The City of Owen Sound is located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay in a valley below the sheer rock cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Owen Sound is characterized by a magnificent harbour and bay, two winding rivers, tree-lined streets, an extensive parks system, and tree-covered hillsides and ravines, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Owen Sound is the largest urban community in Grey and Bruce Counties, which combined represent a primary commercial market of 158,000. Owen Sound is the seat of the County of Grey government, and is the location for a number of regional, provincial and federal government offices. There are twelve elementary schools, three secondary schools, and six private schools in addition to a Georgian College campus.
The downtown, recently refurbished and reminiscent of the 1900s, offers an economy that is balanced and diversified. The Heritage Place Shopping Centre on the east side complements the vibrant, scenic downtown core and other arterial shopping areas.
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Every Christmas, there was at least one gift that was the same, year after year. We always received a new Christmas coat, or, when we were younger, a new snowsuit. The gift was from Great Grandpa, though I’m sure Mom was the one who purchased it, to make sure the size and the style was right. While Mom made sure we were all appropriately dressed for the cold months ahead, Dad did his own shopping, with my sister’s and my help, to make sure Mom was also warmly dressed.
The late 1960s was the time for short skirts as well as short outer coats. Dad found the perfect coat for Mom: red. Mom loved the colour red and she looked good in it. Surprisingly, Dad had made the purchase without any help. He took us aside when he came home from work one evening and snuck it upstairs to my sister’s room where it could be safely hidden. I joined them there, closing the door behind us. Mom, fully aware that secrets were in the air, remained downstairs putting the finishing touches on supper.
“Well,” Dad beamed, with an air of expectant pride. He unwrapped the box and pulled out the coat, holding it up for us to see. “What do you think?”
“Oh Dad!” I exclaimed. “It’s perfect.”
My sister wasn’t quite so jubilant. “But Dad,” she stammered. “You already decided Mom needed a new purse and you bought one last week.” Another shopping event accomplished on his own.
“Yes, I did,” he continued to beam. “And it’s perfect, too. Don’t you think?”
“But Dad,” more but’s. My sister cleared her throat. “The purse is bright orange, and this coat is bright red.”
“So?” Total male obliviousness. “Both bright, cheery colours. Both your mother’s favorite colours.”
“Yes, but not together,” my sister pointed out. “Red and orange do not go together.”
“Why not?” I chimed my voice in with Dad’s. I didn’t understand the complications the two colours together presented.
“They just don’t,” my sister insisted. She took a minute to pull the parcel with the purse out of the closet. Unwrapping it, she held the orange purse next to the red coat. I blinked as the colours collided.
“Oh!” Dad’s jubilation deflated. “It really doesn’t go together, does it?” Now I was shaking my head along with my sister. “What should I do? I’m not sure I can return either item.”
“Keep the coat,” my sister suggested. “Try to return the purse and find one in a neutral colour, like black maybe?”
“But she has so many black purses,” Dad argued. “I wanted her to have something different. Something that would stand out.”
“I think Mom would prefer something neutral,” was the response. “And I know she’ll love the coat. If you can’t return the purse, save it for her birthday, when she might carry it with a more neutral-coloured spring coat.”
Dad let out a deep sigh, resigned to having to make another trip to the store. “And here I thought I was doing very well on my own. I think I’ll take you two along from now on.”
We helped Dad wrap the parcels and hide them away in the closet. “I’ll get the purse in the morning and try to return it after work tomorrow.” He grimaced as he turned away.
Christmas came and we all accepted our new outer winter wear with jubilation. Mom was particularly pleased with her red coat and, thankfully, her new black purse. This was the first year I received a new coat instead of a snowsuit. And, my new coat was a fur coat. I was growing up.
“It’s fake fur, Emily,” my sister burst my bubble. I didn’t really care. It looked real enough to me and the best part, it was very warm, and I could snuggle deep into the thick, furry collar. The fake fur coat has stayed with me for sixty years – probably the best fake fur coat ever made. And the stories it could tell, like Mom’s red coat that really didn’t match the orange purse. When I outgrew my fake fur coat as a mini-skirt overcoat, it suited me well as a fur jacket. And, my ‘fake fur’ coat, like my sister clearly pointed out, managed to allow me the pleasure of putting down a very pompous woman at a New Year’s Eve party many years later.
“What type of fur is that?” she oohed and awed, running a hand gingerly over my now jacket length fur coat.
I managed a smile and said with pleasure, knowing I was putting her in place. “Fake!”
The woman abruptly pulled back her hand as if stung. “But it looks so real.” And it did look real. Still does, in fact.
Mom’s red coat lasted many years, too, and was an oft-repeated topic of conversation over Christmas family gatherings: the red coat and the orange purse (the latter Mom never saw, as Dad was able to return it. she only heard about it later, probably over Christmas dinner).
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca