2020 New Book – “Lanark County Collection”
Arlene Stafford-Wilson, at the book launch for “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”, at The Book Nook, Perth, Ontario, on September 12, 2020.
“Lanark County Collection:
Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”
“Travel back in time to the 1960s and 1970s, as the author invites you to come along on this journey through rural Eastern Ontario. Visit the Rideau Ferry Inn, a much-loved dance hall, where rock and roll was king. Watch in wonder as a water-witcher dazzles you with their mysterious abilities, as they locate the best spot to dig a country well. Spend the evening at the infamous Stumble Inn, in Ferguson Falls, known for its bootleg whiskey, and legendary fighting among the Irish villagers. Next, meet the dedicated staff of the Perth Public Library, and discover the tragedy, scandal, and unstoppable spirit that made this place ‘the heart of the town’. Visit a rural farmhouse, and discover the secrets behind the art and science of sourdough. Spend a hot summer night at the Port Elmsley Drive In, meet some fascinating people, and find out what happens behind the scenes, while you watch a movie under the stars. Join the author, as you wind your way down memory lane.”
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Mysterious Ways of the Water-Witcher
Chapter 2: Hot Summer Nights at the Rideau Ferry Inn
Chapter 3: Perth Library – Heart of the Town
Chapter 4: Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough
Chapter 5: The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls
Chapter 6: Port Elmsley Drive-In – Showcase of the Golden Triangle
The Mysterious Ways
of the Water Witcher
In the first story we find ourselves sitting on the cool grass on a hot day, in the 1960s, watching in wonder as a dowser walks through the yard, in search of the best spot to dig a country well. You’ll meet our local drilling crew, Jerry Thompson and Connell ‘Connie’ Thompson, of Althorpe, and our dowser, Jack Dowdall, from Glen Tay, as they work their magic to find a source of water the old fashioned way.
According to Jerry Thompson, “Jack believed heart and soul in dowsing”, and he was known to be as skilled and as accurate as they come.
My sister, Jackie, curious about the mystery of dowsing, asked the men if she could try it herself.
“I remember when a new well was drilled, and when the men came with the dowsing stick. I can’t recall what they called it – I think a divining stick or rod, but it was used to find water.
I was there and asked if I could try it. The men seemed amused, but the Dowser told me what to do. I can’t remember if I felt anything or not, but when he found the water, it seemed to pull him and the stick almost down to the ground.”
Jackie Stafford Wharton
Come back to the farm in the 1960s, meet Jerry and Connie Thompson, and Jack Dowdall, and spend the day as they search for water with an apple switch.
Hot Summer Nights
at the Rideau Ferry Inn
In the second story, we head to the Rideau Ferry Inn, on a warm summer evening, in the 1970s, to hear some live rock and roll, enjoy a few drinks, and dance the night away along the peaceful lake-shore. Visit the parking lot, also known as the passion pit, and watch a standoff between the boys in blue from P.D.C.I., and the lads in red from the Smiths Falls High School. Meet some of the bands who entertained us on those endless summer nights: “The Stampeders”, “The Five Man Electrical Band”, “The Paul Tarle Band”, Edward Bear, the “Cooper Brothers”, “Too Cold to Hold”, “Eight Seconds”, “Metagenesis”, “The Crayons”, and many, many more. Watch the summer romances unfold, as the cottagers and the kids from neighbouring towns visit for the evening.
