Ompah Stomp!

ompah-sign

 

“Drivin’ country roads, highway 509,

August sun is shinin’, and we’re feelin’ fine,

Been workin’ real hard, and we need a little break,

Headin’ for the party up at Palmerston Lake

 

Grab a bottle, twist the cap, and pass it around,

Swayin’ with my baby to the country sounds,

Music’s loud, fool around, go for a romp,

This is how we do it at the Ompah Stomp”

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

 

The Ompah Stomp

It was late August, 1978, that we heard about a music festival, to be held over the Labour Day weekend, in Ompah.  This was going to be a back-roads tour, to end all back-roads tours – an outdoor party with live music, and we couldn’t wait!

 

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The Village of Ompah

In those days, Ompah was a tiny, quiet, village.  The most popular place in Ompah, was the Trout Lake Hotel, owned by Wayne Kearney.

The building was originally a private residence; over 150 years old, in fact it was the oldest building in Ompah. Over the years, the residence became a popular local bar. The old timers around there say that they began serving liquor there in 1904.  It was the first licensed establishment in Eastern Ontario, and the locals also claimed that it was one of the first bars in the province.

The hotel was rumoured to have been the setting for some famous and infamous barroom brawls too, but we won’t get into that. The busiest times were in the summer. During the year, there were quiet times, but the seasonal visitors, mostly summer fishing enthusiasts, and the winter snowmobiling patrons, kept it fairly busy.

 

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Trout Lake Hotel, Ompah, Ontario

 

The First Ompah Stomp

After much anticipation, Labour Day weekend, 1978,  finally arrived.

We jammed as many young people that could fit, into one of my friend’s parent’s cars, and off we headed to Ompah.  We drove up the Third Line, and turned onto Cameron Side Road, past Calvin Church, over the railroad tracks, and onto Hwy 7. We turned onto the Elphin Maberly Road, and continued onto Hwy 509, then Lake Road, and Lafolia Lane.  We parked, and got out of the car. The Stomp grounds were beautiful, green, and lush, with tall, majestic trees, situated on a hill, overlooking scenic Palmerston Lake.

Palmerston Lake

Palmerston Lake  (also referred to locally as Trout Lake)

That first Ompah Stomp, was held on September 3, 1978, and their special guests were Max Keeping, of CJOH TV, and Doug Anderson of CKBY FM.  There was a step dancing contest, held at about 8 p.m., followed by old fashioned round and square dancing.  The musical guest artists that year were Sneezy Waters, Mike O’Reilly, and Wayne Rostad.

 

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Thomas Burke’s Store, Ompah

 

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L-> R: Dennis Rowan (bass) , Neville Wells (vocals, guitar), Peter Clements (drums), Al Webster (guitar),  Band: Sweetwater 

Over the years, we grew to believe, that this annual country music festival, was our own little ‘Woodstock’.  The Ompah Stomp grew, in leaps and bounds, as people heard about it, and wanted to experience the live music, and party atmosphere.

That first year, in 1978, the organizers had anticipated about 200 people attending, and the total numbers were closer to 3,500.  The second year,  the crowds grew to 5,000 and the third year, saw the attendance numbers rise to 6,500.

 

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L  – Tony Hickey       Centre –  Paul Munro,     R. – Brent Munro

 

 

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Wayne Rostad

 

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Local dancers – showing off their moves

Some of the musical acts that performed at the Stomp were:  Neville ‘Nev’ Wells, , the Family Brown, Jack McRae and the King of Clubs, The Prescott Brothers, Hugh Scott, Ron McMunn and Carbine, Steve Glenn, David Thompson, Fred Dixon, Lynn and Chris, Lloyd Wilson, Dallas Harms, Ted Daigle, C-Weed Band, Terry Carisse and many others.

