Lanark County Classics – Book Launch

A sunny, warm, late September day brought record crowds to the official book launch for “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.

The Book Nook, a popular store on the main street of historic Perth, Ontario, was the setting for a steady stream of book lovers eager to read the latest collection of stories set in Lanark County, the picturesque maple syrup capital of Ontario.

The newly released stories in this series are set in Perth, Lanark, DeWitt’s Corners, Pakenham, Clyde’s Forks, Middleville, and the former North Burgess Township, taking the reader along on a journey back to the 1960s and 1970s in rural Eastern Ontario.

An early visitor to the store on Saturday, was Tara Gesner, from Metroland Media, a reporter covering the book launch for the local newspaper.

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There were many new faces stopping by, after reading the glowing reviews appearing in several publications   Review of Lanark County Classics

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A reader from Port Elmsley stopped by, interested in local history, and had certainly come to the right book launch for stories set around the region.

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Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss, former classmate of the author has purchased the entire collection for her mother, who has been a fan of the series since the beginning.

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Nancy Townend, Pakenham resident, came to the launch after hearing that one of the stories ‘Perils in Pakenham’, was set in her lovely,scenic, village.

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Carol-Ann McDougall,  resident of the Big Rideau Lake, featured in the story “Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story” Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story  brought a lovely, bright yellow chrysanthemum to grace the table of the book launch.  Carol-Ann has read all of the books in the Lanark County series, and has been looking forward to reading the newest collection of stories.

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Carla Brown stopped by, as she often does, to purchase the latest Lanark County book for her grandmother Shirley Myers.

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Avid reader of local history, Tom Ayres was eager to get the latest book in the series.  Tom has read all five in the collection, and is the reader who requested the story on Antler Lodge, featured in the last book – Lanark County Connections. Antler Lodge

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One of the stories in the new book, Lanark County Classics is ‘Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners. The story takes the reader back to the earliest days of the hamlet, recounts the history of this proud settlement, and the DeWitt family, whose name still graces the community today.   It was a special treat to have members of this founding family attend the book launch.

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Jane DeWitt Brady O’Grady – descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, founding family of DeWitt’s Corners.

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Also, a direct descendant of Zephaniah DeWitt, and native of DeWitt’s Corners – William ‘Bill’ Cavanagh,  son of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh, and his wife Brenda.

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Another native of DeWitt’s Corners, and descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, sister of Bill, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, daughter of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh:

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It was a real treat to share some memories of DeWitt’s Corners with Jane, JoAnne and Bill!

Along with the DeWitt descendants, long-time residents of DeWitt’s Corners, Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by the book launch.  Both Dave and Elaine contributed their memories and stories of DeWitt’s Corners for the book.  Owner of The Book Nook, Leslie Wallack, is standing to the right of Elaine. Leslie and her staff were busy the entire day assisting visitors to this popular store.

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Beverly Miller Ferlatte also stopped by the book launch.  Beverly shared her memories of S.S. # 4 , Bathurst, School for the story based in DeWitt’s Corners.  Beverly’s grandmother Mary Jordan was a well-loved and respected teacher at the school for many years.  The school house has been converted into a residence and Beverly’s brother Brian is the current owner of this historic building.

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Janice Jordan Gordon was another contributer to the DeWitt’s Corners story in the book. Janice was very helpful in identifying the children in several class photos from S.S. # 4 Bathurst School.

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A book launch would not be complete without a visit from former neighbours from the Third Line of Bathurst, Margery Conboy and her daughter Diana. Margery and her husband Wayne Conboy also shared their memories of DeWitt’s Corners, and the historic cheese factory that remained at ‘The Corners’ until 1979.

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Another former neighbour, Dave Mitchell,stopped by the book launch.  Dave was also interested in reading the story on DeWitt’s Corners, and finding out more about the history of the area where he was raised.

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The Book Launch at The Book Nook was a great success!  Many thanks to host Leslie Wallack and her staff, for keeping up with the steady crowds, and for providing the delicious refreshments.

A special thanks to all who came, from near and far, to stop by and chat, to share some memories, and to be a part of the busy day!

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Stories in “Lanark County Classics”:

  1. Baffling Banshees in Burgess
  2. Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners
  3. Mystery in Clyde Forks
  4. Multitudes in Middleville
  5. A Grand Era in Lanark
  6. Perils in Pakenham
  7. Perplexed in Perth

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

Lunch with the Retired Women Teachers of Ontario

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The scenic town of Perth glowed in the warmth of the bright spring sun as we made our way along historic Gore Street last Thursday.  The Retired Women Teachers of Ontario had kindly invited me to speak at their monthly meeting, and they chose the popular Maximilian Restaurant as their venue.

Maximilian, open since 1975 has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Perth, as well as the surrounding area, and many come from neighbouring towns and cities to sample their delicious cuisine; particularly their famous melt-in-your-mouth schnitzel dishes!

