Canada 150 – #13 – And here’s to you Mr. Robinson.

Canada 150 – #13 – And here’s to you Mr. Robinson.  (…with apologies once again to Simon & Garfunkel…)

Canada 150 - #13 - And here's to you Mr. Robinson.

In the course of remodelling the Rec Room, I have been checking out some artwork that I haven’t really noticed for some time. One of those pieces is “Sou’wester” by L. Robinson. Laurence Robinson was a teacher in Annapolis Royal, better known as “Rip” Robinson (for reasons unknown to me). He and his wife Helen lived in Annapolis Royal until their deaths in 1986 and 2009 respectively. He had retired from teaching before I hit high school, but my older siblings had him as an English teacher.

Art was a hobby for him, and Mom & Dad had several of his works. This one was has a tag on the back for Chas Dargie & Sons, a long time business in Annapolis Royal for the better part of 100 years (a research project/story for another day). From what I can gather, I believe my parents may have purchased this one as a gift for my mother’s parents, because also on the back of the frame is “Norma” in my grandmother’s handwriting – she was always known for labelling her special things so that their eventual destination would be very clear when she died.

Anyway, here’s to you Mr. Robinson for your work in immortalizing various Nova Scotian scenes through your art.

TGS

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Canada 150 – #12 – Barbara’s Ball.

Canada 150 - #12 - Barbara's Ball.

I drove back from Bridgetown on the 201 the other day, and stopped to take a photo of what we always referred to as “Barbara’s Ball”. Clearly visible from either side of the river, it was always a sign that we were getting close to Bridgetown. (When you are a kid in a car, Annapolis Royal to Bridgetown seemed like an incredibly long drive so we were always excited to see Barbara’s Ball!).

Most of you will recognize this as the Britex ball, standing sentinel over what was the “Elastic Plant” in the early days, having opened in 1960 as a branch of United Elastic Limited. They made elastic for garments (as opposed to rubber bands). I remember school tours of the plant, and using donated elastic in our gym classes in elementary school – some kind of jumping activity that involved elastic… Much later, the company became Britex. Through the years they were always generous in donations – at the Gardens we still have reams of “Britex fabric” that we use as tablecloths and for decorating for special events.

At its peak, UEL/Britex employed hundreds but sadly modern trade and technology issues led to its demise and it closed in 2004. There are lots of great things about its history, as told in this article I found: http://www.ribbontothefuture.ca/blog/the-amazing-story-of-britex

The building is now abandoned and derelict, but Barbara’s Ball still stands sentinel, although certainly not the bright and shiny beacon it once was.

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Incidentally, the name “Barbara’s Ball” is attributable to my neighbour Barbara who evidently coveted the ball enough that the rest of us began referring to it as hers… Barbara’s sister Heather Foote can fill in any blanks on that end of things! Call it what you want, it is an iconic feature in the Bridgetown area.

PS – does anyone know if the tower/ball had an actual function?

TGS

Canada 150 – #11 – Of Witching and Witch Hazels…

Canada 150 - #11 - Of Witching and Witch Hazels.

Funny where a photo can take you sometimes. I started with the mindset of snagging a pretty picture, so headed out to see how the Witch Hazels were blooming. Which of course led me to consider what, if any, Canadian connection there might be. Which led me from our hybrids to the native witch hazels, which predictably (or not so much) led me to the always popular topic of water divining. Still with me?

Let me start again. Here we have a photograph of one of the Witch Hazels in the Gardens. These Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids are crosses between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis). Their job is to bloom in the winter, and for that alone they deserve an A+, right?

There is another Witch Hazel – H. virginiana – which is native to Nova Scotia among other places. You can see this in the woods in the more southern parts of the Province. It is rumoured that Point Pleasant Park is home to a number as well. It is a fall bloomer, rather than a winter one like the hybrids.

It also turns out that Witch Hazels were a common tree for use when witching for water, an art that has a long heritage in Nova Scotia. In fact, there are still many people who have the gift, and can find water with nothing but a Y-shaped twig, or a pair of coat hangers. It is very cool to watch… and to try!

So my quest for colour took me to an old rural tradition… and as always, I learned a couple things along the way. Oh yes, and in case you were wondering… the name Witch Hazel, they say, has nothing to do with witching/divining/dowsing for water. According to an article written by David Patriquin published in the Herald, “witch” is apparently derived from the Anglo Saxon “wych”, meaning bending or pliable (referring to the stems). “Hazel” refers to its hazel-like leaves. Actually, the article is an interesting read: http://thechronicleherald.ca/thenovascotian/151896-casting-a-colourful-fall-spell-in-our-forests

The Witch Hazel shown at the top is ‘Pallida’. And below, as a bonus shot, is ‘Jelena’. What a great plant!

