Perth’s Haunted Hospital

GWM hospital Perth

It wasn’t until I worked at the Perth hospital kitchen in the 1970s, that I began hearing stories about the ghosts that haunted their halls at night.

Although I was born in the Great War Memorial Hospital, and years later would attend high school just a block away, no one had ever mentioned the legends surrounding the original owners of the building, or how that family had been cursed.

Curious to find out more, I began to ask around town.  Being a small town where everyone knew someone, who knew something; it didn’t take long before I spoke with someone, who knew someone else, who’d seen something unusual at the old hospital.  I began to write down some of the stories about the building on Drummond Street that I thought, had always been a hospital.  I discovered that it hadn’t started out as a hospital at all.

The story begins with a Judge John Malloch, a prominent citizen of the early days in Perth, who decided in 1858 to build an opulent stone house on Drummond Street.  His home had all of the bells and whistles.  There were 17 rooms, along with two large halls that were each ten feet wide.  There was a solid walnut staircase, a large library, and a fine polished marble mantelpiece.   In those days, it was considered by many, to be one of the finest homes in all of Eastern Ontario.  The Judge named the home Victoria Hall, for the reigning Queen at that time.

GWM Victoria Hall

Description of Judge Malloch’s home, Victoria Hall, ‘The Perth Courier’, May 9, 1984, p.21

Judge Malloch had ordered many luxurious materials and finishes for his home, some from a distance, and he often became impatient because his building supplies didn’t arrive on time.  One of his suppliers had promised delivery on a certain date and the materials did not arrive when needed. This caused a critical delay in construction.  Workers were not able to proceed, and the setback cost the Judge a great deal of money.  When the material finally arrived, the Judge was so annoyed that he refused to pay.

The supplier became extremely agitated, because even though he admitted that he was very late, he stressed to the Judge that he had delivered the supplies as agreed, so he felt that he should be paid. The supplier argued at length with the Judge, but Malloch stood firm and refused to pay. In the heat of the argument the supplier cursed the Judge.  He went on to say that the Judge’s entire family would be cursed for as long as they lived in that house.

GWM 1920s

“The Perth Courier”, Nov. 10, 1982, p. 26

Years later, some would say that it was the curse, and some said that it was merely coincidence, that caused the Malloch family members to suffer ill health.  Some even succumbed to death prematurely.   The old Judge watched as they passed one by one, and he was left all alone in the large stately house.

GWM original building

Home of Judge John Glass Malloch, photo:  Perth Remembered

 

Fifteen years after the house was built, the old Judge died, and the once elegant Victoria Hall was left vacant.

Judge Malloch 1873 Dec 12 Perth Courier

“The Perth Courier”, Dec. 12, 1873.

 

The only time the house was occupied was when distant family members would open the home for the summer season, stay briefly, then leave the house empty and dark for the remainder of the year.

It was during this time, when the house was left vacant, that locals passing by at night often noticed figures walking the halls or staring out the windows.  Victoria Hall became known as the Haunted House of Perth.

ghost in window

Some said they saw what looked like a thin, sickly. old woman, standing at the window, staring down at Drummond Street below.  Others claimed that they saw the ghost of the old white-haired judge, walking up and down the long halls, as if he was searching for something or someone.

John Malloch grave Elmwood

Grave of Judge John Malloch, Elmwood Cemetery, Perth, Ontario

 

The Perth hospital, in the former Victoria Hall, opened in 1923.   On Armistice Day in 1924 the town of Perth dedicated the hospital as a tribute to the men and women who served in World War I, and proclaimed that it would be known as the Great War Memorial Hospital.

GWM dedication 1924

“The Perth Courier”, May 9, 1984, p. 21

 

By the time I was hired to work part-time in the hospital kitchen in 1976, there had been many additions, although by that time, the number of beds had been reduced.  The provincial Ministry of Health imposed bed closures in the obstetrics ward in 1973 and local mothers had to travel to Smiths Falls to have their babies.

I recall that this was a heated issue at the time, and three years later, when I worked in the kitchen, it was still a topic of great discussion.  The other topic, which I overheard many times discussed by the staff, were the ghosts that walked the halls at night.

Being a fairly level-headed person, I was inclined to take the ghost stories with a grain of salt, and went about my usual tasks.  I’d been hired part-time to work in the evenings, to deliver trays of food to the patients, after school, and on weekend mornings, to help out with the breakfast preparations.

