Theresa's Childhood Home Story Quilt

December 14, 2021

By Theresa Fama (Lafreniere)

These are the memories I have gathered to date in order to create and assemble my quilt. Inspired and guided by Margaret James (Pattern Designer and co-owner of 

Growing up in Thunder Beach, what a wonderful adventure we had 

We lived in a very small house. My parents shared stories with us about the original house. Before we lived on the property across from McNamara Memorial Park (“The Field”) there was a fairly large house that had burned down. All that was left on the property was a chicken coop; which is when my grandparents purchased this land. 

My parents were struggling financially and needed to find a different place to live. They had already given birth to my eldest sister.  My grandparents told them if they wanted to move into the chicken coop and fix it up they could. So they cleaned it up and moved in. This building was 12'x16'; not very big considering in the next three years they would soon be a family of six. I was the fourth daughter to be born in 1955.

We now had 6 of us living in a ONE ROOM SHACK. Which became a home to all of us. A home we would treasure for many years to come. Later in life Mom and Dad often referred to it as the "Old Shack". As soon as Dad could afford it, he added one large room at the back. It was 12' wide by 24' long. Family members tell me they started the addition the year I was born. I remember us  sharing that one large bedroom. Later Dad built a wall separating the bedroom in half. One room for the children and one room for Mom and Dad and of course there was always a crib in their room for the newest born child. 

There came a time when we finally ended up with two sets of bunk beds in our room, 2 kids per bed. I am not sure if they bought these or if they were gifted to us as used furniture. Most of the furniture in our house was used and given to us from friends or collected on the side of the road when people were throwing them out.  

We were 7 girls and 1 boy. When my only brother turned nine Dad put an addition on the house for him as he was now getting too old to share the girls bedroom. My brother's bedroom was also the laundry room, as my parents were finally able to afford a washer and dryer that stayed put.

There was one special family of cottagers (I am not sure of their names) who decided to tear down their cottage and build a new one. This cottage was in fairly good shape, so they approached my parents and asked them if they wanted it.  Of course they did! The original plan was to have it lifted and moved to our property. After looking into all the details involved, and many hours of trying to work it out, it was decided that it could not be moved in one piece. The cottage was dismantled into sections. Walls were left as big as possible and they were moved to our property. We were all truly excited and grateful to this family. The thought that it might be able to be reassembled on our property was huge. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. I am not sure what the issues were as I was too young to be part of that adult discussion. 

A few  years later Dad took the walls that had survived and erected an extra bedroom/laundry room that my brother used while still living at home. He then built a shed on the other side of the house which was his workshop and wood shed. This had the original white siding left on them till the house was torn down years later.

This picture was taken after I moved away from home, the room on the right was the room Dad added for my brother's bedroom which was also used as the laundry room. The little black section attached to the left side of the house was where they installed a hot water tank and pump after they had done a water hook up to the house. While I was living there we had to go to the well and throw the bucket down the well to fetch our water.  On the left attached to the house, you will also see Dad's workshop/wood shed where he kept his tools and stacks of wood for our wood burning stove, our only source of heat. 

The most amazing playground any child could ask for

My Dad worked for a family as their groundskeeper for many years. Their names were George and Flora McNamara, their children were David, Patrick, and Mary Anne. Mary Anne had a little playhouse with a burgundy roof. I remember going over there and being allowed to look in once. 

And then the day came when Mary Anne outgrew her playhouse, and she gifted it to us, the "Lafreniere children". This was the best gift any child could ever hope for .  We have so many great memories of the playhouse. The older girls slept in there in the summer months. It was not insulated or heated, otherwise we probably would have slept in there all year.  (Pictured above once moved to our property on the far left).

I remember having my first and only ever birthday party in that playhouse. Our house was not big enough to have birthday parties.  Our birthdays were celebrated with our immediate family only. But mine was a July birthday so one year I was allowed to have a party in the playhouse. Only one person showed up other than my siblings. And I have treasured that memory until this day, that little girl was Patricia Mueller.

The McNamara's became very important to us all, they have no idea how much we treasured them, and the difference they made in our lives. Dad was heartbroken when he left their employment.

If only the McNamara's knew how much they helped and improved our lives. As my way of showing my appreciation I have decided to incorporate the McNamara’s into this quilt as they deserve recognition for what they have done. They have and always be treasured in our lives.

My great grand-parents originally owned the land across the road from our house. It was, and is often still now, referred to as the Newton Farm. George and Florence McNamara purchased the farm and over the years it became known as the  "McNamara Memorial Park". 

The McNamara’s are responsible for building our church, our tennis courts, our baseball diamond, and our clubhouse. Because of them my family had the most amazing playground any child could ask for. 

Directly across the road from us in the park, was our Summer Church. I was the second person ever to be baptized in this church. You had to be born in the summer months to be allowed to be baptized here, as the church was only open in the summer. It would convert into a one room schoolhouse for the school season. They closed this schoolhouse a year before I started school. When I started we were bused to a school in Lafontaine which was 3 miles away. 

Pictured above, I am pitching the ball to my sister Yvonne. I believe my sister Mary-Ann took the picture.

