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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The Witch of Plum Hollow

The readings always began the same way, with her visitors climbing the rickety wooden stairs to her cramped attic reading room.  She motioned her guests to sit across from her, at a small pine table.  A fresh pot of tea sat on the table, along with two cups.  She’d pick up the pot, shake it vigorously, and pour a cup, watching as the leaves slowly sank to the bottom.  Next, she swirled the tea around, poured the liquid back into the pot, then instructed her visitor to do the same.

fortune telling room

(the attic in Jane Barnes’ cabin)

 

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes was a beautiful, young, woman when she arrived in North America. She left her home in England after refusing to marry a man twice her age. Her father, a Colonel had instructed her to wed his friend, a middle-aged soldier, and Jane would have no part of it.  Instead, she fell in love with a handsome young man, Robert Harrison, and they left Britain together, married, and had a son.

Sadly, Robert died shortly after, and Jane was left alone to raise their baby.

Jane had a lovely slim frame, fair complexion, and bright eyes.  It wasn’t long before she began to date again, and a young shoemaker, David Barnes, won her heart.  They married and settled near Lake Eloida, not far from Plum Hollow, about fifteen miles south of Smiths Falls, in Leeds & Grenville, Ontario.  Jane and David had a large family – six sons, three daughters, and Jane took in three neighbourhood orphans after their mother passed.

Jane Barnes young

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes

 

Jane’s husband David, was a bit of a wanderer, and he left her, abandoned the children, and moved to Smiths Falls.

Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.

In the late 1800s, telling one’s fortune by reading tea leaves became very popular.

tea leaf reading painting

 

In those days, loose tea was used, and so the leaves at the bottom of the cup often formed shapes or patterns, and these were interpreted by the fortune-teller, to predict future events.

loose tea

Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water

 

tea pot

After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup

 

holding a cup with leaves

Then, the fortune-teller, or tea-leaf-reader, would interpret the meaning of the individual’s leaves.

Many believed that the position of the leaves in the cup itself, had meaning.

tea leaf 3

tea leaf symbols

The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.

tea leaf symbols 2

 

News of Jane’s accuracy in her predictions spread quickly, and she had visitors from neighbouring towns, cities, provinces, and even visitors from the northern states.

Jane Barnes old

 

During Jane’s time telling fortunes she was able to find missing objects, missing farm animals, and even missing people.  Jane’s predictions were so accurate that even the police called on her to assist them from time to time.  She even had a few very famous customers, in the many decades of her practice, in that little cabin in the country.

newsclipping about mother barnes

As the decades passed, news about Jane’s gift for predicting continued to spread far and wide, and there were often carriages lined up down the road near her little cabin.

 

news about Mother Barnes

 

Young people went to Jane to ask advice on their love lives and she was able to predict who they would marry.  If any of the neighbours misplaced anything, they walked to Jane’s little cabin and she would tell them exactly where to look.  Farmers went to Jane when their cattle or horses wandered off, and she always directed them to precisely the right spot. Business people consulted Jane for advice on their professions, and politicians sought her advice on elections and policies.

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Jane’s little cabin still stands today.

Jane's cabin

Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.

obit of Mother Barnes

 

Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery

 

Sheldon Cemetery

When Jane passed, she was buried in an unmarked grave.

Plum Hollow cheese-makers from 1924-1974, Claude and Ella Flood, erected a stone in memory of  ‘Mother Barnes’

 

Jane's gravestone

 

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Discover the fascinating story of Jane Barnes, and her years as a local fortune-teller.  Find out about some of Jane’s most prominent and famous customers.  Who were the high-profile movers and shakers who sought Jane’s advice on a regular basis? Read about a grisly murder case that perplexed police, and was finally solved by Jane. Who was the famous and controversial newspaper publisher who sent his wife to ask Jane’s predictions because he didn’t want to be seen visiting a ‘fortune-teller’.  Learn about the case of a poltergeist in Quebec, where the family seeks Jane’s help in solving the violent and frightening haunting of their house.  Discover these stories and more, in the book “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”, the complete story of Jane Barnes, a gifted lady, also known as – ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow”

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

Haggis Candy – Goodies on Gore Street!

It was her father, James Haggis, who started the candy business in Perth, back in 1926, but it will likely be Sophia, who will always be remembered fondly, as the ‘Candy Lady’.

