The Plays The Thing

Not having been away for quite a long time, Nat and I decided to take a trip to Stratford, Ontario, see a play and check out all of the quaint shops downtown. We booked a bed and breakfast – The Blue Spruce B&B on Erie Street for 3 nights and purchased matinee tickets for a Shakespearan play – Romeo & Juliet. Nat’s never been to a Shakespearan play and I thought Romeo & Juliet would be a fairly easy one to understand.

We left home Friday mid-morning for our 2-1/2 hour journey. Believe it or not, we also came to the conclusion to completely rely on Garmin GPS. Her way or no way!! As we approached Hamilton, traffic was starting to get heavy and what to our surprise the GPS also recognized that fact as it re-routed us around the Burlington Bay Skyway telling us traffic was at a standstill. We were directed up Red Hill Valley Expressway to Highway 403 and beyond. The trip was pleasurable and what to our surprise, we arrived almost an hour earlier than check-in.

The Blue Spruce B&B is a quaint red brick house filled with Victorian furnishing and collectibles. You can stay in The Writer’s Room, The Music Room, Violet Penny – with appropriate decor. We chose The Writer’s Room filled with autographed books by authors from around the world, and a couple of framed pictures with attached hand-written notes.  Nat and I both enjoyed great nights sleeping in the mile-high queen-sized bed. We were also able to lounge on the day-bed whenever our hearts’ desired. It was wonderful.

Michael and Helen were fabulous hosts. At Saturday morning breakfast we were surprised by an exquisite breakfast of garlic toast, arugula leaves, goat’s cheese, gorgeous fried egg and 2 pieces of crispy bacon. Naturally, the whole thing (except eggs and bacon) were wasted on little miss fuss pot (moi) but Nat enjoyed the whole thing. Apparently, Michael is a great cook and will even host a pre-theatre dinner if booked in advance. His imagination is full of fabulous surprises and ideas.

We enjoyed our meal with another group of couples, one of which had done repetoire theatre and we had to tear ourselves away to get on with our day. The whole group, including Michael, amazed us at who they knew, where they lived in Stratford and the places they’ve been to. Naturally, they all sounded like regular Stratford Theatre goers (if not members).

Saturday afternoon Nat and I drove down to the theatre for the 2:00 PM showing. We thankfully found a parking spot down along the Avon River and made our slow ascent up the grounds to the top of the Stratford Theatre. I struggled with my weak legs, but managed to make it in time and upon entering the theatre were glad to be hit with a huge gust of air-conditioning. We picked an extremely hot weekend to go away, and Stratford was feeling the heat, exactly like Ridgeway. The theatre was  much bigger than I remembered almost 32 years ago when two sisters, a family member from Britain and I went to see The Merchant of Venince. Nat and I had first row centre balcony seats which were fabulous as we could see the entire stage.

At long last, the play began. Having seen a Shakespearean play before and studied the Bard in high school, my heart was pounding. I was ready to be lifted to another era, another time and place so long ago the English language wasn’t butchered as it is now. Nat was a good sport and tried as best he could to listen to what was being said. I had previously explained the story line and whispered a few scenarios in his ear, but it was obvious he wasn’t catching anything and lost in a fog. The sword fights were about as exciting as it got, along with the tragic ending, but he endured as best he could. At least now he can say he’s seen a play by Shakespeare.

To be brutally honest, I was a tad disappointed. The Artistic Director and others had somewhat “modernized” parts of the play. Certain words were updated – eg. days of the week, some use of modern day slang, and certain “asides” as the actors departed the stage. The actor playing Mercutio (a close friend of Romeo’s) a character with imagination, wit, biting satire, loves wordplay and a lot of sexual double entendres, emphasized a few sexual motions a little bit over the top for me. I understood the reasoning as the audience consisted of a lot of younger people and the actors did manage to garner quite a few laughs. I suppose I’m just a purist at heart, but it was still great to see a proper well-written play.

