Category Archives: Staycations

Goderich Postcards

My grandmother’s parents, Matthias and Emily Lymburner, lived for a few years in Goderich, Ontario. These are postcards sent from their early days there in 1911. (click images for larger view)

General View of Goderich Harbour, looking East

goderich harbour looking east D Stewart postcards coll.goderich harbour card message D Stewart postcards coll.Mr. Charles H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont. Goderich, Jan 9th, 1911.

Dear Boy, Charlie:- This card shows the mills and cooperage – the cooper shop, I have marked with an X on the gable-end. It looks small on account of the flour mill being so large. I am feeling fine, and I think I will like it well, here, haven’t seen much of the town yet, it’s nice, though, what I have seen of it. I will write frequently, and will be glad to hear from you all. Yours, M. E. Lymburner.

Look slightly right of middle. See a small yellow triangle at left of large brown building – that’s the X. Matthias was a cooper so that’s where he would have worked.

Central Park, Goderich, Ont. Canada

Central Park Goderich D Stewart postcards coll.central park card message D Stewart postcards coll.

Mrs C H Burwell

This is for Minnie. It is the city hall, and central park. It is the very centre of the town. I will write again when I get time.

I think this is Mary Emily’s writing. She must have been sent it to her daughter Minnie in Tillsonburg with someone.  The courthouse and park is the hub of an octagon of streets that comprises the town centre. The town layout was planned from the very beginning.  The Town of Goderich website describes it.

On the Maitland River, Goderich, Ont. Canada

on the maitland river D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Minnie Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ont.

Goderich Feb 24 1911 Dear Minnie – Just a line to tell I was down town yesterday and came near losing our way home. There are so many streets and they look so much alike. Well good bye. From Mother

The 1911 Canadian Census has Matthias and Emily, two sons and two youngest daughters living on Britannia Road. It runs west to east  across the south side of town.  The spokes of the streets mean that if you take the wrong one leaving the square, you can end up a long way from where you intended. The Maitland River skirts the east side of town, with its mouth at the harbour.

Court House – Goderich Canada

court house goderich D Stewart postcards coll.court house card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Chas Burwell, Tillsonburg Ont.

Dear Sister, Just a card to let you [know] we are alive and will answer your letter soon but have been very busy trying to get straightened up. Then I am so lame that it keeps me a long while. John is working at the furniture factory here. I am nearly settled all but washing my curtains and quilts. Evellyn

Evellyn was Minnie’s older sister. John Hewson was her husband. This sounds as if they too had just moved to Goderich. But I cannot find them in the 1911 census.

About this beautiful Court House, the Goderich website (link above) says, “The octagonal-shaped park at the centre was occupied for nearly 100 years by the original Huron County Courthouse, an Italianate brick building of imposing scale, massing and elegance. It was replaced in 1954 by the present building.”

Concrete Elevator, Goderich, Canada

concrete elevator goderich D Stewart postcards coll.elevator card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Charles Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ontario.

Goderich Aug 3, 1911. Dear Minnie – We arrived home just at twelve. Pa was home for dinner, he is well. It is raining hard here this afternoon. Bye Bye from Ma.

Maybe Emily had just got back from visiting her daughter? I don’t know but the message sounds like a check-in.  This photo is a close-up of the elevator that you can see in the background of the first postcard. From the Goderich Port Authority website: “The first grain elevator at the Port was built in 1866 but was later destroyed by fire. The current elevators, constructed in the 1920s, are still in operation today.”

Point Farm Hotel, Goderich, Ont., Canada

point farm hotel goderich D Stewart postcards coll.point farm hotel card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mr. C. H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont.

