Letters to Santa from Perth!

Santa reading letters

 

Letters to Santa

from the Children of Perth, Ontario

as published in:

 

The Perth Courier

 

We’ve all written them.  Letters to Santa Claus.  Whether we lived out in the country, on the Third Line, like us, or whether we lived in the town of Perth.  We all sat down with a sheet of paper, and a pencil or pen, and asked for that special toy that we dreamed of finding under the tree, on Christmas Day.

“The Perth Courier” began to publish these letters to Santa, and for many years we could sit back on Thursday morning, when the paper was delivered to our rural mailbox at the end of our lane, and read some of these letters, and discover what the local children were hoping to receive, from jolly old St. Nick.

Here are some of the best letters, and maybe you’ll even see your own!

Christmas 1

 

Christmas 2

 

Writing the letter to Santa

 

Sometimes we needed help from an older brother or sister to make sure that our letters were written as clearly as possible!

Christmas 3

 

We also had to make sure that we wrote the correct address for the ‘North Pole’ and walked it down the lane, and set it carefully in the mailbox!

Letters to santa at the mailbox

 

Christmas 4

Christmas 5

 

Christmas 6

 

Christmas 7

 

Christmas 8

Christmas 9

Christmas 10

Christmas 11

 

1981 Letters to Santa

from “The Perth Courier”

 

Christmas 12

 

Christmas 13

 

1982  – Letters to Santa

 

Christmas 14

 

…..and some of the letters were from kids in the country. 

These ones are from Glen Tay:

 

Christmas 15

 

This little guy even admits to being a little bit bad!

Christmas 16

 

Christmas 17

 

Christmas 18

Christmas 19

 

Christmas 20

Christmas 21

 

1983 Letters to Santa

 

Christmas 22

Christmas 23

 

….and from the kids at Drummond Central:

 

Christmas 24

Christmas 25

 

 

…and some more letters to Santa from Glen Tay:

 

Christmas 26

…and little Debbie even included a lovely sketch for Santa:

 

Christmas 27

 

1984 letters to Santa

 

Christmas 28

Christmas 29

 

Christmas 30

 

1983 letters to Santa from the Perth Daycare Centre

Many of us recall the column called ‘The Private Eye’, and some of the interesting tidbits of news from around Perth that was published each week.  In December of 1983, some of the wee tots at the Perth Daycare Centre wrote to Santa, and the Private Eye had a few favourites!

 

Christmas 31

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Another letter to Santa found in a battered old shoe box, many years ago, written by a little girl who only wanted one thing for Christmas…

 

Dear Santa:  I live on the Third Line, not far from Christie Lake.  We live in a red brick  house, between Glen Tay and DeWitt’s Corners.  I hope you can see it from the sky on Christmas Eve.  It’s right across the road from George and Merle Korry’s farm, and between Perkins’ and Mitchell’s farms.  I have been very good.  I got a sticker this year from my Sunday School teacher, Betty Miller, for good attendance, and I try to be good at home and sometimes I help my mother in the kitchen, and help Dad outside when he needs me.  I would like a Beautiful Crissy doll please.  She has long red hair and an orange dress.  Please bring a Davey Crocket hat for my brother Roger, new skates for Judy and Jackie, and some books for my brother Tim.  I will leave some carrots for your reindeer.   

……………..

Always remember to leave a nice snack for Santa.  It’s a long night, and he works very hard.

 

cookies and milk for Santa

 

…….and guess what the little girl found under her tree Christmas morning?

Santa under the tree

 

…..the doll she asked for in her letter to Santa!

Beautiful Crissy

A reminder to all of us that Christmas Wishes really do come true!

 

………..

Christmas 32

…and whether you’re young, or not-so-young, whether you write a letter to Santa, or just look up into the clear winter sky, and wish on a star, 

Always believe in the magic of Christmas!

