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

Port Elmsley – Drive-In Dreamin’

port-elmsley-sign

Someone decided one night we should save a few dollars and put a couple of people in the trunk of a car so that 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. Williams, of Newboro.

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 would be 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.

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 teenaged 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!

…….

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.

…..

 

For information on the Port Elmsley Drive-In – showtimes and coming attractions:

Port Elmsley Drive In

 

…….

The full 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, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books  in Ottawa, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on online

 

Festival of the Maples

Festival of the Maples Poster for article

With over 160 vendors, live entertainment, and the finest tasting maple syrup produced in the world, the Festival of the Maples in Perth is the place to be on Saturday, April 30th, 2016!

You may not know that Lanark County is the maple syrup capital of Ontario, and you may not know some of the history leading up to the very first festival that was held back in the 1970s.

The story that follows is dedicated to the Lanark County families who played such a significant role, back in the early days, leading up to this annual festival in Perth: Andrew and George Korry, Bowes family of Glen Tay, Ernie and Evelyn Miller family of Glen Tay, Robert McEwen of Prestonvale, Ken VanAlstine of Maberly, Leonard and Tom Adam of McDonald’s Corners, Brien and Marion Paul west of Hopetown, Lanark, James ‘Carman’ and Edna Gibson of Dalhousie Township, Don and Marion Dodds of Clayton, George Coutts of Rideau Ferry, Wheeler family of McDonald’s Corners, and Fulton family of Pakenham to name a few.

Taffy on the Tay

Years ago, many of the local farmers produced maple syrup. Some just made enough for their families and for some it was a supplement to their farm income at a time of year that was less busy than during the summer months. There were also a few dealers in the area that sold sugar bush supplies – Max Miller of Snow Road, Percy Drysdale of McDonald’s Corners, and W.J. Ballantyne in Lanark. James Brothers Hardware and the Co-Op also sold supplies for maple production. Labels for the bottles were often printed by ‘The Perth Courier’.

The Korry family across the road from us had a medium sized sugar bush and they produced not just enough for the family, but enough to sell locally. Andrew’s son-in-law John Chaplin sold it through his dairy to the local customers on the milk routes. Andrew Korry and his son George spent a few very busy weeks making syrup each spring and my brother Tim worked with them in the bush one year. They used a team of horses with a tank mounted on the sleigh to draw the sap back to the evaporator at the sugar shack; typical of many other producers at that time.

The Bowes and the Miller families near Glen Tay also produced their own syrup. I remember that Art Bowes used to tap quite a number of trees in the mid-sixties. Their farm was known as Tayview farm and it straddled the Tay River and was very picturesque. At that time they had about 300 acres which included hay fields, pastures and of course maple bushes. His son Doug was on our school bus and he used to talk about helping his Dad back in the bush each spring.

The Miller family’s farm, known as Tayside was owned by Ernest ‘Ernie’ Miller and his wife Evelyn (Mather). The Miller family arrived from Scotland in 1809 and their farm was purchased by Ernie’s great grandfather Dodds in 1858. Their kids were Diane, Nancy, John and Ruth. Evelyn was a lovely, soft-spoken lady and she was my first 4H club leader. I also remember that Ernie was tapping about 1,500 trees back in the sixties and had about 30 acres of maple woods. Ernie was a forward thinker and one of his ideas at that time was that sap should be gathered by trucks from each farm and taken to a large central evaporator – similar to the way that milk was trucked to cheese factories. It seemed through the years that Ernie was into everything. When he wasn’t farming he wrote history books, he researched genealogy, he worked with young people and it was no surprise to me when he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

The McEwen clan in Ferguson Falls was another family who made their mark in the maple syrup business back in the 60s. In 1966 Robert McEwen of Prestonvale opened up the first pancake house in the area. Originally, Robert made his syrup the old fashioned way out in the bush and boiled a cauldron of sap over the fire. Later, in the 1970s I remember that he was one of the first to use plastic pipelines to bring the sap from the trees to one main location. Dad knew the McEwen family well, having grown up in that area and said that Robert often spoke of the difficulties involved in syrup production. There were always problems like getting reliable labour and often the lack of capital to purchase new equipment. Robert was very active in the local industry and at one time was the President of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Association.

