Port Elmsley – Drive-In Dreamin’

Bill Willliams opened Port Elmsley May 1953

Someone decided one night long ago, that we should save a few dollars, and put a couple of people in the trunk of a car, so they could get in for free, at the Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre.

I guess we can just chalk this one up, along with the other peculiar things that we did as teenagers.  Luckily no one was hurt, but for the three bucks they each saved on admission, it was a pretty undignified way to arrive at the movies.

It’s possible that we weren’t the first ones to try that little stunt.  After all, the Drive-In had been open for a long time before any of us had ventured there.

port-elmsley-concession

It was in September 1952 that ‘The Perth Courier’ ran a short article about a Drive-In being constructed at Port Elmsley.  The article stated that it was the first to be fabricated in this district, and it was built by Gordon White of Ottawa for W.J. ‘Bill’ Williams, of Newboro.

Bill Williams Port Elmsley Drive In

Bill Williams, founder of Port Elmsley Drive In

The article went on to say that it would be assembled on a ten acre property, a half mile south of Highway 15, and that the Drive-In would have a capacity for 300 cars. It would feature a design first of its kind in Ontario, where the projector booth would be in a two-story building, nearly 400 feet from the screen.  This was a distance that was 150 feet greater than any of the other Drive-In theatres at that time.  It was to open the following May of 1953, at a total cost of $75,000.  True to their word, they opened on schedule, and called the new Drive-In ‘the Showplace of the Golden Triangle’.

port-elmsley-ad-1953

Port Elmsley was indeed a great location for a Drive-In theatre, because it’s situated about halfway between Perth and Smiths Falls.  There were always droves of cottagers and tourists staying around Rideau Ferry, and the surrounding lakes in the summer. There were also many residents of the towns and villages nearby, that enjoyed a drive up Highway 15, on a warm summer night, to see some great movies.

port-elmsley-1966

Because the Drive-In opened in 1953, many folks had parked in that huge parking lot and viewed many movies on that big screen long before my friends and I ever made it there in the ‘70s. In fact, it was more than twenty years after it opened that it became one of our familiar haunts each summer, as we passed the nights away, under the stars.

Some of us were lucky enough to have gone to the Drive-In as children, dressed in pajamas, playing on the teeter-totter and swings between the first row of cars and the giant screen. As the sun sunk low in the sky, we were having the time of our lives. What could be better than staying up past your bedtime with a whole bunch of other kids, the aroma of popcorn in the air, and watching the cartoons at the beginning of the show?

port-elmsley-lets-all-go

Every kid knew the words to the concession jingle ‘Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, to get ourselves a treat.”  When we heard that song it was our cue to start heading back to our parents’ cars, because the movie would be starting soon.  By the time they played the Chilly Dilly song, about the big, juicy, dill pickles, we were in the back seat, with our pillows and blankets, all ready for the show to begin.  Much to the delight of most parents I’m sure, we were asleep by the time the second feature began, and this allowed them some peace and quiet, and time alone – well, almost alone.

port-elmsley-chilly-dilly-1

port-elmsley-chilly-dilly-2

We’d usually begin assembling all of our gear during the afternoon.  First, we’d pack up a bottle of Windex, and a roll of paper towels, because there was nothing worse than having a big messy streak or some bugs splattered right in the middle of your window.

Mosquito coils were also vital to a relaxing evening.  Because of the speaker hanging off of the front window, we weren’t able to close it all the way, so burning a mosquito coil would take care of any of the little pests that flew into the car.  If none of the gang had any, we’d have to head out to Canadian Tire on Highway 7, and pick some up before the show.  We’d place one of the little green coils on its small metal stand, set it on the dashboard and light it up. Many years later I happened to read on the side of the package that those coils were for outdoor use only.  Oh dear!

port-elmsley-mosquitos

port-elmsley-mosquito-coil

A couple of pillows and a blanket, were a nice touch, and made movie-viewing a comfy, cozy event.  We’d also bring a small flashlight, because nothing was worse for us girls than stumbling around on the gravel path, trying to find our way to the washroom, on a dark, moonless night; especially right after watching a scary scene in a horror movie. That just didn’t work for us.  Sometimes we’d bring a roll of t.p. from home, in case they ran out, which happened once in a while during the all-night movie marathons.

port-elmsley-1976

I still recall the crunch of the gravel, as we slowed down to enter through the gates, into the Drive-In, and began scouting for a good spot.  A good spot to us was front-row-centre, and enough space for the three cars to park side by side, so that we could socialize.  We also had to make sure that all three speakers worked, so we would pull into the spots and test the speakers, otherwise we’d have to move all three cars to a new location, maybe a row behind.  Of course every row farther back that you were you would have to contend with people getting in and out of their cars in front of you or turning on their cars to clear their windows because they were fogged up for some reason.  So, the best real estate in the lot was the front row, right in the center of the screen, and if we went early enough the best spots would be ours.

I think the lads liked having spots near the front, not just for the sake of the movie, but so that their cars were together, and very visible in the front row.  There’s no denying that they all had sweet cars.  Those three cars managed to get some looks, touring around town, and had been known to burn up more than a little rubber on the quarter mile runs down Roger’s Road.

port-elmsley-1970-mustang

port-elmsley-1972-camaro

port-elmsley-plymouth-fury

The warm summer air was filled with strains of Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’, or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and typically, a little bit of our favourite space-cowboy, Steve Miller, singing “The Joker’; a song that you could say became a symbol of  the times. Some have said that it was an era of music like no other, before or since, and the sounds of our generation could be heard throughout the parking lot of the Drive-In, on those sultry summer nights, in Port Elmsley.

Widge Williams projector

Widge Williams, Projectionist, son of owner, Bill Williams

port-elmsley-screen

port-elmsley-speakers

As the sun slid down lower in the sky, the horizon glowed, first in a dusty pink, then a soft purple. There was always one car that began honking their horn, because they believed that it was dark enough to see the movie.  After a minute or two, more people started to honk, and then shortly after that the show would begin.

One of the things that we enjoyed the most were the ‘Dusk to Dawn’ shows, where the first movie would begin at dusk, and the movies would continue all night, until the early morning, when it became too light to see the picture on the screen.  The movies were played back to back, and were often horror films like ‘The Exorcist’, or ‘The Omen’, or ‘Jaws’. I recall one night that my friend and myself, even after having consumed large quantities of pop, did not want to use the washroom, just in case that giant crazy shark ‘Jaws’ had somehow compromised the plumbing system out in Port Elmsley.  We just weren’t taking any chances.

port-elmsley-exorcist

port-elmsley-jaws

We saw many nights come and go in Port Elmsley.  There were some beautiful, sleek, muscle cars in those days, parked row after row, paint glistening in the moonlight.  We made numerous trips to the concession stand, in an attempt to fill our unquenchable teenage appetites.  We even had a few scary trips in the dark, giggling on our way to the washroom and back. We screamed a few blood-curdling screams, as did some of the folks in the neighboring vehicles one evening, I recall, as the character Jason appeared in his hockey mask in the thriller ‘Hallowe’en’.

port-elmsley-make-out

Today, the Port Elmsley Drive-In is one of a handful of drive-ins still operating in Ontario. Leave it to the folks in Lanark County to know a gem when they see one, and to continue to go out, and enjoy movies, under the stars.  I hope that in the future that the little kids in their p.j.s, young people, and not so young people, will take the time to visit the drive-in and have as much fun as we did.  Take a trip to Port Elmsley and make some of your own memories!

