St. Vincent de Paul Church – DeWitt’s Corners

St Vincent de Paul church

Summer in the country was a time for swimming in the Tay River, hanging out with friends at the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store, and regular bike rides up and down the Third Line.  There were farm tractors, hay-wagons, mothers outside hanging their washing on clotheslines, and daisies and black-eyed-Susans waving in the ditches, as I flew by on my old red bike.

old bike

I always passed by the familiar farms and houses along the way – Mitchell’s, Conboy’s, pedaled like lightning past Heney’s, so their dogs couldn’t catch me.  I continued past Radford’s, Siebel’s, Mitchell’s, Kerr’s, Closs’, heading up the Third Line toward Kyle’s, Perkins’ and Doyle’s when one day, something unusual caught my eye.

A stylish wedding party was entering St. Vincent de Paul Church; a bride in a flowing white gown, three bridesmaids dressed in pastel pink, carrying matching nosegays.  Several cars were parked outside, decorated with pink and white tissue flowers.  I pulled over to the side of the road to watch the procession. The old Catholic church had been around for as long as I could remember, and appeared as proud and majestic as ever on that hot summer day so long ago.

wedding couple   bridesmaids

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church, instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.

Long before St. Vincent de Paul Church was built, Roman Catholic services were held for 69 years, in the home of Mrs. Ed. Lee on the Third Line.

Mrs. Ed Lee

The people of Bathurst petitioned Bishop James Vincent Cleary for a church of their own. They needed a suitable, conveniently located place to erect a new church building.

John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

The paperwork was completed, and the land on lot 11, between the 2nd and 3rd concessions of Bathurst Township was donated by John and Mary DeWitt on July 26, 1889. To ensure that the transaction was legal, the land was sold for the token sum of one dollar to the Kingston Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

DeWitt deed

 

DeWitt deed part 2

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

Pastors who have served St. Vincent de Paul:
Rev. T.P. O’Connor  1889-1899

Rev. John O’Brien – 1899-1901

Rev. J.H. McDonough – 1901-1912

Rev. P.J. Keaney – 1912-1917

Rev. J.J. Keeley – 1917-1926

Rev. J.V. Meagher – 1926-1928

Rev. L.B. Garvin – 1928-1934

Rev. Walter Whalen – 1934-1940

Rev. J.W. Callahan – 1940-1947

Rev. W.L. Terrion – 1947-1952

Rev. J.C. LeSage – 1952-1976

Father Karl Clemens – 1976 – 1983

Father Richard Whalen – 1983-1985

Father Liam Tallon  –  1985 – 1993

Father Karl Clemens (back) – 1993 – 1998

Father  Lindo Molon – 1998 – 2006

Father  Mark Ruckpaul   – 2006 – 2012

Father Aidan Dasaah – 2012 – 2014

Father Jan Kusyk – 2014 –

 

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One of the weddings in the early days of St. Vincent de Paul Church – Henry Edmund Hagan, son of Hugh Hagan and Agnes Bennett, Westport, married Anna Victoria Jackman Hagan, daughter of John Jackman and Matilda Nagle, Wemyss, on 25 September 1918. Henry was 25 and Anna was 17.  (according to Richard Frizzell, their grandson on his mother’s side – ” Family history has it that she married so young in order to escape having to rear her 4 brothers and sisters after her mother passed away in 1916.”)

Hagan Jackman wedding jpg

St. Vincent de Paul wedding Richard Frizzell's maternal grandparents

According to their grandson, Richard Frizell, “Henry and Anna farmed up on the mountain in Westport until 1956 or 57. They sold the farm and moved to Glen Tay. They had 5 children; my mom, Vera, was the oldest girl.”

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Father James Keeley St. Vincent de Paul

Father James Keeley – served St. Vicent de Paul from 1917-1926

ArchbishopannouncementPerthCourierOCt171930p6

Oct. 17, 1930 – visit from the Archbishop

June 26 1931

June 26, 1931 – Dance at DeWitt’s Corners

 

I recall that Father J.C. Le Sage was the Priest of the parish from 1952 through to 1976.  Fr. Le Sage was well-liked, and a good friend to many of the local parishioners.   He was known to be extremely intelligent, and it was widely believed that he had come from a very capable family.  He had a reputation for being an excellent business manager, and ensured that the Church was in good repair.

Father LeSage McNamee weddiing 1955

wedding of Peter and Mary McNamee – September 24th,  1955, with Father J.C. LeSage

During his time serving at DeWitt’s Corners he hired an exceptionally talented Dutch painter who cleaned and restored the wood ceiling of St. Vincent’s, and painted the interior of the building.  He was also instrumental in building a parish hall in Stanleyville (the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Hall) to serve both parishes (St. Vincent de Paul in Dewitt’s Corners and St. Bridget’s in Stanleyville).  Because of his excellent fiscal management, the total costs for the new hall were paid off quickly. Along with Fr. Le Sage’s sound business sense, an active Catholic Women’s League helped to raise money for the church, and assist with local charities.

At the age of 67, Rev. Father LeSage suffered a heart attack at his home, near Stanleyville, and passed away on September 13, 1976.

Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 1Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 2Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 3

 

St. Bridget's sign

 

Dec 22 1977 p 8 Christmas St. V de P

December 22 1977 – ad for Christmas Eve Services

March 22 978 p 14 display ad Holy Week

March 22, 1978 – ad for Holy Week

In 1979 the parishoners from DeWitt’s Corners and Stanleyville, sponsored a family of seven ‘Boat People’, who had fled their homeland for Canada.

Aug 22 1979 The Boat People

August 22 1979 – sponsoring the ‘Boat People’

Sept 12 1979 picnic

September 12, 1979 – A picnic in Stanleyville

Nov 21 1979 St V de P complete

November 21, 1979 – St. Vincent de Paul Anniversary

Nov 21st 1979 special mass

November 21 1979 – special mass planned

Nov 28 1979 St V de P anniversary photo

November 28 1979 photos of St. Vincent de Paul anniversary celebrations

Dec 19 1979 Nativity Scene

December 19 1979 – Nativity Scene

Dec 19 1979 Junior Choir

December 19 1979 – Junior Choir

October 1 1980 Annual 40 Hours of Devotion

October 1, 1980 – Annual Forty Hours Devotion

March 11 1981 Shirley Scott

March 11, 1981 – Shirley Scott is new president of St. Vincent de Paul CWL

Dec 2 1981 CWL anniversary

December 2, 1981 – CWL Anniversary

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker display ad
October 20, 1982 – Guest Speaker

August 17 1983 Farewell Mass

August 17, 1983 – Farewell Mass for Fr. Karl Clemens

 

St. Vincent de Paul, the pretty red brick church at DeWitt’s Corners, has served the community for well over a century.  Both residents and seasonal visitors from nearby cottages have found comfort and a sense of belonging, inside these stately walls.

June 8, 1983 - Summer Schedule

June 8, 1983 – Summer Schedule

Many weddings, christenings, and funerals have taken place over the past hundred years, and to those of us who grew up in this neighbourhood, St. Vincent de Paul will always remain a memorable place, in our hearts.

 

hands bible

 

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photo of St. Vincent de Paul church c. 1970s, courtesy of JoAnne Cavanagh Butler
photo of wedding -Peter and Mary McNamee 1955 with Father LeSage – courtesy of Mary McNamee
photo of wedding – Henry Hagan, to Anna Jackman Hagan, and photo of Father Keeley- courtesy of Richard Frizell
(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”)

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

A Lanark County Kid at Expo ’67

Expo 67

Throughout the entire year, in 1967, there were special events planned all across Lanark County, to help get everyone into the spirit of the 100th anniversary.  There was even a special flag created that year.