Goderich, Sept. 1 1911. My Dear Charlie; Arrived here O.K. in time for dinner. Found the folks all well. The baby was real good coming up. I hope you found enough to eat. Am having a dandy time. Will I give your best respects to Miss Bell? Bye Bye, Minnie (write soon)

Minnie and Charley had no children at this time. But Minnie’s sister Evellyn had a daughter Mary Julia Hewson in July 1911. Maybe they travelled to Goderich together.  My mother told me who Miss Bell was, but unfortunately I can’t remember.  The Point Farm Hotel, also unfortunately, is gone. The area is now a Provincial Park. The hotel’s history is told by David Yates in the 2016/17 Goderich Visitors’ Guide (pp 57-58).

…at Tillsonburg and thinking much of you

Tillsonburg D Stewart postcards coll.Tillsonburg card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs C H Burwell, Goderich, Ont. [postmarked Sep 2 1911]

My Dear Minnie – I rec’d your card and feel a lot better to know you are all right. I am getting along all right keeping bach with John. Yes, give my best respects to Miss Bell and the rest of the folks. Bye Bye, Charley xxxx X1 for Miss Bell

John, I think, was a friend of Grandpa’s. I gather, from this exchange of postcards, that Grandma left them to fend for themselves when she went away. But it seems that he and John had “found enough to eat.” Ha!

And that’s our tour of Goderich from 1911. See my Goderich, Prettiest Town for my memories of the town and Bluewater Beach from several decades later. I wrote it right after a devastating tornado hit the town in August 2011.

Princess Louise Park

Sussex has the best all-in-one park I’ve ever seen: Princess Louise Park on Leonard Ave, just off Main Street. There are other recreation areas in town, but PLP puts a whole lot of everything in one place.Canada Day Princess Louise Park photo Jim StewartFrom spring to fall, every weekend, there is a special event going on in the park. Plus Canada Day and fireworks, even the circus (Great Benjamin’s Circus).  All that is aside from its regular usage by ballplayers, skateboarders and people walking with or without dogs.

Old bandshell Princess Louise Park photo d stewartA pretty treed area alongside the creek has picnic tables and a bandstand. Baseball diamonds, soccer field, tennis courts and skateboard park. Also a hockey arena, agriculture museum (housed in an old tank hangar) and senior centre.

And the PLP Show Centre. Filling the back corner of the park, it has a covered riding arena, an outdoor ring, five barns and a penning corral. There are horse shows almost every weekend from April to October. Put on by horse breed and equestrian discipline clubs, they’re open to everyone. The season starts with the Equine Review, put on by the Maritime Quarter Horse Association (this coming weekend, schedule here).PLP Show Centre 2014 mini horse competitionWhen horses aren’t in the Show Centre, other animals are. All kinds of livestock fill the barns and riding ring during the 4-H Club’s annual exhibition. It provides performance space and horse accommodation when an event like the RCMP Musical Ride comes to town (Musical Ride II).

Agility competition PLP photo d stewartOn almost as many weekends through the summer, the park hosts dog agility competitions on the playing fields. In September, a rod and gun show fills the hockey arena in September. Outside, on the grass, hunting dogs demonstrate their skills.

The park is large enough that more than one event can take place at the same time, and still leave space free. Only two events fill the entire park.Sussex flea market and car show photo Jim StewartOn the weekend of the 3rd Saturday in July, is a huge flea market and antique car show. All the grounds and even the hockey arena are used for vendors.Atlantic Balloon Fiesta 2014 photo Jim Stewart

Then, the weekend after Labour Day, is the Balloon Fiesta. Hot-air balloonists come from all over North America each year hoping for good weather for dawn and dusk takeoffs. Also a midway and lots of food (curly fries!).

Summer Camp parade, Camp Sussex 1910 8th Hussars Reg. Museum virtual museum.caThe Department of National Defence used to own the land. Established in 1881, Camp Sussex was used in both World Wars for training troops prior to deployment overseas. The 8th Hussars (Princess Louise) armoured reserve unit is headquartered across Leonard Ave. When the base closed in the early 1970s, Sussex acquired the land and turned it into the park. The town has used it well.

