The Bala Museum Garden view

Yesterday, the bee keeper at Pickering Museum Village told us we had to visit the Bala Museum, so today we set off to check it out. What we found was not only a treasure trove of L.M. Montgomery information, but an amazing treasure in its proprietors as well.

First, one needs a bit of background on why the Museum at Bala is significant. Montgomery and her husband used to vacation in PEI until the summer of 1922 when Ewan was in the middle of a lawsuit over a driving accident. Because of the legal hassles, they were discouraged from leaving the area. The situation was eventually resolved, but not before it was too late for a trip to PEI. So, the couple made the 80 kilometer trek from Leaskdale to Bala. They didn’t actually stay at the Bala Museum, then called Treelawn Lodge, but the Roselawn Lodge across the street. The Roselawn Lodge, however, didn’t serve meals, so they took their meals at Treelawn. It was actually the summer she spent at Bala which inspired Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, the only Montgomery novel set outside of PEI.

Jack Hutton with some early Anne Memorabilia

The way the Huttons got the house is nothing short of a miracle of Providential timing. They had just gotten married and decided to take a trip to PEI because of Linda’s love of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Jack, a writer himself, went along with the idea because of his love for Linda, but remarked that he had, at the time, never read Anne because it was considered “sissy” by young boys in school. When his new wife read it to him on their honeymoon, however, he was hooked. He then purchased The Alpine Path, a collection of Montgomery’s poetry and fell in love with her work.

Meanwhile, Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterson, both Montgomery scholars, took a cruise on a steamboat in the area, trying to find the Island that is mentioned The Blue Castle. Mary and Elizabeth tried to find where Maud had stayed in Bala, and weren’t able to, so they left a note at the public library explaining she knew that Montgomery had stayed at Roselawn, but had mentioned in her journals taking her meals at a tourist home. “Does anyone know where that is?”

A portion of the collection of “Annes through the Ages”

When Jack and Linda returned, they were out taking a walk and saw the house for sale. They were fascinated by it, since it reminded them of the style they had seen in PEI. They toured it as a possible museum site, but dismissed it due to the long list of repairs needed. Then, the librarian showed them the letter from Mary Rubio. From a phone call to the owner of Roselawn, they were able to discover that Montgomery had stayed at Roselawn, but taken her meals at the very house they had toured. It had been owned by “Crazy Fanny,” who was described by Montgomery as “a lady cumbered by much serving.” When Linda discovered that the house where Montgomery had taken her meals was still around, and that, with the loss of the original lodge at Roselawn in the 1940’s, this would be the last tie to The Blue Castle and Montgomery’s experience in this area, she was appalled, especially when she learned there were plans to tear the house down due to its poor condition. She pleaded with Jack to buy the house, and he relented when he saw how important the project was to his new wife.

Silver tea service Maud received as a wedding present

The Huttons purchased the home, and Linda began a year of renovating the home. In addition to a stove they found in the shed from the 1920’s when Montgomery was staying there, the Hutton’s were able to find a number of antiques from the time period in order to decorate. David Montgomery, L.M. Montgomery’s grandson, first loaned several artifacts to the museum, then eventually decided they belonged with the house. The Huttons also have acquired one of the most complete sets of Montgomery’s books, including many first editions. They also have quite a bit of early Anne memorabilia, including the story of and actual first translation of the book into Japanese, translations into a number of languages, the only complete set of Green Gables imprinted dishes, the silver tea service given to Montgomery as a wedding present, and many Anne dolls and movies.

The boat Megan Follows rides in as the Lily Maid

Additionally, for the Anne of Green Gables fans, the Museum contains many items from both the Anne movies and The Road to Avonlea series, including costumes and even the Lily Maid boat in which Megan Follows, (who incidentally spent a summer with her family at Bala), played the Lady of Shalott.

But, in addition to the incredible collection of Anne items, we were entranced by the knowledge and stories of Jack Hutton, who shared so much of Maud’s life, even quoting extensively from her journals and works. As an added bonus, Jack is an incredible pianist, who performs on many of the steamboats nearby. He consented to play for us before we left. Jack and Linda co-authored a book entitled Lucy Maud Montgomery and Bala which shares, not only their story, but additional little known information about Montgomery. They have also recreated the Anne of Green Gables 1919 silent movie. This Museum is truly a jewel to visit.

Having just procured a guidebook of important “Anne” places (albeit one published in 1998), we decided to set out today in search of “Anne’s House of Dreams.” It actually is not a Lucy Maud Montgomery site, but the guidebook described the loving care the owner had taken to decorate it like Anne and Gilbert’s house, and had even gone to the trouble of reconstructing the Avonlea School House. I was anticipating a fun “off the beaten tourism path,” but got nothing of the sort.