I recall the first day of work, when I went inside the hospital, and asked one of the staff in the lobby if they could tell me how to get to the kitchen.  I got directions, and headed down the elevator to the lower level.  When I arrived one of the other part time girls, Darlene Dowdall, took me on a tour of the kitchen, and introduced me to the staff.  Dorothy Erwin was the kitchen supervisor.  She said she’d be happy to answer any questions, and welcomed me to the kitchen.  A few years later, Dorothy’s daughter Ruth, married my brother Roger, but that’s another story.

Next, Darlene brought me over to meet the cook.  His name was Wayne Clapp, and he had a quick smile, and was joking around with Leonard ‘Lenny’ Parsons, the dishwasher.  Wayne was preparing a beef stew, and he showed me the walk-in refrigerators.  I couldn’t believe the size of those things.  They were huge.

The next person I met in the kitchen was the baker, and her name was Gladys Thomas.  She had a warm personality and very kind eyes. The day I met her she was busy making some vanilla pudding.  She had a double-decker bake-oven, mounted on the wall behind her, and an enormous mixer for puddings and cakes.

Leonard Parsons, who I’d met earlier, came breezing by and asked if I’d like to start work by helping him wash some of the pots and pans.  Darlene said she’d catch up with me later, and I followed Leonard into the dish-washing room.

Mike, the evening dishwasher, poked his head in the door and with a nervous look on his face, told Leonard that ‘Miss Bosch’ was coming.  Leonard explained that Miss Gabriela Bosch was the head of the kitchen, the ‘big’ boss, and she would often drop by for a surprise inspection to make sure that everything was done just so.

He had barely finished his sentence when a very tall, dark-haired lady, wearing a white lab coat, poked her head into the doorway, said hello, and asked how everything was going.  She was taller than average, and seemed very serious, and I wondered if that’s why the two men had seemed so nervous.

One of the other part time girls Heather Bell, came in and asked me if I could help her fill up the pop machine in the cafeteria.  I recognized Heather from school.  There were two Heather Bells, one with dark hair, but this was the blonde one, and she went by Heather ‘N.’ Bell so people would know which was which.  Heather had a quick sense of humour, and she was a lot of fun to work with that evening.  We joked around as we carted in the cases of pop and slotted them into the machine.

I spotted Bill Farrell coming into the cafeteria from the kitchen and he was holding a mop and pushing a bucket on wheels. He was tall and lanky and had a big smile for everyone.  I recognized him from Perth High School, and he came over and introduced himself.  He and Heather began joking around about some of the good time they’d had with the kitchen gang since they’d started working there and I knew for sure that there would be some fun times ahead.

Another girl from school Joy Hurren, worked behind the counter in the cafeteria, and she asked me if I’d like to help her fill some dishes with pudding.  We spent about an hour doing that, and when we finished, we began to shut everything down for the night.

As we turned off the lights in the cafeteria, I heard an odd sound like someone moaning coming from inside the kitchen, but when I pushed the door open there was no one there.  Joy just shook her head and seemed to think nothing of it; so, neither did I.

On my second night I worked with Joy’s younger sister Jennifer Hurren. She and I had been assigned the job of delivering supper to all of the patients.  There were huge metal racks on wheels called carriers and every six inches or so there was a slot that held a tray of food.

The trays were already set with the evening meals.  The dinner plates each had a metal cover to keep the food hot, and some of the trays had pots of tea or glasses of tomato juice or apple juice.  Ethel Scott was working that evening putting the meals together. I recognized her because I went to school with her daughters, Judy, Thelma, and Patsy. Ethel was checking to make sure that the meals on the trays matched what the patient had checked off on their order slip.

Once we’d loaded the trays on the carrier, Jennifer and I rode up in the elevator, and stopped on the first floor.  The big metal carrier was on wheels, so we pushed it along the hallway and stopped by each room.  We made sure to check the slip of paper and match the name with the nameplate on the bed and then we set the tray down.  Some of the patients were sleeping, but most were awake and happy to see us, and we chatted for a couple of minutes and then went onto the next room.  There was one lady at the end of the hall who didn’t get a tray that night.  Her room number wasn’t on the list.  I thought to myself that she must have already eaten her supper earlier in the evening.

