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St. Joseph Park: Breakfast and a local history lesson

18 Aug

mainBy Diva Shari Parsons

ST. JOSEPH – Golden sunshine, golden pancakes and golden maple syrup – what more could a person ask for? All of these and more were available at the Breakfast in the Park in the small community of St. Joseph Just north of Grand Bend on Highway 21.

This summer event is organized by the St. Joseph & Area Historical Society and takes place in the shady St. Joseph Memorial Park on the corner of Bluewater Highway and Hensall/Zurich Road. All proceeds from the breakfast go towards the maintenance of the park.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

The breakfast menu featured ruby red strawberries and juicy, freshly sliced cantaloupe, hot scrambled eggs, thick sausages fresh off the “barbie”, and golden pancakes that could be drizzled (or drowned) in sweet, golden maple syrup. To quench your thirst, there was hot coffee and cold juice. All of this was served with smiles and friendly banter. The cost was a “Free Will Offering”, which I thought was a great idea and easy on the pocket book.

You could take your heaping plate and sit at one of the many tables and chairs that had been set up under canopies or make use of one of the park’s picnic tables. It was nice to look around and see singles, couples, families, young and not so young enjoying one another’s company in these pleasant surroundings.

As its name suggests, the park is a memorial to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of Canada. The park features a statue of St. Joseph holding Baby Jesus. The exact spot for the location of the statue was chosen by Brother Andre (now known as St. Andre of Montreal) in 1917, however, the memorial did not get built until 1972.

The park also features a memorial to Brother Andre of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He was famous for his good works among French Canadians and was credited with thousands of reportedly miraculous healings.

IMG_2341The park is also dedicated to the memory of the French Canadians who left Quebec in the early part of the 19th century and settled in the area now called St. Joseph, the only French settlement between Windsor and Midland. A Heritage Walkway contains the names of many of those original families, names such as Masse, LaPorte, and Cantin, with perhaps the settlement’s most famous citizen being Narcisse Cantin, aka “The Father of the St. Lawrence Seaway”. There are also a number of plaques situated along the walkway, which provide some very interesting local historical facts and pictures.

The St. Joseph & Area Historical Society works hard to collect and preserve the local history and has created a wonderful website.

Its Breakfast in the Park is a nice outing for the family where you can fill your tummies with yummy food and your heads with some interesting local history.

History comes alive Behind the Bars

16 Jul

barshallBy Diva Karen Stewart 

I detested static history lessons with a passion. Thankfully we have many ways to learn about the people and places that shaped our world, including interactive experiences like the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol’s Behind the Bars program. This event had been reviewed for the Ontario Travel Divas before (Aug.15/2014 Review), so on this evening I took a different approach and chatted with one dedicated volunteer about her participation.

Colleen Maguire, in character as Mrs. Dixon.

Colleen Maguire, in character as Mrs. Dickson.

About five years ago, Colleen Maguire, semi-retired from her job as a medical radiation technologist at the local hospital, was looking to volunteer in a meaningful way at the Huron County Museum. Having participated in historical reenactments many years earlier, she enjoyed interpreting history through the costumes.   She particularly finds “ah ha!” moments expressed by members of the audience as most rewarding … like when children realize that everyone bathed just once a week, and that they all shared the same bathwater, or like when women recognize postpartum depression in a young “lunatic”.

The Behind the Bars program has taken place each Tuesday and Thursday, all summer long, for approximately 12 years, and Colleen has been involved for five. This year, as for the past two, she plays the role of Mrs. Dickson. It’s 1890 and she’s been the gaol matron for the full 14 years her husband has been the Gaoler. Mr. & Mrs. Dickson were also referred to as the Governor and Governess. 24/7, they lived on the property in the tiny room Colleen performs in on the second floor of the goal and in a detached cottage on the property.

Mr. Dickson was the Turnkey when the prior Governor died of a typhoid at 42. Mrs. Dickson, who had married Mr. Dickson, widower and father of four small boys, automatically became the Governess as it was inappropriate for a male at that time to spend so much time with anyone other than his wife. Her role included caring for the female inmates, sharing skills like cooking and sewing, tending to the ill and infirm, and preparing food for the inmates and for her family. And, together she had another five children with Mr. Dickson – three daughters and two sons.

Tragedy struck the family twice – once when 21-year-old (step)son James, editor of the Huron Signal Star, died in a sailing mishap off Port Albert. The boat came ashore quickly, but it took approximately six weeks for the bodies to drift in. He was said to have had the biggest funeral ever in Goderich at that time (1878). Then, in 1884, another 22-year-old-son died of typhoid. He was a pharmacy student in Toronto.

