Monday, 14 December 2015

Memories of my grandma, Edith Ardella Carefoot .......

Twenty-two years ago today I lost one of my best friends and supporters when my dear grandma passed away.  She had been in and out of the hospital since September of that year, and had my mom and I not convinced her to let us take her to hospital, we would've lost her that night after Labour Day.  I spent that first fretful night holding her hand as she was hooked up and treated, and ultimately with the exception of one brief journey home, she would spend much of the next three months there.  

The day she passed away I had went to collect our Christmas tree and ended up getting stuck on the side of the mountain.  It was a horrible morning, and when I arrived home to a ringing phone I thought it was Kells' Towing calling me to advise me on the status of retrieving my mom's truck stuck up the road.  Much to my shock, it was the hospital calling to tell us, tell me as I was the only one home, that my grandma had passed away earlier that morning.  It was December 14th, 1993 - two days before my birthday.  Her funeral was on my birthday, and it was one of my saddest days ever.  

The following is the eulogy I composed for her that December afternoon so that the priest would understand who my grandma was to us all.  I hope you all enjoy this decidedly different post.

 "Edith Carefoot was affectionately known as "mom" and "Gram" to her children and grandchildren.  She was generous and kind, and a very good listener when you needed someone to talk to.  She was always there for you, no matter what.  She had a great sense of humour and loved to hear funny stories.  She was an excellent cook and loved to surprise you with "treats."  She loved kids and animals, ands was always taking in strays and feeding other peoples cats and dogs.  She loved flowers, especially peonies, roses, african violets and irises.  She loved to read the newspapers and watch television and keep informed of all the news.  She also loved country music , and was a person who never seemed to grow old.  She loved to draw and make things with grandson Sandy, and always encouraged him to keep on with his artistic talents.  She looked forward to decorating her Christmas tree with him each year, an always liked to remind him of the year that the tree fell over on them, balls breaking on their heads.  She loved going shopping with my mom (Mary) and I, and was well liked by everyone she met.  She loved to reminisce about the past, and she had an excellent memory for names, events and places.  Overall, she was a very private person who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, and thought more of giving than receiving.  Even throughout her illness, she never complained.  She just looked forward to your coming to see her.  More than anything else, she just wanted everyone to be happy."

The sketch above was a picture of her Ontario Street home I was working on to give to her as a Christmas present that year.  I put the original copy with her in her coffin as a goodbye from me.  The picture below is of us together at our Osler Bluff Road home at Christmas in the very early 1980's.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

To Remember, a poem in honour of my grandfather and his brothers.

As years pass by
And memories fade
We sometimes forget
The sacrifices made
The “Greatest Generation”
As they were called 
Gave so much of themselves
To benefit us all
World War One, World War Two
Korea, to name a few
So many brave men & women
Bid their families adieu
In battlefields they rallied
Put up such a fight
So that the oppressed
Could again see day’s light
Their courage would not falter
But sadly we must say
That many brave soldiers
Saw not the light of day
Their sacrifice was mighty
Their cause absolute
So today we must pause
And reflect in tribute
It takes but a moment
To stop and reflect
It’s a moment in time
Some shall never forget

This post was inspired by my dear late grandfather, Neil Alexander McInnes.  My grandpa was a decorated veteran of World War Two, having enlisted along with his brothers and my great uncles, James and Russell.  My uncle Jimmy and my grandpa returned from Europe, but sadly Russell did not.  My grandpa was very proud of his service driving a munitions truck through the battlefields, but was forever changed by the experience.  For many years as a little boy and up until his passing in 1992, I would watch or assist him in polishing his medals for Decoration Day and other events.  He was ever so proud of those medals, but I could always get a sense of profound sadness from him at the same time.  If only folks knew how war affected those who experienced it first hand, perhaps they might rethink their actions.  If only .......

Monday, 9 November 2015

Our Collingwood, our hometown .......

A vision from high
Of days gone by
This photo took
Of our storied nook
This special place
Beside the Bay
From rugged shoreline
To mountain’s way
 Railways and shipbuilding
Gave it a start
Our forefather’s hopes and dreams
Gave it heart
Their toils and struggles
Guided the way
Building the town
We call home today
The obstacles were many
The challenges great
Through Depression and war
Their path remained straight
Building a future
Paving the way
Creating a vision
That endures till this day
Things may have changed 
As industry strayed
Vacation and leisure
Is the hand we’re now played
Change is inevitable
Such is life some may say
But the passion of our ancestors
Remains to this day

The photo that inspired my poem also roused my curious nature.  Aerial photography, especially in 1919, was very rare indeed.  The photo was credited as being from the Bishop Barker Company Limited of Toronto.  With thanks to both Siri and Google, I quickly discovered that the source of this marvellous image was a co-operative venture between two decorated World War One Flying Aces.  