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L – R: Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells
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Guitar: Neville Wells

 

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Drums:  Peter Clements    
                        

 

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Michael O’Reilly

 

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1978 – early crowds at the Ompah Stomp

 

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Gary “Spike” Spicer (guitar)    

 

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                      Warren Sutcliffe (bass) 

 

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Pete McCormick (drums)

 

“Perth Courier” September 12, 1979 – a review of the second year of the ‘Stomp’:

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Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells

 

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Al Webster

 

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Sneezy Waters

 

A poem written by Kathy Norwood, about the ‘Stomp’, printed in March 1980

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Peter Clements (drums) 

 

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                                                                        Doug Orr

 

The Crowds Grew Larger Each Year

The Ompah Stomp became a much-anticipated annual event, and was featured in the local newspapers.

“Perth Courier”  Sept. 2, 1981,  page 19:

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Poster from 1982

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A section of the happy crowd – 1978

 

The Road to ‘The Stomp’  – 1983

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Poster from 1984

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Liquor and beer flowed freely from coolers and wine-skins, and the lineup at the washroom facilities was unbelievably long, but everyone enjoyed themselves just the same.  It was wonderful to have a music festival so close to us.  In those days, if we wanted to hear live music of that caliber, we’d have to travel to Ottawa or Kingston, so it was great to have the Ompah Stomp so nearby.

 

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As the years passed by, the Ompah Stomp had a reputation as a wild party, and the local police adopted stricter controls for the festival.

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The Stomp carried on for many years, after those first few annual celebrations. Visitors traveled from the U.S., and from neighbouring provinces as well.

Labour Day weekend was one of the busiest and most exciting times for us, in the area, because of the Ompah Stomp.

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Looking back, it’s difficult to imagine that a tiny village of around 100 people, and their local snowmobile club, could create a music festival, attracting thousands of people, from all around.

The Ompah Stomp was a shining example of the spirit of the people in rural Eastern Ontario, and what they could accomplish.  They never faltered in their belief that they could succeed, or lacked the confidence to organize a music festival just because they were a handful of folks, from a tiny village.

The Ompah Stomp became a metaphor, an example for all of us, that it only takes a few people who believe strongly in something to make a difference.  It sure made a difference for us kids in the country, who were always looking for a little excitement.

I will always remember those special times at the Ompah Stomp, and how they made our last weekend each summer something we’d all remember fondly for years to come.

Photos from the 1978 Ompah Stomp from the private collection of Don White, from the band, Grateful We’re Not Dead:  Grateful We’re Not Dead Facebook Page

Many thanks to Don White and Neville Wells for providing the names of the musicians in the photos!

Neville Wells, a founding father of the ‘Ompah Stomp’, was inducted into the Ottawa Valley County Music Hall of Fame, in 1994.

Neville Wells Hall of Fame

For more information on Grateful We’re Not Dead:  Grateful We’re Not Dead Official Band Website

……..

Some of the families who settled around Ompah:  Dunham, Kelford, Closs, Conlon, Dawson, Ellenberger, Elliott, English, Gunner, Hitchcock, Cox, Keller, Killlingbeck, Kirkwood, Mabo, Massey, McGonigal, McDougall, Molyneaux, Moore, McDonald, Murphy, Payne, Praskey, Sproule, Thomas, Tooley, Richardson, Riddell, Roberts, Sproule, Stewart, Stinson, Thomas, Uens, Ostler, MacRow, Martelock, James, Ackerman, Allen, Struthers, Brown, Gunsinger, Lemke, Armstrong, Jeannerett, Hermer, McNeil, Badour, Johnston, Kring, HIll, Weiss, Wood, Card, Boyd, Dempster, Donaldson, Larock, Morrow, Mundell, Praskey, Ryder, Shanks.

 

… Search for your ancestor in the 1901 Census of Canada:

 

1901 Census of Canada

Why Did the Ompah Stomp end? Find out the real reasons behind the final days of the Ompah Stomp, from the people who were there…

Discover the ‘glory days’ of the Ompah Stomp, how it began, who was there, the unforgettable parties, the music, and more:

“The Legendary Ompah Stomp”, in the book –

‘Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home’   ISBN: 978-0-9877026-61

Book Launch poster 1

 

Available at The Book Nook and Other Treasures, and The Bookworm, in Perth, Mill Street Books in Almonte,  or online at  http://www.staffordwilson.com

For more information on the history of Ompah and some of its founding families:

Clarendon and Miller Community Archives:

http://www.clarmillarchives.ca/index.html

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Book Review: “Inside Ottawa Valley”

Inside Ottawa Valley banner Sept 2020

Inside Ottawa Valley 2

Arlene Stafford-Wilson photo Inside Ottawa Valley

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

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

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

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

LC Collection cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurie Weir 2020

New Book sneak preview- Fall release 2020

poster for LC Collection website

Arlene in front of Book Nook Sept 12 2020

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, at the book launch for “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”, at The Book Nook, Perth, Ontario, on September 12, 2020.