We were surprised upon arrival that if you did NOT book reservations at ANY of the restaurants in town, you were out of luck and the local McDonald‘s would be the only place to get something to eat. Finding out we had no idea when we checked in, our host, Michael, was extremely nice in booking us a table for Saturday at 7:00 PM at Rene’s with the promise that they had the best Beef Tenderloin he has ever eaten. He was so right. Nat and I both ordered the Beef Tenderloin with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.  We returned to our room with smiles on our faces. Our evening was complete, and Nat was still able to catch his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs play a pre-season game.

Nat had been sick during the night, so Sunday morning, Michael had fixed the two of us (after letting him know) a smaller breakfast of tea and toast. Nat was still a little wonky and I’m just bloody picky. We had another great morning talking to Michael and hearing his stories. Apparently he was a journalist at one time and while running his business he’s writing a biography of one of Janis Joplin’s guitarists. He regailed us with stories of certain celebrities he’s met along the way and how he’s seen Gordon Lightfoot at least 20 times during his life. I was jealous – I’ve only seen him twice. His jokes were brilliant and we soon discovered we were kindred spirits in our love of all things British TV. We had seen the same mysteries, loved the same actors and felt that any American Imitation was just crappy. We all felt the Americans cannot do comedy or mystery like the Brits.

We soon tore ourselves away and decided to go to the Stratford Festival Shoppe which we had missed after the play on Saturday. Upon arrival, the shop was quiet and we both enjoyed browsing through the book section, the souvenir section and even the t-shirts. I was lucky and came upon a great t-shirt I think would befit my neice for her birthday in November. I bought a little Shakespeare figurine for myself and we were off to the grocery store to pick up a few sandwich-making items for lunch back at the B&B. We were in no mood for another restaurant meal.

While browsing downtown Stratford Saturday morning we wandered into the Indigena Art Shop. I couldn’t believe my eyes. All around me were paintings, prints and other small items done by a former co-worker I worked with in Edmonton, Alberta. She eventually left to pursue other things in life, including her artwork and has since become a very accomplished Sioux Artist – Maxine Noel (Ioyan Mani – her native name). I recall great times working with Maxine in a large law firm, including baseball games, skiing, double dating and even trying to teach me to play tennis. I’ve followed Maxine’s career from the last time we ran into each other coincidentally in Stratford a long time back when Nat and I had taken a two-day trip to check the little town out. I spotted her in a bar and grill having a drink while Nat and I were being seated for a meal. She’s accomplished such amazing things since then and her career has skyrocketed. If I had enough money I’d buy one of everything she does. I adore her work and now realize being a legal secretary once-upon-a-time was so lost on her.

Nat knows how I feel about Maxine and knew it was a done deal that I had to buy something of hers. I came upon a limited edition print on canvas that I loved. The price was within our range so the print “Lover’s” and a couple of her Note Cards was being wrapped and paid for. I had a smile on my face all the way home. It now hangs in our hallway where I see it everyday.

With our long weekend now at a close, Nat and I went downstairs for our final breakfast. Michael fixed Nat some tea and me a gorgeous fried egg. We talked some more with just the three of us at the table. Michael was gracious in joining us and more jokes and stories were told. I could talk to this man all day.

With breakfast done, we returned to our luggage now at the front door and said our goodbyes. I complimented Michael on his hosting and he replied we’d have a great time sitting around with a bottle of wine and talking about anything and everything. I couldn’t have agreed more. He’s only 2-1/2 hours away and nothing is stopping us from returning again one day.

We arrived home after hitting some horrendous traffic around Burlington. The police were just cleaning up after a tragic accident at the base of the Burlington Skyway Bridge where a motorcyclist was killed. The body covered with tarp still lay on the road with shards of glass spread everywhere. My heart sank – having only seen dead bodies on T.V. We eventually arrived home and were glad to be there. At least we both felt we had been away from our mundane lives and had a great experience at least for 4 days.