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In its heyday, Port Elmsley had many residents, and some of the family names that were common in that area were:  Armstrong, Taylor, Stone, Hunter, Weatherhead, Best, Couch, Wicklum, Weekes, VanDusen, Seabrook, Shaw, Sherwood, O’Hara, Moore, Dudgeon, Lavender, Findlay, McTavish, McVeety, Beveridge, and Clements.

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Books:

Spend a hot summer night at the Port Elmsley Drive-In, and meet some of the fascinating people, with memories from former owner, Jan Stepniak, and recollections from Laura Williams, daughter of founder and owner, Bill Williams. Read their accounts of those special nights under the stars, and what really happened behind the scenes of this beloved local gem, in “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”

Lanark County Collection cover 20 02 21

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Available at:

The Book Nook, Perth, ON – https://thebooknookperth.com/

The Bookworm, Perth, ON – https://www.bookwormperth.com/

Mill Street Books, Almonte, ON – https://millstreetbooks.com/

or at http://www.staffordwilson.com

Port Elmsley banner

The story “Dusk to Dawn in Port Elmsley” is part of a collection of stories in the book “Lanark County Chronicle”

lanark-county-chronicle-for-website

Available at The Book Nook, and The Bookworm,  in Perth, Mill St. Books in Almonte,

or on online

Paranormal Perth: Garden Ghosts on Gore Street

Have you experienced any of the 10 signs of paranormal activity?

1. Disappearance and re-emergence of objects in the house

2. Finding unidentified objects in the house

3. Appearance of unexplained marks around the house, e.g. scratch marks on the walls, odd marks on cupboards or walls

4. Hearing sounds of doors closing or opening, banging, laughter, walking, speaking, etc. in the absence of any source

5. Sudden changes in temperature

6. Lights or electronic equipment going on or off repeatedly or not working without any reason

7. Mobile phones not working

8. Cats or dogs whining or barking unnecessarily

9. Feeling a presence in the house

10. Feeling of being watched

Ghost in the garden

A chill that travels down your spine, the unexplained feeling of dread, or a sudden drop in temperature, are physical signs that many have experienced in a haunted locale. How do places become this way? Why do spirits linger in certain buildings, or even in certain rooms?

ghost 1

Some say that the history of a building is almost always a primary factor. When a building is very old, and has a long history of human habitation, it’s far more likely that someone over the years has experienced strong negative feelings in that space.

ghost 2

Senator Matheson of Perth, and his Beautiful Daughters…

It’s been more than 200 years since the first settlers established the town of Perth, Ontario,and many of the beautiful limestone buildings date back into the early 1800s. Some of these historic, old, buildings, have changed hands many times over the years, like the present Perth Museum on Gore Street.

Roderick Matheson’s home was one of the largest and finest in Perth.  Being a Senator, he often held lavish parties in the beautiful gardens to the side and rear of the stately home.

The magnificent garden was lush and green, with apple and plum trees, gooseberries and currants,  peonies, bachelor buttons, and row upon row of breathtaking, richly-scented rose-bushes.

The garden was an impressive backdrop, where he entertained the area politicians, the wealthy, and prominent business owners.

His seven daughters – Mary, Rose, Flora, Isabella, Joan, Anna, and Eliza – each one strikingly beautiful in her own way, milled about the garden at the Senator’s parties, greeting guests, and giving them personal tours of the impressive grounds.

Some local say that the daughters were so attached to these gardens, and this impressive limestone home, that their spirits lingered, long after they departed this earth, and may still be seen at dusk, tending the roses, strolling in the moonlight…..

Matheson house for blog

Some may not realize that the Matheson family occupied the impressive stone manor as their family home for almost a century.

When the last family member, Eliza Matheson died in the house in 1929, the building was sold, and became the elegant Birkacre Tea Room from 1930-38, operated by William and Jessie Kinloch.  Soups, sandwiches and afternoon tea were their specialties, served in the beautiful garden, during the fine weather months.

AFternoon tea Birkacre July 21 1933 p 1

Birkacre Inn Aug 3 1934 p 28

From 1938-46 the building was called The Vanity Fair, a posh restaurant owned by Clifford and Alice Carr.

Vanity Fair Christmas Dec 23 1938 p 2

Strong Vibrations from the Spirit World

It was said that during the late 1930s and early 1940s members of the spirit world became particularly active in both the main building, as well as the gardens, as the owners played hosts to several prominent clairvoyants, at the Vanity Fair.  Psychic Medium Madame Cornel was a regular guest during 1938.  Madame Cornel was said to be a gifted medium, and people from the area flocked to the Vanity Fair to hear her psychic predictions.

Vanity Fair Nov 11 1938 p 10 Mme Cornel

“The Perth Courier”, Nov. 11, 1938

clairvoyant 1930s

In 1939, the Vanity Fair played host to another well-known Clairvoyant from Ireland – Madame Kildare.   It has been said that when Diana Kildare sat at the table and laid out her 40-year old tarot cards that you could hear a pin drop in the room.

Unexplained Noises and Lights Along Gore Street

There were many mysterious noises and lights seen both in the home, and in the garden, thought to be spirits brought back by the visiting psychics and mediums.

Vanity Fair Madame Kildare Apr 21 1939 p 5

“The Perth Courier” April 21, 1939

seance

1930s seance

The Matheson family, particularly the beautiful daughters, didn’t seem to want to leave their home…..

garden ghost 3

Of the seven daughters in the family, only one married; and the other six girls remained at home, lavishing much time and energy tending the lush garden at the back of the property.

Garden ghost 2

Although some paranormal researchers say that violence or sorrow may cause a spirit to feel bound to the world, until justice is rendered, this is not always the case.

Some say it can be the strong attachment to a particular location, and that spirits may return to a place where they spent their happiest times. It’s been said that these feelings of contentment, of the person never wanting to leave, can seep into a place, either in the walls of a building, or the soil of the ground itself, and leave a certain ghostly energy or impression.

Researchers claim that ghosts tend to stay in places that they considered to be their own during their former lives, and areas that were once very closely linked to themselves as a living human being.

Matheson House garden 2

photo:  Matheson House and rear garden  (now the Perth Museum)

Matheson House garden 1

The Matheson House family garden

– For many decades, where many have reported seeing shadowy figures at dusk, tending the plants and flowers.