The Dicksons’ other children were well educated and successful in their careers – youngest son Alex became a lawyer/judge; one son became a doctor; another son was a hugely successful merchant in St. Marys and one daughter married William Proudfoot – a barrister who also became a member of the senate.

Mrs. Dickson was a woman of deep empathy and caring. She was a Social Worker of her time. She championed for a proper House of Refuge to be built, and although she knew the facility was being erected, sadly she died of a stroke at the age of 72, just weeks before it opened. Her husband continued as the Goaler, with his eldest daughter as Goal Matron, for approximately two years more, until he was no longer able.

Find out more about the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol events here.


When you arrive for this event a gaol staff member will greet you. She invites guests to take photos, to ask the inmates questions and to enjoy the self-guided tour at their own speed.   She cautions, “just remember our inmates are stuck in time and may not have all the answers to the questions.” You’ll see by the photos below, the inmates were terrific in their roles and gave us a brief glimpse of times past through their stories.   Behind the Bars is appropriate and affordable for children and adults of all ages.

 


 

Behind the Bars

Where: Huron County Historic Gaol, 181 Victoria Street North, Goderich, ON N7A 2S9

When: Tuesday & Thursdays till Aug. 27, 7-9 p.m.

Cost: Adults, $10; Children, $5; Families, $25

Contact: 519-524-2686

 

Goderich’s shoreline the perfect stage for air show

28 Jun
The Snowbirds fly in diamond formation over the shoreline of Lake Huron, much to the delight of a crowd gathered on the beach in Goderich.

The Snowbirds fly in diamond formation over the shoreline of Lake Huron, much to the delight of a crowd gathered on the beach in Goderich.

By Diva Christine Harris

GODERICH – We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the Goderich and Region Air Show.  It was warm and sunny, and the spectators were lined up all the way down the entire beachfront; some on benches, some on their lawn chairs, and even a few in the water!

The SkyHawks, with their trademark Canadian flag parachutes, make their way to a landing at Goderich's beach.

The SkyHawks, with their trademark Canadian flag parachutes, make their way to a landing at Goderich’s beach.

First up were the Canadian Armed Forces SkyHawks.  They are Canada’s only military parachute demonstration team.  The SkyHawks have represented Canada for over 40 years with their signature Canadian flag parachutes.  It was amazing to see how they got so close to each other and then hooked themselves together to make formations.  They flew the Canadian and Ontario flags behind them and also used smoke during their descent.

Next up we saw the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.  This is a name that most Canadians can recognize and they are a treat to see!  Flying the Canadair CT-114 Tutor, the pilots of these jets top out at speeds of 750km/hr.  During shows, they range in speed from 185-590 km/hr and get as close as 1.2 metres (4 feet) when flying together and 10 metres when doing a solo cross.  We got to see some of their signature formations like the Big Diamond, Arrowhead, and Big Arrow.  What was especially enjoyable for the kids was how low these jets got to the ground when they came around, and the beach was the perfect spot with its slope for them to hug the ground a bit more

The Snowbirds fly in tight formation over Lake Huron's shoreline.

The Snowbirds fly in tight formation over Lake Huron’s shoreline.

when they passed by while coming out or going into a manoeuvre.  We also learned that there was a pilot who had flown over his hometown while he was here.  Captain Bart Postma is originally from Clinton and flies Aircraft Number Three in the inner left-wing position.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay to see the RCAF CF-18 Hornet demonstration.  It was piloted by Captain Denis Cheech Beaulieu and tops out at Mach 1.8, which is 1,800km/hr.  As I was leaving Goderich I could hear it all the way out to Highway 8 and see some of the locals looking and pointing to the sky.  The CF-18 is known for its sheer power and its loud jet engine.  It can accelerate vertically after take-off and the interesting part is that you won’t actually hear the jet until it’s past you because of the speeds it travels.  After seeing this demonstration at another air show, I’m sure it didn’t disappoint the crowd.

The air show has been called an “Overwhelming Success” by the 532 Maitland Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, which organized the event.  Perhaps this will be an annual event!

For more information on events along Ontario’s West Coast, click here.

Clusters of people lined the beach and the bluffs at Goderich, getting good seats from which to watch the air show.

Clusters of people lined the beach and the bluffs at Goderich, getting good seats from which to watch the air show.

Bayfield’s Pioneer Park is the picture of tranquility

11 Jun

Pioneer Park from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

By Diva Rachel Lynn

BAYFIELD – Pioneer Park is located on a beautiful bluff in the village of Bayfield. On the morning I arrived, there was a couple
pioneer park bike racksitting on the south end looking out to the water and another couple on the north end reading books. I could hear sailboatsthe birds chirping and the sweet smell of summer was in there air.