As the months passed by, I realized that the staff members in the hospital kitchen were a great bunch to work with.  There were many jokes shared and stories told while we worked, and every so often someone would mention the ghosts that had been seen in the halls over the years.  Well, I’d been up and down those halls many, many, months, and the only folks that I’d seen other than the nurses, were from the Hospital Auxiliary.

The ladies of the Hospital Auxiliary were a dedicated group and sometimes we’d see them in the halls. They’d be upstairs on the floors late at night delivering evening snacks to the patients.  They called it the ‘Tea and Toast Brigade’ and brought around hot buttered toast with jam or jelly, and tea or juice to the patients, to provide a little late-night nourishment.  Along with offering some cheer and a snack these ladies raised a tremendous amount of money for the hospital.  They ran a little gift shop on site, and were also in charge of the Candy Stripers – young girls who volunteered to help out with small jobs around the hospital.

I saw quite a few of the ladies from the Hospital Auxiliary like Miss N. Burke, Mrs. Vi Wilson, Mrs. L. Crothers, Mrs. B Watson, Mrs. K. Frizell, Mrs. S. Folkard, Mrs. E. Rilley, Primrose Paruboczy, Harriet Halliday, and Mary McDougall.  They were tireless workers, and it was very clear that they really cared about the patients and the hospital.

I also saw many of the local doctors while delivering the trays of food each evening.  Many of them looked exhausted as they made their rounds, but they were always friendly and had a few kind words for us as we wheeled our food carrier down the halls.  I remember Dr. Holmes and Dr. David Craig tending to their patients; and also Dr. J.A. Kidd, Dr. R. McLean and Dr. Tweedie.

Dr Tweedie

Doctor James Tweedie, 1930-2014

We walked those halls on each floor of the hospital two or three nights each week, wheeling our meal carrier up and down, unloading the trays, chatting with the patients and the hard-working nurses.  We dropped the trays off, came back later, picked up the empty trays, and brought them down to the kitchen.

I worked evenings in the hospital kitchen for almost two years.  I heard many accounts during my time of staff members seeing apparitions.  I thought that they must be imagining things, because I’d walked those halls at night countless times, I never encountered any ghosts at the GWM Hospital.

After graduating from PDCI, I worked two more months at the hospital kitchen, then headed off to college.  I treasured the friendships formed there, and the building itself was impressive; particularly the original section of Victoria Hall, which at that time was used for administration.  Being a keen student of history, it was interesting to learn about the early days, and also the many expansions and transitions that had taken place over the years.

On my last shift, there was a little gathering in the kitchen, and everyone wished me good luck in college. We loaded the trays in the carrier one last time, and headed into the elevator, and up to the second floor to deliver the evening meals.  As we made our way to the end of the floor and emptied the carrier, a nurse walked by, and I stopped her, and asked a question that had been on my mind since I started working there.

“Sorry to bother you, but I’ve always wondered why the lady in the last room on the right never eats her supper at the same time as the other patients?”

The nurse gave me a puzzled look and said, “That’s just a utility room.  We use it for storage.  There hasn’t been a patient in there for years.”

I felt the blood drain from my face and a shiver ran down my spine, as I looked at her in disbelief, and then looked back down the hall toward the room.  Was it possible that I had imagined the pale, slender lady with the snow-white hair, in the faded blue robe?  Maybe she was from one of the other rooms …but why did she stand in front of the room at the end of the hall each evening?

The girl I was working with said, “Come on!  We’ve got two more floors of meals to deliver tonight.”

The nurse had already started walking back to her station, and my co-worker was pulling the carrier down the hall toward the elevator.   I finished my shift that evening, and hung up my smock in the change room for the last time.

I left out the side door that last night as usual, and headed up the curved pathway.  Once I reached the sidewalk on Drummond Street, I looked back at the building where I’d worked the past two years.  Suddenly it looked different, almost eerie, and I recalled what the nurse had said that night.

Who was that small, frail lady with the snow-white hair that I’d seen so many times?  She never ate supper with the others. We never brought her a dinner tray. Was it my imagination? Was it just a coincidence?

