Tag Archives: Heritage

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 The simplistic story lines of yesterday have been replaced by much deeper themes with some stories having a darker side.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.)

Heritage Lives: A Christmas To Remember

Remember having to shove paper into the toes to make those old skates fit?

/Supplied graphic

By Terry Hughes

Do you remember a time when children were not pressured into experiencing what Christmas was all about? Our picture for the column aptly explains how a child many years ago daydreamed about enjoying one of the toys or sporting equipment shown in this window display. 

There were both spiritual and gift opportunities that stand out in our minds that made this time of year so special. For me, one such experience was being part of the Holy Trinity choir singing at the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve and sleeping over at my grandparents. This was followed with a quick trip home to enjoy my gifts and the relatives that came to join us for Christmas diner.

Money was not that easy to come by and children had to rein in on the kind of present you hoped to receive. Often that present was not forthcoming, and you had to wait for another Christmas and hope it would appear under the tree. Sources for gift ideas were held to advertising around the first week of December when storefronts and display windows offered a glimpse of what item you longed to have. Locally, for east end kids McCrae Sporting Goods on East Main Street near the tracks offered everything from hockey sticks to your favourite team’s jersey that usually, back in the days of the Original Six, was the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens. In later years that team sweater may have had the number of your favourite player whether it be number 27 (Frank Mahovlich) or number 5 (Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion). A pair of new skates was a break from having to endure hand me downs you were forced to wear. Remember having to shove paper into the toes to make those old skates fit?

A source for toys was found in the Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues. Barbara Ann Scott dolls, miniature dishes, a table and chairs or kitchen stove and figure skates tantalized the girls while electric trains, tinker toys, Meccano sets and military action figures with appropriate equipment were liked by the boys. My wife still has her china set! Remember the Canadian-style log cabin that you built, or a family favourite – the hockey game with levers that you activated the ‘players’ to hustle a marble (in place of a puck) up and down the curved wooden surface?

Sometimes, a visit to a large centre such as Buffalo or Toronto offered the eye of a child a visual experience that was hard to forget. Large stores offered  winter scenes with mechanically-activated figures, nativity scenes and characters found at the North Pole. Santa and his elves were busy manufacturing make-believe toys or the old gentleman was shown flying with his reindeer across a wintertime sky. In Toronto, a family favourite of ours was getting breakfast at a Honey Do Restaurant that just happened to be on the Santa Claus Parade route. After the parade a visit to Eaton’s Toyland topped our visit to the city. The huge display of Lionel and American Flyer Trains speeding around a winter wonderland of snow and ice was the topper!

Well, we hope that you enjoyed some memories of days gone by and we look forward to offering some new historical experiences that enhanced our heritage.

God bless you all and have a very Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year!

(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.)

Some Main Street Bridge Memories Over The Years

Main Street bridge in a photo taken in September 2022. A beautiful ‘retirement’ for the iconic structure. /Joe Barkovich file photo.

By Terry Hughes 

Things I remember:

As a wide-eyed five-year-old, from my grandparents’ apartment above the old post office on King Street, watching 1,000 tons of steel and concrete move up and down allowing boats to pass by, wow!;

Walking across the bridge fearful of being “bombed” by a resident pigeon; 

Buffalo radio station WKBW (1520 AM) contest paying $15.20 for the best news tip and sometime kept our local CHOW from getting top local news. Once, upon hearing the Main Street bridge had collapsed and without checking sources just to beat the Buffalo rival, CHOW reported the tip as true;

Standing too close to the rising gate, a student caught her skirt on it and revealed beautiful legs for all to see!;

When a crime was committed in Welland and the police hoped to catch the culprits, a message was sent to the canal authorities to lift local bridges to trap the culprits before they could get away;

For half their “lives”, the bridges were painted black;

Being late for high school because the bridge was up;  

On the night of the big celebration, fireworks were planned as part of it. But the truck bringing the fireworks to town was involved in an accident en route and the fireworks show did not take place;

On the night of the big celebration, as the laker Georgian Bay passed through downtown, many in the crowd of onlookers started singing, to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, “Welland Bridge Is coming down, coming down ..…” What a chorus of voices!

According to a study by Acres Research Inc., the Main Street bridge was up the equivalent of 8 hours out of 24 every day.

(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.)

Heritage Lives: ‘Greyhounds’ Of The Royal Canadian Navy From The Second World War

 Captions: Top, A postcard of ‘Action at Dawn’, by C.G. Evers. This painting depicts Haida as she chases enemy destroyers near the French coast. Bottom left, shown in retirement in Toronto and bottom right, laying a smokescreen. /Supplied photos.

