Monthly Archives: May 2014

WELLAND SNAPS: Sunday stroll

“All walking is discovery. On foot we take time to see things whole. We see trees as well as forests, people as well as crowds. When the mood is right – and walking provokes such a mood when we are in most need of it – we can even see ourselves with particular clarity. We get our feet back on the ground.” – Hal Borland, from To Own the Streets and Fields.

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CAPTION: A portion of the west side canal trail (behind Notre Dame College School) on Sunday morning. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I was somewhat blue and needed spirit-lifting green. So I went to a nearby place for a Sunday stroll.

It was the west side canal trail at the end of Thorold Rd. E. You know that piece of prime green estate stretching along the canal to the end of Smith St. and beyond.

Don’t come here if you want to be far from the madding crowd. It’s a Sunday strollers delight. Not to mention: dog walkers, baby-buggy pushers, cyclists on their own or in cheery packs of half a dozen or even a dozen and more. Quite the place on a cheery, sunlit Sunday morning.

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Even the main drag here, Chippawa Rd. (the link between Thorold Rd. E. and Smith St.) is a site for sad and sore eyes. It’s pretty and picturesque, mature trees on both sides of the straightaway street.

I walked the canal trail with great expectations of silence and solitude, particularly at this hour of day. But this was not to be. This place is well known and well used by many, certainly not a well-kept secret known to just a select few.

If the high road is not what you are looking for, then try the low road for a sole-testing stroll.

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It’s a dirt path that leads, eventually, to water’s edge, the canal, that is. This is a great walk in itself, the path is straight for most part but there’s a bend or two, just enough to keep you guessing about what’s out of sight around the turn.

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From the other side of the brush you will hear the sharp commands of a rowing coach’s voice and if you listen closely enough the sounds of oars breaking the water’s surface. Then, precisely at 10 a.m, the recorded chimes from St. Anthony Croatian Catholic parish on the east side, sort of drifting across to the west. If I’m allowed to paraphrase: Do not ask for whom the chimes ring, they ring for you.

So long, blues.

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(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. WELLAND SNAPS is a photo essay appearing weekly on the blog.)

The newest in campus housing

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CAPTION: There is new housing at the Niagara College Welland campus – not for students, mind you, but for our feathered friends. A half dozen or so bird houses were put up this week near the base of and inside one of the berms. Finches, robins, blue jays, cardinals and other species inhabit or visit the wooded area. If you walk the trails, especially early in the morning, you’ll be serenaded by a symphony of sound coming from within and above. Two of the units were being inspected by prospective tenants mid-morning today. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

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CAPTION: Vacancy. Apply within.

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CAPTION: Looks like it might be moving day in this unit!

It’s My Life, Sort Of – How old fashioned am I?

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CAPTION: One of my two old-fashioned manual typewriters. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy.

Most of the time I think I am better off for it.

How old fashioned am I?

Well, I think telephones have one purpose: to talk on them. I don’t have a phone that takes photographs. Come to think of it, I still do not have a basic cellphone.

Our telephone at home has a redial function – a small concession to modernity. You can redial a number just by pressing the designated key. But that’s too modern for this old-fashioned guy. Besides, being retired, I certainly have enough time on my hands to push 10 keys to make a local call.

How old fashioned am I?

I still prefer to read my newspaper holding it in my hands. Or in prone position on the floor, the paper open wide and spread out before me. I would rather not read the news on a computer screen, or a cell phone or other “device” using one of those “app” thingys.

How old fashioned am I?

