

The separate applications were for: “Back To The Bog,” an approximately 48-page history of the area in 1864, its people and its relation to the city generally; “Festival in the Bog,” a celebration of the area in words and music that would have featured a commissioned piece of music in tribute to the Bog, performed by the Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble; “Memorial in the Bog,” a modest permanent memorial — a bronze plaque on a frame — recognizing the area and its people.

As was pointed out in a recent editorial in this newspaper, what is being observed in 2014 is the “Charlottetown” conference. Just across Government Pond, the Bog was close to Government House grounds, its residents screened from the visiting Charlottetown Conference delegates by a line of trees. Thanks to P.E.I. 2014, they are still being shut out.

All that our three modest, Charlottetown-based, 1864-related and legacy-focussed projects received from P.E.I. 2014 was a verbal dismissal by telephone. Was the thought that slavery and racism might be mentioned too scary for happy-talkin’ P.E.I. 2014?

I personally feel that these proposed activities, most especially the memorial, would provide healing for the many descendants from this population in Charlottetown and beyond, and would show Islanders and tourists more historical diversity than we now display.

Never mind 150 years, what about 230 years since black slaves began arriving on this Island under British rule, what about over 200 years since “Black Sam” Martin relentlessly founded a small community of former slaves on the worst piece of land in Charlottetown? Are we going to finally recognize them, or do we stay “Forever Shallow”? If the most-diverse neighbourhood on the Island in 1864 can’t get recognition, how can we take seriously P.E.I. 2014’s published “goals,” which included “to acknowledge all voices,” “to celebrate the creativity of diverse communities,” and “to foster dialogue that recognizes Prince Edward Island’s and Canada’s heritage”?

I attended the hearing of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts a few weeks ago, when P.E.I. 2014 officials advised the committee that the original application for “Canada Rocks” was rejected. Based on the published funding criteria, I believe it clearly could not be eligible for funding.

So: nothing for the Bog’s legacy, the totally undeserving “Canada Rocks” gets $100,000, and — it gets better! — P.E.I. 2014 gets to keep the other $140,000 that it wrongly allocated according to its own rules! There’s no way now that they can distribute that money to deserving applicants!

With all due respect to the musicians who have created and will perform “Forever Strong,” it is no legacy, musical or otherwise. With their over-scripted rules for songwriters, P.E.I. 2014 set up a 2014 theme-song contest — and got the paint-by-numbers composition that was sought. Let’s be honest about this “legacy”: it is widely admitted that no one will ever perform this song without being handsomely paid, and that no one will listen to it twice by choice. On Jan. 1, 2015, it will have less shelf-life than the ends of New Year’s Eve’s champagne bottles. It will have all the legacy value of “Canada Rocks 2014.” Yep: zero. P.E.I. 2014 has the arrogance, and perhaps naivete, to think they can turn their marketing points into art simply by running them through the digestive systems of a few artists.

With its work-product to date, P.E.I. 2014 has shown a clear preference for surface over substance. While no doubt many worthy projects are being funded, P.E.I. 2014 has failed miserably on integrity. I therefore call upon the Minister of Tourism and Culture (alas for that order of priority!), Robert Henderson, to show some leadership, and understanding of the meaning of the word “legacy,” and authorize funding for a permanent memorial to Charlottetown’s West End black community to be constructed and installed in the Bog area during next year’s celebrations. You might ask P.E.I. 2014 to disgorge some of their ill-gotten gains for the purpose, but the main thing is to do it. Otherwise, such a failure, in the face of the questionable uses of public money intended for 1864 celebration, may feature prominently in the legacy of 2014.

Guest Opinion

By Jim Hornby

Jim Hornby, of Charlottetown, is a folklorist, fiddle player, historian, and lawyer.

Listen to a CBC interview here.

I’m also disappointed tonight to find that the Black Islander’s website is down…don’t know if these two stories are related.  The following schematic is borrowed from Slave Life and Slave Law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769 – 1825.

