Saturday, 30 July 2016

Rock Union Church - Bringing the community together for 118 years

On Sunday July 18th, we attended the 118th anniversary service of Rock Union Church at the corner of the Sixth Line and Concession 12 in Grey County.  This beautiful little church was built on 1898, and has been the cornerstone of the community since that time.  It is also quite unique in that some of the descendants of the original builders and trustees are still members of the same local families.  

The service itself was wonderful and inspiring, and the speakers were folks who's family history are deeply connected to the church.  The prevailing theme was on the importance of community, and we heard many stories of friends and neighbours coming together and supporting each other.  From barn raisings to beef rings, there was no shortage of interest in subject matter.  A "beef ring" for those not in the know, is a system where on a rotating basis, one family puts forth a cow that is killed, butchered, and the meat shared equally throughout the community.  Considering that a cow can weigh anywhere between 800 to 2,000 pounds, there is much meat to go around.  In the absence of refrigeration, the meat would be cooked and put into sealers surrounded by fat to preserve it.  The sealer would be turned upside down to ensure a proper seal, and if it leaked it would have to be redone so that your prepared meat stayed safe.  This was a wonderful way to support each other, and everyone would get a chance to enjoy prime cuts of meat as that selection was also done on a rotational basis.  Truly a wonderful way to support the community, especially in difficult times.

We were also quite fortunate to enjoy a performance by a local musical group, "The Shoretones."  They blessed us all with some stunning renditions of songs such as, "Ever Faithful", "Trust in the Lord", "Precious Lord Take My Hand" and "Just a Closer walk With Thee." It truly was a beautiful performance and their song of parting capped off and excellent service.

Afterwards, we were all invited to a delicious shared picnic supper hosted by the McKinlay family at their farm across the way.  It was delicious, and there were many offerings all cooked by local ladies and generously shared.  The dessert selection was incredible, and I had six different types myself, ha ha!

It was a beautiful day enjoyed by all, and many thanks for the graciousness and kindness shown by all of those wonderful folks who put on and hosted this incredible service.  Hopefully it will continue to endure for another 118 years.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Osprey Museum and School, circa 1889

Without a doubt, one of my most favourite places to spend an afternoon in the summer is the Osprey Museum.  Located at the corner of Pretty River Road and Grey Road 31 in the little hamlet of Rob Roy just a short drive away from our cottage. This charming museum is home to many artifacts showcasing the local history of the area.  Although it is a museum now, it wasn't always so.

A little history.  The village is named for Rob Roy McGreggor who was a highland chief known as the "Scottish Robin Hood."  He lived from 1671 to 1734.  Depending on your clan loyalties, he was either regarded as a hero or a villain.

The first school was build in Rob Roy in 1881, but burned under mysterious circumstances in the spring of 1889.  It was quickly rebuilt within the same year in the incarnation of the handsome structure we now see here today.  It is known as one of the finest and most elaborate schoolhouse designs in Ontario,and one of the most well preserved.  Built of rust coloured brick with yellow buff corners, it boasts a wealth of elaborate brickwork design details and rather elegant fan lights above the windows and doors.  These are also accentuated by yellow brick arches.  Detailed brackets hold up the simple "A" frame roof.  The crowning glory of the structure has to be it's charming cupola bell tower where the bell indeed still resides and rings. 

  It continued to operate as a school until 1965 when it was declared surplus by the township.  The community then rallied together and pooled their resources to purchase it.  For many years it operated as a community centre, and since 1992 it has worn the title of The Osprey Museum.  An additional structure was added beside the school some twenty years ago, and it houses an excellent collection of vintage farm implements showing what were the tools of the trade for farmers in rural areas in the 19th century.

The main building has an excellent collection of old photos, furniture and other assorted odds and ends all cultivated from local families which showcase the heritage of this wonderful historic area.  There are even some from my own family on display here, including a photo of my grandfather and his brothers taken as they went off to the battlefields of Europe in World War II. The museum is completely operated by volunteers, and is open to the public from Thursday till Sunday during the good weather.  They still continue to run many annual events to bring the local communities together, including the annual museum summer picnic as detailed here in my sketch.  It is scheduled every year just after Canada Day, and the food is a tasty bounty of salads, delicious entrees and desserts all prepared by the local ladies.  It is well priced, and the money goes for the upkeep and maintenance of the museum.  Well worth a drive and a visit to the delightful hamlet of Rob Roy.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Grandpa's Yard Sales .......

Many Nottawa folks will recall my grandpa Neil McInnes for his days as custodian of Nottawa Public School, and many will remember him for his many excellent annual yard sales.  

A bit of history first.  After his service in Europe during World War II, my grandpa returned home to the family farm near McIntyre.  A few years later, my grandparents sold their farm and moved to Nottawa with my dad Brian and his brother Wayne.  For many many years he worked as custodian of Nottawa Public School where he was beloved to both both the faculty and the students.  Many students even considered him a substitute grandfather, something that I continue to get messages about, ha ha!  I spent many a day with him up at the school playing on the piano, reading in the library, or doing art projects as he waxed a floor.  When he retired everyone wondered whatever would he do to keep himself occupied?  The answer was simple and not too far away.