Perth Library: Heart of the Town
Our next stop is the Perth Public Library, where we’ll learn about a tragedy, a scandal, and what really happens behind the circulation desk. Meet the librarians, from the very earliest days of the institution, like Harriet ‘Hattie’ Nicol, and come along for Hattie’s first ride in a motor-car. We’ll meet all of the librarians from 1907 to present day, like Flora MacLennan, Doris Stone, daughter of the publisher of the local paper in Perth, George McCulloch, Caretaker, Vera Sanderson, Natalie Flett, Helen Garrett, Connie Ebbs, Marilyn Tufts, Joan Mitchell, and Diana Cleland. We’ll meet the courageous librarians who were there the night of the fire, on January 3rd, 1980 – Faye Cunningham, working that evening, and Susan Snyder, who came to witness the fire as soon as she heard the news; and read their personal accounts of the tragedy and the aftermath. We’ll also hear from Fire Inspector, Harold Jordan, and his thoughts as to the cause of the fire, and some speculations from folks around town. We’ll meet Sharon Coreau, a librarian who worked there in the 1970s, and hear her impressions and memories of the people, the staff, and the old stately building on Gore Street. From the ‘new’ location, on Herriott Street, we’ll meet Elizabeth Goldman and Erika Heesen, learn about the path which led them to their roles as Head Librarians in Perth, and how technology evolved and changed the library over the years. Read about a shocking scandal in the 1970s, how a brave young librarian challenged the Board, and find out why an entire Board was fired one fateful year. Meet the Board members, the librarians, the after-school staff, the students, the caretakers, and the volunteers who made the library ‘the heart of the town’. These stories and more, of this well-loved, and cherished institution.
Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough
Prospectors baking sourdough bread during the Klondike Gold Rush
photo: Parks Canada
Discover the fascinating story of sourdough, and meet a feisty adventurous girl who grew up out west, in the big city, and the baking secrets that she brought to Lanark County. Learn about the early prospectors in the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, and how they carried their sourdough starter in a small sac, on a cord around their necks or a pouch tied to their belts. Find out why these wise old prospectors were given the nickname of ‘sourdoughs’. Spend the afternoon in an old farmhouse pantry, and watch in wonder as the sourdough concoction bubbles away on the pantry shelf. Discover the art and the science, and one of the baking secrets that won countless prizes at the local fairs, year after year!
The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls
In this story, we head to Ferguson Falls, on a warm summer’s eve in the 1930s, and spend the night at the infamous Stumble Inn. We’ll meet our host for the evening, Billy McCaffrey, sit at the gnarled wooden table, enjoy a few shots of whiskey, then take cover when the fights break out among the Irish villagers! We’ll hear the locals tell their fascinating tales passed down to them through the generations, and listen to the soulful Irish music played on the fiddles and the tin flutes. Come along with us, back to the early days in Ferguson Falls, sample the whiskey, listen to the music, sing some songs, and maybe we’ll even see a ghost or two!!
Port Elmsley Drive-In
Showcase of the Golden Triangle
In our final story, we’ll visit the Port Elmsley Drive In, on a steamy, hot summer evening. We’ll meet Laura Williams, daughter of founder Bill Williams, and hear about the earliest days of the Drive In. Join Laura as she works tirelessly in the ‘Potato Shack’, with local girls, Sandra and Cathy Polk, peeling hundreds of potatoes in preparation for an all-nighter’s tasty french-fries. Meet the gang at the concession stand – Cathy O’Grady, Bonnie O’Grady, Dawn Polk, Pam Polk, Susan Polk, Lorraine ‘Bunny’ Van Dusen, Violet Van Dusen, Cindy Van Dusen, Susan Van Dusen, Mary Benson, John Benson, and Glen Hart, to name a few. Meet former owner, Jan Stepniak, and hear about the night when American rock band, “The Byrds” played under the stars. Witness the excitement on a summer’s evening when local farmer, Bill Beveridge’s sheep and cattle get loose, and wander among the parked cars. Join the nervous movie-goers on another fateful evening when a skunk wanders through the crowd with a Pepsi cup stuck on his head. Come along for some adventures at the Port Elmsley Drive-In, meet the talented staff who worked there over the years, and discover what really happens behind the scenes at this much-loved local treasure!
Come along on these adventures, back to the 1960s and 1970s, as we wind our way down memory lane!
“Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”, is the 8th book in the series:
Ottawa International Writer’s Festival
Ottawa International Writer’s Festival – Perth Chapter
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