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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anchor Recalls bygone days of a Busy Port

In 2002 Brian Mountford found a large iron anchor eroding out of the sand on the beach by his waterfront property in Bond Head just south of Newcastle.  The anchor is now mounted in his backyard and is a rare reminder of the days when Bond Head was a busy commercial port known as Port Newcastle.  Brian’s property once belonged to Captain Frank Gibson so we assume the anchor came from one of his schooners.  In the 1800’s there was a lot of trade over the Great Lakes using schooners and steamboats.  Schooners were used to carry bulk cargoes while freight and passengers usually went by steamboat.  Although Port Newcastle did not grow as its original investors hoped it did eventually have a large pier with lighthouse, a warehouse, a grain elevator and the small community around it boasted a mill, a few hotels.

Until 1890 the main crop in this area was barley which was sold in great quantity to American breweries.  So schooners leaving ports like Newcastle would have barley in their holds, but upon returning from the United States they would carry coal.  Of course, the schooner captains would carry whatever paying cargo they could find.  A small book in the collection of the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society believed to be a log book of sorts once belonging to Captain Gibson shows that he travelled all over the Great Lakes picking up and delivering cargoes and that much of this consisted of staves.  Staves are the wooden pieces that barrels are made from and at this time most freight was shipped in barrels.

Clarington had two other ports besides Port Newcastle.  They were Port Darlington and Port Granby.  Port Darlington was easily the largest and most active.  It boasted one of the longest piers on the north shore of Lake Ontario, a light house, customs office, two grain elevators and a large coal shed.  A schooner was even built there in the 1840’s.  It was called the “David Fisher” after the custom agent at the time.  Port Granby was in the eastern part of Clarington south of Newtonville.  It prospered briefly in the 1860’s but was mainly a place for farmers to ship their produce.  By 1890 it had seen better days.

Travel by water was, early on, the most convenient method to get to Clarington.  With the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856 emphasis switched away from the boats and harbours.  Trains were faster, more efficient and less costly.  Today Clarington is reawakening to its waterfront.  People are choosing to live there and building fine new homes; and parks are being established for the benefit of everyone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canada’s Sweetheart is at Clarington Museums

The news of Barbara Ann Scott’s death has been a top story this week. Do not be misled in thinking she was just a figure skater; her influence and important goes far beyond the sport itself. She has been called “Canada’s Sweetheart” and the “Queen of Skating”, but when she won the Olympic Gold Medal for individual figure skating in 1948 she became a Canadian icon. The Canadian public weary of war news and its aftermath rejoiced in having a positive role model and sports superstar in their midst. Prime Minister Mackenzie King said she gave the Canadian public, “courage to get through the darkness of the postwar gloom.” Newsreel footage from the time shows an excited Scott giving the Prime Minister a kiss on the cheek!
She kept the glow going long after 1948 by her positive attitude and gracious personality. She inspired generations of skaters including Frannie Dafoe who was a silver medal winner at the 1956 Winter Olympics, “All the little girls growing up wanted to be a Barbara Ann Scott” she said. Others, who received inspiration from Scott, are Kurt Browning and Elizabeth Manley. One skating official remarked, “She was Canada’s perfect ambassador: beautiful, gracious and charming. She always had time and interest to encourage young skaters and fans. She took her role as part of skating’s history seriously.”

To date no other Canadian has duplicated Barbara Ann Scott’s Olympic achievement. In later years her interest turned towards equestrian pursuits where she became highly regarded. There is no doubt that she will be missed on the Canadian scene and even more so in her home town of Ottawa.

Clarington Museums, as many of you know, possesses the best collection of Canadian dolls owned by any museum anywhere. In this collection we have four Barbara Ann Scott dolls. What Shirley Temple was to little girls in the 1930’s Barbara Ann Scott was to Canadian girls in the1950’s. The history of these dolls has been researched by Evelyn Robson Strahlendorf, the dean of Canadian doll collectors. Some of the Barbara Ann Scott dolls we have in our collection came from her. Six Barbara Ann Scott dolls were produced by Reliable Toys of Toronto between 1948 and 1953. All are composition and 15 inches tall. They are very collectible and one in good condition can cost as much as $400.00 dollars. Former Bowmanville Museum Curator, Dan Hoffman, then working at the Nepean Museum near Ottawa borrowed one of the Barbara Ann Scott dolls for an exhibit. When Ms. Scott came to his museum he had her sign the leg of the doll. So, we are blessed with this very special memento of Barbara Ann Scott.

The tradition of Canadian athletes appearing in doll form is a popular one. Besides Barbara Ann Scott other skaters such as Karen Magnussen and Elizabeth Manley have been so honoured more than once. Olympic Ski Champion Anne Heggtviet had two different dolls made in her likeness in 1961. Great Lakes swimmer Marilyn Bell had a doll out in 1954. Two Canadian hockey greats have been made into action figures: Bobby Orr in 1975 and Wayne Gretzky in 1983. It is interesting to note that except for Wayne Gretzky all these dolls were made in Canada by Canadian companies.

The pictures below is from “Dolls of Canada: A Reference Guide” by Mrs. Strahlendorf. She is also the author of “The Charlton Standard guide of Canadian Dolls” which has gone through three editions. Both books are indispensible to any serious collector of Canadian dolls.

Bowmanville’s connection to Sam “the Record Man” Sniderman

The recent death of Sam Sniderman has many Canadians feeling nostalgic for records and the old Sam the Record Man Store on Yonge Street in Toronto. In those days, a trip to downtown Toronto wasn’t complete until you stopped by his store to pick up the latest album of your favourite group or to find a rare recording that no one else had.
Sam Sniderman, the store and chain’s founder first got into the record business in 1937 and his flagship store was a fixture on Yonge Street from 1961 until 2007 (only one Sam the Record Man Store still exists and it’s at the Quinte Mall in Belleville). He was an avid promoter of Canadian music his entire life. He advocated Canadian content broadcast regulations and established the Juno Awards. He supported and assisted many Canadian musicians and bands over the years and eventually was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada for founding the Recording Archive Library at the University of Toronto.

Bowmanville’s connection to Sam Sniderman is tenuous but interesting. His former wife Eleanor Koldofsky, herself an avid promoter of Canadian music, is the sister-in-law of Gwendolyn Williams (1906-1998). Mrs. Williams was born and educated in Bowmanville and led a successful career in piano accompanying. She married Eleanor’s brother Adolph in 1934. Adolph Koldosky (1905-1951) was a noted violinist who played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, later became concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and eventually moved to Los Angeles to work at R.K.O. Studios.

Gwendolyn Williams came from a distinguished Bowmanville family. Her great-grand-father, Dunham Williams, was a Loyalist pioneer who opened the first woollen mill in Bowmanville. Mark D. Williams, her grand-father, ran a successful mercantile and undertaking business as did her father, Alan Williams. She attended Central Public School and Bowmanville High School. Her musical ability on the piano was noted at an early age and she participated in many local concerts and recitals. She even preformed for Toronto radio stations. Her studies took her to Europe. She travelled by the “RMS Olympic” and in 1926 was presented to King George V and Queen Mary. Gwendolyn became a music teacher at the University of Southern California where from 1947 to 1988 she developed and headed the Department of Accompaniment.

Some of the above names may not be familiar to readers of this blog but in their day and to people interested in classical music all the names above are giants in their field. Gwendolyn Williams is truly one of Clarington’s unsung heroes.

The picture of Ms. Williams is from “Bowmanville 150 Stories for 150 years”. It is available at the museum’s gift shop.