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Jean-Claude Vézina Par Jean-Claude Vézina

Mercredi, 10 septembre 2014

A success for the Journée d’antan

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Old Fashioned Day (Journée d'antan) was crowded at the Eaton Corner Museum. The parking lot was overflowing, even though it was designed to accommodate lots of visitors. On a hot and sunny Sunday, more than 200 people responded to the invitation of the members of the board of directors.

In French and in English, the visitors from both linguistic communities were able to profit from the knowledge and traditions handed down from the colonizers of our region. For others, it was a chance to learn a bit about ancestral techniques and tools.

In the reception area, a garden of bygone times welcomed us with open arms, rich in vegetables cultivated in the traditional manner. Several magnificent squashes had been collected so they could be given away, proof that the pioneers knew how to make the most of our soil. And sometimes it can be difficult to exploit.

Marc Nault is an adept of timber frame carpentry. That's a construction technique using squared or round beams, assembled by means of tenons, mortises and pins. He took pleasure in demonstrating how our elders built their houses, barns and outbuildings. He uses tools that are simple but effective, activated by muscle power.

Artists and artisans were set up in and around the house of Joshua Foss, who was born in 1795 and died in 1881. He built his house between the years of 1820 and 1830, and lived in it with his family until his death in Eaton Corner, in what is today Cookshire-Eaton. This building served as the post office and, it is thought, was the site of the first surgery under anaesthesia in Canada.

The blacksmith's forge, the ancient vacuum cleaners, the one-cylinder motors - they all give a glimpse of the gruelling work of days past. From a block of ash, Raymond Robert stripped off thin strips of wood to make Abenaki baskets. He was demonstrating the art of basketry, fashioning containers for a whole variety of uses. Under the shade of the trees encircling the house, Denis Palmer sketched in his notebook the movements and gestures that he will complete as a watercolour painting. Another presentation on the site was how our ancestors were able to heal their ills with the aid of medicinal plants.

Inside the Foss House, women presented the arts of sewing, weaving, and various forms of embroidery that were bequeathed to them by generations of women. They demonstrated the art of spinning the wool that has an array of uses. Despite the amount and the ruggedness of the work they had to do, they knew how to embellish their homes with aesthetic notes. Embroidery, crocheting, lacework and quilling added joyous touches in their humble abodes. They assured the comfort of their families by crocheting rugs or sewing thick quilts. Also on display were the techniques and models of sublime sculptures, mostly in delicate borders decorating pieces of furniture.

In the church, four musicians offered traditional airs. On display there is the permanent exhibition of artefacts, abounding with frames, tools and historical documents. The canvases in the windows, bearing reproductions of watercolours by Denis Palmer, give a special cachet to the exhibition.

Quite a few people enjoyed the wagon rides. Chantal Bolduc, member of the Museum's board of directors, drove the team of horses owned by the Bolduc family. And to satisfy the appetites of visitors, the volunteers offered delicious scones and jam, just like in bygone days.

Sharon Moore, vice-president, and Marc Nault, president, were pleased with the participation of visitors. Everyone, exhibitors and history lovers alike, appreciated this day that was so rich in discoveries.

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