Avon River, Stratford, On
Swans along the Avon – Stratford, On
Swan on Avon River - Stratford, On
Swan on Avon River, Stratford, On
Lovers by Ioyan Mani (Maxine Noel)
“Lovers” by Maxine Noel (Ioyan Mani)

Agawa Canyon Train Tour – If Only We Could Have Flown!

The months of August and September, for us, were busy. A Memorial Ceremony, a renewal of wedding vows, a BBQ to celebrate 50 years of marriage, a family wedding, double birthday celebration, hair, manicure and other appointments and getting ready for a trip to Sault Ste. Marie for the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. All of which made our summer exciting and yet fleeting. The last event, of course, was our mini-holiday which allowed us to get away for a few days and yet, somehow, was so tiring, it took us at least another four days to recover. Not my idea of a relaxing holiday.

(As an aside – all pictures taken on this trip will be found on Page Title “Agawa Canyon Train Tour”)

We began our trip by rising early Sunday morning and hitting the road by 8:00 am. I had packed a couple of chicken sandwiches for lunch (which we’ve done in the past) along with a cooler of drinks and a few healthy (yes, I said ‘healthy’) snacks for what was going to be at least an 8 hour drive north. The drive north to Parry Sound was the usual hustle and bustle of driving around Toronto towards Barrie with its collage of small, medium and large commercial and industrial buildings, roadways and road works. I should have enjoyed them at the time. Once we reached Parry Sound, we found a Tim Horton’s and a small take-away restaurant where we stopped for lunch. We unpacked our chicken sandwiches, ordered french fries and a couple of drinks and ate lunch in a quiet, unobtrusive spot inside which would also give Nat time to stretch his legs before getting ready for the next leg of the trip.

With Parry Sound behind us, the scenery became quite apparent – rocks, trees, rocks, trees, more rocks, more trees, with maybe (just maybe) a small farm noticeable in the distance. We were driving through parts of the Canadian Shield and I offered to relieve Nat from his driving boredom, but he seemed to be doing just fine. So I sat back and listened to an audiobook on my iPad. At this point I became very thankful I had loaded a couple of books for just such an occasion. At least this was relieving my brain from thoughts of jumping out of the car and walking home. The boredom was now setting in, and setting in good.

As we approached Bruce Mines, we stopped for a leg stretching and with our usual aplomb began discussions and disagreements about the GPS. Nat gets a bit impatient, as do I, and we don’t always understand all of the details and icons on the GPS screen. The GPS was not recognizing some of the northern roads and Nat was getting a bit worrisome,  but as we finally approached Sault Ste. Marie his relief began to show. It also helped that I was holding a physical map of Ontario to prove to him that things were good.

We arrived at our hotel – the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre – around 5:30 pm, tired and bored. We unpacked our things and headed down the road to the Swiss Chalet for soup and salad, as our hunger had abated and we only wanted something to fill the void for the night. Once our meal was done, we headed back to the hotel and jumped into bed by 8:30 PM. We were in for another early rise to catch the train and hopefully have a great day!

Still a bit tired, Nat and I were dressed and down for our free breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, cereal, etc.) with what seemed to be everyone else on the same tour. Getting to the Train Station was easy enough, but discovering we were in the third of over twenty cars, there was a bit of a walk down the tracks before we could board and get settled in our seats. We left the station at 8:00 am and the tour soon began with announcements (dining car, smoking and a small history lesson of Algoma Steel) but once we were well on our way to Agawa Canyon National Park, we were flooded with geographical and historical lessons on how this portion of Canada was formed and how the Agawa Canyon Train Tour began. Above the seats in strategic points hung television sets where passengers could watch as videos displayed what was being narrated. After each little lesson, the screens would display the railway tracks as seen by the Engineers. I will admit, that part was neat to see, and everyone could anticipate what was about to pass by our windows. Speaking of windows, each one had been spruced and polished so any picture taking from such windows would be crystal clear – a nice and intuitive gesture.

