Wartime memories

The following excerpts about WWI wartime life (1914 – 1918) near the Welland Canal are from an autobiography by Frances Cairns (nee Pidduck), my maternal grandmother. “Lou” is my grandfather, Louis Cairns. Lest We Forget the sacrifices made on our behalf.

poppy and wheatIn Nineteen/thirteen, the first year we were at McCalla’s the Welland Ship Canal was started and there was a lot of men looking for work, of course they could not employ all the men that arrived looking for work, so we would have men knocking on our doors wanting something to eat. For a while we always gave them food, but it became too much, because when one left the house, he would put a chalk mark on the telephone pole in front. This we found was to let others know where they could find food. Mr. McCalla would go out and rub the marks off and they too, stopped giving them food. Some days we would have twelve or more. Finally it got so bad we had to keep the doors locked, some would even try to open the door.

welland1At the end of Scott St. they built large sheds for the men to live in, and they had their own cook to do the cooking for them. This was paid for by the Government. They also had large stables there, where they kept the mules they used for hauling ties for the railway. These were laid down for the train, that brought rocks to build up the banks of the canal. They never lifted these rails, just covered them over and laid another railway on top. There are thousands of tons of buried rails in those banks. Jim left the farm and went to look after the mules that were stabled on the canal bank. The canal work closed down during the war, and did not open again until the war was over. It was not finished until later.

By this time the city [St. Catharines] had passed a law that all milk had to be bottled. Before that, the milkman would come around with large cans of milk, using a ladle, that measured a pint, he would measure the milk into the customers own container. Now the bottles had to be washed and boiled in a big copper boiler.

That winter of Nineteen/fifteen, Lou went to work in the ammunitions plant. It was hard work and his muscles would be very sore, as they turning the out large shells on a hand lathe and he was working thirteen hours a night. He become quite sick from working so hard, also, [as a farmer as well] he had never been used to working indoors.

In Nineteen/sixteen during the war everyone was to have dark curtains, to keep lights from showing on the outside. They placed wardens in different places to see that this law was carried out. Lou and a Mr. Brown were two of the wardens and were to meet at a certain spot each night. Mr. Brown came along swinging a “lighted” lantern, so of course Lou told him to put it out, as they were to look for people who had not shut in the light. Before the war we were allowed to drive along the canal. After the war broke out we had to have a pass, and you had to have a good reason for wanting one. Mother and Father lived on Lake St. and it was a short cut to their place. Once when we were going along there, a boat was tied up in the canal. Just as we were driving past, they tightened the ropes that held the boat to the wall. It raised the buggy right off the ground. No one was hurt, but the ropes were loosened in a hurry.

poppiesAt the start of the war before conscription, a married man did not have to go if he had a good reason. Lou had, he also had to carry our marriage certificate, to prove he was a married man. My Father begged him not to join the army, as he was the only one to look after things, if anything happened to him. Lou’s Mother and Father also begged him to stay. They said they already had three sons at war. Bill in the Black Watch as a scout, Jim in the Gordon Highlanders, and Bob a dispatch rider on a motorcycle. It was Jim that sent [our son] Will the kilt from Scotland.

In the spring of Nineteen/seventeen, Lou decided to stay working in the city, where he had worked all winter in the ammunition plant…

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Catch it this Friday

My column, Civil Disobedience, usually appears in the Guelph Mercury the third Friday of every month. I typically have the bits of at least one column within me at any given time, but I try to keep what I submit as a “political watchdog” as current as possible, within a week or on the week of my column, so those other columns usually get filed away in the cells… potentially for use in a future column.

Other times, I’ll have a column that has been working on me for a while.

100 percentShort of something coming forward that elbows its way to the fore for me this week, I will likely put what I’ve been thinking on a matter out there. So, be sure to catch it this Friday, in the Merc’s opinion section.

It will be 100% Chamberlain, as always.

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The following is from the website of pilot and photographer Doug Chisholm. His story was included in a documentary about the Churchill River that I caught on TVO tonight.

Doug Chisholm, as a bush pilot in northern Saskatchewan, is a researcher of Canadian military history.

Dougplane large1Through his company, Woodland Aerial Photography, Doug helps interested families find out more about geographic features which were named by our province in memory of those from Saskatchewan who lost their lives in the Second World War.