I can live my life without Facebook, I try to stay off as much as I can even though I have two Facebook accounts. Don’t ask me how that happened;

I prefer listening to music in CD format  – on my old Discman, believe it or not;

I still think of two tablets of stone and the 10 Commandments when I overhear people talking about their “tablets”;

I prefer books in hard or soft cover format, I don’t have a Kobo or other eReader of any kind;

Although I use a laptop for my writing, I have an old, black Underwood nearby – nostalgia I suppose, and a portable Remington in its case – ready to go in case of an emergency. Pinned to the wall over the desk where I write is a much-admired (by me) opinion piece by the actor, producer, director and writer Tom Hanks. The headline says: ‘I Am TOM. I Like to TYPE. Hear that?’  It’s a well-written ode to the manual typewriter, of which Mr. Hanks is a huge fan;

I prefer a push mower to an electric lawn mower. The electric lawn mower was purchased for me as a birthday gift several years ago. The wheels are wobbly and the handle looks like it will fall off just about any day now. I will never have an electric lawn mower again;

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I prefer to water roses by hand, using a pail. Not the pail that accompanies this piece as a photograph – it’s old and it’s a memento. I prefer pails to the soaker hose that was bought as a gift to make watering easier and less time consuming. The soaker hose that snakes its way through the flower beds pales in effectiveness compared to the watering pails I still use.

How old fashioned am I?

I record my appointments in two soft-cover datebooks, one that fits into my pocket, the other that stays on my desk;

I have never “texted” a message to anyone;

I still believe in having “Sunday” shoes – worn only for church or other special occasions;

I prefer writing letters and cards by hand, but must admit e-mail has taken a toll on my personal correspondence;

I’ve sent a telegram but not an Instagram.

And finally, I’ve found a font that makes this old-fashioned guy feel at home while working at the modern-era word processor’s keyboard: Bookman Old Style.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. It’s My Life, Sort Of, appears weekly on the blog.)

WELLAND SNAPS: Faces in the crowd

 

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By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Faces in the crowd.

Could you recognize these?

They’re well-known images in our community. Well, at least they should be.

The image above is part of a monument known to just about everyone in town. But the face may be that of a stranger. A stranger’s face.

The next time you are in Chippawa Park take a close look at the male and female figures that are part of the cenotaph. Then have a look at their faces. The face above is the face of the woman on the cenotaph. The sculptor, Elizabeth Wyn Wood, departed from tradition in placing a woman’s figure on a war monument – a woman was chosen to represent those who supported the war effort at home. The face below is that of a First World War soldier. Together, the two symbolize Service and Sacrifice.

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Other powerful facial images, below, are found at the monument to immigrants who worked on the Welland Canal project. This monument is in Merritt Park, and it is appropriately placed because the park bears the name of canal builder William Hamilton Merritt. I’ve chosen images of two to display here. The female I’ve nicknamed the Sandwich Maker – in the park, note the basket near where she is positioned – because she has just delivered a lunch to one of the workers. Maybe her husband? Maybe her son? Maybe a stranger? Use your imagination, it can be fun.

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This last image, below, is the face of an immigrant who started small, but built a company that became a household word not only here but across the country and no doubt other places too. It’s the face of Ablan Leon whose company became Leon’s Furniture. You will find him seated amidst a charming living room suite (what else!) in Chippawa Park. This exhibit should be better promoted by the city, it’s something tourists visiting Welland would be interested in seeing – and in the process learning that Welland is the place where it all began! What a story.

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(Photos by Joe Barkovich)

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. WELLAND SNAPS is a photo feature appearing weekly on the blog.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Life, Sort Of – The bug is in the air

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By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Uh-oh!

It’s here again.

Be careful, or you might come down with it.

It? Garage sale fever. That’s ‘it’.

I saw the first sign of an outbreak on the weekend just past.

There were two of them, both intent on spreading the bug. One carrier was holding a sign, the other a hammer, and whacking a nail into the utility post to hold the sign in place.

It advertised a garage sale in a street in the nearby subdivision.

And the last-line instructions were written with bold authority, using all upper case letters: NO EARLY BIRDS!

Garage sale fever afflicts countless people this time of year. And you know what – it’s one of the most contagious ‘bugs’ that goes around.

But it won’t get me this year, no sirree. I’ve taken precautions. I know enough to stay away from garage sales.

I said to myself: “Self, do NOT read any other brightly colored signs you see attached to poles or planted on boulevards at busy street corners.”

That’s one sure-fire way of avoiding coming down with garage sale fever.

