Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 6:30 PM, EST
Note 1: Around 2014, I instituted a policy regarding both my blogs that I do not include links to other people’s websites or blogs on mine. Consequently, you will only find information on how to locate the links (I often include screenshots of the webpages in question). Further clarification can be found in the bibliography.
Note 2: The two photos taken at Museum London are included with permission. I obtained an additional permission from the Canadian Museum of History for the one of Moo Cow and me.
Playwright James Reaney and My Mother, Jay Peterson – Creative Sharing
James Reaney (1926-2008) and my mother Jay (nee Fleming) Peterson (1920-1976), were both highly creative London, Ontario, Canada cultural activists. They were adept at not only getting projects off the ground, but also seeing them through to fruition.
One of these projects was marionette plays for children. My mother convinced her fellow Western Fair board members to commission James to produce three shows for the September 1965 fair. Mom took a hands-on approach with one of the three. She invited James (or as I knew him, Jamie), his wife Colleen Thibaudeau, and their three children, James Stewart, John and Susan, to the Peterson family cottage at Leith, Ontario, in August 1965. The Apple Butter marionettes were brought to life in my late maternal grandfather, Stuart Fleming’s, old print shop.
In his 1990 Theatrum article, entitled “Stories on a String,” Jamie described Apple Butter as a “new venture. What I wanted to do in this fairy tale–where an orphan boy triumphs over the cruelties of his guardians–was to create a puppet hero for Southwestern Ontario. . .” The tale was based on a story Jamie’s mother told him about 1890s Perth County.
My mother designed “Moo Cow,” an impressive-looking bovine, with the map of Canada built into the Holstein’s black-and-white markings. Moo Cow helps Apple Butter get the better of “thick skulled” Victor Nipchopper, by hooking Victor with her horn, and then flying away with him to the moon.
You can read Moo Cow’s and Victor’s exchange in Susan Reaney’s September 1, 2018 post, entitled “James Reaney’s marionette play Apple Butter” at https://jamesreaney.com
|Screenshot from James Reaney, September 1, 2018|
And you can read more about the Leith, Ontario adventure in my presentation at Jamie’s memorial at London’s Aeolian Hall, on July 7, 2008. It can be found under the tag “Marionette Plays” by Susan Reaney, November 29, 2010 at https://jamesreaney.com
|Screenshot from James Reaney, November 29, 2010|
Canadian Museum of History Acquires Apple Butter Marionettes
Around January 2009, what was then the Canadian Museum of Civilization (renamed the Canadian Museum of History in 2013) acquired some of the Apple Butter marionettes from the James Reaney estate. James Stewart Reaney, Jamie’s son, explained this acquisition at the end of the November 29, 2010 post cited above.
James Stewart Reaney’s Presentation, November 3, 2018
On November 3, 2018, I enjoyed attending James Stewart’s lecture in the Museum London auditorium. It was entitled “I Was So Much Older Then: A reconsideration of Jamie Reaney’s Plays for Children. . .” The London Public Library, Wordsfest and Museum London all played a role in bringing this talk to fruition.
In addition, the Canadian Museum of History loaned Moo Cow and another Apple Butter marionette, Tree Wuzzle, to Museum London, to be housed temporarily in the Museum London lobby.
Below is James Stewart giving his lecture. The photo of the Reaneys and Apple Butter was taken by my mother in August 1965 at Leith, Ontario. I am grateful to Susan Reaney, Jamie’s daughter, and James Stewart’s sister, who agreed to let me use her photo on my blog.
|James Stewart Reaney, November 3, 2018|
For an in-depth look at James Stewart’s November 3, 2018 presentation, you can check out “Wordsfest 2018: James Stewart Reaney on James Reaney’s children’s plays,” November 16, 2018, at https://jamesreaney.com
|Screenshot from James Reaney, November 16, 2018|
Leith Peterson Meets Up With Moo Cow
After James Stewart’s lecture, I had the pleasure of getting reacquainted with Mom’s “Moo Cow” in the Museum London lobby. Susan Reaney kindly recorded this meet up and agreed to let me publish it on my blog.
|Moo Cow and Leith Peterson, November 3, 2018|
As I admired dear old Moo, I reflected on how enduring my mother’s legacy has been, despite the fact that she passed away more than 41 years ago.