Ken VanAlstine in Maberly had over 2,000 trees tapped when I was a kid and he was among the first to use pipelines. He experimented at first and tapped just 200 trees using the pipeline system but the rest was collected in buckets the traditional way and transported to the evaporator by horse and sleigh.

Ken, like other producers in the area found the cost of hiring labour prohibitive and that distributers wanted too much money per gallon. Ken was well known in the area for his excellent quality maple syrup and said on his best day at that time he gathered 3,300 gallons of sap.

Another local family of producers was the Adam family of McDonald’s Corners. Leonard Adam and his brother Tom tapped an average of 2,250 trees and had about 500 acres of land between them. They were hard workers and spent many days sawing, chopping and stacking the 20 cords of wood required for their evaporator and were one of the first to use a brand new style of evaporator which was 4 by 14 feet. They produced enough to sell locally and the remainder was shipped out West.

Brien and Marion (McLaren) Paul of R.R #3 Lanark had a 575 acre farm about three miles west of Hopetown and began maple production in 1953. Marion was raised on a farm near the village of Lanark, was known locally as the ‘First Lady of Maple’ and became a maple judge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Their kids Kathy, Wayne and Darrell were also very involved and provided additional labour for the family business. In 1972 Kathy was even crowned Maple Queen in the local competition.

Back in the 1960s they used two sleighs, one pulled by a tractor and the other by a team of horses. Brien’s father Raymond Paul often tended the evaporator, keeping a watchful eye as the steam boiled off into the air. Russell Foster and Raymond Watt often assisted the Paul family with the production. They tapped an average of 4,000 trees at that time and produced about 700 gallons of syrup and used approximately 30 cords of wood during the season.

The Paul’s were pioneers in the maple industry and were very modern in their approach. They were one of the first to install plastic tubing and an oil fired evaporator. The plastic pipes were attached to the tree spiles and the sap flowed through the pipes and emptied into a storage reservoir located behind the evaporator. Brien and Marion were inducted into the International Maple Hall of Fame and were members of the Ontario Maple Producers and the Lanark and District Maple Producers Association.

Gibson was a name known for their excellent syrup. James ‘Carman’ Gibson and his wife Edna (Rodger) had a maple business in Dalhousie Twp at R.R. # 4, Lanark. The nearby areas of Hoods and Poland were also known for their fine quality maple syrup. The Gibson family began tapping trees in 1821 with the arrival of James Gibson from Lanark, Scotland. He was the first pioneer settler in the area and named their new home Lammermoor after the Lammermoor Hills in Scotland. Their five children Verna, Beatrice, Norma, Carol and Earl all helped out with the operation. They also raised beef, dairy on their busy farm and hauled milk to the Middleville cheese factory.

When locals think of a long running maple operation, the name Dodds comes to mind. They had a substantial sugar bush at R.R. 2 Clayton in the Lanark Highlands. The Dodds family has owned Springdale Farm for generations and Don and Marion Dodds and their sons Bryan and Stephen helped with production through the years. The family has won many awards for being long term maple producers and as recently as last year Stephen Dodds won Grand Champion Trophy at Perth Festival of the Maples for 2011. Their long, long, list of awards include trophies for World Champion Maple Syrup, Sugar Maker of the Year, and a meeting with HRH Prince Charles at the Royal Winter Fair.

One of the maple syrup families that I remember fondly was the Coutts family on the Rideau Ferry Road. I’ll never forget how George Coutts used to invite the local kids to visit his sugar shack and he would take the time to patiently explain how the maple syrup was made. Miss Norma Devlin from the North Elmsley School was invited each year to bring her grade one class to visit the Coutts farm. George along with his son Kenneth showed the children how syrup was made and even provided the kids with some maple taffy at the end of the tour. At that time the Coutts family was tapping about 1,300 trees and produced more than enough syrup for both the family and for area sales.

The ancestors of the current Fulton family began to tap their maple trees back in the 1840s. Their large 370 acre farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham and they have tapped their huge 4,000 tree sugar bush for generations. Well known for their high quality syrup they have also operated a pancake house for many years and their sugar camp has been a popular attraction for both area families and visitors.