Expo flag

It was a stylized maple leaf made up of 11 triangles, representing the provinces and territories. I remember that the Lions Club was selling these flags in Perth, and one of the first places to hang one was at ‘The Perth Courier’ offices.   The grade eight students at Queen Elizabeth School went one step further, and constructed a three dimensional version of the flag.  They had a special ceremony at their school, with some local dignitaries – Rev. J. Gillanders did a devotional service. The Principal Miss Jean Blair was there, John Scott, Mayor Burchell, and Jack Wilson.

expo maple leaf

The Royal Canadian Mint issued new coins for the centennial year.  Each coin depicted a different Canadian animal – the back of the dollar coin had a Canada goose, the fifty cent piece was a wolf, and the back of the quarter was a lynx.  The Bluenose schooner on the back of the dime was replaced with a mackerel, the nickel featured a rabbit, and the one cent coin had a dove. It was also the last year that pure silver was used in our coins.

centennial coins

 

Mother and Dad decided that they would like to go to Montreal that year for the centennial celebration called ‘Expo ‘67’.  This was a kind of ‘world’s fair’, and was to be held in Montreal, Quebec, from April to October that year.  There were 62 nations in total that participated, and they each had displays and ‘pavilions’ set up to showcase their countries.  It was held on Ile Sainte-Helene, and Ile Notre-Dame, on an already existing island, and some ‘created’ islands as well.  There were likely many discussions back and forth between Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and the mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau, to get everything just right. Canada would be hosting many nations of the world, as well as its own citizens celebrating their centennial.

Man and his world

Dad was delivering milk, door to door in Perth, working for Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay at that time, and he would have his usual two weeks of vacation in July.

Chaplin's Dairy

 

It was decided that one of Dad’s vacation weeks would be spent at ‘Expo ‘67’, and Mother, who was the usual arranger-of-travels, began to look for accommodations. Mother read in the newspaper that there were families that lived close to the exhibition grounds in Montreal, who were renting rooms in their homes, and so she began making some phone calls, and writing some letters.  She found an English-speaking family who lived within walking distance to the Expo; they even had a little girl that was a couple of years younger than me, so that I would have someone to play with.  This seemed like an ideal choice.

Now came the tricky part……..  Dad did not like driving in heavy traffic.  He did not like driving in Quebec. He did not like driving on freeways.  Hmmm……Mother was going to be asking him to drive on busy highways, in Montreal, to probably what would be the most congested area for traffic in the entire country that summer.  This was going to be ‘interesting’.

The months passed by quickly, like they always do.  There were lots of celebrations going on all over Lanark County, and so, because it was such a busy year, I think that the time passed even faster than usual. The big week finally came.  It was time for Dad’s vacation.  The weather was hot and sunny, and we packed up the old Buick with our well-worn suitcases, and we drove down the lane, turned left onto the Third Line, and headed for Montreal.

Buick     suitcase open  suitcases closed

 

We crossed over at Glen Tay, and turned right onto Hwy 7, and headed east.  It wasn’t long before we saw the signs telling us how many miles it was to get to Ottawa.  Mother said we’d be passing by Ottawa on the Trans Canada Highway, and then continuing on to Montreal.

Dad didn’t like driving on the Queensway; not at all.  By the time we passed Bayshore I could see that he was getting a little ‘hot under the collar’.  By the time we got into Quebec, and were getting close to Montreal, I discovered for the first time in my life, that my father was bilingual. No, he couldn’t speak French.  He had grown up on the 11th Concession of Drummond Township after all, on a farm, in the 1920’s and 30’s. No, there wasn’t really any French being spoken up there.  No, the language that he started speaking, just outside of Montreal that day so long ago, was a completely new one – one that he likely wouldn’t want to be speaking when he dropped Mother off at Calvin Church on Sunday mornings.

swearing

 

Mother was giving him ‘the look’, and for once, it didn’t seem to be having any effect.  Apparently, from what I could gather, Dad was not too impressed by the skill level of the drivers in our neighbouring province of Quebec.

heavy traffic

Once we got into the downtown core of Montreal, we were trying to find the house where we’d be staying.  Dad got lost a couple of times before we finally arrived, and once again he demonstrated his fluency in a second language.  He would not, under any circumstances, stop and ask for directions, and Mother was frantically unfolding and re-folding the city map of Montreal. I sat quietly in the back seat, and hoped that we’d be there soon.

montreal map

We finally found the house, and pulled into their driveway.  They were very friendly people, and came right out to our car to greet us.  Their names were Jimmy and Vicki Irvine, and their little daughter Sharon was there beside them.  Jimmy helped Dad carry the luggage inside, and they showed us the room where we’d be staying, and I had a nice little cot on the floor, on one side of their room.

Mrs. Irvine was very kind, and she already had our supper on the stove.  She and Mother chatted in the kitchen, and Dad and Jimmy went back outside so Dad could have a smoke.  Sharon took me downstairs to their basement, and wow, their basement was really something!  She had more toys than I’d ever seen in my life, and right smack in the center of all of the toys was a spring horse!!  It was a plastic horse, set on a metal frame, and suspended by big heavy springs, and you could climb on its back, and either go up and down, or backwards and forward.  I loved it!  I was going to ask if I could have one of these for Christmas.  I thought to myself that there really wasn’t much chance of that happening, so I’d better enjoy riding it while we were staying here.

spring horse

We stayed with the Irvine family for the entire week.  We’d take the short drive to Expo ’67 each morning after breakfast, walk around, and see all of the different pavilions that were set up to showcase each country.  We even got a little paper ‘passport’ booklet, and a new stamp was added each time we visited another country’s pavilion. That was a pretty cool souvenir!

Expo passport

expo passport inside

 

 

Another souvenir from that trip was a little notepad with a red plastic cover, with the centennial maple leaf design on the front, and even better still, I was given three four-leaf clovers.  Mr. Irvine had a patch on his lawn where there were four-leaf clovers growing, and he picked three of them for me to press in my little notepad, before we left at the end of the week.

Expo notepad

4 leaf clovers

 

Mother and Dad kept in touch with the Irvine family for many years.  We never returned to Montreal, but they sent Christmas cards back and forth each year, for many years, until one year when Mother didn’t receive a card.  It had been many decades since our trip, and Mother wondered at the time if one of them had passed away.  The Christmas before that was the last time we would hear from them. It was sad to have lost our connection with the Irvine family.  Whenever we’d receive their Christmas card each year it always brought back the memories of Expo ’67, and of all of the centennial celebrations.

1960s christmas card

 

I fondly recall all of the special events in Perth that year, and in different parts of Lanark County.  When I think of the 100th anniversary of confederation, and of Expo ’67, I will always remember the Irvine family, and how they graciously opened their home to us, strangers from another province, that they welcomed us as if we were old friends, and made us feel a part of the big celebration going on in our country that year.

It serves to remind me, even today, that there are good folks everywhere, not just in our own back yards, but all across this great nation of ours.

canada 150

 

 

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied, outbursts of emotion,

but the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime.”  

                                                                       Adelai Stevenson

 

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(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”  ISBN 978-0-9877026-16)

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 


Antler Lodge – Dancing the Night Away in Cottage Country

Antler Lodge interior

 

Antler Lodge opened its doors for the first time on Friday evening, May 14th 1954.  Admission was seventy-five cents, and they featured round and square dancing to live bands.

Antler Lodge opening night

One of the opening acts at the Lodge was Lee Miller’s Orchestra, and they delighted the crowds weekend after weekend, for much of that first summer.  Naturally, being a new venue, young people, and even some not-so-young people flocked to see the new Antler Lodge.  There were curious tourists as well, who came to check out the newest dance hall in the region, and it became ‘the place to go’ in the summer of ’54. When the perennially popular Rideau Ferry Regatta wound down on the August long weekend, the Lodge became the hot-spot for the in-crowds, a place to mingle and mix, with some new faces, and the old familiar faces as well.  Antler Lodge was a hit.

Antler Lodge exterior

Dick and Margaret McLean, the owners of Antler Lodge, must have been pleased that first summer. Their new business was booming, a crowd-pleasing attraction, where people could gather together, dance, socialize, and enjoy some live country music.