Or, perhaps, this really was the ‘Haunted House of Perth’.

ghost in woods

 

(This story is an excerpt from “Ghosts and Gastronomy in Perth”, from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third Line”  ISBN 978-0-987-702623)

LC Chronicle from web

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Calling – Book Launch

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

leaf quote

 

lanark-county-sign

 

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

 

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

Book Nook

 

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

flowers from Carol-Ann

 

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

Leslie

 

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

Dianne

 

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

Wynne White

 

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

Marie and Yvonne 2

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

Roger

 

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

Elaine

 

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

Jan Stepniak

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

Vi 3

 

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

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

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

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

Phyllis Jenkins Evoy

 

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

Harry Jenkins

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

 

 

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Lanark Museum – Our Visit to the Past

Lanark sign

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

Ann and Arlene in front of museum

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

 

Events board Lanark Museum

 

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

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

 

volunteers Lanark Museum

 

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

 

Key players Lanark Museum

 

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

War memorials Lanark Museum

 

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

 

Roll of Honour case

 

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

 

Local photos

 

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

 

Meghan Lanark County

 

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

 

Telegrams

 

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

 

wash bowl

 

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

 

McDonald's Corners war memorial

 

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

 

SS8 War memorial

 

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

 

SS 12

 

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

 

SS13 Drummond

 

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

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

 

book table Lanark Museum

 

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

 

Kitten Mill 1

 

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

Kitten Mill 2

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

 

Kitten 3

 

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

 

Shamrock quilt 1

 

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

 

Shamrock 2

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

Julia Stafford Bill Quinn

 

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

 

Shamrock 3

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

 

Shamrock 4

 

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

 

Shamrock 5

 

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

 

Shamrock 6

 

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

Susan at the Museum

 

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

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

 

street in front of museum

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

 

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

 

Until we meet again…..

 

 

Country road summer

 

 

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

Book Fair at the Crystal Palace

Autumn’s brightest maple trees were the colourful backdrop for the 3rd annual Book Fair at the Crystal Palace in Perth, Ontario. Nestled along the historic Tay Basin, the Farmer’s Market hosted a number of local authors, along with their usual offerings of produce, craftspeople, artisans and home-baked goods.

Perth Crystal Palace

perth-farmers-market-logo

The yearly event is a wonderful opportunity for visitors and residents alike to meet with authors, share in discussions, ask questions, and discover the literary offerings produced in their community.

arlene-at-the-table0001

Anne Raina, author of ‘Clara’s Rib’, and Kay Rogers, Editor of ‘At Home in Tay Valley’ share a few words at the opening of the event.

anne-raina-and-kay-rogers0001

Author Gene Bassett was back this year with his books ‘Tall Tales’ and ‘Stolen Moments’. In Gene’s words, “Hopefully, these vignettes will give the reader time to pause, and give reflection to the humour and serendipity that keeps us in tune with life in all its ups and downs.”

gene-bassett0001

Larry Cotton, author of ‘Whiskey and Wickedness’ brought the full complement of books in his series.

larry-cotton0001

 

Kay Rogers was on hand at the event to promote “At Home in Tay Valley”, a collection of stories and memories from the people of Tay Valley.  Proceeds from the sale of At Home in Tay Valley will support an annual scholarship for a student graduating from Perth & District Collegiate Institute, or from St. John Catholic High School who has demonstrated a keen interest in history.

kay-at-home-in-tay-valley0001

 

Joel Leblanc and Thomas Uhryniw were busy, promoting the popular souvenir book marking 25 years of the Stewart Park Festival.

stewart-park-festival0001

A number of local readers as well as some out of town visitors stopped by to say hello.

chatting-with-a-visitor0001

What a treat to see a former classmate and neighbour from the Third Line – Dawn-Marie Brady, and share a few memories!

dawn-marie-brady0001

Signing a copy of my new book “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time” for Scott Reid, member of Parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.  Scott kindly shared some fascinating stories and history of the historic Haggart residence in Perth. It was a pleasure to meet with such an avid reader and history buff!

scott-reid0001

Once again, many thanks to those who stopped by to say ‘hello’ on this busy Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanks as always to our host the Perth Farmer’s Market for sponsoring this event, for promoting local authors, and most importantly for supporting literacy in the community.

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For more information about the Perth Farmer’s Market:    Perth Farmer’s Market

http://www.staffordwilson.com

UFO Sightings Over Perth

Since the infamous sightings in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, people across North America have become more aware of strange lights, and unusual objects, in the night skies.

By the late 1960s in Perth Ontario, details of sightings were published in the local papers, and many credible witnesses reported their accounts of these strange events.

Flying Saucers With Red Lights

Over Port Elmsley

Confirmed by Perth OPP

UFO OPP sightings

Ivan Vandusen, R.R. 2 Smiths Falls,

– one of the first to report the UFOs

 

Ivan Van Dusen UFO reportIvan Van Dusen # 2

Flying in Formation, Ten Feet Apart…..