Santa and the reindeer flying

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Lanark County Calling – Book Launch

Just like the title of the book, when Lanark County calls us back home, especially in the fall of the year, we are welcomed by a panorama of fiery oranges, blazing reds, sunny yellows and dazzling greens.

leaf quote

 

lanark-county-sign

 

Signs of fall were everywhere, and a flock of geese escorted us along the road, all the way to Perth….
geese

 

A sunny drive up historic Gore Street, then we arrived at our destination – The Book Nook & Other Treasures.

Book Nook

 

Shortly after our arrival, I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from Rideau Ferry resident, Carol-Ann McDougall, along with her good wishes for the book launch.  What a thoughtful gift!

flowers from Carol-Ann

 

Owner of the Book Nook & Other Treasures, Leslie Wallack, provided a delicious assortment of milk chocolate and dark chocolate cookies, and piping hot coffee for all of the visitors to the store.

Leslie

 

One of the first visitors to the book launch, was old friend, and former class-mate Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss.  Dianne and I have a long history, going back to our earliest days, at S.S. #5 School, a one-room schoolhouse, at Christie Lake, then to the Scotch Line school, and next, Glen Tay Public School, before heading off to Perth and District Collegiate Institute. Dianne and I also attended 4H Club together, as did many of the boys and girls in our rural farm community west of Perth.  Dianne is writing an article for the Agri News, on the new book “Lanark County Calling”, so mixing a bit of business, with the pleasure of spending time together again.

Dianne

 

Another special visitor who came early to the book launch, was former Art teacher from P.D.C.I – Wynne White.  What a pleasure to see Wynne after so many years have passed, and to learn that she remains active in her artistic pursuits.  This talented artist shared many of her techniques and methods over the years, and inspired those of us who attended her classes.  She often played the music of our time, during class, on a record-player at the front of the room.  One of the albums I recall was ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, and a tune that was played often –  ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.  Mrs. White understood the connection between music, art, and inspiration, and with her gentle ways, and kind encouragement, had a way of bringing out the best in all of her students.

Wynne White

 

Two special visitors drove all the way from Kingston, Ontario to be with us for the book launch, cousins Marie and Yvonne.  Marie and Yvonne, like myself, are descendants of pioneers Tobias Stafford of County Wexford, Ireland, and Elizabeth McGarry, of County Westmeath, Ireland, who were among the earliest settlers to Drummond Township in 1816.

Marie and Yvonne 2

It was a special treat to have my brother, Roger Stafford, stop by, and spend some time with us.  Roger divides his time these days, between his home in London, Ontario, and his winter place in Fort Myers, Florida.  Like the geese we saw overhead earlier in the day, Roger will be returning south in the next few weeks.  It was great fun to have him at the book launch!

Roger

 

A book launch would not be complete without a visitor or two from the home soil, the Third Line, DeWitt’s Corners to be specific.  Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by, and we had a lovely visit with them, and caught up on some local news.

Elaine

 

A great deal of research goes into writing the stories in any book, and one of the stories in “Lanark County Calling”,  is about the Soper Theatre, in Smiths Falls.  Jan Stepniak was a great help with the story, and he shared some fascinating, behind-the-scenes highlights of his many years as both Projectionist, and Manager, at the Soper Theatre.

Jan Stepniak

Another memorable guest, one who was tremendously helpful in telling the story of the Soper Theatre, was Violet Gariepy.  Violet began working at the Soper in the late fifties, right up to the time when the theater closed in 2012.  She shared her memories, stories, and some insights into the people who worked there over the years, and the special recollections that made her time there such a pleasure.

Vi 3

 

After a busy day chatting with special guests, and visitors, it was time to say good-bye.

Many thanks to our host, owner of The Book Nook & Other Treasures, Leslie Wallack.  Treasures indeed, the busy, cheery store is overflowing with unique gifts, and lovely items for the home, along with a huge assortment of books, for children and adults alike. Leslie carries all of my ‘Lanark County’ series of books, as well as many other local authors.

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Special thanks to those who shared their memories, stories, and special recollections for the story ‘A Night at the Movies: Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls:  Violet Gariepy, Jan Stepniak, the late Gordon Evoy, Scott Irvine, and Tammy DeSalvo.
Also, thank-you to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, along with Marilyn Taylor-Dunham for sharing their memories and tales, for the story: “The Legendary Ompah Stomp”.

