Many of you are aware that we avidly seek out and record the oral histories of the former domestic staff of the McLaughlins. The collection of the oral histories; photographs of the staff from various years; and maintaining the relationships with these folks is integral to our interpretation program at the National Historic Site.
In the past, I have mentioned how fortunate I am to be able to call upon a few of the grandchildren to help elucidate fact from fiction in what we hear and read about Parkwood, and the same is true with the former staff.
Opportunities, like this upcoming reunion, provide us with the chance to reunite, chat about old times, allow current staff to communicate exciting news about current projects, but most importantly, allow us to capture the memories of the very human moments of what it was like to work at Parkwood, know Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin, and what the atmosphere was like in the bustling estate.
Often the very description of a bustling estate with parlour maids to and fro, and the laundry facilities going full throttle, while freshly washed linens hung on the long lost clothes line; the smells of polish; silver, leather or shoe, hanging in the air mixing with the tobacco of pipe, cigar, and cigarette smoke that enveloped the mansion elude us in our current “pristine and reverently quiet” museum setting and it is through these reunions that we catch a glimpse of the daily lives of the entire estate family.
It was never documented in any archive in the Parkwood holdings about which stair creaked on the service steps, alerting the head housekeeper to a maid sneaking in after breaking curfew, or the cat that was rescued and kept “hidden” in the greenhouse with veterinarian bills being hidden amongst other household documents, hoping to escape Sam McLaughlin’s keen eye during review; or the quiet generosity of a wealthy family and their private philanthropic offers towards their household staff .
All of these stories come to light during the reunions, stories which help round out our interpretation programs, and often create the parallels, while on tour, with the lives of the general public visiting the Estate.
We look forward to seeing everyone again on Sunday and I look forward to being able to share with our audience new stories about the life and times of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin and the people who worked at Parkwood, while it was a family home.