Within the initial hours of the train ride, each passenger was enthralled as we passed by interior crystal blue lakes hidden by an entourage of rocks and trees, rattled over an ancient wooden trestle bridge (eventually replaced by steel) and through narrow rock and tree passageways where overgrown bushes would sweep the sides of each rail car. Finally arriving at the Canyon after four hours of rickety rail riding all passengers disembarked as we stretched our backs and legs once our feet touched the ground. We were soon surrounded by greenery and natural beauty only Northern Canada could show off. Along with an ancient rail car standing at the end of a small wooden walkway, a cute cottage-style building disguising the washrooms, there were park benches located in and out of sun shiny spots, under trees and along a small flowing river lined with more foliage and rock formations.

As it was now noon hour, Nat and I were hungry, so we took the time to head back to the dining car, have a bite to eat inside (rather than order a boxed lunch for an outdoor picnic), and we would then disembark ourselves for some touring. We were a little surprised once it was announced that in order to see anything special you would have to take a 20 or 45 minute walk to that particular area. Nat was willing to walk to one of the higher points – Beaver Falls -for some scenic shots (the larger one, Bridal Falls, was too far afield for either one of us),  while I stayed put walking around the park taking pictures of what I felt was a representation of the area. We soon met up in time for the train to be boarded for the journey home.

The trip home was totally exhausting and boring. At first you’re still a little lively, but as time soon passes, the seats became uncomfortable for Nat’s back, and with no pillows neither one of us could really put our heads back and have a small snooze. Some other passengers had somehow arranged their heads and bodies in contortions to achieve a wee snooze, but it was apparent they were going to regret it later. At least, for now, they were relieving their boredom. At one point, I slipped off my runners and put my feet on the seat facing me (Nat and I had managed to grab a 4-seat grouping) as Nat tried his best to get comfy himself. The four hour trip home soon took its toll as Nat was now standing in our little vestibule area trying to stretch his back for relief. We were both now feeling as if we had been onboard for several days and this trip was never going to end.

Finally, arriving back at the Station around 5:30 pm, Nat and i took a quick peak in the Station’s tiny little gift shop now filled with practically every passenger looking at T-Shirts and knick knacks. I was looking for a lapel or stick pin for my collection, but alas none were to be found. As we pushed our ways towards the exit, I ended up purchasing a small coin-sized “Agawa Canyon/Agawa Train” souvenir and we took a deep breath as we walked outdoors. With no thoughts about supper, we walked to WalMart right across from the Station, grabbed a small salad, some ham slices and, along, with a treat or two, this would be more than sufficient to see us through the evening. We were both too tired to even think about a heavy meal, and these small items would do the trick as we could sit and eat in peace and comfort in the hotel room. After our little meal we settled in to watch the news and knowing we could now sleep in with a free day to ourselves on Tuesday before the drive home.

Tuesday morning arrived and after breakfast, we drove back to WalMart which was part of  The Station Mall to have a walk-about before deciding what to do the rest of the day. Neither of us were keen to go the the Casino (noisy and expensive) nor the Bush Plane Museum (a bit nerdy for even me) nor any of the other sites we were given tickets to as part of our “package tour”. While walking around the Mall, which was really nice, by the way, with even a huge TanJay/Alia store, the two of us decided to just stay put in our hotel room and rest up for that long, lonesome drive home. We would, however, take the time out for a really nice meal at a recommended restaurant – North 82 Steak & Grill House. The meal was wonderful – my steak and Nat’s steak & seafood dish – the service very good and after a good night’s sleep, we were all packed and ready to hit the road again. The two of us were now both very anxious to get home.

We had both decided to drive home through the United States – heading directly south through the State of Michigan and then east to Ontario and home. We followed the GPS instructions implicitly but as we were arriving further towards home, we were directed to take some pretty back roads and going through small villages and waterfront resorts we’d not seen before. The GPS was taking us the “shortest” way rather than the “fastest” way home, which we found out were two different things. Being on the road for over 7 hours now, bored and really, really tired, we would have preferred to go the “fastest” way home – taking us along the QEW with higher mileage. We were now driving the “shortest” way home but with lower mileage and a lot of stop lights and signs, etc. Despite the fact this was the “shortest” route, it would take us 9-1/2 hours to complete!