……………………….

 

This post is dedicated to the memory of Gordon Evoy, former Usher, at the Soper Theatre.  Gordon passed away before the book launch, and I was not able to thank him in person, for the many hours he spent sharing his memories, and insights from his years working at the theater.  I had many phone calls with Gordon, and he would always end them saying he had to go and walk his little dogs, in the park, near his home in Smiths Falls.  It was clear that those lively little dogs were very close to his heart. Gordon also shared two photos with me, one of his mother Phyllis Evoy, a former staff-member of the Soper Theatre; Phyllis worked in the ticket booth for many years, and it has been said that she called many of the local children by name, and was a friendly face during her many years working there.

Phyllis Jenkins Evoy

 

Gordon also proudly shared a photo of his grandfather, Harry Jenkins, former theater staff-member, an Usher at the Capitol Theatre, in Smiths Falls.   When Harry retired, he worked as a crossing guard, on Brockville Street, helping children safely navigate the busy streets.

Harry Jenkins

Thank-you Gordon.  Your stories and memories are captured forever in the book.  God Bless.  May you rest in peace.

 

 

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Soper Theatre, Smiths Falls

It was 1914 when local man, Bert Soper, opened the Rideau Theatre on Chambers Street, at the corner of Beckwith, in Smiths Falls.  Stanley McNeill was the first manager.  He was a local lad, son of Harry McNeill and Alice Butler, and he ran the theatre like a well-oiled machine.

Soper 1

Photo: Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

 

In the 1930s, the theater was renamed ‘The Capitol’, and people drove for miles around to come and see ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘King Kong’, and “The Wizard of Oz”.

A new theater was built in 1949, at 15 Main Street in Smiths Falls.  The new Soper Theatre boasted 964 seats, making it the largest movie theater in Eastern Ontario.

The Soper was managed by Walter Lackenbauer, a man who took his job very seriously.  It was said that Walter was so punctual that you could set your watch when you saw him walking across the bridge, on his way to work each day.

When Walter Lackenbauer retired in 1976, Art White became the Manager of the Soper, and worked in that capacity until 1992, and then Jan Stepniak took over the position.

Walter Lackenbauer

Walter Lackenbauer and his wife Bernadette ‘Bernie’

 

Another familiar face at the Soper Theatre was Violet Gariepy, a native of Scotland, she worked at the candy counter along with Norma Willoughby, and Jessie Loucks.

This is the clock that hung on the wall in the concession counter at the Soper. *

clock from the Soper

Some of the early films shown at the Soper, were ‘tame’ compared to the movies produced today.  Films like ‘Snow White’, and ‘Old Yellar’ were suitable for the whole family.

 

Snow white

 

Old Yeller

One of the most popular movies in the 1950s was “The One That Got Away”, – the story of a German prisoner of war, Franz von Werra, who escaped from a moving train, as it passed through the town of Smiths Falls.

The one that got away

 

By the time I was old enough to attend a movie, the Soper Theatre was the only place in the area where we could go to see the newest Hollywood films.  The Soper was just around the corner from the Sweet Shop – talk about a great location!

Soper 6 street view

Photo: Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

 

The Ushers who worked at the Soper Theatre might have been the original ‘multi-taskers’, who had a variety of jobs.  These were the ‘boys’ who helped young children to their seats at the Saturday matinees, who shone their flashlights on young lovers in the back row, and did their best to keep the smoking and drinking from getting out of hand.

teens at back necking

 

The same ushers had to walk back to the green seats, and remind smokers that their policy was cigarettes only, no cigars. They also had to police the drinkers, the kids who liked to sneak in mickey bottles in their jackets and have a few drinks on a Friday night.

smoking in the back

The mickey, invented in Perth, by John McLaren, was just the right size to sneak into the movies!

mickey whiskey

 

Some of the ushers who worked at The Soper, over the years:  Gordon Evoy, Scott Irvine, Ralph Scott, Grant Dopson, Rob Knapp, Donnie Lackey, Ricky Laming, Tommy Martin, Bert Stranberg, Joe Gallipeau, John Marks, Brian McDougall, and Hugh Finlayson.

