We met recently for a high school picnic at Bob Carswell’s Coach House in Toronto; our next event is scheduled for Stratford in August

Ever since the staging of our MCHS Sixties Reunion in 2015, a group of us has been meeting regularly for Malcolm Campbell High School picnics in Toronto and Southwestern Ontario. We now live in Stratford and our family always enjoys visiting Toronto.

New members are always welcome to join our group. If you have any connection at all to MCHS (this includes friends and family members) and wish to be on our picnics email list, please get in touch with me: jpill@preservedstories.com

Our venues and schedule of events are based on whatever we as attendees have in mind.

Left to right, Jaan Pill, Bob Carswell, and Scott Munro, June 5, 2024; the Coach House, an expertly converted garage, is visible in the background. Jaan Pill photo

Our most recent high school get together was in Bob Carswell’s backyard at his Coach House in Toronto. Bob Carswell, Scott Munro, and Jaan Pill attended the event; the three of us also met at the same location last year.

In previous years, we’ve met elsewhere in Toronto – including at the Mandarin restaurant on The Queensway near Kipling Avenue in South Etobicoke. We used to meet at Mandarin restaurants in Toronto and Kitchener during the pre-Covid era. Once the pandemic arrived, however, we began to meet outdoors. In Southwestern Ontario our meetings have numbered around eight or so attendees.

MCHS about 1960 after it was opened. Source: 1961-62 MCHS yearbook. Please contact me in the event you attended MCHS and want a copy of a yearbook from 1961-62 to 1973-74.

Next picnic is scheduled for Stratford in August

Left to right, Bob Carswell and Jaan Pill, who knew each other when they attended Malcolm Campbell High School in Montreal in the 1960s. Jaan Pill photo

Our next MCHS picnic is planned for Stratford in August 2024. So far I have heard from one regular attendee that a date during the first two weeks of August would work the best. Our previous lunchtime event in Stratford was in July 2023:

Our most recent MCHS picnic took place on July 26, 2023 in Stratford, Ontario

It might be possible to choose a date, for our next picnic in Stratford, when there’s a matinee performance at the Stratford Festival. That’s in the event any attendees might want to attend the theatre after the picnic.

[Update: Our Stratford picnic takes place at 11:30 am on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2024.]

We recently attended “Romeo and Juliet” – a most impressive theatrical performance, which gives theatre goers much to ponder. As we all know, as the story is famous, the play is a tragedy affecting star-crossed lovers, whose two families have a longstanding feud going on forever between them.

On July 26, 2023 we met for lunch near the Festival Theatre in Stratford. Jaan Pill photo

At our recent lunchtime meeting, among other topics we spoke about the history of Saraguay in Montreal. After we met, I decided to read a post from a while back which outlined some of the history of Saraguay:

On Sept. 2, 2021, we met for a high school picnic at an apartment parking lot with a great view of Lake Ontario. We learned how Bois-de-Saraguay in Montreal was saved from destruction.

I found it really interesting to learn some years ago that a focused, well-organized community effort of Saraguay residents enabled the Bois-de-Saraguay – an entire impressive forest, of huge ecological and historical significance – to be saved from destruction. Such community-driven outcomes related to land use decision making are a source of tremendous inspiration for me.

Rivière des Prairies between Laval and Montreal. Source: Google Maps

The first mayor of Saraguay did not live in Saraguay

Among the many things we talked about on June 5, 2024 in Toronto was the fact that the first mayor of Saraguay did not actually live in Saraguay. Instead, he lived on Paton Island which, as Bob noted, “was the most beautiful, richest estate. It had its own nine-hole golf course on it.” Bob recalls seeing the estate when he was about seven or eight years old. The lawns at the estate were beautifully cut.

The reference to the golf course reminds me that over the years we’ve featured many posts about another nearby golf course:

Bob Carswell adds to our stories – I’ve learned they are of interest to many site visitors – about the Marlborough Golf Course

Paton’s Island and Cat Island on Rivière des Prairies between Laval and Montreal. Source: Google Maps

At the current post, I’ve featured two maps of Paton Island. It’s an island whose history I would have known nothing about, were it not for the fact that Bob has shared many stories about the island with us over the years.

John Carswell’s cigarette lighter was waiting for him in the archives

Bob also shared with us a story about his dad’s cigarette lighter. John Carswell had spent six years in the Second World War; it was also during the war that he’d met his future wife.

When Bob’s dad retired, his dad and mother moved from Saraguay to Kingston. At that stage of his life, his dad wanted to find out about some things of relevance to Canadian veterans of the Second World War.

He’d lost a lighter during the war. He’d left the lighter in a jacket pocket when he’d transferred, while in England, from the Canadian Army to the Royal Air Force (RAF). When he transferred to flight duty, he left all his old uniforms behind. These were sent back to Canada.

