Monthly Archives: December 2021

14 Images From 2021

By Joe Barkovich

A year-end compilation of selected feature photos from the year many of us would like to forget. But no matter how bad it is, some things are worth recording and remembering, one of the reasons we point our cameras or smartphones and shoot. Welland teems with beauty, nature, events, ceremonies, sports and more. With the year almost in the rear view, let’s not forget to say: thanks for the good stuff!

January: Early Thaw

February: White-breasted Nuthatch Plays Peek-A-Boo!

March: Lost And Found, Chippawa Park.

April: Brrr! Tulips Shiver In Bed

May: Splish, Splash I Was Taking A Bath (three photos)

June: On The Waterfront

July: After The Rain

August: View From The Bridge: Drifters

September: Balancing Act

October: Ouch!

November: Pausing To Remember

December: View From The Bridge: Family Swim

/Photos by Joe Barkovich

Heritage Lives: What Kind Of Year Will We Have To Look Forward To In 2022?

 By Terry Hughes

Our postcard from the past dated 1909 shows an image of a very young person representing the coming year, a symbol that often appeared in publications of the day as we welcome the New Year. And when you look at the times in which it was issued many events were about to take place that showed signs of hope.

 In Canada the passing of Victoria would be followed by the death of her son a few years later and begin the reign of George V that would last until 1936. All of their passings were due to health issues. 

 Here in Welland we were just beginning to enjoy the availability of hydro-electricty for both home and industrial use due to our proximity to Niagara Falls. With the promise of significant traffic, Michigan Central railway was double tracking their lines to Buffalo, Niagara Falls to the east and Detroit to the west that would require a new double track swing bridge across the third canal. Until this was done, the N.S. & T. line was halted just across the Welland River. 

Merchants on East Main and West Main streets were enjoying the placement of a steel swing bridge across the canal that would join these two entities after a thirty year absence. It was christened the Alexandra Bridge after a member of the royal household. 

Our neighbours to the south were going through a change of leadership in a manner that was significantly different than here in Canada. Thanks to an assassin’s bullet, President Teddy Roosevelt would become the new leader and one has to wonder whether this would set a precedent for gun violence in the coming years!  This decade would also mark the growth of the United States as a major industrial giant along with “Jim Crow” in the south. 

Today, we have had to deal with the COVID that has had a negative impact on how we interact with each other. Common courtesies have fallen by the wayside because our daily routines have been interrupted. The imposition of rules and regulations that once were observed by my generation as set down by the authorities are subject to questions by so-called experts through a variety of media today. In an effort to gain respect of the general public we, instead, are confused and tired of long-term solutions that don’t work because we are not pulling in the same direction. And what really has clouded our judgment is that this health issue has become political in both countries! Needless to say, patience is in short supply.

Race and gun issues are very much a part of daily life in the U.S. While doing an interview with a reporter over the devastation of the tornadic storms earlier this month, a local politician was wearing a holstered revolver on his belt. Would you believe that in this day and age, making lynching a federal offence is still opposed by some local politicians in the south. Major cities in both countries but in particular the U.S. are seeing ballooning crime due to gun violence.  

The two hundred-year experiment in democracy is in doubt because extreme right and left wing groups have opposing agendas. Every institution is now questioned and consensus building is now a thing of the past. 

Here in this country political games have led to disruptive feelings of doubt. The resignation of two federal cabinet members because they questioned the leadership is unnerving. In the meantime the opposition is unable to develop clear and common proposals that are agreeable to all of its members

And then we have our own race problems. For too long issues involving treaty, health issues and natural resources have been neglected.  

And what do we say about how the indigenous populations who have had their dignity taken away and placed in residential schools that were supposed to bring them the benefits of Christianity.  

The answers may be found in the many spiritual teachings that we all have been exposed to and mixing them with some common sense, compassion and civility we may eventually find some answers.


Next column: Hanging Out In the 1950s. 

(Terry  Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

A Penny For Her Thoughts Was A Rewarding Encounter

Penny Morningstar points to a notebook kept by her father when he worked at the Welland Union Carbide plant. It is part of a Carbide exhibit at the museum. /Photos by Joe Barkovich.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – While we were on a whirlwind tour of Welland Historical Museum exhibits a few days before her retirement, museum manager/curator Penny Morningstar stopped at one that is near and dear to her heart.

