We’ll for­ever miss the wit and smile of Ron­nie John­son

Seaway News - - OPINION - Claude McIn­tosh Mac’s Mus­ings

The great col­lege bas­ket­ball coach Al McGuire, who had first- hand knowl­edge work­ing as a bar­tender while at­tend­ing col­lege, said that the best post grad­u­ate course would be six months work­ing as a bar­tender. Then, he said, “they would re­ally be ed­u­cated.”

Ron­nie “Jiggy” John­son did not only do the post grad thing rec­om­mended by McGuire af­ter fin­ish­ing col­lege but he turned it into a ca­reer that spanned 46 years.

He was ar­guably Corn­wall’s best- known, best- read, most- beloved bar­keep, spend­ing 31 years at New Park­way Ho­tel’s Win­ners Sports Bar, the last dozen or so as man­ager.

He cut his teeth in the busi­ness at the rus­tic Lloyd Ge­orge ho­tel draft room while at­tend­ing col­lege, spent some time in the Mar­itimes mak­ing piz­zas, never giv­ing out his “se­cret recipe” ex­cept to say that it was “all in the sauce.” He re­turned to the city, work­ing at the long- ago de­funct Cap­tain’s Inn. It was he and side­kick Mort Bel­more ( Quinn’s Inn), with Jack Roy in tow, who launched Win­ners and fash­ioned it into the city’s most pop­u­lar sports wa­ter­ing hole.

Some­body once asked him why he be­came a bar­tender and not a teacher, like his mother and sis­ter. “Can’t stand talk­ing to kids,” he fired back.

Seems every­body had their favourite Jiggy story, my­self in­cluded.

Like the time I popped into Win­ners on a quiet Satur­day af­ter­noon. He was at the other end of the bar work­ing away on a crossword puz­zle, obliv­i­ous to my unan­nounced pres­ence.

Af­ter a minute or two I took out my cell phone, di­aled the Park­way and asked for Win­ners Sports Bar.

The phone rang. He shuf­fled over to the phone, picked it up and an­nounced “Win­ners!” to wit I in­quired if the bar was open on this par­tic­u­lar day. He said yes. Then I asked if they were serv­ing cus­tomers. He growled “of course.” Fine, I said, would you mind bring­ing me a beer.

To say he was not amused would be an un­der­state­ment.

He liked to keep his bar tidy: the foot­ball pool sheets had to be piled ever so neatly on the bar; the idle bar stools had to be lined up like sol­diers ready for in­spec­tion; bills per­fectly placed in the cash reg­is­ter in banker fash­ion.

He was a walk­ing en­cy­clo­pe­dia on lo­cal his­tory, es­pe­cially when it came to his deep, rich fam­ily roots that stretched back to the Civil War and the role played by his great grand­fa­ther, Capt. A. J. MacDon­ald, who served on Gen­eral Grant’s Union staff and fought in 15 ma­jor bat­tles, in­clud­ing Get­tys­burg.

He was a great story teller. One of his favourite was about the time he and Ge­orge Mar­lin went to Scot­land. While en­joy­ing a pint in a pub, a cou­ple of lasses in­quired about the source of their “strange” ac­cent.

“We’re from Canada,” said the quick­think­ing Jiggy. “We own a buf­falo farm and sup­ply the fur for those tall hats the guards at Buck­ing­ham Palace wear.”

Then there was the time a cou­ple of chaps showed up on a July evening at Win­ners. A re- run from the NHL reg­u­lar sea­son was on a sports chan­nel. The two, not ex­actly Har­vard ma­te­rial, were sur­prised to see an NHL game on TV in July.

With­out miss­ing a beat, Jiggy ex­plained that “This is the NHL sum­mer hockey league.”

“Gee, we never heard about one.

“First sea­son,” said Jiggy. ex­per­i­ment­ing with four teams.”

A cou­ple of weeks later, with Mort be­hind the bar, the two showed up and asked if he could switch the base­ball game to “that new sum­mer NHL the other guy had on.”

He was a diehard Chicago Black­hawks’ fan who blamed ev­ery one of their losses on the ref­er­ees. And when it came to Les Cana­di­ens, it was any­body but the Habs.

Golf was his pas­time pas­sion. So, when his son Scott de­vel­oped into a top notch golfer and won the Corn­wall Open a few years back, with Jiggy serv­ing as his caddy, he was one hell of a proud dad.

Last Tues­day morn­ing, JIggy was found dead in his home, felled by a heart at­tack at age 65.

Bruce Wick­ham, among his large le­gion of friends, said it for all of us, “I loved the guy.”

TRIVIA AN­SWER De­nis Carr was one of three con­tes­tants in the fed­eral Stor­mont- Dundas Con­ser­va­tive Rid­ing As­so­ci­a­tion nom­i­na­tion race in 1988. He lost to Eric Cameron. Grant Camp­bell, who rep­re­sented the rid­ing from 1958- 1962 when he lost to Lu­cien Lamoureux by 70 votes, one of the clos­est lo­cal fed­eral or pro­vin­cial elec­tions races.

TRIVIA This fam­ily owned dairy sold

this,” said

“Just to Becker’s in 1975, end­ing the era of lo­cal fam­ily- owned dairies.

IN THE REAR- VIEW MIR­ROR Things called gramo­phones, phono­graphs, dial phones, long dis­tance op­er­a­tors, tele­grams, tele­vi­sion re­pair­men, ra­dio tubes, ice boxes, milk bot­tles, the eg­gman, the belt­line, coun­try cheese fac­to­ries, a Stan­ley Cup pa­rade in Toronto. ... Hall’s Hard­ware Store on lower Pitt Street. The Snetsinger Block and Corn­wall Com­mer­cial Col­lege run by a guy called Ge­orge Smith. ... Charges credit cards that first showed up in Corn­wall in 1970. ... When kids learned to skate at the neigh­bour­hood park rink on bob­skates. ... When the only thing to watch on tele­vi­sion at 1 a. m. was a test pat­tern and folks rented a colour TV for the Grey Cup game or at Christ­mas.

AROUND & ABOUT St. Lawrence Cen­tre over in Massena Town will be go­ing on the auc­tion block. If you are in the mall buy­ing mood, there isn’t much time to think it over. The New York City group that owns the 548,612 square- foot mall on Route 37 is ac­cept­ing on- line bids be­tween Dec. 9- 11 on Auc­tion. com. You will need more than loose change. The open­ing bid will be posted at $ 1.250 mil­lion, but it will take more than that. The re­serve bid is ex­pected to be just above $ 4 mil­lion. The as­sessed value of the mall, which has an arena, is $ 4,843,750. ... The folks tasked with op­er­at­ing Sun Me­dia news­pa­pers on shoe- string bud­gets, the S- F is one, no doubt will be told to cut a lit­tle deeper again next year to help pick up the tab for that fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter called Sun News TV which is drown­ing in red ink, said to be around $ 16 mil­lion a year. Some com­mu­nity cable shows have more view­ers.

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