Sophia 1

 

Sophia used the original equipment, passed down to her, from her father, like the big copper pots for melting rich, velvety, chocolate, and buttery peanut brittle.

copper pots

 

melting chocolate

 

Each year at Easter, Sophia made delicious chocolate bunnies and eggs, and would offer to personalize them with any name.  She used a stiff white icing, and piped on the names by hand, as her eager audiences waited for their special egg to be completed.

Easter egg

 

Haggis Candy was located on the main street of Perth, at 60 Gore St. E.

 

Sophia 2

 

A very special time of year for Haggis Candy was Christmas, and Sophia decorated her store windows with her giant candy-canes, some of them almost six feet tall!

candy canes

 

One of Sophia’s specialties was her Horehound candy.  It had a very distinctive flavour, and some said that it was a good remedy for sore throats, and congestion.  Most of her customers just liked its unique taste.  People came from miles around to buy her Horehound.

 

horehound candy

 

Sophia made her candy from the Horehound Plant.  The plants are picked, dried, and steeped with boiling water.  The liquid is strained, sugar is added and brought to a boil, then cooled on a marble slab.  The finished candies are cut into squares, and rolled in powdered sugar.

horehound plant

Another customer favourite was Haggis’ taffy.   Sophia used the original steel hooks to pull her taffy, to just the right consistency.

 

taffy hook

 

…..and the finished taffy, ready to enjoy!

 

taffy candy

She used the marble slabs, passed down from her father, to cool her fudge quickly, so that it could be cut into squares.

marble slabs

fudge

 

Sophia had a quick smile, and a warm personality.  She loved following in the traditions of her father, and most of all loved to see the smiles on her customer’s faces when they tasted her delicious treats.

Sophia 3

 

Haggis’ Candy store was where you’d often find my friends and I, after leaving Perth High School in the late afternoon.  My personal favourites were Sophia’s milk chocolate peanut clusters, made with real Spanish peanuts!  Sophia would place a few in a small, brown-paper bag, weigh them, and hand them to me with a smile.  Sometimes I would bring them outside, walk down Gore Street, sit on the bridge, and watch the world go by, as I savoured my chocolate treats!

peanut clusters

 

On hot, muggy, summer days, Sophia made the most delicious banana splits, and often tourists and locals alike, would stop by her store to sample some of her rich, creamy, creations.

banana split

 

In 1988, at the age of 77, Sophia retired from the candy business.  She kept active in her later years, and continued to play the piano, as she had often done, at various events in Perth, over the years.

Sophia playing the piano

Sophia eventually left Perth, and moved to Kingston.  She lived a long life, and there were many very happy birthdays over the years!

 

Sophia 4

 

Sophia had a wonderful milestone birthday, when she celebrated her 100th!  She still had her kind smile, and bright eyes.

Sophia 5

 

After a long, happy, life, Sophia passed away at Providence Manor in Kingston, on Sunday, November 4th, 2012, at the age of 101.

She may be gone, but never forgotten, and many of us will treasure the memories of our childhood visits to Haggis’ Candy store.

She will always be fondly remembered as the ‘Candy Lady’.

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Read the fascinating story of Sophia Haggis Nee in “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”.  Learn about Sophia’s childhood in Peterborough, her grandfather the Lockmaster on the Trent Canal, her grandmother Sarah, the published Poet, and find out about her great uncle Samuel Lowry and his scandalous court case.  Read about her days as a teenager at the Perth High School, and her chance meeting with the influential Mrs. Jack Stewart. Learn about Sophia’s most unusual trail-blazing career in Kingston, Ontario, before moving back to Perth to take over her ailing father’s business.  Read memories of the happy days at the candy store, the customers, the ‘regulars’, and some surprising things about this much-loved lady and well-respected woman entrepreneur in the town of Perth, Ontario.

LCCalling poster for web png

Book Launch “Lanark County Calling”

Lanark County Calling:  All Roads Lead Home

Travel back in time, through Lanark County, and beyond, in this collection of stories. The adventure begins in Perth, Ontario, where you’ll meet trailblazer, Sophia Haggis, a local confectioner, also known as ‘the Candy Lady’. Next, sample some popcorn at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, while you meet the folks who made sure your night at the movies went off without a hitch. Your next stop is Ferguson Falls, where you may encounter a ghostly apparition, searching for their lost love, along the shores of the Mississippi River.  Join the unforgettable party at one of the most popular country music festivals of our time – the legendary Ompah Stomp.  Meet the Witch of Plum Hollow, an Irish fortune-teller, who helped local police solve crimes. Come along on this captivating journey, through some of the most intriguing places in Eastern Ontario.

