Author Archives: fromareportersnotebook

About fromareportersnotebook

Former reporter and city editor at The Tribune, Welland, On. Active in various community groups and initiatives, married with two grown children, interested in roses specifically and gardening in general. A collection of previously-written columns was published in book form in the fall of 2013 and is available by contacting the writer at: fromareportersnotebook@gmail.com. It sells for $20.

Heritage Lives In Pictures: The Development Of Merritt Park

By Terry Hughes

Pictured (top left) is the path leading into Merritt Park at the corner of King Street and the Division Street bridge. It is probably the oldest park in the city. Decades ago, it was home to the Welland Town Band and was a great venue for ship watching.

When examining old maps of Welland, the second canal was bordered with small streams and ponds on the east bank and this neglect would continue when the canal was widened in 1888. Though the west bank was widened, the east bank remained untouched. King Street went through several name changes and by 1900 was known as Muir Street. 

One of the remaining ponds was found along Muir Street and became a catch-all for all kinds of refuse. It became known as McCarthy’s Pond. An entry in the city’s 1958 Centennial booklet was headlined: Midtown Park Once Unsightly Pond. It was “an unsightly place filled to overflowing with old bed springs, tin cans and refuse in general and rats in particular.” 

 When W.E. Phin was contracted to widen the canal between Quaker Road and Port Robinson, a town councillor convinced him to place the excess soil into the pond. In 1911 maple and elm trees were planted and then the soil was ready for seeding. The second picture shows the planted trees and the construction of the Welland Club in the background. 

The next photo from yesteryear shows the park looking north from the Welland Club featuring a circular bandstand for use by the town band and a platform for local politicians. A canaller is passing the park in the third canal heading for the opened swing bridge at East Main and West Main streets. The bandstand was removed in 1952 and replaced with a circular fountain but it deteriorated and was little used.  

Today, beautiful sculptures and a fountain – the Welland Canal Workers monument – occupy the site of the bandstand, enhanced by a brick walkway with many of the bricks carrying names of local residents.The park is also home to: the canal-side amphitheatre and floating stage; a permanent memorial to workers who were killed or injured while on the job; and most recently, a memorial celebrating 100 years of steelmaking in Welland. 

It can be said Merritt Park evolved over the years, from unsightly McCarthy’s Pond of yesteryear into a passive park space rich with historical and cultural importance to our community.

(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.)

Bus Terminal Warming Centre, Overnight Shelter Operational As Temperatures Plummet

-12C at mid-afternoon Friday but much colder with the wind chill factored in. The low tonight could get down to -17C. /Joe Barkovich photo.

WELLAND –  As temperatures continue to drop, the downtown bus terminal and temporary, seasonal emergency shelter is operational in Welland.

With dangerously cold conditions today through Saturday, the temperatures seriously threaten anyone outdoors’s health and safety for too long without proper protection. 

Windchills close to -30 were forecast for early today before another frigid night, and extreme wind chills expected into Saturday morning.

The temporary, seasonal emergency shelter, located at the Welland Tennis Club on Hooker Street, welcomed two guests last night in its first night of operation. The temporary emergency shelter operates on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

A trained social worker will be onsite to ensure the health and safety of everyone. In addition, shelter staff will screen visitors and engage in appropriate diversion practices to assist those in need.

To learn more about the temporary, seasonal emergency shelter, listen to the City’s podcast or view the FAQs

The warming centre at the downtown bus terminal is open during operating hours. 

(Attribution: City of Welland media release)

City Launches Temporary Emergency Shelter Pilot Program At Welland Tennis Club

WELLAND The City of Welland is launching a pilot emergency homeless shelter operated on the City’s behalf by the Hope Centre at the Welland Tennis Club at 45 Hooker Street during February and March. The shelter will offer five beds.

The temporary emergency shelter operating on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. is a result of the challenges observed during the inclement weather earlier this month. The first day of operation is Thursday, February 2. A trained social worker will be onsite to ensure the health and safety of everyone. In addition, shelter staff will screen visitors and engage in appropriate diversion practices to assist those in need.

“The availability of this emergency shelter will help people in our community who don’t have access to a safe, warm location for the overnight hours when the temperatures start to decline,” said Coun. Bonnie Fokkens, who, along with Coun. John Chiocchio brought forward a notice of motion to implement the shelter. “We are grateful for our partners at the Hope Centre who will oversee the emergency shelter services and ensure health and safety are at the forefront of all operations.”

The City will allot $9,000 for this initiative through the Corporate Contingency Fund, amended on January 17, 2023. The funding to the Hope Centre is for staffing the shelter with a trained social worker.  