The big blockbuster movies in those days were some that we’ll never forget.  According to many of the former staff members at the Soper, these movies were among the ones that brought in the biggest crowds in Smiths Falls:

Seven Brides for Seven brothers

 

James Bond

James Bond: Goldfinger

 

Godfather movie poster

 

No one wanted to swim the year that this one came out –

Jaws movie poster

Smokey and the bandit

 

close encounters

Rocky

 

Star Wars

On the opening day of Jurassic Park, staff members,  like Tammy DeSalvo, dressed up as dinosaurs, much to the delight of local children!

Jurassic Park movie poster

 

Titanic movie poster

 

Sometimes we forget that it’s the people we don’t see at the theater, the ones who work behind the scenes, who play some of the most important roles.   Rae Murphy was Projectionist at the Soper Theatre when the building was brand new, in 1949.  The back-up Projectionist was Widge Williams, son of Bill Williams, owner of the Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre.

Everyone’s favourite place at the Soper Theatre was the candy counter, and along with Violet Gariepy, you could find Gail Preece, along with brother and sister team – Christine and Stephen Harper, and twins David Morris and Stephanie Morris.  David later became a police officer for the Town of Smiths Falls.

popcorn

 

Many of us will never forget our very first movie, and for those of us who grew up in the area, the Soper Theatre was our first experience in a real movie theater.

The very first staff-member we encountered might have been Phyllis Evoy, at the ticket booth, or Violet Gariepy at the candy counter.  We may have noticed a very serious man, Walter Lackenbauer, the Manager, walking around the lobby, making sure that everything was running smoothly.  Maybe we’d catch a glimpse of Rea Murphy, on his way to the projection booth, or one of the helpful Ushers escorting a child, or an elderly person, safely to their seat.

Although most of us have been to more modern, slick, new theaters since our nights at the Soper Theatre,  those special, magical nights of our youth will remain forever in our hearts.

*note – the photo of the red Coca-Cola clock that hung on the wall of the candy counter was provided by Violet Gariepy.   Violet’s husband Raymond became ill, and Jan Stepniak visited Ray in the hospital.  Ray told Jan how much he had always loved the clock from the candy counter.  Jan came to their home later, and presented Ray with the clock.  Ray sinced passed away, and the clock hangs proudly on Violet’s wall, a treasured memory of her time working at this much loved theater.
Photos of the Soper Theatre:   Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

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Discover the fascinating people in Smiths Falls who made the magic happen at the Soper Theatre. Learn about the lively staff Christmas parties, find out who went to the Rideau Hotel every night after work and why, and which one of the staff was married to a well-known hockey player. Read about the daily operations, behind-the-scenes at the Soper.  Learn about a controversial court case when a Perth lawyer brings charges against a local film distributor. Meet the people who ran this beloved theater – the managers, the projectionists, the ushers, the candy-counter workers, and the people at the ticket booth, and read their memories and stories of this very special place!  Go behind the scenes at this beloved theater in – “A Night at the Movies: The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls”, in ‘Lanark County Calling – All Roads Lead Home’.

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch of Plum Hollow

The readings always began the same way, with her visitors climbing the rickety wooden stairs to her cramped attic reading room.  She motioned her guests to sit across from her, at a small pine table.  A fresh pot of tea sat on the table, along with two cups.  She’d pick up the pot, shake it vigorously, and pour a cup, watching as the leaves slowly sank to the bottom.  Next, she swirled the tea around, poured the liquid back into the pot, then instructed her visitor to do the same.

fortune telling room

(the attic in Jane Barnes’ cabin)

 

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes was a beautiful, young, woman when she arrived in North America. She left her home in England after refusing to marry a man twice her age. Her father, a Colonel had instructed her to wed his friend, a middle-aged soldier, and Jane would have no part of it.  Instead, she fell in love with a handsome young man, Robert Harrison, and they left Britain together, married, and had a son.