The Agawa Canyon Train tour was one of those trips neither one of us had taken. My parents had done so with a couple of my siblings, while I was living and working in Alberta, and I truly realize how fortunate I was for not taking this particular trip at that time – nearly 40 years ago when the drive would have been even longer and the train trip even more so when young children are involved. One sister claims no memory of this trip and I understand why now! I’m sure I’ll forget it myself one day. Nat and I don’t regret taking this tour but we both agree we’ll never do it again. We can, however, brag that we’ve seen a part of Northern Ontario that I’m sure many Canadians have not. Well, maybe that’s not exactly a bragging bit!!

1000 Island Cruise – Homeward Bound

After a good nights sleep by both, we were up and dressed just a tad early for breakfast, so we sat around our room making sure everything was packed, except for those last minute extras. As the restaurant finally opened at 8:30, Nat and I wandered over and ate a good breakfast of eggs, toast and hash browns knowing that lunch may be a little later than usual.

We had decided to take the U.S. route the GPS insisted we go the first time. Nat and I were hoping for a more scenic route home and what the hell, we had the whole day. Nat also had to gas up Ruby (our car), so we checked where the closest gas station was – trust me, they’re few and far between around Rockport – and headed to the nearest one in Lansdowne, ON at a small local store. A cute little village and very quiet on an early Monday morning.

Back on the road close to 10:00 AM. We would be driving over the 1000 Island International Bridge which was impressive from the St. Lawrence River when we sailed by it on Sunday. By the time we approached the Bridge, which was only a couple of minutes from the 1000 Island Parkway I was too late with the camera to take any pictures of the gorgeous scenery all around us. From above we could see cute little picturesque islands dotted here and there as the Bridge spanned across portions of the St. Lawrence and anchored at the end on a larger portion of the United States (New York State).  We approached Border & Customs at the bottom where we handed in our Passports, answered the questions – “What’s the reason for your trip”, to which Nat answered “decided to go home from Rockport via a more scenic route”. The Border Guard was sympathetic and replied “I hear ya!”. We were now on our way home.

The decision to go via the U.S. was a good one. U.S. I-81 was a less travelled road, very quiet this time of day and there was definitely scenery – farm land, homes and pretty countryside. This route would take us down to Syracuse, NY where we would then switch onto the New York State Thruway and straight home. A quiet, uneventful trip. We stopped for a snack and a pee around 11:30 at a Dunkin Donuts, continued driving until close to Buffalo where we stopped at one of those ONTARIO Service Stops for a “leg” break, had a cup of ice cream for refreshment and continued home.

The Canadian Border crossing was uneventful and when we arrived home we had no idea how exhausted we were. I literally dumped our suitcase of clothes in the laundry basket, unpacked my little travel bag and took a seat with Nat. We would forego any supper and get a small early evening munchie later on. That was us for the night. But all in all the U.S. side was definitely a better route to take and we’d do it again, if needed.

Tuesday morning was now going to be laundry day. I missed our usual Saturday laundry and with twice the load now, it was going to be a bit longer than usual. Nat headed down the road for a few grocery items and decided to mow the lawn while he had the chance. That was just about our day, along with a delicious fresh trout and salad supper – not like that frozen stuff on our trip. Wednesday would see me getting our pictures loaded onto the computer, get them named, and sort out any other business we missed while away. We had also both remarked by now that our wee little trip seemed so long ago. Hopefully this will see us taking more small trips now and again.

1000 Island Cruise – Day 1

Taking a weekend trip for a one day cruise, took just as much planning as a week (or longer) trip. Had we been to the 1000 Islands before it may have been so much easier. As we had purchased a new Garmin GPS unit (our old one was very outdated) we felt this was a good time to try it out. Little did we know what trouble it would give us. First of all, Nat has a golfing buddy who refused to pay the tolls on the 407 ETR  whenever he travels to Quebec and takes the 403 E to the 401 E without any hassles, so Nat wanted to try this route himself.