There are about 3800 geographic features in Saskatchewan which were named in memory of the men and women from the province who lost their lives in World War 2.

Over the past 15 years, Doug Chisholm has recorded aerial photos of about almost all of the 3800 geo-memorial sites which appear on the maps of northern Saskatchewan. For families who wish to honour their fallen relatives who lost their lives in the Second World War, Doug provides special geo-memorial tributes using his aerial photos of specific sites.

These framed geo-memorial tributes, serve as a means of remembering those individuals who gave their lives for our country’s freedom. From his floatplane, Doug has also installed more than 200 permanent memorial markers on the shorelines of specific sites on behalf of interested families.

He is also author of “Their Names Live On – Remembering Saskatchewan’s Fallen in World War II ” which was published in November 2001 by the Canadian Plains Research Center at the University of Regina. In 2005, a 2nd book was published with Bill Barry titled “Age Shall Not Weary Them” which provides background on all those from Saskatchewan who lost their lives.

Also on file, are aerial photo profiles of the 55 communities in northern Saskatchewan which are spread out across the vast and beautiful region of our country.

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Well, how is it progressing?

Photo: Guelph Tribune

Photo: Guelph Tribune

We’re coming up on a year since the groundbreaking ceremony to launch construction of the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Headquarters on University of Guelph land, just north of Stone Road.

Photo from B2BLocal

Posted: August 11, 2013 | Credit: B2BLocal

So, is the project progressing as expected?

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Expectations: What was said versus what eventually happened

This gallery contains 1 photo.

In July, we learned two staff members, then a third, filed complaint to the City’s integrity commissioner involving Ward 3 Councillor Maggie Laidlaw. This matter was discussed in public by Guelph council on two occasions, July 29th and September 6th. … Continue reading

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Delegation to Council

The following is the text from one delegate’s representation to council last night, Ms. April Dickin, regarding the Wilson Farm Park farmhouse. It’s worth a read.

Madam Mayor Farbridge and Councillors of the City of Guelph:

Thank you very much for providing this opportunity for me to publicly share my opinion on the highly debated issue of the Wilson Farmhouse.  Also, a special thank you to Mayor Farbridge for supporting the decision to demolish the farmhouse.

My husband, daughter and I moved to Guelph in April 2012 and added our son Benjamin in August 2012.  We watched the process of the Wilson Park being built and have enjoyed the playground and grounds often.  We enjoy the large walnut trees as they provide ample shade for picnics on the warmer days and walnut hunting in the cooler days. I have brought a picture of our family enjoying the walnut trees and grounds by the Wilson farmhouse. 

I do not specifically align with the Northern Heights group and believe that I can make a best-educated and reasonable opinion on the matter.  I do believe it was unfair and unprofessional that a previous delegate has alleged Mr. Lackowicz to be a bully.  I have personally found him to be supportive in providing information about Northern Heights and the farmhouse.  While he may be passionate, I cannot see reason to allege him to be a bully and detract from our purpose of finding a resolution to the Wilson Farmhouse. 

We are concerned citizens within the Northern Heights neighbourhood, we have been following the matter of the Farmhouse building and watching it degrade over the 17 months that we have been here. I appreciate that the City of Guelph acknowledges their neglect with a number of procedures for the Wilson Farmhouse over the course of a decade. I also appreciate the City’s movement to create change and move forward in the best method possible.

I do not support severing and selling the Wilson Farmhouse property for a few reasons.  The initial plan for this land supported keeping it whole for all to enjoy.  There are many beautiful trees on this land and if the Farmhouse is severed and sold, there are limited means to control what the buyer will do with the property or the trees.

If I were the Wilson family who left the property to the citizens and City of Guelph I would be quite unimpressed with the decayed state of the home as it stands from over 12 years of neglect.  From the information provided from an assessor through Northern Heights Neighbourhood group, it appears to me that the neglect of the Farmhouse has decayed the heritage elements of the home and there is little to preserve.  Based on assessments previously stated by other delegates, the home would cost in excess of $500,000 to repair to ensure the home is not further decaying and I would not want to pay (through taxes) that cost for a home that is not contributing in any active way (or much in the way of heritage) to the community.  Especially considering that if the Farmhouse had been managed in accordance with proper procedures, the preservation cost would have been a small fraction of what it is today.

