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 love 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 called them “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.

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10 thoughts on “Goderich, Prettiest Town”

  1. Hello Dorothy
    I am seeking permission to use the photos of the town before and after for a Economic Disaster Resilience course through the U of C. Do you know who took both these images and if I could get their contact to request permission to use them in the course.

    Thank you for your help,

    1. Hi Ann, the top photo of the courthouse came from a Facebook friend, but she did not take it and doesn’t know who did. I’ve since since it elsewhere online but still with no attribution. The bottom small aerial of the square also came from Facebook. The second photo, the aerial pre-tornado view, is a postcard from 1984. The photographer was B. Schneider, according to the back. Sorry, that’s all I know about them.

  2. Dorothy
    I am seeking permission to use the photo of the statue outside the Goderich courthouse. I see that it was taken by a Diane Edwards Anger. Is there a way for me to contact her?
    Thank you
    Teresa Renee

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I was born & raised in Goderich. It has been about 15 years since I lived there, but it never stops being home. My family is still in Goderich so I spent a few days there in the aftermath. The support has been phenomenal and we are all encouraged by the people who have fundraised or volunteered to get Goderich back on its feet.

    1. Hi Janice, and thanks. Glad your family in Goderich is ok, and that there has been so much help given. I was happy to see on tv that Canadian architects are also helping by contributing work on designs that will recreate or at least capture the spirit of the town in the rebuilding. Good for them!

  4. Hi Dorothy: It’s a long time since I last spoke (wrote) with you. I have written my new email address above.
    Yes, it’s a shame what has happened to Goderich. I know it will take lots of time, money and effort, but I’m sure they will bring it back as close as posible to its original state. I was only there once, when I was about 10. Of course Mom spoke of it all the time and how it was laid out like a ship’s wheel. Didn’t know you had a cottage there. Did you know that Grandma & Grandma Lymburner lived there for a number of years? Does Springbank Road sound familiar? That is where they lived. I think Mom and Aunt Marguerite did most of their teenge years there. I don’t know if there was more than one hotel back in 1921, but some emergency came up and Grandpa said Mom had to go to the hotel to make a telephone call. She cried and said she didn’t want to go. Grandpa was very annoyed because a girl of her age (about 15) was making such a fuss. The reason for her fuss was that she had never used a telephone and was scared ’cause she didn’t know anything about it. However, she did go and someone at the hotel instructed her on how to use it.. I’m not positive, but I think they left Goderich to go to Midland. Grandpa and Uncle Ed moved from place to place to follow their trade. They were both Coopers and went to Midland to work at the flour mill. They both worked at a mill in Goderich for a few years. I have a lot of stories about them in Goderich – just have to sit down and think about them. They also lived in Wroxeter for a while. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner; I have info to fill in some of your spaces. Doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day! Maybe you could let me know how your Mom is and also Emily. It’s so long since I have had any news about anyone in your neck of the woods. Well, you may have noticed I’m writing this in the middle of the night, Fell asleep watching a movie and now I’m wide awake. Will talk to you again soon(er).

    1. Hi Anne, nice to hear from you again and thanks for reminding me that the Lymburners had lived in Goderich. I have a postcard Matthias sent to his daughter Minnie (my grandma) with an ‘x’ marking the mill he worked in – it was near the pier, I think. I’ll post it when I find it again. Mom is doing well – 87 now. I’m sorry to tell you that Aunt Emily died last year, just short of her 96th birthday. Mom was able to go to the funeral in Tillsonburg and was happy to see all the family but very sad to lose her last sibling. Aunt Emily always introduced Mom as “my baby sister” then would snicker. Whenever you have a chance, do send the information you have. Thanks.

  5. I remember Goderich very well. My first husband was from there. Spent weekends there too. Sad to see such a pretty town devastated.

    1. Hi, I didn’t know, or forgot, he was from there. I was last in Goderich Thanksgiving 3 years ago. Took Mom up to look at the cottage and drive around the square. We’d just gotten these dogs and it was Leo’s first field trip. He explored Bluewater Beach – he was still a bit tentative about being free to run loose, but he had a good time. I’ve wanted to go since – wish I had before this hit! Hope last night’s storm wasn’t too bad at your place.

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