Many folks will have no doubt heard of William "Billy" Bishop as there are quite a number of airports named after him.  Billy Barker was also a prominent World war One flying ace, and for a brief period after the war, these two enterprising gentlemen parlayed their skills by flying wealthy Muskokan's and also taking aerial photographs.  Although their venture was short lived, it did produce many wonderful shots such as my most recent acquisition here.  I have included a link to a wonderful biography of William Bishop as well.  I hope you enjoy it and my post!

William "Billy" Bishop

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Craigleith Train Station

Since it's construction in 1878, one of our most endearing and enduring landmarks is undoubtedly the Craigleith Train Station.  Long a staple of traveller's coming to and fro from nearby Collingwood, the fact that there were two trains daily meant that one could travel either way making a return visit on the same day or evening entirely possible.  It also meant that students from the area attending school in Collingwood no longer needed to board there, but could now commute.  This might seem rather strange to us now, but consider that there were no automobiles in that era, and the primary form of transport over land was horse, horse and buggy and rail, or by foot!  I'm sure many folks have listened as their grandparent's told them about "walking to school three miles in the snow", ha ha!  

As skiing started to become popular in the 1930's, the station saw a new purpose.  The "Ski Train" was a term coined for the excursions that many took to partake in the sport at nearby Blue Mountain.  By the end of the Second World War, the members of The Toronto Ski Club had focused their attention on the area surrounding Craigleith, and the interest in skiing grew exponentially.  Although the "Ski Train" ran for but a short time, it fostered fond memories for many who grew up and spent time enjoying recreation in the area.  As roads improved, travel by rail waned in popularity.  In 1960, the last passenger trains made their run and then service was discontinued.  The little station sat alone and forgotten amongst the lilacs until it was moved to new foundations just east of it's original site.  After that, it saw new life and purpose when it was resurrected as a restaurant by local residents Ken and Suyrea Knapman.  

Not only were the Knapman's excellent restauranteurs, they were avid historians who not only preserved the heritage of the station, but the area as well.  The "Depot" as it was affectionately  known, was for many a place of meeting for a good meal and good conversation, and my folks used to make it an annual tradition to spend New Year's Eve there as the Knapman's were dear family friends.

Today, the little red station has seen new purpose as the Craigleith Heritage Depot Museum, and showcases items of the history of The Blue Mountains dating back an amazing 445 million years!  From moving people to and fro, to transporting folks back in time, this beautiful little station has served us all very well over it's lifetime.

The Ski Train

Waiting for the train

I certainly hope you enjoyed my post, and if you wish to purchase a print of my sketch, please visit my site at and send me a note.  Thanks for looking!


Sandy .......

Friday, 14 August 2015

Rejoicing at Rock Union Church!

I have always had an affinity for country churches, and our area is blessed with several excellent examples.  One of the most quaint ones has to be the stately but simple stone structure known as the "Rock Union Church" sitting quietly on the corner of Lot 12, Concession 7 in the former Collingwood Township.  

In the mid 19th century, there was originally a small church constructed of logs on the property.  On January 7th, 1898, the Methodist trustees sold the one quarter acre of land and the log church to the trustees of the new union church.  The recipients of this deed were Jesse James, Thomas McKinley and William Henry Johnson, all local residents of the area.  Interestingly enough, some 80 years later, the trustees of the church were still in the names of of James, McKinley and Johnson, descendants of the original trio.  Discussions were held on the construction of a new church, and in mid 1898 the building was completed using stone quarried from Malcolm McArthur's nearby farm.  Credit for the name was given to Mrs. Walter Buchanan who was a well known local poet.

As befitting it's name, it was known to be a "union church" of all denominations.  From the date of it's construction in 1898 until 1962, regular church services were held here.  Once a year an annual service is held to bring together the old families of the area for one day of worship and fellowship, and occasionally a wedding or two as well.  The church is still immaculately maintained, and is a wonderful place to stop and pause for a moment or two of quiet reflection.  It is also blessed with amazing acoustics, something that always gives me ample cause to sing a song.  I know summer typically isn't the time of year one usually sings a Christmas song, but somehow I thought an impromptu singing of "Oh Holy Night", one of my most favourites was wholly appropriate for this very special place.  Please check out my website at

I hope you enjoy this post, and hopefully my song as well!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Wednesday July 29th, 1981, Diana's 34th wedding anniversary

Thirty four years ago today, a shy young girl walked down the aisle and into the annals of history.  As an estimated 700 million people around the world watched, little did we or Lady Diana Spencer know that decision would forever alter her life and her fate.  