Antler Lodge poster

It’s anyone’s guess whether Antler Lodge would have ever existed, if Margaret and Dick hadn’t got together back in 1939.  They were both local kids from Rideau Ferry.  Margaret, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Jackson, and Richard, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James McLean

The McLean’s new business Antler Lodge would become an endearing and memorable place for so many, in the decades that followed.

As those first long, hot, summer weekends at Antler Lodge unfolded, the familiar strains of down-home country fiddling escaped the confines of the rustic wooden structure, and echoed over the fields, and across the Rideau lakes. Melodies from Hank Snow, Ray Price and Webb Pierce, played by local bands, filled the wooden rafters of the homespun Lodge, with hit after hit of trendy country and western tunes.  The dancing went on until the wee hours; romances blossomed, and hearts were broken, to the tunes of Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold.  The parking lot was crammed with vehicles from Perth, Smiths Falls, Brockville, and even as far away as Kingston.  Pretty girls posed demurely beside their date’s cars, decked out in pedal pushers or full skirts, flirting with their beaus, who sported narrow jeans, or pleated trousers.  Shiny glass bottles of beer and liquor appeared from their hiding spots, tucked away, hidden carefully in glove boxes and trunks, and kisses were stolen in this parking lot, known to the neighbourhood teens as the passion pit.

Some kids hung out at the Rideau Ferry Inn, just up the road, but there was something about Antler Lodge; it was cozy, more intimate, more like a house party.  The inside was spartan, unrefined, with exposed wooden beams, and a huge set of antlers mounted on the wall, above a homey, unpretentious, stone fireplace.  In this casual, laid-back atmosphere, the lighting above the dance floor glowed soft, muted; perfect for swaying close, in dimly lit corners, and for long, steady, gazes into the eyes of a dance partner.

One of the first wedding receptions held at Antler Lodge was on October 19, 1955 as they played host to the delightful newlyweds Helen Kehoe and Tom Kerr.  Helen was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kehoe of Perth, and Thomas was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Kerr of Stanleyville.  The colourful autumn leaves set the stage for the joyful wedding, at St. John’s Church in Perth, officiated by Father Farrell.  Shirley Anne Kehoe, the bride’s pretty sister, was the maid of honour, and the lovely Monica Kerr was her bridesmaid.  At the groom’s side, stood his best man and brother, Walter Kerr, and his charming ushers escorting guests to their seats at St. John’s Church that day, were Pat Kehoe and Pat Kerr.  Following the wedding, an elegant dinner was served in the Blue Room, at the Perth Hotel; and one of the highlights of this special day, was a memorable reception, at none other than Antler Lodge.

On June 12th 1956, Antler Lodge played host to a very special retirement party, for one of the area’s longest serving, and most respected municipal clerks – Roy Darou.  An enthusiastic crowd of over 200 well-wishers and supporters, mostly citizens of North Elmsley Township, gathered to pay tribute to this local legend.  Roy, a dedicated worker, had served the township faithfully, holding the same office for over forty years.  There were glowing speeches that evening by Reeve James Coutts, appreciative tributes by Councillor Ferguson McVeety, many gifts, and warm wishes, from all who had gathered there.  This was one of the earliest of such notable celebrations, to be held at the Lodge, in the coming decades.

Competition remained steady in the dance hall business throughout the summer of ’58, and ABC Hall in Bolingbroke began featuring bands every Friday night, advertising a variety of tempting refreshments, along with music by Lockwood’s Orchestra.  At the Agricultural Hall in McDonald’s Corners, dances were usually held on Saturdays, and often their music was supplied by popular local group – Bill Hannah and the Nightingales.  The admission price was considerably lower than the other halls, at the bargain-basement price of fifty cents for the evening.  To remain competitive, Antler Lodge held a special Midnight Frolic, on Sunday August 3rd from 12:00 a.m. until 3:00 a.m., drawing huge crowds of racers and boating enthusiasts, following the annual Rideau Ferry Regatta.

Boat Show Rideau Ferry

Rideau Ferry Regatta

 

In the spring of 1959, Antler Lodge raised the bar for their opening dance of the season by featuring music by the famed Country Hoppers, stars of CKWS radio, Channel 11 TV, and RCA Victor records.  They also increased the price of admission, and began to enforce a strict ‘no leather jackets or boots admitted’ policy, to discourage unsavory types from attending their dances, and causing trouble.

The Country Hoppers had a steady gig at the Lodge for the entire summer of ’59, and all through the cottage season in 1960 as well.  People for miles around flocked to hear the sounds of country and western music, mingle, drink, and dance the night away.

Country Hoppers

1961 would see an even greater increase in the popularity of area dance halls, and there were no less than eight local venues featuring live bands.   The Stanley Lodge in Lanark constructed a new wooden dance platform, and hosted the Haylofters of CJOH TV, as well as the much sought after Ottawa Valley Melodiers.

Mac Beattie

John ‘Mac’ Beattie, Arnprior native, led the Melodiers, a legendary Ottawa Valley band on drums and vocals, with Reg Hill on fiddle, Garnet Scheel on guitar, Gaetan Fairfield on rhythm guitar, and Bob Whitney on saxophone.  The band performed for decades, and released a total of seven albums, mostly in the 1960s.

Mac Beattie and the Melodiers

Mac Beattie and others

Left – front – Maurice Charon and Horace Blanchette; centre row, Garnet Scheel, Barbara Ann Scott -drums, Karen Shaw, Mac Beattie, Maisy Billings,Gaetan Fairfield

Mac Beattie Max Keeping

Max Keeping, CJOH TV –  introducing Mac Beattie

At McDonald’s Corners, music lovers could enjoy the sounds of the Country Rockets, playing weekends at the Agricultural Hall, and the Maberly Agricultural Hall featured Kenny Jackson’s Valley Cruisers.   The Valley Cruisers had a distinctive country sound, highlighted by masterful fiddler Kenny Jackson, and polished performer Harry Adrain on guitar and vocals.  The gifted Raymond ‘Raymie’ Donaldson played lead guitar, with the powerful strumming of Gary Barr on rhythm guitar, rounding out this dynamic group.

At Scott’s Ballroom in Westport, they featured round and square dancing, to the sounds of Fred Paquin’s Orchestra.  Kingston native Don Cochrane got his start in the Fred Paquin Orchestra, as a teenager.  Don would go on to collaborate on songs recorded by the Mercey Brothers, and would record two albums of his own music as well.

During that summer, Barker’s on Hwy 15, Otter Lake had music by Ron McMunn and his Country Cousins.  Ron McMunn, or The Silver Fox, as he was known, hailed from Clayton, and in 1954, Ron formed the Country Cousins. His band performed live on CJET radio in Smiths Falls every Saturday night for over a decade and this set the stage for their tremendous popularity in local venues in the years that followed.

 

Ron McMunn

 

Reserve me a table

Ron McMunn awards ceremony  Ron McMunn ‘The Silver Fox’

 

At the Fallbrook Orange Hall, the Mississippi River Boys provided the weekend entertainment, and at Antler Lodge, the Country Hoppers enjoyed their third steady year of regular engagements.

Early in that summer of 1961, the owners of Antler Lodge – Mr. and Mrs. Richard ‘Dick’ McLean announced the forthcoming marriage of their daughter Helen Isobel, to Mr. William Donald Robert ‘Don’ Halpenny.  He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Anson Halpenny, and hailed from Easton’s Corners.  The marriage took place on July 7, at St. James Anglican Church in Perth.

Later, that same summer, Antler Lodge hosted former Perth High School classmates as they celebrated their Class of’44 reunion.