Slave Life and Slave Law in the Colonial

I have leaned heavily on Hornby’s research about black islanders, particularly the information related to Lieutenant Governor Fanning’s slave, David Sheppard, and so this current issue is of tremendous interest to me.  The narratives for these ancestors coming out of Prince Edward Island and other Atlantic Provinces was so extremely difficult that I am a strong advocate that this history be acknowledged in a truly ‘classy’ way through the support of both a book about The Bog and a monument that appropriately regards this moment in history.  It is important that the money that is made available through these sorts of grants be respectfully allocated as legacy and not exclusively for the additional tourist dollars it might provide as a spin-off.

Black Islanders

 M. W. Turner (1775–1851)  Description  Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhoon coming on ("The Slave Ship") Date 1840 Medium oil on canvas Dimensions 90.8 × 122.6 cm (35.7 × 48.3 in)

M. W. Turner (1775–1851)
Date 1840
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions 90.8 × 122.6 cm (35.7 × 48.3 in)


CBC Documentary…Being Black in Canada

Sharing the Gift of a Poem 12/12/2012

My friend sent me a poem yesterday.  I read it before I went to bed and decided that this would be something special to share in the morning…the twelfth month, the twelfth day of 2012.  It brought to mind the series of photographs I took two summers ago, a series titled, My Mother’s Hands.

It also reminded me of music, for some reason…and about recognizing a couple of musicians who have recently passed away, Dave Brubeck and Ravi Shanker.  I am in deep gratitude for the music that they created.  God gave us hands to create.  God gave us hands to bless the world.  May your hands do good for others today.

I brought Prince Edward Island sand back to my mother in Ontario…this is the photograph that I took that day.

Mom's Hands PEI

In Praise of Hands

by Stuart Kestenbaum

It’s not just the people
who live in the city

who’ve lost the thread
that ties them to the woven

world of stones and earth,
fields alive with pollen and wings.

Who among us understands
how oceans rise and fall,

currents swirling around the planet
with messages in bottles

floating on the water.
When the tide is out

we can go to the shore
dig clay with our bare hands

and make something beautiful from it,
a vessel with thin walls

that holds a canyon.
In both hands, like an offering,

we can hold the memory
of eroded stones and earth,

eons contained in this empty bowl.
We can fill it with water

that reflects the sky that has
witnessed everything since

time began, we can drink and be blessed,
clouds gathering over us.

“In Praise of Hands” by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-on Sentences


Morning Coffee With Hattie Hughes

I relaxed this morning, with a coffee and the Island Voice of Hattie Hughes.  This past summer, I spent time in Cardigan and really treasured time with a new friend, Karla and appreciated a serendipitous meeting with Nora MacDonald.  That experience opened up my heart to the east coast!  Because of all of this, the interview felt like a little taste of ‘home’.

Hattie Hughes Interview Island Voices

Beach Day: Cavendish

Sunshine at 6:30 this morning…so the laundry got out on the line early!

A Line Full of Clothes in PEI

I spent the early afternoon picking up wee pebbles off of Cavendish beach…a heavenly place to be saying my good-byes to PEI and taking in the sunshine.  I came home and looked at my photographs, but didn’t feel as though I captured the seascape at all…would have been so much better in juicy oil paint…the atmosphere was so charged with wind, sunshine and water that a photograph just flattens it all out.

East Cavendish Beach, heading toward the White Sands of the West

Presently, A Program in Place to Protect the Dunes (Alliteration!)


Good-bye Pounding Wave of Cavendish Beach!

Thinkin' About the Footprints Prayer While Walking & Pebble-pickin'

Brothers Two Restaurant, Summerside

My Decorated Great-Uncle

I cried in the parking lot of the Brothers Two Restaurant tonight.  As my Great-Uncle Earl gave me a big-bear hug, I couldn’t let go.  I wanted to keep that moment forever.  I wanted time to stop. My Great-Auntie Gladys and I cried. 