Setting up the GPS was easy enough, but we were very puzzled when the route chosen was through the United States around Lake Erie  and on up to the 1000 Island International Bridge – the way we did NOT want to go, despite the fact it was going to be quicker and faster. No matter how we tried to change the route the GPS was being very uncooperative. With all things technical that Nat and I get into, we became frustrated. So, after Nat left for his golf game on Friday, I decided to play around with it, along with doing a little research online. I discovered that we could “Plan A Trip” which included stops along our route. I tried it out, but without any stops, just clicking on the Highways we wanted to take. It worked. We were now going via the 403 E to the 401 E and on up to Rockport, Ontario where we were going to stay. We took along the Google Maps printed out for back-up.

It looked like a 4 to 5 hour trip and check-in at the Boathouse Country Inn was 3:00 PM so we were on the road by 9:00 AM. The GPS was doing its job and took us exactly as planned, despite arriving at our final destination she had us turning left instead of right. We’re thinking the GPS was unable to detect the small side road entrance through rod iron gates depicting the name Rockport.

The road trip, itself, was uneventful. Let’s face it, nothing to look at along the 401 E at all. One of the more boring trips I’ve ever been a passenger on. The number of times that my sister, Claudia, took her son back to Queen’s University at Kingston must have been mind-numbing, but she’s such a great traveller I’m sure she was very use to it. She has my admiration! After a short lunch break past Oshawa we were back on the road. Nat and I tried to keep a conversation going or listen to satellite radio (which we have free for 3 months) in order to pass the time and somehow we managed.

Despite the pouring rain and miserable weather, we reached the tiny little village of Rockport, just off the 1000 Island Parkway and sitting along the shores of the St. Lawrence RiverWe settled into our cute little country inn room with a small balcony that looked out over the docks. Our room consisted of a couple of wicker chairs, the usual TV and small fridge with Queen sized bed covered in a colourful country Quilt. Very cute, very cozy and charming.

Arriving just before 2:30 PM, we had time on our hands but with the lousy rain still pouring down, we got unpacked and organized and then decided to check out the little General Store before going for our supper. The shop contained the usual trinkets, souvenir items, sweat shirts, T-Shirts, mugs and bits of jewellery. Naturally, I found a few items to buy – a lapel pin for  my collection, a hand-made Inuksuk and a couple of key chains.

We headed to the Cornwall Pub for our supper and decided on fish ‘n chips. A bit disappointed, as the menu proclaimed “Fresh Cut Fries” which turned out to be very evident that these french fries had been frozen, as was the fish. The meal wasn’t bad, bad, but just disappointing. We were at least satisfied for the evening and returned to our cozy little room, settled in for the night and hit the hay by 10:00 PM. We were both very road weary.

Nearer My Elvis, To Thee

After uncrating the shed on Thursday we were left with a large wooden shell and skid. Not knowing what to do with the damn thing, and Nat not wanting to really disassemble it, as he had no use for the scrap wood, we had a fairly good idea. Living in this area you often see pieces of old furniture, garden items, and the like sitting at the end of someone’s driveway with a big “FREE” sign on it. We totally understand why people can’t be bothered to take such items to the dump (you have to pay for it) and there’s always someone willing to take anything home that’s free. So you know were I’m going with this!! Nat took the time to tear off all of the plastic wrap that was stapled to the wood and we each made a big “FREE” sign to stick on either end of the crate. We both felt that the odds were in our favour that someone around this area could surely use the wood for firewood or even crafting. So it sat midway down our driveway until Nat woke up Saturday morning and went out to get the newspaper. He was ever so pleased it was gone and that he wouldn’t have to deal with it. End of problem!

