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Marlbank senior citizen never wanders far from home

By Sherry Tompkins

In 78 years, Marguerite McCutcheon has travelled less than 70 kilometres from her home.

In today’s fast-paced world, it may be hard to imagine a life without travel.  However, some people have mastered being content with where they are and McCutcheon is one of them.

McCutcheon has lived her entire life in Marlbank, a community of less than 300 people, northeast of Belleville.

She was born and raised in a house just up the road from the Marlbank Phoenix Tavern, a local centennial landmark and basically the centre of the town.

“People didn’t go to the hospital back then,” says McCutcheon. Of course, this was back in the day when doctors still made house calls.

McCutcheon’s parents, Clara and Perry Young, both lived and worked in Marlbank as well. Her father worked at the local ironworks and at the Marlbank cement plant. McCutcheon’s mother cleaned the local school.

Being born at home seems to have set the boundary for McCutcheon’s life. As a young girl, she attended church and school in Marlbank, both a stone’s throw from where she now lives.

The high school back then was in Tweed, a slightly larger community located 25 kilometres away, but McCutcheon didn’t make it there.

“I never went to high school,” said McCutcheon. “When I turned 16, I walked down the road and went to work.”

That is when she started working at what is now the Marlbank Phoenix Tavern, then known as Marlbank House. It was a stop for the hydro and telephone trucks that were working in the area.

“I waited on tables. I got a dollar a day.”

Marguerite met Roy McCutcheon, a man from Roslin, 23 kilometres away. She was 18 when they were married in Selby, less than 20 kilometres away.

Asked whether she and her husband travelled for their honeymoon, she stops and looks up.

“You just got married and come home.”

Home was a small house across from the hotel where she worked. “We had to pay four dollars a month for rent, but we had no hydro and no water.” They would have to carry water for whatever needs they had.

The McCutcheons had four children, two boys and two girls. Two of the four, like their mother, were born at home, and two were born in Kingston, which is the farthest point that Marguerite has ever travelled, 68 kilometres away.

All four of her children live within the same 70-km circle of McCutcheon’s life.

It’s been a life full of friendship and joy. She and her family socialized with nearby friends. Card playing was the popular activity of the time. Euchre parties were held at the local school and at the church hall.

Children were often left to their own imaginations for their entertainment and McCutcheon added, “They’d get in hellery sometimes!”

McCutcheon’s son Terry commented, “We had the farm behind us and we always found something to do. We kept fairly busy as kids; we never got too bored. I know I never. I was there until I was 17.”

All the necessities of life were right at McCutcheon’s fingertips and she ventured farther out only to go to the bank and pay her bills.

“We used to go, when my husband was alive, up to Tweed. Up to the Montreal bank.”

Asked why she didn’t venture out any farther than Marlbank, McCutcheon simply pointed out that there was no need. She was content where she was.

“My brother Neil back there is the very same way. It’s just what they get used to, so I guess it runs in the family,” said Terry.

McCutcheon’s children have travelled to various places around the world and returned with photographs and tales of excitement and adventure.

Although she enjoys hearing about their experiences, it has never inspired her to want to go herself.

“I’m not very good at travelling. I like to be around in my home.”