By Terry Hughes

During the Second World War, the Canadian Navy was saddled with convoy duty using a vessel type called the corvette. The majority of the navy was made up of this type of ship that played a defensive role on the North Atlantic. Convoy duty although important was less inspiring than other forms of duty for Canadian seamen until 1942-3 when a new offensive weapon was introduced to the fleet. They were known as the Tribal Class Destroyers. 

Our pictures show the last type of her class, HMCS Haida in retirement in Toronto and later, moved to Hamilton after a major refit and restoration at the Port Weller dockyard. The remaining photos show her at her wartime best firing her main armament and laying a smoke screen at high speed (42 mph or 36+ knots)

Although these ships were not the first destroyers to see service here, they did play a more active role during the war. Originally, the group was made up of four vessels. The term “tribal “introduced proud names that reflected the Indian tribes found here in Canada. Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron and Haida would make up the first members of this class. They were the most heavily armed vessels at that time. Their presence reflected the spirited action that impressed the British Admiralty while working out from the British Isles.  But it was Haida who struck fear into the enemy as noted by the two headed “Thunder Bird” sported on her superstructure sinking several destroyers and severely damaging several others while sinking a submarine and a number of other vessels before the end of the war. Unfortunately, Athabaskan was a war loss costing one hundred and twenty seven lives. 

The work of the Tribals was not done. Bolstered by four new vessels, these ships went through a transition to anti-submarine duty. With the conflict in Korea happening in 1950, they were involved in duties with the U.S. fleet. Five seamen were lost in this conflict. It was here that Haida became known for train busting – shelling Communist rail traffic that was found along the coast. Her reputation as the “fightingest” ship in the Royal Canadian Navy was assured.

Next Column:  A Christmas Wish List. 

(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.)

Heritage Lives In Pictures: Where Tigers Once Roamed

 By Terry Hughes

A portion of Denistoun Street from West Main to the river is pictured here showing a row of townhouses. Behind it are slabs of concrete awaiting disposal. Probably, there will be streets planned for this area where similar housing will arise. What a stark contrast to those of us who remember this location that for decades housed a revered educational institution, Welland High and Vocational School.

 This location housed the vocational wing that included the commercial and technical departments of the school built in the early 1930’s. The wooden gymnasium was originally found here too. The darkened hallway approaching basement classrooms like B1 and B2 could be reached through here. 

The balance of the school facing West Main were the general classrooms where those not interested in a trade or business career attended. With the new addition constructed in the middle 50’s a major change occurred with a new gymnasium, offices and entrance.

The football field lay behind all of this wreckage where the Tigers as part of COSSA won the championship in Peterborough in 1953 and here in 1954. The competitive nature between Notre Dame and Welland High was played out here as well. Our last picture shows a game between these teams with the commercial and technical wings in the background. And along with the days and events not chronicled here will live on with the tens of thousands who graduated from the school.  

Next column:  When Niagara Street was called North Main Street.

(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.)

City Looking At Options To Relocate Mural On The Soon To Be Demolished Hotel On Niagara Street

WELLAND The City of Welland is working with the developer of the soon-to-be-demolished former Best Value Inn on Niagara Street (municipally known as 1030 Niagara Street) to relocate a prominent mural depicting the historical images of a horse pulling a sailing ship through the canal in the mid-1800s. 

The Towpaths mural. Its plight was drawn to the public’s attention by Aldo Parrotta, himself a local artist and organizer of the Bell Box murals project in the city. /Supplied photo.

Made aware of the impending destruction of the mural, City staff have reached out to the developer to explore the potential of safely removing the art. Once determined, city staff would then store the mural until a new location is chosen. 

“Our city is rich in history and culture, and preserving both is important as we move forward,” said Rob Axiak, director of community services. “We will look at potential locations and bring recommendations to the arts and culture advisory committee and heritage committee for their support and advice.”

The Welland Mural project began in 1986 and depicts Welland’s industrial and marine history, including the Welland Fair, steam engines, tugboats, and historic downtown, to name a few. Murals are found throughout the downtown area and the city’s north end. 

“We are looking forward to working with the developer to find a suitable outcome for this particular piece of art,” said Axiak. “This is one of those instances when the city, community, and our development partners can work together to produce a positive result.”

Along with the mural project, canoe art and sculptures by Rod Dowling, Welland is home to many great art pieces. You can learn more at discover.welland.ca/attractions/art.asp.

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Heritage Lives: Self-Initiative The Order Of The Day

By Terry Hughes

Today, elementary school children are overwhelmed with electronic devices that at times seem to hypnotize them from the real world. It inhibits their personal communication skills and endangers socialization opportunities that were so much a part of our growing up. Everything is so organized leaving little time for self-initiative. And even though there is equipment for every opportunity, boredom is often a common ailment. Because we lacked this type of lifestyle, how in the world did we survive?