Class of 1944

Following a tasty turkey supper at the Rideau Ferry Inn, everyone drove up the road to the Lodge for some live music and square dancing.  It was a night to remember, and Gordon Mather was an entertaining Master of Ceremonies.  There was a good turnout with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Frizell (Dorothy Ferguson), Bill Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Shaw (Vivian Greenley) , Dr. and Mrs. C. Campbell (Mary Ewart), Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Elliot (Kaye Ferguson), Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Mather, George Findlay, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Buchanan (Evelyn Radford), Mr. and Mrs. Don Goodfellow (Doreen Marcellin) Mr. and Mrs. Fred Guarino (Mid Stewart), Mr. and Mrs. Ron Thompson (Bette Oakes), Mrs. F. Cohis  (Maxine Ramsbottom), Mr. and Mrs. George Leonard, Mr. and Mrs. Don Campbell (Marg Quartermain), Mr. and Mrs. T. Rockburn (Clara McInnis)

Several prizes were awarded during the evening:  Man with the baldest head – Willard Shaw, runner-up Gordon Mather, Couple married the longest – Mr. and Mrs. Ken Buchanan, Couple married the shortest time – Bernard and Kaye Elliot, Couple travelling the longest distance – Mr. and Mrs. C. Cameron, Couple with an anniversary – Mr. and Mrs. Fred Guarino, and last, but not least – a prize for a bachelor – George Finlay.

The Country Hoppers, formerly known as the Riders of the Southern Trail, were a tremendously popular band, drawing large crowds from Carleton Place, Smiths Falls and Perth; and they became the regular weekend entertainment at Antler Lodge from 1962 through to 1966.  Their first album ‘The Country Kid’ was released in 1962 and included performances by Davey Gibbs, Garry ‘Gizz’ Watt, Fred ‘Pappy’ Ryan, Paul ‘Hiker’ Gurry, and Larry ‘Dooley’ Protheroe.  The Country Hoppers were known for their versatility and could play country fiddle tunes, honky-tonk, ballads, and square dance music as well.

Davey Gibbs Country Hoppers

In the fall of ‘64, the Appleton Junior Farmers held a dance at the Lodge, featuring the Happy Wanderers.  The Happy Wanderers, an Ottawa group, were immensely popular with teens, and had a regular show, every Saturday night, at the Carleton Place Town Hall.  Ken Reynolds, Ward Allen, Bob King, Vince Lebeau, Joe Brown, and Lynn Strauff, formed the original CFRA Happy Wanderers, and they became one of the most popular acts in the Ottawa Valley.  

happy wanderers 3

Happy Wanderers

Happy Wanderers

 

They were also featured on a weekly half-hour show, on CFRA radio, broadcast across the Valley.  When they played Antler Lodge, they brought special guests Marie King, Barry and Lawanda Brown.  Bob Livingston kept the evening’s dancers moving around the floor like clockwork, as the caller for the square dancing.  

A few years later, Barry and Lawanda, along with their father Joe, and their sister Tracey, would form The Family Brown, which included masterful lead guitarist Dave Dennison, and accomplished drummer, and capable band manager Ron Sparling. 

The family brown

The Family Brown

 

Another talented group drawing crowds to the Lodge that year was the Country Harmony Boys. During the later part of ’64, Antler Lodge also featured the Top Hats and the Travelons.

By 1968 Antler Lodge had an established house band that entertained the crowds every Saturday night, during the entire cottage season.  The Country Harmony Boys were a polished group of talented local musicians, and they drew the masses, young and old, to the Lodge, for their weekly fill of square dancing tunes.

Meanwhile, some of the other area dance halls were booming as well, and the popular Balderson Hall often featured Bill Munro and his Country Rockets, or Don Gilchrist and his Dancers, and they kept these cozy venues hopping until the wee hours.  Donnie Gilchrist, a talented showman, was born in Campbell’s Bay. At one point in his career, he teamed up with the very capable Joan Ann Jamieson, and went on to become one of the legendary step-dancers of his time.  He later caught the attention of Frank Ryan, founder of CFRA radio station, who helped to promote him on the local airwaves.  Don rose from his humble beginnings in local dance halls, and went on to perform in 24 countries around the world, and even appeared on numerous TV specials.

Don Gilchrist

Don Gilchrist, legendary step-dancer

 

Frank Ryan of CFRA was key in promoting many of the local Ottawa Valley bands and helping them to succeed in a very competitive industry.

Frank Ryan  CFRA’s Frank Ryan

 

Because of their location, ABC Hall in Bolingbroke often had acts come in from the city of Kingston. One of the more sought-after bands in the summer of ’68 was Mallen’s Melodiers, playing both modern pop, and square dancing tunes.  Not to be outdone, the hall at McDonald’s Corners regularly featured crowd-pleasing music by Symington’s Orchestra, for the very competitive admission price of seventy-five cents.

Antler Lodge hosted yet another high-profile wedding reception, when Beryl Kehoe married Robert Orok.  On July 31st at St. John’s Church in Perth, Beryl, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lambert Kehoe of Rideau Ferry, became Mrs. Robert Orok.  Robert’s parents Fred and Mona Orok were the founders and owners of the flourishing Orok’s Hardware Store in Lanark, and were well known and respected in the area.  Rev. B.F. O’Neil made the journey all the way from Brockville to officiate the wedding.  Highlights of the ceremony included memorable music, played by talented organist Mrs. Robert McTavish, and a heartfelt solo sung by the gifted David St. Onge.

Beryl Orok's wedding # 1

Left to Right:  Judith Orok, Darlene Beveridge, Kathryn Campbell, Alison Kerr flower girl, Conrad Potvin ring bearer, Bill Neilson, Rick Keller , Bernard Kehoe

Standing up with Beryl was dear friend Kathryn Campbell, Maid of Honour, and two lovely Bridesmaids – Darlene Beveridge and Judith Orok.  William Neilson was the dashing best man, accompanied by two charming ushers, Richard Kellar and Bernard Kehoe.  Two delightful youngsters taking part in the ceremony were Alison Kerr, the bride’s cousin as flower girl, and small, but capable Conrad Potvin had the all-important task of ring-bearer.

Beryl at Antler Lodge

While Antler Lodge was growing in popularity during the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was an undeniable musical revolution taking place in England; and the distinctive beat of rock and roll music was spreading across the ocean, to North America.  It was called the British Invasion,  and groups like  The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and The Who, began to get air-time on Canadian radio stations.   By the mid 1960s rock and roll was dominating the local airwaves, and by the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, many young people followed the trendy new music, and wanted to hear rock music played live in local venues.

British invasion

Antler Lodge had always been a country music venue.  The rustic, intimate, hall, attracted large, enthusiastic crowds, with their talented live bands, and memorable evenings of western-style square dancing.  As more and more young people gravitated toward rock and roll music, the crowds at the nearby Rideau Ferry Inn began to grow in leaps and bounds. The Rideau Ferry Inn featured live rock and roll bands, or disc jockeys, and by the late 1960s and early 1970s enjoyed the lion’s share of the weekend business.  Country and western music, during those years, lost its appeal with the majority of the young crowds; although it remained as well-loved as ever, with the older generation.

rideau-ferry-inn-1982 Rideau Ferry Inn

 

The once hugely popular country dance hall was simply not able to compete with the cutting-edge music at the Rideau Ferry Inn, or the latest rock groups playing at the Perth arena or Farrell Hall, like Max Webster, April Wine and Lighthouse.  The declining business continued to operate on a smaller scale through the summer of 1975, but by August of 1976 Antler Lodge had given up, locked its doors, and was up for sale.   A small ad in the real estate section of the “Perth Courier” was published on Thursday, August 5th:  “Antler Lodge, Rideau Ferry, approx 6 miles from Perth.  Stone fireplace, maple floor, stage and lunch counter.”   Two years later, in 1978, the Lodge was still for sale – “This once thriving lodge is situated on a one acre lot. Inquire today. $35,000.”

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It was shortly after midnight on Friday, October 9, 1981, when the Bathurst, Burgess, Drummond and North Elmsley (BBDE) Fire Department received the call.  According to Fire Chief Harold Jordan, flames were shooting through the roof of Antler Restaurant, within six minutes of the call.  Eighteen local fire fighters responded to the call, bravely battling thick smoke and hot, scorching flames; but according to Harold, “We couldn’t save anything.”