It is important to me that we protect parkland as an asset in our City.  With continued urban sprawl, the City of Guelph needs to ensure we maintain our collective desire to live amongst easily accessible green spaces.  The proximity to green areas is part of the reason why our family chose to live in the Northern Heights region of Guelph.  I recently took part in the Adopt-A-Tree program through the City.  The Wilson Farmhouse property has many beautiful established walnut trees that should be protected and enjoyed by all.

I believe the most cost-effective and respectful method of honouring the Wilson Farmstead would be to preserve any heritage elements that may still be remaining after decay, demolish the Farmhouse, create a plaque or miniature scale model of the home, and incorporate the Farmhouse area within the park.  The City should take heed from this experience and place preservation efforts into other heritage homes that currently exist and are within reason to maintain.

Unfortunately, my husband and young children could not attend this evening but we all hope that Mayor Farbridge and Council will support demolition of the farmhouse and preservation of any heritage elements while honouring the Wilson Farmhouse with a plaque or something of the like and incorporate the space in the park.

Sincerely, April Dickin and family

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Mitchell Farmhouse 2.0 ?

Mitchell farmhouse

Mitchell farmhouse; Guelph Tribune Photo

A question I considered asking in my column in this past Friday’s Guelph Mercury was how much of the energy around the fate of the Wilson farmhouse now is actually about the demolition of the Mitchell farmhouse — how much of the emotion in this controversy stems from it?

Is the energy in this matter about re-fighting a past, lost battle?

Ben Bennett seemed to be circling the question I am asking here in his column in the Guelph Mercury:

Wilson farmhouse; Mercury photo

Wilson farmhouse; Guelph Mercury photo

The idea of another farmhouse in Guelph being destroyed because of bureaucratic negligence and political convenience is making this a very emotional issue for some.

— Though I would have gone further in saying saving the Wilson farmhouse shouldn’t be about the Mitchell farmhouse. They are different issues, different contexts.

And Ben, it is different from The Boathouse as well, which indeed was successfully re-purposed in a high profile locale. Let’s not pretend the differences in that instance and this one are irrelevant.

The Boathouse; photo by Guelph Arts

The Boathouse; photo by Guelph Arts

For whatever it needed by way of repairs, The Boathouse was never separated from its context, it’s historical landscape in the way the Wilson farmhouse has become.





Post update:

Recent editorials on this issue:

Don’t rush to judgement, Guelph Tribune, September 19/13

Farmhouse file a no-win issue for Council, Guelph Mercury, September 24/13

Recent columns on this issue:

Time is now to finally knockdown farmhouse in north Guelph, Scott Tracey, Guelph Mercury, September 20/13

Many share blame in farmhouse fiasco; Alan Pickersgill, Guelph Tribune, September 26/13

One farmhouse, two views; Chris Clark, Guelph Tribune, September 26/13

Bothered and bewildered about call to raze Wilson Park farmhouse; Susan Ratcliffe, Guelph Mercury, September 26/13

Consider dilapidated historic farmhouse in its full context; Craig Chamberlain, Guelph Mercury, September 27/13

Message to city council: Don’t demolish the Wilson farmhouse; D’Arcy McGee, Guelph Mercury, September 27/13

Just where do we sit?; Ben Bennett, Guelph Mercury, September 28/13

Recent Letters to the Editor:

Questions in need of answers; Guelph Tribune, September 12/13

Where was due diligence, Wilson Farmhouse neighbours?; Guelph Tribune, September 17/13

Demolish farmhouse for sake of parkland; Guelph Tribune, September 24/13

Farmhouse historically insignificant and danger to community; Guelph Tribune, September 26/13

It’s time to demolish the Wilson farmhouse, Guelph Mercury, September 28/13

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Wilson farmhouse

The Wilson farmhouse, today: Look at it. It is in the air.

Wilson farmWhere have you seen that before? In greenfield developments, where the developer has carved around some house during regrading — until it’s moved? It’s now a former farmhouse perched against armour stone a few feet from its front door. The context is lost. It may as well be dropped anywhere in Ontario now, for its contextual significance now.

Context should be more than an address, and the context in this case simply wasn’t protected.

What happened, regarding the frontage? Why was that permitted, if the intention was to retain the building, heritage value or not?

Wilson farmIt seems that on a certain level, the decision to move or demolish this building was cast when the house was left in the air. So, let’s attempt the next best play and try to sell it for a buck.