TGS

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Canada 150 – #10 – A Canadian Icon.

Canada 150 - #10 - A Canadian Icon.

I had to run an errand in Digby today, so I stopped to take a photo of one of the Maud murals gracing the exterior of the Digby Visitor Information Centre. Mostly, I was looking for a bright, colourful photo today. But I confess, the story of Maud has always fascinated me so I am happy to use it in a Canada 150 post.

There’s hardly a person in Nova Scotia who is not familiar with the name “Maud Lewis” and at least somewhat familiar with her story. What a great chapter she painted in local history, a simple life that has given the world so much pleasure. Her artwork helped her survive, and was obviously her passion… but certainly she never would have imagined that the works she sold for a few dollars at the roadside would eventually be so popular and so valuable!

The restored Maud Lewis House is on permanent exhibit in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – worth visiting, or re-visiting, to remind yourself of this great story! There is also a great deal of information on their website. https://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/maud-lewis/

TGS

Canada 150 – #9 – Another Special Birthday.

Canada 150 - #9 - Another Special Birthday.

While Canada’s 150th Birthday is the theme of this year’s photo challenge, there will be other celebrations along the way. The first of those, and indeed one that will be reappearing throughout the year, is the 100th Anniversary of Fort Anne. On January 24, 1917, Fort Anne was designated as a National Historic Site, the first in Canada. This designation came as a result of a community movement to pressure the government to save and preserve this special piece of Canadian heritage. Thus began a federal legacy of preservation of National Historic Sites – there are currently 950 NHS in Canada, of which 171 are administered by Parks Canada.

The public is invited to join us in Annapolis Royal to mark the occasion on Tuesday, January 24, beginning at 10am at Town Hall. Celebrations will involve a re-enactment, sneak previews of the new exhibits, and of course, birthday cake!  Should be fun.

((Note: Event postponed until Friday Jan 27 due to weather forecast))

TGS

 

Canada 150 – #8 – Squirrel Nutkin.

Canada 150 - #8 - Squirrel Nutkin.

You may ask – what does this little character have to do with Canada 150? I am soooo glad you asked!  There are two ties, one obvious and the other not so much. Let me tell you about them.

The obvious: the Eastern Grey Squirrel is native to Eastern North America, and as such we are quite accustomed to seeing them here in southwest Nova Scotia. They have become increasingly domesticated in recent years and thus are even more evident. Their antics are a frequent source of entertainment in the Gardens, although often a source of frustration for our gardeners.

The not-so-obvious: Beatrix Potter, author of Squirrel Nutkin, would be 150 if she were still alive. She was born July 28, 1866, shortly before the confederation we are now celebrating. How’s that for a piece of useless trivia?

Canada 150 – #7 – Rose Fortune.

Canada 150 - #7 - Fundy Rose.

I happened to be in Digby today while the ferry was in, so I took a photo. Then I thought about the name of the ferry, and thought this would be a good topic for my Canada 150 post today. I did not realize until a bit later, that this is Martin Luther King day, making my choice just that much better.

So back to the ferry. It is named the Fundy Rose, in part because of its route across the Bay of Fundy, and partly in honour of Rose Fortune. Rose Fortune was one of Annapolis Royal’s more notable residents, living and working here in the early 1800s. She was born into slavery in the States, reportedly arrived in Annapolis Royal when she was 10 and eventually ran a transport business in the Town as well as holding an unofficial post as “police officer”, the first female police officer in Canada. Rose’s transport business was carried on as a family business through subsequent generations, eventually named Lewis Transfer which operated until 1960. The last operator of Lewis Transfer was the father of none other than Daurene Lewis, who had a remarkable life in her own right, and the notable achievement of becoming the first black female Mayor in Canada when she was elected Mayor of Annapolis Royal in the 1980s.

From Rose Fortune through the generations to Daurene Lewis, this was a proud family with great strength of character. So I will close with a quote from Martin Luther King which relates well to this story:  “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” 

While I am sure this family was judged unfairly by the colour of their skin at times, their strength of character shone through.

For more on Rose Fortune’s story, visit this page on the Annapolis Heritage Society website.

TGS

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