Our County Cor­re­spon­dents

The Glengarry News - - The Classified­s - JAMES JOYCE 613-527-1201 [email protected] tam- creek. ca

In­de­pen­dent en­counter

When you hit the In­de­pen­dent in Alexan­dria (as I am wont to do most Satur­days), you never know whom you’ll run into. Two week­ends ago, I struck gold; I bumped into life­long Dun­ve­gan res­i­dent, Paul Tenger. Suf­fi­ciently aware of the fail­ings of those from away like my­self, Paul skipped over the stan­dard Glen­garry con­ver­sa­tional starter (a.k.a., the weather) and we caught up as old ac­quain­tances do, de­cry­ing the van­ish­ing sense of neigh­bourli­ness that once glued the small com­mu­nity of Dun­ve­gan to­gether. “Years ago, when my house burned down, I had count­less of­fers of places to stay” Paul told me, ”long be­fore the fire en­gines even ar­rived at the scene. It was heart-warm­ing.”

I’m not en­tirely sure how we got on to the topic of cars, for I am not known as a car buff. Nev­er­the­less, I’m ever so grate­ful that we did. My best guess is that our dis­cus­sion grew out of a mu­tual agree­ment that “new” didn’t au­to­mat­i­cally mean “bet­ter.” As an ex­am­ple of this premise, Paul of­fered his new-for-him wheels: a 1966 Chrysler 300 with 60,372 orig­i­nal miles on the clock, that he had just ac­quired this past spring. I could tell that, for Paul, the ve­hi­cle was an im­por­tant check­mark on his clas­sic car bucket list.

One of the other high­lights along this road to Chrysler 300 nir­vana was Paul’s ac­qui­si­tion of a Rolls Royce Sil­ver Cloud II a few years ago. When I asked Paul why, if own­ing a Rolls had been such a dream, he had let it go, his ex­pla­na­tion was sim­ple. “I loved it… a car that took 18 hides of hand-matched, im­ported leather to up­hol­ster and had lamb’s wool on the floor and on the roof liner… what’s not to love?” But he lived ev­ery day in fear that it might break down. (Rolls Royce in­sists their ve­hi­cles never break down. They merely ex­pe­ri­ence a “fail­ure to pro­ceed.”) The down­side is that this “fail­ure” can be mighty costly. The pre­vi­ous owner of Paul’s Rolls had spent $9,000 US just to ser­vice the rear brakes.

Next, Paul traded the Rolls for a Model A Ford, plus a mint-in­box snow blower and an air com­pres­sor. The Ford didn’t hang around long, though. It was sold to a Euro­pean buyer, I be­lieve, which freed up the funds for his amaz­ing deep ma­roon Chrysler clas­sic. Given its age, the car is in su­perb shape. The paint, while a bit faded in spots, is un­touched by rust. The chrome, of which there ap­pears to be at least an acre in­side and out, is pit-free and as shiny as the day it rolled off the as­sem­bly line. The en­gine com­part­ment is un­clut­tered and al­most clean enough to eat off. In fact, it’s cleaner than some eater­ies I’ve vis­ited in my youth. And the trunk is suf­fi­ciently spa­cious to hold a brace of dead mob­sters from Chicago, and their lug­gage… plus the car’s orig­i­nal bias-ply spare tire.

But let’s pull this back on topic, i.e., that new isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter.

Paul of­fered two at­tributes of the Chrysler 300 to un­der­score his point. The first was vis­i­bil­ity. Like most of the cars of its era, the 300 is a ‘boat’… even tend­ing to­wards land yacht sta­tus. “But the vis­i­bil­ity is in­cred­i­ble,” boasted Paul. “360 de­grees!” This brought up my pet peeve with our lat­est Rondo; KIA took what had been a ve­hi­cle with great all-around vis­i­bil­ity and turned it into a pimp­mo­bile with nar­row win­dows and so many blind spots our present model came with a back-up cam­era (one that you can’t see if there’s a hint of sun­shine). And they call this progress.

“It’s also amaz­ingly quiet,” claimed Paul. “You can travel down the high­way with all the win­dows rolled down and still hold a nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion with ev­ery­one in the car.” I took this lat­ter claim with a grain of salt be­cause I know that if I drive our Kia Rondo in the win­dow­down mode, the noise is beyond deaf­en­ing. It’s mind numb­ing.

And so our en­counter came to a close. At least un­til a few min­utes af­ter I ar­rived home, when Paul and his ma­roon 300 un­ex­pect­edly pulled in be­hind me. “If you’re go­ing to write about it,” Paul sagely ob­served, “you’d bet­ter take it out for a spin.” And so I did, down to down­town Dun­ve­gan and back. And as I tooled along (at the speed limit, nat­u­rally) and with the win­dows wide open, Paul and I con­tin­ued our con­ver­sa­tion as ef­fort­lessly as we would have in my liv­ing room. And to re­ally make my day, the mo­ment I slipped be­hind the wheel, the world of gov­ern­ment-en­forced met­ri­fi­ca­tion melted away. There be­fore me was a chrome­s­plashed, MPH-only dash that trans­ported me back to my very first (used) car: a 1964 Pon­tiac con­vert­ible. Thank you, Paul.