Perhaps the buyer will give it a back to the countryside and restore it, and restore for it some meaningful context.


See the staff report, starting on page 58.

Thanks to blogger Historically Guelph for the photos. My comments are, of course, strictly my own.

Also, see my column on this matter.

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Guelph’s Farmers’ Market

GuelphFarmersMarket-Spring2The Guelph Farmers’ Market is back in its Gordon Street location. There were a few would-be market-goers passing the house this morning, on their way to Exhibition Arena, where the market has been this summer while improvements were made to the interior of the space it has used downtown. I can’t say how many cars pulled into the Exhibition Arena parking lot this morning, looking for the market.

I wrote about the temporary market this summer. For those who missed it, here it is:

Temporary move to Exhibition Arena has re-energized the farmers’ market, July 19/13.

This was relayed to me from a conversation overheard this morning at the Red Brick Cafe, downtown:

Did you come to the market?

Yeah, but it was so packed I couldn’t get in and just stayed outside.

Me too. But it’s so nice to have it back downtown, the energy downtown is so much better now.

Yes, it is so much busier downtown with the market here.

It was one conversation, but I’m guessing it won’t be unlike many that happened today and will be happening over the course of the week. Clearly, it was not about the market, but about the downtown, though — which is the starting point for an honest dialogue about the future of that market, especially for those who understand the bigger-picture implications that go with not just a strong farmers’ market — the appearance of which can be somewhat manufactured — but a growing farmers’ market.

Beyond today’s bump of curiosity about the new old location, and the spill-over of new interest from a positive experience at the Exhibition Arena location, time will soon tell if the gains the market has made, hold.

But typically, having a venue that doesn’t allow patrons to enter isn’t a winning strategy.

Perhaps the time has come to rethink that location… and the Baker Street project… though vehicular access remains an issue there as well. It starts with a compelling business case.

Catch this Guelph Mercury Editorial: Farmers’ Market reopening will spur discussion

And here is a list of what was reported on it:

Exhibition Arena to be the summer home for Guelph Farmers’ Market, Apr. 19/13 [Aspects of the renovation project were dropped due to costs.]

Downtown Guelph business group unhappy with planned move of farmers’ market, Apr. 19/13

Farmers’ Market vendors welcome renovations, not move, Apr. 22/13

Guelph councillors upset at ballooning cost of Guelph Farmers’ Market renovations, Apr. 24/13

Guelph official defends decision not seek bids in market floor renovations, June 5/13

Market renovations could stall vendors’ return to core, June 26/13

Guelph Farmer’s Market to return downtown in September, Aug. 3/13

Farmers’ Market to reopen Sept. 14, Aug. 14/13

Guelph Farmers’ Market returns to its Gordon Street location, Sept. 9/13

As you will recall, this is not the first time in recent memory that the market was pulled from the Gordon Street location.


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What was written about it

As you know, three staff-filed complaints were submitted to the City’s integrity commissioner against Councillor Maggie Laidlaw in July, and that the complaints have since been withdrawn, the complainants having accepted apologies from Councillor Laidlaw.

The withdraw of the complaints put an abrupt end to a process that the integrity commissioner spent 11.8 hours on, indicating that there was merit to the complaints, which is problematic if Council’s code of conduct was indeed contravened by that councillor.

dead end railIn addition to the time the integrity commissioner spent on this matter, costing us about $2800, it took staff time and also, a fair bit of Council’s time as well.

The following is a list of what was written about… “it”, with thanks to Scott Tracey of the Guelph Mercury for his reporting. Clearly, we need a better process.

Guelph councillor could be facing docked pay for alleged code of conduct violations, July 23/13

Laidlaw’s alleged misconduct ripe for commissioner’s review, Jul 26/13

Email to councillors, Jul. 29/13

Guelph council to hear integrity commissioner’s report on Monday, Sept. 3/13

Laidlaw apologizes, Guelph councillor’s integrity review comes to a close, Sept. 6/13

Report of the Integrity Commissioner, Sept. 9/13

Aborted integrity probe cost Guelph taxpayers almost $2800, Sept. 10/13

Editorial: Did Laidlaw violate council`s conduct code, Sept. 11

Too many unanswered questions in Guelph integrity probe, Sept. 12/13


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