The Great Benjamin’s Circus

The circus came to town last Friday. The Great Benjamin’s Circus at the Princess Louise Park in Sussex. Catching sight of a circus tent with lights flashing and flags flying – all the ‘adulting’ I was in town to do went right out of the window. Errands would get done, after the circus, whenever.Great Benjamin's Circus tent-plp-sussex-nb-photo-d-stewart

One ring under canvas. Settle in, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and enjoy the show.

Let the show begin

hula-hoops-photo-d-stewartA juggler, a hula hoop lady, a dog act of Standard Poodles, Spaniels, Terriers and one scene-stealing Chihuahua. Fire eaters, a contortionist, aerialists with hoops and silks. Clowning, rope twirling with nerve-rattling audience participation. Motorbikes circling in a steel cage. Sitting near the cage, I watched a crew member circling the outside of it throughout the performance ensuring all the bolts were staying tight.motorbike-cage-photo-d-stewart

I took pictures early on but then just watched and held my breath at the feats of wonder. Cheered and clapped. More photos toward the end, no flash of course. Who would want to be responsible for distracting a performer for even a nanosecond?

It was a capacity crowd for the late afternoon show. The evening performance would likely be overflowing. The front of house people must have agreed with that assessment. While we were leaving, an announcement was made: another performance had been added after the 7 p.m. one. Outside the tent, an enormous line of people waited to get in.great benjamin's circus dogs-photo-d-stewart

So late in the night, after three performances, the circus would pack up and head off for the next day’s shows in Moncton. It’s not a long drive, but another long day would follow for performers and crew. Not unusual for them, I’m sure.circus in lights photo-d-stewart

According to their website, The Great Benjamin’s Circus is based in the US and Mexico. They play the small towns of North America, all through the year by the looks of the schedule. I am very happy they came to my small town. I looked at the faces of the kids as they were leaving the show. Awestruck. I wondered if, like me, they were thinking about running away with the circus.

Fire Muster

The Fire Muster is this coming weekend – Labour Day Saturday and Jack and judges, Fire Muster dog showSunday – in Pinafore Park, St. Thomas.  A chance to see fire fighters, fire trucks old and new, classic cars, and dogs.  There are always lots of dogs at the Fire Muster.  On Sunday afternoon, there’s a dog show.  It started as a Dalmatian show, and there are still special prizes for Best Dalmatian and Best Dalmatian ‘wannabe’.  Dogs wear costumes, do tricks or just walk across the stage.  The first time our late dog Jack I won!entered, he won Best in Show.  I don’t know who was proudest, us or him. Later, he happily rooted around in his prize hamper from Hartz.

From then on, every time we were at Pinafore, he wanted to walk across the bandshell stage. Strut across it, reliving his moment of glory.  I’d sing “here she comes, Miss America”, and he’d look out over the cheering audience that only he could see. The year they tore the old bandshell down he was crestfallen.  I took him to the new one at the back of the park, and he walked across it.  But you could see it wasn’t the same for him.

He lining up for the showentered the dog show every year, never won again, but always enjoyed it.  As soon as he’d see dogs heading for the registration table and lining up, he wanted to join them. He liked going to Pinafore Park any time of the year, but he would get especially excited when he’d see the ladies on the boot toll at the gate.  He knew it was Fire Muster time.

For several years, my husband and I worked at the souvenir t-shirt booth.  Jack loved being there, meeting and greeting dogs and people.  One year, though, he Jack the muscle dogwasn’t really happy.  We’d made him his own tshirt.  He didn’t like walking around like a canine advertisement but, in his black “muscle shirt”, he brought a lot of attention to the booth.

The new dogs, Leo and Charlie, were at last year’s Fire Muster for the first time.  They both entered the dog show.  Didn’t win, but they didn’t care.  They were happy with their participation gift treats.

First published Aug. 31, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog

 

Ron and Secretariat

Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in secretariat-and-ron-photo-d-stewartnorthern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.

As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.

In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of turcotte-statue photo dorothy stewartthe race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.

The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled secretariat-unveiling-photo-d-stewartby little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.

After unveiling the statue

Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people ron-and-leo-photo-d-stewartcelebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.