Growing up, I spent many hours with my grandparents at local estate auction sales.  Back in "the day", we had many excellent local auctioneers: Ivan Brown, George Pifer, Ted Udell; just to name a few.  My grandpa in addition to collecting things, bottles for him, salt and pepper shakers for my grandma, liked to buy and refinish antiques.  The other thing he liked to do was build things with me, usually little houses that I would draw, and then we'd cut them out and assemble them in the basement.  People always wondered how he became so skilled at crafts, and my grandma would tell them he did because of all the practice he got building things with me as a young boy, ha ha!  After he retired, auctions, refinishing furniture and making cool crafts out of wood became his projects of choice.  Not only did I continue to go to auction sales with him, I also drew out plans for loons, ducks, owls and other crafty things he would make out of wood and incorporate into a project.  Then I'd paint all the details on them for him, and voila, the project would be complete!  The only problem was, what to do with the furniture and the cottage crafts?  The question was raised, how about a yard sale?  And so it began, ha ha!

Yard sales then became an annual event for my grandparents, and I eagerly participated.  They were scheduled twice a year - Victoria Day and Labour Day.  All the time spent leading up to these dates was spent purchasing, refinishing, preparing, painting and pricing, ha ha!  My grandma would prepare potato salad, baked hams, and sandwiches to make meals easier, as we'd all be busy out manning the yard.  I always had a little booth too, and enjoyed every minute of it.  Folks would come from both near and far, as my grandpa was also known for having the very best antiques.  He had a discerning eye, and was a skilled refinisher  

The tradition continued for many years, but as good auctions became fewer and fewer, sourcing good stuff became more difficult.  As my grandpa got older too, it became more of a chore, so eventually our yard sale tradition became a thing of the past.  Thank goodness for memories!

I hope you like reading the post folks, and please have a great weekend!  Happy Valentine's Day! 

Sandy .......

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Gibraltar's Pioneer, John Ernest (Ernie) Bullock

There are some unique folks in life that you never forget, and our country neighbour John Ernest (Ernie)Bullock was one of those special individuals.  He was born in Gibraltar on January 4th, 1906 to parents John Bullock and Harriett Ann Hogg, and spent his entire life here in Osprey Township.  He lived on a small farm on the Gibraltar Sideroad but a stones throw away from our cottage on the Sixth Line.  To me, he was the epitome of the "true pioneer." His little farm had no regular running water, instead drawing it from a pump on the property, was devoid of an electric connection, relying on coal lamps for illumination and a wood stove for heat and cooking.  As I recall, his farm had a small barn with a few cows, a horse, some chickens and ducks.  He had a small garden, and some fields on which he grew crops as well.  Without benefit of any modern conveniences or machinery, he made due with what he had.

One of the most amazing things about him were his weekly trips into Collingwood to go shopping.  He did it either of two ways - on foot or by bicycle, dressed in heavy black wool wearing a hat! All the way from Gibraltar down the mountain and into town!  My mom and I would often see him walking or riding past our home on Osler Bluff Road and offer him a ride.  He was always very hesitant about accepting, but usually after some cajoling we could get him to accept with the suggestion that we just take him part way.  This never happened, cause once we got him in he'd start chatting with us and telling stories and we'd end up taking him either all the way into town or all the way back up to his farm in Gibraltar.  He often told us how he bathed in "goose grease", but he certainly didn't smell of it.  One thing about him is that he had the bluest eyes you could possibly imagine.  He passed away on April 18th, 1992 at the age of 86.  He died a week before my own grandfather, and with him a way of life that few will ever appreciate.

When I did this sketch, I did so without benefit of a photo and relied strictly on my memory.  I'm not sure if I channelled him correctly, but if someone happens to have a photo of Mr. Bullock I'd happily appreciate seeing it.  

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy this post!

Sandy .......  

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Algoport, Titan of the Great Lakes

There was a time long ago when the very life, soul and heartbeat of our town sat at the foot of Hurontario Street on the shores of Georgian Bay, our storied shipyard's.  It was the bread and butter for many in our town, and in fact my grandfather and great-grandfather worked there oh so long ago.  Throughout the years, the blood, sweat and tears of many of our townspeople tired and toiled away in building many Great Lakes and seafaring vessels.  Two of these ships were the "Algobay", and her sister, the "Algoport."  

