The big blue barn sits on what is considered a double lot. It is situated at the back of the lot so it is not easily seen from the street, and as shown in the pictures there are many large coniferous trees about. The original farmhouse is next door. The two houses were the original farm the town was built around. They are located two blocks from our ‘downtown’ and are flanked by the United Church on the southeast corner and by the Church of the Nazarene on the southwest corner. Everyone in town knows the big blue barn and the farmhouse. The farmhouse use to be a way station between Calgary and Edmonton. Weary travelers would stop at the farmhouse and rent a room overnight before journeying on. They put up their horses in the barn which was built a few years after the farmhouse. I believe it was built in the 1890’s. After the way station – the farmhouse belonged to a doctor. The barn was converted in 1914 and belonged to a veterinarian. Later it was made into two apartments and the first floor was a garage. I was told there use to be a dumbwaiter that went from the first to the third floor but I have never found any indication of that existing. I have lived here for 13 years.
Once the wiring was complete and the bank released the rest of the mortgage, I set about with the first of the renovations. I needed to insulate the entire house and I decided to do that from the inside out. That entailed pulling off all the cedar shingle. Under one of them I found a check for $23,000.00. It was over 10 years old – so there was no way I could cash it. I had heard the eccentric alcoholic who lived here was wealthy. In fact, the mall where our store was located was named after his family. The mall was located on what had been their large farm and they had made their money from selling portions of their land to the city. The mall and the store were in the big city – a 20-minute drive north of the little town where I live. Not wanting to take my nephew out of the good high school he was in – and because I worked in the big city anyway – we drove it every day of the week – and for me more, as I worked 6 days a week and sometimes 7.
Once we removed the cedar shingle we had to pull down the plaster and lathe underneath. We stripped every wall in the house to the outside wall or to the inside wall studs, and I learned how to drywall myself. The main floor and the third floor were insulated first. Last year we finally finished insulating the first floor. Every single wall and ceiling in this house has been redone. I have lived in a house that was under construction in some way since I bought it. Always dusty and dirty with new wood or old wood lying about amid the tools, insulation, and paint. I could only do what I could afford and that was not much at one time. But I persevered and I loved it. There is a huge amount of satisfaction gained when you have done it yourself.
During this time I had gone through a gallbladder operation, plus two hernia operations. The hernia happened during The Beater years and I needed four operations to get it fixed. Sounds strange – but I had a nerve cluster that kept regrowing and causing problems and they finally put in a mesh and told me it would take at least five years for the pain to subside. I also met Alcide.
Alcide was a lawyer in Edmonton. He called to inquire about white-water rafting and we struck up a friendship on the phone. He was often traveling past the little town where I live and asked me if we could meet for coffee. We were in the middle of a major renovation push and I left my brother and nephew working madly away while I slipped off for a cup of tea with this stranger. I knew him as soon as I walked into the restaurant. Because of his bad eyesight he was squinting at me as I approached the table, and I looked at him as if he was strange. Once he opened his mouth and that beautiful soft voice came out – well that was a different story. ‘Call me Cid’ he said – everyone does – and I did from then on out. Cid and I became the best of friends and I loved him madly. After a year of talking and chatting I began to wonder why we never went any further. His mother lived 4 hours south of me and he always stopped when he was going back and forth. But that was it – we were friends. He had been engaged to a girl and it had fallen through and he talked about that quite a bit. I once suggested he ask her again and she told him ‘not at this time’. Cid and I talked umpteen times a day – all long distance. After 2 years of friendship I believed it would always be this way. He was born in Trieste, Italy and had never been married. His soft-spoken nature was divine and I loved everything about him. He didn’t much like to hear about my dates and I didn’t talk about them much, just like he didn’t talk about his. When I needed another hernia operation I went to Calgary. After the surgery I was lying on my bed and Cid walked in. He had driven from Edmonton, a three hour drive, to come and see me. I wept.
When I returned home to recuperate, my brother brought his computer and set it up in my bedroom. He forwarded the calls from his office to my home and I answered the rafting phone and made bookings while I recuperated. I didn’t know much about computers back then and my brother showed me how to input the bookings. Because I was using dial-up I couldn’t use the computer and answer the phone at the same time. With that in mind, he showed me some sites to look at after the phone bookings were done for the day. “11pm – shut it down – that’s late enough”. One of the sites was a chat room. “You might find this site interesting” was all he said and left me to it.
It was a very interesting site indeed.