“Lanark County Collection:

Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”

“Travel back in time to the 1960s and 1970s, as the author invites you to come along on this journey through rural Eastern Ontario.  Visit the Rideau Ferry Inn, a much-loved dance hall, where rock and roll was king.  Watch in wonder as a water-witcher dazzles you with their mysterious abilities, as they locate the best spot to dig a country well.  Spend the evening at the infamous Stumble Inn, in Ferguson Falls, known for its bootleg whiskey, and legendary fighting among the Irish villagers.  Next, meet the dedicated staff of the Perth Public Library, and discover the tragedy, scandal, and unstoppable spirit that made this place ‘the heart of the town’. Visit a rural farmhouse, and discover the secrets behind the art and science of sourdough.  Spend a hot summer night at the Port Elmsley Drive In, meet some fascinating people, and find out what happens behind the scenes, while you watch a movie under the stars.  Join the author, as you wind your way down memory lane.”

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1:   The Mysterious Ways of the Water-Witcher

Chapter 2:   Hot Summer Nights at the Rideau Ferry Inn

Chapter 3:   Perth Library – Heart of the Town

Chapter 4:   Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough

Chapter 5:   The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls

Chapter 6:   Port Elmsley Drive-In – Showcase of the Golden Triangle

Chapter 1

The Mysterious Ways

of the Water Witcher

water witcher

In the first story we find ourselves sitting on the cool grass on a hot day, in the 1960s, watching in wonder as a dowser walks through the yard, in search of the best spot to dig a country well.  You’ll meet our local drilling crew, Jerry Thompson and Connell ‘Connie’ Thompson, of Althorpe, and our dowser, Jack Dowdall, from Glen Tay, as they work their magic to find a source of water the old fashioned way.

Thompson Drilling

According to Jerry Thompson, “Jack believed heart and soul in dowsing”, and he was known to be as skilled and as accurate as they come.

My sister, Jackie, curious about the mystery of dowsing, asked the men if she could try it herself.

“I remember when a new well was drilled, and when the men came with the dowsing stick. I can’t recall what they called it – I think a divining stick or rod, but it was used to find water. 

I was there and asked if I could try it.  The men seemed amused, but the Dowser told me what to do.  I can’t remember if I felt anything or not, but when he found the water, it seemed to pull him and the stick almost down to the ground.”      

 Jackie Stafford Wharton

…………………………

Come back to the farm in the 1960s, meet Jerry and Connie Thompson, and Jack Dowdall, and spend the day as they search for water with an apple switch.

……………………….

Chapter 2

Hot Summer Nights

at the Rideau Ferry Inn

Rideau Ferry Inn Sept 2020

In the second story, we head to the Rideau Ferry Inn, on a warm summer evening, in the 1970s, to hear some live rock and roll, enjoy a few drinks, and dance the night away along the peaceful lake-shore.  Visit the parking lot, also known as the passion pit, and watch a standoff between the boys in blue from P.D.C.I., and the lads in red from the Smiths Falls High School. Meet some of the bands who entertained us on those endless summer nights: “The Stampeders”, “The Five Man Electrical Band”, “The Paul Tarle Band”, Edward Bear, the “Cooper Brothers”, “Too Cold to Hold”, “Eight Seconds”, “Metagenesis”, “The Crayons”, and many, many more.  Watch the summer romances unfold, as the cottagers and the kids from neighbouring towns visit for the evening.