The other is: be wary of folks you associate with. It never fails: some people catch garage sale fever easier than they catch the common cold. It spreads like wildfire, in their enthusiasm and their never ending insistence that you attend one with them, or at least put something in so and so’s multi-family garage sale.

Say yes and you’re doomed.

I had the bug in previous years, most recently last year, and I don’t want it again.

Last year, I stopped at a garage sale and spied a Monopoly board game in a box that hadn’t even been opened. Hmmm. ‘Buy it and put it away as a Christmas gift for someone?’ I thought. Too late, someone snapped it up while I was still hmmmmm-ing.

Yes, the garage sale bug is hard to escape. Just like the garage sale’s distant cousin, the church penny sale bug.

You don’t turn your back on a church penny sale without fear of being turned into a pillar of salt for your punishment.

I swear this is true: on the morning of our parish’s penny sale in January, I heard a voice from above: “Thou shall attend the parish penny sale this afternoon!”

I looked toward the balcony to see who could have made the announcement. There was no one there. Hmmmm. What does that tell you about the speaker?

But penny sale fever is harder to catch than garage sale fever. Penny sale fever afflicts far more women than it does men. It’s scientifically proven: just count ’em.

Anyway, just be aware garage sale fever season is upon us again. And it doesn’t differentiate – males and females are both susceptible.

If you’re driving by a street corner and happen to see a lime green sign planted in the ground – look the other way! It’s sure to be a sign advertising a garage sale. A multi-family garage sale. A garage sale with good, gently used golf clubs; bicycles; good, gently used lawn mowers; a good, gently used bread maker; never-before-used board game sets, and more. Lots more.

And if you fall victim, if you can’t turn your eyes away, don’t forget to pay attention to the bottom line: NO EARLY BIRDS!!!!

We may have to turn you away.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

Lasting Image: Bob Fralick, one of Welland’s finest

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By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I’d never seen Bob Fralick with a stogie between his fingers before.

Yet there he was that day in his office, feet up on his desk, a fat cigar in his hand, smoke rings circling around his head. The moment provided a lasting image.

It was a winding down of sorts. A man had just been charged with second-degree murder in the 1987 slaying of a young Welland woman. That investigation had been gruelling and emotionally-draining, not only for the victim’s family but the chief investigator and his team. And now that it had come to this, NRP Inspector Robert Fralick could sit back in his chair, puff on the cigar and, in a sense, breathe easier.

I’d known Bob Fralick many years. It started when I was a rookie reporter and the Welland police station was located in the dank bowels of Welland city hall, then at 411 East Main St.

Being new to the police beat, it took a while to figure out why Bob called me “Jimmy” when I made the morning rounds to see what was happening here in the “Naked City” – a popular crime series on TV – as the detectives joked about it.

The name was an oblique reference to Jimmy Olsen. You know – the “cub reporter” in the Superman comic books. I put one and one together when one of the coppers finally said: “Here comes Jimmy Olsen. What kind of news do we have for him today?” Somewhere along the line I got promoted and it came from Bob himself: Jimmy turned into Clark, as in Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. It stuck for many years.

But I had one for him too: Clousseau, as in Inspector Jacques Clousseau, the hapless, bungling police detective. Not that Fralick was bungling or hapless or an accident waiting to happen, as was his namesake. He was anything but. He didn’t mind the tongue-in-cheek name dropping, not even when it was dropped in the presence of others

We were friends. There were visits and dinners with Bob and wife Mary at their home on Fitch Street; trips to Ransomville Speedway in Ransomville, N. Y., to watch son Doug drive in the stock car races; stories and lessons about the exotic parrots he had taken up as a hobby – it turned into a passion; invites to social nights with Welland cops when the Welland Police Association was still a big thing – I recall chicken in the basket and beer nights at the Crowland Hotel on Ontario Road; and after their retirement, draught beer and wings with a handful of Welland coppers at local pubs.

As some time happens though, life got in the way of things. We didn’t socialize so often although our paths crossed here and there. On two or three occasions while working in the front yard rose beds, I heard a car slow down and a loud voice call out from the middle of First Avenue: “If it isn’t the rose queen of Welland!” It was Bob at his tauntingly playful best. When I shared that story with son Doug he said: “That’s him, that’s the old man.”