The City anticipates additional costs throughout this pilot, with expenses tracked separately and to be included in the pilot evaluation phase.

Also partnering on the pilot project is Beyond the Streets Welland and Holy Trinity Church. Beyond the Streets assists the Welland community with crisis response, hot meals, and street outreach. Beyond the Streets will sweep the area in the mornings after the shelter is operational.

Staff will evaluate the pilot program upon completion to determine a long-term solution. City officials will continue to work with all levels of government to find a positive, sustainable solution.

(Attribution: City of Welland media release)

Determining fact versus fiction a key focus of new Engage Welland project page

WELLAND – Through its public engagement platform Engage Welland, the city endeavours to correct misinformation, clarify misconceptions, and drill down to the root sources of issues that create confusion with a new project called Fact vs. Fiction.

While on the campaign trail in 2022, several candidates informed city staff that they spent a lot of time correcting information residents thought to be true. The movement of information from one source to another would change content, and suggestions or ideas would be born, often leaving people confused and concerned. 

“We developed the page to help clear the air about anything that might incorrectly be floating around in the community,” said Marc MacDonald, corporate communications manager. “Our goal is for the page to present the facts about a project or program. We don’t want to create an argument; we want to ensure that when the community receives information, it’s correct. From there, they can make their decisions and judgments, whatever they may be.”

The page will feature tools for the community to play a role in how the City disseminates information. For example, with a Q&A section, quick polls, idea sharing, and an assembly of past questions or misconceptions the City has been made aware of, residents will help shape the discussion.

The City of Welland uses social media, media releases, a podcast, and print and digital media avenues to share information. It encourages residents to follow the City on their preferred platform and question things they hear if they don’t sound right. 

You can visit the Fact versus Fiction page at www.engagewelland.ca/fact-vs-fiction.

(Attribution: City of Welland media release)

January 2023 Update From Central Station Education Initiative

/Supplied photo

Much has been accomplished since we successfully obtained a $500,000 Legacy Grant from Canadian Heritage in the spring of 2021 to help restore Welland’s unique and historic Central Fire Station. With further grants from the City of Welland of $50,000 in both 2021 and 2022 along with your individual and corporate donations, we were able to stop the deterioration of this grand old building and begin to bring it back to life.

The first order of business in 2021 was to stop the leaks that were damaging the interior features by installing new flat roofs. Exterior woodwork and gutters were repaired and/or replaced as were some rotted panels in the big garage doors. As Central Station is a designated property under the Ontario Heritage Act these were done by heritage professionals from Willowbank School of Restoration Arts following recommended standards for restoration.  The entire exterior of the building, including the clock tower, was painted, restoring its impressive face to the world.

Inside, the bottom of one of the solid oak staircases which had been damaged by the leaking roof was also restored to heritage standards.

2022

A highlight of New Year, 2022, was seeing the Tower Clock once again fully operational and lit up at night after many years out of service.  Once again we were grateful to the people with special skills  – members of the Toronto Chapter 33 of the National Association of Watch   & Clock Collectors Inc, who donated their services and worked along with a local electrician and jeweller to restore the workings and make operational this 100-year-old electrical impulse clock. It is interesting to note that this is not the original tower clock which was lost in a fire in the 1960’s but a replacement of the same vintage from a now demolished public building in Perth, Ontario.

2022 saw us turn our efforts to repairing and upgrading the interior of the building.

As the building sat unused from the time it was decommissioned as a working Fire Hall in 2006 until 2021 with its original furnace removed and pipes rotting, it was time to look at upgrading the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems.

In addition to making progress on those systems, another serious issue addressed in 2022 was the condition of the floors.  Both the main truck floor and portions of the second floor were rotted.  The main truck floor was reinforced with new rebar and concrete as was the second floor former locker room.  

Looking ahead to 2023, work on HVAC and other building systems are to be completed and safety upgrades added.  This spring the final major exterior problem will be addressed when all the exterior brickwork is repointed and missing bricks replaced.

When done, the main floor will be a Public Heritage Space and Education Centre demonstrating with original fixtures and artefacts how Firefighters lived and worked in the building over almost 100 years. It will also feature a wall of honour for firefighters and first responders and a donor wall.  

As visiting and learning at the Public Heritage Space will be free of charge for Wellanders and tourists alike, school classes and other groups, the second and third floors will be rented to small businesses and not-for-profits to make the project self-sustaining economically.  To accomplish this final hurdle we have launched a major Fundraising  Campaign to meet accessibility standards with a new entrance, staircase and elevator addition at the rear of the building.