 From the first moment I saw Diana on the cover of MacLean's magazine as a young girl of 19, I as we all no doubt were, was captivated by her beauty, her shyness,  and her charmingly endearing personality.  Over the course of 17 years, we all watched and shared in her journey, as she progressed from a shy bride to a confident and glamorous woman the likes of whom we never see again.  Unfortunately though, the road for her wasn't to be a smooth one.  Her "fairy tale" contained an unfaithful prince, an eating disorder, and unyielding self doubt all played out under the unrelenting glare of the spotlight as she became the most photographed individual of modern times.

Through it all though, she raised two wonderful boys, William and Harry, while at the same time crafting a role for herself in an archaic and somewhat medieval monarchy.  Not only did she eclipse her wayward husband in popularity, the shy former schoolteacher blossomed to eventually overshadow the rest of the Royal family as well.  Although this caused massive dissension amongst the ranks,  her refreshing and relaxed attitudes are actually credited with modernizing the attitude of the British royals, and ultimately leading them to a resurgence popularity.  Her dedication and love for people was unabashedly pure, and her dedication to serving her country without question.  She was one the patron of more than 100 charities, and eventually paired this down to the 10 of which she was most passionate as she sought an exit and eventually a divorce from Prince Charles and the Royal Family.

After her divorce was granted in 1996, it seemed as if Diana was finally free to pursue her own destiny in life.  She dedicated herself to her remaining stable of charities, her newfound interest in the abolition of land mines, and of course her sons.  Although it is reported she had several romantic interests, most seemed fragile and doomed due to the unrelenting publicity of the press.  In fact, few folks would realize that the world's most famous woman spent many nights home alone, watching television or sitting at her desk working on correspondence.  

There has been much conjecture on the details of her relationship with Dodi Fayed with whom she was involved in the summer of 1997, but most of those closest to her have steadfastly maintained that this was but a "summer fling" for Diana. Unfortunately however, this erstwhile coupling was to ultimately seal her fate.  In the early hours of August 31st, 1997, Diana, Dodi, their security officer Trevor Rees Jones, and driver Henri Paul were involved in a fatal accident while under the pursuit of photographers in Paris France.  Their Mercedes crashed into the 13th pillar of the Pont de  l'Alma tunnel under the Seine River.  Dodi and Henri Paul died instantly, Trevor Rees Jones was seriously injured, and the most famous and beloved woman of our times succumbed to her injuries a few hours later in a Paris hospital.  She was 36.  The fairy tale begun 17 years ago had come to a tragic end.

A week later Diana was honoured with a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.  Almost as many people gathered to bid her farewell as had there been for her wedding.  William and Harry, their father Prince Charles, and Diana's brother, the Earl Charles Spencer along with the representatives of more than 100 of her favourite charities followed along with her casket as a horse drawn carriage brought it to the Abbey.  Diana was laid to rest on an island at Althorp, her childhood home and the Spencer Estate in Northamptonshire.  Somewhat ironically, the name "Diana" refers to the "goddess of the hunt."  The most hunted woman of modern times was finally free at last.

As I said before, I adored Diana and was fortunate enough to meet her several times during their Canadian tour of Canada in the autumn of 1991.  My mom Mary was with me, and the first place we met her was at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Friday October 25th, 1991.  There is an amusing story behind our meeting, and I will share it sometime with you all in another post.  I snapped the photo above just after Diana had purposefully come over to talk with me after I made her laugh while she sat on stage.  I got to talk to her on two more occasions, later that day and weekend.  I have photos, a video, and some amazing memories that will remain with me forever, as will my admiration and respect for this wonderful lady and truly beautiful person.

I made this video earlier today to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Royal Wedding.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse, a poem in tribute and a history

Like our imposing Terminal Building, the other local landmark that truly defines Collingwood and Georgian Bay is our stately lighthouse.  Sitting a relatively short distance offshore, the lighthouse resides on what is known locally as Nottawasaga Island, although it has also been called Clark's Island or Lighthouse Island. 

 The structure itself was constructed between 1855 and 1859, and was the handiwork of contractor John Brown, who had a reputation for both quality and honesty. The lighthouse was a necessity, as Collingwood was a bustling port in the 19th century, and there were many hidden dangers lurking just beneath the cool blue waters of Georgian Bay. When the Public Works Board commissioned it, it was to be one of 11 planned for Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  However, only 6 saw completion, at Point Clark and Chantry Island on Lake Huron and Cove Island, Griffith Island, Nottawasaga Island and Christian Island on Georgian Bay.

Known as the "Imperial" towers, contractor Brown built them from dolomite limestone quarried from Owen Sound and capped them off with granite to support the enormous weight of the cast iron lantern room at the top of the structure.  The Nottawasaga Lighthouse is 86 feet high, and it's walls are 6 to 7 feet thick at the base tapering off to 2 feet at the top.  The inside diameter of the lighthouse remains constant at 10 feet 6 inches to accommodate the lantern room and the light which was supplied by the Louis Saulter Company of Paris, France.  Nottawasaga's powerful "second order" light was visible from a distance of some 17 miles and was the marker of dangerous shoals that lie to the north west.

