Several weeks ago I returned to “Newcombe” to visit the old village which was the background for both Emissary books. During the long Covid isolation, I began reading The Emissary and the Emissary’s Endgame and decided I needed to return to the village of all those childhood memories.
We drove through “Newcombe” down the village’s main street and across the old steel bridge, before turning back. The old saying of ‘you can never go back home’ was never more true. “Newcombe” had morphed into a place quite unrecognizable to me. “Newcombe” had been citified! The tranquility and general peacefulness of a small village of the ’40’s was gone. There was now a general busyness on the streets. People were everywhere! Yes, I know, time marches on and major changes take place but……! I never thought I would feel this sadness for the passing of time. “Newcombe” must have at least quadrupled in size. Several of the old places were still there – ie: not torn down to be replaced by modern homes. “Newcombe” was no longer a charming village but a bustling town with its own distinct personality.
Let’s go down memory lane of my books. In the original The Emissary, the general store was owned by Fritz and Martina Orlowski. The structure is still there. It was closed but I visualized a second hand store/antique shop or perhaps even an art gallery. The Emissary home of Margaret and Violet Sills now sports a ‘heritage’ designation. I remember the original two women who lived there walking through the house in darkness with their oil lamps.
The original house/cafe/restaurant of the character, Arlene, still stands but as someone’s private home. Arlene’s house was based on a woman who turned the front room of her home into an ice cream parlor and side porch into a restaurant.
The old hotel (in which the character Tony spent a few nights) had been around for well over a hundred years. In reality, it burned down and had been rebuilt only to burn down once again. During the early 1920’s, the hotel had been a summer retreat for city folk who spent a week every summer to escape the heat of the city.
What used to be a blacksmith’s shop eventually turned into the local fire hall.
The character of Susan in The Emissary lived in a beautiful white clapboard house on one of the back roads. The house is still there but now has many neighbours and the road is completely taken over with large homes.
The church in “Newcombe” has changed with the times. The present congregation added to it to allow more room for church activities. Where the ladies of the church in The Emissary used to quilt on Wednesday afternoons, the current village ladies now knit. In the Emissary, the old church of Newcombe was pastored by Reverend Robert Whitehead and his wife, Caroline. I located its current pastor and requested time to sit quietly by myself in the church and simply breathe. Thank you for your graciousness.
Yes, you can go back and relive memories, experiences and sensations. I spent an hour just wandering through the church cemetery searching for the names of old villagers. They were all adults when I was a small child but nonetheless, it was a reconnecting experience. The experience of returning to my childhood years was enlightening. I learned time plays no favourites. How we interpret the past, learn about it and from it, helps us to continue our growth as an individual no matter our age.