Inaccessible because it is behind glass, Morningstar shared details about the book, a book that was her father’s.

Her father, George Procter, was a foreman at the Union Carbide plant.

The book on display was a meticulous record of commentary and observations he made while going about his duties on shift. 

“That’s one of the great things about museums,” Morningstar said, gesturing at the keepsake. “They help keep certain things alive.”

The 32-year veteran staffer turned pensive for a while before adding: “This is so good to have, it’s like he’s talking to you.”

Modelling Union Carbide memorabilia.

Welland girl Morningstar attended  Gordon  School, Fitch Street Senior Public School and Centennial Secondary School. In Grade 8 at Fitch Street, Morningstar said her history teacher was Terry Hughes, known to this day for interest in local history and heritage issues.

“He fostered my interest in history,” Morningstar recalled, “as he did with many other students.”

Morningstar loved the work at her hometown museum right from her earliest days on the job in 1989, she said.

Later in her career, she became the museum’s public face in the community, relishing the opportunities that came along. Two recent high profile examples: the annual Remembrance Day community commemoration at Chippawa Park, and a few years ago, ceremonies in Welland cemeteries for workers who were killed on the job during construction of the Welland Ship Canal. Morningstar’s knowledge of local history made her ideal as the museum’s liaison with outside groups and projects. 

Curator/manager for the past six years, Morningstar earned solid footing in the museum field through a gamut of job responsibilities such as educational programmer, archivist and collections person and assistant curator.

More than three decades of experience make Morningstar qualified to talk about museums and their importance to a community.

“Museums are critical to the health of a community. They can be the only voice there is about a particular ethnic group or about various social issues, for example. They tell the whole story and from that perspective they have a major responsibility to be the voice of the community.

A job with opportunities for meeting famous people

“Our biggest gift to the community is to create opportunities where people who haven’t been heard will be. We can create opportunities for them to become a voice.”

Assistant curator Tami Nail worked with Morningstar about six years. She says Morningstar influenced her to pursue museum studies at school.

“My mom was Penny’s nurse and she would talk to Penny about undergraduate studies and what I should do. Penny suggested I look into museum studies.”

She’s happy she followed that advice.

She attended Algonquin College in Ottawa and after graduation found jobs at a few local museums before starting in Welland.

“Penny’s name is synonymous with the museum here in Welland,” Nail said. “Everyone who comes in knows Penny. If they don’t know her by name they know her by her hair colour. And Penny knows everything about Welland. Not only museum staff but the community is going to miss her.”

Nail was effusive in her praise of Morningstar’s leadership skills and style.

“Penny’s  great in giving instructions and then stepping back. She gave me space to spread my wings and I will always be thankful for that. Not all curators are like that. ”

History teacher Hughes had no trouble recalling his eighth grade student when asked about her.

“Penny was a keener,” Hughes said. “She was always very focused when it came to history. I remember her being one of those students who have a feeling for history. She was always focused on what was going on in the classroom, a great participant.”

That interest turned out to be an on-going, lifetime characteristic.

“Even after, when I’d bump into Penny here and there, that enthusiasm was still very good, very strong,” Hughes said.

Morningstar told me she will take it easy for the next couple of months now that the museum has become part of her past. As for the future there are decisions to be made, but travel with her husband seems to loom large.


As she prepares for retirement after more than 30 years of service, the Welland Museum extends a profound thanks to long-time team member Penny Morningstar.

Penny’s retirement (December 23 was her last day at the museum) marks the final leg of a career that began in 1989. In her current position as General Manager and Curator, she was the driving force behind the creation and installation of incredible exhibits and programming, as well as the daily operation of the museum.

“I truly believe museums play an important role in our way of life,” Morningstar said. “They are places to explore, to share our stories and to reconnect with each other. They’re places where we can all be given a voice.”

Among a wide range of accomplishments, Morningstar was instrumental in building an ongoing dialogue with the Métis community in Niagara. This work resulted in the creation of a Métis permanent exhibit, which was developed and created by the Niagara Region Métis Council.