It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog.

In the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He turcotte-signs-3-triple-crown-printsigned the glass of large framed prints. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That made the day complete for me.

I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.

motel-leo-photo-d-stewartLeo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci, thank you.

See my Secretariat movie for the picture I had autographed and thoughts on the movie.

Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.

Musical Ride

unloading-horse-photo-D-StewartThe RCMP Musical Ride was in Hampton NB last week. The horses stayed at Butternut Stables where I ride. I was there when they arrived and, next day, I ran alongside as they walked from there down Main Street to the soccer field where they performed. Black horses, red serge. Impressive. Imagine them precision riding at top speed.horses on the way to Musical Ride Hampton

“32 horses and riders moving as one, perfect harmony between man and beast, a kaleidoscope of manes and tails and battle lances crisscrossing in a collage of synchronous movement. It takes your breath away.” Lt. Welsh, All the Queen’s Horses, Due South

RCMP-Lenny-photo-D-StewartIt started in the 1870s with the precursor to the RCMP, the North West Mounted Police. The men did fancy drill maneuvers with their horses for fun. In 1904 they performed for the public at fairs in Manitoba. Mounted patrols stopped in 1936, but they kept the horses. The Musical Ride officially became part of the public duties of the Mounties in 1961.

The horses are Hanoverians, raised and trained at the RCMP farm near Ottawa, Ontario. The riders are officers who first learn to ride, then perform. After three years, they return to regular duties.stabled-photo-D-Stewart

I don’t think there’s anything comparable anywhere. Certainly there are armed forces ceremonies that combine tradition and ritual with active duty. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one. You can watch it – at Buckingham Palace.

RCMP-trailers-Hampton-photo-D-StewartBut the Musical Ride is a moveable feast. The cavalcade (4 tractor trailers and support vehicles) travels across the country annually to cities and small towns to perform. Money raised goes to the sponsoring community groups.

back-of-procession-photo-D-StewartIn much of Canada, the RCMP are the provincial and local police force. But they are also a federal policing agency, equivalent to the FBI in the US. I try to picture FBI agents on horseback, looking non-threatening, looking comfortable. Can’t do it.

Cybil-and-me-ButternutIf you’re in Yarmouth NS, you can see them this weekend. Next week they’ll be back in New Brunswick. June 2 and 3rd, they’ll be in Sussex at the Princess Louise Park. I’ll be there to say hello to the lovely Cybil. Here is the 2015 schedule for NB, NS, Ottawa, SK, QC and NL.

due-southATQH-mtvpersiaPaul Gross’ song Ride Forever kept going through my head as I watched the horses unload. They didn’t come down the ramps the way they do in a Due South episode. Listen, and watch in this youtube video.

 

Winter Resort

Winter wonderland for skiing, skating and snowshoeing when the mood strikes and the weather is perfect. Nature-made snow sculpturing. Little birds buffeted by wind in their brave search for seeds and suet. Nights with clear skies, millions of stars overhead. Sometimes eyes stream from the cold. Absolute beauty. Makes you glad to be alive just so you can see it.

winter resort skiing-photo-Jim-StewartWhere is this paradise? At home. Open fields perfect for cross-country skiing with flat expanses and some small slopes to add a little thrill – spills too. Step off the porch, put your skis on and go. No strapping skis to the roof of a car or wrestling to put them inside then having to drive home again with wet, cold clothes and dogs.

A small spring-fed stream makes a skating rink.  As long as the snow isn’t too deep, the wind is your zamboni. It’s not the Rideau Canal, but it’s enough. A milk crate provides a seat for putting skates on.

Snowshoes get you through the fields and into the woods to check on trees and animals. Silence. The snow baffles noise. Just you and Nanook of the North, wearing Poodle camouflage.