With these and so many other excellent producers in Lanark County, it’s not surprising that back in the 1970s there were talks of having a maple festival in the town of Perth. It was Vic Lemieux, owner of Norvic Lodge at Christie Lake, who first came up with the idea and presented it to the Perth Chamber of Commerce. Vic was successful in his campaign to launch the first festival, with the hopes that it would bring people out to celebrate the spring season after a long, cold, winter.

On April 19, 1975 the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth and it was quite an event!

When we arrived at the Festival that Saturday, they had closed part of Gore Street and Foster Street and the local maple vendors had set up their displays. At 10 a.m. the Festival was officially opened by the Ontario Minister of Industry Claude Bennett. The Legion ladies and the ladies from St. Andrew’s church had home baking for sale, and there were also side-walk sales on Gore Street and many arts and craft exhibits.

There were a tremendous number of district producers and many of them offered syrup for sale in various sized containers. Pancakes were available for purchase and free samples of Balderson cheese were given away and I recall we went back a couple of times to that booth! One of the oddest things was to see a wood burning evaporator set up on one of the main streets of Perth. I’ve seen a few of those out in the bush, but I never thought I’d see one in town!

Fiddling and step-dancing competitions were held that year and I remember Dawson Girdwood saying that some of the best fiddlers from Eastern Ontario were competing in the open and junior fiddling classes. Jimmy Heney, one of our neighbours won the fiddling prize hands down, as he often did and Karen Grey of Perth was the top step-dancer that night.

The folks in Perth were always up for a good beauty competition and so part of the evening program at the arena that night was the crowning of ‘The Sweetest Girl in Lanark County’. Miss Perth 1975 Michelle Hughes crowned the winner, Maple Queen Susan Thompson of Perth.

Over the years we always attended the Festival and each spring it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Every year it seemed that there were more vendors selling their maple goods, more artisans displaying their crafts and an increasing number of booths and displays. We also noticed a steady growth of tourists who had come from Ottawa, Kingston and even as far away as the States to visit.

People in Lanark County, understandably, have always taken their maple syrup very seriously. Because of this, it was devastating to many when January of 1998 brought the most destructive ice storm in Canadian history. From January 4th to 10th Lanark County was severely affected by freezing rain and ice pellets that fell and accumulated on tree branches day after day. This ice created a thick, heavy coat, damaging both the maple trees and the pipelines in the sugar bushes. Millions of tree branches were caked with the build-up of ice and became so heavy that they split right off of the trees; severely affecting the sap flow. At the time, there were speculations that it could take forty years for production to return to normal.

Many of us, have participated in making maple syrup at one time or another and know from experience that it’s extremely labour-intensive. We also have a clear understanding of the enormous amount of sap it takes to make a very small quantity of syrup. No matter how modern the equipment or methods, it still takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Now, add in the hours of labour for the tapping, transporting from the tree to the evaporator, the boiling down, the straining, the bottling and the labeling. Next, factor in the cost of equipment such as the spiles, the pails or tubing, the evaporation tank, fuel, the straining equipment, the bottles, cans and cost of transporting to market. Fifty dollars a gallon really doesn’t sound like all that much anymore now, does it?

So, the next time you pass by the maple syrup display in the grocery store aisles, or visit a maple vendor at his farm or at a festival, please remember how it’s produced. Remember the proud, hard-working families who settled in Lanark County and passed down their knowledge through the generations. Think of the enormous quantity of sap required to make a very small container of syrup. Most of all please stop and consider the origin of your syrup and take it from this Lanark County kid – you won’t find any better, more flavourful syrup, than from the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario.