Anne's House of Dreams

We arrived at a run-down building next to a golf course. “Surely not…” I went into the golf store to ask. The woman running the store informed me that the house hadn’t been open for a long time, and that all the furnishings were gone. I asked whether she thought I should inquire of the people there and take pictures. She very firmly told me, “No. There’s nothing there.” Her firmness interested me (As did the fact that she claimed there had never been a tea room there (Something else the guidebook said), while the sign for the golf club boasted “Tea Room” on the back.), but I decided not to pry (this once). Besides, she could see me from the window if I walked over. So, instead, we pulled down the street, took a few pictures (out of sight of her window), then headed off.

Desks and slates in the Lower Bedeque School

With “Anne’s House of Dreams” dashed, we went back out to Lower Bedeque to investigate the school house. The guidebook explained that the house where Montgomery boarded was near the school house, and on our previous trip, we hadn’t been able to go inside. The museum was very fascinating. It was an amazing example of the love of a community and other countries. The school house had been completely dilapidated with walls falling in. The community decided it’s legacy should be preserved, so they undertook working on it. Somehow, the plight became known to Montgomery fans from Japan (who incidentally have been a major support to every place “Anne” related–There’s even a room in the Anne of Green Gables Museum dedicated to the contributions of the Japanese.) A pair of sisters from Japan involved their community group and ended up raising thousands of dollars to help restore the schoolhouse. Their correspondence is on display at the museum. The museum also contains costumes worn in the “Anne of Green Gables Musical,” a list of teachers who taught at the school (including Montgomery), and original desks and slates. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. Additionally, it is one of the free (donation based) museums.

The dashing Herman Leard

The staff directed us to the home where L.M. Montgomery boarded, but informed us it was family owned, so we could take pictures but not disturb them. From what they shared, it seemed like the house was owned by the Leard’s. Lucy Maud Montgomery boarded with them and fell in love with their son Herman, breaking off her engagement because of him. By Maud’s account, she never could have married him because he was “beneath her.” According to the staff of Lower Bedeque, the Leard’s story was that Maud threw herself at him, and he was engaged to someone else and indifferent to her. They shared that Montgomery stated in one of her journals that “He would never love her as she loved him.” It was interesting though–wish I could hear that story first hand. But, there was another name of the mailbox, so we decided to continue on.

Leard House viewed from the road.

We had found a coupon for free tickets to Anne and Gilbert: The Musical, and since it was the girls’ favorite and they had begged to see it again, we decided to do so. As we were sitting in the parking lot eating dinner, four of the cast members drove in. My nieces were beside themselves, so we went to get a program for people to autograph and waited for them to reappear. One of the actresses we talked to told us where to wait after the show to meet the cast. The musical was incredible again, and after the show, we headed to the designated spot. The cast was all amazingly kind, signing both girls programs.

The girls with the "Anne and Gilbert" cast

I’m not sure how many “repeat attenders” they get, but they were thrilled that the girls loved the play enough to see it twice in a week’s time. They also told us that they will be performing a few songs from the play tomorrow at Green Gables, which is right across the street from us. So, in addition to packing the car to go home and the Wednesdays with L.M. Montgomery, we’ll have something fun to do.

L.M.Montgomery's birth recorded in the Family Bible

It started out a typical rainy, gray morning (7/28/11), so I decided to head into Charlottetown to check out the Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute. After I finally located the library on the UPEI campus (not a small feat!), I almost despaired of being able to see anything–I’ve visited prisons with less security. But, I was able to see photocopies of L.M. Montgomery’s scrapbooks: 7 volumes containing the newspaper and magazine clippings of her short stories and poems. It was overwhelming to say the least. I ended up reading a few here and there and choosing several I liked and thought I could illustrate. I began to despair of seeing anything else, when a Japanese student asked the guard (man on duty) about the institute. He said it is only open by appointment, but if she had a few minutes, he’d bring a few things out. I told him I’d be interested as well. It was definitely worth the wait.

Flyleaf of Further Chronicles of Avonlea explaining the lawsuit

First, he brought out a kimono given to Montgomery by an admirer who’d been to Japan. He also brought her OBE (Order of the British Empire) certificate and medallion and her original poem book. Once he started bringing things out, the librarian warmed up, and we were able to see a veritable tide of L.M. Montgomery items. We saw her family Bible, a letter she wrote a friend at 15 which included a written copy of her first published poem, early signed editions of Emily’s Quest and Anne of Green Gables. We also got to see a copy of Further Chronicles of Avonlea which was the subject of a lawsuit with her American publishers, who had published it without her permission.

Japanese illustrations of Green Gables

Finally, he brought out some other editions of Anne of Green Gables including many Japanese Editions, Italian, and Swedish published Arabic editions. One thing he pointed out was the amazing artistry in the Japanese edition. They actually took the time to visit the Island and capture the scenery, while the publishers from New York and Toronto (substantially closer) didn’t bother. In the end, he gave me his card and told me to contact him when I’m coming back and he can pull out a few more things to show me, so we’ll see how that goes.
After a late lunch, I got the girls dressed up and headed out to take some scenic shots with them, we started at Dalvay by the Sea and worked our way back in time for sunset on our own beach, which was quite nice. Tomorrow, I think we’re heading to Avonlea Village.

Catch the sun