Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht

21 Jan

Regrettably, there isn’t a whole lot to report this week. So we’ll get the wee bit of news that I have gleaned out of the way, and move on to a quick glance in Dunvegan’s rearview mirror.

Before we do though, I wanted to apologize for my ill-advised weather predictions in last week’s column. I suggested Friday’s weather would be perfect for a Euchre outing and that the roads would be in good shape for travelling. I was wrong. The howling winds and blowing snow kept most players home, and I don’t blame them a bit. I think the lesson we can take from this is that, if I forecast a major winter storm, you might want to get out the lawn furniture and think about opening the swimming pool. There’s a Yiddish proverb that might apply here: Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht or “man plans and God laughs.”

Good News for Museum

A week ago Monday, a delegation from the Glengarry Pioneer Museum submitted its 2015 core-funding request to the new North Glengarry Council. And, I’m pleased to report, that their appeal appears to have been favourably received. To my knowledge, nothing is official at this point. However, our new Council seems to have been unanimously, and refreshingly, receptive.

What the newly incorporated Museum and its core of 150 volunteers were requesting was a Township grant of $15,000. Each year, the Museum works hard to meet and maintain the Ontario provincial standards for a Community Museum. This allows them to apply for an annual operating grant of approximately $14,500 from Queen’s Park. However, one of the stipulations from the province is that the local community and municipal government must contribute as well. That’s why North Glengarry’s support is so critical. As the delegation also pointed out, it would make a huge difference if the Township could pledge this support for a longer period… say four years.

It should be pointed out that these two government grants only represent 36% of the Museum’s annual budget. The other 64% — or $52,100 — comes from admissions, donations and a drawdown from their reserves. When you consider that, over the course of a season, nine or more community events are hosted which attract over 5,000 visitors to the hamlet of Dunvegan, it’s important to invest in this season-long tourist attraction. As an added benefit, the Museum traditionally employs up to four university and high school students, thanks in large part to various youth employment programs.

If indeed the Township approves a consistent core funding for the next four years — and agrees to underwrite the taxes and insurance of the Museum’s properties for an extended period — it would provide this hard-working band of volunteers with some well-deserved peace of mind for a few years to come. And that is Good News!

Unintended Consequences?

In the historical society and museum sector of the Glengarry Townships, the last two years have been ones of significant change. When the dust settles, the Glengarry Pioneer Museum in Dunvegan and the Loyalist and Nor’wester Museum in Williamstown will have severed their long-term relationship with the Glengarry Historical Society and struck out on their own as separately incorporated, not-for-profit organizations. The reasons behind this evolution are many and, when viewed on an organization-by-organization basis, make good sense. My only concern is the “big picture” that is now emerging when it comes to funding all these initiatives. In North and South Glengarry, there are now three separate history-based organizations trying to draw from the same fund-raising “well.” And that doesn’t include groups such as the Dalkeith Historical Society or the original Glengarry Archives housed in the Sir John Johnson Manor House in Williamstown or the new one in Alexandria. “Glengarry History”, formerly known as the Glengarry Historical Society, has just put forth a plan to establish an endowment and legacy fund (GELF) to “enable future acquisitions, research and the study of the history of Glengarry County and the contribution of the sons and daughters of the County to Canada, both before and after Confederation.” The fund’s objective is to raise $500,000 by the end of 2019. In other words, this one organization alone hopes to extract $100,000 in donations per year (for five straight years) from Glengarry residents, the Glengarry diaspora throughout North America and local businesses, foundations and corporations. This is an admirable goal, but one that begs the question: what’s left in the pot for the other groups?

Hydro “Report Card” Update

Last week, I asked if any other readers had received a Home Energy Report from Hydro One and asked, if they had, to scan and e-mail it to me. I wondered if the reports were “form” letters or costly, individually generated reports. Well, it appears that they are the latter. A reader from Stewart Glen Road kindly sent me a copy of the report her household had received and the ranking and usage data differed significantly from the initial report.

“Hopalong” Chisholm

Did you know that a young lad from Dunvegan once earned a living as a Hollywood cowboy, working alongside acting legends Tom Mix, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper? Nor did I until I was thumbing through photocopies of one of the Tweedsmuir Diaries and stumbled across the tale of John James Chisholm. “Jack” Chisholm was born in Dunvegan in 1899 and, according to a story in the April 26, I983 Toronto Star, was a pilot during the First World War. Apparently, he even won the 1918 Royal Air Force welterweight boxing championship in 1918.

After returning to civilian life with the rank of Second Lieutenant in 1919, Jack graduated from Guelph’s Ontario Agriculture College in 1923. From Guelph, Jack moved to Hollywood, California where he took a low-paying job as a chemist in the dairy industry. He soon discovered that he could make more money as a Hollywood stuntman. So, between 1923 and 1938, Jack performed in more than 500 Hollywood Westerns, serving as a double for silent film stars Tom Mix, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and others. He said his biggest thrill was doubling for Gary Cooper in the “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.” He supplemented his stunt performer income by working as a bit player, scriptwriter and assistant director.

Just before the Second World War, Jack returned to Canada and was employed as a producer by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. As the war progressed, he moved to Associated Screen News where he produced hundreds of documentaries and newsreels. In 1948, Jack became the first president for the Association of Motion Picture Producers and Laboratories of Canada (AMPPLC). During this period, he also organized the Motion Picture Television Workshop in Canada, and spearheaded the Motion Picture Council of Canada. A few years later, in 1955, Jack started his own production company and produced more than 1,000 documentary films. The company still exists today and is located in Toronto.

In 1958, Jack became the sole owner of Showcase Film Productions of Toronto. And, in later years, he ran the biggest stock footage library in Canada, renting more than 10 million feet of stock film shots to Canadian film and television producers. Dunvegan’s Jack Chisholm died at the age of 84, in March of 1983.

It’s interesting to note that the Association of Motion Picture Producers and Laboratories of Canada, of which Jack was a charter member, later became the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association (CFTPA) and eventually the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA). In honour of Jack Chisholm’s contribution to the Canadian film industry, in 1979 the CFPTA introduced a Jack Chisholm Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, a tradition that the CMPA continues to this day.

The one area where I have had no luck in uncovering information is Jack’s formative years in Dunvegan. If you have any information on his family, home farm, schooling and the like, I’d love to hear from you.