Sadly, Robert died shortly after, and Jane was left alone to raise their baby.

Jane had a lovely slim frame, fair complexion, and bright eyes.  It wasn’t long before she began to date again, and a young shoemaker, David Barnes, won her heart.  They married and settled near Lake Eloida, not far from Plum Hollow, about fifteen miles south of Smiths Falls, in Leeds & Grenville, Ontario.  Jane and David had a large family – six sons, three daughters, and Jane took in three neighbourhood orphans after their mother passed.

Jane Barnes young

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes

 

Jane’s husband David, was a bit of a wanderer, and he left her, abandoned the children, and moved to Smiths Falls.

Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.

In the late 1800s, telling one’s fortune by reading tea leaves became very popular.

tea leaf reading painting

 

In those days, loose tea was used, and so the leaves at the bottom of the cup often formed shapes or patterns, and these were interpreted by the fortune-teller, to predict future events.

loose tea

Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water

 

tea pot

After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup

 

holding a cup with leaves

Then, the fortune-teller, or tea-leaf-reader, would interpret the meaning of the individual’s leaves.

Many believed that the position of the leaves in the cup itself, had meaning.

tea leaf 3

tea leaf symbols

The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.

tea leaf symbols 2

 

News of Jane’s accuracy in her predictions spread quickly, and she had visitors from neighbouring towns, cities, provinces, and even visitors from the northern states.

Jane Barnes old

 

During Jane’s time telling fortunes she was able to find missing objects, missing farm animals, and even missing people.  Jane’s predictions were so accurate that even the police called on her to assist them from time to time.  She even had a few very famous customers, in the many decades of her practice, in that little cabin in the country.

newsclipping about mother barnes

As the decades passed, news about Jane’s gift for predicting continued to spread far and wide, and there were often carriages lined up down the road near her little cabin.

 

news about Mother Barnes

 

Young people went to Jane to ask advice on their love lives and she was able to predict who they would marry.  If any of the neighbours misplaced anything, they walked to Jane’s little cabin and she would tell them exactly where to look.  Farmers went to Jane when their cattle or horses wandered off, and she always directed them to precisely the right spot. Business people consulted Jane for advice on their professions, and politicians sought her advice on elections and policies.

………………………………………………………..

Jane’s little cabin still stands today.

Jane's cabin

Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.

obit of Mother Barnes

 

Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery

 

Sheldon Cemetery

When Jane passed, she was buried in an unmarked grave.

Plum Hollow cheese-makers from 1924-1974, Claude and Ella Flood, erected a stone in memory of  ‘Mother Barnes’

 

Jane's gravestone

 

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Discover the fascinating story of Jane Barnes, and her years as a local fortune-teller.  Find out about some of Jane’s most prominent and famous customers.  Who were the high-profile movers and shakers who sought Jane’s advice on a regular basis? Read about a grisly murder case that perplexed police, and was finally solved by Jane. Who was the famous and controversial newspaper publisher who sent his wife to ask Jane’s predictions because he didn’t want to be seen visiting a ‘fortune-teller’.  Learn about the case of a poltergeist in Quebec, where the family seeks Jane’s help in solving the violent and frightening haunting of their house.  Discover these stories and more, in the book “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”, the complete story of Jane Barnes, a gifted lady, also known as – ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow”

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

Haggis Candy – Goodies on Gore Street!

It was her father, James Haggis, who started the candy business in Perth, back in 1926, but it will likely be Sophia, who will always be remembered fondly, as the ‘Candy Lady’.

Sophia 1

 

Sophia used the original equipment, passed down to her, from her father, like the big copper pots for melting rich, velvety, chocolate, and buttery peanut brittle.

copper pots

 

melting chocolate

 

Each year at Easter, Sophia made delicious chocolate bunnies and eggs, and would offer to personalize them with any name.  She used a stiff white icing, and piped on the names by hand, as her eager audiences waited for their special egg to be completed.

Easter egg

 

Haggis Candy was located on the main street of Perth, at 60 Gore St. E.