The lamp first came to life on November 30th, 1858.  During the course of it's lifetime, it was manned by 13 men and their families over the span of 124 years.  It was abandoned by the Coast Guard in 2003, but it's solar powered beacon continued to guide mariners through the waters until it was finally extinguished forever in July of 2007.  Today, it is one of the last of it's kind, but is in danger of collapse.  It was severely damaged by a lightning strike on December 1st of 2004, and as a result about 35 percent of it's dolomite exterior coating was sent crashing to the ground.  Although it has been subsequently reinforced with protective metal bands, these have surpassed their useful life expectancy and without proper restoration, the lighthouse could soon be no more.

The glowing light
The crashing waves
Through fog, storm and night
It aimed to save
A beacon of hope
That shone so bright
Guiding generations before
Now a thing of yore
It once stood proud
Of stone and brick
Now it's crumbling facade
Faces time and nature's cruel tick
Once a saviour to many
Serving purpose no more
It's future uncertain
Knowing not what's in store
To save it we must rally
Our marker we must save
For without our intervention
It will become soon but a grave
A long forgotten memory
A ghost of the bay
A light forever extinguished
It's legacy forever lost to decay

Friday, 17 July 2015

Saint Mary's Parish Church, Port Maria, Jamaica

Now that I have an extended family in Jamaica, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful country.  While Jamaica is definitely an island of contradictions, immense wealth and glaring poverty, there are so many beautiful spots that overwhelm the senses that it is almost possible to overlook the negative aspects of such a magical place.

Without a doubt, one of my absolute most adored places in Jamaica is the rugged town of Port Maria which hugs the eastern side of the Jamaican coast.  Port Maria is the capital town of the Jamaican Parish of Saint Mary's, and was originally called Puerto Santa Maria by early Spanish settlers to Jamaica.  It was in fact the second town established by the Spaniards, the first being Spanish Town on the western coast of Jamaica not too far from Old Port Royal.

Whenever we're in Jamaica we always stay in the resort town of Ocho Rios. Not only is it the halfway point from the airport in Montego Bay to where Howard's mom, sister and cousins live, it is also a beautiful place to stay. From Ocho Rios, Port Maria is only a thirty minute drive along the coastline, with the beauty of the ocean on your left, and the lush tropical majesty of the Jamaican coast and mountains on your right.  Along the way, you also pass through the equally stunning town of Oracabessa, which is replete with so many pastel coloured homes and structures it almost overwhelms the senses.  After passing through Oracabessa, it is but an additional fifteen minute drive to Port Maria.  You know your getting close when your greeted by a ribbon of road with a stone fence separating you from the ocean to your left, and the sheer rise of the Jamaican mountains your right.

My most favourite place in Port Maria has always and will always be the beautiful Port Maria Anglican Parish Church sitting majestically at the entrance to town on the Jamaican coast.  Constructed of stone in the Gothic Style, this magical church was built in 1861 and has changed very little in it's lifetime, even though it's weathered many floods and tropical calamities.  I have spent a lot of time exploring this church and it's grounds, and have even sang a song or two while in the sanctity of it's hallowed stone walls.  It's sad that the majority of tourists who visit Jamaica most likely never get the opportunity to see these wonderful places, as most stay within the confines of the resorts, only venturing out on structured excursions usually planned by resort staff.

One of the most unique things about Port Maria is that it is bordered to the west by the mountains.  In fact, one of the most unique vantage points to take in the vista of the coastline and the town is to venture up a narrow pockmarked rubble strewn road to Firefly Point high above the town.  Firefly Point was once the home of noted playwright, poet and artist, Noel Coward.  From this lush historic site, you get to experience the full majesty and the entirety of Port Maria spread out far below.  Not only that, but you get the added bonus of being able to see better Carabarita Island which sits but a few hundred metres off the Jamaican coastline.  

Hopefully we will be returning to Jamaica for a few weeks later this year to visit relatives and explore.  One day I hope that we own our own piece of this very magical place, one my heart has come to regard as another place to call home! 

I took the image above standing in the centre of the pews looking towards the nave and the altar.  Please note the pipes of the stunning organ on the right hand side of the nave.

Saint Mary's Church at sunset.  No matter how many times I see this place, I still get goosebumps.

While I don't really like taking "selfies", I took this one behind the church standing on the rocky shoreline as the waves crashed in.  Behind me, you can see a wee peek of Carabarita Island sitting just off the coast.  I love hanging out here on windy wavy days as it is always fun to spot the crabs as they get swept off the rocks by the incoming waves!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Osler Stone House

I have always had a deep affinity for stone homes.  There is something about them, an air of permanence and perhaps an air of indestructibility that seems to emanate from their rocky facades.  Indeed, when we made our move to our new adopted hometown of Milton, Ontario, one of the delights I found in the area was the abundance of so many beautiful stone structures.  But as much as I admire all of the treasures there, none hold my fascination as much as this solitary gem sitting high on top of Blue Mountain,  just off Old Mountain Road.

Wonderfully executed in a rubble stone pattern by it's builder, the stones themselves would have been sourced from the very fields on which this farm stood.  This home sits not too far from the site of my beloved Osler Castle, and was most likely constructed around the same period in time, the latter half of the  19th century.   One of the curiosities of this particular home is that it features brick window and door surrounds instead of the customary stone.  As a cost cutting measure, this was a concept that many builders would implement and use locally sourced brick instead.  Not only was the cost of bringing in stone for lintels, etc more expensive, the shipping distance was also a contributing factor.

This home is executed on the very typical "Old Ontario Farmhouse" centre hall floor plan, meaning that there is a central stair hall flanked by rooms on either side.  One interesting feature, is that instead of the traditional two room arrangement on the left hand side of the house, there is a large central room accented with a stunning bay window.  The rear portion of the home is given over to the kitchen which was also quite typical of many a farm home.  Capping it all off is a wonderfully aged tin roof that not only offers more durable protection from the elements, it's aged patina also complements the charm of the stone exterior.

Long ago my folks considered purchasing this beautiful home, but we ended up building a cottage instead.  I have coveted it for many years, and consider myself quite fortunate to have at least been afforded the opportunity to photograph and sketch it several times.  If anyone can offer any suggestions of how I might purchase this beauty, I would be most appreciative.  It would make a wonderful home and art/writing studio for me.  I have also included a little video tour I did of the exterior of this charming hope, and I hope you enjoy it.  Please check out my website at

Thanks for looking, and Happy Canada Day!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Collingwood's Terminal Building, the Beacon of Georgian Bay

For many, one of Collingwood’s most iconic structures is our majestic “Collingwood Terminals Limited” building standing proudly on the shore of Georgian Bay.  From the moment one crosses the rise in Duntroon with all of Collingwood and Georgian Bay laid out before them, the Terminals stands like a beacon, welcoming all to our beautiful town.  Few however will most likely realize that this was not the first structure of it’s kind to watch over our town.

The present structure, completed in 1930, is actually the third in a series of buildings devoted to the receiving, storage and dispatching of grain arriving by rail and by steamers.  The first structure pre-dates 1870 and little is known of it other than it was destroyed by fire.  It was replaced by a beautiful mansard roofed wooden structure constructed in 1870-1871.  Towering 150 feet over the harbour, it was reputed to have been designed by Frederick W. Cumberland who in addition to being a noted Toronto architect was also the manager of the Northern Railway Company.  A majestic and imposing addition to our waterfront, it’s outer beauty was complemented by the fact that it was indeed practical being entirely cased in iron for safety measures.

The first schooner to use the facility arrived from Chicago on September 16th, 1871 and was named the “Potomac.” It brought with it a cargo of 16,000 bushels of corn which was a mere drop in the bucket as the new terminal storage facility had a minimum capacity of 160,000 bushes.  There are reports that at times there would be as many as 150 schooners tied up in the harbour waiting patiently to unload their cargoes.

But as grain shipments arriving via rail continued to increase, it soon became abundantly clear that this structure was inadequate to meet the requirements of a growing economy. By 1888, the now renamed Grand Trunk Railway began to draw up plans for a new larger structure with a minimum storage capacity of 700,000 bushels.  Plans were drawn, but it wasn’t until 1929 that construction of a new poured concrete structure began.  Completed in 1930, the newly established Collingwood Terminals Limited boasted one of the tallest structures north of Toronto, and an astounding storage capacity of 2 million bushels.

Though rendered obsolete by it’s new concrete cousin, the old structure continued providing service, indeed being leased to a Chicago grain company for several years.  As with most wood structures of it’s imposing stature, it was threatened with fire over the years but each time was saved by the quick actions of the local fire department.  The two terminals stood side by side, a gateway to the bay.  But as the economy began it’s downward fall along with the water levels, this beautiful building was soon facing it’s demise.  Seventy years after construction, the oldest elevator on the Great Lakes was finally torn down in 1937.  Like the grain dust it once held, it’s memory now scattered to the winds of history and time. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

From Nottawa to Ninety! Happy Birthday Maxine Frye!

Throughout the years, many of my readers and followers have listened to me lament on the changing definition of the "best friend." While some might think me overly optimistic in my goal, it is only because I grew up with role models who were the perfect definition of that term.