 

Antler Lodge up in smoke newsclipping Perth Courier, October 9, 1981

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“The local fire department was unable to establish the cause of the blaze, and it remains a mystery why the Ontario Fire Marshals were never called in to investigate the source of the fire that completely leveled Antler Lodge.”

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mystery fire

investigation

why

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**  The fact that there was never an investigation into the cause of the fire that destroyed this beloved dance hall, remains a mystery even today!

 

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photos of Antler Lodge, used with permission – Graeme Hoatson Beattie
photos of Orok-Kehoe wedding, used with permission – Beryl Orok
photo: Antler Lodge poster – printed by Thompson Printing, Perth,  used with permission – Jim Winton

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(this story is an excerpt from the book ‘Lanark County Connections: Memories Among the Maples’ – available online or in local stores.  ISBN-9780987702647)

Lanark County Connections small book cover

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For more information on dance halls and musicians in Lanark County:

more on Lanark County Dance Halls

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

Rideau Ferry Inn – Those Hot Summer Nights!

Rideau Ferry Inn blog post image

Oh, those hot summer nights at the Rideau Ferry Inn!  The dancing, the laughter, stolen kisses, sneaking drinks in the parking lot, and the best live rock and roll around!

Its official name back then, was the Poonamalie Pavilion, but nobody called it that.  To my friends and me, it was simply the Rideau Ferry Inn; and you could find us there most weekend nights in the summer, socializing, laughing, and dancing the night away.

Situated along the clear, blue waters of the Rideau, the Rideau Ferry Inn has hosted many generations of tourists and boaters, providing sumptuous meals, comfortable accommodation, and lively entertainment.  Arguably, the highlight of the small settlement of Rideau Ferry, our former teenage haunt, wasn’t the original structure at this location.  The original building was actually a home.

The original structure was a house built in 1853 by Archibald Campbell.  Archibald married Elizabeth Buchanan, a preacher’s daughter.  Her father was the Reverend George Buchanan, and was one of the early Presbyterian ministers of Beckwith Township, serving the congregation at Franktown.

Their daughter, Helen Buchanan Campbell, married John Coutts.  As her parents were aging, and needed assistance, the couple moved in with them in 1870.  During that time, John made some additions to the home, and when he was finished, they not only had ample room for themselves, but had more than enough room to accommodate guests.  They began to rent rooms in the house to summer tourists, who were traveling by boat ,along the mighty Rideau waterways.

Coutts_House

As the years went by, their home became known as ‘Coutts House’, and eventually, had the reputation of being a very fine hotel.  In 1893 a three-storey addition was built at the back of the house.  A large dining room was added to the first floor. The second and third floors had fifteen hotel rooms each, and an indoor bathroom.

Rideau Ferry Coutts House 1889

After 1905, the building was rented to a series of business men. During the 1920s and 30s, regattas became popular, and Coutts House held canoe races, and rowboats races. The Coutts family also sponsored competitions for sailboats, and it was the site of many grand daytime celebrations, and intimate evening affairs, for the wealthy travelers, visiting in the summer.

In 1947, Doug Wallace, native of Osgoode bought Coutts House, tore it down, and built a new structure with wood framing, and grey granite blocks.  It was a two-storey building, and the second floor featured a large dance area, with seating on three sides.

By the 1960s, the building had become known as the Rideau Ferry Inn, and during this time, became licensed for liquor sales.  Up until that time people would smuggle in their own booze, particularly in the roaring twenties when rum-running along the Rideau had its hey-day.

Rideau Ferry Bridge

It was in the 1970s, that I first heard the tales about the popular night spot, and all the good times that were had at the Rideau Ferry Inn.  There were stories told up and down the halls of the Perth High School – stories of summer romances with cottagers staying at seasonal properties nearby, or the ultra-cool teens that traveled by boat along the Rideau, with their parents.  There was also talk of the teenage kids from the States, and their hip clothing and accessories; styles that would take years to reach our little communities near Perth.  There were lots of accounts at our high school of the talented rock bands that performed, and of the nights spent dancing to the top hits played by edgy disc jockeys.  I couldn’t wait to go and see it for myself.

Paul Tarle Band

photo: L.  Steve Francis, Mike McPherson, Brian Jones, and seated – Paul Tarle.

The main house-band at ‘The Inn’ in the early 1970s was the Paul Tarle Band – and we showed off our cool dance moves, as we listened to their popular rock classics.

Dance 1970s

One of the best parties of our steamy Lanark County  summers was the annual Rideau Ferry Regatta. Beautiful, sleek, boats from all over, competing for the sought-after prizes, and the prestige of being ‘Number 1’ on the big lakes.

Boat Show Rideau Ferry

Regattas were all about hot sun, cold beers, the cool, clear waters of the Rideau Lakes, and beautiful boats all around us.

Rideau Ferry Inn 1982

We’ll never forget the annual regattas, or the great music at the Rideau Ferry Inn. Bands like ‘Sammy Seaman’ and his group kept us up until the wee hours.  Some nights it was ‘Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd’, and other evenings we were entertained by the ‘Paul Chabot Band’.   Occasionally, instead of live bands at the ‘Inn’, there was a ‘Disco’ dance provided by a local disc jockey, by the name of  ‘Sounds Great’.

Many years after our frequent teenage visits to the Rideau Ferry Inn, the building was purchased by Elmer and Eva Purdon.  It was still ‘the’ place at that time to host fancy wedding receptions, or 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Because we’d had so many good times at the Rideau Ferry Inn, it was a terrible shock for my friends and I when we heard about the fire in February of 1986, that destroyed our former dance hall.  The fire started on the top floor, where the dances had been held for so many years.  The ground floor was also destroyed in the fire, and that is where the kitchen, the large dining room, and bar were located.

My friends and I drove down to Rideau Ferry a few days after the fire.  I don’t think it was so much out of curiosity, but more out of disbelief.  Could it be true, that the place where we’d passed so many of our happy youthful hours was really gone? There were so many memories of friendships, dancing, and all of the special evenings we spent at the Rideau Ferry Inn.

We drove up to where the Inn had stood, and looked around. No one said a word.  I think that as we stared at the charred foundation of the building, each of us was recalling our own versions of the times spent there, in our youth.  They were such innocent, awkward, magical, teenage times. We sat there for a few more moments, still silent, and then drove away, back up the Ferry Road toward Perth.

The building may be gone, but our fond memories of the Rideau Ferry Inn will remain with us forever.  We will always remember the music, the friends, and the good times. Those long summer nights, when the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, the sunsets glowed a little softer.  The peaceful, pristine, waters of the Rideau Lakes made a perfect backdrop for those innocent days of our youth, when life stretched out ahead of us…..so full of promise, and our dreams for the future.

Lake Life sunset

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An excerpt from – ‘Revelry and Rogues on the Rideau’  – ‘Lanark County Chronicle’ available in local book stores, or online.

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Local Names:

Although there were lots of tourists and visitors in the summer, they were only there for a few short weeks at most. We became acquainted with many of the folks who lived year-round at Rideau Ferry, and some of the local names at that time were: McLean, Donaldson, Buchanan, Gemmill, Frost, Sewell, Coutts, Gallagher, Beveridge, McKay, Wills, McVeety, Millar, Tully, Oliver, Dettrick, Bethune, Purdon, Hitchcock, Fitzgerald, Hall, Gould, Irving, Joynt, King, McCue, Wallace, McKay and Campbell.

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photos:  Perth Historical Society, Carol-Ann McDougall, Perth Remembered, Vintage Smiths Falls and Perth, The Perth Courier, Georgia McNally, Vintage Race Boat Shop, and from private collections.