Morningstar has been recognized with a certificate of achievement from Dale Carnegie and has received numerous community involvement awards. These include recognition from the City of Welland, the Heritage Welland 1812 Bicentennial Committee, the Canada 150 committee and an acknowledgment from CERF Niagara for the museum’s partnership with Welland’s Francophone community.

“Welland is a historic community, and Penny has worked amazingly hard over the years to bring that history to light. We hope to carry on her legacy by continuing to preserve that history and bring it forward to new generations,” museum board chair Greg D’Amico said.

The Board of Management is presently accepting applications for a new Operations Manager for the museum, carrying on Penny’s achievements for the future.

Penny Morningstar pictured with part of the Métis permanent exhibit


/Photo by Joe Barkovich

A near the end-of-the-year look at what’s ahead on the blog:

Tuesday, December 28: Penny Morningstar, above, Welland Historical Museum’s curator/manager who retired last week after 32 years at the museum, will be missed, says a former co-worker. Morningstar will be missed not only by museum staff, but by many in the community, where she was well known and highly regarded.

Wednesday, December 29: The Heritage Lives columnist, Terry Hughes, enjoys writing about yesteryear, particularly local history, heritage, culture and occasionally, politics. But he steps out of his comfort zone for Wednesday’s column, where he tries crystal balling what may be ahead in 2022. 

Thursday, December 30:  My picks of some of 2021’s favourite pix.

Thanks for reading and following

A Christmas Message That Is Meant For All

Last in the five-part ‘Christmas Presents’ series

/Photo by Joe Barkovich

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I have become a collector of art.

Not just any art. But of Christmas card art.

The Christmas cards of francophone Welland artist Anne Audet-Giroux fascinate me.

We receive one in the mail each year. We have several, close to a dozen. I wish there were more. 

Some years, as the holiday draws nearer, I go through a waiting game: Will we get a card from Anne Audet-Giroux this year? It should have been here by now. Has she forgotten us, or, sacre bleu, dropped us from her mailing list?

Well, not this year, it did not happen this year. Her 2021 Christmas card arrived early last week.

The cover of the card features one of her oils, After The Ice Storm. It is a view looking out over Lake Ontario from Grimsby.

Dark though it is, there is also light. A thin ribbon of light way across the lake, between dark clouds and dark water. The light catches your eye.

Her words inside the card tie the image and what is happening in it to the pandemic. They appear en francais and in English:

Les nuages de la pandémie commencent à se dissiper  et la lumière a l’horizon reflète l’espérance d’un temps meilleur.

Bon souhaits pour un Noël rempli de moments joyeux et que l’an nouveau vous apporte bonheur et réconfort.

In English:

As the pandemic begins to recede…the clouds are lifting slowly and there is light on the horizon.

May your Christmas be joyful and the New Year bring you comfort and constant hope.

But then Audet-Giroux has penned something more. In her own handwriting, it explains her choice of theme and also how some things that happen are beyond our control:

“This card was prepared before the variant Omicron reared its head….” Audet-Giroux writes. “but we must always maintain hope for better times.”

That sentiment moved me. It affirms the importance of keeping spirits high and hope even higher in trying times such as these we are living through. Dark as things are, there is also light.

It’s a message worth repeating and worth sharing with others (and I hope she won’t mind that I’ve done that). Keeping it for ourselves would have been selfish. 

Anne Audet-Giroux nails it: Yes, we must always maintain hope for better times!

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! to our readers.

Last in the five-part ‘Christmas Presents’ series.

Exclusive: Our Interview With Mrs. Claus!

You Can Call Her Joy, Just Don’t Call Her Subordinate

Part 4 in the ‘Christmas Presents’ series

Mrs. Claus in a quiet moment at her North Pole digs. /Photo by Santa’s mother-in-law.

Her husband gets all the attention, he’s the media darling. The Christmas Presents team thought it would be cheery, not to mention precedent setting, to let Mrs. Claus get a word in edgewise. So here it is. Scoop by Scribbler-at-large Joe Barkovich with help from Bill and Sherry Vigars

1. After all these years existing in the background – your name is never in bright lights if you know what I mean – are you tired of being the second banana?

