2020 Book Review: “Inside Ottawa Valley”

Inside Ottawa Valley banner Sept 2020

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Arlene Stafford-Wilson photo Inside Ottawa Valley

Arlene Stafford-Wilson has penned another book in her Lanark County Collections series.

This one, “Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane,” will be released Saturday, Sept. 12. She will be at a book signing at The Book Nook and Other Treasurers in Perth from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Ottawa author, with deep roots in Lanark County, has readers travel through the 1960s and 1970s with a fun trip to the Port Elmsley Drive-In, a visit to the Rideau Ferry Inn and even a stop at the Stumble Inn in Ferguson Falls.

Preserving history is Stafford-Wilson’s other passion, as she’s a genealogist. Writing books about stories from her own past is a way for her to combine both loves of writing and genealogy. Her last book about the stories of Lanark County was released two years ago.

LC Collection cover

Inside the pages of this latest book, Stafford-Wilson shares some homespun goodness with one of her mother’s famous recipes. So famous, she said, that her mother was a red ribbon winner at the Perth Fair. The writer remembers: “There was something peculiar in the pantry … in a glass jar that seemed to have a life of its own,” alongside the “collection of shotguns and rifles leaning up against the corner by the window.”

“Memory Lane” shares how water was found by dowsing. Stafford-Wilson explains what this method is and how it was used to find water every time by the local well drillers.

Another detailed yarn is one highlighting the history of the Perth library. From its humble beginnings, to a devastating fire, and how it rose from the ashes like the phoenix to become the mainstay it is today in the heart of Perth.

Who remembers the Stumble Inn at Ferguson Falls? “At one time, there were three hotels,” the author writes. In the early 1900s, loggers would “come to spend their pay on drinks and a good time.”

In this chapter, Stafford-Wilson writes about the seven Irish bachelors who came to clear land in Ferguson Falls. Find out about Patrick Quinn, John Quinn, James Carberry, William Scanlan, Terrence Doyle, John Cullen and James Power — who declared a solemn pact to help each other establish themselves. Here is where the Quinn Settlement was born.

Another local hot spot was the Rideau Ferry Inn, where “nearly every well-known rock band in the country performed during the 1960s and ‘70s in the 472-seat Poonamalie Room,” Stafford-Wilson writes. Many people also enjoyed the country music played at the nearby Antler Inn.

Parking lot fights were regular occurrences, Stafford-Wilson notes. “We saw more than a few bloody noses … there was often far more wild behaviour outside than inside.”

A fun read was learning about the Port Elmsley Drive-In, and how in the 1970s, Friday nights were for gleaming sports cars ripping up Roger’s Road in Perth. High school boys would race the quarter-mile track timed with a stopwatch “borrowed” from the high school.

 

Which one was the fastest between Kenny Moore’s green fastback Mustang, Craig Cullen’s black Camaro or Steve Richardson’s big sleek Plymouth.

Stafford-Wilson writes: “These races were followed by a tour around town complete with burnouts and smoke shows,” and the occasional ticket was issued by the police for unnecessary noise.

It was the next night that this same group of people would head to the drive-in to show off their hotrods.

There is a lot of history about the drive-in and how it closed on opening night in 1953 after rain washed out the fresh gravel and all 50 cars had to be towed out, which took most of the night and into the next morning. The theatre closed for a week until the ground dried out.

These short vignettes will leave you wanting more stories from days gone by.

For those families mentioned throughout the book, in true genealogist fashion, Stafford-Wilson has alphabetized names in an index for easy reference.

Call The Book Nook and Other Treasurers at 1-613-267-2350 to reserve a copy, or preorder your copy at thebooknookperth.com/product-category/books/adult-books/local-authors-adult/.

Laurie Weir 2020

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