Thursday, 21 June 2012


No photos - just prose with this one.

I don't know if I could be considered a 'beggar for punishment' or not but, for many years, I have worked in polling stations and - by and large - I have enjoyed the experiences.

The first time was when I was a Pastor at Westboro United Church in Ottawa. One of the women at that church was quite involved in the voting process. An election had been called and there were not many people who were rushing forward to work so she asked me if I would? I replied, "Sure!"

I was a Poll Clerk working with an older gentleman who was the Deputy Returning Officer. The poll was situated in the lobby of a nice apartment building. Everything was going smoothly until the boyfriend of one of the young female tenants arrived to be registered and then to vote.

The DRO turned him down flat - not because he was ineligible to vote there but because he was 'living in sin' with the young lady. I knew that that was wrong - all a Deputy Returning Officer is allowed to do is to ascertain that a voter is properly registered and nothing else! I was indignant but, as I was the Poll Clerk, I could not override him. However, I was able to get the voter to one side and advised him to go to the Returning Office where he would be registered and allowed to vote. Also, I apologized for the obstinacy of the elderly DRO.

While I was the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Vancouver I was asked to be a scrutineer  on behalf of my favorite political party in a nearby poll. At that time, the sitting member was the Honorable Pat Carney who was very popular with the electorate.

In the neighborhood of the poll was a halfway house for mental patients. One of the male residents dropped by to vote. His name was on the Voter's List, he could prove his address, so he was given a ballot. He was away behind a voter's screen for quite a while and finally returned handing the Deputy Returning Officer a badly mutilated ballot - he had carefully torn the paper all around the name of his choice (Ms. Carney) and left the rest of the ballot behind the voter's screen. His selection was clear to us but we had to issue a second ballot and strongly state that he was not to tear the ballot in any way but simply to place an "X"  beside the name of his choice and then refold the ballot so that his choice could not be seen by another. He voted correctly on his second try.

A few years later I was living in the Victoria suburb of Esquimalt when another Federal election was called. This voting district was new and the proper name was 'Esquimalt Juan de Fuca' which we had to hand write on every document that we handled. Not only was I the Deputy Returning Officer but I was one of the enumerators who canvassed the neighborhood in order to up date the Voters' List before the election. That cumbersome name had to be written - or printed out - in full on every voter registration.

Going back in time, during the summer that I spent in Namu, there had been another Federal Election and I was the Poll Clerk on that day. One of my neighbors  was a strongly opinionated Dutchman and he loudly told everybody in and near the Polling Station for whom he was voting. Although I agreed with his choice, I had to admonish him NOT to make such a loud announcement in the polling place.

Upon moving to Toronto I was able to augment my income by working during a number of elections. On at least two occasions this meant enumerating new voters. As I like people, I enjoyed this. There was an amusing incident that occurred while I was enumerating.

Immediately behind the building in which I live is a convent belonging to the Loretto Sisters. As the nuns were transferred between the convents belonging to the order the list of voters for that residence had to be updated. At that time I was carrying a pager in a front pant pocket. I was sitting on a soft couch when the pager vibrated. To get it to stop I had to rise, reach into my pocket, and press a button and during the process I apologized to the Sister who was being interviewed by me. As soon as my task in the convent was completed I walked to a pay telephone up the block and I was highly amused by the message which I received - a 'call girl' had the wrong number and was telephoning about a prospective date!  

For one of the elections I was employed as Security in a group of polls held at the Fred Victor Mission. As this is a residence for indigent men, those about on the periphery were 'entertaining' to say the least! That neighborhood (Queen Street East at Jarvis) was in transition and many of the voters had recently  moved into new condominium buildings. I was amused by those whose sensibilities were aroused when they came to vote. Sure, the denizens of the building were recovering alcoholics and/or drug users but they were individuals and should be treated as such.

Those of us who work for the Federal, Provincial or Civic Government during elections are paid for our time and the pay is a welcome addition to a tight budget. Our last Civic Election was in the autumn of 2010 and I registered to work during that day (actually at the poll held in this very building). A few days later I received a notice in the mail - I was being called for possible jury duty and was obliged to be at the Court House first thing in the morning of Election Day! After spending a number of days sitting in jury selection rooms - and interviewed as a possible juror in one trial - I was sent home.