According to the park’s website, in 1945, Lucy Woods Diehl, a long-time resident of Bayfield asked friends of the community to preserve the last piece of undeveloped lakefront property overlooking the Bayfield River and Lake Huron. In the end, Lucy gathered eight friends along with herself to purchase the park land. Lucy thought the land should be owned and operated by an association, not by individuals contracted out.
Activities take place at the park to help raise money, including the rummage sale (originating in 1948). In the first 30 years, there were also film nights, outdoor plays and puppet shows. Today, Saturday night steps down to beach pioneer parkentertainment and weddings are among the activities that take place.

The 68th annual rummage sale takes place on the second Friday in July at the Bayfield Arena and Fairgrounds. Admission is free.


 

About the Park

Location: on the bluff overlooking Lake Huron bordered by Bayfield Terrace to the north, Tuyll St to the east, and Colina St on the South.

Driving distance: One hour north of Sarnia or Port Huron, Michigan

For more information: www.pioneerparkbayfield.ca

 

Miniature horses a big hit with kids at Clinton Spring Fair

8 Jun

miniature4

By Diva Christine Harris

CLINTON – The annual Clinton Spring Fair drew a good crowd again this year, from the Friday opening ceremonies through to the Sunday miniature horse show.

miniature1On Sunday, the midway had its bracelet day where you could ride all the rides for one price, and in the show ring REACH Huron, the local equine centre, the miniature horses were in competition.  The Miniature Horse Show is part of the American Miniature Horse Association that holds shows in the U.S. and Canada.  With 30 different classes during this competition, there is something for everyone to see.

The kids in the stands were quite interested to see this small breed of horses, which must not exceed 34 inches to enter the show.

miniature3Ribbons are awarded for first to sixth place, but each one is hoping for that blue ribbon when they enter the arena to have their horse judged.  Though the prize money isn’t huge, you can tell the pride is when the winner leaves the circle.

Now in its 161st year, organizers have it down to a successful science, with a full lineup of events, including the demolition derby, canine agility show, homecrafts, talent search, parade, mini-tractor pull and other family events.

If you missed this great community event, then mark July 3 to 5 on your calendar for the annual Kinsmen Pluckinfest in Clinton, with a street dance, teddy bear parade, chicken barbecue, holeyboard competition – if you don’t know what that is, then you’re in for some exciting times – firemen’s breakfast , town-wide yard sale and more. For more information, check the Kinsmen website or to find out more about the community, check out the Municipality of Central Huron’s website.

miniature2

Nosing around Exeter’s downtown unearths some great treasures

4 Jun
The beautiful exterior draws visitors in to Seasonals.

The beautiful exterior draws visitors in to Seasonals.

By Diva Jennifer Mossop

EXETER – There is hidden treasure in Exeter, Ontario.

The town is known for its beautiful buildings and parks, as well as a classic, South Western Ontario Main Street of yellow brick

Exeter is known for sweet shop Sugar and Spice Chocolates.

Exeter is known for sweet shop Sugar and Spice Chocolates.

facades.   And, while most know about long-standing favourites like Eddington’s of Exeter and Sugar and Spice Chocolates, there are some lesser known gems for noshing and retail pleasure.

Exeter’s annual Ladies Night Out is a great chance to check out the newer, the lesser known, or the ones you haven’t managed to visit before, as well as the old favourites. Dozens of places offer discounts, specials, treats and samples to turn an evening of shopping into an event.

Consignment product is artfully displayed at Luv Scarlett.

Consignment product is artfully displayed at Luv Scarlet.

First stop was Luv Scarlet – the new tenant of one of Main Street’s lovely old buildings. It is a mixture of very good consignment – gently used or new clothing, shoes and hand bags, scrumptiously arranged in the high ceiling brick walled store. A gourmet coffee bar and retro fridge filled with old fashioned glass bottles of Coke offer a way to slake thirst, while the weekly Saturday table of to-die-for baked goods gives this place a feel of endless possibility.

Half a block to the North is another business finding possibility in every nook and cranny. Jennard Cheese, which boasts an excellent selection of cheeses, olive oils, maple syrups, gourmet goodies, alcohol free

There's even ice cream at Jennard Cheese Shop.

There’s even ice cream at Jennard Cheese.

wines, and gifts, has recently blasted a hole in the wall to the next shop. There, delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and, yes, ice cream are served.   It’s not unusual to see customers staring down at their café tables as they pore over the historic pictures and articles acting as a glass covered tablecloth, while the yellow brick walls showcase local art.

