Monthly Archives: September 2014

Welland Boys Reunion: Nostalgia, Camaraderie Rule

A view of King Street looking north. It was in the side streets and environs off King that neighbourhood culture was celebrated decades ago, and is enjoying a resurgence in current day. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

A view of King Street looking north. It was in the side streets and environs off King that neighbourhood culture was celebrated decades ago, and is enjoying a resurgence in current day. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Do you remember the Bright Spot?

Chances are if you do, you hung around in or visited the King Street neighbourhood around Sixth Street, back in the 1950s and thereabouts.

And what about “Gumpy” Gojmerac’s place on Broadway?

The Bright Spot was a greasy spoon at the corner of King and Sixth. Gojmerac’s was an Esso station, grocery and confectionary on Broadway across from Clifford. All the kids in Welland South popped into that confectionary, it was a great neighbourhood hangout.

It’s stuff like this that re-surfaces at a popular, annual reunion of “old-timers”, their descendants and newcomers who find appeal in jawing about the past and listening to stories and memories about the way we were.

They will have that opportunity at the Welland Boys Reunion, Monday, Oct. 6 at Riverstone Event Centre.

Nostalgia and camaraderie are big with this crowd. Steve Krar knows that. He’s one of the pioneers of the reunion movement, one of the organizers of a group that was known as King Street Boys South.

Steve Krar as photographed at his 90th birthday in July 2014.

Steve Krar as photographed at his 90th birthday in July 2014.

“I’ve got a lot at stake in it,” Krar said when asked if he will be attending. “I want to see this carry on.”

He recently celebrated his 90th birthday. The former high school teacher and renowned textbook author considers neighbourhood nostalgia one of the “crown jewels” of Welland and Crowland culture and lore. He still attends meetings of the reunion organizing committee whenever he can.

“The Welland Boys Reunion keeps the spirit of the King Street Boys going,” he said. “It brings back the memories and brings out a lot of old friends. Some of the originals have gone, we lose some every year, so it’s up to their sons and grandsons and the like to step up and keep this going.”

Jim Larouche makes a point of attending the reunion each and every year.

“Just being there and experiencing it reminds me how my dad was heavily involved in sports,” he said. “I still have scrap books and clippings from the old Burgar Park days back in the ‘40s when announced attendance for a ball game was 4,000 or so. Unbelievable!”

Larouche showed memorabilia he displays on a wall in his office at F. E. Coyne Insurance on Division Street.

“It’s close to my heart that way,” he said. “I can count on hearing stories about this stuff when I meet various guys at the reunion. The old days always come up, you never tire of hearing about them.”

Tradition and history are important to a community’s lifeblood, Larouche believes. Welland and what used to be Crowland have so much of that: “You have neighbourhood groups like the King Street Boys and Joe Miller’s, you have cultural diversity with all the halls we had and schools we attended and friendships we made. Thinking about these things always brings a smile to my face.”

Don Murray says he hasn’t missed a reunion and looks forward “with great anticipation” to the one coming up.

“It’s the camaraderie and the good fellowship and the story sharing that bring me back year after year,” he said.

He will be 80 when the calendar opens to January 1, 2015 and has “a lot of good memories” from over the years, especially from 63 years as part of the local business community, retiring in December 2013.

“I just hope we can keep this going and keep bringing in new people to ensure that it carries on. I don’t know too many other communities that can brag about having something like this reunion year after year.”

Retired teacher and Welland historian Terry Hughes will be a guest speaker.

“There’s a lot of history in education and our schools,” he said. “I’ll be talking about schools in Welland and Crowland, focusing on the Depression era, war babies and post-war baby boom,” he said.

He has many memories from first-hand experience during some of those years.

“There were two school systems: Welland public and Crowland public” he said of the era. “I think we in Crowland got the better system. Welland was tight with their money, we had a lot more supplies and extras in the Crowland system,” Hughes said.

He attended Memorial School from Grade 1 through Grade 8, then went to Welland High and Vocational School.

“In our day, penmanship was very important. Grade 5 was an important time, that’s when you started using ink, that’s what those ink wells were for. Remember them?

I could go on, Hughes shared so much, but will leave the history lesson to the former history teacher.

I asked him, though, why the reunion is important: “I think it’s the cat’s meow. We’ve got to talk about the foundations of this community, what was it that brought us here, that kind of stuff. In so many ways, this event does that.”

Gary Talosi and brother Steve Talosi Jr., to whom the torch was passed by Krar and other pioneers, have come to regard the responsibility as something of a sacred trust.

“It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” Gary Talosi said in a brief interview. “Roots are important, so are the routes those who were here before us took in their lives, routes that helped many of us get to where we are today.”

About 180 people attended last year’s reunion and Talosi expects attendance could reach about 200 for the reunion coming up.