I was not paid for that idle time and I missed out on upwards to $200 paid to those who worked at a poll. That was not fair - but, oh well!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Once again this blog may be more of a photo essay than a narrative.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is located at the northern edge of Toronto on Steeles Avenue West and abutting York University. I have been there twice. The first time was during a salute to Black History - the month dedicated to that subject here is February but this occasion was in July, 2003 and the trees were in full leaf.

My second visit was on Saturday, July 15, 2006 after I heard mention over the radio that the program at the historic site was to be a tribute to the culture of the Metis people. For those of you who have not read the blog about a trip to Winnipeg in the summer of 1968, the Metis - in Canada - are those people who are neither First Nation - Indian - nor Caucasian but a mixture of both. The culture of many of these people has blended into that of their Caucasian neighbors while the remainder still follow the culture of their First Nation forebears. The people whom I saw and heard performing on that Saturday afternoon were of the second group.

                                                               A Drum Dance

        This fellow looks to be a mix of Amerind and Caucasian and he was singing in a tribal language

Leaving the hall where the singing and dancing were going on, I wandered through the rest of the Village. All of the buildings on the site are authentic (right to the furnishings and decor) and were hauled in from other locations - especially where  destruction was threatened by development.

This cabin is what a pioneering family would construct for their first home in a new place.

                       As they prospered, they would build a house like this one to move into

                                              An even more prosperous looking domicile

                                               The village doctor may have lived here.

And all of them would have shopped here - the Village Emporium.

Perhaps they would have worshiped here.

                                                              A Presbyterian Church

                                          The very austere interior of the above church.

                                                                The Village Common

                                  No room for the expected guests? They may stay at the Inn

 Before the Village Garage was the Village Blacksmith Shop. Those people are peering in the door to one.

                                        Central to many a pioneer village was the mill pond.

The primary source of income in many pioneer settlements was agriculture

                                                        Sheep grazing beside the barn

On a Sunday afternoon in July, 2003,a group of us went to Black Creek to witness a Civil War battle re-enactment. The battles were not staged by local people but by a group who were visiting from Kentucky. We visitors stood on the sidelines and watched the skirmishing.

First, though, was a visit to a hall where a Black woman - a part of the visiting group - was lecturing about the American Civil War.

                                            The lecturer - she was a very charming lady.

I stood with other people beside the road while hoping that the 'bullets' were blanks! It was fun - actually - and I found the eagerness of boys in the group to become seriously engaged amusing.

                                                           Union soldiers - the good guys?

                                                      The Rebels - a motley group?

Union soldiers firing at the 'enemy'

Bringing arms to the battle

I have no idea what they were doing at this moment - but I think that they were enjoying themselves! 

                               The battle is over and everybody is retiring - including the narrator!

I have never been fond of guns - nor of battles - but that was both interesting and fun!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Santa Catalina and Ensenada

My 70th birthday arrived on February 17, 2006. Ric flew me out to the Bay Area to celebrate and I opted that we go to a restaurant that I had gone to with Ric and people who worked with him on a few occasions. The restaurant is called Pasta Pelican and it is located in Alameda along the shore facing Jack London Square in Oakland. As the name indicates, the basic food is pasta and it is served with absolutely delicious sauces.

That was on Saturday evening and, on Monday, we went to Oakland Airport to catch a Jet Blue flight to Long Beach. Jet Blue is/was the latest discount airline to begin service across the continental US. The aircraft that we  were to board had flown out from Miami to Los Angeles and then north to Oakland. During the night before, the jet stream over North America was beset by very strong winds flowing from west to east. This made flying in the opposite direction extremely taxing so our flight was a couple of hours late.

Jet Blue aircraft are decorated in blue - both exterior and interior - so the signs in the cabin were quite amusing (e.g. 'You look lovely in Blue!').

We were quite a bit later in arriving at John Wayne International Airport than we had counted upon so we jumped into a cab and had rather a wild ride out to the San Pedro pier but made it safely.

Once again our ship was tied up behind the venerable Queen Mary. This is a better photo of that beloved older ship.