Three winters here, each different. One with snow and sun, wind and storms spaced out as if planned by a tour guide. Second – snow, melt, snow, melt. A crust of ice thin enough to break when walked on but thick enough, when cracked, to trap a foot. Impossible for arthritic old dog legs. Third winter, no mild spells to melt snow before more piled on top. Snow mountains from the plow, rounded snow bluffs made by the wind. Walkways for dogs, people too, made with the snowblower.

Sometimes the wind blows so hard the house howls. Snow drives straight across hard from the northeast. You bend sideways to keep upright. Maybe you have to go out, maybe you don’t. But you go out anyway, just to feel it and then feel the warmth when you come back inside.

The hens stand in their coop doorway, wanting to go into the sun. They do, but quickly run back inside. Still too cold. Birds not seen since last year return to the feeders.

The days get longer. Daylight savings time soon. It is nice to have the light, but I mourn the end of winter.

 

Walking in the Woods

When I moved back to southwestern Ontario, I thought woods walking would be over for woods at Archie Coulter Conservation Area, near Orwell Ontariome and my dog.  Groomed parks maybe, but no acres of forest or meadows.  I was absolutely wrong.

There are lots of places where you can get lost in the wilderness – sometimes literally.  They are called conservation areas, managed yet still wild.  It’s easy to walk through woods and along rivers and never see another person, even if you know from the parking lot that people are in there.

Some have only a parking lot and trails.  Others have open areas perhaps with playground equipment and pavilions for sheltered picnics.  Some are campgrounds in summer and some host special events throughout the year.  Others simply are there year round for bridge over lily pond, Waterworks Park, St. Thomas, Ontarioyou to walk through with only a sign giving the name and the management group.

Then there are city parks.  In St. Thomas the two largest ones combine groomed gardens with wilderness off to their sides.  At Waterworks, you can see wedding parties being photographed beside the lily ponds, then walk five minutes and be in woods with deer running through.  At Pinafore Park, there’s a bandshell for music performances and Heron on dam at Waterwork Park, St. Thomas, Ontariobehind it are woods in which you hear nothing of the city beside you.

You can walk along Kettle Creek, from north of St. Thomas to Port Stanley.  The Elgin Hiking Trail Club organizes group walks regularly, or you can just walk the trail for as short or long a distance as you want by yourself.

What you don’t see in the ravines and creeks of these areas are large dumped items.  Whether people here just don’t take unwanted couches and stoves out to a nice Dalewood bridge over stream, autumn leavespicturesque area and push them over the edge, or whether staff clean them up regularly, I don’t know.  You see coffee cups, water bottles and the like.  You find remains of campfires, often with shards of glass bottles that were thrown into the fire for the fun of watching them explode.  So a plastic bag is a good thing to have.  It makes it easier to clean up that broken glass, saving someone a cut foot.

Elgin County Woods

I know most of the conservation areas around here after 13 years, but still not all.  There’s Dan Patterson, north of St. Thomas on Highbury Ave, Dalewood Conservation Fingal Wildlife area, path to pondarea and campground on Dalewood Road just north of St. Thomas.  Kettle Creek runs past Dalewood to Waterworks Park, then through town to the west edge of St. Thomas and along Sunset Drive to Port Stanley.  West of St. Thomas is the Fingal Wildlife Management Area, an old airforce base.

Southeast of St. Thomas is Archie Coulter Conservation Area on Brouwers Road.  Slightly southeast of it is Springwater Conservation Area, a camp ground in summer. Steen Park with disc golf basket, Aylmer, OntarioAylmer has a beautiful park system along Catfish Creek.  Northeast of Aylmer is the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area where in spring thousands of tundra swans land during their migration.  And north of there is my favourite of all – Lake Whittaker Conservation Area.  It’s also a summer campground.  It was the first I discovered, and it still takes my breath away.

Lake Whittaker photo Jim StewartPhotos of (from top to bottom) Archie Coulter, Waterworks, Dalewood, Fingal, Aylmer and Lake Whittaker were taken by Jim Stewart. 