 

Sophia 2

 

A very special time of year for Haggis Candy was Christmas, and Sophia decorated her store windows with her giant candy-canes, some of them almost six feet tall!

candy canes

 

One of Sophia’s specialties was her Horehound candy.  It had a very distinctive flavour, and some said that it was a good remedy for sore throats, and congestion.  Most of her customers just liked its unique taste.  People came from miles around to buy her Horehound.

 

horehound candy

 

Sophia made her candy from the Horehound Plant.  The plants are picked, dried, and steeped with boiling water.  The liquid is strained, sugar is added and brought to a boil, then cooled on a marble slab.  The finished candies are cut into squares, and rolled in powdered sugar.

horehound plant

Another customer favourite was Haggis’ taffy.   Sophia used the original steel hooks to pull her taffy, to just the right consistency.

 

taffy hook

 

…..and the finished taffy, ready to enjoy!

 

taffy candy

She used the marble slabs, passed down from her father, to cool her fudge quickly, so that it could be cut into squares.

marble slabs

fudge

 

Sophia had a quick smile, and a warm personality.  She loved following in the traditions of her father, and most of all loved to see the smiles on her customer’s faces when they tasted her delicious treats.

Sophia 3

 

Haggis’ Candy store was where you’d often find my friends and I, after leaving Perth High School in the late afternoon.  My personal favourites were Sophia’s milk chocolate peanut clusters, made with real Spanish peanuts!  Sophia would place a few in a small, brown-paper bag, weigh them, and hand them to me with a smile.  Sometimes I would bring them outside, walk down Gore Street, sit on the bridge, and watch the world go by, as I savoured my chocolate treats!

peanut clusters

 

On hot, muggy, summer days, Sophia made the most delicious banana splits, and often tourists and locals alike, would stop by her store to sample some of her rich, creamy, creations.

banana split

 

In 1988, at the age of 77, Sophia retired from the candy business.  She kept active in her later years, and continued to play the piano, as she had often done, at various events in Perth, over the years.

Sophia playing the piano

Sophia eventually left Perth, and moved to Kingston.  She lived a long life, and there were many very happy birthdays over the years!

 

Sophia 4

 

Sophia had a wonderful milestone birthday, when she celebrated her 100th!  She still had her kind smile, and bright eyes.

Sophia 5

 

After a long, happy, life, Sophia passed away at Providence Manor in Kingston, on Sunday, November 4th, 2012, at the age of 101.

She may be gone, but never forgotten, and many of us will treasure the memories of our childhood visits to Haggis’ Candy store.

She will always be fondly remembered as the ‘Candy Lady’.

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Read the fascinating story of Sophia Haggis Nee in “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”.  Learn about Sophia’s childhood in Peterborough, her grandfather the Lockmaster on the Trent Canal, her grandmother Sarah, the published Poet, and find out about her great uncle Samuel Lowry and his scandalous court case.  Read about her days as a teenager at the Perth High School, and her chance meeting with the influential Mrs. Jack Stewart. Learn about Sophia’s most unusual trail-blazing career in Kingston, Ontario, before moving back to Perth to take over her ailing father’s business.  Read memories of the happy days at the candy store, the customers, the ‘regulars’, and some surprising things about this much-loved lady and well-respected woman entrepreneur in the town of Perth, Ontario.

LCCalling poster for web png

Book Launch “Lanark County Calling”

Lanark County Calling:  All Roads Lead Home

Travel back in time, through Lanark County, and beyond, in this collection of stories. The adventure begins in Perth, Ontario, where you’ll meet trailblazer, Sophia Haggis, a local confectioner, also known as ‘the Candy Lady’. Next, sample some popcorn at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, while you meet the folks who made sure your night at the movies went off without a hitch. Your next stop is Ferguson Falls, where you may encounter a ghostly apparition, searching for their lost love, along the shores of the Mississippi River.  Join the unforgettable party at one of the most popular country music festivals of our time – the legendary Ompah Stomp.  Meet the Witch of Plum Hollow, an Irish fortune-teller, who helped local police solve crimes. Come along on this captivating journey, through some of the most intriguing places in Eastern Ontario.