Great Uncle Earl's Treat

I noticed as I signed Earl’s guest book at his home that on the very first page of this book were my Mom and Dad’s signatures from a trip they had made out to the Island in 2002.  I am so grateful that they made that trip together.  And Mom’s remaining family will always remember it! My signature is now in the very same book.  I made the journey home to the Island for all of my family.

I love my Great-Auntie!

A meal shared, good stories, laughs and memories brought us close to one another.  I will  carry these Islanders in my heart.

Last Friday Night Bingo: Just as My Mamie Used to Do!

The Box Garden by Carol Shields

There was a patter of rain on the roof late last night after I had turned in.  It has rained every night since coming to the cottage, but contrary to what one might think, it has become a welcome and calming sound…the rain and wind. By morning the sea breezes have dried the generous circle of deck and I step out, with arms wide open, thinking that yet again, I am queen for the day!

I pull the three homemade quilts up close to my chest.  I fluff and organize against the wooden headboard, my four pillows, their covers neatly edged with stitchery of one kind or another.  The sheets and pillows both feel like cool soft butter.

There is a warm light emitted from the lamp at my bedside and I read until I finish A Box Garden by Carol Shields.  Charleen is not the best of protagonists for me.  Carol Shields was a master of character-writing, but I fall in love with Charleen’s mother.  There is nothing better for women-readers than a Shields novel, even when less-widely read.  Given my present setting, the feeling of this place and the fact that I was holding in my hands a yellowed second hand book…and read it in one evening, just contributes to how well I will remember and love the book.  Sometimes what makes a book glorious is as much the experience of the book-reading as the story itself.

I love Brother Adam of the Priory…the one who writes the letters to Charleen.  I like that he writes to her and I like that he sends her the box garden.  I don’t like him so much for who he has been or becomes, but because of his love for grass growing, the great and wondrous expanse of green and what it does for the spirit.  Grass is used also in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.  I remember and continue to treasure those chapters.  Shield’s book brings that back for me.

Visiting My Ancestors: Miscouche PEI

After visiting both Mont Carmel and Baie Egmont, on the highway west to our cottage, Max and I had one final stop to make and that was to St. John the Baptist Church in Miscouche.  Late in the day,  we weren’t able to gain access to the interior, but certainly the building itself was a formidable sight!   

Miscouche was the location for the Second Acadian National Conference in 1884, an occasion when all of Acadia’s national symbols including the Acadian flag were adopted.  Somewhere around 5000 Acadians were in attendance and if my readers consider the distance and elements that might have influenced travel at the time, they will know this to be an amazing feat.

Again, I felt the astounding presence of my ancestors.  I walked through the cemetery and felt such gratitude yet again.  When I returned to the van, I turned to the back kennel and said to Max, “Ok buddy, enough for today!  Let’s get some grub and head to the cottage!”

Ste. John the Baptist, Miscouche


Entrance Archway


White on Blue


Farewell Miscouche

A Slice

Witness to My Life

I had to take a quick shot of my exhausted pooch once I had taken him out for his evening walk in Moncton, New Brunswick.  We landed (it was quite an undertaking to locate a bed in Moncton last evening) in a Dieppe Super 8…parked close to the airport.  Every now and then, there is a tremendous roar as a plane takes off, but generally a most wonderful sleep and rest.  This morning we head for the Confederation Bridge and a reunion with Mom’s relations in Summerside, PEI.  This is a bittersweet event, given that Mom’s decline in health has not allowed her to be with me.  I’m certain that there will also be tears!

I promised my great auntie and uncle a copy of the family research I have just recently completed, so for this opportunity, I am grateful.  I had hoped to manage five generations, but have succeeded in most branches of the family, to uncover eight to ten generations.  I will be spending the next week visiting the resting places of several of these ancestors and reconnecting with their most-often-heroic efforts to feed their children, stand for their beliefs and remain hard-working for their lifetimes.

When I load the ‘stuff’ into the van this morning, I will be grabbing the family history from the back and setting it on my front passenger seat.  I feel that there is huge closure to this process and I am so excited!