We spent many hours playing at the baseball diamond. A favorite family story is of  a baseball tournament taking place one day at the diamond.  Our piglets had dug a hole under the fence and 3 piglets ran across the road into the field. All the baseball players threw down their bats and gloves and proceeded to try to catch the piglets. Afterwards many of the players told my parents it was the best game they had ever participated in.

In this picture of us on the front lawn you can see the Clubhouse before it was closed in. From left to right, Pauline, Joseph, Mary-Ann, Yvonne, Theresa, Florence

We grew up across the road from the tennis courts and I remember wanting to learn how to play, but of course did not have a racket. We had lots of tennis balls because often when the tourists played, their balls ended up over the fence in the bush, and they would not bother retrieving them, so we did. Lucky us! Mom and Dad could not afford to buy us tennis rackets, so Dad decided to make us one. From what I remember, he found a piece of plywood and shaped it exactly like a tennis racket. I remember him putting black electrical tape on the handle to make it look more authentic and prevent slivers.  There were no strings, but it was made with so much love.

Dad must have told the McNamara's about this, because all of a sudden David, Patty and Mary Anne all needed new rackets and they gave us their old rackets. And they continued to gift us rackets every time they got new ones for many years to follow. Ah,how lucky we were! Just thinking about this now many, many years later brings tears to my eyes. To this day I am so grateful that they were part of our lives. Every single person in that family was incredibly generous to us.

We spent many hours playing tennis. When I was young there was also a tennis wall made out of plywood. It was painted green and had a white line across it so you could tell the height of the net, if I remember correctly. This was erected for those who wanted to play or practice but had no partner. 

Best of all on the other side of this tennis court was our beach, between Dubeau's store and the tennis court was the walking path that we took, which continued straight down between those trees to the water.  

The most beautiful beach in Ontario in my opinion

I remember going to see Dad at the McNamara’s when he was working; of course we had often had other hidden agendas. Being the good Dad he was, he would go to the house and ask Flora for permission for us to jump on the trampoline.

Dad and Mary Anne McNamara were very close when she was very young. There were times when their nanny/maid could not get her to listen and she would run to my Dad and then he would help her with whatever it was that needed to be done. Both Mom and Dad loved Mary Anne and treasured her so much that they decided to name their second daughter after her.  

Every single Christmas George and Flora would send Dad a bonus and an extremely large fruit basket, we looked forward to receiving this every year that Dad worked there. 

To this day whenever I see Mary Anne, I am always amazed at how friendly and down to earth she is.  She has always had a way to make me feel special, just by taking the time to say a “Hello, how are you?”.  It really does not take much to make an impact on others. Many times it is just a simple hello. 

When I think of home...

I remember all the smells of Mom cooking and baking. I remember one my favorite dishes she made were slide jacks, and her amazing tomato macaroni soup. She also made the traditional fruit cake every year. A favorite memory is picking blackberries in the fields with her and she made homemade preserves with them that we ate all winter. 

Pictured above in the far distance was our outhouse, which was a two seater, always nice to have company don't you think? It was cold in the winter.

Some of my favorite memories are Mom playing with us, turning the skipping rope, blocking our dog Rusty's eyes while we would hide when playing hide and go seek. 

When I think of all the things Mom did to make our life better like making quilts, playing games, and cooking my heart is so filled with gratitude. It must have been such a hard life for her, and I never heard her complain.

Mom at the kitchen sink area. Even though we had taps, the water had not yet been hooked up. You can see our water bucket with the rope attached to it to the left of the sink. 

Our home was small, warm, cozy, clean, extremely poor financially, but rich in so many ways. When I think of home I get a warm feeling in my heart. I feel the love that was there. I remember the fun times. I remember some bad times, but the good ones far outweigh the bad. We had loving parents who made this world a better place.

Dad and I all dressed up

My childhood home had a major impact on my life. It taught me that material things are not what makes a home but rather it is the people living in it that make a house a home. When I think of most of my childhood memories growing up at Thunder Beach, I take a deep breath, relax, and remember all the love and memories. I feel love, joy and most of all I feel "This is HOME". I feel at peace here.

The best place to grow up really was Thunder Beach. We lived a hard life but also a wonderful life. We had no running water, no indoor plumbing of any sort, but we had hydro. And we had love. 

Mom and Dad had flower beds all over the yard and made a vegetable garden every year.

From left to right, my cousin Basil Lafreniere, Theresa, Mary-Ann Florence, front row Yvonne.

I came across this poem and when I read it I thought that is exactly how I felt growing up. It is as if the author took the words out of my heart and put them on paper. I have had all these thoughts many times. 


Author Unknown

They didn’t know that they were poor,

A sister and two brothers,

They had a place that they called home,

A loving father, and a mother.

And every day, they played away,

Spent hours in the sun,

And every night, they said their prayers,

When the day was finally done.

Their lives weren’t filled with toys and such,

They knew not, what they were,

The house, the barn, the yard, the creek,

Was all that they’d prefer.

Raised on love and kindness too,

Forgiveness from within,

The joys of being family,

They did not know of sin,

A world more perfect than most know,

For it’s not what you own,

It’s living life in peace and love,

And not feeling alone.

If all the world could know this joy,

Contentment with their space,

That love and peace would make this world,

A much more, better place.