Next stop, Willow Valley – a new addition to the décor scene, which already includes such spots as Inner Urban, Interior Concepts, Custom Covers, and the creative Bella Casa. Willow Valley offers expert decorating services, along with an irresistible array of interior delights to take home on a whim. Antiques, including sometimes hard-to-find items, are found here.

Seasonals is housed in a quaint little single storey, rambling house (yes, yellow brick) and deserves a real exploration. I have long noticed, and long not visited, this cornucopia. Don’t rush through this tiny maze of garden, home, and body décor. You will find a treasure at a good price to tuck in your pocket and take home.

Finally, a trip to Miller’s Country Store. I am always speeding up, or just barely slowing down, when I catch sight of the sign in the South East end of Exeter on Thames Road. But this time, I slowed right down, and turned in. Again, an eclectic and fun mix of offerings – authentic farm, fun garden, gifts, toys and a mix of pet, farm and wild animal supplies are all available.

If Exeter isn’t a regular stop for you, make a point of getting there. And if you are a regular, set aside a little extra time to nose around this Town, and enjoy the discovery of hidden treasure.

There’s a lot of history packed into village of Auburn

21 May
Main Street of Auburn.

Main Street of Auburn.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

The main street of Auburn is pretty this time of year.

The road is surprisingly wide and grand trees are just starting to come into bloom. There’s a post office shingle and a number of sheds in which business might take place, but most of the buildings, including an ivy-covered church, on main street are now homes. There are no cars parallel parked at the side of the street and my car rolls quietly.

At this time of day, people are outside waiting. Waiting for the bus that will bring their children home from schools in neighbouring communities. A woman sits in her idling car in the church’s driveway. A mother and a her two youngsters sit on the steps in a doorway. A man on a bike waves as he rides by.

It’s worth a day trip to come poke around Auburn, if you’ve never turned off Cnty. Rd. 25 or Base Line Road. Check out the Huron Bay District Co-operative for garden flowers and supplies, maybe grab a bite to eat at the Auburn Grill or pack a lunch and enjoy it in the park down by the Maitland River. Or stay overnight at the Auburn Riverside Retreat, a family-run campground, which also has timber framed cottages and pine cabins for rent.

And while you’re there, keep in mind these historical notes that were gathered by researcher Diane Smith for a project done by the Municipality of Huron East to expand the Huron County Historical Society’s Driving Tour a few years ago:

Auburn – The village is divided, east from west, by the Maitland River. The lines of four different township boundaries auburnsignintersected here, and those lines also divided Canada Company land open to settlement from the government-owned hinterland beyond. Later, streets and plans were divided along the same lines, thus creating Auburn’s distinctive layout of “dogleg roads and offset lots.” Auburn, as with many other locations, became an area of settlement because water power was readily available here. The village was called both Auburn and Manchester – early maps of parts of the village dated 1854 and 1856 called it Manchester while the post office name assigned in 1854 was Auburn. In fact, the name of the village was Manchester, for all other purposes except postal service, until 1978 when it officially became the Police Village of Auburn.

United Church – The Presbyterians had begun a congregation in Manchester in June 1860. They were the first to construct a unitedchurchchurch building, which opened in March 1863. In the early days, the service was given first in Gaelic and then in English. The old Knox Presbyterian Church became Knox United Church when the three Protestant denominations united in 1925. The church building you now see dates to 1904. The red brick manse to the west was built in 1913, but the original Presbyterian Manse on the east side dates to the 1870s.

Apple Farms – (Maitland Terrace) The once abundant orchards of Auburn and the rest of Huron County supplied maitlandterracethe local apple evaporator plant. The Caldwell General Store was converted into the plant in the late 1890s. It continued in business until it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Local apple supply dwindled and by the 1930s the rebuilt plant was closed.

Dam – Manchester Park – In the mid-1840s, most of the land of what would become the auburnparkfuture townsite of Auburn was bought by the first settler to arrive here, William Robert Garratt. Because the provincial government had reserved all the waters of the Maitland River for its own use, Garratt was stymied in his plans to build a mill, and he soon left. Eneas Elkin was next to arrive in 1850, buying land in the Hullett section. Elkins ran a ferry service across the river. In 1854, Elkin had the northern part of his farm surveyed into a town site he called Manchester Village. Sales of lots enabled him to build a dam and a four-storey grist mill on the Maitland River just south of the main village site. In the late 1860s, a spring flood destroyed Elkin’s mill dam and it was then rebuilt by James Cullis. A short distance downstream the Cullis sawmill provided another essential service to the village.

Have a look, too, at the unique entrance signs on Cnty. Rd. 25 that announce your arrival in Auburn. These blocky cement letters are listed among the Folk Art Treasures of Huron County, a book written by Ron and Bev Walker.

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