Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Shivaree, or Charivari (a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a late Latin word meaning “headache”), dates at least as far back as the middle ages in Western Europe and has a long history in many parts of North America including the Midwest, Ontario, Quebec, New England and the Maritimes.

Young men of the community mark a marriage - especially a marriage considered suspect or unsuitable - by creating an improvised ruckus on pots and pans under the window of the bridal chamber. In the true spirit of a shivaree, our old hero is kept awake all night with noisy pots and pans by those who disapprove of his quest to marry the young girl.

My only encounter with this phenomenom was while I was in high school and a neighbour's daughter was getting married. The newlyweds home was not ready for a month, so after the wedding they planned to live with the in-laws. The local young folk got wind and a Shivaree was planned for a summer Friday evening, the plan being to keep the couple awake all night during their arrival home from the wedding festivities.

While I lived in the country, we did not own a farm, so I stood at the end of our driveway after dark with a tire iron and a metal lid from our garbage can, waiting for my best buddy to pick me up.

Soon I could hear him coming down the sideroad with no muffler on their oldest tractor and towing a hay wagon for all the folks to ride on to the event. I hopped on the tractor with him and enjoyed the ride, bumpy and noisey that it was. We picked up about 10 people with various forms of noisemakers including a trumpet, disc and wrenches, firecrackers, shotguns, cowbells etc.

The evening turned out to be much fun and a great community gathering on the neighbours laneway and lawn. The most fun coming when we took the four straw bales on the wagon and stuffed the straw into the grooms unlocked cab of his truck.

Did I mention that most attendees seem to have brought along liquid fortification in case it got cold and someone brought the coffee urn from the town hall with a large plate of ham sandwiches.

Some folks did actually stay all night...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Heart of the Kitchen

Kitchen ranges popular in the last half of the nineteenth century did double duty - heating space and cooking food.

By the turn of the century, Eaton's 1901 catalogue was illustrating the "finest ranges on the market, so proportioned that the designs and ornamentations are shown off to the best possible advantage...."

"The Royal Alexandra, a twentieth century name and a twentieth century range."

"This is positively the finest range on the market. It has the drop hearth-plate, draw-out duplex grate, draw-out oven rack, accurately proportioned firebox, full size square oven, extra large water reservoir...We positively guarantee this range to be perfect in every part."

In reading further in the catalogue it can be assertained that the prices for this essential part of every rural kitchen was from $30.00 to $49.25...and to finish you off and make the reader drool for this product they state...

"The Alexadra stoves are the finest made and for bakers are head and shoulders over all competitors...."

Findlay's Oval is a cook stove with all the gleaming arrogance of a pre-war Cadillac and the same kind of reputation. Production of the original model stopped in 1958 and began again twenty years later in the Ontario Mennonite community of Elmira.

Today, the Elmira Stove Works, of Waterloo, Ontario has brought back those days by incorporating the best of the old-fashioned looks and quality with today's state-of-the-art features to create the ultimate in antique/country styled ranges.

Company founder, Tom Hendrick, who has been in the Antique Style Range business for over 20 years, developed the Cook's Delight style of cookstove, to meet the demand for a modern appliance with the aesthetics of a woodburning range. It was modelled after an Early American range called the "Classic Clarion" first produced around 1850.

Another longstanding, traditional cookstove is the Enterprise which was built by Dominion Foundry Company of Sackville, Nova Scotia, founded in 1852 by Mr. R.M. Dixon.

At one time Enterprise was the only company in the world manufacturing a complete line of cooking products using wood, coal, oil, gas, electricity and microwave energy all in one factory.

In the 1980's the company changed to Enterprise-Fawcett Limited where, the skills of generations of craftsmen came together in the production of the" world's finest cook stove". The original molds made from wooden patterns carved by hand inspired the successful Legacy Series. The Monarch, King, Savoy Oil and Savoy Wood cook stoves combine authentic styling with todays standards.

Now isn't this familar? The T. Eaton Company had claimed back in 1901 the almost the same glowing words for the "Royal Alexandra."