Moving toward Carleton Place

Everet Lavender

 

Mrs. Essex Clement in Port Elmsley:

“They just disappeared.”

 

Mrs. Essex Clement UFO

 

Two Perth OPPs see UFOs on HWY 43

Hovering Over the Army Tower

in Drummond Township

R.C.A.F. Asks for a Full Report

 

OPP Sighting UFO

UFOs Seen Over Mississippi Lake

 

UFOs over Mississippi Lake

 

It was called the

“Autumn of Aliens”

 

The night skies in Eastern Ontario became very active in the summer and fall of 1973, and some organizations reported that it was one of the largest number of U.F.O. sightings over North America, calling it the ‘Autumn of Aliens’.

Huge Chunks of Ice Fell from the Sky

In Lanark County, it all seemed to begin with a sudden hailstorm, on the Friday the 13th of July.  The hailstorm came out of nowhere, and huge chunks of ice fell, many almost three inches in diameter.  Hundreds of windows and car windshields were smashed by jagged pieces of ice.  A Smiths Falls resident was cut on the head by a chunk of falling ice, and required seven stitches. No one was seriously injured, although there were a few farmers that got caught outside, working in the fields, and had to seek shelter from the large chunks of ice falling from the sky.

lights in the sky

Barely 48 hours after the hailstorm, police departments in Perth and Smiths Falls received a number of calls from residents, claiming to have seen flying objects in the sky.

Flying Object Seen Near Balderson

A local man reported that he and five others were on the Eighth Line near Balderson at 9:30 p.m., when a flying object appeared to be travelling south to north, then returned to the south.   He observed that it was quite large, shaped like a tart.  Another report came in from a resident of Sherbrooke Street in Perth, who saw the same object overhead.  He said that his dog had howled constantly while the object appeared in the sky.

CJET Radio Holds Call-In Show

Due to large number of UFO Sightings!

So many people had observed the same object that CJET radio station in Smiths Falls held a call-in show the following Monday, so that people could phone the show, and share reports of what they had seen.

Sparkling Yellow-Orange Light

Over Perth

UFO 1

“The Perth Courier”, Thursday, April 19, 1973

 

Julian Kustra reports flying object

over Sherbrooke Street in Perth

UFO 2

“The Perth Courier” , Thursday, July 19, 1973, page 1.

flying saucer 3

UFO Reported in Beckwith Township

on Tennyson Road

The next UFO sighting to be reported in the fall of 1973 took place in Beckwith Township.  A young man was returning to Perth from Ottawa, driving along Highway 7 near Carleton Place, when his headlights suddenly went out.  Concerned that he might be pulled over by the police with his headlights out he decided to take the back way, and turned onto Tennyson Road.  The section of the road closest to Perth has swamp on both sides, and the lad noticed two large lights in the sky, hovering over the swamp.  The object was in the sky just above the tree line.  He pulled the car over to the side of the road, and as he stopped the car he noticed that the object stopped as well, and hovered over the swamp.  He remained parked for a few minutes, and then started to drive again.  When he began to move, so did the object, and it travelled parallel to him for a few more minutes, then disappeared.  Early the next morning, when he pulled out of his driveway in Perth, his headlights were working again.

flying saucer 4

Small Sphere Hovers in Sky

Over Smiths Falls

Another sighting in the late summer of 1973 was first reported by a young lad working at a gas station in Smiths Falls. He spotted a small sphere in the sky that appeared to be hovering in one fixed location.  He reported seeing silver flames coming from both the top and the bottom of the craft.  The lad was quick to call CJET radio station, and ask if anyone else had seen the odd sphere in the sky.  The radio station confirmed that yes, indeed; they could see it as well.  In the days that followed, at least 40 people in the Smiths Falls area came forward, stating that they had seen the object as well.