Saturday, September 29th,  12 noon – 3 p.m.

at The Book Nook and Other Treasures,

60 Gore St. E., Perth, Ontario

Book launch for blog

 

7th book in the series of Lanark County stories

 

Lanark County Calling - book cover Aug

 

Acknowledgement:

Thanks to those who ‘pulled back the curtain’ for an insider’s glimpse behind the scenes at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, Ontario:  Jan Stepniak, Gordon Evoy, Violet Gariepy, Scott Irvine Jr., and Tammy DeSalvo.

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Special thanks to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, and also to Marilyn Taylor Dunham for sharing their memories, stories, and special recollections of the legendary Ompah Stomp.

 

for poster

 

The Legendary Ompah Stomp

Visit this unforgettable party through it’s beginnings in 1978, through it’s glory days, up to the year 2000, its final year.

ompah stomp for blog

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A Night at the Movies:  The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls

Discover the history of this popular destination, and meet the fascinating folks who played key roles in this beloved movie theatre!

soper theatre for blog

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Sophia Haggis – Perth’s Candy Lady

Meet trail-blazer Sophia Haggis  –   take a trip down memory lane and visit Sophia in the pretty town of Perth, and sample some of her mouth-watering confections.

 

haggis candy for blog

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The Ghost of Ferguson Falls

Go back to the early days in Drummond township when the loggers came to town, sang their songs, spent their pay on liquor, and danced ’til they wore out the floorboards at Charlie Hollinger’s Hotel.  Meet local lad Jimmy, whose life ended all too soon.

lumber jacks

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The Witch of Plum Hollow

Visit this pretty hamlet, and meet an interesting Irish lady with some special abilities.  Discover the people she helped, and the crimes she solved.

witch of p h for blog

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Join us at the book launch on Saturday September 29th from noon to 3 p.m.

All are welcome.

See you there!

 

(lots of local names and familiar places in this collection of stories!)

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

Perth Fair – Flashbacks of Fun!

Perth Fair midway 1

It wasn’t just our Mother who loved the Perth Fair.  Yes, she spent months preparing for those brief few hours each Labour Day weekend, at the fairgrounds, along Rogers Road, but the rest of the family also felt a sense of excitement, rivalled only by Christmas morning!

Perth Fair logo on blue

The day had arrived!  The day that we would drive into Perth, park at our Aunt Pat and Uncle Peter Stafford’s house on Halton Street, walk up the road, and enter the gates.  By the time we got to the entrance, and Mother showed her Exhibitor’s Pass, we were bursting with anticipation. I knew that Mother would be heading straight for the Homecraft Building to check on her entries, but instead, I chose to slow down, look around, and take it all in.

Perth Fair poster 1966

She glanced back, waved, and then rushed down the well worn path, through the midway, and up to the buildings. I stood with my back against the side of the Lion’s Hall, and glanced around. There was so much to see that I didn’t know where to look first.  Being a kid, my eyes naturally gravitated toward the rides.

Perth Fair ride 1   tilt a whirl

They were all spinning and whirring, and the bright sun was bouncing off of all of the shiny metal.  There was a Ferris wheel, a Scrambler, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Bullet.  The Swings took up a lot of room, and so they were set up to the right of the buildings.  I could see four kiddy rides: a Merry-Go-Round, Baby Airplanes going round in a circle, Ladybugs, and a Little Red Caboose making its way along a tiny round track.