“There seems to be a lot of interest,” he said. “We must be doing something right.”

Fast Facts:

What: Welland Boys Reunion;

When: Monday, Oct.6;

Where: Riverstone Event Centre, 414 River Rd., Welland, 4 p.m. fellowship, 5 p.m. family-style dinner;

Tickets: $20 in advance , $25 at the door;

Outlets: Lifestyle Financial, 190 Division St., Sobey’s, Hwy. 20 Fonthill, HollisWealth, 99 Clarence, Port Colborne;

Additional information if needed: Steve Talosi, 905-732-1640.

VERBATIM: “Another reason we’re involved in this , our Dad (Steve Sr.) would be so proud. This is something he would have loved.” – Gary Talosi.

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

© Joe Barkovich 2014

Shades of Fall

Above: I don't know the name of this pink/red floribunda but it is a prolific grower and loves the afternoon sun. Centre: The floribunda New Daily Mail is fading now but still shows its tight cluster formation. I deemed it worthy of one last photo before going under the pruning scissors. Bottom: City of Welland, a hybrid tea, still has some good colour to show, despite it being a little past its peak. (All photos by Joe Barkovich) © Joe Barkovich 2014

Above: I don’t know the name of this pink/red mini but it is a prolific grower and loves the afternoon sun. Centre: The floribunda New Daily Mail is fading now but still shows its tight cluster formation. I deemed it worthy of one last photo before going under the pruning scissors. Bottom: City of Welland, a hybrid tea, still has some good colour to show, despite it being a little past its peak. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

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© Joe Barkovich 2014

 

A Morsel About: Welland Food Drive

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

It’s that time of year again.

food bankNo, not fall. Well, not in the context of this piece.

It’s Welland Food Drive time. Monique Finley, chair of the food drive committee, wants the word out early, just to make people aware and just so it stays a high priority with them.

The date of the 22nd annual Welland Food Drive is Saturday, Nov. 1.

The city-wide blitz collects non-perishables for Hope Centre, Open Arms Mission and Salvation Army.

Logistically, it’s a minor miracle.

As Finley wrote in a news release: “The collection of what usually ends up being tons and tons of food in a three-hour window is as it always has been, Welland residents are asked to put their food donations at their front doors by 10 a.m. Sometime shortly after that some 80 teams of people will scour the streets, collecting the food donated. The collections are brought to Auberge Richelieu on River Road where it is boxed by hundreds of volunteers.

“The activity and excitement as the food comes in is something to behold. We always need hard-working volunteers to volunteer throughout the day.”

Interested? Hungry to know more? For more info or to sign up as a volunteer visit wellandfooddrive.com

Finley also said food drive organizers are relying more on social media this year to help get word out about this event, so important is it to the city’s social safety net. Info about the role social media is playing is available on the website too.

Finley said the need for food drive assistance in Welland seems to be unrelenting. Food banks find themselves with empty or nearly empty shelves at various times during the year, especially in summer and early fall when food drives are few and far between.

Just how great is the need? According to Hungry for Health, a backgrounder by Niagara Region Public Health, 12,107 people were served at Niagara food banks in 2012.

“This amount has grown by 38% since 2007. A total 36% of these individuals were children,” the Hungry for Health backgrounder says.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. A Morsel About will appear on the blog from time to time leading up to the food drive. )

Welland Snaps – Bird Houses of Merritt Island

Spotting the birdhouses on Merritt Island can be turned into family fun while on a walking tour of this spectacular venue. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

Spotting the birdhouses on Merritt Island can be turned into family fun while on a walking tour of this spectacular venue. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

DSC_4000 A walking tour of Welland’s Merritt Island opens doors on some lofty housing accommodation.

But unless your gaze is skyward chances are you may not know the units are there.

Birdhouses.

There are many of them, affixed to trees on the popular recreation venue.

DSC_3937 (2)I did not realize there were so many until making a conscious effort to study trees and foliage.

There isn’t much variety in design. Most of the birdhouses are identical in style and display an inscription of the “developer” – in this case Land Care Niagara Ontario Stewardship.  Perhaps they were part of a monitoring project at some time? A few of the bird houses do not have that identification.

I don’t know if the birdhouses were intended for feathered residents of Merritt Island or if they are used as stopping points for bids on various flyways, or both.

DSC_3966 (2)It didn’t look as if winged residents were home the afternoon I stopped to have a closer look at this interesting housing project. But on such a glorious late summer day, why stay cooped up in your bungalow when you could be flying around to tops of trees and soaring through the sunlit sky?

I’m sure that more than a family or two turned the Merritt Island birdhouses into a game while exploring the island on walking tours: counting the bird houses, with maybe a prize for the lucky kid who counted the most while on the walk.

Maybe even you would like to give it a try on your next outing to Welland’s charming Merritt Island. Look closely, you are bound to see at least a few.