 

Goderich, Prettiest Town

Statue standing by courthouse, Goderich, after tornadoThe slogan of Goderich, on Lake Huron, is “The Prettiest Town in Canada.”  It’s never seemed like hyperbole to me.  Last Sunday, downtown Goderich was slammed by a tornado.  It devastated buildings, trees and vehicles.  A man was killed.

We had a cottage just south of Goderich when I was a kid.  Bluewater Beach was my favourite place.  Dad built me a tree house and I spent hours in it and prowling around in the woods.  Also hours at the beach – in the water, building sandcastles, picking up beachstones, on the hill up from the beach.

Aerial view of Goderich square, postcard 1984Then we’d go to town.  I loved the main street of Goderich – the square.  It’s more a circle around the beautiful courthouse in the middle, with huge trees and a bandshell.  Spokes go off all the way around, streets leading to the beach and other parts of town.

There was a five and dime on the square – we spent hours in there.  A glorious old hotel on one corner. I never went inside, but thought it was the most elegant building I’d ever seen.  Sometimes we’d swap Bluewater Beach for Goderich beach with its fine white sand.

We also went to the Maitland River at Benmiller.  We’d go in to the rock-bottomed river, St. Christopher's Beach at sunset, Oct. 2009lie in shallow pools of warm water or play in pockets of deeper water.

The old airport was a favourite stop, to visit the parrot who lived in the waiting room and talked a blue streak.  We’d drive along the industrial side of the harbour.  Sometimes just to look at the mountains of salt waiting to be loaded on ships.  Sometimes to go out in Dad’s boat fishing or just in the harbour steering around the huge Great Lakes vessels tied up.

Hindmarsh Horses

First time we went, to look at the cottage for sale, it was winter.  We heard sleighbells.  It seemed like a magic Christmas card, snow sparkling on the ground and evergreens, snowflakes falling.  It must be our imaginations, but our imaginations were all hearing the same thing.  And through the snow, we saw a horse-drawn wagon coming toward us.

The driver whoaed the horses and asked if we wanted to jump on.  Two Clydesdales were pulling a hay wagon full of kids and adults all bundled up.  Thermoses of hot chocolate were passed, people introduced themselves.  We rode around the small complex of streets, then people began jumping off at their respective cottages, saying “Thanks John, see ya later.”  We did the same thing when we got back to our car.

Angers' Retreat, cottage at Bluewater Beach 1961My parents bought the cottage and we went up in all four seasons.  Every winter, the horses would come through.  You’d hear the harness bells jingling, and run toward them and jump on the wagon.

The man with the horses was Mr. John Hindmarsh. His family had published The Star in Toronto.  I would walk out Bluewater Road to the highway where the Hindmarsh farm and another were kitty-corner from each other.  At both, the horses would amble over to the fence for handfuls of grass I’d pluck.

We referred to them as “the millionaires.”  I don’t know if they were in terms of bank balances.  But the late Mr. Hindmarsh certainly was in terms of generosity of spirit.  The Hindmarsh farm has been donated to the Ontario Farmland Trust and there are many walking trails and protected lands around Goderich thanks to the John Hindmarsh Environmental Trust Fund.

Goderich Rebuilding

Aerial view of Goderich town square after tornadoIf you’ve ever enjoyed driving around the square, or relaxed under the trees by the courthouse or on the beach, Goderich needs your help now.  You can donate to the Red Cross (1-800-481-1111 Canadian Disaster Relief), the Salvation Army, Perth-Huron United Way, Huron County SPCA or check out the open Facebook pages Goderich Help Link and Goderich Ontario Tornado.

Mabee’s Corners

My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this about her visit to Mabee’s Corners, after reading about my ‘sightingof the road sign for it.  She graciously gave me permission to post it.  Lynda is the editor and collaborator of Charles Kipp’s WWII memoir Because We Are Canadians.

Mabee's Corners sign, Norfolk Co. ONEver since I can remember anything, I remember Grandma telling me many times with great pride how her family came to found Mabee’s Corners, which I vaguely knew was somewhere down around near Tillsonburg.