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I received a warm welcome from the RWTO, and once everyone had arrived and settled into their seats, I read two short stories to the group –each with a theme about education. The first story from my book “Lanark County Kid”, is about the transition from the one room school houses to a centralized school, built in 1968 – Glen Tay Public School.  The story describes the debates that went on and on for months, regarding the financial strain on the townships and  should they proceed with building a new school. The discussions that followed highlighted the pros and cons by both parents and teachers concerning which of the two styles of education provided the best overall experience for the students.  The story describes the new school, larger student population, and the advantages and benefits of the new facilities and modern methods of teaching.

The second story that I presented focused on a popular local teacher in the 1960s and 1970s – Mrs. Dencie (Tryon) Conboy.  One of the unique features of Mrs. Conboy’s classes was her fondness for blending studies with physical activities, usually in the form of softball games, designed to help burn off pent-up energy when students became restless in her classroom.  Her teaching style was ahead of its time, and many of her students went on to become successful, contributing members of their communities.  The story was a tribute to her methods of ‘thinking outside the box’ in her popular and perhaps slightly unorthodox and much-loved teaching style.

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After lunch there was an opportunity to meet with many of the teachers, and to discuss the changes in education through the years, and some interesting new developments on the horizon.

The lunch at Maximilian was delicious as always, and it was a delight to meet with so many of the members of the RWTO.   There were lots of fascinating discussions as well as questions about the five books on Lanark County that I brought to the presentation.  I would imagine that teachers and books go together like honey and bees, so it was my pleasure to introduce the members to my collection of published books.

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The sun was still bright and warm as we departed from our delicious lunch with the RWTO members.  There are few things as peaceful and lovely as a drive through the town of Perth on a mild spring day.

Many thanks to the RWTO members for their warm hospitality, and for making our visit with them such a delight!

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For more information about ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”

For more information about Maximilian Restaurant in Perth Ontario:

Maximilian Restaurant Perth Ontario

For information about the Retired Women Teachers of Ontario:

RTWO history

 

CAROL BENNETT McCUAIG reviews “Lanark County Connections”

Carol's blog with dogArlene Stafford-Wilson has done it again! Lanark County Connections: Memories Among the Maples, the latest in her series of popular memoirs, is a book that is sure to delight her many fans. It is a mixture of childhood memories and carefully researched local history.

The author has written this book as a tribute to the founding families who settled in the townships of the Perth Military Settlement whose bicentennial will be celebrated in 2016. The anniversary is of special interest to her family because her ancestor, Tobias Stafford, arrived in Drummond Township in 1816. In this new collection of reminiscences she continues to reconstruct the rural Ontario of her childhood, taking the reader along for the ride.

An interesting part of the social history of Lanark County concerns the many local dance halls of the 1950s to the 1970s. Arlene takes a close look at these and in particular the Antler Lodge at Rideau Ferry. Her account is sure to provoke a burst of nostalgia in those who were there! “To many, the charming, rustic Lodge was the unforgettable backdrop for their first kiss, their first dance, and for some, their first love,” she suggests. This chapter recalls some of the big names in Ottawa Valley country music in the decades following the war. What became of them all? Where are they now?

The author notes that in 1957 a meeting held at the Antler Lodge resulted in the Ferry Road Telephone Company voting to let the Bell Telephone Company convert North Elmsley Township to dial service. Remembering the days when I shared a 28-household party line in Lanark County, I know that the people who lived there must have many a tale to tell of their experiences back then.

There is a fascinating chapter about the family who built the historic Matheson House, now the Perth Museum, but that is not all! Something strange and wonderful happened to the young Arlene when her mother took her to the grand opening of the museum in 1967. What was that all about? You will have to read the book to find out more!

The chapter entitled Quilting Queens of Lanark County is as much a glimpse into the lives of rural women half a century ago as it is an account of the art of quilting in Lanark County. And the superstitions associated with the craft are delightful. You’d better not begin a quilt on a Friday or you may not live to complete it! “From my vantage point, under a sturdy wooden quilt frame, I learned much more than how to make a fancy cover for a bed,” Arlene recalls, harking back to her childhood. I, too, can remember sitting under a table, hidden by the cloth, taking in all sorts of information not intended for a child’s ears! Perhaps this image will evoke interesting memories for others too.

Perth’s Stewart Park is a lovely place in which to take a peaceful walk. Have you ever wondered about the origin of its name? This book supplies the answer in the form of a heartfelt tribute to Jessie Henderson Stewart, who gave the land to the town. This was someone whose life is an inspiration to all women, and her story is well worth reading.

For me, a valuable part of the book is the way it brought to the surface numerous memories of my own. As a journalist I interviewed a number of the people mentioned by the author, including Walter Cameron and Garnet Hazard.

And then there are various references to married women, who, prior to the advent of the women’s movement of the 1970s, were always referred to under their husbands’ names. Woe betide the unwary newspaper editor who recorded a woman as, for example, Mrs. Mary Jones, instead of Mrs. Donald Jones. Heated words would be exchanged and an apology published the following week!