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third Line”,
ISBN 978-0-9877026-2-3 , available at local book stores)

http://www.staffordwilson.com

A Sure Sign of Spring

robin in snow    crocus in the snow

If there’s one consolation after a long, cold, Eastern Ontario winter, it would have to be our first taste of Lanark County maple syrup in the spring.  Long known as the ‘Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario’, Lanark County has the highest quality syrup to be found not just in Ontario, but possibly on the entire planet.

maple syrup capital image

Our frigid nights, when the temperatures drop down well below zero are the perfect complement to the gradual onset of spring weather where the mercury rises slowly but surely into the single digits during the late mornings and afternoons.  This combination of freezing at night and thawing in the daytime creates the ‘perfect storm’ for the precious, sugary sap to drip in a constant stream from our maple trees.

maple syrup bucket.jpg

It takes no less than 40 gallons of this light, watery fluid to produce just one gallon of maple syrup, after a long steady boil in a large tank or cauldron.  It’s a lot of effort, labour and raw materials combined to produce a sweet, flavourful maple syrup, but not many would argue that the challenging and costly process is well worth it.

maple syrupmaple and pancakes

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of our pioneer settlers in Lanark County, and so this year’s annual Festival of the Maples in Perth will feature even  more vendors, music, and events.

maple festival gore st vendorsmaple fest syrup on snow

Some think of maple syrup as a ‘guilty pleasure’, but did you know that this tasty treat contains over 54 antioxidants and has many health benefits?   Recent studies done in Canada and the U.S. state that the botanical compounds found in maple syrup actually protect the brain cells from the kind of damage found in Alzheimer’s disease.  Article on health benefits of maple syrup

Whether you are a native of Lanark County or just a visitor looking for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, a visit to the Festival of the Maples in the historic town of Perth is sure to delight everyone in the family. From the tiny tot enjoying maple taffy on the snow, to the grown-ups sampling some of the local maple beer there’s something for everyone at this annual celebration of all things maple!

Join us at The Book Nook between 1 pm and 4 pm!

Festival of the maples 2016

http://www.staffordwilson.com

For more information on Lanark County maple producers and the history of maple production:   “Taffy on the Tay”  from Lanark County Chronicle  ISBN 978-0-9877026-23, available in local book stores.

Easy, mouth-watering recipes for Maple Butter and Maple Fudge at the conclusion of this article.

Contact information listing vendors known for their premium quality maple syrup; many are award winners:

Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush
Address: 291 6th Conc Rd., Pakenham, On
Phone: 613-256-3867 Email: info@fultons.ca Website: http://www.fultons.ca

McFarlane’s Maple Syrup
Grant & Gail McFarlane
1550 Prestonvale Rd
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-5410
Email – grantandgail@storm.ca

Paul’s Maple Products
Brien Paul
267 Sugar Bush Way,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-5276
Email – dpaul@storm.ca

Coutts Country Flavours
Address: 1230 Port Elmsley Rd. RR5 Perth, Ontario K7H 3C7
Phone: 613-267-0277 Email: couttscountryflavours@live.ca
Website: couttscountryflavours.ca/

Jameswood Maple
3231 Wolf Grove Road
Dwight James
249 Purdy Rd,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-256-4466
Email – jameswood@storm.ca

Temple’s Sugar Camp
Address: 1700 Ferguson’s Falls Rd. (CR#15) Lanark, On
Phone: 613-253-7000 Email: TemplesInfo@xplornet.com
Website: http://www.templessugarcamp.ca

Dorian Heights Maple Products
3631 Watsons Corners Rd,
RR 1 McDonalds Corners, ON K0G 1M0
Phone – 613-278-2177
Email – dorian75@live.ca

Springdale Farm
Don & Marion Dodds
Home – 1790 Galbraith Rd, RR 2
Clayton, ON K0A 1P0
Sugar Shack – 1699 Galbraith Rd.
Clayton, ON K0A 1P0
Phone – 613-256-4045
Email – info@springdale@.ca
Web site – http://www.springdalemaple.ca

Fairbairn Farm
1827 Wolf Grove Rd,
Almonte, ON K0A 1A0
Phone – 613-256-5047
Email – dfairbairn@hughes.net
Web site – http://www.fairbairnmaple.com

Wheeler’s Pancake House & Sugar Camp
Address: 1001 Highland Line Lanark Highlands (McDonalds Corners), On
Phone: 613-278-2090 Email:webinfo@wheelersmaple.com Website:http://www.wheelersmaple.com

Ennis Maple Products Ltd
848 Ennis Rd,
Balderson, ON K0G 1A0
Phone – 613-267-3491
Email – ennismaple@yahoo.com
Web site – http://www.ennismaple.com