It is the Algoport that is the focus of my post here today, and it came to mind after I received some wonderful photos from fellow Collingwood resident, Donald Ayres.  He sent me some wonderful scans of our shipyards, the harbour, and included were some great photos of the Algoport along with an interesting link detailing her demise.  This peaked both my interest and my creativity, and I  decided that I had to do some artwork to memorialize her.  Commissioned by the Algoma Central railway, the Algoport was officially listed as "Hull #217", and her keel was laid on September 27th, 1978.  The plans were impressive in size, encompassing a length of 658" with a 75" beam, and a depth of 46.6" feet.  Powered by a diesel engine packing 10,700 b.h.p, she was destined to be a titan of the Great Lakes.  The hull was completed in May of 1978, and she was launched on May 7th, 1978.  My grandma and I attended the launch, and I remember the day well.  Launches were always a cause for excitement and concern, for there was always the worry of injuries or death related to a side launch.  

She completed sea trials in August of 1979, and officially entered service on August 27th of that year.  Throughout her lifetime, she was the carrier for many kinds of cargo, including coal and salt.  Not only was she self-loading, her four generous sized hatches were capable of loading up to 32,000 tons into the holds of her cavernous belly.  Throughout the years, she suffered several small calamities.  She ran aground in 2001, and several years later in 2007 sustained a small hole which laid her up for repairs in Hamilton.  She also saw several modifications and improvements in her lifetime, and eventually she and the Algobay were scheduled to receive new forebodes at a shipyard in China.  In order to facilitate this work and the necessary towing through the Panama Canal, she  and her sister  were fitted with wider bridge wings for improved visibility.

The Algobay was towed to China in 2008, and the Algoport followed in 2009.  While under the tow of the tug "Atlantic Hickory", the Algoport was caught in the throes of tropical storm Dujan.  Under the relentless pounding of waves, the Algoport "broke her back" and split in half.  Her bow slipped under the waves first, and her stern followed soon thereafter sinking some 16,500 feet to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  

There was no loss of life, nor any environmental damage as a result of her sinking.  It is somewhat sobering to think that something that once graced the foot of our storied Main Street now sits lost forever at the bottom of the ocean.

The Algoport in Georgian Bay, Watercolour on paper - 2016

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thy Native Son, Remembering Indian Joe .......

Collingwood has most definitely seen more than it's fair share of colourful citizens throughout the years, and perhaps one of the best remembered might be "Indian Joe."  

Although that was the name that most folks mistakenly called him, his name was actually John Cook, and his native last name was Wabagowna.  He was an Ojibway, and hailed from the Saugeen First Nation near Southampton not far from Owen Sound, Ontario.  For many Collingwood folks, he was a familiar sight as he trekked through town with one of his handmade birch chairs or tables slung over his shoulder, selling them door to door or to whomever showed an interest.  Often, my mom and I would offer him a ride back to his home off of Mountain Road just past the old Goodyear Tire Plant.  He lived in an old shack far back in the woods, devoid of electric and apparently a fire barrel the only source of heat.

He was definitely a troubled but creative soul, and his handiwork was once featured on an episode of CKVR Television's "Faces of Small Places."  We had one of his very well constructed outdoor furniture sets, and I fondly recall spending many hours sitting at the round table happily sketching away.  

He was most definitely a unique part of the cultural tapestry and the history of our town from an era that seems to have long passed us by.

I hope you like this post, and as always - thank you for reading it!

Sandy .......

Friday, 29 January 2016

Stones & Numbers, Saving the Featherstone Farmhouse

The Featherstone Farmhouse was originally constructed by pioneer farmer's William and Alexis Featherstone on a parcel of land some 200 acres in size.  They had purchased this property in 1837, and after putting considerable work into clearing it for farming, constructed the stone home as seen in my sketch in 1861.  In 1885, they sold the property and it was purchased by Emerson Featherstone.  Subsequently, it was passed down to his son Charles Ernest Featherstone, and then in turn to his son Sheldon Amos Featherstone, who was the Town Clerk of Oakville.  Under Sheldon's ownership along with his wife Anna Grace, he began to sell off the majority of the acreage, retaining only a small amount for the purpose of their own farming interests.  In 2007, Sheldon's daughter-in-law, Beatrice Grace sold the remainder of the property.  The house sat empty and forlorn for a number of years before the purchasers and developers came up with a new purpose for it within the plan of a new subdivision.  The home itself had fallen into disrepair, but it's stone structure - an impressive 18" inches thick - was in amazing condition.  It was imperative to try and save or salvage it somehow.  It is in fact one of the very last remaining five bay early Victorian cottages rendered in stone remaining here in Halton County.  A plan was formed.  Each stone was painstakingly numbered, and the home was dismantled and the stones put into storage.  At the same time, a plan showing the location of each was created so that the home could be carefully re-assembled.  Because of the sheer thickness of the stones, the back portion of each block was trimmed down so that the structure when reassembled would fit into current building codes.  Although the interior floorpan doesn't match the original footprint, the very fact that so much care was taken to preserve the building is a great testament to the integrity of the developers.  The house and the park beside which it sits is so named for the Featherstone Family as they were it's most continuous residents from 1885 to 2007.  Although the home was moved from it's original spot on the bank of Sixteen Mile Creek, it now commands a stately presence on Coates Drive.

Each stone was painstakingly numbered and logged on a chart