Once my eyes had taken in the rides, my senses turned to all of the sweet aromas of the Fair. Right across from where I was standing was the Lion’s Club ladies’ booth, and I could smell their fresh, homemade hamburgers, and the savory scent of fried sweet onions.  Straight ahead of me, just past the entrance was a vendor swirling a paper funnel around and around, in a circle, pink cotton candy swelling out from the stick, as he twirled it inside the machine.

concession 1  cottonn candy

Next to the cotton candy stand, was a man selling corn on the cob, and several people were waiting in line.  Folks were holding their cobs by a short wooden stick that had been plunged right into the big end of the cob, and there were two or three separate unwrapped pounds of butter set on the edge of the counter of the vending cart. The butter had already taken on a curved shape as people spun their cobs, and then salted them.

corn on a stick  corn dog

Next to the corn vendor was the hot dog cart. A tall, lanky man was grilling hot dogs on one side, and the finished dogs were spinning slowly around glistening on the grill. On the other side of the wagon, a younger lad was piercing hot dogs with long slender sticks, dipping them in batter, and placing them into a big deep fryer.  The cart had a low shelf with mustard, ketchup and relish and some diced onions for people to dress their hot dogs.

candy apples   caramel apples

 

There were two more food carts, so I strolled a bit farther down the midway toward the buildings. The first cart held a popcorn machine, even bigger than the one that I’d seen at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls.  It was a large, metal machine, painted red, and the popcorn was spilling out of the top into a big glass case.  The vendor was lifting it out with a bright, silver scoop, and placing it into small white paper bags that were decorated with red stripes and a clown’s face.

popcorn

The last food vendor in front of the Commerce building, was making snow cones.  There was a square, metal and glass machine and an old man in a dirty apron was pouring ice cubes into a big funnel on the top.  There were white cone-shaped paper cups stacked in a tall dispenser attached to the side of the machine and when he cranked the handle on the opposite side snow came out of an opening at the front.  There were clear plastic squeeze bottles lined up on a shelf, at the front of the machine, and each was labeled with a different flavour: cherry, orange, lemon-lime, grape and blueberry.

snow cone

I’m not sure if I was really hungry or if it was just from seeing and smelling all of the different kinds of food, and I thought that I might buy either a small bag of popcorn, or a blueberry snow cone. I dug deep into my pocket, and pulled out my money.  I had exactly twelve dollars, and my money had to last for the whole weekend, and this was just the first day.  I needed to save some, because my friends Susan and Jane Munro, Patti Jordan, and Debbie Majaury, would be coming into town later, and I’d want to go on the rides with them. Because the rides were $1.25 each I had to be careful not to spend money on food, so I stuffed the bills and change back in my pocket, and kept walking, taking in all the sights along the way.

midway 2

Photo: 1967 Old Home week,  David Bromley (clown on the left) Fred Mather (clown on the right)

I heard a man’s voice yelling at me, and it startled me so much that I jumped.  I looked toward the man timidly, and he was in a game booth, right behind a food cart, and he had a table set up with some wooden milk bottles, stacked in a pyramid.  He had a baseball in his hand, and called to me to come and knock over the milk bottles. It scared me so much that I just walked away.  I wasn’t used to strangers.  We knew everyone out on the Third Line, and lots of the folks in Perth as well.  None of the people we knew ever yelled at us like that, right out of the blue, and certainly not a stranger.  I walked quickly away, not looking back.

ring toss

The people that operated the games made me nervous.  They had a lot of tattoos, which was something we never saw in those days.  Many of them were a bit too aggressive. I’d played some of those games before, and although I won, I didn’t get the big stuffed bears and dogs that were hanging along the top and sides of their booth.

carnie

I’ll never forget the first time I played a game.  The back wall of the booth had four or five rows of balloons blown up, and they were stuck to the wall.  I thought I’d have no problem hitting one of the balloons, so when the man yelled at me to come and play, I thought it would be a sure thing.

prize every time

He said it was $1.00 for three darts so I handed him my money, and he handed me three darts.  Sure enough, the balloons weren’t that far away, and I hit and burst all three of them.

3 darts for a dollar

 

He reached down under the table, into a big cardboard box, and handed me a mangy looking stuffed snake.  It was about six inches long, and had an orange felt tongue, badly stitched onto its mouth, and two black felt eyes, that weren’t even lined up.

I looked up at the big stuffed bears and asked him why I hadn’t won one of those.  He said that my prize was a ‘small’ and if I wanted a ‘large’ prize I’d have to play and win, trading up to a ‘medium’ then win a certain number of ‘mediums’ and then I’d finally get one of the big bears. Holy cow!  Talk about disappointed!  What kind of scam was that?  Folks from Bathurst Township were used to other people dealing with them fairly. This game seemed like out and out trickery, and I wasn’t very impressed.  Still, I didn’t want to tell Mother that I’d just wasted my money, so I kept it to myself.  I didn’t even want to tell my friends that I’d been fooled like that.  I just felt stupid.