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The Perth-Upon-Tay Legion bought the building in 1947, and it was their meeting place until 1967, when it became the Perth Museum.

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Today, Matheson House is home to the Perth Museum, located at 11 Gore Street East in Perth.

Matheson_House_Perth_Ontario_2012_1

A view of the formal Dining Room of Matheson House, restored to its former glory as a stately family home.

Perth Museum Dining Room

Matheson House Drawing Room – beautifully restored, one of the many opulent rooms at the Perth Museum

Matheson House drawing room

On your next visit to Perth, Ontario, step back in time at the Perth Museum, where you will see lovingly-restored rooms, as they were during the years when the prominent Matheson family occupied the home.

Matheson House garden

Remember to stop by the garden, where the lovely young Matheson daughters carefully tended their plants and flowers, and entertained prominent guests.

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Don’t be surprised if you sense something unusual as you tour the old building.  You may feel a draft, or see a flash of light, or movement.

ghost 3

You may even feel as though someone is watching you!

ghost 7

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For more information on the Perth Museum (former home of the Matheson Family) 

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Tel: 613-267-1947

11 Gore Street East, Perth, ON, K7H 1H9

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ghost 4

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Read about an eerie encounter with the spirit world that took place in the 1960s.  What happened on October 24th, 1967 when a young girl wandered into the garden at Matheson House?  Who did she encounter? What happened next?

Discover who or what was lurking, in the haunted garden at Matheson House in:

 ‘Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples’. ISBN 978-0-9877026-47

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Lanark County Connections small book cover

http://www.staffordwilson.com

(some photos courtesy of the Perth Museum)

Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd

Whenever a kid in Lanark County heard the word ‘Balderson’ spoken at their home, most of the time their thoughts turned to cheese.  The Balderson Cheese Factory was a short drive up the Lanark Road from our place, and they made the best cheese in the world.  People came from miles around to buy Balderson Cheese, curds, and butter, and our family was no different. Usually a visit to the cheese factory took place as part of a Sunday drive.

Balderson was a small hamlet situated about halfway between Perth and Lanark and was one of the earliest communities settled along with Perth.  Balderson, a suburb was also settled partly by soldiers, and partly by Scottish immigrants from Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands.  It was founded by Sergeant Balderson in June 1816.

When we spent time in Balderson during the 1960s and 1970s some of the family names were: Bell, Burns, Davidson, Devlin, Haley, Jones, Kennedy, King, McGregor, McIntyre, McTavish, Myers and Newman.

 

Balderson Cheese factory 1954

The ‘new’  factory, built after the 1929 fire

cheese curds

cheese curds

The Balderson Cheese Factory had already been operating for many decades by the time I first remember it.  The factory was established 1881.  It was formed by a group of dairy farmers of Lanark County.  They were known as the Farmer’s Cheese and Butter Association of Balderson. They decided to use the excess milk that they were each producing on their farms, build a factory, produce Cheddar cheese and sell it locally. They built a small, plain-looking, wood-frame building near the Balderson Corners crossroads.

Balderson Cheese factory

 

Loading dock Balderson Cheese factory

Balderson Cheese Factory – Loading Dock

In the early days, each dairy farmer would bring their milk by horse and wagon and drop it off at the factory.  Later, to become more efficient, special milk wagons were built and routes were established and workers from the factory would go from farm to farm picking up the milk.

Balderson 1905

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 20, 1962

 

Just twelve years after opening, the Balderson Cheese Factory was one of the twelve factories that contributed cheese to create the ‘Mammoth’ cheese for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The old timers said that it was six feet high and weighed over 20,000 lbs.

 

Mammoth cheese

In 1929, a fire burned the original factory and all that was left was the concrete floor.

Balderson rebuilt

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 13, 1929

 

Although Dad was familiar with the original factory, we had only seen the one that was rebuilt in 1930.  It was a plain-looking building and was built in a similar style to many of the other local cheese factories, in and around Perth.  There was a small sign outside and the inside they had a very small counter and sold three products: cheese –  yellow or coloured orange, cheese curds, and butter. You could buy mild cheese or old cheese, and Dad preferred the older ‘sharp’ cheese and liked to enjoy it with a slice of Mother’s homemade apple pie. The cheese was cut from rounds, wrapped in waxed paper and sealed with a piece of scotch tape.  There was one person working behind the counter that would get your cheese and ring it up on the cash register. Everyone else worked in the back.

Balderson Cheese factory cheese-maker

Cheese-Maker,  Balderson Cheese Factory

Dad would often know the person working behind the counter, and he’d ask if we could go back and watch them make the cheese.  Now, that was really interesting!  There was always a distinct smell in the factory, even at the front counter.  It smelled kind of like buttermilk, and the air always seemed very warm and humid.  It was behind the counter where all the magic took place.

Balderson 1962

‘The Perth Courier’, Sept. 20, 1962

 

There were huge metal vats, filled with heated milk.  I don’t know what they use now, but in those days, they added rennet to the milk to make it curdle.  Rennet was an acid which could be found in the fourth stomach of calves and was used for digestion.  When the rennet was added to the milk it curdled and formed into clumps.  The workers in the factory would walk around with long wooden paddles and stir the vats.  Some were newly curdling and were very easy to stir, others in later stages required quite a bit of muscle to stir because the curds were forming in large, heavy clumps.  In the last vat the salt was added and some of the curds were strained out and sold, but the remainder would be pressed into huge round wooden molds.  The molds were lined with cheesecloth so that the cheese wouldn’t stick when it was time to remove it.

At the rear of the old factory, double walls were built two feet thick, with sawdust packed inside as insulation to keep the cheese cool as it cured.  After the cheese was strained and pressed into molds it was stored in the curing room. The whey, the liquid that was strained from the cheese, was stored in big tanks.  In the old days the whey was returned to the farmers to use as feed, but later when tighter government regulations were introduced the whey was dumped.  Each cheese was waxed, boxed, weighed, molded, inspected, cooled, turned and shipped. The cheese was regularly inspected by Government inspectors and the stock turns over every ten days. The cheese remained in the curing room until it was shipped.

Balderson cheese vat of curd and whey

Vat of Curd and Whey

 

Cheese making was an art form in Balderson and their Master Cheese Maker when I was a kid, was Omar Matte. Mr. Matte had begun making cheese when he was fifteen working for his father in St. Albert.  By the 1960s he had been making cheese for 27 years. In those days, Mr. Matte would mold 120 tons of cheese per year and most was shipped to the Sanderson Grading Station in Oxford where it went on to foreign markets. Ten tons of cheese on average was sold locally in the Balderson area. Over 100 tons of cheese and 9,000 pounds of butter produced yearly by the mid 1960s and sold all over North America.