I may have to speak to my husband before I answer this one. Not that I need his opinion but I want to find out where he is going to be in “bright lights” and who he is with! He only leaves here to go to the mall and then once a year, he’s out all night. He’s supposed to be “delivering toys to good boys and girls.” What do you know that you’re not telling me, Joe?  Is he stepping out into some fancy dancy greasy spoons on Christmas Eve? Hmmm, now that I think about it, more than once he’s returned with the smell of liver on his breath! Santa loves liver and onions but Mrs. Claus does not allow him to cook it in the house so he must be getting it somewhere else!.

2. Mrs. Claus, people don’t even know your first name. What is it?

Well for many years I thought it was cute the elves called me Cookie, but about 200 or so years ago I realized they were just asking me for cookies. My first name is Joy, full maiden name is Joy X. Noel, the X is for Xena, as in the heroine.

3. Does the jolly fat man ever tease you about being, well, a subordinate Claus? Get it…. subordinate Claus? How do you cope with that, Mrs. Claus?

Joey, I love him dearly, excellent in delivery logistics and time management with the teams, both elf and deer, but I must say, grammar is not his forte. HO HO HO, come on, really. For hundreds of years, it’s the same old shtick. Everyone here at the North Pole has a role to play, so Nick knows not to try and be a smarty pants with me. Subordinate Claus??? I’ve half a mind to tell the elves a piece of coal goes into your stocking, young man!

4. What’s the hardest part of your job at the North Pole?

By and large it is wonderful year-round. After the Christmas rush the elves get a little bored as Santa gives them time off to enjoy the winter weather. I must say the most unpleasant thing I have to do is trudge out into the yard at least once a week with a pot of very warm water to pour on the metal North Pole that one of the elves has taken the dare to lick with his tongue. It was funny the first few times but I’ve grown weary having to put on boots and coat and go out in a snow storm. We still get a great deal of snow here Joe, but with global warming it’s not what it used to be.

5. Maybe this will be a world-wide scoop: Have you ever gone out with Santa to deliver toys to the boys and girls? Are you even allowed to comment on something so sensitive?

364 days of the year I deal with my lovely husband and an army of elves. Christmas Eve, the elves have their own party and I have a chance to put my feet up, pour an egg nog with a dash of nutmeg and my Woman’s World. Christmas Eve, the dinner is ready for the next day and I take a little time to myself. Here’s the scoop, Joe: women like alone time! Take note, it helps keep the marriage fresh.

Ready for his annual night out! /Photo by Paddy Wales

6.  Another insider scoop: Does he use a GPS while making his rounds?

The old boy got a GPS from the elves a few years ago. For days his ego was telling him it meant ‘GREAT PRESENTS SANTA’. Like I said Joe, we all have our strengths. Every year he lets Rudolph lead the way, he don’t mess with a sure thing, you know how technology can be. Double vaxxed and now with the booster (he qualified very early as a really, really, really old senior) but he still wears a mask on his rounds. The chill in the air causes his glasses to fog up, a minor inconvenience, but better safe than sorry.

7. What’s your favourite Christmas Eve memory?

Finding a new recipe for Christmas pudding in the 1945 edition of Cooking With Electricity. The new solar panel had been delivered (did I tell you things happen in Santa Land long before reality?). Up until then we used gas, created by methane, thanks to the reindeer. Complicated scientific process that I am sure you and most folks understand. Oh yes, one more. The year Christ was born. We were in the early years of delivering presents and Santa decided to take the year off as three fine gentlemen had undertaken delivering gifts to the most important child of that and every year since.

8. What’s your favourite all-time present from Santa?

Oven gloves. The dish towels were just not cutting it. Needless to say, I love to cook for my husband and the elves. Nothing pleases me more than to see the satisfied looks on their faces after a good feed of liver and onions – Christmas season is the one time of year I serve it! But the very best gift, I receive it every year, every day: his smile, his love and a peck on the cheek just before we go to bed.

9. Are you worried about global warming? What is it doing to your neighbourhood?

It does have us worried. We see troubles around the world caused by mankind not treating Mother Earth the way it  should. Santa and I have noticed the weather here has changed over the years. The snow and freezing temperatures don’t arrive as expected. There is not enough ice for the New Year’s Penguin Plunge and the elves’ toboggan parties have been delayed several times. It’s very worrisome to everyone at the North Pole. 

