My residency in Cornwall spans my lifetime although not full time; divided in part with other communities within Glengarry County but especially Alexandria. My hobby is genealogy, and my roots can be traced back a couple of centuries in both communities. We moved around a lot, due in part to living sometimes with Mom, whose preference was Cornwall, and with Dad, who was a lifelong resident of Alexandria. My parents separated very early on, so my childhood was divided between these two communities they loved and called home. Fond childhood memories of both towns will stay with me forever and it doesn’t matter how far away you end up as an adult, you always come back to what you know.
If you were to compare this to anything, a dreaded family VHS home video of days past might come to mind. We all have them kicking around somewhere, loathed by subjects in the videos, but very sentimental to the owner who likes to replay them to anyone who will watch. In this case, I am both the subject and the owner; my memories, forever etched in my mind; like an old VHS home video tape that I can take out and play whenever I want.
Living in Alexandria, there were many trips into Cornwall for visits to the family who lived here which included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and probably hundreds of cousins; mom has 16 brothers and sisters. The drive into Cornwall was always long for a child, but Martintown always seemed to be about the halfway point, or the point at which I knew we were getting close. The reason for this was the stench! Yes Cornwall, we could smell you in Martintown; a smell unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. A fair description might be boiled cabbage mixed with dirty diaper. On one such visit into Cornwall, we were visiting with an aunt, my mother’s sister. My older sister, my younger brother and I were sent to the store a few blocks away. My two siblings ran ahead out of sight, and I got lost, unable to find them. I wandered around, so unsure of my surroundings or how to get back to my aunt’s place. There was a restaurant so I went in there, by then I was in tears. The owner sat me down at the counter and gave me a snack and a drink, and called the police to help. The officer came and both the owner and the police questioned me. Within minutes, my mom and my aunt came in! How did the officer even know to call them, I hadn’t given a number, nor did I know my aunt’s number. How did they come so fast? Well, the owner of the restaurant was a cousin I had never met and knew exactly who to call!
Living in Cornwall, and visiting with my grandparents was the best part. Granny always had fresh baked bread for me to sample and it seemed that everyone visited on the day she was making her bread. Her adult children never seemed to stray too far, she had seventeen of them and they all had fairly large families, so there was always a houseful there. Christmases were always interesting because there was never a table large enough to accommodate everyone. The children were fed first, then the men, then all the women with many huge pots having to be replenished. Our family were very musically inclined, so there was a lot of guitar playing along with other instruments which might even include the spoons, and singing and dancing after these huge meals. My grandparents were separated, but visiting with grandpa was no less special and so often just as entertaining. Grandpa played the violin and harmonica and did some sort of jig all the while playing these instruments. One memory was of Grandpa’s special juice he always made when we visited. This sounds like an odd combination, but he would make orange Freshie juice and always put peppermint in it. I so miss Grandpa’s special juice!
I’m probably aging myself here, but one special memory of Cornwall was the Capitol Theater. My cousins, siblings and I spent many Saturdays or Sundays there as children. The adults would be visiting and would send us to the show, giving us 50 cents each with orders for the older ones to look after the younger ones. Sometimes we were eight or nine of us going into the theater. It was a quarter to get in, and we could buy a drink and a chip or a chocolate bar with the other quarter and still go home with each a nickel in our pockets. Oh and what we could do with a nickel then is amazing! If we pooled our money together, we could go to any corner store and get loads of candy to share! Candies were two or three for a penny, so our nickel could get us ten or fifteen candies each! My last memory I’d like to share is of Disco Wheels! How many of you remember that place? I spent a lot of time there, never really getting good at it, but brave enough to keep trying!
It doesn’t matter what becomes of you in life, good or bad, better or worse, rich or poor. If anything, you always have your memories to look back on, and I do have a lot of fond memories of Cornwall.
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