Rideau Ferry Inn 2 Sept 2020

Chapter 3

Perth Library:  Heart of the Town

Perth Library

Our next stop is the Perth Public Library, where we’ll learn about a tragedy, a scandal, and what really happens behind the circulation desk.  Meet the librarians, from the very earliest days of the institution, like Harriet ‘Hattie’ Nicol, and come along for Hattie’s first ride in a motor-car. We’ll meet all of the librarians from 1907 to present day, like Flora MacLennan, Doris Stone, daughter of the publisher of the local paper in Perth, George McCulloch, Caretaker, Vera Sanderson, Natalie Flett, Helen Garrett, Connie Ebbs, Marilyn Tufts, Joan Mitchell, and Diana Cleland. We’ll meet the courageous  librarians who were there the night of the fire, on January 3rd, 1980 –  Faye Cunningham, working that evening, and Susan Snyder, who came to witness the fire as soon as she heard the news; and read their personal accounts of the tragedy and the aftermath.  We’ll also hear from Fire Inspector, Harold Jordan, and his thoughts as to the cause of the fire, and some speculations from folks around town. We’ll meet Sharon Coreau, a librarian who worked there in the 1970s, and hear her impressions and memories of the people, the staff, and the old stately building on Gore Street. From the ‘new’ location, on Herriott Street, we’ll meet Elizabeth Goldman and Erika Heesen, learn about the path which led them to their roles as Head Librarians in Perth, and how technology evolved and changed the library over the years. Read about a shocking scandal in the 1970s, how a brave young librarian challenged the Board, and find out why an entire Board was fired one fateful year.  Meet the Board members, the librarians, the after-school staff, the students, the caretakers, and the volunteers who made the library ‘the heart of the town’. These stories and more, of this well-loved, and cherished institution.

Chapter 4

Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough

sourdough Klondike

Prospectors baking sourdough bread during the Klondike Gold Rush

photo: Parks Canada

Discover the fascinating story of sourdough, and meet a feisty adventurous girl who grew up out west, in the big city, and the baking secrets that she brought to Lanark County. Learn about the early prospectors in the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, and how they carried their sourdough starter in a small sac, on a cord around their necks or a pouch tied to their belts. Find out why these wise old prospectors were given the nickname of ‘sourdoughs’. Spend the afternoon in an old farmhouse pantry, and watch in wonder as the sourdough concoction bubbles away on the pantry shelf.  Discover the art and the science, and one of the baking secrets that won countless prizes at the local fairs, year after year!

Chapter 5

The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls

stumble inn black and white

In this story, we head to Ferguson Falls, on a warm summer’s eve in the 1930s, and spend the night at the infamous Stumble Inn.  We’ll meet our host for the evening, Billy McCaffrey, sit at the gnarled wooden table, enjoy a few shots of whiskey, then take cover when the fights break out among the Irish villagers! We’ll hear the locals tell their fascinating tales passed down to them through the generations, and listen to the soulful Irish music played on the fiddles and the tin flutes. Come along with us, back to the early days in Ferguson Falls, sample the whiskey, listen to the music, sing some songs, and maybe we’ll even see a ghost or two!!

…………….

Chapter 6

Port Elmsley Drive-In

Showcase of the Golden Triangle

port elmsley drive in black and white

In our final story, we’ll visit the Port Elmsley Drive In, on a steamy, hot summer evening. We’ll meet Laura Williams, daughter of founder Bill Williams, and hear about the earliest days of the Drive In.  Join Laura as she works tirelessly in the ‘Potato Shack’, with local girls, Sandra and Cathy Polk, peeling hundreds of potatoes in preparation for an all-nighter’s tasty french-fries.  Meet the gang at the concession stand  – Cathy O’Grady, Bonnie O’Grady, Dawn Polk, Pam Polk, Susan Polk, Lorraine ‘Bunny’ Van Dusen, Violet Van Dusen, Cindy Van Dusen, Susan Van Dusen, Mary Benson, John Benson, and Glen Hart, to name a few.  Meet former owner, Jan Stepniak, and hear about the night when American rock band, “The Byrds” played under the stars.  Witness the excitement on a summer’s evening when local farmer, Bill Beveridge’s sheep and cattle get loose, and wander among the parked cars. Join the nervous movie-goers on another fateful evening when a skunk wanders through the crowd with a Pepsi cup stuck on his head. Come along for some adventures at the Port Elmsley Drive-In, meet the talented staff who worked there over the years, and discover what really happens behind the scenes at this much-loved local treasure!