Ric had booked a cabin in the stern of the ship and that was a mistake! The distance from San Pedro to Santa Catalina is 26 miles - thus the ship's captain dallied during the crossing and, every time that the engines were slowed or sped up - or the anchor chain was let out - it sounded like everything was just beneath the cabin floor. Maybe that wouldn't have been so bad on a longer cruise but we certainly did not get much sleep that first night!

This was the cruise where we experienced the 'cabin steward from Hell'! We saw him when we went to our cabin initially but not again during that cruise. If we needed something, we had to hail the steward assigned to a nearby cabin. Fortunately, he always responded - and so it was to him that we passed our tip at the end of the cruise.

On Tuesday morning I was up relatively early, grabbed a coffee, and went up on deck. The ship was idling just off of Santa Catalina, the sun was shining and the sea was blue - and there was a moocher waiting hopefully on the ship's rail. 

The town on Santa Catalina is Avalon and the bay out front is too shallow for a cruise ship so - just like in Cabo San Lucas - we had to transfer to a lighter for the trip to the Green Pier near the shore.

The yellow craft beside the pier is a submersible - some of our fellow passengers had opted to go on an undersea tour on that vessel. Naturally, it was named 'The Nautilus'.

When we reached the road that parallels the bay we found a jitney bus waiting for us. We boarded and went on a tour of the lovely town of Avalon.

The first stop was up on the ridge to the south of the town and in front of what was the mansion that Mr. Wrigley -  of chewing gum and Chicago Cubs fame - had erected. On the slope across the bay was another famous individual's home - the Western author, Zane Grey. Both his and Mr Wrigley's home are now Bed and Breakfast houses.

In the heyday of Santa Catalina being a 'party place' for younger mainlanders, Mr. Wrigley had a grand ballroom erected which is now the home of a casino. People would come over from Long Beach and other south of Los Angeles suburbs for the dance parties. I understood that balls are still held there from time to time. 
                                                           Mr. Wrigley's Ballroom.

No cars are allowed on Santa Catalina so the only motorized vehicles that we saw were jitneys (like the one we were riding in) and service vehicles. If the locals want to drive somewhere in the town and/or on the island - they use golf carts. We saw a number of those.  

When Mr. Wrigley passed away his widow engaged an architect to design a mausoleum to be erected at the head of the valley which lies just behind the town site. Ric and another passenger from the cruise ship are strolling up towards the mausoleum.

In the meantime, Mr. Wrigley's blood relatives had his body whisked away to the US East Coast so nobody is actually buried up there - not even Mrs. Wrigley!

                                    I am standing in the arch at the top of the mausoleum

 If this photo were clearer, you would be able to see the town of Avalon down there by the ocean.

Our jitney was waiting when we arrived back at the bottom of the roadway from the mausoleum and we were driven down into the town. We visited some of the shops (where I purchased a lovely tile of a butterfly - Avalon is noted for the tile work carried out there) and had lunch then lolled about until it was time to catch the lighter back to the ship.

Avalon is a remote town - but a very pretty one. 

Autos are not allowed on the island so two anomalies are shown in this photo - one car is directly ahead and another can be seen in the street to the right.
                                          The shopping area is not large but it is charming.

Between the ballroom/casino and the pier there is a beach that looked very inviting.

                                           Our ship - the Paradise - is in the distance.

One more photograph from Santa Catalina - a shot of the Nautilus and the Paradise.

When we awoke the next morning we were back in Ensenada. Fortunately for us, there are two shore tours offered and we chose the second one. At dockside we boarded a bus for a half hour drive out to two wineries. We traveled north in the direction of Tijuana for a couple of miles and then the driver turned east on a secondary highway. The road was paved and there were two driving lanes - but no shoulders. That was exciting as there did not seem to be a speed limit either!

We were taken to where two vineyards are across the highway from each other. The first was the L.A. Cetto Winery and that was where we met Maryanne - our tour guide with a tremendous sense of humor.

When we alighted from the bus we were to the east of most of the vineyards and the winery.

                                     The Cetto vineyards with bougainvillea in the foreground.

                                     Ric admiring the view. The tiered seats are for the bull ring.
Just below where we were standing - and above the bull ring - is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Returning to the winery we went into  the building seen in the background where Maryanne explained the process of turning grapes into wine. At the L.A.Cetto Winery we were told about the growing of the grapes and the harvesting. Once that was completed we re boarded the bus and were driven across the highway to the Domacq Winery where the bottling, the storage, and the aging processes were explained.

