Open Doors Closed

24 Jun

Before I get into the meat of this first story, I think I should give you a brief report on the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s Soldiers, Weapons, and Medicine in WWI lecture that took place last Sunday. While the place wasn’t packed — I suspect that Father’s Day commitments had an impact on attendance — an enthusiastic audience of 37 men and women gathered under the shade of the William’s Pavilion to listen to Robin Flockton, Thelma MacCaskill and Steve Barrett talk about the world’s first global conflict. Each of the four twenty-minute presentations was fascinating. My only regret is that there was no easy way, given the venue, to provide visual support. Being able to see maps and photos from the period would have added a whole other dimension to the presentations. Nevertheless, it was an afternoon well wasted… to steal a line from the Comedy Network.

And talking about stealing, as I was leaving the Museum grounds on Sunday, I noticed that the usual Doors Open Ontario sign was no more. It had been replaced with one that branded the admission-free weekend as the “SD&G Passport to Our Past”… which is very close to the name that Upper Canada Village uses for its season passes.

My interest piqued, I let my fingers do the walking through the Googleverse, and discovered that Doors Open Ontario (usually held in September) no longer has an event in this region. First introduced in 2014, Passport to Our Past is billed as a “celebration of the stories of Cornwall and the Counties.” Like Doors Open, it offers visitors free admission to some of the region’s unique historical sites. Which is great.

The only problem is that when I looked over the locations under the Passport umbrella, they appeared to be very heavily skewed to the southern half of the region. For example, the list of Passport venues included: the Nightingale House, Lost Villages Museum and The Log Church and Pioneer Graveyard in South Stormont; the Carmen House Museum and Aultsville Train Station in South Dundas; the Nor’westers and Loyalist Museum, the Bethune Thompson House, Martintown Grist Mill, Lancaster Masonic Lodge and St. John’s The Evangelical Anglican Church in South Glengarry; and the Cornwall Community Museum, Historic Cornwall Jail and the St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre in Cornwall.

The only site in North Glengarry was the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. While a wonderful destination, this single venue at the tip-top of the County is a hard sell when stacked against a bottom-heavy tour map.

When I inquired about GPM attendance over the two-day event, I was told that 48 visitors took advantage of the opportunity. (This doesn’t include the 37 paying customers who attended the World War I lecture.) Museum curator, Jennifer Black, was pleased with the turnout. However, she hopes that next year the organizers can add a few more attractions in North Glengarry. “I hope more historic sites participate next year to bridge the gap,” says Jennifer.

Baby Show Revamped

As you’ve no doubt gathered from the road signs throughout the Township, this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday is Maxville Fair Weekend. Established in 1889, the Maxville Fair has been held for 127 consecutive years. This year’s edition will run from June 26th to June 28th.

Space doesn’t allow me to itemize all the happenings and attractions that organizers have planned. For that, I suggest that you visit their web site:

However, as the Dunvegan area has seen an uptick in the number of newborns, I wanted to draw attention to the Fair’s new and improved Baby Show. First of all, the event has a brand new home… and a new time. Instead of being held where it has been in the past, the competition has been moved to the Banquet Hall at the Maxville & District Sports Complex. While the Baby Show will still take place on Sunday, the registration desk will now open at 12:30 PM… and the judging will start at 1:00 PM.

I’m also told that the activities the contestants — primarily the older ones — will be asked to participate in have been fine-tuned for even more fun. If you like babies, and who doesn’t (as long they belong to someone or sign a pledge to never be a teenager), you might want to stop by hall at the Arena next Sunday to witness the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.

Church Social Returns

As you may recall, last year saw the revival of the annual Outdoor Social at the Kenyon Presbyterian Church. Just as it was back in the 50s and 60s, last summer’s redux of this tradition was a big hit. So much so, that the Kenyon Women’s Association has one planned for this summer.

The Kenyon Presbyterian Church’s 2015 Outdoor Social will take place on Tuesday, July 7th from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. The evening of fun, food and fellowship will feature great local entertainment and a host of activities for kids, including a bouncy castle, a blow-up slide and a fishpond.

Just like last year, there will be a bake sale table, a lemonade stand, a lunch and snacks. Organizers are still hammering out the cost of admission, but if last year is any indication, the price was only $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 got in for free. Even if the price goes up a buck or two, it’s all for a good cause. Proceeds from the event go towards the upkeep of the church.

If it’s raining, the concert will be held in the church. That’s what happened last year and it was still a hoot and a half. But, in the event the weather cooperates, don’t forget to bring your own lawn chairs. Or you can throw a blanket on the grass. And don’t forget, this event is open to all. You need not be a member of the Church to attend.

Life’s Back-up Drives

Museums, at least the historical kind, can be thought of as a cultural back-up drive. Just as Apple’s iCloud and Time Machine software keep a record of our important computer files and folders, museums preserve our history by safeguarding the countless artifacts that reflect our journey through time.

The same can be said of archives… the only difference being that archives are purpose-designed to protect society’s historical documents, the irreplaceable records that provide information about a place, institution or group of people. A museum focuses primarily on three-dimensional objects. An archive on the other hand specializes in two-dimensional objects of a historic nature: minute books, maps, newspapers, photographs, financial ledgers, church records and much more. The list is endless.

And thank goodness we finally have one here in Glengarry. I’m not entirely clear how the Councils of South and North Glengarry agreed to jointly support the foundation of a local historical archive. Nevertheless, they deserve our eternal gratitude for doing so.

I finally had an opportunity to drop by the Glengarry County Archives last week and was impressed by what archivist Allan MacDonald and his volunteers have accomplished in such a short time. There, in converted classrooms in the former French high school, are stored a growing collection of documents that could have been lost to us forever. Now they are safe from insects, rodents and the ravages of weather events and fire. What’s even more impressive is that these records are available for anyone to consult.

Located at 212 Main Street North in Alexandria, the archive is open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. I urge you to stop by if you’re in town. I’d also like to suggest that… if you possess papers from the past (for example, accounting ledgers from a family business or minutes and correspondence from your organization’s past)… you contact Allan at the Glengarry County Archives 613-209-0202. A disturbing amount of our local history is stored in basements, attics and sheds. It could be lost in the blink of an eye if arson, a flood or some other untoward event occurred.

To give me a tiny taste of what is lying on the shelves of the Glengarry County Archives, Allan kindly showed me a copy of an 1892 Bradstreet Directory. The forerunner of today’s Dun & Bradstreet reports, these early directories provided financial information on businesses of the time. Useful stuff if you were a bank or being asked to invest in a commercial venture.

Naturally, we immediately honed in on the listing for Dunvegan. And there, on page 20, were listings for the hamlet’s ten leading businessmen. The directory not only gave an account of each man’s trade (there was an agricultural implement dealer, a blacksmith, a weaver, a shoemaker, a watchmaker, three storekeepers and two hoteliers), it also provided the area’s population at the time (250, the same as today) and financial details on each individual, including their approximate assets and their creditworthiness. If you thought Dunvegan was just a clearing in the backwoods, the report on storekeeper Angus McIntosh might change your mind. Not only did he rate Bradstreet’s highest credit rating, he was reported to have a net worth of between $100,000 and $150,000. In today’s dollars, that is equivalent to between $2.6 and 3.9 MILLION dollars.