I walked by all of the other game booths, and watched people play.  Some folks walking around the fairgrounds were actually carrying one of the great big stuffed animals.  I wondered to myself how many of those mangy stuffed snakes they’d had to trade up in order to finally claim the big prize.

Perth Fair 1956

Photo: Perth Fair 1956 – L to R –  Wanda Mahon, Bette Duncan, Mary Douglas, Marsha Ann Nichols, Heather Murphy, Bill Redman (Bill operated the concession stands for the March Midway)

I walked past the last game in the midway, and there was a rough-looking older woman, holding a bunch of short, wooden fishing rods, with small black metal squares on the ends.  There was a round aluminum tub of water on the ground, and floating along the surface of the water were dozens of little yellow plastic ducks, and they each had ‘S’, ‘M’ or ‘L’, marked on their heads in black marker – small, medium and large I guessed.  I must have been staring too long at the tub of ducks because she called out at me to come and play.  She said everyone is a winner.  Not to be tricked again, I asked her what the prizes were, and she showed me.  She didn’t have huge stuffed animals, but it was only fifty cents to play, and you could fish in the tub until you caught a duck.

fishing game

I dug into my pocket, and pulled out two quarters, gave them to her, and she handed me a fishing rod.  By this time, after watching other folks play for a few minutes, I had figured out that the heavy black square on the end of the rod was a magnet, and that each of the yellow plastic ducks must have a magnet inside so they would stick to the line.  I looked down into the tub, and I could see that there were about forty or fifty ducks marked with an ‘S’, maybe ten marked with a ‘M’ and there were only three that I could see marked with an ‘L’.   I took my time, and positioned my rod right over one of the ‘L’ ducks and plunged it into the water.  Wouldn’t you know it, just my luck, the magnet had stuck to a duck with an ‘S’, the lady pulled it out of the tub, and handed me a prize.  It was a 45 rpm record in a paper sleeve.  I thanked her, and looked at the label.  It was the Shirelles’ song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”  Hmmm.  Well, the record was a few years old, but we had a record player at home, and some plastic adapters to play 45s, so this didn’t seem like such a bad prize after all.  Not bad for fifty cents!

The late August sun was working its way up into the sky, and I thought it must be close to noon.  I was starting to feel hot, and decided to head up to the buildings, and cool off inside.  The exhibit halls at the Perth Fair were grey metal arched buildings, with straight walls, and rounded roofs.  One of the buildings was known as the Commerce building, and it had lots of different vendors selling their products and services.  The other building was the Homemaking building, and this is where you could find exhibits of sewing and fancy work, vegetables, flowers, canned goods, maple products, and of course home baking.  It’s also where you could find our Mother!

Home Baking

As I walked closer to the building, there were two tables set up, right outside of the entrance.  One person was raffling off a quilt made by Mrs. Bert Frizzell, and the other was selling tickets for the annual draw to win a baby beef. Sure enough, as I approached the main door, I spotted Mother, standing along one of the baking counters, talking to Evelyn Bothwell, and Margaret Campbell.  Mrs. Willard Shaw and Mrs. Archie Ferguson were working at the next counter, arranging some of the craft displays.  The ladies all nodded and smiled at me, knowing that I was one of Mother’s ‘helpers’, responsible for carrying her baking in to the building each year, the evening before the judging took place.  I usually had a meringue pie on my lap, in the car, on the way into Perth, and there were countless trays of muffins, loaves, cakes, pies, cookies, bread, rolls and biscuits to carry, carefully, into the building each year.  Along with all of those tasty treats, she would also enter photography, flowers, vegetables and sewing, but it was the home baking competition where her talents shone.

maple syrup and honey display

Mother spotted me, smiled excitedly, and waved me over to the counter.  “Your Mother won the most points in the baking category again!” Mrs. Bothwell exclaimed, and the ladies pointed out all of the red ribbons and tags, behind the glass counter.  Mother beamed, and said that Mrs. Bell from Balderson had come very close to beating her, and that she’d have to stay sharp for next year!