Bob was never one to mince words. He was a straight shooter, never a fence sitter. He was outspoken at times but caring for those who were close to him and part of his inner circle.

A few weeks ago I’d heard he was ill and the visits started again. Not just by me – there was always someone calling to ask if he could drop by or make a stop at a grocery store for something Bob might have wanted or needed. I was just one of several. With wife Mary in long-term-care, Bob was home alone.

Retired cop Mick Riddle was there one Saturday morning to pick up a shopping list for groceries at Pupo’s. Other days, I passed folks I didn’t know by name coming or going through the front doorway. Bob had friends, you see.

Martin Walsh, who retired as deputy chief of Niagara Regional Police and who knew Bob way back – their time on the Welland Police Department – had this to say about him: “He was a reliable, well liked officer, highly regarded by all who had an opportunity to work with him. A dedicated police officer who faced every challenging situation with a concern for the victim and the reputation of the police service.”

Mick Riddle said in an email: “Bob was a fantastic person who was dedicated to and took great pride in his family. In his younger days he was an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting and fishing. As years went by he become an enthusiastic hobbyist as a collector of clocks, Zippo lighters and more. As a police officer he was a tenacious investigator and well respected supervisor. He was never at a loss for words and certainly was not afraid to speak his mind.”

 A few days before he went into the hospital, we’d made plans to buy barbecue lamb at the Croatian National Home’s Mother’s Day lamb and pork barbeque and, well, pig out on it. I thought Bob would make it to the day, but it wasn’t to be, death got in the way. Bob Fralick, 82, one of Welland’s (and Niagara’s) finest, died Tuesday morning, May 6, 2014 at Welland hospital. Adieu, Inspector, you will be missed by many.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

Welland Snaps

 

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CAPTION:  Have a seat and admire the scenery in a little-known park along River Road in Welland. (All photos by Joe Barkovich. Welland Snaps is a photo feature appearing every Monday on the blog.) 

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Old park benches. What character they have. What characters they have held over dozens of years.

At one time or another they might have been: seats of contemplation, seats of wisdom, seats of boredom, picnic places, trysting places. The list goes on.

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CAPTION: Top photo, two names carved into an old bench in the park that was known as Orchard Grove Pleasure Ground in Welland of yesteryear. Above: Pine trees and the river in the background delight the shutterbug’s discerning eye.

Along River Road, opposite the Welland River, are old park benches that have caught my eye every now and then.

As with so many other things in our hurried, fast-paced lives, we drive past without even noticing, without giving them a second thought and of course without stopping for an up-close look or momentary pause for enjoying a view.

This little park, along a stretch between River Road and the Welland River, was called Orchard Grove Pleasure Ground. Probably not many of us modern-day Wellanders are aware of that.

It was the park for a subdivision built in this neighbourhood, the subdivision was named Orchard Grove Subdivision. Streets that are part of it are Almond Street, Cooper Road and Melville Avenue.

According to the book the park was popular “during the 1918-20 period” although I’ve been told it was well used in the 1920s too. It was a popular place for people to go on walks, to meet on weekend afternoons, to socialize and have picnics. You can read about this neighbourhood in a book titled What’s In A Name, The Origin of Street Names for the City of Welland.

The park is rarely used by visitors these days but is by neighbourhood residents, like kids who ride their bikes along the trail or hang out around the benches especially on summer evenings.

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CAPTION: A well-used path winds its way through part of this neighbourhood green space. To be fully appreciated it must be seen in summer months when verdant hues are at their best.

It is rare for passersby to stop and leave their cars and have a look at what is, especially in summer months, a lush ribbon of green. There is beauty here, beauty that goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

Now, take a moment to admire the character of these old park benches.

 

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CAPTION: This  bench offers a quiet place for reflection and a nice view of the river. It is almost directly opposite St. Anthony of Padova Croatian Catholic church on River Road.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City).