There were many Master Cheese Makers before him – Chris J. Bell of Perth, James Somerville of Boyd’s, Walter Partridge of the Scotch Line, James Prentice of Perth, Charles Gallery of Perth, Robert Lucas of Jasper and Percy George of Christie Lake.

 

Balderson Cheesemakers

1881-1887  W. Brown

1888-1891  J. Milton 1888-1891

1892-1901  W.D. Simes

1902-1904  E.E. Haley

1905-1911  J.M. Scott

1912-1917  T.K. Whyte

1918-1921  M. Haley

1922-1929  A. Quinn

1930  G. Spencer

1931-1937  P. Kirkham

1937-1939  J.L. Prentice

1939-1941  C.J. Bell

1941-1942  J. Somerville

1943  W. Partridge

1944-1955  C. Gallery

1956-1958  R. Lucas

1959-1960  P. George

1961-1966  O. Matte

1966-1974  Y. Leroux

1975-1980  L. Lalonde

1980  N. Matte

As the years passed by, the cheese gained tremendous popularity, news of the product spread, and the little business was bought by a large company.  After many decades the Balderson Cheese business has changed hands many times.

You can still find Balderson cheese today, and many types and grades of cheese available in all of the major supermarkets.

I smile whenever I see the Balderson name and think of the little hamlet outside of Perth. I remember our Sunday drives to the old cheese factory, and how they made the best curd in the world!

 

cheese curd 2kid eating cheese curd

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

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

LC Kid

available in local book stores: The Book Nook & Other Treasures, and  ‘Bookworm’ in Perth, Mill Street Books in Almonte
Vintage Photos: ‘Perth Remembered’
Newsclippings: ‘The Perth Courier’

Lanark County Dance Halls 1950s, 60s & 70s

Antler Lodge Opening Dance

Antler Lodge image for book 3

First kiss, first drink, maybe even a first love, were some of the memories made at the old style country dance halls in Lanark County in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Close to home, these community halls opened their doors on the May long weekend, and became the backdrop for cottage crushes and summer romances. With wooden floors polished to a high shine, and the snack-bars stocked with crowd-pleasing favourites, local bands entertained the crowds into the wee hours.

Some were neighbourhood musicians, and many were bands from out of town, but most used a single microphone and one or two small amplifiers.   Parking lots became passion pits, and offered privacy for underage drinking, and occasional brawls.

Music echoed across the big lakes and rivers, keeping cottagers awake, and causing parents to wonder what was going on down at the dance hall. Whether you preferred country, big-band or rock and roll there were venues to suit every taste and style.

antler-lodge-exterior-jpg

See if you can remember these local favourites:

Bill Hannah and the Nightingales

Bill Munro and his Country Rockets

CFRA Happy Wanderers: Ken Reynolds, Ward Allen, Bob King, Vince Lebeau, Lynn Strauff, Marie King

Country Harmony Boys

Country Hoppers: Garry ‘Gizz’ Watt, Fred ‘Pappy’ Ryan, Paul ‘Hiker’ Gurry, Larry ‘Dooley’ Protheroe

Country Rhythm Kings

Don Gilchrist and his Dancers

Family Brown: Tracey, Lawanda, Joe & Barry Brown, Dave Dennison, Ron Sparling

Fred Paquin’s Orchestra (featuring Don Cochrane)

Jerry Badour and His Westernaires

Kenny Jackson’s Valley Cruisers: Harry Adrain, Raymond Donaldson, Gary Barr

Lee Miller’s Orchestra

Lockwood’s Orchestra

Mac Beattie and the Melodiers: Reg Hill, Garnet Scheel, Gaetan Fairfield, Bob Whitney

Mallen’s Melodiers

Mississippi Ramblers

Mississippi River Boys

Riders of the Southern Trails

Ron McMunn and his Country Cousins

Symington’s Orchestra

Tex Montana’s Cowboy Band

Top Hats

Travelons

Valley Ramblers

Wilson Sisters

…and the dance halls where they entertained us:

Antler Lodge

Antler lodge poster

Balderson Hall

Bolingbroke ABC Hall

ABC Hall Bolingbroke

ABC Hall – Bolingbroke

Carleton Place Town Hall

Carleton Place Town Hall 1930s

Carleton Place Town Hall – 1930s

Fallbrook Orange Hall

Franktown Centennial Hall

Centennial Hall Franktown

Franktown Hall

Franktown Centennial Hall

Maberly Community Hall

Maberly community hall

Maberly Community Hall – interior

McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall

McDonald's Corners Hall

McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall

McDonald's Corners dance

May 5, 1960,p.4 “The Perth Courier”

Perth Town Hall

Perth Town Hall vintage photo

Perth Town Hall – vintage photo

Rideau Ferry Inn

Rideau Ferry Inn

Rideau Ferry Inn

Lanark Village – Stanley Lodge

Stanley Lodge Lanark

article on Stanley Lodge – “The Perth Courier”, Feb. 7, 1957 p.10

Watson’s Corners Community Hall

Watson's Corners dance

“The Perth Courier” May 5, 1960, p. 4

Wemyss Orange Hall

Wemyss orange hall

Westport Scott’s Ballroom

Scott's ballroom Westport

Scott’s Ballroom in Westport, Bedford Street

Scott's ballroom poster

White Hall

Don White:  “The Mississippi River Boys started playing in White, in 1956 or 1957. The dances in White were every Saturday night from late April or early May, depending upon the weather, and running until the end of deer hunting. The season finished with the Deer Hunters Ball. Back then you couldn’t play past midnight on Saturday so the dance was from 9 to 12. I remember working the door (25 cents admission) starting in 1958. I began playing drums with the band in Lanark, on New Years Eve, 1958.”

Mississippi River Boys at the White Hall, Highway 511, mid- 1960s  (below)  photo: courtesy of Don White

Left to Right: Ed White, Don White, Doug White, George Fyfe, Walter Cameron, Eleanor White

Mississippi River Boys White Hall Hwy 511

Take a trip down memory lane, back to the old style country dance halls, and the folks who kept us dancing until the wee hours, in the story called  “Antler Lodge:  Dosey-Doe Along the Rideau”   from the book  “Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples”

LC Connections

Antler lodge quote

photos of Antler Lodge, used with permission – Graeme Hoatson Beattie

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

Margaret McLean Antler Lodge

Margaret  ‘Marnie’  (Jackson) McLean, owner, Antler Lodge

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

 

Dick McLean Antler Lodge 1964

Dick McLean, owner, at Antler Lodge, 1964

…………

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.

Dick McLean Antler Lodge

Dick McLean, owner, Antler Lodge

 

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.”

………

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

………

“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.”