prize ribbons     most points in baking 1965

There were also many other folks who won prizes at the Fair that year as well.  There was a gate prize each year, and the ticket number would be drawn, called out, and the winner received ten pounds of Balderson Cheese.  Now who wouldn’t want that!  They estimated that the crowd that year was around 15,000 and I’m not sure who won the gate prize, but someone went home that night with a big slab of the best cheese in the county.

mammoth cheese

One of the most popular events was the harness racing, and the winner was Eddie Norris of Perth. There was also a Tractor Rodeo – contestants had to drive tractors through an obstacle course pulling wagons and manure spreaders.  In the 14-18 yrs. division some of our local lads had a good showing.  Bill Poole came 1st, Allan Lowry was 2nd, and Brian Miller of Drummond Centre came 3rd.  In the 19 yrs. and over division Mervin Conboy of Maberly took first place, with Jack James from Middleville taking 2nd, and our neighbour from the Third Line, Wayne Conboy taking 3rd.

Donald Hossie, another neighbour, was the top winner in the seed and grain competition, and Mrs. Robert Moodie won the Sewing and Fancy work class with no less than 23 firsts! Mrs. John Auchterlonie, also from the Third Line, took top honours for her vegetables and fruits, and Mrs. Isobel Kent came first in the Flower competition.

flowers Perth Fair

giant pumpkin

Ray Poole was the winner of the best bale of first cut hay, and our neighbour, John Miller of Glen Tay, won for the best dairy cattle.  John’s sister Ruth Miller, won for the best senior calf.  Other winners from the Third Line included Paul, Dale and Jane Brady, winners for their 4H dairy cattle entries. In some of the other 4H competitions local lads Alfred Bowes and Brian Miller, John Miller, and Linda Bell of Balderson were winners.

showing calf      4H logo

Everyone enjoyed the light and heavy Horse Shows and the livestock competitions.  That was the first year that Charolais cattle were introduced into the mix, and so it was quite special to see them in the arena.

Horse and Charlolais at the Fair

showing calf # 2

showing at the Fair # 3

My good friends came to the fairgrounds that Saturday afternoon, and we had a wonderful time, riding the Scrambler, and the Tilt-a-Whirl, screaming, laughing, and then feeling dizzy on our walk back down the ramp, at the end of the ride.  We were all a little nervous about riding The Bullet, because while one of the two cars was right side-up, the opposite car was up-side-down.  We stood there quite a while watching other people riding, and screaming, and laughing, before we got up enough nerve to try it out ourselves.  I didn’t really like being upside-down, and some of my change fell out of my pocket, onto the ground below.  Luckily, one of our neighbours Linda Brady saw it fall, and she stood there and waited, until the ride was finished, and hung onto my change for me.

bullet ride

As always, the Grandstand shows at the Perth Fair were great entertainment for people of all ages!  Beautiful late summer evenings, clear skies, all the rides lit up, the scents of delicious food in the air, and wonderful live music, made those nights magical!

grandstand 2

grandstand

bandstand 3 edit

Everyone always came out to see the famous Trans Canada Hell Drivers!

Hell Drivers 1969Hell Driver clown

Hell Drivers at the Fair

Along with the Grandstand entertainment, one of the highlights of the Fair that year, was the Old Time Fiddlers competition on Sunday, and the musically-gifted Dawson Girdwood walked away with the top prize. Barb Closs from Lanark came second in the step-dancing competition, although we thought she should have come first, she was such a talented performer.  Watching the fiddling and step-dancing was a memorable finish to the Labour Day weekend.

Dawson Girdwood

Dawson Girdwood

The last night of the Fair, as always, was bittersweet.  We knew that it was almost over for another year.  I walked through the midway one more time, all the way to the Lion’s Hall.  The ladies in the Lioness Booth were packing up their big jars of mustard and relish, and some of the nearby vendors were starting to clean their food carts, and take them apart.

midway 4

Some diehard fans of the Fair were still playing games; taking a last spin at the Crown and Anchor wheel, or throwing one last pitch at Skeet ball, not wanting the fun to end.  Although it was getting late, there were still a handful of people on the rides laughing and screaming. The good-natured folks running the rides didn’t seem to mind and they gave these last few stragglers extra long rides.