In there we were shown this sign in the Spanish language which - I understand - explains that good wine needs a cool dark quiet place in which to age.

As she neared the end of her spiel, Maryanne tried to talk her audience into buying bottles of the vintage. As sales were not going all that well, she tried a ploy, - she said $10 for a bottle of wine and me!" I shot back with, "How much without the wine?" Everybody laughed (the lad who was working with her was splitting his sides) and - as Maryanne blushed - I felt embarrassed!

                      The Domacq Winery with some of the Cetto Winery in the background.

A photo of Maryanne - our very funny hostess.

We rode the bus back into Ensenada and went into a cantina for lunch and a beverage. After eating we made our way back to the ship.

                                           The Mexican flag flying proudly over Ensenada

As when we returned from the Mexican Riviera cruise, we were treated to a lovely sunrise as we approached Long Beach the next morning.

It took longer for the ship to dock and for us to disembark than we had counted upon. However, we were at John Wayne International Airport in Long Beach before the early flight left but it was full so we had to wait another four or five hours.

The airport is not prepossessing in any way and, at first, we thought that we were forced to wait inside the somewhat dingy building - that is, until we discovered a balcony off of the restaurant which was upstairs. While sitting there and playing numerous games of cribbage we were entertained by activities on the ground and in the air. Especially by a 'blimp' that seemed to have been leased to take school children for rides over the Los Angeles basin (it was Spring Break). Here is a photo of that blimp - rather colorful, don't you think?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Christmas 2005

Right from the beginning Ric has felt very welcome in the homes of my sisters, nieces and nephews so we planned a 'split Christmas'  in 2005. First we flew independently from Toronto and San Francisco to Kamloops where we spent a few days at the home of my niece, Teri Denis. As luck would have it, Teri's husband, Paul, was able to get an early Christmas break from his work in Drayton Valley, Alberta so he was able to join us for the gift exchange.

On the following day, my oldest sister, Alda, drove down from 100 Mile House and took us back up there for the balance of the holiday. We had been to Kamloops at around Christmas once before and there was no snow. This time, however, there was quite a bit of snow at both Kamloops and at 100 Miles House.

              The North Thompson River as seen from behind Teri and Paul's home 

The highways were clear of snow so traveling along them was no problem.

Alda still owned the house  where they were living when her husband, Leo, died so it was familiar to Ric and I. Alda's youngest daughter - Karen - and her daughter, Amber, lived a mere block or two away while Alda's  youngest son, his wife - Patti - and two daughters lived to the north in 108 Mile House. These two families were with us most of the time.

Karen and Amber owned a pair of Yorkshire Terriers and they - with their litter of three puppies - were also at Alda's home and we enjoyed their company very much.

                                                  Two of the puppies and their mother.

As shown in the blog "A Dog Called Rex" puppies seem to think that Ric's fingers are good teething tools.

Christmas Eve was spent with Alda's youngest son - Todd - and his family - at their home north of 100 Mile where they were hosting an open house. As Ric has a fine singing voice and was willing to donate his talent to either the Anglican or Roman Catholic  Church for the Christmas Eve service, Alda asked among her friends if Ric's talent would be appreciated?  As one of her friends is a member of the choir at the Roman Catholic Church, she gladly welcomed Ric to be a part of the Mass. He left Alda's house first in order to meet the priest and to get in a rehearsal while Alda and I left later in order to be a part of the congregation.

We misunderstood the time for the Mass to begin so we were some fifteen minutes late and, as Ric sang at the beginning of the Mass, we missed his contribution to the service. As we were late we sat near the back of the church and I was appalled.  

The priest was a late middle-aged Filipino man who seemed to not have heard of Vatican II - his method of delivery and his theology were so out of date. Alda was surprised when I refused to go forward during communion while Ric - after we were back at Alda's home and had gone to bed - burst into tears. His gift was for naught!

The next morning Karen and Todd's families joined us for the day. The first item on the agenda was, of course - the Tree. The photo is of Karen with one of her gifts in her hand.

Patti's parents - Todd's in-laws - arrived later to spend the rest of the day with us. The table was beautifully set in Alda's dining room and it looked so much like the table that our Mom used to set - and the food was very much a "Lacasse Christmas Dinner".