Ryan & Glenn Stead
5692 Hwy 511,
Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Phone – 613-259-2578
Email – steadmaplesyrup@gmail.com

Sugar Maple Farms Ltd.
David & Paul Chant
3187 Thousand Acre Rd,
RR 2 Portland, ON K0G 1V0
Phone – 613-272-2616

 

Two of our favourite Maple Recipes:

Maple Butter

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup softened butter
• 1/4 cup maple syrup

Preparation Time 5 minutes:

Mix butter and maple syrup with electric mixer until blended. Serve on toast, cracker or warm muffins. This is so tasty and could not be easier to make. Use this creamy maple butter spread on bread, pancakes, muffins, toast, and biscuits.

Yield: about 3/4 cup

Maple Cream Fudge

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cream (I use Heavy cream/whipping cream)
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of maple syrup
pinch of salt
vanilla

Add the two sugars, butter and cream, maple syrup and salt into a sauce pan. Place over medium heat. Stir while bringing to a boil. Lower the heat and continue to stir slowly while the mixture cooks. After about 7 minutes, test by pouring a small amount into some cold water. You want it to form a soft ball. You might need to cook it for another minute or two. Remove from the heat, add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla and start stirring. It takes about 14 or 15 minutes for the fudge to cool and thicken. Pour into buttered dish. TIP: If you let the fudge sit for 10 minutes after removing from the heat and allow it to cool slightly this will reduce the stirring time. Option: Replace the cream and cup of white sugar with one can of Sweetened Condensed Milk and increase the maple syrup to 1 cup

Arlene Stafford-Wilson http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story

big rideau lakeThey were a couple of crazy kids from Kirkland Lake – outdoorsy-types, loved to ski and ride ski-doos, and most of all, they loved each other. After high school, they enrolled at Carleton U. , married in 1982, settled down in Orleans, and raised a couple of kids.

Fifteen years ago they went for a drive, and that was the first time they laid eyes on the Rideau Lakes. They’d never seen anything so blue, so peaceful, and so perfect. He looked at her and said, “This place feels like home.” And at that precise moment, they decided that someday they would build a house on that very spot.

At first, they bought a trailer, and a plot of land near the shoreline, and every season, without fail, they returned to the Big Rideau.

The kids grew up, and they knew that it was time –  time to sell the house in the suburbs and build their dream along the water’s edge. The Big Rideau had been calling their names for years, and they were finally able to answer.

ken and carol ann

Mornings begin now with pink skies at sunrise, and waves gently lapping the shores. Evenings wind down to the sound of the loons as the sun dips low along the horizon and eventually disappears into the lake.

A bumper crop of apples this fall, along with a perennial Perth Fair prize-winning recipe for Applesauce Loaf from “Recipes & Recollections”, filled their lake house with the warm scents of home baking.

applesauce bowl and bookapple sauce loaf in the pan 5

applesauce loaf in the ovenapplesauce bread finished

Time is spent lovingly restoring a 1961 classic boat to her former glory, and day-trips to Perth or Brockville along the scenic Rideau waterway.

lake life with ken and carol annThe beguiling charm of Rideau Ferry has been capturing the hearts of visitors and residents alike going back as far as the days of the pioneer settlers.

“One of the most notorious characters that passed his leisure time along the Rideau waterways was none other than Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone.  Al Capone was a mobster based out of Chicago and he made his fortune as a bootlegger during prohibition.

Al Capone       Al Capone's house

He is said to have been a frequent visitor to a grand home in Kemptville that was owned by John Harris.  Harris was a local who became a pharmacist and worked in Chicago. It has been suggested, that because of his background in chemistry and science he was possibly cooking up quantities of moonshine in his home and as you can imagine, this was of great interest to Capone.

In 1927 Harris built the beautiful, stone mansion that still stands today on Oxford Street in Kemptville.  Locals say that the house was built with a state of the art security system and series of underground passages.  The grand home features leaded glass, a main switch to control all of the lights in the house, and a panic button wired directly to the local police station. It has yet to be confirmed that there are two tunnels leading from the house; one that links the home to the Kemptville Hotel and the other which connects the house to the river.