For more information on the history of Rideau Ferry  Rideau Lakes Township

For boating on the big lakes  – Rideau Ferry Marina

To travel the Rideau Heritage Route – Rideau by Canoe

Rideau Ferry Regatta

For genealogy and family history of Rideau Ferry Lanark County Genealogical Society

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

10th Anniversary Celebrations at The Book Nook in Perth, Ontario

Leslie and Arlene Book Nook 10th

Through the ages, we have always marked births, marriages, the change of a season, harvest time, and turning the page to a new year.  This month, in the town of Perth, we mark another special event – the 10th anniversary of a popular bookstore on the main street – The Book Nook.

As part of the celebrations for this important milestone, owner Leslie Wallack invited special guests to her store, for each of the four Saturdays in May.  It was my pleasure to take part on Saturday, May 20th, to mark this happy occasion, in the pretty town of Perth.

When we arrived on Saturday morning, The Book Nook was decorated with cheery signs inside and out, and as visitors came through the store they were reminded of the special draws being held for prizes, throughout the day.  On this particular Saturday, the three separate draws featured prizes of distinctive, natural wood, hand-crafted containers – a lovely addition to anyone’s home.

Looking around the store, I paused a moment to recall the history of this building, and that 60 Gore Street East was not always home to The Book Nook.  In my teenage years in Perth, this was the location of Haggis’ Candy Store.  My friends and I were frequent visitors, and often scrounged our pennies together to buy some peanut clusters, or horehound candy, made with care by Mrs. Sophia Nee.   I looked around, remarking to Leslie that in my youth Mrs. Nee’s large glass and wooden display case was near the front window, and minutes later Leslie reappeared with an old photo of Mrs. Nee in front of the store.

Haggis' candy store front

photo: courtesy of Leslie Wallack

Leslie remembered when she first took over the store, there was a cot in the rear where former owner Mrs. Nee would often sleep, after a long night of tending to her candy-making.  Clearly, this store has a proud history of women operating a business.

horehound  sophia-haggis

photo:  Sophia (Haggis) Nee

The Book Nook enjoyed steady traffic all day, in and out, with the large section of children’s books being a popular spot for browsing, and picking up special gifts.

We were lucky to have such beautiful weather, and the warmth and sunshine streamed through the windows of the store, and reminded us that spring was finally here.

Arlene at table 10th anni Book Nook

Kevin paused to take a rare moment on the other side of the camera.

Arlene and Kevin 10th Book Nook

While the entire day was filled with happy moments, and good conversation, one of the highlights for me was three special ladies who dropped by to say ‘Hello’, and chat for a while.

I had a great visit with Rosetta Van Alstine, sister of former classmate Anne.  With the annual maple harvest just passed, we discussed some of the history of the early maple producers  – her Uncle Ken Van Alstine among them.  I learned that Rosetta’s grandfather was also a maple producer, going back yet another generation.  Her Uncle Ken was one of the first in the 1960s to use plastic tubing to transport the sap for part of his maple harvest, as well as using the traditional methods of horse and sleigh.

To read more about some of the legacy maple producers like Rosetta’s uncle – Ken Van Alstine – Lanark County’s Maple Legacy

Arlene and Rosetta Book Nook 10th

photo:  Arlene and Rosetta Van Alstine

It was a real delight to have a visit with Shirley (Kerr) Scott.  Shirley is the sister of my former classmate Marie Kerr.  The Kerr family goes back for generations in the DeWitt’s Corners, former Bathurst Township community. Shirley was my sister Jackie’s classmate, and they sat together on the school bus each day, and were the best of friends. Shirley shared a story of visiting Jackie out west, and how much she enjoyed the time they spent together; a reminder that special friendships continue through the decades, growing richer as the years pass by.  I had my own memory for Shirley, a reminder of the time as young girls Jackie had invited her to stay overnight when our parents were out of town, and when Shirley’s parents learned that the girls were alone, they came to the house and brought her back home. Young girls today would be surprised to learn how much stricter our parents were back in those days!

Arlene and Shirley Book Nook 10th

photo:  Arlene and Shirley (Kerr) Scott

Another special visitor was Carol-Ann McDougall.  Carol-Ann, originally from Kirkland Lake, now makes her home in a delightful water-front property, built on the shores of the mighty Big Rideau Lake.  Carol-Ann and her husband Ken purchased a piece of land along the shores fifteen years ago, and came up to visit each summer, dreaming that someday they would build a home there.  Last year, their dream came true, and an account of their heart-warming tale is titled  “Lake Life:  A Rideau Ferry Love Story”.

Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story

Arlene Carol-Ann Book Nook 10th ann

photo: Arlene and Carol-Ann McDougall

Another highlight of the day was the draw for prizes!  I was honoured to be asked to pull three names from a basket.  The three winners each received a beautiful, hand-crafted wooden case – a lovely container for special keepsakes and treasures. These were generously donated by  Simply Shaker , makers of one of a kind, hand-made furniture, on the main street of Perth.

Draw for the prizes at Book Nook

photo:  Arlene, Leslie’s Mom, and Leslie

It was a special day to mark a milestone for The Book Nook.  It was also a time to reflect on the history of the store, and to recall another woman entrepreneur Sophia Haggis Nee.   Like Sophia Haggis Nee, Leslie Wallack will take her place in the history of the town of Perth, another woman entrepreneur making her mark, adding to the charm and character of this delightful and historic main street.  Congratulations Leslie!

Arlene Book Nook 10th

 

An event is always more memorable when it’s  shared with some special people.  Many thanks to all of those who stopped by, and congratulations to the lucky winners of the draw!  Happy 10th Anniversary to The Book Nook, and wishing you much success in the years to come!

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We all become stories

 

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

Maple Trailblazers: Founding Families of Lanark County’s Maple Legacy

maple syrup capital

Did you know that the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth, Ontario back in the 1970s?

The story that follows is dedicated to the Lanark County families who played such a significant role, back in the early days, leading up to this annual festival in Perth: Andrew and George Korry, Bowes family of Glen Tay, Ernie and Evelyn Miller family of Glen Tay, Robert McEwen of Prestonvale, Ken VanAlstine of Maberly, Leonard and Tom Adam of McDonald’s Corners, Brien and Marion Paul west of Hopetown, Lanark, James ‘Carman’ and Edna Gibson of Dalhousie Township, Don and Marion Dodds of Clayton, George Coutts of Rideau Ferry, Wheeler family of McDonald’s Corners, and Fulton family of Pakenham to name a few.

Taffy on the Tay

Years ago, many of the local farmers produced maple syrup. Some made just enough for their families, and for others it was a supplement to their farm income, at a time of year that was less busy, than during the summer months. There were also a few dealers in the area that sold sugar bush supplies – Max Miller of Snow Road, Percy Drysdale of McDonald’s Corners, and W.J. Ballantyne in Lanark. James Brothers Hardware and the Co-Op in the town of Perth also sold supplies for maple production. Labels for the bottles were often printed by ‘The Perth Courier’.

James Brothers edit

The Korry family farm was located across the road from our farm.  They owned a medium sized sugar bush, and produced enough syrup to sell locally. Andrew Korry’s son-in-law John Chaplin sold it through his business – Chaplin’s Dairy, door to door, to their customers on the milk routes. Andrew and his son George were very busy for several weeks each spring making syrup, and my brother Tim Stafford worked with them in the bush one season. Extra help was always welcome. They used a team of horses, with a tank mounted on the sleigh, to draw the sap back to the evaporator, at the sugar shack; typical of many other producers at that time.

maple-sap-collocting

The Bowes and the Miller families of Glen Tay also produced their own syrup. I recall  that Art Bowes used to tap quite a number of trees in the mid-sixties. Their land was known as Tayview farm, and it straddled the Tay River -a beautiful setting. At that time they had about 300 acres including hay fields, pastures, and of course maple bushes. Art’s son Doug traveled along with us on our school bus each day in the 1960s, and he often spoke about helping his Dad back in the bush each spring.

