Thursday, September 17, 2020

Living History…

 

Our 15-year-old nephew became a soldier! No, he did not join the Canadian Armed Forces! He did, however, join his fellow students and their history teacher in a re-enactment demonstration at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Seeing him and the other young people becoming involved in re-enacting Canada’s past made me think of the thousands of men and women and their families who dawn period costumes each summer and fall weekend to become “living history”! As David Brunelle, one of the organizers of Wasaga under Siege, said to me, “It’s like taking your family on an ‘old fashioned’ camping trip!”, old canvas tents, open fires, boiled coffee, toasted marshmallows and spending quality time with people who have similar interests. Besides, who doesn’t want to play make believe, shoot muskets and wear neat clothing! All that being said, re-enactments and re-enactors play an important part in Canadian society. With the great number of newcomers immigrating to our marvelous country, it gives them the opportunity to learn about Canada’s history and why it is such a great country to live in. Re-enactments also help show how Canada and the United States became separate countries and how we eventually learned to live in peace together. Even if you are not a history buff, re-enactments are exciting and entertaining! The pageantry, colour and action all add up to a wonderful experience! Whether or not our nephew and his friends become further involved in re-enacting, at least they will have had a chance to experience “first-hand” a part of Canada’s history! My hat is off to his history teacher and all of those other adults who encourage our young people to take an active interest in living Canada’s past!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Sunset Cruises – Captain Randy Potts (Part Two)

 

So here I was, standing on the bare deck of the Peerless II, as Randy described what he had already done, what was left to do and what it was going to be like when he was finished. Back on the Idyllwood, Randy showed me photographs of the restoration so far. As I said before, I couldn’t believe my own eyes! The work that had been done was incredible, and to think Randy was working alone during most of the restoration!

At that point last year, Randy had hoped that the restorations would be far enough along in the fall of 2009 that he would be able to take the restored Peerless II on its maiden voyage. However, time and circumstances have delayed the launch date. The fall of 2010 was the planned launch target. Judi and I have already taken a number of cruises on this wonderful cruise ship!

So, if you want to see and learn more about Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes, don’t miss a cruise on the Peerless II! Randy knows more stories about the lakes then anyone I know and he is glad to share them with his passengers! Rain or shine, cool or warm, the Idyllwood is equipped to handle all climates! Well, perhaps not ice or snow! Find out more about Captain Randy, his boats and the 2009 cruising schedule by visiting the Sunset Cruises website at http://www.sunsetcruises.ca/pages/about.html.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Sunset Cruises – Captain Randy Potts (Part One)

 

I would not have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes! One day, I drove to Gravenhurst to meet Captain Randy Potts. Randy owns Sunset Cruises and the M.V. Idyllwood. The Idyllwood is a 40-foot 1920’s era yacht that was faithfully restored by Randy. He has the photographs and scares to prove it! It took Potts several years to complete the restoration, but the end result is a boat that any owner would be proud of! The Idyllwood, under the capable hands of Captain Randy cruises the Muskoka Lakes. Don’t let his youthful looks deceive you, he has been a licensed Captain for over 20 years and has been at the helm of some mighty impressive ships, including the famous R.M.S. Segwun. The Idyllwood accommodates 12 guests in refined luxury. When I traveled all the way to Gravenhurst, I did want to see the M.V. Idyllwood, but frankly I was more interested in Randy’s latest restoration project, the Peerless II. For 49 years the Peerless II roamed the Muskoka Lakes delivering gasoline and home heating fuel to the cottagers and residents of the lakes. In 1994 the Peerless II was taken out of service and sold to become a private vessel. Then in September of 2003, Captain Randy Potts and Sunset Cruises purchased the Peerless II. You would have thought that Potts’ experiences of restoring the Idyllwood would have made him think twice about taking on a project of this magnitude, but obviously that was not the case!

(To be continued in Part Two)

Monday, August 24, 2020

McLean Berry Farm (Part 2)

 

They all contain everything from berries to corn and potatoes to tomatoes! You would think that this would be enough! Remember, this was all happening with two growing children and he and Jane were doing this all on their own! I can only imagine the long days and nights Sam spent building his dream! As the business grew other components were added, “Pick Your Own Berries”, a “Produce Store”, participation in “Farmers Markets” (3 of them, 2 in Peterborough and 1 in Toronto) and they host and run two festivals (one in the spring and the other in the summer)! And, I forgot to mention, they own a larger grove of Maple Trees. In the spring they tap the trees. They do it the old fashion way. They collect the sap with buckets. Sam feels it’s less intrusive. The two festivals I mentioned before are the Buckhorn Maple Syrup Festival and the McLean’s own Strawberry Festival. On top of all this, Sam sells a lot of his produce to local wholesale customers! Fortunately, Sam and Jane’s children have grown up appreciating and loving farm life. His son, Ben, is now Sam’s “right hand man” and his helping his parents in their “golden years”! Erin, who has taken a year off to work and travel Europe will be back home mid-summer, to once again “crack the whip” at the Farmers Markets and to look after the McLean’s Country Store. With all this happening Jane will be looking after the family garden and making sure that Sam behaves himself! The dictionary defines “extraordinary” as “exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable: extraordinary speed; an extraordinary man”. This certainly describes Sam and his family perfectly! The McLean’s and the McLean Berry Farm are a wonderful example of what drive, imagination and determination can do! If you love fresh produce, it certainly is worth the drive to Buckhorn and the McLean Berry Farm! You will be glad you did! To find out more about the McLean’s, check out their website at http://www.mcleanberryfarm.com/.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