Maxine and Mervyn Frye were not only my grandparent's neighbours in Nottawa, but they were also their best friends.  For almost 50 years, there were morning coffee dates, lunches, dinners and leisurely chats on the front porch lasting late into the evening.  The Frye's were like my surrogate grandparents, and I remember vividly staying with them the day of my grandpa Harold's funeral when I was a boy of 9 years old, playing with my Lego with Mervyn and Maxine as they tried to make the loss of my first grandparent a less scary moment.

I often think of the history that my grandparents, Neil and Reba, and the Frye's shared. Both came to Nottawa in the 1950's with young families, and both saw many transitions throughout the years as their kids grew up, married and had children of their own.  They also shared many sad moments, particularly the loss of Maxine's husband Mervyn in 1988, and the loss of my own beloved grandpa Neil in 1992.  For many years after my grandpa's passing, Maxine my grandma and I would often joke of the occasion when I had received the gift of a fancy German slingshot from our neighbours the Rykerts back in the early 1980's.  It came with very potent (and dangerous) lead pellets, and my grandpa was eager to try it out on scaring off the squirrels that would plunder his bird feeders.  One afternoon he glanced up from his chair (and his National Enquirer) to see a squirrel dangling from one of the aforementioned feeders.  He jumped up so quickly, slingshot in hand that he actually startled both my grandma and I.  He shot a lead pellet at the hapless squirrel only to miss his target (no need to call PETA), but unfortunately did not miss the Frye's aluminum screen door across the street!  I can still recall Maxine saying, "I was sitting watching Wheel of Fortune and then BANG!" She got up to find a neat hole in her door and a pellet on her front vestibule floor!

The other great memory of times spent with Maxine is when she would accompany my grandparent's and I to the church suppers at McIntyre United Church.  We would always joke about the amount of food each of us would eat, and always left with bulging belt buckles.  Usually when we would go back home to Nottawa after such an event, Maxine, my grandma and I would go for our daily walk around Nottawa, something that we had done with regularity since my grandma's heart attack in 1985.  Speaking of the 1980's, it wouldn't be complete if I didn't include my grandpa's favourite nickname for Maxine.  As "The Golden Girls" was one of our favourite shows, my grandpa's nickname for Maxine was Dorothy, something I'm not quite certain she found endearing, ha ha!  Oh well, my grandma was Rose, and I do believe that left me as Blanche, and of course my grandpa as crotchety Sophia, ha ha ha!

Since I've moved away, I unfortunately don't get as many opportunities to see the folks I love as often as I wish I could.  I was overjoyed to received the invitation from Maxine's granddaughter Jennifer on the occasion of her 90th birthday.  The last time I had seen Maxine was in 2010 when I was dealing with my cat Murphy's cancer diagnosis, and unfortunately didn't have a chance for a repeat visit while she still called Nottawa home.

She now lives in a beautiful retirement villa in the town of Walkerton.  It was our first ever trip up there, and I was truly overjoyed to see her after so much time, as she was with me.  We also got to see some other wonderful folks, Willa Rentner, Rose Pierce and Rose Patterson being among those beautiful faces from the past.  I promised to come back soon for a return visit as old friends, "best friends", are truly one of life's greatest gifts.

Happy 90th birthday Maxine, and thank you for being the perfect example of a true "best friend."

Monday, 15 June 2015

School days gone by, memories of Mary Ann

Many of you out there will no doubt recognize this lovely and neat home sitting proudly at 633 Hurontario Street, and many of you will most definitely remember the lovely young woman who once called it home.  I had done this pen & ink sketch long ago with the intent to follow it up with a watercolour as a present to my friend Mary Ann and her husband Paul.  Circumstances were to take a sad twist, and unfortunately my plan was to fall to the wayside.

Mary Ann Lougheed (nee Norton) was a dear childhood friend of mine from way way back.  Her wonderful and kind parents, Joan & Les were dear friends of my grandparents Neil and Reba.  In addition to sharing the label of being somewhat spoiled "only children", Mary Ann and I shared several traits, a love of music, a love of laughter, and a devoted obsession to our cars.  I'm quite certain many will recall her tooling around town in her beloved Camaro Z-28, a gift from Joan and Les when she got her driver's permit.  She kept that car seemingly forever, much like me and my beloved Jeep.

From our early days laughing our heads off in the school library at Connaught (much to the chagrin of the librarian), to our days standing out chatting in front of her Feminine Touch storefront on Hurontario Street, we were always eager to share a laugh or two.  I remember well one occasion when we were standing by the Bank of Montreal at the beginning of one of the earliest Elvis Festivals.  As we chatted, a Greyhound bus was dropping off its charges across the way, and as it departed, we were left with the sight of a dude dressed in full Elvis regalia and a tiny silver suitcase sitting on the sidewalk beside him that reminded me of a hooker's make-up case. We laughed our heads off, and somewhere in musical heaven I believe Elvis lobbed a half eaten pork chop down at us!