Art Bowes maple

spile

The Miller family’s farm, known as Tayside was owned by Ernest ‘Ernie’ Miller and his wife Evelyn (Mather). The Miller family arrived from Scotland in 1809, and their farm was purchased by Ernie’s great grandfather Dodds in 1858. Their kids were Diane, Nancy, John and Ruth. Evelyn was a lovely, soft-spoken lady, and she was my first 4H club leader. I also recall that Ernie was tapping about 1,500 trees back in the sixties, and had about 30 acres of maple woods. Ernie was a forward thinker, and one of his ideas at that time was that sap should be gathered by trucks from each farm, and taken to a large central evaporator – similar to the way that milk was trucked to cheese factories. It seemed through the years that Ernie was into everything. When he wasn’t farming he wrote history books, he researched genealogy, he worked with young people, and it was no surprise to me when he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

Ernie Miller

Ernest Miller – Photo by Malak for Cover of Family Herald in support of War Bonds. Photo courtesy of Diane (Miller) Duncan.

The McEwen clan in Ferguson Falls was another family who made their mark in the maple syrup business back in the 60s. In 1966 Robert McEwen of Prestonvale opened up the first pancake house in the area. Originally, Robert made his syrup the old fashioned way, out in the bush, and boiled a cauldron of sap over the fire. Later, in the 1970s I remember that he was one of the first to use plastic pipelines to bring the sap from the trees to one main location. Our Dad knew the McEwen family well, having grown up in that area, and said that Robert often spoke of the difficulties involved in syrup production. It was difficult to find reliable labour, and also challenging was finding the capital to purchase new equipment. Robert was very active in the local industry, and at one time was the President of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Association.

When the former McEwen Sugar Shack went up for sale, Charles Temple and his wife Susan Snyder bought the property –  the very first day it was on the market.  The property known now as Temple’s Sugar Bush consists of 70 acres of maple bush where 5,000 trees are tapped annually.

Temples

Temple’s Sugar Bush on the site of the former McEwen’s Sugar Shack, Ferguson Falls

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Ken VanAlstine in Maberly tapped over 2,000 trees when I was a kid, and he was among the first to use pipelines. He experimented at first, and tapped just 200 trees using the pipeline system, but the rest was collected in buckets, the traditional way, and transported to the evaporator by horse and sleigh.

Horse and Sleigh maple bush

Ken, like other producers in the area, found the cost of hiring labour prohibitive, and found that distributors wanted too much money per gallon. Ken was well known in the area for his excellent quality maple syrup, and said on his best day at that time he gathered 3,300 gallons of sap.

Vanalstine maple syrup

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The Ennis family also has a long history of maple production. Their ancestor  Arthur Ennis came from County Cavan, Ireland to Lanark County in 1840, and the family has been producing maple syrup for almost a century.  Their sugar bush is located on the eastern shores of Bennett Lake, at the end of Ennis Road, Balderson,  in Lanark County.   Five generations of the Ennis family have been tapping trees on this property.

Ennis maple

George and Karen Ennis  –   photo –  Ennis Maple Products

Another local family of long-time maple producers is the Adam family of McDonald’s Corners. Leonard Adam and his brother Tom tapped an average of 2,250 trees, and owned about 500 acres of land between them. They were hard workers, and spent many days sawing, chopping, and stacking the 20 cords of wood required for their evaporator.  The Adam family were one of the first to use a brand new style of evaporator which was 4 by 14 feet. They produced enough to sell locally, and the remainder was shipped out West.

Adam article maple

Adam family of McDonald’s Corners  –  ‘The Perth Courier’ – Nov. 28, 1963

maple syrup jug

Brien and Marion (McLaren) Paul of R.R #3 Lanark owned a 575 acre farm, about three miles west of Hopetown, and began maple production in 1953. Marion was raised on a farm near the village of Lanark, was known locally as the ‘First Lady of Maple’, and served proudly as a Maple Judge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Their kids Kathy, Wayne and Darrell were also very involved in maple production, and provided additional labour for the family business. In 1972 Kathy was crowned Maple Queen in the local competition.

Back in the 1960s the Paul family used two sleighs, one pulled by a tractor, and the other by a team of horses. Brien’s father Raymond Paul often tended the evaporator, keeping a watchful eye as the sweet, fragrant, steam boiled off into the air. Russell Foster and Raymond Watt often assisted the Paul family with their  production. They tapped an average of 4,000 trees at that time, produced about 700 gallons of syrup, and used approximately 30 cords of wood during the season.

Paul's maple prices rise

‘The Perth Courier’ – March 21, 1971

The Paul’s were pioneers in the maple industry, and were very modern in their approach. They were one of the first to install plastic tubing, and an oil fired evaporator. The plastic pipes were attached to the tree spiles, and the sap flowed through the pipes, and emptied into a storage reservoir located behind the evaporator. Brien and Marion were inducted into the International Maple Hall of Fame, and were proud members of the Ontario Maple Producers and the Lanark and District Maple Producers Association.

Paul's maple

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Gibson was a name known for their excellent syrup. James ‘Carman’ Gibson, and his wife Edna (Rodger) had a maple business in Dalhousie Twp at R.R. # 4, Lanark. The nearby areas of Hoods and Poland were well known for their fine quality maple syrup. The Gibson family began tapping trees in 1821 with the arrival of James Gibson from Lanark, Scotland. He was the first pioneer settler in the area, and named their new home Lammermoor after the Lammermoor Hills in Scotland. Their five children Verna, Beatrice, Norma, Carol and Earl helped with the operation. The Gibson family also raised beef, dairy on their busy farm, and hauled milk to the Middleville cheese factory.

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When locals think of a long running maple operation, the name Dodds comes to mind. They had a substantial sugar bush at R.R. 2 Clayton, in the Lanark Highlands. The Dodds family has owned Springdale Farm for generations, producing maple syrup since 1917, and Don and Marion Dodds, and their sons Bryan and Stephen helped with production through the years. The family has won many awards for being long term maple producers, and Stephen Dodds won the Grand Champion Trophy at Perth Festival of the Maples in 2011. Their long, long, list of awards include trophies for World Champion Maple Syrup, Sugar Maker of the Year, and a memorable meeting with HRH Prince Charles at the Royal Winter Fair.

Dodds family

Dodds family – Don, Marion and Stephen Dodds

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One of the maple syrup families that I remember fondly was the Coutts family on the Rideau Ferry Road. I’ll never forget how George Coutts invited local kids to visit his sugar shack.  He would take the time during the very busy season to patiently explain how the maple syrup was made. Miss Norma Devlin from the North Elmsley School was invited each year to bring her grade one class to visit the Coutts farm. George along with his son Kenneth showed the children how syrup was made and even provided the kids with some maple taffy at the end of the tour.

Coutts student tours

In the 1960s the Coutts family tapped about 1,300 trees yearly, and produced more than enough syrup for both the family and for area sales. Maple syrup was produced in the early 1900’s by Archibald Coutts. In 1920, George Coutts purchased an evaporator, and the production of maple syrup has continued ever since.

coutts country flavours

Coutts Country Flavours – 5th generation maple producers

The ancestors of the Fulton family began to tap their maple trees back in the 1840s when John Fulton and his brothers came to Lanark County from East Kilbride, Scotland.  Their large 370 acre farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham, and they have tapped their huge 4,000 tree sugar bush for many, many, generations. Well known for their high quality syrup they have also operated a pancake house for many years, and their sugar camp has been a popular attraction for both area families and visitors.

Shirley Deugo and Scott Deugo of Fulton's

Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush –
Shirley Fulton-Deugo 4th generation, and Scott Deugo 5th generation maple producer

With these, and other long-time maple producers in Lanark County, it’s not surprising that back in the 1970s, there were lots of conversations, up and down the concessions, of hosting a maple festival in the town of Perth. It was Victor ‘Vic’ Lemieux, owner of Norvic Lodge, at Christie Lake, who first came up with the idea, and presented it to the Perth Chamber of Commerce. Thankfully, Vic was successful in his campaign to launch the first festival, with the hope that it would bring people out to celebrate the spring season, after a long, cold, winter.