Saturday, September 29th,  12 noon – 3 p.m.

at The Book Nook and Other Treasures,

60 Gore St. E., Perth, Ontario

Book launch for blog

 

7th book in the series of Lanark County stories

 

Lanark County Calling - book cover Aug

 

Acknowledgement:

Thanks to those who ‘pulled back the curtain’ for an insider’s glimpse behind the scenes at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, Ontario:  Jan Stepniak, Gordon Evoy, Violet Gariepy, Scott Irvine Jr., and Tammy DeSalvo.

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Special thanks to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, and also to Marilyn Taylor Dunham for sharing their memories, stories, and special recollections of the legendary Ompah Stomp.

 

for poster

 

The Legendary Ompah Stomp

Visit this unforgettable party through it’s beginnings in 1978, through it’s glory days, up to the year 2000, its final year.

ompah stomp for blog

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A Night at the Movies:  The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls

Discover the history of this popular destination, and meet the fascinating folks who played key roles in this beloved movie theatre!

soper theatre for blog

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Sophia Haggis – Perth’s Candy Lady

Meet trail-blazer Sophia Haggis  –   take a trip down memory lane and visit Sophia in the pretty town of Perth, and sample some of her mouth-watering confections.

 

haggis candy for blog

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The Ghost of Ferguson Falls

Go back to the early days in Drummond township when the loggers came to town, sang their songs, spent their pay on liquor, and danced ’til they wore out the floorboards at Charlie Hollinger’s Hotel.  Meet local lad Jimmy, whose life ended all too soon.

lumber jacks

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The Witch of Plum Hollow

Visit this pretty hamlet, and meet an interesting Irish lady with some special abilities.  Discover the people she helped, and the crimes she solved.

witch of p h for blog

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Join us at the book launch on Saturday September 29th from noon to 3 p.m.

All are welcome.

See you there!

 

(lots of local names and familiar places in this collection of stories!)

Lanark Museum – Our Visit to the Past

Lanark sign

Just a short drive from the pretty town of Perth, along the Lanark Road, lush, green, farmers fields welcome us into the Township of Lanark Highlands.  We follow the blue skies, and warm, summer winds, into the village of Lanark, and pull up near our destination –  the Lanark and District Museum.

Ann and Arlene in front of museum

Greeted warmly by Anne Graham, we make our way up the well-worn steps, into a very special place, where the caretakers and guardians of our history, preserve our memories, our stories, and our heritage.

 

Events board Lanark Museum

 

If you walk along George Street in Lanark, you will see a sign out front, greeting visitors,  listing upcoming events, and welcoming all, with no charge for admission, and donations accepted.  Anyone seeking knowledge, or in search of their history, is assured that they’ve come to the right place.

Not far from the front entrance, a plaque displays the names of those who went above and beyond, volunteering their time and expertise, throughout the decades, to keep the museum running smoothly.

 

volunteers Lanark Museum

 

A photo on the wall reminds us of those who played key roles in the earliest days of the museum.  Their foresight and dedication to preserving our local history leaves a lasting legacy, that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

Key players Lanark Museum

 

Many of us have ancestors from the area who served in the military, and the Lanark Museum has many displays highlighting our local heroes.  Perhaps your ancestor is one of these soldiers who has been featured in the museum’s display cases.

War memorials Lanark Museum

 

The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.

 

Roll of Honour case

 

There are a tremendous number of local photographs.   It’s great fun to see the old cars, some of the buildings no longer with us, and even recognize some of the smiling faces in these photos.

 

Local photos

 

The museum is fortunate to have the help of two students for the summer.  Meagan was kind enough to document our visit using her photography skills.

 

Meghan Lanark County

 

There is a wonderful display of original telegrams, some sent, and some received, by the Lavant Station, many years ago.  These are real treasures, and give us some insight into the past and how different life was in those days!  There are lots of familiar surnames on these telegrams, and some even provide a window into our family histories!