LC Collection cover

Come along on these adventures, back to the 1960s and 1970s, as we wind our way down memory lane!

……..

“Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”, is the 8th book in the series:

Books - seven

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autumn in the country

crystal palace

warm familiar scents

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air was fresh and crisp

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Ottawa International Writer’s Festival

Quilt quote

Book Fair farmer's market authors # 20001 (1)

Ottawa International Writer’s Festival – Perth Chapter

autumn gusts

book nook fb adTo reserve a signed copy – 613-267-2350, or visit their website to order

https://thebooknookperth.com/product-category/books/adult-books/local-authors-adult/

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Also available at:

The Bookworm for website

Bookworm website:

https://www.bookwormperth.com/local-history

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Mill Street books coming soon poster

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Calling – Book Launch

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

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

…………………….

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”.

……………………….

 

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

Phyllis Jenkins Evoy

 

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

Harry Jenkins

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

 

 

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Lanark 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

tom-ayres-book-launch-2016

 

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!

………………………………………………

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

 

 

Port Elmsley – Drive-In Dreamin’

port-elmsley-sign

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

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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.

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port-elmsley-1972-camaro

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The warm summer air was 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.

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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’.

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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, and The Bookworm,  in Perth, Mill St. Books in Almonte,

or on online

 

The Legend Behind the Recipes

The bright-eyed twenty-something grabbed her hat, and headed straight for the recruiting station, after hearing that her only brother was rejected from the military because of his poor eyesight.  “Someone has to represent our family in the war efforts!” her voice fading as she ran down the sidewalk, vanishing out of sight.

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WWII Recruiting poster, 1942, RCAF, Womens’ Division

 

Jack Rutherford

Audry’s brother, Jack Rutherford, (photo above) – wanted very much to serve in WWII, but was not accepted as a recruit, due to his eyesight.

 

The No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge, Alberta, would become Audry’s new home, where she would meet the dashing young Lanark County farm boy Tib Stafford.

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Audry in uniform, on a visit with her parents in Edmonton, Alberta

 

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Audry Rutherford and Tib Stafford, on a date in the city of Lethbridge, Alberta in 1943

 

After a whirlwind of dating, he asked for her hand, and they married on July 12, 1943.

 

Mother and Dad's wedding announcement

Audry and Tib’s wedding announcement, Edmonton Journal, July 13, 1943, page 8

 

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Audry (Rutherford) Stafford & Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford – on their wedding day July 12, 1943

 

Audry took great pride in her military contributions, and was honoured to be in the very first graduating class of Physical Education Instructors, for the RCAF Womens’ Division.

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In the months that followed, she began to feel a bit queasy, and discovered that they were going to have a baby.  The rule in those days was to discharge female soldiers who were expecting, and sadly, she gave up her position as Corporal, and returned  home.

On a warm spring day, in May of 1944, she gave birth to a strapping baby boy, Timothy Stafford.

 

Tim and Judy 1946

Tim Stafford and Judy Stafford, 1947, Third Line of Bathurst Twp., Lanark County

 

When the war ended, they settled on a farm, on the Third Line of Bathurst Township, Lanark County, just west of Perth, Ontario, and the family continued to grow.  Now there was big brother Tim, and his two little sisters Judy, and Jackie.

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Stafford House – 1947, 3rd line of Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township

 

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l to rt.- Judy Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tim Stafford (front – Jackie Stafford)

 

Judy Tim Jackie Roger at the fence

Judy Stafford , Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford and Roger Stafford, 1958

 

Stafford Christmas long ago

l to rt – Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford on Judy Stafford’s lap, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford, 1964.

 

Always busy in the kitchen, an excellent baker, Audry began to enter the home-craft competitions in Perth Fair.  Her baking was a big  hit, and she won blue ribbons, red ribbons, silver cups, silver trays, and filled her china cabinet with the spoils from her winnings.   She won so many prizes over the years that her reputation for award-winning baking was the talk of Lanark County, and the Agricultural Society asked her to be a Fair Judge.

