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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Ross’s Ramblings: Stephen Leacocks Mariposa could be NOTL, with a side of Jos Louis
Stephen_Leacock

Try to follow my Ramblings this week as I do my best to combine two subjects that contribute to what makes Canada my unique home and native land. Please be a bit patient.

After not thinking about Stephen Leacock for a very long time, I decided to have another read of this world-famous humourist’s signature novel. No pressure, and I so enjoyed his 1932 classic “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” again, after about 55 years.

I needed a mental escape from our mixed up and complex world. No television, no hand-held device. Just a short novel, not quite 200 pages. No profanity, lots of metaphors and similes.

Word pictures. And such Canadian vignettes.

Mariposa is understood to be Orillia, on Lake Couchiching, but as Leacock writes in the book’s second paragraph, “I don’t know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of little consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it.”

As I turned the last page, I truly felt I could have been in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Yes, our own little Mariposa, right here on the shores of a lake. Leacock had limned some of the characters of our town, at a slow and sorta lazy time of the year for me, as the fearful and ongoing deadly global pandemic stumbles on.

Just a thought, but if Leacock were to be named the winner of a major literary prize, but not until after he had died, would the award be presented posthumourously?

Characters in Niagara-on-the-Lake? Spend some time at the Stage Coach, at the arenas, at Penners. The ValuMarts (oops, the Independent Grocers.) The Avondales. Try to follow our local political scene, when really important items get talked about. And then re-talked about, by the local experts who haven’t yet run for a seat on council.

And then written about in our three weekly newspapers. Enough!

Rambling now to prandial pleasures, I ate more than one or two or three Jos Louis cakes last weekend. Those round and chocolatey pieces of heaven have always been baked at the Vachon bakery in Ste.-Marie-de-Beauce just south of Quebec City. Madame Vachon baked her first Jos Louis in 1932.

Not to confuse anyone, but Joe Louis was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world around that time. The Brown Bomber had been in same segregated army regiment as baseball colour barrier breaker Jackie Robinson. Who knew? And not that long ago, eh?

Back to Jos Louis: I ate my first one in 1958, at a lunch counter in Winnipeg, after finishing my paper route at 7:30 a.m. Washed down with a bottle of fizzy NuGrape pop, in the unique figure eight bottle. Life was so good, for this tired Winnipeg Free Press paper boy.

Then and now, Jos Louis had a light cream filling and a milk chocolate shell, in a puffy plastic bag. Bigger than a snack, less than a cake. Indeed, a round slice of heaven.

Last year, Canadians ate some 41,320, 896 of these indescribably consistent and wonderful cakes. Each one fresher and better than the last one. Mouth-watering memories. The Jos Louis logo may have changed a bit over the past 90 years, but the delicious-ness hasn’t waned.

Over 41 million, that’s a whole lot of pleasure and bits of chocolate shell to pick off the car seat or the couch.

(Merci pour l’information, Sylvia Sicuso at Vachon Bakery.)

I’m sure that Ste.-Anne-de-Beauce could be another Mariposa, with the unique Quebecois accent spoken up and down Rue Notre Dame Nord. And similar unique characters, like so many other towns in Canada. Vas-y, nos glorieux. Je me souviens, Rocket et Boom Boom.

Many of our NOTL Mariposa hockey fans cheer for the dream breaking Maple Leafs, while tous les Ste.-Anne-de-Beauce fans believe Les Canadiens will win Le Stanley Cup. again this year.

Deftly back now to NOTL … Most of us think we are lucky to live in a small town. Especially this small town. But it has never stayed the same. The “character” of our town, and the characters of our town, are ever evolving.

The status quo is comfy, but change has always been the only constant.

Let’s be kinder to each other.