Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hometown Memories: Remembering ‘Mr. Jones’

(This is an old post from 2011 that I wanted to share with you because it brings back so many memories from my childhood. Some of you may have already read it. Sorry!)

When I was a kid, there was an older couple living right next door to us who had a small, well-maintained backyard. I don’t remember the couple’s family name (or even their first names), so I’ll just call them Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Anyhow, I can’t recall much about Mrs. Jones because I hardly ever saw her. Even though there was a lovely garden in the backyard with a variety of vegetables and an assortment of pretty flowers, Mrs. Jones didn’t seem to take much interest in it. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, was an entirely different story; he was very passionate about gardening and ventured out into the backyard quite often. Much to our (the neighbourhood kids’) dismay...

Tomatoes always bring 'Mr. Jones' to mind.

You see, Mr. Jones was so passionate about his gardening hobby that he couldn’t restrain himself from sharing it with everyone. And I mean everyone – including the neighbourhood kids. If you happened to be walking by his yard while he was tending to his garden, he would greet you (that was nice), but when you stopped to say hello (because he was your neighbour and you’d been taught to be polite), it was his cue to begin the ‘all about vegetable-growing’ lecture (and that was not so nice). If that happened, you were trapped there for, possibly, the next half hour. And while Mr. Jones rambled on, always about his tomatoes (his pride and joy), you snuck a peek at the other kids playing outside who returned sympathetic looks (or amused ones), along with smirks and giggles and snorts. And no kid came to your rescue, not even your own siblings, if you had any. You were completely on your own; everyone kept a safe distance from the ‘unlucky’ kid who got ‘nabbed’ by Mr. Jones, the ‘tomato guy’.

When I was in Montreal a few months ago, I took photos of the tomato guy's home.
He lived on the lower level of this duplex. My family and I lived on the
lower level of the building to the left, which I'll write about in the future.

Sometimes, while playing sports, some kid would kick or bat a ball past Mr. Jones’s yard while he was working in his garden, and one of us had to go get it. But no one would volunteer. Some poor soul ended up going because it was his or her turn, or because she or he was the youngest, smallest or weakest of the group. And sometimes the turn was mine. When that happened, I ran as fast as I could past Mr. Jones’s yard to avoid being ‘nabbed’ by the ‘tomato guy’. Sometimes it worked and I got away, sometimes it didn’t and I’d find myself smiling stupidly while Mr. Jones rambled on about his tomatoes.

Other times, we accidentally kicked or batted a ball into Mr. Jones’s fenced yard, and a) if he was in there, you’d stand at a safe distance and hope he’d throw it back out or b) if he wasn’t out at that moment, you hoped he’d throw it out when he was in his yard. The worst case scenario is that he didn’t know a ball was in his yard and you had to approach him another day or later that day when he came out, and ask him for it. That was not something any of us looked forward to doing. If it was your ball, you had one of two choices to make: 1) ask for it and hope he wasn’t in the tomato-lecturing mood (which never happened), or 2) just forget about it. Many times, balls were written off if they weren’t important enough to retrieve.

I snapped a photo of the backyard that Mr. Jones grew his tomatoes in. It looked much nicer when he cared for it. We lived on the right, and whenever I ventured out to play, I'd check to see if he was in his yard to avoid being spotted by him. Sometimes I'd forget to check and get nabbed! And so the tomato marathon speech would being...

I had forgotten about Mr. Jones; after all, it’s been so many years. It was my brother that reminded me of him a few short years ago. I laughed heartily when the memory of him was brought to mind. But, just so my readers know, Mr. Jones was a very nice man. It’s not that we didn’t like him, we did, but we were kids and gardening, flower growing and plant grooming was, well, for ‘old’ folks – people over 30. So he was nice, but his hobbies (and lectures) were boring. Then.

Many years later, I realize that I now share Mr. Jones’s love for gardening, both indoors and out. And I can just as easily talk the ear off of anyone willing to listen to me ramble on about houseplants and spring bulbs and perennials and annuals and rose bushes and everything and anything belonging to the world of gardening. Because somewhere along the way I became one of the ‘old’ folks – people over 30. And I now share Mr. Jones’s passion for gardening.

This post is for you, Mr. Jones, wherever you may be...


  1. I so enjoyed knowing about Mr. Jones.
    I bet that a lot of your love of gardening came from him.
    My mom was a wonderful gardener and I know all that I know and love about gardening I got from her.

    Happy Wednesday Martha.

    1. He was a very nice man, Margie. Of course, as a child I didn't appreciate him as much. But I think about him often now that I'm older...and hopefully, wiser!

  2. What a lovely tribute to 'Mr.Jones', Martha. Aren't kids funny! I remember similar incidents when I was a child....I remember a Mr.Johnson two doors down who would always stop you and want to talk.

    Yes, we are the 'Mr./Mrs. Jones' now. And do we have a story to tell!
    Great post!

    1. Yes, kids are very funny! Yes, we are now the 'Mr./Mrs. Jones'! And there are kids rolling their eyes about us. Hahahha...

  3. No wonder his wife didn't go outside with him! It was her alone time.

  4. Very nice post, Martha. Thanks for sharing it with us. Also, reminds me that soon I'll be in my garden - which I love to do as well. So much fun. Happy Spring and boogie boogie.

    1. I'm looking forward to being in the garden soon, too! Can't wait to sit outside with a good book and enjoy the sounds of the birds and the wind, etc. The beautiful blooms, too. And, of course, all the photos I can take!