The next Bob Dylan?

19 Apr

If you could travel back in time to the night of Thursday, June 28th, 1962 and magically turnedup at a small Montreal music club called Le PotPourri, you could have a seen an unknown folk singer’s debut performance in that city. Booked for a four-night gig, at the princely sum of $50 per night, the performer’s stage name was… Bob Dylan. From the account I read, you wouldn’t have had any trouble snagging a good table. There were only a handful of patronsin the audience.

Now, I’m not promising you’ll meet a future superstar if you attend the ‘Dunvegan Jam’ this coming Saturday, April 22nd at 7:00 pm in the Dunvegan Recreation Hall. But you never know.

Denis Lavigne of Dunvegan is organizing the popular musical free-for-all, and he wants to remind you that everyone is invited to bring his or her favourite instrument(s) and join in thefun. The DRA hall is located at 19053 County Road 24, and there’s no charge to take part (or stop by and just listen). For more information, give Denis a call at 613-363-8562.

An opportunity lost?

Way back in 2012, Carma Williams, Rob Merriman and I attempted to interest Mike Dean’s Super Food Stores in opening a location in Maxville. We had looked closely at the Mike Dean’s outlet in Vankleek Hill (now a Foodland) and it seemed like the perfect way to remove one of Maxville’s major barriers to growth: the lack of a grocery store. We had done our homework. The projected catchment area for a Maxville store had a combined population of 7,792. The demographic profile was fairly evenly split with 32% under 25, 40% between 25 and 54 and 33% over 54. Nearly 84% owned their own home, over 90% of which were detached. And a United Counties report reported that an average of 2,000 vehicles per daypassed through Maxville.

Unfortunately, we were missing an important part of the puzzle; Mike Dean’s wasn’t looking to expand. In fact, it soon became clear the regional chain was in trouble and planning to close locations, starting with the Vankleek Hill store. There are only three locations left today: Chesterville, Sharbot Lake and Bourget.

Over a decade later, the opportunity remains unrealized, and Maxville is still without a real, honest-to-god grocery store. What’s more, the odds of this ever happening may have just gotten worse. It’s rumoured that a big food retailer may be setting up shop at the south end of St. Isidore in the near future. This, of course, would be great news for those of us in Dunvegan. Not so much, though, for the merchants of Maxville.

Work bee to Royalty

Jennifer Black, the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s curator, sent me last minute news of two upcoming events. The first is the GPM’s annual Spring Work Bee on Saturday morning, April 29th. The bee will start at 9:00 am and run until a light lunch is served at noon. In addition to the usual sweeping away of winter detritus, retrieving of artifacts from storage and a spot of gardening and a touch of minor maintenance, Jennifer needs helping hands this year to spread the piles of new gravel on the pathways. This latter task is perfect for a few high school students who need some volunteer hours. If you own one of these in working condition, please drop the hint.

Jennifer’s second heads-up was that the museum’s Annual General Meeting is at long last a live, in-person event again. On top of a real old-fashioned potluck dinner and ‘Pioneer’ awards ceremony, guest speaker Allan J. MacDonald, Glengarry’s chief archivist, will talkabout three past royal visits to Glengarry. So save the date: Friday, May 5th at the DRA Hall, 19053 County Road 24. I hope to have more details for next week’s column, including the name of the master of ceremonies and the time cocktails are being served, so to speak.

The work of lifetimes

Last Saturday, as I sped past the open fields east of Fiske’s Corners — land that was already alive with the first green blush of winter wheat — I was overawed by the efforts expended generations ago to make way for these near flawless seedbeds. To clear plots in the bush for home and cultivation, serious-size trees had to be felled using nothing other than an axe. No chainsaws, No high hoes. No hydraulic tree harvesters. Even the crosscut saw… game-changing technology that, in its time, increased productivity many-fold… was only introduced in the latter part of the 19th century.

Historian Robert Leslie Jones in History of Agriculture in Ontario 1613-1880 describes what life might have been like in the early days of these farms far from ‘The Front’ along the St. Lawrence River. “(The backs woodsman) who began without capital was still primarily engaged in waged work: he cleared his farm between times, and scarcely looked for a crop to sell, relying on making enough to keep his family over the winter on what he could earn on a pilgrimage to the harvest fields along the front.”

So how long could this process take? Well it depends. In his article Forest into Farmland, Peter A. Russell contends that, “one man labouring without a large family or capital to hire others could expect to clear only one and a half acres per year.” However, ‘personkind’ is nothing if not resourceful. And next week we’ll take a peek at the intermediary step in ‘making a farm’, whereby settlers began by harvesting the forest cover on their land.