Many years ago, when my father taught school full-time, a highlight of the academic year for his students occurred on or around the 25th of January – the birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), the “Bard of Ayrshire,” who is widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet. For over 30 years, students in Mr. McKechnie’s classroom celebrated the legacy of this literary legend by reciting portions of To A Mouse and Auld Lang Syne, among other works; enjoying a cup of tea; and feasting on the Abernethy biscuits and shortbread made by his grandmother and mother, respectively.
Sometimes when I walk by Lindsay’s iconic municipal building — our former Town Hall — I look up at that top-level balcony and imagine Sir John A. Macdonald speaking from there. Our first prime minister – whose birthday is Jan. 11 – visited Lindsay twice. The first time was as prime minister, in either 1872 or 1874 (records vary), and a second time he visited as leader of the opposition in 1877.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of the year, Canadians from coast to coast will pause for two minutes’ silence to remember those who died during the First and Second World Wars; the Korean conflict; and various peacekeeping operations in which Her Majesty’s armoured, naval, and air forces have been involved over the course of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
The statistics are staggering: nearly 70,000 Canadians died during the First World War (1914-1918); nearly 50,000 gave their lives during the Second World War (1939-1945); 516 died during the Korean War; and over 1,800 have paid the supreme sacrifice in various operations at home and abroad over the course of the last 70 years.
The sun sets over Lindsay as a young family gathers at the end of a rustic peninsula on the west bank of the Scugog River to admire a heron standing regally on the opposite shore. If they are lucky, they might perchance see a beaver swimming through the water.
To their left, in the shadows of a well-preserved remnant of the Carew sawmill complex (now part of the Rivermill Condominium community), a groundhog stealthily makes its way through the tall grass. In the distance, two ancient boathouses watch forlornly from the east bank as personal watercraft roar past.
A familiar ritual plays out across Kawartha Lakes on the first Tuesday of September. It’s a ritual that most of us have participated in – sometimes grudgingly, often anxiously. For those living in the countryside, this ritual involves waiting at the end of a long laneway for a yellow bus.
For those in town, it involves making a five, 10, 15, or 20-minute journey by foot, or occasionally by car. Parents reassure their children that they will do well on their first day of Kindergarten, while down the street their teen-aged counterparts are gaily exchanging pleasantries about their summer break, and comparing notes about who is taking what classes this semester.
All the components of a Second World War era biplane are sitting in Doug Watson’s garage. While there’s no need for it to fight again, he aims to make it fly in 2019.
Two years ago. Watson, who lives just north of Lindsay, found himself in possession of a chaotic heap of disassembled airplane parts. It meant that he had embroiled himself in a years-long construction project – and he couldn’t be happier.
The plane itself is Tiger Moth biplane; bi, of course, refers to the two wings on each side of of the cockpit that are stacked on top of one another. The plane was invented in the 1930s and quickly became mass produced in the wake of a global war.
For the past two decades, an annual summertime tradition in the McKechnie household has been the Model A Owners of Canada annual “Get-Away In A Model A” tour, usually taking place during the third weekend of August. Suitcases, lawn chairs, coolers, and umbrellas are packed into the back of our 1930 Model A Ford town sedan, which has been our family since my father purchased it from the late Doug Windrem, of Omemee, almost 30 years ago.
I am indebted to fellow Advocate writer, Jamie Morris, for allowing me to borrow the title of his column for this month’s installment of ‘Just In Time.’ As regular readers of the Advocate will know, “Friends & Neighbours” introduces the community to familiar individuals among us who have fascinating stories to share about their life, their culture, or their vocation.
Our past is full of interesting citizens who would have been regarded as friends and neighbours by their contemporaries. Whether it was the keeper of the local general store, the milkman, or the arena manager, small communities across Ontario could once claim a cast of characters who made an indelible impression on a generation of local citizens.
A boisterous crowd gathers in the Plaza del Toro in a charming small town, awaiting in rapt anticipation the entrance of the magnificent bull Ferdinand and wonders what might become of Matador Jorge Louis Bernal. Who will win — man or beast? Will the bull be vanquished? Will the matador survive? A year of planning this ‘ballet in three acts’ by organizers in the small town has come down to these tense few minutes. Our scene is not set in some small Mexican pueblo. This bullring is constructed out of plywood and the setting is old Lindsay fairgrounds where almost 5,000 people have gathered to see Canada’s first bullfight. The year is 1958.
Sometimes good ideas are merely a continuation of old ideas. What seems like a unique concept may actually be an echo of history, seized upon once again – perhaps at just the right moment.
While reading Looking for Old Victoria County, edited by Rae Fleming and published just last year, I came upon a chapter called The People of the 1861 Great Fire in Lindsay, by Lois Magahay. Under a section about local journalism, it was there that I found an astonishing fact: