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!   

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Dr. Storey's house .......

Dr. Storey's House

As a lover of architecture, even though I tend towards favouring the classic lines of the Georgian style, I have always had a fondness for this lovely Queen Anne masterpiece sitting majestically on St. Marie Street in my hometown of Collingwood Ontario.

The Queen Anne style of architecture in North America refers to the period between 1880 and 1915, but historically, sees it's origins in Britain during the reign of Queen Anne (reigned 1702 - 1714), and was an English Baroque architectural style favoured during that time and also revived as Queen Anne Revival during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

It's namesake Queen Anne would hardly have been pleased by the appropriation of her name, for structures of this style were a virtual free-for-all mixing of many picturesque elements such as gables, towers and turrets all put together in an irregular form.  They also boasted many classical features, such as Palladian windows, classical orders, and other more stately trimmings, all stacked together in an architectural fantasy sometimes reminiscent of a wooden wedding cake.

It was originally envisioned to be an English return to the idealized medieval vernacular house style devised by British architect Richard Norman Shaw (1831 - 1912), and as such the style is sometimes referred to as "Shavian Manor."  It saw massive popularity in North America in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  It featured a very hospitable sprawling look that was perfectly suited to the broad expanse of lawns in many an Ontario town.  When recognizing a Queen Anne home, look for deep porches, towers, complicated rooflines, and a multiplicity of building materials.  Fishtail shingles, spooled porches and a multitude of ornate stained glass windows are usually a good clue that your looking at a Queen Anne home.

As I stated previously, this beautiful example graces tree lined St. Marie Street in Collingwood, and for many years was the home of Dr. Robert Storey and his family.  It is a testament to it's builders, The Bryan Brothers, who were responsible for the construction of so many of our grand homes during that period. Although it has seen many changes throughout the years, it has fortunately been well cared for and maintained by those fortunate enough to have called it home.

St. Marie Street looking northwest, 1905