Cigar-Shaped Object in Sky

Over Horseshoe Bay, Rideau Lakes

In the summer of 1974 people were once again talking about another strange object in the sky.  It was a typical warm summer evening on the Rideau Lakes, and there were cottagers and residents alike, who saw more than they bargained for, on the night of August 12th.   At around 10 p.m., many were sitting outside, enjoying the call of the loons, and listening to the water lapping on the shore.  Suddenly, high in the night sky, a cigar-shaped object appeared.  Some described it as a long, flat shape, orange in colour. Many said that it was more red than orange, and was shaped like a sphere. Everyone that saw it agreed that it was silent, and it hovered over the Big Rideau Lake, on the south side of Horseshoe Bay, for several minutes, and then vanished.

flying saucer 5

It wasn’t just in the Perth area that strange objects and lights appeared in the sky.  Several residents of the town of Brockville, including some local police officers, confirmed the sightings of some odd lights moving in the night skies.

Brockville UFO

From “The Perth Courier”,  January 3, 1979,  front page, a sighting reported by George Shanks of Lanark, Ontario:

 

White Blinking Light in Sky

Over Ferguson Falls

flies from Almonte

to McDonald’s Corners

 

ufo-jan-1979

Cartoon printed in “The Perth Courier”, January 10, 1979, page 2

Flying objects in the sky became the talk of the town!

 

ufo-jan-10-1979

Strange sightings of unidentified flying objects were recorded in the Perth area as early as the late 1950s.  Fiery balls of light, objects moving up and down, back and forth, quickly, in ways that airplanes were not able to maneuver.

UFO Tracking Station

Established near Ottawa

UFO tracking stations were established just outside of Ottawa, and rumours of government radio towers and underground facilities were heard up and down the concessions in Lanark County.  Excavations were reported near Almonte, and government agents were testing the soil on several farms in Ramsay Township.

tracking station Shirley's Bay

saucer station 1953

Shirley's Bay project 1953

Shirley's Bay station report 1953

 

When reporters attempted to investigate further, the government representatives denied all, despite the fact that local men were working as labourers on many of the projects and could confirm what they had seen.

“On August 8, 1954, Smith, and his team at Shirley’s Bay recorded a disturbance, they believed was caused by a UFO. Among the observations that day were transmissions being received too rapid for a trained operator to decipher.”

December 26, 2018, ‘The Ottawa Citizen’ p. A6

Just days later, ‘Project Magnet’, as it was known, was disbanded, without explanation.

 

……………………..

 

For more information on strange sightings in the night skies over Lanark County, and some of the government’s classified projects in the 1960s and 1970s, read the full story ‘Perplexed in Perth’, from “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”, ISBN 978-0-9877026-54

Available at local bookstores, or online

 

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics – Sneak Preview

Sneak peek banner

 

Table of Contents for blog

“In this collection of short stories the author invites the reader to journey back to a small farm in Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s.  Discover Irish legends, and learn about the troublesome banshees of North Burgess Township. Visit Clyde Forks, and share in an unsolved mystery that continues to baffle police today.  Join the celebration of a milestone, in the picturesque village of Middleville, and watch as a tragedy unfolds along the shores of the Mississippi, in Pakenham.  Chat with the neighbours at a popular general store in DeWitt’s Corners, and witness something unusual in the night skies over Perth. Join the author as she travels back to a simpler way of life, in this treasury of tales from another time.”

Book Review jpg

“Once again, Arlene Stafford-Wilson triumphantly transports the reader into the heart of rural Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. The stories selected for Lanark County Classics, are a fine and timely follow-up to her 2015 release Lanark County Connections.

Stafford-Wilson’s stories are composed with an intense clarity of phrase and image. As in her previous books, her fascination with the human and natural history of her native ground — the rural farmlands, villages and small towns in Lanark County is inexhaustible.

In her latest renderings, even seemingly uneventful lives in sparsely peopled Eastern Ontario hamlets like DeWitt’s Corners, Clyde Forks, Lanark, Middleville and Pakenham — farmers, shopkeepers and townsfolk — are brought back to life for closer examination. Her stories come alive with local names and family connections.  In the simplest of words, and with the richest descriptions, she makes us see and hear an ‘unremarkable’ scene that we will never forget.

No one, having read this latest book, would ever again question, “What is so interesting about small-town rural Canada?” Her thorough and dedicated study of historical ingredients, always come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and draw the reader into that place and time.

What makes Stafford-Wilson’s growth as an author so crisply and clearly visible throughout Lanark County Classics is the familiarity of her materials. With her vivid reminiscences set in rural towns and villages; the more she returns to it, the more she finds.

This latest work, once again confirms that the short story is alive and well in Canada where these heart-warming tales originate, like cool fresh breezes straight off the Rideau Lakes.”

………………………………………………………….

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

 

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