John and Pat Carswell engagement photo 1942

John and Pat Carswell engagement photo 1942. The photo is from a previous post.

Now, many years later, his dad went to the Government of Canada to find out about some details related to his wartime service. As a result, he learned about a note that was left in his Canadian Army file. The note said, in so many words, “If he ever comes in, if you ever hear from him, have him contact us.”

Bob’s dad followed up on the note. He visited some archives in Ottawa, with the outcome that his lighter from the Second World War was once again in his possession.

I recently read another post of interest about Bob’s father:

Bob Carswell’s father attended Lakefield College School during the prewar years

As is noted at the post, Bob’s dad sorely grieved the loss during the war of so many of the friends he had known at Lakefield College.

Bob’s mother and her sister were separated for 62 years

Bob Carswell and Scott Munro at patio opposite the Coach House. Jaan Pill photo

Bob spoke about a photo in his Coach House, a converted garage. I think he mentioned the photo was of his mother and her sister taken years ago. The mother and sister, who were living in England at the time, were separated at an early age after their mother had died.

The last time Bob’s mother had seen her sister was when she was 10 years old; the sister was 17. Bob’s grandmother had died; his grandfather had a number of girlfriends, one after the other; he was trying to find a new wife to help raise his two daughters.

At our June 2024 picnic in Toronto we spent some time talking about Bob’s paintings – including cartoons which I was seeing for the first time. Bob reports he sells his paintings at $20 apiece at an occasional display outside his house on Royal York Road. So far (by early in June 2024) he’s earned about $300 from his paintings. Jaan Pill photo

One daughter (Bob’s mother’s sister) came to live with the grandfather, while Bob’s mother lived with their other grandmother. As it turned out, Bob’s mother’s sister didn’t like living with the grandfather and the latter’s new wife. She therefore ended up moving out and went to live with some relatives, two sisters, who were part of the extended family.

The latter sisters were the daughters of Bob’s Swedish-Finnish great grandfather, who had come to live in England. The two daughters shared an apartment. As I understand, that’s when Bob’s mother and her sister lost touch with each other; for 62 years, they were out of touch. Fortunately, as a result of his research about family connections, Bob was eventually able to get the two of them together once again.

Several of our picnics have taken place in Woodstock, such as one on Oct. 5, 2022. Jaan Pill photo

The maiden name of the two sisters, who shared an apartment, was Dagerland; the name was based on the fact they came from “the land of Dager.” The full name of the place of origin was “Nordagergard.”

“And I found her through geneology,” Bob said, “because I found the Dagerland cousins. And one of them said, ‘Well, I could contact them through his daughter, or through his son. One or the other.’ And the contact was made. And all of a sudden, I had a letter from her, saying, ‘I understand you were looking for me.'”

At that time, the fiftieth wedding anniversary of John and Pat Carswell, which Bob had organized for them in Gananoque, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, was approaching. The anniversary would be taking place at a restaurant in Gananoque.

Rather than waiting for that event, which was on a Friday, Bob decided to tell his mother, at her home, on the prior Tuesday. Bob’s mother was 72 at the time. On that day, he would tell her that he had been in touch with her mother’s sister. That would give his mother a chance to relax and be comfortable with the news of the re-connection, 62 years later. Bob had received a letter.

“I gave her the letter, and she looked at it, and she said, ‘You found her.'”

She wanted to go into the bedroom to read it.

“And as she left, she turned around and looked at me, and said, ‘You knew.'” I knew it [the loss of contact with her sister, many years ago] bothered her. I had always known it had bothered her.”

As a result of the re-connection, the two sisters were able to remain in contact for the rest of their lives. The sister came to Canada to visit. “And then,” said Bob, “my parents went to England and visited with her and her family.”

Bob learned around that time that there were four Dagerland brothers who had fought in the Second World War. Bob’s mother died in 2005 and her sister died in 2007.

Books we’ve been reading

At our picnics we often talk about books that people have been reading. Scott Munro mentioned that he likes to read books about current events which offer a range of political perspectives. That’s in contrast to reading only books that speak solely from one particular political vantage point.

In my own case, I’ve recently been reading several books about the history of Afghanistan with a focus especially on the years since 9/11. My motivation in reading such books stems from my interest in the study of how it is that we as human beings go about making sense of things. Among the books about Afghanistan that I’ve found of much interest is one entitled “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” (2015) by Sarah Chayes.

Among other books about related topics that I’ve been reading are “The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan” (2013) by Graeme Smith, and “The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees” (2023) by Matthieu Aikins.

I highly recommend all three of these first-rate, highly informative books about Afghanistan.

2 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Good to know, Bob. Whenever I can, I like to check back with people I’ve quoted to make sure the quotes are accurate and positioned within a suitable context.


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