……….

mystery fire

investigation

why

…………………

**  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!

 

………………..

photos of Antler Lodge, used with permission – Graeme Hoatson Beattie
photos of Dick and Margaret ‘Marnie’ McLean, owners of Antler Lodge, used with permission of Carol Ann Moore McDonald (Carol is the niece of Dick and Marnie McLean, on her mother’s side)
photos of Orok-Kehoe wedding, used with permission – Beryl Orok
photo: Antler Lodge poster – printed by Thompson Printing, Perth,  used with permission – Jim Winton

………………

 

(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

……………..

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

more on Lanark County Dance Halls

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners

‘The Corners’ was a phrase heard often in our small community.  The Corners referred to DeWitt’s Corners, a mile or so west of our farm, and was located at the crossroads of the Third Line, Munro’s Side road and Cameron’s Side road.

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.  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.

St. Vincent de Paul Church

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.

A bike ride down the Third Line often meant that my friends and I would gather around the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store.  It was a central meeting place where we could sit and talk.  Between us, we could usually scrounge together enough pocket change to buy some penny-candy at the store.

Shep with the Millstone

DeWitt’s Corners was a busy place in the 1960s and 1970s, with cars stopping at Cavanagh’s store for gas and groceries, or zooming up the Third Line toward Christie Lake.  Christie Lake was a tourist destination with accommodations of all kinds for seasonal visitors.  Norvic Lodge, Arliedale Lodge, and Jordan’s Cottages, were some of the busiest places in the summer months.

Cavanagh's store black and white

 

Across the Third Line from Cavanagh’s store was the old Bathurst cheese factory.  The factory produced cheese until about 1954 and then ceased operations as other larger factories began to edge out the smaller producers.

DeWitt Cheese factory

Photo: old Bathurst cheese factory in the background with Helen and Jim Cavanagh and Shep.

Not far from the ‘Corners’, just up Cameron’s Side Road was the little white school house – S.S. # 4 Bathurst, where many of the members of our family attended school.  Mary Jordan taught all eight grades, keeping order in a compact classroom, heated with a wood stove, and bursting with energetic farm kids.

S S # 4 class in 1968

Front row – Brent Scott, Carl Gamble,John Conboy,John Cameron, Peter Kerr, Bev Miller
2nd row – Standing Kim Kyle,Betty Conboy, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan , Nancy Radford, Beverly White, sitting in front of Nancy Radford is Bobby-Jean Gamble and beside her is Mary White
Beside Kim Kyle is Brent Cameron, Bryan Tysick, Maxine Closs with her arms around Judy Radford, behind her is Kenny Perkins, Brad Kyle, Susan Turnbull, Darlene Charby,
Back row Randy Sargeant, Kent Shanks, Mrs Carrie Barr, Doug Jordan, Brian Miller and Mark Greenley

S S # 4 School for book

S S # 4 school from Janice # 2

Back row: Mrs Carrie Barr, Mary White(in front) Beverly White, Anne Marie Kyle, Nancy Radford, Bobby-Jean Gamble, Maxine Closs, Darlene Charby, Doug Jordan, Brent Scott, Carl Gamble, JoAnne Cavanagh, Bev Miller, Judy Radford, Betty Conboy, Kim Kyle, Janice Jordan, Susan Turnbull
Front row: Brent Cameron , Peter Kerr, Mark Greenley, Raymond Shanks, Randy Sargeant, Brad Kyle, Brian Miller, Ken Perkins, Kent Shanks, Brian Tysick, Dan Charby, John Conboy, John Camerom

 

When Mary Jordan wasn’t busy teaching eight different grades, she coached the DeWitt’s Corners softball team.  Both of my sisters Judy and, Jackie, played on the championship team in 1959. My brother Roger was on the team in 1964.

DeWitt's softball champs 1959

 

DeWitt's Softball Champs 1964

 

FRONT ROW David Scott and Bill Cavanagh
MIDDLE ROW Earl Conboy and Ronnie Brown
BACK ROW; Arthur Perkins, Roger Stafford Norman Kerr Arnold Perkins Connie Conboy and Mrs Mary Jordan

S S 4 School colour

Interior photo of S.S. # 4 Bathurst School

Front row Earl Conboy, David Scott, Arthur Perkins, Ron Brown, John Conboy, Bill Kyle

2nd row Arnold Perkins,Joe Mitchell, Roger Stafford, Norm Kerr, Bob Perkins,Paul Cavanagh

3 rd row Peter Kerr, Betty Conboy, Anne Kerr, Bill Cavanagh, Carl Gamble, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan, Doug Jordan Back row Mary Jordan, Kim Kyle, Connie Conboy, John Scott, Richard Cooke, Sharon Doyle

—–

There always seemed to be a sense of history in DeWitt’s Corners, and intriguing tales of the early settlers were told and re-told around that small hamlet. Most of us in the community were aware that Helen Cavanagh was a member of the DeWitt family, but many may not have realized how far back her roots stretched to the earliest settlers.

William DeWitt, and his wife Margaret Noonan DeWitt had a large family of eight daughters:  Helen Mae DeWitt who married Jim Cavanagh, Margaret Gertrude DeWitt, Vera DeWitt who married Ed Brady, Carmel DeWitt Matthews who settled in San Francisco, California, Jean DeWitt Garry, Mary DeWitt O’Hara, Josephine DeWitt who settled in Toronto, and Sophia DeWitt.

Cavanagh’s Store

The store opened on June 3, 1947 – carrying a full line of groceries, confectionaries, and tobacco products. Along with groceries and everyday sundries, Cavanagh’s store also sold gas supplied by Esso, a branch of Imperial Oil. Locals and cottagers, along with campers at nearby Christie Lake, were all pleased to hear that there would be a general store in the area, and they would no longer have to drive to Perth to pick up daily necessities.

Jim and Helen Cavanagh operated the popular neighbourhood store for nearly four decades until they retired in 1985.

Cavanaghs store for book

Many members of this proud community played a part, and their descendants carry with them the legacy of this historical settlement in Lanark County:

Adams, Allan, Blackburn, Blair, Brady, Cameron, Carberry, Cavanagh, Chaplin, Closs, Conboy, DeWitt, Dixon, Doyle, Fife, Foster, Gamble, Heney, Hogan, Johnston, Jordan, Keays, Kerr, Kirkham, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Menzies, Miller, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Noonan, Palmer, Perkins, Popplewell, Radford, Ritchie, Somerville, Scott, Siebel, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, and Tysick.


 

Thanks to JoAnne Cavanagh Butler for contributing the photos, and thanks to Janice Gordon, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, Roger Stafford and Beverly Miller Ferlatte for all of their help identifying our neighbours and classmates in the photos!


 

For more information about the history of DeWitt’s Corners and the people who settled in the community, you can read the full version of the story in “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

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”.

Harry Jenkins crossing guard

photo: Harry Jenkins was an usher at the Capitol Theatre, and later worked as a crossing guard on Brockville Street in Smiths Falls.  His daughter Phyllis Jenkins Evoy worked at the ticket booth at the Soper Theatre, and Harry’s grandson Gordon Evoy worked as an usher at the Soper Theatre.

