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

Milk and Dairy. The Pott's Brothers wagon.

Although there were many things I was introduced to by my very "pioneer" like grandmother, Edith Ardella Carefoot, there were certain aspects of early Collingwood traditions and practices that I am either fortunate or perhaps maybe unfortunate enough to not have experienced.  One of these is the idea of having fresh milk delivered to one's front door.  I know, what a concept, ha ha!  For the current generation who has come to rely on the 24/7 availability of fresh dairy products at every corner store and market, this would undoubtedly be a foreign or strange concept.  However, "back in the day" as my grandma used to like to put it, there was a plethora of milk producers all within the confines of our local region.

Perhaps one of the most well known of the bunch was the Pott's Brothers, Roy and Reg.  First established by Roy in 1932, Roy was no stranger to the world of dairy products having worked for one of the aforementioned larger members of  Collingwood's own "dairy cartel."  Together with his brother Reg, they started out cautiously by renting a small back shed for their new endeavour for the princely sum of $8.00 a month!  Since the need to be frugal was part of their equation for success, the brothers actually took up residence in a small silo shaped building that was part of the property.  According to popular lore, they affectionately referred to this building as the "roundhouse."

Not only were the brothers industrious and determined, they were also quite financially savvy.  To ensure that their fledgling business was a success, not only did they work at it, they also continued working for others so that they could raise capital for their business venture.  Besides real estate, the other necessities required were obviously electric and water, and they soon had these key items up and running.  Thus established, this gave them the needed momentum and readied their bottling operation further.  Thankfully, milk producers in that era were plentiful,  and soon they were receiving supplies from one George Conn of Craigleith.  The cost was an astounding $1.45 for 100 pounds of milk, unbelievable in our age where you can't even purchase a pint for that now piddly amount!  

Refrigeration in the mid 20th century was an issue.  The freezers we take for granted today were still in their infancy and a luxury item.  Most folks then relied on cold cellars and iceboxes that were stocked with blocks of ice that were cut from Georgian Bay during the winter months.  These blocks once cut were then stored in cool areas packed in straw or sawdust to keep them frozen.  Try putting a dusty ice cube in your drink!  As the brother's operation gained more success, the need for additional storage soon became an issue.  Because of this, they ended up renting an additional building that was devoted to the storage of the aforementioned ice.

For the first three years, Reg Pott's made their deliveries by bicycle.  However, as their status and success grew, it soon became necessary for a more efficient delivery mode, especially in winter.  With that came the horse and wagon that I have featured here in my sketch.  It was a very beloved and familiar sight on the streets of Collingwood, and I fondly recall my grandma telling me how one would leave out their empty bottles on the front porch, and they would exchange them for full fresh ones.  The bill would come once a month, and at that time you would "settle up" your account - no credit check necessary. 

The business continued to grow, and in 1945 the brothers took advantage of the ideal opportunity to purchase the Bayview Dairy.  With that acquisition begat the very popular and much loved "Pott's Dairy Bar."  At their peak in the 1950's and 1960's, the Pott's Brothers delivered milk and dairy products to over 2,500 local customers.  The advent of the corner store and the supermarket unfortunately rendered this kind of enterprise to the annals of our past, but there are many who look back fondly at this glimpse to a much simpler time.

I hope you enjoy this post and my artwork, and thank you for reading.


Sandy .......

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Donuts and Date Squares, Memories of The Little Pastry Shop

Growing up as a young boy in Collingwood, I was truly grateful that we were blessed with not one but two places where one could indulge themselves in tempting dessert treats.  Not that I didn't get more than enough at home baking with my grandmothers, but it truly was a special event when my grandma would give me five dollars and send me off downtown towards Hurontario Street to pick up "a little something" for the both of us.  Back in the day we were very lucky, for we had two tasty options.  There was the "Bayview Bakery" on the third block which was a prime source of eclairs, petit fours and other delicacies.  But, for the "donut aficionado there was one singular place to satisfy your craving - The Little Pastry Shop located on the west side of the first block between Fourth and Third Streets.  Not only did it offer up the best most delicious donuts imaginable, it also had one of the "sweetest" owners, Mr. Len Ayres.  Mr. Ayres operated this shop for many years, and after selling it also continued baking while employed by Loblaw's Collingwood in their bakery department.  Back in the day when I worked at Loblaws there, we often joked about his "old days" running his bakery.  One such story was often repeated, and I offer it here for you.  One day, long ago, my grandma gave me the customary five dollars and sent me off to fetch us a dozen donuts to have with our tea and for dessert that evening.  It was early in the morning, for you always wanted to arrive just when the donuts had been freshly made and were presented in the display with the chocolate still warm, gooey and dripping.  I got there about nine-thirty, and upon entering the shop found it strangely empty.  I stood there for a few moments admiring the other goodies, when all of a sudden a booming voice from the back rang out, "Hold on for a minute, I'm in the SHITTER!"  I almost fell over, both in horror and hilarity.  Len soon popped out of the back, and upon seeing me burst out laughing.  I too broke out in a fit of giggles, and soon I was off with our dozen donuts, and a memory that I would never ever forget.

I hope you enjoyed this story, and just writing it and re-telling it makes me laugh and smile.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Sea, Ships and Shells .......