Colleen Thibaudeau – Jay “reaching out to us all”
Jamie’s wife, Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012), correctly pointed out that my mother reached “out to us all” and “painted us all into it.” For further information about Colleen’s observations about my mother, you can read the “Life Celebrated by Poem” section of my May 4, 2012 https://www.leithpeterson.ca post, entitled “Jay Peterson (1920-1976)”:
My Mother Teaching a Clay Modeling Course in 1956
An example of my mother reaching out can be found in this January 1956 London Free Press photo. (Her married name was Mrs. Charles Peterson.)
|London Free Press, January 1956|
Since you will probably have difficulty reading the cutline, I have transcribed it below:
The first lesson in clay modeling for the Modeling and Sculpture Group sponsored by the Western Art League was taught last night at the Western Fair Arts building. Here, instructor Mrs. Charles Peterson, left, coaches two students modeling faces. The model, centre, Phyllis Eaton, poses for Dr. W.A. Andreae, Byron, and Mrs. Mary Jones, London, right. It was the first of six weekly lessons.
I purchased a scan of the negative for the above photo from the London Free Press Collection of Photographic Negatives, Archives and Special Collections, Western Libraries, Western University. This is one of my favourite photos of my mother.
|London Free Press, negative date, January 23, 1956|
Jay and Leith Peterson, December 1956
Here is another example of my mother reaching out, this time to four-year old me, in December 1956.
|Leith and Jay Peterson, December 1956|
I am guessing that she was helping me design a Christmas ornament.
From the late-1950s to the mid-1960s, my mother tried to get me engaged with the visual arts, e.g., enrolling me in arts courses. But I realized I did not have her skills in this area, and lost interest.
Leith Peterson’s Calligraphy, circa 1965
Nevertheless, I think this calligraphy I did around 1965 (below) signals my move into writing as one of my primary interests.
The “Calligraphy Leith” is in my mother’s handwriting.
The author of the quotation is English critic, essayist and poet, Leigh Hunt (1784-1859). Excerpt from The Farmer’s Wife, Vol. 36 (1933), p 72.
|Leith Peterson, ca. 1965 – Calligraphy of Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) quote|
I like to think of this calligraphy as my “line and rule” nature constructively joining forces with my mother’s imaginative heart.
There is a lot that can be learned from examining the creative energies of my mother and James (Jamie) Reaney. It is fantastic that Susan Reaney, James Stewart and his wife Susan Wallace have done so much to document this verve through presentations and website posts. And I have been happy to chime in from time to time on my https://www.leithpeterson.ca blog.
Canadian Museum of History (n.d.). About. Retrieved November 2018, from Canadian Museum of History: https://www.historymuseum.ca
Canadian Museum of History (n.d.). Marionette, Moo Cow. Retrieved November 2018, from Canadian Museum of History: https://www.historymuseum.ca
London Free Press (1956, January). First Lesson in Clay Modeling. London Free Press.
Peterson, L. (2008, July 6). Jamie and Jay Peterson’s 1965 Apple Butter Collaboration. Retrieved from James Reaney: https://jamesreaney.com
Peterson, L. (2003, May 10). Remembering Mom. London Free Press, p. F3.
Reaney, J. (1973). Apple Butter and Other Plays for Children. Vancouver: Talonbooks.
Reaney, J. (1990, April/May). Stories on a String. Theatrum, pp. 7-8.
Reaney, J.S. (2010, November 29). Apple Butter and Friends are on their way to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Retrieved from James Reaney: https://jamesreaney.com
Reaney, S. (2010, November 29). Marionette Plays. Retrieved from James Reaney: https://jamesreaney.com
Reaney, S. (2018, November 16). Wordsfest 2018: James Stewart Reaney on James Reaney’s children’s plays. Retrieved from James Reaney: https://jamesreaney.com
Wikiquote (2018, June 15). Leigh Hunt. Retrieved December 2018, from Leigh Hunt – Wikiquote: https://en.wikiquote.org