As I walked back up through the midway, I took one last look behind me, as if I wanted to freeze the moment in my memory, then I reluctantly climbed into the car.  Dad started up the engine, and drove through the side entrance, onto Cockburn Street.

It was a wonderful fair!  I sat in the back seat of the car, tired from the busy weekend, as Mother chatted excitedly to Dad, already planning her exhibits for next year’s fair.

kids driving away

School would be starting soon, and the days would grow cooler, and the sun wouldn’t feel quite as strong as it did for the Fair.  In the weeks to come we’d bring our jackets down from the attic, and spend our evenings doing homework, instead of riding our bikes up and down the Third Line. As the daylight hours dwindled down we’d begin to see the onset of nature’s paintbrush, and its random strokes of yellow and orange, dotted across the maple trees in our yard. This would be our last taste of summer for a long while, and what could possibly be a more fitting way to finish off the season, than a glorious sunny weekend spent at the Perth Fair!

…………

Perth Fair 1963

…………

 

This story is an excerpt from:

Memories of Home Drummond North Elmsley

The story ‘A Day at the Fair’, first published in
“Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”   ISBN 978-0-9877026-30
some photos from: ‘Perth Remembered’, and from ‘Perth Fair’
L C Calendar book cover

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

A Lanark County Kid at Expo ’67

Expo 67

Throughout the entire year, in 1967, there were special events planned all across Lanark County, to help get everyone into the spirit of the 100th anniversary.  There was even a special flag created that year.

Expo flag

It was a stylized maple leaf made up of 11 triangles, representing the provinces and territories. I remember that the Lions Club was selling these flags in Perth, and one of the first places to hang one was at ‘The Perth Courier’ offices.   The grade eight students at Queen Elizabeth School went one step further, and constructed a three dimensional version of the flag.  They had a special ceremony at their school, with some local dignitaries – Rev. J. Gillanders did a devotional service. The Principal Miss Jean Blair was there, John Scott, Mayor Burchell, and Jack Wilson.

expo maple leaf

The Royal Canadian Mint issued new coins for the centennial year.  Each coin depicted a different Canadian animal – the back of the dollar coin had a Canada goose, the fifty cent piece was a wolf, and the back of the quarter was a lynx.  The Bluenose schooner on the back of the dime was replaced with a mackerel, the nickel featured a rabbit, and the one cent coin had a dove. It was also the last year that pure silver was used in our coins.

centennial coins

 

Mother and Dad decided that they would like to go to Montreal that year for the centennial celebration called ‘Expo ‘67’.  This was a kind of ‘world’s fair’, and was to be held in Montreal, Quebec, from April to October that year.  There were 62 nations in total that participated, and they each had displays and ‘pavilions’ set up to showcase their countries.  It was held on Ile Sainte-Helene, and Ile Notre-Dame, on an already existing island, and some ‘created’ islands as well.  There were likely many discussions back and forth between Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and the mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau, to get everything just right. Canada would be hosting many nations of the world, as well as its own citizens celebrating their centennial.

Man and his world

Dad was delivering milk, door to door in Perth, working for Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay at that time, and he would have his usual two weeks of vacation in July.

Chaplin's Dairy

 

It was decided that one of Dad’s vacation weeks would be spent at ‘Expo ‘67’, and Mother, who was the usual arranger-of-travels, began to look for accommodations. Mother read in the newspaper that there were families that lived close to the exhibition grounds in Montreal, who were renting rooms in their homes, and so she began making some phone calls, and writing some letters.  She found an English-speaking family who lived within walking distance to the Expo; they even had a little girl that was a couple of years younger than me, so that I would have someone to play with.  This seemed like an ideal choice.

Now came the tricky part……..  Dad did not like driving in heavy traffic.  He did not like driving in Quebec. He did not like driving on freeways.  Hmmm……Mother was going to be asking him to drive on busy highways, in Montreal, to probably what would be the most congested area for traffic in the entire country that summer.  This was going to be ‘interesting’.

The months passed by quickly, like they always do.  There were lots of celebrations going on all over Lanark County, and so, because it was such a busy year, I think that the time passed even faster than usual. The big week finally came.  It was time for Dad’s vacation.  The weather was hot and sunny, and we packed up the old Buick with our well-worn suitcases, and we drove down the lane, turned left onto the Third Line, and headed for Montreal.