I remember her wedding to Paul as if it were yesterday.  Held at historic St. George's Church in Clarksburg on the 19th of February, 1994. As her mother Joan had passed away, Mary Ann was supported by her dad Les and her grandma Ida Gibson.  It was an unusually warm February day, and it seemed like the sun was blessing all in attendance.

Even after I moved away from town, we continued to stay in touch.  I remember well the week we found out she was sick. I dropped in to see her and she said "All was well, the doctor's were just running tests.  All would be fine." A week later, my mom called me saying that Mary Ann had gotten bad news. I called her immediately, and I will never forget the smallness and the sadness in her voice.  It reminded me so much of the little girl I had first met so very long ago.

Mary Ann passed away on Tuesday February 22nd, 2005, slightly more than a week after my dear grandma Reba.  Life and fate is never carved in stone, and sometimes one never knows when the sands of our time here on earth will run out.  However, if we hold the memories of those friends and family members no longer with us deep in our heart, a part of them will stay with us forever!


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Moving Pictures - The Gayety Theatre

For many generations of Collingwood citizens, the historic Gayety Theatre has been a source of escape and entertainment, through two World Wars and the Great Depression.

This Art Deco gem was constructed in 1911, and once boasted one of the largest marquee signs north of Toronto.  The sign was purchased in 1923 from a burlesque house in Toronto and boasted over 1,000 lightbulbs.  Long since removed, apparently for safety reasons, the sign was a defining feature on Main Street for so many.  Throughout the years, the theatre has been a venue for live entertainment in the Vaudeville era, shown Silent Films, the first "Talkies", and then progressed to the modern films we now all enjoy.  In recent years, the theatre has reverted to it's roots, as it is now the home of Theatre Collingwood.  

One might think that the Gayety was the only showhouse in town, but in fact, there were also two others.  The Lyric Theatre once occupied space in The Henderson Block (where Loblaw's now sits), but was destroyed by fire in 1925.  The other theatre offering was known as The Regent, and was located in the building across from Ed Christie's Menswear.  In subsequent years, this particular spot also once housed CKCB Radio and a bingo parlour, not to mention several other enterprises. 

For many years the theatre was owned by Rose and Joe Russ who were said to be some of the nicest folks in town.  Many special events were held at the venue, including yearly Christmas parties for employees of the Collingwood Shipyards.  

In addition to the photo above, another item you might find interesting is the original Playbill retained by my great grandmother for the showing of Katharine Hepburn's movie "Little Women" in 1933.  It was customary for studios to advertise their productions with publicity photos like this, an early 20th century novelty. Would you believe that the cost to attend a matinee showing was an unbelievable 3 cents?  Try getting a deal like that nowadays!

I have been fortunate enough to have been both dazzled and frightened by many movies at this historic theatre over the course of my youth, and even though it is no longer that type of venue, I cannot help but smile and think of fond memories whenever I pass it by.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Memories of Mrs. Irwin, 240 Minnesota Street

Growing up on the "East End" of Collingwood, there were many things to keep a young boy occupied.  Sunset Point, several playgrounds, and the railway yards were but a hop, skip and a jump (or bicycle ride) away, and I spent many happy hours exploring these sites.  But for a young artist and lover of history, I revelled in the wealth of architectural treasures that dotted our neighbourhood, and spent many afternoons wandering aimlessly looking to capture the perfect sketch.

For us "East Enders", Minnesota Street and Ontario Street were the motherlode of magnificent architecture.  As a "Junior Member of the Historical Society (thanks Dr. MacKay!), and a budding historian, my grandma would often pack me a snack and off I'd set to find something worthy to sketch.  Many times I was drawn to this wonderful white gem, aptly named "White Gate" sitting regally on the jog in Minnesota Street.

Constructed in 1873, this classic vernacular frame home is replete in Italianate detailing.  Squarish in style, it has the prerequisite hipped roof supported in place by an abundance of detailed brackets.  Tall multi-sashed windows, some in pairs, were also typical of this style, as well as the beautifully understated porch supported by a smattering of Doric columns.  

For many years this was the home of a wonderfully kind woman who I always respectfully called, Mrs. Irwin.  Like her beautiful home, she was part of the unique tapestry of our neighbourhood.  Whenever she saw me, either out riding my bike or out sketching, she would beckon me in for milk and cookies, and as I was somewhat advanced for my age, usually tea and dessert.  I remember well sitting in her beautiful sun dappled kitchen as she busied about making us a treat.  One always felt at ease in her home and her heart.