Saturday evening we had tickets to Stephen Kabakos “Elvis Gospel” show at St. Andrews United Church in Niagara Falls. We both love this guy. Despite the fact that he refers to himself as a “tribute artist”, when you see him it’s as if Elvis himself really did walk in the room!!! Stephen looks like Elvis at the peek of his career (tall, slender, sexy and just gorgeous) and the two shows Nat and I have attended at the Greg Frewin Theatre were fabulous. He’s such a perfectionist that even his clothing are designed down to the last detail, including buttons. He certainly left us wanting more after each performance. We were NOT disappointed – it was beyond fabulous. The first half of his show was partially gospel and some old favourites while dressed in a long black velvet, double-breated jacket. Our seats were pretty much perfect – about 6 pews up from the stage – and with a large video-tron above the stage for the balcony seats, you could look up every now and again and each and every one of us remarked “My God, you’d swear that was actually Elvis”. It was uncanny!! He had the whole audience (or congregation, if you’d like) rocking in their seats. We would have preferred that he do a bit more of Elvis’ gospel tunes, but sneaking in a little rock ‘n roll or even rock-a-billy, is always good for the soul. The second half of the show was just as fabulous as the first and after an encore performance of How Great Thou Art, we still wanted more. We were in the palms of his hands. Alas the show had to end sometime, but once it was over and the audience lingering around, Stephen took the time to meet and greet his fans, especially those that travelled far and wide just to see him, and what a thrill that was!! With girlish hearts, Gail, Thamazine and I headed down front to join the throng of adoring fans and each managed to have our pictures taken with him. Another thrill for the three of us. With Claudia, Daryl and Michele sitting back in the pews, we returned all giddy and excited. Even Nat was thrilled to shake the man’s hand and tell him what a great performance he had just put on. You could see it in Nat’s eyes that he was in awe of this man’s vocal range. Nat can carry a tune and really appreciates a good set of vocal chords!! With that, we all headed in our different directions home with smiles on our faces and really glad for another great night out. Couldn’t have asked for much more!! Now we can’t wait to see him again in October!!

I’m adding a couple of pics that were taken of Stephen and with Thamazine and Stephen – just because he’s that great to look at!!!

What A Night!
Lucky Girl!!!!

Changing Times & Memories

With my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday (and being in Beamsville), Nat and I decided to make good use of the day, so we made a list of things we had to do while “out that way”. First to Stoney Creek on an errand, then grabbing a bite to eat at the Grimsby Welcome Centre, a quick stop at Mom and Dad’s grave site and finally to the Beamsville Medical Centre to see about the old leg. Why not make good use of our time and make a day of it.

Mom and Dad’s grave site was looking a little haggard. So we cleaned up as best we could – forgot to bring the little garden tools – fixed up the edging that’s now becoming iffy, and pulled most of the weeds. After a quick look around at other grave sites, we’ve come up with what we think is a better idea for the edging, and then maybe plant two or three Hostas. Less maintenance and the grounds crew will be able to get around without dinging the edging that’s now getting torn up.

We were only ten minutes at the Medical Centre. The Doc says my leg seems to be okay. It’s healing slowly, but it’s healing. The water on the knee should dissipate with time (lots of it, for me!)

So with that, Nat and I headed into St. Catharines for his favourite kaisers from his favourite bakery, and then onward home.

As we were driving home from Stoney Creek, we stayed on old No. 8 Highway, avoiding the QEW at all costs. Meandering along, Nat and I were amazed at the development that’s sprung up – houses, strip malls, wineries – inbetween the towns of Stoney Creek, Winona, Grimsby and Beamsville. Each and every time we take this drive there seems to be something new that’s built or soon to be developed. There was a time when you drove through quite a few tender fruit fields before hitting the next little town or hamlet – but they all blend into one another, only distinguishable by their town signage.

As we approached the outskirts of Beamsville, I began to recall some of the retail stores, restaurants and business that our family dealt with during our childhood.