10. What do we have to do to stop global warming?

Everyone can help limit climate change. From the way we travel, to the electricity we use and the food we eat, we can make a difference. I am not a scientist, and people have to start listening to scientific facts. Facts that are not something you read posted by your friend on Facebook that they heard from their third cousin.

11. Do you wear masks because of Covid up in the North Pole?

We have never had an outside visitor at the North Pole. Never, so the virus has not been an issue here. Santa does wear a mask when visiting malls or taking part in parades, but we have been fortunate living in a make-believe world. Covid, unfortunately, is not make believe, so once again, listen to what scientific knowledge tells us. I remember over 70 years ago polio was rampant and a vaccine was developed to rid the world of that disease by and large. Today presents the same situation. Good boys and girls listen, read reputable newspapers and get their shots.

12. What about you, Santa and the elves – have you been vaccinated?

Of course. Although we have no human visitors, the odd, and I mean odd, penguin or two have disappeared for weeks on jaunts south. Amazing how a tuxedo will get you into so many places!! We don’t take a chance when they show up back in the north.

13. What advice do you have for boys and girls around the world about vaccinations?

Don’t be afraid. It’s really important that kids understand that what you’re doing for them is designed to help keep them healthy and safe. Getting vaccinated is the best way for them to be able to return to the activities and experiences they miss most, like school, extracurricular activities, summer camp and vacations. It’s also the only way to protect mom, dad, grandma and grandpa.

14. What do you want to receive more than anything else this year? 

A new wig? Just dreaming. Mrs. Claus is not hard to please, I’m jolly just like Santa all year round. I always worry until Santa is back home safely after his journey. I worry about the many children around the world who go hungry every night. I really wish mankind could find a solution. Peace in every household, someone to love, someone to care for… my wish is not for me, but for the world.

Last in the Christmas Presents series:  A Friend’s 2021 Christmas Card.  Publication: Friday, December 24.

The Poignancy Along The Merritt Island Trails

Part 3 in the ‘Christmas Presents’ series

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – Spots along Merritt Island’s trails have been decorated with love and remembrance this time of year.

It is so poignant.

No matter how many times we walk the trails, especially the upper one, I take a few minutes to admire the tinsel, tree ornaments, memorabilia and other items put in place by family and/or friends of those who have passed.

Some Christmases there have been many of these decorated trees and benches, some years not so. This year is one of the latter. Not all displays are seasonal, some are for extended periods or even year round.

I returned Tuesday morning for a last-minute walk of a portion of the upper trail after not having been there for maybe a couple of weeks.  

Good to see  that many decorations still were in their places, withstanding high winds and rain that came earlier in the month. But I remember talking to another walker who said at least one of the decorated sites was taken down last month after being buffeted by angry winds.

I know these beautiful, moving tributes to passed loved ones touch the hearts of others on the trail because I am not the only one who gives them pause and thought.

Tuesday,  I watched as a couple of walkers who were ahead of me stopped to gather up two decorations that had fallen from branches and return them to the tree.

“Love lives here,” the young woman said as I stopped nearby. “This is such a special place.”

Next in the Christmas Presents series: Exclusive! Meet Mrs. Claus!!!! Publication: Thursday, December 23.

How People Communicated Christmas Wishes Over A Century Ago

Part 2 in the ‘Christmas Presents’ series

By Terry Hughes

Today, the ability to communicate with people practically anywhere is taken for granted especially with the use of new “smart phones” in the hands of so many these days. It can be expensive but having such tools can be a real status advantage. The electronic airways, meanwhile, will be filled with Christmas wishes as it should be at this time of year.

But at the turn of the twentieth century, we had not really developed a simple way of communicating with folk. The railway companies offered a telegraph service but it could be expensive for many people. Several decades earlier the invention of the penny post card with beautiful artistry appeared in Europe and soon arrived here in North America. 

For the cost of a penny, a card featuring a variety of holidays and other celebrations was available. Today these early pieces of art and culture are extremely collectible and along with their stamps extremely valuable.

Scripting on a card leaves little room for rambling messages. But here is some of the wording found on a selection of these old cards. These cards were addressed to Chris, who lived in Buffalo, N. Y.. 