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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 recurring feature on the blog, appearing Mondays.)

© Joe Barkovich 2014

My View: Squandered Opportunity

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Here it is, on page 1019 of my copy of The Oxford Canadian Dictionary: opportunity a good chance; a favourable occasion.

drummerA great opportunity was missed Friday when the Main Street Bridge re-opened – with no fanfare or ceremony – after being closed for almost six months for re-painting and other work. It would have been opportunity to shine some light on this occasion instead of treating it with yawn! Just another ho-hum day in the life of the Rose City. YAWN!

Even just a little fanfare would have been a nice touch: maybe some cheerleaders from local high schools, maybe a drum line or a few horn players, maybe a few reps of the downtown business board (BIA) and maybe a few others all parading from the east side to the west side in advance of the first vehicles to make the drive across. What an opportunity we had for celebration.

Speaking of the downtown business leaders, their promotional campaign to keep this area high profile during the long bridge closure period can’t go without comment. Their newspaper advertising campaign focusing on downtown businesses like restaurants was well planned, informative and engaging. I’m sure it was effective in attracting people to the area during this difficult time.

Saturday evening, I had occasion to drive through downtown Welland. What a great feeling it was to see so many vehicles on East Main, particularly in the block from Hellems to Cross, where some notable restaurants have opened. Looking through the windows while passing by, I could see many tables occupied and diners enjoying themselves on a night out on the town. I hope this is a long-term trend.

But back to Friday, a little pizzazz was in order to mark the  long-awaited event. Not doing something gave the appearance nobody really gives a darn (I’d use the other d-word but this is a family blog!). A great opportunity was squandered – by somebody. The return to service of this iconic Welland structure should have been acknowledged with something – even a drum roll! But we blew it. That’s My View.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. My View appears on the blog every now and then.)

© Joe Barkovich 2014

Bring a Book and Read!

On the last day of summer, a look at probably the prettiest green-space reading room in Welland. It's in Chippawa Park, near the Fitch Street entrance to  the park. The trees make a stunning backdrop and the flowers and shrubs are in full glory. Autumn officially starts tomorrow but here's hoping that conditions like this afternoon will continue for some time. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

On the last day of summer, a look at probably the prettiest green-space reading room in Welland. It’s in Chippawa Park, near the Fitch Street entrance to the park. The trees make a stunning backdrop and the flowers and shrubs are in full glory. Autumn officially starts tomorrow but here’s hoping that conditions like this afternoon will continue for some time. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Change is in the Air

The last day of summer is unsettled with gusty winds and skies that range from overcast to partly sunny. Signs of fall are starting to make their presence known in the Welland area. This maple, on Chippawa Road behind Notre Dame College School  already has bright red leaves, better shown in the photo below. The equinox brings autumn on Sept. 22 at 10: 29 p.m. according to the Canadian Edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

The last day of summer is unsettled with gusty winds and skies that range from overcast to partly sunny. Signs of fall are starting to make their presence known in the Welland area. This maple, on Chippawa Road behind Notre Dame College School already has bright red leaves, better shown in the photo below. The equinox brings autumn on Sept. 22 at 10: 29 p.m. according to the Canadian Edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

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Rack ’em Up!

Racked racing bikes can make good photo images. I liked this grouping because it made me look twice. In the foreground of the photo, how many bikes do you see? This photo was taken in the transition area of Sunday's  Niagara Falls Barrelman, which has its start in the Welland recreational canal at 9 a.m. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Racked racing bikes can make good photo images. I liked this grouping because it made me look twice. In the foreground of the photo, how many bikes do you see? This photo was taken in the transition area of Sunday’s Niagara Falls Barrelman, which has its start in the Welland recreational canal at 9 a.m. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Rack of Bike

Racing bikes racked and ready to go for Sunday's Niagara Falls Barrelman, a half-ironman triathlon starting in Welland finishing in Niagara Falls. After swimming 2.1 km in the Welland  recreational canal, the athletes will cycle 90 km beginning at the Welland Arena and ending in Chippawa , where the run portion begins and follows  a route that winds up in Niagara Falls. Close to  700 athletes are expected to participate. The swim portion of the race begins at 9 a.m.   Some of the bikes shown here are partly-covered in anticipation of rain overnight and early Sunday. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Racing bikes racked and ready to go for Sunday’s Niagara Falls Barrelman, a half-ironman triathlon starting in Welland finishing in Niagara Falls. After swimming 2.1 km in the Welland recreational canal, the athletes will cycle 90 km beginning at the Welland Arena and ending in Chippawa , where the run portion begins and follows a route that winds up in Niagara Falls. Close to 700 athletes are expected to participate. The swim portion of the race begins at 9 a.m. Some of the bikes shown here are partly-covered in anticipation of rain overnight and early Sunday. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)