Looking back, and recalling the stuff that we used for play, entertainment and having fun, it was a simpler time. The only electronic equipment available: the telephone, sometimes with a party line; radio and television with a very few channels. Equipment could be a piece of rope for skipping, a ball and bat for softball in a vacant field and a sidewalk where we played hopscotch, tag, jacks and leapfrog. A telephone pole or tree in your neighbourhood acted as the “home free place” where you played hide and seek usually after supper until dark. Rocks acted as goal posts for kick the can or street hockey. A shoelace fitted through a hole drilled through a horse chestnut was done when playing Kingers. 

Bicycles gave an opportunity to visit far away places. Just look at the boy with his bike without a helmet. The bike lacks handles for braking because all you had to do was back peddle engaging the rear wheel.  Called coaster bikes, they required peddling at whatever speed you wanted not having to worry about changing gears or dropping your chain. You were in charge of repairing your bike and fixing a flat was a simple chore; no cables or chains to inhibit your work. One-size bike fits all or you waited until you were big enough to ride one. My bike was a second hand CCM.    

Skipping was an art in itself. Regular skipping involved one or a multitude of folk that was popular with the girls. It was set to a rhythm established by a verse developed by them. Listed below are some of these verses: 

One potato, two potato, three potato, four,       .
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, or….  

Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head,
 Mama called the doctor, the doctor said, no more monkeys, jumping on the bed.

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around, teddy bear teddy bear, touch the ground.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, go upstairs, teddy bear, teddy bear say your prayers…

A big fat man came to our house and we asked him what he wanted, a bottle of wine to shine him up and that is all he wanted,
Where’s your money, in my pocket, where’s your pocket, I forgot it, where do you live, under the bridge, what’s your number cucumber,
What’s your street, pigs feet! 

 Different types of skipping were performed including red hot pepper based on how often you could jump and double Dutch requiring two ropes. Our picture of this happy young lady skipping showed home much fun it was.

Pretending was experienced by most of us and was based on our heroes and personalities we knew in the adult world. One of the pictures shows a little girl pouring a cup of tea into a tiny cup. Playing house was based on what moms did. My wife still has her tea set packed away waiting for some little person in our extended family to claim it. Just throw a blanket or old rug over the clothes line or back stoop and you were ready to bring your dolls and other personal belongings into play.

Good guys and bad guys based on radio personalities were played out and this was often extended to movie heroes like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. A situation, unfortunately, occurred playing Cowboys and Indians. Thanks to the movies, the natives were always massacring the white folk when history shows us it was, in many cases, just the opposite. And in the textbooks of the day such as Pirates and Pathfinders, Champlain asked for religious orders to come to the New World to Christianize the Indians. And we’ll just leave it at that!

Role playing was much a part of our adventures.  While playing cowboys, one of the competing guys came up behind his opponent and struck him on the head with the handle of his metal cap gun requiring several stitches. And if you wanted to imitate one of your super heroes, why not tie a towel around your neck and see if you could fly by jumping off of a neighbour’s  garage! 

Before television, radio provided a great opportunity to play with your mind. The Inner Sanctum with its creaking door and host who sent chills down your spine accompanied by an organ with verses that set the scene for tonight’s episode come to mind. A similar program on a competing network was called, Lights Out! And what about The Shadow, a person who could cloud people’s minds so they cannot see him. Here is his closing line: “The tree of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay! The Shadow knows!…. followed by a haunting laughter. 

One other picture with this article was how money could be raised on one’s own initiative. Selling lemonade or, in this case, Kool Aid, created an awful lot of work with minimal return. While getting penny candy from your local store, cashing in pop bottles for two cents made it easy. But going on family picnics to Long Beach could be very profitable. People were very careless about bottle disposal so my sister and I would collect all the bottles we could and cram them into the trunk of the car. At home we washed the sand from them and took them to the store. Store owners were not happy about having to find room in their building so we spread our distribution over several different places.

Everything talked about here was done on our own initiative. And every activity was seasonal. Kingers were a fall activity while alleys took place in the spring. Bikes were put away for winter but walking trips to spend a day in the “bush” could be done any time. Ice skating took place on local ponds or outdoor rinks provided by the municipality in the winter. And would I change places with today’s generation? Absolutely NOT!  How about you? 

Next column:  Don’t Mess With Lake Erie.

(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.)

Heritage Lives: FDR And Churchill Visited Niagara In 1943

 By Terry Hughes                                                          

For security reasons meetings and operations about the war were not for public knowledge. Certainly, this was true with FDR and Churchill. The reasons for face to face meetings were rooted in discussions that yielded good results. This fact would often precede public meetings like the Quebec Conference held on Canadian soil later that year.