This sketch was done by me on one of my afternoon sketching sessions way back in 1980.  If memory serves me correctly, the tea & cookies were delicious, but most importantly, the company sublime.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed recalling the memories that inspired it!

Osler Castle, a poem of dreams lost

A front and western side view in winter, 1917

On this spot stood
A castle great
Of stone and wood
Brick and slate
A great man built 
For a beloved mate
On a majestic rise
Overlooking the lake
But fate intervened
And a life was lost
Broken dreams, a broken heart
This monument to love
Served no purpose more
And soon sat empty
It's story, folklore
Devoid of life and love
It suffered great
The hands of time
Had sealed it's fate
Now all that remains
Are stone and brick
A legacy lost
As time's clock ticked
The wind now whistles
Through it's crumbling towers
A ghostly voice
Of forgotten hours
Forget me not
It seems to say
As my memory fades
With each passing day

Thanks for reading, and many thanks for your interest.  Please check out my website at


Monday, 8 June 2015

McKenzie's Snack Bar, Nottawa Ontario

Many of the older folks in my audience will no doubt recognize this scene.  It is undoubtedly one of my favourite works by local Collingwood artist, Robert G. Kemp, and the subject matter of the piece was one that was also close to my heart and an integral part of my childhood.

Harry and Mary McKenzie were two unique and caring individuals who were a wonderful part of the local tapestry of our area.  Not only was their restaurant on Nottawa's "main drag" an institution for many years, they were close family friends of my grandparents, Neil and Reba.  On many a Sunday after church, my grandparents would forego our traditional breakfast at home and we would go to "Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary's" place instead where I would regularly have a grilled cheese and chocolate milkshake.

Robert Kemp did this marvellous pencil study in 1980, and this was in fact Harry and Mary's Christmas card to us.  The arrangement is wonderful in that it features several of our area's recognizable local citizens.  I was a great admirer of Mr. Kemp's work, and addition to finding him an inspiration in my own artwork, I am fortunate to have several of his pieces in my own collection.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful piece of work and my post!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Happy 100th Birthday to my grandpa, Neil Alexander McInnes

Grandpa & Sweetheart 

If he were still here with us, today my wonderful grandfather Neil Alexander McInnes would have turned 100 years old. I was sitting at my desk thinking about that last evening, and also the fact that I am now the same age that he was when I was born. 

My grandpa was a wonderful man and a friend to many, both young and old.  He was born in Brownlee Saskatchewan in 1915, and his family moved to the hamlet of McIntyre in my beloved Grey County when he was a still a young man. It was there where he and his family farmed, and where he would come to meet and marry my grandmother Reba Winifred Priddle who's family owned the farm across the way. My grandparents had 2 boys, my dad Brian and his brother Wayne, and they were still young boys when the clouds of war began cast a shadow far across the globe.  My grandpa enlisted and was soon sent off overseas where he drove a munitions truck through the battlefields of Europe. While he was away, my grandma not only continued running the farm, but also raised two young boys on her own while supporting the war effort here at home.

 In 1945 at the end of the war, my grandpa returned home a decorated veteran and a changed man.  As the realities of economic landscape changed, farming and the distance in the country became more of a challenge, especially for a young family. Soon thereafter, my grandparents sold the family farm and moved to the village of Nottawa just outside of Collingwood.  Until their retirement, my grandpa worked as a dedicated and caring custodian at Nottawa Public School, while my grandma worked for DAAL Specialties which was once located on High Street in Collingwood. 

 I happened upon the scene in 1965, and from that moment on we were forever joined in a bond of mutual love that would carry us on seemingly forever.  My grandparents were incredibly caring and supportive, not only to me but to all those whom they met and called a friend.  In myself, they fostered a love of history, art and music that I will carry with me always.  As a young boy and beyond, I spent so much time with my grandparents that many of my schoolmates actually thought that they were my parents.  My grandpa and I built things together, shared a mutual love of television (back when it was worth watching), and often debated current events.  We were often at odds of opinion, but as he once told me, it was because I was the only one who cared enough to disagree and would argue a point with him.  Sounds very familiar, hmmmm?  

For many years before and after his retirement, one of the things we did together was attend auction sales.  Our favourites were often auctioneered by local legend Ivan Brown who would often admonish the audience with his famous “I’ll smash it!” if a suitable bid wasn’t produced.  After he retired, my grandpa would spend the winters refinishing many of the antiques we bought at auction and then would have two yearly yard sales, one on Victoria Day, and one on Labour Day.  Folks used to come from quite a distance for his sales as they always knew he had a good eye for quality.  I could go on forever, but I think you all see my meaning.  

My grandpa left us suddenly and sadly in the late evening hours of Sunday April 27th, 1992.  His presence in my life was one of my greatest influences, and his passing changed my life forever.  As with all my grandparents, I loved and adored him, and will remember him always!