 

Telegrams

 

Along with the countless documents displayed there are also some lovely artifacts.  The old wash bowl reminds us of the times before indoor plumbing was standard in our homes.  We can imagine how different our ancestor’s lives might have been, and how carrying water from an outside well into the home was a daily event for these pioneers.

 

wash bowl

 

If your ancestors lived in McDonald’s Corners there is a wonderful remembrance displayed, honoring those who served their country, so well, and so faithfully.

 

McDonald's Corners war memorial

 

There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.

 

SS8 War memorial

 

Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.

 

SS 12

 

The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.

 

SS13 Drummond

 

Being a history buff, it wasn’t easy to tear myself away from all of the exhibits in the museum, and get down to business, and read a couple of stories from my books.  I chose two stories from “Lanark County Kid – My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”.  I read one about a childhood visit to Lanark, and shopping for back-to-school clothing at the Kitten Mill.

My second story was “Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd”.  Our family often went on Sunday drives, and a visit to Balderson for a bag of soft squeaky curd, was something not to be missed!  In the story, we go behind the counter, and watch the Master Cheesemaker, Omar Matte, and the others, while they stir the vats of heated milk, and then press the curds into big wooden circular presses.  Considering that the factory is no longer there, it is a precious memory to have witnessed this process.

 

book table Lanark Museum

 

There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.

 

Kitten Mill 1

 

The Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the artifacts and documents from the days of the Glenayr Kitten mills, and reminding us of the impact to employment and the economic influence to the village.

Kitten Mill 2

I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.

 

Kitten 3

 

One of the special highlights for me was a visit with the Shamrock Quilt.  While we can’t be sure of the date of its origin, I recall seeing it displayed at the museum many, many years ago, and was delighted to see it once again.  This quilt is embroidered with the names of local families.  If your family lived in the area it would be worth the trip to see this marvelous quilt, and discover your ancestor’s name embroidered in green.

 

Shamrock quilt 1

 

The Shamrock Quilt holds a special connection for Doris Quinn and myself.   My Dad’s Aunt, Julia Stafford, married William Quinn, and both the Quinn and Stafford families are among the many, many, names on this precious artifact.  It was a wonderful moment to be able to stand beside Doris, and see those names from the past, those who are no longer with us, but remain forever in our hearts.

 

Shamrock 2

Photo below:   Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.

Julia Stafford Bill Quinn

 

The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.

 

Shamrock 3

There are many other squares that were not photographed.  Anyone with ancestors from this area may want to visit the quilt themselves for a more in depth look.

 

Shamrock 4

 

Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.

 

Shamrock 5

 

A final square from this historic piece.  Hopefully the museum will photograph and digitize the entire quilt.  That might be an interesting and very worthwhile project for the summer students!

 

Shamrock 6

 

The late afternoon held a wonderful surprise – a visit from an old friend Susan Newberry Sarsfield.  It was a real delight to visit with Susan, her Mom, and her daughter!

Susan at the Museum

 

Like all good things, our visit to the Lanark Museum came to an end, and our host Anne Graham, kindly walked us out and into the sunny July afternoon.

It was a day filled with history, and the importance of preserving our past.  There are few tasks more essential than being the caretakers of our heritage.  The Lanark Museum is the proud custodian of our region’s artifacts, memories, stories, and treasures.

 

street in front of museum

Many thanks to the kind folks at the Lanark and District Museum for hosting us, and sharing their collection of priceless treasures.  Thanks also to the visitors who stopped by to share some stories and recollections.   Anne, Norma, Gene, Doris – it was so nice to spend time with you – thanks for helping to make our day special.

 

As we said goodbye, and headed down the highway,  we are struck by the pristine beauty of the Lanark Highlands, the clear waters, the fresh air, and the greenery as far as the eye can see, on this beautiful summer day.

 

Until we meet again…..

 

 

Country road summer

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com
Stories for the Lanark Museum readings from:
“Lanark County Kid:  My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”
‘Lanark Sweaters – Soft as a Kitten’
‘Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd’
ISBN 978-0-9877026-16