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.

Arlene and Violet

Arlene Stafford-Wilson with Violet Gariepy (right) at the book launch, “Lanark County Calling”,at the Book Nook & Other Treasures, Perth, Ontario.

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.

Phyllis Evoy

Phyllis (Jenkins) Evoy – worked at the Ticket Booth at the Soper Theatre for many years

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
For more information on John McLaren of Perth, inventor of the ‘mickey’
John McLaren of Perth, inventor of the mickey

…………………………..

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’.

LC Calling poster without Fall 2018 reference

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Mother’s Farmhouse Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross buns 1

It just wasn’t Easter weekend until the old house was filled with the rich aroma of Mother’s home-baked Hot Cross Buns!  It was a long-standing tradition at our home on the Third Line of Bathurst, although legends say that these mouth-watering buns were made long before any of us were around.

It was way back, in the twelfth century, that an Anglican monk at St. Albans Abbey, first made these buns, marked each with a cross, and distributed them to the poor on Good Friday.

Hot Cross Buns were an Easter tradition at the Stafford house, along with a juicy baked ham, creamy scalloped potatoes, and of course, velvety chocolate Easter eggs.

the old house

Stafford House, Third Line of Bathurst, Lanark County  -1975

Mother, a keen competitor in the local fairs for many decades, was eventually asked to become a Judge, and her prize-winning baking was a daily treat at our house.

audry-in-front-of-the-house

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, at the old house, on the Third Line, in 1964

Mother’s Farmhouse Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

1 c milk

2 1/2  tsp sugar

2 pkt yeast

2 tsp salt

2 eggs (beaten)

3/4 c cold water

7-7 1/2 c flour

1/4 c shortening

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c warm water

1/2 tsp allspice

1 c raisins

(1 c chopped peel and 1 c currants if desired)

Mix as for yeast dough, but mix spices with the flour

Stir in the raisins (currants, and peel)

Knead 5 minutes

Let rise until doubled

Divide dough into pieces about 1  1/2″ diameter shape, and place 1  1/2″ apart on a greased baking sheet

Let rise to double

Bake at 350 F

After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and brush with glaze (2 Tbsp water and 2 Tbsp sugar)

Return to oven and finish baking.  Brush again with the glaze, and cool

When cool,  make a cross on each bun with white icing

Serve with softened creamery butter, or homemade preserves if desired.

hot cross bun with icing

Be prepared for the sweet scents of cinnamon and fresh baked bread to fill your home, bringing memories of Easters past, and maybe beginning a new tradition in your family!

hot cross buns 3

Wishing you a very Happy Easter, from our house, to yours!

happy easter

For more of Mother’s Farmhouse recipes:

recipes-recollections-cover-1

Over ninety of Audry’s prize-winning recipes – “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”, ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
http://www.staffordwilson.com

Ferguson Falls and the Stumble Inn

Photo: “A History of Drummond Township”, by John Ebbs, 1999, p. 21.

Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls

“It was a little shack very close to the old Mississippi, just across the bridge, coming down from the church; probably not room for more than twelve Irishmen at a time, if they could get along, and if that didn’t work, some would be out in yard ,or in the river.”

Thomas Joseph Stafford (1921-2018)

A view of the Stumble Inn from the Mississippi River

“The Stumble Inn was operated by Billy McCaffrey. He was a very, very, short man, with a curved back. His bar was located right beside the river, when you crossed the old bridge, across the Mississippi River, coming down from the Catholic church. I remember it around 1927 to early 1930s. The horses were stabled across the road in an open shed at Charles Hollinger’s, the auctioneer. We walked across the bridge up to church for mass. After mass the Catholic brethren would stop in at the Stumble Inn. You could get a shot of something for the trip home. There was also a lot of Poker played there, which was frowned on in the community. There were also lots of ghost stories told there.”

quote from 2012 by Thomas Stafford (1921-2018) 

Thomas Stafford, son of Thomas Patrick Stafford and Margaret Doyle Stafford

“There would be music at the Stumble Inn. There was always music where the Irish gathered. I remember Jimmy (Richards) playing the fiddle. I spent quite a few days at Richards’ visiting with your dad ,Tib (Tobias Stafford). Clara (Richards Carberry) would feed us cookies. Jimmy thought we were a pain in the ass, I think. Peter (Stafford) was a great fisherman of mud pouts from the old Mississippi. In Ferguson Falls they were all related, either before or after they arrived in Canada from Wexford.”

(quote from Thomas ‘Tom’ Stafford 1921-2018)

(James ‘Jimmy’ Richards was Dad’s uncle on his Mother’s side. Clara Richards, Dad’s aunt, was Jimmy’s sister. Clara Richards married Thomas ‘Tom’ Carberry, a descendant of one of the ‘Seven Irish Bachelors’ of Ferguson Falls. The Richards homestead was next door to the Stafford homestead on the 11th concession of Drummond Township. Dad’s parents – Anastasia ‘Stacy’ Richards married Michael Vincent ‘Vince’ Stafford – the boy next door) Peter Stafford was Dad’s brother) ‘Wexford’ refers to County Wexford, Ireland. Jimmy Richards played his fiddle at the Stumble Inn on a regular basis. His fiddle was passed down to Dad, then to me.)

Billy McCaffrey, owner of The Stumble Inn

William Henry ‘Billy’ McCaffrey, (1869-1940), was the son of Joseph McCaffrey, and Ellen McGarry McCaffrey. Billy’s ancestor, Thomas McCaffrey was the first settler and resident of the village of Ferguson Falls, arriving in 1815.

Billy’s mother, Ellen McGarry McCaffrey:

Ellen McGarry McCaffrey 1837-1917

Ellen McGarry McCaffrey and her husband, Joseph McCaffrey had ten children:

  1. Mary McCaffrey 1861-1944 – was a tailor
  2. Julia Ann McCaffrey 1863-1944
  3. Thomas McCaffrey 1866-1913. Thomas married Margaret Doyle and they lived on the McCaffrey homestead on the 8th concession of Drummond Township. Thomas died age 46 of tuberculosis
  4. Peter McCaffrey 1867-1895 – died age 28 of dropsy
  5. Wm. Billy McCaffrey 1868-1940 – saddler by trade, owned a hotel in Ferguson Falls, and later, owned the Stumble Inn
  6. Margaret McCaffrey 1874-1917 died age 43 of pernicious anemia
  7. Loretta McCaffrey 1872-1941 was a dressmaker
  8. Gertrude McCaffrey 1875-1918 died age 38 of pernicious anemia
  9. Josephine McCaffrey 1877-1931 trained as a nurse and worked in New York, died age 52 of cerebral hemorrhage
  10. Teresa McCaffrey 1879-1935, married Martin Sylvester Grace. Their children: Harold Francis Grace, Ursula Grace Kehoe Bent, Helen Grace Butterworth, Kathryn Grace Daley, and Reverend Sister Anna Gertrude.
Ellen McGarry McCaffrey, daughter of Peter McGarry, niece of pioneers Elizabeth McGarry Stafford and Tobias Stafford

After operating his successful and much-loved community gathering spot, the Stumble Inn, Billy passed away in 1940.