My sketch of the beach, my "Minnow" and the Court House

Whenever we are home in Jamaica, we always stay in Ocho Rios.  Our second home there, however, is the beautiful seaside town of Port Maria thirty-three miles south.  A beautiful town steeped in history, Port Maria also has one of the most beautiful beaches called Pagee Beach.  Just off the coast is Carabarita Island, with a steep rocky approach topped with exotic foliage.  It really is a most breathtaking place.  We have spent many happy hours in Port Maria, visiting my favourite churches and attending services, singing, and of course, swimming in the waves at Pagee Beach.

On our last full day in Jamaica, I suggested to Howard that we take a drive to Port Maria for a goodbye swim.  I also wanted to do some sketching and record a song at St. Mary's Parish Church, so off we set.  After I completed my singing and sketching, we headed to the beach for the final swim of our holiday.  The waves were incredible, and as we were being bounced along I felt something in the sand.  I reached down and was surprised to find a little conch shell.  I was quite thrilled because it almost felt like Mother Nature was giving me a small memento to take home with us.  After swimming for awhile, we decided got go for a walk along the beach a ways.  We ended up walking quite a distance, taking photos, taking in the sights, and petting a stray pup who decided to accompany us on our journey.  As we walked back, I asked Howard to take my picture beside what I have deemed the "Gilligan's Island" boat aka the "S.S. Minnow." The old boat on the beach is blue, and every time I see it I am reminded of that old television show which I loved as a young boy.  The fact that the island off the coast somewhat reminds me of "Gilligan's Island" also lends to the premise and the appeal, ha ha!

As we finished taking our photos and getting ready to head back to the car, Howard and I spied something sticking out of the sand next to the old boat.  There, partially covered was the biggest, most beautiful conch shell I've ever seen.  We fished it out, splashed some water on it, and even in it's soiled state - it was the most beautiful shell I'd ever seen.  I was completely beyond thrilled with this find.  It was one thing to find the small one in the water, but yet another thing altogether to have this stunning beauty!  A truly wonderful gift from place I do indeed love so much.  Back at the hotel, a Rasta dude told us that the shell or the creature that inhabited it was most likely recently alive,  and the shell was quite an impressive find.  Howard cleaned it up for me in the bathtub with a toothbrush, and we sprayed it with some of my hair curl stuff so that we wouldn't have any issues bringing it home with us.  Today, my beautiful shell sits proudly on the coffee table alongside it's smaller counterpart, a daily reminder of a special day and a place we both treasure so much.

I hope you enjoyed my seaside tale, and thank you again for reading it!

Sandy .......

My two beautiful conch shells

Me in the surf with Carabarita Island off the coast

Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church, Port Maria, Jamaica

One of the things I love about Jamaica is it's abundance of beautiful churches.  In fact, Jamaica has more churches per square kilometre on this island nation than any other place on earth!  Because of this, it is actually known as "The Island of Too Many Churches", ha ha!  That's all well and good for me, cause I love churches, especially those with great architecture.  Without a doubt, Port Maria has three of my all-time favourites.  For those of you who don't know, Port Maria is a seaside town on the eastern coastline of Jamaica about a three hour drive from Montego Bay.  The church in my sketch is called "Our Lady of the Sea", and is located on Port Maria's Main Street.  It was constructed of wood around 1860, and is rather Victorian in style and design with a somewhat ornate if not weathered porch.  At the time when I did this sketch, we were waiting at the airport for our flight which had been delayed.  I was experiencing a major anxiety issue, and it's rather fortunate that the little church doesn't have many straight lines as my hands were trembling when I did this, ha ha!  I was rather proud of myself for managing to finish it, and it wasn't too shabby for about forty minutes work.  Please stay tuned for more church sketches as I produced quite a few while we were away.

As always, I hope you enjoy this post and thank you so much for reading it!

Sandy .......


Friday, 22 January 2016

The Market Building, Collingwood Ontario

For more than one hundred and twenty years, it's stately and timely presence has stood guard over Hurontario Street in my hometown of Collingwood Ontario.  Originally known as "The Market Building" for the farmer's market that was a once a prominent feature, this architectural masterpiece was also home to both stores, an opera house, and from it's construction, the seat of local government.

It was designed by Toronto architects C.J. Gibson and and Henry Simpson in a style made popular by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and popularly known as "Richardsonian Romanesque. When we were travelling in Louisiana in 2012, we actually visited H.H. Richardson's birthplace at St. Joseph Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana.  His style was characterized by bold arches and other rusticated features that were quite popular in architecture of that time.  Construction began in 1889, and many local craftsmen had a hand in it's creation including local bricklayer John Chamberlain and also the Bryan Manufacturing Company.

The building was constructed and furnished at a cost of $25,000, and was no sooner finished when calamity struck.  During a civic holiday in August of 1890, a fire broke out in the market portion of the building and the structure was gutted to the bare walls. It was reported that smoke from the fire could be seen from as far away as Meaford and was also observed by steamers on the lake.   Thankfully however, the foresight of council at the time to insure the structure meant that reconstruction was speedy, and the building was once again finished in 1891.  Although it was designed with a clock tower, few folks realize that a clock was indeed not a part of the facade until one was donated by local citizen Frank Courtice (for whom Courtice Crescent is named) in 1950.  Another little known fact was the ornate iron fountain that once graced the front entrance, but was removed many years ago.

This majestic building has seen many changes throughout it's lifetime.  The market and opera house were eventually phased out, and the local arena at the rear was constructed in 1949.  It received a thoughtful overhaul in 1984, and is a fondly loved and well maintained part of our beautiful main street.