Some of the stories have suggested that Capone himself hid a quarter of a million dollars, between the walls.  Whether fact or fiction, witnesses, who were around in the 1930s and 40s, claim they saw many long, black limousines and the infamous black Cadillac parked at the home.  Coincidentally or not, Harris sold the house and moved away within a few weeks after Capone’s death.”

On a lighter note, one of the popular dancehalls of the 1950s – 70s was known as the Rideau Ferry Inn. It was built on the site of what was originally a family home known as ‘Coutts House’.

After 1905, the building was rented to a series of business men. During the 1920s and 30s regattas became popular and Coutts House held canoe races and rowboats races. They also sponsored events for sailboats and it was the site of many grand daytime celebrations and intimate evening affairs for the wealthy travelers visiting in the summer.

Coutts_House

In 1947 Doug Wallace, native of Osgoode bought Coutts House, tore it down and built a new structure with wood framing and grey granite blocks. It was a two storey building and the second floor featured a large dance area with seating on three sides.

By the 1960s the building had become known as the Rideau Ferry Inn and during this time became licensed for liquor sales. Up until that time people would smuggle in their own booze, particularly in the roaring twenties when rum-running along the Rideau had its hey-day.”

Whether you’re a visitor to the Rideau Lakes region, or living the ‘Lake Life’ like residents Ken and Carol-Ann McDougall, Rideau Ferry and its majestic, pristine waterways offers something for everyone.

With a rich history and its striking beauty, the lakes are a wonderful place to pull up a chair and enjoy the view.

If you spend time around Rideau Ferry, you may hear these surnames that go back in the history of the area since the early days of the settlement:

Best

Bethune

Beveridge

Buchanan

Campbell

Cornell

Covell

Crombie

Dettrick

Donaldson

Fitzgerald

Frost

Gallagher

Gemmell

Gould

Grierson

Hall

Hitchcock

Houze

Irving

Jackson

Johnson

Joynt

King

Mathews

McCue

McKay

McLean

McVeety

Millar

Miller

Moore

Oliver

Poole

Purdon

Reid

Richards

Rintoul

Runge

Sewell

Shaw

Smith

Stewart

Taylor

Thomlinson

Tully

Vandusen

Wallace

Wills

Wilson

Wood

——-

Excerpts on Coutts House and Al Capone’s heyday taken from:

“Lanark County Chronicle – Double Back to the Third Line”    www.staffordwilson.com

Recipe for the prize-winning Applesauce Loaf may be found in “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”

recipes & recollections cover 1

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Homecoming

“Hearts glowed in friendship, forged over decades,

and the Spirit of Christmas entered the house, and walked among us.”

Christmas House Tour 2014 neighbourhood gals0001

For some people it’s the music of the season, the smell of the turkey, or the glittering gifts sitting under the tree; but for me it was a special visit to the house where I grew up, a homecoming, after a long absence of twenty-two years.

It doesn’t really seem that long ago since our father passed away in 1992, and our mother moved to town. I almost half expected to see him coming from the garage, carrying a tangled mess of Christmas lights, asking me if I’d hold the ladder steady, while he fastened the wire clamps onto the big spruce tree at the front of the house.

When I first heard from Wendy Parker, the current owner of our former home, that it was to be part of a Christmas House Tour, my thoughts turned back to days gone by, of the heavenly smells of Mother’s baking, bright cards in the mailbox at the end of the lane, and special concerts and plays at Calvin Church. There would be eight houses in total on the Christmas House Tour, and the event was sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women, and the money raised would help support education in the community.

Kevin and I arrived early that afternoon, with ample time to visit some of my old, familiar haunts. We drove first to Christie Lake, a place I knew well, the bridge at Jordan’s, where I’d jumped many times into the cool, clear waters. Hot days spent riding bikes with friends on the Third Line, and when that bridge was finally in sight it was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. What a welcome sight it was! And even on this cold, December day, the lake appeared as serene and as lovely as it always did, calm and blue, waiting patiently for cottage season, and the laughter of little ones, the parties and music of the older ones, and a place of peace and serenity for the eldest ones.   We drove along the shore, and then headed back up the Third Line.