Here is a message from Anna Olson, who is Honorary Chair of Central Station Education Initiative’s 2023 Fundraising Campaign: 

“I have been familiar with this grand old building with its irreplaceable history of firefighting in Canada for many years and am pleased to lend my support to the Central Station Education Initiative’s Fundraising Campaign.”

Please spread the word and be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to save our firefighting history.  To donate, please go to http://www.centralfirehall.ca or send your donation to Central Station Education Initiative, 30 Hellems Avenue, Welland ON L3B 3A7. To receive a Charitable Receipt for income tax purposes please include your full name and address.

Donors, volunteers and friends, we sincerely appreciate your past support and hope we can count on your continued support in 2023! 

Attribution: Central Station Education Initiative.

City Is Seeking Nominations For Annual Sports Awards

Don’t delay: Deadline for nominating is January 27

WELLAND – The City of Welland is seeking nominations to recognize local athletes, coaches and teams that had outstanding achievements in their respective sports in 2022. The honourees will be recognized at the annual Sports Awards ceremony on April 14.

The Sports Promotion Committee invites the community to complete the nomination form with a synopsis of the achievement. Awards within the Athlete, Non-Athlete, and the H.L. Cudney Memorial categories are open to Welland residents or Welland-based teams who excelled in their sport.

Categories will be judged based on nominating information. The following criteria for both individual athletes and teams are ranked in order of importance below:

  • Level of competition achieved: local, regional, provincial, national, international
  • Post-season or championship results
  • Regular season or qualifying competition results
  • Sport divisions, qualification standards for competition, number of competitors in any defined division
  • Competitive, intercollegiate

“The City of Welland has a long history of supporting and honouring sporting excellence in our community,” said Amanda Degazio, manager of business and community services. “The 2023 Sports Awards will honour both the individuals that have excelled in their sport and the ones who have contributed to advancing the sporting community within our city.”

Residents can review the complete nomination criteria and submit entries at this link www.welland.ca/events/sportsawardsnomination.asp. The deadline for nomination submissions is Jan. 27, 2023. 

(Attribution: City of Welland media release)

Barky’s Billboard

(Please support/attend/participate in this outstanding community event)

Pleased to announce that the 12th annual Julia’s Hope Cup will be returning to our traditional annual pond hockey tournament and carnival on Saturday, February 18th, 2023 at Chippawa Park Pond. Learn more at: https://juliashopecup.ca

(Barky’s Billboard is a recurring feature on the blog.)

Heritage Lives: The Impact of Comics On Our World As A Form Of Entertainment

By Terry Hughes

The world of comics has impacted us in a variety of ways too numerous to detail here.

Their roots are found in political cartoons found in newspapers in the late nineteenth century but became more mainstream by the nineteen thirties. 

The Depression had hurt the spirit of people who were looking for some kind of relief at that time. Heroes and heroines using fictitious characters became the subjects of interest. That would include Little Orphan Annie, the crime-busting Dick Tracy or the intergalactic good guys, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon illustrated here. They would sell a lot of cereal products, radio programs and movies. Remember watching Flash, Dr. Zarkov and Dale Ardon against Ming the Merciless in serials broadcast in the early days of television?

The first superhero would emerge from a novel published in 1914 from a novel called Tarzan of the Apes written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. By the 1930s Tarzan was found in a variety of media making his famous scream and the line “Me Tarzan, You Jane!” Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller would win much fame playing that movie role. Newspapers had a section called “the funny papers” where comic strips can still be found today. Blondie and Dagwood, Henry, and the Captain and the Kids of yesteryear are now replaced by Peanuts or Garfield. 

Fast forward to more recent times, our next comic hero taken from a 1988 Time Magazine shows Superman celebrating his fiftieth birthday surrounded by his newspaper colleagues and a host of super heroes spawned by his image. Can you name who makes up those characters in the background? They would emerge after 1938 as the thirst for more super heroes grew.   

Comic heroes since the numerous Superman sequels have followed with many of their own such as Batman. They are real money makers. Presently, Spiderman tops the list for many people. Compared to comics of the past the musculature and body language emphasize the stunts and actions required by these individuals. The simplistic story lines of yesterday have been replaced by much deeper themes with some stories having a darker side.

The author of the magazine article concludes with the hope that Superman will reach one hundred years of age. Well here we are in 2023 and he is well on his way to reaching that milestone.

Next column: The former Robin Hood mill in transition.

(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.)