“The late Mr. McCaffrey was a man of sterling qualities, and possessed the good-will and esteem of all who knew him.”

Billy McCaffrey’s obituary from “The Perth Courier” Aug. 2, 1940, p.3
Billy’s and some of his siblings, St. Patrick’s cemetery, Ferguson Falls

Ferguson Falls

(sometimes written as Ferguson’s Falls, or Fergusons Falls, depending on the era)

Originally known as Milford, Fergusons Falls was renamed in honor of the early settler Captain Ferguson when a post office was established there. This was the closest village to the Stafford farm and was a source for supplies, postal services, blacksmith services, social activities, and later St. Patrick’s Church.

Thomas McCaffrey was the first settler coming in 1815. McCaffrey was a close friend of Tobias Stafford and Betsy (McGarry) Stafford. Thomas was one of the witnesses to their marriage ceremony in St. John’s Church in Perth. He also signed his name as witness to one of Tobias’ later land transactions, and was present at the baptisms of some of the Stafford children.

Other early Ferguson Falls residents were John and Patrick Quinn, Patrick and Martin Doyle, James Carberry, James Power and William Scanlon. Two Stafford girls married into the Quinn family. The Hollinger family was also among the first settlers. By 1857, Ferguson Falls was booming. John Doyle was the Innkeeper, James McCaffrey was listed in the business directory as a Wagon Maker, and John & Michael McCaffrey were the local Blacksmiths. John Stafford, Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth McGarry’s son, was the area Shoemaker, and would later open a shoe store in Almonte, then in Perth. There was also a saw-mill, and a grist mill owned by Robert Blair and a hotel owned by Charles Hollinger.

Some history of Ferguson Falls:

1884 Farmers’ and Business Directory
1904 Business Directory for Lanark County

1916 Farmers’ and Business Directory for Lanark County

A note on the local school:

“In 1894 Miss Mary Stafford taught, and then in 1901-1909 Miss Maggie Doyle of Drummond Twp (who later married Thomas Patrick Stafford).

In 1901 the teacher’s salary was $240.00 dollars a year. In 1905 it was $250.00. 1943-1946 Miss Mary Phelan of Lanark was the teacher. Her salary was $1000.00 a year and she had 9 pupils.”

(quote from Gail McFarlane, taken from the Tweedsmuir history of Ferguson Falls)

S.S. # 15 Drummond Township School, class of 1928-29, with our cousins, Thomas ‘Tom’ Stafford (1921-2018) , Patricia ‘Pat’ Stafford, and Nora Stafford, (children of Thomas Patrick Stafford and Margaret ‘Maggie’ Doyle Stafford) Original photo at the Lanark Museum.
“The Perth Courier”, August 10, 1934 part 1 of 3
“The Perth Courier”, August 10, 1934 part 2 of 3
“The Perth Courier”, August 10, 1934 part 3 of 3
“The Perth Courier” Sept. 13, 1962, p.3
“The Perth Courier” Sept. 13, 1962, p.3
“The Perth Courier” Sept. 13, 1962
James ‘Jimmy’ Phelan (pronounced Whelan) Local lore says his lost love wanders in Ferguson Falls, along the Mississippi River at night, searching for Jimmy. The Phelan farm backed directly onto the Stafford homestead on the 11th concession of Drummond Township. Tim Doyle of Lanark village is said to have written the song.

Ballad of Jimmy Whelan

All alone as I strayed by the banks of the river
Watching the moonbeams as evening drew nigh
All alone as I rambled, I spied a fair damsel
Weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

Weeping for one who is now lying lowly
Mourning for one who no mortal can save
As the foaming dark water flow gently about him
Onward they speed over young Jimmy’s grave.

She cries, “Oh, my darling, please come to me quickly
And give me fond kisses that oft-times you gave
You promised to meet me this evening, my darling
So now, lovely Jimmy, arise from your grave.”

Slowly he rose from the dark, stormy waters
A vision of beauty more fair than the sun
Saying “I have returned from the regions of glory
To be in your dear loving arms once again.”

“Oh, Jimmy, why can’t you tarry here with me
Not leave me alone, so distracted in pain.”
“Since death is the dagger that’s cut us asunder
Wide is the gulf, love, between you and I.”

“One fond embrace, love, and then I must leave you
One loving farewell, and then we must part.”
Cold were the arms that encircled about her
Cold was the body she pressed to her heart.

Slowly he rose from the banks of the river
Up to the heavens he then seemed to go
Leaving this fair maiden, weeping and mourning
Alone on the banks of the river below.

(local Irish legends told of the ‘gates of glass’, where one could pass between this world and the next, through the water of a lake or river, at dusk)

“The Perth Courier” continued from article above
“Perth Courier” article – continued
“Perth Courier” article continued
“The Perth Courier” – article continued
“The Perth Courier” – article continued
“The Perth Courier”, Sept. 13, 1962, p3, end of article

A Return to Our Roots

Archives Lanark celebrated their 10th Anniversary in October of 2012, at the Ferguson’s Falls Community Hall.  There were local dignitaries from Drummond Township, and Doug Bell made a presentation of a 200 year old artifact, – an original settler’s trunk from pioneer Sutton Frizzell, and his land documents that were found in the trunk. 

Sutton Frizell’s trunks presented by Doug Bell to Archives Lanark
Sutton Frizell, one of the first elected Councillors in Drummond Township in 1850, along with Thomas McCaffrey, Murdock McDonald, Patrick Dowdall, and John Thompson

There were also displays showing some highlights of the work that the Archives has done, and the variety of resources available for local researchers. 

Ferguson Falls Community Hall, Oct. 12, 2012
Archives Lanark 10th Anniversary – Arlene Stafford-Wilson at the book-signing table
Archives Lanark 10th anniversary 2012 – entertainment by ‘Memory Lane’, Mark Labelle on guitar on far left, Leo Scissions on guitar, with Heather Johnston on fiddle, and Jack Greer on banjo. (thanks to Stacey Horne, Arlene Quinn, and others who provided the names of the band members)
Archives Lanark 10th anniversary – with Elaine Morrow, from DeWitt’s Corners

Archives Lanark 10th anniversary 2012, with Lanark County Genealogical Society members,
Arlene Stafford-Wilson (left) and Irene Spence (rt)
Archives Lanark 10th Anniversary in 2012, with Lanark County Genealogical Society President Janet Dowdall (left) , and LCGS member, Arlene Stafford-Wilson
Arlene Stafford-Wilson at the Authors Corner, Ferguson Falls Community Hall, October 2012

Autumn in Ferguson Falls

quote from “Lanark County Connections: Memories Among the Maples”

Picturesque Ferguson Falls, along the Mississippi River

Stafford family Sunday drives in the 1960s and 1970s began on the Third Line of Bathurst, often involved detours though Balderson and Lanark village, but they always seemed to end up at Ferguson Falls. Our father was born and raised on the 11th concession of Drummond Township, on the ancestral Stafford farm, settled by pioneer, Tobias Stafford in 1816. Our ancestor spent his first year on what became known as Stafford Island on the Mississippi River before building a home.