Model T

This next piece also has a bit of an au­to­mo­tive twist. Ge­orge Kam­pouris, when talk­ing with me about his Glen­garry Rocks pre­sen­ta­tion this com­ing Sun­day at the Glen­garry Pi­o­neer Mu­seum, re­vealed a lit­tle known fact (at least to me) about the pa­le­on­tol­ogy of Glen­garry. Nearly 100 years ago, Dr. Alice Wil­son, the first fe­male ge­ol­o­gist at the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Canada ( GSC), prospected for fos­sils all over our county. “She drove up and down the rut­ted con­ces­sion roads in a Model T Ford,” said Ge­orge, “and would stop fre­quently to ask farm­ers about rocks on their farm and re­quest per­mis­sion to wan­der their stone hedgerows.” Ge­orge told me that it was a prac­tice he adopted when he started in pa­le­on­tol­ogy.

Dr. Wil­son was born in Cobourg, On­tario in 1881 to a fam­ily that valued the sciences and the joys of out­door life. In 1909, Wil­son started work at the GSC in Ot­tawa as a mu­seum as­sis­tant. De­spite fac­ing many daunt­ing bar­ri­ers as a woman, she re­mained at the Sur­vey the rest of her life and qui­etly be­came a lead­ing ex­pert in the pa­le­on­tol­ogy of this area. In the process, Dr. Wil­son pro­duced a very ac­cu­rate se­ries of ge­o­log­i­cal maps of the Ot­tawa re­gion ( with­out the aid of Google Maps) and au­thored a col­lec­tion of iconic pub­li­ca­tions that de­tailed all the fos­sils in the re­gion, by group.

Dr. Wil­son’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed in a man’s world can be seen in her ‘drive’ to be al­lowed to do field work. At the time, this was the ex­clu­sive do­main of men.

While she re­luc­tantly ac­cepted that work­ing in re­mote ar­eas with male col­leagues was ver­boten, she did con­vince the GSC to send her on short trips to the rel­a­tively un­stud­ied Ot­tawaSaint Lawrence Val­ley. As the Cel­e­brat­ing Women’s Achieve­ments sec­tion of the Li­brary and Archives Canada web site (www.col­lec­tion­scanada.gc.ca/women/) notes:

“For the next fifty years, (Dr. Wil­son) stud­ied this area on foot, by bi­cy­cle and even­tu­ally by car. When the Sur­vey would not is­sue her a car for field work as they did men, she bought her own.”

Now I’m not sure if Ge­orge will be men­tion­ing Dr. Wil­son next Sun­day, but if you’d like to find out, I urge you to at­tend the in­for­ma­tion- packed event on Au­gust 14 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sad sign of the times

It sad­dened me to see the ap­pear­ance of a For Sale sign at the end of Bon­nie Laing and Greg By­ers’s lane way last week. I was just get­ting used to their move from the ham­let of Dun­ve­gan to Mar­garet MacCrim­mon’s iconic On­tario brick farm­house at the east­ern end of Dun­ve­gan Road, when they de­cided to pull up stakes again and look for a smaller place in Van­kleek Hill.

I un­der­stand their un­der­ly­ing mo­ti­va­tion com­pletely. Old houses, es­pe­cially big old houses, are a per­pet­ual merry-gor­ound of main­te­nance and re­pairs. It’s as if the house “owns” the oc­cu­pants and af­fords them lit­tle, if any, spare time for other pur­suits, like travel to far-off lands.

Nev­er­the­less, with Bon­nie’s im­pend­ing de­par­ture (added to Bill Gil­dorf’s and Su­san Joiner’s re­cent re­turn to their Mon­tréal roots), it means that shock­ingly few of us from the orig­i­nal gang of Dun­ve­gan and Dun­ve­gan-in­spirit im­mi­grants re­main.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Sean

On a hap­pier note, I learned when talk­ing with Linda Burgess at last week­end’s Wil­liamstown Fair that her son, Sean (owner of the old brick school­house north of the Dun­ve­gan cross­roads) has fi­nally landed a full-time teach­ing po­si­tion with the Up­per Canada School Dis­trict.

For years, this tal­ented teacher has had to make do with short­term as­sign­ments, re­plac­ing teach­ers on sick leave or sab­bat­i­cal.

How­ever, that pe­riod is now at an end. He will be teach­ing full-time in Rock­land and I wish him all the best in this new stage of his ca­reer.

Mystery bus spot­ted

In­terim cu­ra­tor, Renée Ho­miak, sent me word about a unique bus tour with about 35 peo­ple that stopped by Dun­ve­gan mu­seum on the Satur­day af­ter­noon of the Glen­garry High­land Games. What made this bus ex­cur­sion so spe­cial is that the pas­sen­gers were not in­formed in ad­vance of the tour’s des­ti­na­tion.

So many of the peo­ple Renée spoke with had never been here be­fore and were amazed at how much is here at the lit­tle mu­seum tucked away in Dun­ve­gan.

Chris­tened the Mag­i­cal Mystery Bus Tour, the event had been or­ga­nized as a fundraiser by the United Se­nior Cit­i­zens of On­tario and the Long Sault Friendly Cir­cle Se­niors Club.

And the or­ga­niz­ers, Car­son El­liot and Betty Wheeler, have de­clared it "a re­sound­ing suc­cess" on their Face­book page.

Since the be­gin­ning of June, Renée tells me that the GPM has seen five large groups stop by for tours, lunch un­der the pav­il­ion and to en­joy the beau­ti­ful set­ting.

“We’re also sched­uled to have two more be­fore the month's end,” she told me. Renée’s favourite part of large tours is the con­ver­sa­tions she strikes up with the visi­tors.

“Mem­o­ries and funny mo­ments are shared and I al­ways walk away learning some­thing new,” says Renée.

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