Buick     suitcase open  suitcases closed

 

We crossed over at Glen Tay, and turned right onto Hwy 7, and headed east.  It wasn’t long before we saw the signs telling us how many miles it was to get to Ottawa.  Mother said we’d be passing by Ottawa on the Trans Canada Highway, and then continuing on to Montreal.

Dad didn’t like driving on the Queensway; not at all.  By the time we passed Bayshore I could see that he was getting a little ‘hot under the collar’.  By the time we got into Quebec, and were getting close to Montreal, I discovered for the first time in my life, that my father was bilingual. No, he couldn’t speak French.  He had grown up on the 11th Concession of Drummond Township after all, on a farm, in the 1920’s and 30’s. No, there wasn’t really any French being spoken up there.  No, the language that he started speaking, just outside of Montreal that day so long ago, was a completely new one – one that he likely wouldn’t want to be speaking when he dropped Mother off at Calvin Church on Sunday mornings.

swearing

 

Mother was giving him ‘the look’, and for once, it didn’t seem to be having any effect.  Apparently, from what I could gather, Dad was not too impressed by the skill level of the drivers in our neighbouring province of Quebec.

heavy traffic

Once we got into the downtown core of Montreal, we were trying to find the house where we’d be staying.  Dad got lost a couple of times before we finally arrived, and once again he demonstrated his fluency in a second language.  He would not, under any circumstances, stop and ask for directions, and Mother was frantically unfolding and re-folding the city map of Montreal. I sat quietly in the back seat, and hoped that we’d be there soon.

montreal map

We finally found the house, and pulled into their driveway.  They were very friendly people, and came right out to our car to greet us.  Their names were Jimmy and Vicki Irvine, and their little daughter Sharon was there beside them.  Jimmy helped Dad carry the luggage inside, and they showed us the room where we’d be staying, and I had a nice little cot on the floor, on one side of their room.

Mrs. Irvine was very kind, and she already had our supper on the stove.  She and Mother chatted in the kitchen, and Dad and Jimmy went back outside so Dad could have a smoke.  Sharon took me downstairs to their basement, and wow, their basement was really something!  She had more toys than I’d ever seen in my life, and right smack in the center of all of the toys was a spring horse!!  It was a plastic horse, set on a metal frame, and suspended by big heavy springs, and you could climb on its back, and either go up and down, or backwards and forward.  I loved it!  I was going to ask if I could have one of these for Christmas.  I thought to myself that there really wasn’t much chance of that happening, so I’d better enjoy riding it while we were staying here.

spring horse

We stayed with the Irvine family for the entire week.  We’d take the short drive to Expo ’67 each morning after breakfast, walk around, and see all of the different pavilions that were set up to showcase each country.  We even got a little paper ‘passport’ booklet, and a new stamp was added each time we visited another country’s pavilion. That was a pretty cool souvenir!

Expo passport

expo passport inside

 

 

Another souvenir from that trip was a little notepad with a red plastic cover, with the centennial maple leaf design on the front, and even better still, I was given three four-leaf clovers.  Mr. Irvine had a patch on his lawn where there were four-leaf clovers growing, and he picked three of them for me to press in my little notepad, before we left at the end of the week.

Expo notepad

4 leaf clovers

 

Mother and Dad kept in touch with the Irvine family for many years.  We never returned to Montreal, but they sent Christmas cards back and forth each year, for many years, until one year when Mother didn’t receive a card.  It had been many decades since our trip, and Mother wondered at the time if one of them had passed away.  The Christmas before that was the last time we would hear from them. It was sad to have lost our connection with the Irvine family.  Whenever we’d receive their Christmas card each year it always brought back the memories of Expo ’67, and of all of the centennial celebrations.

1960s christmas card

 

I fondly recall all of the special events in Perth that year, and in different parts of Lanark County.  When I think of the 100th anniversary of confederation, and of Expo ’67, I will always remember the Irvine family, and how they graciously opened their home to us, strangers from another province, that they welcomed us as if we were old friends, and made us feel a part of the big celebration going on in our country that year.

It serves to remind me, even today, that there are good folks everywhere, not just in our own back yards, but all across this great nation of ours.

canada 150

 

 

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied, outbursts of emotion,

but the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime.”  

                                                                       Adelai Stevenson

 

…………….

 

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

http://www.staffordwilson.com