Perth Fair results 1965

perth-fairfirst-place-ribbons

 

For decades, Audry was a Fair Judge, throughout the County of Lanark – at the Perth Fair, the Maberly Fair, the Lombardy Fair, even more distant fairs in Madoc and Tweed.  She became a well-known Fair Judge throughout Eastern Ontario.

 

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Judge Audry Stafford, performing her duties, at the Lombardy Agricultural Fair

Audry lived a long life, and when she passed away, her children assembled all of her prize-winning recipes, and included stories of growing up on the little farm, on the Third Line of Bathurst.  The book was called “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”  

(Audry’s first-born Tim, and second-born Judy are featured on the cover)

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This popular book has become the ‘go-to’ guide for anyone who loves the traditional, the classic, the old-time, farm-style recipes.  No less than 93 prize-winning recipes are featured in the book, and it has become a best-seller, ideal for anyone considering competing in the baking categories at the local fairs who’s looking for an ‘edge’.

 

apple sauce loaf

Audry’s Apple Sauce Bread – won first prize ribbons, year after year at local fairs

 

“Recipes and Recollections” will warm your heart, and fill your stomach, with homemade comfort foods guaranteed to please the crowd!

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm &  Mill St. Books  in Almonte, or online at http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

UFO Sightings In Lanark County

Flying Saucers with red lights

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

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

Flying Saucers With Red Lights Over Port Elmsley Confirmed by Perth OPP

Flying Saucers headline over Perth

UFO OPP sightings

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

Ivan Vandusen, R.R. 2 Smiths Falls, – one of the first to report the UFOs

Ivan Van Dusen UFO reportIvan Van Dusen # 2

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

Flying in Formation, Ten Feet Apart…..Moving toward Carleton Place

Everet Lavender

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

Mrs. Essex Clement in Port Elmsley:

“They just disappeared.”

Mrs. Essex Clement UFO

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

Two Perth OPPs see UFOs on HWY 43 hovering over the Army Tower in Drummond Township

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

OPP Sighting UFO

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

UFOs Seen Over Mississippi Lake

UFOs over Mississippi Lake

April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”

Fall 1973-  was called the

“Autumn of Aliens”

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

Huge Chunks of Ice Fell from the Sky

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

lights in the sky

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

Flying Object Seen Near Balderson

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

CJET Radio holds call-in show due to large number of UFO Sightings

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

Sparkling Yellow-Orange Light Over Perth

UFO 1

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

Julian Kustra reports flying object over Sherbrooke Street in Perth

UFO 2

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

flying saucer 3

UFO Reported in Beckwith Township on Tennyson Road

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

flying saucer 4

Small Sphere Hovers in Sky over Smiths Falls

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

Cigar-Shaped Object in Sky over Horseshoe Bay, Rideau Lakes

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

flying saucer 5

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

Brockville UFO

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

White Blinking Light in Sky over Ferguson Falls flies from Almonte to McDonald’s Corners

ufo-jan-1979

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

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

ufo-jan-10-1979

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

UFO Tracking Station

Established near Ottawa

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

tracking station Shirley's Bay

saucer station 1953

Shirley's Bay project 1953

Shirley's Bay station report 1953

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

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

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

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

……………………..

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

Available at local bookstores, or online

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics – Sneak Preview

Sneak peek banner

 

Table of Contents for blog

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

Book Review jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

………………………………………………………….

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Irish Settlers & the Ghost of Burgess Township

banshee

 

Burgess Ghost

The story of the Burgess Ghost begins with the arrival of so many Irish to the areas around Westport, the Scotch Line, Black Lake, and Stanleyville, that it became known as the ‘Irish Invasion’.

This is the the home where the story took place, in the cold, bitter winter of 1935, at the home of Mr. John Quinn.  John lived in the house with his wife, and two sons Michael age 13, and Stanley, 11.