Marv’s Drive-In – one of the cool places for the teenagers to hang out. Just on the outskirts of town, away from prying eyes of parents, where the food was greasy but good and the parking lot was large enough for those bigger model cars and a few hot rods. My best memory of Marv’s is when Gail’s (then) boyfriend, Ken, allowed a couple of us “kids” to come along for a burger and fries. My God, that was such a big deal. I still remember where we sat in the far right corner. Alas, old Marv’s has changed hands so many times, I’m amazed the original old building is still standing. Nothing since Marv’s has been that good or reputable!

Mountain’s Variety Store – just about the only place in town where we could buy our school supplies without taking that long trip into the big City of St. Catharines. Mr. Mountain was always behind the counter, always willing to help little hands with whatever they were looking for and always greeted accompanying parents by their names! We couldn’t wait to buy our new scribblers, new pencils, markers, pencil cases, binders and reams of paper. Remember opening the scribbler to that fresh brand new page, and you always vowed you’d be neat with the whole year! This was also the only place in town that you could buy those Necco wafers, that I’m still addicted to when I can find them! Well, the old variety store is now a Bible Shop.

Lay’s Pharmacy – another great store that was probably visited more by our parents, but nevertheless carried neat stuff. I went to school with Billy and his parents were good friends with ours. Both Dads were volunteer firemen and Lodge members, and both Moms involved in other community activities. The building still houses a pharmacy, only bigger to keep up with the newer and growing population.

Bell Telephone – the building on the corner that use to house the local telephone operators. Back in the day when party lines abounded and everyone truly knew what everyone else was up to!! The only thing I remember about this old building is that big sister, Gail, wandered up to that corner one day as a child and one of the operators called Mom to let her know where she was. The operators and most other villagers were very aware of the growing family down Ontario Street! Now that’s small town!! The old building is long gone and newer retail establishments have taken its place.

Kresge’s 5 & Dime – a store that stocked all sorts of goodies that any little girl wanted. From jewelry, make-up, toys and household items, it was always an adventure to wander around with Mom, your hand in hers. I’ll confess to something that I’m sure everyone else has done! This is the one and only store that I actually pinched a small piece of jewelry when I was about 4 or 5. I also still remember the clerk or manager – that tall lady with the round glasses and hair in an upswept and tight bun. Long before the days of bar codes and scanners, the goodies were laid out in small little bins with price tags stuck to the back of each item. A store that couldn’t survive the newer and more up-to-date retailers.

Christie’s Dairy Bar – one of our all-time favourites. The Christie family made the best chocolate milk in the whole world (or at least to us). It was also ‘way cool’ that each of the boys were able to get behind the counter and help themselves! We all knew each other from public or high school. This was also the best restaurant for burgers, fries, onion rings and chocolate milk on your lunch break from Beamsville High, just a five minute walk away. A great hang-out for several generations of teenagers taking a break before, after and sometimes during classes. The old Dairy Bar is now a health food store (egad!!).

There was also (what I believe) an appliance store that also sold 45 records. I do remember buying my first package of 45’s. Yes, you’d get one good one (in a pack of three) with the other two being unknowns, but sometimes you got lucky and they turned out to be hits. My first 45 was by Gordon Lightfoot – Daisy Doo on one side and (Remember Me) I’m The One on the flip side. Still one of my all-time favourite singers and I’ve still got that 45!! The store didn’t sell a whole lot of records, but I was at least able to get a package or two before we moved on to an even smaller town – Campden in the early 1960’s.

As a child riding along in our Dad’s old ’54 Ford with floor boards you could see the road through, it was embarrassing to pass someone you knew and Dad, with his left elbow resting on the open window and his right hand on the wheel, would wave and holler ‘how ‘ya doin’?” It’s only about 45 years later that I appreciate where he was coming from and even where he was going. Always down No. 8 Highway, always looking around and always proud. I also wonder what he would think about all of the wineries that have now popped up and taken over the tender fruit lands that were prominent 40 years ago. I’d like to think he would at least appreciate that the land was being used for something good and yes, tasty!!