Jordan's Christie Lake0001

A visit home would not be complete without making a stop at the church where our Mother brought us every Sunday. This was where we celebrated baptisms, witnessed weddings, and met for comfort after funerals. This was the setting for the Strawberry Socials, Easter Sunday white gloves and hats, the lighting of the advent candles and Christmas Eve. The church stands proudly on Cameron Side Road, looking solid as ever, a place for meeting neighbours, friends, a place for worship, a place for solitude, and a shelter from the storms and turmoil of the outside world.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

We headed back to the Fourth Line and rounded the curve, up to the railroad tracks. There were many strolls along these tracks to the duck pond, watching the beavers at play, seeing the ducks return year after year, raise their babies, and leave at the end of the season.   Memories of sitting under the big tree along the tracks with my brother Roger as we patiently placed a penny each on the rails, sat back, waited for the train to go by, then retrieved our flattened pennies. Many hours in my youth were spent waiting for trains, listening to the sounds of the lonely whistles, and hearing the rumbling and chugging down the tracks as they headed for Perth.

Tracks back the side road0001

This way to the duck pond0001

Tree near the tracks0001

We continued up the side road to the little creek and as soon as I spotted it, I remembered scooping up the tadpoles in my sand pail, and then pouring them into a big glass pickle jar to set on the window ledge in my bedroom. Every spring it was a ritual to catch some of these quick, black tadpoles, or pollywogs, as we called them, and watch them for hours, swimming contentedly in the jar, until we dumped them back into the creek.

Creek behind the house0001

Lowlands behind the house0001

The lowlands, across from the creek were still flooded, and ice was already beginning to form. It was back on these lowlands that we all learned how to skate; not on a flat, pristine ice surface in an arena, but through the weeds, and over the bumps, and up and down the imperfections of a farmer’s field. The fact that our skates were old hand-me-downs was the least of our worries!

Field back the side road0001

We drove up the side road to the laneway and parked the car. As we walked up the lane, the slopes and curves of the land were as familiar to me as if I’d never left, and we made our way to the door and knocked.

Kevin at the Christmas House Tour0001

Christmas House Tour sign0001

Garage - Christmas House Tour0001

Stafford House 20001

Stafford House0001

When the door opened and we stepped inside, the home was beautifully decorated for the season. Wendy’s elaborate table was laid out with her mother’s china and cutlery with festive accents fit for a holiday gathering. The whole house in fact, was lovely and bright, adorned with reds and greens and touches of gold and shimmer. As we walked through the rooms, one by one, they were warm and inviting, and almost made me forget that something was missing – the smell of fresh baked bread, a permanent aroma in our house as Mother baked daily for a family of seven.

There was a lovely display arranged on a table in the den, an album of our Stafford family photos and copies of ‘Lanark County Kid’ and ‘Lanark County Chronicles’. I thought that they looked very much at home in this well cared-for house, so lovingly maintained and obviously cherished.

Perkins' house from window0001

Stafford family photos0001

Sunset from kitchen window0001

Perhaps what made the house seem so much like home, after so many years away, were the familiar faces, friends and neighbours, who came to share the memories, of the things that once were; and to celebrate a new Christmas season, content and happy in each other’s company. Though Wendy’s is the newest face among us, it’s as if she’d been with us all along. Wendy is a gracious hostess, and we all had a wonderful time chatting about the house, and catching up on the news in the neighbourhood.

Many thanks to Wendy and to the members of the Canadian Federation of University Women, for making our visit possible, and thanks also to old friends and neighbours Margery Conboy, Beverly Ferlatte, Betty Miller, Eleanor Paul and her lovely daughter Heather for joining us on our trip down memory lane!

As I continue to bask in the glow of our visit to the old house, I will leave you with this quote from Thomas Wolfe:

“But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day we come home again.”

……..

 

 

This story –   in memory of Betty Miller  (1934-2015) – “gone, but not forgotten”

betty-miller

……..

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Festival of the Maples, Perth, Ontario

Ad for Maple Festival 2013

Join us Saturday, April 27th from 1 – 3 p.m. at The Book Nook, 60 Gore Street E., Perth, Ontario.

The Festival of the Maples features live entertainment all day, over 100 artisan and craft displays, food vendors and a tremendous variety of maple products.

See you there!

http://www.staffordwilson.com