My gift from Alda moved me very much. Both Mom's and Grandma's photo albums had come to her so she had many of the photos laser copied and placed into another album for me.

On Boxing Day Alda drove us back to Kamloops so Ric and I could catch our respective flights back to our homes.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Strolling Down the Don Valley

As mentioned before, there are four small rivers which flow through the City of Toronto and into Lake Ontario. All of these valleys are parkland basically and through them are paved bicycle/walking paths. The valley that is the closest to downtown Toronto is the Don which I have hiked many times - both up and down. The photos which I  am sharing here are from the north to the south. Toronto has a vast commuter system so, in order to reach a point to begin a walk (or to return from one) it means taking the subway and bus to the handiest access point.

Alighting from a city bus I was  across a street from the park entrance to what was known as Edwards Gardens (now it is named 'The Toronto Botanical Gardens').

A second formal garden.

Actually, the gardens are along Wilkett Creek - a tributary of the Don. In the foreground is the walking/bicycle path with the little arced bridge leading across to the far bank where a pathway leads one up to a residential street..

                                    Below the little bridge there were some mallard ducks.

Where the path left the formal gardens I looked back and saw this view.

The bicycle paths are beautiful to walk along - except for some cyclists who seem to be moving far too fast. Therefore, there are signs stating that the speed limit is 20 KMH - ignored by many of the younger set traveling on two wheels!

Just before the bicycle path enters the forest, there is a lovely stairway leading up to the greenhouses, tea room and amenities

Upon exiting the park the trail meanders through the woods along the creek bank to where it flows into the Don River (there the vegetation is mainly mowed lawns for picnicking and games).

This walk was in late summer and a young maple tree was exhibiting leaves that were changing color.

                                                Wilkett Creek flowing through the forest

                                        Wilkett Creek near where it joins the West Don River

The Don River begins its journey north of the city proper. While the Humber - a larger stream - flows through manicured parkland most of the way,  the Don River valley is not as developed. Actually, Wilkett Creek flows into the West Don River which joins the east branch where the Don Valley Parkway comes down into the valley and continues on to near the shore of Lake Ontario where the traffic turns west to the city core.

                                                                The West Don River

From the above point on to near the Parkway the route is through an area of mowed grass and, where the two parts of the Don flow into each other, the terrain returns to being natural vegetation.

Further down the valley there is a cloverleaf exit from the Parkway. On one hike I passed under the overpasses and continued on through a stretch where the river was on my immediate right. For a few hundred yards a view of the river was blocked by a thick growth of young trees and shrubs. Passing that, however, I was awed by seeing the river again and, on a sandbar, were two white tailed deer drinking river water. This was practically in the middle of the city! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me that time. Darn!

I was friends with a guy who owned a wonderful golden retriever. At that time Glenn was working at the Toolbox and, often, I would walk Napoleon while his human was away. One Sunday Glenn was working during the brunch period and, when the time was near for him to be off work, I collected Napoleon from the apartment and walked down the valley to meet Glenn (he would have walked a few blocks from the Toolbox to where Queen Street crossed the river and descend by a staircase to the bicycle path). Upon meeting I turned around and walked with Glenn to where we could access his neighborhood. As we walked Glenn and I were talking and, occasionally, stopping while we chatted. As far as Napoleon was concerned, the river was there as his private swimming pool. He became impatient with us so went into the river.

At that point the path climbs a slope up to the edge of the freeway and then descends again. When we were near the top Glenn whistled and Napoleon came running up the slope dripping water from his fur. We were deep in conversation about something or other and did not move on so Napoleon became impatient, turned around, and loped back down to the river bank. A moment later we heard him yelp and ran down the slope to investigate. Napoleon  met us and he was limping. Glenn examined him and found a wound in the dog's groin. I realized that, just before Napoleon yelped, I had heard a splash - there was a beaver in the river and, as it was spring, in all likelihood she had a litter of pups to which Napoleon was deemed to be a threat!

A beaver in the river only a few miles from the downtown core?

Glenn took Napoleon to the vet who examined him and determined that the wound was a superficial one. She treated it with antibiotics and sent him home.

Deer and a beaver in the middle of the city!