 Roosevelt was not a stranger to Canada as the family maintained a summer residence in Campobello, New Brunswick. It was here that he lost the use of his legs. He enjoyed the outdoors and was willing to consider a visitation to the Bruce Peninsula where it offered abundant fishing opportunities. But the real reason is that it offered a meeting with Churchill on the “q.t.”

In order to reach this area of Ontario would require an extensive train trip from Washington via the New York Central, the Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo and Canadian Pacific railways. His train would have to pass through here from Buffalo to connections with the C.P. R. at Hamilton. He would return to the U.S. in the same way. It was not uncommon for passenger trains with blacked out windows passing through here quite often so this “presidential special” would pass by unnoticed .

During the early years of the war, the Royal Navy would host the prime minister for meetings in North America. After reaching Canada he would go by train to his meeting with Roosevelt. Having set an agenda for the Quebec Conference, they returned to different destinations and in the case of Churchill his whereabouts appeared in local newspapers when his train stopped in Niagara Falls for him to do some sightseeing. 

While his daughter checked out the falls and collected postcards for the folks back home, Churchill decided to visit Brock’s Monument. The prime minister was a student of military warfare and was intrigued with the Battle of Queenston Heights. According to press accounts he respected the heroics of Brock, but he could not understand why Gen. Sheaffe, who retook Queenston Heights along with Indian allies, from Americans did not get significantly more recognition!    .   

Believe it or not this story was initiated when a former railway employee brandished a cigar band from the type of cigar that Churchill smoked! It was just a matter of joining the dots after researching a number of published news accounts to write this story.  

Note: The images of FDR and Churchill are from The Best of Life.

Next Column:  Favourite Rides At Crystal Beach.  

(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.)

Heritage Lives In Pictures: The Building With The Arches On Niagara Street

Business Area Was Dubbed ‘The West Main Village’ By Well Known Wellander

By Terry Hughes

No, we’re not talking about McDonalds but instead a building next door to Bogner’s Photography once known as the Hilder Bldg. The late Joe Krar called this row of buildings and those structures on West Main Street  THE WEST MAIN VILLAGE.  These buildings reflect the style of businesses that were once part of the historic west side of the city over a century ago. 

Close examination of our picture from yesteryear this month shows a portion of dirt road which was eventually covered with brick sometime around 1912. This part of the building shows the first arch, housing a grocery store and a soda fountain. 

What was common for grocery stores was placing some of their fruits and vegetables on a sloping table for potential shoppers to see. The size of this type of shop was relatively small and noted as neighbourhood ventures that were found across the town. They would cater to the customers of that area.but it was very competitive. 

The operation of a soda shop was very specialized because you were limited to selling ice cream in various forms and soda drinks. Coke was just getting started and Pepsi was yet to be marketed. Eventually this type of business would be found in drug stores. 

One other feature of shops of the day was the use of awnings. Not only did they offer shoppers some relief from the weather but were used as a method of advertising. If the weather was too punishing they would simply use a hand crank device and raise them until better conditions prevailed. 

A wide variety of businesses would be found here over the years. I can remember going into this part of the building called Isherwoods where the owner sold model kits of airplanes, ships, etc. It also housed a bike shop. The upstairs apartments served both the shop owner as well as a temporary place to live for some folk. For viewing, some of other businesses are shown on pages 106 and 107 in the CELEBRATING 150 YEARS, the Welland 150th anniversary book. 

Next Heritage Lives in Pictures:  Getting Ready To Bridge The Great Dain.

(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.)

Heritage Lives In Pictures: Swing Bridge Once Crossed The Two Former Locks In Port Colborne

 By Terry Hughes

In our second effort to present yesteryear and current day locations of interest, we go to Port Colborne and West Street  where a photo was recently taken looking east of the remnants of the old canal. The focus was on a metal ring that served as a bearing to support  the swing bridge that was used to cross the second and third canal lock at this point. Remember, West Street, also known as the Promenade, is directly behind. 

The second photo is from the early 1900’s before the present canal was built. East Street would be behind us before the present canal excavation demolished it. The photographer of the day is looking west with West Street in the background and the bridge filling the picture. Many of the buildings are still there housing many businesses like that fabulous candy shop!

The tunnel on the left was covered when the promenade and small boat dockage was built and was used to regulate the water levels in the older canals. The two structures over which the bridge was built were formerly locks. 

This wooden style of bridge was quite common over the third canal and was operated by placing a T-shaped key through the floor of the bridge that engaged gears turning the span. 

Buggies and early automobiles would have some difficulty passing each other while competing with pedestrian traffic.  

Next Heritage Lives In Pictures:  The Building With The Arches On Niagara Street. 

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