McLean Berry Farm (Part 1)

 Every once in a while, you meet someone who you consider extraordinary! Sam McLean is one of those people! It’s not that he is an outwardly figure. Actually, he’s not. If fact, he seems to be low key and unassuming (at least to me) However, he exudes a quiet confidence, especially when he talks about his farm and his family.

Sam was a cabinet maker, but not anymore. Now he is a “full fledged” farmer and a successful entrepreneur!  Although Sam wasn’t raised as a farmer, he has farming in his blood. Both his grandfather and father were farmers, but not the young Sam. Sam was raised in Peterborough, but moved to Alberta as a young man. He and his wife Jane live there for a number of years. Sam liked it there, but Jane “convinced” him to move back home, Ontario and Peterborough. Once they had settled back in the area, Sam traded his cabinet making tools for farm implements. The McLean Berry Farm and the climb for survival were born! Sam and Jane purchased a neglected berry farm located between Lakefield and Buckhorn. There with their two children, daughter Erin and son Ben, they started to build their future. A mere mortal would have been happy just building a successful berry farm, but not our “hero” Sam! Yes, it all started with berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), but then it grew! More varieties of produce were added, sweet corn, peas, beans, potatoes. Eventually he out grew his own 25 acres and started to look for more. Today he now farms 100 acres (75 acres leased).

(To be continued in part 2) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Artists’ Series – James Lumbers

 

This is a series about Canadian artists I have known, and worked with.

We all have memories of ‘Days Gone By”! Some of my most vivid memories are from my childhood, both at our home in Thorncrest Village, Etobicoke and during the summer at the Matabanick Inn near Minden. Canadian artist, James Lumbers has taken history and memories and made them into a series of wonderful “ghost” paintings. His unique style of painting shows today’s images while “ghosting” the past. For many years we featured James’ work in our fine art galleries. I was always touched by how people reacted to his paintings. Some of his most popular works included sports figures. They included Joe Montana, “Mr. Hockey”, Gordie Howe and “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky. Everyone who came into our galleries had a favourite James Lumbers painting. My favourite was “As Time Goes By”. This painting depicted a Grandfather giving his Grandson his pocket watch.

Even though James Lumbers lived in close by Grafton, I had never formally met him, until I attended a Gallery Owners Advisory meeting at his offices in Toronto.  I must admit that my first meeting with such a famous and talented artist was quite intimidating. However, once the meeting began Jim made everyone welcome and at ease. Since that first meeting I have seen Jim and his wife Dalma at a number of art shows. The show we visit most frequently is at the Bayside Boutique and Gallery summer show near Buckhorn. Jim and several other artists, including our friend Mary Kendrick, show their work at the Gallery during the Buckhorn Fine Art Show in August. This is a great time and place to meet James Lumbers and view his works. For me, every time I see one of Jim’s paintings, I am taken back in time and a lump forms in my throat as I remember my past!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Toronto Harbourfront Centre

If you have never been to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, you have missed a lot of fun and entertainment! I first remember visiting the harbour front area when I was a young man working for my father. My family owned a successful insurance agency (now brokerage) in Toronto and one of our commercial customers had their offices in the old “Terminal Building” (now known as the Queen’s Quay Terminal). One of my assignments was to deliver papers to our customer. Although the building was built in 1926 and was used mainly as a “Cold Storage” facility, it was very impressive! It was also one of the main buildings along the waterfront! The area had yet to be developed. 

That came in the 1980’s when the different levels of government decided it was time for change. One of the first projects was the conversion of the Terminal Building to upscale stores and condominiums. This, along with the development of the Harbourfront Centre started the harbour front “revolution”! Other condos and hotels quickly started to appear. Now the area is alive with “lots to do” and the Harbourfront Centre leads the way! 

So far, I have visited two of their events, the Toronto International Circus Festival (with my grandson Tyler) and the International Festival of Authors (with my friend Paul). Both were great events and I look forward to visiting many more. Check out their website for more information. (http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/)