Grandma told me that her great-great-great (I don’t remember now how many “greats”) grandparents got married on the three-way crossroads of Mabee’s Corners.  There was nothing there at the time – just the intersection of the three roads.  She said the bride came from one direction, the bridegroom came from another direction, and the preacher came from the third direction.  They all met at the intersection and the preacher married them there at the crossroads.  After they were married, the young couple was looking for a place to settle, and so they decided to settle at that same crossroads.  And thus, they founded Mabee’s Corners.  Real romantic story, right?

I never saw Mabee’s Corners until I was a teenager, dating Wayne.  One Sunday, he and I were out driving and we were coming into Tillsonburg, kinda through the ‘back door’ from the south.  I saw this road sign that pointed to Mabee’s Corners, so many miles down the road.  I got all excited, and asked Wayne to turn around and follow that road.  As he did, I’m telling him with great pride about how my ancestors founded Mabee’s Corners, and relating Grandma’s romantic story to him.

Today, Mabee’s Corners looks very different from what it did then, almost 50 years ago.  Then, it was just a three-way stop.  It’s only in the last 20 years or so that they opened up what used to be barely a cowpath to make a fourth road running to the south, thus making it into a four-way stop.  Today, all the roads in the south country are paved, and several modern, tidy homes have been built in Mabee’s Corners.

Back then however, when I was happily telling Wayne Grandma’s wonderful romantic story, it was very, very different.  And it was March, when everything looks particularly bad and dirty and scrubby at best.

shack near Ky. Jefferson Davis monumentWe’re driving along, getting closer and closer to Mabee’s Corners, and we start seeing all these dilapidated tarpaper shacks along the road.  I remember one place in particular that had a sagging front porch with mud and junk everywhere.  Chickens roosting on the railings, while Ma and Pa Kettle (or maybe Mabee – haha!) sat in rocking chairs, with Pa in a straw hat smoking a pipe.  It was a scene straight out of Dogpatch!  A few yards more, and we found ourselves at the ‘famous’ three-way crossroads.  A very rundown, seedy-looking country store was on our left – and to our right – were four or five more filthy tarpaper shacks with junk strung everywhere.  Omigod!!!  It was “Hillbilly Central”!

Needless to say, I was stunned!  I had always wanted to see this place.  Wayne looked at me with such a smirk on his face and he started to laugh, “So this is the place your ancestors founded, eh?  Well, it looks like they’re still here.”  Well – we laughed and we laughed and we laughed.  It was at such odds with the romantic story I had just been telling.  For years and years, even after Mabee’s Corners got cleaned up, we could never drive through it on the way down to Judy and Fred’s without laughing.

Years later, after Grandma passed away, Mom found a newspaper clipping amongst her papers and keepsakes.  It was an article about the Mabee family, but it also gave some history regarding early pioneer culture and customs in this area.  It described the practice of marrying at a crossroads, like Grandma’s ancestors did.

Normally when a couple plans to marry, in order for the union to be legal, they either have to have their marriage certificate for at least Beverly Hillbillies, armedthree days before the marriage date or have the banns read aloud in church for three Sundays before the blessed event.  However, back then, if one was in a hurry, there was another way.  If neither of those two criteria had been met, a marriage could still be considered legal if 1) the marriage took place at midnight, 2) the bride and groom were attired in their nightclothes and 3) the marriage took place at a crossroads.

SURE SOUNDS LIKE A PREMISE FOR A SHOTGUN WEDDING TO ME!  Needless to say, this article pretty much obliterated whatever romantic notions I had left regarding my ancestors’ founding of Mabee’s Corners.

Doesn’t it make ya’ wonder if great-great-great-great-great-grammy was knocked up, and that great-great-great-great-great-grandpappy wasn’t too thrilled about marryin’ her?  But bless their hearts!  I guess we all turned out all right anyway.  All I can say is, “Thanks,” and I hope life wasn’t too hard for them.

And those are my stories about Mabee’s Corners.