History Talks: Willoughby & Chippawa 2015
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History Talks: Willoughby & Chippawa 2015

I just think about, mentioning how, people had to put up with so much. All the way from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake
and then of course this little area It was where all the military traveled, all of the Natives, years ago there, traveled. The waterway, the First Welland Canal, the ships went out to Lake Erie. And then all of the War of 1812, the Fenians- Oh, Rebellion first, and then the Fenians,
and then as we went along, there is so much that happened in this area. It’s just amazing. I grew up in the city for eleven years, and then the
rest of the time after that moved to the farm So, I guess you could consider yourself a farm kid Certainly did a lot of of farming. Approximately fifty years of farming. Well, I grew up on a farm, so it was something that I was familiar with, but I remember Gunning’s big barn, with ‘Rainbow Farms’ on it. It was one of the sights that we’ve seen when we drove the Parkway. And it was lovely, just lovely.
We had some lovely barns in this area, but they are fast disappearing. I grew up on a farm and then when you went out on a Saturday night, your buddies which were the same age had a car, you didn’t. You grew up on a farm, they worked in a factory. So, that sort of pushed the younger generation off the farms, I think. Into factories. Because of the cars, you know. Little jealousy, maybe. The farmland in Willoughby, in most respects, is not good farmland And if you’re going to farm today, you’ve got to have excellent land. Otherwise, it’s just not feasible to farm. I can remember some years that back-to-back, twice in one season, or over the two seasons, we weren’t able to plant two seasons in a row So really, you had no income then from your crops for two years. And that happened more than once with our farmland. It’s pretty mediocre farmland in my estimation. And farming’s changed, the methods of farming have changed so much now You need so many acres and the equipment is huge in order to make any money. And, actually, farming is a gamble. And the cost of farm equipment today is just unreal. It’s gone through the roof. And many of the farms that are being farmed aren’t owned by the people that are farming them. They’re renting them. And I see huge equipment going by my main road that I’m on. And they don’t, the people who are farming, they don’t own these. They just go out and they rent all of the areas that they can. And on the property where I live now, there were thirteen apple trees on that property when we bought it I waited until each one fell down, when they fell down, I cleaned them up. I never cut any of them down. And all thirteen are gone today. We call it Snyder today, but it was New Germany back then. And they had a cider mill. [Yeah, everybody had cider]…and pressed the apples. Was there anything in Chippawa? I don’t recall. [Just trunks.] We used to send a lot of apples to the cider mill. I can’t recall where it was, but I know it wasn’t too far away. Must have been the one you were talking about. I know it’s going to the cider mill and then we’d be waiting to get back the yellow in bottles. Well, the Lions were selling that at one time, too. I have a bottle that says ‘Chippawa Lions’ that had cider on in it. The thing that I remember is that, now that we’re older and we sit over at Tim Horton’s to have coffee You get reminiscing about different things, eh? About the crik and jumping off the bridge and whatnot. I don’t think there’s too many people in Willoughby that know how to swim Because the Chippawa people had the crik right there. We were farm guys, so we stayed on the farm. So we didn’t get a chance to really get swimming. I don’t know really of anybody that knows how to really swim like the people in Chippawa do I always worry about somebody being drowned And it’s only the people I’ve ever known in Chippawa who weren’t from Chippawa, they’re usually from out of town. But, yeah. If you’re from Chippawa, it’s a ‘crik’. One time, going over the bridge and everybody’s yelling and screaming. So we turn on back and a little boy had walked out into a little diving board with some tourists And he fell and he never came back up. And they found him the next morning, his foot was caught on a tree root But there’s been the odd one, even up along the parkway there, there’s been drownings But it’s just always been somebody just doesn’t know the crik, because there’s such an undertow on it I guess you just grow up in Chippawa knowing that the crik is the boss I have a lot of people say, ‘Oh, where’d the word Chippawa come from?’ Indians. When school season was over, and we’d play baseball back- We’d play baseball out the back, there. And then they’d come to our school to see who the champion was of the year, eh? And whatnot. Yeah, used to bike it home, used to bike it from one school to another. I think in my time, I think it was the baseball that sort of brought everybody together. Baseball is the prime sport, basically. I don’t recall that the schools, you know, got together for anything. Other than we had inter- baseball games with Black Creek and Lions Creek. I don’t remember playing baseball with Chippawa too, it was just sorta Willoughby to Willoughby schools. Five to six to seven. Winters, we used to go out and walk on the ice to school, there. We got in trouble for that and the Board of Education visited home and knocked on the door with their little committee. Bringing it to my parent’s attention. But, uh The ice would likely be, seemed to me it looked like forty or fifty or a hundred feet out. It was definitely quite a ledge of ice that went out in the river. You could basically safely walk on it. In fact, we used- out in front of John Coley’s- the mailman- we used to play hockey there out in front of Coley’s. We’d all go up there after school and play hockey on the river. It’s sure changed. What we used to do is, out at Willoughby Township #6 school there was a forest out beside. So we were allowed to cross the road. Tons and tons of snakes. We used to have the little baby ones, and we used to take the handle grips off the bicycles and stick all these snakes in there, put the handle grips back on again. Then when school was out, we’d pull them off. Of course, the girls were yelling and screaming at us. And then all the snakes were coming out by their arms, and they were ‘going to tell their dad’, and they’re going to do this- We got away with that for quite a while. It was fun. For the guys. Well, until 1946- and it survived for seventeen years- And when they tore it down all the steel structures were put on two great big transports and they went out West. For a Starlite, for a drive-in theatre out there. But then after that was done, the buildings that were left, they set fire to them to give Willoughby Township the practice of putting those fires out Many times to the Starlite. One thing that sticks out in my mind, and I know it likely happened to most people, was we went home with a speaker by accident. That was common. Forgot to take it off the window and put it back in the hanger. And then one year we- a friend of ours had a boat so we took a ride over to the south end of the island with the old hotel that used to be years and years ago and we just got out and walked around the tip and there were some pieces of concrete and stuff. That’s as far as I ever got into the island. A lot of stories about that island. I remember him telling stories about taking -ferrying- threshing machines and stuff over to the island to harvest and then to bring the stuff back. And then Elizabeth Allen’s- [Mother?] Grandmother. Wasn’t she the midwife that went over to the island and helped deliver babies. And they had to take her over by boat- I’m not sure what kind of boat they used. And then you had to go up- because of the current- you had to go up river and then sort of row your way across so that you’d hit the island. And she went over and delivered the baby. I think this is mentioned in one of her daughter’s reminiscences of Willoughby. Her name was Williams. That’s what she sold, that property. But it was her grandmother who was the midwife that delivered, I think, the only baby on Navy Island. And she was saying that she went all through Willoughby Township, and got people’s names, where they’d come from and how many kids they’d had. That paper is in this museum, somewhere. There’s a book that she said that tells you who the baby that was born and everything. One time, Navy Island was the proposed site for the United Nations, which ended up in New York. Can you imagine what that would have meant for this community if that had have happened? I love the drive along the River for various reasons. One of them is as I go along the River I think back the historical part. ‘Oh, that means a settlement at one time was there’ And all of these things that are long, long gone but yet there are still little stones or little memorial plaques for them. And, of course, I love nature, so I’m always bird-watching. And, the peaceful- I like maybe just to pull off in the side area and just watch the River. And it’s a very, very peaceful, peaceful place. As I do travel along the river, I reminisce about all the different spots and properties as I go by. And kind of think about the history of them. More should be done to preserve a lot of the history of a lot of the properties. I sort of said ‘I gotta start doing something about it’, but I haven’t got started yet, so. It’s on my bucket list. Especially when I pass the battlefield, I think of all the people who suffered. Really you look a little bit further you’d realize that Navy Island had a big part it played in- of Canada. And also as I get up towards Fort Erie, I just think of the Negroes that had hard times coming over Especially when they put up those little ‘Running Man’ signs up there with the Negroes with their little pack on their back, eh? So, a lot of scenery, but there’s a lot of sadness too. As far as- Maybe you walk, drive by and you see, ‘Okay, there’s a cemetery here, a cemetery there.” All the hardships that we’re dealing in to why we’re here today. You know? And I don’t think our forefathers got enough credit for what they did. Because they were the ones that did the most work, eh? But, yeah, there’s a lot of different things that go through your mind when you’re driving. Older people, you know, there are so many things on your plate that you forget to ask them, or maybe you’re not interested but now you wish you would have because there’s where everything comes from.

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