“Dear Chris,  I received your card today. Hope to see you soon, George.”

“Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Come up and see us sometime. From E. W.”

 “Got your card, it is very pretty. I am well, getting fat and lazy. How is Edna and all? From Agnes.”

  “I am having a nice time. We have lots of snow in the country as well as in the city. And I have a rig at my disposal all the time. From E.B. Miller.”

The cards are postmarked: Buffalo, Dec. 24, 2:30 p.m. 1909; Welland, December 31, 1909; and Rome, N.Y.,  December 24, 1909.

The cards exhibited here are among many that were exchanged by members of my wife’s family over the years, and are now part of our family’s extensive collection.

They are brief and to the point! But the front of these cards says it all and things haven’t really changed:

On most, Merry Christmas! and on one, Happy New Year!

So, to our readers:  Have A Merry Christmas! 

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly. Theme of his upcoming Heritage Lives column is: What’s Ahead In The New Year?)

Next in the Christmas Presents series: Poignancy Along the Merritt Island Trails, by Joe Barkovich.  Publication: Tuesday, December 21.

Open House Christmas

The Ward family home: ‘The outside had to be as decorated as the inside.’/Supplied photo

By Claire Masswohl

Christmas was the premier event of the year at our house with 13 children — 10 boys and 3 girls — and our parents Yvette and Chester Ward. 

One would think that would be enough people in the house for Christmas but that was not the case. It was always Open House for our friends and theirs. 

Arriving alone in this community as newcomers from Chateauguay, Quebec with their first-born child they quickly made many lifelong friends. Most Saturday nights throughout the year our parents went dancing at the various cultural clubs, or there was a party at our house. Dad played the harmonica, small accordion and the wooden spoons and we would all dance and sing along.

Our mother loved Christmas and she started cooking in early November. She started with lasagna, which she learned to cook from her new Italian neighbours, then a minimum of 35 tourtiere (meat pies) that were a tradition with the French families.  Then the largest turkey she could find, 25 to 30 pounds. She learned to save the baking for last because we would devour those treats right out of the very large freezer when she wasn’t looking.

Mom was a good cook and an amazing baker. She never let anyone leave her house without eating. There were always large pots of something or other on the stove and at Christmas it was much more.

 When we were little we had to string popcorn and make the paper chains to go around the tree. Everyone had a task, I think that’s how she kept us quiet, along with the threat that Santa wasn’t going to leave anything for us if we didn’t behave. 

The outside had to be as decorated as the inside. The front pillars were wound with wide red ribbons and imitation red poinsettias hung in pots between them. One of our brothers bought a big wooden red sleigh with a reindeer for the front lawn. All of our families have pictures of their children and grandchildren in that sleigh. With the house outlined with lights it looked like a traditional winter wonderland with the tree inside shining through the front window. 

Mom was very fussy with the tree, it had to be perfect and we all participated putting the ornaments on the tree, with the tinsel being last and it had to be straight or we would have to keep working on it.  Over 71 Christmas years in Welland she collected many special treasures for that tree, so much that she started putting another tree in the family room downstairs just for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

The presents would be piled to the middle of the floor and it was our mother’s special pleasure to watch the children open them, always rocking a child in her arms.  The older children had to present each smaller child with their gifts before they could open their own.  Meal time was the same. Smallest first, the older ones with Father, until he passed. Mom did not sit until everyone was served. When she was younger we would go to Midnight Mass and come home to have her special meat pies.

We had our dinner in the garage that our brothers enlarged for that purpose. They put picture windows and drywall so we could set up the folding tables and chairs for many years. Family and friends came and went, never leaving empty handed. 

 In the last years of Mom’s life, we rented the Tennis Club hall for our family Christmas gatherings as our family grew to, at last count, over 85 and growing. 

Mom made Christmas magical and always fun for her family. 

(Claire Masswohl is a retired social worker now President of Cultural Charitable Holdings of Niagara and Vice President/Building Chair of the Central Station Education Initiative board of directors.)

Next in the Christmas Presents series: There was a time when penny postcards were widely used to send Christmas greetings, columnist Terry Hughes writes. Publication: Sunday, December 19.