Even for readers who have no Lanark County connections of their own, the book may well spark recollections of another time and place. Meanwhile, those of us who have lived there will pounce on the many references to those who have gone before us. “I knew her!” we may say excitedly, recalling incidents that are amusing, or happy, – or perhaps otherwise!

To quote Arlene, there is “nothing quite as good for the soul as a day or two, far away from the busy world, discovering the back roads in Lanark County”. Why not join her, as she shares some of her memories among the maples? I think you’ll be glad you did.

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Review byCarol McCuaig former weekly newspaper editor, author of sixty three books, including “In Search of Lanark”, historical novels, regional histories, commissioned works and books geared to helping people who are researching their Lanark and Renfrew County (Ontario) roots.

In Search of the Red Dragon: The Welsh in Canada” received the Ninnau Award for its contribution to North American Welsh culture.

In 1997 she received an Achievement Award from the Ontario Heritage Foundation, for her body of work in recording regional history.

http://carolmccuaig.ca/   Website: Carol Bennett McCuaig

photo:  courtesy – website of Carol McCuaig

International Writer’s Festival Comes to Perth!

Writer's Festival Aug 2014

Perth Crystal Palace

Join us Saturday, August 23rd from 9 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Crystal Palace in Perth, Ontario.

In its first year ever, the Perth Chapter of the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival will be showcasing local authors at a Book Fair at the Perth Farmer’s Market set against the backdrop of the picturesque Tay River.

Whether you come by car and park along the historic streets of Perth, or sail up by boat and take in the breathtaking views along the Tay Basin, there will be something for all ages to enjoy.

The event features a number of local writers including Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of:

• Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen
• Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line
• Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line
• Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third

Pick up a copy and have it signed by the author.
Mark this special event on your calendar.
For more information contact:

The Perth and District Chamber of Commerce (613) 267-3200 / 1-888-319-3204
or Leslie Wallack at The Book Nook thebooknook@bellnet.ca

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Groundhog Blues in Lanark County

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January always seemed like the longest month on the calendar. It was still cold and dark when February arrived, and there were so many months ahead before we could ride our bikes to DeWitt’s Corners, or Christie Lake.

Each year, we  waited patiently for Groundhog Day.  Would he see his shadow? Would there be an early spring, or would there be another two months at least of these cold, grey days?

Punxsutawney Phil had predicted the onset of spring since 1890 in Pennsylvania, and his Canadian counterpart Wiarton Willie began his annual forecast in the 1950s. At our house we listened closely to both forecasts, hoping that at least one of these rodents would offer some hope of an early spring.

So, we had two possible groundhog predictions, and two different radio stations. There was CJET in Smiths Falls, and Mother would often tune in and listen to Hal Botham after we’d left for school, while she did her ironing. CFRA was her usual early morning station and we’d often hear Ken ‘General’ Grant shouting, “Forward Ho!” as we ate our puffed wheat, before walking down the lane to wait for the school bus.

I could tell that Mother was also growing weary of the long, cold days of winter and if the ‘General’ didn’t report the prediction she wanted to hear then she’d likely turn the dial to CJET hoping that Hal Botham would have another version of the groundhog’s forecast. If it was cloudy, and the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we’d have an early spring – just six more weeks of winter. By the first week of February we didn’t want to hear any other forecast. Six more weeks of winter would be enough to bear, without the possibility of the season being any longer!

When I came downstairs for breakfast that Groundhog Day morning so long ago, Mother had already set up the old ironing board and was busy ironing a linen tea-towel. I asked her if she’d heard the groundhog’s prediction yet, and she didn’t look up, but continued to iron. “It’s just a myth, just folklore”, she said, and she folded the tea towel neatly, and started on the next one.

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“So, he saw his shadow?” I asked. “Yes they both did.” she responded somberly, still not looking up from her work, and folded the next tea-towel.

I sat quietly at the old kitchen table, ate my bowl of puffed wheat, drank my orange juice, and took my cod liver oil capsule without even being asked. Six more weeks would have spring starting sometime in the middle of March, but now it would be even longer.

I finished my breakfast, put my dishes in the old porcelain sink, pulled on my boots and coat, grabbed my wool hat, mitts and lunch pail, and headed out the door.

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As I trudged down the long, snowy lane-way to the Third Line, I felt defeated. It was sad how a couple of groundhogs that we didn’t even know could make Mother and I feel so depressed. I didn’t even understand how they could have seen their shadows that morning, because it wasn’t sunny outside at all. I couldn’t see my own shadow, and that meant that our local groundhogs wouldn’t be able to see theirs either.

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I didn’t really know where Wiarton was located in Ontario, and didn’t have a clue about Pennsylvania, but I was sure that none of the groundhogs in Lanark County saw their shadows on that cloudy, grey morning in February. Maybe the other groundhogs were wrong! Maybe there would be an early spring after all! Maybe the snow would be gone soon, and I could ride my bike up to Christie Lake again. I had to stay positive. I had to keep hoping. I had to………………

 

 

 

 

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(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line
ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0)

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http://www.staffordwilson.com