First festival of the Maples 1975

On April 19, 1975 the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth and it was quite an event!

When my friends and I arrived at the very first Maple Festival that Saturday so long ago, part of Gore Street and Foster Street had been closed to traffic, and many local maple vendors had set up their displays. At 10 a.m. the Festival was officially opened by the Ontario Minister of Industry – Claude Bennett. The Perth Legion ladies, and the ladies from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church had displays of delicious home baking for sale, and there were also side-walk sales on Gore Street, and many arts and craft exhibits.

There were a tremendous number of district producers, and many of them offered syrup for sale in different grades, and various sized containers. Pancakes were available for purchase, and free samples of Balderson Cheese were available to anyone who asked, and I recall we went back a couple of times to that booth! One of the most unique displays was a wood-burning evaporator set up on one of the main streets of Perth. I’ve seen a few of those out in the bush, but I never thought I’d see one in town on the main street!

Fiddling and step-dancing competitions were held that day, and I recall Dawson Girdwood saying that some of the best fiddlers from Eastern Ontario were competing in the Open and Junior fiddling classes. The talented Jimmy Heney, one of our neighbours, won the fiddling prize hands down, as he often did, and Karen Grey of Perth was the top step-dancer that night.

The folks in Perth were always  enthusiastic supporters of a beauty competition, and so part of the evening program, at the arena that night ,was the crowning of ‘The Sweetest Girl in Lanark County’. Miss Perth 1975 Michelle Hughes crowned the winner – Maple Queen – Susan Thompson, of Perth.

Over the years, we attended the Perth Maple Festival, and each spring it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Every year it seemed that there were more vendors selling their maple goods, more artisans displaying their crafts, and an increasing number of booths and displays. We also noticed a steady stream of tourists coming from Ottawa, Kingston, and even as far away as the States to visit our festival.

festival of the maples crowd

People in Lanark County, understandably, have always taken their maple syrup very seriously. Because of this, it was devastating to many when January of 1998 brought the most destructive ice storm in Canadian history. From January 4th to 10th Lanark County was severely affected by freezing rain, and ice pellets.   Day after day it fell, and accumulated on tree branches, bending their limbs until they snapped off with the weight of the ice. The relentless freezing rain created a thick, heavy coat, damaging both the maple trees and the pipelines in the sugar bushes. Millions of tree branches were caked with the build-up of ice, and became so heavy that they split right off of the trees; severely affecting the sap flow. At the time, there were speculations that it might take forty years for maple production to return to normal.

Through hard work, and good fortune, many of the damaged trees came back, and the maple production resumed within a few years of the ice storm.

ice storm 1998

Many of us, raised in Lanark County, have participated in making maple syrup at one time or another, and know from experience that it’s extremely labour-intensive. We also have a clear understanding of the enormous amount of sap it takes to make a very small quantity of syrup. No matter how modern the equipment or methods, it still takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

40 gallons of sap

Now, add in the hours of labour for the tapping, transporting from the tree to the evaporator, the boiling down, the straining, the bottling, and the labeling. Next, factor in the cost of equipment such as the spiles, the pails or tubing, the evaporation tank, fuel, the straining equipment, the bottles, cans, and cost of transporting to market. The price per gallon really doesn’t sound like all that much anymore now, does it?

So, the next time you pass by the maple syrup display in your grocery store aisles, or visit a maple vendor at his farm, or at a festival, please remember how it’s produced.

Pause a moment, to remember the proud, hard-working, pioneer families who settled in Lanark County, and passed down their knowledge through the generations. Think of the enormous quantity of sap required to make a very small container of syrup. Most of all, please stop and consider the origin of your syrup, and take it from this Lanark County kid – you won’t find any better, more flavourful syrup, than from the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario!

…………..

 

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third LineLanark County Chronicle)
ISBN 978-0-9877026-2-3

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Perth’s New Year’s Babies 1947-1987

 

perths-new-years-babies

No birth has been as widely documented, or made as public through the media than the first birth in a new year.  It’s not clear when the tradition of announcing the arrival of a town or city’s first baby began across Lanark County.

In the early 1940s, “The Perth Courier” began to mention the ‘New Year’s baby’ in their listings of social and community events, but it was not until January 1947 that this venerable newspaper started to showcase  the area’s newest resident with a feature story and often a photograph of baby and mother.

In the January 2nd 1947 edition of “The Perth Courier” for the very first time, there was a long list of prizes to be supplied by local merchants, and instructions to new parents on how to claim the title of “Perth’s First Baby of 1947”:

“All the parents need to do to secure all these good things for Perth’s first baby of 1947 is to give the Courier a statement of the time and date of the arrival, signed by the doctor or attending nurse.  The Courier will then provide a statement to the parents, which will enable them to pick up the merchandise.  News of the arrival must teach the Courier by Monday, January 6th to qualify.”

In honour of those special New Year’s babies born in Perth, four decades of announcements follow, from “The Perth Courier”, beginning in 1947 through to 1987:

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1947 – Ronald Gilchrist  –  Snow Road

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1948 – Audrey McCurdy  –  Lanark, Ontario

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1949 – Robert Frank –

Canonto, North Frontenac

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1950 – Diane Egge  –  Perth, Ontario

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1951 – baby ‘Dustin’,  Perth, Ontario1951-baby

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1952 – baby ‘Foley’  – Balderson, Ontario

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1953 – baby ‘Thomas’, Balderson, Ontario

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1954 –  baby ‘Mooney’,  R.R. 1,  Perth, ON

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1955 –  baby  ‘Bell’,   Perth, Ontario

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1956 –  baby  ‘Dickson’ , Perth, Ontario

 

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1957 –  baby ‘Young’  R.R. 2, Maberly, ON

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1958 – baby ‘St. Pierre’,  Sharbot Lake, ON

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1959 –  baby ‘Fielding’,  Perth, ON

 

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1960 – baby ‘Kerr’,  Perth, ON

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1961 – baby ‘Cordick’,  Perth, ON

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1962 –  baby ‘Daoust’,  Perth, ON

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1963 –  Heather Pratt, Clarendon, ON

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1964 –  baby ‘King’  R.R. 5, Perth, ON

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1965 –  Sheldon Barr,  R.R. 1,  Perth, Ontario

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1966 –  Heather Paul,  Perth, ON

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1967 –  baby ‘Murphy’ , Perth, ON

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1968 – Diane Haughian, Perth, ON

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1969 –  baby ‘Cameron’   R.R.5, Perth, ON

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1970 – Eric Brousseau,  Perth, ON

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1971 – Tammie Adam, McDonald’s Corners

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1972 – Peter Alexander,  R.R. 5, Perth, ON

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1973 –  Matthew Lowery,  Parham, ON

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1974 – baby ‘Blackburn’, R.R. 1  Maberly

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1975 –  Gregory Young, R.R. 4, Perth, ON

 

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1976 –  Erica Labelle, R.R. 2  Lanark, ON

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1977 – Duncan Campbell, R.R. 1, Lanark, ON

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1978 – baby ‘Gardiner’ , R.R. 5, Perth, ON

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1979 – Christa Rintoul, Clayton, ON

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1980 – Trevor Tysick,  Lanark Road

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1981 –  Nicole Moore, R.R. 4, Perth, ON

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1982 – Liam Ryan, Elgin  ON

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1983 – Natalie Lowery,  Perth  ON

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1984 – Jennifer Campbell, R.R. 4  Perth, ON

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1985 – Wayne Drysdale, R.R. 4, Perth

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1986 – Victoria McMunn, Perth, ON

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1987 – Jennifer Roy ,  Perth, ON

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…………………………..

These babies, now aged 30 to 70 began their lives as tiny celebrities in the community, lavished with many gifts from local merchants, some would say had a lucky start to life.

I wonder where these New Year’s babies are today, and if lady luck has followed them throughout their lives?

As they used to say in the 1960s, “You’ve come a long way baby!”

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http://www.staffordwilson.com