 

Quinn house Burgess

Quinn house, North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Burgess ghost 1

“The Windsor Star”, Jan. 14, 1935, p.7

“By evening, the ‘ghost of Burgess’, was the one topic of discussion in Perth”

Burgess ghost 2

Andrew Burke saw the windows break, and the dishes jump

Burgess ghost 3

William Cordick saw three flat irons come down the stairs

Burgess ghost 4

Hundreds of people drove through a snowstorm, to the Quinn home, to see the Ghost of Burgess

Burgess ghost 5

“The Windsor Star”, Jan. 14, 1935, p.7

Burgess ghost 6

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 16, 1935, p.1

Howard Traynor and Michael Norwood huddled in the house until daybreak

Burgess ghost 7

Predominantly Irish, simple, hard-working farm folk

Burgess ghost 8

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 16, 1935, p.1

“The Mounties are searching the place, determined to ‘get their ghost’.”

Burgess ghost 9

“Bradford Evening Star”, Bradford, Pennsylvania, Feb. 6, 1935, p.9

“…a teapot jumping into a woodbox.”

Burgess ghost 10

“Minneapolis Star”, Minnesota, Aug. 5, 1935. p.8

 

Don Rennie, reporter for “The Perth Courier”, wrote a story on the Burgess Ghost in 1967:

“Strange occurrences were happening in 1935 at a farm in North Burgess just off the Narrows Locks road. Mr. John Quinn, his wife and two children, Michael, and Stanley, ages 13 and 11, reported innumerable phenomena taking place in their home. Stove lids, according to the Quinns, “danced” in the air, the teapot “jumped” off the stove into the wood box, three flat irons “walked” down a staircase and dishes “pranced” on the dining-room table. Word of this mysterious goings on spread quickly throughout the district. Although, perhaps skeptical, hundreds of persons from miles around flocked to the Quinn home.

burgess ghost 12

On the Sunday after the reporting of the “ghosts” more than 100 cars arrived at the Quinn farm. Along with the cars a flotilla of cutters and sleighs dotted the white-capped farm. The snow fell incessantly and the thermometer dipped way below the zero mark.

Newsmen from across the country arrived, and the CBC news from Toronto, reported the strange events. Although the strange occurrences could not be readily explained, many held doubts in their minds as the credulity of the phenomena. Believing that there had to be a reasonable explanation behind the occurrences, the Perth detachment of the OPP decided to hold an investigation.

On a Saturday afternoon, members of the force motored to the Quinn home, and inspected the building. Nothing strange occurred while they were there. That same evening Inspector Storey returned to the house. He remained there until Sunday morning along with about a dozen district men, sat in the house, speaking in hushed tones, but again nothing happened.

Quinn family and police Burgess

photo: members of the Quinn family, and the local police force

Mr. Quinn was unable to explain the strange occurrences that had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Pieces of beef he had placed in a barrel had been found littered throughout the house, he said, and the Wednesday before a window pane crashed for no apparent reason. He had not thought that too odd until it happened the very next evening.

Andrea Burke, a neighbouring farmer, declared that a bone thrown out of the home time and time again had always returned to the house for no explicable reason. Another neighbour, William Cordick, swore that he had seen three flat irons descend the Quinn’s staircase one after another.”

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Irish Settlers to North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Most, but not all of the Irish in North Burgess Township, came from County Down and County Armagh, and many came in the 1840s, to escape a horrible famine, that swept through Ireland  like an unstoppable plague.   A disease called Potato Blight ravaged their crops for nearly a decade, and during that time over a million died of starvation, and an equal number fled Ireland on ships sailing to Canada and the United States.

irish potato blight

Most were tenant farmers, leasing their land; unable to pay their rent when their crops failed, and were evicted by ruthless landlords.  They bundled up what little they had, and boarded ships headed for the new world.

Irish immigrants

Seven weeks was the average length of time spent at sea, and the conditions endured by these Irish immigrants were so terrible that the ships were nick-named ‘coffin ships’.  The lice, ticks and fleas common in these over-crowded vessels were the ideal breeding grounds for the transmission of disease, and by 1847 an average of 50 passengers died each day of typhus on their voyage from Ireland.

coffin ship

 

typhus

 

The areas where this ‘wave’ of Irish settled in Lanark County:

nburgess

These new settlers brought their traditions, customs, and stories with them to the new country.  Stories and legends were passed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter.  Tales from the old country were told in the evenings by the fire, and the one story that seemed to run up and down the concessions in North Burgess was the legend of the Irish Banshee.

