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