In the earliest days of the settlement, priests would travel to these small communities, and Sunday mass would be held in someone’s home. Once St. John’s Church in Perth was built, the pioneers travelled by horse and buggy, or horse and cutter, to attend services, until 1856, when St. Patrick’s Church was established, along the river.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, and my brother, Roger Stafford, in Ferguson Falls

…And so, we returned again and again to Ferguson Falls on our Sunday drives; to the pretty village in Drummond Township. We listened to our father’s accounts of the glory days of the Prestonvale ball team, and the long walks to school in snowstorms. We always stopped at St. Patrick’s church, and walked up and down through the rows of the graves of our ancestors. Dad’s parents were buried there, and his grandparents, and the oldest ones, who had come from Ireland. The old families were all connected by marriage – Quinn, McKittrick, Richards, Carberry, Carroll, Ryan, McCaffrey, and the rest; and he pointed to the headstones as we walked through the rows.

There were always stories of the infamous Stumble Inn, across the bridge from the church, and the card-games, and the drinking, and the fighting. We heard about Billy McCaffrey and how he sold whiskey at all hours of the day and night from his modest establishment. We learned of the Hollinger family and the generations of local auctioneers, and their busy hotel that catered to loggers. The loggers danced in their spiked boots and old Charlie Hollinger had to replace the floors once a year. We heard about the McEwen family and visited their popular maple shack in the spring. We heard the local names over and over: Blair, McFarlane, Horricks, Rathwell, Cullen and Kehoe.

We learned that the Irish Roman Catholics were a devoted bunch, loyal to their church, but also possessed an entirely different belief system that included ghosts and fairies, and the little people. We heard about Jimmy Whalen, a neighbour to the Stafford family, and how his lover could still be seen late at night walking along the banks of the Mississippi River, searching for her long lost Jimmy.  We listened to stories about the lumber wars in the old days between the McLaren and Caldwell families, and the yearly cattle drives to Carleton Place.

The Sunday drive always ended the same way, with a visit to Lloyd and Evelyn Dickenson’s store for an ice cream cone and a bottle of Pure Spring pop.  Dad and Lloyd talked about the old days, and walked together along the shore, near the cottages, recounting tales of catching bullfrogs, and fishing in the river.

I miss our drives to Ferguson Falls, and stopping for a bag of curd at the Balderson Cheese Factory along the way, visiting the graves of our ancestors, walking where they walked, and hearing the stories of the good old days.  Dad, and his cousin Tom are gone now, but their stories live on. I often wonder if they told the same stories again and again so that we would remember; remember the place where the ancestors settled, remember the customs and legends from the old country, remember so that we could tell their stories, of this special place, called Ferguson Falls.

The old families of Ferguson Falls: Badour, Bennett, Blair, Byrne, Byrnes, Carberry, Closs, Craig, Cooke, Cullen, Cunningham, Cuthbertson, Dickenson,  Donnelly, Doroway, Doyle, Ebbs, Ferguson, Finlayson, Forrest, Giles, Gommersall, Grey, Haley, Harrington, Hartney, Hicks, Hickey, Hogan, Hollinger, Horricks, Ireton, Keefe, Kehoe, Kenny, Little, McCaffrey, McEwen, McFarlane, McGarry, McIntyre, McIlquham, McLaughlin, McLenaghan, McNaughton, Montgomery, Moran, Moulton, Murphy, Murray, Nagel, Neville, O’Connor, O’Keefe, O’Sullivan, Phelan, Poole, Power, Price, Quinn, Rathwell, Robinson, Rothwell, Richards, Ruttle, Ryan, Scanlon, Spence, Stafford, Sullivan, Traill, Tullis.

For more information on Ferguson Falls and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church: https://arlenestaffordwilson.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/st-patricks-church-fergusons-falls-lanark-county/

For Thomas Stafford’s account of the “Cattle Drives in Ferguson Falls” in “Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line”

For the legend of Jimmy Whelan, – “The Ghost of Ferguson Falls” – “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”

The story of “The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls”, from the book “Lanark County Collection”

Books available at:

The Book Nook in Perth, Ontario

https://thebooknookperth.com/shop/

The Bookworm in Perth, Ontario

https://www.bookwormperth.com/

Mill Street Books in Almonte, Ontario

https://millstreetbooks.com/

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

For more information about the author and the books:

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

potato pancakes

Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

Many of the early settlers in Lanark County, arrived in 1816, like our pioneer ancestor, Tobias Stafford.  He came from County Wexford, married the lovely Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McGarry, from County Westmeath, and after a year spent living on Stafford Island, built a home on lot 10, 11th concession of Drummond Township.

One of the recipes brought from their native southern Ireland, was for Irish Boxty.  It was a simple dish, made with ingredients on hand. In those days, it was a very long trip by horse and buggy to Perth, for supplies.  Many of the early recipes relied on staples, ingredients available in the cupboard, at home.

As some may already know, the Irish love their limericks, and poems, and there is a little rhyme about Boxty, that was often recited with a wink and a smile.  Although it is not very politically-correct in these times, it gives us a glimpse into the things of the past, that were popular in the early days:

“Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty,
You’ll never get your man”

 

Recipe for Boxty/ Irish Potato Cakes

2 c mashed potatoes

1 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp grated onion

1 egg, beaten

 

Mix all ingredients together, shape into patties, and fry in a greased pan, until golden brown.  (salt and pepper to taste)  Serve with eggs, breakfast meats, and hot buttered toast.

boxty breakfast

 

(enjoy with a cup of hot Irish breakfast tea, or hot black tea, as our parents did)

irish breakfast tea

This old recipe, in its simplicity, may not be diverse enough for the modern palate, and some may wish to add spices or vegetables into the mix.

Mother and Dad enjoyed plain food that wouldn’t upset their stomachs, and this certainly fits the bill.

and…never to be forgotten, the ritual that always came before any meal at the Stafford home, was the grace:

“Heavenly Father,

Bless this food to our use,

and us, for thy service”

Amen

Irish shamrock

………….

For more information on the early Irish settlers of Drummond Township, and St. Patrick’s church:

St. Patrick’s Church, Drummond Township

This recipe is from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”  ISBN: 9780987-7026-09

recipes-recollections-cover-1

http://www.staffordwilson.com