Irish legend

The Banshee, or ‘Bean Sidhe’ is an Irish spirit, and her high-pitched wail foretells of a death in the family.  It was said that each family had its own Banshee, and that they travelled with them from the old country.  Some said that the family’s Banshee would stay in Ireland at the family’s estate, and mourn the dead.  The settlers to the new land brought their vivid descriptions of the Banshees – some claiming that she was an old hag with red eyes, but others said she was a fair, pale Irish beauty with long red hair dressed in a flowing gown.

Banshee   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s been said that whoever hears her high and piercing shriek could be sure that there would be a death within 24 hours.  Irish lore tells that the Banshee always wailed when a family member dies, even if the person had died far away, and news of their death had not yet come. The wailing of the banshee was the first warning to the household of the death.

When several banshees appeared at once, it was said to foretell of the death of someone prominent, or of an accidental or unintended death – often of a murder victim, a suicide, or a mother who died in childbirth.

The early settlers in North Burgess passed down their stories of banshees, fairies, ghosts and the little people.  Although they were fiercely loyal to God and to the church, they never abandoned their beliefs in the spirits and creatures of their ancient folklore.

The Story of the Burgess Ghost became a local legend….

The story of the ghost in the Quinn house was passed down through the years, told and retold at family gatherings, around campfires, and particularly in the weeks each year leading up to Hallowe’en.

In a strange final twist to the mystery of the Burgess Ghost, the Quinn family home burned to the ground.  The cause of the fire was never determined, and remains a mystery to this day…..

In 1972, the Quinn home was burned to the ground.

haunted house headline

haunted house of Burgess

quinn house 1

quinn house 2

Mysterious Fire Destroys Burgess Ghost House

burgess ghost 12

“The Ottawa Journal”, Jan. 4, 1972, p.5

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Some of the families who were among the earliest settlers to North Burgess Township:

Adam

Bennett

Byrne

Byrnes

Byres

Callaghan

Chaffey

Darcy

Deacon

Donnelly

Dooker

Doran

Eagan

Farrell

Hanlon

Haughian

Jackman

Kearns

Kelly

Kerr

Lappan

Lennon

McCann

McCracken

McGlade

McIver

McLeod

McNamee

McParland

McVeigh

Mullin

Murphy

O’Connor

O’Hare

O’Neill

Parry

Powers

Quigley

Quinn

Ryan

Scanlon

Smith

Stanley

Stapleton

Thompson

Toole

Traynor

Troy

White

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In 2002 the townships formerly known as North Burgess, South Sherbrooke and Bathurst were part of an amalgamation, and adopted the name of Tay Valley Township, as they are known today.

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For genealogical records of the founding families of North Burgess Township:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onlanark/nburgess.htm

National Archives of Canada – Immigration Databases Online Searh –  Immigration to Canada

St. Bridget’s Cemetery Staneyville Ontario

Roman Catholic interments North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – Burials from 1822-2000  North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – North Burgess

Irish Immigration to Canada

Irish Immigration to Canada National Archives

Lanark County Genealogical Society

https://lanarkgenealogy.com/

Archives Lanark

http://archiveslanark.ca/index.php

Search the census records for North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Searchable online census records for Lanark County

Irish Genealogy Records online

Irish Records

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For more information on Irish Folklore in the early days of Lanark County:

Banshees of Burgess’, is part of a collection of short stories in ‘Lanark County Classics – A Treasury of Tales from Another Time’. The reader will discover more about the early families from Ireland who settled in Lanark County, and their customs and beliefs in the supernatural, brought from the old country.  The story explores some of the tales passed down by these Irish settlers, and documents their personal experiences with Banshees, ghosts, and fairies while living in Lanark County.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm, Mill St. Books and online.
“Lanark County Classics” – ISBN 978-0-9877026-54

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

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(map of Northern Ireland – By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – map by NNW, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7918534)